1971 LIVE [PART ONE]

By the close of the 1960s the technology and knowhow for recording live music had improved substantially. Sure, the results were patchy on many occasions, but overall live albums had become much more listenable. Here (and in the forthcoming Part Two) we trawl through Vinyl Connection’s 1971 “Live” holding, counting ‘up’ to my favourites.

13 MILES DAVIS — LIVE-EVIL

Should this half-live, half studio album even be on this list? Who knows. But Miles is Miles and the live disc is interesting, featuring as it does the late December ’70 night at the Cellar Door where John McLaughlin sat in with Miles’ band. This was Miles starting to explore the funk, showing plenty of fire and intensity with a band substantially different from the studio outfit featured on the other disc of the set. This is best seen in the keyboard changes, with the live band featuring Keith Jarrett on organ while the studio recordings have Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock on electric pianos. Knew how to recruit pianists, did Miles. Then there is the extraordinary cover art by Mati Klarwein. Those interested in this unique and visionary artist might enjoy a VC feature that includes Live-Evil, to be found here.

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12 FRANK ZAPPA—FILLMORE EAST JUNE 1971

There is some great playing from a fine band on this live Zappa set, no doubt about it. Aynsley Dunbar, Ian Underwood, Don Preston. But for me the ‘routines’ of Flo and Eddie (Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan of The Turtles) and the arrival of the limp, smutty humour wear thin very quickly. From here on, approach live Zappa albums with caution (or at least research). If you are not a Frank fan, this is not a recommended starting place.

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11 NEW VIOLIN SUMMIT

Recorded during a jazz festival in Berlin in November 1971, this is an interesting double LP for several reasons. Firstly, it is an early jazz-rock album; part of the first wave, if you will. Secondly, records featuring four violinists are not exactly commonplace.
Don ‘Sugarcane’ Harris was the ‘senior’ member of the string quartet, having recorded with John Lee Hooker, Zappa, and John Mayall as well as releasing a number of solo LPs. Jean-Luc Ponty played with Zappa and toured with the Mahavishnu Orchestra (though that was after this festival). Ponty’s fame grew steadily, peaking with a series of hugely entertaining fusion albums in the mid-1970s. He toured with Return To Forever in the early 2010s (more here). Michal Urbaniak was born in Poland but migrated to the US in 1973. Urbaniak has recorded in many styles, on both violin and sax. Nipso Brantner is of Austrian gypsy heritage, and comes from the folk-jazz Django Reinhardt tradition. 

Apologies if this sounds like the class list at an international school, yet still more name dropping is in order as we turn to the backing band. The guitarist is Norwegian Terje Rypdal, later a very successful ECM recording artist; German jazz experimenter Wolfgang Dauner is on keyboards, New Zealand born Neville Whitehead plays bass and the attention-grabbing drummer is none other than English National Treasure Robert Wyatt who had just left the seminal Soft Machine.

New Violin Summit is a curio, but a very entertaining one if you like jazz-rock violin.

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10 B.B. King — IN LONDON

Back when Vinyl Connection was just a slip of a thing I wrote a memoir piece on this album, including a yarn about the Australian World Record Club and the dangers of sleeping on trains. I did talk about B.B. King In London too. Those who have bumped into the blog in more recent years are very welcome to read and comment; I love sharing the back catalogue.

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9 KING CURTIS — LIVE AT FILLMORE WEST

The story of King Curtis’s live album from San Francisco’s famous venue is fascinating. Curtis was part of Aretha Franklin’s musical geography and a popular and respected soul figure. When Atlantic boss Jerry Wexler decided to introduce Aretha to the West Coast he cajoled Franklin into using King Curtis (and band) as her backing, and slotted Curtis’s outfit in as the opening act. This is a good-time live recording. Opening with the Curtis hit “Memphis Soul Stew” and rocketing through high energy soul arrangements of a number of hits (such as a 2:10 version of “Whole Lotta Love”!), this is fun from go to soul.

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8 COLOSSEUM — COLOSSEUM LIVE

It’s a tornado of elemental progressive jazz-rock, powered by the muscular yet intricate drumming of Jon Hiseman* and Dick Heckstall-Smith’s saxes. Dave Greenslade fills out the sound (never even remotely undernourished) with vamping organ riffs while Dave Clemson handles the guitar parts brilliantly, stepping forward for a fiery solo now and then. But what really hits you are the stentorian vocals of Chris Farlowe. We’ve mentioned Farlowe’s might wind machine in these pages before (Atomic Rooster was another outfit he sang with) and how you feel about Colosseum Live will depend on your take on the singer. It’s big, it’s in-your-face, it’s not music for a hungover Sunday morning, but it’s a great document of an influential band who recorded this material in March 1971 and were no more by the end of that year.

* When Deep Purple offered Colosseum a support spot on a US tour, the contract stipulated ‘no drum solos’. Apparently Ian Paice didn’t fancy comparisons with Hiseman.

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7 AZTECS — LIVE

Talking of big voices, the Aztecs had a massive one in their leader/frontman Billy Thorpe. The Aztecs played a basic blues-rock style and they played it bloody loudly. This live recording was made at the Melbourne Town Hall, home of the famous pipe organ that they somehow convinced the city officials to let Warren Morgan use. He does so to great effect on the opening “Somebody left me crying” and the closing section of “Momma”. The opening track and “Time to live” which follows are clear highlights. The band is massive, Thorpie’s singing is massive; the Aztecs set a template for much that would follow in Aus rock. The band’s tendency to blast rock chestnuts is also in evidence, as is a lengthy drum solo, but hey, those were the times. What I like about Thorpie and the Aztecs is that clearly the band are there to support the charismatic frontman/songwriter/leader. It is thunderous support, for sure, but doesn’t have that sense of competition and sonic bombast that bedevilled Chris Farlowe and Colosseum.

The marvellous Aztec Music re-issue includes a bag full of excellent bonus tracks: the three key singles (and their b-sides), plus a live track from around the same time.

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6 VARIOUS—WOODSTOCK 2

The original Woodstock OST used Jimi Hendrix deconstruction of “Star Spangled Banner” medley for the closing scenes, making for a memorable ending both musically and visually. But there was much more to Jimi’s set than displayed on the triple album, and you can hear it at the beginning of Woodstock Two. There are further servings of Jefferson Airplane, Joan Baez, the Butterfield Blues Band and Crosby Stills Nash & Young, plus a couple of performers who didn’t make the first set. Melanie and Mountain could scarcely be more different but here offer two songs each, the heavy mob following the folky. If you resequenced the entire two releases into the original running order you’d have a neat slab of the most iconic rock concert ever, substantially shorter than the three day event but way cheaper than you’d pay for the 38 CD set Rhino re-issued in 2019 for the 50th anniversary. There were 1969 copies made and it currently sells for more than $6000Aus.

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NEXT: 1971 LIVE [PART TWO]

22 comments

  1. You make ’em sound so good.
    Queue strings first Heri.
    Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you DD.
      The Violin Summit? An interesting one. In the service of brevity (ha ha) I omitted the history that the origianl Violin Summit LP was (without checking) 1966, when Ponty was a young emerging jazz musician. Fascinating that five years later, he is the senior partner in the firm (in everything but years).

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  2. Interesting factoid. Sorry about typo -having coffee outside in the sunshine; would you believe it? Sun glinting off screen plus dithering fingers…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. 38 CDs? Holy moly. GREAT stuff here, love these layouts. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know! You could throw your own Woodstock re-creation party in your back yard. Drugs, mud, the works!

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      1. The neighbours would love you!

        True Story: My parents got married that same weekend. I’ve always given them a hard time (jokingly), saying they could’ve gotten married anytime, any other weekend. How could they not go see Hendrix (et. al.)? They always say they didn’t even know about it, wasn’t until after that it was a big thing. Their marriage has lasted 52 years and counting, so I’d say it’s a fair trade-off, but I’ll still razz them about it lol.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. That Miles Davis album sounds very very interesting. Although the cover art seems more hallucinatory than visionary to me, but obviously a matter of taste.
    Not your usual thing, folky-rock, but did any records by Aztec Two-Step make it down under? They formed in 1971. The name may also be unfamiliar, another euphemism like Montezuma’s Revenge.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aztec Two-Step is not a unit I’m familiar with Robert. I see that they have been around for a very long time, with a 2017 release!

      In my defence of Mati Klarwein, I was thinking of his whole body of work rather than this, as you neatly put it, hallucinatory (and indeed rather disturbing) example. The two VC posts would give something of an idea of his other work (including Abraxas).

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  5. Two thumbs up for the King Curtis @ Fillmore album! An audacious, badass version of “Whole Lotta Love” to be sure.

    Re: Woodstock 2: Like fine wine I feel that “lesser” version has aged pretty well. An absolutely fine version of “Sweet Sir Galahad” by Joan Baez; and though the twenty-something version of me never appreciated it, the Melanie offerings (particularly “My Beautiful People”) are semi-forgotten jewels. – Marty

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Apparently, Marty, there were subsequent Woodstock albums, released somewhat later. I reckon if they released that complete set again, I’d be tempted to throw a Woodstock party. ‘Bring your sleeping bag, bring your dr…’
      Hm. Perhaps not.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Stay away from the brown acid Bruce.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Good advice, Joe.

          Liked by 1 person

  6. the only one in the 1537 is the Miles but I am very curious about the J.L Ponty one, I am a big fan of everything I have heard of his.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. He’s fascinating, Joe. And the catalogue is BIG. The first decade, before he moved to Atlantic in the mid-70s, is on lots of small jazz labels and varies from the Grappelli inspired to free jazz.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. The usual eclectic grouping. Love it. A few regrets in my record acquiring thing, one is not getting ‘Live Evil’ back when. You know Im a violin guy. I have a combo you might have ‘Ponty plays Zappa’ (No Flo and Eddie). Kinda sticking with your choices. Watched a program recently ‘International Jazz Day’. Jean Luc was involved, very cool.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah! “King Kong”. Interesting album.
      More live comin’ at ya, CB.

      Like

  8. pinklightsabre · · Reply

    I’m not a Zappa fan but oddly do like that Fillmore one, maybe because it’s one of the first I heard. And yeah, smutty humor is right. Though I like that mud shark song because I’ve stayed at the hotel he mentions in it, the Edgewater. It’s a gorgeous hotel. And I’m digging your deep sleuthing into this year Bruce.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s a kind of excavation of the collection, Bill. LOL.

      Fascinating, always, to hear connections that colour how we hear/remember music. Memory Hotel. Cool.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Words to live by: “To seek nothing and find nothing is to have everything.” Wise man, that Billy Thorpe. And can I say that that 2:19 version of Whole Lotta Love by King Curtis et al is FANTASTIC!! And I love knowing Billy Preston’s there on organ.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I had modest expectations of the King Curtis, but it is such fun, and Billy certainly helps!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. […] 1971 LIVE [PART ONE] […]

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