Sunday, August 22, 2010

Day 7:UMO Jazz Orchestra "Electrifying Miles" and Roger Waters "Pros and Cons of Hitchhicking"

Day Seven...I've made it an entire week and The Albatross has done a pretty decent job of portraying itself.

It's started Day Seven with cruelty...the promise was the Dirty Dozen Brass Band's Voodoo, one of my all time favorite bands and one of my all time favorite albums from them. This would have been a lengthy diatribe about how ridiculous it is that the Dozen wouldn't be uploaded immediately except that The Albatross didn't allow for that selectivity when I abused student loans to get my Mac.

But instead it's about the tragedy that Voodoo still won't be uploaded onto my iTunes, because it's an empty nest.

The next is a fatal flaw AND a mystery CD all in one. The Secret Sessions, from what I can make out on the back of the cover, is a recording of previously unreleased recordings from some sort of 'super band' gathering of Corky Laing, Ian Hunter, Felix Pappalardi, Mick Ronson, Leslie West, John Sebastian, and Todd Rundgren, with Eric Clapton and Dickey Betts.

I'm not into any of these people (or know who most of them are), so I don't know why I have this. It's possible I grabbed it because I liked the idea of a secret 'all-star' session and what that might turn up. I'll never know, however, because the CD is split in several places. I may or may not have stepped on it a few times thinking it was just a case and not the CD itself.

After the disappointment of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band and the tragedy of The Secret Sessions, I wasn't about to let the next CD slip through my fingers. Fused to the liner notes, I got a rag and a razor and after some touch and go moments I slid the CD in with more than a little trepidation. I'm happy to report that the CD made it. Our condolences go out to the liner notes, however. So without further ado, lets begin Day Seven:

UMO Jazz Orchestra
Electrifying Miles

This CD surpasses the previous champion for cost of a new CD at almost $200...even used is $ far, though, I have to say, worth it.

I don't really know anything about the UMO Jazz Orchestra because apparently I'm not Finnish. But, I do have Google, which translates wikipedia for me. UMO in Finnish, it seems, stands for New Music Orchestra. There were a fair amount of downloads on Amazon, just not this album, so they get around.

This seems like a modern-day big band/fusion approach to Miles Davis' early fusion works. If I wanted After Hours 4 to be more Bitches Brew, UMO is here to deliver.

After a few days of short tracks, it's cool to get back into ones that have a run time of over five minutes. And all the Bitches Brew goodness is here, long modal solos, dated but still cool synthesizer sounds, spacey guitar solos, and, of course, a trumpet with a harmon mute on shoved into the microphone.

I had discovered this kind of music by accident long before I was really ready to hear it. The neighborhood I grew up in had a video store open up at one end, at a time when video rental places were new and novel. So almost every day I would bicycle down there, eat the giant Hershey's bars they had available and rent just about anything I could. This included a Headhunters era Herbie Hancock concert and a similar Miles Davis concert. I didn't get it, I didn't understand was loud and quiet, funky and chaotic...I didn't know what to make of it. But I was fascinated by it, so I stored it away in my brain as I wandered through the pop music minefield of childhood until I did the long walk around jazz fusion back to this core material, now far more able to grasp what was going on. One, as a ten year old child, simply does not walk from Feels So Good to Bitches Brew.

From Miles, they don't just play music from that period; Nefertiti gets the treatment, too.

I feel bad that this almost ended up in the Fatal Flaw pile, this is a pretty rockin' CD. Fusion, if I may use a horribly abused meme, 'jumped the shark' really quick. It was a short hop from Bitches Brew, Headhunters, and Birds of Fire to Spyro Gyra, Yellowjackets, and Dave Koz (full disclosure, my brother just stumbled me an admittedly awesome YouTube video of a dude with a remote control fishing yacht with a little remote control fisherman on it that would fish, and the music was a Spyro Gyra song that I actually owned...)

If Spook! were to be my theme song, I think I'd want Calypso Frelino to be the theme of my updated remake if they were do to it in that seventies Hollywood Auteur/exploitation way. Nice, it also has a complete Chameleon-style breakdown/change up. This might be the kind of music you play if you want your car searched. This is cruising across the desert out of Bakersfield at 3am music.

This was awesome.

Roger Waters
The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking

It's tempting to play a kind of 'one of these things does not belong...' bit with this. It certainly doesn't seem to line up with the rest of the albums (well, David Sanborn is on the album, he's a jazz saxophonist). Without context you might guess that this is a mystery CD, but in fact it's the first one to go through that I actually bought on purpose.

Yep, I still bought CDs, we all did. Promos weren't hand picked, and there was a smorgasbord of hand picked CDs before us every day.

Okay, great, but why Roger Waters?

The journey begins in junior high when my uncle gave me two tapes for Christmas: Judas Priest Screaming for Vengeance and Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon. The Judas Priest album just sounded cheesy to me. I listened to it fairly often because hey, I didn't have that much of my own music yet anyway. But it just never caught on. Pink Floyd, however, that stuck. I played the hell out of that tape. A few years later I was able to get a copy of Momentary Lapse of Reason that joined Basie and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band on that aforementioned 40w Radio Shack car stereo (with equalizer!) in the near constant loop. It had the advantage of not drawing complaints from passengers not used to the usual play list.

Fast forward to the record store...the main buyer (who again, has, or at least had, an Albatross that makes mine look like a casual collection) and the eventual manager are both really big Pink Floyd fans. Finally I'm able to feed that adolescent fascination with the band. I learn about the band, fill out my collection, trivia up, all the proper stuff. So when dumping off excess promos at a used store, I find this Roger Waters solo album on the cheap, listen to it once, and then lose it to The Albatross.

Much in the way people identify their personalities by what Beatle they are or if they're "Elvis", "Beatle", or "Rolling Stone" you can take an equal degree of someone's temperature by figuring out when they think Pink Floyd stopped being Pink Floyd. Are they still? Did they stop when Waters left the band? Or had they stopped way back when Syd Barrett had left the band?

I'm not one for listening to lyrics much, so it took me a bit to realize the importance of Waters in the band. Besides, I listened to as much of Momentary Lapse of Reason as I did to Dark Side of the Moon, and that was all I listened to for years, so I didn't know any better.

I feel like I should talk about the album itself, but what can I say about it that hasn't been said? It sounds like variations on themes from The Wall (with constant return to refrains from Mother). Not surprising, I guess, given that they were written at the same time, apparently. The spacey bits aren't as spacey without the tinkering in the background that Gilmour and Wright brought. And Mason. I don't really know how the labor was divided up, but I know that Gilmour doesn't sound as cool on his own, so those other two bring something to the table.

It's still cool, has a lot of those weird moments, like the ominous delivery of a benign line like "I asked if anyone was hungry." Or the Arabs with knives at the foot of the bed. Or the little monologues that my co-workers would occasionally recite that I didn't know. And it's certainly an all-star band. But ultimately it makes me want to hear The Wall. I guess this would be good for when The Wall is played out but you still want something a lot like it. For all my criticism that damn title track gets stuck in my head.

Oddly enough, this would be a good CD in the same situation as the previous CD. Played back to back, this would greet the morning sun as Las Vegas came into view. (I just looked up the concept of the album, apparently a real time experience of a midlife crisis where the singer contemplates adultery...I guess in my vision he decides for it?)

And with that the first week of the project comes to a close. It's certainly been interesting to me...I hope its interesting to whoever is reading this. Maybe I'll do a week in review for people who don't want to read the long daily posts.

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