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There are no links here to tracks from what I suppose is now deemed, Van Morrison: Live In Boston 1968. The title is intentionally bland, purely informational. As outlined by Ryan H. Walsh, writer of one of this year’s best books, Astral Weeks: A Secret History of 1968, the whole thing is likely a copyright maneuver – some legal wrangling to keep possession with its maker, fifty-years after its creation. There’s some hope and/or speculation that maybe this precipitates a release, but probably not. It doesn’t seem Morrison wants it to see daylight.

The recording is just that – a recording: an hour plus of the artist working out some material, in a pretty low-stakes environment. Morrison was mere months from creating his masterpiece, but in his own mind, these were not serendipitous days. This was a “tour”, one mucking around New England to land some cash — something to help get by while he laid-low around Boston. That this release, or lack there of, is not a transformational recording should be no be a surprise. For one, if it were, the lawyered-up Mr. Morrison would have likely monetized it much earlier. But further, it’s just one recording from what was ostensibly a very unremarkable time. The show is merely special because it was caught on tape, as there is no immense library of recordings from this era to choose from.

This is not to say there isn’t incredible work here, and enough for any historian or fan of the album that came shortly after to chew on. Opener “Cyprus Avenue” feels fully formed, perhaps the highlight of the evening. Indeed, all three tracks that ended up on Astral Weeks (“Beside You” and “Madame George”) feel close to their final form – stripping away any last vestige of the romantic notion, passed down by older siblings and in dorm rooms for five decades, that the album was created in some kind of trance-like stream-of-consciousness. If Morrison was merely going through the paces, he entered this show with a strong notion of direction for his new material.

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Our weekly two hour show on SIRIUS/XMU, channel 35, can now be heard every Wednesday at 7pm PST with encore broadcasts on-demand via the SIRIUS/XM app.

SIRIUS 543: Fugazi – Lusty Scripps ++ 39 Clocks – DNS ++ Blurt – Get 3.43 ++ Deerhunter – Leather Jacket II ++ X Ray Pop – La Machine á Rêver ++ The Fall – Eat Y’self Fitter (AD edit) ++ Blurt – My Mother Was A Friend Of An Enemy Of The People ++ Omni – Sunset Preacher ++ Royal Family And The Poor – Art On 45 ++ The Fall – Middle Mass ++ Lizzy Mercier Descloux – No Golden Throat ++ ESG – It’s Alright ++ Arthur Russell – Make 1, 2 ++ Tim Presley’s White Fence – Phone ++ PAINT – Heaven In Farsi ++ Pink Floyd – Doing it! ++ Richard Swift – HZLWD ++ Maston – Love Theme Nº 2 ++ Maston – Infinite Bliss ++ Maston – Evening ++ Wire – Used To ++ Eno Moebius Roedelius – The Shade ++ Barry Walker – Accretion ++ David Darling – Cycle Two: Namaste  ++ Julee Cruise – Questions In A World Of Blue ++ Daniel Lanois – Low Sudden ++ Glenn Mercer – Twenty Nine Palms ++ Yasuaki Shimizu – 案山子 ++ Creation Rebel / New Age Steppers – Earthwire Line ++ El Guincho – Marimba (With Adrian De Alfonso) ++ Daisuke Kuroda – Meditation (In Tribute) ++ Tomasz Stańko Quintet – Boratka Flute’s Ballad (AD edit) ++ Kikagaku Moyo – Nazo Nazo ++ Amedeo Tommasi – Alghe Romantiche ++ Sandro Perri – Everybody’s Paris Pt. III (feat. Dan Bejar) ++ Tomasz Stanko Quartet – Suspended Variations V ++ Mikael Tariverdiev – Summer Blues ++ Sandro Perri – Changes ++ Elephant Micah – Fire A ++ African Head Charge – Stebeni’s Theme

*You can listen, for free, online with the SIRIUS three day trial — just submit an email address and they will send you a password.

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47 years after its original release and resounding commercial failure, the Hampton Grease Band’s Music To Eat stands as a crucial entry in the experimental American music canon. Roaring out of Atlanta in the late ’60s, HGB was led by quixotic vocalist Col. Bruce Hampton, alongside guitarists Glenn Phillips and Harold Kelling, and the rhythm section of bassist Mike Holbrook and drummer Jerry Fields. Though the poly-genre avant-garde sounds of Captain Beefheart or Frank Zappa serve as apt comparisons, the Grease Band was its own thing, blending jazz, blues, rock, with inscrutable and demented cut-up poetry. Though the band never recorded a follow-up, Music To Eat would go on to cult status, inspiring nascent punks and the burgeoning jam band scene of the 1990s, of which Hampton was a figurehead with his Aquarium Rescue Unit outfit, which shared stages with Phish, Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, and Widespread Panic.

Recently, Real Gone Music reissued the record on “Georgia Peach” colored vinyl, dedicating the release to Hampton, who passed away in 2017 after collapsing on stage. Guitarist Glenn Phillips, whose solo discography is vast and picks up the thread first tied by Hampton Grease Band, joined Aquarium Drunkard to discuss the record’s baffling genesis and legacy. Our conversation has been edited for clarity and cohesion.

Aquarium Drunkard: It’s taken some time for Music to Eat to get its due, but at this point, it’s a cult classic. The oft-repeated story is that it was at one point one of the worst selling records in the Columbia catalog. Were you ever able to verify that?

Glenn Phillips: There were a lot of complications when it came out. Business-wise, the way things were with the band and management. The way the deal was structured [was] through [record man] Phil Walden, who inserted himself into the middle of the deal and got a great deal of money and very little of it filtered down to the band. Columbia had put forth a lot of money to him to promote the record, which Phil wasn’t legally obligated to do. So Columbia felt kind of burned by the deal. They felt they had already put the money out to market it and they didn’t want to have to do it again. So the record didn’t get much marketing when it came out. The people at Columbia did not know what they were dealing with. The music was very eccentric, very in its own world, and they were literally marketing that record as a comedy album. They labeled it “comedy” and it was getting filed alongside Don Rickles and Bill Cosby, you know in the comedy [sections of record stores]. So what we were told at the time was, and this was just that time, we were told that it was the second worst-selling Columbia record, second only to a yoga record. And that may very well be true, that’s what we were told at the time. Now here we are in 2018, and that story has gotten repeated a lot. I don’t think that’s probably true at this point in time.

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Here’s one we’ve been listening to and playing regularly on the show since PAINT principal, Pedrum Siadatian, shared it with us this time last year: “Heaven In Farsi”– a tune that is now available, as of last week, via PAINT’s debut lp on Mexican Summer.

Produced by the singular touch of Frank Maston, whose own lp, Tulips, was one of our favorite long-players of 2017, the instrumental “Farsi” rides a languid, undulating plane – that like Maston’s own work, feels at once cinematic, intimate and hypnotic.

PAINT :: Heaven In Farsi

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Welcome to the second installment of the Aquarium Drunkard guide to ECM Records. Marked by an attention to sonic space and a distinct visual aesthetic, since 1969 ECM has released a wide amalgamation of jazz, fusion, modern classical, avant-garde, world music and beyond. By no means a comprehensive compendium, like our first installment, the following selection of output spans various decades, styles and genres, exemplifying the breadth and depth of the label’s ongoing pursuit.

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Terje Rypdal / S/T: Miles Davis was only a few years into his electric period when Terje Rypdal’s first record for ECM came out in 1971. But somehow, the Norwegian guitarist had fully absorbed Miles’ Jack Johnson-era style. Check out the 12-minute opener “Keep It Like That—Tight” (you can even imagine Miles rasping a phrase like that). It’s a brilliantly tense piece of future funk, with a sinister bassline, skittering drums, spine-tingling electric keys and chilly wah guitar action. ECM stalwart Jan Garbarek nearly steals the show with his burning sax solo at the mid-point, but you’ll want to hang out ‘til the end for Rypdal’s incredible fuzz freak-out. Monstrous. The rest of the LP isn’t quite so beholden to Miles, though there are many high points – “Rainbow” is a weirdly beautiful drift, and the lengthy “Electric Fantasy” is an early ambient/orchestral jam, with disembodied vocals and woodwinds floating over an unsettled groove. This was just the beginning of a relationship with ECM that continued well into the 21st century. Rypdal got off to a great start.

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John Abercrombie, Dave Holland, Jack DeJohnette / Gateway: Recorded shortly after the sessions for Colin Walcott’s Cloud Dance lp, 1975’s Gateway finds John Abercrombie, Dave Holland and Jack DeJohnette regrouping and in rare form. Over the course of the album’s six tracks the group run the voodoo down and back again. Beginning with the dark groove of “Backwoods Song”, things get ominous and out there without ever sacrificing melodic thrust and momentum. More raw and rough-hewn than the majority of the ECM stable at the time, Gateway’s early fusion is bluesy, spooky and at times just nasty.

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Bengt Berger w/ Don Cherry / Bitter Funeral Beer: A strong contender for most interesting album title in the ECM catalog, Swedish percussionist Bengt Berger’s Bitter Funeral Beer is a masterful study of West African music and a glowing testament to the label’s dedication to music without boundaries. The album sees Berger’s band interpret traditional folk themes from Ghanaian funeral music and blend them with the spiritual jazz and avant improvisation of Don Cherry. The group plays as a true ensemble and no single voice outshines the rest, but rather each successive part heightens the group as a whole. Similarly, there’s no single track highlight on this one… the whole thing rips!

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Garth Knox / Saltarello: Renowned for developing inventive yet approachable extended string techniques on Viola Spaces, Garth Knox curates a repertoire on Saltarello that frames his own compositions with music by the 12th century German abbess and mystic Hildegard von Bingen to contemporary Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho. Knox frequently utilizes a viola d’gamba, a baroque-era bowed instrument with sympathetic strings that adds an ethereal resonance to the melodius, sometimes folksy tunes conjured on Saltarello. The name itself refers to a 14th century Italian court dance, and the record’s foray through the ages shows what fun can be had at the intersection of “early music” and “new music.” Whimsical fiddling is girded by deep compositional roots, whether on Knox’s spritely interpretation of “Black Brittany” or on “Fuga Libre,” an original with a punny name that outlines Knox’s inspirations quite succinctly.

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Meredith Monk / Book Of Days: Monk’s fourth album on ECM’s classical-focused New Series continues her exploration of “voice as an instrument.” As with most of Monk’s music, Book of Days is accompanied by a visual component, though the record certainly stands as its own work. The imagery is lush enough as it is – Monk’s singers use whispers, chants, breathing, and ululations to paint the passing of the sun, moving travelers, a young girl and a madwoman’s visions, the plague. Monk achieves all of this without words, striking at something deeper through what she believes to be the ancient power of the voice “that within it were all these feelings that we don’t have words for.”

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Wolfgang Dauner / Output: A known outlier in the vast ECM catalog, Output ECM 1006 contains hints of later characteristic ECM sounds (eastern strings & percussion, cinematic piano, electronics) but presents these elements with much more raw and explosive energy than typical of the label’s later more crystalline sound. Combining jazz, kraut, and world music, Dauner (ring-modulated clavinet, piano), Weber (bass, cello, guitar), and Braceful (percussion, voice) manage to create a wholly unique beast that is somehow all and none of its influences at once, making for a potentially difficult first listen. Take this one out for a couple spins before passing judgement – repeated listens highly recommended!

238816_14There’s a wannabe dictator in the Oval Office and answers don’t seem to be blowing in the wind. The dearth of the protest song is astonishing. Perhaps overwhelmed like the rest of us, perhaps needing more time to be inspired to sing about what many find so dispiriting, artists have, by and large, yet to directly address the Orange One in their music.

Into the void steps one of the greatest musical titans of all-time, a living legend and one of the greatest lyricists of any genre. The Mighty Sparrow is one of, if not the, greatest calypsonians – a master with outsize influence on the genre of calypso as a whole and a favorite of people like Bob Dylan, who himself didn’t end up finding any answers in the ’60s, or beyond.

Sparrow was always political. His career began, in earnest, with “Jean & Diana (Yankee’s Gone),” a song addressing the withdrawal of U.S. service members from his native Trinidad & Tobago over a decade after the end of the World War II. He championed the future-father of Trinidadian independence, Dr. Eric Williams (1957’s “William the Conqueror”) – and then blasted him the same year for the rising cost of goods (“No Doctor No”). He tackled the failed Caribbean Federation (“Federation [We Are One]”), where he upbraided Jamaica’s leaders for their jealousy at Port-of-Spain’s designation as capital. He commented on police-officer pay, on the lease given to the U.S. for a (new) military base – on the many topics that confronted a nation struggling for independence. This was all before 1960, before he’d even been on the scene for five years.

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In the video for guitarist Patrick McDermott’s “Alice Lake,” the striped-and-starred frog that appears on the cover of North Americans’ Going Steady makes his way into reality. Swaying in meditative motion, lounging among rubble, and eventually loosening gravity’s grip altogether, the frog serves a mascot or representation of the feeling McDermott’s music provides. Over the course of the nine songs that comprise Going Steady, McDermott’s acoustic guitar and synth offer zones for silent contemplation, comfort, and weightlessness. Joined by contributors Hayden Pedigo, Julianna Barwick, Meg Duffy, Dylan Baldi, and Joel Williams, McDermott creates a space where contemplative music and guitar soli dovetail. You could even call it new age if you wanted —something about the gentleness on display here makes me feel like McDermott wouldn’t mind, but the sound of North Americans rewards active listening just as much as it does zoning out. Like director Rocco Rivetti’s video for “Alice Lake,” the lp is an exercise in “augmented reality.” In this space, there’s time to pause, to notice beauty, and to take stock. North Americans’ celebrates the release of Going Steady Tuesday, November 6, at Gold Diggers. words/j woodbury