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freewheeling frankie (north London, England)

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The London Collection: Vol. 1
The London Collection: Vol. 1

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars magnificent solo piano, 19 Feb 2012
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Given that these unaccompanied performances (along with some band sides from the same session which are available on Volume 2, and out-takes of both on Volume 3) were Monk's last recordings before an unspecified mental illness ended his career, this is a truly magnificent album. Mixing standards (some of which he hadn't recorded before) and remakes of some of his own tunes, some of which went back 20 years or more, it is a wonderful valedictory outing. While it is an album that happily bears listening from start to finish, my personal favourites are the mind-boggling opener, a stride arrangement of one of Monk's greatest compositions, "Trinkle, Tinkle" and the more or less spontaneous closer, "Blue Sphere". As a relative newcomer to Monk's music myself, I'd say this was a very good way in for those who haven't heard him before - it's calmer and less spiky than some of his earlier recordings, it's a good mix of standards and originals, and the solo format allows the details of his playing to show through more clearly, demonstrating his unique mix of unusual and sometimes dissonant chord voicings and oddly percussive rhythms with pre-war blues and stride styles. None of which is in any way to disparage his recordings with groups or to suggest that there aren't other Monk records that ascend to these heights - there are many that do but this one has a purity of vision that has quickly made it a big favourite of mine.

Kill City (Restored Edition)
Kill City (Restored Edition)
Price: 7.49

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars big improvement, 18 Feb 2012
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While this isn't Iggy's greatest album it's a pretty good one with several classic songs, some left over from the last days of the Raw Power era Stooges in 73-74, and the rather unfinished-sounding nature of the original release didn't do them full justice. The original LP was at least reasonably well mastered; earlier CD issues were often mastered from the LP, and badly at that - a real rip off.

For anyone already familiar with the album, especially if they've only heard it on CD, both the mix and the mastering are considerably improved. For anyone who's into the Stooges but hasn't heard this, it's not quite in the same league as their three original studio albums - but it's a semi-essential part of their history and about half the songs here are far better than anything on most of Iggy's solo albums - there are a few honourable exceptions obviously. Now can James Williamson do the same thing for New Values please, since he produced it? It's one of those honourable exceptions but suffers from a spectacularly weedy and insipid mix.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 18, 2013 4:01 PM BST

Vintage Jazz No. 80 - EP: Little Rootie Tootie
Vintage Jazz No. 80 - EP: Little Rootie Tootie
Price: 3.96

1.0 out of 5 stars great music horribly mastered at the wrong speed, 18 Feb 2012
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It was a real mistake buying this - it's mastered off an old vinyl EP, and although there isn't obvious surface noise, it's mastered too loud and a semitone fast. It's not even cheap. I've no idea who the people are who supply these "download EPs" - they're impossible to track down on the net - but their products are poor quality and incredibly overpriced.

The Rolling Stones: Some Girls, Live In Texas '78 (DVD / CD) [2011]
The Rolling Stones: Some Girls, Live In Texas '78 (DVD / CD) [2011]
Dvd ~ The Rolling Stones
Offered by rsdvd
Price: 9.95

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars different band on their new material, 18 Feb 2012
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It never ceases to amaze me how variable the Stones can be within a single set. On parts of this, they really are firing on all cylinders, elsewhere it's little short of embarrassing.

I think it's fair to say that the lows are more obvious on the video than on the cd, which I would venture to suggest is a different (and superior) mix. As far as the video quality goes, it's perfectly Respectable, though to a degree the whole experience is somewhat diminished by Jagger's ill-fitting and far too revealing legwear. However, once he gets warmed up (takes a couple of songs, he initially sings very flat) Jagger is in fine and very hard working vocal form throughout. Keith, especially on the video, seems to be mixed way higher than Ronnie, which is unfortunate as at times his playing is far from inspired - e.g. compare the version of Let It Rock here with the one available on Rarities 1971 - 2003 recorded in Leeds in March 1971. No contest. Several of Keith's solos sound alarmingly cack-handed - he was clearly having an off night because there's plenty of evidence of him playing far better on later recordings.

But what's really interesting about this performance is how they turn into a different and far better band when they start playing their new album. They play 7 of the 10 songs from Some Girls in a block in the middle of the set, and frankly apart from slight problems getting any sound out of Ronnie's steel guitar on Far Away Eyes (which also features the rare sight of Mick Jagger playing piano, plus a guest spot from local boy Doug Kershaw on fiddle) they're all excellent. Just check out Jagger's vocal on Shattered, where his rhythmic dexterity is stunning. So it's depressing to report that most of the rest of this gig is pretty so-so. While I'm definitely among those who think Some Girls is their last really good album, a quick comparison of this recording to a good performance by the Mick Taylor line-up shows how much they had already declined - check out the Belgian Affair download from if you want to hear a top quality Stones live album. To my ears, they long seem to have found it hard to give their all on songs they've played many times - one of the reasons, probably, that for the last 2 or 3 decades they've always exhumed some less-played old songs when they tour, and they always sound better than the old warhorses like Brown Sugar or this gig's woefully over-extended Jumping Jack Flash.

So if you're a big fan of Some Girls and want to hear/see some live versions that leave many of the studio versions standing, this is a worthwhile buy. Apart from that it's a bit frustrating.

First Impulse: The Creed Taylor Collection 50th Anniversary
First Impulse: The Creed Taylor Collection 50th Anniversary
Price: 10.99

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars fascinating but very mixed bag, 18 Feb 2012
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This box set was issued to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Impulse Records in 2011. It contains the first 6 albums the label issued in 1961 - the only ones produced by Creed Taylor before he moved on to Verve - plus some related material and out-takes (mostly by John Coltrane) which make up the fourth disc.

The albums in question are a very mixed bag as Impulse's first signings included artists as diverse as John Coltrane and Ray Charles.

The first CD is entirely dedicated to the trombone, in the shape of two albums by Danish-American trombonist Kai Winding - "The Great Kai & JJ", in which he duets with fellow trombonist J.J. Johnson, and "The Incredible Kai Winding Trombones", on which he leads an ensemble featuring no less than four trombones - and no other horns. These are classy albums - if you like the sound of multiple trombones - but perhaps a tad straight-laced for my taste, although the former contains a very nice version of "Blue Monk".

CD 2 pairs Ray Charles's "Genius + Soul = Jazz" and Gil Evans's "Out Of The Cool". These are very different large-scale ensembles playing very different music. Ray Charles's effort features scorching but very brash big band charts, over which Brother Ray plays organ. I have to say that, much as I like Ray Charles, and despite the quality of most of the arrangements here, I find that the organ settings used don't fit them well - I think I would have preferred it had he been playing piano, though the version of "One Mint Julep" - an unexpected hit single in the USA - is pretty good. In general I think I would have liked to hear him sing, too. The Gil Evans set is, chronologically, a close successor of his celebrated work with Miles Davis and many of the same stylistic devices can be heard, though the actual music is very different from the likes of "Sketches Of Spain". The album title (and content) suggests more of a reference back to the legendary "Birth Of The Cool" sessions of 1949, to which he also contributed arrangements. This is much more cerebral stuff than the Ray Charles, but is constantly interesting and swings too.

CD 3 begins with Oliver Nelson's "Blues And The Abstract Truth", widely regarded as his best album. The opening "Stolen Moments" is beautiful and the following "Hoe Down", which borrows a square dance tune and makes excellent use of the stereo separation is quite startling by comparison. Overall this is a very fine album of early 60s hard bop. Finally we get John Coltrane's "Africa/Brass". These sessions actually generated 2 LPs and much of CD 4 is dedicated to out-takes and music that wasn't on the first LP. It's a rare pairing of Coltrane with a large brass section. Only he and the other members of his basic quartet take solos; I would find the lengthy "Africa" itself more stimulating without the 3 minute drum solo but its hypnotic, slightly African-sounding pulse is otherwise very pleasant and Coltrane himself and McCoy Tyner solo well. There are two out-takes of "Africa", one from about a week before the other two. But the real meat of these sessions for me are "Blues Minor", the stunning "Song Of The Underground Railroad", and a beautiful rendition of "Greensleeves" which harks back perhaps to his "My Favourite Things" LP. "Song Of The Underground Railroad" is one of the most stirring pieces of jazz I've heard by anybody.

Apart from the Coltrane material, CD 4 also contains the original mono single mix of Ray Charles's "One Mint Julep" and an out-take from the Gil Evans album.

Unless you're determined to have the hard cover book that comes with this set, it's very expensive for a 4 CD set - the price difference with the download version made the latter a no-brainer for me. But it's a fascinating snapshot of some of the very varied things that were happening in jazz in the United States in the early 1960s.

8 Classics
8 Classics
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: 18.37

20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars you get what you pay for, 18 Feb 2012
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This review is from: 8 Classics (Audio CD)
First the good news - despite what I've read about products from this label elsewhere, there are no glitches, dropouts etc. or any content missing. The set straddles Monk's Prestige (1952-54) and Riverside (1955-61) periods, though the latest material on here is from 1957. It contains nearly all the Prestige material, apart from the session he recorded with Miles Davis in 1954, on which Davis was the leader. Once we get into the Riverside material, it's more cherry-picked as Monk recorded very extensively in 1955-57 and not everything he recorded in that period is here - no Brilliant Corners, for instance.

The most important bad news is that the sound is not great. It's not spectacularly bad, either - fairly listenable in fact - but a direct comparison with the Complete Prestige Recordings shows a quite noticeable difference on that material. Given Musicmelon (the parent company issuing this stuff) is clearly surfing the the now doomed 50 year copyright rule, I'm not sure what the source is for this material, but I'd say it was most probably early CDs - it doesn't sound like it's been transferred from vinyl, though some of their releases supposedly have been; the only thing that matters really is the quality, which is only tolerable here. The less said about the packaging, the better - the 4 CD double jewel case did not arrive intact (though still just about viable); the original album sleeves can only be seen in a collective photo on the front in which they overlap each other; they do not appear in the order of either recording or release on the CDs.

The main use of this set, for me, was finding out whether I liked large amounts of this stuff enough to shell out for the more premium quality box sets - the answer was yes, because much of the content here is quite superb. I'm particularly fond of the trio recordings from the earliest Prestige sessions, but there's much to like throughout this set and quite a few other jazz legends cross Monk's path here - Sonny Rollins, Art Blakey, Max Roach and John Coltrane, for starters.

So if you're looking for a way into Monk, or operating on a budget, this set is worth buying, though not for 15 (I see Amazon's price has dropped considerably since I wrote that...) If you're already there, and can afford them, buy the two box sets - you'll get nearly* all this material in much better sound, and much more besides, especially on the Riverside box, of which less than a third is to be found here - and the remainder is unlikely to be available at this sort of price. Plus, the Riverside set is not actually expensive for its size (16 CDs)

*This set's one item not covered on the Prestige or Riverside sets is Art Blakey'S Jazz Messengers With Thelonious Monk; given that apart from one tune this fine album consists entirely of Monk compositions and he plays on every track, it certainly counts as a Monk album, though that is not to disparage the contribution of Art Blakey or his band. But of course you can buy it separately, in its original sleeve. So don't buy the set just for this album.

Sony NWZE444B E Series 8GB MP3 Walkman with Voice Recording Function - Black
Sony NWZE444B E Series 8GB MP3 Walkman with Voice Recording Function - Black

4.0 out of 5 stars 2 years plus & still going strong, 14 Nov 2011
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Good little player, though not cheap.

Robust - has been travelling to and from work in my pocket since April 2010 (get a cover quicker than I did - it's a bit worn - though this is purely cosmetic and it isn't damaged)
Good battery life is still probably 2/3 of what it was new after well over 2 years, and I use it nearly every day
Excellent sound, configurable eq, excellent bass if your phones will reproduce it.
Dynamic normalizer - reduces variations in volume level between tracks when listening to playlists or random songs from different sources where they are mastered at different levels. I wouldn't go near a player that didn't have something like this because the differences in mastering level between different CDs can be huge, leaving you frequently changing the volume
Simple controls - although as they are flush with the shell of the player it's not easy to use them without looking.
Happily charges from USB chargers as well as direct from PC, so if you have an appropriate charger you can charge it in the car, for instance, or at least without having to start up a PC for 2 hours just to charge it.

Takes quite a long time to load music via USB2 - up to 2 hours to fill it.
Takes quite a long time to delete music via USB2 - up to 20 minutes.
Bundled headphones not much cop - but the player is so good it's worth spending on some good ones.
From time to time the player goes into a kind of "reboot" mode, usually when you're scrolling down the list of playlists and go beyond the ones that are initially visible on the screen - or have recently done so. I haven't been able to discover whether this is a defect or a sort of automatic housekeeping function but apart from draining some of the battery charge it works fine when it re-enters the land of the living after 5 minutes or so - the contents are not affected, though if you were actually playing something (unusual) it loses your place (July '12 update: the player is still going strong after over 2 years and this has happened once in the last 6 months or so)

Haven't used:
Video playback (why would anyone want to watch videos on such a small screen)
Photo display (ditto)
Voice record

I've no idea how this model compares to more recent ones - I fully intend to run it into the ground as it's a largely satisfactory product. At the current price (July 2012) of 69.99, less than I paid for it, it's definitely worth the money.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 9, 2011 9:32 AM GMT

Easter Rising
Easter Rising
Price: 13.07

16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars rough and ready, 11 Nov 2011
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This review is from: Easter Rising (Audio CD)
I bought this as a souvenir having seen Patti at the Rainbow on the same tour a few weeks earlier. Interestingly in the USA, or in Oregon at least, she was clearly playing in far smaller venues.

For serious fans of Patti's early years, this is probably an essential purchase - there aren't many radio recordings of her gigs from this period - by her own admission between songs here it was the first for a couple of years, presumably due to the expletive-strewn nature of her performance. The provenance of the tape from which this CD has been produced is pretty murky - the sound is bright and powerful but also quite distorted in places and with the occasional brief dropout; it sounds like it has been subjected to rather hamfisted hiss removal. The mix is quite dubious in places, of course that was a product of the night in question because it would have been taken directly from the PA.

But caveats aside, this is a powerful, confident and frequently excellent, if far from slick performance, with Patti in fine voice and an interesting setlist. Starting with an unaccompanied poem (and following that with another, Babelogue, behind which the musicians get going), she inevitably focuses on material from the recently issued Easter, plus 3 songs from Horses. These are augmented with several cover versions, both the expected (Gloria, My Generation) and the completely unexpected (a nice version of Be My Baby, a Lenny Kaye-sung version of The Kids Are Alright, and John Lennon's It's So Hard). But there is nothing at all from Patti's previous album, Radio Ethiopia.

Buy this if you're into Patti's early albums, especially Easter, and aren't too picky about sound quality - it's perfectly listenable and I'm not aware of any previous live release from this period being available through legal channels. 4 stars for the performance, 2 stars for the sound quality, mixing and rudimentary sleeve design.

Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 18, 2012 12:22 AM BST

The Perfect Jazz Collection Box - Volume 2
The Perfect Jazz Collection Box - Volume 2
Price: 48.99

72 of 72 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars nice, 1 Nov 2011
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No longer are samplers single disc compilations - now Sony/BMG chuck 25 original albums in a box at a ridiculously low price, presumably in the hope that you will then go and buy more CDs by the artists represented. As opposed to sitting back and waiting for Volume 3!

So I guess this series of box sets (this one follows a previous Jazz one and a Blues one) are primarily aimed at people who know and like some jazz but want to broaden their horizons. In consequence, the contents are extremely varied and despite the class on display throughout, few are likely to love all these albums. For those jazz fans simply hoping to pick up a whole bunch of classic albums they (mostly) didn't already have ultra-cheap, here are some very brief and largely subjective assessments of the contents:

1. Duke Ellington: Ellington Uptown - good early 50s stuff, but not hugely to my taste for the most part; lots of bonus tracks including some 1947 live material - different tunes, not alternate takes. ***
2. Dave Brubeck: Jazz Goes To College - Brubeck's best-known album pre-Time Out and one of his best overall, superbly recorded for a 1954 live album. Both Brubeck and Paul Desmond are on top form.****
3. Louis Armstrong: Satch Plays Fats - Louis Armstrong on top of his game on both trumpet and vocals on a superb set of Fats Waller tunes recorded in 1955, with some added alternate takes plus late 20s/early 30s versions of some of the same tunes as well.*****
4. Miles Davis: 'Round About Midnight - as the first of Miles Davis's many albums for Columbia, and also John Coltrane's big break, this is a hugely significant and excellent album; this is the 2001 remaster with 4 bonus tracks.*****
5. V/A: The Sound Of Jazz - from a 1957 TV special, although these recordings are actually from the rehearsals so no audience. A wide variety of performers and some interesting ad hoc groupings, notable for being the last time Billie Holiday and Lester Young performed together.****
6. Charles Mingus: Mingus Ah Um - one of the greatest jazz albums of all time, this features longer, unedited versions of 6 of the original 9 tracks, plus 3 bonus tracks (not alternate takes) which aren't quite in the same league.*****
7. Paul Desmond: Desmond Blue - Dave Brubeck's long-time sax foil meets strings - lovely, tasteful, romantic, late night stuff. Not cheese. 6 bonus tracks (including 3 versions of Autumn Leaves) from a different session.****
8. Sonny Rollins: The Bridge - Rollins's comeback album after 3 years woodshedding on Williamsburg Bridge, not cutting edge but extremely classy stuff from a piano-less quartet also featuring guitarist Jim Hall.****
9. Aretha Franklin: The Electrifying... - an early lp from the Queen of Soul, from the days when CBS couldn't decide what to do with her and tried (among other things) to turn her into a jazz singer. She was a very good one - this features well-arranged and superbly sung versions of fine songs, and several bonus tracks - but it's a good thing Atlantic eventually got hold of her and let her do what she was REALLY good at.****
10.Nina Simone: Silk & Soul - her usual unique vocal and interpretative skills with a strong New Orleans flavour on some songs, one of many fine albums she cut in the 1960s but a bit on the short side.****
11.Thelonious Monk: Underground - one of Monk's best-loved albums, from 1968, plus 3 alternate takes.****
12.Freddie Hubbard: Straight Life - 3 tracks of not-quite-fusion, with a star-studded band. Closing ballad Here's That Rainy Day is gorgeous.****
13.George Benson: Beyond The Blue Horizon - fine guitar album, again not quite fusion.****
14.Mahavishnu Orchestra: Birds Of Fire - dazzling - the definitive jazz-rock album.****
15.Clifford Brown: The Beginning And The End - exactly what it says, his first (as a sideman to a vocalist) and last recordings. The 2 songs are of little interest, but the 3 much longer tracks from his last concert, literally hours before his death in a car crash, show a superb trumpeter at the top of his game. A tragic loss****
16.Chet Baker: She Was Too Good To Me - pretty typical Chet Baker record from 1974, with a star-studded band (including Paul Desmond on two tracks), a few vocals and his usual effortlessly cool sounding trumpet.***
17.Gerry Mulligan & Chet Baker: Carnegie Hall Concert - superb live recording, pure class in all respects.*****
18.Wayne Shorter: Native Dancer - collaboration with Brazilian singer, musician & composer Milton Nascimento; an early and influential world/jazz fusion album.***
19.Jim Hall: Concierto - named for his version of Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez (cf Miles's Sketches Of Spain), this is a beautiful, intelligent, mellow and supremely tasteful jazz guitar album.*****
20.Return To Forever: Romantic Warrior - a huge seller at the time, for me this kind of hyperactive and tasteless jazz-rock learns all the wrong lessons from the worst kinds of prog rock.**
21.Stanley Clarke: School Days - but here comes the bassist from the above with a far more tasteful album of quality fusion.****
22.Weather Report: 8:30 - mostly live, one track from original double lp removed to fit on one cd. This is WR at the height of their popularity, including a great live version of Birdland.****
23.OST: Round Midnight - the soundtrack to Bertrand Tavernier's excellent film, featuring most prominently Dexter Gordon and Herbie Hancock convincingly recreating an earlier era, with a bonus of a fine 1976 live version of Monk's classic tune led by Gordon.****
24.Carmen McRae: Carmen Sings Monk - classy stuff but a bit of an acquired taste, with lyrics (mostly by Jon Hendricks) added to Monk's classic tunes and the titles paraphrased for copyright reasons.****
25.Wynton Marsalis: Standard Time Vol.3: The Resolution Of Romance - Wynton teams up with his pianist father Ellis for classy old-fashioned stuff.***

All told, this is a pretty good quality box, given you can get it for barely over 1 an album. While not all the albums deserve 5 stars to my ears (though most of those I've given 4 deserve 4.5), the box does for its spectacularly low price and its educational value as a fabulous way to broaden one's knowledge and appreciation of jazz.

Most if not all the albums are the latest remasters, many feature bonus tracks, the cardboard sleeves replicate the original LP issues, the sleeve notes are legible with a magnifying glass and there's a useful booklet with recording and line-up details and a rather fatuous essay. As a sampler it works well, as a way of getting hold of a bunch of good to classic jazz albums, most of which (if you're a jazz fan) you'll probably like, it's a bargain not to be missed and, if anything, a slight improvement on Volume 1. Roll on Volume 3.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 18, 2012 10:14 PM GMT

The Complete Recordings
The Complete Recordings
Price: 184.82

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars overwhelming, 12 Aug 2011
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This review is from: The Complete Recordings (Audio CD)
Ian Shuttleworth makes excellent points regarding the rather haphazard nature of this box - 3 rather random 9 CD sets combined into 1, with their separate booklets intact and no chronological progression. My only gripe with his review is that most of the pairings, where a CD contains more than one album, make a fair amount of sense. And of course, a better organised box of this magnitude would be a lot more expensive, pricing a lot of potential buyers out of the market - not that that's an excuse for the lack of chronological organisation.

But it's worth brief general comments (one could write a small book on this many albums!) on the actual contents, as the price makes this enormous amount of music a realistic purchase for those, like me, who were familiar with but didn't previously have that much of his music. Others have commented that it isn't actually "complete" - well, certainly Fela issued quite a lot of records in the 1960s that are represented solely by the 6 tracks of "Koola Lobitos 1964-68". I have to say that if they are representative, only serious students of 60s highlife should be disappointed by this omission - they're not that great. The meat of the material starts with the wonderful "1969 LA Sessions". After that, tastes will vary, as does the quality control in a few places, but for me about 2/3 of this material is top notch and certainly worth the money. Where it is less than brilliant, the fault often lies with Fela's sometimes rather wobbly keyboard noodling. The nadir for me in this respect is probably 1984's "Army Arrangement", present here in its original Nigerian version, which according to the booklet was drastically altered for international release by Bill Laswell while Fela was in jail, without his permission. I've not heard the Laswell revamp and have no real interest in doing so but I have to say that I can see why he felt it needed "improving". But this is an aberration and the vast majority of the music in this box, throughout the two plus decades covered, is good to brilliant, ending on one of many highs with the fantastic 1992 album "Underground System".

For those relatively unfamiliar with Fela Kuti's music, it's worth describing what "album" means in his context. A large majority of the original LPs collected here contained one track per side, either splitting two parts of one 20-30 minute track or featuring two 12-18 minute tracks. Where the tracks were split across two sides of an LP, they are single tracks here with no audible joins. A lot of the original albums were pretty short originally, verging on 12" singles - some little more than 20 minutes, which is how they've collected 46 LPs onto 26 CDs (the 27th is a DVD) - but on the other hand, there are individual tracks here that last over half an hour, usually with such fantastic grooves that they come nowhere near outliving their welcome.

So, an overwhelming amount of - mostly excellent - music to digest, good value for money and well mastered, if rather inadequately packaged. Will this be too much Afrobeat for most people? Probably, but it's great music and great fun to immerse yourself in it. Enjoy!

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