Ken Kessler

Ken Kessler  |  Dec 08, 2010  |  0 comments
Sundazed continues to plough a furrow that only a few other reissue labels dare, that of all-but-forgotten psychedelia. This time they’ve unearthed an ultra-obscure album by a band that might have been little more than a footnote, for once having included Elliott Randall in its ranks. But they produced one of those deliriously gloomy/druggy, proto-Goth sets that mix freakish originals with unusual covers: Love’s ‘Signed DC’, Dylan’s ‘It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue’ and even a Screamin’ Jay Hawkins track. The mix shows their eclecticism, but the best aspect of Creation – unlike too much from this genre which deserves to be forgotten – is that the music is terrific.
Ken Kessler  |  Dec 08, 2010  |  0 comments
Not that I needed reminding that the J Geils Band was one of the best live acts I’d ever enjoyed, this nearly two-hour long set from the Monkey Island period is the 200-proof, real deal. Frontman Peter Wolf demonstrated the showmanship that enabled him to work an audience; harpmeister Magic Dick and axemaster Geils were on top form; and the remainder of the band constituted the tightest rhythm section north of Memphis. They ran through their most famous material, including a raunchy take on the Supremes’ ‘Where Did Our Love Go’, while a peppering of instrumentals leave no doubt this was the best house party/bar band ever. Sound Quality: 80% .
Ken Kessler  |  Dec 08, 2010  |  0 comments
There’s a strong case for regarding this as EC’s best album – if not of his entire career, which is too varied and complex, then surely of his early years. The magic ingredient was the arrival of the band that would accompany him through his strongest period, his most sympathetic backing of all: the butt-kicking Attractions, who injected enough adrenalin into these Nick Lowe-produced sessions to yield an embarrassment of riches – ‘Pump It Up’, ‘Radio Radio’, ‘Lipstick Vogue’ and eight more acidic tracks. It’s ignoble to suggest that Costello was maturing: he arrived fully formed and in no need of assistance. It was like giving a great F1 driver a faster car.
Ken Kessler  |  Dec 08, 2010  |  0 comments
If you enjoyed the gold CD edition, reviewed in March, then the LP will provide some surprises. Although The Cars were born in the analogue era, they embraced an artificial, otherworldly sound, which logic dictates might be favoured by digital. But so rich and layered were their recordings, and so distinctive the vocals, that the music lends itself equally to what should be passé technology in this context. Blessedly, The Cars were not as Fritz Lang-ian in their modernism as, say, the far-quirkier Devo, never allowing melody to be subjugated by studio wizardry, so even the proliferation of synths – which date the album – does not jar with analogue warmth.
Ken Kessler  |  Dec 08, 2010  |  0 comments
As this series of Nat ‘King’ Cole LPs, pressed on two 45rpm discs, concentrates on his golden era, you know what to expect: perfect sound quality, breathtaking arrangements, tasteful material and that voice. Aaah! That voice! It delivered so much, and was so inimitable that Cole could use it to make any song his own. This release from 1963, the last of a trio of LPs arranged and conducted by Gordon Jenkins, was themed with the subtitle ‘Songs of Love And Loneliness’. Cole creates the necessary mood with such completeness that you feel an ache in nearly every note.
Ken Kessler  |  Dec 08, 2010  |  0 comments
There have been blues prodigies in the past, young kids who defy their age with a sound conveying wisdom, experience and other abilities which suggest the passage of time. But quite how Knox managed to ingest the anima of a 60-year-old in a 17-year-old’s mind/body is part of the mystery that makes this LP so compelling. Had you heard the album before being told this, his interpretation of Willie Dixon’s ‘You Need Love’ would have you convinced the guy had been playing juke joints for decades. When you realise that he composed nearly all of the material, you’ll want to see his birth certificate.
Ken Kessler  |  Dec 08, 2010  |  0 comments
While the Beach Boys and Jan & Dean successfully co-opted the ‘surf’ genre by adding vocals, its inventor was Dick Dale, aka ‘King of the Surf Guitar’. Dale launched the genre with ‘Let’s Go Trippin’’ from 1961, which kicks off this set, developing a sound he forged to reflect the sensations of the sport. Along the way he directly influenced so many guitarists (eg Hendrix, Eddie Van Halen) that he’s even credited by some with inventing heavy metal. What these 28 mono tracks reveal are ingenious techniques that dazzle and frighten in equal measure 50 years on.
Ken Kessler  |  Dec 08, 2010  |  0 comments
Not one but two recent biopics of John Lennon have taxed the patience of the hardcore, but the consensus is that this beats BBC4’s Lennon Naked hands down, despite Christopher Eccleston’s uncanny, note-perfect, award-worthy portrayal in the latter. This covers Lennon’s pre-Hamburg youth, so the two form a natural pairing (or a chronological trilogy, with Backbeat in the middle), but the depth and sensitivity of this entry strikes the viewer as somehow more authentic. All three suffer the sort of anachronistic details that will have the fanboys’ knickers in a twist, and they also beg the real need for fictional accounts of events so recent, but this one is perhaps worth a viewing for its cinematic value. Sound Quality: 83% .
Ken Kessler  |  Dec 08, 2010  |  0 comments
Arguably the finest album of standards he ever delivered – the opener is ‘When I Fall In Love’, for goodness sake – this stunner sounds so good that Analogue Productions has released it on both 2x45rpm vinyl (to be reviewed soon) and SACD. But not just any SACD: its layers are set up so you can enjoy it in mono, stereo, three-channel and, if your processor has worthy rear-channel extraction, in surround. However you choose to play it, the sound is so silky and natural that you’ll use this as a demo disc. Of course, this is first and foremost about the music.
Ken Kessler  |  Dec 08, 2010  |  0 comments
Yes, a mono SACD, as if to remind us that it’s sound quality rather than multichannel capability which keeps this much under-appreciated format alive. Although this is hardly the best-sounding recording Charles ever issued, musically it’s one of his milestones, showing absolute mastery of yet another genre. Instead of re-interpreting hoary old chestnuts, Charles recorded seven originals to complement five standards, showing that he could not only sing the blues, he could also write them. The sound is uptown, not rural, suggesting that he could have carved out as big a career in the blues – had he so desired – as Bobby Bland, Jimmy Witherspoon or any of the other more urbane practitioners.

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