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Ok, so this is the most important piece music of the 20th century. Yes, you read that correctly. In 1982 L. Ron Hubbard introduced Space Jazz, the first ever soundtrack to a book (not just any book…Battlefield Earth!!!) and forever altered the creative path of human history. Many historians credit this album with slaying the incredible high-hat breathing Disco Dragon. Others blame it for laying the Yoshi egg that hatched Lady Gaga. However, there’s much more to this story than hilarious musings…

Exhibit A!

(from the album gatefold)

SPACE JAZZ is a completely new musical sound destined to be hailed as the music of the future. The many and varied forms of music are an integral part of the cultural heritage of Earth.

Now, the sound of the future has been established by L. RON HUBBARD, author of the blockbuster science fiction novel Battlefield Earth.

The concept of a soundtrack is something one normally associates with motion pictures. Now for the first time ever–a soundtrack for a book–Battlefield Earth–“Space Jazz.” Think of the “Star Wars” Sagas, and “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” mix in the triumph of “Rocky I,” “Rocky II” and Rocky III” and you have captured the exuberance, style and glory of “Battlefield Earth”–The Evening Sun, Baltimore MD.

Consider the magnitude of the challenge Hubbard set himself. Conventional musical instruments and even huge symphony orchestras have their limitations. He turned to the technology of the future–computers.

Recent breakthroughs in computer musical instruments offered the needed versatility to match his new musical concepts.

Today, a computer is able to reproduce any natural sound. It can record a single note of a musical instrument and from that reproduce the rest of the instrument.

But better yet, it can take any sound and turn this into a rhythm. A coyote can sing the blues. A horse can tap dance. Liquid can splash out a Strauss waltz. Laser beams can hum a lullaby. You name it and you can get it

Yes, L. Ron Hubbard took the most technologically advanced musical instrument of the time, the Fairlight Computer Musical Instrument, and used it to recreate the sonic feast of a horse tapdancing! Thank your stars L. Ron Hubbard was one of the first people to get his hands on the $25,000 Fairlight CMI and thus create this epic masterpiece. What follows is just a small sampling of L. Ron Hubbards musical pioneering.

Exhibit B!

Be sure to carefully absorb the rich tonal haunches in this track. The playful neighs of the heroic horse Windsplitter, created through the Fairlight CMI’s digital processor, stir feelings of hope within the listener that, yes, man, beast and machine can coexist peacefully in a world free of Psychlos.

Exhibit C!

L. Ron Hubbard used his Hubbard Electrometer to test if tomatoes felt emotional pain. Seriously, check out this UK Telegraph article.

Ok, so I took a long time to trying to figure out exactly what this album was all about. I looked for hidden answers about Scientology in the ridiculous anti-stereo narration. I then looked for some sort of psychic pattern in the horribly repetitive and shrill synthesized filler “music”. Finally, I sought solace in the suspiciously mundane track titles:

1. Golden Era of Sci Fi

2. Funeral For A Planet

3. March of The Psychlos

4. Teri, The Security Director

5. Jonnie

6. Windsplitter

7. The Mining Song

8. The Drone

9. Mankind Unites

10. Alien Visitors Attack

11. The Banker

12. Declaration of Peace

13. Earth, My Beautiful Home

But I didn’t experience even a single mysterious revelation from on high.

So I listened again. And again. And again. And upon my umpteenth listen, just as Space Jazz began evoke memories of my endless hours spent playing Oregon Trail 2, the answer blasted itself all over my face: L. Ron Hubbard was the greatest practical joker of all time.

His absurdly bogus biography, his hackneyed bibliography, his intensely whacko yet ridiculously profitable Scientology cult had all been part of the greatest monkeyshine ever unleashed on mankind. The man was a hybrid of Andy Kaufman’s unflinching, rabble-rousing comedy with  Joseph Smith’s pied-piper espièglerie–now that’s saying something.

The aural assault Space Jazz makes complete sense when you view L. Ron’s life in that light. You could even say this composition was the punchline to a lifetime of pocket-emptying tomfoolery.

So, Xenu bless you, L. Ron Hubbard…you hilarious fucking bastard.

Click to download SPACE JAZZ to the futuristic 320 kbps

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The Big Daddy. The Head Honcho. The King Crooner of the Jazz World. This is the standard by which every other jazz album is measured. However, when Kind of Blue dropped in 1959 it was considered a new direction for the genre. The organic creation between the all-star cast departed from the rigid and technically complex compositions of the past. I’ll let Bill Evans, the main pianist from this album, give his take on Miles’ giant leap for jazzkind.

Improvisation in Jazz

By Bill Evans

There is a Japanese visual art in which the artist is forced to be spontaneous. He must paint on a thin stretched parchment with a special brush and black water paint in such a way that an unnatural or interrupted stroke will destroy the line or break through the parchment. Erasures or changes are impossible. These artists must practice a particular discipline, that of allowing the idea to express itself in communication with their hands in such a direct way that deliberation cannot interfere.

The resulting pictures lack the complex composition and textures of ordinary painting, but it is said that those who see will find something captured that escapes explanation. This conviction that direct deed is the most meaningful reflection, I believe, has prompted the evolution of the extremely severe and unique disciplines of the jazz or improvising musician.

Group improvisation is a further challenge. Aside from the weighty technical problem of collective coherent thinking, there is the very human, even social need for sympathy from all members to bend for the common result. This most difficult problem, I think, is beautifully met and solved on this recording.

As the painter needs his framework of parchment, the improvising musical group needs its framework in time. Miles Davis presents here frameworks which are exquisite in their simplicity and yet contain all that is necessary to stimulate performance with a sure reference to the primary conception.

Miles conceived these settings only hours before the recording dates and arrived with sketches which indicated to the group what was to be played. Therefore, you will hear something close to pure spontaneity in these performances. The group had never played these pieces prior to the recordings and I think without exception the first complete performance of each was a “take.”

Although it is not uncommon for a jazz musician to be expected to improvise on new material at a recording session, the character of these pieces represents a particular challenge.

Personnel:

  • Miles Davis, trumpet and leader
  • Julian Adderley, alto saxophone (Courtesy of Riverside Records)
  • John Coltrane (Legendary in his own right.), tenor saxophone
  • Wyn Kelly, piano (Courtesy of Riverside Records)
  • Bill Evans, piano
  • Paul Chambers, bass
  • James Cobb, drums

8)

Click here to download Kind of Blue to 320 kbps

8)

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This is the album that shepherded me into the rolling knolls of Vinyl Hunters Valley. This is because it causes the most mysterious synaptic firings within my squishy grey matter. Makes my temples swell with a pleasing uneasiness. Causes mysterious pockets within my loins to quake and flutter.

It's my HEAD, Schwartz, it's MY HEAD!

OK, so basically I have no idea what it does to me but I’m certain it transmits some sort of ultrasonic frequency that says, “GO ON EBAY AND BUY A TURNTABLE RIGHT NOW. NOT LATER, NOW. TURN OFF COPS, YOU’VE SEEN THIS EPISODE, GUY, BUY ONE NOW.” So I did and never looked back.

Despite the fact that I love, love, love this album I’ve been avoiding reviewing it here because it’s difficult to capture the essence with letters. Most stereoponies love to saddle the “Trip Hop” label onto this album but that does it no justice whatsoever. That term conjures the visions of hippies listening to hip hop, smoking a big J and spouting, “whoa man this rap groove is, like, so trippy. It’s totally gnarring my buzz, man.” While this album will most likely multiply and sassify marijuana-induced intoxication it’s so unfair to tie it to pot culture. Endtroducing would never, EVER get caught dead in patchwork corduroy pants.

 

Our youth are under attack.

Other bucking vinylbroncos like to describe  the album by mentioning Endtroducing’s ingredients: hip hop, jazz, psychedelia, movie dialogue, television show trialogue, percussion samples etc. However none of these phonocowboys can ever really capture this wild one.  True, you get a flavor of each along the winding train ride through British Columbia that is Endtroducing but it’s so much more than bits and pieces. It’s like describing your favorite pizza to a friend and saying, “Yeah man I had this awesome food today it was, like, a bit of tomato, flour, a touch of salt and some, like, I think cheese.” Those ingredients are all fine and good but separately they wouldn’t do an Adriatico’s Bearcat Pizza justice just like calling this album a fusion of genres is a crime. The sum is much greater than the parts.

I think, maybe, this album is like watching the most beautiful little bubble you ever saw. You can watch it dance on the wings of an invisible wind but as soon as you try to capture the damn thing in your hands it’s gone. You’ve taken your dirty little paws and ruined such a magical, delicate thing. You should be ashamed of yourself. We were all having such a wonderful time watching that little orb. Next time chill out, stop trying to bottle it up and just behold its angelic splendor while the gettin’s good.

"From listening to records I just knew what to do...mainly I taught myself. And you know I did pretty well...there were a few mistakes that I have just recently cleared up. I'd just like to continue to be able to express myself as best as I can. I feel like I have a lot of work to do still. I'm a student of the drums and I'm also a teacher of the drums too. And I would like to be able to continue to let what is inside of me, which comes from all of the music that I hear, I'd like for that to come out, and it's like it's not really me...the music's coming through me."

What’s truly incredible about Endtroducing is how it was composed. You have to remember that this was created in 1996 and if anyone even had a laptop it could maybe hold a gigabyte of files, if you were lucky and rich. In addition, music manipulation software like AudioMulch or Adobe Audition hadn’t been invented yet. So, Shadow had to use an Akai MPC-60 music sampler/beat machine to cut, splice, and melt his tracks together. If you then take into consideration exactly how much trial and error of listening to thousands of big vinyl discs it took to find the necessary sounds for the album it becomes evident that either a miracle was performed in the making of Endtroducing or Shadow’s some sort of DJ genius. I prefer to believe the latter, especially after taking watching the following video.

So if you haven’t heard this album, regardless of what music you’re into, you need to get in the boat and get your float on. If you’re a fan you can always use a higher quality rip. And, if you really want to get deep, pick up the vinyl and take a voyage into the continental divide…of your mind!!!!

Click here to download Endtroducing

Tracklist

A1 Best Foot Forward 0:49
A2 Building Steam With A Grain Of Salt 6:40
A3 The Number Song 4:40
B1.a Changeling 7:51
B1.b **Transmission 1
B2 Stem/Long Stem 9:21
C1.a **Transmission 2
C1.b Mutual Slump 4:02
C2 Organ Donor 1:57
C3 Why Hip Hop Sucks In ’96 0:43
C4 Midnight In A Perfect World 4:57
D1 Napalm Brain/Scatter Brain 9:23
D2.a What Does Your Soul Look Like (Part 1 – Blue Sky Revisit) 7:28
D2.b **Transmission 3

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I picked up this record solely because of the ridiculous lineup of instruments. Rob Mazurek uses the following: cornet, organ, celeste, piano, prepared piano, harpsichord, noise box, moogerfooger analog delay and ring modulator. The second half of the duo, Chad Taylor, plays drums, cymbals, mbira, gongs, percussion, vibraphone and prepared vibraphone. I had a look a couple of those up to make sure they weren’t trying to pull a fast one.

I wish my last name was Moogerfooger

Pouring such a complex array of sounds into an album increases the chance that said album will play with the musicality of a clothes dryer simultaneously fluffing a can of pea soup, a toddler and a string of Christmas lights. Chicago Underground Duo luckily avoids this trap and uses each instrument in perfect proportion. What they were able to achieve with such a well-stocked toolbox is seven uniquely alive tracks. Each has its own personality–it shakes your hand differently, tips differently and prepares its hash browns differently. You always want them to get cheese on that shit so you can steal a few bites but they never do, which really pisses you off but you turn the other cheek because they’re just so cool. That and they have a bitchin’ Cadillac they let you borrow while they’re on business trips.

Vibraphone: The rich man's xylophone.

Vibraphone: The rich man's xylophone.

I’d try to quantify or qualify how the dainty pluck of the mbira, or thumb piano, was really a step forward in Taylor’s artistic development but I’m not going to do that. The reason is that this is one of those albums that has the opportunity to mean completely different things to each listener. Each song has a distinct theme but this theme doesn’t box in the listener’s train of thought.This doesn’t mean they aren’t engaging; it just means that they enable you to unleash your inner most thoughts and ride them high in the friendly sky. It’s the magic carpet you can hop on while you’re soaking up the calming effects of a scented candle or smashing a  fat  ass  blunt.

Mbira: Traditional African instrument. So dainty.

Finally, I feel that it must be noted that John McEntire’s engineering on this album is fantastic. Every instrument is perfectly defined and represented with full voting privileges. I’ve never been one to buy a record based on who was working the knobs behind the scenes but I’m going to make an exception this time. He took an album that could have been good and made it great.

8)

Click here to download In Praise of Shadows to MP3 from vinyl

8)

Harpsichord: Black keys make everything cooler.

Harpsichord: Just look at those badass black keys.

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I picked this up for $1 from a guy who had thousands of records for sale on the top floor of a horse carriage barn next door to the Mad Hatter down here in Covington.  He had tons of cool maps up there and a whole slew of weird doo-dads tucked away in glass cases.

At first I thought I was walking into a trap after I walked through the second chain link fence inside the barn. Visions of zipper-lipped rubber masks and red rubber-ball gags danced wildly in my head. I was never meant to be a barnyard boy toy; it’s just not my style.

Luckily I was assaulted only by the stench of horse crap and gnats that hung heavy in the air.  My gamble paid off because he had great gobs of good stuff up there; each a buck apiece. I bought 20 records from him and plan to go back when the fever peaks.

The best part of this story is that I just found this album for sale online for $155. The moral is that sometimes your vinyl hunt’s gotta get weird if you’re gonna get lucky.

Enjoy.

Click here to download Afro-American Jazz Dance

**Update: The guy I bought this album from now has some of his vinyl for sale online with Free Shipping. Check it out here http://www.thevinyldays.com/