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Miles Davis In Person'
In Person At The Blackhawk: Friday and SaturdayMiles Davis' two night stand at The Blackhawk in San Francisco marked a watershed in jazz history, a seminal event transforming the American musical landscape.
Davis had never been recorded live in a club with his combo and the performances over the course of two sets a night on April 21 and 22, 1961 more than justify the legend.
The New York Times, in its review of the Columbia Records release of the complete Blackhawk shows, called the music the gold standard for straight-ahead, postwar jazz rhythm.
Impex Records is proud to present a performance unequaled, a recording unparalleled and the must-have audiophile release of this or any other year.1. Walkin'
2. Bye Bye Blackbird
3. All Of You
4. No Blues
5. Bye Bye (Theme)
6. Love, I've Found You
1. Well You Needn't
3. So What
5. If I Were A Bell
6. Neo$54.99180 Gram Audiophile Virgin Vinyl LP - 2 LPs Sealed Buy Now
Betty DavisOne can hardly imagine the genre-busting, culture-crossing musical magic of Outkast, Prince, Erykah Badu, Rick James, The Roots, or even the early Red Hot Chili Peppers without the influence of R&B pioneer Betty Davis. Her style of raw and revelatory punk-funk defies any notions that women can't be visionaries in the worlds of rock and pop. In recent years, rappers from Ice Cube to Talib Kweli to Ludacris have rhymed over her intensely strong but sensual music.
There is one testimonial about Betty Davis that is universal: she was a woman ahead of her time. In our contemporary moment, this may not be as self-evident as it was thirty years ago - we live in an age that's been profoundly changed by flamboyant flaunting of female sexuality: from Parlet to Madonna, Lil Kim to Kelis. Yet, back in 1973 when Betty Davis first showed up in her silver go-go boots, dazzling smile and towering Afro, who could you possibly have compared her to? Marva Whitney had the voice but not the independence. Labelle wouldn't get sexy with their "Lady Marmalade" for another year while Millie Jackson wasn't "Feelin' Bitchy" until 1977. Even Tina Turner, the most obvious predecessor to Betty's fierce style wasn't completely out of Ike's shadow until later in the decade.
Ms. Davis's unique story, still sadly mostly unknown, is unlike any other in popular music. Betty wrote the song "Uptown" for the Chambers Brothers before marrying Miles Davis in the late '60s, influencing him with psychedelic rock, and introducing him to Jimi Hendrix - personally inspiring the classic album 'Bitches Brew.'
But her songwriting ability was way ahead of its time as well. Betty not only wrote every song she ever recorded and produced every album after her first, but the young woman penned the tunes that got The Commodores signed to Motown. The Detroit label soon came calling, pitching a Motown songwriting deal, which Betty turned down. Motown wanted to own everything. Heading to the UK, Marc Bolan of T. Rex urged the creative dynamo to start writing for herself. A common thread throughout Betty's career would be her unbending Do-It-Yourself ethic, which made her quickly turn down anyone who didn't fit with the vision. She would eventually say no to Eric Clapton as her album producer, seeing him as too banal.
In 1973, Davis would finally kick off her cosmic career with an amazingly progressive hard funk and sweet soul self-titled debut. Davis showcased her fiercely unique talent and features such gems as "If I'm In Luck I Might Get Picked Up" and "Game Is My Middle Name." The album Betty Davis was recorded with Sly & The Family Stone's rhythm section, sharply produced by Sly Stone drummer Greg Errico, and featured backing vocals from Sylvester and the Pointer Sisters.1. If I'm In Luck I Might Get Picked Up
2. Walkin Up The Road
3. Anti Love Song
4. Your Man My Man
5. Ooh Yeah
6. Steppin In Her I. Miller Shoes
7. Game Is My Middle Name
8. In The Meantime$18.99Vinyl LP - Sealed Buy Now
Kind Of Blue: 50th Anniversary Collector's EditionRanked 12/500 on Rolling Stone Magazine's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
The Best Selling Jazz Album of All-Time Gets the Super Deluxe Treatment for its 50th Anniversary!
Includes the Original Remastered CD, a CD of Bonus Material, a DVD of the Making of Kind of Blue, an Incredible Full-Color Book, Photos from the Sessions, Miles' Notes and the LP of the Original Album Pressed on Blue Vinyl!
In 1958, after a string of critically acclaimed and successful albums, Miles Davis was searching for a new direction to take the music, and signs were pointing him off the chordal highway into a new jazz style: modal. His innovations would open up the world for improvisers. He recruited key players with the potential to solidify his new approach, forming his famed sextet with rising jazz giants John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, Bill Evans & Wynton Kelly, Paul Chambers and Jimmy Cobb. Miles hired the little-known Evans because he needed a pianist who was into the modal thing. Davis and Evans both had developed personal voices characterized by a melodic flow that suggested, rather than defined, musical structure. It was his relationship with Evans that created the spark that resulted in the album Kind of Blue.
In only two impromptu sessions in March and April of 1959, Miles Daviss sextet created a tour de force 5 original tunes built on simple scales. Davis is committed to getting something spontaneous out of his musicians. The entire album was composed as a series of modal sketches and was conceived only hours before the recording dates. The outcome? Pure inspiration, and the stuff of legend an album made up of the first full take of each tune, captured at the historic Columbia 30th Street Studio. The album was originally released on Columbia Records in 1959, stunning the jazz world by practically creating a new language of music. Its influence goes far beyond jazz. Kind of Blue is universally considered to be one of the best albums of all time, of any genre. Fifty years later, Kind of Blue the epitome of spontaneous inventionis still the best selling jazz album ever.
This Collectors Edition marks the 50th Anniversary with an unprecedented presentation of music, images, insight and history to celebrate the album that is essential to any music collection, the ideal gift item for any jazz lover, especially fans of Miles Davis a true collectors set.
Do Not Miss this Limited-Edition Collector's Edition!Blue Colored Vinyl LP:
1. So What
2. Freddie The Freeloader
3. Blue In Green
4. All Blues
5. Flamenco Sketches
Disc 1 - CD:
1. So What (9:22)
2. Freddie Freeloader (9:46)
3. Blue In Green (5:36)
4. All Blues (11:32)
5. Flamenco Sketches (9:25)
6. Flamenco Sketches (alternate take) (9:31)
7. Freddie Freeloader - studio sequence 1 (0:51)
8. Freddie Freeloader - false start (1:26)
9. Freddie Freeloader - studio sequence 2 (1:34) (*)
10. So What - studio sequence 1 (1:55) (*)
11. So What - studio sequence 2 (0:12) (*)
12. Blue In Green - studio sequence (1:57) (*)
13. Flamenco Sketches - studio sequence 1 (0:43)
14. Flamenco Sketches - studio sequence 2 (1:10) (*)
15. All Blues - studio sequence (0:19) (*)
(*) previously unreleased
Disc 2 - CD:
1. On Green Dolphin Street (9:48)
2. Fran-Dance (5:48)
3. Stella By Starlight (4:43)
4. Love For Sale (11:46)
5. Fran-Dance (alternate take) (5:51)
6. So What (17:28) (**)
(**) previously released in unauthorized form
• Rare musical material including the first session by the Miles Davis sextet, May 26, 1958
• Over 30 minutes of studio material
• First authorized release of two extended live performances from April 9, 1960 Den Haag Concert and The Zurich Concert.
• Documentary - Story Behind Kind of Blue
• April 2, 1959 TV program, Robert Herridge Theater: The Sound of Miles Davis$109.99Colored Vinyl LP + 2 CDs + DVD - Sealed Buy Now
The Columbia Years 1968-1969All Tracks Previously Unreleased (Except Track B5/8)
Production By Miles Davis & Teo Macero
Featuring Performances From Hugh Masekela, Mitch Mitchell (Jimi Hendrix Experience), John Mclaughlin, Herbie Hancock, Harvey Brooks, Wayne Shorter, Billy Cox (Band Of Gypsys), Larry Young, And Members Of The Jazz Crusaders
Remastered From The Original Analog Master Tapes
New Interviews, Rare Photos, And Unseen Historical Documents From The Teo Macero Archive
One can hardly imagine Prince, Erykah Badu, or Outkast without the influence of Betty Davis. Her style of raw and revelatory punk-funk defies any notions that women can't be visionaries in the worlds of rock and pop. In recent years, rappers from Ice Cube to Talib Kweli have rhymed over her intensely strong but sensual music. Betty penned the song ''Uptown'' for The Chambers Brothers and wrote the tunes that got The Commodores signed to Motown. The Detroit label soon came calling, pitching a Motown songwriting deal, which Betty turned down. Motown wanted to own everything. Heading to the UK, Marc Bolan of T. Rex urged the creative dynamo to start writing for herself. A common thread throughout Betty's career would be her unbending DIY ethic, which made her quickly turn down anyone who didn't fit with the vision. She would eventually say no to Eric Clapton as her album producer, seeing him as too banal. In 1968, she married Miles Davis and quickly influenced him on the magic of psychedelic rock along with introducing him to Jimi Hendrix-personally inspiring the classic album, Bitches Brew.
Miles and Betty fans have long debated the truth of a near mythological session recorded in Studios B and E at Columbia's 52nd Street Studios on May 14th and 20th, 1969. The landmark session was produced by Miles and Teo Macero and featured Betty on vocals, accompanied by Jimi Hendrix Experience drummer Mitch Mitchell, guitarist John McLaughlin, Herbie Hancock on keys, and Dylan/Miles session bassist Harvey Brooks. Other players included bassist Billy Cox (Band of Gypsys), saxophonist Wayne Shorter, and organist Larry Young. Now, Light In The Attic, with full support from Betty herself, presents these recordings to the public for the very first time. These historic sessions-never heard, never bootlegged-predate Miles' revolutionary album, Bitches Brew, and are the true birth of Miles' jazz-rock explorations, along with the roots for Betty's groundbreaking funk that came years later, starting with her self-titled debut in 1973. While, ultimately, these recordings would go unreleased for nearly half a century, they would greatly shape each of their careers.
The vibe is intrinsically unique, fresh, and futuristic-jazz heavyweights playing psychedelia, rock, and jazz-fusion long before the term became commonplace. The songs include Betty originals and covers of classics by Creedence and Cream. The concepts explored on these previously unheard sessions fueled concepts that wouldn't be fully realized until years later with Miles' seminal On The Corner.
Additionally, included here is the first time rerelease of a 1968 Columbia single, recorded in October 1968 at Columbia Studios in Los Angeles. The session was produced by Jerry Fuller and featured South African maverick Hugh Masekela on trumpet and arrangements, plus members of jazz-funk pioneers The Crusaders-including trombonist Wayne Henderson and pianist Joe Sample. Two of the three tracks included here from this session are previously unreleased.
This deluxe package is a treasure trove for both Betty and Miles fans, including rare documents from the pen of co-producer Teo Macero, rarely seen photos from legendary photographer Baron Wolman, and new interviews with Mrs. Davis herself, Harvey Brooks, and Hugh Masekela-the entire project overseen with Betty's full blessing.1. Hangin' Out
2. Politician Man
3. Down Home Girl
4. Born On The Bayou
5. I'm Ready, Willing & Able (Take 1)
6. I'm Ready, Willing & Able (Take 9)
7. It's My Life (Alternate Take)
8. Live, Love, Learn
9. My Soul Is Tired$25.99Vinyl LP - Sealed Buy Now
$34.99 $31.49 Save $3.50 (10%)
Round About Midnight (Awaiting Repress) (On Sale)Hipness Personified: Davis Columbia Records Debut Highlights His Diverse Palette and Famed Quintet
Lifelike Sonics: Mobile Fidelity Presents This Standard with a Dynamic Sound That Allows You to Picture Davis Mouth as He Blows Harmon-Muted Trumpet
Blowing Cool and Hot Jazz: Quintet Plays Reflective Ballads, Pop Standards, and Fervent Bop on One of Eras Only Complete Start-to-Finish Full-Length LPs
Sketches of Spain, Milestones, Kind of Blue, Four & More, and In a Silent Way Also Available from Mobile Fidelity
Miles Davis first album for Columbia, Round About Midnight, represents both the beginning of a three-plus-decade relationship with the famed label as well as the start of an extended collaboration with then-unknown saxophonist John Coltrane. As one of the eras only complete start-to-finish full-length LPs, the 1957 set stands as a hard-bop benchmarka summation of the styles that came before its creation, an immersion into the periods cutting-edge strains, and a hint of the rivoluse modalism that would follow.
Part of Mobile Fidelitys Miles Davis catalog restoration series, Round About Midnight now resonates with a physical palpability and emotional heft never before experienced. Mastered from the original master tapes and pressed at RTI, this unsurpassed 180g LP edition traces the individual paths each musician takes in contributing to the whole, whether its pianist Red Garlands left hand spinning actinoid chords or Coltrane infusing a tune with harmony-defying fills that suggest arabesque patterns. Recorded at three separate sessions, the music has never sounded so cohesive, immediate, or involving.
Historically, few jazz records claim the significance boasted by Round About Midnight. The albums creationand the assembly of Davis quintet, which also includes Paul Chambers and Philly Joe Jonesstems from the headliners rousing rendition of the title-inspired track, Round Midnight, a Thelonious Monk standard, at the 1955 Newport Jazz Festival. Stunning the audience with an interpretation that witnessed him personalize the composition with a brooding tone made possible via employment of his soon-to-be-trademark Harmon mute, Davis redefined perspective and possibility, taking ownership of the ballad as his own, and further improving upon its reach in the studio. It wasnt the composers only surprise.
'Round About Midnight thrives due to diversity and consistency, a rare combination epitomized by the first-rate selection and astonishing performance of pensive ballads, bebop classics, pop standards, and folk pieces. Witness the counterpoint exchanges during Ah-Leu-Cha and its Dixieland shades. Soak up the progressive drama and swinging tempos on All of You and Bye Bye Blackbird. Delight in the mÉlange of latticed textures and schematic moods throughout the sequence, here presented in gorgeous fidelity, zeroing in on Davis warm, plush, rich, and close-up trumpet timbres and how, by playing his instrument right near the microphone, he infuses the arrangements with the sort of daring intimacy embraced by two lovers.
Tension, suggestiveness, calm, mystery, nostalgia: All here. Gather now, Round About Midnight. Slip on a pair of shades, draw the curtains, slouch into a chair, and light a cigarette. This is Miles and Co. at their best. Hipness personified.
This title is not eligible for further discount.1. Round Midnight
3. All of You
4. Bye Bye Blackbird
5. Tadds Delight
6. Dear Old Stockholm$34.99 $31.49 Save $3.50 (10%)180 Gram Audiophile Virgin Vinyl LP - Sealed AWAITING REPRESS Buy Now
Blank ProjectFollowing last month's announcement that Neneh Cherry will release her first solo album in 16 years - a collaboration with RocketNumberNine, produced by Four Tet, and featuring a guest appearance by Robyn - Neneh is now ready to share further details of this forthcoming record with the world. The 10-track album, recorded and mixed over a 5-day period, will be titled Blank Project, and it will be out February 25th, 2014 on Smalltown Supersound. It follows 2012's The Cherry Thing, a collaborative record with free jazz, noise collective The Thing, which featured new versions of songs by The Stooges, MF Doom, Ornette Coleman, amongst others.
While her energy and demeanor may not have changed since the days of Rip Rig + Panic, musically, Blank Project is a departure from anything Neneh has previously done, initially written as a means of working through personal tragedy. What stands out upon first listen is the album's sparseness: loose drums and a few synthesizers are the only accompaniment to Neneh's wildly poetic, sometimes-spoken, sometimes-screeching, soul-flooded and raw vocals. The space created by this minimal aesthetic leaves room for occasional pistes and flurries of rapid, yet throbbing and thunderous instrumentation. Featuring combined elements of beat poetry, avant-electronica and beautiful vocal melodies, it's a record that uses simple ideas to create something entirely original. And despite the personal struggles, Neneh was working through in writing this new material, the songs are far from introverted.
As many are aware, the stories from Neneh's early years are astonishing. She spent her childhood living 50/50 between a loft in New York and in the South of Sweden with her mother and stepfather, the legendary jazz musician Don Cherry. She's been lifted onto Miles Davis' lap, Allen Ginsberg regularly passed through their home in an evening and as she got older, she could pop in on Arthur Russell, Talking Heads and The Modern Lovers who all lived in the same loft complex in Long Island City New York. At 14, she started taking trips to Harlem with Ari Up of the Slits at a time when few would venture so far uptown. Soon after, she left home and moved to London, and spent the next 20 years inside the crucial developments in British subculture. As post-punk became the site of 80s Britain's artistic and political resistance, she helped form the anarchic multi-ethnic, multi-genre Rip, Rig + Panic, and she was one of the first to bring hip-hop culture to a British audience with "Buffalo Stance" and Raw Like Sushi. Although at points her career had brushes with the mainstream, Neneh remained staunchly counter-culture.
Through post-punk's adherence to mixed-race line-ups and anti-government stance, to UK rap's refusal of the conventions of pop, trip-hop's connection with the politicized elements of rave culture and, through 1996's Man, where Neneh introduced elements of Senegalese language to mainstream audiences for the first time via the mammoth "7 Seconds" single featuring Senegalese singer Youssou N'Dour, and now, with Blank Project, Neneh continues to arrive at moments in musical history when there is an opportunity to subvert ideas of popular culture. She is subverting once again, only this time, although this record is musically bold, Neneh sees the stasis she's challenging isn't musical or societal, but her own.1. Across The Water
2. Blank Project
4. Spit Three Times
8. Out Of The Black (featuring Robyn)
10. Everything$21.99Vinyl LP + CD - 2 LPs Sealed Buy Now
Seeds From The UndergroundOver the course of a stellar career that has spanned more than 30 years, saxophonist Kenny Garrett has become the preeminent alto saxophonist of his generation. From his first gig with the Duke Ellington Orchestra (led by Mercer Ellington) through his time spent with musicians such as Freddie Hubbard, Woody Shaw, Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers and Miles Davis, Garrett has always brought a vigorous yet melodic, and truly distinctive, alto saxophone sound to each musical situation. As a bandleader for the last two decades, he has also continually grown as a composer. With his latest recording (and second for Mack Avenue Records), Seeds From The Underground, Garrett has given notice that these qualities have not only become more impressive, but have provided him with the platform to expand his horizons and communicate his musical vision clearly. Seeds From The Underground is a powerful return to the straight-ahead, acoustic and propulsive quartet format that showcases Garrett's extraordinary abilities.
For Garrett, Seeds From The Underground is a special recording. It once again consists of all original compositions, and is truly an homage to those who have inspired and influenced him, both personally and musically. "All of these songs are dedicated to someone," says Garrett. "And the 'seeds' have been planted, directly or indirectly, by people who have been instrumental in my development."
With Seeds From The Underground Garrett has crafted a project that offers his appreciation while always making the listener aware of his band's skillful approach to melody, harmony and rhythm. From personal nods such as the opening track "Boogety Boogety," dedicated to his memory of watching western films with his father (the title refers to the sound of a galloping horse); "Wiggins," which references his high school band director Bill Wiggins; and "Detroit," an evocative, reflective composition about his hometown, and a celebration of mentor Marcus Belgrave; to his appreciation of some of his musical heroes on "J Mac" (Jackie McLean); "Haynes Here" (Roy Haynes); and "Do Wo Mo" (Duke Ellington, Woody Shaw and Thelonious Monk).
Melody, as a matter of fact, was a key element for the saxophonist when writing for the recording. "I wanted to focus on the melody," Garrett reflects. "I want people to remember what the melody is before we start improvising and on some songs I heard voices, the singing of the melody." This latter point is in evidence on the selections "Haynes Here," "Detroit" and "Welcome Earth Song."
Another notable component compositionally for Garrett on Seeds From The Underground is his approach to rhythm and meter. Over the past few years, one of the most popular and acclaimed groups that he has been a part of is the GRAMMY® award winning Five Peace Band, joining guitarist John McLaughlin, pianist Chick Corea, bassist Christian McBride, and drummers Vinnie Colaiuta and Brian Blade. His participation in that band led him to experiment with writing in different meters. "Some of these songs are in odd meters; in my experience with John, we played some songs in odd meters, so I thought, this is a different way of writing songs," Garrett states. "So there is some of that approach here."
Garrett's current working band is very much up to the task on Seeds From The Underground. And like all successful bandleaders, Garrett knows what he wants musically and has formed a band that will best communicate his message (with implicit trust among one another). Bassist Nat Reeves is a rhythmic anchor and a long-standing member of Garrett's past aggregations. However, for this recording, Garrett thought a lot about the talents of fellow Detroiter, drummer Ronald Bruner, as well as Venezuelan pianist Benito Gonzalez. "When I decided I wanted to do the album, I had Ronald in mind; I thought that he would work well on these songs. And Benito has been in my band for a while, and we talked conceptually about how I hear the piano in the band. McCoy Tyner is my man, so I wanted to have more of that sound, and there aren't a lot of young guys around who are dealing with that like Benito is." Percussionist Rudy Bird also provides a driving, rhythmic pulse to the recording.
A very important contributor to Seeds From The Underground is the project's co-producer: pianist, composer and educator, Donald Brown. His friendship with Garrett goes back to their days with Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers. He has been an integral part of past Garrett recordings, and has been a musical inspiration for him. "I feel comfortable in the studio with him and I know he's going to hear what I hear, because we think alike in how we hear music," states Garrett. "I've also always admired his compositions and he was really inspired by these compositions, so he was glad that we were able to hook back up on this project."
Garrett has always expressed interest in music from other parts of the world. Whether it's Africa, Greece, Indonesia, China or Guadeloupe, he immerses himself in the culture and gleans from his experience something that becomes a part of his artistic message. On Seeds From The Underground, the African-influenced "Welcome Earth Song" and "Laviso, I Bon?" (the latter was inspired by a musician friend in Guadeloupe) are prime examples.
The album highlights Garrett's overall approach to music: wide-ranging, receiving ideas from all musical sources and genres. Garrett states, "I love the challenge of trying to stay open about music and about life. If it's music, I just try to check it out. Right now I'm listening to some music from Martinique and I'm lovin' it. If I like it, maybe I can incorporate some of it into what I do." As for composing: "I don't try to control what I write," he says. "Music comes from 'The Creator.' It's a gift that's coming in, and I receive it. I write in all genres, and I'm writing all the time. It's never about what it is I just say thank you."
Seeds From The Underground is the latest stop on what continues to be a fascinating musical journey for Kenny Garrett and his listeners. It's a recording that is not only a significant personal statement from the saxophonist, but a musical declaration of his continued growth as a musician, and in particular, as a composer.1. Boogety Boogety
2. J. Mac
4. Haynes Here
6. Seeds from the Underground
8. Welcome Earth Song
9. Ballad Jarrett
10. Laviso, I Bon?$27.99180 Gram Audiophile Virgin Vinyl LP - 2 LPs Sealed Buy Now
Sorceress (Black Vinyl)Pressed On Black Vinyl
There are few bands that can or will match Sweden's Opeth. Since forming in the tiny Stockholm suburb of Bandhagen in 1990, the Swedes have eclipsed convention, defiantly crushed the odds, and, most importantly, crafted 12 stunningly beautiful, become one of the best bands on the planet; on album or on stage. Ask any Opeth fan. Enquire with any band that's shared the proverbial pine with the Swedes. Or, get a label representative to talk Opeth. They'll all tell you the same thing: Opeth are peerless. And they're only getting better.
Opeth's new album, Sorceress, their first for Nuclear Blast via the band's imprint label Moderbolaget Records, is proof chief architect Mikael Åkerfeldt has a near-endless well of greatness inside. From the album's opener "Persephone" to "The Wilde Flowers" and "Strange Brew" to the album's counterpart title tracks "Sorceress" and "Sorceress II", Opeth's twelfth full-length is an unparalleled adventure, where visions cleverly and secretly change, colours mute as if weathered by time, and sounds challenge profoundly. Sorceress is, by definition, moored in Åkerfeldt's impressive record collection-his one true vice-but, as always, there's more invention than appropriation at play.
"This time around I didn't think about what I wanted to do," Åkerfeldt reveals. "I was forced to write. But once I started, it was easy. This record, like the last record, didn't take long to write. Like five or six months. The thoughts behind this record developed as I was writing. The only thing I was thinking about with this record was to write that songs didn't musically connect. I made sure if I had a song that was new sounding for this record, I'd make the next song completely different. I think the songs are very different from one another. It's very diverse."
Certainly, every Opeth record has had diversity. In 1995, Orchid reset the rules of death metal. Six years later, Blackwater Park hit the high note for musicality in a genre generally devoid of it. Damnation, in 2003, was the work of a band determined to upend the norm. Five years after that, Watershed closed Opeth's chapter on death metal by visiting its darkest corners and holding its native brutality aloft. And in 2014, Pale Communion officially bridged the progressive music gap by twisting the intrepid sounds of '60s, '70s, and '80s into contemporary brilliance. So, really, what's so different about Sorceress?
"My music taste got a little wider," grins Åkerfeldt. "I started listening to jazz. I bought a lot of Coltrane records. I never really thought Coltrane would be for me because I like 'dinner jazz.' I like comfortable, soft, nice, and lovely jazz. Like Miles Davis' '50s stuff. Porgy and Bess, for example. I guess Dave Brubeck fits in there, too. So, that's the only new influx of musical inspiration for me. Other than that, I've been buying the same type of records I always have. Prog, symphonic rock, singer/songwriter, metal, hard rock But there wasn't anything that set me off like The Zombies or Scott Walker. Nothing got me going this time."
Actually, that's not entirely true. Åkerfeldt's always mining for progressive gold. Good, rare music is particularly good at getting his motor running. He found double-gold in one-off Italian outfit Il Paese dei Balocchi and Bobak, Jons, Malone's ultra-obscure Motherlight album. To wit, get Åkerfeldt talking about either and he's all too pleased to discuss the finer points of Il Paese dei Balocchi's string-based darkness or how he fan-boyed Malone via email to get the famed British orchestrator and one-time Iron Maiden producer to contribute to Sorceress.
"I absolutely love Il Paese dei Balocchi," Åkerfeldt professes. "They did one album. It's insanely good. It has everything I love about progressive rock in it. This album is so orchestrated and epic. It's got lots of string sections. It's very moody, dark, and sad. It's a mystery they didn't do any more. As for Will Malone, he did the strings and stuff for the Sabbath records-Sabotage and Never Say Die! But now he does strings for pop artists like Joss Stone, The Verve, Depeche Mode. I looked him up, mostly because he was the house engineer for Morgan Studios in the '60s. He was also in a few bands. Like Orange Bicycle and played on the Motherlight album. He also had a solo record, which is also amazing and superbly rare. It's orchestral. The bulk of it is strings. It's kind of like Nick Drake."
Åkerfeldt's quick to point out, however, his newfound progressive music loves didn't directly inspire him to write Sorceress. The majority of the album was penned in Opeth's rehearsal space, where, nestled comfortably in a corner, a computer, a keyboard, and a microphone sit ready for the next Opeth epic. It isn't plush, but it's exactly the type of environment the frontman needs to focus his creative self into song.
"When I'm in a writing mode, I have tunnel vision," says Åkerfeldt. "I have a really good work ethic. I go down to the studio everyday early in the morning and I work. I absolutely love it. It's so much fun. It's much easier now, too. I write complete demos. I sequence the songs in the order I want them to be on the record. I do mixing. I do overdubs. Once I'm done, I give copies to the guys so they can listen to the album. They practice to it on their own. When it's time to go into the studio, everybody does their own thing. It obviously works."
For Sorceress, Opeth returned to Rockfield Studios in Wales, where the Swedes had tracked Pale Communion in 2014 with Tom Dalgety. The experience was so positive and historical-the countryside studio was also home to pivotal Budgie, Queen, Rush, Judas Priest, and Mike Oldfield recordings-there really was no other option for Opeth and crew. Rockfield Studios or bust! The studio, with Dalgety yet again in tow, provided the necessary isolation, the right bucolic atmosphere, the best gear, and three square meals a day for Sorceress to come out the other end spitting fire. All in 12 bittersweet days, too.
"There was a time when I came out of our recordings a wreck," Åkerfeldt bemoans. "But now I come out with a wish. I wish it wouldn't have gone so quickly. There's emptiness after I leave the studio. I love writing and recording in the studio. It's lovely at Rockfield. It's in the sticks. It's got horses and cows. There's lots of sheep in Wales. But the studio is just a studio. It's so beautiful there. So quiet. It's a residential studio as well, so we live there while we're recording. We have chefs for us, too. So, we can just be there, playing, recording, and hanging out."
If life is like a Peter Max poster, the lyrics to Sorceress aren't. There's color, but they've been treated, corrupted, and befouled. That is to say, they're much darker. Some of bleak lyrical tones stem from Åkerfeldt's personal life-and are thusly contorted beyond recognition-while others touch grimly on topics like love and what happens to people on the other side of it. In fact, some of the lyrical ideas are similar to what was happening on Blackwater Park.
"I made sure to write good lyrics," Åkerfeldt laughs. "This sounds very old-fashioned black metal to say, but the lyrics are misanthropic. It's not a concept record, so there's no theme running through the record. Most of the record deals with love. The negative aspects of love. The jealously, the bitterness, the paranoia, and the mind games of love. So, it's a love record. Love songs. Love can be like a disease or a spell."
Luckily, for Åkerfeldt and crew-bassist Martín MÉndez, drummer Martin Axenrot, guitarist Fredrik Åkesson, and keyboardist Joakim Svalberg-the lineup doesn't have to deal with Sorceress' main theme. They've been together since Heritage was completed, and according to Åkerfeldt he's not been in a better band situation before. Not since Orchid. Not since Still Life. Not since Ghost Reveries.
"It's the best band situation I've ever had. Fans will look at our eras and have their favorite lineup, but this is the best. Even the happiest days of the first and second lineups aren't comparable to what I have now. We never fight. It's like a good work team. We know each other professionally and personally. As much as we're a band, we're also friends. We hang out when we're not doing Opeth."
A core team is a good thing, when Opeth's credibility is in full view of fans and critics. Åkerfeldt's very aware of what the masses have had to say about Opeth since Watershed. While some disliked the musical shift on Heritage, most have applauded it. They've come to expect something new from Opeth. True to form, Sorceress will give long-time fans and weary critics reason to re-think Opeth and what it takes to be musically fearless.
"I hope they'll like the record," posits Åkerfeldt. "I can only talk from my perspective and taste here, but we offer diversity that's not really present in the scene today. Whatever genre. We've always been a special band. We've gotten a lot of shit for being different. We still do. Our time will come, I think. It comes down to perseverance. It comes down to not giving up or giving in to public opinion. Music is about doing your own thing or going your own way."1. Persephone
3. The Wilde Flowers
4. Will O The Wisp
6. Sorceress 2
7. The Seventh Sojourn
8. Strange Brew
9. A Fleeting Glance
11. Persephone (Slight Return)
12. The Ward
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