Thursday, January 26, 2012

Don "Sugarcane" Harris - Sugarcane (1970)

Here's the sole major-label release by the great Don "Sugarcane" Harris.

For some reason, his albums on the German MPS label seem to be more readily available than this one. This one was produced by the (now recently departed) Johnny Otis, with songwriting contributions from Johnny, his son Shuggie and Harris himself. Some may be familiar with Harris's bluesy electric violin on Frank Zappa's albums from around this time, notably Hot Rats (also featuring Shuggie Otis, although not on the same tracks as Sugarcane), Weasels Ripped My Flesh (with Harris's violin and lead vocal on the Little Richard song, 'Directly From my Heart to You') and his jawdropping violin solo on side two of Burnt Weeny Sandwich. He was earlier half of the R&B duo, Don and Dewey, which no doubt was responsible for Zappa's interest in him. Neil Young has covered one of Don and Dewey's songs, 'Farmer John.'

Harris was quite prolific in the early-mid 70s, playing with John Mayall's Bluesbreakers and recording several albums as leader for MPS, featuring such notable players as Harvey Mandel and Robert Wyatt. He seems to have just kinda faded away after that, although Wiki tells me that he was in a group called Tupelo Chain Sex in the 1980s. He died in 1999, hopefully somewhat enriched by the royalties from Neil Young.

All his MPS records are worth checking out, and they seem to get reissued sporadically. This one was issued on CD about a decade ago (with artwork based on the trippy Rick Griffin cartoon on the rear cover, reproduced below [click to enlarge]) but has since fallen out of print again. My copy is on a mid-70s orange Epic label, but the stampers are 1D/1D, so I assume this is pressed from the original lacquer.

A1:I'm Unconscious
A2:You're Making Me Cry
A3:Take It All Off
A4:A Little Soul Food
A5:Don't You Think I've Paid Enough
B1:Do It Yourself
B2:Tears Are Made of Dreams
B3:Funk and Wagner
B4:You Could've Had Me Baby
B5:Yours Eternally

Don "Sugarcane" Harris: Violin and vocals.
Other personnel uncredited.

Produced by Johnny Otis. Arranged by Johnny Otis, Roger Spotts and Shuggie Otis.
Engineered by Bob "Groovus I" Breault.

Epic records, USA, 1970. Cat # 30027

320kbps mp3

[re-up 29/4/12]

Friday, January 20, 2012


d'oh! Looks like I'll need to find another host and re-up some things. Stay tuned.

Update: (21/1/12) OK, check under each post whether the links are fixed. Have only done the most recent post so far. This could take a while.

Update #2: (22/1/12) Well, I've updated fourteen posts so far. I think I have the others somewhere in my splendid filing system, but can't find 'em right now. If I can't get hold of them I might go back and re-do some of the earlier ones, since I've upgraded my equipement since I started out, and have got a bit better at the process.

Update #3: (22/1/12) Found most of the rest of them and have fixed the links. Still missing a couple but I suspect I've got 'em somewhere. Mind you, just listening back to some of those early ones, they probably could use ripping again.

Update #4: (30/1/12) I say, does anyone still have a copy of the flac files from this post and this one? I only seem to have the lossy copies. If somebody could upload them somewhere, I would appreciate it. Merci.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Sam Rivers - Streams (1973)

Happy New Year!

Let's begin the new year with someone who, alas, left us late in the old one. Sam Rivers died on Boxing Day 2011, aged 88. An absolutely legendary multi-instrumentalist and composer. I saw Sam once back in around 1993 (I think) at the Basement in Circular Quay with the Mike Nock trio. It might well have been his first (and/or only) tour of Australia. I only knew his name from his appearance on Miles in Tokyo, in which he briefly preceeded Wayne Shorter in Miles Davis's great second quintet. I went along on the recommendation of John Clare (aka Gail Brennan, who appears earlier in this blog) in the Sydney Morning Herald.

I'd never seen a player or improviser of this calibre before. Just extraordinary. On a superficial level, I thought it was cool that a guy of his advanced years (though he would probably have been in his late sixties at that time) comported himself in a rather fetching pair of leather trousers. The other thing I remember is Mike Nock's apparent disatisfaction with the young drummer in his trio (whose name I don't recall at all), to whom he was constantly waving instructions. So I guess Sam was probably slightly handicapped by a rhythm section that wasn't quite up to his level. I didn't hear anything untoward at the time, but what do I know?

Anyway, here's a much earlier appearance at the Montreux Jazz festival in 1973 with a rhythm section that was very much up to the job. I think the spoken introduction is probably by the esteemed Claude Nobs*, director of the Montreux festival. This LP is actually from a matrixed QS Quadraphonic master (as were a lot of Impulse! LPs at the time), so those of you with a Dubly Pro Logic II decoder might have a bit of fun with this.

If you enjoy this, might I suggest checking out Sam's great Blue Note albums, Fuschia Swing Song and Contours, as well as Dave Holland's Conference of the Birds on ECM, all of which are readily available.

A1: Spoken Introduction (1:19)
A2: The tenor saxophone section (18:35)
A3: The beginning of the flute section (4:41)
B1: The conclusion of the flute section (8:25)
B2: The piano section (7:33)
B3: The soprano saxophone section (9:23)

NB: there are no bands between tracks on the LP, so I've just made a guess at to where the tracks begin and end. The titles of the pieces are somewhat helpful in this regard.

Sam Rivers: tenor and soprano saxophone, flute and piano
Cecil McBee: bass
Norman Connors: drums and gongs

All compositions by Sam Rivers.

Recorded at the Montreux Jazz Festival, Montreux, Switzerland, July, 6, 1973.
Produced by Ed Michel
Recorded and mixed by Baker Bigsby.

Impulse! records, USA, 1973. Cat # AS-9251

320kbps mp3

[re-up 19/4/12]


*That's "funky Claude" for any Deep Purple fans out there.