current listening 07/28/12

+ King Crimson: Live at the Marquee – August 10, 1971 (2012/1971) – This newly unearthed concert recording is the proverbial rabbit-out-of-a-hat, a surprise snapshot capturing the free jazz symmetry, prog-ish abandon and improvisational daring of what remains the most unfairly maligned Crimson lineup. The elegance of Formentera Lady and Cadence and Cascade, the mounting instrumental firepower of The Sailor’s Tale and The Letters and the recording’s pristine sound quality all represent the 1971-72 era Crimson at its finest.

+ Deep Purple and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra: Concerto for Group and Orchestra (2002/1969) – Dug this out after hearing the sad news of Jon Lord’s death a few weeks ago. Considered one of the first extended alliances of rock and orchestral music, the concerto is entirely Lord’s creation. It’s a bit haughty and a bit dated, but there are lovely passages, especially when the orchestra goes it alone. This 2002 set boasts three bonus tracks sans the strings – Hush, Child in Time and the mighty Wring That Neck. Lord plays like a lunatic during the latter.

+ Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band: Bat Chain Puller (2012/1976) – This was the great lost Captain Beefheart record, an album that cleansed the aftertaste left by two disastrous commercial crossover attempts in the mid ‘70s. But due to various legal tangles, Bat Chain Puller was never released until this year. And what a monster it is, from the twisted vaudeville lead of Harry Irene to the beat-less beat poetry of 81 Poop Hatch to the title tune, which chugs along like a wheezy freight train with a sensibility that was punk before punk was hip.

+ Santana: Lotus (1991/ 1974) – Originally a three record concert LP set issued in Japan following Santana’s heavily spiritual and jazz-directed Welcome album in 1973, Lotus didn’t receive a domestic release until this double CD set surfaced 17 years later. Here, brave compositions by Antonio Carlos Jobim and Chick Corea sit side by side with Santana faves like Soul Sacrifice and Incident at Neshabur. Two years later, the band would reinvent itself as a conventional pop unit. Lotus, though, is a fireball of Latin psychedelic spiritualism.

+ The Steve Miller Band: Your Saving Grace (1990/1969) – One of the great overlooked recordings in Miller’s pre-Joker catalogue, Your Saving Grace offered boogie-driven basics (Little Girl), psychedelic meditations (Baby’s House), protest songs (Don’t Let Nobody Turn You Around) and trippy pop (the title tune). But leading the pack is a slow, chilling, electric reading of Motherless Children that represents the stylistic depth of Miller’s music before the hits took over. Sadly, this 1990 CD edition has been out of print for years.

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