Thursday, January 11, 2007

Alan Sondheim and Ritual All 770-THE SONGS CD (Fire Museum, PO Box 591754, San Francisco CA 94159 USA)

It's a good thing I lost that ebay auction for the original Riverboat (also home to Robbie Basho) vinyl version of this elusive Alan Sondheim debut album, for if I had somehow won I would've been out a whopping $287.56 (my bid) for a disc that I could have waited five years for to latch onto in digital form. And true I hadda wait a pretty long time to finally lend ear to this legendary at least as far as that Nurse With Wound list goes platter, but really I know that the humongous amount of pasta I saved on an original could have been put to better use. No, not for my very own vibrating butt plug like you would Dave, but towards some of the more useful things in life, like EVEN MORE RECORDS!!!! Now how do you like them bananas?

Not knowing what I was going to be in for, I was anxious to hear just how Sondheim and his Ritual All 770 would have approached their spontaneous leanings in the days before those well-known ESP Disks hit the boards, and strangely enough I find THE SONGS to almost be an amalgamation of those future Ritual All 770 efforts. Longer numbers than on the first, yet just as sparse or as thick as the improvising could get (no synthesizer here though!) with moments of underlying intensity flashing into mad free-for-all. Ruth Ann Hutchinson is on this one doing the same kinda coo-ing vocals as on RITUAL ALL 770 while the rest of the group (exact same line up as RITUAL ALL 770 w/the exception of J. Z. for J. P. on "jazz drums" and June Fellows on additional vocals) are just as free form discordant as ever. And come to think of it, that June Fellows just might BE the very same June Sondheim who does these very strange vocal interjections here which sound very similar to those strange Popeye-like asides on T'OTHER LITTLE TUNE meaning I guess it does help to marry the bandleader in order to get ahead in life! All kidding aside, THE SONGS, unlike the other Ritual efforts, seems more or less like one continuous free-form freakout with Sondheim as usual alternating between a variety of instruments including violin, various guitars and even an early application of the sitar taken to atonal heights George Harrison never coulda dreamed up in his deepest mantra. And it's a kick to hear Sondheim in the midst of a blast throw inna little "Yankee Doodle," Jose Greco stomp guitar or da blooze as the rest of the band sounds like the Red Krayola decomposing before your very eyes whilst playing the AACM songbook sideways.

At first I actually found THE SONGS slightly lackluster and hardly on par with the better-known output but a more careful listening session had me oozing into the idiosyncrasies and subtle nuances to the point where I find this brand of improv just as good or even better'n some of the things I've been hearing over the past few years thanks to Dee Pop and his manic vision. It's a must for the "doo wah classic" bin in your household, and even though they hadda cop the master from "the best possible vinyl source available" this don't sound like no swipe from a tire recycling plant either!

One final note...although this was the first Sondheim/Ritual All 770 to hit the shops, surprisingly enough it was recorded a full two months after the debut ESP platter! Will wonders ever cease?

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