Saturday, January 24, 2015

What's New?: 1.24.2015

Terry Callier!
Terry Callier — The New Folk Sound of Terry Callier (1964)

Terry Callier's first album is in such stark contrast to the rest of his catalogue, it's almost hard to judge as part of his cannon. Where the majority of Callier's following output was masterminded in Chicago by Charles Stepney and Richard Evans, this is mostly just acoustic guitar and vocals and the numbers are almost all traditionals.  It's a million miles away from the orchestrated jazz soul that was to come, but still showcases a unique talent that takes some new and fresh takes on these tunes.  There's a haunting, melancholy quality to the whole affair that really merits the title.  That said, to most ears, this is just a standard acoustic folk album, with some dark overtones.  Key tracks: the opening epic '900 Miles' the proper album closer 'I'm A Drifter' and the redemptive closing outtake 'The Golden Apples of the Sun.'

Terry Callier — What Color is Love (1973)

Almost a decade later, Terry's second album for the Chess/Cadet label find him at the height of his powers.  His first album for the label was the previous year's Occasional Rain (which featured fan favorite 'Ordinary Joe') and was done in a similar vein as this one: a sort of folk/pop/soul/jazz hybrid that sounds too good to be true.  But one listen to the multi-movement epic opener 'Dancing Girl' makes good on that promise quite easily.  Terry's acoustic strumming comes in handy to accompany his scat vocals in the penultimate section of the tune and, whoo, is it a winner.  The folky undercurrent that perhaps got a bit glossed over on Occasional Rain is on full display here, but the bigger arrangements and tasteful production make for an entirely unique sound.  It's an album that has a sound and vibe all its own; one of those rare albums that is able to create its own wonderful atmosphere while it's playing.  I'd say its closest musical cousins were the equally as visionary albums Gil Scott-Heron was cutting around the same time.  Exceptional.  Key tracks: the aforementioned opener 'Dancing Girl', the mildly Stevie Wonder-ish 'I'd Rather Be With You' and the viscous funk of 'You Goin' Miss Your Candy Man.'

Terry Callier — I Just Can't Help Myself (1974)

A little more produced and lightweight than his previous album, this one doesn't get real heavy until side two, but even sometimes there the string arrangements become a little obtrusive.  Still, a tune like the nine minute political rant 'Alley Wind Song' is about as righteous as it gets and the album's only better for its inclusion.   The last two tracks —'Can't Catch the Trane' and the especially wrenching 'Bowlin' Green'— go back to Callier's folk roots heavily and definitely make this one just a step better than anything that would follow.  Key tracks: 'Alley Wind Song' and 'Bowlin' Green.'

Terry Callier — Fire on Ice (1978)

Still working with a lot of same Chicago cast that made his previous three albums so wonderful, the material on this one is decidedly more lightweight and nowhere near as compelling. Stuff like 'Street Fever' and 'Disco In the Sky' just seem like borderline jokes when compared to past victories.  There are some good tunes here, but they are mostly overproduced, with too many string and horn charts cluttering up things.  'Butterfly' is just fine, but still feels a little saccharine.  Dah well, the good ones here are good enough to overcome.  Key tracks: the obvious centerpiece 'African Violet' and the Gregorian chant turned gigantic soul tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. 'Martin St. Martin.'

Terry Callier — Turn You to Love (1979)

Kind of an odd album, as it tries to cast Terry as a soul pop crooner.  There's a bit more of a focus here on synthesizers, but it doesn't really hinder or enhance the affair, which is nice.  There's some re-recordings of old favorites here and even a horn-charted cover of Steely Dan's 'Do It Again' (not bad, actually), along with a decidedly Vegas-y rendition of 'Ordinary Joe' and one more look at a masterpiece with a gorgeous 'Occasional Rain.'  Sometimes haunting, sometimes carefree, it would be his last album for nearly two decades and a somewhat mixed bag to go out on, but definitely one that's at least quality all the way through.  Key tracks: the haunting title track, 'Ordinary Joe' and the brilliant revisit of 'Occasional Rain.'


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