Canned Heat's 1978 release, Human Condition, was an important one in the band's overall discography, as it was the last studio effort to feature original singer Bob Hite fronting the band (Hite would pass away in 1981). In 2006, the album was expanded with a pair of live tracks from 1985 and retitled Human Condition Revisited, and was packaged as a double disc that also featured the overlooked 1981 solo effort by Canned Heat guitarist Henry Vestine, I Used to Be Mad! (But Now I'm Half Crazy).
You may remember a film from the early 1970s called Henry VIII & his Six Wives, starring Keith Mitchell, Donald Pleasance, and Charlotte Rampling; it was notable for its score, which not only featured authentic music of the period (nearly unheard-of at the time), but also was, according to David Munrow, “the first historical film in which the music has been scored entirely for historical instruments.” Munrow also added a few numbers of his own to satisfy the needs of the movie, patterned after 16th-century style and form. Although these days such attention to authenticity is common, even expected, Munrow was one of the pioneers in bringing musicological research and the more immediate practicalities of really old, original instruments and stylistic practice to the level of popular culture. Of course, also in these early days was planted the impression that period instruments must necessarily be somewhat clunky and (to varying degrees) not quite ideally in tune–and in some cases, just plain annoyingly squawky and prone to obnoxious buzzing noises. While this generally fine issue from Testament offers many reminders of those times, when musicians were still finding their way in unfamiliar territory (and often using very user-unfriendly instruments), this release will prove mostly a delight for early music fans–and will be a real treat for those who own the original LPs from which these tracks were drawn.
The violin concertos of Belgian-born composer/virtuoso Henri Vieuxtemps have been recorded by various players, including the young Russian-American virtuoso Misha Keylin heard here. But these shorter pieces, which would have been the stock-in-trade of Vieuxtemps' active touring life (during one American tour he made 121 appearances in six months, without benefit of planes, automobiles, or in many cases trains), are a good deal rarer. They don't have the main virtue of the concertos, which is that there's a certain amount of structural interest to go with the Paganini-like fireworks, but they're a great deal of fun.
Compilations are highly useful in understanding the works of the inexhaustibly tuneful British composer Henry Purcell (1659-1695). He had a few big hits, like the Funeral Music for Queen Mary (which is included here) and the opera Dido and Aeneas (which isn't). But much of his best music is scattered around in small bits, residing within genres that are rather odd from today's perspective. Purcell spent much of his short adult life as a theater composer, and his incidental music, for example, is filled with perfect miniatures…
In for a Penny, In for a Pound is the latest installment in saxophonist/ flutist/composer Henry Threadgills ongoing exploration of his singular system for integrating composition with group improvisation. The music for his band Zooid his main music-making vehicle for the past fourteen years and the longest running band of his illustrious forty plus-year career is no less than his attempt to completely deconstruct standard jazz form, steering the improvisatory language towards an entirely new system based on preconceived series of intervals. His compositions create a polyphonic platform that encourages each musician to improvise with an ear for counterpoint and, in the process, creating striking new harmonies.