March 9, 2010

Amina Claudine Myers, Salutes Bessie Smith.

One of my latest popular spinners!

I must first state the obvious that this CD/LP may not appeal to all our readers. I recently played this CD to a visitor, and he asked to remove the CD less than 2 minutes playing in to track 1. He did not even want to skip to the next track for curiosity's sake! However, I insisted and he sat through the song quietly until it ended. Then this visitor remarked, "I knew this is a "goreng" performance, I absolutely hated it". Apparently, he then re-counted to me, the days when he was a keyboard/vocalist performer in the local pub/bar circuits, that he'd "goreng" his key board when he was:

a) tired and just didn't feel like singing any more.
b) having a memory lapse of the song's lyric that he was singing.
c) experiencing sore or uncomfortable throat symptoms.
d) having too much time to fill with too few songs left to perform. He said he could "goreng" a 5 minutes song to as long as 15 minutes!

So what's the meaning of "goreng"?, if you international readers must ask. It's actually a local Malaysian slang used by musicians to mean "improvisation" by a band on a recording or when performing live. I am actually quite a fan of improvisation. I feel it gives me an opportunity to hear in to the performer's inner state of mind, during the recorded or live performance, not the usual rehearsed routine. My jaded musical performing friend obviously felt differently over this issue, we agree to disagree, after all music is a very personal thing. However, if you like improvisation in the Blues genre with a tinge of Gospel and performed by a trio, with songs arranged just like old Jazz movement, then read on.

I think this has to be the most popular recording Amina Claudine Myers has ever made. Obviously gifted on the piano, she "gorengs" the keyboard with such passion and feeling for the tune, for example on track 1, called Wasted Life Blues, she started and continued on a piano solo lasting way over 3 and a half minutes before starting the vocal bit! Then it was back more keyboard drama in between vocals. Amina's voice is textured, harmonically rich, yet soulful. Track 1 is certainly my favorite, and that alone is worth buying the whole CD for. But wait, hear the CD a few more times, and you'd probably start to feel all 6 tracks(yes, only six, but the whole CD runs for a good 40 minutes or so!) are actually of very even quality. Except for track 6, tittled African Blues which is actually penned by Amina, all the earlier 5 tracks are Bessie Smith covers. Truth be told, I've not heard the actual Bessie Smith performance and will not venture in to comparing for the sake of it. I just want to say that Amina Claudine Myers is very talented, no comparison is needed to justify that. On all tracks, she's backed by a double bass and a drum kit. By the way, every chance she gets, she just goes a head and "gorengs" that keyboard and sets it on fire!

This recording was originally released in 1980, but only became available on CD by year 2000. The recording quality on my CD sample had some general low level tape hiss, but did not detract from my overall appreciation of the musical materials. Look past that tape hiss however, one can find a very immediate presentation, with lots of studio "air" and just enough warmness to sound enticing for long listening sessions. There is no edginess or glare to the sound at all, unlike some modern audiophile recordings disguised in the name of clarity. Do check out the prices of the original 1980 LP pressing on e-bay now, you'd probably be surprised by how much it's worth!

I am not surprised at all, as I've heard that said LP copy on a friend's super high end system, and it sounds fabulous! Get the CD if you do not have a turntable, or just plain cheapie like me. He!He!

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