Reissues (May 3): Popol Vuh, Jeanette and Rodney Franklin

Reissues (May 3): Popol Vuh, Jeanette and Rodney Franklin

Music Week's round-up of the latest album reissues and catalogue releases, including Popol Vuh, Jeanette and Rodney Franklin...

POPOL VUH
The Essential Album Collection Volume 1 (BMG 538463190)

A handsome and hefty box set gathers together newly remastered 180g audiophile vinyl editions of Affenstunde, Hosianna Mantra, Einsjager & Siebenjager, Aguirre and Nosferatu by pioneering German avant-garde/prog. rock/Krautrock band Popol Vuh’s  alongside a quartet of bonus tracks, three posters and an insert with detailed liner notes and photos. Affenstunde (1970) was the band’s first album, and is full of adventurous and imaginative space rock ambience with Florian Fricke’s Moog well to the fore. Hosianna Mantra (1972) was Popol Vuh’s third album and is, perhaps, more direct than Affenstunde, with hauntingly beautiful progressive, acoustic and folk influences blended together.  1974’s Einsjager & Siebenjager – their fifth album – is widely regarded as one of Popol Vuh’s strongest, and features hauntingly beautiful vocals from Korean soprano Djong Yun set surprisingly harmoniously in progressive rock beds. Aguirre (1976) and Nosferatu (1978) are soundtrack accompaniments to successful Warner Herzog films. Film music is tricky, needing to underline and enhance a viewing experience without dominating or subsuming it, and Popol Vuh have got it about right with these two. Aguirre recalls their earlier work, with moody synths setting the tone while Nosferatu – like the film itself, which was a box office smash – ups the ante, with Popol Vuh’s imaginative prog. rock/ambient mood pieces nicely embroidered and enhanced by a variety of other instruments and even a church choir. A sprawling double vinyl release, Nosferatu includes no fewer than 14 varied and edifying tracks, most of them fairly brief by their standards, though the album as a whole includes upwards of an hour’s music, and stands alone as a triumph, as well as providing the perfect accompaniment to the film.

JEANETTE
Jeanette - Spain’s Silky-Voiced Songstress 1967-1983 (Ace International CDTOP 1451)

Born in London in 1951, Jeanette settled in her maternal homeland of Spain in 1963, and subsequently became one of the country’s most successful and best-loved singers, initially as the precocious 15 year old with folk/pop band Pic-Nic and later in her own right. Although she recorded extensively in French, and a little in English, this album consists entirely on Spanish language material, aside from Amanojaku, a Japanese version of one of her most celebrated songs, Soy Rebelde. As the album’s sub-title suggests, Jeanette has a soft, hushed vocal style, which was tailor-made for the material here. Six of the tracks here are credited to Pic-Nic, including the pretty Calate Nina which she co-wrote but the solo tracks are the main attraction, particularly Porque Te Vas, which was her biggest hit, and is a bright, brassy and breathy confection on which her delivery is a little redolent of Lynsey De Paul. The aforementioned Soy Rebelde is another highlight – a dramatic song, with a rousing chorus and a superb arrangement by Argentinian bandleader (and hitmaker in his own right) Waldo De Los Rios. Overall, a pleasant introduction to an artist who is little-known here, the album was put together with the blessing of Jeanette herself, and includes a wealth of photographs and an informative annotation by US DJ Gaylord Fields.

RODNEY FRANKLIN
In The Center/You’ll Never Know/Rodney Franklin/Endless Flight (Robinsongs ROBIN 39CDD)/Learning To Love/Marathon/Skydance/It Takes Two (ROBIN 40CDD)

Essentially a jazz pianist and composer, Rodney Franklin interweaved soul and funk into his work, as these two 2 CD sets – each featuring four albums from his tenure at CBS between 1978 and 1986 – attest. Franklin is probably best-known for The Groove – a No.7 UK hit in 1980 that was so popular it spawned its own dance (The Freeze, so-called because you froze during the track’s bar-long pauses) and which I can probably describe no better than my esteemed late Music Week colleague James Hamilton, who in a contemporaneous review, said: “madly catchy 109-112-110bpm jazz party instrumental (that) has become a monster”. Franklin indulges in a lot of similarly fluid, tinkling jazz pieces on these albums, which also include a brassy and funky upbeat take on The Hill Street Blues theme; the soulful and uplifting Love Is The Answer (a Franklin original which boasts a superb vocal duet from Darryl Coley and Lynn Davis); and a jazzy version of Mr. Mister’s Broken Wings, that is fairly faithful to the original apart from the vocal being replaced by Franklin’s piano part, which strays into some nice runs along the way.   

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