Sunday, 12 July 2009

Dr. Music - Bedtime Story

Bedtime Story1974

88 MB
256+ VBR LAME mp3
Vinyl rip & scans from GRT 9233-1005

Every good doctor has a few tricks in their pharmacopeia for inducing sweet dreams and the good Dr. Music is no different. Rather than rendering you comatose or anesthetizing you 'til you're numb, as the album art seems to promise, this album would be more along the lines of an opiate or a mild hallucinogenic. A lot of that probably has to do with Riley's switch in preference from the brash B3 to the dulcet Rhodes for the bulk of the album but maybe even more with the fact that it was the mid-70s and everybody was high on something. Just look at the way they dressed in those days.

Bedtime Story era Dr. Music

It's often called the best Canadian jazz album and if it isn't, it ain't far from it. What it is far from, are the first and second Dr. Music albums previously posted on Soundological. Outside of two short vocal numbers that tether the album to earthly matters (Jimmy Webb's "I Keep It Hid" and the 20s standard "She's Funny That Way"), the remainder drifts off into the free-jazz (the white-knuckled "Tickle" and the samba-tinged "Gandalf") and kozmigroove ("Take That Rollo") sectors of the galaxy on the remaining four extended pieces. 

Showing his contemporary influences on his sleeves, the title cut is a laid-back interpretation of Herbie Hancock's "Tell Me A Bedtime Story." It's turned into a soft ballad here and only spotlights Riley's deft touch on the Rhodes late in the game, almost as if out of deference to the composer. However, he shines in both technique and feel (as he does throughout the album) and it's a gentle comedown to return you to reality and a fitting end to softly send you to your pillow.

Don Thomspon's return to the fold is surely welcome but the big addition to the line-up on this effort has to be highly-respected drummer Claude Ranger. In all probability, his stridently uncompromising nature was a major factor in the success of the free-jazz format Dr. Music put forth on this effort. 

How uncompromising? He was fired by Moe Koffman on-stage, mid-set, in front of an audience in Sydney. Figuring the goings-on were shite even for a cheese-meister like Koffman, he stopped playing mid-song and refused to continue which sparked a colourful shouting match (f-bombs included) with Moe and resulted in the termination of the Claude's services on the spot - all while being taped live by Australian TV. He was that uncompromising. Or maybe it was drunk. Getting fired for getting stinko was becoming a pattern with Claude and he had been sacked the year before by his friend Lenny Breau for letting his boozing get in the way of business.

Claude w/ his trademark smoke

Notoriously difficult to work with, Ranger lived like a pauper in a one-room apartment because he refused to become a puppet in the commercial milieu while his colleagues in the Toronto jazz scene were making money hand-over-fist recording jingles for TV and radio ads or doing session work for pop stars. However, many of those who worked with him are effusive in their praise of his talents and the following quote from Stone Alliance's Gene Perla is typical:

Having had the opportunity to play with some of the greatest drummers (Elvin Jones, "Philly" Joe Jones, "Papa" Joe Jones, Art Blakey, Roy Haynes, Mel Lewis, Buddy Rich, Billy Higgins, etc.), I can honestly tell you that I always looked forward with extreme delight to be playing with Claude, and he never let me down. He was a stand-alone individual and I would rank him in the same category as those I've mentioned above, except for one -- Elvin. Elvin was in a class by himself, and I know that Claude would agree as he told me so himself.

07/27/2005 at 05:53:26

Unfortunately, the
drug & alcohol habits that were as notorious and uncompromising as the man and his music would be his undoing, as is so often the case. Shortly after selling his cherished custom-built drum set (one of his few worldy possessions) at a rock-bottom price in the late 90s, he checked into a rehab in BC. He walked out the back door one day in 2000 and seems to have completely dropped off the face of the earth since then - his missing persons file is apparently still open with the police and he is presumed dead. The CBC aired a captivating radio documentary on this stereotypical tragic figure in 2007 called "Sticks and Stones" but it currently seems available only from Australia's ABC Radio National.

In an interview for the documentary, Don Thomspson recounts a backstage chat he was having about Ranger with avant-garde sax goliath Dewey Redman after a Montreal gig in the late 90s. The young drummer who was playing with Redman's band at the time enquired as to whom was the subject of their conversation. Thompson replied "Oh, Claude Ranger...he was probably the best drummer in Canada," whereupon Dewey - who came to prominence while working with Elvin Jones - interrupted to say: "Make that the world."

Doug Riley - keyboards
Doug Mallory - lead vocals, guitarMichael Kennedy - vocals, percussion
Steve Kennedy - vocals, tenor & alto sax, flute
Keith Jollimore - vocals, baritone, alto & tenor sax, flute
Barrie Tallman - trombone

Bruce Cassidy - trumpet, fluegel horn
Don Thompson - bass
Claude Ranger - drums
Dave Brown - second drums

1 I Keep It Hid
2 Take That Rollo
3 Tickle
4 She's Funny That Way
5 Gandalf
6 Bedtime Story

Rumour has it this album is available on iTunes but I ain't installing that proprietary-format pimpmobile just to confirm it. If you like to choose for yourself what type of gizmo on which you play your 1s and 0s, until it's out on CD you can get the full story from Soundological HERE. (Link updated May 23, 2013)


DonHo57 said...

You've made my weekend very enjoyable with all the Dr. Music posts to listen to. Thanks again!!!

cheeba said...

My pleasure DonHo! Thanks for taking the time to leave comments and let me know you enjoyed them!

Captain Beyond said...

I must commend you on your hard work in covering this neglected piece of music history. I'm curious as to what your next project will be!

Cpt. Beyond

cheeba said...

Glad you enjoyed these Dr. Music outings Cap'n. I too was surprised at how little info is available - even on Canadian sites - on the 70s output of these cats. It's like there's a black hole in canuck jazz history from 69 - 85.

As for the next project...well, not much of a planner that way. We'll see what fate has in store for us!

Simon666 said...

Now THIS is the keeper for me, lovely stuff - wasn't too keen on the vocals on the earlier ones, so this is the one. Title track is great. Thanks Cheeba!

oh and come visit, I've finally posted another album lol :)

cheeba said...

Figured you'd like this one, Simon. How could you live up to your blog's name otherwise? :)

Ironically I was there thoroughly enjoying my Sangster learning experience whilst you were leaving that comment! Seems like more of El Goog's "force" was in play, huh?

boogieman said...

Hi Cheeba. I knew Doug Riley from a few Moe Kofman's albums I had managed to find in Europe. I wasn't aware of his rock connection. Very informative post. And good misic, I started with Dr Music III and I am now going back in time.
Thanks for all that research work.

cheeba said...

You're very welcome boogieman! If you can believe, as lengthy as the Dr Music posts are, it's just scratching the surface of Mr. Riley's contributions.

As you go back, it gets poppier/rockier - there's quite a bit of Koffman on this blog so for more jazz from Riley, I suggest perusing those as well.

Thanks for dropping a line!