Friday, January 29, 2010
Monday, January 25, 2010
Willie Mitchell was the genius behind Hi Records in Memphis, and Al Green. As a writer and producer he made some of the greatest soul records of all time. Some of the artists he worked with were Otis Clay, Ann Peebles, and O.V. Wright. Along with Stax, Hi was the preeminent soul label in the late 60's/early 70's. Great stuff.
From Philadelphia, the land of Gamble and Huff, Teddy Pendergrass had an amazing rich voice, most notably heard on Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes great singles of the early-mid 1970's. But it was after he left that group to become a solo artist that he did some of his best work. "Close The Door" and Love TKO" are 2 of the best slow jam/quiet storm, etc. songs ever made. I remember hearing about his "Ladies Only" concerts where he basically stood on stage for 2 hours and women threw their underwear at him. It was a tragedy that he had a terrible car accident in 1982 (a transsexual and drugs were involved, but that's for another time) and was left paralyzed at the height of his fame. Great singer.
I remember Bobby Charles from "The Last Waltz", where he played harmonica on "Going Down To New Orleans" with Dr. John and The Band. He was a great musician and wrote some seminal Louisiana rock'n'roll records including "See You Later Alligator". There's not much video around of him performing...below is a sad video taken recently of him playing "Come Rain or Come Shine" in a bar somewhere. You can hear the people in the audience talking over him while he's playing. Sometimes people don't realize that when you see someone perform who may not be a household name, you could be witnessing a form of music history that won't be around much longer.
This is a great song by Miriam Makeba (amazing South African singer and activist, and wife of Hugh Masekela...she died in 2008). The name of the song is "Pata Pata". It's now being used in a car commercial for Honda, but I remember this song from when I was a kid. Sometimes Madison Ave actually has taste.....here's a video of a performance of the song along with a video of her singing "Soweto Blues" at the Graceland Africa concert from 1987:
>Great show....they actually sounded better than The Dead this summer, but the Hammerstein blows as a venue, really poor sound. The new guitarist (John Kadlecik) from DSO is the best fit for these guys since Garcia. Really
12/9/09 Hammerstein Ballroom, New York, NY
Click below to preview tracks from this show
DOWNLOAD THIS SHOW
Here's a link to Alberta Cross performing a few songs off their new disc. They sound pretty good...they should have done this when I saw them at Mountain Jam instead of pretending there was a drummer (there wasn't).
and here's a good audience video from a few days ago at Bush Hall in London. It's "Low Man' a great song that they didn't include on their new album.
Been listening to some late 60's/early 1970's blues of the UK variety (which of course means that John Mayall is somehow involved). Specifically - Savoy Brown, Humble Pie, and Fleetwood Mac. It's unbelievable how much great music came from England in that time period. In no way can I give even a small history of these bands here, but I thought them worth a mention for those who may not have ever listened.
I never really paid any attention to the less well-known of the 70's classic rock/blues canon. But after hearing Peter Green's 1979 solo album "In The Skies" (an amazing disc) I figured I'd go back and listen to some early Fleetwood Mac, which was founded by Peter Green, one of the all-time great white blues guitarists. Early Fleetwood Mac is all just classic bar-band American blues, a la Paul Butterfield, but done by a bunch of Brits. Their first disc "Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac" is one step removed from yes, John Mayall's Bluesbreakers (Green replaced Eric Clapton in that band). Good 12 bar blues. In time, the band incorporated more psychedelic touches. In 1969 they released "Then Play On" an excellent disc, which includes the dusty FM classic "Oh Well", which I found a video of and included below. After that they evolved (or devolved depending on your POV) into a more mainstream band, as Peter Green left and Bob Welch and Christine McVie joined. They made a few good albums and then Welch left and Buckingham/Nicks joined and the rest is hi$tory.
Savoy Brown I've only recently listened to, as it was one of those bands that I'd heard of but never actually listened to when growing up. I've got 2 of their releases "Looking In' and "Raw Sienna". Evidently this was a band ruled by an imperious leader/superb guitarist that kept the band from having a stable line-up. Hence, depending on which album you're listening to, the lead singer changes, as does most of the band. But Kim Simmonds, the leader/guitarist is really excellent. Some of the original band left and formed "Foghat". Both of these discs are excellent...great guitar jams and just good rock and roll. Obscure, yes, but that doesn't mean it ain't good. There were only a certain amount of places for this kind of music to be heard back then, and NYC FM radio back then wasn't one of them. (If only the internet existed when I was 10).
Humble Pie was formed by Steve Marriott and Peter Frampton. Marriott had one of the all-time great rock voices. He was an original, with a high-pitched voice that sounded a bit out of place for a blues singer. (Of course, Robert Plant showed that that's not a liability). They released some excellent music and I highly recommend their album "Rock On" as a great example of soulful rock from the early 70's. Some say they're a Stones rip-off, but if you listen to this disc you'll hear a rootsy blues band with a hard boozy edge and unique sound. Below is a great video of them doing "Black Coffee"...
10/31/09 Empire Polo Club, Indio, CA
Phish Festival 8
Set I: Sample in a Jar, The Divided Sky, Lawn Boy, Kill Devil Falls, Bathtub Gin, The Squirming Coil, Runaway Jim> Possum, Run Like An Antelope
Set II: Rocks Off, Rip This Joint, Shake Your Hips, Casino Boogie, Tumbling Dice, Sweet Virginia, Torn and Frayed, Sweet Black Angel, Loving Cup, Happy Birthday, Turd On The Run, Ventilator Blues> I Just Want To See His Face, Let It Loose, All Down The Line, Stop Breaking Down, Shine A Light, Soul Survivor
Set III: Backwards Down The Number Line> Fluffhead, Ghost, When the Circus Comes to Town, You Enjoy Myself
Encore: Suzy Greenberg
Not faring as well (imho) was Gov't Mule. I thought the song choices were fairly lame (Slave?!), and didn't think any song sounded particularly inspired. I was surprised when I listened to their take of "Can't You Hear Me Knockin" which I thought sounded unfocused. It lacked any urgency and sounded sloppy, particularly compared to what this band is capable of live. Monkey Man and Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker) was a bit better, but this show can't compare to their last 2 Halloween shows, in which they focused on Led Zeppelin (07) and Pink Floyd (08). I really thought Gov't Mule would nail the Stones, but wish they'd have concentrated on one of the seminal Stones albums (Exile, Sticky Fingers) instead of playing random songs. It made me appreciate the Rolling Stones even more. Would've loved to heard Warren play "Time Waits For No One". Sounds like they had fun doing it though, just wish it would've sounded more memorable.
Mule Setlist for Halloween this year, 1st set all Rolling Stones, 2nd set songs from the new disc "By A Thread", and a few others.
I'm surprised they didn't decide to play an entire album (Exile, Sticky Fingers would've been cool) which I think might've been more interesting. Instead, Mule played a variety of songs, from early period Stones (Under My Thumb) to late ("Slave" from Tattoo You). Some obvious choices for them are Can't You Hear Me Knocking and Gimme Shelter...I saw Warren play Can't You Hear Me Knocking with Umphrey's McGee at Mountain Jam this summer, and saw The Dead (with Warren) play Gimme Shelter at the Garden. Will definitely download this show, although it will be hard to top their past 2 Halloween shows (Pink Floyd '08 and Led Zep '07):
Set 1: Under My Thumb, Monkey Man, Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo, Can't You Hear Me Knockin', Angie, Ventilator Blues, Shattered, Wild Horses, Slave, Gimmie Shelter, Play With Fire, Paint It Black, Bitch, Brown Sugar
Set 2: Steppin' Lightly, Broke Down On The Brazos, Railroad Boy > Monday Mourning Meltdown > Forevermore, Frozen Fear > Brighter Days > Blind Man In The Dark, E: Goin' Out West with Peter Gunn Tease > Bang A Gong (Get It On) > Goin' Out West
Some new music I've been listening to:
Gov't Mule "By A Thread" - very good new disc. Template is the same, heavy blues influenced power rock. The single "Broke Down On The Brazos" has Billy Gibbons playing some guitar with Warren Haynes, although it's not exactly earth-shattering. Most of Mule's studio output has sounded the same to my ears, and to date no record has really been an "over the top" effort. They're a workmanlike band that plays riff based blues-rock better than just about any band around. And live they're killer. But there are no killer tracks on this disc, although if you're a fan you won't be disappointed.
One Eskimo - very mellow disc from Kristian Leontiou, a London based musician who released a solo disc in 2004 that disappeared in the US, but was fairly big in England. It was a very slick power-pop album that has zero resemblance to this effort. This disc has Kristian singing in an almost falsetto to guitar based tracks with minimal backing (bass, drums, some horns). Key tracks - Kandi (a cool remake of an old Candi Staton song), Hometime.
Van Ghost - found this band perusing the internet for new music. From Chicago, I would describe their sound as Americana Folk/Pop, a la Train or The Counting Crows. Female backing vocals are from Jennifer Hartswick, who's played with Trey Anastasio. Their debut album "Melodies for Lovers' is excellent, especially if you like acoustic based rock. Almost every song on the disc is good. Can't wait to see these guys live. Right now I think they only play in the Chicago area (aka Chicagoland). Fast forward 50 seconds on the video I've embedded to avoid the unnecessary new-age intro.
Saw Ratdog live last week at the Beacon. Some excellent music, especially They Love Each Other, Loose Lucy, Jus' Like Mama Said > Estimated Prophet > Might as Well and a good Scarlet Begonias, BUT, after Scarlet in the 2nd set Bob left the stage and some rapper named Chris Burger (?!) came out and RAPPED for about 10 minutes, bringing the show to a screeching halt. It was like a train wreck on stage, but not nearly as interesting. And he followed that brilliant move up with coming back on to sing "Days Between"....check, please. Good show up to that point but fell off a cliff at the 3/4 mark.
Another good band that's disappeared is Cousteau. They formed in the UK in 1999 and released 2 excellent albums - self-titled and "Sirena". A song off their 1st cd was huge - "The Last Good Day of the Year" (unfortunately it got abused by a Nissan car commercial). I had a chance to see them at Joe's Pub when they toured for "Sirena" and I still kick myself for missing them. Their sound is a mix of cocktail-rock (a la Roxy Music's "Avalon" / "Flesh and Blood" era) and Scott Walker/Nick Cave-ish vocals. Very slick and smooth, but it worked. The main songwriter (Davey Ray Moore) left the band in 2003 after "Sirena" to do production work in Italy....must've really hated the guys in the band to leave a gig like that. The remaining members re-named themselves Moreau and released a very mediocre album called "Nova Scotia". Davey Ray Moore is now teaching music production, songwriting and marketing at Bath Spa University in the UK. I just read that the lead singer, Liam McKahey, just released a solo disc called "Lonely Road" (Liam McKahey and the Bodies). If you've never heard Cousteau, check out either of their cd's.
U2 rolled into town yesterday to play a few shows at Giants Stadium. Lots o' Facebook posts about people enjoying the show. They're a great band, no doubt, but I really can't bring myself to going to a concert with 80,000 people (unless I'm in the front). For this tour, U2 is schlepping a $100 million erector set stage that looks cool but I don't understand what it adds to their music. Spectacle for spectacle sake I guess....when you sell as many tickets as they do you can do what you want. I've seen U2 a few times - Madison Square Garden for the Achtung Baby tour, Brendan Byrne Arena (now Izod, after being Continental for a while) for the Zooropa tour. But far and away the best show I saw them perform (and one of my top 10 concerts ever) was when I saw them for the "War" tour in 1983. Amazing show, they were just breaking in the US. They played Ritchie Coliseum (University of Maryland) which was directly behind the frat house I lived in. I think the place held about 1500, with no seats, just concrete "bleachers" and an open floor. I remember Bono running right by me waving a flag, and the energy they brought was amazing. I saw some great shows at that venue while at school, but none better than the U2 show, after that show it was obvious they were going to be huge. Here's the setlist from that night:
4/25/83 Ritchie Coliseum, University of Maryland
- I Threw A Brick Through A Window
- A Day Without Me
- Sunday Bloody Sunday
- The Cry
- The Electric Co. / Send In The Clowns (snippet)
- I Fall Down
- Two Hearts Beat As One / Let's Twist Again (snippet)
- Out Of Control
- 11 O'Clock Tick Tock
- I Will Follow
- New Year's Day
Saw that Gov't Mule will be playing a special Halloween show again this year. Their '07 show in Minneapolis was amazing, they performed Led Zep's "Houses of the Holy" from start to finish. Really great stuff. Last year they did a bunch of Pink Floyd songs (Pigs on The Wing, Shine On You Crazy Diamond, Comfortably Numb, a few more). This year they've chosen to cover a bunch of Rolling Stones songs, which I think suits the band perfectly. Should be great, the show is at Tower Theater in Philly.
I was listening to WFAN this morning (the Boomer and god-awful Carlton show) and they got off on a tangent discussing the U2 concert playing Giants stadium tonight. Carlton made a comment about how he first saw U2 in Syracuse in the early 90's (I felt old) and Los Lobos opened. Someone in the background made a comment about how Los Lobos is not even a good band, I couldn't believe it. The comment was "besides La Bamba (!!!) what did they ever do"? Talk about flaunting your stupidity. Saying that "La Bamba" is even representative of the band, and to say that's the only song you know from them speaks volumes about that person's musical ignorance. Suffice to say that Los Lobos is one of the finest bands this country ever produced, and they are still a smokin' live band. Really pisses me off when people make comments/give opinions with no knowledge whatsoever. I'm sure that person went right back to listening to the new Colbie Caillat cd.
I saw a link for an "article" on MSNBC.com this morning that I had to click - "20 Fall Albums We Can't Wait To Hear"....on my god, was it awful. This is what they deem the best of the bunch: Madonna, Mariah Carey, Shakira, the soundtrack to "New Moon" (can't wait for that one, more boring songs that can be played on any CW show, or of course, Grays Anatomy), Leona Lewis, Alicia Keys, Usher. There's more but why bother? The only disc on the list remotely interesting is the new Flaming Lips. Incredible how people will listen to (and buy) just about anything that's promoted heavily and is played on the radio.....and that's been my argument against narrowcasted radio since the beginning. At least the internet has opened the door to allow people to listen to and find great music they'd never hear otherwise. But there's no underestimating the taste of the general public - look how many overproduced records Mariah Carey has sold....
Some new music worth mentioning - the Pearl Jam album "Backspacer", is excellent. I don't know if it's because this is the 1st album to be released by Monkeywrench (Pearl Jam-owned) or because they decided to ditch the preachy politics this time around. In any event, it's a much better set of songs than either of their previous 2 efforts ("Pearl Jam" and "Riot Act"). I was beginning to grow tired of their music, each album had a few good songs, but no standouts. This disc has 9 out of 11 worth listening to more than once, which is more than I can say about most new discs. I embedded some lame static video a fan put together for youtube, but it's a good song from the disc.
A few good singles -
I found a single the other day by a band a friend recommended to me - The Soulsavers. They have a new disc out ("Broken") but I downloaded a single from their 2nd disc, the single is called "Revival" and it's very good. The Soulsavers are 2 guys from the UK. Basically a production team, they specialize in downtempo electronica, but got Mark Lanegan, a great lead singer (previously with Screaming Trees) to sing some vocals on their last 2 discs. "Revival" sounds like a cross between gospel, soul and rock. The cool video for the song is below. The new disc sounds really good as well, have to give it a few more listens.
Res looks like she has some new music coming soon...her myspace page has a few songs streaming, the best of which ("For Who You Are", a re-make of Three Dog Night's "One") sound excellent. She disappeared since her last (1st) cd ("How I Do"), which was an incredible debut cd and worth hearing. Some examples from her 1st disc: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xuv6OGsnc9Q
I can't seem to get away from that innocuous song "I Gotta Feeling" from the Black Eyed Peas, it seems everywhere I turn it's being used for some sort of advertising. Oprah Winfrey had something like 20,000 people on Michigan Ave dancing like idiots to it, and I also heard it used on a promo for the new CBS primetime lineup. I read this great review on allmusic.com of the album the song comes from, which sums them (and most every other disposable pop group) up perfectly - this was written by someone named John Bush:
"The Black Eyed Peas make effective pop/crossover music, but with all the limitations of the form — vapid lyrics, clumsy delivery, vocals smoothed over by Auto-Tune, and songwriting that constantly strains for (and reaches) the lowest common denominator. Worse yet, they aren't content to be disposable pop stars; they also want to write anthemic, vital songs that speak for a new generation. And so comes The E.N.D. (Energy Never Dies). For every hyper-sexualized, by-the-numbers track like the hit single "Boom Boom Pow," there are message songs like "Now Generation," which begins, in cheerleader fashion, with the lines: "We are the now generation! We are the generation now!/This is the now generation! This is the generation now!" Led by will.i.am's production, which is continually the best thing about the album, the Black Eyed Peas move even farther away from hip-hop into the type of blandly inspirational dance-pop that has become ripe for advertising and marketing opportunities, including "I Gotta Feeling" ("I gotta feeling that tonight's gonna be a good night") and "Party All Night" ("If we could party all night and sleep all day, and throw all of our problems away, my life would be ea-say"). There's also a call for unity titled "One Tribe," which gradually descends into confusion — and nearly self-parody — with a line about the dangers of making enemies, rapped this way: "If I had an enemy, then my enemy's gonna try to come kill me 'cuz I'm his enemy — one tribe y'all." Between tracks, there are also occasional cameos from a narrator, who sounds strangely like Star Trek's Worf, intoning nuggets like these: "There is no longer a physical record store, but we will continue to let the beat rock!" and "The most powerful force on the planet is the energy of the youth/But when this powerful youth becomes activated and stimulated and collectively decides not to buy things, what will happen to the economy?" Granted, there's nothing here as embarrassing as "My Humps," and the production is a shade better than previous material from the group or Fergie solo (although still not as good as will.i.am solo ventures), but The E.N.D. (Energy Never Dies) is a mess of pop/dance/rap crossover. It certainly won't change the minds of everyone who thinks that the group's pandering approach and clumsy execution make it the worst thing about pop music in the 2000s".
I think American Idol has finally jumped the shark. I'm not at all a fan of the show, I think "talent" like Daughtry and Kelly Clarkson are the 00's equivalent of Olivia Newton-John and Loverboy, but hey, I realize there's a place in pop culture for that too. But now they've hired Ellen DeGeneres as a "judge"....a comedienne, daytime talk-show host(ess?), who has absolutely zero credibility when it comes to music (I use the term loosely here). Not that the show is tethered to any kind of musical reality anyway, but Ellen DeGeneres as a judge? Really? What's next, Bob Dylan doing a CD of Christmas standards? Oh......
Usually this time of year there are at least 8-10 new releases I look forward to. Not so this year....for some reason there isn't a ton of new stuff on the horizon I find interesting. (I love the Beatles but am not thrilled about forking over money to buy the new cd's to replace the sort-of crappy ones I bought in the late 80's). Some good archive releases (Stephen Stills/Manassas, live Rick Danko - solo and with Richard Manuel) and a few new ones (Gov't Mule, Zero 7) that's it. Not really thrilled at the prospect of another David Gray cd, or another Hall & Oates collection.
There have been 2 recent releases I've been listening to and really enjoying - "...Before The Frost" by The Black Crowes, and "Joy" by Phish. I used to think of the Crowes as little more than a competent covers band that rips off The Faces and The Stones. But as their career has progressed (in stops and starts) they've grown on me. I really don't think any of their albums are outstanding (Southern Harmony being the best), but each one has at least 2 or 3 excellent tunes. Add it up and it would make for a great double-cd (the current one doesn't include anything from their last 2 discs). That trend continues with their latest disc (recorded live at Levon Helm's studio in Woodstock) but this time the not-so-good tunes aren't terrible. They mine a more folky/acoustic vein for much of this disc, and the 2nd disc "Until The Freeze" (available as a download when purchasing Before The Frost) has a bit too many mid-tempo songs that start to all sound the same. The opening track on the 1st disc is a great song - "Morning Captain", and "Appaloosa" is an excellent ballad. Luther Dickinson (North Mississippi All-Stars) is now a part of the band, and adds some great guitar as a complement to Rich Robinson. It's actually refreshing to hear new classic rock being made. Here's a video from their Letterman appearance:
The new Phish disc is excellent. It's getting compared to "Billy Breathes" because both were produced by Steve Lillywhite. I think it's similar in that both have more pop oriented songs than the rest of the Phish catalog, with a big exception for "Farmhouse". This disc has some songs that smoke in concert - Stealing Time From The Faulty Plan, Backwards Down The Number Line, and Joy (BDTNL is a great single) are imho among the best Phish have written. The lyrics for the most part actually make some sense, which was a big knock I had on these guys. (Gotta Jiboo? Makisupa Policeman? Please.) The disc is strong from start to finish, with the exception of "Time Turns Elastic" which goes a bit too prog for me and doesn't really lead anywhere. I heard that the song live is far better, with a strong finish. The Mike Gordon tune (Sugar Shack) is ok, and it's as funky as Phish gets on the disc (which means that for a bunch of middle aged white guys it's relatively funky). Here's some recent Phish video, performing a song from the new disc.
I recently saw the name of this band (Maplewood) and had to listen (for obvious reasons). They're a new band from Brooklyn, and have released 2 discs so far..."Maplewood" released in '04 and "Yeti Boombox", which was just released last month. I've listened to their first self-titled disc and thought it was great. Great harmonies, chiming guitars and very reminiscent of 70's pop music such as America. The first 4 tracks are killer and it's great end of summer listening, I recommend it highly. I'm still listening to their 2nd disc, and it hasn't hit me like the first so I don't know if they're a one-hit/disc wonder or not....here's a track from their 1st disc and some info from their site:
Pop Matters declared Maplewood to be “one toke away from the cosmos and harbingers of a movement already afoot. [Their music] makes you want to hit the highway and fly on the ground past the outer limits“. Paste found their first album, which featured guest appearances from members of the Hold Steady and Sparklehorse, to have “a gorgeous, pot-smoking melancholy that perfectly recaptures the easy, breezy sound of vintage FM radio.“ And Newsday proclaimed Maplewood one of New York’s top ten rock bands. Members of Maplewood also play in these bands: Two Dark Birds, Nada Surf, Legendary Oaks and Champale.
I was recently checking out some reviews of new music on Metacritic.com (I use the site more for movie reviews, for reasons I'm about to list) and couldn't believe what was ranked as their top picks, or top "rated" for 2009 so far...here it is (in order): Leonard Cohen, Animal Collective, something called Sun O))), Amadou & Mariam, Grizzly Bear, Manic Street Preachers, Dirty Projectors, Tanya Morgan, The Felice Brothers, and Japandroids. That's their list. I just looked up what Sun 0))) is and found that they are an American drone metal band. OK. But they have the 3rd best release this year??!! What about Levon Helm or Wilco or Maxwell? Of course I realize that all reviews are subjective, and the idea of Metacritic is to formulate one score based on a number of different reviews...but how good can their system be when it comes up with a ridiculous list like that? I don't care how good the Tanya Morgan record is, and I actually enjoy Leonard Cohen, but neither should be on a Top 10 list this year.
In referencing the Jonny Greenwood reggae collection in my post yesterday, I remembered a great out-of-print movie that came out in 1980 (I think) - "Heartland Reggae". This was more or less a documentary that focused on the One Love Peace concert that took place in Jamaica in 1978. Jamaica was in civil turmoil at the time, and Bob Marley made an historic appearance and had the leaders of the 2 political parties come up on stage to hold hands (Michael Manley and Edward Seaga). Quality of the flick is just ok, but there are some absolutely classic performances. I've included links to a few, including the great Dennis Brown (look for 2 members of Third World in the audience enjoying it) and Jacob Miller, who was killed in 1980 in a car accident at the age of 27, was also a great talent, backed by the Roots Radics (who were the Booker T. & The MG's of reggae music) . These are some prime examples of classic roots reggae. I remember seeing Dennis Brown back in the early 80's as part of the Reggae Sunsplash concert at Radio City Music Hall. Also on that bill were Yellowman and Gregory Isaacs....that was when great reggae bands like Black Uhuru, Steel Pulse and UB-40 toured regularly and reggae hadn't crossed over to the dancehall darkside.
Must've been very cool to have been in Jamaica at that time...check out some of the tourists watching too (my guess is the white folks aren't residents) , Jamaica was a different place back then. The movie is worth seeing if you can find it.
(That's Peter Tosh at the start of the Jacob Miller clip)
Sometimes I see a video of a performance or hear a track that makes me re-assess an artist. Last year I happened to catch the 200th episode of the Later with Jools Holland show (from the UK) and there were 2 performances that blew me away, and from artists that I really didn't love. One such performance was this one from Radiohead doing "Weird Fishes" and the other was by Mary J. Blige, who I've basically ignored for much of her career. The Radiohead song made me go back and re-listen to much of their output, and I found myself pulled in. When I first listened to Radiohead (OK Computer was when I entered, although I had liked "Creep" from Pablo Honey) I got into them for their great tunes. I stopped listening after Amnesiac, as I wasn't really ready for their journey into ambient electronica. But after seeing this song, I appreciated them for their atmospherics and great guitar (Jonny Greenwood is an amazing guitarist...and has great taste in reggae music...check out the disc "Jonny Greenwood Is The Controller" for a great sampler of classic roots reggae).
As for Mary J. Blige, I'm a huge fan of soul music but by the mid 80's synthesizers were rampant and all the electronics ruined most of soul/r&b. But the woman has talent...I can't find a video of that performance b/c the BBC pulled all links due to copyrights (was released as part of a Jools Holland compilation DVD) so I'll just post a link to the video of the song.
Mary J. Blige tune: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ETfNxDVlpQ
So I've been trying to get this blog thing going for a while now....my block mostly involves imagining the feelings of most readers being a big "who gives a shit?" when I go to put fingers to keyboard. Why should I deign to think anyone would give a crap about what my opinions are about popular music? But after consistently reading a number of blogs and other music related websites I figure my experience in seeing live music is about as good as anyone's and my knowledge is equal to a lot of the music writers/columnists I read, and people I've known over the years who work in the business. So, I figure if Rolling Stone magazine can pay money (any amount, it doesn't matter) to a hack that gives 3 stars to the latest Jonas Brothers album, then I might as well enter the discourse, even as a speck (what's smaller than a speck?) on the web. No matter it's tiny and will only be read by a few friends...if I can turn on one person to a new band or song that they never heard it'll be worth it. But if I'm ever going to do this, I guess now is as good a place as any to begin.
I didn't write about my experience at Mountain Jam or Bonnaroo this year, or about any of the other music I've seen and heard. So, I'll try and keep this fairly updated and see how that goes. A few friends have suggested I undertake this, so here goes....
I guess the best place to pick up would be the Allman Brothers Band shows I caught last March at the Beacon theater. These shows were celebrating 2 anniversaries - the 40th of the formation of the band, and the 20th of said band playing the Beacon. Gregg Allman had also spoke about how they were going to honor the memory of his brother Duane, one of the greatest slide guitar players ever, and the original impetus behind the band. There was also talk of special guest appearances, by players that had a link to Duane. I've been to about 15 or so Allmans shows at the Beacon over the years, and I was really looking forward to this run. Opening night was March 9th and my seats were 6th row to the left of the stage (thanks Brad!). The show opened with an acoustic take on the Duane Allman tune "Little Martha", which they had never done before. There's something otherwordly about seeing 2 of the best living guitar players playing together (Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks) and I loved the way they opened the show with this song. After that it was a fairly standard Allmans setlist for a few songs, and the 9th song into the set the 1st guest out was Taj Mahal. I've never been a huge fan of Mahal's (despite his critical acclaim, always thought he sounded like a "me too" bluesman...I've seen him open countless times for bands and was always bored). This time out, he was a great fit...he sang "Leaving Trunk" (which The Derek Trucks Band also does a great job with on "Live at the Georgia Theater"), and another standout was "Statesboro Blues", which has become an Allmans standard, but was written by Blind Willie McTell and done by Taj in 1968 on his 1st album, ("Leaving Trunk" is also on that album). Levon Helm was also a guest and opened the 2nd set. He did "The Weight" and a few other tunes. The crowd was into it, but having seen Levon Helm 3 times at his Midnight Rambles (www.levonhelm.com/midnight_ramble.htm) it's hard for me to appreciate him as much in a larger environment. Rest of the show was good, but not nearly as good as the next time I saw the ABB...March 19th. After performing for a few weeks and having different special guests each night, everyone was wondering when and/or if Eric Clapton was going to show. There was a obviously a big connection, as Duane was a huge part of the "Layla" album by Derek & The Dominos. Anyway, the 3/19 show opened again with Little Martha. No guest played the 1st set and there were rumors circulating thru the audience that Clapton had played a soundcheck earlier that evening. 1st set ended with "Whipping Post", and the 2nd began with Gregg at the keys solo for "Oncoming Traffic" (a Bonnie Bramlett tune). Halfway through the set you could see a Fender Strat on the side of the stage...and then Clapton walked out. I have never heard in all my years of concerts a roar like this. After all it had been 40 years and these guys have never played together live...it was history. From the opening notes of "Key to the Highway" and all the way through to "Layla" (about an hour), this was really rock heaven (and I'm using that term maybe for the first time in earnest). Everyone around me was pinching themselves as they couldn't believe what they were seeing. The sound was incredible and all of a sudden my $95 face value ticket for which I paid $250 became a bargain. Truly one of the highlights of my music-going life. Top 5. Can't wait for the live CD....Munck Music has been saying since June that they're releasing the entire Beacon '09 run, but to date nothing. I believe they're having difficulties obtaining the rights, as there were so many different artists that performed during these shows. Do yourself a favor and get this show if you're at all a fan of either Eric Clapton or The Allmans - http://www.hittinthenote.com/cart/p-945-allman-brothers-band-br-beacon-theater-31909.aspx
Here's the setlist from the 3/19/09 Allmans show:
Done Somebody Wrong
Woman Across The River
Don’t Keep Me Wonderin’
Come and Go Blues
Good Morning Little School Girl
Key To The Highway w/EC
Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad? w/EC
Little Wing w/EC
E: Layla w/EC
Next week I'm seeing the Allmans again, this time at their annual PNC show in Holmdel. This year the Doobies Bros are opening, should be interesting....glad Michael McDonald is gone, would love to see some non-greatest hist songs such as "Eyes of Silver" and "Dark Eyed Cajun Woman". Hopefully I'll keep at this longer than a week and can provide my review/experience on this blog.
MOUNTAIN JAM V (May 31 - June 2, 2009) - partial review
I attended the fifth installment of Mountain Jam this past May, which is a music fest organized by Warren Haynes. I never attended MJ, as it seemed to rain every year and I really had no interest in driving to Hunter Mountain to stand in the rain and see Gov't Mule. But this year's lineup was much better than last, and my brother in law owns a great house about 7 miles from the Fest, so I figured what the hell. The 1st day of the fest was great....very few people (which I love) and easy access to the front of the stage. Mountain Jam is set up like a mini-Bonnaroo (including camping)...but I don't think the campers can park their vehicle next to their campsite, as I saw tons of people carrying all their gear up the hill to the fest/campsites. Bummer. One of the great things about MJ was the ski lift. For $5 you could take a 30 minute ride up to the top of the mountain and back. Great views and a phenomenal party site indeed. Anyway, I finally got a chance to see a band I had only recently found out about - Alberta Cross. They are a bunch of guys from the UK (originally from Sweden) that have moved to Brooklyn. Their music sounds like a mix of Neil Young/Jim James (vocally), southern rock (not too much) and indie. Here's a video from their album:
I really think they're great, but the lead dude need to learn a thing or two about stage presence (he's got none). There were about 15 people in the front of the stage when they played at MJ, and they had the unfortunate circumstance of not having a drummer (something about a hospital trip). This band desperately needs a drummer live. They tried to pull off a few numbers but they longer they played the more they lost the crowd. And one female fan was tring to chat up the lead singer (Petter Ericson Stakee) by asking him about the button he was wearing, but he ignored her. (I think the button referred to John Lennon, guess he was looking for some credibility by name-checking a Beatle). These guys were much better at Bonnaroo later in June, as they got their drummer back and sounded great. They have a disc coming out in September, but in the meantime, check out their album "The Thief and The Heartbreaker", it's excellent....despite my review of their MJ show (http://www.atorecords.com/?page_id=2&artist=25). Other bands at the festival included Martin Sexton (sucked...he got angry and refused to play when some house music from an adjacent stage could be heard), Porter-Batsiste-Stolz (very good), and Tea Leaf Green...excellent and the best band of the day. Also had the strangest fan of the fest...wearing his TLG mustache and dancing like a spaz, he looked like an idiot. Love the band though, if you're not familiar with them, check out their disc "Taught To Be Proud", one of the best of last year. Also saw Gomez (very good), The Hold Steady (ok, but I just don't get them), and The Derek Trucks Band who were excellent as always. I took a ride on the ski lift during BK3's performance and listened to them play Scarlet Begonias on the way up which was fun. Richie Havens also appeared, solo acoustic, and I made my exit as soon as he started strumming. Didn't catch a bunch of other acts (Coheed & Cambria, Umphreys McGee, Gene Ween) but thought it was a great fest and will go back next year.
Some new music to listen to now:
Alberta Cross - "The Thief and the Heartbreaker" cd
(link to free new single from forthcoming disc): http://albertacross.net/
Assembly of Dust "Some Assembly Required" cd (track 1 is my favorite, Richie Havens shares vocals with Reid)
Levon Helm "When I Go Away" - great track off of his new disc "Electric Dirt"
Here's my top songs of 2008 (no particular order):
◦Thank You Too - My Morning Jacket
◦Hare Krisna - Thievery Corporation
◦Big Easy - Rafael Saadiq
◦Sing The Changes - The Fireman
◦Williams Blood - Grace Jones
◦Strange Overtones - David Byrne & Brian Eno
◦I Don't Mind - The Blow Monkeys
◦If It Wasn't For Loving You - Steve Cropper & Felix Cavaliere
◦Crystal River - Mudcrutch
◦Staying With Me - Los Lonely Boys
◦Dig, Lazarus, Dig - Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
◦Fix It - Ryan Adams
◦Everyday - The BoDeans
◦Acid Tongue - Jenny Lewis
◦Old Enough - The Raconteurs
◦You Are The Best Thing - Ray LaMontagne
◦Behind The Ritual - Van Morrison
◦Did You Miss Me - Lindsey Buckingham
◦You, Me & Everything - Blues Traveler
◦This Is Not A Test - She & Him
◦Make You Crazy - Brett Dennen
◦Cold Moments - Paul Weller
◦Peace, Love and Happiness - G. Love and Special Sauce
◦People - Susan Tedeschi
◦The Nothing Maker - The Pretenders
◦Look at Me (When I Rock Wichoo) - Black Kids
◦Orange Blossoms - J.J. Grey and Mofro
◦Violet Hill - Coldplay
◦Life, Love and Laughter - Donavon Frankenreiter
◦Gettin Up - Q-Tip
◦Dirty City - Steve Winwood
◦Let Us Go - Tea Leaf Green
◦Always A Friend - Alejandro Esovedo
◦Real Love - Lucinda Williams
◦Orphans - Beck
◦Street of Dreams - Guns n Roses
Went to see Dark Star Orchestra last week (11/28/08 Nokia Theater). Great show, they performed:
07-07-78 Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Morrison, Co. (Fri)
1: Jack Straw, Candyman, Me & My Uncle> Big River, FOTD, Cassidy, Tennessee Jed, Passenger, Peggy-O, Music Never Stopped
2: Cold Rain, BIODTL, Scarlet> Fire, Dancin> Drumz> NFA> Nobody's Jam> NFA> Black Peter> Around E1: U. S. Blues E2: Johnny B. Goode
We saw the show from the VIP area upstairs. Great view and sound. The place was packed, I don't think they could've gotten another body in the stage area. The band was tight and sounded really great. Scarlet>Fire was the highlight for me. I don't remember hearing the encores, we must've left early. Got to go backstage and meet Donna Jean Godchaux, who sang a few tunes with the band. Surprisingly she didn't sing on Music Never Stopped. I was told it was because the band decided what she could and couldn't sing on. Whatever. Donna seemed like she was nice enough, but had a million people hovering around her. Someone made bobble head dolls of the whole band. I tried to find a beer backstage and all they had were V-8's and water. Oh well.
1993, in no order:
1- Paul Weller "Wildwood"
2- Van Morrison "Too Long In Exile"
3- Pearl Jam "Vs."
4- World Party "Bang"
5- Guru "Jazzmatazz"
6- Young Disciples "Down The Road"
7- Daniel Lanois "For The Beauty of Wynona"
8- Donald Fagen "Kamakiriad"
9- BoDeans "Go Slow Down"
10- PM Dawn "The Bliss Album"
1994, in no order:
◦Galliano "The Plot Thickens"
◦The Allman Brothers Band "Where It All Begins"
◦Marden Hill "Blown Away"
◦Shara Nelson "What Silence Knows"
◦Elvis Costello "Brutal Youth"
◦Solsonics "Jazz In The Present Tense"
◦Neil Young "Sleeps WIth Angels"
◦Van Morrison "Live In San Francisco"
◦Stone Temple Pilots "Purple"
◦Morrissey "Vauxhall and I"
1 - Paul Weller "Paul Weller"
2- REM "Automatic For The People"
3- The Beautiful South "0898"
4- Neil Young "Harvest Moon"
5- Los Lobos "Kiko"
6- Galliano "A Joyful Noise Unto The Creator"
7- Pops Staples "Peace To The Neighborhood"
8- Maceo Parker "Life On Planet Groove"
9- Dee Lite "Infinity Within"
1996, in no particular order:
◦Aimee Mann "I'm With Stupid"
◦Incognito "Beneath The Surface"
◦Graham Parker "Acid Bubblegum"
◦Elvis Costello "All This Useless Beauty"
◦Neil Young "Broken Arrow"
◦REM "New Adventures In Hi-Fi"
◦Pearl Jam "No Code"
Went to see The English Beat at Mexicali Live last Fri night. They went on at 1020, after a set by a mediocre white reggae band. I spoke with Dave Wakeling (actually stood next to him while he was talking with some people outside) for a minute before they went on - seemed like a nice guy. Smokes a lot and likes his soccer. He wondered why there weren't more Beat cover bands here in the US. I wasn't going to be the one to tell him. They opened with Whine and Grine/Stand Down Margaret which sounded great. He had a young guy as the Ranking Roger fill in, and he sounded very similiar. They played most of what I wanted to hear (Twist and Crawl, Doors of Your Heart) and all the big hits (Save It For Later, Mirror In The Bathroom, I Confess, and Tenderness from his General Public incarnation). Wanted to hear "Best Friend" or "Sole Salvation" but they didn't play either. The sound was great and the place was packed.
◦I Got The News
◦Mr. Parkers Band
Down In The Flood
Don't Miss Me When I'm Gone
These Days Is Almost Gone
I'll Find My Way
Get What You Deserve
Down Don't Bother Me
Meet Me At The Bottom
My Favorite Things
Get Out Of My Life
Up Above My Head
“I Used to Be A King”
“Long Time Gone”
“Lay Me Down”
“Dream for Him”
“Grace”/ “Jesus of Rio”
“This Is My Country”
“In Your Name”
“Almost Cut My Hair”
Saw Donavon Frankenreiter at The Highline Ballroom on October 23rd. Sold out show. He played a great set, but not as strong I thought as the one I saw at Bonnaroo. He also wore this knit funky cap all night, even though it was hot in the venue. The warm up act, Sara Watkins (Nickel Creek) came out and played on a few songs including "Free". Can't find a setlist on this show either, but he played most what you'd think he'd play. He also did a cover of Skynyrd's "Simple Man"...a slow version, it was pretty good.
Thievery Corporation "Radio Retaliation" - more of the same from these guys, which means great beats and samples strung into some good vibe-y tunes. Acid jazz (which is what TC evolved from) when it first became known here, was a producers' game...bands weren't really important, as it was all the about the vibe. Don't get me wrong, there were some excellent bands from that time, including Galliano, Brand New Heavies, Incognito, and more, but it was more reliant on a producer that could put together a good danceable or jazzy-mellow track and throw some female voices over it. Unfortunately it became very formulaic. There were some really great compilations put out mostly in the UK (This is Acid Jazz series, some Ubiquity records compilations, The Rebirth of Cool series on 4th and Bwy, Totally Wired and Re-Wired series from Acid Jazz records....some from Dorado records, The Acid Jazz Test series, many more) but no artist really stood out over time. Mainly because acid jazz mutated into other genres....Electronica became a huge genre, trance, downtempo, etc. the classic 'acid jazz" genre all but disappeared. A few bands are still making records (brand New Heavies and Incognito being examples) but since Madison Ave found out that this music makes great background ambience, it's been in every Banana Republic and car commercial since and lost some of it's luster. (I remember when Kruder & Dorfmeister were doing this same type of music in the early 90's). Thievery Corporation came to the game late but has shown great staying power by releasing consistently good discs, and this is no exception. According to what I've read, TC says this disc is a more "political" statement from them, but it's hard to hear it when the beats are good and the lyrics are an afterthought anyway with this type of music. I mean, you can throw in a quote from some political figure in the middle of a dance tune, but that doesn't make it a political song. This disc is more of the same from TC, which I enjoy. Anyway, I give this a 6 on a scale of 1-10.
The Blow Monkeys "Devils Tavern" - a new disc from these guys, last heard from in the late 80's. This record was made by soliciting money from their fan base (I did not donate to the cause), as they had no record deal. Dr. Robert has been very active since the demise of the Monkeys, releasing some excellent discs that veered all over the map....some earnest folk, some blue-eyed soul, mostly mid-tempo stuff that only a few people actually heard. His discs were generally not released in the US and I think both Dr. Robert and The Blow Monkeys have almost no audience here. This disc ain't gonna change that. This is pleasant disc that is really more of a continuation of Dr. Robert's solo career than a resurrection of The Blow Monkeys. There's no "Diggin Your Scene" or "It Doesn't Have To Be That Way" single here. The single is "The Bullet Train", which is just ok, a better tune would be the laid back "I Don't Mind". Nothing jumps out at me as a classic Blow Monkeys tune (is that an oxymoron?), too middle of the road for me. I give this a 5 on a scale of 1-10.
Calexico "Carried To Dust" - an excellent disc from a band I recently got into. Loved their collaboration with Sam Beam/Iron & Wine (who plays on this disc as well). This is atmospheric music a la Sergio Leone meets indie rock. Lots of muted trumpets and you can almost see the tumbleweeds roll across your floor when you listen. A good disc from start to finish, pretty mellow, and my favorite tune is the first on the disc - "Victor Jara's Hands". I give it a 7 on a scale of 1-10.
Donavon Frankenreiter "Pass It Around" - the 3rd disc of original material from DF, this is his weakest yet. Not too much of a disappointment, as his music is all about laid back good time vibes regardless, and he pulls that off. But the songs are not as strong as his last disc "Move By Yourself", with only "Life Love & Laughter" and "Too Much Water" as immediate standouts for me. The rest is fairly middling. Don't get me wrong, even an ok disc from Donavon is worth listening to, it's just that I had higher expectations after his last 2. I also saw him at Bonnaroo this year where he put on a really great show. Hopefully the next one will be better. A 6 on the 1-10 scale.
O.A.R. "All Sides" - talk about a band that's lost it's way. A completely crappy disc...sounds like they went for the commercial brass ring (could sort of hear them going down that path in their last disc "Stories of a Stranger"). I actually liked "In Between Now and Then" and thought these guys might have a shot a longevity, but after this dreck, forget it. Total formulaic rock, I give it a 2.
Paul Weller "22 Dreams" (2 cd's) - wow, is this all over the place. I love Paul Weller (the Jam and the Style Council are 2 of my favorite bands) but he's been very inconsistent since "Heavy Soul" (Heliocentric anyone?!). Had this been cut to 1 disc it would be an excellent solo disc, but as it is it's self indulgent with some unlistenable songs. Standouts are "All I Want To Do", "Have You Made Up Your Mind", "Cold Moments". I love his more soul-leaning tunes, not so much his ramblings (God) his piano sonatas (Lullabye Fur Kinder) and other indulgent experiments. Totally respect the guy for wanting to try new things, but not everything has to make it to disc. A 7 on a 1-10 scale.
Slighty Stoopid "Chroncitis" - white-boy reggae, but done well. Not the frat-boy reagge such as O.A.R, these guys seem to more respectful of trying to approximate the real thing. Some heavy dub, some more pop leaning tracks as well. Over all a good mix from a band I was all but ready to give up on. This disc boasts of the the summer's strongest singles in "Hold On To The One". A 7 on the scale.
I love reggae, particularly the late 70's/early 80's period with bands like Roots Radics backing great singers like Dennis Brown and Gregory Isaacs,...saw some amazing shows in the 80's - The Itals, Steel Pulse, Black Uhuru (original line-up), Peter Tosh, Jimmy Cliff, UB-40 (back when they really were a reggae band), Reggae Sunsplash at Radio City with Yellowman and Gregory Isaacs, The Wailers w/ The I-Three's. Lover's rock, roots reggae are my favorite styles. I don't like dancehall style, and when it became the dominant style in the late-80's I stopped listening. There are a few people still releasing some good music (Burning Spear and Toots come to mind) but for me the "golden age" was back then. Bob Marley and the Wailers is what drew me into reggae ("Exodus" being the 1st real reggae album I'd ever heard, it was in 1979). I picked up all their records as well as anything by Bunny Wailer and Peter Tosh. All amazing, now classic stuff. Soon I was going to reggae shows in the city, and hanging out with the rastas in Washington Square Park, buying every new reggae album that came out. Bands like The Equators ("Hot" is a classic ska album...hard to find but worth it), Jacob Miller and Inner Circle, The Melodians, Sly & Robbie, and many more. And at college, there was an amazing radio station, WHFS, (at that time it was a great rock station, "alternative" not yet having been coined, I think maybe it was "college radio"..?) that had a reggae show Sunday nights (I think) called "Night of the Living Dread"as host. Really terrific show and I heard a lot of great reggae I wouldn't have heard otherwise. I just saw Stephen Marley in June at Bonnaroo - he's got a few ok songs ("Mind Control" being the biggest and best) but most of his concert was him imitating his father. Literally just doing versions of his dad's songs. Now, he does sound very much like his father, but still....a 2 hour show and only about 20 minutes of it is your own material?? And he employed some Rasta to run around for the entire show doing nothing but waving a big red, gold and green flag (to rally 'round?). That's what reggae's become....playing old Bob Marley songs.
The Verve "Forth" - an ok disc. Saw these guys in NYC a few months ago and wasn't impressed. Probably the most intense light show I've ever seen...and by "intense" I mean that if you stared at the strobes for more than 10 seconds you'd probably either go blind or into an epilieptic fit....they had those freaking strobes going for about 10 minutes straight at one point.....I'm too old to go to a concert that tries to approximate a "rave" feature. What a strange crowd too....all types - in the vanilla sense, and there was no vibe for that reason. And I thought the sound sucked. Anyway, the disc is ok, "Love Is Noise" is an ok single, and the other tracks are ok as well. Not nearly as strong as their last disc "Urban Hymns"...but ok nonetheless. Was hoping for more than that. Whatever. (and I was also one of the few that happened to enjoy Ashcrofts' solo discs...I thought "Check The Meaning" was one of the better singles of 2002). Just ok...a 5/10.
All time favorite artists (in no particular order):
◦Allman Brothers Band
The only one on the list I wasn't able to see live was Bob Marley. He was supposed to play at college when I was a freshman, but he canceled and then died shortly after. Bummer.
Been a music freak my entire life. I've been listening to and collecting music since I was about 5 years old. I remember my parents buying me 78's and 45's (3 Little Fish, always a classic). Most of my memories of growing up in the late 60's and 70's (NYC) revolve around music. Be it a theme song from a tv show, or something that I'd heard on the radio (which was basically the only way to hear new music and when I was a young kid it was WABC-AM) or saw on The Midnight Special, or Don Kirshner's Rock Concert. I can't imagine having a resource like the internet when I was young. To be able to immediately search for any genre, song or artist is incredible. I remember the small independent record stores that I'd scour looking for musical gold. Whether it was a bootleg of a favorite band, or an import cd not available in the US, I'd spend hours flipping through the record or cd bins at places like J&R in NY, Aron's in LA, Penguin Feather in Maryland, Reckless in Chicago, and of course Tower. Now all you have to do is click a button and you can find anything (almost).
I'll give this a shot - I'm basically going to write about what I'm listening to currently, or maybe a show I've recently seen. It'll cover a highly selective mix of just about all kinds of popular music, except rap and country music....as I don't really have a deep knowledge of country music history, and I stopped listening to rap in about 1990.