Saturday, August 16, 2014
These were heady days never to be witnessed again, resulting in a recorded document of friendship and collaboration featuring the some of the most respected musicians of the time. It's a low key affair, light on guitar fireworks but stewing with a smoky and boozy soul. Soon, Clapton's next LP, 1977's Slowhand would overshadow this particular record, producing three huge singles and rocketing up the charts. So, No Reason To Cry remains a clandestine member of Clapton's discography; birthing only one Top 40 single, his fourth solo LP stands a wonderful collection of good time music, drenched with Jim Beam and soaked in comradery. It has some soft spots, but the payoff is worth the wait. While only containing three true Clapton compositions, the LP still contains some gems. Co-produced with long time Clapton comrade Carl Radle and Band associate Rob Fraboni, this is the record that had to be created in order for Clapton to make the next natural move in his career.
The record begins with the Manuel/Danko composition 'Beautiful Thing' originally composed around 1966 in the late days of 'The Hawks' and the formative days of 'The Band'. There is a delicate and beautiful demo recording of the track on 'The Band's', A Musical History box set coming from 1966 which illustrates the songs early beginnings. Unfortunately, Manuel or Danko could never shoehorn the song onto a 'Band' record, holding on to it for ten years until Clapton used it for the opening song on his own record. Churning on a instantly recognizable Richard Manuel piano melody the music drips with watery lament, dressed in overlapping slide guitars and secular organ lines. The chorus is sung by the collaborative ladies visiting the studio eliciting all of the emotion from Manuel's original intent. Clapton's whiskey and cigarettes voice is the proper fit for a song that precariously balances on hopefulness and loneliness. Clapton would fulfill his wish to become a member of his favorite group with the multiple collaborations with the principals of 'The Band' on this record. Ronnie Wood and E.C. both play dueling slide on the track, intertwining their licks into a cloudy swell.
The acoustically rooted Bob Dylan composition 'Sign Language' follows next and is a charming result of Dylan's visits to the recording sessions when leaving his tent. In typical Dylan fashion the song places the listener into a developed scene with minimal effort, highlighted by Robbie Robertson's fluid guitar work and flexing tremolo bends.The rhythm track shifts with bellowing acoustic rhythm and syrupy dobro slithering.The solos are an absolute chill inducing blend of swells, picked harmonics and plucky punctuations. Dylan and Clapton share lead vocals (no easy feat) encouraging the mind image of them standing at the microphone arms around one another, bottle hanging by their side. Dylan's vocals still retain the 'Rolling Thunder' era push and are a highlight to crane an ear for.
The bluesy stomp of the Alfred Fields song 'Country Jail Blues' originally released in 1941, follows and finds Clapton at home with a straight blues stomp. The song would stay with Clapton for years, making an appearance on stage during his 1994 Blues tour. Here it is Clapton's comfort zone, a straight forward campfire blues, shackled ankles and black and white stripes. The song swings on what sounds like heavy left hand Richard Manuel piano and multi-tracked electric and wooden slide guitars. Billy Preston's organ underlines Clapton's sing/speak vocal approach and his dagger sharp guitar solo.
Side two in my humble opinion is slightly inferior to the first, but still contains fine moments of note. 'Hello Old Friend' is the big single from the record and is a good representation of the sought after sound of the LP and the direction in which Clapton's music was traveling. A harmless but very catchy song, 'Hello Old Friend' welcomes the listener with hearty backing vocals and a cascading chorus piano. A positive beginning to side two of the record for one of Clapton's more recognizable numbers.
Soon to become a concert showcase of Clapton's, 'Otis Rush's 'Double Trouble' follows and again finds Clapton with the seat back, driving the blues to his true home. This studio reading is no slouch exhibiting a shredded vocal attack by Clapton and a smoke blue backing. This song also features the first 'big' soloing of the record with Clapton exhibiting his usual form. The rendition is a highlight of side two without a doubt.
Clapton then introduces collaborators for the next two songs, the Marcy Levy/Clapton penned, 'Innocent Times' and the Sims/Levy track, 'Hungry'. Levy sounds invested and powerful on 'Innocent Times', a slow waltz and country swing that suits her voice well. The following tune, 'Hungry', while containing interesting instrumentation, sounds too much like a poor rewrite of 'Keep on Growing' from Layla and Assorted Love Songs to these ears. Check it out and decide for yourself.
The 1976 LP No Reason To Cry was a communal attempt by Clapton and his associates to make a great record while still helping to define the next direction in his career. The record works in some spots and struggles in others. What cannot be denied is the soulfulness of its best songs. The collaborations are timeless and the' music as therapy' approach is tangible. Clapton would soon be approaching greater fame and dealing with more intense struggles. But for these captured musical moments it was all about 'work as play', with mostly positive results. Worth searching out alone for the diverse combinations and unique approaches contained within.
Black Summer Rain
No Reason To Cry-Entire Record
Saturday, August 9, 2014
In contrast to his Hofner bass, the Rickenbacker was a larger and heaver bass guitar. It's solid body weighed in at ten pounds and its maple and rosewood neck at 33 1/4" was much longer that the Hofner at 30". The longer through body neck and solid form gave the Rickenbacker a deeper more elastic tone and a more complex resonance than the Hofner, which according to McCartney also had a hard time staying in tune. The bass was fitted with a pair of robust 'toaster top' pick ups, one covered with a large chrome hand rest.When McCartney received the instrument it was decorated in a sharp 'fireglo' finish and featured two regal horns that protruded from the top and bottom of the instrument, in addition to volume and tone knobs for each of the pick ups respectively.
As the Beatles touring days came to a conclusion and their radical studio explorations drew closer, the Rickenbacker became McCartney's go to instrument for his increasingly revolutionary melodic approaches. The switch to this aforementioned instrument coincided with McCartney's discovery of the magic of counter melodies and a new guitar players approach to the instrument. These factors should be taken into account with McCartney's new found experimentation with the avant garde as well as with drugs, as this new bass provided the perfect platform for the Beatles arising musical directions beginning in 1965.
The 4001 bass was now a permanent fixture in McCartney's arsenal. In 1967 the Rickenbacker locked down the bottom end on the Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band LP as well as featuring the Beatles singles during this era. 'Penny Lane' and 'Lovely Rita' are fine examples of the timbre of this instrument in action, as well as McCartney's multifaceted and influential approach. The bass got a facelift in 1967 when Paul had it psychedelically painted in addition to a few of the other Beatles instruments undertaking this change. A nice representation of the 4001 on video with its acquired paint job is on the available 'All You Need Is Love' broadcast footage, the 'Hello Goodbye' music video and the 'I Am the Walrus' performance from the Magical Mystery Tour film.
Post-beatles it would figure heavily in the multitude of buoyant bass lines comprising the 1970 solo LP McCartney, the 1971 album Ram and the 1973 'Wings' album, Red Rose Speedway. While never becoming his 'main' instrument, it appears that when ever McCartney required a hearty tone with a chunky and cutting attack he would return to the 'Ric'. The 4001 slowly became identifiable with McCartney, as it did become his preferred on stage bass.
McCartney's Rickenbacker 4001 bass is still working today, Giles Martin, producer on McCartney's 2013 album New revealed that the bass was used during the making of the LP on one track. The 'rock room' has not been able to confirm or deny this track as of yet. The bass has been McCartney's trusted companion for 50 years, never completely replacing the iconic Hofner in the eyes of fans, but always on a rack waiting for its moment to sing. Rickenbacker's have a discernible sound popularized in the 60's and still disseminated today. Combining this sound with the artistic prowess and revolutionary thinking of Paul McCartney equatedto the documented musical success. From its beginnings and creation in the ambiance of creativity of the 1960's, McCartney's Rickenbacker bass has now become inseparable from McCartney himself in the annals of rock history.
Wings-'Rock Show/Jet' 1976
Beatles-All You Need Is Love-Broadcast
Hey Bulldog -Isolated Bass Line (For Fun)
Sunday, August 3, 2014
Live from the 'rock room' today comes a beautifully balanced FM broadcast soundboard recording of British blues/rock/jazz masters 'Ten Years After' live in 1969. Fresh off of their career defining performance at Woodstock in August, this recording finds the band strutting with attitude and not letting up with the musical blues bombardment. This recording illustrates the group full of confidence, prepared for fame and playing an hour long set of salacious blues rock. This concert is in support of the band's 1969 LP release Ssssh.
While there are a few defining official releases of the group available for purchase, I would consider this particular recording an essential addition to viewing the musical palette developed by the group. The crowd is rowdy, the band is hot and they continuously ring the bell with their smoky interpretations of rock, jazz and blues sensibilities. The band consistsof founding members, Alvin Lee (Guitar, Vocals), Leo Lyons (Bass), Chick Churchill (Keyboards) and Ric Lee (Drums). This is the era that defined the group and their developing popularity which would soon reach its nexus.
The concert begins with the simmering shuffle of 'Spoonful', a dramatic reading of a tune many, if not all British blues bands from the 1960's tried their hand at covering. The song is an absolute standard of the blues idiom. The first highlight of the recording comes during Alvin Lee's introductory solo when he releases a charged blue hum of feedback that rings out as the rhythm section churns underneath his sonic manipulations. He follows to unleash a golden daisy chain of notes, so true one can only shake ones head in amazement.
Unbelievably, following the opening 'Spoonful' the band now turns up the burners with the band showcase reading of Count Basie's, 'I May Be Wrong, But I Wont Be Wrong Always'. This high octane jump blues is a swinging nine minute clinic with each band member illustrating their own personal instrumental prowess. At 3 minutes in Alvin Lee falls off of the steep precipice of the amusement park coaster for a roly poly and euphoric array of riffs that seamlessly lead into Chick Churchill's series of dissonant, yet icy cool sliding of the keys. One thought that enters by mind here is how modern day guitar god Warren Haynes' discovered his own sound and how it had to have been pulled from the grooves of early 'Ten Years After' records. His own technique was obviously influenced by Lee's mastery of tone and resonance. It genesis is witnessed here as Lee gallops across the fretboard for a plethora of fuzzy kazoo glissando's, revolutionary in his approach, disorienting in its effect. A jazz club bass breakdown of heavy exclamations continues the groove before falling back into the main theme of the track. Breathless jamming to be found inside of this particular track.
Ric Lee's recognizable drumming takes center stage for a reading of 'Hobbit,' a jam constructed in the fashion of previous popular drum excursions such as Ginger Baker's 'Toad' and John Bonham's 'Moby Dick'. Lee's showcase is a tom-tom and hollow snare extravaganza, a series of melodic and pounding tribal statements. Lee raises the tension slowly and then pulls out the carpet so all that remains is a wash of cymbals and golden swells. This particular drum clinic is unique and is less about showing off abilities and more about building a towering wall of rhythmic statements and dynamic grooves.
Next comes a shady and sinister reading of the Sonny Boy Williamson classic 'Good Morning Little School'. The band hooks the jumpers to the terminals for a weighty and electric interpretation of this classic blues. Designed around a boulder heavy riff that pulls from the proprietary melody, the song splits open midway for a exposed deconstruction of the song. The drums drop out leaving only the hi-hat metronome click and the interweaving of Lyons bass and Lee's clean syrupy 335 tone. Like a stone skipped across a lake, Lee's well of spring water lines glides across Lyon's diffused riffing. Lee's playing becomes visceral, tumbling over rocks, leaving a glistening trail in its wake, only to disappear from the directed and created heat of the rhythm section. The drums return bombastically, initiating the jazzy groove into a over driven and tumbling improvisation.
Bringing the vibe down slightly and keeping the increasingly rowdy crowd in check, Lee introduces the next song as a track they 'haven't done in a while'. The band begins the cobwebbed and haunted blues of 'No Title', hailing from 1969's Stonedhenge. It's roots reaching back to a classic Delta blues, Lee's vocal line and his guitar melody run side by side down a darkened two track country road. Like a vintage blues man Lee growls in heady syncopation about the contemporary state of the hippy blues man. This is the illustrated strength and power of 'Ten Years After', their ability to attach a modern approach to a vintage and respected past through any song they tackle. The song starts by slithering quietly, restraining an obscured strength, singing the the real blues. From out of the roadhouse dust and debris rises a shifty progressive sounding instrumental introduced by a shimmering extended Lee guitar line. At four minutes the band begins to unravel, Churchill holding down the jam with funky keyboard exclamations. Lee rides the undercurrent with profound soloing that bites, soothes and rolls across the landscape uncontrolled, subject to the gravity of the world. Following Lee's exposing of the songs interior, Churchill takes a pulsing and extended organ solo that peeks through a crack in the door at private quivering jazz lines, celebratory baseball stadium organ and thematic secular wonder. The journey takes a 90 degree turn, faces its accuser and drops perfectly into the sparse blues that began the song, ending appropriately on the single strike of a ringing bell of a ride cymbal.
A short break follows with the assembled crowd refusing to let the band leave the stage through shredded yells of encouragement. Lee announces that this will be their final song, though it will be 'five hours long'. The band then viciously concludes the evenings performance with a prelude of 'Scat Thing' which segues seamlessly into 'I Can't Keep From Crying'. 'Scat Thing' illustrates Lee as Mel Torme on acid, an animated guitar/voice marriage where Lee's love for jazz improvisation is on full display. The perfect conglomerate of talent, humor, improv and musical knowledge allows Lee to use his voice articulation and rhythmic mastery in conjunction with his clean and buttery guitar attack.
The band slides into 'I Can't Keep From Crying' like a clandestine lover slipping between the sheets, the groove a cross between the Butterfield Blues Band meeting the Doors at a British corner pub. The first solo spot by Lee is constructed of slippery phased block chords, distorted and linked together into a buoyant feathery musical chain. This metaphorical musical chain settles on the cloudy blue musical turbulence stirred by Lyons and Ric Lee's thunderous collaboration. Churchill initiates the slightest musical turn signal with whispered influence and Lee follows without question, goes clean and races around the corner to pull away from the group.
The band lowers the temperature slightly when Lee returns, leaving room for him to space out with Morse Code licks, springy trills and creaking string trickles and tickles. Just when the jam is going to float off into the unknown never to return, it explodes into the atmosphere with a hyper and kinetic 'Bo Diddley' alien groove. This jam becomes superimposed into a bipolar excursion that swings between multiple poles first quoting 'Sunshine of Your Love' and then 'Foxy Lady'. As 'Foxy Lady's dress is blown up from the exhaust, Lee glances back red faced before an obscene and muddy rutted guitar solo appears from the earth. Down tuning mid jam, Lee sinks the band into soft earth, burrowing with a substantial and guttural tone composed of the thickest mud and gravel. The group forms a circle around Lee ass he strangles thick blobs of sound, ringing the notes from his ax like hands squeezing a balloon full of water to its breaking point. Churchill again signals a change in the attitude of the jam with a quick musical clue, giving the rhythm section a slight goose in the behind. This institutes a herky-jerky sideways climatic ascending jam that reaches a peak, then descends only to attempt another towering summit. Rising again and then eliciting shattering glass, slamming doors, glitter guns and euphoric improvisational attitude this central jam is a highpoint of the song and of the evenings performance. The band carefully navigates their way back to the body of the song through a musical mine field before returning to the verse briefly, then departing on a final concluding funk jam that allows Lee to free form vocally while the band percolates behind him. The band brings it way down, dimming the lights to dusk, before concluding on a horny wave of bull horn feedback. The crowd erupts in rapt amazement and adulation as the MC announces the end of the performance while the existing tape concludes.
The circulating recording of 'Ten Years After' from the Kulttuuritalo in Helsinki, Finland December 3, 1969 is well worth the search for any fan of the British blues explosion, as well as any admirer of psychedelic or improvisational music. The well known and diverse musical styling of guitarist Albert Lee, who's playing smooths the edges of multiple genres, is instrumental in driving the band into their amazing blues interpretations as well as into differing realms of jazz, and bebop and boogie. This perfectly balanced soundboard recording will be a welcome addition to the collection of any lover of edgy blues and jazz based musical explorations. It's clarity and ambiance only magnifies the incendiary performances to be found upon review.
Sunday, July 27, 2014
This recording is biting and raw, an amazing capture for a tape made on somewhat still primitive recording devices. The personality of the individual instruments is sharp and in focus. The hallmarks of any forty plus year old tape in existence are slight anomalies and sonic reediness. But it the case of this recording, the capture is an absolute pleasure and makes one forget the few issues. Only thirty minutes exist of this tape, so I am certain it is only a partial recording. What is available is a crushing display of a band starting to discover what they were capable of as writers and stage performers.
The master recording hails from a silver bootleg disc called 'Cry Blue Murder' and begins with the opening strains of the performance, as some tuning is captured before the band thrashes into the blinding opening lick of 'Substitute'. There is some muffling to the recording as the taper presumably adjusts his gear for optimal operating parameters, but this dissipates quickly. What is most striking about the sound quality is John Entwistle's elephant bass tone underpinning Townsend's violent guitar strikes, these features comes through on the tape as elastic and warm for the bass and as violent exposed power lines for the guitar respectively.
A short pause for Townshend to explain that the next song is one of the band's most requested numbers and then the band initiates the haunted and thumping opening to 'Boris the Spider'. Townshend's horror flick vibrato surf guitar shimmers across the thick bass lines of aural webbing strung across the doorways of the song by Entwistle. This rendition is truly demented containing shadowy vocals and laboratory experimentation with off mic chuckles. The song ends with a deep burp lending some more comedic relief to the intense performance of a fan favorite.
After properly destroying the mountainside and surrounding communities, without a pause the band segues into the 'Johnny Kidd and the Pirates track, 'Shakin All Over'. While not as mature as the version to be featured on the future Live at Leeds record in 1970, this version slams doors and breaks windows of the garage it was born from. Daltrey struts with an attitude, a young punk on the prowl, honing his craft, soon to be a 'golden god' of the stage.
A Quick One-8-24-1968
Saturday, July 19, 2014
Mr. Page's arsenal of guitars could very well be the most impressive in rock. His astonishing instrument vault, which was briefly witnessed in the rock documentary, 'It Might Get Loud' is stacked with 'Telecasters', 'Stratocasters', acoustic guitars and of course 'Les Paul's'. In addition to Page's numerous guitars sit a Hurdy Gurdy as well as Sitars, Theremins and plentiful electronic wizardry and amplification.
The guitar put under the 'rock room' microscope is an unassuming budget guitar that in Jimmy Page's hands became a tool of screaming argentate resonance. The 'budget' double cutaway Danelectro guitar became the destructive instrument of choice for Page when playing in alternate tunings as well as when playing slide guitar. Page allegedly gained possession of the 1961 Danelectro 3021 guitar from the 'Selmer Showroom' in downtown London date unknown. The first documentation of him playing the guitar comes from a photo dated from 1965 where he is seated at a studio session with it.
The 'shorthorn' guitar contains a masonite body, two plated 'lipstick' pickups, a white waved pick guard, tone and volume knobs and pick up selector.
The guitar was available in mail order catalogs at the time, so during the era of Page's mid 1960's use it was by no means a 'rare' instrument. But inside the body of the guitar resided a chiming 'silvertone' if you will, a crisp treble that in the hands of a player such as Page' shot sonic streaks across numerous stages.
The guitar was used on stage as early as 1968 when Page was still a member of the Yardbirds, on their version of 'White Summer' hailing from the Little Games LP. It would continue to be used until Led Zeppelin's final European tour in 1980 and even made an appearance in 1988 (Atlantic Records 40th) and 2008 (It Might Get Loud) respectively. Similarly to 'White Summer/Black Mountain Side' the other tracks which featured the Danelectro in studio and on stage also found the instrument being tuned to the previously mentioned alternate tuning. The rare appearances of 'When the Levee Breaks' during the 1975 tour featured the 3021 with Page's gravelly slide coaxing deep blusey melody's from its rosewood fingerboard. During the same era the guitar became the permanent instrument for additional concert staples, 'In My Time of Dying' and the legendary 'Kashmir'.
The substantial neck appears thick in photographs, which is perhaps why Page also preferred to play bumpy slide guitar in live performance on the piece. From other players comments on Danelectro guitars and from witnessing Page play the instrument, it appears that the guitars idiosyncrasy's are also its greatest asset. The qualities that originally made it a 'budget' buy have made it bargain for later day guitarists. It fires of sonorous tones and bleeds rough and ragged soul.
In My Time of Dying-1975 Earl's Court
Kashmir-It Might Get Loud
White Summer/Black Mountain Side 1970 RAH
Sunday, July 13, 2014
The 1974 CSNY tour was a massive stadium tour brimming with all of the usual rock excesses, unfortunately magnified to extravagant and unbelievable levels due to the size of the undertaking. Drugs, attitude, money, mental derangement unbelievable talent and extravagant actions all combined to cover this concert tour with an air of mystery, dread and 'rumored' sub par performances. While all of this and more may be true, this era was also a time of four individuals reaching summits of their respective careers. Neil Young in particular was composing songs of stunning power and was wading through the most prolific time of his storied career. Stills was playing unbelievably well during this time and Crosby and Nash both has a sheath of new songs of grace and beauty. True, the harmonies suffered due to the imposing stadium venues and the ongoing volume competition on stage between Stills and Young, but there were plenty of moments containing that spellbinding magic.The massive venues while a sonic struggle, also allowed for a certain poignancy to be touched upon during the concerts, due to entire crowds becoming silenced through unique musical moments as well as by experiencing the kinetic energy exchange between crowd and performer.
The collection begins excitedly with the usual opener for the tour, an undulating 'Love the One You're With', the song augmented by the legendary rhythm section of Russell Kunkel, Tim Drummond and former 'Manassas' percussion master extraordinaire Joe Lala into a swirling rhythmic stew.
For too long now the only official live representation of CSNY has been Four Way Street, a proper collection yes, but too narrow a view for the fan peaking through the keyhole. After hearing the first track of the set, even the layman can realize this is an entirely different glimpse of the group. The simulated first set moves along expectedly through well played renditions of buoyant 'Wooden Ships' and serious 'Immigration Man' before settling in on the first major highlight of the recording, a full band rendition of one of David Crosby's finest compositions, the yet to be released, 'Carry Me'. The normally placid song settles in with a slight funk and is delicately interpreted by Crosby with both Young and Nash contributing on creaky backing vocals. Immediately the marvelous sound quality is noticeable and welcomed, each instrument in perfect balance, each individual harmonious voice retrievable in the sonic pallet.
Perhaps the peak of the entire first disc and possibly the collection is the version of 'On the Beach' from Young's self titled release that follows the performance of 'Grave Concern'. A dark and brooding late night stroll occurs. Stills punctuates Young's shore lapping vocals with moaning and bubbling statements. Stills and Young eventually embrace for a shady duel guitar captured in a call and response sequence. Separated by an explosive series of dynamic verses, Stills and Young undertake another sonic rendezvous, this time intertwining for a classic 'Buffalo Springfield' guitar interaction and conclusion.
'A distorted and spiteful 'Black Queen' follows with Stills examining his blues chops through an impressively loud and extended series of Wah-Wah'd melodic statements. The disc then close out the first set with 'Almost Cut My Hair', a version also featured on the accompanying DVD that contains selected tracks from the Landover, MD and Wembley Stadium performances. This particular performance hails from Landover and is highlighted by aggressive Stills/Young soloing, though the version suffers from David's voice sounding slightly tour weary. A proper tune for the closing of the first disc in extravagant style.
The hypothetical concert construct now moves on to disc two represents which the acoustic set. A big and beautiful strummy version of 'Change Partners' starts things off with the band sounding giddy, with an added and extra emphasis on the vocals from all of the members. This is an all time performance. Illustrated here, Nash and Bernstein made the important decision to leave much of the important dialog surrounding the tracks to more successfully allow the listener to attend the performance in their own head.
The 'rare' solo piano version (Crosby helps at the end) of Graham Nash's 'Fieldworker' is a welcome addition as is the concert staple 'Guinevere' which is always magical. But the real jewel here is the crystalline version of Crosby's 'Time After Time', breathtaking in its intimacy and vocal touch, thankfully immortalized on this collection. Of note is Stills and Nash offering spine tingling vocal assistance.
Nash's 'Prison Song' comes next with Young pitching in creaky back porch vocals and acoustic guitar before being spotlighted for a definitive version of 'Long May You Run'. Performed as a duo with Stills, their acoustic guitars play as one, their vocals a full bottle of wine passed around a late night fire. Neil's harp a lonesome moonlight train whistle moaning in the distance. A multitude of emotions are disseminated from this pull you close and whisper in the ear version.
The one time performance of Neil's ditty, 'Goodbye Dick' performed on solo banjo is a one minute rarity, historic and humorous, just the sort of impromptu song choice the later shows in the tour were accustomed to. A neat addition to the song list of the collection. 'Mellow My Mind' one of Young's most beloved songs follows and is another banjo rendition, this time Crosby and Nash drape their vocals over the verses, singing every line with Young, making this track a disc two highlight.
A Stills guitar clinic is illustrated next with a solo acoustic 'Word Game' that never fails to thrill in live performance. Not a wasted note or lick, Stills is in his best gruff throat for this legendary talking blues. Stills 'cuts heads' with this dusty Southern commentary, sketched with some of the quickest chicken picking you will ever here.
Stills sits at the piano next for a personal favorite of this reviewer, 'Myth of Sisyphus', a highlight of many 1974 performances, a commentary on the absurd as well as man's psychological struggles, this sparse piano ballad soaks up the silenced crowd and digs it fingers into the musical cliff it hangs precariously from. Stills ringing piano hits in addition to his sweet reaching falsetto reach deep into his own pain for such a heartfelt performance.
A 'CSN' staple, the version of 'Blackbird' found here proves the straight up assertion by David Crosby that 'CSN' sing it better than the Beatles ever could.
Neil Young's next feature moment in this longer than usual concert representation comes in the form of two legendary unreleased tracks that are seeing their premier on this set. 'Love Art Blues' is a lazy saloon door swinging from a bent hinge and features a full band performance. The song illustrates the internal struggle between creation and relation in a slow country sway. Following 'Love/Art Blues' is the floral island aroma of the unreleased 'Hawaiian Sunrise', a song in the running for the proposed 1974 LP, 'Human Highway' is featured here with Young on beach acoustic and Stills on woody stand up bass. Crosby and Nash wipe off their sandy feet before loaning morning bird vocal support.
The acoustic set concludes with crowd pleasing renditions of a full band singalong 'Teach Your Children' marked by Stills twangy Chet Atkins guitar filigrees, as well as a golden and sparkling 'Suite Judy Blue Eyes', one of the finest performances of the song captured for posterity. The trio of 'CSN' move their way through a patient version that gazes out of the windows longingly, each harmony a line of thick sweet honey coating each chosen word.
Disc three represents the second electric segment that bookends the juicy acoustic center of the show. The concluding segments of the 1974 shows often featured extended readings and jammed out tracks. Opening with an extended and starry night 'Deja Vu', the band takes the title track from the 1970 album and stretch it out while investigating its cobwebbed nooks and crannies. A thorough reading of a strange song that continues to be a hallmark of 'CSN' sets to this day. Worthy of attention is Stills hearty SG work and Young's plunky piano additions.
'My Angel', a track of Stills yet to be released 1975 LP Stills is premiered on this collection in a live version the balances on the edge of funky world music disco. Stills plays piano and Young a slick Hammond B3 while Crosby and the rhythm section excitedly percolate underneath. The sexy silhouette of the song shadows the stage when Stills takes a exclusive and spongy clavinet solo.
The electric set continues with 'Graham Nash's 'Pre Road Downs', a track from 'CSN's' debut album coming dressed as another definitive version. The song hugs the corners in a precarious tour bus, smoke pouring from the windows, women's garments hanging from windows and antennas. Stills smokes his solo down to the butt, its smouldering remnants left laying on the highway.
A flag flying 'Don't Be Denied' is represented in its 'CSNY' format, the song having been performed with David and Graham on Young's 1973 Time Fades Away tour. This version similar to those performances, its strength in the songs enduring melody not any unique instrumental approaches.
What follows 'Don't Be Denied' happens to be a very unique performance as well as a highlight of the collection. Young's incendiary 'Revolution Blues' bounds over fences and under barricades under the clandestine cover of dusk. Stills and Young both take aggressive and knifing solo guitar spots, Stills sharp and snaky, Young's blue and shaky. What is interesting is that a few members of the band showed their displeasure at the lyrical content of the song from Young's 1974 On the Beach, so on stage performances of the track are a definite anomaly for the band.
Placed in the middle of the aforementioned four tracks is one of the most legendary and sought after 'missing pieces' from Neil Young's massive discography. 'Pushed It Over the End' is a shifty off tempo musical movement that somehow escaped official public release. It did appear as a 'B' side on an overseas single for a brief time, but otherwise has been left languishing in the vaults for 40 years. In this live set the song is finally given a proper introduction to the record buying public in this power position in the second electric set. The song begins a haunted waltz and dances through feedback drenched pauses, inspired melodic changes, accented rhythmic ideas and four part harmonies. Arguably one of Young's greatest compositions, the song, similarly to Dylan's tune left unreleased 'Blind Willie McTell' was destined to be forgotten and left to collect dust until the time was right. Young coaxes grey cloudy notes from his famed 'White Falcon' as the band swindles up a chunky slab of musical meat. A definite anticipated highlight of this amazing collection.
'Chicago' and 'Ohio' are given towering and ragged portrayals, the groups excitement unable to be contained on the recording, the music bursting from the seams and leaking from the lids. I am going to assume that these songs originally resided at the end of the respective concerts they were pulled from as the voices are frayed and the instrumentation is rough and ready. Stills stands tall on both of these numbers blowing out distorted guitar lines like a highway tire on a runaway tractor trailer truck.
The collection fittingly concludes with 'Ohio', probably the best example of the 'CSNY' collaborative strength and attitude. The song that illustrated to the band exactly what their music could accomplish given the proper time and attention. A big song for a big concert conclusion.
As previously mentioned, in addition to the three discs of music a bonus DVD is included in the package, lending a visual document to accompany the journey through the 1974 tour. Four songs exist in color pro shot format from the August 20, 1974 Landover, MD show, never before seen and exclusive to the collection, in addition to four songs from the famed Wembley Arena show in England which has circulated in 'bootleg' form for some time now. While the completest would like it all, Nash and Bernstein have distilled the existing videos down to what the regard as an appropriate representation of the band. Separating the 'wheat from the chaff' so to say. The Wembley performance has often been ruminated on because of the questionable condition of its participants, captured here, only the best tracks are disseminated.
Love the One Your With-1974
Pushed It Over the End-Wembley 1974
Friday, July 4, 2014
Settled in front of a studio audience and backed by a royal blue background crossed by red British bars, the band begins a spacious and clean version of the Chuck Willis penned tune via Buddy Holly, 'It's Too Late'. An uncluttered stage is manned by the core line up of Carl Radle, Bobby Whitlock and Jim Gordon as well as Clapton who is picking through a silver faced Fender Twin. Cash told the crowd they may 'detect some country blues picking' in this next performance, which is more than accurate. Whitlock and Clapton's overlapping and harmonized vocals elicit shades of Clapton favorite, 'The Band' and their vocal approach. One of the only and best visual documents of the Domino's to exist, this video clip spotlights the practiced and virtuosic group, no strangers to big performances, laid back and slightly jouncing like a rustic wooden rocking chair. Clapton looks sharp with soft groovy mullet and slick high collared black dress shirt. Radle and Gordon sit off to the side, a rhythm section padlocked together as tight as any group hailing from Muscle Shoals or Memphis.
Clapton's solo takes two spins around the block on 'Brownie', his beloved Strat with ridden hard Maple fretboard, developing a smooth solo containing a glistening chrome finish. Clapton chokes the neck, squeezing sugar sweet drops, clean as spring water, enunciating the dusty blues theme. When the band hunts down the chorus again, Whitlock pops veins replying to Clapton's anguished and recently discovered confident vocals.
Not available on video, but as a bonus audio track on the anniversary edition of Layla, the version of 'Got To Get Better In A Little While' contains all of the sturdy elements that make the Domino's performances of 1970 awe inspiring. A loose and crisp aesthetic covers the truncated version of a song that is normally extended to extravagant lengths in live concert appearances. Whitlock's natural 'knock on wood' piano contrasts with Clapton's tear drop funky guitar attack. This version is concise and wrapped in a tight little package, expanding enough to let E.C. unravel the knots of the solo segment while gently tickling the underside of the tracks melody. This song sits in contrast to the preceding 'It's Too Late', in theme, but not in instrumental prowess, the song allows the Cash audience to witness the diversity of influence contained within the group.
Perkins takes the first solo, a clinic in rock riffing, building and sliding down the fretboard like an amusement park escape. All Clapton can do is shake his head and loos on with a Christmas morning child's expression. Clapton then takes the second solo with Perkins looking on, Clapton shows a professional restraint while still hitting all of the correct buttons. He quotes Berry, Perkin's, Holly and numerous other avenues of rock influence in a short 12 second solo that receives great applause and drives the song to extravagant heights. Whoohoo!----greatness.
The last song from the Domino's appearance on the Johnny Cash Show is flexing and bulging version of 'Blues Power', the perfect addition to a short set that shines the light through their variegated and impressive arsenal of influence; encompassing blues, country, R and B, improvisation and prime musicianship. Cash exclaims to the studio audience that if the producers will let them Eric has agreed to do one more song. 'Blues Power' breaks through the wall in an aggressive fashion, the Domino's shaking and initiating themselves into a boiling tincture. This version competes admirably with the multiple live versions that circulate. Again, the band is as loose as a bad wheel, playing with confidence and attitude in front of their childhood idols. Clapton takes two biting solos, Radle digs bass trenches underneath Clapton's fluttering blues fly-by's. The jam leaves the studio taking on a life of its own just before concluding suddenly, reigned in by the confines of a performance for a television show.
'It's Too Late'-Johnny Cash Show
Got To Get Better In A Little While-Johnny Cash Show
Matchbox-Johnny Cash Show
Blues Power-Johnny Cash Show