Sunday, March 23, 2014

'Dark Star Crashes'-Grateful Dead Dave's Picks Volume 9 Missoula, Montana 5-14-1974

 The first selection in this years Dave's Pick's quarterly release series is a another quality soundboard recording from the Grateful Dead vault. Hailing from May of 1974 this performance is from Missoula, Montana and finds the group in full improvisational attack mode. This concert contains deep explorations injected with a mellow space jazz vibe. While possibly not as fiery as shows like 5/19 and 5/21, there is a band mind meld that takes place during the concert's 'big' songs that directs the slowly surging psychedelic mist that descends upon the band from the mountainous landscape. Keith Godchaux and Billy Kreutzman are the heroes of this concert with both band members giving definitive performances. What is also noteworthy is that this the beginning of the 'Wall of Sound' tour, with the band dragging along the monolith sound system which would turn their sonic dreams and creations into tangible reality.

The first set opens kinetically with a high speed and emphatically sung 'Bertha', breezy and loose like a screen door swinging unlatched in the breeze. Fan favorite for the time, 'Me and My Uncle' follows next and keeps things escalated with a cooking rendition, punctuated with Lesh detonations. After decompressing versions of both a slow shimmering 'Loser' and a REGAL 'Black Throated Wind', the first highlight of the concert begins with the rare combo of 'Scarlet Begonias' paired with 'It Must Have Been the Roses'. This early 'Scarlet' stretches out, developing into a vibrant rebounding jam that forsakes the reprise, spacing slightly, then sliping into a floral 'It Must Have Been the Roses'.
The usual, that is to say amazing 1974 textbook versions of 'Jack Straw', 'Tennessee Jed', follow next in the set,  before climaxing with a cresting 'Big River' that raises the show to the next level. The first 'Playin In the Band' of the tour then closes the extended first set in a mysterious and syrupy fashion.

This 'Playin' is a full band performance, with all the players taking moments to initiate changes in the jam. The musical journey percolates kinetically, always threatening to spill over into a frothing mess, but staying just below boiling point, increasing the tension. Godchaux and Garcia play with thick effects through the early stages of the jam, but at seven minutes Garcia goes clean and enters into a tumbling accentuated jam that Billy K seems to telepathically connect with. Around nine and a half minutes the entire band jumps into a tree lined ravine, into a tangle of brush and blow down, their form only visible through cutouts in the forest landscape, only then to disappear into a haze of mist.

A short space develops where the band regroups momentary, only to reemerge a gurgling and rumbling mess, rising like subterranean earth bubbles, breaking the surface in a blast of heat and organic materials. Playing as one instrument the group escapes the grasp of the ground, Kreutzman swings the band entirely around back into a 'Playin' tinged groove. Around fourteen minutes Lesh grumbles some chunks that swells into another schizophrenic meltdown. Garcia jumps on quotes from the 'Playin' theme that appear briefly and then lose consciousness in waves of sound.

Unfortunately this spacey dark jazz excursion is marred by a clumsy return to the reprise, possibly caused by how far out the band had taken themselves and being unable to navigate the way home safely.The 'Playin In the Band' signals the conclusion of a loose and well played full band display for set one.
The second set begins with a summery 1974 'U.S. Blues' that dances on spry feet, well before the time of its permanent placement as an encore. Following solid versions of 'El Paso', and 'Row Jimmy', the big movement of the evening prepares to take place. 'Weather Report Suite', by this point in 1974 had become one of the major vehicles of improvisation for the band. Huge versions of the suite preceded and spawned many mammoth jams at upcoming concerts like 6/18, 6/28 and 7/19/74. This early tour evening is no different with the perfect high speed outro jam of 'Let It Grow' becoming a flourishing array of accelerated and disorienting licks by Garcia and to a lesser extent Weir. Lesh is surprisingly staying close to the edges of the pocket while Kreutzman morphs into a multi-limbed deity. From fourteen minutes on into the suite, things start become atonal as Garcia brings the group level by level gently down to the land of 'Dark Star'. One out of only five versions played in 1974, the band embark on one of the final classic pre-retirement 'Star's' The band cruses through the theme briskly, drifting into a weightless space at four minutes where Kreutzman keeps the band afloat with his exited percussive exploits.

The band seems almost on the verge of drifting away into the black expanse of space lazily until Lesh starts to pop and Billy starts to push a bit harder. A darkly psychedelic Garcia stars to coax Lesh into madness, creating a fish eyed jam that swim's briefly before again falling into a empyrean space. Keith is the first to awake and at nine minutes and another full group swell coalesces, similarly to the first set "Playing', every one in the band is pressing the jams directional buttons.

At half past ten minutes Lesh groans, the music turns, becoming a celestial tablecloth pulled so quickly that all of the musical glasses still remain stoically on the table. The 'Dark Star' theme forms again, then dissipates amongst a wash of feedback, wah-wah'd piano and Lesh's martian communications. Strangeness prevents the verse from appearing at first, but it finally does, moving  slowly through a thick jelly of verse one.

As soon as the verse is sung and finished, Garcia employs a waspy distorted tone, contrasting with Weir's warm chording, Garcia then strangles the strained over driven notes, Lesh joins in and maliciously scrapes strings as trippy bird bells shimmy by on small clouds. The music deepens, gradually darker, a back country dusk shading its creation and at eighteen minuites the band reaches the place they have been searching for since the first set 'Playing'. The boiling point has been breached, the band is a slithering organism, shapeless, shifting through various alien musical landscapes. The improvised music pours from the stage, crisp and clear.
 The rest of the 'Dark Star' is why we love this band. Lesh takes charge with deep strikes, initiating the next series of jams starting at twenty one minutes. The streaky groove moves on brisk bell cymbal hits, becoming something much greater than itself when Godchaux hops on electric piano, leading the band and nudging Garcia up and over a series of hilly melodic licks.  Just short of twenty five minutes a seriously slimy meltdown occurs, Garcia stabs aggressively at the thick air, Lesh slides relentlessly up and down the neck of his bass, a glorious orgasmic sway is reached, swirling, then descending perfectly into 'China Doll'. Appropriate, when takes in the context of the shaded and disturbing jamming that had preceded its appearance. Wow.

After the astral traveling that has just occurred, the band decides to now rock the socks off of every one in attendance with a absolute fire breathing display of rabble-rousing rock and roll. First the band blasts through 'Promised Land' shake every one down, then enters one of the finest 'Not Fade Away's' of the era. At four minutes in the jam explodes in a strumming extravaganza, Garcia unfurls through a series of melodic statements created, quoted, some new, some familiar, all amazing. This enters a 'Goin Down the Road Feeling Bad' that goes pedal to the medal for the distance. The band must have thought that they already busted their metaphorical nuts, because they end the concert there, without returning to 'Not Fade Away'. No problem, because there is not much more they could have added to the combo after blazing it to the ground.The band returns for a hot 'Saturday Night' encore, with some additional Weir exclamations for added effect. The crowd is obviously pleased and satisfied.
Dave's Picks 9 comes from an era Deadhead's are familiar with, enjoy, and have deeply ingrained favorites from. The featured concert from May 14, 1974 is worthy of its official release in may ways. It's different..... this is the main reason I find it to be such an exceptional release. While it can be argued that the 'Playin In the Band' pails to others even in the same month, the analysis of what is contained within this particular performance reveals unique and amazing glimpses available only here. This concert finds the band in a exploratory and pensive mood that not only changes their approach to the music, but finds them listening to one another even more intently than usual. The formless improvisations taking place in the second set stand witness to the deep clairvoyant and even paranormal communications taking place in the Grateful Dead when they were playing there very best. Check out all of the performances that 1974 has to offer, but do not miss this well chosen official release, if only for the shaded corners.

Dark Star->China Doll

Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Rolling Stones-'Hot Stuff'-1976's Black and Blue LP

 
The rough and tumble Stones LP 'Black and Blue' was recorded in Germany starting in December 1974 and released in 1976; the album acts as a musical bridge between era's, nestled between the glorious past of It's Only Rock and Roll and unique future of Some Girls. Keith Richards has been quoted as saying that the LP is representative of the band rehearsing guitar players following Mick Taylor's exodus from the band. The eventual replacement for Taylor, Ronnie Wood appears on some of the record with Harvey Mandell and Wayne Perkins also filling in on some of the lead guitar duties. It's hard to have an under-appreciated record when you are a band as prolific as the Stones, but here it is. Black and Blue, a unique LP in its construction and exclusive in its contents. The record also reveals the Stones multiple influences ranging from funk, reggae and foreshadowing the upcoming glam and disco arrivals.

Opening with the hopelessly funky drums and groovy percussion of the sexy track 'Hot Stuff', the record immediately expresses the diverse musical samples that the Stones were experimenting with during this time of upheaval and change. Stitched together with Watt's contemporary take on disco grooves, 'Hot Stuff' is a sweaty dance club mantra in which Jagger swaggers and staggers. The combination of Billy Preston's nimble keyboards, Richards syrupy wah-wah rhythm, and Wyman's cozy bass equate to a flashing red light exclusive back room party. Harvey Mandel contributes the slippery lead riffs that adorn the song.
A favorite of hardcore Stones fans and one of the deeper cuts in their catalog, 'Hand of Fate', features the the quintessential Stones sound while telling a gruff fictional tale that begins on a silvery Keith Richards chime. This is my personal favorite track on the LP. The tune contains the slick shout of Jagger singing a melody that only the Glimmer Twins could have conjured up. Midway through the track there is an earthy breakdown, with Wayne Perkins taking a biting guitar solo while the group ducks down the alley, on the lamb from the 'Hand of Fate'.

Keith Richards love for Reggae started in the early 1970's as he was a fan of Jimmy Cliff and Bob Marley, by this time he had started to bring the island influence into the Stones own recordings. The band had also recorded 1973's Goats Head Soup in Jamaica, so their interest in Reggae had been developing for a while. The track 'Cherry Oh, Cherry' featured on Black and Blue was a cover of Eric Donaldson's 1971 Reggae track with Watts and Wyman taking a stab at a English version 'one drop' Reggae groove. The British reggae love would be taken to astronomical levels by Eric Clapton in 1974 with  huge cover of Bob Marley's 'I Shot the Sheriff'. Like a group of stoned pirates the band walks the plank, falling into the groove amongst yells from Keith of 'Irie!' slightly off mic. Fun overlapping vocals riding on the back of Watts mastery of the reggae thump, illustrating the Stones musical diversity and influence, the key to their longevity. Similar to their early embracing of the blues, the band also welcomed  Reggae with open arms.
Side one of the LP concludes with the extended 'Memory Motel', a Jagger piano spotlight. This song firmly divides Stones fans whom either love it or hate it. The song regards a real location on Long Island where the Stones would sometimes drink and visit while on tour. My opinion is that it pails in comparison to other 'large' Stones ballads like 'Moonlight Mile' and 'Angie', but still contains a melody that grows you over time. Jagger, Richards, and Preston all feature on keyboard instruments on this track. The other wonderful aspect of the song are Richards always entertaining rough hewn harmony vocals that creek like an old screen door, in addition to the few lines where he takes over the lead from Jagger.

Side two of the LP opens with 'permanent' new guitarist Ronnie Wood's influence being felt on the track, "Hey Negrita'. The label on the LP lists, "Inspiration by Ron Wood'. Beginning on the same sort of dirty funk that 'Hot Stuff' initiated, 'Hey Negrita' moves exotically like a brown skinned beauty slinking across a humid and dusty dance floor. The soon to become legendary Richards/Wood guitar weaving starts here in big heavy slabs, exposing the strata of their riffing. The future grit of their fruitful collaboration eliciting more funky grime than a windshield after a 1000 mile cross country drive.

The second track of side two, "Melody' swings with the inspirational input of Billy Preston. 'Melody' moves with a slinky and jazzy sensibility. Jagger takes on the role of a statuesque barroom singer, trading off wordless falsetto interjections with Preston who also sings on the track. Multilayer horns dance on top of Watts lightly brushed percussive additions and Richards muted and smooth guitar riffing. The song is an anomaly in the Stones catalog but fits well in the conglomerate of influence felt on this record. A strange foray into barroom jazz for the group.

'Fool to Cry' follows the eclectic mix observed on the second side of the LP, and to this reviewer points toward the more 'middle of the road' approach that Jagger would take in his own solo work.  The dictated, almost spoken Jagger lyrics illicit the 1950's crooners that had to have influenced Jagger and his vocal approach .Ironically enough, this would be the only song to chart off of the Black and Blue LP. Richards was a fan of Jagger's soulful falsetto approach to the song, but he was also known to 'nod out' during live concert performances. The watery guitar and slippery keyboards are a sonic highlight of the tune. One of the 'deeper' cuts from the Stones catalog, the big ballad has found renewed interest with its inclusion in the HBO series Girls.
The final song on side two and the closing number for the record is the track 'Crazy Mama. I liken this song to being the younger cousin to the Stones classic 'Tumbling Dice' in regards to the archetypal Stones groove and rough guitar riffing. A classic no frills rocker that brings the LP to a jamming conclusion, surfing on Mick Taylor's serpentine slide, in his final appearance on a Stones studio record.

Like I previously stated, its a difficult proposition to navigate and discover under-appreciated and 'deep' Rolling Stones cuts, when the band is the subject of such study and dissemination. Black and Blue is of particular interest due to its placement in the grey area of the groups storied career. By the appearance of 1978's Some Girls, the lineup would be once again solidified, Wood a final decision, ready for the next 35 years of continued rock and roll. Unique in the Stones discography, Black and Blue illustrates the Stones not only discovering a wealth of new influence in the genres of funk and reggae, but finds them revisiting previously prominent blues and soul ideals. The record is a worthwhile snapshot of the band in a unique period of flux, but still delivering the goods no matter the situation or even lead guitarist!

Hot Stuff

Black and Blue

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Sunday, March 9, 2014

Now Playing-The 'Rock Room's' Top Live Concert Albums'-Band, Humble Pie, Zeppelin, Hendrix, Santana

For today's 'Now Playing' feature I have been inspired to ruminate about the various live concert recordings that have been featured in the 'rock room' and are the stone pillars of my rock collection, as well as holding the same regard in the collections of many many others. While the new Humble Pie release, Performance-Rockin the Fillmore-The Complete Recordings box set aggressively blasts from the speakers, the strength of the recording causes me to reflect on the pivotal pieces of wax that captured those special 'once in a lifetime' gestalt linkage moments of rock and roll history.
I know the risks involved in compiling a list of this stature. I would like to preemptively remark that this collection of live albums is in no particular order, and is only the list of the 'rock room's' preferences. I am keeping this collection limited to official releases, not posthumous collections. Please feel free to comment and discuss additions, subtractions, reasons and recommendations! I am compiling this list of the LP's that continue to grow in stature and are in constant rotation in the 'rock room'. Sit back throw one of the records mentioned below on the turntable and let's talk about rock!

The Band (Rock of Ages 1972): A recording that captures the Band at their communal apex, bringing along with them the horn section and their greatest songs. Covering the New Year's 1971 run at The Academy of Music, the original release finds the group still retaining the celebratory vibe of found in the grooves of their first two LP's. Now available is a huge three CD/DVD box spotlighting the entire run of  shows as well as a complete raw line recording of the entire New Years performance, featuring a Mr. Dylan who joins them on the extended encore. This is the Band in all of their glory, the culmination of their practiced years as a 'bar band', through their road warrior days with Dylan. and finally peaking with their internal discovery of their own sound. This is one of the live albums to get, if you have never heard this recording, stop reading and go get it!
Rock Of Ages

Santana (Lotus 1975): Originally released as a imposing triple vinyl LP, Lotus finds Santana at perhaps his most mystical and cosmic, his music taking on a highly progressive state. Recorded in Japan the extend concert experience reverberates with spiritual percussion battles and soaring guitar movements that induce altered states of consciousness and take on near visual forms. In this era Carlos Santana fuses multiple genres music with a superior band that could rate as one of the most accomplished in the world. The definitive version of ' Incident At Neshabur' will reach inside your preconceived conceptions of life and twist them into something new and fresh. The music has that much spiritual strength.
Live In Japan

Grateful Dead (Live Dead 1969): Containing the archetypical suite of songs, 'Dark Star/St, Stephen/The Eleven/Turn On Your Lovelight', this recording finds the band peaking as an improvisational beast. Recorded at the Fillmore West over the course of of four nights, the entire run was released in a limited edition collection in November 2005. To many seasoned fans this era of the Grateful Dead is their finest, every night a journey into the group mind, every show the possibility for something new to be born.  The original live recording is as affecting today as it was on its release date, the music still fresh and relevant, revealing new nuances with every listen.
Live Dead

The Doors (Absolutely Live 1970): Recorded after Jim Morrison's arrest in Miami of March 1969, Absolutely Live finds the Doors back on the road and able to play concerts again after the heat from Morrison's arrest had subsided slightly. The LP is brimming with brilliant Morrison asides, and overflowing with tight shamanic performances. The selections for the album are ace, with Morrison in full gruff throat, and the three piece Doors sounding like a prismatic orchestra on versions of, When the Music's Over, and 'Who Do You You Love'. This recording has also been reissued on vinyl in recent years, with the sound quality and warmth enhancing the amazing performances.The Doors at their most expressive, the peak before the decline.
Absolutely Live

Allman Brothers Band (Live at the Fillmore East 1971): The consensus with this one is that it could be the finest live album of all time. The 'rock room' will not disagree with that assessment. The greatest dual guitar attack to grace a rock and roll stage is preserved on  this recording for eternity. Duane Allman and Dickey Betts blaze the rutted trail that future guitarists for the band would use as their blueprint for improvisations. When this recording was dropped on the public, there was no band in the world that could do what the Allman Brothers Band could do musically. The record highlights a combination of jazz, country, blues, soul, and improvisational madness.  There are moments contained on this LP (also released years later in a extended edition) that defy logic, jaw dropping musical drive by's that contain such momentous moments of wizardry there is nothing to do, but let it take you away.
Whipping Post 1971

Jimi Hendrix (Band of Gypsys 1970): The band was formed to fulfill a contract obligation after the break up of the Experience and became a magical interpreter and developer of Hendrix's 'Message of Love'. Recorded over 2 days and 4 shows at the Fillmore East in 1969, the Band of Gypsies LP was distilled down to 6 songs and 2 album sides. The songs contained are all new for the time Hendrix compositions, with the soulful additions of Buddy Miles (drums) and Buddy Cox (bass) lending Hendrix an in the pocket R and B feel. The rapid fire assault of 'Machine Gun' encourages the audience to run for cover as Hendrix unleashes an aural attack using every sonic pallet in his arsenal. Choppers and jets swoop from overhead, shots reverberate, and the musical soldiers march. This is a definitive piece of the Hendrix musical puzzle. These concert performances have now been disseminated though various box sets and the extended release Live at the Fillmore East which is a companion piece to the original LP release.
Band of Gypsys 12-31-1969

Bob Marley (Babylon By Bus 1978): Featuring recordings from Marley's 1977 Kaya  tour, Babylon By Bus finds Marley and the Wailers in smoking form. Many of the songs featured on the recording were not permanent staples of the bands set list, therefore the recording contains some unique performances. such as 'Is This Love', and 'Heathen'. The celebratory attitude of the crowd in addition to Marley's slow burning "Natural Mystic' preaching make this release a 'must have' to any live music collection. The performances featured are timeless and while they may found other places in differing guises, they sit in perfect harmony on this definitive collection.
Babylon By Bus

The Who (Live At Leeds 1970): What more can be said about the incendiary performance captured on the LP Live  at Leeds. Always included on any list of the greatest live recordings, Live at Leeds is the definitive concert statement for The Who. The power and grace of the band is awe inspiring, Keith Moon has never sounded more expressive, and the band has never sounded more on point. This LP has no been expanded multiple times, now reaching the stage of a huge box set which includes the performance from the evening before hailing from the town of Hull. This aforementioned performance was originally considered for release but audio issues prevented its appearance until recently. Both shows capture for posterity The Who when they were the best live show on the planet. The Tommy segment flexes musical muscle that will never be equaled on wax. But its really all about Leeds, listen to this one from cover to cover, it still has the power to change lives.
Live at Leeds


 
 Led Zeppelin (The Song Remains the Same 1976): Finding the band detonating at Madison Square Garden toward the end of their 1973 tour, The Song Remains the Same, for the longest time was the only live document available of Led Zeppelin. Since that time there have been other recordings such as How the West Was Won, which capture better performances from the group, but for a time and to this day The Song Remains the Same is imprinted on the souls of Led Zeppelin fans around the world. The extended versions of 'No Quarter' and 'Dazed and Confused' are hot to the touch and spotlight tight arrangements of these songs specific to the era. This recording has since been made into a deluxe edition so the listener can replicate a 'truer' concert experience with additional tracks. While there are  now better concerts available in the Led Zeppelin cannon, The Song Remains the Same has become an imprint on our musical souls and is still a definitive concert experience.
Song Remains the Same

 Crosby/Nash (Live 1977): In the context of the previous LP's, you may be asking how this record fits in with the rest. Well, if you have not heard this record, you are in for a treat. This recording is a standard in the rock room, as well as the bootleg recordings from other concerts on the tour. The Crosby/Nash road band featured rock legends, Danny Kortchmar, Russell Kunkle, David Lindley, Tim Drummond and Craig Doerge as the 'Jitters', morphing the Crosby/Nash compositions into psychedelic maelstroms and detailed acoustic readings. This oft-forgotten recording is easily one of the finest collections in the Crosby/Nash cannon as well as a 'rock room' favorite. The reading of David Crosby's 'Foolish Man' is alone worth the price of admission. Pick this one up in the bargain LP bin and prepare to get your mind blown!
Simple Man-1977


I limited my 'rock room' live concert recording list to ten. There are a plethora of concert recordings I have not included which in no way diminishes their influence or importance to the 'rock room' or to you, my loyal reader. The issue with 'lists' is that something always has to be left off, hence my impetus for this rant, the LP, Humble Pie-Performance did not make the cut! In addition to Humble Pie, are the following recordings, Jefferson Airplane-Bless it's Pointed Little Head, Johnny Cash-Live From Folsom Prison, Bob Dylan and the Band-Before the Flood, Lynyrd Skynyrd-One More From the Road, Neil Young-Rust Never Sleeps, Rolling Stones-Get Your Ya-Ya'a Out and Lou Reed-Rock and Roll Animal including countless, others that are influential as well as definitive to the 'rock room'. Unfortunately, I could not include everything in the 'rock room' vaults! So, if you have not had the pleasure to enjoy any of the aforementioned recordings, this is your time and opportunity to dig in. Use the list above as a guide but not as an answer, start your journey with a few and use them to take the numerous paths less traveled that will reveal other recordings. It's an endless journey but one filled with new discoveries, and beautiful music.

Humble Pie-I'm Ready

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Saturday, March 1, 2014

Put the Boot In: Bob Marley May 30, 1980 Zurich - 'The Real Revolutionaries'

 
Jammin in the 'reggae room' today is a beautiful soundboard recording of a Bob Marley and The Wailers concert from May 30, 1980 that has never circulated until this past December. Having this tape appear over thirty years after the concert event is a noteworthy event in itself. The bonus is that the tape features a smoking and stunning performance by the group. The instruments are balanced, the mix sounds official and the Wailers put on a smouldering display.
 This concert is the first of show of the 1980 'Uprising' tour European leg and features a few rarities and a stoney enthusiasm by the group that translates well to the tape. Unfortunately by the time the group reaches the US in September, Marley will be performing his last concerts, and these preceeding concerts become even more poignant. This recording is a revelation, capturing Marley on a perfect and celebratory musical evening, revealing another piece of the man who, like his compositions has become greater than legendary in the years since his death. There are many gaps in the available recordings from this tour, making this tapes discovery even greater cause for celebration for Marley admirers. Reggae fan or rock fan this capture is a beautiful recording to put the feet up with, close your eyes, and 'Catch a Fire'.

The recording picks up with the red, yellow and green buoyancy of 'Zimbabwe', a statement of Marley's support of guerrillas fighting for racial independence in the country. This song is most likely the third or fourth song in the show as set list examination from concerts later in the tour reveals that 'Natural Mystic', 'Positive Vibration' and 'Revolution' often preceded 'Zimbabwe'. 'War/No More Trouble' is featured toward the end of this recording here, differing from its earlier position later in the tour.
 'Natty Dread' follows crisply and is a coiled spring ready for release. Water soaked keys squish out groovy exclamations, Aston Barrett's bass humming full the empty spaces. Marley is in great voice with the distinctive paper cut rasp giving the melodies a bite, that he can control at will.  The culturally proud 'Natty Dread' concludes with a huge Marley exclamation and short dialog before blazing into crowd favorite and one-two no pain punch of 'I Shot the Sheriff', and 'No Woman No Cry'.  'Sheriff' is full of eager Marley vocalizations, and his deep hearty asides the stand out under the 'I-Three's' sweet backing vocals. 'No Woman, No Cry' causes the crowd to explode, audible the tape, and their big additional vocals leak onto the recording endearingly.

One of the revelations to appear from the tape follows with a version of 'Talkin Blues'. A warm stone in the sun, made for daydreaming, is the foundation of this rare 1980 performance. The stair climbing ascending and descending central riff lends a smoky positivity to the 'blues' content of the track. A true highlight of the show with syncopated solo section that pops with Rasta energy.

The same rings true for the 'new' song from the yet to be released Uprising album 'We and Dem' that follows. The song rolls out on a fat round bass tone, thumping into a slow burn. The track is not as tight as the preceding numbers, possible cause for its eventual disappearance from the set. The rarity factor is high here, and the sound quality makes it all worth wile in spite of some tentativeness by the players.
'Lively Up Yourself' slinks out slowly like a heavy pull off of the Kaya. A sensual tincture is created between the swelling keyboards and mantra chink-chink. Marley vocalizes like an oceam horn blowing free and easy across the coast. Shimmering guitars by Al Anderson and Junior Marvin are notable throughout. A well played performance that becomes obscured by the smoke eventually revealing itself to be a definitive version.

'Jammin' and 'Exodus' follow keeping the momentum high and the lyrical content diverse. 'Jammin' dissolves into a bass laden vocal jam that builds into the concluding exit instrumental. Without pausing 'Exodus' pulses heavily as soon as 'Jammin' concludes, shifty and dramatic, the performance continues to amaze. An electric Rasta revival is taking place on the recording, with special notice to the knotted rope keyboards adorning the track.

The main set concludes with 'Exodus' and the band returns to the stage for a rendition of 'Redemption Song'. Endearingly out of tune on his acoustic, Marley still inspires chills with his soulful reading. The lyrics sung acapella are especially affecting, with Marley then wordlessly vocalizing a melody line that the full band picks up on to conclude the song.

A 'rock room' favorite  'War/No More Trouble returns the concert to full on 'burnin' mode. Heavy percussion and crisp execution abound, the musical starts and stops are bulls eye hits. Masterfully mixing the 'heavy' tunes with the 'lighter' stuff, a funky 'Kinky Reggae' comes next following 'War' and preceding and segueing into the show closing 'Get Up, Stand Up'.
 'Get Up, Stand Up' is fittingly Marley's concluding message for the evening as he verbaly reiterates this to the crowd prior to the song begining proper. Similarly to all that has come before it, this rendition is deliberate, concentrated, detailed and well played. When the group leaves the stage, the recording continues with the excited crowd still vocalizing Marley's exclamations.

Thus ends our journey through the newly circulating Bob Marley and the Wailers performance from 1980. A welcome addition to collectors circles as well an amazingly well played performance that no one has ever had the pleasure to enjoy before. This one pleases the Marley aficionado's because of the unique features of the performance, but can also be enjoyed by those being introduced to the world of Marley because of its exceptional sound quality and varied set list. The show is available to those who search. As always, thanks for reading!

Bob Marley and the Wailers 5-30-1980

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Sunday, February 23, 2014

Gene Clark-'Here Tonight' The White Light Demos 1971

 
Released in November 1971, Gene Clark's solo LP White Light is an encapsulated moment where Clark as well as producer and friend Jesse Ed Davis find the perfect blend of Clark's weighty baritone voice combined with a highlighted minimalist instrumentation allowing for the deep lyrical content and breezy vocal melodies to shine through. Earthy and honest, the original recording is a tastefully organic array of Clark's songwriting and vocal abilities.The album like much of Clark's career is severely under appreciated, but to those aware of its delicate beauty, it is a collection of songs that can change the listeners way of thinking about the human realities of life. These songs came from Clark during a period of rebirth, when the melodies poured from him, like clean spring water from a crystalline decanter. Lyrical tales, white undriven snow wind blown across open land, free of impurities, light and airy. Always slightly ahead of the curve, White Light followed Clark's two perfect albums of country-rock experiments with Doug Dilliard, which true to form Clark left behind to head in the direction of another compass point. Similarly to his leaving the Byrds, Clark the intrepid traveler was always scanning the horizon for more. Spinning in the 'rock room' today is a collection that appeared in late 2013 gathering Gene Clark's home demo recordings from the period leading up to the recording of White Light. The compact disc Gene Clark-Here Tonight-The White Light Demos is an affectionate compilation of Clark his acoustic and often a harmonica developing his compositions, pulling then from air and translating then to tape. The set also features three songs that have not appeared anywhere before this collection.
 These recordings were recently discovered in a tape vault, long thought lost, the original ideas developed by Clark in his workshop cabin in Mendocino, California. Listening to these solo recordings the essential elements of Clark's melodic prowess and the fundamental foundation of his art is on display in all its raw glory. This is the troubled solo troubadour, finally at ease, creating at will and without a deadline and tapping into the flowing energy of the muse.Clark, the greatest songwriter you've never heard of and author of the most beautiful minor key ballads you have ever heard.

 After the opening 'White Light' acoustic guitar and harmonica version that opens the collection like the original LP, the first major revelation appears. 'Here Tonight' originally recorded by the Flying Burrito Brothers with assistance from Clark, surfaces here with a swaying strum, buoyant, intimate and uncluttered. Every crevasse and recess delicately explored, every breath and hum of throat captured.

If the previous song was a revelation, the next is an epiphany, 'For No One' is an unreleased jewel, a weightless circular acoustic finger picked melody line carries with it, some the most mournful harp interludes I've ever had the pleasure to hear Gene blow. His voice enters, a light fragile china, a misty specter of loneliness, quaking with a shaky falsetto. The minimal and concise lyrics elicit powerful images intensified by the ghostly accompaniment. An amazing find, a legendary piece of music.

What has been reported as Bob Dylan's favorite piece of Gene Clark music, 'For A Spanish Guitar' follow next, one of Clark's most regal and endearing melodies. This version like the entirety of the release takes on a magnified aptitude through the 'in the room' ambiance. A darkened room, some headphones and time to kill is needed for the weightiness of this track. This is not casual listening music. Worthy of note is the thick maple syrup of Clark's harmonica prowess. His playing is showed a more direct spotlight on this release and is an absolute joy to hear!

'Please Mr. Freud' is another discovered song and reflects a heavy Dylan influence both rhythmically and in attitude. The liner notes for the release attribute the lyrical content to Clark's deep interest in exploring humanity, religion and alternative ways off viewing the world around him. The tune's lyrical melody is brimming with flashing imagery, echoed in between verses by gentle harmonica. The reason for its remaining unreleased is unknown, but maybe its Dylan influence was too much for Clark? We will never know.
 'Jimmy Christ' follows and is the final 'discovered' song on the collection, the above photo is of a publishing acetate donated for the CD by Whin Oppice. What I find interesting is that song was cut to acetate, and never used for any released as far as I know. The short guitar harmonica ditty contains some heavy lyrical content, with Clark wondering aloud who can really feel the pain of another, can the narrator relate his pain to anyone or anything in the world? How can we relate to Jesus?

The unreleased and unheard songs disposed of, a folky version of 'Where My Love Lies Asleep' with a rolling tempo differing from the released version and a naked interpretation of 'The Virgin' follow.
'The Virgin' is missing its central Davis guitar riff but still retains its vivacious groove centered around its central vocal melody.

The following 'Opening Day' and 'Winter In' were both unreleased until their appearance as bonus tracks on the remastered version of White Light. 'Opening Day' is a bright song that rises like a early morning view of the sun, while questioning time as it hangs against gravity like the pendulum of an ancient clock. Clark's strumming unusually excitable and bright a contrast to the surrounding numbers. 'Winter In' is a song made from the inspiration of its creation, a song that apprehends a moment and paints it across time like a brush to canvass. The tune collects discard moments like scattered photographs and collates them into shared experience. Another song that leaves me wondering the reasoning for its eventual disappearance from the running for the record.
'Because Of You' is very similar to the released version, obviously lacking the album overdubs and production techniques. Not to be redundant, but the songs melodic strength is similarly to previous songs increased by the intimacy of the demo recording. 'With Tomorrow' concludes the set, the track a writing collaboration between Clark and Jesse Ed Davis, this version a brief song sketch only light pencil marks left quickly on a note pad for remembrance. The song a fitting end to the collected works that make up the set. Clark's schematics for his continuing musical direction, in many ways more definitive than the final products themselves.

If you do not already own White Light do not pass go until you are the proud owner of the album. After digesting it and letting its soulful living lines seep into the fabric of your musical life, search out the collection discussed above. Similarly to John Lennon's home recordings, or Pete Townsend's available demo recordings, Clark's song sketches offer a peek through the keyhole, pulling back the shades to reveal the heart of inspiration for the songwriter. For the duration of the listening experience Clark is in your room, the music wrapping its metaphorical arms around your ears and heart.

Gene Clark-Winter In

Gene Clark-Jimmy Christ

Gene Clark-For A Spanish Guitar

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Saturday, February 15, 2014

Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks-The Best of Ronnie Hawkins 1964 LP


Spinning the ‘rock room’ today is an absolute pillar in the cathedral that is rock and roll history. The album Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks: The Best of Ronnie Hawkins was released courtesy of Roulette Records in 1964. The mono LP not only features Hawkins performing with his usual rock and roll renegade sensibilities, but also shows the talents and abilities of Levon Helm, Rick Danko, and Robbie Robertson (The Band) on all tracks, as well as appearances by Garth Hudson, Richard Manuel and King Curtis.

The sides Hawkins was cutting during this period would influence a host of rockers John Lennon and Bob Dylan included. Hawkins albums always contained the hottest shit musicians and a no frills ‘in the gutter’ approach. Dylan would eventually take Hawkins former band for his own to help disseminate his ‘thin wild mercury music’ on the legendary 1965-66 tour. When the needle drops on this record, there is little doubt on whom the best rock and roll band in the land was. Say what you will, but the guys in the Hawks were playing at a level that few bands ever reach. The proof is in the recordings, this particular disc directly pointing to the eventual musical pinnacles reached with Dylan in 1966 and soon after that the heights scaled as the Band.
 The LP opens on a snare shot and the group is shredding, glowing in a sizzling glossy black. Robertson’s slightly static guitar pumps ‘Bo Diddley’ full of a metallic scrubbing sound, a sound alien to this era, the 'Diddley' beat now super charged.  Hawkins swamp hollers, or more appropriately, huffs Canadian wind storm screams, waiting for the resounding echoes from the backing peanut gallery. Sexy and sultry, the opening ‘Bo Diddly’ smells of Canadian whiskey, stale cigarettes, loose ladies and the funky clubs of Young street in downtown Toronto in the early 60’s. The deep tree lined grooves played by Helm and Danko and developed her,e foreshadow their future deep running and powerful roots. Swelling ‘rave ups’ separate the galloping drums verses and amphetamine piano slapping contributed by Richard Manuel.

‘Come Love’ is a sultry swing, Hawkins vocals are punctuated by Robertson’sharp edged Stratocaster. Robertson’s first solo a tasteful yet twang exploration of the blues groove, his tone a silver arrow chilled by the Northern winds. Staying on the subject of grooves, ‘Honey Love’ in contrast, is a product of the time, a lighthearted Latin flavored ditty, highlighted by Helm’s roly-poly island tom-tom’s and Danko’s animated and thumping lines.

‘High Blood Pressure’ is as tight as a shrunken sweater. Hawkin’s sounds way laid back for this vocal performance. The entire ‘future’ Band is also featured on this recording with all five members accounted for. You can tell because the groove shakes likes the leaves on the trees and the feel is the undeniable Band (Hawks) rhythm section and dual keyboard/piano attack. Mr. Hudson starts to go impressionistic with his introductory solo enveloping the group with his individualized sonic pallet.

Creeping along on a blue piano, ‘Arkansas’ rolls down dusty roads, name checking women and locations while reminiscing about his favorite lady. A moody and original song instrumentally, again, Helm’s drums injecting the song with its danceability and its swing. Garth Hudson also plays on this track.

The following song ‘Boss Man’, contains the entire future Band contributing once again. Garth Hudson’s fat organ swirls in windy time with the sly swing of the group. The finger snapping workers lament is made convincing by the low key shadowy strut, even the humorous ‘huh huh’ backing vocals add to the enjoyment. Good stuff.
 Side two opens with a violent and shattering event, the impact of‘Who Do You Love’ is immediate. The song streaks out and grabs you emphatically by the shirt asking the question, ‘Who Do You Love?’ Danko’s bass loops and loops, jumping from the speakers then retreating like a wack-a-mole game. This was the Hawks signature song and it shows, there is a levitating delicacy to their aggressiveness, then quickly turning a corner,they kill the ant with a hammer. The mid section builds, rising on Hawkins ascending guttural screams, then bursts at the seams, revealing pounding black and whites, droning bass, and Robertson standing baby faced, scorching eyebrows with the created heat from his guitar statements. This track belongs on any hypothetical list or discussion regarding ‘rock and roll’s’ foundational songs, or important musical moments. Must have.

‘I Feel Good’ bounds in on a rockabilly groove, buoyed by Helms dependable beats. King Curtis takes the first solo with a celebratory investigation of the melody. To my ears this song is in the style that the members of the group were starting to rebel from, less of the pop, more of the ‘R and B’ and violent raucous rock. In the context of the LP it sounds good and lends diversity to the record as well as showing off the multiple talents of the Hawks.
One of my personal favorite songs on the LP is the version of ‘Searchin’ that Hawkins pulls out, the bluesy shuffle accentuated by possibly the dirtiest guitar you will hear on a recording from 1961 (when this number was recorded). Robertson peels prickly sections of sound from his guitar that moan, this is serious stuff here. Helm and Danko sit back locked in a stone thrown across water cadence, in which Hawkins raps the syncopated tale.

The final song that features all five members of the Band as Hawks is ‘Mojo Man’. ‘Mojo’ bops along on Danko’s percolating bass line and features a golden Curtis saxophone solo foreshadowing the future Band’s own horn section additions during their own career. Another irresistible pulse is donated by the group, becoming noticeable that the talent in the band is surpassing its principal and namesake.
 The LP comes to a close with two numbers that showcase Hawkins voice, the first displaying his ‘Elvis’ falsetto’ upsing’. ‘Sexy Ways’ lets Hawkins get the girls worked into tizzy with his creamy smooth singing of various compliments over the churning rock rhythm. The tune has some big female backing vocals and a nice sax solo, but it fades out just as Robertson gets a chance to juice it up! In my opinion the weakest song on the record, but hey someone may love it!

The album concludes on the slow burn of ‘You Know I Love You’ with Robertson making up for a missed opportunity on the previous song with a sharp and unique opening riff that slides in sensually. The lick is absolutely shiver inducing in conjunction with the silvery bell chimes on Helm’s drum kit. Hawkins swings like a slightly inebriated playboy, Mr. Dynamo charming the ladies right out of their skirts, even though they ‘don’t even know his name’.

1964’s Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks: The Best of Ronnie Hawkins LP finds one of ‘rock’s’ finest showman during the prime of career, as well as spotlighting his backing band, who was about to embark on the journey of a lifetime, culminating with some of the most revolutionary music ever heard in popular music. This is a hard one to find in the bins, but is still available in digital formats and is well worth a concentrated listen.

Who Do You Love

Bo Diddley

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Saturday, February 8, 2014

Now Playing: Grateful Dead- 'Sitting On Top Of The World' October 21, 1971

      'Now Playing' in the 'rock room' is a musical movement of the highest standard, hailing from an era of reinvention an growth by the Grateful Dead. I am in the heart of the October 21, 1971's second set immortalized on the third CD of Dave's Picks volume three, which also features the October 22nd 1971 show as its centerpiece.  The segment that is 'now playing' in the 'rock room' is the 'Dark Star/Sitting On Top Of The World/Dark Star/Me And Bobby McGee' suite that forms the central axis of this performance. The entire October 21st show, including the first set does circulate in unofficial soundboard capacity. This time period finds the group morphing into the psychedelic beast that would soon materialize in Europe, six months following this particular tour. The group was introducing new songs, assimilating a new pianist, and taking their improvisations to uncharted and exciting levels.
     The concert is also notable for being Keith Godchaux's second show with the band since taking over piano duties, in which he asserts himself immediately and assimilates his adventurous playing seamlessly into the group mind. These early concerts are the exploratory templates that would eventually reach cosmic levels when the band reached Europe. Back to the show at hand, the subject of this 'now playing' is the first 'Dark Star' with Keith Godchaux, as well as the first since July 1971. The intimate Auditorium Theatre in Chicago would be witness to numerous peak Grateful Dead performances and this opening night in 1971 is no different. The ornate and opulent theater was the perfect location for the special improvised journeys the Dead were known to embark on.
     The 'Dark Star' begins in earnest after a humorous 'Frozen Logger' tuning segment. A graceful examination of the theme occurs with Garcia confidently picking harmonics along with ancient melodic chimes that reverberate through the venue. Billy K scratches on wooden doors with a light percussion that shuffles quickly into the shadows. This is a panoramic and spacious 'Dark Star' drift and at three minutes the band breaks apart into a sickly spider web meltdown. Godchaux asserts himself through scatter shot keystrokes disorienting the direction and encouraging Lesh and Garcia to fall deeper into the musical void. The melt spreads, becoming slightly psychotic in its intent before Garcia aggressively restates the theme and slides into the first verse.

     Garcia strongly sings the first verse at half past six minutes, the band then moves briskly from the lyrics before dropping again into a weightless introspective space. Godchaux, Weir, and Garcia roll themselves into a twinkling musical mass at ten minutes. The music becomes a psychedelic music box, Lesh plucks light blue notes, while the music envelops itself, shapeless it bumps into stars, dissipating before moving on. Garcia begins to dig away at layers of the jam, hitting on ideas, discarding ideas, before brushing away the dirt and revealing the central theme he so wanted to discover. The jam ignites like flash paper, gaining momentum through a series of heavenly melodic statements by Garcia and Godchaux. Kreutzman becomes the multi-limbed master and the unsung hero throughout this multifaceted excursion. He plays a plethora of poly-rhythmic grooves that branch off from the central trunk of swing beats. Garcia's Stratocaster has the classic shimmering and ethereal 'Europe' tone that drives the band into an excitable 'Feeling Groovy' jam that careens around corners at dangerous rates threatening to lift off at any moment. The post verse jam is an example of peak and prime Grateful Dead, birthed during this very era and riding an awesome wave straight on through the Winterland 1974 performances. The jam rises, the suddenly, the band becomes molecules dissolving like sugar in water and returning to a sparkling drift.
At this point the jam disappears as quickly as it appeared, reaching its outstretched hand over the jagged edge of the sonic precipice to gain purchase, pulling itself skyward, quickly becoming a lightning struck version of 'Sitting On Top Of he World'. The band boogies their way through the song at high velocity. The band sounds positively joyous as they romp through a prime rendition. Garcia plays two pliable honky tonk solos and then Bam! We are back in the midst of 'Dark Star'. The second verse is sung quickly and before we realize its not 'St Stephen',Weir strums the opening strains to 'Me and Bobby McGee'. Similarly to the music that preceded it, this 'Bobby McGee' is concentrated joy. The band's attention to detail is marvelous, and the 'Bobby' becomes a fitting landing to the previous 25 minutes of musical flight.
     The second set then concludes with the 'St Stephen' that was missing from the previously played 'Dark Star.' Segueing into a streaming 'Johnny B Goode' and closing the performance on a high and rocking note. This 'Dark Star' suite from early in the Grateful Dead's 'golden era', is a fine example of the grey area lying between the bands early 1971 'bar room' jam sessions, and their gradual development into a nimble, swinging psychedelic jazz band. The Fall of 1971 is full of these amazing performances, sometimes falling flat in spots, but always full of the possibility of magic and the drive for exploration. Dick's Picks Volume 2 features a concert from this era, hailing from October 31, 1971 which also contains an extended 'Dark Star' excursion worth checking out. Road Trips 3.2 showcases a mid tour meltdown with the November 15 concert in Texas. The short lived 'Download Series' offered up the October 26 Rochester, NY show for a short time, giving us another well played and extended performance.  Well, that's it from here, check it out, thanks for reading!

Dark Star Suite 10-21-1971

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