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
Sunday, June 29, 2014
'Call On Me' follows and is one of the single releases of the current 'Chicago VII', and acts in total contrast to the preceding number as far as attitude, 'Call On Me' features a more accessible vibe but also retains the quintessential 'Chicago' punch increased exponentially by the addition of percussionist Laudir de Oliveira. The song sizzles like bubblegum on black asphalt toward its conclusion with a plethora of poly-rhythmic cymbal hits and roly-poly horn lines.
Moving from a current hit to a past glory, the band begins 'Saturday In the Park' a error free version of one of the bands most endearing songs. The white boy funk that influenced a multitude of horn bands is contagious as Lamm and Cetera harmonize perfectly over the choppy groove. Cetra's bass playing on this number shines with impressive scurrying lines.
After a commercial break on the recording, the band picks up presumably still in the first set with 'Beginnings' a single of the bands debut Chicago Transit Authority LP. A delicately groovy Lamm composition, built around Kath's funky guitar strums the song increased its danceability and instrumental prowess when performed live. The established groove peculates while the horns of Pankow, Parazaider and Loughnane intertwine into a knotty aural twine. Impressively stretching, the ending of the song inflates, pushing and popping seams, before reaching its final destination.
Closing out the first half of the concert comes one of my personal favorite 'Chicago' tracks, 'Ballet For a Girl In Buchannon' a multifaceted 'Song Suite' written by James Pankow and featured on the bands second 1970 LP 'Chicago'. Made up of the song pieces, 'Make Me Smile", 'So Much To Say, So Much To Give', Anxiety's Moment', West Virginia Fantasies', 'Color My World', 'To Be Free' and 'Now More Than Ever', the song is a diverse and varied conglomerate of 'Chicago's compositional prowess and instrumental attack. 'Make Me Smile' and 'Color My World' were detached from the song cycle for release, and are popular tracks that stand sternly on their own.
More remarkable jamming occurs with the following triad, 'Italian From New York', Hanky Panky' and 'Life Saver' three tracks from the current, at the time Chicago VII and impressively played in the same order here. Lamm replies from the microphone that there will be some 'Experimentation' occurring on the stage. 'Italian From New York' talks tough with an aggressive central riff and tightly squeezed horn lines. Kath plays a strained guitar turn speaking in alternative languages with the hot breath of the horns. The core lick becomes a mantra for Kath and the horns to rebound ideas off of, Cetera gets spunky and the jams falls off of a cliff into a silent abyss that suddenly bounds into the comedic intro syncopation of 'Hanky Panky'. Just as suddenly a swinging jazz theme appears groaning through mournful trombone lines and stitching their way through the created bop. Again, the band flawlessly trace their way in and out of thematic and difficult musical topographical landscapes, perfectly tracing borders until finding the slippery and lubricated transition into 'Life Saver'. 'Life Saver' dives into the deep end without fear, more reminiscent of a 'Band' song than 'Chicago' with its dirty keys and earthy groove. Moist water logged keyboards bob on the horizon, while Kath cuts waves with scratchy scrubbing on his guitar. The horns enter again as the song increases in tempo--- landing the dive into the songs main melody with a ten from all judges voting.
As has been the case all evening the band follows this musical maelstrom with a perfectly placed safety net to make sure certain members of the crowd didn't get lost in the experimentation. 'Just You and Me' brings everyone band included back from orbit as the band slinks their way through the James Paknow composed song from Chicago VI. Highlights include Kath's cry baby guitar that gently purrs due to his well timed coaxing. Parazaider also takes a masterful and horny solo over the extended mid-section of the song that stuns my ears, before returning to the more conventional chorus changes.
The concert closes with two major 'Chicago' tracks, again representative of the groups professional duality, illustrating their ability to compose extended composites of songs both containing pop sensibilities and moving into and through amazing sunburst improvisations. The first performance is a reading of '25 or 6 to 4' which has at its juicy center a stunning Terry Kath guitar solo that almost leaves the rails as it ascends and descends steamy darkened highways of sound.
The concerts final number is the addictive Paknow/Cetera number, 'Feelin Stronger Every Day', leaving the crowd with a melody that will reverberate through their heads the rest of the evening. The perfect combination of aggressive rock riffing and slamming melodic singalong, the closer exhibits all of the strengths of the original 'Chicago' line up. The group shifts into double time and everyone extends their necks for the visible finish line. Cetera's bass pops and plunks a rock and roll rhythm, Kath shakes the bottle, Lamm and Seraphine twist the cap and the horns explode all over the walls as the increasing pressure is too much to contain. The band has hit the spot and the crowd responds in kind, the King Biscuit announcer states the concerts end while I stare at my receiver in amazement.
This perfect soundboard rendering of 'Chicago' in 1974 is an impeccable display of a band who is teetering on a pointed axis of perfection. They contain the innate on stage ability to take off and improvise, as well as return and embrace through their accessible songwriting. The band is able to take their songs to the very edges of their respective elaborate arrangements, while keeping with and returning to more familiar and contemporary thematic interests. Whether you are a 'Chicago' fan familiar with the 'live' catalog ,or new to the wealth of material available from arguably the bands finest era. You will find in this performance the successful combination of fine sound quality, incendiary performance and fantastic songs.
Dialogue I and II 1974
25 or 6 to 4-1974
Saturday, June 21, 2014
The first three songs of the concert, 'Statesboro', 'Trouble No More' and 'Don't Keep Me Wondering' feature Duane Allman on snaky slide guitar taking center stage. After 'Statesboro' I believe Duane Allman, encourages everyone to visit concessions to 'get loose' as the drummers pound out the introduction to 'Trouble No More'. Gregg and Duane play catch with the melody line, Duane echoing each line sung by his brother with rich sugary licks. Gregg digs his heels in for this number growling, the band coalescing, rising in temperature, reaching the boiling point.
Berry Oakley and the drummers are in prodigious form this evening, 'Don't Keep Me Wondering' is a fine example of this, the rhythm section dynamically encouraging the groove, an avalanche of smooth rounded stones rolling down a steep mountain side. 'Dont Keep Me Wondering' reaches the first musical peak of the evening with Duane dramatically building steps to the musical summit. The band now warmed up, prepare to embark on the centerpiece of the performance.
Allman (?), in a chatty mood, during a brief break describes the bands love for Boston and how many of their most 'righteous' performances have taken place there before the band tip toes into the syncopated introduction of 'You Don't Love Me'. The next twenty six minutes are a clinic by the band, displaying a multitude of poly rhythms, virtuous guitar playing, and sweet Southern soul.
Slow and slick out the back porch door, the band slinks through the introductory changes until 'Skydog' takes the first solo spot igniting the tempo of the band and proliferating the intensity. Betts takes the second solo spot, hanging onto each note for dear life, stretching and ringing the emotion out of every note, like squeezing the juice out of a luscious fruit. Like a country gentleman sipping sweet whiskey in the yard, Betts takes his time, elongating each and every note, drawing deep.
Duane takes another driving turn, before the band drops out at six minutes leaving the stage to Allman alone. Duane, in a slightly overdriven tone, honks and tonks his way through a series of sensual melodic statements. Finally settling on a sweet hummingbird tone, Allman gently tickles some of the most nectarous licks you will ever hear. At almost eight minutes Allman gets a bit more distorted, his tone more aggressive and the solo morphs into a guttural blues display with squiggly wiggly shaded exclamations. Allman finds a central spot, dances around that spot with a series of related statements, then fires off a series of disorientating swells and neck slides at around nine minutes.
At a bit past eleven minutes Allman is now acting as someone who channels, a plethora of vibrato and sustained notes escape from his guitar in a flurry like cottonwood on a comfortable breeze. The drummers circle one another in a battle stance, the jam hits a plateau where it carries a consistent blast of energy in a straight line peak. The dynamic intensity of the improvisation drops again, this time Allman is disseminating notes in a endless series of exclamations. A joyous Georgia swamp ballad manifests from his fingers, these moments the reason why, even in his short time on this earth, Allman is considered one of the finest string benders of all time.
A shuffle coagulates from thin air, Oakley and the drummers lock in the rhythm and Betts and Allman stand back to back preparing for the dual. Gregg lays cornerstones with a hollow Hammond base over which Betts and Duane run side by side down dusty country roads, coming close to touching bumpers before splitting off away from one another. Betts the able younger brother stays close to Allman, repeating licks back to Duane similar to an annoying sibling. Both guitarists drive the other deeper, faster and farther before they converge at eighteen and a half minutes to hit the quintessential dual lined Allman Brothers guitar groove.
The band then aggressively busts down the door with a crooked 'Hoochie Coochie Man', Oakley fittingly getting his spotlight moment for the evening and making the most of it. The band's arrangement of this song is always a show stopper for me and this performance is no different. Weighty tumbling drums and an earnest vocal reading by Oakley are highlights of the performance. Betts plays a fine solo during the song in which Oakley follows with busy fretwork.
With time for only one more number as heard from Gregg Allman speaking from the stage, the band closes with 'Whipping Post'. This eighteen plus minute version contains all of the twists and turns and dramatics that one can hope for. Similarly to the entire performance, this version also rockets at high velocity with the drummers a throwing out a heterogeneous mixture of rhythmic delights. Duane Allman enters the first solo quickly with some cosmic conjuring. This is not a solo that builds in intensity, this is a solo that cruises consistently at a towering altitude, each lick bettering the previous. Duane, 'hitting the note' and acting as a Tesla tower that receives and then disseminates mystical melodies. The tension is key, the music pulsing like a amoeba liquid light show, not a wasted phrase or note, each moment contributing to the whole.
Betts takes the solo after the second verse and leads the band through a dark and haunted valley before coming out the other side with a series of scarring extended statements. This is Betts finest guitar work of the evening and is inspiring in its construction. There is some static on the recording at this point and what sounds to be a change in the source recording. The band blasts out of the drift and through the guitar peak of the track before dismissing gravity and settling into a floating musical wash. The three guitarist twirl around one another in a tripped out woodland dance. Oakley drones, the drums swell in a cymbal rain. Allman and Betts join together in a delicate descending etude that falls into the extended conclusion of the song. Gregg Allman rejoins ruminating soulfully, leading the band through the climactic ending of the number, thus ending the show to great applause and enthusiasm.
This particular era of the Allman Brothers Band that features the original founding members is truly going 'Back Where It All Begins' and investigating the formative roots of their forty five year career. While the Allman's available official recordings of this time contain many of the same songs; like nimble jazz musicians, the Brothers take each performance and turn it into a unique piece containing elements and characteristic that no other show has. This particular recording captures the band reaching their first full musical peak and also their first natural conclusion of an era. Soon their popularity would reach full fruition, unfortunately the heart (Duane) and soul (Berry) of the band would not be there to witness it. Go out and grab this archival release when the band was still discovering the magic they were able to conjure on a nightly basis, and were arguably the best band in the land.
Whipping Post-Fillmore East
Allman Brothers March 20, 1971
Monday, June 9, 2014
The concert and recording begins with the instrumental 'Also Sprach Zarathustra' as a proverbial lead in and warm up for the opening number. The recording is titled, Elvis At Full Blast, fittingly as I witness the band ignite into the opening 'See See Rider' on Ronnie Tutt's enthusiastic percussive opening. Presley veterans and rock legends Jerry Scheff (Bass) and James Burton (Guitar) are both tight as the bolts of a bridge as Sheff climbs the ladder of his bass and Burton pokes numerous stings with his solo.
Taking no moment to pause the band segues into a sneaky 'I Got A Woman', sung slyly and low by Elvis. Hand claps and golden cymbal bells drive the tempo higher and higher with Presley growling as smoke pours from the doors of the band.
A quick pause for a 'Thank You' from the King and the band is off into a churning 'Proud Mary'. Burton laces stringy Telecaster lines under Presley's vocals, weaving with Scheff's brisk alternating bass lines. Deep almost humorous backing vocals reply to Elvis's pleas but somehow sound exactly perfect. Three high octane classics come from Elvis without a moment to breathe as his professionally amazing collection of musicians slap everyone right in the face. Good stuff.
Part of Elvis Presley's everlasting appeal is his masterful interpretation of others songs. On this recording is an absolute bombastic and intimidating version of 'You've Lost That Loving Feeling'. A leisurely bass drone moves the groove like a slow march through thick swamps. Presley grabs this one and does not let go, the band floating over evening waters behind him. Steady and invested Presley boils over in a dramatic froth on the chorus, later turning the songs recognizable breakdown into a hand raising gospel review.
Hitting a groove that most bands stay up late dreaming of slotting into, Presley stage favorite 'Polk Salad Annie' boogies sprightly while Presley notices the fine ladies in the audience. The central part of this jam leaves the confines of the International arena as Sheff takes a fat fuzzy bass 'solo', followed by some syrupy Burton soloing. The band is hot to the touch at this point, slamming into a rubber wall for a conclusion accented by wonderful Presley vocal interjections.
After a humorous interlude where Presley apologizes for the explosive reading of 'Polk Salad Annie', there is some great dialog between Presley and the ladies seated in the closer rows. The band then begins 'What Now My Love' a song that would later reach amazing mature heights during Presley's Aloha From Hawaii special. It is given a glorious reading here.
With only a brief pause, Presley breaks into a showcase of his early catalog, with a loose version of 'Love Me' that begs on two knees to the great delight of the females in the audience. The rhythm section again thumps along ecstatically to Presley's vocal direction.
The momentum of the performance again increases with a jittery medley of Elvis's early hits beginning with warp speed 'All Shook Up' that quakes with nervous energy. 'Teddy Bear' follows close on the dissipating exhaust of 'All Shook Up', and then segues seamlessly into a pleading 'Dont Be Cruel' highlighted by Burton's flawless Telecaster strokes.
'Heartbreak Hotel' continues the flip card through Presley's early hits. 'Heartbreak Hotel' benefits from the sparse arrangement and Glenn D. Hardin's sugar sweet black and white sprinkles. Another brief pause and the band leaves a breeze with a rockabilly 'Blue Suede Shoes' that taps its toes erratically on the checkered linoleum.
Then jumping forward a few years into the catalog, a train engine 'Little Sister' leaves the station at a full clip, slipping seamlessly into the Beatles 'Get Back' like they are the same song. Tutt chugs puffs of smoke on the kit, moving the musical train smoothly down the steel rails. Presley sings with in a low key attack, patiently and melodically weaving around the groove. Highlight.
Following 'Hound Dog', Presley comments to the audience that he did not like 'Love Me Tender' responding to audience requests for the song, before telling the band to begin 'It's Over'. A moving and dramatic version of the song that would also reach extravagant heights on Aloha From Hawaii follows. Swelling strings elicit all of the smooth emotion from Presley's vocals. A much better choice than 'Love Me Tender' would have been in my opinion.
'It's Over' acts as a prelude to the smoking version of 'Suspicious Minds', appropriate to this era that nips at its heels. Played at a greased lightning speed, the song combines all of the elements of Presley's live stage show at this time; the grooviest band, emotive vocals, big horns and imposing strings.
After a quick break, Presley then introduce the members of his his band as they vamp on virtuously behind him, prepping for the apex and conclusion of the performance. 'My Way' begins on a solitary piano figure with Presley's comforting refrain, a sweet velvet statement building in intent and purpose, on the support of the strings that enter like a midnight guest. Only Frank could have done it better.
In contrast, the version of 'A Big Ol' Hunk of Love' that follows was originally an Elvis classic hailing from 1958 and bearing the distinction of being the only single recorded while Presley was in the military. This rendition is as hot as black asphalt in the desert, featuring a heavy left hand on the piano and Burton shredding to pieces a rock and roll guitar solo. Presley groans with the early sexual tension of his original singles as the band thumps in hard syncopation. A huge and fitting performance and possibly the finest of this fantastic evening.
Following the rock clinic that just occurred, Presley answers a screaming fan with a low throated 'What Kid?', before unfurling 'An American Trilogy'. Comprised of three historical songs, 'Dixie', 'All My Trials', and 'The Battle Hymn of the Republic', Presley started to perform the song in 1972. The climactic performances would grow in stature and intensity, eventually becoming an essential element in Presley's sets, exploding like fireworks and in many instances stopping the show in breathtaking fashion. This evening is no different, with Presley completely invested in the reading of the song, like a bookworm in a new library.
The evenings performance closes on the expected and towering, "I Can't Help Falling In Love With You', designed to send the ladies of the crowd home pining for more and to close the evening on a theatrical and sensational note.
Monday, May 26, 2014
There is a consensus that from Spring 1989 until Brent Mydland's untimely death after the 1990 Summer tour that the Grateful Dead had a achieved a renaissance, never again to be reached before Jerry Garcia's death in 1995. Multiple factors including but not limited to Garcia's renewed health, the bands new found popularity, as well a new found camaraderie and consistency in the band equated to a tour that reached new and exciting heights. Garcia also returned to his beloved 1970's guitar, 'The Wolf', outfitted with a full MIDI exploration hook up. The tour was brimming with song breakouts and extended improvisations none more impressive than the return of 'Dark Star' The version on October 26th the final of three, is arguably the best and the one I am enjoying, although all of them offer unique moments deserving of inspection.
After an extended spacy tuning break, the band opens the mossy ancient door of 'Dark Star'. After settling into a dreamy pre-verse jam Garcia quickly sings the first verse, standard for these three October versions. By two minutes and following a squealing feedback statement by Weir, Garcia sings verse one in a tour worn rasp,ragged, but still soulful.
When the first verse is disposed of the group eagerly, the band pops into a jazzy excitable groove with the drummers in particularly wonderful form. Garcia scrutinizes the theme with a shimmering tone that leaves a trail of glitter across the rhythm section. Brent inserts well timed glissando's as the band pushes anxiously.. At half past four minutes Lesh thumps a series of low sepulchral notes that initiate the group to veer down a barely visible and secluded path. Lesh is very active and Garcia follows, now with a clean tone disassembles the band, the knot loosens and the drummers up the ante.
At eight minutes the martian flute tone materializes for Garcia. Lesh and the drummers induce an erratic dance while bearing cavemen clubs. The central orbit of 'Dark Star has been reached, the band caresses the muse and at half past nine create a series of rotating concentric mandalas. The heart of the jam has been found, fluttering planetary anomalies rush by while the music becomes colorful and waxy, with the band feeling the space for extended riffing. The groove slithers dynamically and beautifully with Garcia zoning out, only stopping to admire the sonic horizon that starts to coalesce as the second verse comes into distant focus. A sweet 'Dark Star' themed jam hits the spot as Garcia sings the slightly flubbed second set of lyrics.
After the verse the band anxiously and immediately falls into deep space improv. Garcia uses sizzling distortion and then muted tones against Mydland's crazy house piano lines. The space becomes clustered with woodland flutes, a chiming series of bells and pitch bending keyboards. Lesh starts to lay a foundation down coaxing the group into stacking stones on top of the slowly pulsing hand drums. Weir hits on a hot riff, Lesh is all over the fret board, static forms, Hart gets strange, Mydland starts to assert himself with massive pieces of found piano sound. Comedic car horns and confused panning of the stereo image create insanity as the jam peaks suddenly then languidly evaporates into drums. Weir, Mydland are the last to leave the stage to the drummers, conjuring a fragmented prelude to drums.
This particular performance is a flashback to 'Dark Star's' of years past. Years of the huge two verse variety, where time was of no issue for the band. Regardless of your feelings about the incorporation of MIDI into the bands sound, on this particular evening everything comes together to create a magical series of improvisations. The drummers are playing particularly well, pushing the band even when they deconstruct into free space. Garcia's 'Wolf' guitar is a glorious psychedelic horn, navigating the aural jelly of the grooves created.
The song would appear again on New Years of 1989 and then stick around the bands song list for the next few years. Always a special and hoped for performance, this Fall 1989 version is the greatest of the three performed that October, and in my opinion the best late era version. Pick any Grateful Dead performance from October 1989 and you are bound to find a moment of pure bliss for your own 'Now Playing'.
Dark Star 10-26-1989