Sunday, July 29, 2007

back from NYC...

Well, we had a great time in the Big Apple. David Hyde Pierce was hilarious in Curtains. We had good seats, since we ordered them early in the run, before he had won the Tony Award. Our hotel was close to all the action of Times Square, easy to walk to Virgin Records, or Manny's, Sam Ash, Rudy's, the Iridium Jazz Club, etc. Les Paul played Monday night at the Iridium, but they were sold out well in we didn't get in. Can't say that the people at the club are very friendly though. The Jazz/dinner cruise was excellent, with food that was tasty, music that was rockin' jazzy, and the biggest Black Russians ever! Mmmm.
Bought the new Stephen Stills CD, which is really his first recordings, done after a Judy Collins date, when he "peeled off a couple of hundreds..." and used the engineer's time to record a demo. Some classic tunes that Stills recorded again later. I picked up the Johnny Rivers' anthology too, since it was never released in the Great White North. Good stuff. And a few DVDs, including the Best of Hootenanny which features B&W footage from the old Hootenanny TV show, back in the early 60s. For a folkin' good time, check it out.
Also picked up Randy Newman Live at the Odeon, with special guests Linda Ronstadt and Ry Cooder. Had previously only seen this on a grainy VHS copy. Beautiful show.
And...Paul Weller's hit parade (2xDVD set) showed me that I had missed some seriously good music by ignoring this guy's career. Well, it's not too late to jump on the bandwagon.

Friday, July 20, 2007

wot? another John Phillips album?

In the summer of 1970 I was working at Eatons, in the Hardware Dept. Before going back to school, my chum Les and I decided to take a trip to New York City. We stayed at my Aunt Marge's house in Brooklyn. Every morning we would take the subway into Manhattan and spend a LONG day touring a different part of the city. We hit the MoMA (where we saw Picasso's "Guernica") , the Guggenheim, and a couple other museums, we wandered through Central Park where we were accosted by a semi-naked jogger. We were offered sex by a prostitute on 42nd Street, dope by a dealer in the Village, and were sent on a wild goose chase blocks out of our way by a doorman when we asked for directions to the subway. Ah...what a holiday. But we also went to see John Phillips at the Bitter End, in what was to be one of his only live solo shows ever. Heroin took control of his life, and he vanished from the music business. Well the last few years saw the release of his final album called Phillips 66 and the long awaited release of the lost Pay Pack and Follow album (recorded with Mick and Keef!). Then last year Varese Sarabande put out his classic Wolf King of LA on CD, with bonus tracks. And now they have issued Jack of Diamonds, a different take on his 2nd album. It sounds more like Wolf King than Pay Pack...and features many of the same California session guys who played on the Mamas & the Papas (and on Wolf King). There are a couple of duplicated (but very different) tracks, but this is a darn good album. Wolf King has been a favourite of mine since I bought it (and I recall, they did a fine job performing it live at the Bitter End that night long ago.) I should say that The Chapins opened the show that night. They were good too, although they left us no recorded proof. I watched Papa John's hands as he played, and have always said, "Hey, Papa John taught me how to play the opening to "California Dreaming" one night in NYC!"'s true, sort of.
Here we are a couple of days before I head back to Manhattan for a vacation. This time it's a Broadway show, a jazz/dinner cruise, and maybe, just maybe...a night at the Iridium to see Les Paul. I'll let you know.

Thursday, July 19, 2007


I posted something yesterday and it took a few hours before it showed up...but there it is...a quick review of Steve Strngman and Watermelon Slim...
Just finished reading Mark Bego's biography of Billy Joel. Billy Joel sounds like a bit of a jerk. But then Bego holds him in such high regard he can't seem to make the logical jump to say, "Billy Joel is a jerk!" He has spoken to the ex-band members, especially Liberty DeVitto who really has an axe to grind. There's lots of dirt on the boss, and as a reader you can't help but think...why does he say that stuff (Joel, that is) and do the things he does. In the meantime, you're humming his songs to yourself as they are discussed, and you can't help but be drawn back to the records in only just to remind yourself what they sounded like. Bego is not a particularly good writer, and there are a ton of typos throughout the book. My favourite is when he calls Senator Joe McCarthy...Joe McCartney!
Next up...Chris Salewicz's bio of Joe Strummer. I'll take it with me to NYC. I can read a page a night just before I drop off to sleep.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

latest news...

Wow! It's been over a week since I wrote, but it's been busy. Getting ready for vacation can toake lots of time. Last night I went to see Watermelon Slim and the Workers at a local club. Great show, but LOUD! Man, that Slim attacks the mouth harps with so much energy (to say nothing of O2) and he tends to go for the highest notes possible. He has fantastic breath control, and manages to make the little reeds sound like saxophones or trombones. His renditions of Muddy Waters' classics were fine, rocking examples of what you can do with new interpretations. The Workers provided solid support, especially the drummer, who put on a real show! Slim's work on the slide guitar was also worthy of note. It was just...too loud. Of course, we were sitting right next to the speaker!
Opening the show was local blues hero Steve Strongman and his band (supplemented by keyboard wizard Jesse O'Brien) who put on a dandy show themselves. The volume was a bit more controlled, not so many screeching highs! Both Slim and Steve have new CDs to pitch, and they are well worth looking into.
Finally bought my MP3 player...a ZEN V Plus, 4GB. Lots of room, bright screen, easy to use, good sound...and the price was right. OK I don't get the snazzy white earplugs...but black goes with everything!

Monday, July 9, 2007

Penguin Eggs review...

Penguin Eggs is a Canadian magazine, featuring articles, interviews and reviews dealing with every sort of "folk" music you can imagine. In fact the top banner lists it as "Canada's folk, roots and world music magazine." That about captures it. The summer 2007 issue is out, and has Mavis Staples on the cover. Also listed are Joe Boyd, Martin Carthy, Watermelon Slim, Carolina Chocolate Drops, and David Essig...and the opportunity to "win Maria Muldaur CDs and John Prine t-shirts." I already entered the contest, although I've never won anything from them yet!
The Mavis interview is newsy. Some new pictures. Then there's the following review of My Name is Buddy by Roddy Campbell:
Consider this the audio equivalent of George Orwell's Animal Farm. Ostensibly packaged as a children's tale, complete with hardcover binding, it tells of the Great Depression-era adventures of Buddy Red Cat, Lefty Mouse and the Reverend Tom Toad. But pay attention to the graphic for the first track--a pencil drawing of Karl Marx's Das Kapital. Beside it rests a button that reads "Free Mooney". While it's not specified, Tom Mooney was a socialist and a labour and anti-war activist wrongly jailed for murder in 1916. He spent 23 years in prison before being pardoned in 1939.
The lyrics are just as subtle and poignant. Cooder has, essentially, wrapped My Name is Buddy in tales of 'labour, big bosses, farm failures, strikes, company cops...the America of yesteryear' in defiant, if sometimes blunt, allegory.
As a wiser man than me once said, 'the past didn't go anywhere.' And many of these issues--homelessness, failing family farms and rascism--are still relevant today. The bold title track even propagates environmental challenges.
Oddly enough, though, this record has gone right over the heads of many critics, who found it frivolous due to the main characters being animals. But, you'll recall, Cooder was prosecuted and fines $25,000 by the Bush administration for recording the Buena Vista Social Club in Cuba. Progressive political commentary in today's radically conservative America simply attracts frenzied commentary from the powerful, reactionary, right-wing media. Just ask the Dixie Chicks or Michael Moore.
Backed by the likes of Pete and Mike Seeger, Bobby King and Terry Evans, Paddy Moloney of the Chieftains and Flaco Jimenez, Cooder delves into the real roots of Americana as he revisits the acoustic musical legacy left by the likes of Woody Guthrie, the Carter Family, Hank Williams, the Staple Singers, Bukka White, Billie Holiday, Snooks Eaglin...indeed, Eaglin's "One Scoth, One Bourbon, One Beer" provides the dark inspiration for the electoral fraud perpetrated on "One Cat, One Vote, One Beer." "Three Chords and the Truth" sings the praises of labour and civil rights activists Joe Hill, Paul Robeson and Pete Seeger. "They took Pete Seeger before the law and put him on the witness stand / but he stood right up to tyranny with just a banjo in his hand." Stirring stuff. All told My Name is Buddy is a beam of bright light in these darkest of political days.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Rolling Stone magazine...

The new issue of Rolling Stone is the second of a series of three celebrating RS's 40th anniversary! Wow! 40 years. I remember buying the third issue, way back...well...40 years ago. Porteous's Drug Store on the corner of Cannon and Ottawa Streets, had a small magazine rack at the back. There was this raggedy looking newspaper with the flowing lettering across the top Rolling Stone. Just the name held so much promise. Was it named after the band? Or was it, like the band, named after the Muddy Waters' song? Or maybe it was promising to "gather no moss" as it printed "all the news that fits." How many of the early readers got the little NYTimes reference?
I read RS fairly regularly, or as regularly as Porteous Drug Store supplied it...and over the years the newspaper turned into other formats, developed staples, colour pictures, slick paper, new flowing, then not flowing, then flowing, then not flowing lettering. Sometimes the new logo design would not last any longer than the latest Top Ten singles! The politics got in the way sometimes, sometimes the editorial staff got in the way. Often newer glossier magazines with a new way of grabbing our attention came along and distracted us from what RS was doing. Sometimes they were just their own worst enemy. But on and on they went introducing writers like Richard Brautigan, Dave Marsh, Lester Bangs, Hunter Thompson, Greil Marcus and photographers like the great Annie Leibovitz to us. We never really gave up on RS. I subscribed for a couple of years. Stopped when my wife was throwing out the magazines before I had a chance to even read them. (OK it only happened once...but I still remember it!)
Nowadays Mojo has more of interest musically, Fretboard Journal guarantees keeping my interest throughout all its pages, but I always check the new RS. I look at the reviews, I get the e-mail subscription service with highlights, and I will buy the new issue about once in three or four. That's far more often than I even look at Time or Newsweek.
Ah well...things change. This most recent celebratory issue has a nifty cover and is a retrospective of all the things that happened in 1967...Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, the Doors, Donovan, the Byrds, the Airplane, the Dead, music I'm still listening to today. 40 years on...whew! Whodathunkit?

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Ry Cooder Songbook...

I was cleaning up the computer room at home and sorting through all my songbooks last night. Harry Nilsson (with images from Buckminster Fuller), a couple of Randy Newman books, plenty of Beatles stuff, Country classics, Blues, and hits of the 60s (you know the kind of stuff you collect). I came across a 36 page book I bought in 1980 for $6.95! It was hidden in the racks of a funky little guitar shop in Toronto. Ry Cooder is scrawled across the top in red script and it says 'A selection of Ry Cooder's best songs specially arranged for easy guitar plus an illustrated biography. Includes Little Sister, Smack Dab In the Middle and How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live?' And sure enough...that's all true.
The illustrated biography is fairly simplistic. Written by Giovanni Dadomo it runs for three pages illustrated with three B&W photos of Ry and some pen and ink sketches of the songs.
The songs transcriptions are even simpler. I've included an image of one. Enjoy. For more chords check out the Ry Cooder web site I've recommended in LINKS. For more biography look for the Ry Cooder bio, only available in Italian! More about that later.
Happy Anniversary to my wife and I today! 32 years! And they said it wouldn't last!

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

long weekend...

Well, the long weekend is over. Canada is 140 years old! Happy birthday, Canada!
Matt came home safely from his camping trip, Connie survived her hip replacement surgery, Gloria spent much of each day visiting the hospital, Jesse came home from Meaford but spent most of his time with Natalie...and I played my guitar quite a bit. The people next door went away, and their son came to look after the dog. While there, he decided to have a party, which went on, quite loudly, into the early hours of Sunday morning. Lots of swearing and shouting, plenty of laughing and swearing as too many people squeezed into 'not strong enough' chairs. We heard several crunches and tears..."Oh, sorry man! I'll have to reimburse you for that one!" Oh's not like they do this every we just laughed and tried to ignore it. Didn't see any fireworks at all though...not one!
Listened to a new box set from Free Reed (makers of the absolutely BEST CD sets in the universe) this time five discs of the music of Steve Tilston. He reminds me of Bert Jansch quite a bit, so right now I am playing Bert Jansch's limited edition Best of Bert Jansch CD which came as a bonus with Crimson Moon. This British folk music stuff is, for me, an acquired taste. And one which I have not completely acquired yet. Small doses are okay...but five discs!?!? No thanks! Excellent fingerstyle guitar, but the voices are so...I don't know...annoying. Nice piccolo trumpet on "Woe is Love My Dear"!
I'm trying to clear some space in my home office...and am at the point where I'm willing to dispose of five or six years of Q magazine! If you're interested...send me an e-mail.