Saturday, December 27, 2008
Reading the Philip Norman biography of John Lennon I've found quite a few new details to the story that has been told over and over again. Add to that Pete Best's memories (captured on the Best of the Beatles DVD and it makes another Beatles' Christmas, just like when I was a youngster!
Revolutions in Sound is a celebration of 50 years of music at Warner Brothers-Seven Arts Records, and it's a beauty. Large scale, colour pictures, and reminiscences from all the usual (and unusual) suspects it tells the history of how the label went from Frank Sinatra and soundtracks to Neil Young, Alice Cooper and Frank Zappa! Fascinating.
My brother Steve and his girlfriend gave me a gift card which I spent on a couple of DVDs. Pete Seeger Power in Song which is a great way to spend 2 hours, interviews with Arlo, Dylan, Baez, the Boss and more all celebrating nearly 90 years of Seeger's career. Lots of concert footage and bonus homemade films from Pete and Toshi make this a fine piece!
The other DVD is Orson Welles's Touch of Evil, a film from the beginning of Charlton Heston's career and the end of Marlene Dietrich's! Spooky, creepy, film noir...not to be missed!
Went to see The Spirit last night, and while Frank Miller really turned Will Eisner's Spirit into Frank Miller's Spirit...he did manage to pay tribute to the humour and style of Eisner's classic creation. Sure it looks a lot like Sin City but that was one of the most stylish films I had seen in a long time...so is The Spirit!
Well...Happy New Year everyone...see you in 2009!
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
The Blackie & the Rodeo Kings best of collection (Swinging From the Chains of Love) is still getting lots of play. Nickel Creek's best of (Reasons Why) is a knock out! A beautiful sounding, wonderfully played selection of material. And it has a DVD of videos too. A signed copy of the David Byrne & Brian Eno album arrived from Newbury Comics. OK it's only signed by Byrne, but the album is excellent, and considerably "poppier" than I expected. A neat package, I might add!
Speaking of neat packages...The Fireman's electric arguments is the best of their three albums, and will actually get played again. The Fireman is Youth and Paul McCartney, and their previous 2 ambient dance thingys did nothing for me. But this one, is Macca's most interesting work in a long time. He should take chances like this more often! JD Souther's first album in 20-something years is a new direction. No more Eaglesish country rock, JD gives us melodic tunes, great singing but in a jazzier context. Kudos to the horn players on here!
And then there's Neil Young's latest archive project, as we get ready for the mega-release next year, Sugar Mountain. It's a CD+DVD set of a very early club date after Neil left Buffalo Springfield. All acoustic, just Neil and his Martin. He sounds impossibly young. His stories are innocent, even naive. A fascinating document. I haven't watched the DVD yet, because it won't play on my computer. Not sure what the issue is...but tonight I'll try it in the DVD player.
Lots of books to read. I have to finish The Grapes of Wrath, then the new John Lennon bio, Ian Thomas's new novel The Lost Chord and then Mick Wall's biography of Led Zeppelin When Giants Walked the Earth. I'm glad Christmas is coming, I'll have some time to read!
Last night I read the cover story on Britney Spears in the new Rolling Stone...ahhh, poor baby!
Thursday, November 27, 2008
The new Best of disc from Blackie and the Rodeo Kings arrived last night in the mail. It's an advance review copy so...no art. And I love those great album covers A Man Called Wrycraft does for B&RK! This time it's an adaptation of the poster that hangs in my office. The lettering has been changed to reflect the songs chosen to populate this "greatest hits" collection. It's called Swinging From the Chains of Love and it really does feature some of my favourite B&RK tunes. From the early Willie P. Bennett songs to the newer self written tunes this disc has it all. Including an unreleased track with Richard Bell "Caves of Jericho" and the obscure B&RK tribute to Johnny Cash "Folsom Prison Blues".
Also listening to Jeff Beck's performing this week which just reiterates why I love Jeff Beck...the most amazing melodic guitarist.
Trying to complete a collection of Ry Cooder session tracks I dug up some stuff from soundtracks My Blueberry Nights, tribute CDs, Our New Orleans and Enjoy Every Sandwich, albums by Hello Stranger, Robert Francis, James Taylor, Steve Vai, Ersi Arvizu, and Aaron Neville and the African musicians Ali Farka Toure and Toumani Diabate disc on which Ry plays Kawai piano and Ripley guitar! Hmm.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
I received a couple of invitations by e-mail from Macca to buy his new CD which would be released on November 25th. And yet, they didn't manage to get 'em into the stores. Neil? Well, we've been waiting for the major Archives project for years...so I guess I shouldn't be surprised. The material is old though...real old. Shouldn't be a big problem getting that done. One thing though...Did you realize Neil was filming his shows WAY back in the day? What a planner!
I hope that this stuff will show up soon, I'm leaving time in my schedule to listen. I have space on my iPod too!
Still trying to get a copy of the new JD Souther. They didn't have much faith in it I guess, maybe it was a name recognition issue..."who'll remember him?" Until then I'm listening to Border Town his best of collection. I scooped it as a torrent. No stores carried it. Hey! Record companies! Get your stuff in the stores and people will buy it! There's still lots of folks like me, who want to hold something tangible as they listen to new music.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Yesterday a CD came in the mail from Yanksville Records. It's called A Tribute to the Legendary Blues Mandolin Man James "Yank" Rachell, 1910-1997. That's quite a mouthful, but it's pretty much exactly what you get. Twenty-one tracks by artists like John Sebastian, Mike Seeger, David Grisman, Stanley Smith, Peter Rowan, Rich Del Grosso, and others who donated their time and effort to this project. And it's a goodun!
Mainly blues, as you might expect, and mainly focused on the mandolin, as you might also expect. But it's not some show-offy tribute disc like the standard thing we've seen lately. This is authentic music played honestly in tribute to a master. Production was overseen by Mike Butler with Al Smith, and engineered by Steve Creech
(with Brian Hanson and Shae Saylors). It sounds brilliant!
Yank's grand-daughter Sheena turns in a bravura performance on "Lake Michigan Blues" backed by Mike Butler on mandolin, Jim Lynch on slide guitar, Craig Smith on drums, Al Stone on bass and Guy Vreeman on Hammond B-3. But it's hard tob single out any one performance, they're all good. Karen Irwin's "My Mind Got Bad", Jim Richter et al, on "Brownsville Blues", Sebastian and Grisman doing "Tappin' That Thing"...I love it!
The monies raised will help out the Rachell family...so buy your own copy! It's well worth it! The website is here.
Monday, November 24, 2008
Another jazz player was on my shopping list...McCoy Tyner...who calls his new album Guitars. What? Isn't he a piano player? Indeed, but this is an album of duets with guitarists, Marc Ribot, John Scofield, Bill Frisell and Derek Trucks...and Bela Fleck on banjo! It's the surprise album of the month. And it's extraordinary. Tyner is a monster, and so are his guests!
That's about it for this edition. I'm looking forward to the new anthology from Blackie & the Rodeo Kings, the new Richie Havens (bought on eBay) and the tin box DVDs of Dr. Syn with Patrick McGoohan! Maybe it'll be under the Christmas tree for me. Can I wait that long? Hmmm.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
That's the kind of experience that you don't get any more. You root around the iTunes site, and download a song for a buck. Then you plunk it on your iPod and you go about your business. When it comes up in the roatation you're just about to climb on a bus. The driver says, "Step to the back please!" There's no focus on the song, there's no shared response, there's no fun. OK, maybe there's no scratchiness from the flawed vinyl, but there's no elegant sleeve either. No foldout lyric sheet. When I load music onto my iPod it's usually from CDs I already have, that I want to spend more time with. I want to listen to them alone...so there's definitely a place for the handy-dandy listening device...but if you've never rushed to the local independent to pick up the latest release from a much loved singer, or band you just can't know hopw much of the listening experience you're missing!
Monday, November 17, 2008
It's his songs and his voice we came to hear anyway, not his prowess on the six-string. The songs are still classic and the voice is still clear and high, a beautiful thing really.
He's not a big man, but he takes the stage with confidence and personality. He was more personable than I'd expected him to be. Funny, charming, a bit sarcastic, but I agreed with him, "Why sit so close to the stage if you're going to talk?" he inquired of a couple. (Our table was next to the stage too, so I worked very hard not making comments.)
He played through his whole archive. Songs made famous by Linda Ronstadt, or the Eagles, were done JD style. Sloppy guitar intro, then fingerpicked or strummed accompaniment to his Orbisonesque tenor. The guitars sounded dandy loud and clean. Oh, the 3rd one? It was used for one song only late in the show.
The new songs blended seemlessly with the classics, so I went back to the merch table to pick up a copy of If the World Was You and they were all gone. Sold Out! Even the vinyl, which JD said would make vinyl lovers "go ape-@#$%". He had to borrow someone's copy of the 2 disc vinyl in the middle of the show, so he could read the words to one of the new songs. He could only remember the third verse! He laid the lyric sheet on top of the piano, pulled his readers from the inside pocket of his jacket, and proceeded to play the tune. Relaxed and fun. Who would have thought JD Souther would be fun? Check him out at JD Souther.net.
Oh, a young New Jersey girl opened the show. April Smith, who had plenty of merch, played a Taylor guitar that was bigger than she was...she has a powerful voice and writes intelligent and witty songs, but she doesn't make full use of the tone contained within that big musical box! Listen to a song here
Friday, November 14, 2008
The ukulele (pronounced oo-koo-lay-lay) was brought to Hawaii by Portuguese cowboys. The Hawaiians thought that to sound it made was like dancing fleas, so they called it uku (flea) + lele (jumping) and they started laying it like crazy. The best ukes in the world are still made in Hawaii. And some of the best players still come from there (like Jake Shimabukuro) but not all! Nosirree! James Hill is one of the best, and he proved it last night at the Legion in Waterdown!
As I pulled into the parking lot, I thought, "Wow, there's a lot of people here." I had to park all the way 'round the back. There were generations of people from 8 to 80, and beyond. My ticket number was 290, and from the looks of things...there were maybe 100 more! The crowd was filled with anticipation. Most of them were uke players and students. Most of them carried their uke with them. About a hundred kids sat on the floor around the stage. We sat in the very back row. They were the only seats left!
James came on as promised at 7:00. He's tall, lanky, with long dark hair, and a beard which accents his fine features. He stepped over the kids, took the stage and took control of the audience by playing "Skipping Stone", an original piece which simulates the joys of skipping stones on the lake. This was followed by Antonio Carlos Jobim's "One Note Samba" which Hill has turned into a showcase of all the sounds a uke can make, melodic, harmonic, rhythmic, percussive. He did it all. Look for that one on YouTube! It's amazing.
There was never a dull moment. Whether telling stories about the history of the uke, or his life delivering pianos on the East Coast, he was charming and entertaining. And the music was stunning. Relaxing, exciting, melodic, dischordant, even awe inspiring at times. And by 8:20 it was all over. An hour and a quarter, but the best $15 I've spent in a long time.
After the show I talked to James for a minute or two, I've been reviewing this guy's musical output since he was the star pupil of the Langley School...but we'd never met until last night. He was as warm and charming face to face as he was on-stage.
James Hill...don't forget that name.
Oh, afterwards we retired to the bar downstairs for a pint or two, and lo and behold...a guitar circle. The Skyway Bluegrass Club was holding its weekly guitar pull. We stayed for the whole repertoire. Another southpaw actually loaned me his Morgan guitar for one tune. Thanks mate! James Hill and his coterie arrived just in time for the last couple of songs and a couple of ukes joined the guitar/banjo/mandolin/standup bass mix. All in all, a splendid time was had by all.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Doctors use music in surgery, kids use music as they play, we use music at funerals.
Music is meant to be used...so...buying used music...only makes sense right?
After all...somebody paid for the album once, so the license was paid.
I just traded a bunch of CDs that I wasn't listening to anymore for a bunch of CDs that I'm going to listen to for a while. Things I had missed, or ignored in order to buy the things I was now tired of...things I had 'used up'!
When Neil Young first released On the Beach in 1974 I bought it on the day it came out. Rushed home, put it on the stereo. Thought that the packaging was a bit odd (little did I know what Neil's packaging would look like in the future) and then the music...Yikes! I couldn't stand it, it seemed so raw, unfinished, sloppy. I had followed his career with interest from Buffalo Springfield on. I even knew about the Mynah Birds! I saw them in the audience at the Merv Griffin Show one night. But this? After the classic albums Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, After the Goldrush, Harvest this was too much to take. I felt like I was being used. Tonight's the Night restored my faith but then came a long stretch of duds as far as I was concerned. Zuma, Long May You Run, American Stars & Bars, I just lost interest. It wasn't 'til the last couple of years that I really got back into Neil's music. The Archive material has covered my favourite years...so that's been great. And suddenly I found myself starting to appreciate these lost years. The raw guitar solos, the "sound". So when I chose On the Beach as one of my trades...it was a calculated gamble. Wow! It's got some great stuff on it. How did I miss it? I don't know. Maybe I was using other music, and didn't have time for Neil. But now he fits in to my framework again. A great lost album. Don't tell me I have to find a copy of American Stars & Bars now! Not Trans though...please!
Also found a couple of Daniel Lanois discs, shine and here is what is just to complete the collection and the deluxe 2 disc set of U2's Boy. This was the first U2 album, and I loved it from the moment I first heard "I Will Follow" being played in a record store in 1980! The Joe Strummer DVD The Future Is Unwritten was also there...and what a film it is! Don't miss it!
Monday, November 10, 2008
Rhino has put together a 2-disc deluxe set, with the original album on the first disc, and a second disc of demos and alternate takes that serve to flesh out the original album and show us just how fully formed these songs were when Warren and Jackson went into the studio. The demos include "Frank and Jesse James" which was even more fascinating since I had just watched Brad Pitt in the Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford in the past week. Other demos? "The French Inhaler", "Hasten Down the Wind" (in a full band version), "Carmelita", and others. Some solo piano, others with backup (alternate takes) and even a live version of "Mama Couldn't Be Persuaded" from a radio show.
The historical value of these tracks overtakes the limited audio quality of some of the early demos. The warmth of Zevon's voice, the comfortable piano work, gives a hint of the man behind the myth.
Have you read I'll Sleep When I'm Dead? An amazing biography by Warren's ex-wife, it left me wondering what people saw in this virtually irredeemable drunken bully. But there's always real humanity in the lyrics and melodies. He didn't write songs like all those other Rodeo Drive cowboys. There are no werewolves or mercenaries on this album...but the citizens of Zevon's world are us, and our neighbors. "He agrees, he thinks she needs to be free, then she says she'd rather be free..." life is confusing and Zevon captures all that confusion, and gives the listener a sense that...there's somebody out there who understands.
Read the book about Warren's parents, and then listen to "Mama Couldn't Be Persuaded". You'll see what I'm talking about.
The demos were beautifully translated by Jackson Browne's sensitive production to create what has to be one of the 70's classic albums. Phil Everly, a couple of Eagles, some Fleetwood Mac, a Beach Boy and Bonnie Raitt join some of LA's choice session guys (David Lindley, Bob Glaub, Bobby Keys et al) are all here, but this is Warren Zevon's show, his songs, his voice, his vision. And I for one, am glad to have this deluxe package to enjoy.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
There has been a lot of talk on the Rylanders discussion group about this new anthology from Rhino Records. Ry Cooder has already had 2 different "best of" collections Why Don't You Try Me and River Rescue (and the movie music set Music By...) and the hungry Cooder collector has been dying for a collection that presented rare and hard to get tracks. Rhino had a project in the works a few years ago called Slide Ruler, which was to be a double disc which included obscure session work and more. So when The UFO Has Landed was announced people looked at the tracklist and said, "got it, got it, got it..." and then "ONE NEW TRACK! I'm s'posed to shell out for ONE NEW TRACK!" Well folks, today's release day, and last night my review copy came in the mail. I immediately slapped it onto my iPod and gave it a listen, and I have to say..."Yep! Shell out, because this is a fine album!"
Part of my reason for saying this is that the songs sound so good! But there are other reasons too. I received a link to a 40 minute interview Joachim Cooder did on KPFK's Global Village last week. In this interview Joachim explained his choices, his approach, and gave some back story to the whole project. In this context the album makes sense. Joachim's memory of his father's work really starts with 1982's The Slide Area (an album Joachim loves, but which many Rylanders found to be Ry's weakest). So what is it about this album that rocks Joachim's socks? It's the sound, the feel, the vibe. And when you listen to the tracks he's included here you get that.
The first disc starts with "Get Rhythm" the title track from Ry's 1987 album. This Johnny Cash tune just plain rocks out. If you think Cooder is just a guitar player, you are missing out on his vision of rhythm, his arranging skills, his ideas of harmony. That's right vocals! Maybe Ry is no Pavarotti but he surrounds himself with tip-top singers and the vocals tracks become as deep as the guitar tracks. And that's what Joachim was looking for. Music that was deep and greasy, with a groove. This anthology is full of just that. Even the thinner recordings done on acoustic guitar, Ry's bottleneck floating over the strings, seem heavier and more intense on this album. One of the things I always loved about Cooder's playing was that you could hear his fingers on the strings, you could hear the glass rub against the windings on the strings. It just sounded real. Years ago, maybe 30, I played an album for a guitar playing friend who said, "Oh, that's Ry Cooder...I can't stand him his records sound so sloppy. You don't need to have all that extraneous noise!" What one man's noise is another man's music, I guess.
"Available Space," "On a Monday," Woody Guthrie's "Do Re Mi," and more tracks from early albums find themselves juxtaposed with soundtrack music like "Smells Like Money" from the film Johnny Handsome. And that rolls into the new track "Let's Work Together" recorded with Buckwheat Zydeco. And it all just works. Cooder's obsession with cars and girls reappears over and over, "Crazy 'bout an Automobile" leads into "Drive Like I Never Been Hurt (from this year's I, Flathead) .
There are 34 tracks (17 per disc), and if it was up to me, this would have been a four disc set, with session tracks and obscurities, but as it stands...it's a darn good cross section of work. Instrumentals, blues, rock, lots of guitar, some mandolin, great drumming from Keltner (and others) and those dandy vocals from Terry Evans, Bobby King and associates. All wrapped up in a nifty package. The cover design is a bit goofy to be sure. It's a cartoon done by an unknown artist (take a look, maybe you can identify who drew it) but inside there a hefty booklet with photos by Susan Titelman from early days on. My favourite? The picture on the roof of Sound City Studios, Ry and guitar in front of an Airstream trailer (just like on the first album) that seems imprisoned behind barbed wire!
An introductory essay by Canadian poet and novelist Michael Ondaatje, and notes on each track by Cooder himself fleshes out the package. I recommend the set, not just for newcomers but for anyone who calls himself (or herself) a Rylander!
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Last night The Who played at Copps Coliseum in Hamilton. Or, what's left of The Who. Roger & Pete and their assocciates put on what was described in today's paper as an energetic, classic Who show. So...why wasn't I there? Big fan of The Who that I've been ever since my brother swiped a copy of the "I Can't Explain" 45 and gave it to me as something he 'thought I'd like'. He was right. I wasn't there because I drove to Brock University to see Arlo Guthrie in his Lost World Tour. That's right...Arlo Guthrie! And you know what...he was great!
He walked out on-stage at 7:30, followed by his band (guitar, bass, drums and his son Abe on keyboard), he sat on a stool centre-stage and picked up a shiny blue 12-string guitar (MacPherson?) and proceeded to play one of my favourite songs from his first album..."Chilling of the Evening". It's the first song on his 2005 Live In Sydney set too. And who could argue with it, it's a fine song. He followed that with a silly tune based on "The Shade of the Old Apple Tree". And it was that way for most of the night, a serious song, a silly song, prefaced by a story from his past. And the great thing is...it's a past we share. Bob Dylan, the Vietnam War, Woodstock, Woody...I was there, through all of it, and so was Arlo. After a couple of songs he brought out the Burns Sisters, three siblings from Ithaca, NY who added background vocals, and flipped their long hair around. They were woefully underused, but it's early in the tour and maybe Arlo will give them a solo spot later on.
The band started to rock out a bit when Arlo kicked off "The Motorcycle Song" but they kept it short, and disappointed people who were just starting to get warmed up. Then a little later when Abe seemed ready to let fly with a long organ solo, the guitarist jumped in, and stepped on his toes. But that was about the only miscue all night. A selection of old classics and songs from a forthcoming album were mixed with a few tributes to Dad Woody making for a great cross section of tunes. And Arlo's philosophizin' just gets better and better. I especially enjoyed the quick version of Joseph and the fancy coat, and the moral he drew! Fabulous!
OK, I hear The Who were really good, but Arlo told his own Woodstock tale. After all...he played there too!
Monday, October 20, 2008
The new Jackson Browne CD, Time the Conqueror has been on my playlist for a week now, and I can't get enough. The band is very good, especially Mark Goldenberg on guitar. I saw them on Leno and they were excellent. Searching Jackson Browne on eBay led me to the discovery of a very cool blog, Addicted to Vinyl
I've had two Albert Lee CDs on order at the local used shop for over 2 years. Finally last week I got notice that one had arrived. Road Runner. I drove up to grab it after work. Paid, got in the car and took the disc out to play it, and what do you know? The insert was signed by Albert Lee! Maybe the previous owner forgot, or maybe he just wasn't much of a fan...but let's just say, it was worth the wait, to get a signed CD by this guitar master! Oh, and the music's good too! I picked up the new Buena Vista Social Club Live at Carnegie Hall set too, and while Ry Cooder might complain about the sound quality, the performance is great. Nice packaging too. Someone sent me a programme from this show just after it took place...so I have audio and visual souvenirs now! Lucinda Williams Little Honey is a beautiful sounding album too. I love the quality of her voice, the directness of her songs, and she always has a hot band. This time is no exception. And she covers AC/DC!
I also bought myself an 8gig iPod Nano on the weekend, and jammed it with a bunch of these new CDs. I love shuffling through the album covers, shaking it for a new shuffle. And it just feels so substantial. And the white earphones are cool!
Sad news this week as Frankie Venom, lead singer of Hamilton's own Teenage Head passed away. Only 52 years old. Their newest CD recorded with Marky Ramone is a delight. That's the way Frankie would want to be remembered. Playing loud and fast rock'n'roll!
Thursday, October 9, 2008
For the beginner Lindsey Buckingham was the guitar player for Fleetwood Mac, who replaced Bob Welch, who had replaced Dave Walker & Bob Weston, who had replaced Danny Kirwan, who was a replacement for Jeremy Spencer, who had filled in for Peter Green. Oh, I think that's everybody, except that Lindsey left the band for a while and was replaced by Rick Vito and Billy Burnette, but then the band broke up and when they reformed Lindsey replaced the guys who had taken his place...got all that? It doesn't matter. For the purposes of this article Lindsey Buckingham is the solo artist who created such wonderful pop masterpieces as "Go Insane", "Trouble", and the recently released Gift of Screws.
He and his band played at Hamilton Place on Tuesday night and from my seat in the third row, it was one of the absolute best shows I've ever seen/heard. No fancy stage setup, just four guys and their instruments, and some lighting fixtures. When they started the audio wash was brilliant, clear, loud, and melodic. Loud? Yep! Painful? Nope!
The first two songs were from the new album, and the group played beautifully. I looked around and thought, "Where's the bass?" Three guitarists played guitars! Add the drummer, and where was the bass coming from. Supplemented by tracks which featured sound effects, bass lines, and maybe some additional harmonies (although that was hard to decide) the sound was full and rich. They ran through a history of Buckingham's songs, including "Trouble", "Go Insane", the Mac years were represented with "Tusk", "Never Going Back Again", "Big Love", "World Turning" and more. The new album received its fair share of attention too.
Buckingham's acoustic side was featured in a short unplugged set. Well, not quite unplugged! Using Renaissance guitars built by Rick Turner the guitarist was able to replicate even nylon string sounds electrically. The guitars sounded fabulous.
The major disappointment of the night was the lack of an audience. Only about 800 fans in a hall that holds 2200 left lots of empty seats, but Buckingham played as if the room was full. Flailing his guitar, sometimes hunched over it, he seemed like a man possessed. Passion? It was there in buckets! What a show! Right down to the encore, more Mac, more solo, more news stuff! What a performer!
NEW CDs? Lindsey Buckingham's Gift of Screws, Dion DiMucci's Heroes (a tribute to old time guitar rock that rocks), James Taylor's Covers (Taylorized oldies, excellent), and David Gilmour's Live in Gdansk (beautifully played and recorded, and even presented, but I think it's time for some new material Dave! After all, how many versions of the On An Island album do we really need?)
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Well...I went off to Hugh's Room a couple of weeks ago to see Mr. Dave. Rich and I had a great table right in front of the stage, and for dinner we had the salmon. It wasn't as good as the salmon I make (a little dijon, some horse radish, wrap 'em in foil and barbecue them gently, opening only to finish them off...don't overcook!) but it was certainly better than the hard slab of fish I ate in Minneapolis last week! But I digress. Mr. Dave and his tech arrived about the same time we did, and stacked the stage with seven or so instruments of different sizes and shapes. Bouzouki, Weisenborns, and Lindley's prize electric oud! Amazing. Dave disappeared and the tech tuned, and the waiter waited, and so did the audience. Before too long Mr. Dave arrived decked out in typical polyester garb and he played through most of his new CD (although not in the same order) and in long jam versions. The guy can play. I knew that going in, but Rich was amazed, moreso with each tune. Steve Earle's "Copperhead Road," Warren Zevon's "Monkey Wash Donkey Rinse" or one of Dave's own weird almost surreal classics...like "Cat Food Sandwiches" whatever he played...he sure played the beejeebers out of it. The Weisenborns sounded full as Dave's fingerpicks flashed and his steel slid up and down the strings. The bouzoukis added a touch of Europe and the oud? Well the oud took us all to a place somewhere else. Somewhere weird.
After the second set, and no requests...(play "Mercury Blues"..."No!") Dave moved out to the lobby to sign CDs and pose for pictures. That's the 2 Mr. Dave's together at last!
Look for a 30 page feature on Lindley in the new Fretboard Journal coming soon to a quality bookseller near you!
Thursday, August 28, 2008
Well, the mandolin deal is done. I am the proud owner of a Morgan Monroe mandolin. It's a beautiful little thing. Sounds great. Now, if I could only play it!
I managed to squeeze some melodious sounds out of it last night, and I am looking forward to spending a long time tonight with it.
Really enjoying the new BB King CD one kind favor, old-time sounds produced by T-Bone Burnett. Glen Campbell does a bit of a Johnny Cash by covering new songs in his old style on Meet Glen Campbell. Not a bad album.
That's it for today!
Saturday, August 23, 2008
Thursday, August 21, 2008
Last night marked the first time I have ever seen Bob Dylan live! After more than 40 years of buying Bob Dylan records, books, CDs, and playing his songs myself...I finally went to catch a live show. And how was it?
When I was in university I used to go with a couple of friends to stand in the parking lot behind the downtown YMCA to listen to the band on Friday nights. They had some great bands, Whiskey Howl, Flapping, Luke & the Apostles, even John Lee Hooker one night! But there was a cover charge, and I was the only one of the three of us who was working (part-time at a large Canadian dept. store) so we would pick up a bottle of muscatel, and stand by the ventilation unit, drinking from a paper bag, and dancing to the sounds of music that came from the room downstairs!No...really!
The sound was echoey, deep, raw, primitive. I haven't heard sound like that for years. Modern sound systems have improved audio to the point where Steely Dan or the Eagles can play live and sound exactly like they do on record! Well, last night I heard that sound again. The raw, primitive, rockin' sound of a hot band...Tony Garnier on bass, George Recile on drums, guitarists Stu Kimball (rhythm), Denny Freeman (lead) and Donnie Herron (pedal steel, lap steel, banjo, fiddle) and the man himself on keyboards and harp. They sounded fine. Loud, but warm. Maybe a little harsh on the first tune, but they managed to sort that out by the end of "Cat's In the Well" except for Dylan's vocals. Bob's voice has gone through a lot of changes over the years. First a young Minnesotan's take on Woody Guthrie, then a warm country croon, it has grown into an elder bluesman's growl. Is it shot? I don't think so. He plays new games with his phrasing, and once in a while slips back into the Woody-sound for a line or two. Or a syllable here and a syllable there. The lyrics are broken up like free verse. The band chugs along like there's no tomorrow, and people expecting to hear the classics delivered just the way they appeared on the original albums are in for a disappoinment. But you should know that going in. Take a listen to 1979's Live at Budokan, he's been reworking the classics for years!
On the news at 11 last night the reviewer complained that he didn't do any old songs. Even a quick look at the set list proves that this joker just isn't familiar with Bob's material.
Cat's in the Well (from 1990's Under a Blood Red Sky); It Ain't Me Babe (Another Side of Bob Dylan '64); Stuck Inside of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again (Blonde on Blonde '66); Girl From the North Country (The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan '63 & Nashville Skyline '69); High Water (for Charlie Patton) (Love and Theft 2001); Just Like a Woman (Blonde on Blonde '66); Rollin' and Tumblin' (Modern Times 2006); Tryin' to Get to Heaven (Time Out of Mind '97); Highway 61 Revisited (from Highway 61 Revisited '65); Moonlight (again from Love and Theft '01); It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding) (Bringing It All Back Home '65); When the Deal Goes Down and Thunder on the Mountain and Keep Talkin' (all from Modern Times '06); and as an encore Highway 61's Like a Rolling Stone and from John Wesley Harding (1967) All Along the Watchtower.
Some clown wrote into Dylan's website that he couldn't even recognize Blowin' in the Wind!Well...that's because HE DIDN'T PLAY IT! The only arrangement I didn't get right off was High Water. The rest were dandy rockin' versions of great songs. The band was perfectly loose and strategically tight. At times they reminded me of The Band, except for the distinct lack of rootsy harmonies. I had the best view in the place, off to the side of the stage, but directly in Dylan's line of sight as he was setup at an angle behind the keyboard. Lighting was a problem since he kept his wide-brimmed hat on for the whole show.
After an hour and fifty minutes of this, he was gone. From my vantage point I could see him exit the arena. And still people applauded til they turned on the houselights. Assessments from people I overheard ranged from 'fabulous' to'who told him he could sing' but for me...it was exactly what I expected. Now I can exclaim, "Bob Dylan...been there...got the T-shirt!" and wear it with pride!
Monday, August 11, 2008
Friday night I went down to Gage Park for the 33rd annual Festival of Friends. They changed it from an all-Canadian festival a couple years back, and this time the headliners were Allison Moorer and Steve Earle. Now Steve has produced one of my choices for album of the year with his washington square serenade, and Allison has a hot new album called Mockingbird produced by Buddy Miller, so I had been looking forward to this for some time. It has been raining, and thunderstorming almost every day for a few weeks and sure enough, on Friday at suppertime it seemed like the Festival was doomed, but by the time 7pm rolled around the sun was shining and I decided to risk it. Drove down, found a good free parking spot on Gage Ave. and went to the bandshell. This bandshell was substantially expanded, with a big, covered stage attached to the front of it. I used to come over on Sunday afternoons and play in the bandshell with Mil, singing our folksongs for the fun of it. But Friday it was all-pro! Danny Michel was finishing his set playing a shiny red Gibson 335 and looping solos over his rhythm work. Then it was time for Allison Moorer. Just Allison and a small bodied Martin with lots of sound. She ran through some of the cover versions from Mockingbird, and a few of her own oldies too. She has a great voice, plays adequate rhythm guitar (if a bit samey) and is "not hard on the eyes" as the guy sitting next to me noticed. Husband Steve Earle came out to join her for a moving version of "Where Have All the Flowers Gone" which they promised to keep singing til the war is over! Steve left the stage and Allison finished her set. Quite impressive for the 2,000 or so folks who watched.
Then a 20 minute wait for the closer and 8,000 people came out of nowhere. Steve Earle did not disappoint. But some of those 8,000 people must have been drinking through the earlier music. As Steve came on stage they started shouting immediately for "Copperhead Road". "Do you think I'm not gonna sing that song?" Steve queried, "When I sing that one, I head for the #$%^' bus!" And still they called for it, again and again. I was reminded of an earlier show, back in 1969 when some drunk yelled out at The Band, "PLAY 'CRIPPLE CREEK'!" after every tune. And when they did eventually play it, he yelled, "PLAY IT AGAIN!" Anyway, Steve played a lot of songs from his long career, switching from acoustic guitar to banjo ("I play banjo just well enough to scare sheep!"), bouzouki, mandolin, and Dobro. And then it was time for the songs from the new album, accompanied by a DJ who provided rhythms, and harmony, Earle did almost the whole album. It was superb. When Allison came out to add harmony to a few, it was even better. By then the losers in the mosh pit were drunk enough to be fighting with one another. A girl with her hip-huggers riding low had her tongue down the throat of a couple different guys, and that led to fisticuffs. Steve asked them to cool it a couple of times. Somebody threw a lit joint up on-stage and hit Steve in the shoulder. Steve finished the song, and picked up the butt, tossed it away and casually gave the culprit the finger. You know which finger. Then I turned away for a second, and heard Earle call someone "#$%^&*!" The guy next to me told me, "Somebody threw a water bottle at him!" Did the audience forget where they were? Canada's oldest free festival? Three days of peace, love and music, well...friendship anyway! It seemed like the Festival of Friends has turned into the Festival of Frenzy. I walked to the car past a couple more fights, some people swearing at each other, and I heard tell that the screaming and arguing went on through the night. At half past midnight a friend of mine who lives across from the park was awakened to the sound of arguing and screaming.
It rained again Saturday night. A set by Air Supply was all but rained out. They played to only a handful of fans. Woodstock night was a washout too. Country Joe, John Sebastian and Canned Heat played as the thunder rolled and lightning flashed and the rain came down in buckets. But Friday night could've been beautiful. If only...
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
I went to see The Dark Knight on Thursday evening. Got held up at work, rushed home, cleaned the carpet on the stairs, ate dinner, returned the carpet cleaner to the store, and still made it to the theatre before the trailers began. The film was good, not great. I prefered Iron Man actually. But Dark Knight was an exciting, well made film, and Heath Ledger's performance was certainly creepy, if not Oscar worthy. Tell me honestly...would he be receiving so much acclaim if he was still around? When someone takes on the role for The Dark Knight Returns will they be forced to do the same lip-licking schtick? Ya gotta wonder. And why kill off Harvey Dent? Sure, he went crazy way too fast...but he had the beginnings of a good villain, and the FX were amazing. Who can match the combined creepiness of Joker and Two-Face? Penguin and Riddler? I think not. Unless the next film is a comedy. Danny DeVito managed to capture the evil inherent in the Penguin...but who would do it now?
Music? Fred Eaglesmith's new Tinderbox gives fundamentalist Christians a hard time but it's a beautifully written and played record, for fans of earthy, Americana (except...it's Canadiana!) The new Buddy Guy is probably Buddy's best album. Good songs, great performances, and even with all the guests, Buddy still owns the show. Janis Ian? Haven't thought much about her for a long time...well...since I read a touching article she wrote in Performing Songwriter magazine about her mother's struggle with MS. But she has just released a new autobiography and accompanying 2 CD set of The Best of. And...after a long career...she's has plenty to offer. The book is called Society's Child, the CDs The Autobiography Collection. Don't miss 'em.
Bought a book on Laurie Anderson on eBay. The shipping cost more than the book. I guess those padded envelopes are REALLY expensive south of the border. And I'm reading With by a Southern writer named Donald Harington, it begins with the abuse of a dog, and quickly moves into creepier territory from there. But wonderfully written.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Well, the new album is out. I, Flathead has received rave reviews. What do I think? Well, it is a rockin' good time. Do I like it as well as Chavez Ravine, or My Name Is Buddy? Not yet, but it has been slowly growing on me as it seeps into my consciousness. I play it in the car, and I have to say it makes for some fine driving music. A little John Hiatt, a little Eric Clapton, and then I, Flathead cranked up loud with the sunroof open. I love the sound, open and raw. Ry's guitar work is so beautiful. Maybe I would wish for a bit more slide, but I like his rhythm playing too, and the way so much is going on, but it sounds so...simple. More as it develops...
Just read the new Janis Ian biography, Society's Child and I can't believe what a compelling read it was. She's had quite a life, filled with tragedy, and yet she comes across as positive, hopeful and joyous. It arrived with a 2-disc best of called The Autobiography Collection which is arranged in the order of the chapters in the book (each chapter is named after a song) and taken together with the book it gave me a new appreciation for her body of work.
I saw Jakob Dylan on the Jay Leno show and got a copy of his new solo album. He's not his father but there's definitely something there. Another Rick Rubin stripped-down affair, but the songs hold up for the most part, and I've kept going back to it, so...that's a plus. Then there's the 2-disc retrospective of the career of Arthur Brown...that's right...the God of Hell-Fire! That first album was his peak...but he's done some interesting things since, and by condensing them all down to 2-discs you get the best. Dennis Wilson's Pacific Ocean Blue has been re-issued on CD, in a deluxe package with out-takes and a 2nd disc featuring the unreleased followup album Bambu. When POB first came out Dennis signed copies of it at the CNE. My wife took a few pictures and if I can find one or two I'll post them. One of the great lost albums, it's tremendous to have it available...even though I had managed to supplement my vinyl copy with the first CD release a few years ago...having the expanded edition is great. Who would've thought that Willie Nelson and Wynton Marsalis would blend so well together? Two Men With the Blues is a joy from start to finish. Don't miss it! Biggest disappointment of the summer? Ron Sexsmith's Exit Strategy of the Soul. What a yawner! Too much piano, not enough guitar, and the horns??? Come on Ron!
I read James Lee Burke's Swan Peak and I always enjoy the adventures of Dave Robicheaux and Clete Purcell. There's a real sense of place about them. This time they're in Montana, away from Louisiana, and the new geography adds a different flavour to the story. Some of Burke's tales are better than others, but this one's a dandy.
That's it for now. Two more Rylanders almost ready for printing. Gotta see The Dark Knight this week. And I'm looking forward to The Watchmen...due in March!
Thursday, July 10, 2008
Good Morning! I know Lester Bilbo will be happy to see that I'm making an appearance. Things have been crazy around here. I presented at CNIE conf. 2008 in Banff that last week of April. Then a couple of days meeting at the U.of Calgary with OUETD. A short holiday in Red Deer with my brother and his wife. Saw Drumheller, and the hoodoos, and a lot of other stuff. Back home in time for my wife to have bilateral knee replacements. Now 8 weeks later she's doing very well. Walking without a cane, straight legs! Fantastic! And then a trip to Las Vegas for infoComm '08! Cirque du Soleil's KA was spellbinding! In the meantime a ton of great music has been released. While in Calgary I got a copy of Tom Phillips Downtown Cowboy, Albertan country singer; Tom Petty's Mudcrutch (the resurrection of his old band) which is lots of fun. Found a copy of Ersi Arvizu's Friend For Life produced by Ry Cooder (not as immediately great as Mavis Staples, but an excellent album nonetheless), and Elvis Costello's Momofuku (which hasn't grown on me yet.) T Bone Burnett's Tooth of Crime is just too weird for me, I think I'm finished testing his solo records...while his productions just get better and better! Bill Frisell's history, mystery was a disappointment too, not enough guitar on it, too much band for my taste. Not that it's bad...on the contrary...but it wasn't the Frisell album I was hoping for. Other purchases? Tony Joe White (who played at HCI one Friday night when I was in grade 13), John Hiatt, Sonny Landreth, Bette Midler's greatest hits (excellent), Eliza Gilkyson's Beautiful World (she's fantastic), Paul Weller, Walter Becker, Solomon Burke, and Ry Cooder's I, Flathead (the deluxe edition). By the time I finish listening to all this...it'll be August. Saw Steely Dan on the weekend at Casino Rama. They were precise, and tight, and their guitarist is fantastic. Great show.
Monday, April 14, 2008
I've been watching the entire Prime Suspect series on DVD. Helen Mirren is an extraordinary actress, and beautiful too!
New Ry Cooder content...a couple tracks on the soundtrack to My Blueberry Nights.
Good stuff included...worth a look.
I'm reviewing the collected Willie & Joe cartoons of Bill Mauldin for Green Man Review. A dandy collection. Maybe some of the 'jokes' are too obscure this long after WW2 but...it's a more enjoyable way to read war history than any other I've seen.
Monday, March 10, 2008
Lots of new blues CDs for review. Albert Collins Live at Montreux 1992, Samuel James, Moreland & Arbuckle, Eric Bibb, it just keeps coming. I'll be reviewing these for GMR, but
believe me when I say...they're all worthwhile. We're going to see Bibb in a month at the
intimate theatre at Brock University. I'll tell you how that goes. Last month we saw John Hiatt and Lyle Lovett at Massey Hall. The drive was interminable (more than 2 hours to go the 40 miles to Toronto) but dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe was tasty, and the show was even tastier!
Sitting on chairs and using only acoustic guitars these two showed the reason for their success many times during the evening. They alternated songs, first Hiatt, then Lovett, back and forth pausing only for a bit of humourous patter. Sometimes John played a lead behind Lyle, sometimes Lyle added a harmony. Lyle Lovett was headlined first but it was John Hiatt people were talking about when it was all over. All in all...a splendid evening. I bought the new CD (+DVD) from Arlen Roth. Called Toolin' Around Woodstock it features guest
appearances from Levon Helm, Bill Kirchen and Sonny Landreth. It's really a guitar
album with some fantastic songs. "Sweet Little Sixteen", Joe South's "Games People
Play", a fiery take on Bob Dylan's "Ballad of a Thin Man". The DVD shows the recording
sessions, and is fun to watch, but it's the CD you'll be playing over and over.
Jackson Browne fans will be glad of Volume 2 in the solo acoustic series.
Live versions of songs from his long career, it's a beautifully recorded collection from shows from all over.
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
God gets a lot of stuff dumped on His doorstep, dontcha think.
We get mad at our neighbor, knock his fence down, and kick his cat...and when he retaliates it somehow God's fault.
You're kidding yourself if you don't think the neighbor figures God is on his side too.
He's wondering how come God allowed you to kick his cat.
Why can't we all just get along?
Cuz we're not built that way I guess.
We haven't been gettin' along with our neighbors (or even our brothers) since Cain & Abel.
Friday, February 8, 2008
Music-wise, things were pretty slow after Christmas, but they're starting to pick up now. Ringo Starr's Liverpool 8 is...another Ringo Starr album. With help from Dave Stewart and Mark Hudson it's musical, but still features Ringo's vocals. I saw his first All-Starr Band, and had a great time...but can't say I spend much time listening to their live album.
Been listening to some Richard Hawley, and find him mesmerizing. How'd I miss him for so long?
Coles Corner and Lady's Bridge, riveting.
Torrent sites have been keeping me busy. I've been able to download a pile of things that never came out on CD, or at least, were very hard to find. The complete Richie Furay collection, JD Souther, Carl Wilson's two albums, all items I bought on vinyl...but never saw on CD.
Then there's unreleased material like Dennis Wilson's Bamboo (the followup to Pacific Ocean Blue), Brian Wilson's Sweet Insanity, live Paul McCartney from the Amoeba show, and on and on it goes.
They have movies too, you can download new films just out in theatres!
Like Sweeney Todd and Persepolis.
Looking for something to read? Try Ronnie Wood's autobio Ronnie,
it's best to read it while you're sipping a Guinness...just for ambiance!
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
Before Christmas I went to see Sweeney Todd with my sons. Excellent adaptation of the play, and I have to say that cutting out a couple of the songs and streamlining it didn't hurt the story. Good performances all 'round and the wonderfully murky cinematography just added to my delight. I've seen three or four different productions of Sweeney Todd, not counting a couple of other versions of the story (by Dibdin Pitt, for one) but I did enjoy Johnny Depp!
Also saw Walk Hard, and thoroughly enjoyed that too. Sorry to hear it's not finding its audience but I laughed and laughed.
I bought the Amazing Journey DVD, that tells the Who story. Excellent. Finally Roger has his say! The Rolling Stone cover to cover DVD-rom is loads of fun to browse through. Every RS magazine for 40 years! Wow!
Can't wait to read Ronnie Wood's autobiography Ronnie. I also scored a copy of his 2-CD Anthology which has one disc of solo material and one of the bands he's been with, the Birds, Creation, Jeff Beck, Faces, Stones, some pretty good bands.
Lots of McCartney around these days. Another special edition of memory almost full this time with a live DVD, a download of Paul's secret concert at Amoeba Records, an A&E TV special from the Olympia. And next...Ringo's new album comes out today...it's a Beatles spectacular.
A new Fretboard Journal with John Scofield on the cover made me go back to listen to John's tribute to Ray Charles CD. Wow! And there's also a big article on Norman and Nancy Blake.
Still listening to Steve Earle's washington square serenade which may be the album of the year for me. Well, not counting Ry's My Name is Buddy. But the two of them have been on my playlist since they came out! Steve also had a TV special on Canada's Bravo which was a raw solo performance of much of the wss album.
Saw a couple interesting videos...Breaking and Entering and Perfume. Slow moving but quite interesting nonetheless. And one last recommendation...read Roddy Doyle's The Deportees, a set of short stories all dealing with immigrants in Ireland. One story is a sequel to The Commitments. See ya!