Monday, November 25, 2013
Weary, moribund with a touch of alcohol/drug fueled dysfunction thrown in to make things interesting , the five members of The Band decided to make their exit in grand fashion by serving up one big musical Thanksgiving feast at the Winterland on November 25th, 1976. Bringing a host of famous faces to perform alongside the quintet was an added bonus to those who secured a spot in the audience. Ask Martin Scorsese to capture everything on film? Now it becomes a momentous evening.
Despite having weathered the steady decline of their LP sales as the seventies progressed, internal interest in the group dynamic was waning. The spirit of communal creativity and work ethic that had fired their first two records had all but disappeared. Northern Lights/Southern Cross was a surprising return to form but that disc had to be squeezed out of them, taking a long time to complete. Uninspired in general, Islands could have been just as easily titled "Contractual Obligation". Robbie Robertson did not have much to say at that point, left unsupported by certain players whose debilitating habits had gained control of their calendars. The decision to pull the plug was met with a mix of consternation and relief.
Moving ahead with their plan to stage a monster send off, booze flowed, lines were chopped, turkey dinners prepared and consumed. Whispers that Dylan would show up were abound.
The resulting film is a gripping document, slightly pretentious in places and an unintentional wake for sixties attitudes that were swept away by what Tom Wolfe would christen as the "Me Decade". Given theatrical release in 1978, it remains a very stylish farewell.
Big time, Bill!
Musically, this is an incredibly tight affair with plenty of highlights. Having watched the footage many times over, it still retains a freshness that can mainly be attributed to the timeless quality of the songs. Joyous abandon can be witnessed on the faces of the musicians as they get swept up in moments that we are very fortunate to have etched in celluloid. From this vantage point, all of the big names that grace the stage are still young and in full command of their power as performers. Flashes of brilliance as Dr. John tickles the ivories in an extended solo piano outro to "Such a Night", the wicked grin of complicity that Neil Young and Rick Danko exchange during "Helpless" with Young wired tighter than an E string thanks to a buffet of coke that he had availed himself of before stepping out on stage. Clapton's guitar strap giving way and his neat recovery as both he and Robertson play like madmen, Levon's powerful reading of "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" putting 100 years of southern anguish into a perfect few minutes. Van the man, resplendent in his sparkling purple suit, blazing through "Caravan" after a few whiskeys. Joni Mitchell? She turns in a stunning version of "Coyote". It's all there along with a sense that this isn't simply a loud, happy celebration of one of the most understated and influential musical aggregations that ever was. You are watching the spirit of a bygone era making one last, flickering appearance. Mr. Zimmerman strolls out toward the end to cap an amazing night. Drained and exuberant, all of the players assemble to join him and lend their voices to "I Shall Be Released".
With the three main voices of The Band no longer with us, The Last Waltz gives contemporary listeners a chance to experience the ragged, soulful beauty of the music. Make no mistake, these guys were top drawer in every respect. If you do own a copy, throw it on and turn it up really loud. That's what birthdays are for, after all.
Monday, September 02, 2013
Joseph Bridge has another teaser for listeners to check out in advance of his album release.
"Mr. Waterpump" bears the stamp of the adventurous, psychedelic songcraft that colored the work of certain UK artists in the mid sixties (Syd Barrett era Floyd, early Traffic). There is great structure here with a clever, wordless hook built in to the chorus. Radio Caroline in the UK has embraced the tune, where it has been heavily aired and requested. Refreshing in its austere arrangement, the song embraces an element of eccentricity coupled with a fine pop sensibility that makes it wholly accessible. Impossible to dislodge from the brain once you have taken it in, "Mr.Waterpump" is inspired.
From what I have heard of the tracks that will comprise the full length disc, there is much to be commended. Stellar set that is highly anticipated. Enjoy this gem for now...
Saturday, August 31, 2013
This blog is devoted to music of all types and those who create it. Please read on as I ask a small favor of those who kindly stop by to regularly read the posts here. I really do appreciate it.
A friend of mine is currently reaching out to folks who regularly utilize social media to engage and help support a very worthy endeavor. His name is Gordie Sampson and his CV as a musician/songsmith is quite impressive. He won a Grammy Award in 2007 for best country song of the year for Carrie Underwood’s smash hit “Jesus, Take the Wheel,” co-written with Brett James and Hillary Lindsey. Not to mention all of Sampson’s other hit songs, awards and achievements.
Sampson, who earned an honourary doctor of letters degree from Cape Breton University earlier this year, hasn’t forgotten where he comes from, either culturally or musically.
Continuing that legacy of strong, sophisticated songwriting perpetuated by Cape Bretoners such as Rita MacNeil, Allister MacGillivray and Jimmy Rankin, he’s found a unique way to nurture it in a younger generation of multi-genre musicians with the annual four-day Gordie Sampson Songcamp in Ingonish.
The Gordie Sampson Songcamp is fortunate to have The Ceilidh Cup golf tournament choose to donate funds from their annual event to assist Songcamp in expanding its activities throughout the year.
This means that the Gordie Sampson Songcamp has access to a $25,000 matching dollars fund where every dollar fundraised in 2013 has the potential to be matched by Softchoice Cares on a first come first serve basis for Ceilidh Cup 2014. Songcamp is also competing in the “P2P Challenge” for the remaining $25,000. First place receives $15,000, second place receives $7,500 and third place receives $2,500. Being a part of this Softchoice Cares is an excellent opportunity for future Songcamp funding.
To earn points in the challenge, a Facebook page called Ceilidh Cup for Gordie Sampson Songcamp has been created. Here’s the link
So what am I asking of you?
1. “Like” their page (They get 1 point for each "like")
2. “Share” their posts with your friends on Facebook (1 point for each)
3. “Comment” on their posts and page (1 point for each)
4. “Post” any pictures, videos and comments on their page and your pages (5 points for every post – these could be posts of any of their musical guests’ songs, videos, pics)
5. Encourage all your friends on Facebook to Like, Share, Comment and Post on their page.
6. “Tweet” a link to their page, videos, pics that are posted on Facebook to encourage more people to check them out.
This challenge goes to October 18th. With your kind help you can really make some impact. All you need to do is "like" and share the news on social media. Thanks again in advance!
Sunday, August 25, 2013
Joseph Bridge has just released a taster single with accompanying video and the industry buzz surrounding his efforts is growing exponentially.
"Phyllis the Parking Meter Lady" is a stunning exercise in creativity, esoteric beauty and economy, wrapped in a hook that ranks with the best that you've ever had the pleasure to encounter. Joining Joseph on the track is UK singer/songwriter Ian McNabb, who raises the game with his peerless vocals. All of the excitement and eclecticism that powered classic elite pop/rock anthems is present here with high production values, great musicianship and originality.
Remember a time when radio provided a diverse group of sounds and was never sparing on surprises? While it is new, this record has a timeless quality that will quickly earn a coveted position in your music collection and remain fresh when all other contemporary flavors of the week fall victim to obsolescence.
Phyllis was recently crowned record of the week in Holland and is now garnering airplay in the UK and Canada.
Over the next few days, I will be featuring two more fantastic new songs from Joseph Bridge. Stay tuned!
Find out more about the artist here
Issue of a full length disc is planned for fall 2013. Here's what people are saying about Joseph Bridge:
"WONDERFULLY ECCENTRIC ; A PSYCHEDELIC SUPERSTAR IS ON THE RISE!" -Radio Caroline (UK)
"GREAT TRACKS" -Bob Kraushaar;(Producer: Paul McCartney, David Bowie, Elton John)
"THE BEST BAND I'VE HEARD THIS YEAR" -Captain Sensible;(The Damned)
“REALLY SOLID STUFF” - Peter Noone;(Hermans Hermits)
"THE SONGS ARE STRIPPED DOWN AND SOLID TO THE CORE!" -Reverb Magazine
Thursday, August 08, 2013
The Great American Robber Barons have just issued a subtle, quiet song cycle that features the majestic crystalline lead guitar of Keith Dion, impassioned powerhouse vocals from Diana Mangano and masterful songcraft. They are joined by drummer Prairie Prince and jazz pianist Ricardo Scales.
Reno Nevada... and Other Songs of Gambling, Vice and Betrayal is a stellar debut record.
Keith’s lyrics are poignant, political, and literate. His poetic social commentary covers the 99% (“At The Hands Of The Robber Barons”), the atrocities of war, gun control, animal rights (“Conquistador” and “You Don’t Know The Half Of It”), and women’s rights. He also explores the painful complexities of growing up as a child of a Vietnam veteran.
Keith: “Every song on the album is about gambling, vice and betrayal, and we really mean it.”
Underpinning this subject matter with incredibly deft playing from all involved, as a listener you get a sense of space in the notes that they purposely don't play. The arrangements perfectly frame Diana and Keith's vocals, never overpowering them. Traces of the Byrds, Nick Cave, Lou Reed and Judy Collins are detected in the mix, though these elements are merely a reference point for those who want to get a preview of what the album has on offer. Highlights include "I Know You Just Don't Want Me Anymore" with Mangano turning in a dynamite vocal and their cover of Richard Farina's "Reno, Nevada" which has a dark, smoky vibe that lingers in your brain. The delicate, delayed guitar figures are the icing on the cake. Much to be commended here, though you would be advised to take in the entire disc to fully appreciate what Keith has to say. There are great rewards in store for those who take the time to seek this one out. Overall, it's an extremely satisfying listen.
Get your hands on Reno Nevada... and Other Songs of Gambling, Vice and Betrayal right here
Hit and like their Facebook page and find out more about the group.
Sunday, August 04, 2013
Admittedly, I'm late to the party on this one. Last night, I watched Beware of Mr. Baker only hours after being made aware of its existence. Director Jay Bulger approaches his subject directly and the end product is stellar. For those who know of the massive influence Ginger Baker has had on everyone who picked up sticks in his wake, you will love this documentary.
And the uninitiated? Track this down and velcro yourself in for a gripping 90 minutes on the edge of your seat with a legend. His personal life is certainly not for the innocent, though all is explored frankly. No punches are pulled, as you'll see in the trailer.
Find and watch this movie! Once done, read his autobiography Ginger Baker: Hellraiser to fill in the gaps.
Ginger Baker's Air Force, Beat Club in 1970
Check out the Facebook official fan page here
Tuesday, July 30, 2013
California Transit Authority released their second full length disc in the spring of 2013. Sacred Ground is an electrifying, jazz-rock set with tasty grooves, razor sharp horn arrangements and great melodies to the fore.
The tracks are propelled by the immaculate foundation work of legendary drummer, Danny Seraphine. He is at the top of his game, surrounded by a group of impeccable players that include Marc Bonilla on guitars/vocals, Ed Roth on keys, Mick Mahan on bass & Peter Fish on additional keys. Special guests are Larry Braggs on lead vocals, Bill Champlin, Will Champlin, Wes Quave and Eric Redd on lead & backing vocals, Monet Owens on backing vocals, Luis Conte on percussion, Travis Davis on bass & backing vocals, Andrew Ford on bass (Strike), Rick Keller on tenor sax & flute and horn orchestration, Jamie Hovorka on trumpet & flugelhorn, Chris Tedesco, Walt Fowler, Rob Schaer & Gary Halopoff on trumpets and Francisco Torres & Nick Lane on trombones.
It would be fair to say that long-time fans have likely been waiting for something like this since Chicago VII.
Leading off with the title cut, Will and Bill Champlin deliver pristine vocals that float over a tight group cooking hotter than a blast furnace. It makes for a compelling opener, brilliantly executed. "The Real World" continues the onslaught with a signature Seraphine percussive intro, brass parts that could walk a tightrope and Larry Braggs' tenor voice tying it all together. Bonus points for Bonilla as his guitar takes flight in tandem with the horn section. The prospective listener is swept away right out of the gate, with a prevailing mood of joyous abandon permeating the playing. There are detours into the mists of the past with Seraphine's own "Take Me Back to Chicago" and a blistering cover of "I Love You More Than You'll Ever Know" from the first Blood, Sweat and Tears LP. Braggs excels, pouring his soul into the microphone. These pieces mingle seamlessly with the new material.
Tipping their hat briefly to what came before, CTA then proceed to musically tear it up, creating their own rules of engagement with feet firmly planted in the present. Experimenting successfully, they pull off some mind-blowing playing on the instrumentals "Primetime" and Peter Fish's killer "In the Kitchen", featuring Luis Conte on percussion. "Staring at the Sun" is another highlight, with Bonilla and Will Champlin pairing their voices perfectly. One of my favorites is "Full Circle", which Bill Champlin delivers in a classy, heartfelt manner. Poignant as it is perfect, the subject matter refers to Seraphine's own return to playing music after a long hiatus from the business.
With a record of this calibre, his efforts are more than welcome. It is not by accident that he consistently lands on lists that feature top drawer players.
Marc Bonilla deserves special mention for his horn arrangements, in addition to stellar writing and playing. The entire CTA crew is in rare form here. The production is incredible, with a clarity of sound that manages to retain the vibe of takes done live off the floor.
Sacred Ground is a must have for those who want to hear world class musicians coalesce, wrapping their collective energies around solidly constructed songs. There is not a note wasted over 14 tracks and you will return to this set often. Highly recommended listening. Own it right here