Monday, November 25, 2013

THE LAST WALTZ AT 37



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- MR. WATERPUMP



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

SUPPORT CEILIDH CUP FOR GORDIE SAMPSON SONGCAMP



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- NEW SONG/VIDEO



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 2014.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

THE GREAT AMERICAN ROBBER BARONS



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

BEWARE OF MR. BAKER



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

CTA- SACRED GROUND



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

Monday, July 22, 2013

DANNY SERAPHINE INTERVIEW

Danny Seraphine is a world class musician, composer and a founding member of Chicago. He anchored the rhythm section of this iconic group for 23 years until his departure from the band in 1990. Rolling Stone Magazine recently ranked him as one of the top 100 drummers of all time. When he was coming up on the music scene, no less a light than jazz legend Buddy Rich called Seraphine his favorite young drummer. In addition to his prodigious gifts behind the kit, Seraphine co-wrote the Chicago Top 40 hits "Lowdown” and “No Tell Lover,” as well as core tunes like "Little One," "Take Me Back to Chicago," "Show Me the Way," "Birthday Boy," and the irresistibly funky "Street Player,” later sampled by rapper Pitbull for the hit "I Know You Want Me (Calle Ocho).” Twice the recipient of Lifetime Achievement Awards from both the Cape Breton and Montreal Drum Festivals respectively, he continues to hone his craft.

Following a 15 year hiatus from the music business, Seraphine returned to form a stellar new outfit called California Transit Authority (CTA) and they recorded/issued a disc called Full Circle in 2007.

2013 has brought music fans another gift with the release of the second full length CTA album, Sacred Ground, which you can purchase here

Find out more about CTA at their website

Mr. Seraphine was kind enough to take time out to chat with me about the new CD. He proved to be as genuine and easy going as he is talented.

To start off, what is your earliest musical memory?

DS: My earliest musical memory...Probably watching my uncle play drums at some family events and weddings. He was a really good drummer.

Do you remember your first gig playing drums?

DS: I don't have a lot of clear memories of my earliest musical event...though I do have one from high school or grammar school where I was playing at a dance and I was playing "Wipe Out" (Sufaris hit from 1963) Everybody was going, "Go, Danny, go!". I had pretty good hands, even then. (laughs) Also, I started playing with the Gene Krupa recordings, so I developed a kind of swinging flair with the traditional grip and I was already applying it to rock and roll. It was kind of cool. That's what I do remember most.

What are the advantages of the traditional grip over the matched grip?

DS: The angle of your left hand lets your stick rest on the snare, where you can ghost note as much as you want, you know. The volume is also a bit softer, too. Also really gives you an edge when playing smooth double stroke "press" rolls. Your left hand technique is more of a circular "press" than a vertical hit.

Turning to the current project, Sacred Ground is really easy on the ears. It's a fantastic recording.

DS: Thank you.

What song most proud of on this record?

DS: Sheesh! (laughs) that's a loaded question. "I Love You More Than You'll Ever Know" is a really great drum part that I put a lot of thought into and I think that it's pretty inventive. Sacred Ground has a great groove. Hmmm... "The Real World" has a really cool drum pattern, you know. I also really like "Staring at the Sun", though, I tell you, for a really great straight rock tune, there's "Out of Reason".

"In the Kitchen" is a monster instrumental track.

DS: Yes! You know, I was just looking at itunes and that is one of the top most streamed...as far as individual songs, one of the top selling individual songs. You're right, that's pretty cool.

It reminds me of some of the stuff that Buddy Rich was doing in the 70s, material from the No Jive compilation. Huge compliment to you as a player. The groove is solid and the percussion (congas) really makes it.

DS: I had Luis Conte with me on that one. Thank you, I'm glad that you really like it

How much preproduction, rehearsal did you do for this recording?. Did you all get together and jam, feel each other out and was it the same unit that did the first CTA project?

DS: Pretty much so. Pretty much so. With, uh, a couple of other people plunked in at different spots, different songs. What we did which was pretty unique to this album, and I really...we really utilized technology and to work for us. We got together, Marc, myself, Nick McCann, Ed Ross, and we got together and we said, "Let's write a record. Let's write an album. Let's get together" Well, first we have to see how it goes. We knew we wanted to write a record and get it done... It took three years. (laughs) We would jam and we recorded it with the hard drive. Obviously the hard disk. We recorded and then listen back when we heard something cool, we looped it, we tried it, Marc then would cut and paste it into a song and so we kind of wrote and sometimes we started out with some changes with ideas for a song. Ed had some changes - some ideas and we'd just take it and run with it, you know. Um, so must of the album was done like that, "In the Kitchen" was written by Peter Fish. He wrote that on his own. With "Take Me Back to Chicago", he arranged that for me...did a whole new arrangement. It's kind of similar in parts in that there's enough of the original that you recognize the song, right? "Staring at the Sun" was put together on the fly, recording bits and pieces and then splicing it together. Then we'd go into the studio to cut it in total. That was just how we wrote the record. It was really cool. I mean, I think you can hear that...it's got a really spontaneous, live feel and yet it's structured.

In the studio, did you record live, off the floor? Because it does have that vibe.

DS: Yeah. Definitely. It was, you know, that was very inspired. Like, "The Real World" for example. If you listen, there's a really weird quirky off time kind of thing that's just a great groove. Marc and I came up with that and then, you know, we found a way to make it work. We had one Chicago cover ("Take Me Back to Chicago") and I said, 'Let's do a Blood, Sweat and Tears song' and then we said, 'Okay. Which songs do you want to do?' That song "I Can't Quit Her." And I said, "You know, 'I Love You More Than You'll Ever Know' is my favorite BST song of all time. And so we did it, we really turned it upside down. But there's enough in it, enough of their arrangment in it, so that you recognize it. We took it in a different direction with the guitar solo. The Jimi Hendrix style guitar solo in the end is just blazing. And Larry Bragg...Larry does the vocal arrangements. His vocal performance is just off the charts. He said, 'You want me to sing this? That's a real challenge.' Because Donny Hathaway's version...everybody considers that to be the Holy Grail. And so, I think we managed it. Larry did a phenomenal job. Al Cooper heard it and he really complimented it.

Love the horn charts on the album. Who wrote/arranged them?

DS: Marc Bonilla, who is a really great musician. He did a great job with those parts.

Were you the defacto band leader in the studio? Or was it a democratic process with Marc and the other musicians?

DS: It was Marc and I, you know, Marc and I predominantly, then everybody has their face time. We really tried to keep somewhat democratic in a way, but if you get too democratic...you compromise yourself into mediocrity. So, you can't do that either.

There always has to be a band whip. Like Buddy Rich, who led some pretty great bands in his time...

DS: Oh God, yes...

It's not uncommon for the drummer to be captain of the team.

DS: Marc Bonilla and I...we're both pretty much alpha dogs. That's just the truth. We have a great respect for one another and it shows through. If I go to them with something that they like but I really don't like it? Well, they'll usually honor me and vice versa. And if Marc comes to me with stuff that really bothers him? Well, there was something that I really liked on this record. It was a background part on 'Take me Back' that I invented in the studio and I really loved it, but it really bothered him. It was going to bother him until the day he died. I said, 'Okay. I'll give it up.' Same thing with Ed. I'm a band guy. I love bands. It takes work and they can be a pain. And in this day and age it's really tough. Touring is tougher than ever. Economically, it's just...it's almost, at times, impossible, but the byproduct? The end result is just so good, especially with this record. We're all so proud of it. You know, it's doing quite well for this market, and I hate to put the asterisk next to it, but CD's just don't sell like they used to. The reality after this one is that we probably sold the same amount of CDs as we have digital downloads.

On that note, what is your opinion of the current culture of itunes and contemporary delivery chains for music in general? Do you miss certain processes from the past?

DS: I miss selling a couple million CDs...(laughter) Well, it's really tough to say. The good thing is that we have complete control...complete creative control and all. I miss certain things, but the culture of 'free music' and 'why pay for it?' isn't a good thing. Free downloading has really hurt the industry. There's no way to turn the clock back and make it go away so I have to live with it. Nonetheless, I feel that we've made a great record that will stand the test of time. The same is true of the first album, I mean, that's still selling. That will sell for 50 years. And I believe this record will sell, even better than the first record, for sure. The first record has some great merits and it's got great energy, too.

I think I know the answer to this one but have to ask, do you prefer the analog or digital recording process?

DS: Really, you might be surprised here, but I do like more modern recording techniques. Sure, there are a lot of great things about analog, though, we have a really great engineer by the name of Mark Green. His studio's called The Green Room in LA, that's in the valley. He really knows how to get all the plug ins and stuff. He's an old school engineer to begin with, so he pretty much knows. The engineers...the really good engineers, the great engineers, are really good at emulating analog with digital. What I'd like to do...and maybe with the next record we'll do this...is, ah, find a really good Studer machine, one that's in really good condition and use it for the basics and then go over to digital.

Recording software like Pro Tools and Logic make certain parts of the process a lot easier.

DS: I have overdubbed drum parts, but I did it in analog, too. Used to be really good at it in analog, which is 10 times harder. I do have Logic at home, by the way. I love Logic. I'm not that great with it yet but I really like it.

You received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2010 Cape Breton Drum festival. Having grown up in that area, I am curious about your recollections of that event. When you went to receive your award, were you able to take in some of the local music scene?

DS: No, unfortunately I didn't. I loved the area. Bruce (Aitken) was a very, very close friend of mine. Bruce and his ex-wife. It was great, probably the best drum festival in the world.

On a final note, is there any new music that has caught your attention? Anything that you are listening to now?

DS: Not particularly. I find that a lot of it is too over-processed for my liking.

We are definitely on the same page on that. Too much button pushing, not enough soul. I want to sincerely thank you for taking the time to chat with me, sir. As I mentioned, Sacred Ground is a great record and something that you should be extremely proud of. It was a pleasure speaking with you.

DS: I appreciate that, my friend, thank you again.

All thanks go to Mr. Seraphine for his insight and generosity. Stay tuned for my review of Sacred Ground! Here's a little taste of CTA.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

FORGOTTEN MUSIC THURSDAY-ELF



For those who are only familiar with the work of the late Ronald Padavona through his time fronting Rainbow, Sabbath and his own group (Dio), this disc will definitely make for interesting listening.

Wait, does he sing differently??

No, his peerless vocals are powerful and instantly recognizable as Dio.

Let's take a step back...

This multi-talented individual had been in a number of aggregations since the late fifties. By 1967, psychedelia was in vogue, so Ronnie and the Prophets morphed into The Electric Elves, which was shortened to The Elves the following year. A few singles were released, quickly finding their way to obscurity. By the early 70's the band simply became Elf.


During this entire period, RJD sang lead and played bass. Functionally, he could not chuck up the irons to his audience while singing AND holding down the rhythm section.


He would remain in this dual role through the recording of their eponymously titled first album, which made nary a ripple in the waters of the music business upon its release in 1972. Roger Glover acted as both their benefactor and producer. Unconcerned by the lack of impact, he kept the group on his label and gave them a shot at doing a second, full length project. Unleashed in the spring of 1974, the sophomore record was under-appreciated upon arrival, quickly disappearing into the ether of forgotten music.

Is it good?

Certainly, though the music and lyrical subject matter are the components that will come as a surprise to the uninitiated.

Misty mornings that cloak dragons and sorcerers? Powerhouse metal? The Devil? Witches? Evil?

You won't find any of the above on Carolina County Ball.

Not even a tiny bit of evil?

No.

The lyrics are...ordinary! You get the full impact of Dio's leather lunged delivery, though it's hard to imagine him tossing out lines like, "crazy little woman go down, go down, go down, go down, down to where the honey is sweet". Suspend your disbelief, as it all happens right here.

Musically, there are trace elements of Deep Purple circa Who Do We Think We Are? More "Woman From Tokyo" than "Rat Bat Blue", though. On offer is southern tinged, blues rock, jazz, funk and boogie-woogie that occasionally detours into the New Orleans style R&B territory of Allen Toussaint (think in terms of his horn arrangements for The Band that colored Cahoots and Rock of Ages). It is quite a diverse range of approaches that coalesce nicely in the hands of very capable musicians. Craig Gruber came on board to relieve Ronnie of his four string duties along with a new guitar player, Steve Edwards.

Mickey Lee Soule tickles the ivories in all the right places, especially on the title track, "Rocking Chair Rock'n'Roll Blues" and "Rainbow". His performances on keys are sublime throughout and he shines just as brightly as the diminutive front man. Everyone involved worked hard to make this an incredibly rewarding listen.

"Annie New Orleans" is catchy enough to put a healthy person in hospital for a week.

Despite best efforts, the set didn't gain any traction in the marketplace or the public imagination. Why?

There is no quick answer to this. The material was accessable, production values were high and the band was undeniably tight. Dio's prodigious gifts as a singer should have been a key weapon in putting the entire package across to a wide audience. Perhaps it all came down to timing. As commercial failure had to be disappointing for all involved, notice was taken by their peers. The next year would be one of great transition as Ritchie Blackmore drafted RJD to be the voice of Rainbow. It is important to note that Dio dropped mundane subjects cold at this point, expressing himself in a more escoteric fashion. Fantasy and the exploration of other realms would remain a signature of his work through to the end of his career as a performer. Agents of fortune appear at pivotal moments, barring the next step until you are ready to present your true self to the world.

Fate.

Or something like that...

In 1994, the second and third Elf records were combined on CD and issued under the title Ronnie James Dio: The Elf Albums. Worth checking out even for a casual fan as the music is diverse and holds up incredibly well.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

RUSH- GRACE UNDER PRESSURE



Rush have the distinction of being one of those bands that draw extreme reactions at the mere mention of their name. Plenty of love has been directed their way by musicians, which is no surprise as all three group members are virtuosos on their respective instruments. Others wince upon hearing Geddy Lee’s vocals and have little time for musical complexity, perfectly content with 4/4 time and love me/love my dog lyrical subject matter.

Even for those who do enjoy the output of this venerated trio, opinions differ over the ambitious creative avenues that they have traveled during a recording career that is (as of 2013) closing in on 40 years. 1984 would be prove to be transitional.

When Geddy, Alex and Neil set to work on what would become Grace Under Pressure, one member of the team would not be joining them: Terry Brown. As it is with many partnerships, each side had vastly different ideas about what they wanted to achieve going forward. Brown openly disliked some of the material on Signals and the group was generally unhappy with the sonic results of that disc.

So they sat down and had "the talk", parting ways after a decade long association.

Enter Steve Lillywhite.

blink

Exit Steve Lilliywhite.

Unceremoniously ditched by the "new guy" that they had chosen to direct these sessions, the band hit Le Studio and took up production duties on their own with assistance from Peter Henderson.

Their rhythmic "bromance" with The Police continues here. First evidence came with the reggae stumble that they dropped into the middle of "The Spirit of the Radio" back in 1980. Sting, Stewart and Andy would show up frequently in the mix from here on in ("Vital Signs", "New World Man") though this admiration comes to full stylistic fruition on Grace Under Pressure. More about that later.

Why should I care/If I have to cut my hair?/I have to move with the fashion or be outcast

Submitting to the double-edged shears of early eighties coiffure, the lads were now sporting fashionable new lids. Hell, Neil's moustache used to take over the drum solo for him in the 70s when he needed a break. That was now part of the past, along with multi-part, long form pieces. Short hair, shorter songs.



And what of the new material?

Peart's lyrics range from being topical ("Distant Early Warning") to touching ("Afterimage"), harrowing ("Red Sector A") funny/paranoid ("Red Lenses") with a dollop of grim futuristic vision thrown in ("The Body Electric"). Arrangements are sharp, though the synthesizer noises are redolent of the time period. Rescue from Roland comes with exquisite playing that underpins every cut. Despite the frosting, this is still fucking Rush. Tight grooves with fine melodies are favored over extended flights of fancy. Muscular ska powers "The Enemy Within", which is where we pick up that conversational marker involving Police influences. Interesting parallels can be drawn between the two. Both trios feature a bassist/lead singer who sang in a distinctive upper range. Each boasted a flashy rhythm section whose skills slightly overshadowed the guitarist. As stage acts, both were unbeatable. Rush paid close attention to the Police model in editing their material, with "Between the Wheels" flying the synth sounds in from "Spirits in the Material World" and the deployment of heavy chorus effect on the guitar in the style of Andy Summers.

They do retain their identity while incorporating these aspects into the writing.

Pure excitement happens in the exploding chorus of "Distant Early Warning" where everyone gets to put their chops on display as they break free from the straight jacketed verses. Lifeson's solo is a model of taste and restraint, which renders endless six string wanking obsolete in one brilliant passage. You could frame those notes! Similar fun happens in the mid-section of "The Body Electric" as those ones and zeros coalesce into pure human passion. Neil and Geddy effortlessly shift gears into a funky time signature, leaving Alex to his own devices. His leads are much more prominent than they were on Signals, stealing back some of the space taken up by the synths. Tightly edited, well written-this disc is quite likeable.

How did you take in this set for the first time?

Thank you for asking, italicized text. You (and the depth of your slightly-leaning-to-the-right questions) never let me down. Spring of 1984: Loaned my cassette copy of Judas Priest's Defenders of the Faith to a buddy in exchange for Grace Under Pressure. That weekend, I was left at home alone with the cutlery, smoked a bit and listened to the new stuff intently. Fell asleep with this album in headphones on consecutive nights. Loved what I heard then and still do.

This is your brain on Rush

Ultimately, the new sounds met with their share of detractors. Some fans simply didn't get it. Without blinking, these guys realized, early on, that survival meant changing the game plan. After their debut, Zeppelinisms were discarded as it could neither sustain them creatively nor provide listeners with anything unique. Instead of going the safe route, Rush reached a bit higher. Would they occasionally trip in doing so? For sure, though they would have been playing "In the Mood" in bars forever had they not taken the opportunity to broaden their horizons. Grace Under Pressure was yet another bold move forward.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

THE ROSE PHANTOM



ABANDON

Taking a cue from the New Romantic movement of the early 80s, The Rose Phantom has released an incredibly well produced set of strong, melodic songs. Understanding that synthetic backdrops can only succeed if the listener has a hook to hang their proverbial hats on, each selection is carefully arranged for maximum sonic impact. Mining ground similar to that of early Gary Numan, Tears for Fears and Depeche Mode, technology is nicely bevelled with raw human emotion. It must be stressed that only the positive characteristics of the aforementioned artists are present, with themes and lyrical subject matter belonging solely to the artist.

Epic soundscapes underpin every cut on Abandon. Great care is taken to ensure that individual instruments have a definitive presence in the mix, with every note placed perfectly. The vocals are not buried in pitch correction software, but instead are allowed to breathe, which is a plus for a contemporary recording. It is an expressive voice that is on display here, lending power to every track. Highlights abound: "Here it Is", "New Dreams" and the brilliant opener, "All I Want", which is built on a foundation of ominous, well deployed keys and a haunting chorus. Gripping listening, though don't let that stop you from enjoying the rest. There is an added bonus of subliminal layers of sound throughout the disc. Whispered words and interesting instrumental passages designed to catch your attention on the first pass only to send your brain back to spin the songs again. Guaranteed that you will, as there is quite a bit to take in.

Equating this record with a color or mood, I would point to the shade of a sky at dusk as nocturnal urges slowly lead the senses down a new path, destination to be determined. There are definite rewards in staying the course.

Commitment to uniformity in style and execution is commendable, without detours into a musical version of multiple personality disorder. The Rose Phantom owns their vision, delivering a consistent and satisfying song cycle.

Overall the production is immaculate, perfectly complementing the writing which is bolstered by strong performances on all counts. For those of you out there who still like good melodies, as opposed to "noises" haphazardly dropped on top of "beats", you will really enjoy Abandon. All of the pop sensibilities that drove the best electronic music of a bygone era married to modern technology. Produced and engineered by "Danegerous" Dane Morrow and The Rose Phantom, the disc was mastered by Aidan Foley at Masterlabs (U2, Foo Fighters, Dead Can Dance).

You can purchase a copy of Abandon and find out more about The Rose Phantom right here

Monday, April 29, 2013

OTTAWA BLUESFEST



Ottawa Bluesfest is ranked by Billboard Magazine as one of the top 10 most successful outdoor music festivals in the world!

From July 4th to 14th, the nation's capital will play host to an array of top acts including Rush, blues legend B.B. King, The Black Keys, Alice in Chains, Weezer and The Tragically Hip.

Cold beverages pair well with great live music from multiple stages.

For full details check out their site

Bluesfest 2013 is guaranteed to be hotter than July...

Thursday, April 25, 2013

FORGOTTEN MUSIC THURSDAY-LOU REED



METAL MACHINE MUSIC

James Joyce created the ultimate black hole of English prose with "Finnegan's Wake".

Lou was kind enough to favor us with the aural equivalent. Released in 1975, this double LP of looped guitar feedback clocked in at 64 minutes (2 minutes would have been enough). If you need to clear a room, this is your soundtrack. Pretty bold move from Mr. Reed, though.

Forgotten music/noise...

Here's side 1, for your listening pleasure. Dare you to listen all the way through. Enter at your own risk!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

ROY FORBES



ALMOST OVERNIGHT

It has been roughly fifteen years since a good friend of mine said "Listen to this" and proceeded to play "Waitin' For you Mama". In just over three minutes, I was floored. Floating over precise, crisp acoustic guitar (and tapping foot) was one of the most unique, soulful voices that I had ever heard.

We both were well into "a few drinks", so the timing of this surprise track couldn't have been better.

"Who was that?" was all that I managed.

Roy Forbes

Almost Overnight contains a treasure trove of songs from his early career (plus a cover), captured live in the studio. Acoustic guitar fanatics will take note of the impeccable playing. Rich wordplay, excellent melodies and his sure touch with a tune are all an integral part of his distinctive song writing voice.

"Right After My Heart" "Thistles and "Kid Full of Dreams" are standouts, though don't let that stop you from enjoying the rest.

Stunning originality is tough to come by in these times, yet that's exactly what the prospective listener finds in this music. Why he isn't much more well known continues to mystify, though if you play this for friends, they'll repeatedly thank you for it.

Find out more here

Here's Roy playing a tune called "You Can't Catch Me" which he originally recorded on his debut LP (Kid Full of Dreams) in 1975 under his nickname, BIM.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

RIP ANDY JOHNS



Producer/engineer Andy Johns, who worked on such classic albums as Led Zeppelin IV and the Stones' Exile On Main Street, has passed away.

Very sad news for his family, friends and music fans across the globe. Johns was an incredibly gifted individual.

Before his nineteenth birthday, he was working as Eddie Kramer's second engineer on recordings by Jimi Hendrix and
was a key figure in the sessions for countless classic records. Here is a sampler of his impressive credits (taken from Wikipedia)

Albums produced

Ahead Rings Out - Blodwyn Pig (1969)
As Safe As Yesterday Is - Humble Pie (1969)
Town and Country - Humble Pie (1969)
Highway - Free (1970)
Free Live! - Free (1971)
Heartbreaker - Free (1972)
Bobby Whitlock - Bobby Whitlock (1972)
Why Dontcha - West, Bruce and Laing (1972)
Marquee Moon - Television (1977)
It's a Circus World - Axis (1978)
1234 - Ron Wood (1981)
Hughes/Thrall - Hughes/Thrall (1982)
Stone Fury - Burns Like a Star (1983)
Idéal - Trust (1983)
Night Songs - Cinderella (1986)
Perfect Timing - McAuley Schenker Group (1987)
Loud and Clear - Autograph (1987)
Long Cold Winter - Cinderella (1988)
Four Winds - Tangier (1989)
Sahara - House of Lords (1990)
Dirty Weapons - Killer Dwarfs (1990)
For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge - Van Halen (1991)
Under the Influenc - Wildside (1992)
The Extremist - Joe Satriani (1992)
Powers of Ten (second release, two tracks) - Shawn Lane (1993)
Time Machine - Joe Satriani (1993)
Good Guys Don't Always Wear White - Bon Jovi (soundtrack for The Cowboy Way) (1994)
Waking the Dead - L.A. Guns (2002)
22nd Century Lifestyle - pre)Thing (2004)
Rips the Covers Off - L.A. Guns (2004)
Stone in the Sand - Euphoraphonic (2005)
Tales from the Strip - L.A. Guns (2005)
The Undercover Sessions - Ill Niño (2006)
Radio Romeo - Radio Romeo (2007)
Chickenfoot - Chickenfoot (2009) [7]
Bingo! - Steve Miller Band (2010)
Up Close - Eric Johnson (2010)
Double Four Time - The Swayback (2012)
The Andy Johns Demo's - Sabyrtooth (2012)
Hollywood Forever - L.A. Guns (2012)

Albums engineered

Disposable - The Deviants (1968)
Spooky Two - Spooky Tooth (1969)
The Clouds Scrapbook - Clouds (1969)
Up Above our Heads - Clouds (1969)
Blind Faith - Blind Faith (1969)
Led Zeppelin II - Led Zeppelin (1969)
Led Zeppelin III - Led Zeppelin (1970)
Highway - Free (1970)
Sky - Sky (1970)
Led Zeppelin IV - Led Zeppelin (1971)
Sticky Fingers - Rolling Stones (1971)
Brain Capers - Mott the Hoople (1971)
Sailor's Delight - Sky (1971)
Exile on Main St. - Rolling Stones (1972)
Goats Head Soup - Rolling Stones (1973)
Houses of the Holy - Led Zeppelin (1973)
It's Only Rock 'n' Roll - The Rolling Stones (1974)
Physical Graffiti - Led Zeppelin (1975)
Shadows and Light - Joni Mitchell (1980)
Coda - Led Zeppelin (1982)
Trouble At Home (Silver Condor) - Joe Cerisano (1983)
Raw - Ra (2006)
IV - Godsmack (2006)
Radio Romeo - Radio Romeo (2007)
Crossroads - Eric Clapton
Eric Clapton - Eric Clapton
Ladies and Gentleman The Rolling Stones Movie - The Rolling Stones
Double Four Time - The Swayback (2012)
Switchblade Glory - Switchblade Glory (2011)

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

FORGOTTEN MUSIC THURSDAY - JELLYFISH



Jellyfish put together a sophomore disc that was smart, catchy and expertly performed. It is nothing less than a mind-fuck of epic proportions, marrying Brian Wilson's most earnest wet dreams with Queen at the apex of their mid 70s, multi-tracked glory. The work that went into this project could easily generate enough power to light ten major cities for a decade.

Timing is everything...

Aptly titled, the band may have unwittingly foreseen the futility in releasing a record that celebrated the stylistic charms of rock's "psychedelic" past in the era of back to basics grunge. Who's crying over Spilt Milk? Not me! I feel fortunate to have been recently steered toward this remarkable recording. (Thanks Andy!)

Better late to the party than never.

Wait just a moment. You there, casually reading this... Come closer!

C'mon! I don't bite...(hard)...

OK, if you tend to get a little uncomfortable with the Jeff Lynne approach to production that shaped ELO's output in the seventies, then some elements of Spilt Milk may not be to your taste. If you crave an overall sonic experience that equates to a long bomb pass resulting in an incredible 80 yard touchdown, then this was designed for you. Another great bonus: Spilt Milk will forcefully pick you up by the lapels, shaking loose any musical lethargy that you've been experiencing.

Blending mastery in vocal arrangement with lush instrumentation, "Hush" is a seductive opener, boasting enough charm to lure birds from the treetops. Setting the mood perfectly, this beautiful soundscape fades as the ground suddenly drops out from beneath your feet. Four pop-rock gems are lined up, fired off in rapid succession, leaving the listener breathless. Swept away in a tide of fist pumping anthems, you could easily miss the clever wordplay that goes by at lightning speed. Ambitious, yet easy to assimilate, this run of tracks follows a concept and is nothing short of compelling. You hear the influences that shape "Joining a Fan Club" or "The Ghost at Number One" but there is a visceral energy in their execution that brings something entirely fresh to these songs. So much so that it silences the inner voice of the record store snob and simply begs to be heard on its own terms.

Closing out this spectacular set is "Brighter Day" which ties up every loose end in brilliant fashion.

You are left wanting more...

Core band members Andy Sturmer and Roger Joseph Manning, Jr. held the creative cards, deploying many of the weapons that made 60s/70s pop so durable. They also managed to toughen their work with just enough edge to keep things sounding contemporary. Differences of opinion led to the ultimate crime of a group breakup before they could capitalize on the strength of what they had done and start to build a larger following around it.

Spilt Milk ended up consigned to the realm of forgotten music as its very essence was fighting against the tide of what was popular in 1993.

Trends come and go...this one is timeless.

Saturday, March 09, 2013

BLADE OF GRASS - LANDSLIDE

The always stellar Blade of Grass have a new video to share.

"Landslide" has a trippy, retro feel that is driven home by the iron-clad, two part harmonies of these fine Californian songsmiths. Enjoy the images as they fly through the air...

Join their growing army of fans on Facebook and be sure to check out their band page

Thursday, March 07, 2013

PASSAGES

These words have been uttered/written many times, though two separate, sad events of today beg for them to be pressed into service once again.

Nothing enhances demand for an artist's work more than word of their death

For those who stop by here to read that do not reside in Canada, the name Stompin' Tom Connors may draw a blank. To be fair, even for those Canucks who know his music, he had reached the peak of notoriety in the early seventies. Connors' quirky blend of shaggy-dog-story-telling folk blended humor with straightforward, three-chord country twang. Drawing on maritime roots helped to put an east coast spin on the final product. Fiercely patriotic, his songs name-checked Canadian destinations big and small, along with the provinces that held them.

Connors passed away today at age 77, leaving fans, friends and family to mourn him.

Alvin Lee found an international audience in the late sixties as a guitar virtuoso. His work with Ten Years After was innovative, mixing rock, blues and occasional forays into jazz. Sealing the deal as a major act with an appearance at the inaugural Woodstock festival, Lee followed this by scoring a huge hit with "I'd Love to Change the World" in 1971. Always somewhat underrated in terms of the big brand-name guitar legends, he was well respected by his peers.

Lee also left the planet today, age 68.

These two figures were worlds apart in every respect but one: Both had reached career heights decades earlier and, for the most part, had long faded from public view. Inevitably, their work will be reevaluated by those who genuinely appreciated what they had done. Conversely, the uninitiated will discover some of the charms that brought each to prominence in the first place. Sadly, it often takes mortality to bring (or refocus) attention to the artistry of the recently departed.

Both will be missed...



Thursday, February 28, 2013

FORGOTTEN MUSIC THURSDAY-TECHNICAL ECSTASY



Deemed by many as the first real misstep in the Sabbath discography, Technical Ecstasy was only tepidly received upon initial release in 1976. There was much made of the fact that Birmingham's purveyors of doom had moved well away from the the sonic blueprint that had captured the imaginations of listeners in the early seventies.

They're using synthesizers?!?

Did I really hear strings plastered all over that intro?

And who's that bloke singing the other slow number?? That's not Ozzy, mate!

Perhaps some of the die-hards had quit listening after Master of Reality. As early as Vol.4 there had been a piano based ballad ("Changes") which featured string parts reproduced on a Mellotron. Similarly, strings, synths and keys figured prominently on several tracks on both Sabbath Bloody Sabbath and Sabotage.

Another point of discussion was the change in Iommi's guitar tone. Criticism came from those who felt that he had abandoned the sludgy, monumental riffs that had effortlessly flowed from his detuned Gibson in favor of a lighter approach. More of a "light and punchy" sound that the entire family could enjoy.

Yet again, this transition had begun four years earlier with Vol.4. Feeding his signal through a Rotosound effects box on Sabbath Bloody Sabbath gave his sound a swirling, organ-like texture. These changes had a gestation period of several years.

In summation: Bullshit!

OK, if this is such a great album, why is it featuring as forgotten music?


Simply a case of a band not playing to type.

As evidenced by the expansion of the band's musical horizons over the course of their (then) most recent three studio projects, Technical Ecstasy merely added another layer of experimentation. Fans that wanted Sabbath to continue on their former, heavier path were turned off by the move closer to the middle of the road. For the casual admirer, there just weren't enough hooks on which they could hang their hats. Worse still, soft rock was becoming the prevailing noise heard on radio with the rumblings of disco poised to grab a larger share of the market.

Given these circumstances, Technical Ecstasy didn't have much of a chance. Metal supporters just didn't hear a lot that they could relate to and the leisure suit crowd were likely unaware that it was issued in the first place.

Thus, the LP became somewhat of a curio.

Personally, I have been listening to Sabbath since the early eighties. At that time, this one was hard to find. A good friend, who had obtained a vinyl copy on import from the UK, was kind enough to tape it for me. The songs very quickly entered my listening rotation.

This is a solid effort, with much to be commended. Not their finest hour but if you focus on the merits of the best cuts, the rest are certainly inoffensive. The lyrics don't hold up to heavy scrutiny, though that's a minor point.

BEST

"Back Street Kids" literally kicks down your door, grabs you by neck and commands attention. Metallic, hard and fast with a refrain that his Ozzness would return to during his solo career, the visceral nature of "nobody I know will ever take my rock and roll away from me" is interpolated by a bridge with a choppy, tango-esque time signature change. The full stop that precedes it has a neat Iommi riff, which competes with flourishes on synth as Ward expertly steers the group with ride cymbal and toms. Highlight reel material.

"You Won't Change Me" is a close runner up. The intro harks back to the doomy figures that once powered the Sabbath engine, though an abrupt halt is brought to this. Dark and spooky organ takes over and the entire performance, paced at mid-tempo, is quite mature in terms of subject matter. Ozzy's vocal is committed, even soulful, while the tune balances melody with a blistering solo from Tony to ice the cake. Cigars for all involved here.

"Dirty Women" takes a bit of build up to get to the point. Worth sticking out the journey to get to those monster salvos that Iommi wrings from his axe. The bonus face melters over the top are welcome. Again, we get a glimpse into how Ozzy would construct future efforts (with plenty of help from his hired guns) in the "walking the streets" breakdown. Very similar to the middle section of "I Don't Know" from Blizzard of Oz. Check it out...

"All Moving Parts (Stand Still)" has a fairly strightforward theme, though it squeaks into this short list by virtue of how expertly the musicians shift gears midway through the presentation. Keeping time to what begins as a slightly plodding construction, Bill Ward unleashes a scattershot drum pattern and the game is raised as the trio brilliantly execute a number of tricky transitions. As quickly as it begins, the listener is unceremonially dropped back into the opening progression which is carried to the fade. Iommi demonstrates a wealth of ideas that he casually drops into the mix of an otherwise nondescript template.

THE REST

What remains is a mixed bag. You get to hear Ward take lead vocal on the Beatley "It's Alright", where he channels the lighter side of John Lennon. He acquits himself quite well, matter of fact. Melody is highly emphasized, though the selection is quite out of place here. Similarly, "She's Gone" is heralded by a string arrangement that is both economical and avoids overt sentimentality in feel. Acoustic guitar is the only other support to Osbourne's voice, which conveys enough emotion/pathos to allow for the audience to commiserate with him. "Rock and Roll Doctor" and "Gypsy" fill their spots in workmanlike manner, with the former coming close to sounding as if Ozzy was fronting KISS for a session. The latter is a decent idea that is a bit overstretched.

Fueled by a shipment of Newcastle Brown Ale and whatever recreational drugs were around to be consumed by the lads and their crew, the creation of their seventh record saw the quartet at the crossroads. Their immediate future as a functioning unit was tenuous, mostly due to bad habits. Despite these issues, full marks are awarded to them for stretching out a bit further, creatively.

Passage of time has also helped to soften the initial, harsher estimations of Technical Ecstacy. With little trace of quintessential Sabbath to be found, however, it was destined to become a forgotten item.

Now that you do know about it, please give it a little love. You may be pleasantly surprised.

Monday, February 11, 2013

IT WAS 50 YEARS AGO TODAY...

February 11, 1963

George Martin booked The Beatles into EMI Studios on Abbey Road to record the bulk of their first album, Please Please Me.

The sessions began that morning at 10am. The group logged nine hours and 45 minutes of recording time, banging out ten songs live off the floor and adding a few (but not many) overdubs. Further stress came with two members of the band suffering through mid winter colds. You can hear it in the vocals. Medicating their throats with a steady stream of tea, cigs and lozenges, they made it through. It is a remarkable achievement, all in a day's work. Their previously issued singles (with B-sides) were added to bring the total number of LP tracks to fourteen.

These days, simple mic placement can swallow up precious hours...

Exactly one year later, they would be playing their first US concert at the Washington Coliseum. Their reception in the States exceeded all expectations.



This date proved to be quite auspicious for the Beatles. The rest is history...



Saturday, February 09, 2013

HUNKY DORY


All the nightmares came today and it looks as though they're here to stay

Brimming with invention, Hunky Dory is actually a beautiful dream realized.

Still relatively unknown at this point, Bowie crafted a very intelligent set of songs that would later be held in quite high regard. Better still, the actor within the musician brought a voice to the sessions that conveyed a maturity well beyond his 24 years. At times, his vocals sound cracked as though they were being delivered by a man in the twilight phase of life. There is also a confidence that emanates from every note, beginning with the brilliant "Changes" and following through on each subsequent track until "The Bewlay Brothers" gracefully fades into the run-out grooves.

Now that you've found another key, what are you going to play?

All of the pieces in the puzzle came together for these sessions. We have the "Spiders from Mars" (Mick Ronson, Trevor Bolder and Mick Woodmansey) great tunes and a major label deal. Adopting the trappings of the burgeoning "glam" movement would be the final step toward attaining the fame that would come during 1972 with The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust.

Bowie also enlisted the services of Rick Wakeman, whose virtuosic piano figures prominently throughout. (I wonder if he wore a cape while he was tracking?)

Orchestral and horn arrangements are deployed effectively, augmenting, but never burying, the great melodies on offer. "Oh You Pretty Things" and "Queen Bitch" foreshadow the sound of "Ziggy". Ronson pulls distinctive, crying notes from his Les Paul adding further depth to the powerful, "Life On Mars". These selections, along with "Changes", provide the highlights on a very strong disc. "Kooks" is a charming runner up, taking a stylistic page from Neil Young's "Til the Morning Comes" with well placed horn solos.

Name checking Andy Warhol and Dylan with fulsome tributes, the lyrics are incredibly well developed. Smart without sliding into pretense, he keeps you interested by carefully pruning each line. Verses contain only what is completely necessary. The extra sweat sacrificed to make this happen was well worth it. Music hall quirks, otherworldly noises and an entirely English sensibility all find their place in the mix with a healthy dose of camp. The recipe works well enough to earn Hunky Dory a place in the top five LPs that Bowie would ever produce. Given his distinguished career output, that speaks volumes.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

IT WAS 44 YEARS AGO TODAY...

January 30th, 1969

The Beatles were at the tail end of the "Get Back" project, which was originally envisioned as a return to the format that produced their first LP. The difference here would be that the group would be filmed bringing in new material, shaping the songs through rehearsal and then playing the new album live.

There are entire books devoted to this episode, which ultimately helped to decide their fate as a functioning unit.

It wasn't all bad

Setting up on the rooftop of 3 Savile Row (Apple headquarters in London) the four most famous faces in the world at that time gave a little lunchtime concert for the business district.

Just how loud did the Beatles play?

Ken Mansfield, who was there amongst the chimney pots, provides his recollection of the set.

"It was loud. I’ve heard recordings of what it sounded like down on the street and I was surprised. Somebody ... that worked at Apple and got there late that day and got locked out ... said they came down the street and they turned onto Savile Row and they said it was like a wall of sound. It was really loud on the street. ... probably about as loud as they could get."

It was the last public performance that the quartet would ever give. When the Let It Be movie was finally released nearly a year and a half after the fact, this segment would close the film.

Rumor has it that we might finally see an official DVD release of Let It Be in 2013. I have been hearing this since 2003, so I'm not holding my breath...

The full monty (audio)



Video for you perverts who like to watch...



Tuesday, January 08, 2013

THE RETURN OF THE THIN WHITE DUKE

Never one to shy away from surprises, David Bowie is marking his 66th birthday by releasing his first new music since 2003. "Where Are We Now?", produced by Tony Visconti, harks back to the time that he had spent in Berlin in the 1970s with an accompanying video featuring black-and-white footage of the city when it was still divided.

His new album, “The Next Day”, will be released in March.

Bowie has been out of the spotlight for the last decade, save for one live appearance in 2006. His musical incarnations during the seventies were always challenging, sometimes confounding but rarely disappointing. When he is on, there are few that rank with him, though his output from the mid 80s onward has been hit and miss. You must hand the man a cigar for continuing to evolve as a musician and writer, rather than sliding comfortably into “greatest hits” territory in the twilight of his career.

Happy Birthday, Mr. Jones! Your return to business is welcome, considering the appalling state of mainstream music.


Saturday, January 05, 2013

LIVING COLOR 2013 TOUR


Living Color plan to mark the 25th anniversary of their hit debut album Vivid with a new reissue and a tour centered around the 1988 album, with initial European dates in the Netherlands, France, Switzerland, Austria and Germany slated for mid=March.

March 10: ECI Cultuurfabriek, Roermond, NL
March 11: Melkweg, Amsterdam, NL
March 13: New Morning, Paris, France
March 15: Z7, Pratteln, Switzerland
March 17: Komma, Innsbruck, Austria
March 20: Huxleys Neue Welt, Berlin, Germany

I'm hoping for announcements concerning North American dates very soon!

Of the original quartet, Corey Glover, Vernon Reid and Will Calhoun are all onboaard with Doug Wimbish taking up bass duties. Their set plan is to play Vivid in its entirety.

Could be that a new record will be forthcoming, as well. All real, new music is quite welcome from where I sit.