Classic Rock Review

The home of old record and bootleg reviews…

Led Zeppelin: St. Valentines Day Massacre (Uniondale, Feb 1975)


St. Valentine’s Day Massacre (Empress Valley Supreme Disc) February 14, 1975 – Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale, NY
CD1(55:47): Rock And Roll, Sick Again, Over The Hills And Far Away, In My Time Of Dying, Since I’ve Been Loving You, The Song Remains The Same, The Rain Song
CD2(67:00): Kashmir, No Quarter, Trampled Underfoot, Moby Dick
CD3(73:16): Dazed And Confused, Stairway To Heaven, Whole Lotta Love, Black Dog, Heartbreaker

After having released a number of dubious titles, Empress Valley has finally found its way back to further its “ Soundboard Revolutions.” Out of the blue, they somehow found a soundboard recording from what many fans consider is one the greatest shows that the band performed in ’75. Since I listened to the audience recording with the old Off Beat Record’s title “St. Valentine’s Day Massacre,” I have been a fan of this show because, despite the mediocre quality of tape and its incompleteness, I was able to feel the power and vibe which the band emitted or created in the first half of the show.

Later, I also got Image Quality’s “St. Tangerine’s Day” featuring a more complete version of the audience tape and, with that title, I was able to confirm that the band had actually presented a nice performance throughout the show, including a gutsy version of “Stairway To Heaven” and “Heartbreaker” with very irregular arrangements. However, this new title from EV has blown all those past titles away! Despite some promotional advertisement referring to the term “stereo,” the newly surfaced soundboard as featured in the title is in mono rather than stereo, apart from a part of “Dazed And Confused” is actually stereo, as Jimmy’s violin bow solo pans from one channels to the other. It is also a small regret that the soundboard did not capture the famous opening announcement saying “The American Return of Led Zeppelin!” as well as Robert’s interesting reference to “Tangerine” after “Dazed And Confused” is finished. However, the soundboard presents the great show in almost full length.

The recording is also very well balanced among the instruments and Robert’s voice and is therefore very enjoyable. Especially, Jonsey’s bass sounds are conspicuous in the recording, providing richness in the overall sounds. Accordingly, I am certain that the title lives up to the fame which EV once got with its “Soundboard Revolutions.” I truly hope that EV will continue its efforts to release more amazing titles such as this. The title comes in a paper case with two different types of artwork: the rare “Murder Incorporated” version limited to 200 copies (using the photos of a mass murder case which occurred in Chicago on some Valentine’s Day) and the standard edition featuring the band’s stage shots.

I got a copy of the “Murder Incorporated” version for myself on account of its rarity. However, the regular version may be more appealing to some others. In any case, the important thing is the tape presented in the title rather than the artwork. The title is definitely a “must” for any serious fan. (TH Nov 08)

St. Valentine’s Day Massacre (Empress Valley Supreme Disc) February 14, 1975 – Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale, NY
CD1(55:47): Rock And Roll, Sick Again, Over The Hills And Far Away, In My Time Of Dying, Since I’ve Been Loving You, The Song Remains The Same, The Rain Song
CD2(67:00): Kashmir, No Quarter, Trampled Underfoot, Moby Dick
CD3(73:16): Dazed And Confused, Stairway To Heaven, Whole Lotta Love, Black Dog, Heartbreaker

This title is a new superb stereo soundboard from Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, Hempstead, New York, New York Feb. 14 ’75. EV delivers in a deluxe trifold gatefold cover inside slipcase. Two version of it are available. The first one, titled “Murder Incorporated Edition” is limited to 200 copies only. The second, titled “Standard Edition” is not strictly limited and differs with artwork.

This is another great soundboard release by Empress Valley Supreme Disc of never before available tape. I purchased the Murder Inc. version due to the limited offering. The sound quality is quite good but I found that with a little additional equalization that it can be improved. It seems this release has a heavy preference to the high end. By lowering the high end a bit and raising the lower end a bit I feel you get a more evenly balanced and better sounding experience. It’s probably a matter of preference….as TH says in his November review this is a must have. I would agree if you are a collector of these EV releases.

On the other hand one wonders if and when another label will come out with this same title at a far lower cost with a slightly better balance? (Rick Schnell Dec 08)

May 16, 2010 Posted by | Led Zeppelin St. Valentines Day Massacre | , | 2 Comments

Review: “Valleys of Neptune,” Jimi Hendrix (2010)


For a guy who only released three or four albums in his lifetime, Jimi Hendrix is certainly more prolific in death. No less than 10 different albums of new studio material have emerged in the 40 years since Hendrix’s death, and today we see the release of the 11th such album, Valleys of Neptune.

It’s part of a joint effort by the Hendrix estate and Sony, cataloging and reissuing everything that Hendrix recorded. Valleys of Neptune contains seven previously unreleased studio tracks and five new recordings of some well known songs.

A lot of this stuff was recorded in 1969 after the release of Electric Ladyland using a variety of back-up musicians. The original Experience (Mitch Mitchell on drums and Noel Redding on bass) play on many of the cuts, including “Fire” and “Red House,” cut for Hendrix’s 1967 debut Are You Experienced?

There are also a couple of excellent cover tunes, including an Elmore James blues, “Bleeding Heart,” originally released on 1972’s War Heroes but included here as an alternate, extended version. The fireworks really go off on Cream’s “Sunshine Of Your Love,” played as an instrumental with Jimi’s guitar pyrotechnics taking center stage.

One of the great “lost” Hendrix tracks, “Valleys of Neptune,” shows up here with a remix that makes it sparkle. Mitchell drums on this one, but they’re joined by Hendrix’s long-time bassist Billy Cox from the Band of Gypsys – it’s a nice signature tune for Hendrix, with typically spacey lyrics and breathtaking guitar runs, easily the best of the unreleased material.

As an album, Valleys of Neptune is naturally not very cohesive: the majority of this material sounds like rehearsals obviously never intended to show up on a commercial release, or at least unpolished early takes. Even so, you can hear the obvious craftsmanship that went into making music back then, a trait sorely lacking on many releases by today’s top rock practitioners. The Hendrix people promise there’s a lot more left in the vault, and I wonder what the quality of that material may be.

At any rate: this is Hendrix, man. If you’ve ever wondered about this guy’s legend, Valleys of Neptune may not be the place to start exploring. But if you’re in the mood for some good, old-fashioned psychedelic rock, put it on and fire up a fatty – this music will certainly take you on a little trip.

May 16, 2010 Posted by | Jimi Hendrix Valleys Of Neptune | | Leave a comment

Album: Jimi Hendrix, Valleys Of Neptune (2010)

36m5From The Independent

Valleys Of Neptune is the opening salvo of what we’re promised is a “monumental” 2010 Hendrix Catalogue Project, involving various CD/DVD reissues of the original studio albums and, doubtless, several more ransackings of the tape vaults like this.

Heralded as representing the foundations for the follow-up to Electric Ladyland, all that Valleys Of Neptune confirms is that by this late stage of his career, Jimi was effectively a spent force creatively.

Why else would he bother to re-record studio takes of “Fire” and “Red House” again, two years after their appearance on his debut album? Or record a blues jam such as “Hear My Train Comin'” which borrowed so much from “Voodoo Chile” to such inferior ends? These are surely just warm-ups, just as the likes of “Stone Free” and Elmore James’s “Bleeding Heart” are rehearsals to help “bed in” Band Of Gypsys bassist Billy Cox.

As for the new material such as “Crying Blue Rain”, “Ships Passing Through The Night”, “Lullaby For The Summer” and “Valleys Of Neptune” itself, they sound like structural sketches, nondescript half-ideas that werenever developed. The early Experience try-out “Mr Bad Luck” is of little musical interest, while “Fire” and “Red House” offer the most compelling performances.

May 16, 2010 Posted by | Jimi Hendrix Valleys Of Neptune | | Leave a comment

The Faces – Too Drunk For The BBC


BBC “In Concert,” Paris Theater, London, England – February 8th, 1973

Silicone Grown, Cindy Incidentally, Angel, Memphis Tennessee, True Blue, I’d Rather Go Blind, You’re My Girl (I Don’t Want To Discuss It), Twistin’ The Night Away, It’s All Over Now, Miss Judy’s Farm, Maybe I’m Amazed, Three Button Hand Me Down, I’m Losing You

Too Drunk For The BBC is a lost Faces session recorded on February 8th, 1973 at the Paris Theater. It is said they sounded too drunk during the performance and this wasn’t aired, but finally did hit the airwaves by mistake in January 2003 on BBC6 digital.

It was released in the summer 2004 on the two disc CDR title In Concert 1973 (Trial-007), paired with the April 1st, 1973 Paris Theater “BBC In Concert” recording. The Vintage Masters Premium is the first silver manufactured edition for this tape. It is a clear and generally excellent sounding mono recording of the complete show that night with a cut in the tape following “It’s All Over Now” losing no music or (as far as we can tell) any talking.

The story about the band being too drunk for broadcast is an interesting one. The actual music performance is fine. The numbers all sound tight and there aren’t many big mistakes. But Rod Stewart’s song introductions ramble into incoherent nonsense half the time and, compared to other bands appearances on “In Concert,” don’t sound very professional.

The Faces did have the reputation for their loose bar-band aesthetic and this document is a perfect representative. What is also important, and something not generally discussed, is the undercurrent of sadness and melancholy that fuels their music. It is this feeling that one comes away with after listening to the broadcast in its entirety.

The tape begins with DJ John Peel saying, “The BBC has asked me to come along this evening and introduce to you five loveable young men whose music is currently taking the country by storm…The Faces.” Since this session occurs right after recording the last Faces LP Ooh La La and two months before it was released to the public, the band opens with the first two songs from the record. After “Silicone Grown” Rod Stewart says, “One. And now we’ll do two.”

“Cindy Incidentally” follows and it sounds much like a rewrite of Dylan’s “I Don’t Believe You.” Their cover of the Jimi Hendrix tune “Angel” had been a staple of their set and is played with a smattering of regret. At the song’s end Stewart says, “all the year round he end it with a do. He then comes here and he ends it with a clue.” (Maybe it’s an inside joke?)

After another cover tune they play “True Blue,” the first song on Rod Stewart’s Never A Dull Moment (given the set lists and line ups on his solo albums at this point, it is hard to see where The Faces end and his solo career begins). Afterwards he says, “‘True Blue’…is the number we just did. So we won’t be doing that one again tonight. In actual fact we’ll do another number that isn’t ‘True Blue’ just to make this into a programme, which is what John asked us to do.”

There is a strange exchange before a loose version of “Twisting The Night Away.” Someone from the audience shouts, “What is next?” Stewart replies, “do you want a job? Grab a guitar then. Come up here. Tell you what, that’s how I started out, standing in the back, shouting at the band, giving them abuse…so, what do we do now?” Ron Wood says, “I lost me list.” By the end of the show there is a very strange exchange before “Maybe I’m Amazed” which is buried down in the mix. “Three Button Hand Me Down” is “horrible” by Stewart’s own admission.

Before the final song “I’m Losing You” he says, “sorry, but the pubs are closing and we want to get there.” They deliver a dramatic, six minute version of one of their most effective cover songs. Kenny Jones’ brief drum solo is also included before the session ends and they hit the pubs. John Peel can be heard at the end of the tape saying, “The Faces. Still the best rock and roll band in the world for those of us who really care” as he thanks the band and the audience for coming.

Too Drunk For The BBC is packaged in a standard single jewel case with various live shots of the band on the artwork. Since none of this material appears on the Rhino box set Five Guys Walk Into A Bar it is a welcome site to see it released on silver discs. The playing is great and does have a fascinating atmosphere worth having.

May 16, 2010 Posted by | The Faces Too Drunk For The BBC | , | Leave a comment

Jimi Hendrix South Saturn Delta (1997)

From Wikipedia

South Saturn Delta is a posthumous Jimi Hendrix album compiled by the Hendrix estate that consists of material such as demo tapes, unfinished takes, previously released material that Hendrix had been working on prior to his death in 1970.

When the Hendrix family acquired the rights for Jimi’s catalog in 1995, they signed a contract with MCA Records (predecessor to the Universal Music Group) to release compilations of rare or newly discovered material. The first album that resulted of this contract was First Rays of the New Rising Sun, which was released in 1997 and was an attempt to rebuild the album left unfinished at Hendrix’s death. South Saturn Delta followed it some months later and is a collection of unreleased material. The track list includes tracks from out-of-print albums such as Rainbow Bridge (“Look Over Yonder”, “Pali Gap”); War Heroes (“Bleeding Heart”, “Tax Free”, “Midnight”); and Loose Ends (“The Stars That Play with Laughing Sam’s Dice”, “Drifter’s Escape”) along with new mixes of songs (“All Along the Watchtower”).

“Look Over Yonder” is an outtake from 1968 featuring the original Experience line-up. The incorrectly tagged “Little Wing” is a demo tape performed solely by Hendrix and Mitch Mitchell and musically identical to “Angel”. “Here He Comes (Lover Man)” is a well known Hendrix concert staple song that never made it to any of his albums. “South Saturn Delta” is a horn-laden funk-jazz song while “Power of Soul” and “Message to the Universe (Message to Love)” are studio versions of two Band of Gypsys tracks, the latter performed by Hendrix’s Woodstock band Gypsy Sun and Rainbows. “Tax Free” is a studio recording of the song written by the Swedish instrumental duo Hansson and Carlsson, occasionally played on stage by Hendrix. “All Along the Watchtower” is the same take that appears on the Electric Ladyland album, but this one is the earlier mix by Chas Chandler.

The stereo mix of “The Stars That Play with Laughing Sam’s Dice” (originally the B-side to “Burning of the Midnight Lamp”) is taken from the Loose Ends album, which was released in 1974 in Europe and Japan. “Midnight” is an instrumental song from the Electric Ladyland sessions. “Sweet Angel” is an early demo version of the song “Angel” featuring Hendrix using a primitive drum machine (the original tape had become slightly damaged some years back, but this was the only source for this song). “Bleeding Heart” is a jam based on an old blues song that appeared in 1972 on War Heroes and in 1994 on Blues. “Pali Gap” is an instrumental. “Drifter’s Escape” is a Bob Dylan cover that also appeared on Loose Ends. “Midnight Lightning” is a demo tape of Hendrix’s delta blues song featuring Hendrix alone tapping his foot to keep time while playing.

May 16, 2010 Posted by | Jimi Hendrix South Saturn Delta | | Leave a comment

Jimi Hendrix: Rainbow Bridge (1971)


Ahh, a surprise — more Hendrix in the studio. Of late a lot of inconcert Hendrix has surfaced; the full-side each on the Woodstock sets, the Isle of Wight performance on Columbia’s Rock Festivals set, the in-concert movie of Hendrix at Berkeley, as well as an English in-concert film with an accompanying soundtrack LP.

But Hendrix on stage and Hendrix in the studio are two animals of pretty divergent cellular structure. His later concerts involved a lot of extended instrumental jamming, as well as demonstrating his total mastery not only of the guitar, but of all its electronic accomplices like wah-wah pedals, fuzz tones, and reverb amps — he was able to recreate on stage most of the effects that were born in the studio. His knowledge of the electronic technology was amazing, and he utilized it to stretch the limits of sound experience — a tape-mixing console would definitely have to be listed as one of the instruments he was proficient on. He wasn’t into effect for gimmick value alone — it was always a part of a larger tapestry, and many of the innovations he made early use of (like track-panning, where the guitar swoops back and forth from channel to channel) are now standard procedure in album mixing. So, a Hendrix studio album showcases more than just his music alone — it’s his music in a special electronic frame, custom cut to size.

But, Rainbow Bridge (Reprise MS2040) is billed as a “sound track album,” so the question arises, what is a sound track? Is it an aural footpath? A mere vibration trail? Or the coalesced imaginings of an astral projectionist? In most cases, sound track albums seem designed as take-home souvenirs of a media experience, relying on deja-vu and memory flashes to recreate visceral emotions in the privacy of your head; it serves as a psychic tap, reopening emotions planted by the original cinematic experience.

With this album, that’s not how it is, but just in case you care, here’s where you can drive the first piton in your attempt on the summit of the understanding of the place of this album in the cosmic scheme of things; it’s the music heard in a movie that you may never ever see.

Rainbow Bridge has been billed as a “spiritual candy store” — it’s a cinema verite-styled exploration of aspects of one woman’s metaphysical searchings — which include scenes at the Rainbow Bridge Occult Center in Maui, as well as a Hendrix concert on the side of a volcano. Apparently, aside from the concert, Hendrix appears only briefly in the flick, doing a surreal rap, parts of which are reprinted with a high degree of illegibility on the inside of the jacket. At last report the film had been only shown once in England (reviewers were puzzled, to say the least), and as yet has no distributor — so it may not be seen for a long, long time. But that’s cool, the album exists as an entity all by itself. My suggestion would be to listen to it and then make up your own movie — it’ll probably be a lot more relevant to what you’re up to anyway.

The album opens with “Dolly Dagger,” a track that was billed as the next Hendrix single at the time of his death (it is now indeed a single). It’s based on a typical Hendrix rhythm riff and sawtooth rising chorus — “She’s so heavy she’ll make you stagger … she drinks her blood from the jagged edge “— a tale of a warp-nine chick told with drive and morse-code pulsing guitar lines — what a groove this would be on the highway at 3 AM! “Earth Blues” features a chorus that includes the Ronettes (the Ronettes?) — they sing a descending line of “Love, love, love” as Hendrix weaves a spacy soul version of a “we-gotta-get-it-together” lyric — this has the sound of Electric Church music that Hendrix spoke of trying to build.

“Pali Gap” is a studio cut, despite the title — it features Hendrix’s one-time mentor Juma Edwards on percussion. (Backing throughout the album is mostly just bass and drums, Billy Cox and Mitch Mitchell respectively.) This is an instrumental that reflects the jazz-like explorations that Hendrix was getting into for awhile, when he was in Woodstock — it was cut July 1st, 1970, along with two other tracks included here. It flows in waves, rippling like wine running slowly down dusk-lit marble stones.

The next track, “Room Full Of Mirrors,” was written around the time of Hendrix’s Toronto bust and features Buddy Miles on drums. The overdubbed guitars swoop into glass-edged regions as Hendrix sings “I used to live in a room full of mirrors, now the whole world is there for me to see.” The first side ends with a really majestic version of the “Star Spangled Banner.” In concert this became a vehicle for commentary, as Hendrix’s guitar created the sounds of sirens, bombs and guns (in the Berkeley movie his performance is inter-cut with shots of Berkeley riots). This is an early version, utilizing only guitars, overdubbed in three or four layers. It was cut in March, 1969, and though there is anger and chaos there, it hadn’t yet become rage — this version is almost stately, you can’t help but soar a bit with it, no matter what connotations the melody has placed on you.

Side two opens with “Look Over Yonder,” the oldest track included here. Cut in October, 1968, it features the original Experience backing of Mitch Mitchell and Noel Redding — it’s almost in the mode of the first album in feeling and execution. Hendrix lays down some squeaky chunks of solid rhythm before the ending growls to a swirling close.

The next track is the only live one, cut at the Memorial Day concert in Berkeley. It’s “Hear My Train A Comin’,” a number Hendrix frequently used in his last series of concerts. The chordal structure is like old blues, but Hendrix is a true Voodoo Chile, and his demons are more electric and schizophrenic than those of Robert Johnson, the great delta bluesman who in many ways can be considered Hendrix’s spiritual father. Hendrix has gained most notoriety as a complex and spaced stylist, but you shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that he was a motherfucker bluesman as well. (I remember a Midwest concert where he totally tranced out a non-blues audience with a long ballsy version of “Red House” — Hendrix plays Delta blues for sure — only the Delta may have been on Mars.)

“Hey Baby” is the final track. It’s a riff that Hendrix explored a lot in concert — simple but evocative — and filled with a pure lonesome yearning and introspection that often got squeezed out in favor of things with more flash. Hendrix plays a few choruses, then asks, “Is the microphone on?” Getting an affirmative reply, he improvises some lyrics about a love-spreading chick crossing Jupiter’s sands. It’s a benediction and a hoping at once — and proves that though Hendrix deserves every bit of acclaim he got as a tripping companion, he was also a mood spinning, afternoon back porch sitter of the mind as well. And there, almost too soon, the album ends.

In many ways this is one of Hendrix’s best albums — it’s diverse, but not a goulash. His last official album, Cry Of Love, seemed somehow hollow, populated with skeletons of ideas — structures not quite fleshed out, in two dimensions only, wavering in and out of focus in the third plane. Here they are full, and full of spirit. Though there are technical drawbacks that might have precluded their release if Hendrix lived (ragged endings, out of tune choruses, etc.), they certainly don’t detract from the essence. Hendrix was a stone perfectionist, and it’s been rumored that there are enough tracks for at least several more albums in the can — but they will probably not be released, as Hendrix wasn’t satisfied with them. There is an element of greed in all of us, and sure, I’d like to hear more — but I’d rather respect his wishes and take what he considered done en ough to let go. This album falls into that category, I believe, and is a strong addition to his legacy — not like the various “Early Hendrix” ripoffs going around, where everybody who ever taped a jam session is issuing LPs.

This is also, by the way, a fine earphone album. Some records need rooms to reverberate in, this one (as are most of his) seems to be aimed directly at the inner ear — and earphones clarify and separate the levels of the structures into the component parts.

There may be a few more concert albums yet to come, but this is probably the last of Hendrix in a studio.

And it’s late and raining, and the wine has wound its way down now — I just want to say Jimi that it’s gotten pretty gray down here since you split … and there’s a lot of Foxey Ladys lying lonely tonight. Drop in again sometime man, we all need all the help we can get.

May 16, 2010 Posted by | Jimi Hendrix Rainbow Bridge | | Leave a comment

Nick Drake – Five Leaves Left (1969)

From BBC Music

Twenty years ago Nick Drake was a distinctly word-of-mouth proposition whose slim back catalogue was shared by a select few. Nowadays, thanks to championing by the likes of Paul Weller, as well as a series of books and TV and radio documentaries (cf: Radio 2’s effort hosted by Brad Pitt!), Nick’s a household name. This may account for the recent avalanche of ‘sensitive’ singer songwriters but it’s hard not to be still floored by the beauty of his first album.

Discovered by Fairport Convention’s Ashley Hutchings and signed to Joe Boyd’s Witchseason production company Drake was pigeonholed as a ‘folk’ artist. Five Leaves Left, recorded on a shoestring in 1969, boasted a cast of players who had paid their dues forging the new genre of folk rock (ie: Fairport’s Richard Thompson and Pentangle’s Danny Thompson); but this was a whole different kettle of
Englishness, with more than a hint of jazz about it. Sung in the semi-whispered tones that betrayed no hint of ersatz rurality, these cryptic songs of reflection and emotional ‘otherness’ were propelled by the one thing that had attracted Boyd to Drake: His idiosyncratic open-tuned picking style “Cello Song”.

Drake is often painted as a retiring man, yet he was often extremely vocal over his muse. He and Boyd initially fought over Drake’s wish for a stripped back approach (which he eventually found on his last masterpiece, Pink Moon). In the end old college friend, Robert Kirby, provided orchestration that beautifully captured the yearning ‘autumnal’ element in the songs “Way To Blue” and “Day Is Done”.

What’s more, the string arrangement by Harry Robinson on “River Man” – possibly Drake’s finest song – succinctly turned his Delius-meets-folk-jazz opus into something that no one had ever heard before. It’s a key text for Drake fans, containing the return to nature matched against the infidelities of city life: A theme he would return to again and again, while the album title’s sly reference to smoker’s delights (as well as “Thoughts Of Mary Jane”) showed that Drake was no stranger to the standard musician’s indulgences.

Widely ignored upon its release, with hindsight it’s easy to see how such ignorance conspired to make Drake a bitter man. Yet ultimately all we can do is bask in the unique vision captured here and be grateful that, for a short period, Nick Drake was able to share it with us all.

May 16, 2010 Posted by | Nick Drake Five Leaves Left | | Leave a comment

Sacred Hearts & Fallen Angels: The Gram Parsons Anthology (2001)

From All Music Guide

Gram Parsons’ legend is so great that it’s easy for the neophyte to be skeptical about his music, wondering if it really is deserving of such effusive praise. Simply put, it is, and if you question the veracity of that statement, turn to Rhino’s peerless double-disc set, Sacred Hearts and Fallen Angels: The Gram Parsons Anthology.

This is the first truly comprehensive overview of Parsons’ work, running from the International Submarine Band, through the Byrds, to the Flying Burrito Brothers and his two solo albums, scattering appropriate rarities or non-LP tracks along the way. This is no small feat, since it depends on extensive cross-licensing between record labels, plus concentration from the compilers, who won’t allow personal biases to get in the way of telling the story. Miraculously, this happens, and the result is a lean, yet thorough, utterly addictive set that summarizes the brilliance of Gram Parsons, capturing his magnificent songwriting abilities and how he made country sound like rock & roll, while giving rock a sense of country’s history.

It’s possible to complain about the handful of omissions — “Break My Mind” is one of the greatest recordings he did with the Byrds, the version of “Do You Know How It Feels” is better with the Burritos, the barroom anthems of his solo records (“Cry One More Time,” “Big Mouth Blues,” “I Can’t Dance,” “Cash on the Barrellhead”) gave the weepers context — but this still hits every major point. After all, counting the early version of “Do You Know,” only two songs are missing from The Gilded Palace of Sin and only four songs are missing from the two-fer of GP/Grievous Angel, plus this has the best of the ISB, Byrds, and songs that didn’t make the solo album. So, even if there may be a personal favorite or two missing, nothing major is missing, which means this is a perfect, irresistible summation of Parsons’ career, containing every great moment from all of his bands. His genius has never seemed purer than it does here, since it conveys the true scope of his talents and his career.

If you are a fan of Parsons, this isn’t necessary, even if it is an excellent listen (there’s only one unreleased track, the ISB’s “Knee Deep in the Blues”). If you haven’t fallen in love with him, skip every other disc — this is what you need. Once you hear it, there’s no way that you won’t become a life-long fan.

May 16, 2010 Posted by | Gram Parsons Anthology | | Leave a comment

Robert Plant’s Record Collection

From Q magazine

BACK IN the Spring of 1968, things aren’t looking too rosy for 19-year-old singer Robert Plant. His promising group The Band Of Joy have just knocked it on the head, and now he fronts the frankly less than awesome Hobbstweedle.

“I had nowhere to live,” Robert recalls of those scuffling days in the blueswailing business, “and the keyboards player’s dad had a pub in Wolverhampton with a spare room. The pub was right over the road from Noddy Holder’s father’s window cleaning business, and Noddy used to be our roadie. We used to go to gigs with Noddy Holder’s dad’s buckets crashing around on top of the van! And that,” he divulges with an audible sigh of relief, “is when I met Pagey…”

Accompanied by his fellow ex-Yardbird, Chris Dreja, Jimmy Page had made the trek to the teachers’ training college in Birmingham where Hobbstweedle were gigging that night. They had plans afoot for a New Yardbirds, and the screaming ‘Tweedle had been recommended by Terry Reid as being the man they were after. Pagey was impressed, and invited the impoverished Plant down to his plush Thameside resident in Pangbourne for further investigation: “And I had to do this very thing which we’re doing now – we played records and talked about them to see how we were placed.”

These records included Muddy Waters’s ‘You Shook Me’, ‘Babe I’m Gonna Leave You’ by Joan Baez – “we both liked her”, and Fairport Convention with Judy Dyble – “‘If I Had A Ribbon Bow’ was a great song” – ‘She Said Yeah’ by Larry Williams, and ‘Justine’ by Don & Dewey. Suffice to say, Robert Plant’s taste in records placed him very well – and thus lifted off Led Zeppelin….

Twenty two years later, Robert Plant sits cross-legged in the music room of his London pied-a-terre, an elegant yet somehow funky Victorian terrace house tucked in a quiet square just a minute’s cycle ride from Regent’s Park. His rural retreats in Worcestershire and Wales are where he keeps most of his albums – but no matter, for he is surrounded by scads of that soon-to-be museum piece, the good old jukebox-compatible single. The man who first threatened to give us every inch of his love over two decades ago still prefers to get his own kicks in seven-inch lengths, a passion which first stirred at the age of six with the recently deceased Nabob of Sob.

“I remember Johnny Ray. His voice and Presley’s had a similarity – and in fact Presley was influenced by him and did his song ‘Such A Night’ on his Elvis Is Back album. Ray’s masculine whimper was remarkable, really. When you were holding your dad’s hand and looking up at all the men around on the street, nobody was making that noise.”

This was the era of Sunday Night At The London Palladium on TV, where Robert, by now 10, saw Buddy Holly And The Crickets. Buddy’s Fender Statocaster made a particular impression: “Nobody had really seen one in Britain. It was an incredible symbol of what I hadn’t got my hands on yet. But I was still only 10 and hadn’t bought a record yet, though I used to do Elvis impersonations behind the curtains in my living room, especially the ballad ‘Love Me’ from Elvis’ Golden Records Volume 1.” Next came the teen rebellion of Eddie Cochran’s ‘Summertime Blues’, and then – hurrah! – Robert’s first slice of the American rock ‘n’ roll dream….

“At Christmas 1960 I was given my first Dansette Conquest Auto Major, in red and cream – I’ve still got it and used it until Led Zeppelin II so I didn’t hear the stereo effect on ‘Whole Lotta Love’ for about six months!” he fondly recalls. “When I opened it up, on the turntable was ‘Dreamin’’ by Johnny Burnette, with ‘Cincinatti Fireball’ on the B-side, something I’ve always wanted to record. And then I got my first record token and went out and bought ‘Shop Around’ by The Miracles. On the B-side was ‘Who’s Lovin’ You’, a remarkable ballad. Smokey’s wife was in the band, and I’ve got the Hi! We’re The Miracles album on Tamla where they’re all holding letters up on the cover. Smokey has the most remarkable voice. I love the wail and the whimper, and in my own white boy way I sing like that – the adamance and the pleading, the miserable, moaning, weakboy stamping his authority on the next line. It’s a style that’s vanished now.”

Back then singles cost 6/9d and LPs were 32 shillings – “except for the Golden Guinea records, which were 21 shilling Pye releases” – so young record buyers spent their pocket money discriminatingly. And, of course, they all tuned into Radio Luxembourg, checking out the Stateside sounds of Chris Kenner, ‘Sacred’ by The Castells, ‘Once In A While’ by The Chimes, “late doo-wop Italian stuff.”

Then came such British obscurities as Michael Cox’s ‘Sweet Little Sixteen’.

“There was a faction at school which around ’63 moved towards the clipped, English style of Joe Meek’s productions on his RGM label, like ‘Can’t You Hear My Heart’ by Danny Rivers,” Robert remembers. “Meek became a hero of mine, especially for the guitar sound played by Big Jim Sullivan. It would be unfair to say the Americans had it all at the time. The songs were pretty weedy but the sound was churning confusion. Joe Meek would make the guitarist put his amp in the cupboard and stuff – that was how we used to do it with Zep.”

The sounds of ’62 and thereabouts still exercise a powerful nostalgic pull for Robert.

“I did a radio show quite by accident – a collectors’ programme on Friday nights on BBC Radio Shropshire,” he chuckles. “I ws driving up to Manchester, and tuned in, hearing them get into the finer side of British instrumentals. The DJ said anyone looking for particular records should call in, so I pulled up and rang, asking for ‘Caravan Of Lonely Men’ by The Lafayettes, released on RCA in 1963. I got back in the car, and on the radio the DJ said, ‘Well, I don’t know if it’s true but we’ve had this chap who says he’s Robert Plant and he’s after this Lafyettes track produced by Hugo and Luigi.’ Within five minutes a chap called Norman from Bradford called up to say he had it. I rang up, sent him a fiver and got it. Great! I was a Ted for about a week and a half until I found Drinamyl and pills.”

Robert Plant also found the blues, whose first distant booming in the clubs of London and the Home Counties began to reach the Midlands. His first exposure came via the package tours that came to the Wolverhampton Gaumont, where his hip young uncle and aunt would take the just teen Robert: “In 1963 I saw a bill that had The Rattles, Mickie Most And The Most Men, Bo Diddley, Little Richard, The Everly Brothers and The Rolling Stones. Now that’s an evening; all that for 7/6d – 371/2p! Diddley was superb. I was sweating with excitement! Although the Stones were great, they were really crap in comparison with Diddley – all his rhythms were so sexual, just oozing, even in a 20-minute spot.

“One of my favourite records is Bo Diddley’s ‘Say Man’, on the back of an instrumental called ‘The Clock Strikes 12’, which had electric violin. I bought it in a department store record sale. ‘Say Man’ was a conversation between two guys about how ugly their women were, set to a Latin American beat. Also bought in a department store sales was ‘I Love You’ by The Volumes, ‘I Sold My Heart To The Junkman’ by Patti Labelle and The Blue Belles, and probably the last great doo-wop song. ‘My True Story’ by The Jive Five on Beltone. That’s another one I’ve got to do.”

Like Bo, Solomon Burke, Arthur Alexander and Ben E. King were milestones on the road to deep blues. That fateful first blues LP was Muddy Waters Live At Newport 1960: “’I’ve Got My Mojo Working’ was a walking testament of why I lived. Then I got The Blues Volume 1 which came out on Pye International; it was a sampler with Buddy Guy Jimmy Witherspoon, Howlin’ Wolf, Chuck Berry and Little Walter – once you’ve got that, everything else was of little consequence. It wasn’t hip to like the Stones because you’d got the American thing – EPs were coming out like Chuck & Bo and This is Chuck Berry – the real thing. The Howlin’ Wolf EP Smokestack Lightning was available everywhere, and you kept finding more and more stuff – Earl Hooker, Charley Patton…”

Robert became a regular at The Diskery in Brimingham, delving deep into the seam that ran from the Delta to Chicago. “I got a series of French RCA EPs with Jazz Gillum, the original Sonny Boy Williamson with sleevenotes by Alexis Korner. I worked with Alexis Korner just pre-Zep. I used to sleep at his place in Queensway. Goodnight, Robert, he’d say; you’ll have to sleep on the couch tonight – oh, by the way, it is the same couch that Muddy used to sleep on when he stayed here. And I don’t know if we’ve changed the toilet bowl since Buddy Guy was here…This was fabulous – I’m only from Wolverhampton, you know!

“The Wynonie Harris–type jump blues I thought was slush, but quite like now: when I started listening to Roy Milton and Roy Brown, I thought yeah! – I really like this after all. That’s where The Honeydrippers came from” Robert recalls the origins of his bestselling 1984 covers LP. “Blues gave me my first band titles – my first band was The Black Snake Moan, after Blind Lemon Jefferson, and the second was The Crawling King Snakes after a brilliant John Lee Hooker track.”

By ’66, Robert fronted his first pro band, Listen: “Very sound orientated,” he recalls, “but the following year The Band Of Joy was West Coast and blues based. You can’t really do ‘Pouring Water (On A Drowning Man)’ by James Carr – you could never get anywhere near it. At least West Coast was white, an extension of the garage punk stuff on the East Coast, which had come from The Animals and The Yardbirds. I could relate to it, and in fact The Band Of Joy could play better than a lot of the groups we were listening to. But essence of Moby Grape was something we hadn’t got. The first Moby Grape album, The Fugs, Buffalo Springfield., Love’s single ‘My Little Red Book’, and ‘She Has Funny Cars’ by Jefferson Airplane – fantastic! And also American garage punk – Count Five,? and The Mysterians, ‘Liar, Liar’ by the The Castaways…

AT 41 I’ve still got my music. I’m as earnest now as I ever was,” Robert Plant brings us up to date. He sure ain’t kidding, as lapping his ankles are treasures ranging from Otis Rush, Snooks Eaglin and Aaron Neville to Big Black, Robyn Hitchcock, Glen Branca (“I like discordancy”). The Band Of Holy Joy (“Ha!”)m and Sinead O’Connor – ‘She captivates me, wins my heart, wins my whole being!” he raves. It’s a record collection added to during Zep’s US tours, when he’d comb the ten-cent bins on days off, and extending from the early reggae cuts of Delroy Wilson to the Berber music of Raissa Rkya Dansirya and Fairuz.

But Robert Plant remains at heart a rocker. A signed album by Gene Vincent is one of his “pride and joys” and he has collected the complete vinyl of Ral Donner, who “for half a minute challenged Presley.” At rock’n’roll nights at the Camden Working Men’s Club, where the purists tease him for looking like a girl, he thrills to the utterly demented likes of ‘Scream!’ by Ralph Neilsen and the Chancellors, and Hasil Adkins’ ‘She Said’: “During quiet times with Zep I used to record with chums,” Robert chortles. “Every Christmas this chap from my village pub would get pissed and sing doo-wop carols in the bar – so well, in fact, that we rented a studio in Worcester and cut ‘Three Months To Kill’ by Heulyn Duvall on Challenge and ‘Buzz Buzz A Diddly’ by Freddy Cannon, for Bird’s Nest Records. Melvyn Giganticus and The Turd Burglars was the name of our group, because he had a huge penis – bigger, I think, than Paul Young’s!”

Apropos burglary, Robert cites the unlikely influence of ‘Tomorrow’s Clown’ by Marty Wilde: John Lennon, he says, lifted its string part for ‘How Do You Sleep’, while Robert himself has taken its first line, “In the evening….” Led Zeppelin enthusiasts may well be more familiar with an obscure Fontana EP called Treasures of North American Negro Music. It includes two Blind Willie Johnson tunes; ‘Dark Is The Night, Cold Is The Grave’ (“Basically it’s the entire theme for Paris, Texas by Ry Cooder”) – and ‘Nobody’s Fault But Mine’. Led Zep’s version on the LP Presence, funnily enough, is credited to Page/Plant.

“Oh look!” Robert brandishes a boxed copy of Glen Campbell’s 1961 hitlet turn ‘Around Look At Me’ on the Crest label. “It’s got ‘Rob’ written on it – I was familiar with myself even then!”

Robert Plant’s Personal Favourites

The Phantom: ‘Love Me’ (Dot)

“Because he was on Dot, he was presumed to be pat Boone’s brother, but because he wore a mask like The Lone Ranger nobody could tell. (His real name is said to be Marty Lott.) It’s a perfect piece of recording – you can’t understand a word and you don’t care!”

Faith No More: Introduce Yourself (London)

“Their first album. It’s like, I, ME, listen to this! and if you don’t like it, fuck off!!! You can’t spend all your life whimpering away about the ex-wife. The vocal attitude – the hard, heavy garage rap – I like very much.”

Tom Verlaine: ‘Five Miles of You’ on LP Cover (Virgin)

“This album is a real favourite; I play it a lot and it’s really scratched. I like albums – much better than CDs.

Ray Charles: ‘What’d I Say’ on LP The Right Time (Atlantic)

“It was very popular, it was covered like crazy. It helped a lot of English musicians develop a real attitude, to get their musical personalities sharpened up.”

The Incredible String Band: ‘Swift As The Wind’ on LP The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter (Elektra)

“Some of the greatest times I’ve had was at a String Band show, just being carried away by the whole experience.”

Howlin’ Wolf: ‘Going Down Slow’ on LP Chess Masters(Chess)

“Because of the guitar outro by Hubert Sumlin. Listen to Hubert, I tell my guitarist Doug Boyle; listen to that finer tremolo on the end of that track.”

This Mortal Coil: ‘Song to The Siren’ on LP It’ll End In Tears (4AD)

“I like the Tim Buckley original too but I’ll go with this version. It’s so rewarding to hear it on US college radio.”

Robert Johnson: ‘Traveling Riverside Blues’ on LP KIng of The Delta Blues Singers Volumes 1 and 2 (CBS)

“Squeeze my lemon till the juice runs down my leg…’ On tour in Memphis, I rented a car and drove down to Mississippi, to Fryers Point, as in the song. Very strange place, very African, very other-wordly. Sleepy, woodsmoke fires, big trees all around, burnt-out motels, deserted gas stations…”

The Cure: ‘Lullaby’ on LP Disintegration (Fiction)

“I love Robert Smith’s beckoning you into his vulnerability. It’s an interesting little world, like H.G. Wells’s History Of Mr Polly.”

Elvis Presley: ‘A Big Hunk O’Love’ on LP The All Time Greatest Hits (RCA)

“The RCA stuff was very precise, very produced, yet wild enough at times. ‘Don’t be a stingy little mommal You’re about to starve me half to death/ Now you can spare a kiss or two/ and still have plenty left.’ Oh Morrissey, let’s have some more of that!”


Led Zeppelin: ‘Kashmir’ on LP Physical Graffiti (Swan Song)

“It’s so right – there’s nothing overblown, no vocal hysterics. Perfect Zeppelin.”

May 16, 2010 Posted by | Robert Plant's Record Collection | | Leave a comment

Gram Parsons Archives Volume 1: Gram Parsons with the Flying Burrito Brothers Live at the Avalon Ballroom 1969


Live at the Avalon Ballroom is the rock equivalent of the Jackson Pollock discovered at a flea market, or the first-edition William Faulkner found in the dollar bin at a used book store. These recordings of the Flying Burrito Brothers’ two shows in San Francisco in April 1969 were long buried in the Grateful Dead vaults (which many listeners speak of in the same terms explorers once used for El Dorado) until Dave Prinz, the co-founder of Amoeba Records, tracked them down and worked for more than a year to secure permissions from the Dead’s soundman, Owsley “Bear” Stanley. Prinz compiled the recordings into a 2xCD set (one for each show) and released them on the newly launched Amoeba Records label– its second release, in fact. The title, Archives Volume 1: Live at the Avalon Ballroom 1969, teases with the tacit promise of a second volume– more buried treasure.

For Parsons fans, this constitutes a major event– perhaps more anticipated than even Rhino’s long-awaited reissue of his two solo albums in 2006– not only because it contains numerous unheard covers, but primarily because Parsons didn’t leave a whole lot of live material behind when he died in 1973. Even the supposedly “live” medley from Grievous Angel was just a studio re-creation, and the real live recordings that survive are marred by poor sound quality or, in some cases, poor performances. Live documents of Parsons’ short tenure with the original Flying Burrito Brothers line-up are even scarcer. What makes Live at the Avalon Ballroom so special is that the performance is just as good as the sound quality. As professional hanger-on Pamela “Burrito Sister” Des Barres writes in the liners, “I have literally been waiting for this album for decades.”

As promising as that title is, the artist credit– Gram Parsons with the Flying Burrito Brothers– is misleading. Parsons may have stood center stage in 1969, but this was truly a Burrito Brothers show. The band sounds tremendous on the first disc, with a superlatively tight rhythm section carrying each song and Sneaky Pete Kleinow adding flourishes of pedal steel. Striking the right balance of tight C&W showmanship and loose hippie slack, they plow into Little Richard’s “Lucille” and the Buck Owens hit “Close Up the Honky Tonks”, which opens the show on a raucous note. But the Burrito Brothers prove just as adept and controlled on slower songs like the down-hearted “Dark End of the Street” and “Hot Burrito #1”, one of the band’s best compositions. “Hot Burrito #2” breaks down into a short jam lead by Parsons’ organ licks, and “Sin City”, the band’s contribution to country music moralism, sounds sturdy and steadfast as it closes the first night with apocalyptic images of “the Lord’s burnin’ rain” falling on Los Angeles. Of course, they all flub their cues on the later performance of Delaney and Bonnie’s “We’ve Got to Get Ourselves Together”, but there’s a certain charm to their stoner haze, especially on their nearly a cappella reading of the Everly Brothers’ “When Will I Be Loved” (a bonus track on what might be considered a bonus release), which emphasizes their homey harmonies.

But it’s Parsons who remains squarely in the spotlight, then as now. The late musician has become such a legend that it’s nice to hear him sound so human on Live at the Avalon Ballroom, haphazardly addressing the audience or even simply introducing the songs. It’s all so mundane that it makes him much more compelling than the myths that surround him. Furthermore, these two concerts showcase his effortless vocals; Parsons may not have had the most commanding voice, but he used it well, intuitively interpreting songs like “Undo the Right” and “Dark End of the Street” so that they fit perfectly and naturally among the Burrito originals. George Jones may still have the definitive take on “She Once Lived Here”, but Parsons makes the song newly devastating, affecting a precarious quaver in his voice on the verses and keening more boldly on the chorus. And his solo piano performance of “Thousand Dollar Wedding”– not part of the concert, but a demo dug up by Parsons’ road manager Jimmi Seiter– completely reinvents the song, slowing it even more from its familiar country gait and reveling in its left-at-the-altar heartbreak.

Ultimately, Live at the Avalon Ballroom shows these songs in continual flux, as the band constantly reinvent and reinterpret them via the circumstances of the performance and the whims of the individuals. Even though the tracklists for these discs are nearly identical, the shows themselves aren’t redundant. Instead, they reveal the Burrito Brothers’ considerable musical chemistry while providing a useful historical document of the nights they turned the Avalon into a rowdy roadhouse.

May 16, 2010 Posted by | The Flying Burrito Brothers Avalon Ballroom 1969 | | Leave a comment