Classic Rock Review

The home of old record and bootleg reviews…

Led Zeppelin For Badgeholders Only (LA Forum, June 1977)


The Forum, Los Angeles, CA – June 23rd, 1977

Disc 1 (68:02): The Song Remains The Same, Sick Again, Nobody’s Fault But Mine, Over The Hills And Far Away, Since I’ve Been Loving You, No Quarter

Disc 2 (62:05): Ten Years Gone, The Battle Of Evermore, Going To California, Black Country Woman, Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp, White Summer, Black Mountain Side, Kashmir, Trampled Underfoot

Disc 3 (64:14): Moby Dick, guitar solo, Achilles Last Stand, Stairway To Heaven, Whole Lotta Love, Rock And Roll

When SODD announced the release of For Badge Holders Only it struck me as a redundant rehash. This is one of the all time great Led Zeppelin show with several excellent audience recordings and it begged the question of why we need another one. SODD took a different tactic in handling this show which turns out to be a blessing for collectors.

Instead of utilizing the Mike Millard recording, they instead use the excellent audience recording that surfaced back in the late seventies on the Dragonfly vinyl label. This was done several times in the past but they are either out of print and hard to find or extremely expensive.

SODD utilize the Dragonfly source and fill the cuts with the rare fair to good audience recording for the most part. The the alternate tape is most noticeable for “The Song Remains The Same,” 6:37 to 7:06 after “Over The Hills And Far Away,” 8:56 to 9:01 after “Since I’ve Been Loving You,” 19:03 to 19:30 in “No Quarter,” 5:05 to 6:08 in “The Battle Of Evermore” and the Millard source is used and fifteen seconds after the song, 5:58 to 6:30 in “White Summer,” and several seconds after “Kashmir.” The edits are not poorly handled between the sources.

The concert is one of the most laid back, loose and exciting of the entire eleventh tour. There were many problems beginning with Jimmy breaking his guitar strap during “The Song Remains The Same”. He had to finish playing the song sitting on the drum riser and is the cause for the break before “Sick Again”. John Paul Jones misses a cue two minutes into “Kashmir” causing a breakdown in the song until they get it together again, and Page loses his guitar in “Trampled Underfoot”. But none of that detracts from the great performances contained in this set.

Many consider this version of “No Quarter” to be the greatest ever version of the piece. The arrangements of this song was unique to this tour where the improvisational middle was divided into the “boogie” first half and the “heavy” second half. A perfect expression of the “light and shade” ethos and the contrast in this version work perfectly. “Ten Years Gone” and the acoustic set are carried along by Plant’s running joke about the badge holders referring the band’s entourage and their groupies.

The show is also famous for Keith Moon crashing the stage during “Moby Dick” and playing along with John Bonham. This is the only time they ever played together onstage and is one of those spontaneous moments that make us thank God for bootlegs. Page includes both the “Star Spangled Banner” and “God Save The Queen” in his guitar solo leading into a ferocious version of “Achillies Last Stand”. “Stairway To Heaven” is also very good with an interesting guitar solo played over the grand piano.

Moon joins the band onstage again for the encores accompanied by Plant banging on the drums and brings to end a unique concert that is an essential part of any collection. SODD offer an excellent alternative to what is normally done with this show. They also didn’t not remaster the tape either as they sometimes do with their Rolling Stones releases. This is one of the better titles released on this label.

April 11, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin For Badge Holders Only | , | Leave a comment

Beady Eye Different Gear, Still Speeding (2011)

BeadyEye-DifferentGearStillSpeedingFrom The NME

With so much hostility and hyperbole surrounding Beady Eye, half the music world getting ready to laugh, the other half expecting big things, ‘Different Gear, Still Speeding’ is something of an anti-climax on first listen. Neither disaster nor classic, the album nevertheless has to be regarded as something of triumph, since it manages to put clear water between Beady Eye and Oasis. And the biggest surprise is that, away from Noel, Liam hasn’t just turned this group into the ultimate Faces-style lads’ band.

Instead, this album is, well, quite soft actually. Carefree too. Sunkissed. Sweet, even. Without that self-confessed control freak to please, it seems the pressure’s off. Sure, this means the quality control isn’t always there, but that weight of simply being Oasis, which made their latter albums quite tense listens, has been lifted. It allows this album to coast through even its dodgy moments and emerge as a loose and easy proposition.

To instantly undermine the above point, the opening track, ‘Four Letter Word’, is as aggressive a song as anything Liam’s sung since ‘Bring It On Down’. We say ‘sung’, it’s more like he bites off chunks of lyrics and spits them out again. With sweeping John Barry strings adding drama, it’s one of those outpourings of inarticulate rage that yer man embodies. “I don’t know what it is I’m feeling/A four letter word, well, you get my meaning”, puts it awkwardly, but it’s all in the delivery, and as he goes on, “Nothing ever last forever”, it’s obvious this is intended as a line drawn with the past.

With that done, Andy Bell’s ‘Millionaire’ kicks back with a big dopey grin for an instantly loveable country song that’s very ‘Beggars Banquet’-era Stones, painted over by, well, Salvador Dalí. “Sweet Salvador, the shadows painted and the light he saw/The way I see it now so clear, like diamonds on the water”. Liam’s always been a surrealist at heart, but still, him cooing about Dalí is unexpected. It neatly tees up Beady Eye’s obsession with dreaming, mind. Every song is ‘dream this, dream that’, all woozy production. It’s not surrealism, of course, it’s psychedelia, but a gentler kind than ‘Dig Out Your Soul’.

‘Wind Up Dream’ is a ramped-up reworking of Lennon’s ‘I’m Only Sleeping’, which has nice lyrical twists, a good bit of harp and even Liam doing a proper ‘Woo!’. Yes, a woo. Noel wouldn’t have let him do a woo. ‘For Anyone’ is a West Coast love song with Liam singing at the top of his range, pledging he’ll be “forever by your side”. Lovely. The psych peaks with the six-minute ‘Wigwam’, about an early morning stumble home which surrounds its booze blues in an Eastern drone, but then lifts itself out of self-pity with a gospel climax that aims for Spiritualized heights of Hosanna and nearly damn gets there.

These are all fine songs, and really this album could have been, not ‘Definitely Maybe’, but a more obvious triumph, were it not for a few duds. ‘The Roller’ is a by-numbers lumpen rock song that reeks of Stereophonics’ ass. ‘Three Ring Circus’ works a little better, but again its uninspiring semi-anthemic rock is exactly what you’d expect from the ex-Oasis boys. But next to ‘Beatles And Stones’, even that sounds like a classic. Ugh, this one is a careless, tasteless imitation of ‘My Generation’, with Liam singing, “I’m gonna stand the test of time like Beatles and Stones”.

Bad times, which not even Liam’s consistently sensational delivery can save, but there’s more good stuff. ‘The Beat Goes On’ is a big positive ‘All You Need Is A Lennon Songbook’ number, which works as their ‘Champagne Supernova’. “I’m the last of a dying breed/And it’s not the end of the world/It’s not even the end of the day”, goes Liam, seemingly wistful for himself. Closer ‘The Morning Sun’ is another hazy beach-bum song that works very nicely indeed.

But it’s that initial first hit of Beady Eye, ‘Bring the Light’, that really elevates this album. It’s probably the one song that Oasis would never, ever have recorded, and in its breathless, spontaneous spirit is properly exhilarating. Piano is at the fore of the proper ’50s rock’n’roll production, but it’s not so much Jerry Lee Lewis that Liam’s most channelling with his “c’mon”s, it’s Ike & Tina Turner. At its furious peak it justifies the creation of this band at a stroke.

What Noel will make of ‘Different Gear, Still Speeding’ is anyone’s guess. How it’ll resonate with the public is a more immediate question. It remains to be seen how many people will be going to Beady Eye gigs expecting Oasis songs, get disappointed and never return. But in taking on the tough task of establishing themselves as more than ‘Oasis Without The Decent Songwriter’, Beady Eye have succeeded with some aplomb.

April 11, 2013 Posted by | Beady Eye Different Gear Still Speeding | , | Leave a comment

Led Zeppelin Shout That Loud (Madison Square Garden, September 1970)


Madison Square Garden New York September 19, 1970

Disc One 69:24:- Introduction 1:02 Immigrant Song 3:09 Heartbreaker 6:39 Dazed and Confused 16:12 Bring it on Home 9:27 Tribute to Jimi Hendrix 2:09 That’s the Way 6:37 Bron-Y-Aur 2:43 Since I’ve Been Loving You 7:21 Organ Solo 6:47 Thank You 7:12

Disc Two 72:19:- What Is And What Should Never Be 4:53 Moby Dick 11:37 Whole Lotta Love 23:15 (includes Boogie Chillin’/ Dust My Broom/ Bottle Up and Go/ Lawdy Miss Clawdy/ Cinnamon Girl/ Some Other Guy/ Train Kept A Rollin’/ I’m a King Bee/ Baby Don’t You Want Me to Go/ CC Rider) Out on the Tiles 3:07 Communication Breakdown 8:07 (includes Gallows Pole) The Girl Can’t Help It/Twenty Flight Rock 5:26 How Many More Times 15:51 (includes Cadillac/Blueberry Hill)

How long did we really think it would take for the boot labels to get their hands on this recording and release it on silver discs? Especially, since the recording was generously made available to download for free by everyone, including the boot labels, off of the net by the taper of the show. (A huge thank you must go out to the taper of the show for sharing this gem of a concert for free). Electric Magic won the race to be the first boot label to release this incredible concert as Shout That Loud.

I understand that Empress Valley has just released this show as Requiem and another boot label released it under the title Final Daze. I have not heard either of these newer releases yet. Electric Magic’s Shout That Loud comes in a slimline double CD jewel case with live pictures circa 1970. It is packaged in an identical fashion to most of Electric Magic’s recent releases like Another Night On Blueberry Hill.

There have already been some excellent and detailed reviews of this concert from the folks who have downloaded it from the internet and shared their thoughts about it on Underground Uprising. So, I won’t go into detail about every song. I want to add to and/or reiterate some things about what has been said about this show. It is simply one of Led Zeppelin’s best performances in terms of their playing and set list. The band is absolutely on fire. We are treated to a unique medley in Whole Lotta Love.

The concert set list that includes Out On The Tiles, possibly the first live version of Gallows Pole ever played by the band (as part of Communication Breakdown), and How Many More Times as the final encore including Blueberry Hill are just a few of the treasures found here. The audience recording for the performance is very good for the time period. It comes in excellent stereo sound. It appears that Electric Magic downloaded this release from the internet (which I am told runs slightly fast – which means Electric Magic did not speed correct it).

The length of the discs and each song are very close to the internet version (One More For The Road). The songs have been indexed slightly differently between the two versions. Communication Breakdown and Gallows Pole are not indexed separately on the Electric Magic version. So, what is the difference between what you can download for free from the internet and this Electric Magic release? Electric Magic have “applied” their own brand of Equalization to the recording.

Fortunately, The EQ job does not include the strange metallic sound found on some of Electric Magic’s earlier releases. Electric Magic’s version emphasizes the lower frequencies which are quite pronounced during Moby Dick. One More For The Road has some balance and channel problems most notably during Heartbreaker and Dazed And Confused. Electric Magic was able to smooth those areas out to make for a more enjoyable listening experience.

Shout That Loud has less tape garble and distortion than One More For The Road. However, by equalizing the tape in this fashion Electric Magic have dulled the sound on their release. Put simply, the sound is not as dynamic as One More For The Road. Which version is better really depends on your preference.

Electric Magic’s Shout That Loud will appeal to listeners that like a smoother recording that emphasizes the lower frequencies. One More For The Road is more raw with a more dynamic sound quality, albeit, with the distortions intact from the original recording. I found both recordings to be enjoyable in their own ways. But, one of them costs nothing to download except a couple of blank CD’s. You do the math.

April 11, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin Shout That Loud | , | Leave a comment

Led Zeppelin The Return Of Destroyer (Cleveland, April 1977)


Richfield Coliseum, Cleveland, OH – April 28th, 1977

Disc 1: The Song Remains The Same, Sick Again, Nobody’s Fault But Mine, In My Time Of Dying, Surrender, Since I’ve Been Loving You, No Quarter, Ten Years Gone

Disc 2: The Battle Of Evermore, Going To California, Black Country Woman, Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp, White Summer/Black Mountain Side, Kashmir

Disc 3: Out On The Tiles/Moby Dick, guitar solo, Achilles Last Stand, Stairway To Heaven, Rock & Roll, Trampled Underfoot

The tape for Zeppelin’s second night in Cleveland is one of the strangest. The tapers were located a ways from the stage, they were experiencing problems with their equipment, and he and his friends were not shy about expressing their opinions throughout the entire show. It is also obvious one of his friends attended the previous evening’s concert and liked to tell the others which song is coming next. Despite these obstacles this is considered one of, if not the best, audience document outside of the tapes for Los Angeles. Its reputation is due to it being very clear and powerful. Zeppelin was the perfect band to use the Richfield Coliseum’s questionable acoustics to their advantage and the result sounds like battery artillery storming the beachhead to the delight of a packed house.

This tape has been known as The Destroyer since it was released shortly after the event. It was first released as a vinyl box set on the Smilin’ Ears Records label complete with the famous painting of the warriors huddled on top of one another. CD releases include Destroyer II on Silver Rarities, Destroyer II on Last Stand Disc, the famous Destroyer – Strongest Edition on The Diagrams Of Led Zeppelin and its reissue The Destroyer. It has appeared in three separate Tarantura box sets coupled with the soundboard recording from the previous evening’s concert in various quality. Finally it was issued in the Empress Valley Supreme Destroyers box set with the first Cleveland concert and the final Landover audience recording from May 30th.

These previous releases had various speed, editing and completeness issues. The Empress Valley version cut out almost fifteen minutes of “Moby Dick”. The TDOLZ first issue ran too slow. The Return Of Destroyer, released on the reformed Electric Magic label Live Remains, comes from very close to the master. It is very clear and powerful and runs at the correct speed. Some reviewers noted a cut and repeat at the beginning of “Nobody’s Fault But Mine”, but my copy doesn’t seem to have that. Perhaps this is a corrected edition?

The tape begins right when the house lights are turned off and the opening drum check in the dark. “The Song Remains The Same” begins as a furious pace that is slowed only by the three long blues based numbers on the first disc. I’ve wondered why they chose to play “Nobody’s Fault But Mine”, “In My Time Of Dying” and “Since I’ve Been Loving You” is a row and think replacing the middle song with “Over The Hills” later on in the tour was a smart move. But some people have pointed out that Plant gives one of this best vocal performances in these three. A fragment of “Surrender” is played before “Since”. It cuts in and cuts out eliminating any aural context presenting the listener with a mystery. Why was it played?

“No Quarter” contains the “Nutrocker” and is a welcome piece of levity in such a heavy concert. JPJ said the other band members wanted to keep this arrangement in the set list permanently. “Moby Dick” sounds massive in this recording (and the taper thinks “this sucks”), and the noise solo also sounds appropriately eerie. The finale, ”Stairway To Heaven” and the encores are also a great ending to a fantastic show. The Return Of Destroyer is one of the better versions of this tape available and is worth having. The only real criticism is with the packaging since the label utilizes blurry copies of very common photos. The Frank Frazetta painting “The Destroyer” has always been associated with this tape and should have been included. If the packaging were more appealing this would have been perfect. But the tape is what matters and this is a winner on that score.

April 11, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin The Return Of Destroyer | , | Leave a comment

Jimi Hendrix Hear My Music (2004)


This has been out for a couple of months now and it hasn’t been discussed here so I’ll post my review. In short it kicks *** and is completely essential for the dedicated Jimi fan. I’m sure many casual fans will enjoy this as well. Barrel scrapings it ain’t. IMO some of the tracks on Hear My Music are better than the stuff on the 4CD Purple box released a few years ago.

The focus of this set is on unreleased and (for the most part) unbooted studio material recorded with the original Experience at Olympic in February 1969. Most of the material is exploratory in nature but these are not loose jams with some guitar noodling – the JHE is in full flight here and the interplay between Jimi and Mitch is at times just amazing.

The highlight of the set for me the version of Ezy Ryder with Mitch and Noel. Jimi’s tone is just to die for here. While it’s more a string of Ezy Ryder riffs than the song proper IMO this instrumental run through kills the later versions done with the BOG and Cry of Love band. Jimi just drills the Ezy Ryder riffs into your skull. It’s much less funky than later versions but much more rockin’. As the take breaks down Jimi tears into the Star Spangled Banner. This will make you forget about the anaemic studio version of SSB on Rainbow Bridge.

This set contains on of my personal Jimi ‘holy grails’ – the unedited, original version of Trash Man. This inspired jam was one of the last studio recordings of the original Experience. Parts of this jam were released (sort of) in Frankenstein form on the Midnight Lightning LP. Alan Douglas mixed out all of Noel and Mitch’s parts replacing them with session musicians, cut the length of the track in half and changed around the order of the track. He shouldn’t of bothered. The original unaltered version presented here is much better than his creation. It’s so much more energetic and rocking with Mitch and Noel’s parts restored. Out of all of Jimi’s recordings Trash Man may be the most heavy metal. While it’s a very heavy, riff laden track it has some really beautiful melodic patterns that are unique to this performance. This is a very tight jam that could of been issued in Jimi’s lifetime without anyone blinking an eye.

Does anyone remember Drone Blues from Nine to the Universe? It’s makes it’s CD debut here and it is the unedited take so it’s a good bit longer than it was on LP. Possibly the funkiest Jimi playing ever here. The liner notes don’t got into but the story of this track is so cool. In short Jimi was at the Scene Club late one night/early one morning. A local kid who drummed in a NYC bar band was there with band and he mustered up the courage to approach Jimi. He tells Jimi he plays drums and Jimi says something to the effect of “meet me at the Record Plant at 5:30AM”. This kid shows up and jams with Jimi and Billy Cox for hours and this is one of the jams they recorded. It’s a little rougher than the other tracks on this disc but Jimi plays some hard funk riffs that must be heard to be believed. Just devastating stuff.

The disc closes with some solo Jimi guitar demos done at Olympic including the erstwhile Jimi original Gypsy Blood and 2 versions of Valley’s of Neptune (one on piano).

Sound quality is excellent. These are all professional multitrack recordings that weren’t bounced. I’m not sure but I guess Olympic was 8 track in 2/69 and the Record Plant stuff was 16 track in summer ’69? In any event the sound is not at all bootleg quality even though it’s on a boutique official bootleg label. Like all EH stuff it’s mastered loud but no noise reduction is used. Forget about the mastering and buy this for the performances. I can’t imagine any Jimi fans being disappointed with this. Let’s hope Dagger releases some more studio stuff in the future. I hope they release the long studio jams the Band of Gypsys did at the Record Plant a few weeks after the Fillmore concerts. If they unleash those on the public jaws will really drop…

April 11, 2013 Posted by | Jimi Hendrix Hear My Music | | Leave a comment

Rory Gallagher Deuce (1971)


One thing that Mr Gallagher constantly suffered from in the early Seventies was over productivity – the guy often tossed out two albums per year, and, while this is certainly not surprising from a technical side (after all, it’s not the immaculate production values of Dark Side Of The Moon we’re talking of: Rory always kept things basic and simple), one might actually wonder about, you know, the usual thing – how much time did he actually spend on fine tuning the material?

Deuce is just a typical follow-up: same style, same direction, same guitar tones, same bluesy patterns, but fewer interesting ideas and more generic solutions. On a worse day I wouldn’t have given this more than two, two-and-a-half stars or so; however, I just love the guy for all of his raw, sincere, hard-workin’ attitude, and I’m always ready to add an extra half-star out of generosity and – you said it! – adoration. Yup. Rory’s da man!

Now I already see the readers preparing to stone me with accusations of subjectivity and gruesome bias, but get this: there ain’t a single bad song on the album, just a bunch of boring ones. I mean, when Rory goes singing routine blues like ‘Should’ve Learnt My Lesson’, it can’t but be a disappointment – after all, wasn’t this the guy who displayed signs of true “bluesy creativity” on his first solo record? But would you want to say that the song is a bad one? That the performance sucks? Well, no, I wouldn’t do that. Listen to that guy playing. No, not the solos – listen to the way he holds up the rhythm. That quirky little chug-a-chug-a-chug that holds up the song. Ever heard anybody play the blues like that? Hello, originality!

In any case, let me specifically mention two excellent numbers that save the album from being “consistently enjoyable to the point of forgettable”. The album opener, ‘I’m Not Awake Yet’, is a sincere, emotionally resonant rocker displaying some of Rory’s most stunning and atmospheric acoustic guitar work – he plays some sort of a “flamenco-influenced blues solo” the likes of which I’ve rarely, if ever heard before.

And in an equally ‘disturbing’ mode, he rips into ‘Crest Of A Wave’, which borrows its main riff from ‘Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood’, but in a non-blatant way – and also has some of Rory’s most blazing solos on a record. It’s the kind of song that needs to be played out loud, you know, L-O-U-D, at the top of your speakers’ power, and I dare all the hair metal fans in the world come up to me and state that bands like Cinderella or Poison are more artistically valid than this outburst of prime blues-rock energy. I don’t know why I brought up that subject – I suppose that I haven’t mocked hair metal for quite a long time, and I just couldn’t stand it any more. Sheez, you don’t know how pleasant it is to offend an entire musical genre! Makes you feel glad all over. Dumb as hell, too. Guilty pleasure. Can’t resist it. Hair metal sucks!

Unlike Rory Gallagher, whose creative, imaginative and genuine approach to blues legacy certainly deserves more appreciation from American radio than it has garnered so far (which is, zero, but I can’t really blame American radio: they think that if they have their Muddy Waters, they don’t need no stinkin’ derivative white boy blues. Problem is, I doubt American radio stations have much Muddy Waters, either. So gimme Rory Gallagher at least!). A couple acoustic ballads, like ‘Out Of My Mind’ and the countryish ‘Don’t Know Where I’m Going’, obviously make the grade as well.

The others don’t fare so well, ranging from passable (stuff like ‘In Your Town’, which begins as a promising romp but then deteriorates into mid-tempo and can overall qualify as a poor boy version of ‘Sinner Boy’, with sillier lyrics) to sometimes even slightly embarrassing: the romantic ‘rocker ballad’ ‘There’s A Light’ suffers a lot from Rory’s painful attempts at operatic singing. We all know that singing isn’t Gallagher’s forte: when he screams his lyrics or just blurts out the words in a fast tempo, it’s all fine, but when it actually comes to prolongating notes, he just can’t stand on key, and boy does that hurt.”

Overall, though, if you sum up all the highlights and all the decent material, Deuce still stands up as, well, as something deuc-ent. Lovers of ‘experimental blues rock’ will hardly be disappointed. Unless, of course, you consider Captain Beefheart to be ‘experimental blues-rock’, in which case I reverentially retire.

April 11, 2013 Posted by | Rory Gallagher Deuce | | Leave a comment

Pete Townshend Empty Glass (1980)


Since Who Came First was in reality a half-finished project, and Rough Mix was a collaboration with Ronnie Lane, it’s safe to regard this album as the true start of Pete’s solo career. Critics and fans alike usually call it a masterpiece, and while that seems a minor exaggeration to my ears, it is not bigger than, say, the overratedness of John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band. A lot of the hype comes from Pete’s brilliant timing: Empty Glass was released a year earlier than the Who’s far inferior Face Dances, so both albums share the fate of always being compared. This results in Face Dances being underappreciated (‘don’t you dare buying that post-Keith Moon Who stuff! It’s total crap, even Townshend’s solo albums were better!’) and Empty Glass being overhyped (‘wow, Pete was really on a high note at the time! His solo stuff was so much better than that post-Keith Moon garbage!’) Nevertheless, even with all my problems, this is a marvellous record, and a worthy successor to Who Are You.

For one thing, I greatly enjoy the album cover. Pete sitting at a bar with his bottle and his glass with two young ladies of uncertain purposes, with a gloriole around his head… hmm, might be considered sacrilegious, but what a funny allusion at the ‘sinner-saint’ motive! And probably very reflective of Pete’s inner self at the time. Still, the album is not so introspective as one might suspect. While there’s practically no reason to doubt Pete’s utter sincerity and true artistic impulses, one can clearly see how much Pete wanted this album not to miss the record stores as well. So all these songs can be divided in four groups: (a) personal confessions, oriented at Pete fans; (b) loud, dumb rockers, oriented at Who fans; (c) witty social commentary, oriented at post-punk fans; (d) sappy pop love songs, oriented at sappy pop love song fans. In other words, Mr Townshend tries to make the album acceptable for everybody – maybe that’s why everybody loves it so much.

My gripes mainly have to do with the first two categories. Actually, these confessionals bear a strong reminiscence to Pete’s confessional songs on Who By Numbers: clever, heartfelt lyrics, set to rudimentary melodies that were probably just deemed unnecessary. Such is the title track: except for the self-deprecating, mockery lyrics (‘Next time you switch on/You might see me… what a thrill for you’) and that beautiful, tear-inducing falsetto bridge where he compares his life to an empty glass, there’s little truly memorable about it. ‘I Am An Animal’ (what’s that, a nod to Eric Burdon?) also plods along like a dull dinosaur, an uninspired ballad with superb lyrical imagery – again, a clear case of melody sacrificed in favour of text. Much better is the obvious Meher Baba tribute ‘And I Moved’ – but if not for the stupendous rolling, tinkling piano lines of ‘Rabbit’ Bundrick, it would be no better than your average disco anthem.

The rockers suffer likewise – the downside of recording solo is that you have no Roger Daltrey nearby to sing your ‘powerful’ stuff when you really need ‘im. Thus, the album closer ‘Gonna Get Ya’ might sound fun on a Who’s Next-type record; here, Pete just doesn’t seem to have that deep a throat to deal with the macho, bloodthirsty refrain. His guitar work on the song is impressive, though – on here and on the slightly inferior ‘Cat’s In The Cupboard’ Pete seems to fall in love with his trademark riffage style again, so you might even get over the lack of Daltrey.
Note that it was no accident that I made a point of Pete’s guitar playing on a song that happens not to be one of the melodical highlights of the album (whoah, that was a really intricate phrase construction). The problem is, there’s just not that much guitar otherwise: most of the record is propelled by synths, and Pete also starts employing disco rhythms and all that ‘modernistic crap’ that, for instance, ruined Roxy Music’s Manifesto only a few months before that. Luckily, Pete is a much more inventive and self-conscious guy than Bryan Ferry could ever hope to be, and there are no true embarrassments on the album – but it’s not always utterly pleasant to listen to…

But come on, really! I gave this album an 11 and all I do is scolding it? At that rate, I’ll have to go and change the rating! Forget it! This record features at least three absolute Townshend masterpieces, so what the hell? ‘Rough Boys’, a fast, pulsating, synth-rhythm-based anthem to gay life, might be Pete’s best song never included on a Who album – it’s catchy, speedy, tasty, and slightly dangerous: ‘I wanna bite and kiss you’, eh? Then there’s the sleazy pop ballad ‘A Little Is Enough’, with a groovy ‘space-synth’ line serving as the basis for the whole song. Yay, it’s been a long time since Pete wrote his last love song, isn’t it? Well, he’s still got it! ‘Your love’s so incredible, your body’s so edible, you give me an overdose of love – just a little is enough!’ Cooky. Finally, I’m a big fan of ‘Keep On Working’, with its weird multi-tracked backing vocals that keep repeating the refrain to create a paranoid atmosphere of a ‘gray busy day’ – this is Pete Townshend in his Ray Davies employ, and he shows he could have easily beaten ‘im if he only would.

And the other songs are okay, too. ‘Let My Love Open The Door’ is a bit cheesy, but not offensive; ‘Jools And Jim’ rocks and cusses, with venomous anti-press attacks, and… wait, that’s about it. Come to think of it, there’s not a single bad song on the whole album, just a couple yawnfests. If this is indeed the best that Pete could offer at the time, it’s not a big disappointment. And a must for every Who fan, even if, like I said, this doesn’t at all sound like your average Who album. Then again – it certainly sounds a lot more fresh than that post-Keith Moon crap.

April 11, 2013 Posted by | Pete Townshend Empty Glass | | Leave a comment

Jimi Hendrix: Woodstock (1994)


Only Alan Douglas could screw up what is probably Jimi’s most well known performance. Deciding that hey, people didn’t need to hear the whole concert, and that he didn’t particularly like the order in which Jimi played the songs he did, Alan in his infinite wisdom decided to give us about half of the concert, and re-arranged the rest for us.

Nice guy huh? C’mon, I know most Hendrix fans would have paid for a double CD. This concert deserved a double CD. And as for any arguments about the tapes not being available for the rest of the performance? Well, there was at least tape of one more song, Message To Love, because it’s played during the introduction on the video! And the rest, if not “in the can” could have been taken from ROIO’s and cleaned up. There was no excuse for this Alan, none!

Now, having vented, lets talk about what *is* on this CD. Good music. For a band that had been rehearsing together for only a couple weeks, they sound pretty good to me. What everybody would expect from this, The Star Spangled Banner, is here in all it’s glory, although it sounds like crowd noise has been added to it. Which, considering who was in charge of this, wouldn’t surprise me.

At least it’s a different crowd this time, previous releases of this Star Spangled Banner on The Ultimate Experience and Essential Jimi Hendrix had the crowd noise from the Atlanta concert added! (listen for tell tale drum thumps(?) during the first few bars) Voodoo Child has a few bars of Stepping Stone thrown into it by Jimi during a jam at the end of it. A rocking version of Purple Haze, followed by an extended Hendrix solo, which leads into the cool Villanova Junction to end this CD (Alan, didn’t Hey Joe close the concert? Hmmm??).

This is one that you need to add to your collection, I just wish I could say it’s the one that *should* be there. Perhaps a new version could be coaxed out of the current estate.

April 11, 2013 Posted by | Jimi Hendrix :Woodstock | | Leave a comment

Jeff Beck Blow By Blow (1975)


After revisiting the power trio format on Beck, Bogert & Appice Beck felt that a change in strategy was needed. Excited by the possibilities of mixing jazz and rock (i.e. “fusion”) while adding funk to that familiar recipe and doing away with those pesky vocalists, Beck released Blow By Blow, a legendary guitar album, though in the hierarchy of Beck’s work I’d rank it slightly below his best Yardbirds and early Jeff Beck Group stuff on the grounds that it’s less groundbreaking.

Still, Blow By Blow, technically his first solo album, is at the very least a minor classic. Comprised entirely of instrumentals, this was an influential album that surprised both listeners and critics alike, as Beck’s playing and song arrangements are almost always tasteful and melodic. Meanwhile, Beck’s backing band supplies Stevie Wonder-ish piano work and keyboards (Max Middleton again who also writes or co-writes four songs) and funky rhythms (bassist Phil Chenn and teenage wunderkind drummer Richard Bailey round out the lineup), laying the strong foundation for Beck’s outstanding guitar playing to shine.

This richly textured album also features big synthesizer swooshes, and classy string arrangements by ex-Beatles producer George Martin, who in that same capacity here helps provide the album with a warmth, restraint, and elegance that’s often lacking in fusion.

As for the songs, “You Know What I Mean” is perhaps the best of several funky numbers, while “She’s A Woman” (a Beatles cover) is a melodic, reggae-tinged tune on which Beck makes his guitar talk a la Joe Walsh and Peter Frampton but more subtly than either. On the more rocking front, “Scatterbrain” is a relentless groover that builds powerfully and showcases the group’s virtuosity (Beck attracted great drummers in particular and Bailey’s splashy drum fills really stand out here and elsewhere as well), while Beck biographer Annette Carson accurately described the excellent “Freeway Jam” as a “high powered shuffle.”

Fine though these up-tempo tunes are, however, Beck is at his absolute best when he opts for raw emotion over flashy embellishments, and as such the album’s most enduring songs are arguably both ballads. “Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers” (inspired by and dedicated to Roy Buchanan) and the nearly 9-minute “Diamond Dust” are both slow and long songs on which Beck’s understated playing is incredibly soulful and emotional; never again will I doubt the beauty capable of being produced by an electric guitar.

“Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers,” one of two Stevie Wonder covers, in particular features phenomenally expressive playing that shows off his talent for note bending, and you could argue that this song is now recognized as his signature number. In summary, despite some dated elements (mostly with Middleton’s keyboards, though you could say the same thing about Stevie Wonder’s classic ’70s albums from around the same period) and a few less than exciting moments, the stylish, filler-free Blow By Blow remains an eminently appealing instrumental album that’s easily among Jeff Beck’s very best.

April 11, 2013 Posted by | Jeff Beck Blow By Blow | | Leave a comment