Classic Rock Review

The home of old record and bootleg reviews…

Led Zeppelin September VI (Hawaii, September 1970)


International Center, Honolulu, Hawaii – September 6th, 1970 (early show)

Immigrant Song, Dazed & Confused, Heartbreaker, Since I’ve Been Loving You, What Is And What Should Never Be, Moby Dick, Whole Lotta Love (Boogie Chillun’, Messin’ Around, I’m Moving On, Roadhouse, Some Other Guy, Be A Man), Communication Breakdown (incl. American Woman)

Led Zeppelin played two shows on September 6th in Honolulu. The early show, and the source of this new release on Empress Valley, was at 7 pm and was followed by a second show at 10:30pm. The early show was shortened to accommodate the schedule and the band play what they must considered to be essential to their show. “Bring It On Home”, “That’s The Way”, “Bron-Y-Aur”, the organ solo and “Thank You” are all omitted and only one encore, “Communication Breakdown”, is played. This tape surfaced in the early days of the protection gap cd with Holiday In Waikiki on Gold Standard.

The famous Box Of Tricks (Red Hot RH-023) followed several years later. Almost Son Of Blueberry Hill (Shout To The Top STTP 123) was a good, inexpensive way to obtain this show and is one of the better titles produced by that chequered label. Finally Akashic gave it the expensive, limited edition deluxe treatment on In Exotic “Honolulu” (Akashic AKA-24) which they released at the same time as The Rolling Stones In Exotic Honolulu (Akashic AKA-23), a tape of the early show in the same venue on January 1st, 1973. The tape captures the entire show and is very clear.

September VI sounds significantly more thick, dynamic, heavy and powerful and makes the others sound very thin and tinny. There is a cut in the tape after “Heartbreaker” and at 4:52 in “Whole Lotta Love”. “Moby Dick”, which is cut on the Gold Standard and STTP releases, is complete on Empress Valley.

Not found on the others is two seconds of digital noise between 10:53 to 10:55 in “Dazed And Confused”. This sounds like a minor mastering fault but is not too intrusive. The show itself is an amazingly played, fast paced performance that doesn’t have the improvisations as others on this tour. The mc gives an introduction to the band before they play “Immigrant Song”. Page doesn’t segue into “Heartbreaker” quick enough so John Paul Jones plays the beginning of “Dazed And Confused”. It is curious how the band follow his lead and plays the song for the next fifteen minutes.

On other occasions they would stop just wait until they got back on track. “Dazed And Confused” being played as the second number was a feature of the spring tour and this is another very good version. The guitar solo is kept to a minimum however. Afterwards Plant says, “What am I doing? This is one from the second album. It’s about a mean woman, as they usually are.” “Heartbreaker” picks up and Plant sounds strangely subdued in this recording.

Almost an hour of the set is skipped over and they get set to play “Since I’ve Been Loving You.” Such is their love of the new song they skip playing well-known material from their latest album Led Zeppelin II. There is some commotion in the audience before the band can play and Plant says, “Don’t do that. Calm down. No frenzies. This group’s been renamed the ‘Box Of Tricks’.” It isn’t clear what he is talking about. It could be a reference to the new song or to the fact they changed the set list around so much?

At this point someone shouts out “Whole Lotta Love” to which Plant replies, ”You know we get off on that every night but the thing is, it comes eventually.” The same guy, who is a big Yardbirds fan, shouts out ”White Summer…White Summer” before the band begin a standard version of “What Is And What Should Never Be.” “Moby Dick” is only thirteen minutes long before Plant urges everybody to get loose. The “Whole Lotta Love” medley closes the set and is a compact fourteen minutes that includes the Hank Snow hit “I’m Moving On” but drops some of the regular inclusions from this tour like “Honey Bee”.

“Communication Breakdown” opens with a riff that sounds similar to “Out On The Tiles” while Plant yells out “groove!” The review in the newspapers the following day pointed out that the second show was better than the first. The organ solo is singled out as being awful, and Plant stopped the show twice because of a man having a seizure and for a fight that broke out. Despite these distractions the review called this show superior to the early one. If nothing else it is more interesting and makes one wish a tape would someday surface.

The front cover is a photo from the Royal Albert Hall show, the back photo is of the band arriving for their first show in Hawaii in 1969 holding the master tapes for Led Zeppelin II, and the inside photo is a live shot from 1971. Since both still photos and 8mm footage exists for this show, it would have been better if the label utilized some of those. But as it is this is a very nice release.

April 15, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin September VI | , | Leave a comment

Oasis Familiar To Millions (2001)


Probably one of the most notorious “love ‘em/hate ‘em” bands of the past ten years, Oasis tended to either inspire or enrage as they gradually took control of the popular music scene in the mid-1990s. Often pegged as a mere Beatles knock-off, I personally have always appreciated much of their work. 1994’s Definitely Maybe and 1995’s What’s the Story (Morning Glory)? were chockfull of refreshingly rich and tuneful guitar-drive melodies, inherently uplifting lyrics, and an irrepressible vocal snarl, all of which was frequently overshadowed by the band’s off-stage antics.

However, 1997’s Be Here Now, a monumental mess of over-production, and 2000’s Standing on the Shoulders of Giants, a primarily limp attempt at a comeback, failed to live up to lofty expectations and match their predecessors. Consequently, the band’s global popularity has tumbled dramatically, which makes the release of Familiar to Millions quite perplexing.

This double live album, 18 songs total, 17 of which were recorded July 21, 2000 at England’s Wembley Stadium (“Helter Skelter,” the final track, was culled from an April 16, 2000 show in Milwaukee), is representative of the band’s much-hyped 2000 world tour. Unfortunately, it seems that Oasis really should have released a live album four years ago when the band’s skill and notoriety were at a pinnacle. At the same time, Familiar to Millions hardly functions as a greatest hits collection, considering that five songs are collected from Standing on the Shoulders… and two others are dull and messy covers. So, why put out this album now? The answer is basically because Oasis can.

They really do not care about their current status in the music industry, and it goes along perfectly with the unabashed, arrogant confidence that the band has always assumed, which also ultimately led to the sharp divide between love and hate for them. This album is not called “Live at Wembley” for a reason: it boasts itself as being “Familiar to Millions.” However, familiarity does not translate into quality.

The biggest problem with this live recording is lead singer Liam Gallagher. Though his voice leaps off earlier records with an unavoidable edge of enthusiasm and power, here his voice sounds hoarse and lifeless; Liam is apparently remarkably disinterested in having 70,000 people chant his name. This lack of vigor is a sharp contrast to the musicianship and production, which is mostly tight, sharp, and energetic.

As a result of this disparity, the vast majority of the songs come off flat, with Liam listlessly dragging a fairly excited band through an array of hits like “Wonderwall,” “Champagne Supernova,” and “Live Forever,” all of which are both intriguing and moving in their original studio versions; the musicianship essentially fails to overcome Liam’s boredom throughout much of Familiar to Millions.

Nonetheless, there are select moments when everything seems to come together, and nostalgia for 1995 blooms. Of course in a live context, these moments occur when Noel’s vibrant vocals take lead, as on “Don’t Look Back in Anger,” “Step Out,” and the chorus of “Acquiesce,” which especially captures the carefree, “live for the moment” attitude that once made Oasis so wonderful. Noel seems genuinely interested in sincerely and properly performing these songs, which are completely composed by him anyway. Liam cannot seem to manage the same.

As for the covers, one of Neil Young’s “Hey Hey, My My {Into the Black)” and the other of The Beatles’s “Helter Skelter,” Noel cannot vocally save what amounts to some annoyingly uninspired arrangements; Oasis is clearly better at using the influence of The Beatles for their own creative means than outright playing one of their songs.

Great live albums should stand on their own as alternatives to studio recordings and examples of how a band can work effectively in two mediums. In the end, there is really no reason to listen to Familiar to Millions instead of Definitely Maybe or What’s the Story (Morning Glory)?. Though they once did have something interesting and vital to contribute, it certainly appears that now Oasis’s current work will not “live forever.”

April 15, 2013 Posted by | Oasis Familiar To Millions | | Leave a comment

Steely Dan Pretzel Logic (1974)


Obviously, Steely Dan didn’t like the perspective of becoming an underground band – huge commercial success was a CRUCIAL plan of their musical career, you know. Without huge commercial success, how could Mr Becker and Mr Fagen really carry out their design to make utter dunces of the general American record buying/coke snorting/Playboy posing/life enjoying public? Thus, even if their musical instincts were drawing them towards the drawn-out lengthy jazzy jam thing, they had to compromise this time, and release an album of short three-minute songs – none of the eleven numbers on Pretzel Logic run over four.

Furthermore, by now they have learned to hide their sarcastic lyrical message even deeper than before; no more blunt lines like ‘don’t give a fuck about anybody else’ this time, in fact, without an accompanying annotated lyrics sheet you’ll have a really hard time trying to guess what lies under the surface. I mean, if the rumours about the title track being an anti-totalitarian swipe (pretzel = swastika) are true, this easily explains lines like ‘I have never met Napoleon, but I plan to find the time’; however, without that hint you’ll never even begin decoding the message in the right direction.

Thank God this is one of those – rare – Steely albums that could easily survive on musical merit alone. It’s probably their most diverse effort, both due to the larger number of the songs and, I guess, the very wish to make it diverse. There’s pop, R’n’B, blues, jazz, even hard rock (‘Monkey In Your Soul’), and although the Steely Dan production formula kinda neutralizes the differences between styles, it’s still very much listenable throughout without getting the impression that they’re the kind of guys who never went further than the first twenty pages of whatever musical handbook they’re using.

It’s telling that the record’s biggest number, “monster” hit single and pretty much the song that is most associated with Steely Dan, ‘Rikki Don’t Lose That Number’, can be regarded as one of the consciously worst on the album, with a liquidy-liquidy soft-rock melody, uninteresting lyrics and pretty much all the ‘hook power’ included in the vocal line that leads from the verse to the chorus (‘but if you have a change of hea-aart!…’).

There’s also the famous four-note piano riff, of course, but it sounds so consciously stupid and primitive I can’t get rid of the feeling that Steely Dan were just pandering towards the lowest common denominator of the epoch for that song. Don’t get me wrong – I do enjoy the song as part of the ‘general strategy line’ of the band, but I guess if I had to make my introduction to the band based on that song, I’d probably hate the Danners forever, just as so many general radio listeners do.

However, just bypass ‘Rikki’ and you’ll find out that the album consists almost entirely of winners. ‘Night By Night’ gives us the first taste of Steely Dan the funk outfit – I have a feeling they took a few hints from Stevie Wonder and his ‘Superstition’-style use of synths, so just listen to the chugga-chugga of that line and to the cold mechanical preciseness of the brass section and get in the groove. ‘Any Major Dude Will Tell You’ is a rare moment of consolation and optimism in the Dan catalog, another radio-ready classic but somewhat more valid than ‘Rikki’, with that wonderful riff linking the chorus back to the verses and stuff. (Trivia question: what’s the exclusive link between the song and post-Gabriel Genesis? Ready, steady, go!).

There’s also ‘Barrytown’, a shameless “triple rip-off” of the Byrds/Beatles/Dylan (doesn’t anybody else recognize ‘If I Needed Someone’ in the verses, not to mention typical Bobster’s Blonde On Blonde vocal intonations?) which nevertheless comes ’round as expressive, catchy and well-recorded. Some single it out as the true highlight of the album, but that would be just a little too directly derivative for me – besides, we don’t single out ‘If I Needed Someone’ as the best song on Rubber Soul, do we? – and that honour I’d rather give to the album’s instrumental composition, the cover of Duke Ellington’s ‘East St Louis Toodle-oo’, jazz done as has never been heard previously and a really rare experimental moment in Steely’s generally non-experimental approach.

The substitute of a talking-box enhanced guitar instead of a sax is nothing short of genius, and the short guitar/synth/piano/brass solos that interchange with each other makes up for some really inspired listening – the tune never really threatens to become boring, in fact, it’s rather short for me, I’d say.

On the contrary, ‘Parker’s Band’ has hardly anything to do with Charlie Parker, but its rocking rave-up and catchy chorus more than make up for it. It is then rapidly followed by ‘Through With Buzz’ (more memorable pop hooks, this time with a bunch of strings in the background, but they’re all right), the title track (enhanced standard blues number, the kind of which would be later improved on with ‘Black Friday’, but still effective), the folksy ‘With A Gun’ (great acoustic rhythm track, furious delivery), the music-hallish ‘Charlie Freak’ (minor song with a prominent piano line that makes it distinguishable), and the bass-heavy ‘Monkey In Your Soul’, with a lot of fuzz put on the four-string to make a Led Zeppelin impression or something.

None of these songs will shake your booty to its foundation, but the more you listen to them, the more they actually get impressed inside yourself. You know that feeling, when a particular song doesn’t seem to logically possess any unique hook, but you can remember how it goes even after several years of not listening to it? That’s the case.

So the album gets the 10 from me, ripping it from Countdown To Ecstasy after a long battle… I’ll play the easy-goin’ guy here, but really, in case you’re not aware, I’ve heard EVERY single Steely Dan album ever released, apart from Two Against Nature, being hailed as their best by at least one or two listeners (yes, even Gaucho), so take this particular 10 with a grain of salt. It’s just the most commercial album of Steely’s ever – after they solidified their reputation among the general public with that one, they obviously found it easier to follow a less compromised path.

April 15, 2013 Posted by | Steely Dan Pretzel Logic | | Leave a comment

Led Zeppelin Out Of The Bristol Tale (Bristol, January 1970)


Colston Hall, Bristol, England – January 8th, 1970

Disc 1 (61:31): We’re Gonna Groove, I Can’t Quit You, Dazed And Confused, Heartbreaker, White Summer/Black Mountain Side, Since I’ve Been Loving You, organ solo, Thank You, Moby Dick

Disc 2 (31:26): How Many More Times, Whole Lotta Love, Communication Breakdown

At the beginning of the new decade Led Zeppelin scheduled a seven date tour of the UK beginning on January 7th in Birmingham. The pinnacle of the tour rested on the January 9th show at the Royal Albert Hall in London which was professionally filmed and recorded and has since seen official release. The only other show that exists on tape is the previous evening in Bristol on January 8th. It was pressed on silver previously on Bristol Stomp utilizing a very high generation copy that ran too fast. Recently TCOLZ issued Out Of The Bristol Tale with a tape much closer to the master. It runs at the correct speed and, even tough the sound quality is still poor to fair, is much more clear than Bristol Stomp and is actually enjoyable on some levels. It preserves most of the show except for the drum solo “Moby Dick” which exists only as a two minute long fragment.

Led Zeppelin played three times in Bristol during their career. The first was very early on October 26th, 1968 at the Boxing Club followed by an appearance the following summer at the Colston Hall. January 8th is their final show in the city and began an hour late. The tape begins with their brand new opening number, an energetic cover of Ben E. King’s “We’re Gonna Groove.” It would serve as the opening number for the first couple months before being replaced by “Immigrant Song.” “We’re Gonna Groove” segues effortlessly into “I Can’t Quit You.”

“We have to apologize for the hour delay, and also we played last, and we’d like to apologize. And we’d like to do something we did last time off the first album” Plant says before “Dazed And Confused.” Someone shouts out a song request and Plant replies, “hang about.” They play a sixteen minute version straight with no lyrical insertions as they would the following night. Afterwards, as Page tunes Plant tries to tell a joke about the Lone Ranger and Tonto but forgets how it goes and promises to remember it “sometime when we tune up again.” “Heartbreaker was one of the first songs from Led Zeppelin II introduced to the stage and at this point still heavily resembles the studio recording. By the spring time the introduction and solo would be expanded.

After the “White Summer / Black Mountain Side” interlude they get play the brand new song “Since I’ve Been Loving You.” It is assumed it was premiered the previous evening in Birmingham but Bristol is the first hint of what would be a staple for almost every Led Zeppelin show for the rest of the decade. It would be officially recorded several months after this. The musical arrangement is pretty close to what would appear on Led Zeppelin III. The vocal melody is slightly different and the lyrics contains several differences beginning with the opening line: “Working from seven to eleven every day / you make my life a drag / things happen that way.” The guitar solo doesn’t contain the high pitched histrionics as later versions however.

They follow with “Thank You” which is, according to Plant, “also the second time we’ve tried it.” John Paul Jones plays a very short organ introduction that would be greatly expanded both in length and weirdness as the year moves on.

After ”Moby Dick” Plant finally remembers the joke he’s been trying to tell. “There was the Lone Ranger and Tonto. And Tonto turned into a door and the Lone Ranger shot his knob off!” The show is concluded with a seventeen minute version of ”How Many More Times” which includes a long medley including “The Hunter,” “Boogie Chillun’,” “Move On Down The Line” and “Hideaway” among others. The encores are “Whole Lotta Love” and a riotous version of “Communication Breakdown” (with a quick reference to “Good Times / Bad Times”) which simply brings down the house (judging by the audience’s reaction). TCOLZ use their expected very tasteful packaging and art layout and Out Of Bristol Tale is a great release of a show that is now easier to enjoy.

April 15, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin Out Of The Bristol Tale | , | Leave a comment

Carlos Santana Oneness: Silver Dreams Golden Reality (1979)


Two things are hard to believe. One, that I’ve been a Santana fan for over 4 years and I’m just now learning about a solo album he released in late 1979 called Oneness: Silver Dreams Golden Reality, and two, that such a fantastic album came at the point in Santana’s career where he was beginning to place more emphasis on generic soul/pop and less on innovation concerning his latin rhythms and distinctive guitar solos. The timing of this release is bizarre to say the least.

It’s good though! The title song is the longest track here. Over 6 minutes long, and it’s a guitar jam. Not only that, but it strongly resembles that of “Flame Sky” from his Welcome album where he teamed with John McLaughlin. Unfortunately it doesn’t contain *nearly* the same level of intensity as that one did, but it’s still a highly memorable guitar jam. Worth hearing? Absolutely. He does a really good guitar trick around the 4 1/2 minute mark worth noting. “Life Is Just a Passing Parade” resembles another Welcome track with the funky intro before quickly turning into a soulful vocal melody-driven track with a wonderful keyboard and guitar jam at the end. This is actually another highlight because the funky rhythm and the instrumental variety is quite refreshing.

I’m not sure if “Song for Devadip” is considered a guitar jam or a guitar melody. This is because it basically consists of a melodic guitar solo looping for a few minutes. You can almost dance to it! “Silver Dreams and Golden Smiles” is a little on the cheesy side thanks to the lush vocal melody, and I believe I even detect an orchestration in the background. Eh, it’s alright but it’s almost hilarious the way it’s sung! It sounds like one of those traditional Christmas songs you’d be exposed to on Christmas Eve when all the radio stations switch over to 24 straight hours of Christmas music. Obviously it’s not a Christmas song, but the vocal melody is so corny you have no choice but to let out a little laugh. Like I said though, I can’t quite hate it.

“Transformation Day/Victory” begins with a really cool intro that I believe is a synthesizer before immediately switching into a boogie jam focusing around piano and Santana’s guitar work. Not quite as breathtaking as the intro but hey, it’s pretty good nonetheless. Actually on repeated listens, I notice the guitar and piano are actually alternating back and forth. It’s pretty unique and puts a radically new spin on the boogie rock formula. This song is really awesome after all. “Light Versus Darkness” is an onimous intro before the explosive arrival of “Jim Jeannie”, which consists of sparse drum fills and then an explosive guitar and synth jam not really any different from something the Mahavishnu Orchestra would have done from their Birds of Fire album. It’s highly enjoyable.

“Free as the Morning Sun” is another soulful ballad with richly performed latin piano work and delicate synths appearing in the background. This song is like a fitting farewell to the Santana of the 70’s as he walks into the sunset… and enters the dreaded pop years of the 80’s, haha. Well I like *some* of his 80’s work. “Winning” is an incredible pop song. Anyway, to continue the review, “Cry of the Wilderness” is a melodic guitar instrumental similar to “Song for Devalip”. A really good one too. It reminds me of… something I can’t quite figure out. “Guru’s Song” is a quiet, harmless and melodic guitar/piano instrumental that is *incredibly* beautiful if you ask me.

Overall, fans of Welcome and Borboletta absolutely must own this album. Why it slipped under the radar and has remained that way even to this very day doesn’t make sense to me. Oh well. You can fix that problem by listening to it.

April 15, 2013 Posted by | Carlos Santana Oneness: Silver Dreams Golden Reality | | Leave a comment

Superrtramp Crime Of The Century (1974)


“Crime of the Century” is the name of the album , but in hindsight ” Surprise Of The Century ” would of been a more apt title . Supertramp were formed in 1969 around Richard Davies , with the financial backing of Stanley August Miesegaes

(Known to his friends as Sam) .In the first auditions Richard met Roger Hodgson , who were to become the nucleus of the band we now know from legend as Supertramp. After various name changes the band decided to be called Supertramp after Sam suggested it from the W. H. Davies book published in 1910, ‘History of a Supertramp.’

The first self titled Supertramp album is released in 1970 , to no public or critical acclaim , the rest of the band are either fired , have a nervous breakdown ,or jump ship. A second album is recorded ‘Indelibly Stamped’ ( 1971) which if anything fared even worse than it’s predecessor. ( Both of these albums feature rather aimless songs featuring meandering solo’s and indifferent lyrics instantly forgettable .) after the tour to promote, Indelibly Stamped, the three new recruits to the band are all fired leaving just the duo of Davies and Hodgson again, at this point Sam separates from the band paying off the 60,000 pound debts already incurred , wishing them all the best for the future , but severing any further ties .

Davies and Hodgson bravely keep going recruiting new musicians in the shape of magical saxophonist John Anthony Helliwell ( Ex ‘Alan Bown Sound’ )The rock solid jazzy drumming of Bob.C. Benberg ( Ex ‘Bees Make Honey ‘, and ‘Ilford Subway’ with American Scott Gorman before he became famous with ‘Thin Lizzy’.)Perhaps most importantly of all Dougie Thomson came in on Bass guitar and also took over the business management of the band .At this point the band are gigging day to day to survive whilst writing new material for the proposed new album . But A&M Records had no future plans for the band, in fact they thought Supertramp had imploded . Roger Hodgson, Richard Davies under the watchful eye of new partner Dougie Thomson went back to A&M Records to plead their case for another bite at the cherry. For once somebody at the record company got it right .

In November 1973 the band are moved lock stock and if you want smokin’ barrel to a farm in Somerset ,England to work on the new material for the next album , from there in February 1974 they are moved onto Trident Recording Studio’s in London with the excellent Ken Scott holding down production duties , in June the band finish off recordings in the famous Ramport Studio’s .The third album under the Supertramp banner is released in September 1973, and with the full weight of the A&M publicity machine behind them, coupled with some ground breaking and prestigious live concerts, the band become overnight sensations . The first single off the album ” Dreamer” ( Which was to be the template for the Supertramp sound from here on, hammering piano, searing guitar licks , beautifully contrasting harmonised vocals, with catchy amusing lyrics , combustible saxophone and clarinets ,with a jazz influenced rhythm section.) was to peak at Number 13 in the British charts followed by the album itself which was in the Top Five by Christmas of that year .

All the songs on the album have a conceptual theme to them in this case insanity . All sorts of insanity whether it be brought on by ,Education( School), Dreaming( The first single), Love (Rudy),Shyness ( Hide In Your Shell) or authority ( The title track). Every track is instantly recognisable as Supertramp , and the album as a whole runs together perfectly , starting with the haunting harmonica opening of School to the final rousing crescendo of the title track . In-between there are some splendid melodies ranging from many of the bands influences ,Folk, Progressive/Rock, Pop, Jazz and the Classics ,combining the vocal talents of both Hodgson and Davies in there contrasting manner, giving Supertramp that essential variety, which is used in quite devastating effect on the albums centrepiece song Asylum ,where they both sound as if they are completely going off the planet , quite a blend you may think , but it all gels to stirring effect .

Supertramp were to go on to conquer the Adult oriented world of Rock music ,even the advent of Punk Rock did not dent their mercurial rise to Stardom . Three more smash hit albums were to follow, ” Crisis What Crisis?” (1975) , ” Even In The Quietest Moments” ( 1977) and culminating in the Worldwide Number One album “Breakfast in America”( 1979) which was to spawn four Hit singles on it’s own ( In those days Hit singles used to mean something .) The band toured Internationally on the strength of these records and would fill Stadiums where ever they went .

As in many marriages ,something that started out as blissfully perfect ruptured into bitterness and in family fighting, after one more not so successful album and world tour ,Roger Hodgson left the family taking with him John Anthony Helliwell, leaving Richard Davies to carry on with the name Supertramp . Of course by this time none of them needed to work for the money , and really did not care, nor to be quite honest did the public, enough was enough . Both carried on their careers in a very lack lustre manner , but were never to find that original spark again . All good things must come to an end.The Tramp was super for a long time and made enough to retire to it’s mansion , I do like a story with a happy( If not perfect) ending .I wonder if Stanley August Miesegaes ” Sam” ever got repaid for his original funding of the dream?

April 15, 2013 Posted by | Supertramp Crime Of The Century | | Leave a comment

Robin Trower Bridge Of Sighs (1974)


One of the most valuable lessons I have learned from my mother’s brother was the progression by which to establish a deep appreciation for the classic rock, or AOR, idiom. For most folks, the term “classic rock” more than likely stops at the standards such as the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Hendrix, Bowie, The Who, Pink Floyd, Billy Joel, Deep Purple, The Allman Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Black Sabbath, Jethro Tull, Bad Company, Clapton. Maybe the more adventurous might throw in The Kinks and The Faces or maybe even the old Jeff Beck Group.

My Uncle George exposed me to all this stuff practically out of the cradle, first by playing me riffs of “Over the Hills and Far Away” and “Ironman” on his acoustic guitar when I would invade his room as a tot in our old family house in Levittown, NY. Then it came to playing me the actual records, classics like Houses of the Holy, Let It Bleed, The Stranger, Ziggy Stardust, Machine Head, Fresh Cream, Lola Vs. The Powerman and Moneygoround. Whenever they would come on the television he would put on The Kids Are Alright or Let It Be for us to watch.

Next, it was taking me to actual record stores and head shops in our neighborhood where he used to get all of this stuff (in addition to copping free LPs as a perk of his job managing the local Record World at the Mid-Island Plaza). After that, it was throwing in used records he had doubles of into my Christmas or Birthday cache, stuff like Frank Marino and Mahogany Rush’s first album or Alice Cooper’s Killer or Johnny Winter’s Still Alive and Well.

But then there’s the AP style education in AOR my uncle held off schooling me on until I was in college, the records that are only known by the hardest of the hardcore classic rock heads and musicians well versed in such works but perennially fail to replicate their sounds (cough, Wolfmother!, cough cough, Bad Wizard!). I’m talking about West, Bruce and Laing’s Why Don’tcha, the Beck, Bogert and Appice album, John Phillips’ John, The Wolfking of LA, Ronnie Wood’s I Got My Own Album To Do, Roy Buchanan’s eponymous debut, any of Rory Gallagher’s albums from the 70s (but especially Live in Europe and Irish Tour).

And at the top of Uncle George’s deep AOR list was Bridge of Sighs, the second solo album from Procol Harum guitarist Robin Trower. Released in 1974, the album was a monster hit, reaching number 7 on the Billboard Top Ten. According to critics of the time, Trower’s massive control of his Fender Stratocaster reminded many fans of the work of Jimi Hendrix, whose untimely and unnecessary death still shook the foundation of the music world nearly five years after the fact. The comparison was more than accurate, even though the lily-white, astutely English, flamboyantly dressed, page-boy-coiffed Trower was the total opposite of Jimi’s strong black psychedelic gypsy.

Sighs, which remains to this day Trower’s singular masterpiece, is a phenomenal amalgamation of the soulful heavy blues of Cream. This is thanks in full to the eerily similar Jack Bruce-ian howl of bassist/vocalist James Dewar, and a wicked brew of rippling sheets of wailing fuzz, subtle wah-wah funk and caterwauling blues cries. The album truly did evoke the might of Hendrix’s power at the height of his Band of Gypsys era but at the same time was a style that was entirely indicative of Robin Trower.

Originally issued as an eight-track LP, the solo-heavy Sighs was more like a scream following Trower’s complaints that the music he recorded with Procol Harum left him no room to rip. Each song features its own outstanding, lengthy guitar solo, which was the prime reason why this album is still cherished by legions of aspiring guitarists making the ranks today. The best solos appear on the sultry slow blues of the album’s title cut and the tempo-shifting seven-minute-plus arena monster “Too Rolling Stoned”. Other tracks here display Trower’s prowess at constructing a seriously mean riff, and the ones he doles out on “Day of the Eagle” and “Little Bit of Sympathy” are right up there with the meatiest, beatiest Page and Blackmore hooks currently monopolizing your “Two-fer” Tuesdays.

Of course, no true guitar god can ever truly put in a true day’s work without a rhythm section of equal dexterity. And the excellent teamwork of bassist Dewar and completely underrated rock drummer Reggie Isidore, who so ferociously combined the fury of Tony Williams and the steady hand of Buddy Miles to provide the throbbing core of this most essential LP (and would fortunately be replaced shortly after the release of this album).

This very worthwhile 2007 reissue of Bridge of Sighs doubles the length of the original LP with two outstanding John Peel sessions from May of 1974 and January of 1975. These contain scorching live versions of several tracks from the album as well as some impressive performances of cuts that would appear on Sighs’ more-formulaic follow-up For Earth Below, most notably “Confessin’ Midnight” and the burning “Gonna Be More Suspicious”.

They don’t make guitar rock like they used to, although groups like the Mooney Suzuki and The Sword do their absolute damndest pose to convince the youngsters otherwise. My personal suggestion is to listen to my uncle and his generation about this kind of stuff. Sure, they might not know a damn about politics or the environment or urban sprawl or globalization or corporate imperialism or whatever other hell that last tail of the Baby Boom generation hath brought upon this earth. But one thing is for damn sure; they can spot a tasty lick from a mile away.

April 15, 2013 Posted by | Robin Trower Bridge Of Sighs | | Leave a comment