Classic Rock Review

The home of old record and bootleg reviews…

Led Zeppelin Concert Memories: Nassau Coliseum, February 14th 1975

LedZeppelinChicago75From Underground Uprising

Feb 14, 1975,
Nassau Colliseum, NY

We were in Massachusetts and heard that Zep was going to be playing in NY.. we tried to get tickets but the show was long sold out.

A few days before the show, we decided to take a chance that we will be able to buy some tickets… so five of us, day of show, got up early and drove to NY and arrived at the parking lot of the colliseum early,,, around noon. We’re hanging around in parking lot, and some guy, very long hair , a bit older than us comes by and asks if we are going to the show. I said yes, if we can get some tickets… He advised us that he had tickets for sale ,… 6 together , 14th row centre. We only needed five and I asked how much .. He said 25.00 each ( a lot of money then).. I had worked for Don Law before at some concerts so knew about counterfeit tickets so I said OK, let’s go to the Box Office and if they verify the tickets, we’ll take 5.

We go to box office and I ask the lady if tickets are OK and she says ” I don’t know how you got these but they are some of the best seats in the house” ! so we negotiated and bought the 5 for 20.00 each.
This is the stuff that fairy tales are made out of !! We are literally stunned… not only are we in but on the floor – 14th row ..

One of the guys we were with was quite well off so he went out and bought a camera and a tape recorder…. He knew that I had previously recorded a number of concerts so he put me in charge of the recorder. I sneak the recorder in, a Panasonic… nothing fancy… security was tight but not like it is today.. Having recorded a number of shows before, I knew a bit about levels…. I set the levels low… but as the final tapes show, ultimately, not low enough.

Show get’s underway… it is electric !! and LOUD !
Whether you were a Zep fanatic or not, Zeppelin were powerful and used dynamics in a way that many bands then ( and now) do not …Only but a few, Jimi, The Who, … could equal the power of Zeppelin in this show.
The band clearly were enjoying themselves… Plant wishing everyone a “Happy St. Valentines Day…
the last of the papan holidays “……
He sings a few snippets of Tangerine…. in a teasing way…

One of my most vivid memories of the show is Page and the theramin during Whole Lotta Love.,.. just incredible… he was like a sorcerer… coercing unearthly sounds out of the theramin…waving his hands back and forth… like a magician… incredible imagery… I’m taping the show and at some point, everyone stands up… … I knew better but I foolishly get up and aim the mike towards the stage…. Some minutes later, I see a group of guys on the side of the stage pointing towards me… I quickly place the recorder under my seat and cover it with my jacket.
Sure enough, a few minutes later, three big goons are there asking ” where is the recorder?”..
What recorder ?…. of my friends says …. they quickly look around and then leave.
Years later, I read somewhere about Richard Cole and he talks about going out into the audience and beating up tapers and then tossing them out… I looked in his book and sure enough, one of the goons had been Richard Cole… so… this tape almost did not make it… and I probably had escaped a beating !!

I listened to the tapes over the years and … eventually a few split ( which accounts for some of the missing pieces in some songs,,,, original tapes ( 3) were virtually complete ). Again, we’d listen to theses ( and other shows) in a little cassette recorder, perched above the fryolater in a restaurant,,,, it’s lucky they survived at all…

A number of years later, I started to collect Hendrix and eventually got in touch with one of the big tape traders of the day (not just Jimi, he collected, sold, bartered tapes of most any band). ( this was long before Internet, personal CD burners, etc ) I asked him if he could fix the tapes and of course, he said yes…. The agreement was that he would not trade or sell the tape but that he would make a copy for “his own personal collection”. I sent the tapes off and he did indeed repair them and sent back to me the originals plus a safety copy…

Sure enough, a year or so later, I see that a boot had been made of this show !! This really did not bother me too much.. but I lost faith in this fellows word….It was good to see this show out there…

Only recently did I have the original tapes transferred to CD… Indeed, on some songs , there is bass overload but not to the point of ruining the audio…I’ve read that there were two sources of this show… mine is with the bass overload in various places.. I have a few photos of the show… around here somewhere…

To me, this is one of Zeppelin’s finest shows….

Gregory Gunter

May 1, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin Concert Memories: Nassau Coliseum February 14th 1975 | , | Leave a comment

Germaine Greer: The night Led Zeppelin blew my mind (Royal Albert Hall, 1970)

1970-01-09RoyalAlbertHall12From The Telegraph

On the day of the band’s feverishly anticipated reunion gig, Germaine Greer recalls a concert at the Albert Hall in 1970 which converted her from cynic into believer

I love Led Zep to this day, I don’t know how it was that I got to see Led Zeppelin live on stage at the Albert Hall. What I do know is that I wouldn’t have bought a ticket. In the circles I moved in, if you weren’t invited to a rock concert and didn’t have a backstage pass, you didn’t go.

I certainly wasn’t invited by anyone connected with Led Zeppelin, who were never to be seen hobnobbing with other musos and their molls at the Speakeasy or anywhere else.

As far as the wider rock and roll community was concerned, Led Zeppelin were a commercial operation put together by the most professional session musician in the business, but then they also thought that David Bowie was a useless hanger-on. Somehow I did get to see Led Zeppelin, and that legendary foursome, Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and John Bonham, did blow my cynical disbelieving mind.

Far from being in the wings or backstage, I was miles away on the very top rung of the Albert Hall, where the backstage staff used to come to catch some of the gig in between chores. So how I got there I’m blest if I can remember, but I shall never forget what I witnessed.

The Albert Hall acoustic is peculiar: the sound came up to me with a force that pummelled me breathless. No other band ever managed to make a sound like that. It was certainly loud, but it was also driving, pushing along with incredible energy.

In the centre was the skinny figure of Jimmy Page, shrouded in a cloud of black hair, working on his guitar like an engineer shovelling coal into this express train of a band. I was used to virtuoso guitar from Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix; Page was different because his sound was thoroughly integrated into the whole sound.

The key was the man who could have been choirmaster at Winchester Cathedral, the bassist John Paul Jones. Jones was even better educated musically than Page so, rather than duelling with his lead guitar, he listened and responded. Page also listened to him, as carefully as violin and cello listen to each other in a classical string quartet.

The result may have been less spontaneous than lead guitar and bass bouncing off each other as usual, but it was far more musical. Incredibly the whole band were in tune, which meant that harmonies and dissonances could build and interact to produce Zeppelin’s characteristic depth of sound, even more striking in performance than on record.

Up there above the heaving crowd, I couldn’t believe the transcendental noise I was hearing. Robert Plant was certainly screaming the place down, but his was a real tenor yell, right up to the highest notes.

Most of the lead singers I knew had hardly more than a single octave and sang their high notes falsetto, usually out of tune; indeed, one of the most successful British bands had a lead singer who was utterly tone deaf. Most rock and roll vocalists don’t sing but shout. Inside the bony cavities of his outsize head Plant created real resonance so he could really sing.

Like most drummers, Bonham is best known for battering solos, and he was allowed his 32 bars, but more importantly he always hit the middle of the beat. He could cross it, bend it, twist it, but he never forgot where it was.

The result was power. All rock and roll bands were after power, but most of them were too disorganised to arrive at it. Led Zeppelin used discipline and concentration to become the Wagner of rock and roll.

What was also obvious was that the Led Zeppelin sound was nourished by the best of urban rhythm and blues. I didn’t know enough to recognise all the riffs I heard, but there were quotations from everywhere, some part of the shared musical tradition, from Bo Diddley, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Chuck Berry, Big Bill Broonzy and all, some from much closer to home.

As Page had worked on two thirds of the pop music recorded in British studios in the mid-’60s, it wasn’t surprising that some things sounded familiar; what nobody knows to this day is who was responsible for what. Caught up in that storm of mighty melody, I wasn’t about to get mad on behalf of the Small Faces and the Yardbirds. Led Zeppelin had done what they didn’t do: they had got it together.

For 10 years, rock and roll had been working towards something that would combine the extraordinary capacities of electronic instruments with the anarchic energy of youth, and there in the Albert Hall on January 9, 1970, I found it. The spring god Dionysus had arisen and was shaking his streaming red-gold mane on stage.

In these four figures spinning in their vortex of sound, male display was transcending itself. There really never was anything quite like it. The Rolling Stones might have been closer to the marrow of rock and roll, but Led Zeppelin were its super-toned muscle.

Germaine-Greer-in-1970-006In 1972, when Led Zeppelin toured Australia, I was in Sydney and, having time on my hands, decided to gate crash a reception at the Sebel Townhouse and say hi to the biggest band in the world. And I found that they were big, physically, not boys but men.

Jimmy asked me if I would be going to their concert. To tease him, I said his wasn’t my kind of music, “too commercial”. And bless me if he didn’t question me closely, as I gulped his champagne, for all the world as if he cared what I thought.

This was more than I had bargained for, and I eventually had to confess that I understood only too well why, after years of contributing the best bits to bestselling albums, he had decided to get out there and show them how it was done.

The band were to discover over the years that theirs was a pact made with the devil, but, in 1972, as four British lads on the razzle in Sydney, their frolicking was more innocent than debauched. The legendary excesses must have come later, if ever.

Germaine Greer
12:01AM GMT 10 Dec 2007

May 1, 2013 Posted by | Germain Greer The night Led Zeppelin blew my mind | , , | Leave a comment

Led Zeppelin MSG (Madison Square Garden, July 1973)


Madison Square Garden, New York, NY – July 28, 1973

Disc 1 (50:26): Intro, Rock And Roll, Celebration Day, Black Dog, Over The Hills And Far Away, Misty Mountain Hop, Since I’ve Been Loving You, No Quarter

Disc 2 (57:40): The Song Remains The Same, The Rain Song, Dazed and Confused, Stairway To Heaven

Disc 3 (59:28): Moby Dick, Heartbreaker, Whole Lotta Love, The Ocean

This summer we are treated to no less than three different versions of the July 28th, 1973 soundboard. Empress Valley is releasing The Effect Is Shattering and Wendy Complete Madison Square Garden. Cannonball is a new budget label who have already released several Pink Floyd and Rolling Stones titles, and are releasing MSG and Hampton 1971 at the same time.

This is the longest soundboard to surface from Zeppelin’s three nights at the Garden which was the basis for the film and soundtrack The Song Remains The Same. The July 27th show has only the latter third of the show in an unbalanced recording and the final night on July 29th became more complete two years ago with the release of Grand Finale on Empress Valley, but that show is still missing “Stairway To Heaven”. This surfaced with the other 1973 soundboards in the early nineties.

The first release was Another Magic Vol. 1 (DS98M023) and Another Magic Vol. 2 (DS92M024) which featured the show minus “Dazed & Confused” and “The Ocean”. Electric Magic on Scorpio came out about the same time that three releases from Australia came out, Madison Square Garden (TR-09) on Turtle, Wizardry (JOK-008-A) on Joker, and Live Vol. 1 on Joker (with the same catalogue number as Wizardry).

It can also be found on Live At Madison Square Garden on Private Master (PM-712) limited to 500 copies, Tour-De-Force (TCD-MSG-1,2,3) on Tarantura and its European twin The 9th US Tour on Whole Lotta Live (WLL004/005/006). Tarantura also included three songs, “Moby Dick”, “Heartbreaker”, and “Whole Lotta Love” on the Discover America (T3CD-010) compilation.

One More Magic (IM-019~21) on Immigrant was a great release as was its inclusion in The Final Statements, the nine disc box set released by Antrabata. The last release before these three was Out From The Movie (FSS 99-003) on the budget label Forever Standard Series.

The sound quality of the Cannonball release is uniformly excellent. It is a bit hissy, but the label chose not to use much if any mastering and chose not to address the faults like the small cut in “The Rain Song” and the tape wrinkle in “Whole Lotta Love”. ”The Ocean” has always sounded a little different than the rest of the tape on all the releases and is the same here too.

This tape has always stood out from the others in not being too flat or dry but being having quite some depth to it and is presented as is. This makes it fun to hear tracks from the film in their unedited form. Much of “Celebration Day”, “The Song Remains The Same/The Rain Song” and “No Quarter” from this show formed the basis for the film and soundtrack. Because I spent so much time listening to that LP growing up these are the “definitive” live performances for these particular tracks.

This is overall a great show, one of the best and I don’t understand why Page says these three shows are mediocre (“not magic, but not tragic either” is how he put it back then). Cannonball packaged this is a fatboy jewel case with many pictures lifted from the movie. MSG is an excellent and affordable way to own this show.

May 1, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin MSG | , | Leave a comment

Led Zeppelin Concert Review: First Ever US Show – Denver (December 26th, 1968)

The following I have transcribed as-is from the review in Rocky Mountain News:

tumblr_licwi3M9kO1qhalcno1_500From Rocky Mountain News music critic Thomas MacCluskey

The tale gets more fascinating. As the story goes, Denver, Colorado music promoter Barry Fey nearly became famous for being the guy who would not book Led Zeppelin!

“About 10 days before the show, I got a call from the agent saying, ‘Barry, I want to add an act to our show,’ ” Fey explains. “I said, ‘Ron (Terry), all the tickets are sold.’

“He said, ‘You’ve got to do this for me, Barry, this is a big, big act. Their name is Led Zeppelin.’ I thought it was a joke.”

Fey turned down Terry, until the agent flashed some cash.

“Ten minutes later Ron called back and said ‘Vanilla Fudge is going to give you $750, and if you give $750 of your own money, we still can put Led Zeppelin on the show.’ ” Fey gave in.

The big night was December 26, 1968 at the Denver Auditorium Arena.

It’s said that the unsuspecting audience at the concert had absolutely no idea that this new ‘heavy metal’ band from Britain was added to the gig. This historic night marked Led Zeppelin’s smashing American debut…

and the birth of heavy metal music as we know and love it today.

“I got up on the stage and said, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, give a warm Denver welcome to Led Zeppelin,’ ” Fey recalls. “They started playing, and it was incredible. It was an unbelievable show; people were gasping. That was a big day in Denver history.”

‘Rock’ Concert Is Real Groovy

Barry Fey did it again – a GREAT rock concert at the Auditorium Arena Thursday night with the Vanilla Fudge, Spirit and Led Zeppelin in colourful living sound!

And Freyline has nearly solved the sound fidelity problems – even on the main floor – with the stationary speaker system on the floor augmenting the group’s system on the rotating circular stage.

One hitch occurred – tangled cables underneath the bandstand pulled the lug on the Fudge and almost melted their entire performance. When repairs were completed the clock had punched my deadline. Thus catch the Fudge review in Saturday’s Rocky Mountain News.

Spirit – quintessima strong MUSICAL!

Everything especially interesting because of a non-ending, highly varied rhythmic continuum structured by Ed Cassidy, pile-driven by bassist Mark Andes, girded by conga drummer-vocalist Jay Ferguson, and filigreed by pianist John Locke and guitarist Randy California.

A UNIQUE dimension added to Spirit’s performance was an effective use of varied volume levels. The result not only rendered lyrics thankfully distinguishable, but also enabled a greater variety of subtle pitched and percussive sounds to filter through the textured surface of the music.

Spirit’s performance of ‘Mechanical World’ and ‘Elijah’ were exceptionally groovy. The latter, a jazz oriented swinger in 3/4 meter featured each of the players. Locke and Cassidy proved to be the most inventive, although Ferguson’s and Andes display of hambone performing (rhythmic slapping of the thighs and hands) was enjoyable.

A further dimension made especially welcome, was the group’s friendliness to the audience and humour.

THE CONCERT was cranked off by another heavy, the Led Zeppelin, a British group making it’s first US tour.

Blues oriented (although not a blues band, hyped electric, the full routine in mainstream rock – done powerfully, gutsily, unifiedly, inventively and swingingly (by the end of their set).

Singer Robert Plant – a cut above average in style, but no special appeal in sound. Guitarist Jimmy Page, of Yardbirds fame – exceptionally fine. Used a violin box on the guitar strings in a couple of tunes with resultant interesting, well integrated effects.

Bassist John Paul Jones – solid, involved, contributing. John Bonham – a very effective group drummer, but uninventive, unsubtle and unclimactic in an uneventful solo.

Thanks, Barry!

May 1, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin Concert Review Denver 1968 | , | Leave a comment

Lynyrd Skynyrd Freebird: The Movie DVD (1999)


Review This movie is fantastic for true Skynyrd fans. I grew up very near to some of the guys in Jacksonville FL and have been a true Skynyrd fan for years. I even have a photo in my early 70’s Ed White High School yearbook showing them playing at a school dance. Some of the footage showing their neighbourhoods on the West side of town brought back so many memories for me of a place I haven’t seen now for many years. And, to think that these young guys could be such powerful forces in the music world is amazing.

Of course the highlight of the film is the concert footage featuring a lot of the band’s greatest songs. The movie also shows early raw footage and precious (although too short) interviews with Ronnie Van Zant.

I wish the music quality was a little better but, it’s still very, very good. Some of the scenes showing the band on stage and the reaction of the fans to Freebird brings a tear to the eye. The ending is unbelievable as they show actual home movies of someone in the band holding a video camera and walking right onto the plane, into the cockpit and film it taking off and you can see the pilots briefly.

For me it was the 2 second clip showing Ronnie Van Zant playing poker on the plane that stuck in my mind the most. He was staring out the window, turned to place his bet and then turned back to the window. I could really imagine how he was probably thinking up more great lyrics for some song which would tell a story or maybe he was dreaming of bass fishing back in Florida. You could always see that these people were not phony baloney rock stars but, real people that loved their craft and loved presenting it to the world.

The closing credits are one of the best parts with a high fidelity version of "Simple Man" playing in the background while home movie footage along with candid photos are intersperse with the credits.

After the tragic crash we had so little to remember except of course the music. This movie brings the people themselves right into your house.

The second movie on the DVD is also good. It shows the reorganized band but, still covers the past too. One interesting note you learn from the second movie is the tragic car accident which left Allen Collins paralized. As a follow-up, (according to the Skynyrd website) he died several years later of pneumonia. I was really bummed to read that.

In short, if you're a Skynyrd fan, then this is THE DVD you have to own.

Review The first thing that struck me about this footage was how clear it was ( as well as the stereo sound ). The Knebworth performances were all complete, sans annoying interruptions of stars reminiscing about bygone days ( more than a couple of DVD releases of other groups are plagued with incomplete songs, cutting to an interview snippet or, worse, sound suddenly muted with yet another voiceover ).

I get the feeling that the only reason this footage was shot is that Skynyrd happened to be opening for the Rolling Stones, apparently the headlining act of this festival. Location videotaping during the seventies was very expensive and cumbersome ( check out the size of those cameras during the wide shots ). It certainly wasn’t done as routinely as it is now. If the camera set-up was primarily for the Stones, then the director–who actually calls the shots on what camera fades to what–probably wasn’t at all familiar with Skynyrd’s material, evidenced by a tight shot of one guitarist playing rhythm while another was actually playing lead!

I would’ve liked more close ups on Artimus Pyle, as well as Billy Powell…again, there weren’t as many cameras to cover the angles we’re used to today. Consider this for the period in which it was shot: most seventies footage of rock groups consists of grainy film stock, sound typically out of sync with the picture ( or worse, from a different performance altogether ), poor lighting, mediocre MONAURAL audio, etc. Again, I was very pleasantly surprised with the overall quality of the Knebworth footage. It’s a shame they didn’t use the Knebworth version of “Free Bird” ( Must have been quite a bad mistake during the performance; probably the same reason a portion of the Oakland version appears to have been edited! ).

Lynyrd Skynyrd’s performance was virtually flawless…if people are going to nit-pick over production imperfections, hey, I’d love to see some of their home movie footage…

lynyrd-skynyrd-knebworthReview When ‘Workin for MCA’, the first song on the concert began playing, I wasn’t sure if the audio was dubbed in from the live version on the album ‘One for, from the road’. Dare I say, I was dead wrong. What you see is

Lynyrd Skynyrd at it’s peak, ‘hittin the note’ as the late Allman Brothers bass player Berry Oakley used to say after playing the Fillmore

Ronnie Van Zandt, Gary Rossington, Allen Collins, Steve Gaines, Billy Powell,

Leon Wilkeson, Artimus Pyle and the Honkettes riff and rock out their impressive collection of gems. I was struck by how casual lead singer and lyricist Ronnie Van Zandt was on stage–he looked like he was leading the band at a keg party rather than playing before over 200,000 fans in Knebworth, England–his voice was clear powerful and how refreshing is it to actually hear the words. He does not dance, prance or waste time trying to win the audience–Lynyrd Skynyrd does not need help.

In the DVD, Pyle claims ‘we blew away the Stones at that show’–you don’t see Jagger and Richards playing, but you know that Skynyrd could not possibly be beat….Rossington, Collins and Gaines are all expert guitar players who share incredible solos, each distinct in style and subtlety…check out ‘Call me the Breeze’ and Jimmy Rodgers ‘T for Texas’…astonishing performances by every member of the group…remember that Steve Gaines had recently joined Skynyrd, the young ‘Okie’ picker injecting new adrenaline into the band–a Roy Clark playing a Stratocaster…mix that magic with the legendary twin chemistry of Rossington and Collins and it’s like Stockton and Malone getting LeBron James to run with.

The only disappointment I had with the ‘Free Bird’ DVD is the shortage of interviews about the band. Although Rossington, Powell, Wilkeson and Judy Van Zandt share memories, the sound bites are sparse and edited down…your left wanting more memories and perspective.

Finally, anyone who was 17 like I was in 1976 will have happy flashbacks when seeing the grand finale of the DVD; the ‘Free Bird’ performance in San Francisco…the crowd is overrun by high school and college girls going crazy over a song that was anthem by the millions of us in ‘Dazed and Confused’ generation (And YES! American chicks bury the boring British gals in the film) . Although the song has been played out for decades, my eyes watered up seeing ‘Free Bird’ played to perfection; an absolute masterpiece time capsule. We were all blessed by this band.

May 1, 2013 Posted by | Lynyrd Skynyrd Freebird The Movie DVD | , | Leave a comment

The Who Over The Weekend (Newcastle, October 1971)


Odeon Cinema, Newcastle Upon Tyne, England – October 30th, 1971

Disc 1 (43:41): I Can’t Explain, Substitute, Summertime Blues, My Wife, Baba O’Riley, Bargain, Behind Blue Eyes, Won’t Get Fooled Again

Disc 2 (46:17): Baby Don’t You Do It, Magic Bus, Overture, Amazing Journey, Sparks, Pinball Wizard, See Me Feel Me

The Who debuted the songs on the new album Who’s Next in the spring, months before the album was finally released that summer. By the autumn the album reached number one in the UK charts and reached gold status while they were touring the UK that autumn. They played several dates around the UK and the appearance in Newcastle on October 30th was a prelude for three dates at the Rainbow Theatre in London.

It is a good but distant sounding tape. The music sounds much louder than the comments on stage, which are difficult to hear. It is not complete since it is missing about two minutes of “See Me Feel Me” and the last two songs “My Generation” and “Naked Eye.” It is nevertheless listenable given the historic import of the show. Newcastle was first pressed on CD on Amazing Journey (Trystar TR019/020) in 2001. The sound quality between the two is the same but Trystar runs a hair too slow while the no label corrects the pitch.

“I Can’t Explain” and “Substitute” open the show which in various combinations seem to be their most common openers. After the Eddie Cochrane cover “Summertime Blues” they begin a set of new songs from Who’s Next starting with John Entwistle’s “My Wife.” Afterwards Roger Daltrey addresses the rumours in the British press that The Who are about to break up (something the British press says about all bands it seems). “This is the last gig we’re ever going to be doing, we’re breaking up after the show” he jokes.

“Baba O’Riley” continues the new material and this is one of the few times Townshend actually sings his part (“don’t cry / don’t raise your eye / it’s only teenage wasteland.”) In the future he would simply speak (or shout) the lyrics. Townshend plays a bizarre solo in “Bargain.” Before they play “Behind Blue Eyes” he gets into a long speech about the big crowds they played before in America to some booing from the Newcastle audience.

“Won’t Get Fooled Again” is the final new song of the set and it’s strange to hear it in the middle of the set instead of the ending where it will reside in future tours.

Fun and games for The Who start with an eight minute jam on Marvin Gaye’s “Baby Don’t Do It” which segues into twelve minutes of ”Magic Bus” which develops into only a shade of its original melody. At about nine minute into the jam session they begin playing the melody of “Overture” in Tommy, obviously anticipating the next part of the set.

Tommy went a long way to establishing the band and pushing the boundaries of rock music as theatre. In 1969 they played the entire piece but over the intervening two years it shrank to a five song suite. Townshend introduces Keith Moon as the conductor before they start “Overture” and “Amazing Journey.” It’s a pity the tape runs out because the show really builds in intensity. Nevertheless this is a very listenable and enjoyable document from The Who’s autumn 1971 tour pressed on silver disc.

May 1, 2013 Posted by | The Who Over The Weekend | , | Leave a comment

Santana Moonflower (1977)


Review Moonflower is mix of revisited older songs, some new material, and live tracks.

I listened to it first when I was 16 – when the cover “She’s Not There” was in the charts, and now, over 20 years later I still play it regularly. At the time though I was blown away by one particular track-the live rendition of Europa(Earth’s Cry Heaven’s Smile). You’ll find the original studio recording of Europa on the Amigos album; and a weak and flacid thing it is. Put it this way; I have a “Carlos Santana” guitar tablature book, featuring Europa, and after 6 months I’d managed to play the instrumental note-for-note, just in the same way as played on Amigo’s.

I can forget trying to play it the same way Carlos played in live. I don’t think it can be done, even by a top studio musician.

The live tracks, together with the revisited studio numbers take on a different hue altogether on Moonflower. Wait until the neighbours are out, turn the volume right up and…well, how can I describe it? Prepare to be amazed.

The first thing that hits you is the speed of the numbers – the tempo increases markedly for most of them; nice easy blues/latin tracks become out-and-out heavy rock epics. The second thing that gets you is Carlos’s guitar tone. It’s not the weedy, processed sound you get now (I do wish he had never met Paul Reed Smith!) but rather a deep, huge tone extracted from his Yamaha. The sound produced is huge, and glorious to listen to.

The third thing is the dynamics of Carlos’s playing. With the gain and volume up, feedback is readily available, and he uses it to sustain notes seemingly forever (Europa). Grace notes (and chords!) abound everywhere. He’s eager to solo, almost impatient for the superb Tom Costa to finish his bit. The other musicians contribute just as much – providing a confident base for Santana to go off on wild flights of solo melodies. Black Magic Woman/Gypsy Queen is transformed into a powerful beast with pace and the melodies that the original recording just hinted-at. Let The Children play benefits from a huge increase in well, how can it be put? Joy. That’ll be the word.

Dance Sister Dance has one of the most infectious riffs your likely to hear. I’ll be Waiting has a platinum-pure solo. And Europa? Well, it’s just perfect. Scary (how could someone write and play something that good) hugely melodic, with a sonic landscape that is unforgettable. The contrast with the Amigos version is just ridiculous – the live version is the one to remember, packed full of sustain and feedback and pace – my God pace, with legato passages that are simply incredible.

There’s no other Santana album like Moonflower. It was the perfect combination of a superb band, great songs, both new and old, high production values and of course Carlos at his magical best. I can’t listen to his “recent” material, featuring guests of marketable value but questionable talent. 2005 will apparently see a “Latin-style” Santana album released amongst others. Although the fingers are slower, I’d love to see him ditch the PRS’s and wipe the dust off the old SG2000 and give his newer fans a brief insight into Santana music that could send shivers down your back.

Review If you’re looking for the one Santana album that encompasses all of his talents, this is it. If you’re not familiar with Santana, and are considering his music, this album is it. A collection of live cuts and studio tracks, this album was released right “Amigos”. It was released during a period when Carlos Santana was pursuing some serious spiritual pathways, and the music is the better for it.

The band for the live cuts was one tight group, and, in my opinon, the best collection of musicians Carlos (or Devadip Carlos, as he called himself at the time)has ever assembled. I can not offhand think of another Santana album where the band is so astonishingly enegetic and incredibly tight. The jazz/fusion influence of Tom Coster’s keyboard playing can be felt throughout.

For me, the tracks that particularly stand out are “Europa”, “Transcendance”, and “Soul Sacrifice”. The live version of Europa, with its increaed tempo and careful use of feedback, and the extended jamming near the end, is worth the price of the album. “Transcendance” is a studio cut with an exteded guitar jam that’s fast and sloppy notes here. The live “Soul Sacrifice” is the album’s tour de force, where no ounce of energy is spared. The guitar work is beyond description. The closing power chords rank right up there with the most powerful rock chords ever recorded. As reviewer GLM accurately states, this track will “test your speakers” and “make your ear wax fall out”. It’s tough to listen to this one and not feel pumped afterward, wondering what hit you.

The one drawback to this CD, and it’s a minor one, is that the tracks too frequently alternate between studio and stage. If played right through, the arrangement of the tracks can present too much of a mood change. You can easily overcome this by suitably programming your player. Also, the opening track, Dawn/Go Within, gets cut off way too early. Just as the groove is really picking up and Tom Coster is laying down some great piano chords, the song fades and segues into the live “Carnaval”.

This album says it all for Santana.

May 1, 2013 Posted by | Santana Moonflower | | Leave a comment

Stevie Wonder Music Of My Mind (1972)


As previously noted, when Stevie turned 21 his Motown contract ran out, and though he felt loyalty towards Motown, he didn’t re-sign with them until they not only upped the ante monetarily but also gave him full artistic control of his albums, which was quite a concession for the label at that time.

Of course, Stevie would prove to be well worth the investment, though not at first as Music Of My Mind spawned no major hits and was something of a commercial disappointment. It is a very good album, though, and is now seen as being the first of the five successive albums on which his reputation primarily rests, at least the good part of his reputation, anyway. Wonder plays everything on all but two tracks; Art Baran adds a trombone solo to “Love Having You Around” and Buzzy Feiton adds some tasty jazz guitar to “Superwoman (Where Were You When I Needed You),” otherwise it’s all Stevie, all the time.

As if to announce that things would be different from now on, those same first two tracks, “Love Having You Around” and “Superwoman (Where Were You When I Needed You),” ambitiously run on for 7:26 and 8:07, respectively. With a big assist from producers Bob Margouleff and Malcolm Cecil, two key contributors to Wonder’s classic period, Music From My Mind was his first album to prominently feature the futuristic sounds of the clavinet synthesizer, which would not only dominate his sound but the ’70s funk and fusion movements in general.

Songs such as “Love Having You Around” and “Keep On Running” are long, repetitive, but quite funky synth-led jams, though these songs and perhaps a couple of others last well past what their expiration dates should’ve been. The album has other problems as well. For example, the vocoder enhanced vocals that occasionally appear may have sounded cutting edge back then, but they sound like a cheesy, dated gimmick now, and lyrically Wonder (now the primary lyricist, though Syreeta co-authors one song and Yvonne Wright assists on two) seems confused.

On one hand, songs such as the blatantly commercial, warmly upbeat sing along “I Love Everything About You,” “Happier Than The Morning Sun,” a rare guitar-led song that exudes a lovely, low-key Sunday morning type of vibe, and “Seems So Long,” another pure pop ballad with wonderful vocals, are breath taking ballads that seem true to what Wonder is all about. Elsewhere, however, songs such as “Superwoman (Where Were You When I Needed You),” the so-so “Sweet Little Thing,” and “Keep On Running” see Stevie adopting a macho, not especially likeable character (I think it’s a character, unless it is Stevie himself) that’s totally at odds with the Stevie we’ve come to know and the Stevie that appears on the rest of the album.

Hearing Stevie sing “don’t make me get mad and act like a nigger” on “Sweet Little Thing” is shocking, to put it mildly, and not in a good way, though fortunately the lovely melody of “Superwoman” still wins out despite some regrettably sexist lyrics, and “Keep On Running” has quite the nice extended groove, though again it’s hard to look past its stalker lyrics.

On the plus side, in addition to this albums pioneering use of electronics and some stellar songs that demonstrate Stevie’s increasingly diverse musicality, his smooth but soulful, much multi-tracked vocals are more confident and expressive than ever. Ending with a bang, the gospel-tinged “Evil,” the only overtly religious song on the album, has an epic, majestic feel. As if to further demonstrate the conflicted nature of this album, which is mostly excellent musically but which lacks a solid emotional core, the song ends suddenly, purposely, with the following devastating denouement: “sweet love, all alone, an outcast of the world.”

May 1, 2013 Posted by | Stevie Wonder Music Of My Mind | | Leave a comment

Carlos Santana & Buddy Miles! Live! (1972)


Review There seem to be all sorts of urban legends surrounding this 1972 Top Ten album from Carlos Santana and Buddy Miles. Some people claim that the concert never took place, which seems unlikely since Santana and Miles toured together extensively in late 1971 and early 1972. Others suggest that Carlos played little on the disc, and while I respect the six-string talents of Neal Schon (who legend also says turned down an invitation from Eric Clapton to flesh out Derek and the Dominos to play with Santana’s band, and who built a great reputation for himself as lead guitarist for Journey), there are numerous guitar runs on ‘Live!’ that have S-A-N-T-A-N-A written all over them. I think many of the myth-makers are deluded by the overly-engineered master tapes. It was common practice in the early seventies to modulate the amplitude of the crowd noise, as is evident on programs such as ABC-TV’s ‘In Concert’ late night program, and this seems to be what was done with ‘Live!’. While it sounds hokey at times, that doesn’t mean the performances didn’t happen.

Perhaps also lending to the controversy is the liner notes listing the recording date as “January 0, 1972”, a non-existant date, suggesting the concert never happened. But the concert actually took place in Hawaii, in the center of the Diamond Head volcanic crater, on January 1, 1972 during the ‘Sunshine ’72 Festival’. Supporting that fact is a collage of about fourteen photographs from the concert itself. I can see Carlos playing guitar in several of them, and there’s a number of Hawaiian-looking people standing around as well. That’s proof enough for me. I guess this one doesn’t rise to the level of the McCartney death hoax!

Fortunately, the music does rise to the occasion. I first acquired a copy of this disc as one of my 12 “free” records when I joined the Columbia Record Club. I wasn’t sure if I would like it, but in 1972 most people were convinced you couldn’t go wrong with Carlos Santana, and I was one of them. I wasn’t disappointed. While it may take a little time and a few listens for the 25 minute plus ‘Free Form Funkafide Filth’ to grow on you… it does. I’m not sure how ‘free form’ this filth is (it’s credited to Miles, Santana, drummer Gregg Errico, and bassist Ron Johnson), but it manages to hit a funk groove on several occasions and passes the ample running time (especially for a vinyl disc) admirably.

The real gem, however, is side one. While the track listing lists five seperate tracks, tracks one and two (‘Marbles’ and ‘Lava’) and tracks four and five (‘Faith Interlude’ and Mile’s best known composition, ‘Them Changes’) segue seamlessly into one another, creating a musical suite. Only an upbeat, horn augmented version of ‘Evil Ways’ stands alone, almost as a centerpiece. All of these tracks, save ‘Faith Interlude’, which is perfectly titled given it’s bouyant strains, are funky tomes of dynamite. Robert Hogins on organ and Coke Escovedo on timbales, along with a trio of conga players, do yoeman’s work keeping up with Santana, Schon, and Miles. Over the years these tracks have merged in my mind, and belong together as one piece of work every bit as much as the flip side of the original vinyl disc.

This is at least the third time this disc has been reissued, having been remastered in 1994 and reissued in 2005. The pressed copies of the 2005 release must have gone quickly, explaining the need for this 2008 reissue. Sadly, no additional tracks have ever been added to any of the reissues, suggesting that no additional quality recordings from the concert exist. That’s a little hard to believe, but what else could explain it? If additional material comparable to what is being offered here is ever released, criminal negligence charges should be levied against Bob Irwin, the “Reissue Producer”, for keeping it under wraps for so long. Regardless, your classic rock collection isn’t complete without this one.

Review Carlos Santana & Buddy Miles Live!…was recorded on New Year’s Day, 1972 at the Sunshine ’72 Festival inside Diamond Head volcano crater, Honolulu Hawaii. Carlos was coming off the massive commercial success highs of three critically acclaimed Santana albums, but was moving away from the Latin rock format he had pioneered and was taking more and more aggressive steps towards focusing his attentions and talents on fusion jazz.

Carlos though was a huge fan of Jimi Hendrix, very evident in his pre-studio and early studio playing techniques and extremely evident in the unreleased 1967 single “Ballin'” a gigantic homage to Jimi! The chance to team up with Band Of Gypsy’s drummer Buddy Miles was as close as he would ever get to meshing with one of his guitar heroes. As a matter of force, Carlos and Buddy were accompanied on this record and in the concert with some main elements of Santana (the band) including 2nd guitarist and soon to be founder of Journey, Neal Schon.

The concert album kicks off with a two-part jam penned by Carlos’ new guitar hero John McLaughlin in the first part (Marbles) and by Buddy in the 2nd drum led part (Lava). An R&B funky version of Evil Ways, with lead vocals by Buddy offers a unique take on the hit single. I’ve been listening to this for nearly 40 years and the jury is still out. As a live performance it has its merits, but in comparison to the Santana original, it is a few bricks shy of a full load for me. The opening song Marbles is much better by a mile (no pun intended), but the closer to side one of the album, a newly refreshed version of Band Of Gypsy’s hit Them Changes is the stand out track here.

Them Changes has even more intense energy than ever, the lead guitar work by young Carlos is a flaming blaze of glory that rivals (and possibly outshines) the Hendrix original work (shame on me!) and the added brass horns make this a one of a kind remake! Now if you like Woodstock/Live at the Fillmore-wherever long jam sessions, filled with overlapping and exchanged leads from every musician on the stage, laid down with a 70’s-funk R&B bottom, then the 25 minute long Free Form Funkafide Filth, the whole side two of the original vinyl, is where it is at. You might like it, you might not, you might just have to be “in the mood”. Anyway you cut it, the concert album is high-energy, raw, naked talent complete with all the warts.

A Santana collector or completist will need this album, a big fan will want it, a casual fan will have to evaluate if the representative style here warrants the purchase (at the Amazon price of 6 bucks that’s a big a-duh). This is a Buddy Miles delivering the goods he always makes great. This is a Carlos as usual unparalleled on guitar and backed up with his legendary 2nd, Neal Schon, but a Carlos in transition from Rock to Jazz in a set that is mainly R&B inspired. The engineering was good for its time but is far from perfect yet also far from being anything near a bootleg. It is a large crowd concert with humanity jammed into the top of an open-air volcano, so the crowd noise is definitely there.

If you like “exciting” albums, this is one of those! Not Carlos’ best work but far from his worst as well. I give it Four, you might care to judge for yourself.

May 1, 2013 Posted by | Carlos Santana & Buddy Miles Live | | Leave a comment

Neil Young Waging Heavy Peace (2012)


When an artist as venerable and important as Neil Young decides to sit and write an autobiography you hope for something special. An immensely prolific musician, Young has something of a reputation for being gnarly, cantankerous and difficult – after all this is a man who was once sued by his own record company for making music “that was uncharacteristic of Neil Young”. As it turns out, despite it’s jumbled narrative and occasional cul de sacs, the easy conversational style that Young employs in “Waging Heavy Peace: A Hippie Dream” makes the book both immensely readable and enjoyable. It’s like listening to a grandparent reminiscing – the stories don’t come in any particular order, occasionally they take strange tangents and they vary from the fascinating to the mundane.

The book finds Young in a drug and alcohol free state and the straightest he’s been since he was eighteen. Recovering from a broken toe and needing to rest a while, he decides to both write his autobiography and start planning to record again with Crazy Horse (a band he refers to throughout in the third person, as a mystic entity) worrying a little if the muse has departed and whether he’ll still be able to write songs in his new found sobriety. Despite having not written a new song for more than half a year, Young knows that patience is the key, “Songs are like rabbits and they like to come out of their holes when you’re not looking, so if you stand there waiting they will just burrow down and come out somewhere far away, a new place where you can’t see them. So I feel like I am standing over a song hole. That will never result in success. The more we talk about this, the worse it will get. So that is why we are changing the subject.”

With a new album, “Psychedelic Pill”, recorded with Crazy Horse due in October, Young’s patience has clearly paid off, yet he remains a deeply contradictory person. A man with such reserves of patience he spends decades compiling his legendary archive releases or working on a definitive version of his thirty year old movie “Human Highway” yet someone who knows that first or second takes with Crazy Horse are usually the best and is not averse to “spontaneous change” waking up and halting a recording or changing musicians. As he puts it “Honesty is the only thing that works. It hurts to be honest, but the muse has no conscience. If you do it for the music, you do it for the music, and everything else is secondary. Although that has been hard for me to learn, it is the best and really the only way to live through a life dedicated to the muse. The muse says, ‘If it isn’t totally great, then don’t do it. Change.'”

If patience is one of Young’s core drivers, then his obsessive side clearly is too. A keen collector of cars (many of the stories involve one of his many classic cars, or start in Feelgoods, his garage) as well as model trains, manuscripts, photographs, records, clothes, and recordings. This obsessive ness sees Young immersed in several long term projects, including his work with Lionel, the model train company where he’s searching for a method of accurately linking the sound and smoke effects of the models to the effort involved in pulling their loads; to Lincvolt, a four year project to power a huge Lincoln Continental by energy efficient means; and PureTone (currently renamed Pono) a sound system designed to “rescue my art form, music, from the degradation in quality that I think is at the heart of the decline of music sales”.

Spanning his life from childhood in Omemee, Ontario up to 2011, Waging Heavy Peace takes a meandering journey, and if Young’s reminisces of contracting polio aged five, of his old paper round route, or of mall shopping in Hawaii fail to grip you don’t worry, shortly there’ll be a chapter describing how he’s illegally entering the States without a work visa heading for the golden promise of California looking for Stephen Stills and readying to form Buffalo Springfield. Or describing how Time magazine’s famous photo of the Kent State shooting inspired him to write “Ohio” and record it the next day. Or, how holed up in his Topanga house semi-delirious with a fever he managed to write “Cinnamon Girl”, “Down By The River” and “Cowgirl In The Sand” in one afternoon. Or, yes, how David Geffen sued him for making music “that was uncharacteristic of Neil Young” after Young delivered “Island In The Sun”, “Trans”, and “Everybody’s Rockin’ (the latter delivered in the guise of an old fashioned rocker after being told to go and make a rock and roll record).

Young goes to places he doesn’t need to with a disarming honesty – be it failed relationships, his son’s quadriplegia, his enduring love for wife Pegi, a brush with Charles Manson, or even to accidentally poisoning the attendees at his annual birthday party with poison oak. As you might expect in any memoir from a sixty five year old, the roll call of ghosts within the book is long. Crazy Horse Guitarist Danny Whitten and roadie Bruce Berry (both lost to heroin within a few months of each other), Ben Keith the pedal steel player, arranger and producer Jack Nitzsche, producer David Briggs and filmmaking collaborator Larry Johnson all brighten the pages when Young talks about them with love. The spectre of his own mortality also dances in the background – his near death recovering from surgery for a brain aneurysm and the worry of a potential descent into the dementia that claimed his father loom large. The book’s final paragraph, which sees Young taking a nap near a creek, then in his dreamlike state enter a cafe where his departed friends Larry Johnson and David Briggs are both having a late breakfast and seemingly waiting for him simultaneously bring both a smile to your face and a lump to your throat.

Young says, “Writing this book, there seems to be no end to the information flowing through me” and this theme and enthusiasm seems to still apply to all aspects of his life, be it his music, his family, or his various projects. Happily, Neil Young has neither burned out nor faded away, and long may he continue to run.

May 1, 2013 Posted by | Book Neil Young Waging Heavy Peace | | Leave a comment