Classic Rock Review

The home of old record and bootleg reviews…

The Doobie Brothers Farewell Tour (1983)

18727From amazon.com

Review The Doobies’ Farewell Tour CD (from 1983) is an terrific live album that contains many fan favourites from their catalogue of hits – it’s just not long enough! As mentioned in an earlier review, there’s enough material for a double CD, but Warner Bros. decided to limit the concert to a single disk. Too bad!

Consequently, some of the cuts are a little shorter than I would like (“China Grove” and “Don’t Start Me Talkin'”, in particular), but this deficit is made up for by extended cuts of “Long Train Runnin'”, “Jesus is Just Alright”, and a great lengthened version of “Steamer Lane Breakdown”.

On the positive, though, the band is in fine form with Michael McDonald and Pat Simmons doing most of the vocals, the talented John McFee on his array of stringed instruments, Keith Knudsen on drums, Bobby LaKind on the congas, and Cornelius Bumpus on the sax, synth., & organ, plus a cameo by Tommy Johnson on “Long Train Runnin'” and “China Grove”. The renditions of their songs have all been updated without losing the appeal of the original versions. (Much like later their later live CD’s “Rockin’ Down the Highway – The Wildlife Concert” and “Live at Wolf Trap” – both outstanding, by the way!)

I found the going tough when I tried to find this CD and would suggest getting it quick if you want a copy. For years, it was just in available in Japan, but is now making it’s way to the states. The price is becoming somewhat inflated over the past few months, though, so “buyer beware”!

For Doobie “complete-ists”, like myself, you’ll want to search until you can find “Farewell Tour”, for fans those who want something similar to this CD, but easier to find, you’ll be just as happy with either (or both) of the two aforementioned live albums.

Review I Bought the Vinyl and Cassette in 1983, Sometime later paid high dollars for the Japanese CD edition. Now all of these years later it finally makes a US CD debut, but no Bonus tracks. What a disgrace. A lot of critics or fellow DB’s fans have put this album in the back of there closets. Some would say overly produced or what ever there reasons are.

My opinion is the cuts that were chosen from the live shows for this album were not the best ones. The actual shows were 2 + HR’s, now I understand you could only put so many songs on vinyl. But if you saw any of the video broadcast HBO and A&E 60 min and 74 minutess you would’ve seen better live versions that should’ve ended up on this set. Also songs like “Here To Love You, Take Me In Your Arms, It Keeps You Running, Real Love, Keep This Train Rollin. The long jam version of Listen To The music from the Berkley show with all members on stage and many others that could’ve made this a 2 CD set. Or at the very least add 2 or three extra songs.

It seems as though the DB’s have not gotten the respect that many other bands from the 1970’s have gotten, in terms of RE:issues of there original albums IE remastering or bonus tracks, demos and Unissued songs from that session. Minus the box set Disc 4, there is really not a lot available on the DB’s. And to think Blondie is in the Rock-N-Roll Hall Of Fame and no DB’s as of yet HMMM. Anyway, I think this is a good live album, great arrangements of the songs live, yes lacking volume levels or a better remastering and extra songs. A good live album by quality artist, at least Rhino put out and maybe they will put a full 2 HR+ DVD out sometime down the road, from this Tour, the DB’s deserve it…You know the WB vaults are full of rare live/studio stuff -Mike Sippie

Review It’s good that this album is finally available on CD in the US. From what I’ve seen this album has been slammed by critics and treated as almost a non-entity in the Doobie catalogue.

That’s just unfair, because this is a GREAT live album. Every Doobie fan (except maybe those who are Johnston-era only fans) needs to have this. This is everything a live album should be. Many live albums have versions of songs that are just carbon copies of the originals, adding nothing to them and sometimes even subtracting from them. But you won’t hear that kind of thing here. Many tracks on this album add new twists to the originals, and some (Steamer Lane Breakdown, You Belong To Me) are actually more definitive versions of the songs.

Of course this is a historically important collection as well, in more ways than one. There are two Doobies originals that were first heard here (including “Olana,” which later appeared in studio form on the box set, but the definitive version is on this album). There is the lead vocal debut of (the late) Keith Knudsen, on “Don’t Start Me Talkin'” (sounding a lot like Pat Simmons and a lot UNlike Keith’s vocals on SIBLING RIVALRY).

The second Doobies live album, Wildlife Concert, repeats most of the songs that were on this album. With only a couple exceptions, it is the FAREWELL TOUR versions, not the WILDLIFE CONCERT ones, that I listen to.

If you’re a McDonald-era or “all-eras” Doobies fan, get this.

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May 5, 2013 Posted by | The Doobie Brothers Farewell Tour | | Leave a comment

Revolution In The Head: The Beatles Records And The Sixties by Ian MacDonald (1994)

288550From amazon.co.uk

Review Revolution in the Head is one of those books that is impossible to put down once started. Nor can it be read just once. Every piece of information Ian MacDonald provides is riveting and describes not just the writing and recording process, but the cultural and personal back stories behind each song and each band member.

The power of this book is the fresh light it throws on the Beatles as a dynamic unit, their thought processes, their relationships with the other Beatles and the outside world and their general approach to life encapsulated whilst writing and recording songs. Although musicians will appreciate the detailed analysis of the songs’ structure, it is not just a musicians’ book, neither is it strictly for Beatles fans. But as it says on the cover, you will want to return to your record collection and hear the songs again in a re-evaluated light.

Although the author includes every song recorded by the band, he quite rightly only concentrates his efforts on those songs worth evaluating. So, for example ‘A Day in the Life’ covers about 5 pages, whereas ‘Baby You’re a Rich Man’ barely receives a paragraph. MacDonald is not afraid to criticise band members as well as the song when required, but his criticisms are always supported with strong arguments and are often even-handed. This is summed-up perfectly in his analysis of the friction between Lennon and McCartney towards the break-up, by way of his evaluation of ‘The Long and Winding Road’, which is nothing short of exceptional.

Neither Lennon or McCartney come out on top, instead you feel that you have been given a privileged insight into the minds of two great artists, who had their own agendas for their own reasons. Personally I don’t buy in to the McCartney bias either; MacDonald is simply setting the record straight and isn’t afraid to pull his punches – against any Beatle. In fact, the only member of the band who survives more-or-less intact is Ringo. What MacDonald does is remind us that the Beatles were truly unique in that they were – and always will be – the only pop group to have two genius song witers. Yet despite their brilliance, they were also annoying, unbearable and human, in their own way.

The only criticism I have about the book is the author’s synopsis ‘Fabled Foursome: Disappearing Decade’ (this is in earlier editions of the book, I’m not sure if it is still included); a 30-odd page analysis which basically boils down to the argument that the 60s was the high watermark for popular music and culture and nothing after would ever match it. This is just plain wrong: great music is great music, irrespective of the decade or genre it comes from. Who can say that the music of the Beatles and their contemporaries was any better than David Bowie, Elvis, The Clash or Radiohead in their time? With no disrepect to the dead, his critique comes across as some grumpy old man, regurgitating the same old “music isn’t what it used to be” routine. Because this basic premise is flawed, the whole thesis becomes a house of cards.

Notwithstanding this criticism, the rest of the book is so precise, perfectly observed and compelling that it can only be given five stars.

Review This brilliant effort by late Ian MacDonald is my favourite book on The Beatles there is – hands down. The core of the book consists of musical analysis of every single song (approx. 200) The Beatles released, with also some stories behind the songs and, of course, the author’s opinions of them.

After reading the book, you should pretty much know, for example, which Beatles tunes were written or mainly written by Lennon and which by McCartney and the ones that were 50-50 collaborations. Sure, most of this information can be found somewhere else too (usually you need only to recognize who is doing the lead vocal), but MacDonald digs a little deeper than others. For instance, it emerges that the music for “In My Life” was very probably written by McCartney even though it is generally considered a Lennon song (lyrically, it obviously is). This is not just based on what Sir Paul has claimed but also on the fact that the song shows more of Macca’s touch than Lennon’s, and I, for one, believe what MacDonald is saying. And if you don’t know which songs were written by Harrison and Starr, well, that will be revealed as well.

And while the book is not underrating John Lennon in any way, it also proves that Paul McCartney is the one who’s mostly responsible for those great mid/late 60s albums. I’ve always liked a bit of mythbusting, and I believe this book is a true eye-opener for many.

If I had to say something negative, it would be the fact that I don’t sometimes agree with the author’s opinions at all. For example, MacDonald pretty much dismisses songs like Nowhere Man, Across The Universe, I Want You (She’s So Heavy), and While My Guitar Gently Weeps which I all like. Also, some other of his opinions raised my eyebrows; I do agree that Helter Skelter isn’t very good piece of music, but the way he basically puts down the whole genre of heavy metal is a bit ridiculous to me.

There is no doubt, however, that the book is a tremendous effort from MacDonald, and it should be owned by everyone who is interested in the music of the most important rock group the world has ever known. I myself am not an expert on music theory, but you don’t need to be; MacDonald never gets too ‘scientific’ in my opinion, and you should be able to enjoy the book whether you tend to analyse music or not.

May 5, 2013 Posted by | Book Revolution In The Head The Beatles Records And The Sixties by Ian MacDonald | , | Leave a comment

A Journey Through America With The Rolling Stones by Robert Greenfield (1974)

Greenfield%202%20%20064From amazon.com

Review Greenfield also wrote a book about the Stones’ Exile on Main Street sessions, a flawed tome about a fascinating moment in rock `n’ roll history (perhaps the most fascinating). And while that book has been derided and mocked somewhat, I somehow learned more about the Stones in it than I did in this book, which I had high hopes for but which ultimately disappointed me with its shapelessness and its many, many “who cares moments”.

The book hardly features the Stones, going more into the setup of touring, the mechanics of it, the madness, the insanity, the transportation and some of the parties. In this way, it’s a bit like some sort of nutty rock `n’ roll staging Apocalypse Now, complete with its very own new journalism McGuffin. There are a few incidents recounted, such as a scuffle with a photographer and an arrest in Rhode Island as Boston burns (the book’s most dramatic, feel-good moment). There’s the opening of the tour in Vancouver, the dates in San Francisco and hanging out with Bill Graham (who Greenfield has also written a biography of), there’s encounters with kids queuing up to buy tickets and girls like Cynthia and Jo-Ann, who are hitch hiking between shows; there’s the boredom and insanity of being in the middle of nowhere and there’s groupies like Renee being set up for the risque parts of the film that Robert Frank is making during the tour – hey, he gets as much screen time as any of the other principals. Greenfield quotes Charles Bukowski, on Mick Jagger, in the LA Free Press:

He tried. And he was wonderful. He spilled more blood on that floor than a five thousand-man army but he didn’t make it. He’d been tricked into acceptance… He was tired. He was too much money in. He was too famous. He sucked at the crowd He tried to remember how it was when he first worked it. How it was when he was really and purely real…

The book mistakenly notes that Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham had forced Bill Wyman to change his name from Bill Perks, I remember him saying in his autobiography that he’d done this on his own even before he joined the Rolling Stones. Nice interviews with Charlie Watts. Not much about Mick Taylor, who is still a mystery man. Printing goof-up on P137.

Transporting the Stones to parties, moving from city to city, getting stuck in traffic, all the mundanities of being on tour. Great description of life at Hugh Hefner’s Mansion in Chicago, including a reproduction of memos to the bunnies. Funny Truman Capote anecdotes (“They’re complete idiots… Intuition tells me they’ll never tour this country again, and in fact will not exist in three years.”), since he was there as a writer (although he decided later not to write the story he was preparing), Terry Southern also. Nice anecdotes with Bobby Keys about his days working with Buddy Holly, Bobby Vee, and Delaney and Bonnie. Greenfield describes a cool Keys anecdote of his days on the road with Vee, rehearsing in Moorhead, Minnesota:

This kid came in, asking for a gig as a piano player. He said his name was Eldon Gunn and he liked playing Hank Williams’ stuff. Everyone in the wand was into wide silk ties, high collar shirts, and Aqua-Net to keep their James Dean hairdos in place, and the kid just didn’t fit. So they told him to go home and practice some more and come back when your act’s together, and instead he went to New York and became a folksinger by the name of Bob Dylan.

There are also tales of real fear as the band gets their equipment dynamited in Montreal (four times!), and Jagger is terrified of being assassinated, either by Hell’s Angels still brimming over the Stones’ betrayal at Altamont or by Manson Family crazies. What a life, man, what a life, and the Stones have been doing this fifty years this year!!!

Review Some people, I swear. I’m getting not helpful reviews because I point out this guy’s very weak skills as an author and his pathetic research that yielded numerous factual errors? go figure. The book is crap and doesn’t even deserve 4 stars. Make it 2.

Greenfield’s first book on the Rolling Stones chronicling their North American tour of 1972 is far better than his recent “Exile On Main Street: A Season in Hell with the Rolling Stones”. I enjoyed the style of writing and the bird’s eye view of things that went on during the tour. I knew that the Stones’ touring party was typically fairly depraved but I really had no idea of the extent of that depravity. I hate to be all PC and all that but young women (girls really) were treated as something to use and throw away. There are several accounts of young women who, while not part of the Stones Touring Party, were highly visible throughout the tour, used up for sordid entertainment, allowed themselves to be completely humiliated without even realizing it (the airplane film incident), and discarded like garbage. It’s very sad the things that some of these young women did in order to be near that glittering star. I wonder how they feel today? Everything had to be cleared by Jagger and Richards, these two men have much to atone for, really.

There are some really dumb and glaring mistakes and that fact that this is a second edition publication make them unforgivable really:

For example, on page 115 Greenfield tells us about how a young Mick Taylor took Eric Clapton’s place in Mayall’s Blues Breakers. Greenfield must have smoked an awful lot of dope in his day. Anyone who knows anything about the music of that era knows that Peter Green (who went on to found the original Fleetwood Mac) replaced Clapton. Mick Taylor replaced Peter Green. Duh? That’s rock-guitar history/appreciation 101 and Greenfield gets a big fat “F”

On page 117 Greenfield mentions men in Denver washing their cars in the drive way and wondering what kind of season the Denver Bears were going to have… What? While it is true that in the late 50’s and very early 60’s Denver did have a semi-pro football team called the Denver Bears (almost no one in Denver remembers this), by 1972, Bronco mania had long taken hold in Denver (I was there). The Broncos were just a couple of years shy of their first appearance in a string of many very disappointing Superbowl performances (thank God they got that monkey of their backs).

Didn’t this guy have an editor? Who proofed this darn thing? Presumably a member of the Stones Touring Party who was just as stoned as everyone else. Again, this is a second edition boys and girls. Mistakes like the two cited above are good examples of shoddy authorship and editing. Maybe some writing course will use them as examples.

Those two mistakes are glaring and it leaves me wondering about how many not so glaring mistakes this book also contains.

May 5, 2013 Posted by | Book A Journey Through America With The Rolling Stones by Robert Greenfield | , | Leave a comment

The True Adventures Of The Rolling Stones by Stanley Booth (1984)

240244From amazon.com

“True Adventures” is a classic account of the end of the Sixties rock scene and the prime of the Rolling Stones.

Author Stanley Booth travelled with the Stones during their fateful 1969 US tour, when they had seemingly eclipsed the Beatles as the “World’s Greatest Rock ‘n Roll Band,” and conducted interviews with the band and various friends and family members to gather material for the book. Booth provides a real day to day sense of what it was like to be with the Stones and their travelling party at the time, including the famous Thanksgiving concert at Madison Square Garden that was the source of the highly regarded “Get Yer Ya Ya’s Out” live release. Along with the music, there’s of course a lot of drugs and sex, and a overlying sense of exhaustion for most concerned.

The layout of the book alternates between an account of the 1969 US tour, culminating in the disastrous free concert at Altamount Speedway, and a description of the Stones’ history up to that point which gradually focuses in on Brian Jones’ problems and eventual death. A few short chapters describing the early scene at Altamount, before the concert started, are interspersed (including the opening chapter of the book), usually written in italics.

As others have pointed out, the book is not written in a traditional chronological narrative like most music biographies. It instead is written in a first person, stream of consciousness style which is very intense and condensed, similar to a novel. Even as someone who reads a lot, I found it helpful to not read more than a couple of chapters at a time. (In the meantime, I found a few internet interviews and articles on Booth which helped fill in some of his background and explain some of the brief references that probably otherwise would have slipped by.)

So, if like some of the other reviewers you are looking for a garden variety bio of the Stones that is easy to read, this book is not for you. Booth spent 15 years working on the book (well, with some drug bouts and other problems complicating things in the meantime…), and he obviously was trying to do more than just that. As Keith Richards said about the book, it took longer to write than the Bible. In Booth’s defense, the high quality of the book clearly reflects the amount of effort that he put into it, and in my opinion, the writing style suits the subject matter perfectly.

While some have objected to Booth putting himself in the book as a main character, I thought it was a great approach, similar to Cameron Crowe’s “Almost Famous.” Indeed, since both wrote for Rolling Stone magazine and Booth’s book predates Crowe’s work, I wonder even if “Almost Famous” may not have at least been partially inspired by Booth’s approach here.

The book’s two story lines eventually come together to conclude with the death of Brian Jones in the Summer of 1969 and the Altamount concert disaster near the end of that year. Booth’s account of the Altamount concert is vivid and nightmarish, even for readers who know from the start that this story is not going to end well. The Hell’s Angels were absolutely pounding anyone approaching their motorcycles or the stage, but many of the hippies, drawn by the music and wasted on drugs, could not seem to stop themselves from coming on into the Angels. It’s miraculous that only 1 person was killed by the Angels. Mick Jagger, who Booth clearly didn’t like and often comes off badly in the book, seems to be the only one in the band who recognized and reacted to the full extent of the problems once they took the stage. While Jagger’s recognition of the situation came far too late, he nevertheless admirably struggled to calm the huge crowd, to no avail. Having seen the Hells Angels up close and in action, Jagger would never again dabble in the satanic imagery he had previously used, nor would he allow the band’s future shows to be so chaotic.

Even taken on its own terms, though, the book is not without its faults. Booth does not seem to fully acknowledge the terrible toll of the heavy drug use of many concerned, including himself. Drugs of course played a major role in Brian Jones’ death, as well as the fatal overdose of Gram Parsons, who by most accounts became a heroin user through his friendship with Keith Richards. (Parsons, coincidentally, was from the same small Southern town as Booth and was present during many of the events described in the book; according to various interviews, Booth has been working on a Parsons bio, but like this book, it has been in the works for many years, and has not yet appeared). Keith Richards would later admit in interviews that his heavy drug use damaged his own abilities. He might have learned to ski on heroin, as he claimed in interviews, but his great song writing ability was never really the same once he became a full on heroin junkie after Exile on Main Street. Even in the afterword that was written for the book’s later republication, there are passing references, but Booth does not really mark the full cost of all the drugs.

Booth also seems to have a dismissive attitude towards Mick Taylor, who had just joined the band in 1969 and was then very young. Taylor certainly did not have a strong personality like Richards (who apparently did not get along with Taylor very well), but in terms of sheer playing ability, Taylor was the best guitarist the Stones ever had, by a wide margin. While that was often acknowledged by other members of the band, Richards for a long time used interviews to downplay Taylor’s abilities and input. In recent years, however, even Richards has admitted otherwise and expressed regret at Taylor’s departure from the band – e.g., in the recent Rolling Stone magazine feature for the 40th anniversary reissue of Exile on Main Street, in which the band’s engineer Andy Johns also states that Taylor “played rings around” Richards. Even though Booth was close to Richards, by the 1984 publication of this book, let alone when the afterword was done for the book’s republication many years later, Taylor’s contribution should have been obvious to someone as musically astute as Booth.

All in all, though, the book is a tour de force account of a moment in time when rock music probably had its greatest public influence – and the danger and excess that came with that influence.

May 5, 2013 Posted by | Book The True Adventures Of The Rolling Stones by Stanley Booth | , | Leave a comment

Led Zeppelin Concert Memories: Houston, Texas Saturday May 21, 1977

Robert_Plant_of_Led_Zeppelin__1977From underground Uprising uuweb.led-zeppelin.us

I was fortunate to have witnessed this concert after just turning 16. Getting a ticket was a challenge in itself and I didn’t get one upon initial sale, only getting one from a friend later.

The tickets were sold at Warehouse Records and Tapes, a chain of Houston area record stores and sold out immediately. The people lucky enough to get tickets had to be hustled out of the back of the stores because people were attacking them and stealing their tickets. My friend got pushed through a plate glass window at the store but only received minor cuts and stayed to get tickets. The police actually called out the fire department and they turned on water cannons to disperse the crowd at one location. These tickets had the original date of February 28th printed on them but the concert was postponed until May 21st because Robert Plant got sick.

Talk about an agonizing three month wait, we honestly didn’t think they would ever play after the postponement. After all of that, Plant’s voice actually seemed to be in great shape during the show. So it was with a great deal of hope and sense of event that we filed into the Summit on the Saturday of the show. I did not see one person selling tickets outside the venue, but there were thousands trying to buy them, a real mob scene and mentality.

I kept my ticket in my front pocket with my hand inside my pocket for extra safety. One very distinct memory was the crowd reaction at this concert. After 8pm every time a warm up song ended on the PA system the crowd would go crazy cheering in anticipation so by the time the show started at 8:25pm the crowd was in a total state of delirium, people were literally yelling at the tops of their lungs when Zeppelin finally took the stage. To be completely honest I really think people were sceptical that they would play right up to the moment they appeared on stage. The sound was so loud and clear during the concert it was shocking.

The sensationally strange set list of the 1977 tour would not be repeated before or after this tour making it unique in that respect. John Bonham was a true monster during this show, his drums sounded like cannons being shot off. Jimmy was a rock and roll gymnast, he was moving around like it was the last time he would ever play. The acoustic set was well received and quite a spectacle with all of the Zeps sitting in a row across the stage. JPJ’s triple neck guitar got a lot of comments among the crowd. The Drum Solo, Kashmir and Achilles Last Stand were the highlights of the show. Stairway made everyone pour into the aisles on the main floor and storm the stage.

After Stairway the band locked arms and bowed as a rainbow lighting effect washed across the stage. During the first encore of Rock and Roll Jimmy fell to his knees while doing a spin move and everyone kind of looked at each other laughing and saying he fell down, he fell down. It took an eternity for the band to return for the second encore, a great drunken version of Trampled Underfoot and the show officially ended at 11:50 pm. The show was broadcast over the in house video system and certainly couldn’t have been done without the bands permission.

After the show the crowd broke many of the twenty foot high windows that surround the Summit and caused a half million dollars in damage, I guess this was their way of throwing a television set out of a hotel window. We went to the car and got away from the crazies as quick as possible. A couple of really horrible reviews that have been reprinted in the Concert Files book appeared in the Houston papers the next day, making us wonder if the writers had been at the show at all.

Bad Company was playing the Texas circuit that same weekend and it was no secret that the bands were hanging out and partying together. In conclusion, people who never had the opportunity to see Led Zeppelin cannot truly understand or appreciate what it was like being in the same room with all of that power, it was absolutely awe inspiring. There was next to nothing in the press regarding Led Zeppelin in those days, Creem and Circus magazine were probably the main magazines in the states that printed anything about them, no hype whatsoever. At that time Jimmy Page was the most mysterious and revered figure in rock. It is hard to imagine how much power Zeppelin had in those days. There was so much demand in the Houston area I honestly think they could have sold out the Astrodome twice .

We talked about the show for months afterward and still do to this day.

Stephen J. Christensen, July 2005

May 5, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin Concert Memories: Houston Texas Saturday May 21 1977 | , | Leave a comment

Hendrix: Setting The Record Straight by John McDermott & Eddie Kramer (1992)

Jimi-Hendrix-Setting-The-Recor-337311From amazon.com

Review Disclaimer: Huge Hendrix worshipper! When this book appeared in 1992 it was (and still is) the most even-handed biography on Jimi. Previous bios were from either muckrakers who were trying to damage his legacy, or by people who never met him and were trying to make grand statements about his talent. In this book McDermott has taken the time to get first-hand accounts from those who knew Hendrix best, including band mates and business associates.

The most valuable asset here is engineer Eddie Kramer, who was Hendrix’s close friend and trusted creative confidant. (However, it seems that Noel Redding was consulted less than other band mates, possibly because he had a more unflattering story to tell).

Getting these valuable first-hand accounts gives us a very balanced view of Jimi’s personality, and both sides of the coin are shown. You get the expected admiration for his talent, and the good sides of his personality. You also get the not-so-good parts, such as Jimi’s paranoia, insecurities, and appallingly poor business sense. This book is not afraid to give bad reviews of Hendrix’s poor live performances with the Experience when they were on the verge of splintering, or with the undeveloped Band of Gypsys. Also, his pathetic death (choking on his own vomit) is not dwelled upon and is treated as the senseless mistake it really was, rather than the noble, romanticized exit from this world (or even suicide) that you’ll hear about in other accounts.

The excessive details about Hendrix’s sloppy business arrangements provide valuable information, even though these passages get very long-winded and detract from the focus of the book – which is the man and his music. Also, be suspicious of character descriptions of people who are not around to give their side of the story. This doesn’t apply to Hendrix himself, as described above, but to late manager Michael Jeffery. This man surely left plenty of evidence that he was paranoid and power-hungry, but the descriptions of his personality by the people in the book, most of whom didn’t like him, should be treated with suspicion, as he’s not around to have his say. To a lesser extent, the same applies to Jimi’s sexy but dangerous girlfriend Devon Wilson.

The coverage of the posthumous Hendrix musical catalog is getting outdated (fortunately). Certainly after his death, the managers and record companies flooded the market with inferior material, most of which was either impromptu jam sessions or sub-par live performances which were never meant for release. Until the mid-90’s this avalanche of so-called “lost” material blurred the brilliance of the smaller amount of official records that Jimi really tailored for the public. This situation has been mostly resolved since 1994 when the Hendrix family finally gained control of the musical copyrights. They’ve given us great reissues of the official albums, as well as the incredible “First Rays of the New Rising Sun” which consolidates the album Hendrix was creating at the time of his death. But with things like “South Saturn Delta” and “Live at the Fillmore East” the Hendrix family is almost as guilty of barrel-scraping as the bad guys were in the 70s.

Review I’ve read three different Hendrix biographies and each came at the subject of Jimi Hendrix from a different direction. Setting the Record Straight is good because there is a lot of input from people who were close to Hendrix, especially people who were part of his organization, but who were not particularly well known. Like all of the Hendrix biographies, this book does have its faults, I mean, how many times should an author state that Jimi was growing wary of Michael Jeffries, Jimi was trying to keep his distance from Michael Jeffries, Jimi was avoiding Michael Jeffries. I found one spot where there were at least 4 references in a 2 page span about how Jimi as getting tired of Michael Jeffries. Ok. We get it. Yawn.

The book is very good in explaining how the Hendrix “image” was deliberately created to be controversial (most of us grown-ups had already figured that one out). It tells us how the “real” Jimi started to emerge after the release of Electric Ladyland. It tells us the story of the Electric Lady studio and how it came about from the initial idea of creating a club much like Steve Paul’s Scene club. It also tells us about when and why Chas Chandler excused himself from the organization. Actually Chas turns out to be one of the few really classy people in the Hendrix organization.

You also learn about a host of disastrous gigs and shows where Jimi just didn’t want to play. In some ways you feel sorry for him and in other ways you begin to understand that the guy’s work ethic really sucked. If you lived through the era I guarantee you will end up feeling pretty embarrassed about your generation’s behaviour.

Unfortunately, this book doesn’t tell some of the stories that I am interested in. I wanted to read about the jam session in the studio that produced Voodoo Chile for example. There really isn’t much emphasis about how the music was made. In my opinion, when it comes to Hendrix, that’s a no-brainer; that’s what people want to read about.

From a musical perspective, I would have to say that Crosstown Traffic is a much better biography as it does much to show Jimi’s importance within the context of American art and culture. Really, I don’t care about Jimi’s business and I don’t care about his depraved social life either. I just love his music. Setting the Record Straight is really more about the business side of Jimi Hendrix and the Hendrix “product”. Excuse Me While I Kiss the Sky is probably the least interesting of the three I’ve read, it’s more about Jimi’s social life than anything. That particular book tries to be sensational by asserting that Jimi was murdered and then downplaying that idea in the same paragraph. That was rather like when a lawyer coaches a client witness to blurt something out on the stand that they know the judge is going to strike down, but the jury is going to hear it anyway. Shabby.

I would pick up both Setting the Record Straight and Crosstown Traffic if you really want to get to know Jimi and his significance with respect to American art and culture.

Oh yeah, one little factual nugget I finally learned after years and years and years (decades really) of wondering… It was Jimi who played the freaked out recorder solo at the end of If Six Was Nine. Hooray! Mystery solved! That was driving me nuts!

May 5, 2013 Posted by | Book Hendrix Setting The Record Straight by John McDermott and Eddie Kramer | , | 1 Comment

Paul McCartney & Wings Band On The Run (1973)

Band-On-The-RunFrom amazon.com

Review Many fans and critics alike will tell you that Paul McCartney’s 1973 Band on the Run and 1975 Venus & Mars are his best albums and near-equals. While I like Venus & Mars fine, I think this faulty comparison is due to one of two things: A) overestimation of V&M or B) underestimation of BotR. And strange as it may seem, the latter is much closer to reality. Band on the Run is terribly underrated the same way Abbey Road is underrated – respected, but not held in the awe reserved for “better” records like Sgt. Pepper’s or Plastic Ono Band. Yeah. Right. Ranking at a paltry #418 on Rolling Stone’s “500 Greatest Albums” list, it’s about time Band on the Run stands up and is accorded its rightful place as one of pop’s greatest achievements.

The album opens with a one-two punch of the title track, a grandiose mini-suite chronicling a bereaved prisoner and his jubilant escape (construe that how you choose), and the thrilling Jet, flying as high as its namesake. Amazingly, Paul manages to keep a comparable level of excellence up throughout the album. If you’ve heard these two tracks you’ll know how unlikely that seems, but it’s true: this is the most consistently awesome album the man has produced since the Beatles’ breakup. What made the Fabs’ best so great – the intricate-yet-accessible melodies, the imagistic poetry, the superb musicianship, the soaring harmonies, the thumping bass, the multi-tracked vocals and guitars, the glorious strings and brass – is all here.

Stylistically Paul creates an effervescent fusion of melodic pop, exhilarating rock & roll, and elaborate symphonic elements with touches of blues, jazz, music-hall, and folk expertly mixed in for colour. For instance, Bluebird is laid-back and jazzy; Let Me Roll both send-up and tribute to John Lennon’s distinctive post-Beatles style. As for subject material, freedom is the word. Right from the get-go Band on the Run is rife with the themes of liberation and release – the opening one-two punch sets it up and from there it’s all-out. This idea, this concept ties the album together, transforming it from merely a collection of brilliant songs into a monumental whole. Each and every song carries the thread, whether it be a literal prison break, the liberty of the open road, or even Death, the ultimate escape. Reprisals of themes, lyrics, and passages all act to unite Band on the Run until, at the very last, the roaring climax of the finale, we come full circle: “Band on the Run! Band on the Run…”

Review Two audio discs 41,34 minutes each approximately, and a DVD (1hr. 24 min. approximately) disc. The remastered sound, done at Abbey Road Studios, is clean and crisp without being harsh. The DVD contains videos, promotional clips, scenes from the album cover shoot, the TV special, and the McCartney’s in Nigeria. The discs are slipped into attached paper sleeves in a tri-fold holder. The attached booklet contains a number of photos, in colour and B&W, of the band and others during the recording in Nigeria. Of interest is a couple of photos of drummer Ginger Baker, who at the time lived and recorded in Africa. Also included are the lyrics, individual track times and disc totals. There’s a four page essay/interview by Paul Gambaccini, on the album and McCartney. Paul McCartney supervised the reissue, including the remastering, which was done using the same people who recently remastered The Beatles back catalogue.

This album, a Grammy winner, if not McCartney’s best post-BEATLES work, is certainly one of his best. Thankfully it has now joined the ranks of other great remastered albums. Plus the fact that there’s a second disc of music ( with several tracks from the TV special “One Hand Clapping”) makes this edition the one to own. You can also purchase another version with a hardcover book, another disc (an audio documentary from the 25th Anniversary Edition), downloads of the album, a new Paul McCartney interview etc., but it’s substantially more money aimed at fans/collectors who want everything. There’s a vinyl edition for record fans, and finally the original, stand alone album is also available. But whichever version you purchase, this is some of McCartney’s finest post-BEATLES work ever.

“Band on the Run” spawned several songs (“Jet”, “Helen Wheels”, “Let Me Roll It”, and the title track), that are still favourites of fans today. At this point most everyone is familiar with at least a couple (if not more) of the fine songs found on this album, so a track-by-track critique isn’t needed. On this album McCartney’s penchant for song craft is very evident. The melodies, the arrangements, the production work-all come together to produce some very fine, pleasing, and at times, rocking pop music. Too, this album was McCartney alerting the critics that he still possessed his musical talents, after the drubbing he received for some of his previous solo/WINGS work.

The album, recorded in Lagos, Nigeria, in 1973, was McCartney’s idea (someplace different), but before the group departed, both guitarist Henry McCullough and drummer Denny Seiwell were out of the band. So when it came time to record, McCartney played drums, and both he and Denny Lane played the guitar parts, along with Linda McCartney on keyboards. Working through adversity-the “studio” was an ill equipped shed, and the WINGS demo tapes were stolen in a mugging, the band managed to record the basic album in a couple of months. Back in England McCartney added strings and horns to fill out the songs, and the album was finished. When it was released it shot to the top of the charts.

The tracks on the second disc are mostly from a TV special, “One Hand Clapping”, which showed the group performing and backstage. The songs from the special were recorded at Abbey Road Studios in 1974, and include a number of fan favourites from the album. The sound and performance of the studio and “live” tracks aren’t that different, but it’s nice to have more from this era of the band nonetheless. “Bluebird” is a slower tempo pop song which shows McCartney’s voice very well, along with his arranging skills. “Jet” has a bit more energy and an edge about it than the studio version simply because it’s a live version, but that’s enough to raise the excitement level appreciatively. This song alone proves that McCartney could still rock within the constraints of pop music. “Let Me Roll It” (which has some fine guitar throughout), taken at the same tempo as the studio version, nonetheless has it’s own feel brought on by the live recordings for the special. “Band On The Run” is again very close to the original, but the vocal inflections by McCartney make this something special. You can hear the exuberance in his voice, and the excitement of the band as they energize the arrangement beyond the studio version. Even the synthesizer that weaves in and out of the song has a certain feel not found on the original. “Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five”, with it’s piano intro, has a fine rough edged vocal from McCartney. “Country Dreamer” sounds as if it could have come from the “White Album”, with it’s use of acoustic guitar as sole backing for a winsome sounding McCartney vocal. It’s shortness, with no extraneous instruments to clutter up the beautiful vocal stands out from the other songs. “Zoo Gang” is a short (2 minutes) instrumental that sounds like it could have been a backing track without the vocal. Nonetheless it’s a fine way to end this collection of bonus tracks.

Apparently this is the first reissue of McCartney’s post-Beatles work, with more in the pipeline. By starting with “Band On The Run”, the bar has been set very high. Hopefully other reissues will meet the high standards found in this edition. If you’re a Paul McCartney fan-pick this reissue up and hear this good sounding edition for yourself. If you’re not-pick this album up and hear what you’ve been missing.

On Band on the Run not only are you able to experience the song writing genius of Paul McCartney at its finest, but you get an album that is more than an album. From the very first note it sucks you in and doesn’t let you out again until the last ringing chords of the reprised title track have evaporated completely, forty-five minutes later. And what a glorious forty-five minutes they are! They will take you on a wondrous journey, yet by the end you will feel the journey is only just beginning…

NOTES FOR THE 25TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

If you can, get this, the 25th Anniversary edition; it is far superior for the same price as the original pressing. The bonus disc here is not, as on many albums, a parade of rarities or a series of alternate takes on the songs proper. Live and alternate versions of certain tracks are included here, but they take backseat to what this disc is all about: the interviews. It is, for all intents and purposes, a radio show: a radio show about the making of Band on the Run. We get to hear Paul, Linda, Denny, and just about everybody involved with the making of this record (or, in many cases, its gorgeous cover) explain their part and the record’s enchanting story, giving sense of just how big a deal this album really was. The included booklet is equally superb. Replete with lyrics, photographs, chart placements, and Mark Lewisohn’s fabulous liner notes (quite possibly the best liner notes I’ve ever seen) it is the perfect companion to the record.

May 5, 2013 Posted by | Paul McCartney & Wings Band On The Run | | Leave a comment

The Beach Boys Live: Woodinville, Wash. (July 13, 2012)

The 54th Annual GRAMMY Awards - ShowFrom donignacio.com

It struck me amazing when I read the announcement that every living member of The Beach Boys were going to release a brand new album (with songs co-written by Brian Wilson) and even embark on a world tour together. In particular since they hadn’t released an album since 1992, and Wilson hadn’t toured with the group since 1965. In other words: This was history. (Or at least an afterthought of history, to those of you scratching your heads why I like going to see these dinosaur acts.) So naturally, I had to go to this. And how lucky I felt when I learned that they were going to stop by the Chateau Ste Michelle winery, a local venue I’ve been to four times in the past two years? Tickets went on sale exactly at 10 o’clock on April 28, and I was incessantly hitting the “refresh” button on my Internet browser to get tickets the exact millisecond they went on sale.

Last year, I claimed I was going to join their wine club for $400 a year, which would have allowed me to buy tickets a few days earlier. Doing that probably would have meant I could secure a seat somewhere in the first few rows. However, I didn’t end up doing that. I after all don’t have much use for wine, having approximately the culinary sophistication of a raccoon, and it’s difficult to get me to spend $400 on something that’s only liquid anyway. Nevertheless, I managed to score seats in the 13th row. Not too shabby at all.

The line-up they were advertising of course made me very eager to part with my hard-earned cash: This was Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine, Bruce Johnston and David Marks. Marks, in case you’re not a total geek, was the rhythm guitarist for the band during their first four albums. He was the replacement for Al Jardine who had been temporarily absent from the group. (Although there was a brief period when both Jardine and Marks were part of the Beach Boys roster.) Of course these classic five couldn’t have embarked on this tour to recreate live the lush sounds of their catalog without a little help. Or a lot of help, rather. As a matter of fact, they had so much help that I don’t think the actual sound of the concert would have been very much affected if the core-Five played absolutely nothing. (That is with the exception of David Marks who let rip two or three spirited electric guitar solos.) Naturally, I’m still highly appreciative of at least watching these guys play. We all would have been at a loss without those visuals. But anyway, the backing band they toured with practically constituted an entire army. Among them were three percussionists, a guy who played various woodwind instruments, and many-an-extra-guitarist. Most of these performers also helped provide the thick background vocals required for virtually all Beach Boys songs. One guy of special note was Jeff Fosket who sings all the falsetto stuff in lieu of Brian Wilson, who’s no longer able to reach such notes.

I’ll also mention with beaming eyes that I remember the very first song performed at the concert without help from reading set-lists. It was “Do it Again.” Although I figured that would be their first song, anyway. I mean, what a better choice? This would become the first of many, many, many songs they’d sing that evening. Fourty-seven in total for a concert spanning three hours. These songs were each performed each in their entirety (which wasn’t impossible since many of them are hardly two minutes long), but quite a few were done in succession without pauses in between. These guys of course didn’t go three hours without an intermission, but even the intermission seemed rather short. (I remember The Moody Blues last year taking their sweet old time to come back on stage after the intermission.)

Mike Love announced a few times to the crowd that he was up for going late, late, late into the night; however, the winery forces them to stop the show promptly at 10 o’clock. (His kind of circus-ringmaster tone when he talked made it pretty obvious he was insincere about that; I’m sure if they actually performed an extra song, he’d be at the gate collecting a few dollar bills from everybody leaving.) Love was also adamantly peddling Beach Boys merchandise in a manner that somehow managed to be jokey and serious at the same time. He said they wanted to sell as many copies of their new album as possible, so they bundled them together 10 for $100. The reason you’d actually want to buy this is because one copy of the CDs has their autographs on it. (One thing I refuse to do in life: Acquire autographs.) I caught a YouTube clip of Love in 1969 begging the audience to buy copies of all their albums, so I guess this is part of his standard schtick. I’ve never seen Love in concert before, so I am new to this.

By the way, I’m not a Mike Love basher. I might poke fun at him sometimes, but I’m not bashing him. As far as the mass-hatred this guy seems to receive, I don’t think it’s always so necessary. One thing that’s undeniable is that he’s an integral part of the band’s history. So many of the group’s classic tunes feature his vocals on lead, and they sure as hell wouldn’t have been the same without ’em. (You might argue they would have been better without him, but how would you ever know for sure?) However, I suppose I agree it’s annoying how often he seems to be suing his bandmates and perhaps even more annoying how proud he is of the #1 Hit Single “Kokomo.” Then again, I suppose he had good reasons for those lawsuits, and… er… “Kokomo” isn’t so awful anyway. The worst thing I can say about “Kokomo” is there are at least 75 Beach Boys songs I like better. But that really only goes to show how many great songs these guys have come up with over the years.

And I know writing this is going to be like a dagger in the heart to the Mike Love haters, but here I go: I saw Brian Wilson sing along a little bit with “Kokomo.” I know. A lot of people wish he would cover his ears and cower in pain every time that song pops up, but it was no dice. He was even grinning ear-to-ear as it was starting. …Although that might not have been specifically because of “Kokomo.” He might have had a funny thought, or something.

…By the way, even though Wilson has approximately the stage presence of Frankenstein’s Monster, I think he’s far more lucid than he seems. Check out some of his recent television interviews where he not only talks coherently in a jovial manner but also jokes around and pulls out deep memories from childhood that he’s never told anyone before. The reason for his heavy touring over these last 10 years, I think, must have been to make up for lost time. Though he does seem awfully out of it on stage; he was seated at a white baby grand piano for the vast majority of the show, sometimes watching the band almost as if he were an audience member. And I’m positive a teleprompter or something was telling him to turn to the audience occasionally and wave. Whenever he’d wave, those moments came off as sudden and quite awkward. (I remember vividly seeing him perform the Smile album in 2005 and he was even reading out loud things on the teleprompter written in brackets, such as [Instrumental].) But as awkward as he might be on stage, it’s great he can still get out and tour with The Beach Boys. I know this has been said a million times already, but I don’t think anyone would have predicted he’d have been the one to survive into his 70s without either of his brothers by his side. Perhaps it’s nothing short of a miracle.

And even though Dennis Wilson and Carl Wilson couldn’t have been there in person (and I found myself really yearning for that), The Beach Boys found a way to bring them back in spirit. Brian Wilson read off a line stating that the next portion of the show we were about to experience was to honor their memories. What we got first was a video of Dennis singing “Forever,” and the remaining Beach Boys provided background vocals and instruments. It was quite a moment. That song easily is one of the most beautiful they have ever done–and by proxy, it’s one of the most beautiful songs ever written. Amazingly, isn’t as celebrated as it should be. (Hmm… I haven’t even celebrated that song; I just looked at my review of Sunflower from four or five years ago, and I only gave it a B+. I’m going to write myself some flame-mail for that.) After that, we got a video of Carl singing “God Only Knows,” and this marked another intensely beautiful moment.

beach_boys2The massive running length of this show certainly allotted them enough time to perform every Greatest Hit you could possibly think of. They lumped together all their famous cars songs like this: “Little Deuce Coupe,” “409,” “Shut Down,” and “I Get Around.” The second song performed that evening, “Little Honda,” was not part of this group, because that’s about a motorcycle, duh! (OK, OK, I don’t think I knew that until now!) They also performed all their surfing/beach songs at the beginning of the show: “Catch a Wave,” “Hawaii,” “Don’t Back Down,” “Surfin’ Safari,” and “Surfer Girl.” However, they saved “Surfin’ USA” for their final song of that night, sans the encore.

They also played one song early on in the show that I couldn’t quite place. It turns out it was “Getcha Back” from The Beach Boys ’85. So far I’ve avoided what has been called their “horrible ’80s,” but that will be rectified soon enough. Yes, I’m even going to take a gander at Keepin’ the Summer Alive. Even though “Getcha Back” has nothing on their classics, it was quite a lot of fun to see them do. (This just goes to show that I found everything enjoyable at the show. And I truly did.) There was even a selection from vastly non-celebrated album L.A. Light Album, “Good Timin’.” …Again, not that great of a song compared to their ‘hits,’ but it was nice to hear anyway. More than anything, this shows us that they’re not blowing their noses at any particular part of their back-catalog. Naturally, of course the ’60s was the best part of their back-catalog. Everyone in the crowd probably realized that immediately when they gave their highly spirited rendition of “Wendy,” which was clearly one of the highlights of the show’s first half. One of my favorite portions of the second half was “All Summer Long” from the same album, a song I’ve been listening to a lot leading up to this concert. (Whatever it is about that song *clicked* with me suddenly.)

One album that was especially well-represented was Today!, which should have been good news to anyone who thinks that’s their best album. All that stuff constituted some of the show’s main highlights. Among them were “Please Let Me Wonder” and “Kiss Me Baby.” Their cover of “Do You Wanna Dance?” was the middle song performed in the encore, which lent its hand in helping the concert end on an explosive note. However, the final song from the encore was “Fun, Fun, Fun,” that ditty ‘inspired’ by Chuck Berry. That was some pure old-school electricity there. (Another massively upbeat song I would have wished to hear from Today! was “Dance, Dance, Dance,” but with a catalog like theirs, I guess it had to be left off!)

But another song from Today! they did perform was “When I Grow Up to Be a Man.” When it started, though, it was only a few seconds before it was suddenly halted by Mike Love. He screamed in his microphone: “Stop! This isn’t right!” The players on stage looked confused. Al Jardine said “Well, we got a few notes out.” What I thought Love was going to do next was a joke–something along the lines of “Look at us! Haven’t we grown into men by now?” What he said instead was simply that the intro was botched and that we in the audience deserved better. So, he directed the group to start over. I’m not exactly sure what was botched about it, but I wouldn’t want to question his judgement. Speaking of botching things, I could barely hear Love’s vocals in “Kokomo.” Maybe there was a certain Brian-Wilson-fanboy in the sound-mixing station who did that on purpose?

There were one or two pretty substantial cracks at their old ages at the show. Love knelt on the ground to sing the blaring-saxophone intro to “Be True To Your School,” but he had to enlist the younger members of the group to help him back up. As they did so, there were sound effects of bones cracking. Also, about three songs into the set, Love jokingly announced that it was time for an intermission, because they needed a nap. Another thing Love did was lay thickly some pretty big compliments on his band-mates, especially Brian Wilson. “How do you like those chord progressions? That’s pure Brian Wilson there,” he said at one point. The cynic in me, of course, assumes Love only said those things to appease people in the crowd who wouldn’t have attended this concert if Wilson wasn’t there. But on the other hand, how about those chord progressions?

Love’s repartee with the crowd was usually very corny and he almost certainly said the same things everywhere he went on this tour. But I nevertheless enjoyed watching him. I figured, before the show, I’d only want to keep my eyes fixed on pop-royalty Brian Wilson, but I found out that Love was hogging my attention more than anyone. Also earning quite a bit of my attention was the insatiably spirited Al Jardine. He was probably the only Beach Boy people in the crowd were able to recognize, if they only knew them from their old photographs. His voice was also the most preserved.

The evening’s definitive WTF moment was a rendition of their psychedelic oddity from Carl and the Passions called “All This is That.” Even though a set-list published the day after the show confirmed that I’d heard that song, as well as distinctly recalling them singing that familiar nursery-rhyme melody, I could have sworn I’d also heard a little smidgeon of “Transcendental Meditation” played before it. (I was probably confused, because I remember distinctly Mike Love saying “Transcendental Meditation” before the performance.) I’m not sure exactly why they needed to play “All This is That” when I’m sure the crowd would have reacted far more positively to at least 40 other songs in The Beach Boys’ catalog that I can rattle of off the top of my head. But whatever. As they were singing it, I had a thought that I should rush up to the stage and yell at Mike Love to play “Student Demonstration Time.” …He probably would have loved that. However, my ultimate idea of a WTF moment would be for them to play “Johnny Carson” and supplement it with random photos of Johnny Carson on their big screen. That would have caused mass confusion. Except to the few people who’ve actually heard that album, and I don’t think a whole lot of people there have. (Speaking of the big screen, what’s with all those bikini girl models they kept showing there? I found that very distracting. And we can all go home and see that stuff in the privacy of our own Internet, thanks. With that said, something they also showed frequently on their screen that I did appreciate was classic footage of the band.)

Another unexpected song that I actually loved hearing was Al Jardine’s “California Saga/California.” This was the moment of the show Jardine was especially allowed to shine, even though that wasn’t the only time he sang lead vocals. Additionally, Bruce Johnston’s special moment was “Disney Girls (1957),” which was a lovely and unexpected pick from their ’70s catalog. However, it’s not too well known; while he sang that, I heard a macaw-voiced woman behind me screech “What song is that?!” (Awwww… Everyone who went to that show should own a copy of Surf’s Up, dang it!) Somehow through age, Johnston’s voice gained more of a cutesy, sugar-encrusted tinge to it than it ever had before. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing for a song like that. Mike Love was even threatening to let Johnston sing “I Write the Songs,” the world-famous tune that ended up with Barry Manilow. But no. They weren’t allowed to let the concert go past 10. (In my opinion “Disney Girls” is far superior, but of course the schlock-ridden Manilow song gets all the love!)

During the intermission, I had noted that I had heard nothing from Pet Sounds. Fortunately, my desires to hear anything they could muster from that album were quenched swimmingly immediately after. That was when David Marks came on stage to play that guitar line from the title track I have so engrained in my mind. The rest of the backing band came on to accompany him for that, of course. Soon after, he was joined by the rest of The Beach Boys who played through three Pet Sounds songs without pauses: “I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times” (featuring the lead vocals of Brian Wilson), “Sloop John B,” and the most electrifying of the bunch, “Wouldn’t It Be Nice.”

There were only two songs from the Smile era, and they naturally picked the two I assume everybody yearned to hear most: “Heroes and Villains” and “Good Vibrations.” Naturally, every song at this concert was played as closely to their studio counterparts as possible; “Good Vibrations” even went so far as to use a modified theremin. (It wasn’t actually a theremin, but it also wasn’t a keyboard. It was a special instrument with a giant knob that sat idle most of the concert.)

Now, more about Mike Love. (As if he didn’t hog most of this review anyway!) I was witness to something a little bit creepy that went on between him and a girl seated two rows in front of me. She must’ve been about 18 with long dirty blond hair and a cleavage revealing green striped beach-party shirt. Most people at the show were seated in their chairs most the time–because that’s this venue’s policy. However, she was one of the few people who stood up and danced through much of the show. At one point, I saw Mike Love point to this girl and then loosely wiggle his ring-encrusted fingers at her like some kind of prissy French monarch. He then made a poppy-eyed expression and mouthed “Whoah!” What I don’t think he noticed was that this young lady happened to be standing between her parents. I laughed at that, thinking the parents were going to tell their daughter “OK, maybe you should sit down now, sweetie.” Instead, the father enthusiastically gave Love the thumbs-up sign. ……..Brrrr. Am I wrong to think that’s creepy? What was a far cuter scene, though, was when Love invited her on the stage to dance and sing along to “Barbara Ann,” and she was as spirited as can be. She was even allowed to sing in a microphone (I think taking the place of Johnston at the keyboards), and she knew all the words. Far better than I would’ve done, that’s for sure. (The sound-mixers must’ve been very on-the-ball, because I couldn’t hear a female voice singing there at all.)

Another thing that was going on at the concert was that people were tossing around plastic beach balls. I’m sure the band’s roadies had unleashed these things on the crowd; they do that at all the shows. But the problem with doing that at this venue was that it was a winery, and a lot of people were sitting in chairs sipping on glasses of wine. …So a common sight I saw was someone in the middle of sipping a glass of wine and BAM be hit in the back of the head with a beach ball! There was one lady in particular nearby me who got hit five or six times. Hilarious. How many times did I get hit, you might ask? Zero. That’s because I’ve got mojo.

It’s unclear whether The Beach Boys will ever tour again in this capacity, and if they came to your town, I hope you took the opportunity to go to it. You were probably able to tell from the tone-of-voice in this review that I thought this concert was a blast and a half, and as old as these guys might be, they can still put on an electrifying time. (That is, thanks in a large part to the help of their army of back-up singers and musicians! Which, you know, helped make the show worth the steep $125 per ticket.) My only complaint about it is that as long as they were bringing back old Beach Boys members, why couldn’t they also have dug up Blondie Chaplin and Ricky Fataar? Chaplin, after all, was the original lead singer of “Sail on, Sailor.” …However, perhaps it was best that that the song was returned to Brian Wilson, perhaps its rightful owner, who sang it at the show.

May 5, 2013 Posted by | The Beach Boys Live Woodinville July 13th 2012 | | 1 Comment

The Beach Boys Surf’s Up (1971)

beach-boys-surfs-up-2184899From donignacio.com

Dennis Wilson had been emerging as one of the Beach Boys’ main songwriters in previous albums, but he suddenly left that stage for Surf’s Up. On top of that, Brian also was less-functional when it came to song writing. Apart from a few co-writing credits (in which he most likely only ‘help a bit’), his only contributions were a depressing ballad, “Til I Die,” a minimalist tune about a tree, “Day in the Life of a Tree,” and an unused outtake from the busted Smile sessions, the title track. This of course meant that Carl Wilson, Al Jardine, Mike Love and Bruce Johnston had to come up with the remaining songs. And they did it surprisingly well. (Except for Mike Love.)

Carl Wilson, who apparently hadn’t penned anything for the band at this point, contributed “Free Flows,” an oddball and completely original song that proved the guy had some bottled up creativity. The chord-progressions certainly aren’t as majestic as Brian’s (in fact, there are only two chords being used in a major section of this), but the harmonies aren’t the point of it. The choppy chords are somehow mesmerizing, and that mystical jam in the middle (basically a duet between a flute and a mysterious electric guitar) is quite exciting. It more closely resembles Frank Zappa than the classic Beach Boys, and that is a really compelling aspect of it. (Of course, they still wanted it to be relatively accessible whereas that wasn’t a main concern for Zappa…) Carl also wrote the more traditional “Long Promised Road,” a multi-part suite that is nearly as ‘epic’ and tuneful as one of Brian’s. The only major difference, again, is it doesn’t quite exhibit Brian’s incredible knack for harmonies. But it was surprisingly close.

Bruce Johnston wrote a surprisingly heart warming gem, “Disney Girls (1957).” It’s a ballad that probably belongs in 1957, but I guess that was the point. It’s a sweet song with one of those melodies that’s prone to stick in your mind. Al Jardine co-wrote a quirky pop tune (with some help from Brian), “Take a Load Off Your Feet.” You’re more likely to remember the somewhat overactive vocal performance amidst the sound-effects-ridden instrumentation, which could be described as ‘a lot of knocks.’ It’s sort of fun to hear, though. “Don’t Go Near the Water” is another funny pop song, except the melody is a little cliché and Mike Love wrote terrible lyrics about water pollution. I do like those rubbery synthesizers they use to give the overall song a watery texture! That was a brilliant move in what would have otherwise been a dull, routine pop song with terrible lyrics. Another Al Jardine contribution was the folk ballad “Lookin’ At Tomorrow (A Welfare Song),” a formidable piece of song writing but ultimately unmemorable.

A lot of die hard Beach Boys really hate Mike Love. Whether or not such sentiments are deserved, his only major contribution is the only real drag on Surf’s Up. “Student Demonstration Time” is the same thing as “Riot in Cell Block #9,” a blues song by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, but he rewrote the lyrics to reflect the college campus protest riots. The Beach Boys weren’t known for playing blues-rock, but they did OK considering they’re the whitest band on earth. But that melody was already generic blues-rock, and those incredibly pretentious and dated lyrics don’t help. Bluh!

Naturally, the three Brian Wilson contributions are the ultimate highlights. Even though the band members hated it, “Til I Die,” is a gorgeous masterpiece and further proof that the guy had a natural ear for harmonies. True, it’s incredibly depressing, but there is a lot of beauty to be seen in this black-and-white picture. “A Day in the Life of a Tree” isn’t as compelling to me, although it’s much more minimal than you’d expect a Beach Boys song to be. The predominant instrument there is a very plain-sounding organ and somewhat shaky vocals. It’s not Brian’s best work, for sure, but it is also oddly majestic and something that could be easy to take to heart. And the title track, of course, is a fairly well-known classic. It’s one of those classic sentimental, multi-part suite that shows all the pre-breakdown Brian Wilson at the height of his powers. It sounds a little bit like a demo to me (though with a little bit of orchestration that was actually recorded in 1966), but they probably lacked the budget and inspiration to go crazy with the song production they had originally planned.

Despite its flaws, Surf’s Up is a very enjoyable middle-period Beach Boys album that any pop-rock fan should listen to. There’s too much good material here to pass up. Considering it’s available on the same CD as the also-splendid Sunflower, there’s really no excuse for not picking it up.

May 5, 2013 Posted by | The Beach Boys Surf's Up | | Leave a comment

Led Zeppelin Walk Don’t Run (LA Forum, August 1971)

Scan10082From collectorsmusicreviews.com

Despite the delay of their fourth album due to mixing problems and disagreements with Atlantic records about the cover artwork, Led Zeppelin were anxious to bring their newly penned songs to the United States. Their seventh tour, and their first of Japan the following month, shows a band burning bright in performance and improvisation that is unlike anything else in the history of rock.

Some of their greatest concerts are found in this period, none of which has been acknowledged by the band with an official release. Thankfully there are many unofficial documents in circulation to be listened to and enjoyed. Led Zeppelin played twenty-two shows in just under a month. (Some sources list twenty-four concerts, but dates in Seattle and Oklahoma City are disputed).

The opening show was on August 19th in Vancouver which wasn’t taped but is known because of the incident where the road crew, thinking the show was being bootlegged, destroyed the equipment of a government worker measuring the decibel level in the arena. The second two shows, and the first two to be recorded, were in Los Angeles on August 21st and August 22nd.

Walk Don’t Run is the latest boxset by Tarantura which contains these two shows. The label first issued a boxset under the same title in the mid-nineties, also called Walk Don’t Run, but this offers a much needed overhaul. Each show is housed in a cardboard gatefold sleeve with black and white Zeppelin photo motifs used. These two fit into a clam-shell cardboard box.

It is limited to two hundred numbered copies and is thought to be sold out again with the expectation there will be a second edition. These aren’t the best sounding tapes, but they do sound as good as possible in this boxset.

Stairway To L.A. (Tarantura TCD-81-1, 2)

The Forum, Los Angeles, CA – August 21st, 1971

Disc 1 (71:13): Introduction, Immigrant Song, Heartbreaker, Since I’ve Been Loving You, Black Dog, Dazed And Confused, Stairway To Heaven, Celebration Day

Disc 2 (73:00): That’s The Way, Going To California, What Is And What Should Never Be, Whole Lotta Love, Weekend, Rock And Roll, Communication Breakdown, Thank You

The first Los Angeles show has appeared on DX I ~ X (Mad Dogs) a ten disc box set that also includes the September 3rd, 1970 San Diego, February 28th, 1975 Baton Rouge and June 7th, 1977 New York shows, Walk Don’t Run (Tarantura T4CD-1) and its clone 7th American Tour (Whole Lotta Live WLL022/23), Wild Weekend (TDOLZ Vol. 38) finally Firecrackers Explosion (Empress Valley EVSD 305/306).

The new Tarantura is similar to the Empress Valley release by utilizing the common source with the second used for “Celebration Day.” The taper was a considerable distance from the stage but the tape is good and listenable and this new edition sounds very warm and full.

“Moby Dick” is missing but it is not clear if it is cut from the tape or if it was dropped from the set. Between “What Is And What Should Never Be” and “Whole Lotta Love” there is not an obvious cut but there is what sounds like what could be a very clever edit.

The tape picks up with JJ Jackson’s introduction of the group before they hit the stage and play their most effective opening, the double shot of “Immigrant Song” and “Heartbreaker.”

“It’s been about a year I think since the last time. Maybe a bit more” Plant says before they slow the pace down a bit with “Since I’ve Been Loving You.” Their new album was still unreleased but they played several of the new songs beginning with “Black Dog.” The lyrics were more loose in these early versions and in this show Plant throws in “See my baby walking down the street / ain’t nobody around except the chief of police” among other lines that are not found in the studio version.

“Now listen, if you’re gonna make a noise, don’t make a racket cause it puts the road managers off. Here’s one from about, I don’t know, thirty-six months ago.” “Dazed And Confused” was already considered an “oldie,” having been played at almost every gig since they started.

This track normally stretched to twenty minutes on this tour with many elaborations in the long improvisation. But the most noted piece in this show is the Los Angeles debut of “Stairway To Heaven.” Page has stated in interviews in the past forty years claiming he knew it would be a hit because of the reception it received this night. Despite Plant messing up some of the lyrics, the audience is quiet and attentive and give a loud standing ovation when the song is over.

As “Whole Lotta Love” begins there are several loud bangs from the audience. Reaching almost a half hour, it contains one of the best medleys of the tour. During “Boogie Chillun’” Plant sings about the “Holiday Inn manager talking…” before they get into a cover of Hank Snow’s 1950 hit “I’m Moving On.”

There only six recorded instances of Led Zeppelin playing this song. For ninety seconds they play a song that sounds like their arrangement of Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth” but with completely improvised lyrics. It sounds like Plant is saying “I can’t stand the size of your ego…”

“Mess O’ Blues” leads into Elvis’ “Got A Lot O’ Livin’ To Do” from The King’s second movie Loving You. (This film is also the source for “Let’s Have A Party,” a song Zeppelin would cover heavily the following two years).

Instead of getting into “You Shook Me” to end the medley with a long and heavy blues, they extend “Honey Bee” before returning to the final verse and end the song. They reward the audience with four encores beginning with Eddie Cochrane’s “Weekend.”

“Rock And Roll” is the final new song played, “Communication Breakdown” and finally “Thank You” close out another amazingly energetic and fun performance in Los Angeles.

Walk, Don’t Run (Tarantura TCD-82-1, 2)

The Forum, Los Angeles, CA – August 22nd, 1971

Disc 1 (74:54): Introduction, Walk Don’t Run, Immigrant Song, Heartbreaker, Since I’ve Been Loving You, Black Dog, Dazed And Confused, Stairway To Heaven, Celebration Day, That’s The Way, What Is And What Should Never Be

Disc 2 (69:08): Moby Dick, Whole Lotta Love, Communication Breakdown, Thank You

The second night exists on only one tape which is slightly more clear than the first night. There is a minor amount of hiss present, but nothing too distracting in a tape that emphasizes the vocals and drums over the guitar. Previous silver editions include Walk Don’t Run (Mud Dogs -022/023), Walk Don’t Run (Tarantura T4CD-1) and its copy Definitive Kingdom (Whole Lotta Live WLL020/21), Firecrackers Explosion II (Empress Valley EVSD360/361) and on Freak Out (TDOLZ Vol. 39).

There are cuts after “Dazed And Confused,” “Stairway To Heaven,” “Celebration Day,” “Moby Dick” and “Whole Lotta Love.” “Going To California” doesn’t appear on the tape but there is no cut after “That’s The Way.” Either it was lost in the cut after “Celebration Day” or it was dropped from the setlist altogether. The latter is more likely since the existing tapes from this tour reveal there was no swapping of the two acoustic numbers in the set.

Like the tape for the first show, this one begins with JJ Jackson’s introduction of the group. To celebrate Los Angeles they start the show with The Ventures’ 1960 surf hit “Walk, Don’t Run.” This is the only time they ever played this live and gives the name to every release of this show. The whole point of surf music is to recall the fun of partying at the beach, and Zeppelin covering this tune establishes the fun atmosphere of this show before getting down to business with “Immigrant Song” and “Heartbreaker.”

Afterwards there is a short delay because of the organ, Pages plays a bit of “Boogie Chillun’” as Plant explains “John Paul Jones’ badge is inside the organ.” They proceed with a dramatic version of “Since I’ve Been Loving You.”

During the twenty-minute “Dazed And Confused” Page experiements with new variations of common melodies in the improvisation section, stretching them out to see how they work. The coda after the final verse has a section which is very mellow and delicate.

Plant tries to quiet the audience before “Stairway To Heaven,” saying “Good evening. It’s very difficult to try and see who’s out there really because these spotlights aren’t helping very much. If it was a little less intense, it’d be a lot nicer. We’ve got a new album coming out in about three weeks time, after a lot of messing around, and this is one of the tracks from it. It starts off rather quietly, so we’d like it quiet. Shhhhh.”

He again flubs a line, this time in the second verse where he sings “in a tree by the brook” too early mumbles a new second verse. The guitar solo sounds very intense but is unfortunately buried deep in the mix.

Before “That’s The Way” Plant explains, “now this is the first, or rather, this is the only number we really attempted to harmonize on. And tonight my voice is really fucked, so I don’t believe we think we’re gonna do too much harmonizing. Anyway, we’re gonna try, so why not?” The previous evening’s excesses took their toll on his voice obviously.

The “Whole Lotta Love” medley pushes a half hour long and includes two mysterious covers after “Boogie Chillun’.” Some call them “Think I’m Crazy” and “Take It Easy,” by the lyrics are quite inaudible and it’s hard to understand what exactly they’re playing.

Plant leads them into “My Baby Left Me” and “Mess O’Blues” before capping off the improvisation with a five minute long, heavy version of “You Shook Me.” The first encore is an eight minute long version of “Communication Breakdown” and like many others includes a long bass solo in the middle. But as Jones jams Page plays a pretty little country melody. The final encore on the tape is “Thank You” with a long organ solo. Whether or not they played “Rock And Roll” too isn’t known.

May 5, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin Walk Don't Run | , | Leave a comment