Classic Rock Review

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Led Zeppelin Concert Memories: Newport Jazz Festival, 6th July 1969

tumblr_m6ppd4gBmf1qmle2jo1_1280From Underground Uprising uuweb.led-zeppelin.us

In 1969 the Newport Jazz Festival included several “jazz-rock” groups that the organizer, George Wein, invited on the recommendation of advisors hip to the new wave of sounds in the late sixties.

He thought he needed to have some of this to keep up with music trends. Well it turned out to be a rock festival, with all that goes along with it, i.e. drugs, nudity, and assorted hippiedom. There were also traditional jazz performers mixed in with the rock groups. Many of the blue blooded rich of Newport were near the front rows and they were mortified by the blasting volume and antics of the rock bands. The local newspaper had photos of these people and their facial reactions to the proceedings.

It was great! Some of the rock performers were Led Zeppelin, Jeff Beck, Ten Years After, Johnny Winter, Frank Zappa, Sly and the Family Stone, and Jethro Tull. Friday night was billed as “Jazz-Rock” night and had the bulk of these bands then. However, Led Zeppelin played as the last band on the last night of the festival, Sunday. As the festival was about to begin on Thursday, the townspeople and the police began to take notice of the undesirable element (hippies) invading the small town of Newport, Rhode Island. People had no place to stay so they ended up camping on lawns, in parks, and on the beach. During the shows people surged the stage and many outside of the festival grounds snuck in through the fence.

It was seen as a riot and George Wein freaked out. He made an announcement that Led Zeppelin would not be performing. He was trying to get the masses of hippies to leave and restore normality. I attended the Sunday evening show, I was only 12 years old but into the whole scene. My father was in the Navy and as a result I lived on the base only 1/4 mile away from the grounds! I could hear the Thursday, Friday and Saturday shows from my house! My next door neighbour and I walked to the concert just outside the base gate. Let’s see, Buddy Rich, Herbie Hancock, Gypsy and the Savage Rose, B.B. King and Johnny Winter played before Zeppelin. As Led Zeppelin were coming into town in a limo they noticed all these cars leaving. They were wondering why.

zep_newportWell, Peter Grant (their manager) found out about George Wein making his announcement of an Led Zeppelin no-show and gave George Wein a piece of his mind and said they were gonna play! Since festival goers had heard about the no-show many had left by the time Led Zeppelin came on. It seemed to be about midnight when they took the stage. Opening with Train Kept a Rollin’ that electrified the few that had stayed, the place appeared to be less than half full. Robert Plant said over the loudspeakers that he heard there were rumours of their non-appearance but assured the crowd they never intended not to play. Drawing mostly from their first album they played about an hour.

I remember How Many More Times the best. It was my favorite Zep tune. They really jammed. Also, Dazed And Confused sent the crowd crazy with the violin bow section. After it was over my friend and I walked back to the Navy base gate where my parents were waiting, angry at me staying so long. Being only 12 at the time I had to be reminded by some newspaper accounts to validate my faded memories. I still remember the Joshua Light Show (brought in from the Fillmore shows), the smell of my first time around pot, and how the P.A system sounded pretty shitty. But what a great experience to see these bands and it was a full month before Woodstock!!

Joel Barron

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May 20, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin Concert Memories: Newport Jazz Festival 6th July 1969 | , | Leave a comment

Jimi Hendrix The Baggy’s Rehearsals Sessions (2002)

ibz7efFrom amazon.com

This twelve song collection titled “The Baggy’s Rehearsal Sessions” released via the official bootleg label Dagger Records is a gem for fans of this excellent short lived trio and a must buy! What you get here is the band (Jimi Hendrix on guitar/vocals, Billy Cox on bass/vocals, and Buddy Miles on drums/vocals) performing a rehearsal in preparation to the four legendary Fillmore East concerts that they gave on December 31, 1969 and January 1, 1970. The songs were recorded during two different sessions on December 18 and 19, 1969 at Baggy’s Studios in New York City.

The first version of “Burning Desire” which opens the album is in fact the very same take that was released in 1973 on the long deleted posthumous compilation “Loose Ends”. Even though it is a rehearsal, it sounds fantastic with the rhythm section of Cox/Miles playing tightly and Jimi plays a lot of memorable lead guitar. Cox and Miles even add some nice back up vocals during the slow section towards the latter half. This tune is without a doubt a songwriting highlight from this period and with all its tempo/key/chord changes, I would describe it as progressive R&B! What follows is a rare version of the blues classic “Hoochie Koochie Man” which differs from the Experience version recorded for the BBC in the sense that Miles’ drumming is more on the beat and less on the fills for a start and Hendrix’s soloing is more aggressive. This is some serious blues guitar playing! This recording was also previously released on the “Loose Ends” compilation and is good to have it available one more time. Hendrix’s sense of humor is on display here as he tries to imitate the singing style of Muddy Waters for a few bars!

Track number three is “Message Of Love” and it does not sound too different from the classic live take on the album but of course Hendrix always manages to deliver an interesting solo that radically differs from the familiar one heard on the live LP. The middle eight with the lyrics ‘I am what I am’ is my favorite part. This recording also demonstrates that the band was definitely in high spirits during this recording session as you can hear them joking around at the end. According to the liner notes, they are imitating two comedians that they enjoyed: Moms Mabley and Pigmeat Markham! It is Miles who suggests running through “Ezy Ryder” and off they go. In this case, this tune really benefits from the direct one-guitar/bass/drums format. It has an extra punch that the take on the “First Rays” album lacks and the back up vocals are more prominent. Also of note is the fact that they play the song’s middle eight (with the lyrics ‘see all the lovers say do what you please’) twice albeit with different lyrics in this case. After they finish playing, the sense of humor is again heard when Miles makes a reference to the “Third Stone From The Sun” lyric ‘…and you’ll never hear surf music again’!

Next they settle into “Power Of Soul” and this version is noticeably longer than the BOG live take clocking at over seven minutes. Vocally speaking, Hendrix is in better form here than on the live album in my opinion and the soloing is as good if not better. Miles even added a short ‘ooh’ of back up vocals for one second during the first verse. They should have expanded on that idea and add the back up vocals throughout the song! Very nice version but I still prefer the studio take from “South Saturn Delta” with the killer wah wah soloing! Still any version of this tune always does the trick for me…such great riffs throughout.
Song number six equals the first version of “Earth Blues” on this album and in this particular take the emphasis is put on the vocal sections as opposed to the jamming improvisation. Hendrix keeps the wah wah solo short and they quickly go into a third verse. This is one of my favorite compositions from the Gypsies period because it seems to bring together a gospel influence with funk and the intro/chorus rhythm guitar motif is unusual! Also of note is the cool ending where Hendrix seemingly deconstructs the main riff to finish off with an ascending dissonant riff! A superb coda idea that Hendrix used on other songs such as “Freedom” and “In From The Storm”. After its conclusion the Miles written “Changes” starts with its ear catching melodic intro and this version is very close to the BOG live take with Miles’ vocals taking main role and Hendrix guitar prowess taking a noticeable back seat. That issue aside, I’ve always enjoyed this R&B song and the chorus riff is killer! However, track number eight is a real treat: this is so far the only chance to hear the Band Of Gypsies tearing through the rocker “Lover Man” in a studio setting. The lead guitar playing is simply fantastic and matches his lead work from the Experience take featured on the “South Saturn Delta” album. This song would have made a nice single A side in my opinion.

The second Miles composition “We Gotta Live Together” is interesting but at the same time brought down by the fact that the recording only last for about forty five seconds. What the tape captured was essentially the very last seconds of the performance. You’ll hear the three guys singing in harmony the ‘home sweet home’ vocal line with Miles getting busy on the hi-hat and Cox providing a funk style bass line before they quickly wrap up. The next recording titled “Baggy’s Jam” makes up for the previous one though. The title is self explanatory and you’ll hear Jimi leading his rhythm section through a series of key changes while delivering some nice funky rhythm and some sporadic bursts of lead guitar. Cox does great on the bass with all the key changes adjusting his riff accordingly as the jam marches along. This is cool but clocking only at five minutes, I wish it was longer!
The two closing numbers on the album are alternate takes of “Earth Blues” and “Burning Desire” which provide further insight into Hendrix’s exceptional improvisational skills with plenty of killer playing to keep them interesting and noticeably different from the previous takes! In the former, the arrangement mirrors the live versions more closely with the usual extended solo and no third verse. The latter features the instrumental intro also heard in the Fillmore East live version as opposed to the previous take that opened this album that begun directly with the verse. The only negative aspect is the fact that it fades out before its conclusion.

In brief, this official bootleg release is essential listening for die hard fans of Jimi Hendrix, especially if you are big into his Band Of Gypsies phase and appreciate Hendrix’s effort to bring his R&B/soul/funk heritage to the fore with the ultimate end of producing a combination of said styles and rock!
Two more things though…on the official Hendrix website you can listen to two additional recordings from these rehearsal sessions. Head over to the page and click on ‘media’ and then select ‘concert broadcasts’ and scroll down until you see the ‘baggy’s sessions’ link. Hear the trio tear through a medley of “Izabella/Machine Gun” and “Who Knows”. Nice bonus!
Last but not least, if you purchase the “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year” EP, you’ll hear another recording from these same sessions, in this case being an interesting instrumental medley of “Silent Night”, “Little Drummer Boy” and “Auld Lang Syne” as only Hendrix would have played them back then!

May 20, 2013 Posted by | Jimi Hendrix The Baggy's Rehearsal Sessions | | Leave a comment

Jimi Hendrix Hendrix In The West (1972)

51YCUEh77hLFrom amazon.com

Review It is good to have Hendrix in The West back in my collection, with its fabulous cover, plus illuminating notes and lots of good photos. If you have the purple Jimi Hendrix Experience box set you will have Blue Suede Shoes, Little Wing, Red House, Johnny B. Goode and Voodoo Child (Slight Return) from the original 1972 album, however you won’t have the 2011 additional tracks which are well worth having, and you won’t have the remastered sound.

There have been some detracting reviewer comments regarding the substitution of the Royal Albert Hall versions of Little Wing and Voodoo Child (Slight Return) with versions from Winterland and San Diego respectively. If you have the Jimi Hendrix Experience box set (as any self respecting Hendrix fan should have) you can make up the original album – if that’s what you need. If you don’t have the box set you are missing a treat. If you don’t have this Hendrix In The West you are also missing a treat.

The substitute Little Wing, while not quite matching the eloquent Albert Hall performance, is still very good; a different arrangement, more relaxed. The substitute Voodoo Child (Slight Return) is less restrained (comparatively) than its Albert Hall counterpart and over three minutes longer (10:40), in fact it is far more exciting – Hendrix and the band are white hot. He finished that San Diego concert with an astounding gift to the audience.

For me, this 2011 Hendrix In The West is excellent, both in presentation and value, particularly if you take the additional tracks into consideration. The remaster is also spot on, and if you compare Red House, Johnny B Goode and Blue Suede Shoes from the 2000 issued box set against these 2011 tracks, these sound better.

For my taste the additional tracks at least maintain the high standard of the original LP. You get extensive fiery workouts from San Diego of I Don’t Live Today and Spanish Castle Magic, coming in at 7:21 and 10:14 respectively. Fire and the substitute Voodoo Child (Slight Return) are also from the same San Diego concert, along with the acknowledged definitive (so far) live Red House (13:12) – the band was surely cooking on that night! As the man said ‘Ï love to be on stage, I love to play. I know exactly what I’m doing when we are on stage’. This remastered and reconfigured CD is a superb example of live Hendrix.

Review This review refers to the 2011 release from Experience Hendrix. Fortunately, I have the Polydor version on CD. There was a certain charm about “In The West” when it was first released in 1972 that is almost completely missing here. No one really cared that more than a few tracks were not performed in the Western US or UK. The Isle of Wight is east of the mainland of England, but certainly “west” of somewhere. Same can be said of the Royal Albert Hall selections from the original “In The West” that were redacted and replaced by alternate versions from Winterland and San Diego Sports Arena. Three songs were added (“Fire”, “I Don’t Live Today” and “Spanish Castle Magic”) that were previously released on the Reprise boxed set, “Stages”. They replaced the Royal Albert Hall performance of “Little Wing” with a performance from Winterland, the performances from which “coincidentally” were also released as a boxed set on the same drop date.

To my ears, there was if not a thematic vibe, then at least a flow about the original album that is completely missing here. I think the folks who put together the first version of this strived to craft a very good album of the best available of Jimi’s live performances (at the time). Jimi had recently died and they were all still grieving. And in my opinion, EH took a wrecking ball to that concept. They do a lot of explaining in the booklet about why they removed this and replaced it with that. To my ears, the entire “In The West” vibe was shot all to hell, plain and simple. It’s not my intent to ruin this for anybody. If you’ve never heard the original “In The West”, you’ll no doubt enjoy this, because it’s Hendrix. I’d say this is an inferior “In The West”, but any (audible) Hendrix is good.

I don’t enjoy the remastering of any of the EH reissues. They sound as though they were remixed for car audio. They don’t sound good in my car and they don’t sound good on my home audio system. This one is no exception.

Nice pictures in the booklet, though…

Review Amazon’s price of $9.00 is very low considering the quality of the performances on this disk, newly mastered and finally released today on CD for the first time in the States. Originally released in 1972, In The West was the first Hendrix live album to showcase his work with both versions of the Experience as opposed to the Band of Gypsy’s. Back then, Eddie Kramer was given the daunting task of quickly recreating a Hendrix concert from a great variety of source material. The result was uneven, but some of the performances remain among the greatest examples of his amazing live work 40 years later ( Red House and Johnny B. Goode). With a single CD running nearly twice as long as a single LP, Kramer finally has achieved his goal with this remake, by filling the extra space with more great material, including Hendrix’s best version of I Don’t Live Today and a stellar Spanish Castle Magic.

Other than the nice packaging job, great sound and low price there are two other notable changes from the original package. First is the exclusion of two first-rate performances culled from the 69-02-24 Albert Hall-London show. These songs, Little Wing and Voodoo Child: Slight Return, are probably the best versions ever recorded. They were incorrectly listed on the album cover as being from San Diego 69-5-31. These were replaced on the new release by the lesser quality but still excellent Winterland and San Diego versions. This makes perfect sense when you consider that the superior Albert Hall show has been in the works at Experience Hendrix for some time, and I expect due to the fact that it may ultimately be released in combination with a film, (like what was done with the 70-08-30 Isle Of Wight concert) I expect we will have to wait at least another year for that one.

The second main difference is the inclusion of several outstanding extra tracks from the San Diego 69-5-31 show, formerly released in the late 80’s as part of the Stages live box. Indeed, San Diego was the highlight of this four CD set, the other 3 full concerts marred by poor sound or lacklustre performance. Putting so many of these San Diego songs together on In the West may tell us that Experience Hendrix may have decided not to release San Diego 69-5-31 on its own any time soon. I am happy to have these newer versions even though they are edited in places. Finally releasing “In The West” on CD was a no-brainer considering the demand for live Hendrix, especially from younger fans who haven’t heard much of the really great stuff beyond Monterey, Woodstock, Fillmore East and the sub-par Isle of Wight.

Today also marks the release of a 4-5 CD box of 3 nights at Winterland in 1968, a great gift to folks like me who have snatched up every Hendrix album over the years, including the stuff that never should have seen the light of day. For the non-hard core fans, the new version of Hendrix: In The West is a great way to expand your collection beyond the essential studio albums.

May 20, 2013 Posted by | Jimi Hendrix Hendrix In The West | | Leave a comment

Led Zeppelin Physical Graffiti (1975)

graffitiFrom donignacio.com

According to Led Zeppelin lore, these guys had written too much material for their follow-up to Houses of Holy, so instead of cutting some material, they decided to expand it to a double album. Usually, that entailed filling the album with a ton of unused (and weaker) material from earlier albums. The result is one of the more scattershot and less “revolutionary” Led Zeppelin albums, but I’ll be a monkey’s great-aunt if I don’t find this thing to be entertaining.

This was planned to be a back-to-basics album as the progressive rock ambitions of Houses of Holy didn’t seem to pan out too well. This is an album filled with simple riff-rockers more or less. Not that I didn’t want musicians to expand their boundaries a little bit, but we all have to face the facts: Riff-rock was just their strength. There’s nothing finer than hearing these guys rip out a catchy riff over and over again while Robert Plant wails over it like he does (although he seemed to already lose some of his range since the classic days, which is surprising).

I had a copy of this album for quite some time, but I’ll admit that I never actually sat down and listened to the whole thing until I wrote this review. The reason I kept this album around was for one reason, and one reason only: “Kashmir.” I am with 99 percent of the rock ‘n’ roll population who thinks that’s a tremendously cool song. They come up with that ascending chord progression riff that sounds so epic that it should have been in a soundtrack to a ’50s movie in Technicolor starring Kirk Douglas. That epic. Even Bonham’s rather simple drumming seems larger than life! Robert Plant of course sings stuff over it, but even that doesn’t destroy the good mood.

Another song that wins me over for its badassery is “The Rover,” which is little more than a really awesomely played riff. Did we really want anything more from them? The album closer “Sick Again” is another one of my favorites. It’s little more than a dumb and dirty riff, but it’s catchy and I can actually get caught up in it. “The Wanton Song” features such a quickly played riff that it smacks me around and forces me to pay attention, and that constitutes another highlight.

There are a couple of oddball songs in here, which I appreciate, since it keeps this 15-track album from growing too samey. Although I’m not much of a fan of the nine-minute psychedelic/new-agey song, “In the Light.” There’s some interesting elements to it (such as a nicely done bendy synthesizer solo at the beginning), but that song seems to drag on for waaay too long, and its heavy guitar sections just seem flat to me. One of the album’s good oddball songs must be “Trampled Underfoot,” which contains such a tight and catchy groove that it forces me to tap my foot with it. John Bonham deserves credit for his inventive drum sounds in “Boogie With Stu” and “Black Country Woman,” which would have otherwise been boringly ordinary.

“In My Time of Dying” is another highlight that I feel the need to point out mostly because it is the sort of song that I thought I would have hated. It’s an 11-minute piece filled with nothing but bluesy licks, minimal drum beats, and Robert Plant sounding like he’s improvising a melody. But somehow, they keep those bluesy licks consistently interesting, so it doesn’t completely lose my attention.

A lot of Led Zeppelin fans consider Physical Graffiti to be their best. While I’m not with them on that assessment, I can see where they’re coming from. This is where Led Zeppelin started to lose some of their (honestly misguided) artistic ambition and just concentrated on songs that are fun to listen to. Sure, there is that weird exception (“In the Light”) and maybe a few songs that could have rocked out more (“Ten Years Gone”), but all in all this is right on the money.

May 20, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin Physical Graffiti | | Leave a comment

Led Zeppelin Lyon 1973 (March 1973)

Led-Zeppelin-Lyon-1973From collectorsmusicreviews.com

Palais de Sports, Lyon, France – March 26, 1973

Disc 1: (51:18) Over The Hills And Far Away, Black Dog, Misty Mountain Hop, Since I’ve Been Loving You, Dancing Days, Bron-Y-Aur-Stomp, The Song Remains The Same, The Rain Song

Disc 2: (45:37) MC, Dazed And Confused, Stairway To Heaven

Disc 3: (36:42) MC, Whole Lotta Love, Heartbreaker

Led Zeppelin’s third tour of Europe took place in 1973 and ran from March 2nd in Copenhagen, Denmark through April 2nd in Paris, France. Lyon 1973 presents a much longer version of the March 26th concert than had previously circulated. Only a 30 minute fragment containing an incomplete “Dazed And Confused”, part of “Whole Lotta Love”, and “Heartbreaker” were known to exist. Lyon 1973 contains the entire concert sans the opening track “Rock And Roll” and the very beginning of “Over The Hills And Far Away”. The European dates are known for being powerful awe-inspiring performances and from what we can make out, this one does not disappoint.

The recording is muddy with heavy low end distortion throughout and much of the detail gets lost. Luis Rey describes the original 30 minute fragment in his book, Led Zeppelin Live, as “poor quality recording, disturbing and noisy”. While he is not that far off, there are some worthwhile moments and times where the sound quality slightly improves and overall becomes more listenable as the concert progresses (or could that just be my ears adjusting to the sound?). The drums get almost completely buried in the mix with most of the emphasis on the bass guitar. Jimmy’s guitar can be heard fair enough but Robert’s vocals get somewhat buried in the mix as well and his between song banter is very hard to make out most of the time due to the echo in the venue. Some crowd noise is picked up in between songs and occasionally during the music but really doesn’t interfere with much. Some different music can also be heard bleeding through in the background and is only noticeable between tracks. This could be from improper tape storage or perhaps from a dirty tape or a tape that may have been reused.

The tape cuts in just after the band enters “Over The Hills And Far Away”. The first three tracks suffer the most from the recording quality and it isn’t until “Since I’ve Been Loving You” that there are some nice moments of clarity where Jones’ organ doesn’t distort the tape quite like his bass does and Page can be heard giving a fine performance. The lone acoustic track, “Bron-Y-Aur-Stomp”, contains a small reference to “That’s The Way”, common around this time.

About three minutes into “The Song Remains The Same” the tape improves some with a bit more top end shining through. “The Rain Song” is more enjoyable as well even though some faint conversation is picked up in places.

“Dazed And Confused” is an uncut 30 minutes and contains “San Francisco”. The crowd seems to acknowledge Jimmy bringing out the bow but something happens at the start of the bow section prompting Page to stop and retune his instrument. “Stairway To Heaven” gets the applause it deserves from the opening notes and about six minutes into the song they lose power just as they are getting to the epic accents that lead into Jimmy’s solo. After two minutes of silence the power is restored and the band picks up where they left off and Page delivers an amazing solo.

“Whole Lotta Love” is an almost complete 25 minute version that contains “Everybody Needs Somebody To Love”, “Boogie Woogie”, “Baby, I Don’t Care”, “Let’s Have A Party”, “I Can’t Quit You, Baby”, and “The Lemon Song”. Bonham and Jones are really locked in during the theremin section. There is a dip in volume during “Baby, I Don’t Care” and a cut at 11:39 just as they are starting “Let’s Have A Party” (missing only a small part) where the volume gets restored. Luis Rey describes “I Can’t Quit You” as a semi-drunk version, but I found this to be a good solid enjoyable listen with Page shredding in top form. They return to the stage for a single encore, “Heartbreaker” and Jimmy continues to cut loose with another fine version. He includes “Bouree” and “Feelin’ Groovy” in his solo section.

Although Lyon 1973 won’t appeal to most collectors it really serves its purpose in the Zeppelin community by filling in a void in most fans’ collection and presents a much longer version on silver disc. Unless a better sounding recording surfaces for this date, Lyon 1973 is the best way to experience this concert. As it is, this is one for the die hard Zeppelin completists and should be avoided by the general collector. This set comes in a fatboy jewel case and all three discs are attractively silk-screened in red and black using the same image of Jimmy and Robert with LZ Archives written across the top of each.

May 20, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin Lyon 1973 | , | Leave a comment

Neil Young Weld VHS (1991)

41TF3EWBVVLFrom amazon.com

Review This is the video to go with the “Weld” CD. It has the same songs as the 2 CD-set except the classic “Like A Hurricane” and “Farmer John” – it does have an interesting introduction featuring the infamous Roadas (roadies dressed as Jawas) as Jimi Hendrix’s rendition of the Star Spangled Banner is played.
All the music is electric and justifies why Neil is called the godfather of grunge by many people. There is a lot of juicy distortion.

The album features many classic Neil tunes such as “Hey Hey My My”, “Welfare Mothers”, “Cortez The Killer”, “Powderfinger”, “Tonight’s The Night” and “Roll another Number for The Road”. There are also newer classics such as the ultimate rendition of “Rockin’ In The Free World” (forget Pearl Jam’s!)

Obviously the music sounds better from a CD-quality recording than a VHS tape.

It’s very enjoyable to watch Neil and the Horse play, especially on his rampaging solos and thrashing of his guitar.

My only complaint is that the camera focuses too much on the audience and there are some real freaks in there!

Review Man, this one is frustrating. Director Bernard Shakey, who did such terrific work on the “Rust Never Sleeps” and “Live In A Rusted Out Garage” video concerts, really lets us down on this one.

Rather than focusing on Neil and Crazy Horse, the cameras spend far too much time zeroing in on the concertgoers. Yeah, we know that everyone in the crowd knows all the words to all the songs, but to endlessly have to watch them lip synch the words through the better part of this concert is annoying.

We do get to see some fairly hot babes during “Cinnamon Girl,” but the rest of time we get to spend a lot of cring-inducing time viewing average Joes playing air guitar/drums, pumping their fists into the air and singing along with Neil’s songs.

Make no mistake, the band is terrific…Crazy Horse may never have sounded better than on this tour. And they’re a lot of fun to watch…that is, when the cameras feature the band, which is where they should have stayed.

The five stars is for the music and performance of the band.

As a footnote: The album/CD mix for Weld and the Laser Disc (which is what I’m reviewing, transferred to DVD) mixes are markedly different. Neil and Billy Talbot messed with the album mix, adding overdubs and such, after producer David Briggs was satisfied with the finished product. The album/CD resulted in a muddy, bass-heavy mix and bore a “produced by Neil Young and Billy Talbot” credit. The Laser Disc version retains the far-superior David Briggs mixes and production credit goes to David Briggs. Neil Young, in hindsight, has stated the “real” Weld is the Laser Disc.

May 20, 2013 Posted by | Neil Young Weld VHS | , | Leave a comment

Jeff Beck: Performing This Week… Live at Ronnie Scott’s DVD (2009)

510-uN+vNALFrom amazon.com

The Jeff Beck live at Ronnie Scott’s DVD is now available and for $10 every guitarist should have one. Jeff is in great form, seeming happy and relaxed and his playing is quite precise. That man really knows how to work a whammy bar.

The whole band is good, but Drummer Vinny Colaiuta (a Zappa and Sting alumni) especially stands out. Tal Wilkenfeld, the female bassist who looks like a 12 year old, is also very good. Her appearances at the Crossroads show attracted a lot of attention due to her youthful appearance and the fact that she looked incredibly surprised and happy to be on stage with Beck.

On this DVD she doesn’t seem as confident in her playing and as extroverted as she did in the band’s appearance at the Crossroads festival. (I believe this DVD was shot before the Crossroads concert) However, as in the Crossroads videos, there’s still those odd, charming moments when Jeff gives her a gesture of approval after she takes a solo and she looks back with a big proud and happy smile. It’s a cross between the look of a proud father and daughter and the look of a lecherous college professor giving approval to the ambitious and lusty female student that he’s having an affair with.

In this video we don’t see much of keyboardist Jason Rebello, but he does a fine job of responding to Jeff’s lines and emulating his predecessors in Beck’s bands.

The interviews indicate that the band was put together shortly before the shows were shot, with about one month of rehearsal. Everyone knows their parts, but I think this project could have been taken to another level of excellence if the band had worked together for a longer period of time and had the collective experience required to confidently stretch out and improvise a bit more.

Stereo, Dolby surround and DTS surround soundtracks are provided. As usual the DTS soundtrack sounds audibly better than the Dolby. I hate it when concert films use the rear speakers only for audience noise; I want my DVD to sound better than what the audience heard, and audience noise is not my favorite part of the live performance experience. In this case, the use of surround is good, placing the listener in the middle of the band without being too obvious or gimmicky.

Another of my peeves about concert videos is that they rarely let you see the details of what the guitarist is doing. This one stands out for providing a lot of good shots that will help guitarists figure out how Beck gets his unique sounds.

The choice of material comprises a good “greatest hits” for Beck with a nice mix of the fast fusiony material and the slower, soulful material. I would have liked to have heard a bit more of the excellent techno influenced material from his most recent albums, but I’m surely in the minority in that opinion.

There are guest appearances by Joss Stone, Imogen Heap and Clapton. Stone was OK, but doesn’t have the maturity and depth to add much to the proceedings, she’s just another young Janis/Arethra wannabe as far as I can tell. Imogen is more unique with a quirkier presence that made for a more useful contribution.

Clapton joined the band for two blues numbers, one fast, one slow. Clapton has been in fine form lately, but as a guitarist he’s not in the same league as Beck. However, his vocals have never been better and Jeff and Clapton do a nice Yardbirds style raveup on Willie Dixon’s “You Need Love.” (the inspiration for Led Zep’s Whole Lotta Love.

This DVD is the only commercially available video of a whole Jeff Beck show and overall they did it up right. If you like Beck there is no doubt that you should get this DVD. Help other customers find the most helpful reviews
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May 20, 2013 Posted by | Jeff Beck Performing This Week...Live at Ronnie Scott's DVD | , | Leave a comment

Jeff Beck Emotion & Commotion (2010)

51-8CTMSQwLFrom amazon.com

Review Nominated for five Grammy awards. Monumental highlights “Elegy For Dunkirk”, “Corpus Christi Carol”, “Hammerhead”, ” Somewhere Over The Rainbow”, “Nessum Dorma” and “I Put A Spell On You.”

“Emotion and Commotion” is Jeff Beck’s newest studio album in the aftermath of his gloriously frenetic Jeff CD (2003). This CD is another classic but it’s far different than all his previous releases. An Orchestra and three female vocalists play major roles and the CD embraces classical, opera, new age and cinematic genres in addition to Beck’s awesome rock, blues and jazz fusion forte.

The opening track is a marvellous interpretation of “Corpus Christi Carol” that features Beck playing sustained single notes that swoop and soar with the stirring hurt of a human voice. The ensuing “Hammerhead” is laden with Beck’s arsenal including wah wah pedal, whammy bar dynamics, brawny riffs and knifing solos. Song three is the virtuosic “Never Alone” which has a new age sound that is audibly assuaging. “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” is a major highlight as the guitar weeps and laments with a visceral tone that only Jeff Beck can coax and caress. Joss Stone energetically sings “I Put A Spell On You” accompanied by some stellar funk and blues chops delivered by Beck.

“Serene” is a pastoral and bucolic instrumental that further demonstrates Beck’s eclecticism and it’s bolstered by great bass playing and atmospheric soundscapes. Next is “Lilac Wine” sung by Irish phenom Imelda May. It’s a nice song that imbues the album with some torch and pure jazz. It transitions into the poignant, edgy and ravishing “Nessun Dorma” that fuses Beck’s fretboard prowess with the rousing sounds of the orchestra. (“Nessun Dorma” has been an incredible live performance at Jeff Beck’s 2010 US concerts without the orchestra.) Joss Stone returns to sing “There’s No Other Me”, but the star is Beck who delivers some explosive and psychedelic sounds.

The emotive and stunning “Elegy For Dunkirk” closes the album. Beck’s riffs and notes are replete with heartrending pathos that ascend to astounding beauty as Olivia Safe’s wordless but angelic vocals help to compel the listener to be awed by the grandeur of a song that is almost on a par with the inimitably transcendent “Where Were You.”

Note: The Japanese CD has an adroitly austere and melancholic instrumental song “Cry Me A River in addition to the captivating “Poor Boy” that is sung by Imelda May.

Jeff Beck is not a great writer or composer and he’s indebted to people like George Martin, John McLaughlin and Tony Hymas who have inspired him. However, no other guitarist can create and generate such a plethora of otherworldy, sensitive and blistering sounds and tones with bare fingers and very few effects. Jeff Beck’s a nonpareil guitarist who is invariably revered by his axeman peers ranging from the late Les Paul to Joe Satriani.

Review First off, let me start by saying that I am a huge Jeff Beck fan, but my affection is not clouded by blind adoration. After waiting 7 years to get something new from one of the best rock/electric guitarists on the planet, this album leaves me severely wanting.

First, the obligatory compliments: Jeff plays with a depth of sensitivity that very few others in this genre can aspire to. His technique is simply jaw-dropping amazing. He dynamically bends and twists notes so that they flow more like those of a bowed, rather than a plucked instrument. This gives a lyrical quality to his playing that is nearly vocal in effect. And, as always, his tone is immediately recognizable. Jeff, as usual, uses his vast talent and tool box of skills very effectively on several of the tunes here, focusing on emotional content rather than technical pyrotechnics to communicate with his audience.

This “sparse” approach is, however, this album’s greatest weakness since the majority of the songs here are really laid back, mellow, and, ultimately, forgettable. There are a couple of upbeat tracks in the mix between the likes of “Over the Rainbow” and “Serene” where he could have dug in and really boogied. Unfortunately, just as he gets to the point where our ears expect to hear Jeff turn on the after-burner he pulls back. Instead of a “kick a@@” pit bull on guitar we get a polite poodle.

Two tracks in particular follow this trend. “I Put a Spell on You” is an un-inspired and altogether un-original vocal and instrumental arrangement. This is a classic, bluesy song that has the potential to rip out your guts if done with real passion. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t come together for me. Jeff’s lead barely breaks a sweat and builds no tension and release in the listener. Odd that it is so emotionally flat on an album intended to squeeze as much feeling as possible out of a song.

The second song, “There’s No Other Me”, ends with Jeff playing a rocking finish but it fades out to silence just when he really starts to get aggressive and musically interesting. Another couple of minutes of guitar soloing would have made the song much more memorable. Yawn!

Lets face it, at just over 40 odd minutes there is plenty of room left to hold more. Why he close to trim even the best tracks to only 3 or 4 minutes is hard to understand. Surely Jeff, at this point in his career, can’t be worried about getting top 30 air play (or maybe he is!). If more of these tunes had been developed into full-fledged, soul satisfying masterpieces, this might have been another Grammy nominee for him and a winner for his listeners.

Bottom line is that if you are a fan, then you, of course, must own this album. Otherwise, pick-up any of the many other Jeff Beck albums if you want to really hear why he is so highly praised. When I’m in the mood for some really great guitar music I’ll be choosing one of his older albums while “Emotion and Commotion” probably collects dust.

May 20, 2013 Posted by | Jeff Beck Emotion & Commotion | | Leave a comment