Classic Rock Review

The home of old record and bootleg reviews…

Jimi Hendrix Miami Pop Festival (2013)


This is a show recorded at a time when songs like Foxey Lady ,Hey Joe ect.. were still tolerable and fun for Jimi to play, so those early songs and the rest are played with a freshness and fire that would eventually evaporate due to Jimi’s musical growth, wanting to move on to other things..

Hey Joe- begings with Jimi turning the volume all the way up and creating a wall of feedback as he uses cord voicings,3rds,hammer on’s the wha wha pedal and whammy bar, to make beautiful music out of feedback as he lauches into one of the best versions (my opinion)of Hey Joe. I like the Monterey Hey Joe and the Berkeley versions the best, I now put this one up there with those as one of my favorites.
Foxey Lady- is scorching white hot and Jimi is having lot’s of fun playing it (just look at the video)

Fire- a high octane version, like most are,but again these songs at this time are not frustrating for Jimi to play and you can tell he’s having a good time playing it.
Tax Free- A rude,dynamic smokin hot early version of this tune that’s shorter than the Winterland versions as Jimi was still developing it,Jimi makes Jimi use out of the whammy bar and wha wha petal as he drives Mitch and Noel as fast and hard as they could be driven.

I Don’t Live Today- absolute feed back laced assault- sounds of guided missles flying, H- bombs expolding ,sounds of rocket ships taking off and crashing,are all simulated by Jimi coaxing feedback from his stratocaster and rocking the living daylights out of this song.

Hear My Train A Comin’- This is a new song for Jimi and the band, it’s not as formulated as it later would be, so really shouldn’t be compared to other versions like Berkeley ect.. as he says we only played this once before, so you can hear them at times feeling around the song, but who cares! Jimi burns when he solo’s and there are things done on this version that on later vesions you wouldn’t hear.

Red House- this is a really unique version- (they all are) this one, mostly beacuse Jimi puts down his strat , as he sometimes did for this tune( Stockholm 69 playing a Gibson SG, Isle Of Wright playing the Flying V) and plays this one with a Gibson Les Paul (its’ obvious by the tone,sound and riffs Jimi’s playing-Jimi had a black 55′ Les Paul that had the “Bigsby tremlo whammy bar” that you can hear him using and there’s a picture on back of the booklet from that day with Jimi playing the Les Paul, you can see some better pic of It-

During the first few minutes Jimi is getting a warm ,bluesy tone as he plays some really beautiful licks and runs while singing, Jimi starts to solo and plays some of his best blues riffs and expressions you’ll ever hear on Red House , ( my fav’s -Randalls Isle, San Diego,Isle Of Wright and now this version)intensifying and building up to the point where at 5:30 all hell breaks loose as Jimi turns it all the way up unleashing all the volume, power and fury from his amps and taking the blues where only Jimi could take them.

I have to give this cd 5 stars beacuse of the bands preformance and Jimi’s guitar playing,which is all top notch.

Mitch Mitchel and Noel Redding provide a tight, flawless backup for Jim and all of his unpredicable cues and spontaneous playing. Michael Lang the concert promoter said that somone slipped Jimi and the boys STP on the way to the show and were blasted when they took the stage,-how many musicians or bands today can do such a drug and turn out such a tight preformance?

Some have complained about lack of material- but how much was there at this early stage?.. Electric Lady was still being recorded and not yet released.

If you a Jimi freak you must have this. For others- it all depends on what you like and your taste in music.

December 28, 2013 Posted by | Jimi Hendrix Miami Pop Festival | | Leave a comment

Johnny Cash: The Life by Robert Hilburn (2013)


“He is what the land and the country are all about, the heart and soul of it personified…”. Bob Dylan.

“It’s called country music and western music, but the truth is it’s American music. It speaks in story about America in a way that speaks to all of us, north, east, west, and south.” Richard Nixon at a White House concert.

With the holiday gift giving season fast approaching, there’s no surfeit of books on musical artists. Books on Charlie Parker, The Beatles, Duke Ellington, Robert Plant, Jimi Hendrix, and no doubt others will be on the bookshelves. But certainly one of the best is Robert Hilburn’s book on Johnny Cash.

Hilburn began this book in 2009 when Cash’s manager told him “only about twenty percent” of Cash’s life had been told. While previous books on Cash put his life and music in some kind of perspective, Hilburn takes a slightly different approach. He reveals not just Cash’s life in and out of music, but why Cash matters. This book is a penetrating look at the man behind the “Man in Black” myth. And Hilburn never lets the myth get in the way of the facts. He has known, interviewed, and simply talked with Cash during his long (50 years) music career. Using interviews from both the past and present Hilburn has gone deeper into Cash’s life, and has shone a light on both the real Johnny Cash and his music.

The book is broken into five parts, each dealing chronologically with a specific period and events from that period of Cash’s life. Events like Memphis and Sam Phillips, Columbia Records, the tune “Big River” and pills, June Carter, drugs and Carnegie Hall, Folsom Prison and marrying June, losing the muse, Rick Rubin, and the final days are just a few of the many headings of events in the five parts chronicled in this book. There’s 16 pages of b&w photographs from throughout Cash’s life, including an early photo of Cash in his Air Force uniform playing a fiddle. And another photo from 1980, of Cash and his wife facing away from the camera–her arm around Cash’s waste–his hand squeezing her buttock. Also included are 5 pages of a “Guide To Recordings And DVDs”, 16 pages of Source Notes, and an Index.

The book begins early in Cash’s life in Dyess, Arkansas and his rural 1930’s upbringing. From there Hilburn, in a no nonsense, straightforward writing style, constructs Cash’s life not only as a musician, but as a man with human failings, wracked with guilt. But also here is Cash “the practical joker”, the man who wanted to buy his parents “…a nice place so they could have modern utilities…”, the man with pressures in his personal life (which in one instance led to Cash’s love song “I Walk The Line”), and the man who abused narcotics (and the price he paid for that). But Hilburn also notes Cash’s other “addictions”–reading scripture everyday, his devotion to music, and a man who cared about his fans (Cash, learning of fans who had traveled far to see his concerts, would pay their room and board). As Marshall Grant said of Cash–“He’d give you the shirt off his back, and if he was straight, everything else he had in his possession.”

Hilburn also notes Cash’s guilt at not being a better father and husband. Roseanne Cash was very helpful, giving Hilburn a better look at her father–even to the detriment of Cash and the family. Cash was in a never ending circle of “wicked behavior” and then deep repentance. Cash wanted to redeem himself so others might feel they too could be redeemed. But there was also the father who named his daughter after pet names for his wife’s breasts–“Rose” and “Anne”. The author also weaves the Carter family into the picture and the their effect on Cash both musically and personally. He also reveals that June Carter had failings of her own to deal with.

In tandem with a detailed look at Cash the man, Hilburn has also delved extensively into the music side of Cash–using the same straightforward clear prose. For me the book is at its best when Hilburn goes into detail about the business side of Cash’s life. He essentially begins with Cash going to Memphis and hooking up with Sun Records, and continues with his early recordings and hits, leaving Sun and signing with Columbia Records, Cash admitting that some of his albums weren’t very good, recording gospel albums which took the pressure off Cash to write more secular songs (and hopefully hits), the many concerts he gave (including of course the Folsom Prison concert which Hilburn attended), being dropped by Columbia and not doing well on the Mercury label, worrying that his music would be forgotten, the fact that the 70’s and 80’s were not a good time for Cash, that Cash wrote approximately 1,000 songs, and his meeting Rick Rubin at a time when Cash felt his career over.

The book begins to wind down with Cash returning home because of his worsening Parkinson’s Disease, and the passing of June Carter–as Rick Rubin said at the time–“I didn’t know if he was going to make it past this.” But not before Cash recorded a large cache of songs with Rubin as producer/facilitator, including “The Man Comes Around”, and “Hurt”. Hilburn gives the reader enough details that help put Cash’s music in a much clearer light–from both Cash’s and his fans perspectives. Nothing seems romanticized–everything rings sure and true, interesting, and informative. Having such attention to detail brings both parts of Cash’s life into a sharper focus than in previous books.

While some previous books have done a good/adequate job with Cash’s life story, none have really put everything in such clear terms–his life outside of music, and the music itself. Its Hilburn’s leaving aside the myth, his attention to detail and his unflinching way of laying everything out–good and bad–that makes this book the one to read if you’re interested in a look beyond the “Man in Black.”

“His most enduring legacy is that his message continues to spread.” John Cash, son of Johnny Cash.

December 28, 2013 Posted by | Book Johnny Cash: The Life by Robert Hilburn | , | 1 Comment

Johnny Cash Ride This Train (1960)

Ride+This+Train+albumridethistrainFrom guypetersreviews.ccom

Johnny Cash had always been a diligent writer and interpreter of train songs. Hence, it was no surprise that one of his earliest hits, “Hey Porter,” was a train song, while several others followed soon, like “Wreck of the Old ‘97” and his version of Hank Williams’ “I Hear That Lonesome Whistle Blow.”

He’d continue this trend not only throughout the ‘60’s (“Orange Blossom Special”), but up ‘til his American-years, with “Down There by the Train” (on American Recordings) and “The L&N Don’t Stop Here Anymore” (on Unearthed). It’s not surprising either then, that in 1960 his first deliberately conceptual album was tied together by the train-motive. Contrary to what you might think, these songs are not about trains, as the original subtitle (deleted when the album was reissued) A Stirring Travelogue of America in Song and Story already suggested.

Basically, Ride This Train is a trip through an America of days gone by, when trains were the only means of transportation and a symbol of innovation, employment and liberty. The album paints a picture of mostly working men and woman, trying to make the best out of their misery or enjoying what was God-given, but the catch of it all is not that Cash describes the tales from a contemporary perspective, but by choosing to narrate through the respective protagonists.

As a result, Ride This Train offers a sprawling diversity of lives, voices and perspectives, the most remarkable aspect of it being that each song is introduced by a narration that starts with “Ride this train …”. Most of the time, the songs’ singers are the ones who introduce the songs, while others show interesting contrasts. Whereas the opening track (that starts after a rather clumsy introduction about the Indian heritage), “Loading Coal” – a song written especially for this album by Merle Travis -, deals with a coal miner trying to earn an honest living, it’s the legendary John Wesley Hardin who connects it to “Slow Rider.”

During “Lumberjack,” the Oregon based protagonist tells us about the life lessons he was taught being a high-climber (“I learned that a man’s gotta be a lot tougher than the timber he’s cuttin’ ”), while “Dorraine of Ponchartrain” tells us of a Nova Scotia Arcadian and his beloved. Actually, despite what you might’ve expected, Ride This Train might very well offer the most diverse batch of songs Cash had recorded yet, also on a musical level.

For the most part, the rather stiff rhythm of the Sun recordings is disbanded in favor of a looser, acoustic sound that continues the minimalism, but allows for some more frills (i.e. not just repetitive strumming). Or, during “When Papa Played the Dobro,” “Boss Jack” (a song introduced by the slave owner, but sung by the slave himself!), and “Old Doc Brown,” the music’s playful air of confidence is closer to country swing than the sturdy variation of before (probably because of the richer sound, featuring dobro and fiddle).

However, it’s probably “Going to Memphis” (a rerecording of which wound up on Unearthed) that steals the show. Carried on by the rattling of the ball & chains, it’s a song with attitude to spare, from the moans and groans of the prisoners, the piano-led, bluesy strut to Cash’s striking vocal performance and suitable lyrics (“Like a bitter weed, I’m a bad seed”).

So, the wide range of locations (it’s one hell of a trip: Kentucky, Oregon, Louisiana, Memphis, Iowa, etc), multitude of voices and great use of acoustic instruments are definitely plusses, but the narration parts just get tedious after a while. The first few times you hear these, you probably won’t mind as you’ll be considering it some sort of educational documentary, but after that you’ll wish he’d get to the damn songs a bit quicker.

Plus, subtract those parts, and how many minutes of music are you left with? Twenty, or twenty-five? It’s understandable why Cash himself considered Ride This Train one of his finest achievements of the sixties, but speaking for myself, I can do without the elaborate guidelines that disrupt the rhythm (even though the steam locomotive keeps goin’ on in the background) and flow of the generally fine songs. “Frustrating” is the word.

Note: The reissue of the American Milestones-series adds four bonus tracks (without narration): the conventional country-singles “Second Honeymoon” and “Smiling Bill McCall,” plus “The Fable of Willie Brown” and the previously unreleased “The Ballad of the Harpweaver.”

December 28, 2013 Posted by | Johnny Cash Ride This Train | | Leave a comment

Johnny Cash Orange Blossom Special (1965)


With Orange Blossom Special, the second of his albums that upset the Southern country community (nearly sounds like a cult), Cash embraced the folk community even more enthusiastically than before, and not by replacing his simple rhythms by the gentle acoustic strumming and the poetic and/or indignant lyrics of the folk tradition (like Bitter Tears did, in a way), but by tackling their new hero’s material.

Cash had been an adamant follower of Dylan’s from The Freewheelin’ onwards and decided to include three of the young master’s songs on his album: “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” (from Freewheelin’, here spelled as “Alright”), “It Ain’t Me Babe” (from Another Side) and the lesser-known “Mama, You’ve Been on My Mind,” a non-album track later included on Dylan’s first Bootleg-compilation.

Bob would return the favor by inviting Cash during the recording of the countrified Nashville Skyline a few years later, giving music segregationists the final blow. Anyway, it’s not only because of those three songs that Orange Blossom Special could be considered one of Cash’s most eclectic albums, as he also incorporates a traditional Irish story, a prison song, a ‘song of our soil’ and two spirituals. You can hardly call it rock ‘n’ roll, but at this point, few people were ignoring genre barriers like Cash did, certainly in the country world.

Of the Dylan covers, “It Ain’t Me Babe” is probably the most memorable, and not only because of June Carter’s added vocals (which have the capacity to be an acquired taste), but also the presence of mariachi trumpets in the arrangement! You read that correctly. It worked pretty well with “Ring of Fire,” and Johnny must’ve decided to try that again, and I gotta admit, it works just fine, while his snarling “No, no, no” tops it off. “Don’t Think Twice” is turned into a rhythmic country song by Cash and the Tennessee Two, whereas the sound-alike “Mama, You’ve Been on My Mind” gets some extra Dylan-ish harmonica.

Of these, “Don’t Twink Twice” is the best, but fortunately the reissue of the album adds three bonus cuts, one of which is “Mama” with again those Mexicali trumpets added, and that’s my preferred version. Even though the Dylan songs are what sets this album apart, its most popular song is probably the cover of Ervin Rouse’s train song “Orange Blossom Special,” here played at an appropriately fast pace, with Charlie McCoy mimicking the whistle with an harmonica and an unexpected sax solo further lightening things up.

A final classic comes in the way of “Long Black Veil,” which has become something of a classic in the country/folk canon. What sets this version apart is Cash’s commanding baritone and his slow and clear (nearly exaggerated) articulation. Of course, a song about a falsely accused guy, too stubborn to use his alibi – he was having an affair with his best friend’s wife – might appeal to lots of people. Even though the album is regarded as something of a minor classic in Cash’s insanely large output, I don’t consider any of the songs (apart from the ones mentioned above) as indispensable, even though some of them are enjoyable. “The Wall” is a gentle prison song that sounds as if it was recorded during the Bitter Tears-sessions, “Wildwood Flower” (an A.P. Carter song) proves he also pays his dues to his roots, while “All of God’s Children” and “Amen” find him doing gospel – especially the second one is a lot of fun.

Less successful are “When It’s Springtime in Alaska,” which somehow relies too much on the vocals (with too much reverb), while the lengthy narration that introduces the sappy “Danny Boy,” nor the song itself, offer anything new. Orange Blossom Special is certainly not a mind-blowing experience (which you shouldn’t have expected anyway, keeping in mind the prolific pace at which he released albums), but it has its share of strong songs (especially on the first album half).

Recommended if you’d like to hear more than just the prison albums and a compilation covering the Sun years.

December 28, 2013 Posted by | Johnny Cash Orange Blossom Special | | Leave a comment

The Who The Dutch Seduction (Amsterdam, September 1969)


Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, Netherlands – September 29th, 1969
Disc 1 (60:23): House announcement, Heaven And Hell, I Can’t Explain, Fortune Teller, Tattoo, Young Man Blues, A Quick One While He’s Away, Substitute, Happy Jack, I’m A Boy, Overture, It’s A Boy, 1921, Amazing Journey, Sparks, Eyesight To The Blind (The Hawker)
Disc 2 (63:05): Christmas, The Acid Queen, Pinball Wizard, Do You Think It’s Alright?, Fiddle About, Tommy Can You Hear Me?, There’s A Doctor, Go To The Mirror, Smash The Mirror, Miracle Cure, Sally Simpson, I’m Free, Tommy’s Holiday Camp, We’re Not Gonna Take It, Listening To You / See Me Feel Me, Summertime Blues, Shakin’ All Over, My Generation

The Who’s Tommy wasn’t the first rock opera or even the first sustained narrative in rock form. But it was eagerly anticipated before it was released (Pete Townshend hyped Tommy in his first Rolling Stone interview in the summer of 1968) and was met with enthusiastically positive critical reception when it finally was made public in April 1969.

It had an interesting and personal premise and showed the possibilities of rock being a serious art form (along with work by other artists the same time). The Who incorporated a bit portion of the work into their live set immediately when they toured the UK that spring and the US that summer.

The Who chose the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, for the first performance of the work in continental Europe. It is one of the most acoustically perfect venues in continental Europe and would lend an air of authority to the performance. AVRO, a Dutch broadcasting company, owned the most sophisticated recording equipment in Europe at the time and recorded what would be one of rock’s classic performances.

The band would present their complete concert set. Beginning with John Entwistle’s “Heaven And Hell,” the first third of the show would be devoted to their older songs including “A Quick One While He’s Away,” their first attempt at a rock opera. The middle of the show would be an almost complete Tommy, and the finale of the show would be more older songs and their famous jam sessions.
The recording has been released many times before dating back to the days of vinyl.

It also became a perennial on compact disc. Some of the best releases include Amazing Journey on Hiwatt (NL-69 A/B) (which has amazing sound quality but with the songs in the wrong order, Unbelievable Fantastic (Rockmasters RMC-007AB) and The Complete Amsterdam 1969 (Seymour Record-014/15), both with great sound and in the correct running order.

The Dutch Seduction is Godfather’s first Who release and sounds just as good as Rockmasters and Seymour. It is quite simply a beautiful recording with unbelievably fantastic dynamics, presence and atmosphere. Even casual Who fans need a copy of this in the collection. Since the two Japanese releases are hard to find, this is a welcome title.

After the announcements (in Dutch and English) the band hit the stage with “Heaven And Hell” and “I Can’t Explain.” Townshend introduces “Fortune Teller” as a song that the Rolling Stones among others have also covered. The performance segues effortlessly into “Tattoo.”

Before “Young Man Blues” Pete explains, “A couple of people have asked us why we chose to play in Amsterdam for the first major opera house performance of Tommy and the answer quite simply is we like it. Not being at all factitious. It’s probably more average of what Europe is like than London…You are the first.”

The Mose Allison cover follows in its bombastic glory. Townshend gets into a long exposition about “A Quick One,” trying to explain what a girl guide is and the plot of the story. Keith Moon is looning behind him, acting like a lech at the very mention of the girl’s blue knickers. When Townshend gets to the end of the explanation, speaking about the forgiveness part, he jokes about how modern that is.

After “Substitute” and “Happy Jack,” they start the Tommy suite. Some of the tracks are played out of sequence in reference to the official studio version with “Pinball Wizard” being moved up after “The Acid Queen” and “Tommy Can You Hear Me?” placed before “There’s A Doctor.”

Much of the piece has been played live since the spring and is very tight and exciting. But the newer pieces are a bit shaky. This is especially true for “Sally Simpson” which has a very tentative vocal performance by Roger Daltrey.

Only after the main event of the evening do the band relax a bit and deliver a startling version of “Shakin’ All Over” (which also contains a reference to “Smokestack Lightening”) before Townshend begins his feedback windmills over Moon’s violent beats. “My Generation” is played as a rare encore with a reprise of “See Me/Feel Me,” “Pinball Wizard” and other leitmotifs from the rock opera to bring the concert full circle before leading into a haze of distorted atonal fuzz and a restatement of the Tommy theme.

After this show the band would fly to New York to start another tour of the US but would return to continental Europe in early 1970 for further concerts including another date at the Concertgebouw on January 30th, 1970. The Dutch Seduction is packaged in a tri-fold gatefold sleeve with a groovy cover! Let’s hope Godfather will keep The Who concerts coming!

December 28, 2013 Posted by | The Who The Dutch Seduction | , | Leave a comment

Patti Smith Horses (1975)


This is regarded as a seminal punk recording from a longtime CBGB’s veteran, dubbed the “punk poetess” for her unique melding of free flowing, poetic lyrics with a basic brand of spare, energetic garage rock.

Produced by the legendary former Velvet Underground member John Cale, her excellent backing band included former rock critic turned guitarist Lenny Kaye, whose primitive guitar stabs anchored the band’s bare boned attack (other band members included drummer Jay Dee Daugherty, bassist Ivan Kral, and keyboardist Richard Sohl).

Starting out with the immortal line “Jesus died for somebody’s sins but not mine” (does she know how to make an entrance or what?), it was clear from the start that this was something different, and it isn’t until later on that it becomes apparent that this song is actually a distinctive reworking of Them’s classic “Gloria.”

For one thing, with her strange yodels, ticks, and deep pitch Smith makes for a dramatic, wholly unique singer; I for one consider her a great, incredibly passionate singer even though she probably wouldn’t make it out of the first round on American Idol! Delivering literary but genuinely exciting music, Smith became a role model to many subsequent female (and male) rockers (just ask Michael Stipe), but her willingness to take chances will always mark her as a true American original.

True, this album was seen by some as self-indulgent (like Television’s Marquee Moon which this challenges as the best album from the CBGB’s scene, this is far more ambitious than your typical punk rock record and as such it’s really only tangentially related to punk) and it wasn’t exactly a runaway commercial success. Still, songs such as the reggae tinged “Redondo Beach” (the lightest track here along with “Kimberly”) and “Break It Up” (that’s Television’s Tom Verlaine superb on guitar, while its shouted chorus is also memorable) are actually quite catchy.

Meanwhile, the transcendent 9+ minute epics “Birdland” and “Land” (comprised of three separate parts, the middle section of which reprises the soul classic “Land Of A Thousand Dances”) are elevated by her intense, expressive vocals, while musically these surreal, adventurous tracks recall Bob Dylan or John Coltrane more than the Ramones.

The iconic black and white cover photo showed that Patti was a tough, thoughtful, no frills type of woman who meant serious business, a point that’s perhaps best exemplified by the thrilling rocker “Free Money,” one of my favorite songs ever.

Far from being just an “influential” album that’s much beloved by punk rockers, critics, and feminists, Horses is simply one of the best rock albums of all-time, and despite subsequent successes during a sporadic recording career (including the Bruce Springsteen co-penned hit “Because The Night”) she never again quite recaptured the intense beauty and sheer magic of this legendary debut.

December 28, 2013 Posted by | Patti Smith Horses | | Leave a comment

Roy Buchanan 1st Album (1972)


Roy Buchanan was already a journeyman who was a longtime veteran of the small club circuit by the time the ’70s rolled around. Already a legend among hardcore music fans (some of whom actually believed the bogus legend about how he turned down a slot in The Rolling Stones) but unknown to the public at large, Roy had backed the likes of Dale Hawkins (famous for “Suzie Q”) and Dale’s cousin Ronnie Hawkins (most famous for his backing band, the Hawks, later The Band, whose young guitarist Robbie Robertson was actually schooled by Buchanan), among countless others.

You see, whereas most people say that they just want to be true to their music and aren’t interested in the trappings of stardom, this was actually true in the case of Buchanan, who preferred to play in the anonymity of the shadows rather than be the main guy under the spotlight. However, a talent such as Roy was only going to be “unknown” for so long, and in quick succession there was a Rolling Stone article touting “the worlds greatest unknown guitarist” followed by a similarly themed, extremely popular PBS TV special, followed by a sold out concert at Carnegie Hall.

This self-titled album (actually his third but the first two are hard to find and aren’t as good) soon followed, and it is a fine showcase for a superior guitarist, even if he was as unlikely a “guitar hero” as you’ll ever find; he was 32, overweight, and the father of 6 when he got his record deal with Polydor. This album is best known for containing Buchanan’s two most enduring tracks, a cover of Don Gibson’s “Sweet Dreams” and his own “The Messiah Will Come Again,” and both are exceptional.

“Sweet Dreams,” which was later brilliantly used by Martin Scorcese at the end of The Departed and which starts the album off, is a gorgeously melancholic instrumental. Simply put, Buchanan is arguably the most emotional guitarist ever, but be forewarned that the main emotion is pure abject sorrow; he and Duane Allman (who Scorcese also used in death scenes in Goodfellas with “Layla”), are the absolute masters of this melancholic playing style, and this song is as good an example of his playing as there is.

The purity of his tone and the way his guitar cries out is something to behold, and Dick Heintz’s swirling keyboards also add to the song’s haunting ambiance. The next song, a cover of Merle Haggard’s “I am a Lonesome Fugitive” with Chuck Tilley on vocals, is good but seems out of place coming hot on the heels of “Sweet Dreams,” and this jarring juxtaposition of styles is a problem that occurs throughout the album. Still, given Roy’s country roots (he grew up in Arkansas) I suppose it’s not that surprising, and like I said this version is good, and he does throw in some bluesy guitar licks amid the song’s laid-back, easy going country groove.

“Cajun” is a short instrumental with a spicy shuffle groove, and “John’s Blue,” another instrumental, isn’t much of a “song” proper, more an excuse for more of Roy’s crying blues guitar and soulful extended solos (Heintz adds some sparse piano as well). Of course, that’s exactly what I want to hear, not “Haunted House,” a merely decent country boogie that comes next. “Pete’s Blue,” another (you guessed it) instrumental, again features minimal accompaniment, as again Roy’s starkly emotional soloing is all that’s needed. Which brings us to “The Messiah Will Come Again,” his signature song.

The first two and a half minutes feature Roy whispering a ghostly spoken word sermon in his preacher Elvis delivery, but the song really begins in earnest thereafter, with yet another beautifully sorrowful instrumental passage. Roy’s incredible guitar tone is front and center, while Heintz’s atmospheric keyboards heighten the funereal mood. At times Roy speedily hits notes that didn’t even seem to previously exist, but despite these amazingly original and distinctive fretboard fireworks, the best moments are when his guitar slowly, agonizingly cries out, with all the feeling and pathos he can muster.

Needless to say, the Hank Williams cover, “Hey Good Lookin’,” another country boogie (again with Tillis on vocals) but slower and lighter than “Haunted House,” is completely anti-climactic and only serves to underscore the hit-and-miss nature of the album. Still, the album is partially decent (“Cajun,” “Haunted House,” “Hey Good Lookin'”), partially very good (“I am a Lonesome Fugitive,” “John’s Blue,” “Pete’s Blue”), and partially fantastic (“Sweet Dreams,” “The Messiah Will Come Again”), and given that the very good-to-great songs are much longer than the mediocre space fillers, my overall impression of this album is extremely favourable despite its inconsistency and ill-advised song groupings.

Interestingly, all three vocal tracks are covers, whereas most of the instrumentals are originals. The bottom line is that I love hearing Roy Buchanan wail on his guitar, as few guitarists can play from the gut quite so convincingly, with such incredible emotive power, and the bulk of this album delivers just that.

December 28, 2013 Posted by | Roy Buchanan 1st Album | | Leave a comment

Yes Tales From Topographic Oceans (1973)


How do you, as an artist, follow up a classic album, or just your best work up to that point?

It is an issue that has plagued many musical performers, and when Yes released the progressive milestone Close to the Edge in 1972, they faced this very problem. Being ambitious, and familiar with writing large-scale epics, the band took the common decision: to make that next album bigger than anything before it. A 81-minute concept based on Shastric scriptures (Jon Anderson’s fancy), Tales From Topographic Oceans is, for the lack of a better word, huge.

Albums like these are prone to implode because of their own length, and Topographic Oceans is certainly getting in the danger zone. It’s a large pill to swallow, and it won’t be the first Yes album you’ll pick up for a listen. Describing all its intricacies would be a long-winded affair, so to keep it short: while this double album contains some of Yes’ most gorgeously-composed passages, it does (surprise surprise) seem a little too stretched out.

The band, ambitious composers as they are, would not likely resort to meaningless noodling, so as a whole, the album actually still pretty great. Its lengthiness however doesn’t put it anywhere on the same level as the group’s three greatest achievements, being Fragile, Close to the Edge, and Relayer.

What made Close to the Edge a classic was perhaps that it was a band effort in the end, giving everyone a chance to show their abilities, both alone and in interplay. This is where Topographic Oceans strays off the right path again. The majority of this double concept was composed by Anderson and Howe, and these two are almost constantly in the musical spotlight. On the bright side, Howe’s guitar playing here is among his brightest performances.

He was, after all, often enough overshadowed by Squire and Wakeman, and this might have been payback. Wakeman however didn’t take the clear division so well, and left the band to pursue his solo career. Another classic Yes member took his leave, although he was to return later.

Even the biggest Yes followers will have to conclude that the band blew up Tales From Topographic Oceans a bit, but at the end of the day, we still have an essential Yes record with constantly great musicianship here. Being stretched out over 80 minutes, this also is a lot more relaxed to listen to than their classics, so if you’re in the right mood and take your time, it really does pay off. Not the best to start with, but most definitely an important piece in Yes’ career.


As I have been an avid fan of Yes since the 1970’s, and seen them in concert at least 20 times I’m now reviewing the Yes double album Tales From Topographic Oceans. This was recorded during August to October 1973 and released in the U.S on January 9th 1974. The band members appearing on this album are the classic line up of; Jon Anderson, Chris Squire, Steve Howe, Rick Wakeman and Alan White.

This concept album consists of 4 songs; The Revealing Science Of God, The Remembering, The Ancient and Ritual. All songs are approx 20 minutes long and deep in texture and sound that make YES.

The Revealing Science Of God; Starting with a chant that swirls in a rich mix of Steve’s guitar and Rick’s keyboards The Revealing brings you to that mellow spot in Yes music that doesn’t bring you to your feet but allows you to ponder. The next day after you’ve heard this song you’ll think about the lyric “I must have waited all my life for this moment !” The song itself moves about very leisurely but delivers with Steve’s guitar riffs and brief moments of Wakeman’s superbly textured keyboards.

The Remembering; With the sounds that made early progressive rock great, this song’s starting place leads you on a musical journey into a common YES hook. The song ends back where it started. As Jon Anderson sings; “And I do feel very well…” the entire band can be heard, Steve’s subtle guitar, Chris’s thundering base as quiet as can be and Alan’s drums helping to texture and move the song forward, while Rick’s keyboards add the finishing touches. “The strength of the moment lies with you !”, and the song is back where it started.

The Ancient; Starting off with such a mystical sound and venturing into a keyboard / guitar mix that stays with you, The Ancient shows true depth within its segments. With its starting and stopping technique and a well timed use of silence, and then increasing tempo the song is leading into some true YES greatness. The Leaves Of Green segment of the song is reason enough to have this song in your collection. Steve’s acoustic guitar playing and Jon’s singing “And I heard a million voices singing” show true musical greatness and this segment of music will endure. The last few moments of this song are taken to musical heights rarely seen, touching the outskirts.

Ritual; Of the 4 songs on this album, Ritual has the most commercial sound. Its starting hook is easy to find and listen to. Somewhat of a tour-de-force sound, Yes has unleashed itself in this song. As Steve’s guitar weaves thru the opening minutes, what impress the most is the depth of Chris’s bass, less of the typical thundering sound and more of almost a bit of a violent sound played with gusto. What Ritual does is tell a story of hope as Jon sings “open doors we find our way.” However not returning to from where it started, Ritual rolls on with almost African or Caribbean drum beat leading and building into the spot a YES fan wants to hear. With the songs journey nearly over, Jon’s sings “and course our way back home, flying home, going home !” If you want to listen to Tales, I’d recommend listening to Ritual first, it will leaving you wanting more.

Yes had “progressed” since Close To The Edge and Rick Wakeman wouldn’t return again until Going For The One. Any Yes fan or music fan should own Tales in their collection. It will go down in history as an album of original progressive rock recordings that will sound great for years to come.Tales From Topographic Oceans was certified as a Gold record in the USA and England in 1974.

December 28, 2013 Posted by | Yes Tales From Topographic Oceans | | Leave a comment

The Velvet Underground Live at Max’s Kansas City (1972)


You almost wouldn’t know it talking to Velvet Underground fans these days, but Live at Max’s Kansas City was the very first live album released by these guys in 1972. However, it’s easily one of their least-loved releases, second to Squeeze.

Why? Because the recording quality is atrocious. It was recorded by someone sitting in an audience with a handheld recorder, and not a terribly high-tech one at that. Because of that, it sounds like the band is verrrrry far away. Furthermore, from my experience using handheld tape-recorders, I’m willing to bet that this person was recording over something else. Every once in awhile, I hear it sort of spaz out, getting a bit distorted. That tape seemed well-worn.

I said multiple times before that The Velvet Underground don’t necessarily sound bad when the recording quality is crude… but here, it’s a huge distraction. Lou Reed’s vocals are frequently drowned out by the other instruments. That includes even, on more than one occasion, quite clearly hearing people’s conversations. (I’m mildly amused that I can hear one guy talk about how he saw Patton recently.

…At another time, apparently you can hear author Jim Carroll asking about where to find drugs. However, I haven’t been able to pick up exactly where that happens.) It sounds like it was recorded at a very small venue, and I’d imagine many people in the audience were just there for the drinks. At the end of “Lonesome Cowboy Bill (Version 1),” I hear one person clapping. Haha!

Even worse than that, the band itself was not in top form. The Velvet Underground had a very high live reputation, but you would never guess that here. The principle problem is that Maureen Tucker was not present at this recording; she was havin’ a baby! (I guess that’s what happens to females of our species sometimes…) Instead, bassist Doug Yule recruited his brother Billy to play the drums, and he—for the lack of a better term—sucks. That’s mostly due to these clunky fills he likes inserting in pretty much all these songs. Furthermore, since the recording quality is so awful, his drumming is easily the loudest thing in the mix. It comes off way louder than Reed’s voice. If the quality of these songs weren’t so high, then I would have completely given up on this; the drumming would’ve driven me completely crazy instead of just mildly crazy.

Yet another problem with this album came with the CD re-release of it. The original vinyl release was severely edited. Here, they pretty much include EVERYTHING including the silence in between songs. I suppose you could argue that doing that sort of recreates the feeling that you’re there, but … er … I was mostly just bored by it. Sometimes you can hear Lou Reed talk to the audience, but I usually have a hard time making out what he says. When I can, there aren’t exactly any laugh-out-loud moments. However, I’m amused at the beginning where Reed informs the audience in his signature deadpan manner: “You’re allowed to dance in case you didn’t know.” …Given how I hear the audience’s lukewarm reception to the band throughout the performances, I don’t think anybody there took him up on that offer.

The song selection is generally good. My obligatory pick for best song is “White Light / White Heat,” which is unfortunately marred by Billy Yule’s drumming. (At the end of that song, I can quietly hear Reed telling Yule how to play the next song. …Well, it sounds like he was at least polite.) They also perform a number of songs that I never cared for even in their polished studio forms, such as “New Age” and “I’m Set Free,” which are verrrrrrrrrrry tiring for me to sit through. I’m also not sure why, but there are two versions each of “Sweet Jane” and “Lonesome Cowboy Bill.” In both those occasions, once was enough.

With all this in mind, I have no trouble calling Live at Max’s Kansas City a strictly for-fans-only release. And the vast majority of fans I’m aware of don’t think much of it. The Velvet Underground were a great live band, but this recording didn’t show them in top-form. It was also recorded at a time just previously to Lou Reed exiting the band, and he does seem awfully worn out. Really, it’s no wonder whatsoever that the 1974 release of 1969: The Velvet Underground Live greatly eclipses this release in popularity. Not only does that album have much better sound quality (as crude as it is), but it shows the band in tip-top form. I mean, some of the songs on 1969: The Velvet Underground Live are even better than the studio versions, in my opinion. So, skip this one, and get that one!

December 28, 2013 Posted by | The Velvet Underground Live at Max's Kansas City | | Leave a comment

Lou Reed Live: Take No Prisoners (1978)


Review Every two or three years I go back and listen to my collection of Lou Reed albums repeatedly for a month or two. During such stints, I seldom listen to anything else. After his latest release (The Raven) I decided to revisit his substantial catalog in order to, for my own sake, place his current work in a broader artistic context. There has always been a tremendous thematic continuity in his work that I appreciate.

After listening to his recent releases and then to “Take No Prisoners,” I was pretty shocked (in a good way, mind you) by how completely different Lou Reed was back in the late `70s.

Bold, brash, arrogant, desperate-Lou Reed was all these traits in addition to being one of the greatest singer/songwriter/performers of the `70s. “Take No Prisoners” is an incredible album that features a version of Lou Reed that is just as edgy and abrasive as the crowd to which he plays. The band is tight, but often they are not given much of a chance to develop the tracks into coherent musical constructions, due to Reed’s extensive monologues, which are occasionally compelling, sometimes banal, but often hilarious. When the band does find the room to break into the choruses of the songs, they charge into them with the strength and force of a runaway locomotive. This was a great band recorded on a very special night. The energy in the music is astounding.

Although the discs boast several classic Reed tracks that are all performed in a style that is somewhere between the Lou Reed we are normally used to hearing and something from the comedic repertoire of Lenny Bruce, for me the standout tracks are the versions of “Coney Island Baby” and the epic “Street Hassle” on Disc 2. Reed’s singing on these tracks is stellar-he passionately captures the speech mannerisms of the downtrodden, the hustlers, and of the humanly expendable in these songs. He so convincingly becomes the characters in these songs that you feel as though you are down in the gutter with him, looking for that crumb of salvation that someone may have left behind.

The only issue I have with this recording is the poor remastering that was done for the CD release. An original LP vinyl copy will sound much better than this CD, which contains far too much tape hiss to be a genuine remaster. The poor sound quality of the CD prevents me from giving this a 5 star review.

If you have any deep interest in Lou Reed, buy “Take No Prisoners.” Listening to this CD is like going to the circus, but not being able to enjoy it fully because all the clowns are just a little too dirty. It is like going to the zoo, only to walk by the Polar Bear exhibit to see that the animals have eaten the zookeepers. “Take No Prisoners” very well may be flawed in many people’s eyes due to Reed’s long orations, but it also brilliantly captures the punk aesthetic and a classic Lou Reed persona that we shall neither see nor hear ever again. This is essential equipment for living in a world that is clearly one big “Dirty Blvd.”

Review I have read dozens of reviews of this album and don’t really understand why so many (about half I’d say) are so damn critical of it! First, this is a LIVE album. If you were expecting exact renditions of his studio tracks, you are listening to the wrong musician. Lou never performs songs live as they appear on his albums.

Secondly, I hear complaints about the crappy band behind him or Lou’s tendency to completely ignore them. This criticism is way off the mark. This band (named The Everyman Band) was arguably the greatest band that ever played behind solo Lou. His live shows were jazz-inspired and his band was made up of jazz-influenced musicians. Listen to the band lie low, playing quietly behind a ranting Lou, and then suddenly explode as Lou hits the chorus. They don’t stumble, they don’t stutter…they know exactly when to play. Besides, this CD contains the best take of Street Hassle I have ever heard.

The remastering job is more of a “repackaging,” so don’t expect crystal clarity. You better hook up the old turntable for that to happen.

All in all, I gave this 4 outta 5. If you are looking for more of Lou’s 1978 stint at the Bottom Line, there are a number of bootlegs out there that will satisfy your thirst: “Small Club in NYC” and “The Compilation Tapes” are the best among them.

December 28, 2013 Posted by | Lou Reed Live: Take No Prisoners | | Leave a comment