Classic Rock Review

The home of old record and bootleg reviews…

Led Zeppelin Buffalo 69 (1969/10/30 : Kleinhans Music Hall, Buffalo, New York)

NP-001From Black Beauty

1. Communication Breakdown
2. I Can’t Quit You Baby
3. Heartbreaker
4. Dazed And Confused
5. White Summer/Black Mountain Side
6. How Many More Times

January 3, 2014 Posted by | Led Zeppelin Buffalo 69 | , | Leave a comment

Bruce Springsteen Piece De Resistance (Passaic, NJ, September 1978)


Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band live at the Capitol Theater, Passaic, New Jersey on Tues. 19th September 1978.

Bruce and the band were 5-months into their long USA Darkness On The Edge Of Town tour when they hit the Capitol Theater for 3-sold out shows (19th, 20th and the Boss’s birthday show on 21st). Playing in the Capitol Theater’s 3,000 seat hall, it was quite a show that night.

Tooled to the pitch of perfection from 5-months of touring and playing nearly every night, the band were as tight as they would ever be. The shows on this tour were to become legendary, but this show is a standout that is head and shoulders above all the rest. Absolutely superb, with Bruce and the band at their finest. The shows didn’t get any better than this.

The E. Street Band at this time was: Max Weinberg-drums, Garry Tallent-bass, Danny Federici-organ, Roy Bittan-piano, Steve Van Zant-guitars, Clarence Clemons-sax, and the Boss himself. A killer set-list with every song performed flawlessly. The tour began in Buffalo at Shea’s Theater on 23rd May, and ended with a show on New Years Day 1979 at the Richfield Coliseum in Cleveland. Over 120 shows had been booked, and Bruce and the band ended up playing 117 full shows. There were a couple of shows that had to be cancelled and some had to be re-booked because of various band members getting sick on the road during the long tour.

However, 117 shows was an absolute marathon tour, and Bruce and the band were thoroughly exhausted after the last show, taking a well-deserved year off to rest and record. Considering each show was some 2+1/2 to 3-hours long, no wonder the band was exhausted by the end of the tour. Check out the cover shot of Bruce with his well-worn Fender Telecaster on the cover…..months of hard touring were wearing the finish off his guitar.

This was, at the time, the most financially successful rock tour in history…..every show sold-out. This was the tour that made the Boss and his band millionaires…..and they gave million dollar performances… ! Writers at the time reviewed the tour, reporting that with this tour, the Boss insisted on military precision for all shows and conduct. Bruce insisted there was to be no drinking, drugs or bad behaviour from his band and crew.

To be sure, there were a few after-show celebration parties, however drinking and behavour was tightly controlled, with all aspects and band and staff being dedicated to the tour professionally. The discipline paid off, they all became millionares, and the shows were some of the best the E. Street Band ever gave. This is the entire, uncut concert from the first night on 19th Sept. 1978. The show was broadcast on the eastern USA seaboard FM radio live, so this accounts for the exquisite sound fidelity. Sound is superb, professionally recorded and mixed.

Bruce seriously considered releasing this show as an “official” live album way back in 1979, but for some reason shelved the project. Too bad….the show performances from this are better than the ones on the official Live 75-85 release. Springsteen at his finest, a dynamic performance… ! Long considered a “classic” bootleg, this show on Great Dane CD’s was produced from the master tapes in Italy in 1990.

One of the best Great Dane CD packages, it has superb packaging and presentation with original photographs from the actual show. This show was also professionally filmed by Bruce, and remains unreleased, however bootleg copies exist….again outstanding show performances….. Max Weinberg-drummer for the E. Street band once stated that the show from this tour at the Agora Club in Cleveland on 09th Aug.-1978 was the finest show the band ever did………I dunno… would be hard pressed to find a better show than this one at the Capitol Theater.

It’s a matter of personal taste, but both show’s are the best, probably rate a tie for #1 in the top ten shows of the Boss’s career. Set lists are slightly different, as the Boss changed the set list almost nightly, and each has their own respectively great songs. A superb show performance and outstanding stereo sound fidelity….the complete show with encores. Another benchmark in Bruce’s already legendary career….and he was only 28-years old.

They don’t get any better than this…. Seek it out at all costs… Highly Recommended.

January 3, 2014 Posted by | Bruce Springsteen Piece De Resistance | , | Leave a comment

The Doobie Brothers Farewell Tour (1983)


The Doobie Brothers have just released the tasty “Farewell Tour” 1983 album again, as a remastered, expanded collection. The original concert recording of their final show on the 1982 farewell tour includes a bonus four tracks from the Berkeley, California Greek Theatre date that wrapped up the Doobies for a brief time.

What you get on this newly released CD and DVD is a beat-down of Doobies hits that starts out “eighties-fast” – that… unusual phenomenon where most live acts from the seventies had those blazing fast versions of their classics throughout the eighties. Many of the songs seem to have that feel, as you relive the original album’s majesty, and relearn these sped-up live tracks that in some cases drastically rework the originals.

“Listen to the Music” leads the way, and the energy is on fire through the next track, “Sweet Maxine;” it continues with Doobie standard “Rockin’ Down the Highway,” which always is a crowd favorite of the biker-heavy audience. This was not just The Doobie Brothers, of course, but Michael McDonald, too.

Mike had joined the line-up in the mid-seventies and brought along a lot of melody, great vocals, keyboard playing, and a string of hits. His first real mark on this record is the “You Belong to Me” which pours out the soul, reminding this listener of the raw power Michael McDonald consistently brings to the table. The version of this jam is easily one of the stand-out tracks of the album.

The band blisters through “Take Me In Your Arms (Rock Me)” with a kind of energy that shows off the tightness of the group at that moment; what you have here is the final date on a tour, plus being performed in their hometown, so the precision level is high. Everybody is firing on all cylinders from the get-go. “Long Train Runnin’” keeps the frenzy at full-tilt, with ferocious playing all around. “Black Water” delivers the sing-along session of the night, though at a Doobies show, there are a lot of moments to join in.

“Minute By Minute” is another chestnut of the Michael McDonald years; it leads into the “Slat Key Soquel Rag” and “Out on the Streets,” which is a nice dip into slightly deeper Doobie territory. What the album keeps doing is maintain the hit atmosphere, but occasionally take you on a deeper ride, like with these last couple of gems.

“What A Fool Believes” has always been one of my favorite Doobie Brothers songs. Maybe it’s the lyrics you can relate to, and put yourself into, through tales of missed opportunities and squandered love; maybe it’s the catchy phrasing and familiarity of the song, bringing you back in time via the nostalgia invariably created. It’s a dead-on smash live on this farewell tour recording.

The old classic spiritual remake “Jesus Is Just Alright” and “Takin’ it to the Streets” burn with the soul of the band at high, with soaring guitar solos and climactic vocals. “China Grove” with Tom Johnston doing that legendary appearance he made with the boys, nailing his song, and the raging reunion with Porter, Hossack and Hartman on “Listen to the Music” as the finale.

Bonus tracks fill-out the disc, including the absolutely lifting version of “Real Love” included. Such soulful vocals, and everyone shining, especially showcasing how much our Maui ohana, guitarist and good friend Pat Simmons and brother Michael McDonald, bring to the Doobies party. Nice work boys.

January 3, 2014 Posted by | The Doobie Brothers Farewell Tour | | Leave a comment

Free Songs Of Yesterday (2000)


Review This is an imported 5 cd anthology which summarizes the career of the British band Free.

The first three discs contain remastered versions (excellent sound), alternate takes, non-lp tracks and unissued tracks from their career. The fourth disc contains alternate versions and unissued tracks from their live album. The last disc summarizes the solo career of the members of the band.

The booklet is excellent with many pictures, chart information and other useful information about the band. Free was unjustly overshadowed by bluesy vocalist Paul Rodgers’ and drummer Simon Kirke’s later band Bad Company. I find this band much more interesting.

While the material is less commercial than their later work with Bad Company, this material is delivered with more feeling. The late guitarist Paul Kossoff with his impressive blues laden vibrato attack was highly influential. Ex-John Mayall bass player Andy Fraser was an excellent musician, witness “Mr. Big” for an example. This song along with the anthem “All Right Now” and “Wishing Well” are probably the band’s most requested songs.

Some of my favorites include “I’ll Be Creepin'”, “Broad Daylight”, “The Stealer”, and “Little Bit Of Love” among many others. Free was reportedly a big influence on Lynyrd Skynyrd. The band pretty much burned out with the departures of Paul Kossoff and Rodgers’ song writing partner Andy Fraser.

One album was released after they departed. The band played such festivals as the Isle Of Wight during their halcyon days. It may be useful to compare this set with the domestic 2 cd anthology “Molten Gold”. While this set is much more comprehensive “Molten Gold” does contain some tracks which are not on the “Songs Of Yesterday” box set. Excellent songs such as a cover of Albert King’s “The Hunter”, the great instrumental “Mouthful Of Grass” and “Catch A Train” among others are included on the “Molten Gold” anthology but not the “Songs Of Yesterday” anthology.

Some of the cuts on the “Songs Of Yesterday” box set appear only in alternate versions while the original versions appear on the 2 cd “Molten Gold”. However, this comparison aside I recommend the “Songs Of Yesterday” box set to long time fans of the band like myself or novices alike. The price is worth every penny for the rare tracks and alternate takes as well as the remastering and booklet. If you are on a limited budget as least invest in the “Molten Gold” 2 disc set you will be converted.

Review Many reviewers have said that Led Zeppelin had it all and, to a certain extent, they did. But for me, Free were the band that was masterful in every tempo of song – whether it be the straight blues rocker or the ballad. Not that this review is about comparing Led Zeppelin and Free, but even though Robert Plant was competent at ballads, he could never touch you the way Paul Rodgers did.
My inroduction to Free occurred one night I was going through my record colection and, quite bizzarely, one of my dad’s tapes was in my collection.

This album happened to be “The Free Story”. Almost immediately, I was hooked and subsequently I now own seveal Free albums, including this one. Cd’s 1-3 chronicle a journey through all six Free studio albums with alternate takes, alternate mixes, singles masters, stereo mixes and unreleased recordings. Cd 4 is unreleased live recordings from shows they had done in Sunderland and Croydon in England. This, for me, is the highlight of the box set as it demonstrates the unequivocal talent of Free; one can almost feel how much of a tight unit they were on this disc.

While many of Free’s contemporaries ( Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath ) bludgeoned their audiences with sheer volume, Free mesmerised their audience by laying back; even their heavier songs groove more than they rock. Not one bad song on offer on this disc, my personal favourites are : “Ride On A Pony”; “Be My Friend” ( beautiful singing ); “I’ll Be Creepin'” ( unstoppably groovy ); “Free Me” ( about 3 minutes into this song you’ll hear what has to be the most powerful rock singing ever – a volcano of raw emotion ); “All Right Now” ( of course! ); “Crossroads”.

This is unquestionably the best live cd you are likely to hear in a long time. ( Incidentally, the sound is immaculate as is the whole of the box set, owing to state-of-the-art technology. )Cd 5 is various recordings that the individual members of Free created during the band’s couple of break-ups which occured during 1971 and 72. During these break-ups Paul Rodgers formed “Peace”; Simon Kirke and Paul Kossof formed “KKTR”; Andy Fraser formed “Toby”. I have to say although this is competent enough, it is the weakest of all the 5 discs – the musicianship and emotional zest of the Free ensemble is absent and you feel that they needed each other, as they complemented each other pefectly.

Overall, this is an exciting journey through the Free legacy – refreshing with a phenomenal sound on each disc. It’s pristinely packaged and the 60 page colour booklet is intelligently compiled. Free were the most charismatic, talented band to grace the planet… ever!!

January 3, 2014 Posted by | Free Songs Of Yesterday | | Leave a comment

Free Tons Of Sobs (1968)


The year is 1968. Black Sabbath and Blue Oyster Cult were yet to form, whilst Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin were yet to produce landmark albums within the genres of Hard Rock and Heavy Metal. However, aside from these four bands, few had attempted to fuse the aggression of Hard Rock and the groove-laden rhythms of Blues, making a beautifully creative sound in the process. One of these bands were Free, who, with their first and perhaps most significant album, “Tons of Sobs”, successfully fused two of the most important genres of the late 60’s.

“Tons of Sobs” is arguably the only Free album that was truly inspired by Blues Rock, and it shows quite a lot when listening to each of the album’s ten songs. Although not released until early 1969, the album had already been recorded in late 1968, a time when the band weren’t even out of their teens, and were also only together as a band for six months. Interestingly enough, “Tons of Sobs” comprises a lot of the band’s original material from when they were jamming ideas together at numerous live shows, which perhaps paved the way for Free’s early success and popularity.

Perhaps the most stunning and noticeable thing about Free’s debut album is Paul Kosoff and his outstandingly superb guitar work. Kosoff died seven years after this album’s release, but at least he died in the knowledge that Free’s first few albums were largely assisted by his talent as a guitarist. Literally every song on “Tons of Sobs” features Kosoff playing guitar as excitably and precisely as humanly possible, no matter how fast or slow the songs themselves are. This guitar playing also helped to bring out the Hard Rock side to the album, the aggression and the heaviness perhaps offering inspiration for Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin. In fact, just listen to the first albums of these aforementioned bands and tell me that you can’t hear a little bit of Free here and there.

What is perhaps more obvious in regards to the bluesier side of the album is the way in which Paul Rodgers sings. The best thing about Rodgers’ vocals is that he can adapt them to suit the nature of every song, providing various moods that, had this album been instrumental, wouldn’t have worked quite as well. The lyrical content here is mostly predictable for those who have listened to early Blues Rock before, yet Rodgers helps to bring them to life with his vocal abilities. On the haunting chants of “Ah Ah Ah Ah” on both parts to ‘Over the green Hills’, Rodgers begins with a dull vocal tone which gradually becomes higher and higher in pitch as the song progresses. The lyrics themselves are aptly written too, again, suiting the nature of every song perfectly. On the very quirky ‘Worry’, Rodgers uses his hauntingly mysterious voice and singing to the listener “And the sleeping streets have closed their tired eyes/The fear that creeps will move and slowly rise”, whereas on the more Blues inspired ‘Wild Indian Woman’, Rodgers appears to adopt a “sexier” tone when telling his love that “You don’t need your horses baby, you got me to ride/You don’t need your feathers, I’ll keep you warm inside”, which could easily have made the most stubborn young girls lick their lips with excitement.

Diversity is one of the things which dominates each of the songs on “Tons of Sobs”. This diversity is especially used in regards to the tone and tempo of each song. There are the faster paced tracks such as ‘Worry’, ‘Walk in my Shadow’ and the menacing ‘The Hunter’, the latter of which would be covered by Danzig almost thirty years later. There is also the groovier, more laid-back nature of the very aptly titled ‘Goin’ down slow’ and somewhat disturbing ‘Moonshine’, both of which leave a lot of room for Kosoff’s guitar work to come in and show off. The album’s title misleadingly refers to loss of love or songs based on romance and compassion, yet this couldn’t be farther from the truth. In fact, the only song that has so much as an ounce of melancholic melody in its sound is the sorrowful and seemingly Gothic ‘Moonshine’, but the more upbeat nature of ‘Over the green Hills’ and ‘I’m a Mover’ refer to things that a band has to go through when touring, such as travelling around the world and the more relaxing idea of driving by a countryside and smoking some of the “good stuff”.

The instrumentation here is indeed important to note, as alongside Kosoff’s skill as a guitarist, every other instrument appears to make itself prominent on the album. In particular the drum rhythms and bass work all manage to keep up with the guitar work and can also adapt to the tempo of each song, whereas Rodgers’ vocals, as mentioned before, never fail to suit the overall sound of each track. What is not as prominent as the other instruments however, is the piano itself. Whilst not as memorable or indeed noticeable as the other instruments, the piano still manages to make itself known here and there. The fast paced ‘Wild Indian Woman’ and relaxing ‘Goin’ down slow’ both feature excellent piano rhythms and interludes courtesy of Steve Miller, which also seem to flow alongside guitar solos and drum rhythms flawlessly.

Perhaps the only slightly negative thing about this album is the fact that ‘Over the green Hills’ is unnecessarily split into two parts, and when the first part (which strangely opens the album) finishes on a somewhat inconsistent note, it may appear annoying to some. But this still doesn’t take away from the fact that “Tons of Sobs” is a landmark album for two genres that would have been used to make heavier, faster and more menacing sounds by bands that originated in the same country as Free. If you really are interested in discovering the inspirations for bands such as Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin regarding their earlier albums, you would do quite well to seek out Free’s first few albums.

January 3, 2014 Posted by | Free Tons Of Sobs | | Leave a comment

Pink Floyd The Wall (1979)


Back in 1977, Pink Floyd were one of, if not the biggest band in the world. Their 3 most recent album releases (The Dark Side of The Moon, Wish You Were Here, and Animals, had all been immensely successful, at both a commercial and critical level, and it seemed that, although the band had always had tension and intrigue lurking under the surface, there was no reason why the band should not continue making great albums for a long time.

Their record company certainly intended for that to be the case, their fans hoped for it to be the case, but it seemed as if nobody had told Roger Waters. Following an infamous incident during the tour in support of Animals, where he spat on a fan, Waters came to see himself as being isolated from his fans, stuck behind “a wall”, largely of his own making. It was this feeling that would lead to this album, a concept album that must rank up there with the most remarkable ever recorded. Because make no mistake about it, regardless of your feelings on The Wall as an album, there’s no arguing about how extraordinary it is.

The album revolves around a fictitious central character called Pink, and takes place as a series of flashbacks through his life, which begins in England, during a time of war, and goes right through to his time as a disillusioned rock star. If that sounds ever so slightly familiar, it’s because The Wall is a semi-autobiography of Roger Waters, which gives the album a more human feel, that it might otherwise be lacking. It’s certainly hard to see somebody making this album that didn’t have the experience of the concept to relate to. Again, you may have noticed there that I said Roger Waters made this album. Although that’s a slight exaggeration, the concept of the album is his, as are the lyrics and the vast majority of the music.

It was this dictatorial attitude to the recording of the album, with Waters ruthlessly allowing nothing and no-one to stand in his way, that would ultimately lead to Richard Wright being kicked out of the band, and being re-hired as a session musician, with rumours abounding right up today that Nick Mason was next in line for this treatment. Certainly, regardless of any speculation, it can’t really be disputed that the making of this album effectively ended the classic lineup of Pink Floyd, with the final Floyd album that featured Roger Waters (The Final Cut) being a huge disappointment, as well as being even more of a Waters solo record. In these circumstances, is it really surprising that the album turned out as it did?

Just to provide some more background on the concept behind this album, the wall that Pink builds for himself to hide behind is purely mental, with incidents such as the death of his father, his overly protective mother, the way he was treated at school, drug abuse, a failed marriage, and fame all combining to cause him to seal himself off behind the wall, in an attempt at self-protection, before descending into neo-fascist insanity after the wall is complete, eerily mirroring Hitler in the war that claimed his father. The album concludes with the tearing down of the wall, although it’s very ambiguous as to the final fate of Pink, for reasons that I will explain later.

Anyway, it’s time to get onto the music, and due to the nature of the album, with the songs largely flowing into each other, I’m not going to do a track by track review. The album actually opens with a continuation of the music from the final track, Outside The Wall, and the very first sound we hear is Waters asking “we came in?”. This immediately adds a new layer to the album, as the final words on the album are “Is this where.” In other words, if you put the album on a loop, it runs in an exact cycle. You can draw your own interpretation from this, but it seems to me as if Waters is indicating that Pink’s problems do not end when the album does, but that, like everyone else, his life revolves in a cycle, from which there is no escape.

In The Flesh? itself is a very strong opener, with Nick Mason’s drum rolls and Gilmour’s imperious guitar work making this a very powerful rock song, which, combined with Waters’ lyrics, referring to the crowd arriving at a show, make this a brilliant aural spectacle. It immediately segues into The Thin Ice, with the sound of a Spitfire diving overhead drowning out the music, before the final note of the song is that of a baby crying. The Thin Ice is a much softer song, with Gilmour’s initial lyrics singing from the point of view of Pink’s parents to Pink at his birth, before Roger Waters comes in singing far more cynically, with what sounds like the careworn voice of life to Pink of the pitfalls that await him. So far, so good, and without a pause for breath, the song turns into Another Brick In The Wall (Part 1).

The first of three parts of this song, this song marks the start of Pink’s building of his wall, with lyrics such as “Daddy’s flown across the ocean, leaving just a memory”, showing that Pink’s father died in the war, and that from the youngest of ages, Pink’s life is already changing for the worse. The Happiest Days Of Our Lives then follows, with Waters condemning “certain teachers who would hurt the children in any way they could”, over a low semi-disco rhythm, before launching into a revenge fantasy of how the teachers would go home to be beaten by their wives.

Clearly this song refers to Pink’s education problems, as does the next song, Another Brick In The Wall (Part 2). One of the band’s most famous songs, this has the anthemic chorus of “Hey, teacher! Leave them kids alone!”, and also features schoolchildren singing on this, over Dave Gilmour’s famous disco guitar line. The song is meant as an attack on the monotonous style of teaching present in the English education system, and it’s brilliant, also having a great guitar outro.

The first real break in the album is Mother, which is a soft acoustic song, featuring Dave Gilmour singing the part of an overly controlling mother, who attempts to keep Pink under “her wing”, in a misguided attempt to protect him, which only leads to him withdrawing yet more from real life. There’s a huge amount that could be written about this song, which, in terms of music alone is one of the best on the album, but it’s full of references to the mother watching over Pink’s girlfriends, as well as offering advice on his future life. The song also has one of the best guitar solos on the album, that’s brilliantly understated. However, from here, the album takes something of a dip in quality.

Goodbye Blue Sky is the most paranoid song yet, with Gilmour’s initial airy vocals providing a curious juxtaposition with the lyrics of “Did you see the frightened ones?” and his moody guitar line, just lurking under the surface of the song. Marking the beginning of Pink’s adult life, the song turns into the bleak Empty Spaces, with what sounds like a work camp taking place in the background, behind an imperiously cold guitar part, before Waters asks of someone unspecified, “How should I complete the wall?” Young Lust is a real oddity on the album, and acts as an intentional parody of rock and roll excess, with Dave Gilmour singing “I need a dirty woman”, and showing that, free of the confines of his mother’s attitude, Pink is rapidly heading off the rails.

One Of My Turns, however, shows that Pink is in real trouble. With the music barely audible behind Waters’s quiet vocals, the song laments his wife’s infidelity, and his inability to connect with a groupie he’s brought back to his hotel room, before a sudden crescendo turns into him lashing out at the groupie with his singing, before the final plea of “why are you running away?” shows his desperation. Don’t Leave Me Now then features him singing to his wide, urging her not to leave him, even as, almost in the same breath, he threatens to put her through a shredder. The whole song is sung in an emotionally fragile tone, over quite guitar and piano chords, symbolising Pink’s further breakdown. Like with many of the other songs, Pink seems to think that the world has built the wall for him, ignoring his own actions and their role in doing this.

Another Brick In The Wall (Part 3), is the bleakest part of the series, with Waters singing “I don’t need no arms around me”, as he completely removes himself from all pretence of a normal life. Goodbye Cruel World, the final song on the first disc, is Pink saying goodbye, not to life altogether, but to normal life, and the “cruel world”, which he can no longer cope with at all. Like the previous songs, it’s an instrumentally quiet song, with Waters singing over the top, in a song that reflects his importance to the record, as it’s pretty much a solo effort.

Onto Disc 2, and the album here takes on a more bleak air here, almost immediately. Hey You is the first song after Pink has completed his wall, and the lyrical content, with Pink pleading for people to open their hearts to him; something that he couldn’t do for anyone, is exceptional as well. Combined with a great guitar solo, this is one of the best stand alone songs from this album, and it also introduces “the worms”, that eat away at Pink, driving him yet further into insanity. Along with Comfortably Numb, this provides one of the best examples of Gilmour and Waters’ vocal interplay, and leads into the incredibly desolate Is There Anybody Out There?, which has one line repeated four times, and shows that Pink, now he is finally behind the wall, is now looking for help, or at least comfort, to reconnect with the real world again. The song, apart from the lyrics, consists of Gilmour playing a classical guitar outro, accompanied by a quiet orchestra in the background, making this possibly the most haunting song on the album.

Nobody Home features Waters looking through his possessions, and reflecting that although he owns all the paraphernalia of a rock star, he’s now truly alone, and, with no-one to connect to, he’s falling further away from reality, and now looking for a way to reconnect with the world, although the lyrics of the song mean that it seems he is descending more into drug use. Vera refers to Vera Lynn, the English World War II singer, and the song refers to Pink’s desire to reverse the building of his wall, by returning to the days of his childhood, in the hope of regaining innocence, and meeting a childhood memory again. Bring The Boys Back Home is a song that Waters has described as the centrepiece of the album, and features him and a choir, repeating the phrase over an orchestra in another flashback to Pink’s youth, where he asks for the return of his father. Then comes Comfortably Numb.

Arguably the band’s best song, this features Waters in the role of a doctor, and Gilmour in the role of Pink, with Pink trying to be given drugs to make sure he can perform for that nights show. Again, looking at the music, it’s incredible, with 2 great guitar solos, some ethereal lyrics, and a typical beautifully melancholic musical line under the vocals. The Show Must Go On, then has Pink reflecting on whether or not he wants to take the stage, although, interestingly enough, he’s asking his parents for guidance initially, and to take him home, before he finally decides in the last line that “the show must go on”.

And with these words, the album changes again. In The Flesh has the same air of majestic power as the opening track of the album, but there’s one subtle difference. Although the initial lyrics are the same, Pink then reveals that “Pink isn’t well, he stayed at the hotel”, and tests the loyalty of his fans by ordering them to get various racial minorities “up against the wall”. The sheer scale of his isolation has turned him into a Nazi, and exactly the same sort of figure that took his father’s life. Finally, it seems, his transformation is complete, although this song exists on several levels, including an attack on pop culture, with fans blindly following their idols. Run Like Hell was played live even after Waters left the band, and has the same sort of deep disco groove as Another Brick In The Wall, and has Pink bellowing orders to his fans, demanding that they follow him in his new found fascist ways, while sound effects in the background include screaming, suggesting a genuine evil present in the rock star.

Waiting For The Worms is the last in this trio of racist songs, with Pink once again bidding farewell to the world, before bellowing instructions through a megaphone to his followers, including a promise to “turn on the showers”, in an undeniable reference to the Holocaust. However, when it seems as if Pink is now beyond all redemption, with the marching atmosphere of the song, and its bitter hatred complementing the lyrics, his lone voice over comes the chanting of the crowd, to scream “Stop!”. This one moment leads into Stop, and ends the dictator form of Pink, with him immediately questioning “Have I been guilty all this time?” in a song that seems to spiral away from the album up to this point, giving Pink a chance at redemption.

Now, bear in mind that whole books could be written about this album. It’s no exaggeration to say that The Trial alone could have long chapters written on it. According to Roger Waters, the trial takes place inside Pink’s mind, with the witnesses called against him including a teacher, Pink’s mother, and his ex-wife. Musically, the song’s phenomenal. Teetering on the brink of insanity throughout, with orchestral effects being in place throughout, the arrival of the judge, thundering in with his judgment, of the wall being torn down, seems to lead the song into even further insanity, with the band losing structure, while a crowd chants “tear down the wall”, before we hear exactly that: a wall falling down in the background.

Bear in mind that I don’t think there’s any way of describing this song in print, but honestly, this is one of the outright strangest songs I’ve ever heard. Finally, Outside The Wall leaves the concept of the album, although Waters has never really explained the song, but it offers a message of hope, saying that those who really love you will do whatever it takes to blast their way through people’s individual walls, as happened with Roger Waters. In other words, although people will build walls around themselves, they can all be knocked down, making the final message of the album one of hope: that although life is cyclical, it’s not all dreadful.

If you’ve read this far, apologies for making this so long. I’m well aware that I’ve focused a lot on the concept of the album, perhaps at the cost of not mentioning the music as much, but I think the concept behind these songs is as important as the music itself, since the concept is so detailed. If you need any reassuring about the music, it’s generally brilliant, although there are moments, particularly in the second half of disc 1, where the fragmented nature of some songs starts to grate, and the music gets repetitive. This was the last great album by Pink Floyd, and any fan of the band should own a copy , as it displays the band’s most remarkable album, and one that contains all the hallmarks that made them great; ethereal, haunting at times, uplifting at others music, lyrical genius, and instrumental work, particularly from Dave Gilmour, that makes the ideas reality.

The band’s best album? Probably not. However, there’s a definite case for saying that it may be the one that people are most interested in, and with very good reason. Although some people will disagree, this gets 5/5 from me.

January 3, 2014 Posted by | Pink Floyd The Wall | | Leave a comment

Johnny Cash American Recordings (1994)


After being sorely neglected by both the Country world and the Pop music world alike for two decades, Johnny Cash rebounded in the mid-nineties with his ever-so-famed American recordings. A string of classic albums beautifully produced to perfection by Rick Rubin, the American series made Johnny seemingly more popular than ever.

It’s not hard in the least to comprehend the legend of the Man in Black. Ever since the fifties he sang with the passion and voice of a wise old man. He almost single-handedly made Country music susceptible to make a dent in the charts, and it’s not hard to understand why. Country music was the soundtrack to American life in the fifties along with the up and coming Rock ‘n’ Roll saga. Johnny fit in perfectly with either group, with his crazy stage antics, heavy drinking and drug use. He really was the first bad boy of music. Ironically, this “bad boy behavior” is what led to his slow but steady downfall in the early seventies. Succumbing to hardcore drug habits and going through a tough divorce, it seemed the extremely depressed Johnny would never recapture his musical peak that influenced so many artists. But he came back, eventually, and cut his first classic American album, simply titled American Recordings.

Johnny doesn’t sound as if he had aged in the least in the past two decades. His voice is still as wise as it had ever been, but it seems more fitting to Johnny more than ever. Johnny has some stories to tell after a couple decades, and it only makes sense that his voice is that of a gifted storyteller. Hearing his creaky and unique voice singing with mountain-rumbling power over the strumming of a sole acoustic guitar is an extremely powerful experience both for it’s simplicity and it’s reluctance to change. It’s this reluctance to change that gives this album it’s incredible country feel, but what’s more amazing is that it doesn’t get boring at all. While the album remains simplistic, it’s still incredible because Johnny plays the album out amazingly entertaining, begininning with his uplifting and triumphant songs in the beginning, going into the more depressing and sad songs in the middle and ending on a humorous note.

Johnny manages to hold your interest not by just the fact that he’s, well, The Man in Black, but that he tells an amazing story on each song. On the depressing, bleak and wonderfully pretty ballad Redemption, Johnny speaks of slavery and natural disasters, which really only makes sense if you listen to the song. On the semi-autobioagraphal song The Beast In Me, Mr. Cash sings of a young spirit emobied in an old body, something Johnny could be identified with, and with the live tune The Man Who Couldn’t Cry, the story is reminiscent of the classic cut A Boy Named Sue for it’s incredible sense of irony. It tells the tale of a man who, well couldn’t cry from what the critics said about his flop Broadway play, rejected book and movie, his run over dog and his sentance in prison. Things turn around when the man died, and all who harmed him got what they deserved. Wonderfully humorous, this song thrives on Johnny’s unique sense of humor. Plus who can’t crack a smile when he sings “Lost his arm in a war, was laughed at by a whore, but still not a sniffle or snob, or His wife died of stretch marks.

Short, simplistic songs are aplenty here, and each one is fantastic in their own right. They may be a little bit repetetive, but they’re kept alive by the sheer presence of Johnny. As I’ve said before, it’s really the lyrics that keep the listeners entranced, but it’s also the way that the songs, though similar, can change from uplifiting and humorous, to bleak with a sense of dark irony. The guitar’s basic riffs are what allows Johnny to tell his stories with variety and sincere passion on every track, it seems just completely necessary that it’s just a man with his guitar sharing his words of wisdom. Every track is completely powerful in it’s own right, but it’s really the slow, historical sounding songs that grab your attention. Songs like Down There By the Train and Let the Train Blow the Whistle are uplifiting and powerful that, if played too over-exaggerated or Cash aimed a little too high, had been disasterous. It’s really these songs that are the highlight because, since this is a comeback album, it’s really only necessary that this album should be a happy re-uniting instead of a sad one. If you’re new to Johnny Cash, it’d be best to hear a happier Johnny, because first impressions are important.

Overall, this album is a fantastic country album from the definitive Country artist. I could ask for nothing more in a Johnny Cash album, and this album doesn’t come up short even to classics like Folsom or San Quentin. The only thing that holds this album back a tad is the lack of variety in the guitar, but as I’ve said it doesn’t make that much of a difference because Johnny portrays his lighter side and his darker side with deadly accuracy, and it’s the music that allows him to cross that line with ease. If you’re new to Johnny Cash, it’s probably best to get Folsom or San Quentin first, but this should not be passed up. If you’re a country fan and this is missing in you’re CD library, then there’s no question what album you need to get next. Make this one it.

January 3, 2014 Posted by | Johnny Cash American Recordings | | Leave a comment

The Who Live At The Isle Of Wight (1996)


It would be hard to think of another band where even the most hardcore fans could reasonably claim that two live albums recorded within months of each other would each deserve consideration as one of the greatest live albums of all time (Maybe Grateful Dead fans would argue with this; hopefully Pearl Jam fans wouldn’t).

For a very long time, the traditional debate of “greatest live album ever” tended to center around Live at Leeds and The Rolling Stones’ Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out!, but the moment this performance was unearthed from the archives in 1996, this jumped into the thick of the discussion. For me, despite the fact that it’s an archive release, this is the best Who that money can buy and the greatest live album ever, just a tick above Leeds.

That doesn’t mean fans of Leeds will necessarily love this one, though. While the two concerts were recorded only about six months apart, Leeds depicted a very different kind of concert from this one. Leeds was performed at an indoors theater for a bunch of college students, and it showed the band as a well-oiled machine, firing on all cylinders; it’s a great live album for anyone who likes the combination of noise and precision that the band could produce, and it’s an album that rewards a great set of speakers. It also showed them playing a little more conservatively than might have been desired, which isn’t shocking given that they’d just gotten back from the US and were a little tired. Aside from the band members, Roger wasn’t at his very best, and might have even been a little under the weather.

In contrast, The Isle of Wight festival was a gathering of a few hundred thousand totally stoned teenagers and young adults who just wanted loud music and a lot of pot (and who spent much of their time complaining that it wasn’t free), and the band adjusts its playing accordingly. One major improvement comes from Roger, whose singing here, in contrast to whatever issues may be on Leeds, is probably his greatest recorded work. I wouldn’t go as far as I used to in saying that this is my favorite (over a whole album) rock vocal performance from anybody, but it’s still way up there.

As for the other members, the playing is a little less clean and crisp than at Leeds (Moon, for instance, seems to be noticably off in a handful of spots), but it’s compensated on the whole by the way it seems like Pete is trying to execute the audience with his guitar playing. Yes, he goofs on a couple of the more intricate guitar parts, and misses some chords here and there, but his rhythm playing on this album is spectacular, and besides, the guitar tone is awesome. Wait, no, that won’t do, let’s try that again. The guitar tone is awesome. It’s the greatest guitar tone I’ve ever heard. For some, this trade (relatively speaking) of conservative precision for energetic sloppiness won’t be a worthwhile one, but it’s one I’m willing to make just fine.

The concert can be divided neatly into three parts, and all three are fantastic. The pre-Tommy portion opens with three tracks that were on Leeds, and overall they sound surprisingly different from there. Heaven and Hell suffers a little bit from Keith losing the beat a bit with his drumming (one of the few times I’ve ever heard that from him) in the beginning, and from Pete making the mid-song guitar solo section much less like the (effective) Jimmy Page aping on Leeds and more like a caveman crushing a tiger with a rock, but it ends up working fine.

I Can’t Explain immediately shows that Roger’s voice is in top form, and then there’s Young Man Blues. There are a couple of moments of sloppiness in the start-stops in the first part, but they’re minor, and they’re more than made up for by the mid-section. Pete goes absolutely insane in here, bashing and thrashing and squeezing all sorts of heavenly feedback noises out of his guitar, and basically blows away the Leeds version of this section.

The band then takes the opportunity to introduce the audience to two Lifehouse tracks, which ended up condemned to rarity status but which are quite great. I Don’t Know Myself features a fun riff and some great lyrics along the lines of the title, and Water gets extended from its standard 4 -minute length to a monstrous 9-minute epic, featuring some terrific soloing and some of Roger’s best singing on the album (the way he sings those opening lines is just glorious). Of course, if you’re feedback averse at all, you should probably stay away from Water here, but if that’s the case, why are you listening to this album in the first place?

And then we have the main attraction: Tommy. If you have never heard a great live version of Tommy (and no, the Leeds rendition was not great, only good), you haven’t lived. As on Leeds, the acoustic guitars are gone, leaving in their wake a furious assault as only The Who could provide. The star of the show is, as you might expect, Pete; I know it might seem monotonous to keep bringing up his riffing, but I don’t think it can be emphasized enough here.

Also, it becomes completely obvious at times how much passion he has for this, his brainchild, even after performing it over and over and over again (which he alludes to in the introduction); listen to his triumphant playing in the extended coda of Overture or his singing in It’s a Boy or the absolutely 100% perfect riffing in See Me Feel Me (my favorite part on the whole album by the way) and you’ll know what I mean. There are guitar lines in See Me Feel Me, in particular, that make me absolutely weak in the knees. Roger is awesome in this part as well.

The post-Tommy sequence is fantastic as well, featuring a non-stop Summertime Blues/Shakin’ All Over/Spoonful/Twist and Shout/Substitute/My Generation/Naked Eye (another Lifehouse song, one of my very favorites)/Magic Bus medley. All of the songs sound different from any version I’ve heard before, even for somebody like me who knows Leeds basically by heart. Summertime Blues is sloppier than the perfect Leeds version, but Shakin’ All Over/Spoonful/Twist and Shout obliterates the Leeds version (“LIIIIIIIIIIIIES about you”), so that competition largely ends up a push. Plus, there’s the additional bonus of when you hear Pete’s gutiar start to give out near the end of Magic Bus. Rarely have I ever heard anything cooler than what are essentially the guitar’s deathbed moans. The one and only drawback is that it stopped him from playing more (reports say that he was furious when his guitar broke because he wanted to play even more, but whatever).

For what it’s worth, Pete himself always said that this was one of their best nights, and I’d have to assume this is true. Somebody who already has Leeds may not see the worth in shelling out money for this as well, but as somebody who loves Leeds, there was nonetheless a long time where I probably listened to this twice as much as any other Who CD. It’s not just the way this album displays the eternal genius of The Who, their ability to bring cacaophony and beauty together and fuse them into one overwhelmingly moving and powerful force, better than any other album by them. No, it’s more than that; this live album, more than any other I know, is the perfect symbol of where rock music stood at the crossroads between the 60’s and the 70’s. That is, a decade or so into its life, with one foot still firmly in the past, and one foot moving tentatively into unknown, “artsier” territory. It is a celebration of rock’s past, and a show of optimism for its future, and that vibe can’t help but make it even better to me.

January 3, 2014 Posted by | The Who Live At The Isle Of Wight | | Leave a comment

The Who Live At Hull 1970 (2013)


Pete Townshend never quite gets his due – maybe because for whatever complicated reasons, he often comes across as an unmitigated ass. I get it, believe me, there have been times when I wanted to hate everything he did, just because he came off as such an insufferable twat. However. He’s also as great an artist as rock has known.

Live At Hull 1970 is the long lost and unloved sibling of Live At Leeds, but while both have their benefits, I am here to tell you that this is one of the best live documents I’ve ever heard. Keith Moon sounds like God’s drummer on this record (which Pete may interpret as a demotion) and Townshend’s guitar tracks are sublime – if there is a better guitar tone primer than that of the second disc (the Tommy set), I’ve never heard it. Moon’s drums sound perfect, but more importantly, his performance is transcendent – truly one of rock’s greatest.

Much has been made of the fact that the bass tracks for the first four songs were lost and replaced by Leeds tracks, but if you didn’t know, you’d never know, and while I wish I hadn’t been told this, it really doesn’t matter. Again, the real point is that this is an amazing live set from one of the best rock band’s in history, and a must own by any measure.

By 1970, The Who were a fearless live band, brave enough to kick off their shows with a song sung by their bassist, and Heaven and Hell is far from a commercial tune. It is, however, brash, brilliant, and a fiery set starter. Can’t Explain follows and this is a Townshend/Moon manifesto. A close listen will reveal that the rhythmic flourishes provided by the two are why every cover of this classic comes across as dull and lifeless. Entwistle’s bass is exceptional as always, regardless of where it came from, and Roger Daltrey is a singer who’s greatness is so well known that sometimes we take him for granted.

Fortune Teller is another deep catalogue favorite, and with it’s staccato rhythms and Beatles-esque harmonies it’s another brave choice for early in the set. Pete switches gears rapidly, going from pristinely clean arpeggios to slamming power chords, and back again. Tattoo was forty years ahead of its time, explaining tattoo culture way ahead of its later arrival. The sophistication of the band is incredibly evident, and they segue from pop to proto-metal without a blink. One of my favorite Who tunes.

Young Man Blues, and Substitute slam past brilliantly like freight trains, and then it’s Happy Jack – one of rock’s great moments and the only difficulty is for me to figure out which band member is shining most brilliantly. It’s a toss up, but Moon? Holy hell, this set is the best Moon I’ve ever heard. Same with I’m A Boy – simple pop tune? Nope. Brilliantly written, conceived and performed rock miracle? Yup.

A Quick One, While He’s Away is more sheer Townshend brilliance, and his guitar playing and sound are magnificent. By now Townshend had shed any desire to be an R&B/pop hitmaker, and he’s into intricate operettas. I hate to beat a dead drum, but Moon is again beyond friggin’ fabulous, and Entwistle’s loping basslines create the perfect pad from which to launch Pete’s awesome strumming. Pete’s as good a rhythm player as Keith and John Lennon – cool thing is they all play completely differently. What was in the English water supply post WWII?

Muscular rock closes out CD one with Summertime Blues, Shakin’ All Over, and one of the greatest 15 minutes of sheer rock bliss I’ve ever heard, a truly mind bending My Generation that stops and visits See Me, Feel Me, and a few other Tommy reprisals, before Pete Townshend goes off on a guitar tangent that in my estimable opinion should sit next to Hendrix’s Machine Gun as an archetypal rock performance – this track is easily worth the price of the set, and every person who loves rock should own this. It’s actually the final track of the night, and I wish they had stayed chronologically correct here. It is maybe the ultimate set closer, maybe even more so than the set closing Magic Bus from Leeds.

CD 2 is the whole of Tommy, and for my money, this is the only version to which I shall most likely ever again listen. Townshend’s genius is presented in preposterously large fashion – strummed, picked, sang, and slung across the stage in a fashion never repeated by any guitarist. I don’t know that any rock guitarist ever had a better hour. The range of his repertoire is what is commonly called, a vocabulary. The dynamic expanse of his emotional and sophisticated composition is astounding. I wish I could give this to you as an assignment, just to make sure you understand just how great rock can be. I don’t mean to sound condescending, or authoritarian, but this is just so damned powerful, and good.

Like I said at the beginning, Townshend sometimes doesn’t get his due, but this sure makes the case. He is as great a musician as we have known – a masterful writer, player, singer, and a practically unparalleled conceptualist, who just happened to be in a band with three other gentlemen who were as good as any at their jobs.

Live At Hull 1970 is a tremendous addition to The Who’s catalogue, and even if you own, love, and swear on Live At Leeds, this is equally essential, and again, for my money, I’ve never heard Moon and Townshend better in sheer sonic terms.

January 3, 2014 Posted by | The Who Live At Hull 1970 | | Leave a comment