Friday, December 14, 2007

Little Walter – His Best – the Chess 50th Anniversary Collection

Considered by some as the Jimi Hendrix of the harmonica (so I’m told), Little Walter has had a long, illustrious career backing other legends as well having his own solo career. Credited as being the first person to blow harp through its own amplifier (as opposed to the PA system) – or at least popularizing this method – he changed the sound of blues harmonica forever to the wild wail that we know today.

I understand that he started to play professionally around the age of 13, when he left home, and wandered from his birthplace in the south throughout the mid-west sitting in with different musicians before settling in Chicago. He first came to prominence in Muddy Waters’ terrific band which led to his own solo outings.

His first single, 1952’s “Juke” was recorded at the end of a Waters’ session and included Waters and Jimmy Rogers on guitars and Elga Edmonds on drums and went straight to #1 on the R’n’B charts. He proved himself to be a superior songwriter, but still covered other people’s tunes, as well, such as his hits with Willie Dixon’s “My Babe” (certainly one of Little Walter’s best known songs) and Stan Lewis’ “Boom Boom Out Goes the Light”.

While not an outstanding vocalist, he still has a nice sound and plenty of energy and enthusiasm. Of course, his harp playing is stellar, whether on quiet blues like “Last Night” or upbeat jump like “Off the Wall”, “Too Late” or the aptly titled “Roller Coaster”. His songwriting is highlighted by such numbers as the swinging “Hate To See You Go”, “Confessin’ the Blues”, and the oft-covered “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright”.

Another super collector from another true original – definitely recommended for those who love blues and blues harmonica!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

what a weird mix of people

Madonna, Mellencamp newest to Rock Hall

CLEVELAND - The Material Girl is about to become a Hall of Famer. The ever-evolving Madonna was announced as a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee on Thursday along with John Mellencamp, The Ventures, Leonard Cohen and The Dave Clark Five.
The Rock Hall will also honor Little Walter in its sideman category for helping establish the modern blues harmonica on recordings with legends like Muddy Waters and Bo Diddley.

Wow - utter worthless drek like madonna and mellencamp along side of legendary greats like the Ventures, Leonard Cohen, the Dave Clark Five and Little Walter!
What a bizarre world we live in...

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


Musician Ike Turner dies at 76
I'm sure he was kind of a jerk, but he was an incredible musician, songwriter and talent scout with an amazing and long career!
Another great gone...

Muddy Waters - The Definitive Collection

While I’ve been a fan of the blues since I discovered that my 60’s heroes stole some of their best licks (and their best songs!) from bluesmen, I must (shamefacedly) admit that my blues record collection has never been up to par. My limited finances always meant that I would feed my r’n’r jones before indulging in these legends. I am now trying to make up for that!

One of the best collections that I’ve picked up recently is Muddy Waters – the Definitive Collection. This is simply incredible from beginning to end!

Of course, Muddy is a legend and rightfully so and of course, I have owned some Muddy records in the past, but this is a pretty exceptional compilation. Starting with “I Can’t Be Satisfied”, this record shows his evolution which mirrored (and essentially started) what is now known as the Chicago Blues sounds.

While he apparently worked with and without bands throughout his career, his recordings started as stripped down swamp blues – just him on his original sounding slide guitar and vocals and “Big” Crawford on bass. These tunes, while sparse, are still mighty intense, but my fave items are when he adds the spectacular Little Walter on harmonica and brings in a full line up.

Willie Dixon plays bass on many of these songs and his sound and his songwriting is a large part of Muddy’s mythos. “(I’m Your) Hoochie Coochie Man”, “I Just Want To Make Love to You”, “I’m Ready”, “Don’t Go No Further”, “You Shook Me” and “The Same Thing” are just some of the most famous and most covered tunes on this CD by Dixon that Waters is most immediately identified with. These are all true classics and the versions here really are “definitive”! As much as I love some r’n’r versions of these songs, Muddy really puts his all into these, and “…Make Love…”, “You Shook Me” and “The Same Thing” are so overtly sensual – especially with Dixon’s prominent stand up bass tone – that nothing can really compare.

Of course Waters has plenty of his own tunes here, as well, and the musicians he gathered are always stellar. I believe this is one of the best music collections I’ve ever heard – definitely get it!

Friday, December 07, 2007

very cool

The 'lost' Woody Guthrie album found

LOS ANGELES - He wrote more than a thousand songs, ranging from his "Dust Bowl" ballads to patriotic incantations like "Pastures of Plenty" to the American classic "This Land is Your Land."

He performed them everywhere he went, from community centers to Broadway theaters to California fields filled with migrant workers. He also recorded dozens on records.

But one thing Woody Guthrie never got around to doing was recording any of his songs in front of a live audience — or so Guthrie's family thought.

Until an odd-looking package with reels of wires showed up unsolicited in the mail one day at the Woody Guthrie Archives.

Once she had assured herself it wasn't a bomb, Nora Guthrie was delighted at what she was holding.

"Basically, it's an early bootleg," says Guthrie, youngest surviving child of the legendary folk-music balladeer.

Captured on a wire recorder, the 75-minute recording was painstakingly transferred to compact disc, an effort that took more than a year. It was recently released by the archives as "Live Wire: Woody Guthrie in Performance 1949."

It apparently had sat for decades in the closet of the late Paul Braverman, who was a Rutgers University student when he lugged his recorder to Fuld Hall in Newark, N.J., one night for a concert by Guthrie.

"He mailed it to the archives in 2001," Guthrie's daughter says. "He was cleaning out his closet because he was moving."

Braverman, who died in 2003, didn't get what musicians would call a soundboard-quality recording, says Guthrie's oldest son, folk singer Arlo Guthrie. But what he got was surprisingly good, especially considering the circumstances. Except for some notable scratches here and there, the recording survived a half-century in Braverman's closet in surprisingly pristine shape.

"This isn't somebody who set out to record with the permission of the family or whoever was putting on the event," Guthrie notes. "This is a guy maybe holding up a microphone in the back of the room."

It took Nora Guthrie a year just to find a home-built model she could play the reel on, as Braverman's original machine had long since conked out.

After that, still more challenges lay ahead, especially for the team of audio restoration experts she called in.

"There were so many minor tragedies that happened just in the transfer process, with the wire breaking many, many, many times," she recalls during a phone interview from her New York City office, where she's director of the Guthrie Archives.

The finished result, the Guthrie family believes, will be of much interest to fans as well as to academics who continue to study Guthrie's impact on American pop culture and to musicians who continue to reinterpret his work.

"We're talking Native American, punk bands, German cabaret singers and Klezmer music players," says Arlo Guthrie, the composer of "Alice's Restaurant." "Every kind of genre you can imagine because my dad's work is so varied that it allows itself to be used in these ways."

Indeed, the Klezmatics won a Grammy earlier this year for "Wonder Wheel," a collection of Guthrie songs. Punk pioneer Billy Bragg was nominated for Grammys for his own Guthrie collections, 1998's "Mermaid Avenue" and 2000's "Mermaid Avenue, Volume II."

To Arlo Guthrie and his sister, though, the recording is more personal.

"This was the first time I had ever had a chance to hear a live performance of my dad," says Arlo Guthrie, 60. "It's not only that I hadn't heard him live, I hadn't heard many stories about him live. When I talk to friends that were with him, guys like Pete Seeger or Cisco Houston or Ramblin' Jack (Elliott), they generally would talk about their adventures. ... We never got into what a performance was like."

Guthrie, who died of Huntington's Chorea in 1967, had retired from performance years before his death because of the effects of the degenerative nerve disease.

To his son's surprise, "Live Wire" turned out to be eerily similar to an Arlo Guthrie performance: The elder Guthrie would often digress into long, comical tales about his life. He would also frequently intersperse those tales with sharp-tongued observations on the political events of the day.

"You do begin to wonder how much of this is genetic," laughs the younger Guthrie.

The album's release also raises another question: Could there be material lying around in a garage or attic somewhere that might eventually be turned into a long-lost Woody Guthrie concert film?

Arlo Guthrie is doubtful, although he notes that in an age when every bit of film seems to eventually find its way to YouTube he could be wrong.

"There is very little film on my dad," he says. "But then that's what we said of this live recording. It didn't exist. And sure enough it did."


Monday, December 03, 2007

Creem - America's Only R'n'R Magazine (hardcover book compilation)

When I was a kid stuck in a tiny town in Indiana, Creem magazine was my link to the r’n’r world.

This magazine turned me on to so many sounds that I might never have heard otherwise, considering that everyone around me was basically into current heavy metal (which, I admit, I still dig) or maybe oddities like Frank Zappa. Finding someone who had even heard of the Velvet Underground, the MC5 or the Stooges was pretty much unthinkable, much less finding someone else who dug these kinds of sounds.

So, a zine that championed these bands and turned me on to innumerable others, was cherished as a r’n’r grail. Hell, this rag even had many of the rockers actually writing for them! And the rest of the critics had such a hilarious sense of inappropriate, irreverent humor that it was a joy to read.

I still have many of my old Creems buried in storage, but when I saw this collection, with articles from its inception on, I had to have it! There’s plenty of typos (even though the intro makes a point of saying how they supposedly fixed these) and none of my fave section – the letters to the editor and the replies – but more than enough for any r’n’r fan.

The MC5 figured prominently in the mythos of Creem as the hometown heroes and the band voted “most likely to succeed” and it only makes sense that the first article in this compilation is about these cats. The zine was never ashamed of their roots or their city. In fact, the next several articles in this book are on the locals – the “Paul is dead” rumor that started (or at least gained its momentum) on a Detroit radio station, GFRR, an overview of the Michigan scene extolling the virtues of the locals groups, a Mitch Ryder tour, Iggy and the Stooges and on and on. This made you proud to be part of the mid-west instead of one of the coasts.

But the focus wasn’t solely on the regional happenings – real, high-energy r’n’r was hailed no matter where it came from – Creem was one of the first to rave on the J. Geils Band, the New York Dolls, Alice Cooper, Mott the Hoople, T. Rex, Screaming Jay Hawkins, etc etc! Even the writers were celebs in this world – Lester Bangs has his famous “Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung” reprinted and Patti Smith’s last article for the mag is here, as well. Even Charles Bukowski does an article on the Stones – long before I knew who he was – and if you were hip to him in ’75, then you’ve impressed me! (Aren’t you thrilled?)

The punk years are represented, but actually come off fairly badly. The Ramones, of course, are heralded as the r’n’r saviors that they were, but the Sex Pistols interview is somewhat pathetic. Rotten just winds up Vicious the entire time, who proves himself to be the brainless jackass that we all knew he was. The interviewer actually is intimidated by their nonsense, and it’s kinda sad that he would fall for it. The Dead Boys really try too hard and while the Clash don’t act like morons, they are kinda dicks for no apparent reason.

I stopped reading the magazine in the 80’s and it seems like a good thing that I did. It’s not all bad, but cover articles on drek like John Cougar, David Lee Roth, Duran Duran and the Beastie Boys, fer chrissakes, do nothing to dissuade me that I was right to pass on the mag by then.

I understand that they would want to cover the entirety of their career - the boring as well as the wild - so I'm not surprised that the late crap is included. The early stuff is so fantastic to re-read (or in the case of some of the original issues - to read for the first time) that I can't complain about the later filler!
As I said, typos are everywhere, but that was par for the course for this zine even in its heyday. That and the 80’s stories are minor quibbles though - there are tons of great pix and some of the best r'n'r writing and humor you've ever read so pick this up!

boy, could i have used this!

Gibson shows guitar that tunes itself

TOKYO - A new electric guitar from Gibson comes with robotics technology that allows the instrument to tune itself in a matter of seconds.

The technology, developed in partnership with German company Tronical, allows the guitar to recognize pitch and use its processor and six motors on its tuning pegs to tighten the strings accordingly.

Gibson Guitar Corp. claims it's the world's first guitar with such self-tuning robotics technology, and that it's particularly useful for beginners, who tend to find tuning the instrument properly a headache.

The Gibson Les Paul guitar model with Blue Silverburst finish goes on sale globally Dec. 7 for 308,700 yen (US$2,780; euro1,880) in Japan, and US$2,499 in the U.S. The self-tuning feature added an extra 100,000 yen (US$900; euro600) to the price tag.

The guitar comes preset with six types of tuning for the guitar's strings, which are used to play different kinds of music. But it can also remember a totally original tuning by recognizing the sound of the strings it picks up on its microphone.

The way it works is simple.

You pull a knob on the guitar, turn it to the kind of tuning you want, which shows up as a blue light on the knob, such as "E" or "D." You then push the button back in.

The electric signals travel up the strings to the tuning pegs, which begin turning by themselves with a whirl of a motor. It's powered by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery.

U.S. guitar-maker Gibson plans to sell 4,000 of the first batch of limited edition "robot guitars" worldwide. Ten percent of the sales are expected to be in Japan, said Yasuhiko Iwanade, president of Gibson Guitar Corp. Japan.

"Robots are very popular in Japan. So this is something that matches the developments here these days. It's a technology that Japanese can understand," he said.

It may offer the robotics feature in other models in the future, officials said.

Gibson, based in Nashville, Tennessee, boasts a history of innovating the guitar, and robotics fit right in with that legacy, Iwanade said.

Japanese musician Ichiro Tanaka tuned and played the guitar in a demonstration at Gibson's Tokyo office Monday. He said it's handy for professional musicians who may use special tuning for one song in a concert because he won't have to lug around an extra guitar.

"It's more than just convenience. It's a feature I really appreciate," said Tanaka.