Monday, September 29, 2008

Eric Clapton’s Rainbow Concert

Apparently, this CD version of the concert recording has been available for a while now, but I just noticed it and found it cheap. The CD has the entire show, which was heavily edited for the album version.

This gig was put together by Pete Townshend primarily to help Eric get back into the spotlight after spending years as a heroin addict. The backing group consisted of Pete, Ron Wood (guitar), Rick Grech (bass), Jim Capaldi and Jimmy Karstein(drums), Rebop on percussion and Steve Winwood on keyboards.

Opening with a previously unreleased cut, “Layla”, the all-star band starts out a little shakey and honestly, never does completely hit their stride on this classic cut. Of course, having heard the studio version a zillion times, it is easy to pick it apart, but without Duane Allman to play off of, Clapton is not at the top of his game on this one. To me, this was an odd opener, as well – I think of it as more of a closer, especially with the extended instrumental ending.

The vinyl opener was “Badge”, the excellent tune co-written with George Harrison. Again, some of the original’s nuances are missing, but this is a pretty credible version. “Blues Power” is not the greatest song per se, but it did give Clapton a lot of room to riff and prove that he could still cut it as a guitar god.

“Roll it Over” is a well written bluesy tune (co-written with Bobby Whitlock who Eric wrote most of the Derek and the Dominos record with) that has lyrics that are so overtly, nastily sexual that it comes as a surprise from the laid-back Clapton. Of course, his version of Hendrix’s incredible “Little Wing” (one of Jimi’s best compositions) is well known from the Dominos record and his releases over the years. More bombastic than Hendrix, with power chords replacing the original’s supremely pretty finesse, it is still a really nice take on the tune and again allows Eric to stretch out a bit (though it also proved that Hendrix was one of a kind).

A rather inconsequential number, “Bottle of Red Wine” follows but then we get Eric biggest solo hit at that time, “After Midnight”. This is a fantastic tune, but it drags a bit in this setting, though not as much as his later, acoustic versions. This really sounds like he is holding back the entire time – I loved the attack of the original studio take and miss that here.

“Bell Bottom Blues” is a bit more successful, though again a bit slower than it should be – maybe these ponderous numbers were pulled from the vinyl version to avoid any further commentary on his addiction? Maybe he couldn’t play quite as fast any more? This is a super song though and the timing doesn’t affect it too drastically. “Presence of the Lord” is another song that is supposed to be reasonably slow, so this isn’t a problem. This is performed well, also, especially the cool, wah-wah guitar jam break.

A faithful rendition of “Tell the Truth”, with more cool guitar playing, is followed by a Traffic song, “Pearly Queen”. Winwood sings and this is pretty damn good. “Key to the Highway” is a pretty straight rendition of the Dominos version, as well – nice.

My favorite solo Clapton song has got to be “Let it Rain”. Again, this live take is not nearly as good as the studio, but it is strong, the tempo is right and Eric lets his guitar sing out at the end. He is in good voice throughout, as well.

The closer is Robert Johnson’s “Crossroads”, which, of course, was a Cream standard. Once more, it is slowed down considerably, almost to the point of being a different song. This is actually a bit of a let down as a finish to the show.

Overall, an uneven gig, but some worthwhile highlights and a historic show, though I’m sure that some people would debate whether Clapton should have returned after this!

Monday, September 22, 2008

RIP fantastic songwriter Norman Whitfield

C&L’s Late Nite Music Club Honors Norman Whitfield - Norman
Whitfield, 1940-2008, RIP

Norman Whitfield, who passed away yesterday at age 67 in Los Angeles after a long battle with diabetes, may not be a name immediately familiar to most music listeners. But I would venture a guess that virtually everyone reading this has at some point in their life heard Norman Whitfield’s work–and well past the simple L.A. Times headline that accompanied his obituary: “Motown Songwriter And Producer Won Two Grammy Awards.”[..]

Motown founder and chief Berry Gordy once noted that if any one person warranted his own wing in a Motown Museum, it’d be Whitfield. Without his contributions as a songwriter, arranger, and producer, it’s hard to imagine that the label’s “Hitsville USA” boast would have been taken very seriously–especially from 1966 to 1974, when he guided his main Motown charges the Temptations to no less than two dozen top 10 R&B hits, including 11 gold and five platinum-selling singles. Perhaps you’ve heard of some of them:

“Ain’t Too Proud To Beg”

“Beauty Is Only Skin Deep”

“(I Know) I’m Losing You”

“You’re My Everything”

“Cloud Nine”

“I Can’t Get Next To You”

“Ball Of Confusion”

“Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)”[..]

Norman Whitfield had his share of difficulties later in life. Besides failing health, he also got into trouble with the IRS government in recent years for unpaid taxes. But in any event, everyone really should know who Norman Whitfield was. Without him, you know, there’d be no “War” –as in “War/What is it good for?/Absolutely nothin’.”

Say it again.

(Crooks and Liars)
Click the link for a couple of cool videos.

More from Dan Epstein and La Vie en Robe.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Darker than the Deepest Sea – the Search for Nick Drake – Trevor Dann

I am actually not a big Nick Drake fan – I am familiar with some of his output, but only have one album. I like him, but do not know too much about him, so I thought I’d see what Trevor Dann had to say when I saw this book at the library.

The first thing that struck me about the writing is that Trevor is obviously British and in telling his tale about a British subject he assumes that everyone is familiar with all things English. This is not a major issue, though I do believe that most books that I have read have aimed for a larger audience and Dann limits himself with his British-isms that have no explanations to us non-brits. But, maybe that’s just me!

Nick grew up in a privileged, wealthy family who loved music, so he played at an early age and even wrote and recorded on an early tape machine. He was always shy but this turned extreme as he entered his twenties, to the point of refusing to play his songs live or promote his records in any way. Of course, this proved disastrous to his career and his records only sold a few thousand each. This only added to his depression and seclusion, which caused him to end his life with an overdose of prescription drugs, ironically prescribed for his depression.

Dann gives an overview of all of Nick’s recordings, his successful posthumous career and recent documentaries on the man.

There is not enough known about Drake to give a truly compelling biography, so this book does its best, but it is a limited tale. You never really get to know the person, other than his reclusiveness. Good for fans, I’m sure, but not much for the casual listener.

Monday, September 15, 2008

RIP Richard Wright

LONDON — Richard Wright, a founding member of the rock group Pink Floyd, died Monday. He was 65.

Pink Floyd's spokesman Doug Wright, who is not related to the artist, said Wright died after a battle with cancer at his home in Britain. He says the band member's family did not want to give more details about his death.

Wright met Pink Floyd members Roger Waters and Nick Mason in college and joined their early band, Sigma 6. Along with the late Syd Barrett, the four formed Pink Floyd in 1965.

The group's jazz-infused rock and drug-laced multimedia "happenings" made them darlings of the London psychedelic scene, and their 1967 album, "The Piper at the Gates of Dawn," was a hit.

In the early days of Pink Floyd, Wright, along with Barrett, was seen as the group's dominant musical force. The London-born musician and son of a biochemist wrote songs and sang.

The band released a series of commercially and critically successful albums including 1973's "Dark Side of the Moon," which has sold more than 40 million copies. Wright wrote "The Great Gig In The Sky" and "Us And Them" for that album, and later worked on the group's epic compositions such as "Atom Heart Mother," "Echoes" and "Shine On You Crazy Diamond."

But tensions grew between Waters, Wright and fellow band member David Gilmour. The tensions came to a head during the making of "The Wall" when Waters insisted Wright be fired. As a result, Wright was relegated to the status of session musician on the tour of "The Wall," and did not perform on Pink Floyd's 1983 album "The Final Cut."

Wright formed a new band Zee with Dave Harris, from the band Fashion, and released one album, "Identity," with Atlantic Records.

Waters left Pink Floyd in 1985 and Wright began recording with Mason and Gilmour again, releasing the albums "The Division Bell" and "A Momentary Lapse of Reason" as Pink Floyd. Wright also released the solo albums "Wet Dream" (1978) and "Broken China" (1996).

In July 2005, Wright, Waters, Mason and Gilmour reunited to perform at the "Live 8" charity concert in London _ the first time in 25 years they had been onstage together.

Wright also worked on Gilmour's solo projects, most recently playing on the 2006 album "On An Island" and the accompanying world tour.

(Huffington Post)

Sad - early Pink Floyd was essential listening for those of us growing up in the early 70's! Wright's keyboards were a centerpiece of their sound. There is plenty of terrific, spacey stuff right up through UmmaGumma.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Wonderful Tonight – Pattie Boyd

Coming from an extremely eclectic background – she grew up in the jungles and deserts of Africa before moving to England as a teen to become a well known model – Pattie tells a tale of the 60’s and her relations and flirtations with rock royalty.

This is not a music book, per se – do not expect behind the scenes stories of any of George Harrison’s songs (more than him writing “My Sweet Lord” at their kitchen table) – but it is a tale of her life moving from a restrictive family to the world of fashion to the wife of a rock star – and her subsequent seclusion.

Pattie is a spectacular beauty with self-proclaimed self-esteem issues, which is bizarre considering that she was a sought after model who landed some of the world’s most famous men. It is hard for us average folks to feel too sorry for her…

She does not have kind words to say about George – she paints him as a domineering, chauvinistic, crazily religious, and almost manic-depressive. His fight with his natural instincts and the tenants of his adoptive religion seem to have caused him much pain and depression. She claims he was solitary, but it seems that she simply didn’t care for the people that were in his life and she wanted more freedom. In many ways, it sounds like she is trying to excuse her infidelities, though he had his share, as well, but it is difficult for an outsider to say.

She depicts Eric Clapton as a pathetic man groveling after his best friend’s wife and treating the other women in his life like dirt. When she finally leaves George for Eric, he apparently stops taking heroin but instead becomes a raving alcoholic, which she joins in on. As much as she claims to love Eric passionately at this point, he comes off as a weak, childish jerk, basically. It doesn’t sound like she truly respects any of the men in her life, but she also does not seem to truly respect herself, either.

Her marriage to Clapton ends, as well, and she has another long term affair (this time to a relative unknown) that also falls apart. But, she does manage to stay friends with all (or most) of the men in her life and continues to socialize with many to this day.

The story is interesting but lacking in any real substance or details. There are also laughable mistakes (saying Ron Wood was the bassist in the Faces, claiming to own a rare Les Paul Stratocaster – which would be might rare indeed!) but that could be due to a poor proof-reader. So, the book is good but shallow and doesn’t give any real depth into Pattie or her famous loves. Not bad, but just not what you would expect for this tale of the incredibly exciting 60’s and of some of the biggest celebrities in the world.