Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Supernatural Santana at the Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel, Las Vegas, Nov 20, 2009

Until now, I hadn’t been to the Joint at the Hard Rock since they re-modeled it. I had seen some excellent gigs – Neil Young, Lou Reed, Sex Pistols – in the intimacy of the old club so I was surprised to find that the place has at least doubled in size. But, the sound is still superb and the sight-lines are good no matter where you are in the hall.

Carlos Santana is a guitarist who I have always respected since the beginning days of his self-named band and his major hits, such as “Evil Ways”, “Black Magic Woman” (a revised Fleetwood Mac song), “Everybody’s Everything”, “No One to Depend On” and on and on. My first band included a guitarist who was very influenced by the man (hey Rick!) and so I learned many of his songs early on. While he has not always been “cool” to listen to, he has always been a fantastic player and has written some amazing songs.

This show is promoted as a “trip through the hits” and it is that, though I would have preferred more of the 60's/70's tunes, rather than some of the newer songs that I barely knew (if at all). But, that’s standard for me and I am hardly the audience that the Joint is going for, in general.

That said, Santana did do many of his best, opening with the first track from his first album, the ethereal “Waiting”, then moving into the afore-mentioned “Black Magic Woman”, “Oye Como Va”, and even his cover of the Zombies’ classic “She’s Not There” (given a Latin beat) before going on to his more modern and more distinctly Latin-dance influenced numbers, such as “Smooth”.

His band is excellent, as usual, and set up similarly to the original group – a second guitarist, keys, bass, drums, 2 percussionists – along with two lead singers (an African-American and a Latino – some people may not remember that his band was probably the first Tri-Racial rock band) and the occasional horn section. Everyone worked together perfectly and brought the crowd to its feet many times.

Carlos continues to be a magnificent player and still remains relevant to this day – even while playing a Vegas nightclub! If you dig his style of Latin rock, this is a great show.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Black Oak Arkansas - The Complete Raunch'n'Roll Live

I’ve already talked at length about my love for this raunchy record and none of their studio releases ever stuck such a chord with me, so when I discovered that there was a 2 CD set of the complete shows that the vinyl was taken from, I had to have it. Unfortunately, the list price is prohibitively expensive (over $40!), so I waited until I could find a reasonably priced used copy in good shape for about $20 – still high for me, but worth it!

Obviously, there are a lot more songs than on the original release, which had a total of 7. I do think that whoever was choosing did pick the best out of the batch for the vinyl release, but there are plenty of great moments here.

Of course, Jim Dandy’s between song raps are all hilarious and damn near worth the price by themselves! As I said, I never thought that the band’s studio albums reached the level of rockin’ madness as this live record and I’m digging the raunched-up versions of some of their tunes such as “Fever In My Mind” with the wild leads and even “Uncle Lijiah”, a fairly light-weight tune dedicated to a great-uncle who lived to be 105 (!), benefits from the beefier multi-guitar attack.

The liner notes of this CD kinda make a big deal about Dandy’s “spiritualism” in songs like “Keep the Faith” (which, again, is driven by super, multi-lead-guitars – their 3 guitars really were used to terrific effect), “Lord Have Mercy on My Soul” (where he talks more about “the halls of karma” than Jesus) and even “Mutants of the Monster” (which always struck me as more of a "freaks-vs-straights" song that a religious tune). But, I never thought of any of these were Christian/preachy – I took them as general hippie/one-with-the-land kind spiritualism, rather than Jesus/God nonsense. As such, it certainly wasn’t out of line with what many bands were singing about at the time, and hardly something that I think the record company had to worry about. And, of course, saying “keep the faith” at the time was more about staying true to yourself that any religious faith.

“Full Moon Ride” is one of the few songs that doesn’t really work and never truly gels for me, especially with an almost jarring key change. While it has all of their trademark elements, including all the guitars soloing at once, something about it just doesn’t come together. But, they are back in saddle immediately afterwards with their fantastic “When Electricity Comes to Arkansas”. This is one of their best high-energy numbers in which they would break into a barber-shop quartet/a capella version of “Dixie” during the vocal break-down before returning to the song, but on the vinyl this was edited out for some reason. Later in their career they went on to perform the entire “Dixie” by itself, moving from the a capella portion to a full-fledged rockin’ number, with Dandy waving a huge confederate flag.

This CD release highlights the number of edits that were used on the vinyl – though they were well-done edits – on everything from intro raps to the above-mentioned “Dixie” section to Tommy Aldridge’s drum solo. It is interesting to hear the shows in their entirety and get a more complete picture of the BOA live experience. CD 1 closes not with “Up” (a natural finisher with it’s sheer insanity and the several minutes it takes them to end the song!) but with their encore “Movin’”, a good, up-tempo, but not out-of-control rocker about “movin’ down the highway” – logical for a last song before hittin’ the road again, and a cool tune, but almost a let-down after the mania of “Up”. It fits better on CD 2 in the middle of the set.

The only song on CD2 that is not on CD 1 is “Gigolo”, which made it to the album, so glad that they did it on one of these shows! Otherwise, no real surprises on the second CD, but it’s another rockin’ set and always cool to hear the small differences in the songs.

It’s hard for me to justify the $40 or so list price, but if you can get a good deal on this, it is a fantastic document of 70's dirty, trashy, high-energy raunch’n’roll!

(Just a side note - I don't think that the list of which songs were on the original release are completely correct - "Hot and Nasty", for instance, was definitely from the 2nd show, but the booklet lists it as from the first. No big deal, really, but odd...)