Friday, November 22, 2013

Blind Blake - Reborn and Remastered - The Rough Guide to Blues Legends

Blind Blake is famous for his "piano-sounding" guitar playing, and has influenced any guitar picker to follow, and his sounds are especially evident in the likes of Gary Davis, Willie McTell and Ry Cooder. His style was rag-time and blues and, as with most musicians of the time, blended these and other styles to make up his own. Per the liner notes of this CD, he is credited as one of the earliest practitioners of Piedmont finger style (the Carolina Chocolate Drops are well versed in this and cover at least one of his songs) and recorded 79 sides between 1926 and 1932 after which he disappeared  from music and passed away around the age of 40.

Of course, his music lives on - thankfully! The songs here range from terrific rag-time breakdowns ("Blind Arthur's Breakdown"), to goofy tunes ("He's In the Jailhouse Now", "Diddie Wah Diddie" - very different than the r'n'r song that we all know), to more standard blues - albeit with fine finger-pickin'. Some of his talking numbers are a little hokey, but the playing is always stellar. Great stuff!

This comes with a 24-track bonus CD of artists doing similar music (often influenced by Blake), including Blind Willie McTell, Big Bill Broonzy, Charlie Patton, Robert Wilkins, Robert Johnson, Rev. Gary Davis, Mississippi John Hurt, Blind Lemon Jefferson and many more. This set also includes at least a number or two that the Chocolate Drops cover. This is a superior set and a terrific buy!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

recommended gigs

Thursday Nov 21 - The Delta Bombers at the Hard Rock Cafe Paradise

Friday Nov 22 - The All Togethers at the Dillinger

Saturday Nov 23 - the Obits and the Cosmic Beasts - the Beauty Bar
Saturday Nov 23 - Jinxemgood at BB's Clubhouse
Saturday Nov 23 - The All Togethers - Downtown Container Park

Saturday Nov 30 - The All Togethers at the Gold Spike
Saturday Nov 30 - The Psyatics - LV Country Saloon

Tuesday Dec 3 - The All Togethers at Downtown Container Park

Wednesday Dec 4 - Midnight Clover at the Griffin
Wednesday Dec 4 - The All Togethers - Downtown Cocktail Room

Thursday Dec 5 - The Swamp Gospel at the Gateway Motel with the All-Togethers

Friday Dec 6 - The All Togethers at the Gypsy Den Courtyard
Friday Dec 6 - Beau Hodges Band - Pearl Theater
Friday Dec 6 - The Unwieldies at the Plai

Tues Dec 10 - Astaires at Artifice

Friday Dec 13 - The Delta Bombers and the Lucky Cheats w/ Dick Dale at the Hard Rock Cafe Strip

Saturday Dec 14 - Astaires at Yayo Taco

Thursday Dec 19 - the Delta Bombers - Hard Rock Cafe Paradise

Saturday Dec 21 - The Psyatics w/Missing Persons, Bow Wow Wow, Gene Loves Jezebel, Pet Tiger and Midnight Clover

Saturday Dec 28 - The All Togethers at the Dillinger

Sunday Feb 9 - Astaires at LVCS w/the Toasters

What have I forgotten? Lemme know! Is everyone slowing down for the holidays? Haven't heard about many cool gigs for a while.

Classic Blues Artwork from the 1920's: 2014 Calendar (+ CD)

I found this calendar last year for the first time and loved it, so had to pick up the new edition! This LP-sized
calendar has tons of fantastic photos, ads and artwork of blues artists and records from the 1920's, as well as giving you the birth and death anniversaries of people involved. The CD is a 24 song collection of some fabulous tracks from the same time period. There are some giants of the genre - Furry Lewis, Charley Patton, Mississippi Sheiks, Blind Lemon Jefferson, etc., as well as many that are much less acclaimed and with tracks that are extremely rare - Tenderfoot Edwards, Blind Percy and Jim Thompkins. Because of the rarity of some of the tunes, the quality can be a bit iffy - some are downright noisy - but all are pretty amazing. As I expand my personal blues collection I find that I have some of the songs on these compilations, but there are always lots of pleasant surprises that makes me search out more by the artists.

I'm sure I will be picking this up every year for as long as they produce it!

Dirty Blues - Various

There have been a number of similar compilations appearing lately, but this one is pretty good, even if it is a bit low budget - no booklet or info on any of the artists. These are all fairly early numbers (it seems like most are from the 20's through the 40's, though I'm sure there are a few later ones) and most rely on sexual innuendo and not blatant bawdiness, as some that I have heard.

The artists range from the famous (Lightnin' Hopkins, Robert Johnson, Sonny Boy Williamson, etc.) to the little-known (at least to me - such as Monette More, Jazz Gillum and Lil Johnson). All are pretty fun, though - and most are good as just songs, as well as their titillating lyrics. Many of these I have heard before ("Play With Your Poodle", "Phonograph Blues", "What's the Matter with the Mill", "It's Tight Like That"), but there were some cool surprises such as "Press My Button", "Toothache Blues", "What's That Smells Like Fish", "You Stole My Cherry", "Ants in my Pants" and lots more.

This 2-CD set has 32 songs and sells at a budget price, so well worth it for some good-time, early boogie blues.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Iron Man - My Journey Through Heaven and Hell with Black Sabbath - Tony Iommi with T.J. Lammers

Tony starts out his autobiography with his most iconic story - losing the fingertips of his right hand
(his fretting hand, as he is left-handed) in an accident at work. What I didn't know was that this happened on his last day at work right before he was due to go on his first tour with a local band and that he had come home for lunch, planning on not returning, but his mum made him finish out the day! Being self-reliant, he fashioned his own replacement tips, using parts of a leather jacket, and the rest is history!

The book reads as if Tony dictated his recollections and Lammers wrote them out - the chapters are all short anecdotes, ranging from his early childhood up until the time of the publishing. Of course, he tells of his time in Black Sabbath - his most famous combo, naturally - as well as his brief stint in Jethro Tull (just long enough to film Rock'n'Roll Circus) - along with the many variations and off-shoots after the original line-up of BS broke up.

There are many stories of pranks and hazing, including a number of instances of cruel tricks on Bill Ward - not the least of which was setting him on fire, causing third degree burns! This seems especially nasty since he was not allowed to participate in the most recent reunion.

The man has been through a lot - he reminisces on his love lives, as well as his music - and has done quite a number of projects, many of which I never knew about. He tells an entertaining tale and keeps the momentum moving throughout. Certainly a fine read for any fan.

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Relatives - The Electric Word

Formed in 1970 by the Rev. Gene West and his brother, Rev. Tommie West, this gospel outfit shared the bill with other gospel greats such as the Staples Singers, the Five Blind Boys of Mississippi, the Mighty Clouds of Joy and others, but only managed to release a handful of singles locally. This, their first full-length album, maintains the sound that they created then - gospel tinged with psychedelia, funk, soul and rock.

With the help of former Black Joe Lewis guitarist Zach Ernst, the album is simultaneously new and vibrant while sounding like a great, lost late 60's/early 70's psych/soul album. Many of the tunes remind me of psychedelic-era Temptations, with the multiple harmonies (especially terrific on the acapella "I Will Trust in the Lord"), while others have a James Brown funk rhythm and Jimi Hendrix lead guitar work. The lyrics talk of addiction, inequality and, of course, the Lord.

Truly excellent blend of gospel, soul, funk and psychedelia - not something that you're likely to hear much of anywhere else, either! A fave new find!

The Jimi Hendrix Experience - MIami Pop Festival

In May of 1968, the Jimi Hendrix Experience headlined the Miami Pop Festival shortly after recording and Axis, Bold As Love. The band was scheduled to play two sets on Saturday and two on Sunday, but a torrential downpour on the Sabbath kept them from performing at all. Since Saturday's set consisted mostly of material from Are You Experienced, one has to wonder if Sunday's set would have had more recent material. Regardless, these recordings show the band in superior form, before the post-Electric Ladyland dissolution.
releasing the classic

Of course, I am a stupendous Hendrix fan and there is little that I have heard that has actually disappointed me, but these songs, recorded by Jimi's engineer Eddie Kramer, are all terrific in both sound and performance. Jimi's guitar is positively monstrous at times, though, as always, he is capable of true beauty as well as power.

Opening with some classic bursts of noise, the group moves into their first hit, "Hey Joe", followed by the iconic rise of feedback signalling a terrific "Foxey Lady", with a wonderfully bombastic ending. I've never been a big fan of the song "Tax Free" - I've always thought it was a bit of a rambling jam and Jimi's originals (I can't remember who wrote this one) were far better. Of course, the band plays great, but the lack of direction in the "tune" breaks of the momentum of the set.

But they blast back in with a blistering take on "Fire" before slowing down for the superb, slow blues of "Hear My Train A-Comin'". This is an early take on this (don't know when they first started playing this, as they never did an "official" studio take) so it has some variations and - to my ears - a couple of nods to what would later be "Voodoo Chile". I've always loved the dark-themed "I Don't Live Today" and the guys do a fine version here, with Jimi's flawless tone and relentless whammy-bar work, not to mention the controlled feedback and maniacal rave-up ending!

Of course, a highlight of any of Jimi's sets was his experimentation in his slow blues number, "Red House", and this is no exception. The group uses extreme dynamics and Jimi pulls out all the stops to make this a truly memorable take on this classic blues. Of course, any Hendrix gig would not be complete without his biggest hit, "Purple Haze". Naturally, he stretches out the solo a bit, but overall, this is a pretty straightforward take, without the extra jam that he would later throw on the end.

The bonus tracks here are two songs from the earlier, afternoon show - "Fire" and "Foxey Lady" - both of which are not wildly different, though "Fire" is even more frantic and "Foxey..." is a bit slower and more sultry.

Another great collection from the treasure trove of Hendrix tapes. No wonder he remains the number one guitarist in most people's eyes!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

recommended gigs

Friday Nov 15 - Thee Mapes, Weed, Forget Me Nows, Time Crashers at HellPop Comics

Saturday, Nov 16 - Crazy Chief and Black Camaro at Velveteen Rabbit
Saturday Nov 16 - the All Togethers at the Beauty Bar

Thursday Nov 21 - The Delta Bombers at the Hard Rock Cafe Paradise

Friday Nov 22 - The All Togethers at the Dillinger

Saturday Nov 23 - the Obits and the Cosmic Beasts - the Beauty Bar

Saturday Nov 30 - The All Togethers at the Gold Spike
Saturday Nov 30 - The Psyatics - LV Country Saloon

Thursday Dec 5 - The Swamp Gospel at the Gateway Motel with the All-Togethers
Friday Dec 13 - The Delta Bombers w/ Dick Dale at the Hard Rock Cafe Strip

Thursday Dec 19 - the Delta Bombers - Hard Rock Cafe Paradise

Saturday Dec 21 - The Psyatics w/Missing Persons, Bow Wow Wow, Gene Loves Jezebel, Pet Tiger and Midnight Clover

What have I forgotten? Lemme know! Is everyone slowing down for the holidays? Haven't heard about many cool gigs for a while.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Captain Beefheart - the Biography - book by Mike Barnes

A long-time Beefheart fan, Barnes obviously spent a great deal of time on this labor or love, in order to create a well-done and entertaining biography of the reclusive r'n'r icon known as Captain Beefheart. While Don Van Vliet would never acquiescence to an interview himself, Barnes managed to contact many members of the various versions of the Magic Band in order to tell his tale. He also talks extensively of all of the recordings, giving us a feel for the sessions, as well as basics such as the personnel who appeared.

From Vlient's early days as friend and collaborator to Frank Zappa (who came up with the "Captain Beefheart" moniker for a movie staring Don in the mid-60's) to his time as a musical innovator (specifically on the seminal Trout Mask Replica) to his reunion with Zappa on Bongo Fury, to his fruitless attempts at commercial success to his artistic reinvention (Shiny Beast and Doc at the Radar Station) - and many projects in between - to his change of media to - and eventual commercial success with - painting, to his fight with MS and loss of life, Barnes covers it all. There are many anecdotes by those who were there and who were friends as well as musicians. Drummer John French was apparently interviewed fairly extensively, which may have given him the impetus to write his own book, Through the Eyes of Magic, which I have yet to read, but those who have say that it is a good companion to this time.

Barnes has a very descriptive vocabulary and is successful in describing what is often indescribable - the noises that came out of the Captain's warped mind and onto vinyl. Of course, it is always good to be familiar with the material, whether it is sounds or sights (record covers), but this is as good of a translation as you are likely to find, and will undoubtedly point you in the direction of what you do & don't want to dig up by the man.

Beefheart's music can be extremely difficult, but also extremely rewarding, if you are willing to open yourself up to it. This book is a great guide to it all. Thumbs up!

The Unwieldies, JInxemgood, Andy Hall - the Hard Hat Lounge 11-9-13

My solo project opened this show, giving me a good excuse to see a couple of other quality acts at a new (to me) dive bar. The Hard Hat Lounge is kinda in the middle of nowhere on Industrial but is a comfortable place with cool bartenders, plenty of good food options (apparently, breakfast, lunch and dinner) and - for live performances - an actual (small) stage! This evening the PA was acting up a bit, but overall, a good time at a cool spot.

The night was hosted by Andy Hall, who, besides MC'ing, read poetry - his own as well as at least one by Ginsberg. Entertaining and humorous with some good tales to tell. I assume that he reads around town, so check him out!

I've seen Jonathan Jinxemgood Mullica before and dug his unique style of guitar playing and songwriting so was glad that he was able to make it for this gig. Somehow he manages to combine percussion, bass and melody lines on his guitar while singing tales of street folk that he has encountered in our city of sin. He also uses a couple of different types of capos that allows him to change the tuning of his guitar without changing the tension on the strings, which means that he doesn't have the tuning problems that would create. He calls his music "superfolk" and it is a combination of folk, blues, funk and whatever else come into his mind. A truly individualistic performer - definitely someone to see.

I've just raved about the Unwieldies new debut CD, but had not had a chance to see them perform before now. This was their second show since adding Jack Ball (guitarist for the Psyatics, another project with Rob) on violin and electric guitar, though Rob & Danielle have done gigs as a duet previously. Danielle has an exceptional voice and adds acoustic guitar to the mix as Rob harmonizes (and sings a couple leads) and plays stand-up bass. The set was comprised mostly of songs from the CD, though they opened (just R&D) with the pro-Union song, "Which Side Are You On" (written by Florence Reece, but covered by many, including Pete Seeger) and, I believe, a Leonard Cohen song. The sound is essentially folky/singer-songwriter tunes, with real quality songwriting, fantastic harmonies and super additional flourishes by Jack. The violin gives the songs a different twiast and really adds to the melodies. The Unwieldies are an amazing addition to the LV acoustic scene.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

recommended gigs

Thursday Nov 7 - the Beau Hodges Band - House of Blues

Friday November 8 - Thee Swank Bastards at the Double Down
Friday Nov 8 - The All Togethers at the Dillinger

Saturday Nov 9 - Prophet Greene's Soul Machine, the Unweildies, Jinxemgood at the Hard Hat Lounge

Wednesday Nov 13 - The All Togethers at the Griffin

Friday Nov 15 - Thee Mapes, Weed, Forget Me Nows, Time Crashers at HellPop Comics

Saturday, Nov 16 - Crazy Chief and Black Camaro at Velveteen Rabbit
Saturday Nov 16 - the All Togethers at the Beauty Bar

Thursday Nov 21 - The Delta Bombers at the Hard Rock Cafe Paradise

Friday Nov 22 - The All Togethers at the Dillinger

Saturday Nov 23 - the Obits and the Cosmic Beasts - the Beauty Bar

Saturday Nov 30 - The All Togethers at the Gold Spike
Saturday Nov 30 - The Psyatics - LV Country Saloon

Thursday Dec 5 - The Swamp Gospel at the Gateway Motel with the All-Togethers
Friday Dec 13 - The Delta Bombers w/ Dick Dale at the Hard Rock Cafe Strip

Thursday Dec 19 - the Delta Bombers - Hard Rock Cafe Paradise

What have I forgotten? Lemme know! Is everyone slowing down for the holidays? Haven't heard about many cool gigs for a while.

The Unwieldies - Let's Grow Old and Strange Together

Anyone who has ever read this blog knows that I am a huge fan of local band the Psyatics as well as the
band that Rob (bass/vocals) and Jimmy (drums) had beforehand, the Yeller Bellies. So, it stands to reason that I would be drawn to this project featuring Rob (here on stand-up bass and vocals) and his talented wife, Danielle (lead vocals and acoustic guitar), along with fellow Psyatic, Jack Bell (violin and electric guitar). This is far mellower than the other, afore-mentioned projects, but the songwriting is still particularly strong and Danielle's voice is sweet, powerful and lovely.

Starting with "Star Struck", Jack's violin adds a beautiful flavor to this singer/songwriter tale of unrequited love, but Danielle's voice is the real star here. This continues in "Strange New Weakness" and then Rob opens an Avett Brothers cover, "Shame". I was not familiar with this new bluegrass-ish combo until I looked this up on You Tube, but the Unwieldies do a pretty straight-ahead take. I must say that I prefer the Un's version, simply because Rob & Danielle's harmonies actually beat the original (in my opinion). Danielle explores her vocals in "You Never Bet The Devil", with some scat-singing around the melody, while Rob provides mandolin (an instrument he uses in the Yeller Bellies) and Jack provides some gypsy-ish violin.  

I'll admit that I was also unfamiliar with "Veronica", a tune co-written by Elvis Costello and Paul McCartney, about a woman looking back on her life. This is nicely changed up from the original, but keeping the terrific melody. "Complaints Fall on Deaf Ears" sounds a lot like it would have been a Yeller Bellies tune, with Rob taking the lead vocals and Jack providing rockabilly-ish electric guitar. Danielle is back for "Sing" and Rob returns with "Don't Call it Love", with more nice mandolin work.

In an unusual turn, there is a quiet, acoustic version of Ozzy's "Crazy Train", which is almost unrecognizable (until you get to the chorus) without the heavy guitars and with someone who can really sing (sorry, Ozzy!). Yes, kinda gimmicky, but it does seem to be getting them some attention. I really love the ending track, an updated take on the Yeller Bellies' "Haunted", with Rob & Danielle trading vocals and harmonizing, Jack adding atmospheric violin and electric guitar and Rob throwing in some mandolin for good measure. Great song and a nice finish to the record.

A beautiful record made by some of Vegas' best talents for your quieter, acoustic moods - you can't be ravin' all the time, can you?

Lou Reed Live - Take No Prisoners

Recorded at the Bottom Line in NYC following the release of Street Hassle, here Lou comes on like the Lenny Bruce of r'n'r - lots of insults, dark comedy, vitriol, and commentary - far more than actual music. So, not exactly an album for the casual fan, to say the least - this is for those who want to learn more about Reed and his acerbic opinions rather than someone looking for a live "greatest hits" package.

Right off the bat, in a rambling take on "Sweet Jane", he insults Barbara Streisand, Patti Smith, Henny Youngman, the audience, and others left unnamed as he more-or-less goes through the tune, with many tangents. His band appears to be 70's studio musicians, complete with horns and female back-up singers. There are some instrumental "jams" as well, such as the intro to "I Wanna Be Black", where Lou then delves into random characterizations throughout the already politically-incorrect lyrics. None of the songs are "complete" versions - if you compare them to the studio takes - though "Satellite of Love" is somewhat closer than most of the others. It is sung in Lou's Street Hassle voice, which is a bit odd, but it's where he was at the time, I guess. The ending adds heavy power chords in place of the original catchy coda.

"Pale Blue Eyes" (as I noted before, this song reoccurs in almost every point of his career) is dominated by keyboards, but (other than his strange voice) is actually a full-fledged song. Lacking the subtleties of the original, "Berlin" is a lot harsher and less melodic (I miss the sweet dual guitar lines) but is pretty powerful. He meanders again in this take on "I'm Waiting For the Man", which is brought down to a simple, bluesy bass line that the band vamps over, but mostly is a background for Reed's monologue. I'm not overly familiar with the original song "Coney Island Baby", though I don't remember Lou rambling about sports in the studio take. Once he gets that out of his system, he actually goes through the song and it is well done and dynamic.

I think that the most successful song off of this set is "Street Hassle", maybe because the original was basically a recitation, and Lou tells a few musical tales of the street, the most chilling is the one told from the perspective of a drug dealer telling a client to get his OD'd girlfriend out of the dealer's pad. The soul sisters are highlighted here and really do have lovely voices and the beautifully noisy rave-up ending is extremely effective, as well.

"Walk on the Wild Side" is another long ramble, occasionally delving into lyrics and explaining a little about the characters before heading off into wild tangents, including introducing and endorsing Bruce Springsteen (who made a brief appearance on the SH album), among many other, wilder rants. This goes on for about 17 minutes before fading away (it doesn't seem to actually end, so apparently this was edited in the studio - I guess it got a bit much even for Lou) but the band comes thundering back for a primal, almost heavy-metal version of "Leave Me Alone" to close out the record.

As I said, don't come here looking for "serious" versions of these tunes, but for an insight into Lou's humorous and sarcastic mind in the late 70's, this is some fun stuff.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Velvet Underground - Live at Max's Kansas City

According to Wikipedia, this is a document of the last night that Lou played with the Velvets, although Doug Yule continued on with the name for a short while afterwards. These two sets were done without Mo Tucker (who was pregnant at the time) and with Doug's brother, Billy, on drums, along with the terrific Sterling Morrison on guitar. Billy is much more of a straight-ahead r'n'r drummer, which gives the tunes a very different feel, not unlike some of Lou's later live efforts, such as the Live in Hamstead or even his Rock'n'Roll Animal.

This has now been released as 2-CD's with both complete sets, although I just have the vinyl version, which is a compilation of the night. The LP includes "Waiting for the Man", "Sweet Jane", "Lonesome Cowboy Bill", "Beginning to See the Light", "I'll Be Your Mirror", "Pale Blue Eyes", "Sunday Morning", "New Age", "Femme Fatale" and "After Hours". Always interesting to note the tunes that Lou continued to play throughout his career - not just the "hits" like "Sweet Jane" and "Rock'n'Roll" but quieter numbers like "Pale Blue Eyes".

As I said, having Billy on the drum throne makes a world of difference in these versions - not necessarily good or bad, just quite divergent - and, again, Doug sings a couple of numbers. The sound is pretty good, considering that this was done on a 1970's cassette recorder, although there is a lot of audience noise, including Jim Carroll (who was holding the mic) ordering drinks and inquiring about drugs.

Live 1969 is certainly the essential live recording, but this is another very cool document of this particular period in the Velvets' (and Lou's) careers.

Velvet Underground Live 1969

This album was initially released and a 2-LP set (at a budget price, as I recall) and is now being sold as two separate CDs for some odd reason (with one extra track per disc), much to the fans' annoyance. Regardless, this is mid-to-late period VU, with Lou (or course), Sterling Morrison, Mo Tucker and newcomer Doug Yule (replacing John Cale), running through numbers from their entire career, up to the then-unreleased album, Loaded. So, we miss the anarchistic noise of the Cale-era Velvets, but get more of a r'n'r band, with Mo adding a fuller backbeat than on the early studio records. Certainly an interesting and essential step in their -and Lou's - development, moving from the art-y-ness of the first albums to a (sometimes) danceable r'n'r combo.

The set is pretty stellar throughout: "Waiting For the Man", "Lisa Says", "What Goes On", "Sweet Jane", "We're Gonna Have a Real Good Time Together", "Femme Fatale", "New Age", "Rock'n'Roll", "Beginning to See the Light", "Heroin", "Ocean", "Pale Blue Eyes", "Some Kinda Love", "Over You", "Sweet Bonnie Brown", White Light, White Heat", "I Can't Stand It" and "I'll Be Your Mirror". The vinyl sound is pretty good, considering the time, as the sets were recorded on professional equipment. I don't have the CDs, but apparently, the sound suffers on the digital versions due to some of the tracks being recorded from the vinyl, as the original master tapes have been lost.

The variations from the studio tracks are what makes a live album great and these have some fine differences. Not saying that these are better than the originals, but it's great to hear Lou & Doug sing Nico's songs, or hear more straight-ahead takes on "Waiting for the Man" and even "Heroin". "Femme Fatale" is a bit more aggressive and "White Light, White Heat" has an extended "jam" section. It is nice to hear the live interaction between Lou & Sterling, who were a really special guitar team, complimenting each other's playing and the songs and putting in parts that you might think they were pass over in a live setting. At the time of release (1974), a number of these songs were previously unknown, making it even more special.

While this might be more accessible than, say, White Light/White Heat, I don't know if I'd say this was a good starting point for a novice - Loaded would probably be my vote for that - but any fan should own this!