Friday, August 26, 2011
Just this week after hitting up one of my local Half Price Books I found this gem of a Richie Havens record, "Electric Havens," which I have never seen before, nor new existed. Oddly enough, there were three copies and I picked the cleanest one the store had. It's a curious little record, one that doesn't seem to have much info about, except for a blurb here and there on the net.
"Electric Havens" technically is Richie Havens' second album, though it mostly consists of his early demos with a full electric band overdubbed. Released on the Douglas International record label, this LP saw release prior to Havens signing with Bob Dylan's manager, Albert Grossman, and landing on Verve Records. Probably the reason why there isn't much info on "Electric Havens" is that the album supposedly wasn't to see light of day, as Havens had the record pulled from the shelves shortly after, probably due to the treatment of the overdubs on his original demos. However, the record actually is quite interesting and works well on the level of being something that sounds like it was recorded live in the studio in one or two takes. The timing of the session band sounds slightly off in some places, like his cover of Dylan's "Boots of Spanish Leather", but there still resides a charm in the electric version that would be lost with the acoustic demo alone.
It's a real shame more of the world doesn't have easy access to these recordings. In fact, the album never saw release on CD, assuming Havens still wanted to keep it locked away in his vaults. Thankfully, few vinyl copies have escaped for our listening enjoyment. I'm reminded of the two demo albums by Tom Waits that saw release after he came onto the scene; another instance where those recordings were not intended for commercial release. I'm glad they were, however, as they are some wonderful, heart-felt and honest recordings, like I find "Electric Havens" to be. My only complaints about this LP is the lack of info about the contributing musicians, the some-what boring cover art and that the record is entirely too short. But hey, what are you gonna do? We're lucky to have what we have.
ALBUM NOTES | Richie Havens "Electric Havens"
Douglas CAT#: SD-780
Recorded: New York City, NY
Song Credits: Various
Producer: Alan Douglas
Richie Havens (Vocals, Guitar)
Additional Contributing Musicians Unknown
SIDE ONE: 13:41
SIDE TWO: 16:19
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
Since the late 1960s Jethro Tull had been synonymous with blues, folk and progressive 'art' rock, which made the albums "Aqualung", "Thick As A Brick" and "A Passion Play" some of the band's most critically acclaimed records in music history. At first listen, "A" seems like a completely left field record from the rest, since the synthesizer is quite the predominant instrument throughout, ushering in what would be the signature sound of 1980s pop and rock music. However, there are subtle similarities to Tull's earlier catalog with Anderson's distinctive flute and vocal sound and guitarist Martin Barre's strategic handling of the electric guitar, despite having had undergone a drastic lineup change just prior to the recording of this album.
Of course, a maybe not-so-obvious secondary theme that courses through the veins of the record is the Cold War that was still raging at this time. The track "Flyingdale Flyer" is about a moment when the USA had a glitch with their missile defense systems and thought the Russians had fired upon them. According to Anderson, 'the song is from the point of view of the Flyingdale Early Warning Station in Yorkshire. They figure the the missile is halfway to America by now, so there is some time left to discover if the threat is real or not.' (I suppose we all know how that story would have ended if the threat was actually real.)
All joking aside, "A" is actually a culturally and socially significant commentary on politics and career life, even if you find the electronic sound scape to not be quite to your liking. Though Anderson broadens his musical vision and experimentation with "A" he never wavers on his sharp, biting and smart lyrical writing.
I've always found Ian Anderson to be a bit of a musical and lyrical visionary, and perhaps most of the harsh critics of "A" weren't really ready to hear this album for all its intents and purposes. I believe music finds the listener when the time is right. No one can ever be force to take in music they aren't ready for. Though, I feel electronic music is a bit dated, and maybe "A" is still well ahead of its and our time. On the other hand, the themes of work life and war are all still relevant, more so today than ever, which leaves this album in a strange musical limbo that will always be debated for several more years to come.
I guess all there is left to say is "Get back to work."
ALBUM NOTES | Jethro Tull "A"
Chrysalis CAT#: CHE 1301
Song Credits: Ian Anderson; Additional Material by Eddie Jobson
Recorded: Maison Rouge Mobile and Maison Rouge Studios - London
Producer: Ian Anderson, Robin Black
Ian Anderson (Flute, Vocals)
Martin Barre (Guitar)
Dave Pegg (Bass)
Mark Craney (Drums)
Eddie Jobson (Keyboards, Electric Violin)
SIDE ONE: 19:12
SIDE TWO: 21:28
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Of all the bands and musicians from the festival I wish I could have seen perform is Los Angeles based Boogie n' Blues band, Canned Heat, one of the most interesting and entertaining bands of all time who were deep seeded in early Country and Chicago blues.
If you've ever seen the 1970 Michael Wadleigh documentary "Woodstock" you are no doubt familiar with Canned Heat's song "Going Up The Country", which became the unofficial anthem for the festival. Unfortunately, as popular as the song became, it is not indicative of the sound of the band, which I was pleasantly surprised to discover some years after first seeing the documentary film, not really knowing much about the band.
So you can see for yourself, here is a rare clip of Canned Heat from 'Woodstock' that didn't make the original cut of the film's release, performing "I'm Her Man", which I can say in all honesty even I haven't seen prior to this write-up. Additionally, here is their performance of "On The Road Again" should you desire seconds.
As always, I profess the music spoken about on Classic Waxxx is best enjoyed on vinyl, as sound is important to the entire experience. For Canned Heat, trying to find their catalog on CD has always proved to be a bit of a challenge. You'll have better luck finding all the old albums on LP. However, some instances of CD purchases are warranted, like the "Woodstock" soundtrack and subsequent anniversary box sets, which feature material previously unavailable (which you probably won't see release on vinyl in the near future.) But, if the band's performance at Woodstock is any indication of how awesome they were (and still are), those who witnessed the band first hand indeed were part of something special, as the Woodstock festival reminds us year after year.
ALBUM NOTES | "Boogie With Canned Heat"
Liberty CAT#: LST-7541
Song Credits: Various
Recorded: Liberty Studios - Los Angeles, CA
Producers: Skip Taylor, Dallas Smith
Bob 'The Bear' Hite (Vocal)
Alan 'Blind Owl' Wilson (Bottle Neck Slide Guitar, Harmonica, Vocals)
Larry 'The Mole' Taylor (Bass)
Henry 'Sunflower' Vestine (Lead Guitar)
Adolfo 'Fito' de la Parra (Drums)
Sunnyland Slim (Piano - "Turpentine Moan")
SIDE ONE: 19:59
SIDE TWO: 22.24
Friday, August 12, 2011
Even though I've seen all four seasons of "Mad Men" about a zillion times (so far), I can also get my Swingin' 60s fix from the Ramsey Lewis Trio and their incredible "Bach To The Blues" LP.
"Bach To The Blues" marks the original trio's 16th record outing, and one of four albums the trio would release in 1964. Five of the recordings on this album are based on classical music themes, most notably influenced by Rimsky-Korsakov's "The Love of a Princess", Rachmaninoff's "Misty Days, Lonely Nights", Tchaikovsky's "Dance Mystique" and Brahms' "You'll Love Me Yet." Of course, the title track owes the obvious debt to J.S. Bach. As Lewis would go onto say in the liner notes, "It takes hours and hours of training and practice to master the great composers, and regardless of your instrument or musical goal, the best route to competence is a solid classical background." By the time this record was released, the trio had been together for nearly 14 years, and thus from their interpretations of classical music, I'd say they have quite the handle on it.
The trio makes good on weaving in and out of classical and blues influenced Jazz melodies on this record, not to mention holding their own to other groups like The Modern Jazz Quintet, The Bill Evans Trio and the original Miles Davis Quintet (with John Coltrane, Red Garland, Paul Chambers and Philly Joe Jones.) No stone (or musical mood) is left unturned. Lewis makes note of the importance of the individual jazz musician having equal importance in the group, rather than being an accompanist, and because of this fact, and because each member in the trio has similar tastes and goals, "Back To The Blues" ends up being a success on many levels.
So, next time "Mad Men" goes on a seasonal hiatus it's good to know there are albums like this that can carry you through until your favorite show returns. Find yourself a copy of "Bach To The Blues", mix up an Old Fashioned or a Tom Collins and don't feel too bad there will be no Don Draper to swoon over this fall.
Oh, and by the way...you won't be able to find this gem on CD or iTunes. Just saying. Though, if you want to get a taste of what the Ramsey Lewis Trio is about, dip your toe in the water and check out their immensely popular 1965 album, "The In Crowd".
ALBUM NOTES | Ramsey Lewis Trio "Bach To The Blues"
Argo CAT#: LPS-732
Song Credits: Various
Recorded: Chicago, IL.
Engineer: Ron Malo
Supervision: Esmond Edwards
Ramsey Lewis (Piano)
Eldee Young (Bass, Cello)
Red Holt (Drums)
Richard Evans (Bass - "Travel On" & "Peace & Tranquility")
SIDE ONE: 17:03
SIDE TWO: 17:24
Tuesday, August 9, 2011
I'm sure by now most music fans are familiar with the guitar genius of Eric Clapton, via his unsurpassed talents with bands The Yardbirds, John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers and Cream. However, "Slowhand" has been recording critically and commercially successful album as a solo artist for nearly four decades, and his first self-titled LP proved (and still proves) that Clapton is indeed, God.
By all accounts "Eric Clapton" is a star-studded, all-nighter blues rock album that really introduced Clapton to the world, not only as a superb solo act, but also as a very gifted and emerging songwriter, as well. The collaboration and guidance of Delaney Bramlett (of Bonnie & Delaney) makes many of these recordings as some of the best booze and blues fueled music ever committed to tape, like the album's opener "Slunky", which sounds as loose and raw as the song title suggests. "Bad Boy" and "Lonesome And A Long Way From Home" are two wonderful horn-laden blues numbers cleverly disguised as what could be upbeat church gospel songs despite the lyrical cry of sadness and depression.
What I really love about this record is the fact that it is the precursor to Clapton's next band, Derek & The Dominos, as Clapton 'helped' himself to Delaney Bramlett's band for his own, and of course, rounding out the roster by throwing guitar genius Duane Allman into the folds. Both records ooze such a warm and glowing southern comfort that has rarely been captured by any other rock band of this or any era. I also love the insecurity in Clapton's voice in songs like "Lovin' You Lovin' Me" and "I Don't Know Why", as he felt unsure about his vocal ability at the time. You hear a very young man making an honest attempt at expressing himself the best way he can.
Time and time again this album reinforces the idea of why I own records, why I spend countless hours and dollars building upon my record collection for those good and bad days ahead. There are very few records that pass through your fingers and ears, redefining what it means to be a music fan and a human being making it through life. "Eric Clapton" is one of those records, and by the end it lets you know everything is going to be ok.
ALBUM NOTES | Eric Clapton - "Eric Clapton"
ATCO CAT#: SD 33-329
Song Credits: Various
Recorded: Los Angeles, CA
Producer: Delaney Bramlett
Engineer: Tom Dowd
Eric Clapton (Guitar, Lead Vocal)
Rita Coolidge (Vocals)
Jim Price (Trumpet)
Bobby Keys (Saxophone)
Bobby Whitlock (Organs, Vocals)
Leon Russell (Piano)
Sonny Curtis (Vocals)
Jim Gordon (Drums)
Bonnie Bramlett (Vocals)
Delaney Bramlett (Rhythm Guitar, Vocals)
Carl Radle (Bass)
J.J. Allison (Vocals)
John Simon (Piano)
Stephen Stills (Guitar)
SIDE ONE: 21:12
SIDE TWO: 17:22
Friday, August 5, 2011
Like most people, I usually carry a list of 'top 10' songs or albums in my head at any given time, because you never know when you are going to be asked, "What's you top ten favorite...?" So, in honor of this 'effing triple digit heat of Summer, here are some of my 'Top 10 Records of Summer':
1. Sly & The Family Stone - "Hot Fun In The Summertime"
2. Jimi Hendrix Experience - "Long Hot Summer Night"
3. Eddie Cochran - "Summertime Blues"
4. Bob Dylan - "Summer Days"
5. Jethro Tull - "Summer Day Sands"
6. The Doors - "Summer's Almost Gone"
7. Big Brother & The Holding Company - "Summertime"
8. Sidney Bechet - "Summertime"
9. B.B. King - "Summer In The City" (much better than the Lovin' Spoonful original)
10. Frank Sinatra - "Summer Wind"
Of course, there are plenty of other 'Summertime' themed records out there that deserve honorable mention, like The Beach Boys' "All Summer Long", Nat King Cole's "That Summer, That Sunday" and The Who's cover of Eddie Cochran's "Summertime Blues." Of course, who could possibly forget John Travolta & Olivia Newton John's hit from the film, "Grease", "Summer Lovin'"?!? It's one of those catchy tunes that sticks with you until the bitter end.
So, no matter how extreme and oppressive the heat, just remember there are some great classics you can throw down onto your turntable while staying cool indoors. Before too long, after baseball season is over, and you've stuffed your face with all of the backyard bbq hot dogs you can possibly stand, you'll be playing Sinatra's "Autumn In New York", yearning for your scarf and sweater and forgetting all about the sweltering unpleasantness that 'was' the Summer of 2011.
Until then, what are your 'Top Ten Records of Summer'?
Tuesday, August 2, 2011
Now, I will admit that my knowledge of Ten Years After was quite limited, mostly limited to their one live performance of "I'm Going Home" from the "Woodstock" documentary in 1970, a performance I liked initially, but became bored with after subsequent viewings. But, suffice to say I'm happy to have acquainted myself with more of their catalog over the last couple of years, and my opinion has drastically changed for the better.
"Ssssh", the third studio album (forth album over all) from Ten Years After, is two full-length sides of essential rock from one of Britain's most semi-obscure bands, much in the sound vein of The Small Faces, Johhny Winter and Joe Cocker's 'Grease Band' thrown in for good measure. "Ssssh" grabs your attention from the start, not with any kind of blues guitar hook or three-chord riff, but with the sounds of a milk-starved kitten (produced by Lee on guitar) which always seems to trip my own cats out when playing on the stereo. Immediately, within a split second the album's opening track "Bad Scene" kicks open your door like a frantic mailman, just wanting to get out of the cold and deliver your package. "Two Time Mama" relaxes things just a bit with some interesting blues slide work on what sounds like an electrified National steel body guitar, warning 'don't you two time me.'
Side Two of "Ssssh" mixes things up just a tad with "If You Should Love Me", a song that sounds like a total precursor to the 1970s arena rock ballads we've come to know and love/loath, but really makes for a nice, lovely and warm AM Radio hit. Or, at least could have made the cut for the "Dazed And Confused" movie soundtrack. Pianist Chick Churchill breaks out into his inner 'Steve Winwood' on "I Don't Know That You Don't Know My Name", making the strange lyrical ballad (all 1:56 minutes of it) another worthwhile hit from the record. The blues kicks back into overdrive on the follow-up track "The Stomp", which sounds like a mash up of Booker T. & The MGs and the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, with driving funk organs, which could make for the start of a killer album all on its own.
It really is a shame that the footage released from the "Woodstock" documentary doesn't feature more of Ten Years After's live chops, as it is evident from this album alone they could hammer out the blues as well as the rest of them. Though subsequent live material has surfaced of the band on CD, nothing really holds a candle to what was pressed in wax in their hey day of the British Invasion.
ALBUM NOTES | Ten Years After "Ssssh."
Deram CAT# DES 18029
Song Credits: Alvin Lee (except "Good Morning Little School Girl" by Williamson)
Recorded: Morgan Studios, London
Producer: Chris Wright
Engineer: Andy Johns
Album Photography: John Fowlie & Graham Nash
Alvin Lee (Guitars, Vocals)
Leo Lyons (Bass)
Chick Churchill (Organs, Piano)
Ric Lee (Drums)
SIDE ONE: 15:34
SIDE TWO: 16:40