The Trick Is To Keep Going

Archive for January, 2009

Endangered indeed

by on Jan.28, 2009, under Digital Media, Media, Newspapers


The men at the top of most city newspapers across the country talk about their readers wanting more local news. Yet, they continue to lay off and buy out scores of local reporters.

Endangered Species

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The Dave Clark Five returns

by on Jan.26, 2009, under Music


Not for a reunion. For a CD release. If you haven’t followed the history of this seminal ’60s pop band, you probably don’t realize just how momentous this is.

dc5The DC5, probably the Beatles’ biggest rivals in the early-to-mid 1960s in the singles market, haven’t had an official best of compilation in nearly two decades. The only one of note, The History Of The Dave Clark Five, a double-disc from 1993, has been out of print for years and until this release, has fetched rather lofty figures, nearing $100 on eBay.

Most imports available have been spotty affairs with one grey-market company producing the most comprehensive collection of releases by mastering from vinyl.

The Hits, released late last year, rectifies all this. A single disc with 28 tracks, it touches on most of the band’s signature tunes along with some lesser known tracks and a previously unreleased bonus, Universal Love.

So why the wait? Only Dave Clark can answer that and he is never that forthcoming on these topics. It’s probably to take advantage of the group’s induction last year into the Rock ‘N Roll Hall of Fame, an honor the DC5 richly deserves.

A booklet accompanying the CD is rather sketchy in some areas, for instance about the other members of the band, but big on statistics and the group can boast some impressive ones. The DC5 is said to have sold more than 100 million records worldwide. I don’t doubt it. They scored 15 consecutive Top 20 hits and 30 global hit singles, only outpaced by the Beatles. They appeared a record 17 times on the Ed Sullivan Show, the Sunday night ’60s TV staple on which the Beatles first appeared, and sold out Carnegie Hall for a record 12 shows over three days.

Unfortunately the booklet does not give any interesting tidbits about the tracks, for instance when and where each was recorded and where each single charted. Instead, it’s a glad-handing, back-slapping tome to Dave Clark, who played a very dominant role in the group’s history, which is to say the least a rather fascinating and somewhat strange one.

dc5sullyDave Clark, who for those who don’t know, was the drummer setting up in front of the band live. He was also the group’s producer, long before most artists decided to produce themselves. He, in fact, owned all the recordings and basically leased them to major record labels, unheard of at the time. He co-wrote most of the band’s original material with vocalist/keyboardist Mike Smith, although he is credited with solo efforts on Because and Any Way You Want It. And to top it off, he managed the band! Quite a business man. Suffice to say he has controlled everything regarding the DC5 over the years.

What’s odd is that there is scant mention of the other members in the booklet’s liner notes. And they truly deserve much more, especially Smith, who creatively and vocally was the heart and soul of the DC5. For the record the others were Denis Payton, tenor and baritone saxes, Rick Huxley, bass and Lenny Davidson, guitar.

Though the band never matched the totality and depth of the Beatles’ creativity, the DC5 gave the Beatles a run when it came to the two-minute arena of the hit single. All the great tracks are here: their cover of the Contours’ Do You Love Me, Glad All Over, Bits And Pieces, Can’t You See That She’s Mine, Everybody Knows, Wild Weekend, Catch Us If You Can, I Like It Like That, Over And Over and many more.

Most other bands of the ’60s British Invasion shared something in common soundwise with the Beatles. The DC5 sounded different. They were unique, trademarked by a soul and R&B influence layered on top of the pounding, driving beat laid down by Clark.

A regrettable circumstance: two of the members had passed away by the time the group was inducted into the Hall. In September 2003, about six months after his only son died in an auto accident, Mike Smith, who was living in Spain, fell near his home, causing a severe spinal cord injury. The accident left him paralyzed from the waist down and in his right arm. He had recently gone back to performing, including many of the DC5’s hits and had successfully played in the U.S. on club tours twice, including Toad’s Place in New Haven, with plans to return. He died on February 28, 2008, 11 days prior to the induction ceremony. Danis Payton died of cancer at 63 on December 17, 2006.

The Bram Rigg Set, who I mentioned in a previous post and for whom I played bass at the time, opened for the DC5 at the Oakdale in the summer of 1967, right before I was off to school in Boston. We talked briefly with a couple of the members, Payton and Huxley, as they whisked through the dressing room area, which they didn’t really use. Very nice fellows. Dressed in white bell-bottoms and brightly-colored, puffy-sleeved shirts and scarves, they ran through their hits quite competently and added in an ample dose of U.S. soul covers, which really showed how much Smith meant to the band. He was by far the core of the band’s creativity with an outstanding voice. But they lacked something. It wasn’t the DC5 of the early ’60s, who rivaled the Beatles, although I’m sure they were still doing quite well financially. It was a couple of years later in 1970 that they broke up, with very little chart success in the U.S. once the age of psychedelia took over.

Still, quite a band for the time. And all those hits. And that pounding beat. I’m in pieces bits and pieces. Since you left me and you said goodbye. I’m in pieces bits and pieces. All I do is sit and cry.

A word about the sound of the CD. The remastering job by, who else, Dave Clark, is very well done. He captures the DC5’s mini wall-of-sound, which came from only five pieces. Very big sound and as clear as a wall-of-sound can be.

The disc is an import but available in the States. The only problem is that it’s kind of expensive. At Collector’s Choice Music, which seems to have the corner on the release at the moment, it’s $30, although I’ve seen the price come down from some vendors in Goldmine Magazine. The best thing to do is buy it from Amazon in the UK. It’s 10 pounds, which is about $15. Even with the shipping, it’s less than 20 bucks. Highly recommended.

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Gone baby

by on Jan.24, 2009, under Digital Media, Media, Technology


In a previous post, I mentioned PC Magazine was not publishing a print product anymore and would be only available online. Earlier this month Ziff-Davis, which published PC Mag, announced it was out of the print business completely. As this news item mentions, Z-D was responsible for many magazines over its 82-year history, many that I read at one time or another.

Ziff-Davis gone.

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Interview with a …

by on Jan.24, 2009, under Digital Media, Media, Music, Newspapers, Technology


No, not that. A journalist in her 20s. An interesting street interview by JD Lasica, touching on most of the social media sites and newspapers to some extent.

Lauren

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One last time … live

by on Jan.24, 2009, under Music

It seems odd that very little has been made of this so far. Perhaps when we reach the actual date, which is Jan. 30. But it was the last time the Beatles played live together, up on a rooftop in London 40 years ago. Those boys must have been cold. I suppose the adrenaline was warming them up.

This is not readily available on DVD. Most versions are out or going out of print and rather pricey. A definitive issue of Let It Be is supposedly in the pipeline although no firm release date has been given by Apple.

Enjoy.

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Back to the blues

by on Jan.20, 2009, under Music


Susan Tedeschi’s Back To The River, released late last year, quickly moved to the top of the Billboard Blues chart and remains near the top after nine weeks. But it appears to have been virtually ignored by most of the major rock magazines.

That’s too bad because as much as this is a blues outing, it’s a smokin’ rock ‘n roll record as well and another to add to the best of 2008. With the centerpiece Tedeschi’s blues drenched vocals, River is one of her best records and shows how she not only uses her considerable playing and singing abilities but also her strong collaborative songwriting skills.

stedeschi-coverAt first. Tedeschi’s voice is reminiscent of some great blues and rock singers of recent history such as Bonnie Raitt and Bonnie Bramlett, but the more you listen, the more you discover her unique approach, phrasing and a rough, sometimes raspy edge to a prodigious vocal range and quality that is rarely rivaled among female singers today.

 She wrote the opening track, Talking About, with Doyle Bramhall II and husband Derek Trucks, both of whom have recently played in the Eric Clapton band, most notably at the 2007 Chicago Crossroads concert that included a set with Steve Winwood. Both are extraordinary slide players and the tune sets the tone for the album, which is infused with infectious riffs, gritty blues melodies and virtuoso playing throughout.

Trucks, who has his own band and also plays with the Allman Brothers, co-wrote two other tracks, including Butterfly, which is one of the more soul-flavored tunes with a riff and feel that reminds one a little of Sly Stone.

John Leventhal (two songs), Tony Joe White, Sonya Kitchell and Gary Louris are among the other co-writers. Can’t Sleep At Night is Tedeschi’s own and she covers Allain Toussaint’s There’s A Break In The Road.

Bramhall’s soloing and lead lines, which Tedeschi’s vocal doubles at times, over the burning groove of Talking About give way to the R&B ballad 700 Houses, showcasing a more tender side to Tedeschi’s voice, underscored by hopeful lyrics, Trucks’ melodic lines on slide and tasteful horns.

Tedeschi’s core band of guitarist Dave Yoke, keyboard player Matt Slocum, Ted Pecchio, bass, and drummer Tyler Greenwell lays down deep grooves as witnessed by the wah-wah driven title track. Tedeschi takes lead guitar outings on six of the tracks, including River, lending a nice contrast to the Bramhall-Trucks tandem with her clean Telecaster tone.

The album doesn’t have a weak track on it. From the strutting groove of Love Will to a soul-inflected People, the heartfelt Revolutionize Your Soul and the driving hidden/bonus track 99 Pounds, it clearly reinforces Tedeschi’s position as a premier singer, songwriter and player.

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Music in black & white

by on Jan.16, 2009, under Music

One of my picks for top albums of 2008 was Sunday At Devil Dirt by Isobel Campbell &  Mark Lanegan, a beautiful mix of traditional and contemporary folk and country influences with a startling contrast in vocal styles.

Here is a site called live on 35mm that features black and white photos of live music by the photographer Valerio. This page is from a Campbell & Lanegan concert around Christmas time in England. Some nice images.

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Does it matter?

by on Jan.15, 2009, under Digital Media, Media, Newspapers, Technology


Whether newspapers die, that is. Well, I’m sure many of us would say yes. But maybe it’s not about how the news is delivered, but rather that we are concerned about journalism, the stories, the ones that matter. Will they die or fade away?

A couple of viewpoints:

Seth Godin’s take.

One from a social media site. Are social media sites in competition with newspapers? Yeah, actually, I believe they are.

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Riding the digital wave

by on Jan.13, 2009, under Digital Media, Media, Newspapers


A nice resource for journalists learning about and making the transition into the new media era.

NewsTechZilla

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An unexpected pleasure

by on Jan.08, 2009, under Music


It came as a bit of surprise to see the release of 2 by Fotheringay last year. The group Sandy Denny, considered the greatest vocal interpreter of British traditional music, left Fairport Convention for with her lover/soon to be husband Trevor Lucas in 1970, recorded tracks for a second album but it was never released.

fotheringay_2In fact, it was doubtful there was enough there for a second album. The self-titled debut earlier in 1970 was a nice enough start but hadn’t exactly eclipsed the best of Fairport, which was to England what the Byrds were to America in its blending of rock, pop and traditional sensibilities.

Both Denny and Lucas have long passed, but the other members, guitarist Jerry Donahue, drummer Gerry Conway, who later played with Cat Stevens, and bassist Pat Donaldson regrouped last year to finish the project. This has been tried before, particularly in the Hendrix camp by previous estate supervisor Alan Douglas, with very mixed results. But from the opening bar of this album’s first track John The Gun, you immediately sense this is different and right.

The sound literally jumps from your speakers in clarity and presence, the playing is skilled and tasteful and the vocals, although taken from reference tracks recorded during the laydown of the basic tracks, are inspired and near flawless by Denny and Lucas.

The reason for the unfinished product in 1970 was Denny’s departure for a solo career, something her label, Island, had been lobbying for. Some of these tunes showed up on her first solo effort and others have been released on various box set retrospectives of her work. But none sound better than on this record.

The waltz time interpretation of Silver Threads & Golden Needles is a significant improvement over previously released versions. A traditional tune, Wild Mountain Thyme, also recorded by the Byrds and Van Morrison among others, lends itself beautifully to Denny’s pure voice streaming over the bass of Lucas’ harmony.

Late November, to appear later on Denny’s The Northstar Grassman & The Ravens, joins John The Gun as the only Denny-penned songs on the set. It’s a somber, moderate tempo, traditional sounding  piece so familiar to her oeuvre.

Fotheringay try a second take on Gypsy Davey, a traditional that appeared on the self-titled album, and play a relaxed groove that features Denny smoothly doubling in the middle section with Donahue’s lead guitar. Dave Cousins’  Two Weeks Last Summer closes the album, a 12-string dominated folk tune reminiscent of the Byrds, which falls into Denny’s range perfectly.

One of the only regrets is that nearly half of the vocal leads are taken by Lucas, whose in fine form but can’t match his exquisite partner. His tracks are much more country oriented than tunes he sang on the first album and they indicate the direction he may have wanted to take the group.

Jerry Donahue was involved in a similar reconstruction project with a Denny concert, Gold Dust Live At The Royalty (1998), her last before a death attributed to a fall in 1978, on which he overdubbed various guitar parts during his production. That one was seamless. This one is even better. The exact additions or remakings of each track are not documented, but that the original members are the contributors should erase any doubts about the project or its intentions.

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