The Trick Is To Keep Going

Archive for May, 2009

Turning on to Orange

by on May.31, 2009, under Music

Among the scores of bands on hundreds of campuses across the country, Orange Television sets itself apart with a blend of rock and funk that approaches the better qualities of progressive rock, no sweeping majestic compositions just hard rocking tunes with proficient and intricate playing.

orange-television-logoThe Amherst, Mass., based trio mixes elements of blues and jazz into its melodic and involved riffs, unusual rhythms and a decided accent on the instrumental and improvisational side to its songs. In fact, sometimes it seems the songs exist simply to push the musical side of the compositions further along.

Still, the group’s songwriting skills are more than capable and guitarist Howie Feibusch’s vocals make up for any minor technical shortcomings with an impassioned delivery.

The band’s recently released five-song EP One Old Fashioned Donut, written by the trio, shows off all these sides of the group and can be heard at either ReverbNation or MySpace.

The opener, Slave With Neon Blood begins with a riff reminiscent of early Jethro Tull but quickly transitions to a funky groove riding under Feibusch’s vocal. Another shift in direction brings on a long musical interlude showing off Feibusch’s combination of technically adept and creative riffing and improvisational skills over an almost spooky sounding rhythm laid down by bassist Myles Heffernan and drummer Alex Lombardi. (continue reading…)

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Taking a look into Neil Young’s Archive

by on May.27, 2009, under Music

OK, I admit it. I caved. On pre-ordering the first installment of the Neil Young Archive Box Set, that is. I wrestled with this one for a while. And it wasn’t Neil’s testimonial to the Blu-Ray format on his web site that made me more amenable to the lofty prices for this set, which is available in three formats, Blu-Ray, DVD and CD.

neil-young-preview-small1But I figured I would wind up buying it at some point anyways because it covers what I find the most interesting aspect of Young’s career, 1963-1972, and it seems that recently the best prices you can find on new releases are available before they are released. Although I have noticed the prices going down a little on the CD and Blu-Ray sets since I ordered.

Also, if you pre-order it in either Blu-Ray or DVD, you receive a preview disc in Blu-Ray of the first disc in the set, labeled Disc 00 (how high tech!?!),  just the kind of offer for which I’m a sucker.

This set has been in the pipeline for something like 15 years. Ridiculous, isn’t it? In the meantime, Young has refused to re-master any of his early albums, the ones I believe are his best, because he hates the CD format for sound quality almost as much as he hates digital downloads. (continue reading…)

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Yusuf’s journey

by on May.22, 2009, under Music

In the early 1970s when I was living in the Chelsea section of Manhattan, WNEW-FM was the premier New York radio station playing what we now call Classic Rock and also ushering in the era of the singer/songwriter. Artists such as James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, Carole King, Jackson Browne and Elton John graced the airwaves.

yusuf-roadsingerA British musician who also belonged in this group stood apart somewhat because his music was singular, based in folk but incorporating elements of rock, pop and ethnic music from Celtic to Greek. That was Cat Stevens.

He produced a memorable string of albums from Tea For The Tillerman to Foreigner and continued to make records for the rest of the decade. Then he disappeared, pledging his life to education and philantropy in the Muslim community, after two life-threatening incidents, the second a near drowning.

I didn’t like seeing him leave and never believed he would come back on to the pop music scene but he’s here as Yusuf Islam and has just released his second album since his return, Roadsinger. The songwriting skill and perspective, the familiar warm, deep voice and the folk music approach wrapped in so many other musical styles are all still there. His music may not be quite as compelling as it was nearly 40 years ago but his journey still is. (continue reading…)

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Concerts Vol. 6: Jimmy Page and The Yardbirds

by on May.19, 2009, under Music

A few weeks before leaving for Boston University, and later Berklee School of Music, in August, 1967, and after the Bram Rigg Set had broken up, my good friend Beau Segal and I drove down to New York to see the Yardbirds. Beau was the one who found out about the show and it was his treat, sending me off to school in style.

yardbirds-afroJeff Beck had left the Yardbirds and now Jimmy Page was the sole guitar player in the group. We had loved the single issued earlier in the year, Little Games, and most of the subsequent album release by the same name, although the U.S. release is a bit of a hodge-podge and left out some key tracks that appeared on the U.K. album. The double CD release of the early ’90s and then a later reissue rectified all this by including just about everything from that period.

But I couldn’t get enough of the shuffle feel of the single with Page’s mesmerizing rhythm guitar part and biting lead in the middle section. Later the next year, my group Pulse came up with a song with a similar feel that Beau wrote. I still have his original lyric sheet. It has no title on it but we used to refer to it as If You Love Me Today, and we played it in the second incarnation of Pulse, which was a four-piece with Harvey Thurott on second guitar.

The Yardbirds were playing at the Village Theater in New York on August 25, about six months later it would become Fillmore East. We didn’t know then that it was actually a rather momentous occasion because this was the show at which Page would get the inspiration, to put it politely, for one of Led Zeppelin’s signature tunes from their first album, Dazed And Confused. (continue reading…)

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Something new and something old

by on May.15, 2009, under Music

I’ve always been a big fan of Bob Dylan, but not a fanatic. His work and the changes he went through during the 1960s and most of the ’70s were extraordinary. But since, some projects have left me cold.

dylan-together-through-lifeHis latest, the strong-selling Together Through Life, a further exploration of roots-rock calling on all his musical influences while in collaboration with Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter, succeeds in most aspects despite a few tracks that fall short of the high level of most of this album.

Almost simultaneously and much more quietly, a remarkable Dylan work with The Band, The Basement Tapes, has been remastered and re-issued on CD for the first time in many years. The attraction of these tapes is inescapable and perhaps more compelling today than on their initial release in 1975. But first Together Through Life.

Dylan has assembled a fine group of musicians for this outing with Mike Campbell of the Heartbreakers and David Hidalgo of Los Lobos on guitars, added to members of his touring band, Donny Herron, steel guitar, mandolin, banjo and trumpet, drummer George Recile and bassist Tony Garnier. (continue reading…)

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Concerts, Vol. 5: Farewell Cream

by on May.12, 2009, under Music

A little more than two months after seeing Cream at Yale’s Woolsey Hall in New Haven, the second time I had seen them live in about six months, the group was booked to play two shows — afternoon and evening — at the Oakdale Theatre in Wallingford, Connecticut on June 15. It was the next-to-last show of an exhausting five-month tour of the States that started in February and turned the group into mega-stars.

Eric Clapton plays a Gibson ES-335 during Cream's Farewell Tour, 1968.

Eric Clapton plays a Gibson ES-335 during Cream's Farewell Tour, 1968.

The Oakdale was a summer theatre in-the-round with a circular stage and a canvas roof. Where the theatre stood is now the lobby of the new Oakdale (now named the Chevrolet Theater, sacrilege!). It booked mostly summer stock, traveling Broadway musical companies and shows of that ilk along with traditional singers from Tony Bennett and Engelbert Humperdink to Ray Charles and many more. I even saw the figure skater Perry Fleming perform there once, when they flooded the stage area with ice. She was actually quite good.

But by 1966, it was also booking rock acts. Because of its size — it was quite small by today’s standards with a seating capacity of no more than about 2,000 if that — and intimacy, it was an outrageous place to see bands such as Cream, Led Zeppelin, The Doors and The Who, all of whom played there, among many others.

Because my friend and band mate in Pulse, Beau Segal, had an in there, we scored excellent seats in the front row for the evening show. I turned up for the afternoon concert as well, which didn’t appear to be sold out, and stood in the area between the theatre and dressing rooms, which was an open-air walkway. (continue reading…)

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Seeing Beck play is believing

by on May.08, 2009, under Music

So many times, directors just get it wrong when making a concert film. Too many quick cuts, MTV-style editing, no focus on the performers, annoying special effects. It’s not only in recent years either. The effects problem started way back when Tony Palmer documented Cream playing its Farewell concert at Royal Albert Hall in 1968.

jeff-beck-ronnies-1It’s a pleasure to note that the film makers of Jeff Beck Performing This Week … Live At Ronnie Scott’s got it right. So right it’s one of the best concert films in recent memory. The last with this type of professionalism and dedication to the music and musicians was another Cream gig, the reunion concert from 2005, also at RAH. But the Beck show is better.

The intimate atmosphere of one of the world’s great jazz clubs, Ronnie Scott’s in London, the tightknit performance by Beck’s group on a small stage, the immediacy of the audience, complete with rock celebs such as Robert Plant and Jimmy Page, all contribute to this excellent video document of the same performance released on Beck’s CD version of the show late last year.

The DVD has all of the CD performances, plus five numbers with guests Joss Stone, Imogen Heap and Eric Clapton. Most important, the DVD reveals much of what Jeff Beck is all about. The camera work is stellar in capturing his unique guitar playing style and technique, often zooming in on his hands, which are an endless source of fascination. (continue reading…)

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The clock is ticking

by on May.05, 2009, under Music

The Felice Brothers have to rank right up there with all-time camera-shy bands. On their second Team Love release, Yonder Is The Clock, there are no photos and scant information about the band, similar to their eponymous first record for the label.

felice-yonderThere is no lack of creative, roots-imbued songs with thought-provoking lyrics though. Channeling Americana as direct descendants of The Band, at its most sparse, and vocally reminiscent of Bob Dylan, the group from the Catskills of three brothers and two friends runs through 13 songs that at times hearken back to what sounds like music that may have been around during the time of the Civil War.

With a core of guitar, accordion, fiddle, piano, drums and bass, augmented on occasion with several horns, they give their music and influences a fresh take, putting a personal stamp of a country-based style. And much like The Band the songs come first in all of the Felice Brothers arrangements.

Lyrically this album is obsessed with death. Perhaps that’s a bit too strong. But all the songs are about death, albeit some with an unnerving sense of humor. If you read the lyrics out loud it’s hard not to start laughing.

From the opener The Big Surprise:
Grab your shovel, let’s get to it
There’s no one way how to do it
And there will be no woes or sad goodbyes
On the day of the big surprise
(continue reading…)

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From The Vaults: Hidden Treasure, No. 3

by on May.01, 2009, under Music

Of the three Kings – blues guitarists B.B., Albert and Freddie, all of whom I have great respect and admiration for – my favorite is Freddie. Freddie wrote and played on some of the great blues instrumentals of the late 1950s and early ’60s such as Hide Away and The Stumble, among others, and delivered signature versions of Have You Ever Loved A Woman, Five Long Years, I’m Tore Down, and his own Someday, After Awhile (You’ll Be Sorry).

fking-burglar-coverHis influence may very well reach the furthest of the three Kings with Eric Clapton and Peter Green among his disciples. And I played with him in a one-off concert in New York in the early ’70s. But more on that later.

After revitalizing his career in 1971 with Shelter Records for whom he recorded three outstanding albums in as many years with Leon Russell and friends – Getting Ready …, Texas Cannonball and Woman Across The River – Freddie cut a record in 1974 on RSO called Burglar, Hidden Treasure, No. 3 in our series. Nine of the 10 cuts were recorded in England with an all-star lineup of British musicians and produced by blues legend Mike Vernon, who also produced Treasure No. 1, Martha Velez’s Fiends & Angels. The remaining track was produced by Tom Dowd at Criteria Studios in Miami with Eric Clapton and his 461 Ocean Boulevard band guesting.

The Clapton track is a Mel London classic Sugar Sweet, a short uptempo funky romp that appears to feature Clapton on the intro solo and King taking his chorus toward the end of the tune. They sound very similar on this track. (continue reading…)

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