The Trick Is To Keep Going

Archive for August, 2009

Furay’s little bit of magic

by on Aug.30, 2009, under Music

I expected to see a good performance from Richie Furay Friday night at Stage One in Fairfield, but I was taken back by just how good.

richie-furay-live-2-small1With a five-piece band that includes multi-instrumentalist Scott Sellen and Furay’s daughter Jesse Lynch, Furay played a set that traveled from his past to the present, playing many songs that helped lay down the country-rock tradition, leaning heavily on rock, and are rarely played by any band today.

This is not just an aging musician running through songs with which he is associated. This is an extraordinary band.

When the opening song started with drummer Alan Lemke laying down a beat on his tom toms, I asked myself is that what I think it is? It was. This little band was playing Crazy Eyes, a Poco epic from the album of the same name from 1973. And the arrangement didn’t lack one bit.

Furay’s voice was full, clear and able to scale the heights he has always been known for on a song that demands it from the start. Every time I looked to the left of the stage Sellen was playing a different instrument. First electric piano, then banjo, then lap steel guitar and electric guitar. (continue reading…)

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Concerts Vol. 8: The Doors

by on Aug.27, 2009, under Music

In the spring of 1968 I was studying at Berklee School of Music in Boston and going back to Connecticut on weekends to rehearse and play out on the club circuit with Pulse.

jim-morrison-live-1-smallI lived on upper Commonwealth Avenue, not far from the dorm I had lived in when I was at Boston University, with two female roommates: Julie and Betty. They had a small two-room apartment. When you entered there was a living room to the right, a bedroom to the left and a small kitchen and bath in the center of the apartment.

Although Love Me Two Times by The Doors was a song I liked and that Pulse had covered in some of its early gigs in the beginning of 1968, I was not really a Doors fan. Our singer, Carl Donnell (Augusto) was though and he convinced us to put the interesting take on a blues shuffle tune in our set.

Carl recently told me how Peter Neri and I came to him with a Cream album and turned him on to the English blues-rock group, but was disheartened when he brought the first Doors album to a rehersal and we were pretty much indifferent to it. That raised a laugh. (continue reading…)

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From The Vaults: Hidden Treasure, No. 4

by on Aug.21, 2009, under Music

It’s nearly impossible to call anything by Miles Davis under-appreciated or overlooked. A universally praised trumpet player, Davis created a catalogue that is long, storied and highly influential.

miles-davis-miles-in-the-skyMiles is credited with bringing jazz into the fusion era when he started experimenting in the late 1960s with rock and funk influences as well as a number of players from various backgrounds and styles. He was a leader in the fusion movement, but he was also influenced by what was going on around him, as he had always been, while jazz and rock began to merge in various forms.

Bitches Brew (1969) is rightly chronicled as a seminal work and before it In A Silent Way (1969) and Filles De Kilimanjaro (1968) have received quite a bit of notoriety as the first steps that culminated in Brew. But truly the experiment started with Miles In The Sky in 1968, our fourth Hidden Treasure. This work with his classic quintet, augmented by George Benson on guitar for one track, really was the beginning of fusion for Miles.

Three important aspects of this project were the use of Hancock’s electric piano for the first time by the quintet, the sense of complete collaboration that would manifest more and more in Miles’ music in the coming years, and extended improvisation over one chord or a series of modal chords as opposed to the bebop tradition of seemingly never-ending changes, something he started as far back as Kind Of Blue (1959). (continue reading…)

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Ford updates the blues tradition

by on Aug.17, 2009, under Music

Acclaimed guitarist Robben Ford has an affinity with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band of the mid-1960s that featured the duo guitar lineup of Elvin Bishop and Mike Bloomfield. I can relate to that.

robben-ford-live-1That was one of Ford’s earliest influences and he has kept that foundation of blues and blues-rock alive in his music, combining it with jazz sensibilities to form his own brand of fusion. Throughout his career, he’s played with many diverse, high-caliber musicians from Joni Mitchell to Miles Davis, and Ford’s varied skills have been consistently on display as a solo performer since the late 1980s.

At the Infinity Music Hall in Norfolk, Connecticut Sunday night he devoted a large portion of his approximately 80-minute set to his latest album Soul On Ten, released last week. All but three of the album’s 10 tracks were recorded live at The Independent in San Francisco. The rest were recorded live in the studio.

Ford, a multiple Grammy winner in the blues genre, is a virtuoso who has embraced recording his latest offering live with no overdubs because he and his band are fully capable of producing perfectly executed tracks in a single take that capture the spirit and feel of a live performance, something that is so often lacking in layered studio recordings. (continue reading…)

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So long Les

by on Aug.14, 2009, under Music

Les Paul was not only a virtuoso guitar player, he was also an innovator and inventor who brought electronics experimentation to the music scene that enabled many of the sound devices we now have in rock ‘n roll. Yet he wasn’t a rock player. He primarily played jazz.

Paul, who died from complications of pneumonia at 94 Thursday, developed some of the early amplifiers for guitar, overdubbing — in its early stages called sound-on-sound — various delay and phasing effects and tape looping copied by such companies as MXR and Line 6, among many others. And, of course, let’s not forget he created the original design for what became the Gibson Les Paul guitar, synonomous with rock ‘n roll and originally rejected by Gibson.

In the video below Paul duets with country legend Chet Atkins on Avalon, both showing off their considerable skill and technique.


In the next clip, Paul demonstrates the Les Pulverizer, his tape loop machine. (continue reading…)

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BonTaj traveling blues show

by on Aug.11, 2009, under Music

At one point Sunday night at the Oakdale Theatre, Bonnie Raitt said it’s taken 40 years to get Taj Mahal and her together for a tour. Too bad it took that long.

bontaj-rouletIt’s understandable of course. Both have had successful careers in their own right, particularly Raitt, whose career exploded in the late 1980s and early ’90s with not only chart success but also a plethora of somewhat unexpected Grammy Awards.

Well, they’re together now. And their third show of the one-month BonTaj Roulet Summer Tour was a blues explosion with each playing with their own bands, Taj joining Bonnie for a couple of acoustic numbers and then both bands playing together to seal the deal.

Taj came out first at the Wallingford, Connecticut venue and cruised through a bluesy 45 minutes with his swinging Phantom Blues Band, which includes Mike Finnigan, who has played with everyone from Dave Mason to Jimi Hendrix to Les Dudek, on keyboards, soulful guitar player Johnny Lee Schell, horn players Joe Sublett (sax) and Darrell Leonard (trumpet) and bass player Larry Fulcher. (continue reading…)

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New Pretenders have old allure

by on Aug.09, 2009, under Music

The new Pretenders lineup from left, Martin Chambers, drums, Chrissie Hynde, vocals and guitar, Nick Wilkinson, bass, Eric Heywood, pedal steel guitar, and James Walbourne, lead guitar.

The new Pretenders lineup from left, Martin Chambers, drums, Chrissie Hynde, vocals and guitar, Nick Wilkinson, bass, Eric Heywood, pedal steel guitar, and James Walbourne, lead guitar.

Chrissie Hynde oozes attitude. At 57, she still possesses a distinctive and charismatic voice suited so well for rock ‘n roll. Or any of rock’s offshoots: punk, new wave, R&B, balladry, even country, among others.

Hynde’s charisma on stage is in place as well. She’s sexy, sarcastic and devilishly fun to watch as she puts her latest version of The Pretenders through their paces of playing a mix of classic Pretenders material and newer tunes, many from 2008’s Break Up The Concrete.

Her guitar, bass and pedal steel band, with original member Martin Chambers on drums, played a 90-minute set Friday at the Oakdale Theatre in Wallingford, Connecticut that included all those mixed elements of repertoire and rarely let down in execution or energy.

She opened without her trademark Telecaster and sang the title track from last year’s album, a Bo Diddley flavored tune with perfectly orchestrated stage movements and syncopated lighting that accented her vocals at the end of each chorus — dramatic and effective. Then donning her guitar, she and her band went right into Middle Of The Road, an ’80s staple from one of The Pretenders most successful albums Learning To Crawl. (continue reading…)

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Under The Radar: Poco

by on Aug.04, 2009, under Music

Poco, one of the first country-rock bands to achieve artistic and some commercial success in the late 1960s and early ’70s, is certainly not completely under the radar. But their early catalogue to some extent apparently is.

poco-original-album-classicsThe group that came from the splintering of Buffalo Springfield, with singer/songwriter-guitarist Richie Furay and guitarist-producer Jim Messina from the Springfield joining with pedal steel player Rusty Young, drummer George Grantham and bassist Randy Meisner, produced some of the most pleasing harmonies, hottest picking and well-written songs in the early days of country-rock.

By the time first Meisner, who is credited on the first album but was out by the time it was released, then Messina, Furay, and later addition bassist Timothy B. Schmit had departed, the group recorded six outstanding albums. Poco has marched on over the years, made some interesting records and is together today with Young and Paul Cotton, who replaced Messina, still in the band. They enjoy a loyal following and have actually staged some reunion gigs with original members this year.

When a few years ago, it came time for me to track down the early records that I liked so much, I found it wasn’t easy finding what I wanted as the CDs released in the early ’90s were scarce. In Europe, Beat Goes On Records issued a number of two-fers of these albums but I was unsure about the mastering quality. (continue reading…)

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Cocker in translation

by on Aug.03, 2009, under Music

joe-cocker-woodstock-smallWith Woodstock’s 40th anniversary coming up later this month, we came across the famous festival performance by Joe Cocker singing The Beatles’ With A Little Help From My Friends, only with a new twist. If you haven’t seen it, check it out at the link above.

And it appears plans by original promoter Michael Lang for a Woodstock 40th anniversary concert in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park are dead as reported in Rolling Stone. Apparently no one wanted to sponsor the $10 million event.


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