Archive for June, 2010
Every so often one can sense an artist or group about to make a big stride artistically and commercially to the next level. Grace Potter & The Nocturnals might not be headed for superstardom, but with a new album this month the group appears to be breaking through in popularity and artistic achievement as it hasn’t before.
With their self-titled CD on Hollywood Records produced by Matt Batson, Potter has her second record on the label, a new producer with a proven track record and some nationwide publicity to go with what has been a relentless touring schedule since the early 2000s. We caught the group in January at the Infinity Hall in Norfolk, Connecticut, and some of the same magic that drew us to the music from Potter’s extraordinary live performance is evident in the group’s new recorded work.
This is Potter’s fourth album, the first two self-released. She is in all ways the focus of the group as a singer with memorable chops — a voice that flows from sugar sweet to raunchy rasp coupled with an impressive range — as a musician, on guitar and Hammond B-3, and most important as a songwriter. All the material is hers or co-written with group members or Batson (six songs) on the album.
Her group is a solid collection of players, too, that is far greater than the sum of its parts, as I have written before. Scott Tournet on lead guitar is the driving force of the band, Matt Burr provides steady and groove-oriented drum patterns and new members Catherine Popper on bass and Benny Yurco on rhythm guitar fill out the sound with quality work of what was a four-piece until about a year ago.
In most cases on the album what you get live is what you get on record. There are few embellishments, except those provided by the group through overdubs. There’s no filler on the album, but the group is definitely at its best on all-out rockers or tunes that develop from moderate-paced to blazing. (continue reading…)
Around the time a re-mastering of The Rolling Stones early ’70s work Exile On Main Street was announced, I finally decided to read a book about the period I had picked up a few months prior.
A Season In Hell With The Rolling Stones by Robert Greenfield is the perfect companion to what many Stones fans believe is the group’s greatest album. There’s no doubt it comes from the group’s last great era, and although it’s one of my favorite Stones records, I don’t believe it’s their best.
Nonetheless, it has a fascinating story behind it and the album comes into sharper focus by reading what led up to its making. In short, because of the extreme tax laws at the time in England, much too complicated to recount, The Stones were forced to move to the south of France for an extended period and that would become the site of their recording for Exile.
Having exhausted most possible locations for the recording, The Stones settled on Villa Nellcote, where Keith Richards and girlfriend Anita Pallenberg were staying. The group set up in a room in the basement and with their trusty mobile recording studio outside set about recording a good deal of the album.
It is, however, pointed out in Greenfield’s book that it was a herky-jerky, start-and stop affair at best. What with Richards’ and Pallenberg’s drug indulgences, the celebrity-charged atmosphere that saw among others Gram Parsons settle in for an extended stay and in general an uneasiness between the group’s leaders, Richards and Mick Jagger, it’s a wonder this album was ever finished.
Still, with supplemental tracks and overdubs cut in Los Angeles and previous tracks recorded at Olympic Studios in London, the album was pieced together and remains one of The Stones most interesting, resting comfortably among it influences: blues, R&B, country blues, Motown and rock.
Richards is in all ways the main player in this saga, both in the book and it’s fairly detailed recounting of his life during this period, and the recording, during which despite his drug abuse he was essentially the creative force behind the songs.