Archive for August, 2010
I had always wanted to see Les Dudek in concert but never had the opportunity during the time he released four of the best solo albums of the late 1970s and early ’80s. Thursday night at The Infinity Music Hall in Norfolk, Conn., I got my chance.
Dudek, a somewhat unheralded and almost forgotten guitar master, has played on much more music than many might realize. He recorded those four extraordinary solo albums and was also a member of DFK with keyboardist Mike Finnigan and guitarist Jim Krueger, before virtually disappearing for a big portion of the ’80s. He reappeared with two more solo efforts, the brilliant Deeper Shades Of Blues in 1994 and Freestyle (2002), an assortment of tracks he had never released but that hold together as a cohesive album.
He’s worked with a plethora of other artists as well. Predating his solo career, Dudek played on The Allman Brothers album Brothers & Sisters (1972), on which he provided the emblematic solo of Ramblin’ Man and co-wrote Jessica with Dickey Betts. He worked with Boz Scaggs for six years, including on the top-selling Silk Degrees, then played and toured with Steve Miller, writing What A Sacrifice for Miller’s classic Fly Like An Eagle album. He also worked with Cher in the short-lived rock band Black Rose and toured with and co-wrote tunes with Stevie Nicks in the early ’90s. Add to his resume that he provided some very hot guitar parts to TV themes for Law & Order, Extra, Friends, ESPN and many, many more.
At the Infinity, Dudek played with a trio that included Dan Walters, who provided rock solid and imaginative bass playing and background vocals, and the seemingly tireless and gifted drummer Gary Ferguson. The three ran through many tunes familiar to Dudek’s following from his solo albums as well as songs he’s collaborated on and some new material.
These three put on a a smokin’ show that never let up. Dudek plays a Fender Strat and he easily fills out the sound of the trio. The tone of his guitar sounds like it always has a slight bit of a chorus effect (or perhaps it was just the acoustics of Infinity’s nearly all wood interior), giving it a full, rich sound that almost sounds churchy.
Dudek’s single-string playing is simply jaw-dropping. There is no player in rock that has better chops. He mixes amazing flights of extremely adept and technically difficult runs with sweet, melodic phrasing. Add to this his rhythmic and exacting chord playing, often during and in between his solos, and a voice that is both pleasing and powerful with a wonderful range and Dudek is a tour de force by himself.
With Walters and Ferguson in support the band is electrifying and ferocious at times, as when Walters takes a solo flight that culminates with him expertly keeping up with Dudek on trade-offs, and as Ferguson provides deep grooves that drive the band relentlessly. (continue reading…)
I’ve watched quite a few films and videos about The Doors, from various collections to concert footage to Oliver Stone’s twisted yet fascinating motion picture. And I’ve read a number of books from ones written by Jon Densmore to Ray Manzarek to Jerry Hopkins and Danny Sugarman to the much-maligned Patricia Kennealy.
All this and I wasn’t really a Doors fan during their heyday although I came to appreciate them fairly early on and have warmed much more to their music in the past couple of decades.
So it was with some trepidation that I approached When You’re Strange, a new documentary by director Tom DiCillo, narrated by Johnny Depp. Shown at Sundance earlier this year, the doc was recently released on DVD and Blu-Ray.
Most interesting is the reliance on only footage of The Doors, some never seen, rather than the well-worn technique of talking head interviews with people related to the project now commenting on what happened then. For that, it brings us a fresh approach on a well-traveled topic.
But the film has some obvious shortcomings. The narration delivered in a dry, matter-of-fact tone by Depp, is very basic. There is virtually nothing there for fans of the group who have followed, read and watched most that has come before. It’s really geared toward people just discovering the group.
Worse, the film glosses over some rather important aspects of The Doors story. For instance, almost no time is devoted to the album Morrison Hotel, which was really The Doors comeback album of sorts after Soft Parade. Though the latter enjoyed some commercial success, it critically received a mixed reaction. Morrison Hotel was a back-to-roots record that resonated with their fan base. But here it’s given one or two sentences before launching into L.A. Woman, their last record.
Also glossed over, Morrison’s relationship with Kennealy, which most of the other Doors evidently were almost totally unaware. But it’s clear although Morrison always returned to his common-law wife Pam Courson, there is definitely something to the story of his pagan bride Kennealy and until that is fully explored a big part of the picture is missing. (continue reading…)