The Trick Is To Keep Going

Tag: blues

Pulse: Two Unreleased

by on Aug.26, 2015, under Music

Pulse, the original six-piece band, from left: Carl Donnell, Peter Neri, Paul Rosano, Rich Bednarczyk, Beau Segal and Jeff Potter.

The two tunes below were intended for the second Pulse album, Reach For The Sun, which never saw the light of day.

Both were written while the original six-piece band was together but weren’t arranged and recorded until 1969 during the transition period to a four-piece group that included second guitarist Harvey Thurott along with Beau Segal, Paul Rosano and Peter Neri.

Sometime Sunshine was the only tune on which Peter and I collaborated in Pulse.  Peter wrote the main part of the song in late 1968, during a hiatus from the band for several months. When he came back in late ’68/early ’69 he had written a plethora of outstanding tunes that included Too Much Lovin’ (the Pulse album opener), Hypnotized, Garden Of Love and Days Of My Life (another unreleased gem), among others.

Sometime Sunshine was one of the band’s favorites of these tunes but Peter had no bridge for it. In early 1969 I had a song fragment that I believed would work in the middle of the tune. We tried it and somehow we made it happen in that little rehearsal shed at the back of the parking lot at Syncron Studios, our home base.

The song also became a showcase for the contrasting guitar tones and styles of Peter (Guild) and Harvey (Strat) as you can hear in the middle section call and answers between the two. And it was one of the highlights of the four-piece band’s live set.

Peter sang the middle section and I joined him in unison and harmony, one of my first recorded vocals.

The other tune, Heaven Help Me was one of my early compositions. At that time, I couldn’t pull off the opening acoustic and voice section of the tune so I taught the melody and changes to Peter, who developed the fingering style acoustic part and sang the melody exactly as I wanted it. I always thought that was amazing.

I sing the middle section, which still included Richie Bednarczyk on Steinway Grand, which attests to this being recorded during the transition, and Peter and I sing in unison mostly on the third section, which concludes the 7-minute tune.

An interesting side note on this song:

A license to use the song in a film by a Yale student was granted for an undisclosed (by my manager) sum of money. In fact, I didn’t even hear about this until weeks later when one of my fellow band mates mentioned it. When I went into the office of my manager/producer/publisher, he looked sheepishly at me, feigning disbelief that I didn’t know. He wouldn’t tell me for what the granting of the song’s rights were sold. Eventually, I was handed a check for $100, not an insignificant sum in the late ’60s, but for some reason I always felt it wasn’t commensurate with what it should have been.

One of the things that made me feel this was that when my manager’s accountant handed me the check he smirked and sarcastically remarked that I didn’t deserve to receive that much! Ah, the music business. Yet another familiar tale.

Anyways, I always liked both of these tunes and they were an indicator of where the band was headed. Unfortunately, this version of Pulse was no more after December of 1970. That then led to the New York-based Island.

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Best of 2012

by on Feb.01, 2013, under Music


There’s so much good new music out there. The best music of 2012:

1. Radio Music Society, Esperanza Spalding: Invigorating blend of R&B, funk and jazz infused with top-shelf musicianship and an enticing lyrical quality. This is perhaps her best yet. Spalding sports a fluid, proficient and pleasing voice that delivers her poignant lyricism over the engaging compositions. Get the Deluxe Edition with a Making of DVD.

2. Locked Down, Dr. John: Black Keys guitarist Dan Auerbach gets an inspiration to record with the N’Awlins legend and they whip up a spooky, funky, voodoo dose of swamp funk mixed with hard rock sensibilities. Some of the best from recent vintage of the good Doctor.

3. Tramp, Sharon Van Etten: One of the truly remarkable and original sounding records from a singer/songwriter whose dense, penetrating lyrics are revealed through inventive arrangements that complement her songwriting.

4. Sunken Condos, Donald Fagen: At his wry, funky, satirical and stinging best. Glossed with a Steely Dan sheen but it still swings like mad.

5. Everybody’s Talkin’, Tedeschi-Trucks Band: Live outing from one of the best ensembles around today. A beautiful combination of blues, rock and pop whipped together with Derek Trucks’ slide lacing through it and the marvelous Susan Tedeschi’s soulful, blazing voice on top. Not to be missed live.

6. Sun, Cat Power: Return of the elusive, mercurial and magnetic singer/songwriter. Her best since The Greatest.

 7. Election Special, Ry Cooder: Venerable American music stylist gives his biting political take on the present state of affairs with his usual entertaining, insightful views served with a helping of exquisite string playing.

8. Driving Towards The Daylight, Joe Bonamassa: Another edition in the evolving style and development of one of our best modern-day blues guitarists, who happens to have a soulful voice as well.

 9. The Lion, The Beast, The Beat, Grace Potter & The Nocturnals: From the opening strains of the remarkable title track through another set of inspired rock and pop, a step forward and upward from this New England-based group. Their roots are firmly planted in the fertile ground of the 1960s and early ’70s. All framing Potter’s gloriously wild and unrestrained voice.

10. Blues Funeral, Mark Lanegan: Love him for his various collaborations over the years, not the least with Isobel Campbell, but there is something dark and compelling about this bluesy and funereal outing that is addicting. (continue reading…)

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Joe Bonamassa at Symphony Hall

by on Nov.22, 2012, under Music


Joe Bonamassa and band rocking out at Symphony Hall in Springfield, Mass., on Tuesday night.

Bonamassa used a variety of guitars including what appears to be this sweet sounding Gibson 339, style of a 335 in a body the size of a Les Paul, or is it a 335?

The last time we had seen Joe Bonamassa was about five years ago in New London, Conn., at the Garde Arts Center with Sam Bush and his band playing in support of the young blues master. A lot has transpired since then.

Bonamassa can fill a much larger venue now because of his relentless touring of the States and Europe and issuing one, if not, two albums a year. His special blend of blues-oriented rock also routinely jumps to the top of the Blues charts on release and deservedly so.

Bonamassa was in Springfield, Mass., Tuesday at Symphony Hall, a concert hall evidently not built for rock, but was suitable nonetheless as the sound was outstanding during the two-hour-plus show with only Bonamassa and his band of bassist Carmen Rojas, keyboardist Rick Melick and drummer Tal Bergman playing, no opening act. (continue reading…)

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Robben Ford at the Infinity Music Hall

by on Aug.20, 2012, under Music

Robben Ford Live 6 550

Robben Ford Live 3 330

Robben Ford played at the Infinity Music Hall in Norfolk Friday night. It was the second time we had seen him in three years at the venue and he was on fire, playing a variety of blues and jazz inflected solos over traditional blues material and some of his own tunes.

From Robert Johnson (Travelin’ Riverside Blues) to Paul Butterfield (Lovin’ Cup) to Elmore James and Jimmy Reed (Please Set A Date/You Don’t Have To Go) as well as some of his own compositions, including two  instrumentals, Indianola, a tribute to B.B. King, and a nod to the Texas Cannonball, Freddie King (Cannonball Express), Ford displayed his creative and eclectic approach on each of the songs in his setlist.

We saw him last in August of 2009. You can view a post on that show here. (continue reading…)

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Best of 2011 so far

by on Aug.16, 2011, under Music


Best 10, plus one, I’ve heard this year:

1. Hard Bargain, Emmylou Harris: A longtime fan, I was still stunned by the beauty and poignancy of this record. Dark but not despairing lyrics that hold a wealth of experience and ring Emmylou Harris Hard Bargaintrue. Spare instrumentation expertly chosen, and a clear, full production by Jay Joyce. Harris, whose voice — gorgeous and penetrating —  is one of the best in not only country but contemporary music today, has consistently released quality albums, but this is the best of recent vintage.

2. Revelator, Tedeschi Trucks Band: A delectable brew of blues, R&B and southern soul. Tedeschi’s voice is suited well for the material and Trucks is stellar on his signature slide or single string guitar playing. Augmented by a fine horn section, the material, from slow burners to infectious grooves, brings out the best in the musicians with opener Come See About Me, Until You Remember and Learn How To Love standouts from a quality set.

3. Buddy Miller’s The Majestic Silver Strings: Miller leads a dream guitar band of Marc Ribot, Bill Frisell and Greg Leisz with guest singers, including Ann McCrary, Patty Griffin, Lee Ann Womack, Emmylou Harris and Shawn Colvin through a roots-style outing with western, country, jazz and rock overtones. The playing is a joyful listen, as expected, on material in part from Lefty Frizzell, Libby Cotton, Tex Owens and traditional pieces. 

4. Mayhem, Imelda May: May’s follow-up to the big success of debut Love Tattoo sees her stretching out from her rock-a-billy base to show jazz and R&B leanings. Don’t worry there’s plenty of ’50s and early ’60s rocking  material on hand. She’s been attracting a lot of attention for her collaborations with Jeff Beck in the past two years, but her own steamy, proficient delivery shines here.

5. Let England Shake, PJ Harvey: With each new album it seems Harvey perfects her playing on an instrument or learns a new one and for this one it’s autoharp, last seen with the Lovin’ Spoonful in the late 1960s. Much has been made of the lyrics on this record being more outwardly directed and socially conscious rather than a reflection or Harvey’s inner self. That’s true, but it’s Harvey’s wonderful vocals, melodies, instrumentation, arrangements and production that make this another compelling addition to her strong catalogue.

(continue reading…)

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The Best of 2010

by on Jan.06, 2011, under Music


Here’s my Top 10 for the past year along with a few bonus selections and various related categories:

Elton John Leon Russell The Union1. The Union, Elton John & Leon Russell: A collaboration made in heaven and one wonders why it took so long for these two to get together. The record brings out their similarities, differences and a wonderful melding of their talents with some of their best songwriting in years. A truly inspirational collection.

2. Band Of Joy, Robert Plant: Another entry on the road of Americana from the transplanted Led Zeppelin lead man. Almost every bit as good as The Union with interesting and well-executed covers as only Plant has been able to deliver in recent years.

3. I’m New Here, Gil Scott-Heron: 28 minutes of bliss from the commander of narrative R&B. Scott-Heron is still here and as relevant as ever.

4. San Patricio, The Chieftains with Ry Cooder: A mythical adventure, cloaked in reality, that brings together Mexican, Celtic and American blues and country into one steaming pot of influences.

5. Tears, Lies & Alibis, Shelby Lynne: Stripped-down Shelby Lynne and she greatly benefits from the sparse arrangements putting the emphasis on her singing and songwriting.

6. Have One On Me, Joanna Newsom: It took a while to warm to this unusual songwriter with the reedy, young girl voice but this triple album is captivating and expressive.

7. The Stanley Clarke Band, Stanley Clarke: A bass hero for the ages re-engages with his jazz-rock roots on new and revisited material with a sympathetic and proficient group of musicians.

Esperanza Spalding Chamber Music Cover8. Chamber Music Society, Esperanza Spalding: One of the most unusual and ultimately satisfying collection of songs from a performer/composer who continually surprises and delivers.

9. Grace Potter & The Nocturnals (self-titled): Fourth outing from a group with all the signs of breaking out big-time and it appears they’re finally starting to catch on in a bigger way.

10 Naked Honest, Kala Farnham: Honest, heartfelt, poignant lyricism backed with prodigious keyboard chops and crystal clear vocal styling from this rising solo artist. (continue reading…)

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Leon lights up the Infinity

by on Dec.09, 2010, under Music


I couldn’t resist putting this video of Leon Russell from 1971 on top of a piece that actually is about a recent show Leon played at the Infinity Music Hall in Norfolk, Connecticut.

This show was taped in Los Angeles with his Shelter People band and a bunch of hippies in attendance dancing, listening and even preparing food, a very relaxed atmosphere. The song is one of the great rock ballads of all time, A Song For You.

His performance is masterful, the song is melodically beautiful and the lyrics poignant and penetrating. One of the great lyric ballads. There is another performance at the end of this piece of more recent vintage, same song. You’ll see Leon hasn’t lost much. To testify to that, he put on a brilliant show at the Infinity of good old Rock ‘n Roll with an excellent band, which included guitar virtuoso Chris Simmons.

This is the third time I’ve seen Leon, the first two in 1971 and 1972. The 1971 show was at the Fillmore East with Elton John opening, a show I’ve touched on a few times and that I need to write about in more detail. The ’72 show was at the Long Beach Arena (Calif.), when Leon was probably at the height of his popularity capable of filling large auditoriums. Later I would learn it was the show used for his classic live album, Leon Live. More on that one later, too.

At the Infinity, which has a relatively small stage, the right-hand side was taken up by Russell’s elaborate, almost montrous keyboard setup. No more grand piano as in the early ’70s. He gets acoustic sound from an electronic grand and it works out just fine. The audience can really only see the back of the keyboard setup, which is built in a large anvil case for traveling. The back is open and has hundreds of wires and connections so completely entwined with one another, you wonder how that actually works without a hitch and if anything went wrong how would a keyboard tech track down the problem. (continue reading…)

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Three quick ones: Plant, Thompson and The Union

by on Nov.30, 2010, under Music


Three varied but commendable releases have graced my CD player and iPod of late from four, what you might call, elder statesman of the music world.

Robert Plant Band Of JoyThe first, Robert Plant’s Band Of Joy, a follow-up to the hugely successful Raising Sand of three years ago with Alison Krause. This is not a sequel, as that broke down almost before it started, but it shares a lot in common with Raising Sand.

The title is the name of a band Plant played in before Led Zeppelin, but the music bares little resemblance to that never recorded blues-psychedelia mashup and even less to Zeppelin. Plant continues his journey through Americana-based country, bluegrass, blues and Rock ‘n Roll with a small, tight ensemble, featuring Buddy Miller on a variety of stringed instruments and as band leader and co-producer with Plant, and backing vocals from Patty Griffin.

These are mostly covers, but impeccably selected beginning with the opener Angel Dance from Los Lobos that rings with glistening mandolin and acoustic and electric guitars under Plant’s effective low-key delivery, at least low-key in comparison with what he is most noted for as the quintessential rock frontman. The track in underpinned by a churning, almost dirge-like marching rhythm.

The production on most of the album has a heavy sounding bottom that gives each track a dark, menacing drive, but each song also has adeptly placed ornamentation, including mandoguitar, baritone 6-string bass, octave mandolin, banjo and pedal and lap steel that lifts the overall sound up and all of which lends an Appalachian quality to the proceedings.

There is only one original co-written by Plant and Miller, Central Two-O-Nine, and the team arranges two traditionals, Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down and Cindy, I’ll Marry You Someday, both imaginative versions meticulously executed. But Plant loves good songwriters and has an excellent ear for them. (continue reading…)

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Cream at the Psychedelic Supermarket, 1967 & more

by on Sep.29, 2010, under Music


Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker and Eric Clapton live at the Psychedelic Supermarket in Kenmore Square, Boston, September, 1967.

Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker and Eric Clapton live at the Psychedelic Supermarket in Kenmore Square, Boston, September, 1967.

About six months after writing a series of pieces in 2009 on Cream concerts I’ve been to, I was contacted by Ken Melville. Ken was in the band Catharsis in Boston in September, 1967 and opened for Cream for their one-week run of concerts at the Psychedelic Supermarket in Kenmore Square, just a stone’s throw from Fenway Park.

I went to see Cream on a Sunday, the first night of the engagement, which was supposed to last two weeks but only survived the one. A detailed description of the concert, a particularly memorable one, is available here.

I do recall an opening act, but don’t remember much about the band. To my amazement, Ken sent me some photos from that week after leaving a comment on one of the posts. Taken by his girlfriend with a Kodak instamatic, as I recall, the photos above and on the following page show the band on stage and in the dressing room with Ken and some of his friends.

It’s all quite remarkable really that more than 40 years later, we’re viewing photos from that week.

Also on the page, you will see two shots from their June, 1968 date at the original Oakdale Theatre in Wallingford, Conn. A piece on the two shows at Oakdale and the last concert I saw of Cream during this stretch in the fall of 1968 at the New Haven Arena during the Farewell Tour is available here.

It took a jury of people to identify the Oakdale shots, which I’ve come across through an astute friend on the Internet. A fellow who worked at Oakdale and another similar summer tent theater in Rhode Island identified it by the lighting grid you see above Clapton’s head. Also the shot with Jack Bruce sitting on the edge of the orchestra pit includes Rich Bednarczyk in the foreground of the pit, surfer blond hair, who played keyboards for my band Pulse.

There is also a piece on this site describing the April, 1968 concert at Woolsey Hall at Yale in New Haven here.

If you’re an avid Cream fan, it’s likely you’ve already come across these. The only place I’ve seen them is in a few of Ken’s posts to a music forum. The subject, of all things, started out as a discussion of whether Clapton used a Gibson ES-335 on the classic cut Crossroads from Wheels Of Fire. I don’t think that was ever resolved but some of the discussion is interesting and, of course, Ken’s photos are the highlight.

All quite heady. Click on continue reading for the other shots. (continue reading…)

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Potter & Nocturnals ignite a slow burn at Ridgefield

by on Sep.17, 2010, under Music


 

It’s not often I get to see an act twice in a calendar year. Last year, The Derek Trucks Band; this year Grace Potter & The Nocturnals. We saw Potter at the Infinity Music Hall in January, when I knew virtually nothing about them, and this past Sunday at the Ridgefield Playhouse, knowing a little bit more, well considerably more.

The performance Sunday was every bit as good as back in January but it was quite different. The Playhouse is a nice venue, my first time. It looks a little like a refurbished auditorium with a proscenium style stage, which in fact it is, being the auditorium of the old Ridgefield High School. A very high ceiling helps provide excellent acoustics and there isn’t a bad seat in the house, which holds about 500. We were about seventh row left on the aisle.

Grace Potter Red Dress GuitarThe main difference in this set was that it was more of a slow burn building into a fiery peak rather than a hit-you-over-the head, drive-it-right-at-you affair right from the beginning. In contrast to the Infinity opener Medicine, an infectious blues-rock tour de force, the group opened with That Phone, a nice tune but a strange opener with guitarist Scott Tournet doubling with Matthew Burr on drums.

Much of the first set was filled with tunes from the group’s latest self-titled album. It included Oasis, another moderate to low-key tune, which was given an extraordinary arrangement featuring an extended vocal vamp by Potter; Apologies; Money, more of an upbeat tune; the country-flavored One Short Night and the others listed below, including Tiny Light. If you are at all familiar with their material, you get the idea.

The second set opened low-key as well with a two-song acoustic coupling, featuring Potter, Tournet and second guitarist Benny Yurco, but after the reggae-inflected Goodbye Kiss, the group started cranking it up with the scorching Hot Summer Night from the latest and building to a climax with Stop the Bus and Medicine to finish off the set. The group returned for an 18-minute encore leading off with White Rabbit, then Paris, and what was the regular set closer at the Infinity, Nothing But The Water to end the proceedings.

Check my earlier review of the Infinity show for more details on some of the live renditions of these tunes. The band, which also includes bassist Catherine Popper, was in fine form at The Playhouse. Potter’s voice and stage presence are still impressive and hot, one of the best voices around today in rock. The band plays very well together as a unit, and Tournet does some nice soloing. And Potter’s songwriting is inspiring.

Lacking any photos from the gig without a watermark, I give you two performances from Jimmy Kimmel Live in July, which give you an idea of what to expect if you haven’t seen this outfit, and a video of Paris. One of my favorite new bands, I love how they mesh the roots of American blues-rock and country with a modern day musical sensibility. Catch them.

Setlist:
First set
That Phone
Oasis
Apologies
Money
One Short Night
Low road
Ah Mary
Colors
Tiny Light
Second set
Ain’t No Time
Treat Me Right
Fooling Myself
Goodbye Kiss
Only Love
Hot Summer Night
Stop The Bus
Medicine
Encores
White Rabbit
Paris
Nothing But The Water

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