The Trick Is To Keep Going

Tag: Eric Clapton

Pulse: Thanks For Thinking Of Me …

by on Feb.18, 2013, under Music

Thanks For Thinking Of Me But It’s Alright is the closing track of Side 1 from the self-titled Pulse album from 1969. After it was written and we arranged it in late 1968, it was also almost always Pulse’s opening tune in concert.

The group Pulse was based in New Haven, Connecticut, more specifically Wallingford at Syncron Studios soon to become Trod Nossel, which is still operating, and managed and produced by Doc Cavalier. The first version of the band was a six-piece. We started rehearsing in January, 1968 and were together until almost mid-1970. There was a four-piece group for the remainder of 1970.

The personnel: Carl Donnell (Augusto), vocals, guitar; Peter Neri, lead guitar, vocals; Beau Segal, drums; Paul Rosano, bass, background vocals; Jeff Potter, harp, percussion; Rich Bednarzcyk, keyboards.

The album was recorded in 1968 and early 1969, this track as stated probably late ’68. It was written by our drummer Beau Segal. We were huge fans of the Butterfield Blues Band, one of our main influences at the time, and we had seen them a number of times at the Cafe Au Go Go in New York and the Psychedelic Supermarket in Boston as well as the Oakdale Theatre in Wallingford.

Beau has said he took the lead line from a Butterfield tune he heard live. I know the one. Actually he embellished it a bit. If you listen to a live version of the tune by Butter it doesn’t have the chromatic ascent or the closing phrase that bounces off a minor third. And in fact, it’s not a Butterfield composition.

Butter was covering a Little Walter tune. Everything’s Gonna To Be Alright (1959). Butter’s version changed several times over the years. The only studio track I’ve heard is from an early session on the Original Lost Elecktra Sessions, which pre-dates the first Butterfield Band album.

It didn’t start with Little Walter either. The line was used by Elmore James in his Dust My Blues from 1955 as his closing solo. There are probably other examples from that time frame.

If you dig deeper you’ll hear the line as a part of the vocal melody on the bridge of Robert Johnson’s Kind Hearted Woman Blues, and the line is the basis for the main melody in Johnson’s Sweet Home Chicago. Wonder where he heard it if he didn’t originate it himself.

This stuff is fascinating, the Blues tradition. It’s reminiscent of the folk tradition in which entire chord structures and melodies of existing tunes were continually updated with new lyrics, particularly in the ’50s and early ’60s.

Going forward, it pops up in a number of other unusual places. In 1970, Atco Records released Live Cream, which included a studio outtake Lawdy Mama. The original Cream version of this song was a shuffle and included the same lead line. The outtake on Live Cream sees the track changed to a straight rock feel with the line still used but stretched out a bit.

However, many of us have heard this line hundreds of times on a slightly different track. The group ditched the Lawdy Mama version of the song when Felix Pappalardi was brought in to produce and his wife, Gail Evans, wrote new lyrics creating the tune Strange Brew. I never recognized the similarity until I heard the shuffle version of Lawdy Mama by Cream on a grey market item.

Eric Clapton would use the line again to good effect in his outstanding version of Sweet Home Chicago on the Sessions For Robert J album (2004). And so it goes.

The Butterfield Band was and remains one of my favorite groups of all-time and is sorely underappreciated. Thanks For Thinking Of Me was our tip of the hat to them, one of our major influences.

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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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Mick Taylor finally arrives in America

by on May.01, 2010, under Music

Last July, blues guitarist Mick Taylor was scheduled to play four shows in New England during an American Tour, his first gigs in the U.S. since 2007. The entire tour was canceled, though, after Taylor was diagnosed with a blood clot in his chest and pleurisy.

jimi hendrix tribute 191007Recovered and looking healthy, Taylor rescheduled the tour for this spring and arrived in Boston Wednesday night. His five-piece group, which includes notable keyboardist Max Middleton, played in Northampton Thursday at the Iron Horse Music Hall to an enthusiastic and rowdy capacity crowd.

Though the band was jet-lagged, as Taylor mentioned, they shook off the rust and ran through a 1 1/2-hour set that showcased Taylor’s brilliant single-string and slide guitar work. The outfit was a bit on the loose side but still rocked hard throughout. Taylor’s voice, which is pleasing if not technically adept, carried off some of his own best-known tunes to his loyal following and some other more widely-known material.

Taylor, best known as the 17-year-old wunderkind of John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers in 1968-69, replacing Peter Green who departed for Fleetwood Mac, or as the ideal replacement for the fired Brian Jones in the Rolling Stones, giving that band one of its most accomplished lineups, is now in his early 60s and bit more rotund than that slim, young, baby-faced guitar player from what was a magical time for blues musicians. But he seemed happy, ready to please and rocking throughout his group’s set, showing alternately tender and fiery musicianship as he soloed frequently. (continue reading…)

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Mayall still living in the blues

by on Feb.18, 2010, under Music

John Mayall, left, with lead guitarist Rocky Athas

John Mayall, left, with lead guitarist Rocky Athas

John Mayall has been an ambassador of the blues for parts of seven decades. At 76, Mayall is still rocking and commandeering yet another blues outfit of accomplished musicians.

At the Infinity Music Hall in Norfolk Sunday, Mayall ran through a two-hour set after quietly selling CDs and graciously signing anything from tickets to album covers in the club’s ticket office room. After the show he hustled through the crowd to get back to his display table with CDs of his latest album Tough.

This is a busy and active man for 76 and he still sings in his unique high-pitched, blues-flavored style, plays a mean boogie-leaning piano, adds a 12-string guitar on one tune in this night’s set and has probably never sounded better on harmonica, which he played frequently during the show.

Although many cite Alexis Korner and Cyril Davies as true fathers of the British Blues, it’s Mayall that has that moniker associated with him and none deserves it more.

He brought attention more than any other Brit to the wealth of American bluesman in the 1960s who were being virtually ignored by the U.S. public, and with a string of quality lineups through the ’60s and ’70s helped reestablish blues in this country as well as the U.K., being at the forefront of electrified and modern blues interpretation.

John Mayall harp 2 smallDon’t forget the guitar players who passed through Mayall’s Bluesbreakers: Eric Clapton, on the original Bluesbreakers album often dubbed Beano; Peter Green, founding member of Fleetwood Mac; and Mick Taylor, later a Rolling Stone, all played with The Bluesbreakers, learning and trendsetting with Mayall as the father figure.

Was there a more revolutionary electric blues album than Beano for guitarists? Wasn’t Green singled out by American bluesman, in particular B.B. King, as the one who scared them the most as a player.

And Taylor played in arguably the Stones’ best era or at least last, great era as the world’s greatest rock ‘n roll band. (continue reading…)

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Return engagement for Steve Winwood

by on Feb.15, 2010, under Music

At various times in his career, Steve Winwood had gone extended periods during which he rarely played live, the most recent from the late 1990s to the early 2000s. But since his exceptional return album, About Time in 2004, he has toured relentlessly in the States and Europe, including stints with Eric Clapton.

Steve Winwood at the Hammond B-3 with Karl Vanden Bossche on drums and Jose Neto, guitar, in background.

Steve Winwood at the Hammond B-3 with Karl Vanden Bossche on drums and Jose Neto, guitar, in background.

I’ve seen Winwood about a dozen times in his career since 1968, seven times since 2004. Winwood played the MGM Grand Friday night, his third trip to Foxwoods since the release of About Time, with his usual five-piece band that includes a percussionist and sax player but no bass player. Winwood handles that with his left foot at the Hammond B-3, while providing adept, funky and soulful keyboard playing and still delivering with one of the best voices in the music world.

After the second song in his set, Hungry Man, from his Top 10 album from 2008, Nine Lives, he noted all the returning customers he spotted in the front of the 5,000-seat house, which was about 90 percent filled. He added that he and his band would be returning customers for a while also, a pronouncement that was received very enthusiastically.

The musicianship complementing one of the bonafide great talents in rock history is impressive: Jose Neto, who has been with Winwood since About Time, is on classical-electric guitar, as well as a Fender Strat for some tunes; Paul Booth plays tenor and soprano sax, flute, whistle, organ and sings background vocals; Richard Bailey handles drums with a fierce, worldly rhythmic fire; and Karl Vanden Bossche is the percussionist center stage on an array of congas and other embellishing tools of the trade.

Winwood’s band, with the exception of Neto, has changed personnel several times in the last six years, but this unit, which I saw open for Tom Petty at The Meadows in Hartford in 2008, has been together at least that long. And it sounds it. It’s a tight-knit, rocking, funky lineup that burns through a set of old and new songs with equal polish. (continue reading…)

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On the road again

by on Jun.12, 2009, under Music


Photo: Kevin Mazur

Photo: Kevin Mazur

Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood began their 2009 tour together in New Jersey at the Izod Center Thursday night. A reprise of their three-night performance in February, 2008, which produced the CD and DVD Live From Madison Square Garden released last month, the two legends stuck to a similar set as in the MSG shows.

The duo again opened with the Blind Faith tune Had To Cry Today, featuring double guitar solos on the tag. Clapton replaced Double Trouble for his blues feature early in the set with Big Maceo’s Tough Luck Blues and J.J. Cale’s After Midnight was moved up to an early spot in the show right after another Cale number Lowdown, the second song of the set.

The acoustic portion of the concert has been altered a bit with Winwood, after playing Georgia On My Mind solo on Hammond organ, joining Clapton for Driftin’ with the rest of the band. Then the two each played acoustic guitar on Nobody Loves You When You’re Down And Out, Layla and the Blind Faith classic Can’t Find My Way Home.

The Hendrix tribute of Little Wing and Voodoo Chile along with another Cale standard, Cocaine, closed the show with Dear Mr. Fantasy as the encore.

Willie Weeks is back on bass, Chris Stainton, of Joe Cocker and the Grease Band fame, on keyboards, but the drummer is new with Abe Laboriel Jr. replacing Ian Thomas. Also, Michelle John and Sharon White have been added as background singers.

The tour runs through June, ending in Los Angeles on June 30.

Here is the set list courtesy of Where’s Eric!

Had To Cry Today
Low Down
After Midnight
Sleeping In The Ground
Presence Of The Lord
Well Alright
Tough Luck Blues
Tell The Truth
Pearly Queen
No Face, No Name, No Number
Forever Man
Georgia On My Mind
Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out
Can’t Find My Way Home 
Split Decision
Little Wing
Voodoo Chile

Dear Mr. Fantasy

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Over at Wolfgang’s

by on Jun.10, 2009, under Music

Wolfgang’s Vault just posted two must-listen-to concerts: Delaney & Bonnie and Friends from a February, 1970 date at the Fillmore West and Derek and the Dominoes  later that same year at the Fillmore East.

delaney-bonnie-portrait-1The Delaney & Bonnie show features an all-star band with Eric Clapton, who sings I Don’t Know Why from his first solo album, along with Leon Russell, piano, Jim Price, trumpet, Jim Horn and Bobby Keys, sax, now with the Stones, Rita Coolidge on background vocals and future Dominoes Carl Radle, bass, Bobby Whitlock, keyboards, and Jim Gordon, drums.

The set list is a good one with Things Get Better, Will The Circle Be Unbroken, the Robert Johnson tribute Poor Elijah and closer Coming Home, among 10 songs.

The Dominoes gig has many of the band’s staples — Got To Get Better In A Little While, Key To The Highway, Tell The Truth — and material from Clapton’s solo album such as Blues Power, Let It Rain as well as a little Hendrix and Blind Faith.

Both worth checking out.

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Winwood, Clapton after all these years

by on Jun.03, 2009, under Music

From the opening double guitar lines of the Blind Faith classic Had To Cry Today, Steve Winwood’s and Eric Clapton’s performance on their recently released CD/DVD Live From Madison Square Garden is electrifying.

clapton-winwood-dvd2Not electrifying in a showy, glitzy, glamorous sense, but in a musical sense. The two giants whose careers started in the 1960s and have paralleled each other, intersecting once for an extended period in 1969, show they are still fully capable of producing inspring and creative performances on their own material and covers of some of their contemporaries.

It seems fitting that the duo begins their MSG show, which was recorded in February, 2008 over three nights, with the opening track from their only album together, Blind Faith.

It also shows off Winwood as an extraordinary and somewhat overlooked guitarist, who is Clapton’s perfect foil, particularly when they solo simultaneously at the end of the tune.

The track, always overshadowed by two others on that 1969 album, Cant’ Find My Way Home and Presence Of The Lord, also gets its due, as a riff-driven vehicle but with some very unconventional chord changes for a guitar-slinging number. (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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