The Trick Is To Keep Going

Tag: hard rock

Concerts Vol. 14: Led Zeppelin

by on Dec.29, 2011, under Music

Led Zeppelin in Paris Smaller Size












In early August, 1969, there was quite a buzz about Woodstock. I don’t believe anyone, even at that late date, anticipated how big it was going to be. At least not among my friends.

Most of us were not planning on a trip to upstate New York though. On Sunday the 17th during the festival weekend, a concert was scheduled at the original Oakdale Music Theatre, with its theatre-in-the-round stage, in Wallingford, Conn., that was not to be missed, Led Zeppelin.

We’d seen Cream there the previous summer and myriad other mid-to-late ’60s acts: The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Lovin’ Spoonful, Ray Charles. Shows I didn’t get to see included The Who, The Doors and Chicago. One of my bands, The Bram Rigg Set opened for The Dave Clark Five in late summer, 1967. It was an almost-perfect venue to get an up-close look at performers. Seating was perhaps no more than about 2,000, the closest within about 15 to 20 feet of the musicians, sometimes even closer when they came to the edge of stage, which was only a few feet off the ground.

Zeppelin’s first album was released in early 1969 and it made quite an impact. Surprising really. Jimmy Page was well known and I’d seen him with the last version of The Yardbirds in 1967 at the Village Theater in New York. But Robert Plant, John Paul Jones, John Bonham, where did they come from? (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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Les Dudek blazing a trail on tour

by on Aug.14, 2010, under Music

Les Dudek Live 2 Large










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…)

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Three on DVD: The Doors, The Stones & The Runaways

by on Aug.03, 2010, under Music

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.

The Doors When You're Strange DVD LargeAll 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…)

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Vulture sighting

by on Feb.12, 2010, under Music

Them Crooked Vultures is a very heavy band. Not heavy as in heavy metal, heavy as in heavy hard rock.

Them Crooked Vultures Album CoverFeaturing three hard rock virtuosos in Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones, Dave Grohl, from Foo Fighters, who switches from guitar back to drums, his spot in Nirvana, and Josh Homme of Queens Of The Stone Age on guitar and lead vocals, the group exhibits a competency and energy rarely found in the genre today.

Their self-titled debut album consists of songs that are virtually all guitar riff driven over a furious and powerful rhythm section, adorned with dark, devilish, often impenetrable (sometimes penetrable) lyrics. With titles such as No One Loves Me & Neither Do I, Dead End Friends, Reptiles, Warsaw Or The First Breath You Take After You Give Up and Caligulove, it’s hard to imagine anything else.

The grinding, churning rhythm section not only shows how adept Grohl is back on the drums, but also gives a strong indication of Jones’ contribution to Zeppelin, which was often lost or overlooked during that band’s heyday.

Homme is fully capable of handling the vocal and lead guitar duties, although they did add a second guitarist, Alain Johannes, on their recent Saturday Night Live appearance, during which they played Mind Eraser, No Chaser, a tune that might be termed their most accessible or commercial to crossover audiences, although nothing on the album really falls entirely in that vein, and New Fang, the group’s first single, with its complicated guitar rhythm over which Homme sings a completely different melodic structure, something always to take note of.

The group hits a three-song streak in the middle of their the album that is really quite brilliant in Elephants, Scumbag Blues and Bandoliers. In fact, by the fifth track, Elephants, the listener starts to realize how much Homme can sound like Jim Morrison. And this likens the overall sound of the band to The Doors as a power trio, minus Ray Manzarek’s keyboards. (continue reading…)

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White’s Weather experiment

by on Sep.04, 2009, under Music

Jack White’s latest group The Dead Weather reaches highs that equal the best of two of his other projects, The White Stripes and The Raconteurs. Still, despite excellent musicianship, effective vocals and intriguing lyrics, the group falls a little short overall of sustaining those highs throughout its debut, Horehound, particularly in comparison with The Raconteurs’ two records.

horehound-albumAn interesting hard-edged, lyrically dark album, Horehound combines elements of Zeppelin-inspired hard rock with modern takes on alternative and blues themes. The group is at its best when Alison Mosshart, of The Kills, takes lead vocal duties as she does on nine of the 11 tracks.

Her voice is perfectly suited for the band’s style, sometimes evoking a female Robert Plant at others sounding reminiscent of Concrete Blonde’s Johnette Napolitano or for moments even a trace of P.J. Harvey. Comparisons aside, she retains a singular quality that only reminds one of those artists. Her performance here shows her off as one of modern rock’s best singers and front-women.

Things work best on the first two tracks, 60 Feet Tall and Hang You From The Heavens, both written by Mosshart and guitarist Dean Fertita of Queens Of The Stone Age. For this assemblage White plays drums on all but one track and The Raconteurs Jack Lawrence joins in on bass. (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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Neil Young’s North Country

by on Jul.30, 2009, under Music

The final music disc in Neil Young’s DVD Archive Box Set deals with the time surrounding the release of Harvest, his most successful album commercially. This is the record that inspired Young’s famous — or perhaps infamous — quote after the record’s success about him deciding to musically stay in the middle of the road or drive into a ditch.

neil-young-north-countryBy Young’s account he drove into the ditch and stayed away from the mainstream. That might be a little overstated. He’s had artistic and commercial successes since during his long and buoyant career and some were planted firmly in the mainstream.

But it is arguable if Harvest was really a mainstream record per se. It was if you’re only measure is commercial success. But in any era or in fact any time frame, Harvest is a perfect album at a perfect time, a synthesis of accessible songs combined with artistically uncompromising ones, ranging from acoustic and electric country-rock to hard rocking fare that struck at the right moment of the singer-songwriter era of the early 1970s.

The disc includes songs from Harvest, inexplicably not all of them, and a bit more musically. It also contains the most video content of the entire set — at least in my searching — either hidden on the Timeline or tucked neatly under the main menu of songs in the Video Log. And it’s all very interesting and fascinating. (continue reading…)

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Turning on to Orange

by on May.31, 2009, under Music

Among the scores of bands on hundreds of campuses across the country, Orange Television sets itself apart with a blend of rock and funk that approaches the better qualities of progressive rock, no sweeping majestic compositions just hard rocking tunes with proficient and intricate playing.

orange-television-logoThe Amherst, Mass., based trio mixes elements of blues and jazz into its melodic and involved riffs, unusual rhythms and a decided accent on the instrumental and improvisational side to its songs. In fact, sometimes it seems the songs exist simply to push the musical side of the compositions further along.

Still, the group’s songwriting skills are more than capable and guitarist Howie Feibusch’s vocals make up for any minor technical shortcomings with an impassioned delivery.

The band’s recently released five-song EP One Old Fashioned Donut, written by the trio, shows off all these sides of the group and can be heard at either ReverbNation or MySpace.

The opener, Slave With Neon Blood begins with a riff reminiscent of early Jethro Tull but quickly transitions to a funky groove riding under Feibusch’s vocal. Another shift in direction brings on a long musical interlude showing off Feibusch’s combination of technically adept and creative riffing and improvisational skills over an almost spooky sounding rhythm laid down by bassist Myles Heffernan and drummer Alex Lombardi. (continue reading…)

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