Love You Ever Day was a tune I wrote in 1977 and was one of the first that Napi Browne recorded. To be exact, it was the third song we recorded during a home session over a few days during the summer of ’77 in the basement apartment of guitarist Nick Bagnasco (Nicky Nasko).
We had a control room set up in the furnace room of Nick’s house, and used my TEAC 3340S four-track machine along with a Ludwig mixing console that was also our PA mixer, along with a variety of mics, some borrowed, to record the proceedings. At one point Nick had a mic in the oven in the main part of the apartment to record his guitar. We cleared out his bedroom to set up a vocal booth, and we had guitars, bass and drums scattered throughout over the course of the two or three days. Complete chaos!
Still, this track has a very clean sound to it, some tasty guitar playing by Nick and Dan Gulino, our other lead guitarist, and a very funky percussion track by the group’s second drummer George Wilson, who had joined the group in late 1976 after Richie Catalano left the group.
It also benefits from an extraordinary group of background singers that included Jayne Olderman and Sarah and Peggy Heath. We were so lucky to have them join us on the vocal overdubs and their parts throughout are amazing. Just what I wanted for this tune, and it was a kick singing with them.
This was a bit of a departure from the group’s usual fare because in our early days most of the original material was straight-ahead rock. The song starts in a pop vein but quickly develops into something more jazz-rock oriented structurally and especially instrumentally.
I’m not sure where the inspiration came from. Well, actually I do but more on that later. Right now, I’m talking about the inspiration for the feel of the track, chord changes, melody and instrumentation. I was listening to a lot of fusion and Latin jazz in the ’70s and some of our cover list included jazz-rock material. So, that’s likely what inspired me.
Both Nick and Dan take nice solo turns on the track, Nick plays an infectious rhythm throughout and George is locked in on the funky Latin grooves. Nick takes the first solo during the main section of the song with a decidedly jazz feel. Dan takes three choruses at the end of the main section building throughout, incorporating more rock and jazz-rock ideas. Then we turn the rhythm around twice and he plays some incendiary fills against the background and lead vocals on the tag.
This song was a mainstay live in our early days. Eventually, I believe we dropped it from the set list as we wrote newer tunes.
The inspiration comes from one source emotionally, my wife, Lynne. We weren’t married yet but Lynne was an extraordinary inspiration then as she has been over the years.
Kala Farnham sets the tone of her first full-length studio album with its opening track Naked Honest.
A rolling piano figure opens up into her familiar classically-tinged playing that underpins an arresting melody. It’s all propelled by Farnham’s impassioned and proficient voice that carries through to a soaring chorus.
The tune is one Farnham released on a live EP from 2009 but this arrangement is fleshed out with a small but full-sounding ensemble as opposed to a solo outing. The track as well as all of the album’s tracks are treated this way and they all benefit from what is really a new production approach from the Connecticut singer-songwriter. The arrangement even includes some tasty guitar playing leading into the bridge, somewhat of a departure compared with her previous recordings.
The group includes: Duke Levine (guitar/mandola); Daisy Castro (fiddle/cello), Richard Gates (bass), and Marty Wirt (percussion/drums).
Anahata: Wake Up Your Heart is filled with new and older inspiring compositions by Farnham like that opening track. One of the most ambitious Niantic Bay has an almost epic feel to it similar to some of her past songs, but again is fully developed with background vocals, creative percussion and a wonderful sense of dynamics that runs throughout.
Her voice so easily transitions from full-bodied to delicate falsetto with a sparkling top end on this tune and others such as the staccato-driven, pop-oriented title track.
Farnham treads much new ground here in her approach even to her older tunes. Songbird, which first appeared on the Naked Honest Live EP has a contemporary jazz-waltz feel, straight from the ’60s. The jaunty Singin’ Along’s (Sparrow’s Song) dance hall feel in 2/4 further shows off Farnham’s versatility. Complemented by fiddle, the track illustrates a lighter and refreshing side to her compositions.
But one of the most surprising and pleasing tracks is her take on the classic traditional song House Of The Rising Son, the only cover on the album. She shows she’s fully capable of interpreting the blues though her own song styling and presents one of the most impressive recent versions of this well-worn staple that came to the public’s attention back in the early ’60s via Dylan and the powerhouse arrangement of The Animals.
The track also shows off Farnham’s voice perhaps better than any other with her soaring interpretation of the familiar lyrics. Never harsh always heartfelt, smooth and riding on top of the melody Farnham’s vocals throughout the album are in many ways the main attraction, holding the listener fixed by the music and lyrical content.
All her songs are infused with poignant and penetrating word play. The rushing Pencil and Ink weaves a story of love and love lost through the writing of a song. All this adorning a beautifully conceived arrangement with perfectly complementing drums and violin.
The spiritually inflected Anam Caram and Maitri, a song of unconditional friendship and love, speak to the center of the album’s focus while bringing the work to its satisfying conclusion. Both are arranged in 3/4 and carry an enlightened perspective through Farnham’s singular talents as singer and piano player.
Other surprises and delights within range from the infectious chorus of By Your Side to Mon Cher and La Coupe’s French-English lyrical content to the powerful and impetuous Ruthless, again featuring guitar.
In all, a complete and accomplished first full-album for Farnham that shows so many more sides to her talents than previous live and EP collections. She has the songs, she has the voice and she has a perfectly conceived piano approach that helps meld all the elements of her talents together into style and substance truly her own.
Kala Farnham’s web site: www.kalafarnham.com
Anahata: Wake Up Your Heart at CD Baby: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/kalafarnham3
The two tracks below were recorded about two years apart at different studios and with different drummers. They show off two distinct sides of the band Napi Browne, which played extensively in southern New England and Long Island in the late 1970s and early ’80s.
The first, Forget All About It, is an all-out, straight-ahead rocker, written by Nick Bagnasco, one of our two lead guitarists. Nick also sang lead on the track. I used to love playing this tune. It’s an in-your-face, no-holds barred guitar rock song that never lets up. We recorded it at Paul Leka Studios in Bridgeport around 1981. Vic Steffens, who was playing live with us at the time, is on drums and he also co-produced the track.
But the band also liked to play other types of music, particularly fusion and funk, and the second tune, Phase In Phase Out, written by Dan Gulino, our other lead guitarist, displays that aspect. An instrumental, it shows off both guitar players and the rhythm section, which included Dennis DeMorro on drums.
Phase In, Phase Out was recorded at Bearville Studios in Woodstock, N.Y., and was produced by the band. We stayed up there for about three days in a little house directly opposite the Bear Restaurant. I had stayed there previously during the early ’70s with Beau Segal, drummer for Pulse and Island. At the time, we were working as session players for Sam Gordon’s Publishing house in New York.
Check out Dan’s lead on Forget All About it and the harmony guitars in the middle section. That was a trademark of the band and something Nick and Dan had worked on for years. They had a tight and tasty blend together.
The harmony guitars are also in evidence on Phase In, Phase Out. Nick takes the middle section solo and Dan plays lead all around his melody lines throughout the tune.
The band was versatile. We usually played about one set’s worth or our own tunes, including these two. Some of the bands we covered showed the range of the group as well as the original material. We played Bodhisattva by Steely Dan, Freedom, Wait Until Tomorrow and Message To Love by Hendrix, Good Times, Bad Times by Zeppelin, Jeff Beck instrumentals, including Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers on which Danny soloed, material from Les Dudek and Nils Lofgren as well as familiar club fare for the time by the likes of Bowie, ZZ Top and others, even the Beatles.
Days Of My Life was a track recorded after the first Pulse album was finished and was intended for a second album from the original six-piece group based in Wallingford, Conn., at Syncron Studios.
The tune was written by Peter Neri and indicated his development as a writer. Peter had a wealth of material during this period and Days Of My Life was one of his best compositions to date. It showed off the band’s playing in a jazzier blues style along with Carl Donnell’s accomplished vocals and the band’s intricate arrangement of the track, always spearheaded by drummer Beau Segal.
We all make significant contributions to this track from Peter’s driving rhythm guitar to Jeff’s outstanding harp fills and solo to Richie’s keyboard layers. We were all very much involved in the construction of this one.
The tune was recorded in 1969 and is one of the best of the unreleased tracks by the band. It’s hard to say how many tracks are in the can that never saw the light of day, but it has to be in the 15 to 20 range but probably higher. Check out the video below.
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.
Here’s my Top 10 for the past year along with a few bonus selections and various related categories:
1. 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.
8. 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…)
Tenor saxophonist Steve Marcus introduced guitarist Larry Coryell to Gary Burton, master of the vibraphone, sometime in 1966. I always thought it was the other way around, i.e. Burton saw Coryell in The Free Spirits in New York, which he actually did, and then the Coryell-Marcus association came later.
According to notes from the reissue of Marcus’ album Tomorrow Never Knows, he already knew Coryell through mutual friend and pianist Mike Nock, who lived with Coryell in Greenwich Village. After Burton saw Coryell play in 1966, he asked him to join his quartet with drummer Roy Haynes and bassist Steve Swallow. What resulted was a truly inspiring combination of players, who played jazz with a difference. They were all well-schooled in the bop and contemporary jazz traditions but they also skirted rock and pop territory with rhythms and feels you just didn’t find in jazz.
The quartet produced the landmark Duster, then Bob Moses replaced Haynes and the group recorded two more albums, Lofty Fake Anagram, which pushed further into rock territory, and the exquisite Live at Carnegie Hall. Coryell was incorporating rock tendencies more than anyone in the group with a fierce, biting tone at times and the use of feedback and rock phrasing juxtaposed with his masterful jazz leanings.
Shortly after Coryell left the quartet, he joined Marcus for two of three albums that were among the first to fuse rock and jazz. The records featured jazz-schooled players, who loved rock and pop as much as the jazz tradition they came up in, and showed them displaying more of a rock attitude than ever before for jazz players. These albums are certainly among the first genuine examples of the fusion of the two genres.
The first, Tomorrow Never Knows in 1968, featured the Beatles psychedelic title track, along with another Fab Four offering Rain, the Byrds’ Eight Miles High, Mellow Yellow by Donovan and two other tracks, including a Coryell composition, Half A Heart. A fine album with outstanding interpretations.
Then came Count’s Rock Band, the peak of this triptych and our Hidden Treasure No. 8 in ’69, followed by the mostly forgettable The Lord’s Prayer, sans Coryell, also in ’69. According to Marcus’ notes, Gary Burton, who was a neighbor of Marcus’, actually produced the first album, but when it landed on Herbie Mann’s new imprint Vortex, distributed by ATCO, Mann got credit for production on all three outings. Joining Marcus and Coryell on Count’s Rock Band and Tomorrow are Moses on drums, Nock on piano and Chris Hills on bass.
Count’s Rock Band follows the pattern of Tomorrow and includes covers of Simon & Garfunkel’s Scarborough Fair with Marcus on soprano sax and The Stones’ Back Street Girl. But the two Hills compositions, Theresa’s Blues and Ooh Baby are easily the album’s highlights and make this record a gem. (continue reading…)
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…)
In the first half of the year, I’ve been listening to three CDs quite a bit, all beautifully executed but quite different from one another. They are easily three of the best records from the first six months of 2010 and three you should give a listen.
The Chieftains’ San Patricio gives a featured billing to Ry Cooder, an occasional collaborator with the Irish group who writes, plays, sings, produces and arranges on this unusual yet intriguing mix of Celtic and Mexican music based on a fictionalized version of the story of Irish soldiers fighting with the Mexican army.
San Patricio is somewhat reminiscent of Santiago, another Chieftains’ effort from 1996 on which they blended Celtic sensibilities with Galician music from northwest Spain.
The group showed the direct link between the two musical heritages while including collaborators Cooder, Linda Ronstadt and Los Lobos, among many others.
The music on San Patricio is joyous, celebratory, heartfelt, forboding and ultimately upbeat and forward moving. The highlights are many, including the opener La Iguana with sensuous vocalist Lila Downs, who also appears on El Relampago; Ronstadt’s tender La Orilla de Un Palmar; the Cooder compositions The Sands Of Mexico and Cancion Mixteca (Intro) along with the song proper by Jose Lopez Alavez; March To Battle (Across The Rio Grande), which features a narration by Liam Neeson; and traditional numbers that feature Los Folkloristas and Los Camperos deValles.
It’s all a rich tapestry of the blending of these two musical styles that share so much in common.
The Irish soldiers, led by Captain John Riley during the war with Mexico (1846-48) were discriminated against and treated brutally by the American troops. So much so they defected to join a people with whom they had much more in common.
Although the thread of story on this record is entirely fictitious, there is no doubt music must have been a big part of the Irish soldiers’ experience as it is imbued so deeply in both cultures. A wonderfully realized example of what we now call World Music but is simply an inspiring work under any title. (continue reading…)
After the breakup of Cream in 1968, it became a point of fascination to see what was next for the three members.
Eric Clapton got together with Steve Winwood to form Blind Faith, which lasted from late 1968 to the end of the summer of ’69, producing one album and an ill-fated tour. He then took up with Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett in their touring band, Delaney & Bonnie and Friends. That led to Clapton’s first self-titled solo album, produced by Delaney, which still stands as one of Clapton’s very best.
Ginger Baker quickly formed an all-star band of sorts after Blind Faith, dubbed Air Force and recorded a double live and a studio album under the name. It was short-lived. He went through many other musical vehicles in the ’70s and ’80s but always seemed to produce his best work when recording what we now call World Music, then in the ’90s recorded two extraordinary jazz albums with Bill Frisell and Charlie Haden.
As for Bruce, he had already recorded a straight jazz album, which bordered on free jazz, in August of ’68, Things We Like, even before the Farewell Cream tour of that fall.
That was followed by Songs For A Tailor (September, 1969), a truly amazing mix of R&B, soul, blues, folk and rock blended with his Celtic sensibilities, particularly in his vocals, and the enigmatic yet compelling lyrics of his writing partner from Cream days, Peter Brown.
After Songs For A Tailor, probably his most successful commercial album, he has continued to blaze his own path with a string of artistic achievements in his solo career and with others, particularly Kip Hanrahan in the ’80s and ’90s, that has in most cases escaped the music world at large and especially the rock press. That notwithstanding, it can be easily argued Bruce has been the most creative and successful artistically of the three members from Cream.
In early 1970 Bruce put an intriguing and accomplished band together to tour in support of Songs For A Tailor. Called Jack Bruce & Friends, I noticed they were to play at the Fillmore East the weekend of January 30-31 as the opening act for Mountain! Leslie West’s group, at the time, was of course doing very well commercially in the wake left by Cream, but it startled and somewhat annoyed me that Bruce would actually be opening for them.
Nonetheless, my girlfriend and I secured tickets and went to one of the early shows. As I recall it was the Saturday night performance, although it’s possible it was Friday. In the 1990s, I became aware of a recording of one of the shows from that weekend. That kind of stunned me at the time, but it’s now happened more often than you would think possible. At first I believed it was the actual show we attended but I have seen it variously listed as either early show Jan. 30 or late show Jan. 31. So it’s impossible to pin down.
Suffice to say, the setlist is the same as the show we saw. And the recorded document confirms that although this band had not been together that long, it was producing dynamic and intricate versions of Bruce’s tunes, mainly from Songs For A Tailor. (continue reading…)