The Trick Is To Keep Going

Tag: Mitch Mitchell

Concerts Vol. 13: Jimi Hendrix

by on Feb.21, 2011, under Music


By the fall of 1968, I had seen Cream four times, another of my favorite artists The Paul Butterfield Band five times, The Electric Flag with Mike Bloomfield, Traffic, The Stones, The Beach Boys, among a host of other artists, but I had yet to see Jimi Hendrix.

Jim Hendrix at Woolsey Hall, Yale, Nov. 1968. Photo by Joe Sela. Courtesy of Wolfgang's Vault.

Jim Hendrix at Woolsey Hall, Yale, Nov. 1968. Photo by Joe Sela. Courtesy of Wolfgang’s Vault.

Two members of the Bram Rigg Set, Peter Neri and Rich Bednarzyk along with the group’s road manager Mike Geremia had met Hendrix on the street in Greenwich Village in the summer of ’67. The three had ventured into the city after the first night of a weekend engagement in Brewster, N.Y. The group’s drummer, Beau Segal, and I had driven back home after the gig and our lead singer Bobby Schlosser had also opted for his long trek back to Rhode Island.

The boys had run into Hendrix at about 3 a.m. on Bleecker Street I believe opposite the Cafe Au Go Go and he was affable, friendly and wished them well.

Beau got to see The Jimi Hendrix Experience by accident that same year in the fall. He traveled into the city to the Cafe Au Go Go to see a show billed as Eric Burdon and The New Animals and found when he arrived that The Experience had replaced them on the bill. Nice surprise. And, of course, Beau raved about them.

Hendrix was still a bit of an unknown quantity at the time here in the States as opposed to the United Kingdom, where he was a sensation with a string of single releases and his first album.

Notwithstanding the bizarre ads in Billboard during the summer that showed the three Afro-adorned musicians on the inside cover of the industry magazine and the buzz in musicians’ circles, the album Are You Experienced? had just been released and there was no single from it running up the charts. It was probably getting the majority of its play on the new FM radio stations, particularly the college stations, which were just starting to play what became known as Album Rock programming.

When I had played the first track of the album for guys in my dorm at Boston University in Sept. 1967, before I transferred to Berklee School of Music, some of them thought there was something wrong with their record players. True. Those same guys would come to love Hendrix in a few months. (continue reading…)

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Concerts, Vol. 12: Jack Bruce and Friends

by on May.23, 2010, under Music


Jack Bruce & Friends. From left, Bruce, guitarist Larry Coryell, keyboardist Mike Mandel and drummer Mitch Mitchell.

Jack Bruce & Friends. From left, Bruce, guitarist Larry Coryell, keyboardist Mike Mandel and drummer Mitch Mitchell.

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.

Jack Bruce & Friends poster 3 SmallIn 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…)

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Jimi’s legacy lives on

by on Mar.18, 2010, under Music


Experience Hendrix, the group headed by Janie Hendrix, the adopted daughter of Jimi Hendrix’s father Al, oversees Hendrix’s body of work and recently struck a new agreement with Sony after years of working with MCA.

Jimi Hendrix Valleys Of NeptuneThe first joint venture from the two entities is Valleys Of Neptune, 12 previously unreleased tracks by Hendrix, most recorded in the spring of 1969 with The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s original members, Mitch Mitchell, drums, and Noel Redding, bass. Bassist Billy Cox is also featured on several tracks to good effect, wiping out one of Redding’s efforts, and various percussionists are employed.

But essentially this is the main group starting to work on its followup to the artistically and commercially successful double LP Electric Ladyland from 1968. It would be short-lived. The Experience broke up in June, which basically means Redding announced he was splitting. Although Hendrix had obviously greased the skids by finding and working with Cox almost exclusively after April. Mitchell continued to play with Hendrix until his death in 1970 and Cox, Mitchell and Hendrix played as The Experience in 1970.

Experience Hendrix, and for that matter also Alan Douglas who previously handled the Hendrix catalogue, has been roundly criticized for exploiting the Hendrix goldmine and doing anything but a bang-up job of remixing and remastering the material to the level that it deserves. However, some of those criticisms are overblown and most of the previously unissued material and/or reorganized tracks such as one can find on First Rays Of The New Rising Son and South Saturn Delta, are in the end worthy projects, albeit not without flaws, that have enhanced the Hendrix legacy.

It seems rather remarkable that the amount of material available is still not exhausted. Some would say let it rest, the quality is not up to Hendrix’s lofty standards. But Jimi virtually lived in the studio, his only oasis from the storm of his public/business life, and what he left is not only an indication of where he was going but also in fact where he had arrived and it was miles ahead of many of his comptemporaries. Jimi Hendrix was a true original and most of what continues to be released only reinforces that. (continue reading…)

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Hidden treasure

by on Mar.22, 2009, under Music


For years, the album Fiends & Angels has been one of the best kept secrets from the late 1960s blues-rock scene. Finally in 2008, the independent CD label Wounded Bird, which specializes in albums that the majors refuse to reissue, released this Martha Velez gem.

mvelez-1Until then, it had fetched rather pricey numbers on auction sites despite not having been a big seller at the time of its release in 1968. Still it was one of the defining blues-rock albums of the times, bringing together an almost perfect combination of singer, players and producer for a raw blues outing with unbridled energy. And some of the best playing by some of England’s best musicians.

Not available in the album credits and still not known completely, the personnel included, Eric Clapton, guitar; Jack Bruce (Cream), bass; Mitch Mitchell (Jimi Hendrix) and Jim Capaldi (Traffic), drums; Brian Auger (Oblivion Express), organ; Christine McVie (Chicken Shack, later Fleetwood Mac), piano; Keef Hartley, drums, and Chris Mercer, sax (Keef Hartley Band, John Mayall); Chris Wood (Traffic), sax and flute; and Duster Bennett, harmonica. That’s just a portion of the list.

Velez is a New Yorker, who studied opera at a young age and later attended the High School for the Performing Arts in Manhattan. She also joined a touring folk group, the Gaslight Singers, in college (Long Island University) and later had several lead roles on Broadway, including Hair. So how did she wind up recording her first solo album in England with all these prominent blues-rock musicians?

While recording a demo in New York with producer Richard Gottehrer, Seymour Stein of Sire Records was in the studio by coincidence. They immediately wanted to sign Velez and when it was revealed she loved the blues and particularly the material Cream was doing, they hooked her up with Mike Vernon, an English blues producer who had worked with the early Fleetwood Mac, John Mayall and later Ten Years After, among many others. He was also the founder of the blues label, Blue Horizon.

Vernon gathered together the elite group of musicians and a torrent of hot, inspired performances was unleashed on the material, matched perfectly to Velez’s voice, which has a trained quality but can be raunchy when needed.

mvelez-2The guitar solos are ferocious on most cuts and although Clapton is said to have played on only four, he is extremely recognizable on  the heavy groove of Lightnin’ Hopkins’ Feel So Bad, I’m Gonna Leave You (perhaps the album’s best two tracks), It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry and In My Girlish Days. This was confirmed on a Velez compilation, Angels Of The Future Past, released on CD in the late ’80s. The other solos are just as powerful and inventive, perhaps attributable to the only listed guitarist on the session, Rick Hayward, although Spit James (Keef Hartley) and Paul Kossoff (Free) are said to have also participated.

Jack Bruce is equally recognizable for his driving bass lines, all tight, punchy and restrained. Bennett blows heavy duty harp on both I’m Gonna Leave You and Feel So Bad, and Vernon also made liberal use of horns, giving the sessions yet another dimension.

The album contains so many other jewels: Velez’s funky composition Swamp Man, which holds the album’s title in the lyrics; the Joplin-esque slow blues A Fool For You; a cover of Etta James’ Tell Mama; the moderate shuffle of a smouldering Drive Me Daddy, over which Velez wails; Come Here Sweet Man, a delicate Velez original; and Let The Good Times Roll, the suitable rollicking closer. A great selection of songs.

Velez went on to record four other albums in the ’70s, including a reggae release, Escape To Babylon, produced by Bob Marley. She never fully returned to an album of all blues, although she did work with Vernon one more time on Matinee Weepers. Married to Keith Johnson, noted trumpet player with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band and Van Morrison, she also sang with Morrison’s band for a while. All her records, with the exception of her second, Hypnotized, are available from Wounded Bird.

You are unlikely to find Wounded Bird releases in a big music or electronics store at the mall. They are readily available at places such as Amazon. But a trip to the label’s web site is preferred because perusing its catalogue, you’ll find so many other long lost albums that haven’t seen the light of day on a major label.

My vinyl version of Fiends & Angels is still one of my most treasured from that time period. Even one in funky condition is fetching as much as $50 on eBay, despite the CD release. You have to love that album cover, too. The second image is from the UK release. For the record, Velez’s full name is Martha Carmen Josephine Hernandéz Rosario de Veléz. That’s an earful and so is this classic album.

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