Tag: rock ‘n roll
The tune Street Talkin’ Ways was written by Dan Gulino and Paul Rosano, probably in early 1980, and was a staple in the live set for Napi Browne, a regional Northeast rock band in the late 1970s and early ’80s, mostly based in Connecticut.
The tracks below are an early demo in which the lyric Street Talkin’ Ways isn’t even in the song, and the finished track that we recorded in 1981 at Paul Leka’s Studios in Bridgeport with the other founding member of the band Nick Bagnasco. Vic Steffens played drums on the track and also set up the recording date and helped us produce the track. Vic was playing live with us at the time.
The demo was recorded in my living room in Fair Haven. I lived right next door to Dan and I remember we got together at his place in his music room to work on a tune. He had the original musical idea for the song, particularly the chord changes and rhythm. We sat down and I started to come up with a melody and we worked on an early lyrical idea for the song. We worked on it together and separately for several days.
It was Dan who came up with the lyrical idea Street Talkin’ Ways and the attitude for the song about a tough-minded girl friend. After that, the rest of the lyrics started pouring out and the tune was finished pretty quickly. We brought it to Nick and Vic and arranged it over at Nick’s house, our rehearsal space, and started playing it live. By the time we hit the studio we had been playing this song for quite a while. Nick plays a stinging solo that is so well-suited to the track, every phrase builds on the previous one. I believe he used his Les Paul although it might have been his Tele.
Napi Browne played at Toad’s Place, The Arcadia Ballroom, over on Whalley Avenue, and The Oxford Ale House on Whitney, regularly during the band’s playing days, late 1976 to 1981. The photo above was taken in between sets at Toad’s Place. Looks like we were having a good time.
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…)
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…)
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.
The 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…)
Les Paul was not only a virtuoso guitar player, he was also an innovator and inventor who brought electronics experimentation to the music scene that enabled many of the sound devices we now have in rock ‘n roll. Yet he wasn’t a rock player. He primarily played jazz.
Paul, who died from complications of pneumonia at 94 Thursday, developed some of the early amplifiers for guitar, overdubbing — in its early stages called sound-on-sound — various delay and phasing effects and tape looping copied by such companies as MXR and Line 6, among many others. And, of course, let’s not forget he created the original design for what became the Gibson Les Paul guitar, synonomous with rock ‘n roll and originally rejected by Gibson.
In the video below Paul duets with country legend Chet Atkins on Avalon, both showing off their considerable skill and technique.
In the next clip, Paul demonstrates the Les Pulverizer, his tape loop machine. (continue reading…)
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.
By 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…)
Two years ago, Levon Helm, legendary singer and drummer for The Band, released his first solo album in 25 years, Dirt Farmer. A bluegrass leaning record with elements of country, blues and R&B, it brought Helm back in a big way after his bout with cancer of the vocal cords in the early 2000s.
His voice had changed somewhat but the trademark quality that graced so many of The Band’s signature tunes was intact with a slightly raspier flavor.
Now Helm has followed up the Grammy winner with Electric Dirt, on which he comes a little closer to the style of The Band while retaining his own musical identity. With the help of extraordinary guitarist/producer Larry Campbell, who among many other projects has played with Bob Dylan’s Never Ending Tour band, Helm’s daughter Amy of Olabelle and a host of other distinguished musicians, Helm has shaped a rocking, bluesy, down home sounding record that is about as earthy as it gets when it comes to roots music.
There are tracks as good but none better than the opener Tennessee Jed, a Jerry Garcia/Robert Hunter tune, on which Campbell plays an infectious slide riff in answer to Helm’s vocal. It’s augmented by a full horn section that includes Howard Johnson on tuba. An easy rocking groove makes this a song you can’t sit still to. (continue reading…)
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.
The 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.