The Trick Is To Keep Going

Tag: the Rolling Stones

Best of 2012

by on Feb.01, 2013, under Music

There’s so much good new music out there. The best music of 2012:

1. Radio Music Society, Esperanza Spalding: Invigorating blend of R&B, funk and jazz infused with top-shelf musicianship and an enticing lyrical quality. This is perhaps her best yet. Spalding sports a fluid, proficient and pleasing voice that delivers her poignant lyricism over the engaging compositions. Get the Deluxe Edition with a Making of DVD.

2. Locked Down, Dr. John: Black Keys guitarist Dan Auerbach gets an inspiration to record with the N’Awlins legend and they whip up a spooky, funky, voodoo dose of swamp funk mixed with hard rock sensibilities. Some of the best from recent vintage of the good Doctor.

3. Tramp, Sharon Van Etten: One of the truly remarkable and original sounding records from a singer/songwriter whose dense, penetrating lyrics are revealed through inventive arrangements that complement her songwriting.

4. Sunken Condos, Donald Fagen: At his wry, funky, satirical and stinging best. Glossed with a Steely Dan sheen but it still swings like mad.

5. Everybody’s Talkin’, Tedeschi-Trucks Band: Live outing from one of the best ensembles around today. A beautiful combination of blues, rock and pop whipped together with Derek Trucks’ slide lacing through it and the marvelous Susan Tedeschi’s soulful, blazing voice on top. Not to be missed live.

6. Sun, Cat Power: Return of the elusive, mercurial and magnetic singer/songwriter. Her best since The Greatest.

 7. Election Special, Ry Cooder: Venerable American music stylist gives his biting political take on the present state of affairs with his usual entertaining, insightful views served with a helping of exquisite string playing.

8. Driving Towards The Daylight, Joe Bonamassa: Another edition in the evolving style and development of one of our best modern-day blues guitarists, who happens to have a soulful voice as well.

 9. The Lion, The Beast, The Beat, Grace Potter & The Nocturnals: From the opening strains of the remarkable title track through another set of inspired rock and pop, a step forward and upward from this New England-based group. Their roots are firmly planted in the fertile ground of the 1960s and early ’70s. All framing Potter’s gloriously wild and unrestrained voice.

10. Blues Funeral, Mark Lanegan: Love him for his various collaborations over the years, not the least with Isobel Campbell, but there is something dark and compelling about this bluesy and funereal outing that is addicting. (continue reading…)

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The Best of 2010

by on Jan.06, 2011, under Music

Here’s my Top 10 for the past year along with a few bonus selections and various related categories:

Elton John Leon Russell The Union1. 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.

Esperanza Spalding Chamber Music Cover8. 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…)

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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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Exiled with The Stones

by on Jun.10, 2010, under Music

Around the time a re-mastering of The Rolling Stones early ’70s work Exile On Main Street was announced, I finally decided to read a book about the period I had picked up a few months prior.

Rolling Stones Exile On Main Street CoverA Season In Hell With The Rolling Stones by Robert Greenfield is the perfect companion to what many Stones fans believe is the group’s greatest album. There’s no doubt it comes from the group’s last great era, and although it’s one of my favorite Stones records, I don’t believe it’s their best.

Nonetheless, it has a fascinating story behind it and the album comes into sharper focus by reading what led up to its making. In short, because of the extreme tax laws at the time in England, much too complicated to recount, The Stones were forced to move to the south of France for an extended period and that would become the site of their recording for Exile.

Having exhausted most possible locations for the recording, The Stones settled on Villa Nellcote, where Keith Richards and girlfriend Anita Pallenberg were staying. The group set up in a room in the basement and with their trusty mobile recording studio outside set about recording a good deal of the album.

It is, however, pointed out in Greenfield’s book that it was a herky-jerky, start-and stop affair at best. What with Richards’ and Pallenberg’s drug indulgences, the celebrity-charged atmosphere that saw among others Gram Parsons settle in for an extended stay and in general an uneasiness between the group’s leaders, Richards and Mick Jagger, it’s a wonder this album was ever finished.

Still, with supplemental tracks and overdubs cut in Los Angeles and previous tracks recorded at Olympic Studios in London, the album was pieced together and remains one of The Stones most interesting, resting comfortably among it influences: blues, R&B, country blues, Motown and rock.

Richards is in all ways the main player in this saga, both in the book and it’s fairly detailed recounting of his life during this period, and the recording, during which despite his drug abuse he was essentially the creative force behind the songs.
(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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Time machine called the T.A.M.I. Show

by on Apr.06, 2010, under Music

I caught snippets of the T.A.M.I. Show in the ’60s when a short segment would turn up on network television or a smaller local station. I didn’t make it to the theatrical release at one of the locations around the country, which started  just a few weeks after the show was filmed.

TAMI show posterSo watching the newly released Shout Factory DVD of this rather amazing collection of eclectic talent was an almost entirely new experience. But it certainly brought back memories of how pop and rock music was presented in the early ’60s. This show was filmed in October, 1964, at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium in front of a group of mostly high school students over a two-day period, performed twice for a live audience and once without.

What made it into theaters was the second filmed performance. The lineup is truly inspired and included, among others, hosts Jan & Dean, Chuck Berry, Gerry and The Pacemakers, Smokey Robinson and The Miracles, Marvin Gaye, Lesley Gore, The Beach Boys, James Brown and the closing act, the still rising Rolling Stones, before The Last Time, before Satisfaction, before worldwide acclaim. You see what I mean about a varied lineup spanning several genres.

It’s all presented in a style you would never see today. All the acts performed live, a big plus, and all acquitted themselves quite well. The camera work is steady, not choppy. There are no quick cuts with nonsensical flashes of scenes that have no relation to the music as we’ve become accustomed with music videos as well as film. The action stays on the entertainers and for that the film is greatly enhanced.

The one novelty that you might object to is the presence of dancers throughout most of each of the artists’ sets, giving performances that can only be described as filled with over-the-top exuberance, literally all over the stage. In back of the artists, sometimes in front, next to, working out in the dance moves of the day or borderline modern dance/entertainment style choreography. These are pros though and it’s remarkable the energy level they keep up. (continue reading…)

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Johnny Cash’s list for Rosanne

by on Oct.20, 2009, under Music

I had a taste of The List when I saw Rosanne Cash in concert this past July at the Infinity Music Hall in Norfolk, Connecticut.

rosanne-cash-the-list-lpShe performed six selections that night from the album released in September of songs chosen from a list put together by her father Johnny Cash as a musical education for his teen-age daughter in 1973.

The songs on The List are pure country, pure American music as Rosanne puts it, and she brings her special vocal interpretations to them along with wonderful arrangements by her husband John Leventhal, who plays just about all the instruments except for drums.

She also has some special guests in Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello, Jeff Tweedy and Rufus Wainwright, who put a harmony to Cash’s lead on one song each. The result is an album that started as an education for Rosanne but is now one for the listening audience.

Miss The Mississippi And You, written by William Heagney, is a surprising opener for the album because it’s so unlike anything else on it. It’s the only song arranged with a swing jazz feel, melancholy but light in comparison with much of the subsequent fare. What it shares with the other selections is Leventhal’s basic, pared-down and meticulous arrangement that sees him interweaving guitars and other instruments, as he does on all the tracks.

The traditional Motherless Children is a smouldering, slow-burning house on fire, using beautiful substitution chords with intricate interplay of guitars, mandolin and Larry Campbell’s fiddle, topped with Cash’s expressive vocal. Leventhal takes the first lead in a traditional country style easily riding the rhythm, then closes with a full-bore, hard-edged guitar tone on the tag. The track is a highlight of the album. (continue reading…)

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Illness postpones Taylor’s tour

by on Jul.14, 2009, under Music

Here in the Northeast this summer, we were going to be lucky enough to see the outstanding blues-rock guitarist Mick Taylor on a small club tour.

mick-taylor-live-11He rarely plays in the States but Taylor was scheduled to be at four venues in or near Connecticut: Toad’s Place in New Haven, Black-Eyed Sally’s in Hartford, the Iron Horse Music Hall in Northampton, Mass., or if you wanted to drive a little further, Misquamicut Beach in Westerly, R.I.

Unfortunately according to a release from his manager that is posted at Black-Eyed Sally’s, Taylor has been hospitalized with a blood clot in his chest and pleurisy. It appears what was suspected as dehydration is a bit more serious. He has canceled all of his U.S. gigs, but his manager is eager to reschedule in the fall after Taylor’s recovery, which is expected.

Taylor, of course, is best known for having replaced Brian Jones on second guitar in The Rolling Stones. He played with the superstar group in the late ’60s and early ’70s and was part of one of the Stones’ most creative and productive eras, which included the albums Let It Bleed, Get Yer Ya Ya’s Out (live), Sticky Fingers and Exile On Main Street. For me, probably their last truly creative and productive period. (continue reading…)

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Faithfully rendered

by on Apr.29, 2009, under Music

In the early- to-mid-1970s, it would have been hard to imagine that Marianne Faithfull, a homeless junkie on the streets of London, would have the best of her musical career in front of her. But it’s true. Although still plagued by addiction for some years before getting clean, Faithfull began a comeback in earnest with 1979’s Broken English, a far cry from her ’60s ingenue days that gave her a hit with As Tears Go By, written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards.

marianne-faithfull-easy-comeShe has been very productive since, and although she doesn’t hit the mark with every release, Faithfull has managed to make more than a handful of quality albums. Her latest, Easy Come Easy Go, a covers record produced by Hall Willner, with whom she has done some of her best work, is one such entry.

Willner’s production is pristine and he has assembled an outstanding roster of musicians and vocalists who give Faithfull some of the best support she has ever enjoyed. A core rhythm section of Rob Burger, keyboards, Jim White, drums, Greg Cohen, bass, and Marc Ribot, Barry Reynolds and Sean Lennon on guitars, is augmented by singers Chan Marshall, Nick Cave, Rufus Wainwright, Teddy Thompson, Jenni Muldaur and Antony. But Faithfull is still the focal point with her world-weary, weathered voice that exudes experience and carries most of the album’s tunes, despite technical shortcomings, with character and an almost old-world charm.

Unlike Strange Weather, one of Faithfull’s best in collaboration with Willner that was heavy on ballad standards with a cabaret style at times, the moderate to uptempo songs work best on this album. Although there are some gems among the slow-tempo numbers. (continue reading…)

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69 (albums) from 1969

by on Mar.29, 2009, under Music

When I think of 1969, I think the end of the hippie dream, the fading of peace and love. After the violence of the Democratic convention in ’68, it appeared the Yippies were taking precedence over the original anti-war movement that so many of us bought into when we were at college.

the-band-the-band1Despite the triumph of Woodstock, the year ended on the foreboding trajedy of Altamont. It was the year the Beatles said farewell, another dream that was ending. So when I think about 1969, I don’t necessarily think of great albums first. But as Mojo Magazine points out in a recent special edition with a piece aptly titled 69 from 1969, which we acknowledge with the headline above, there was a motherlode of great music released in 1969. The music was changing and the early ’70s gave us another wave of great music as well with the dawn of the singer-songwriter era. But the decade’s last year included an impressive list of offerings.

You can find music just as good or better from any year in the ’60s. But since it’s 40 years on for this watershed year, we have a poll below in which you can vote. To refresh your memory, here are some of the highlights in no particular order:

jethro-tull-stand-upThe Band, The Band: Their second release and perhaps my favorite, along with Stage Fright, filled with songs that make up one of the foundations of today’s Americana movement.

Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, Neil Young: His second, and although I for one liked the weak-selling debut, this unquestionably has several of his standards.
Led Zeppelin I, Led Zeppelin: Some prefer the second, released in late 1969, but this really had the bigger impact as far as influencing the music scene. It was hard rock, but quite different in some ways than anything before.
Stand Up, Jethro Tull: Arguably their best, predating the more progressive leanings of the band.

slystandA Salty Dog, Procol Harum: Speaking of prog, but really is it? Using classical ideas and instrumentation in a tasteful combination is more like it.
The Gilded Palace Of Sin, The Flying Burrito Brothers: Gene Clark, the Byrds and others had recorded tracks and some nearly full albums of what was to be called country rock, but Gram Parsons’ first project as a leader really set the stage for the Eagles and those who followed.
Tommy, the Who: Many cite other Who albums as superior to this and that’s probably true, but none had a bigger influence in the grand scheme of things.

Stand, Sly & the Family Stone: This is loaded with classic Sly songs, Everyday People, I Want To Take You Higher, Sing A Simple Song, You Can Make It If You Try.
Crosby, Stills & Nash, Crosby, Stills & Nash: Deja Vu had some better songs on it, but as a trio this was their highlight.
Dusty In Memphis, Dusty Springfield: A peak  from a remarkably consistent vocalist, career defining.
Blind Faith, Blind Faith: The one-off, with about 15 minutes of filler, still holds up as a solid outing with at least a couple of rock ‘n roll classics.
Abbey Road, the Beatles: A fitting sendoff, which was recorded after but released before their official swan song, Let It Be.
In A Silent Way, Miles Davis: I preferred the first real experiment into fusion, Miles In The Sky (1967), but there is no doubting the impact of this outing.
Clouds, Joni Mitchell: I always think of this as coming out earlier than 1969, but her career didn’t take off in earnest as a solo performer until the ’70s with Blue and For The Roses.
Then Play On, Fleetwood Mac: The last gasp of the original Mac with Peter Green. It may have been the last but it has some wonderful blues romps, including Oh Well.
Let It Bleed, the Rolling Stones: Their decided shift back to blues-influenced rock on Beggar’s Banquet is followed by incorporating country blues into the mix. One of their last great ones.

There are many others, the Allman Brothers’ debut; Fairport Convention’s Liege & Lief, not as well known in the States as the U.K., where it is a folk-rock staple; Santana’s and Chicago’s first. The list goes on.

What do you think? Vote for the best album of 1969.

This article is also available over at BabyBoom Review at this link.

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