The Trick Is To Keep Going

Tag: Wallingford CT

Cream at the Psychedelic Supermarket, 1967 & more

by on Sep.29, 2010, under Music


Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker and Eric Clapton live at the Psychedelic Supermarket in Kenmore Square, Boston, September, 1967.

Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker and Eric Clapton live at the Psychedelic Supermarket in Kenmore Square, Boston, September, 1967.

About six months after writing a series of pieces in 2009 on Cream concerts I’ve been to, I was contacted by Ken Melville. Ken was in the band Catharsis in Boston in September, 1967 and opened for Cream for their one-week run of concerts at the Psychedelic Supermarket in Kenmore Square, just a stone’s throw from Fenway Park.

I went to see Cream on a Sunday, the first night of the engagement, which was supposed to last two weeks but only survived the one. A detailed description of the concert, a particularly memorable one, is available here.

I do recall an opening act, but don’t remember much about the band. To my amazement, Ken sent me some photos from that week after leaving a comment on one of the posts. Taken by his girlfriend with a Kodak instamatic, as I recall, the photos above and on the following page show the band on stage and in the dressing room with Ken and some of his friends.

It’s all quite remarkable really that more than 40 years later, we’re viewing photos from that week.

Also on the page, you will see two shots from their June, 1968 date at the original Oakdale Theatre in Wallingford, Conn. A piece on the two shows at Oakdale and the last concert I saw of Cream during this stretch in the fall of 1968 at the New Haven Arena during the Farewell Tour is available here.

It took a jury of people to identify the Oakdale shots, which I’ve come across through an astute friend on the Internet. A fellow who worked at Oakdale and another similar summer tent theater in Rhode Island identified it by the lighting grid you see above Clapton’s head. Also the shot with Jack Bruce sitting on the edge of the orchestra pit includes Rich Bednarczyk in the foreground of the pit, surfer blond hair, who played keyboards for my band Pulse.

There is also a piece on this site describing the April, 1968 concert at Woolsey Hall at Yale in New Haven here.

If you’re an avid Cream fan, it’s likely you’ve already come across these. The only place I’ve seen them is in a few of Ken’s posts to a music forum. The subject, of all things, started out as a discussion of whether Clapton used a Gibson ES-335 on the classic cut Crossroads from Wheels Of Fire. I don’t think that was ever resolved but some of the discussion is interesting and, of course, Ken’s photos are the highlight.

All quite heady. Click on continue reading for the other shots. (continue reading…)

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Concerts Vol. 11: Traffic

by on Jan.30, 2010, under Music


Winter and spring of 1968 in Boston was a particularly memorable and remarkable time for me as far as the music to which I was exposed.

Steve Winwood in a photo taken in 1970, but the stage setup with his Hammond B-3 in the background is similar to the Boston Tea Party circa May 1968. Winwood is playing the Gibson Reverse Firebird he played at the Tea Party as well.

Steve Winwood in a photo taken in 1970, but the stage setup with his Hammond B-3 in the background is similar to the Boston Tea Party circa May 1968. Winwood is playing the Gibson Reverse Firebird he played at the Tea Party as well.

My group Pulse opened for the Lovin’ Spoonful at the Back Bay Theatre; I saw Michael Bloomfield’s Electric Flag at the Psychedelic Supermarket, where I had earlier first seen Cream; I caught The Paul Butterfield Band, first at Back Bay and later at the Supermarket with Elvin Bishop assuming the lead guitar role for the first time; I became a convert of sorts after seeing The Doors in concert at Back Bay; and I met Taj Mahal in the apartment I was staying in on Commonwealth Avenue, of all places.

Cream played at Back Bay as well, although I actually caught them near my hometown in New Haven at Yale’s Woolsey Hall. And in early May of that year, I got a chance to see another of my favorite artists and groups, Steve Winwood and Traffic at the original Boston Tea Party.

The Tea Party was formerly a synagogue on Berkeley Street at the corner of Appleton and I remember taking the subway near Bolyston and Mass Ave. to get there. I was by myself for this concert. At the time, I was enrolled at Berklee School of Music, majoring in performance on double basse and I had moved to a small apartment right around the corner from the school, where I lived on my own.

When in Boston during the week that spring it was a pretty solitude existence of going to classes and practicing and studying. On the weekends, I would come back to New Haven, Wallingford in particular, to rehearse at Syncron Studios or play one or two gigs with Pulse.

The Boston Tea Party (2003). You can see the entrance just to the left of the corner of the building.

The Boston Tea Party (2003). You can see the entrance just to the left of the corner of the building.

I knew the original Traffic foursome had been reduced to three as Dave Mason had left Winwood, drummer Jim Capaldi and flutist/sax player Chris Wood for what at the time were described as musical differences. There was probably some truth to that because Mason’s contributions to the English version of the first Traffic album, Mr. Fantasy, were largely pop confections, including a semi-British hit in Hole In My Shoe. Although there were apparently some personality conflicts as well.

A couple of Mason’s tunes survived on the American release, originally titled Heaven Is In Your Mind but quickly changed to Mr. Fantasy. But most of that first record, released in the U.S. earlier in the year, was a wonderful mix of blues, soul, rock, pop and what would later be called world music.

Traffic was a literal melting pot of contemporary music and the group had one of the great singer/keyboardists in Winwood, who sounded a little like Ray Charles, one of his influences, with a soulful voice well beyond his years. (continue reading…)

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Return of the Beehive Queen

by on Nov.09, 2009, under Music


Christine Ohlman hasn’t really been away. In the past five years, she has continued to work with her band Rebel Montez and as a singer for the Saturday Night Live Band, and released the retrospective Re-Hive last year.

the_deep_end_coverBut The Deep End, released this month, is her first record of new material since Strip in 2004. It is certainly worth the wait. A collection of bluesy and soul-infused rockers and ballads with emotional, heartfelt lyrics of love and loss, The Deep End is Ohlman’s most complete and accomplished work.

The album benefits from an impressive cast of guests who each add something special. Al Anderson plays guitar on two tunes, including the title track, Dion, Ian Hunter and Marshall Crenshaw each sing duet vocals with Chris, and Levon Helm, G.E. Smith, Eric “Roscoe” Ambel, Catherine Russell, Paul Ossola and Andy York, guitarist from the John Mellencamp Band who also produces with Chris, are among the many contributors.

Chris and her band will debut the album at Cafe Nine in New Haven on Saturday, Nov. 14.

Chris sets the scene on the opener, There Ain’t No Cure, a gritty, infectious rocking track that features York on lead guitar and Hunter adding a duet vocal. The title track, one of Ohlman’s best compositions, follows with its Latin feel in the verse, interesting melodic twists in the chorus and telling lyrics that speak of loss, something Chris has endured in these past five years losing her mate and producer Doc Cavalier and longtime guitarist and collaborator Eric Fletcher. Anderson provides the lead work on the track in his signature country-blues style.

All the uptempo material is a delight. The grooves are deep and the playing exemplary. Ohlman is in fine form vocally throughout, bringing her unique soulful delivery that ranges from smooth as glass to rough and raspy. Among them — Love Make You Do Stupid Things, driven by Ambel’s chord-flavored lead style, the country-rock feel of Love You Right, again with Anderson, Bring It With You When You Come, which sees Rebel Montez guitarist Cliff Goodwin take a fiery, spitting solo, and Born To Be Together, on which Goodwin is again featured this time playing off the melody through what sounds like a Leslie speaker — are all highlights. (continue reading…)

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Beatles remastered: Revolver & Sgt. Pepper’s

by on Sep.23, 2009, under Music


In the summer of 1967, when Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was released, fans of The Beatles didn’t get together with friends and listen to the mono version of this landmark album.

beatles-sgt-peppersI don’t recall anyone buying the mono version. Perhaps  if you couldn’t afford the $1 extra for stereo, because that’s all it was. But that’s not the point. The way to listen to Sgt. Pepper’s back then, as it is now, was in stereo.

I can remember at rehearsals and jams at the Aiardo Brothers house during the summer between the demise of the Bram Rigg Set and before I went off to school in Boston, we would take a break and listen to the entire album’s left channel.

Later the same afternoon we would listen to the whole album but just the right channel. Yeah, it was entertaining, listening to what George Martin and The Beatles were up to, but we were also trying to figure out what the hell they were doing as far as the recording process.

It wasn’t until several weeks later that I found out this album was recorded on a four-track machine. A four-track! Most studios in the States had long before installed eight-track recorders, including Syncron, later Trod Nossel, all the way out in Wallingford, CT, where my bands Bram Rigg Set and later Pulse worked out of.

Yet, The Beatles and Martin had produced an album on a four-track, albeit bouncing to a second four-track for many songs, and the album sounded extraordinary.

In a previous post on the recently released remastered versions of Help! and Rubber Soul, The Beatles albums that preceded these two, I wrote that bottom line the mono versions of those albums, even though I had grown up with the stereo, were my preference. OK, maybe not for Drive My Car and a few other tunes, but mono is the way to go for those: balanced, clear, direct and in-your-face punchy. (continue reading…)

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Concerts Vol. 9: Taj Mahal

by on Sep.19, 2009, under Music


Earlier this summer, I saw Taj Mahal in concert with Bonnie Raitt on the impressive Bon Taj Roulet tour, the third time I’ve seen Taj.

Taj Mahal 68474-5The second time was in the spring of 1969 at the improbable club in New Haven, the Stone Balloon, fashioned after Greenwich’s Village’s Cafe Au Go Go.

As mentioned in a post on Jethro Tull, who had played the club in February, ’69, the Balloon wasn’t open long, less than a year, but booked a plethora of rising stars from Tull to Taj to Neil Young. Quite a venue situated under a Pegnataro’s Supermarket with a back entrance from the super’s parking lot.

Taj had released two albums by this time, his self-titled debut and the classic Natch’l Blues, which was released the previous summer. He was touring with his original band that included the incomparable Jesse Ed Davis on lead guitar, Chuck Blackwell on drums and bassist Gary Gilmore.

The Stone Balloon was tiny. We went to see them on a Saturday night, some weeks after the Tull show, and Taj and his band were in fine form playing a mix of tunes from the first two albums. They were not as loud as Tull (not that I didn’t like Ian Anderson & Co.), instead perfectly suited to the room size and Davis was mesmerizing.

Of course, Taj wasn’t too shabby either. He had a beautiful take on modern country blues with his unique and refreshing originals mixed with classics like Good Morning Little Schoolgirl, Corrina and You Don’t Miss Your Water (‘Til Your Well Runs Dry). (continue reading…)

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Concerts Vol. 7: Jethro Tull

by on Jul.08, 2009, under Music


In 1969 and 1970 I saw Jethro Tull in concert three times. Looking back on the first show, the venue seems so unlikely given their later worldwide success. It was in a small club under a Pegnataro’s Supermarket just off the highway in downtown New Haven, Connecticut.

jethro-tull-stone-balloon-smallThe place was called The Stone Balloon and was fashioned directly after the Cafe Au Go Go in New York. It was a long, narrow room with a low ceiling. Tables and chairs took up most of the audience area in front of a small stage on the right-hand side wall toward the front half of the room. Unlike the Au Go Go it was brightly lit between sets. The Au Go Go was always like a cave.

They served no alcoholic beverages, just fruit drinks, soda and snacks, again much like the Au Go Go. Still, this club had an amazing array of talent pass through it in what I believe was perhaps about a year of being in business. We saw John Hammond, Taj Mahal and his band with Jesse Ed Davis as well as Tull, and others such as Neil Young & Crazy Horse passed through. (continue reading…)

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Elvis returns to the South

by on Jun.15, 2009, under Music


For his second venture recording in the American South this decade, Elvis Costello enlisted producer T-Bone Burnett, coming off his successful collaboration with Robert Plant and Alison Krause on Raising Sand, for an album with bluegrass musicians.

elvis-costell-secret-albumBut Secret, Profane & Sugarcane is hardly just a bluegrass album. Costello imbues his songs with rock, country blues and jazz sensibilities as well as folk themes built around four songs from an unfinished Hans Christian Anderson opera.

The playing is immaculate in a traditional bluegrass style, no drums, and the songs are vintage Costello, always interesting musically and lyrically stories easy to follow and ringing with truth, depth of emotion and at times a sly whimsy.

The album was recorded in a scant three days in Nashville and each track features the core band of Costello on acoustic guitar, T-Bone on most tracks with a Kay 161 electric, Dennis Crouch, double bass, Stuart Duncan, fiddle/banjo, Jerry Douglas, dobro, Mike Compton, mandolin and the harmony vocal of Jim Lauderdale, who often traces Costello closely throughout entire songs. Emmylou Harris joins them on one song, The Crooked Line. Jeff Taylor plays accordion on three tracks. (continue reading…)

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Concerts Vol. 4: Heavy Cream

by on Apr.23, 2009, under Music


cream-woolsey-tix-light

In Concerts Vol. 3, I wrote about the single concert performance that was probably the best out of hundreds I’ve attended and certainly the most influential: Cream at the Psychedelic Supermarket in Boston, September, 1967.

That wouldn’t be the only time I would see this amazing trio. I was lucky enough to see them three more times in a little more than a year. The second opportunity came in April, 1968. I was still going to school in Boston at Berklee School of Music and coming home on weekends to rehearse and/or play the Connecticut club scene with Pulse.

cream-another-portraitCream was scheduled to play at Boston’s Back Bay Theatre in April, but they were also going to play near my hometown in New Haven at Yale’s Woolsey Hall on April 10th and I decided to come home for that, mainly because I had a new girlfriend who was still in school in New Haven. This would be our first big concert date. That made sense.

The intact ticket above is from that date. I didn’t  hold on to many tickets or stubs from that period, but I kept this one tucked away in an old wallet. I’m glad I did. The reason it’s intact is that the Yale students didn’t take or rip any tickets, they just looked at them. Thank you, Yalies.

After playing for a week of a scheduled two-week engagement in Boston in September, 1967, Cream cut short its stay there over money problems with the owner of the Psychedelic Supermarket, not to mention they disliked Boston because of the discrimination and derogatory comments on the streets they endured, and moved on to play New York at several venues, including the Cafe Au Go Go and Village Theatre (later Fillmore East).

They also played two shows in Michigan, the second at Detroit’s Grande Ballroom in a much booted performance with fairly decent sound, a pretty good example of what they sounded like that fall. From there, they toured Europe fairly extensively, leading up to the release of their second album, Disraeli Gears (November, U.K., December, U.S.), the record that really started to break them as a big act. (continue reading…)

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Diana in a bossa mood

by on Apr.20, 2009, under Music


Mrs. Elvis Costello dedicates her latest album to Declan, Dexter and Frank, her husband and twin sons. She has presented them with a cool, mellow record in a distinctly bossa nova mood from her hushed vocal approach to spare but sparkling piano solos and the pristine production by longtime collaborator Tommy LiPuma.

diana-krall-quiet-nightsDiana Krall’s Quiet Nights, at first, begs for an evening with the lights down low, a bottle of wine and your significant other. But it also plays well for a sunny, sandy beach day with its Brazilian connections. Fully three of the 10 main selections are from the book of Antonio Carlos Jobim, including the title track, and one by Marcos Kostenbader Valle and Paolo Sergio Valle, the wonderful So Nice. Most of the others share a bossa feel.

I nearly flinched when I saw the number of musicians credited and with all those strings was wary of the record being overloaded with orchestrations. But the arrangements are tasteful and subtle, never overpowering the singer or her core band of Anthony Wilson, guitar, John Clayton, bass, Jeff Hamilton, drums, and Paulinho Da Costa, percussion. Claus Ogerman, who arranged some of Astrud Gilberto’s ’60s solo work and worked with Jobim, returns as arranger, having previously worked with Krall on The Look Of Love from 2004.

The album opens with two standards transformed by the bossa style, Hart & Rodgers’ Where Or When, a Sinatra staple, and Johnny Mercer’s Too Marvelous For Words, both featuring a concise piano solo, Wilson’s persistent guitar rhythm and an undercurrent of strings. Krall’s vocal interpretation of Marvelous is individualistic and compelling. (continue reading…)

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Astral return for Van the Man

by on Mar.09, 2009, under Music


Last fall, when I read Van Morrison would be revisiting his acknowledged masterpiece Astral Weeks in a live performance at the Hollywood Bowl, I was startled. Morrison has rarely played any of the tunes from the 1968 album in a live performance during his five-decade career. In fact, known for his sometimes surly attitude on stage, it’s been reported more than a few times that he’s scoffed at audience requests for some of those tunes admonishing “I don’t play those songs anymore.”

astralliveHe’s also known to be, at times, a tempermental live artist. I saw him play at  Lake Compounce in Bristol, CT in the early ’90s when that venue put on concerts. The highlight of the show was when Morrison wasn’t even on stage. At the time, jazz-pop vocalist Georgie Fame, who had several worldwide hits in the ’60s including Yeh, Yeh and The Ballad Of Bonnie & Clyde, was leading Van’s band. Fame came out alone and played two songs accompanying himself on Hammond B-3, Willie Dixon’s I Love The Life I Live in a Mose Allison style and Yeh, Yeh, both outstanding solo renditions. Van then came out, played a 50-minute set, left the stage and did not return despite a standing ovation.

He’s also been known for giving brilliant live performances and he looks positively happy on the cover of the CD release for Astral Weeks Live At The Hollywood Bowl, which will also be released on DVD (no date yet). There’s good reason. Morrison returns to this unique and inspired collection of songs and adds something new to each of them, starting with his impassioned, eccentric vocal phrasing to the impeccable arrangements for the ensemble, which expands on the original six-piece lineup. (continue reading…)

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