31 December 2007

A Neil Young Primer

If at some point you've become interested in exploring Neil Young's enormous catalogue, let me throw in my two cents:

Neil with Crazy Horse on both occasions:

Everybody Knows This is Nowhere (1969);

Rust Never Sleeps (1979).

These are both essential albums of the rock 'n' roll experience.

24 December 2007

Dylan's "The Bootleg Series, Vol. 1 - 3: Rare And Unreleased, 1961-1991"

.... Who killed Davey Moore,
Why an' what's the reason for?
"Not us," says the angry crowd,
Whose screams filled the arena loud.
"It's too bad he died that night
But we just like to see a fight.
We didn't mean for him t' meet his death,
We just meant to see some sweat,
There ain't nothing wrong in that.
It wasn't us that made him fall.
No, you can't blame us at all. ...."

(-- Bob Dylan, excerpt from Who Killed Davey Moore?
Copyright © 1964; renewed 1992 Special Rider Music)

I still remember the first time I saw this collection of rare and unreleased Dylan material. It was in the mid-1980's in the massive vinyl collection of a friend. After reviewing the track listings, I said to myself, "I've got to get a copy of this." Many years later, and to this day, the 3 CD set is still among my most prized song collections.

What excited me initially, the outtakes from the Infidels sessions, turned out to be among the least of the treasures here.
The Bootleg Series, Vol. 1 - 3: Rare And Unreleased, 1961-1991

Despite the fact that Biograph has got Up to Me (recorded but not issued during the Blood on the Tracks sessions) on it, I, as others, have never been happy with the haphazard arrangement of the tracks on that collection. The Bootleg Series (v. 1 - 3) completely solves that problem by going in comprehensive, chronological, and ultimately cosmic, order.
This chronology paints an entirely different portrait of Dylan than you find in his released work. (Vol. 4 and 5 do the same -- I never had "a grasp of the picture" until I heard Visions of Johanna performed live in London by Dylan in 1965. That imagery-filled portrait is made almost crystal clear, to open ears, in Martin Scorsese's documentary No Direction Home.

The "door prize" here is, well, let me work with the the liner notes:
If Not For You [(-- Dylan, Harrison)]: In June 1970, Rolling Stone reported that Bob Dylan and George Harrison had spent a day together in a New York studio, putting down tracks[.] .... [F]rom that session ...
came a
acoustic slide guitar-driven version of the song unparalleled to this day.

The versions of Tangled Up in Blue and Idiot Wind here are nothing short of revelations. Most importantly, Idiot Wind here is delivered mournfully and reflectively, rather than with the caustic anger of the later take included on Blood on the Tracks.
For a Woody Guthrie fan like me, there is no better tribute than one of the only recordings of a Dylan poem ever made: Last Thoughts on Woodie Guthrie (recorded at a gig in April of 1963). This contemplation of the shifting sands of experience, and where holiness can be found, is pure Dylan without his controversial vocals at issue.
Regarding the 68 tracks on this box set, I could go on and on, on and on, and on and on and on. But I don't want you to read about it -- listen to the music and think about it. Let the music and poetry wash over you.
Update: I'm Not There available on DVD now (22May2008).

19 December 2007

Some Pictures Tell Better Stories: Patti Smith

Patti Smith (Cover photo for Horses, by Robert Mapplethorp)

Because the photo is so good!

Patti Smith: great photos, great poetry, great music. The distilled essence of the mid-to-late 1970's rock 'n' roll revolution: Velvet Underground's John Cale's production of The Patti Smith Group album Horses (1975).


14 December 2007

".... You Got the Fight, You Got the Insight ..."

Joni Mitchell's Shine

Ms. Mitchell's first album of new music in a decade -- she's been devoting herself to her painting and visual arts work -- is, go figure, an element of a ballet score. Even if some critics find the Shine album uneven in quality, the heights she reaches with both the tract If and the ballet score adventure, are the blood and guts of what sets great art, and artists, a step above.

The track If contains the lyric-quote-title of this post -- one among the many insights here into the nature of our lives these days. Joni is, again, using her poetic and compositional talent to guide us on our furrowed path.

For those who want to learn more about Ms. Mitchell's career and musical legacy, see both Wikipedia's essay and also, humbly offered, my post on her album Blue.

Shine on, Joni, shine on!

12 December 2007

On the Passing of Ike Turner

Ike Turner Dies in San Diego at Age 76

The Gold Coast Bluenote extends its condolences to those who will miss this flawed-but-rehabilitated rhythm and blues pioneer. Ike, rest in peace.

09 December 2007

By Request: Lyle Lovett

Ramona and her acoustic Martins requested some Lyle Lovett. Alas:

CD: My Baby Don't Tolerate (2003)

A track from this album, currently in medium rotation on MusicChoice cable, Nothing But A Good Ride, is worth the price of the CD. (Not the MP3 mind you -- with music I recommend, songs are part of entire albums, period. Singles are over -- at least in my mind.)

And I'll bet you my bottom dollar that's bass player extraordinaire Leland Sklar behind Mr. Lovett in the picture above.

04 December 2007

Rolling Stones' "Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out!": 1969 at the Garden

I watched my VHS tape of The Stones on HBO during the Licks (2003) tour last week -- a great, ethereal gig. I started to write about it, but decided against giving you great wine in aging bottles.

Featuring the band's most critically acclaimed line-up, the best released recording of the many times The Stones brought Madison Square Garden to the forefront of rock 'n' roll palaces is Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out! The Rolling Stones in concert (1970).

It doesn't get any better than this. It's all about the spaces between the guitar notes, run through Marshall stacks. The track Carol alone should convince you. What's the word I'm looking for? Raw.
Recommended related films: Performance (you gotta hear Ry Cooder on Jagger's indictment-song Memo from Turner) and, if for nothing more than the performances by both The Who, and also Lennon, Richards (on bass), Mitch Mitchell, and Clapton doing Yer Blues, The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus (unreleased until 1996, filmed and recorded in 1968). See also my earlier post on the film Gimme Shelter.
Keith's "ancient art of weaving" with Ronnie (Licks tour) or Mick Taylor propelling Keith into the stratosphere ('69 at the Garden) -- such a wealth of riches.

03 December 2007

This Year's "Kennedy Center Honors"

Held last night in DC, in honor of Martin Scorsese, Leon Fleisher, Diana Ross, Brian Wilson, and Steve Martin. A Starry-Eyed Salute will give you the essentials. The yearly telecast of last night's tribute will be on CBS this coming December 26th. I shall be marking my calendar.