27 December 2009

U2: New Years Day


U2 from Top of the Pops (1983)

This is the song, scanning the radio on a roadtrip, that pulled me in -- made me once and forever a U2 lover.

"Under a blood red sky," -- Happy New Year.

13 December 2009

Run Run Rudolph!


One of the great advances of recent decades, really just a little thing, but it means a lot to me, is the fact that they play rock and roll at the grocery store now. No more "elevator music," no more easy listening, just solid songs from my generation's songbook.

Except at Christmas. As soon as the Christmas season rolls around it's back to the piped-in holiday standards. Luckily there is a slowly growing list of solid rock and roll Christmas songs. While working through my shopping list the other day I found myself dancing in the aisle when Chuck Berry's Run Rudolph Run came on, filling the market with my kind of holiday cheer. I hope it rocks your day, too.

30 November 2009

Growing Up: Jill Hennessy's "Ghost in My Head"

{from guest contributor Barbara Washburn}

For those old enough to remember the earlier days of Law & Order, when Jill Hennessy shot to stardom, who'd have thought Claire Kincaid (the buttoned-down character she played) would grow her hair and pick up a guitar? We should rejoice that she did, for Jill Hennessy has released a remarkable debut album, Ghost In My Head.

There's a bluesy quality to her voice, though no twelve bar blues appear on the CD. I can't help but wonder what she'd do with a couple of Janis Joplin's classics, Turtle Blues and Mercedes Benz, not to mention Joplin's Little Girl Blue. It isn't fair to compare the two - Hennessy obviously lacks Joplin's Texas drawl and amazing ability to stretch a note into infinity - but at the same time, I can easily see Jill Hennessy covering a couple of Janis Joplin's songs, and doing it well.

Much of the material is autobiographical in tone if not in fact, and the stories she tells in her songs are heart-wrenching. She takes you into a world of vivid images, raw pain, and the strength of the human soul, of grace and redemption. In her title track, she walks you through Washington Square at four in the morning, mourning loss as she wanders aimlessly in the cold. But perhaps the wandering is not so aimless, for her music speaks to the same restlessness, sleeplessness, and heartbreak of others, making it easy to identify with the poetry, the images, the vulnerability of a young woman on a New York night.

Erin, another track, touches your heart as she tells the story of a woman whose strength of spirit inspires at the same time. The pain of losing her mother comes through in a straightforward, non-maudlin way in 4 Small Hands, and a child's sense of responsibility where none belongs echoes throughout Save Me. Each song tells its tale, meets the listener where they are, and the melding is impressive.

I am not a musician, but I am a child of the sixties, and so I appreciate certain music, a certain era. I have not cared much for modern music, especially when the "artist" covers our music. Jill Hennessy doesn't make that mistake. These are her songs, her stories, her guitar work (ably backed by some fine musicians). It's my opinion she is at her best when it's simply her guitar and her voice, sharing her stories and soul with the world. In concert, she's funny as hell, and then, like Janis Joplin before her, gives it all to the audience. However, unlike Janis, she doesn't go home alone. Still, Hennessy has the right to sing the blues if she chooses, and while her current songs are not blues, in some sense they border on that wonderful genre in their own way, with her haunting voice and the pain that seeps through the lyrics.

This is an indie album, protected from the intrusions of suits who "know" better than the artist how a song should sound. There is great depth to this music, great freedom in it, the joy of expressing one's soul and vision without interference. I look forward to hearing more from her as she continues to grow musically, to write of those ethereal things so common to us all but unique to her.

Some of her performances can be viewed at http://www.youtube.com/jillhennessyofficial#p/u/9/B4yCEgg1kBc and I urge everyone to sample her work. The CD itself may be purchased from Amazon.com and Borders. The musicians who have influenced her over the years are quietly present, but the work is entirely hers, and she should be proud of it.

I may not be able to convince her to loan that voice, that pain and joy, to the blues, but I do hope she will - call it my sense of humor or my vision of the possible, but the idea of seeing or hearing Claire Kincaid sitting on a piano, singing that wonderful twelve bar blues, Turtle Blues, is too enticing. While others have tried to cover Joplin, I believe it's Hennessy's originality that would finally do justice to the white queen of the blues. And that is the greatest compliment I can pay to this album, this artist who can do so many things well. This album is both intellectual and emotional, and how many artists can one write that about? It's not a masterpiece, but she is growing, and I am ready to be blown away by the growth spurt to come. It has become an essential part of my musical library, and hope that many more will discover Jill Hennessy, musician, rather than Jill Hennessy, actress.

For those taken with her talent, she has a MySpace page that lists current and future gigs, as well as her take on her musical roots. Seeing her perform is a blast, as we used to say, and well worth any trip one might have to make to be there. Definitely an A list album by a musician who will soon be called the same. And for what it's worth, she's without ego or entourage, engaging with those who come to see her both from the stage and when she's wandering around later, one of the nicest people you could ever hope to meet.

Well done, Ms. Hennessy, now let's have another one.

13 November 2009

The Shape I'm in

"The Shape I'm in", sung by the late Richard Manuel, The Last Waltz, The Band

I've written about The Last Waltz concert film elsewhere. Here's one of my favorite servings of this rock n' roll gumbo.

03 November 2009

Duane Allman Wednesdays at The Florida Cracker

Wednesday October 21st's Duane Pic Florida-Cracker.org

Come join the merry band of Duane fans who gather `round on Wednesdays to check out a new, sublime photo of the legendary guitarist and band leader. One can learn a lot from webmistress Donnah and this diverse group, brought together by a continuing appreciation of one of our era's greatest slide guitarists.

Stop on by and shout out a "Wail on Skydog!" some time.

28 October 2009

Bonnie Raitt & Norah Jones: Tennessee Waltz



Everyone from Patti Page to Otis Redding has covered this tune, one I first discovered as a deep album cut on Emmylou Harris' Cimarron (1981). Here Bonnie Raitt, giving us a taste of her patented slide guitar style, and Norah Jones, playing superb electric piano, turn in a timeless duet performance of the Tennessee Waltz.

21 October 2009

Chasing Carole: A Review

Though on a much smaller scale, in this novel Barbara Washburn gives us a simplified version of The House of the Spirits (Isabel Allende), set in present-day America, the Golden Age of Hollywood (1930s and 40s) and the spirit world that connects them. This fine novel calls upon us to open up to spirits not of this world, spirits interacting with very real women of this world.

Here we have interwoven narratives: a remarkably personal view of Carole Lombard -- one of the foremost stars of the depression era screwball comedy -- during her affair with and marriage to Clark Gable. At intervals comes the story of a fictional modern-day granddaughter of Lombard (Cass) and her almost-partner Cameron.

I must admit, the modern-day relationship between college professors Cass and Cameron are my favorite part of the book. While I liked the firsthand stories of Lombard, set in her Golden Age of Hollywood world, Ms. Lombard doesn't come to life the way Cass and Cameron do. Perhaps it's a generational bias of mine -- the characters of Cass and Cameron are my contemporaries, very easy for me as a reader to identify with. These modern parts of the book look very much like real life to me, flesh and blood women facing the challenges of life.

Yet I also like stories that challenge skeptical views of the spirit world. And here, as with Isabel Allende's novel noted above, I found myself wanting to believe in the supernatural elements of the story. This is a strength of the novel for me. I'm one of those spirit world skeptics, but not here. The intimacy of the the portraits of Lombard and Gable are startling; "how could Ms. Washburn know that?" I kept asking myself. The details ring very true. And the Hollywood insider information on their contemporaries strike me as have come from a very accurate source.

With Chasing Carole, Barbara Washburn provides us provides a novel at once fearless in its frankness yet tender and loving at its core.

16 October 2009

Ray Charles: In Tribute

I saw the late Ray Charles live twice -- sequential gigs on a tour in the late seventies. Both show were great, but they couldn't have been more different. The first show was in Mobile, Alabama and Ray was playing to -- what can I call it -- his "commercial" audience. This show was designed to entertain anybody with even the smallest appreciation for his talent. He was playing to a mostly white audience, and entertain he did. He blew me away.

But I didn't know what was to come. The next show was at the New Orleans Performing Arts Center. Here he played a completely different set, this time to take serious jazz fans and blow their socks off. Striped down, improvisational, personal; I was awestruck by both his polished talent as an artist and also charisma as a showman.

I hear the recent film Ray is a good one, but I intentionally haven't seen it. I'm still savoring my memories of those two live show more than a generation ago. Ray, your genius will always live on in my heart and my soul.

09 September 2009

Another Gem from Santana: "Song of the Wind"


Santana, "Song of the Wind", Caravanserai (1972)

By 1972, the original Santana band, brought to international prominence with their appearance at Woodstock, and their second album, Abraxas, had broken up. Carlos was taking control and entering an intensely spiritual period that would last through the mid-seventies. But their fourth album, Caravanserai, contains a gem. It's not the perfect latin / rock fusion of the early days, but rather a shimmering, searing example of Carlos at his studio best. (I say studio best because, for the hard core fan, the jazz / rock / fusion of a full concert from these days, Lotus, is unsurpassable.)

So for those who have never heard it, hear's a treat for you ears, heart, and mind: Song of the Wind from 1972.

31 August 2009

A Drum Set for the Ages

This is a follow-up to Barbara Washburn's post below on drummer Jim Tilton. Jim wanted to add a description of his drum set -- a work of art for the ears and eyes. Here's Jim's description:

My Drum Set
By Jim Tilton

After forty plus years of playing the same set of Ludwig drums, a decision was made in the winter of 2007 to treat myself to a new set. It took a lot of self-convincing and excuses to place an order for one of the most extravagant drum sets available. The set is a Drum Workshop Collector’s Series, custom built, with an exotic finish.

The set is a fourteen piece maple construction with built-in matched low timber tone. The wood finish is Macassar ebony vertical grain, and is highlighted by twenty-four karat gold plated hardware and stands.
The set consists of 5x10, 6x10, 7x10, 8x10, 9x13, 10x13, 11x14, and 12x14 suspended toms; 16x16 and 16x18 floor toms, two 18x20 bass drums with beta 52 internal systems, and 5x13 and 7x14 snare drums of 10+6 maple construction.

The cymbals are Amedis Zilijian 15 inch new beat hi-hats, 6, 8, and 10 inches, a custom splash 16 and 18 inches, a custom fast crash 16, 18, and 20 inches, and a custom medium crash, along with an Amedis Zilijian 18 inch China High. Completing the cymbal set is a Sabian 22 inch paragon fade.

Rounding out the set is an assortment of five Latin percussion cow bells. All drumheads are DW coated and clear heads. Mics are Sennheiser Instrument and Drum, sticks are Pro-Mark Portnoy, jazz, and 727 as required. Finally, the most important parts are the SKB fabric and foam-lined cases for every drum.

22 August 2009

From Garage Band to Opening Act: A Remarkable Man’s Journey Through Life in Music

Gold Coast Bluenote is glad to welcome guest contributor novelist Barbara Washburn (Chasing Carole, 2008). This post is entirely her work.

Jim Tilton was born in Baltimore City, MD on August 30, 1950, and grew up there and in the surrounding county. His interest in music began around the age of five, when he received the gift of a set of toy drums. It wasn’t long before he moved on to the real thing. He could soon play his Ludwig drums, the trumpet, and keyboards. Piano lessons were part of his education at Catholic school, and trumpet mechanics followed at the Peabody Conservatory (of Music).

He grew up surrounded by music: Glenn Miller, the Dorseys, Benny Goodman, Lawrence Welk, and then Elvis and the fifties artists who followed. His personal influences were the big bands, jazz, the British Invasion of 1964 and onward.

Jim married on January 18, 1974, and joined the Navy on January 12, 1976 to support his family and further his educational goals in electronics. Taking advantage of the Navy’s emphasis on higher education, Jim studied electronic engineering and computer science.

The music was always there, almost part of his soul. From his days at the Peabody Conservatory he’d loved the music media of the past, collecting 78, 45, and 33 RPMs, and his collection of LPs is staggering. He also has a dazzling collection of cassettes, CDs, and sheet music.
Jim is not simply a collector and appreciator of the works of others, he’s a gifted musician in his own right, a drummer par excellence. His first real garage band was King Solomon’s Minds, a playful tip to the times.

And a fine band they were. They opened, in 1969, for the Jeff Beck Group, back when Rod Stewart was a member. They next opened for BB King and Canned Heat at the Baltimore Civic Center. In 1971 his new band, Theodus, opened for The Association at Towson State College.

As happens to most of us, life grew hectic. In the late sixties and early seventies, Jim moved from group to group, doing tours handicapped by poor booking agents, recording sessions with lost masters, and five nights a week gigs.

Jim changed with music, adapting easily to the advances in technology. Quality improved with better electronics processing, better and improved instruments and microphones, and new recording techniques.

The music remained topical – boy meets girl – but it also took on social commentary and current events. New musicians sprang from the groundbreakers of the sixties. “It’s good to hear new and creative music,” Jim said. “Riffs still being developed, and not being just transposed or plagerized.”

He was there and part of it when the music that spoke for a generation broke free and flew. Looking at today’s music, he says
I find it inconceivable to have a life without music, even if one can’t sing or play an instrument. You can still contribute by supporting musical artists. Music can channel feelings, sooth emotions, and provide stress outlets. Music is an outlet and an accompaniment that, if appreciated, can last from the beginning of life, throughout, and to the end, and provides comfort in each stage.
Sitting in Jim’s garage, watching his feet move to the music in his head while listening to his stories and absorbing his knowledge, I believe him. I feel it. And I so wish I’d been part of his journey from garage band to opening act, living the dream. Jim Tilton is a strong, remarkable man who lived and played in remarkable times, that era we all call, with some nostalgia, the sixties. I dream it, he did it, the drummer with the feet that still play even when he’s just chatting. Had I been so lucky, so gifted, I doubt I’d be so modest about it.

13 August 2009

Les Paul Passes On

The inventor of the solid body electric guitar, virtuoso Les Paul, died today. I'll be the first to say I owe him a debt of gratitude. Mr. Paul, rest in peace.

John Lennon, Keith Richards, Eric Clapton and Mitch Mitchel -- Together


Long before the then unreleased Rolling Stones' Rock 'n' Roll Circus was released, I remember seeing a black and white still photo of this performance. I was blown away.

Here are the lads performing "Yer Blues". Though I was a teenager at the time I saw the photo, I believe my instincts were good. See what you think.

03 August 2009

Lord Jim: Conrad's Book and Brooks' film

Jim (Peter O'Toole): I've been a so-called coward and a so-called hero and there's not the thickness of a sheet of paper between them. Maybe cowards and heroes are just ordinary men who, for a split second, do something out of the ordinary. That's all.
Though truly divergent works of art, with more than a few threads of a central theme, Joseph Conrad's novel Lord Jim (1899-1900) and Richard Brooks' 1965 film of the same name are both adventures worth taking. Each work stands on it own merits.

I read the book first and highly recommend starting with it. Then the film may serve as, not an equal, but a fine supplementary work of art. Supplementary in the most important sense in that it is an action adventure film with its serious themes stripped down, but still looming. While Conrad's novel is a meticulous examination an array of the elements of the human character and and "simple twists of fate." While the novel brings the characters into sharp focus, the film's cast truly bring the characters to life.

So take a South Seas adventure from the 19th century and learn a little about what heroes and courage are really all about.

17 July 2009

Billie Holiday - "Strange Fruit"


I doubt you will ever hear a song as powerful as this one. When Ms. Holiday would perform it in clubs (ignore the TV studio audience here), no one would clap -- the audience would sit there in awe. Moved. Thunderstruck.

See what you think.

01 July 2009

"Sandy, The Aurora is Rising Behind Us"

Recently I've been listening to a great old Bruce Springsteen album, one that's a very good cheer-me-up record, The Wild, the Innocent & The E Street Shuffle (1973) -- Bruce's last album before Born to Run hit and super-stardom soon followed.

It's like seven little operas, each containing their own story, their own sound and spirit, all crowned by the band's signature song in it's early days, Rosalita.

And as a happy 4th of July wish, here's a little treat from the record. Enjoy some independence wherever you find it.

26 June 2009

Special Comment

In this writer's opinion, recent comparisons of the career of the late Michael Jackson to the Beatles and Elvis Presley simply wrong. Check back with me in 40 years. As artists, Elvis and the Beatles have stood the test of time. As for Mr. Jackson, we shall see.

16 June 2009

A Face That Could Break a Thousand Hearts


Faces such as this don't come wrapped in this much talent very often. To read more about Greta Garbo, see the Wikipedia entry here. In the mean time, enjoy these stills of one of the greatest film talents ever.

13 June 2009

"Goin' to Acapulco, Goin' On The Run."

I've raved about Todd Haynes' I'm Not There (film) as an instant classic. (If you click on the album cover above, you'll see the soundtrack CD is even broader than the music that makes it into the film.) Here's an example of the power of the film for me: a Dylan song I've never heard of, covered by a band I barely know, lands among my top five music segments from the film.

Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid are loosely woven through this new hide-out myth of Dylan's late sixties brief escape from the rock n' roll world. The surreal town of "Riddle" becomes the target of development (in this quasi-old-west tale (the railroad's coming right through the secluded valley) and the morality tale driving Dylan's outlaw-in-hiding persona a little farther down the road. Other interpretations welcome.

In the clip below -- (16 May 2010 update: My apologies, Web Sheriff has yanked the clip below because of a copyright claim; you will just have to trust me and rent the DVD) -- Jim James with Calexico give a spine-tingling, poignant performance. It's representative of such dramatic moments in the film, a film always reaching to grasp the multidimensional Dylan.



09 June 2009

"Jimmy Eat World": In the Middle, in Pain

I recently received these two Youtube links (one with embedding disabled) from my mentor over at Carnal Reason. "pwyll" wrote, "I'm listening to a bit of Jimmy Eat World as I type ... Rock and roll still has legs." And indeed it does.

I am officially, now, a Jimmy Eat World fan. And being stuck in The Middle in Pain is an issue in a lot of our lives. The rollicking guitars made it hard to understand every word, but I got the idea, these guys are serious and can keep time. Gotta love 'em.

Jimmy Eat World -- In The Middle
Jimmy Eat World -- Pain (radio version, link)

30 May 2009

Loved it at 18; Still Love it at 52: "It's Only Rock 'n Roll" ... Stones

It's Only Rock 'n Roll (1974)
The Rolling Stones

.... If I could stick a knife in my heart
Suicide right on stage
Would it be enough for your teenage lust
Would it help to ease the pain? Ease your brain?
If I could dig down deep in my heart
Feelings would flood on the page
Would it satisfy ya, would it slide on by ya
Would ya think the boy's insane? He's insane. ....
(from title track)

Yea, Jagger's seen enough of these cloeing fans to take a tongue-in-cheek shot at them.

I just replaced this album after 25 long years passing since I last owned it. And my reaction was just as I hoped: Temps cover Ain't Too Proud to Beg rocks just as hard as it did, and Dance Little Sister's masterful
riff (Clapton praised it glowingly) undergirding Mick Taylor's lead fills, turning a hot song to a scorcher, all enhanced by the remastered sound.

And the real test: I've been spinning the disc almost daily for the few weeks I've had it. And enjoying every song ('cept maybe Short and Curlies, a lyrical throw-away with nothing innovative about the music.)

I love it so much it makes me wanna be a rock and roll guitar player (again), specifically one of the crowd of guitarists on the title track, It's Only Rock 'n Roll (But I Like It).

And the lyrics, the stories Jagger tells here -- the rockers grab you and throw you into the wall to get you to sing / growl along. And the tender ballads excel because they are wiped clean of sentimentality. These are realistic love affairs, with unkind women populating Jagger's world.

On It's Only Rock n' Roll, this blues-band-at-its-core shows there stuff as mature pop artists, now in the business of selling records and building their reputation of blue eyed soul men.

Still to come was the "mid-life" crisis the band would face once Ronnie got settled in as their second guitar player and The Glimmer Twins began acting like a married couple that needed a break. (I myself, I'm on Keith's side of this fight -- anyone would have to fight to survive with Jagger's crushing ego in the room.

Here we have Mick Taylor and Richards growing apart as players, but still playing together like nobody else (If You Can't Rock Me ) is a good example from this record; 3 of the Stones' most recent 4 albums were highlighted by Taylor's work with either Mick or Keith or both).

One more note from me, with a strong endorsement to check this CD out: the American kids too young for the
Viet Nam draft are also to young to have followed the career of the early Stones. It was albums like "It's Only Rock 'n Rock" and Some Girls (1978) that brought the kids who grew up on 70s music into an entirely new Stones fan base. 'And we like it, like it, yes we do.'

24 May 2009

Nat King Cole, "Nature Boy"

Frank Sinatra called George Harrison's Something the greatest love song of the last 50 years. For my money, Nat King Cole performing "Nature Boy" is the best love song performance I ever heard.


22 May 2009

Well Hush My Mouth

While my computer was down for the last few weeks, it gave me some time to do some homework on Dylan's Just Like Tom Thumb Blues -- and reassess my appraisal of a new Neil Young cover discussed glowingly below.

I've been re-studying the original, piano and vocal-driven original by Dylan on Highway 61 Revisited. My conclusion: from the relentless vocal delivery of this apocalyptic poem, to the acoustic guitar fills that lighten the proceedings, the original Just Like Tom Thumb Blues is insuperable, aging quite well from the days when this song was part of Dylan's revolutionary transition from "finger pointing songs" to surrealistic electric and acoustic rock.

No one convinces you "she [took] your voice, and [left] you howling at the moon" as well as Dylan does.

It has been done with other Dylan songs, but nobody pushes aside the original album version of Just Like Tom Thumb Blues.

30 April 2009

When the Cover Version Pushes Aside the Original

Here we discuss a few cover versions of songs that are better than the originals. I think of these as I do great film sequels: they occur only rarely.

The Otis Redding clip below is one of the earliest examples, in post-50s rock, of a cover artist stealing a song out from under the original artists. If there is any justification at all for the Stones continuing to add Satisfaction to their set lists, it is as a tribute to Otis Redding

Immediately below is a live performance from 1966, around the time Redding
"broke out".

And here's another: Neil Young doing a live cover, in 1992, if Dylan's Just Tom Thumb's Blues

Having, on my great southwest Texas travel adventure 20 years ago, 'been lost in Juarez at Easter time', where 'the cops definitely had no use for me', I have always loved and identified with this early Dylan classic.

Here Neil, his classic black Les Paul in hand, turns up the volume and distortion to give "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues" just the right coke-jitter edginess. Though this performance is a decade and a half old, it stands perfectly as a metaphor for the city under drug war siege Ciudad Juarez is today.

But Neil is like that -- he makes whatever he touches timeless. Neil is one of the few performers who can incorporate Dylan vocal mannerisms into his performance without looking silly.

Think about it, who even tries?
(I heard Jagger stumble and botch it only once. He never tried again after Godard caught him doing Dylan in the recording session for "Sympathy for the Devil", included in Godard's film One Plus One.

Here, Neil executes a rugged Dylan-esque vocal flawlessly.


This last definitive cover I'll mention here you can put to the test yourself. Johnny Cash's cover of U2's song One is number 5 on my black jukebox in the left column. Johnny Cash' cover of One, by U2, discussed in an earlier post here, is now definitive. Just check out track 5 and let me know what you think. In my view, now that Cash has passed on, he owns this song (artistically) and no one will ever take it back.

The lesson here: just because you didn't write that great song doesn't mean you can't do the best version ever. Indeed, I do the world's best cover of Neil Young's Cortez the Killer, I just can't prove it anymore.

{Post inspired by WhiteRay at Echoes in the Wind: "Otis Redding, Neil Young & Gypsy"}

24 April 2009

Rock with Strings: A Non Sequitur, Except ....

Strings on rock records are almost always a failure -- they actually water down, rather than increase, the power of songs that will rock your socks off.

The most high profile example of this problem are the strings that way-past-his-prime
Phil Spector used to bury the studio work of the Paul, John, George and Ringo on the Beatles song Across the Universe, released on Let it Be (1970). Luckily, Sir Paul McCartney has acquired the publishing rights to the album and stripped the strings off, allowing one to hear what was actually recorded in the studio by the lads (see Let it Be... Naked (2003)).

There are, however, exceptions. The most important is the revolutionary wall of sound developed by Phil Spector's when was out the height of his production powers in the early 1960s. The Wikipedia contributors describe the "wall of sound" as
.... a dense, layered, and reverberant sound that reproduced well on AM radio and jukeboxes popular in the era. He created this sound by having a number of electric and acoustic guitarists perform the same parts in unison, adding musical arrangements for large groups and/or orchestral musicians, and then recording the sound using an echo chamber. .... (Wall of Sound, Wikipedia Contributors)
A great "wall of sound" record to check out is "Paradise" by The Ronettes (available on the Phil Spector box set Back to Mono).

Another great use of strings in rock came about eight years later. On the
Stones' Moonlight Mile (from the album Sticky Fingers), Paul Buckmaster's powerful string arrangement sends Mick Taylor's crescendo power chords into overdrive, turning a good album closing cut into a great one.

And now, the payoff for reading all that -- a contemporary example of making strings work in a rock song. Here, for your listening pleasure, are the best rock strings in a generation: "Linger" by The Cranberries :

Yeah, let's let that linger -- play it again Delores, rock away my broken heart.

19 April 2009

The Passing of a Pioneer, Bettie Page

Bettie Page on the bow of a classic wooden Chris Craft.

Bettie Page was the ground-breaking pinup model of the 1950s -- the lone talent to shatter all the taboos and, eventually, open up America to mainstream artistic female nudity, erotica, and non-mainstream work such as bondage photos. Ever joyful in front of a camera, we owe her a lot. She helped free this country from it's now-pointless puritan roots.

With her December passing, she will be missed, and continue to be admired.

Bettie, you were the best. Requiescat in pace.

14 April 2009

"There's One More Kid That'll Never Go to School, Never Get to Fall in Love, Never Get to Be Cool."

Neil Young -- Rockin' in the Free World (music video)

There are a lot of wanna-be social protest songs detailing our social and moral decay as a society. None rock this hard. When Neil and Crazy Horse performed it on Saturday Night Live, it burned the house down and I got to experience the "busted guitar string heard round the world."

This is a masterpiece. This is what rock 'n' roll is all about.

09 April 2009

Steely Dan - Hey Nineteen (Live, 2006)


"We got nothin' in common
We can't dance together
We can't talk at all
Please take me along when you slide on down"
If you are ever sitting in a bar -- and you are a man over 50 hitting on a young lady, let's say half your age. Then, mysteriously, the studio version of Steely Dan's Hey Nineteen comes on the jukebox, look around.

You may see me over in the corner of the bar, sipping iced tea and giggling to myself. Yes, I'm the culprit trying to mess up your May-December romance.

This is a message song -- a lesson to be learned well. In addition to the two couplets quoted above, think about this: she doesn't know who Aretha Franklin is. She probably never heard of the Beatles or the Stones. The only way you two, with no common ground, will get through the night is with some "Cuervo Gold and fine Colombian."

Just my opinion, and there are exceptions. But not in bars. Get a hold of yourself man. Pick on someone who is your own age. Leave that Sweet Little Rock n' Roller be.

03 April 2009

Carole King & James Taylor - "So Far Away"

As far as I know, Carole King only performed in Tampa once.

When I was about 14 (1970-1972) , James Taylor was touring with a stop at our convention center -- concert central for the area. During Taylor's set, Ms. King came out, to the audience's surprise and true elation. King played a 3 song mini-set that immediately entered the annals of Tampa music history -- a gentle Brill Building breeze so perfect no one knows anymore whether it could have been as good as everyone who remembers it thinks now.

Above we have some had evidence that Carole on James' stage in the early seventies was that good. Here we have the reverse situation: Carole invited James onstage to perform one of the incomparable songs off her chart-dominating 1971 collection Tapestry.

I personally wore out 3 Tapestry lps "getting through" from age 13 to 15. And music clips such as the one above take me right back to when the concept of a nickel bag still made sense to music, if it couldn't save the world, could save me.

Ugh, time marches on, C'est la vie. Come on Carole, sing one for us. I know I'll ".... still love you tomorrow ..."

29 March 2009

The Best Lou Reed Solo Album Ever

My call on this impossible task is Lou's 1989 New York lp. I was lucky enough to see the tour, owned the original and just replaced it with a CD copy this week.

It burns even hotter now, with two decades come and gone: Dirty Boulevard, Romeo and Juliet, and Busload of Faith crack, sizzle and pop, both lyrically and musically, like a downed electrical wire on the road in a hurricane. Rob Wasserman's six string upright electric bass and Reed's relentless guitar work create a rock and roll machine in overdrive from the Bowery straight up to Spanish Harlem.

An essential.

28 March 2009

One Mo' Time: The Score for "The Departed"

{"Greatest Hits of Gold Coast Bluenote: "Music in Film"}

(Revised and Reposted from August 2007)

Martin Scorcese on the set of The Departed

This past year, decades past due, film auteur Martin Scorsese walked off with almost all the hardware at last Oscars for his latest masterwork, The Departed.

With the exception of, as examples, the use of Jim Gordon's half of Layla and Ry Cooder's slide solo from Memo from Turner in the two-movement Goodfellas climax, the use of music, other than the score, in Goodfellas is an embryonic form of what is accomplished in The Departed.

The following is a non-spoiler soundtrack film teaser with notes:

Gimme Shelter
churns -- Ooh, fire is sweeping, our very streets today -- as Mick Jagger and Merry Richards belt their vocals as Keith Richards' lead runs and power chords introduced Jack Nicholson's character Frank Costello.

Mr. French's
character is unsheathed to strains of Duane Allmans' opening slide solo in One Way Out.

Billy tunes-up Providence button men - Nobody But Me by the original Isley Brothers --
... nobody, nobody, nobody..,

When Frank Costello first meets Billy, Let It Loose is on the jukebox: Frank's "all dressed up to do you harm."

Patsy Cline's unsurpassable Sweet Dreams cover is on the stereo at Frank's apartment as French and Frank discuss Billy's reliability [blend from Patsy across Irish ditty into John Ono Lennon's Well, Well, Well.

[Used in love scene between Billy and, radically transformed by Van Morrison's soaring live vocal, into a "sexual healing" song. First Verse is softly buried under a "find the rat' scene, then the dialogue fades and the song come up.]
Comfortably Numb (-- by Gilmour, Waters; originally from Pink Floyd's The Wall)

Is there anybody in there?
Just nod if you can hear me.

Is there anyone at home?

Come on, now,
I hear you're feeling down.
Well I can ease your pain

Get you on your feet again.
[transition to Madeline and Billy in her old apartment as she packs]
... There is no pain you are receding
A distant ship, smoke on the horizon.
You are only coming through in waves.
Your lips move but I can't hear what you're saying.

When I was a child
I caught a fleeting glimpse ...

Out of the corner of my eye.
I turned to look but it was gone

I cannot put my finger on it now

The child is grown,
The dream is gone.

... A distant ship's smoke on the horizon.

You are only coming through in waves.

Your lips move but I can't hear what you're saying.

...When I was a child I had a fever

My hands felt just like two balloons.

Now I've got that feeling once again

I can't explain you would not understand

This is not how I am ...

[music fades as teapot boils in kitchen; dialogue and love scene as song fades back in to soundtrack]
... There is no pain you are receding
A distant ship's smoke on the horizon.

You are only coming through in waves
Your lips move but I can't hear what you're saying

When I was a child
I caught a fleeting glimpse
Out of the corner of my eye.
I turned to look but it was gone

I cannot put my finger on it now

The child is grown,
The dream is gone. [And] I have become comfortably numb.
I'm Shipping Up To Boston - Dropkick Murphys

And when the deal is going down, truly, this song (in a more hard-edged arrangement than in the YouTube video hyperlink above) rolls and blasts -- traditional Irish music punk band. Who would've thought...it figures[?]

The Departed, as in all aspects of it's construction takes lacing a soundtrack with great tunes to an new level in cinema.

23 March 2009

Rolling Stones - Honky Tonk Woman (Live in Hyde Park 1969)

This YouTube clip is as flawed as the original gig was. But the little glimpse we get of the Stones doing this famous free concert in London in 1969 is worth overlooking those flaws.

Some great clips of the band and the crowd and, most importantly, Mick Taylor -- who had about 12 hours to get ready for the show -- in action with the best Stones lineup ever.

The rock history is of vast importance -- so soak it up Ladies and Gentlemen: The Rolling Stones.

17 March 2009

Hollywood Babylon: From "Sunset Blvd. to a Hush-Hush Martini a la "LA Confidential"

Best Hollywood Babylon Picture ever. All on the Q-T ... very Hush, Hush. But on the record.

Break out performances by Bassinger, Crowe, and Spacey. Another fine performance from producer / actor DeVito. Superb direction and co-writing on a masterful screenplay by Chris Hanson. Excellent cinematography, perfectly scored soundtrack -- it all works seamlessly.

Don't miss it, lassies and boyos.

(Editor's Note: There is one very dangerous myth, of vital import today, in this film. In the movie, torturing suspects extracts reliable information. In real life, and based on the science of this practice, the information you get by torturing a suspect or witness in captivity is not reliable. That said, the cops and criminals of the day did think it worked so the film is accurate to it's time frame. Look at this element of the film as art, not reality.)

12 March 2009

"Abscessed Tooth Ache Blues"

I never did find out which one of the usual suspects, most likely Southern Woman on the Web Donnah in her Owen McQueen outfit, wrote this number. I do know Little Starla queen of my hearta sent me da 12 bar blues below.

And deadlines, dear readers, are deadlines.

This post goes to press today, for you, and for all the merry blues crew on the Wednesday morning
Skydog beat at Florida Cracker:

Abscessed Tooth Ache Blues


07 March 2009

Grievous Angel

Emmylou Harris and Gram Parsons
(Photo Credit: Pubic Domain)

You gotta pay to play. All traditional blues songs -- the form itself -- started out as a way for a man to express heartache over a woman.

".... Love is Like a Flower, Holds a Lot of Rain ...."
(-- Gram Parsons (performed with Emmylou Harris))

28 February 2009

In Memoriam: Cyd Charisse

Cyd Charisse and Gene Kelly in the film: Singing in the Rain
(released in 1952)

We lost Cyd this year, she has gone on to a better place. Ms. Charisse, truly, you are the best dancer I ever hope to see perform. Your passing touches me.

Requiscat in Pace.

22 February 2009

Great Art: Getting It Paid For, and Finished! -- "The Agony and the Ecstasy"

I recently spoke to several of my friends, one a film buff and the others folks who would love the story told here, and none of them had seen this film, much less read the book. Given what I knew about who I was talkin' to, I was quite surprised.

The Agony and the Ecstasy is based on one segment of Irving Stone's biographical novel of the same name. This superb film tells the story of the tumultuous relationship between Michelangelo Buonarroti and Pope Julius II over the painting of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican.

I have to admit, seeing Rex Harrison in a role where he quite effectively, as Pope Julius to Heston's Michelangelo, puts Charlton Heston in his place is, well, delicious. Heston was playing so many God-like roles in those days, it's good to see someone with the authority to put such a gigantic screen presence in his place.

But more importantly, the history of the now renovated Sistine Chapel ceiling, one of the greatest art accomplishments of the Italian Renaissance, is fundamentally important. It gives the viewer substantial insight into the ever difficult relationship between a great artist and a patron he (or she) must rely on to continue working.

In short, see this film. It is an essential for anyone interested in the nuts and bolts of how great art gets made.

17 February 2009

Anna Christoffersson: Sweden Comes Through with the New Billie Holiday

A great new talent from Sweden -- sultry, soulful, great musician, beautiful voice. Ms. Cristoffersson has got it all. Check out her music on the jukebox on her MySpace page at:

12 February 2009

Happy Birthday Charles Darwin; Happy Birthday President Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln
Charles Darwin
Today is the anniversary of both men's birth. Their actions and ideas changed the world forever. We should not forget the wisdom they helped us find.

Hayes Carll - It's A Shame (live)

'I have seen the future of old time country music; his name is Hayes Carll.'

05 February 2009

Tift Merritt: "Broken" (video and album track)

New talent on the rise. Ms. Merritt is gonna be big unless the industry decides to crush her. If corporate music does, I will sue them until they run for the Everglades.

This is real talent, you "gray-suited grafters" -- let it thrive.

Hats off to Ms. Merritt. Buona Fortuna.

29 January 2009

Music of the '80s that Matters: The Cure's "Just Like Heaven"

Robert Smith was the David Bowie (Ziggy-era) for young women of the 1980's.

His band The Cure cut across so many, dare I say tragically hip, elements of youth culture at that time. Moreover, their influence persists, long after the Goth fad that deified them.

They make the cut. You are a keystroke away from seeing the video of The Cure's iconic "Just Like Heaven". This band, because of Robert Smith, will still matter in 30 years and as usual, it is the timeless nature of their best music that sustains their importance.

If you are over 45, hitting the video link below is something important. For those who want to relive this moment, follow this video link and check it out.

Not only is it just like heaven, but "Every Little Thing ..." The Cure do here "... Is Magic".

24 January 2009

Dancing To Echoes in The Wind

Two absolute gems, with details in post and comments thereon, over at Echoes in the Wind (clips from YouTube contributors):

Originally Posted January 08, 2009

Dee Dee Sharp & Sly and the Family Stone

18 January 2009

George Harrison: "Got My Mind Set on You"

Let's stick with this Beatles theme for one more clip -- this a great video and song by a mature George.



George Harrison: "Got My Mind Set on You"

14 January 2009

On the Roof of Number 3 Savile Road, St. John's Wood, Westminster, London

The Beatles, The Roof of Abbey Road Studios, "Don't Let Me Down"


Listen to the soul in John's voice as he, as no one else ever will, pleads "Don't Let Me Down". This is why rock 'n' roll is important -- this is the real stuff dudes and dudettes. Taste is not an option with this one, it's good by definition.