27 December 2010

Dylan's Rolling Thunder on "Black Diamond Bay"

Bob Dylan's follow-up studio album to Blood on the Tracks, 1976's Desire, was written and recorded in New York city in 1975. It has always been a favorite of mine, in part because the songs are just flat out great and also because it came during a time when Dylan was organizing -- and reorganizing -- the Rolling Thunder Revue. I saw two great shows on that tour (New Orleans and Houston), but that's a story for another time.

Most of
Desire was co-written with Jacques Levy. And there is one song in particular that gets very little attention, Black Diamond Bay. I do remember one smart alack reviewer saying that Dylan must have been reading too much Joseph Conrad when he co-wrote this one. Other than that, silence. For me, this is a great little adventure story song built on a fine guitar riff -- thoroughly enjoyable for me because I love this outing as Dylan does Conrad.

But judge for yourself; here's the story of Black Diamond Bay.

Bob Dylan, Black Diamond Bay (1976, album version)

20 December 2010

"Run Rudolph Run": 'Tell [Santa] He Can Take the Freeway Down'

Chuck Berry

As I noted in the preceding post, I've got two favorite Christmas songs. My last post discussed the first runner-up, but my all time favorite is Chuck Berry's 1958 recording of Run Rudolph Run. I first discovered the song when Keith Richards covered it on his first solo single in 1978. But once I found Chuck Berry's version, I was hooked. It's a rockin' little song with great 50s Christmas lyrics and trademark Chuck Berry vocals and guitar. So "Merry Christmas, baby."

[Editor's Note: Keith Richards re-released his '78 cover of Run Rudolph Run on Itunes this December.]

Chuck Berry Run Rudolph Run (1958)

15 December 2010

Favorite Christmas Songs: Darlene Love on Letterman, "Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home)" (1995)

An annual tradition on Late Night with David Letterman since 1986, Darlene Love performing Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home) is a holiday ritual both rock and R & B fans can look forward to, especially given the world of often tepid Christmas songs thrust at us in December. Above is a particularly hot version of this tune from 1995 -- back when Paul Shaffer still had hair.

Back before The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, I used to catch Letterman only intermittently. I only caught one of these Darlene Love Christmas appearances, but the year I did, she, Paul and the band rocked my evening. Shaffer creates a Phil Spector style "wall of sound" -- one very like the mono production style Spector gave Darlene when she flourished in the 60s. I was overjoyed; now I had two favorite Christmas songs, Chuck Berry's Run Rudolph Run and Darlene Love with the CBS Orchestra doing Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home).
Note: I found out from Echoes in the Wind today that Darlene will be on Letterman this year on Thursday, December 23rd.

08 December 2010

John Lennon, 1940 - 1980

Today is the 30th anniversary of the murder of John Lennon near his home in New York City. I still recall quite vividly Yoko's call for 10 minutes of silent prayer the following Sunday. As many did, I spent that Sunday with close friends quietly reflecting on what John had meant both to me and to a world that mourned the tragedy.

John, I hope you've found the peace now that you worked so hard for in life.

04 December 2010

Ladies and Gentlemen: The Rolling Stones (2010 DVD release): "Tumbling Dice"

Though I've been an ardent Stones fan since the 70s, I've never had the chance to see any concert footage from what many would argue is the best tour the band ever did -- their 1972 tour in support of Exile on Main St. This is Mick Taylor's last tour as a Stone and the band is in peak form.

Can't think of a holiday gift for that Stones fan you know? Ladies and Gentlemen: The Rolling Stones was re-released in October 2010 on DVD for the first time, and this Stones fan will act very surprised (and pleased) if he gets a copy in his stocking. 'Til then, I've got a wonderful bootleg of one of the tour concerts to keep me warm.

Folks, enjoy this little taste above, the Stones live in '72 performing a favorite of mine, Tumbling Dice.

27 November 2010

My Search for Patsy Cline: "She's Got You"

Mine has been a long climb out of the "country ain't cool" cave I wallowed in as a teenager. Here's one of paths out I found.

More than a decade after I started on my rock adventure in 1970, a friend gave me a cassette tape containing Elvis Costello's first two albums. I was crazy for his music. Then, in 1981, he began a long run of surprising his fans with each new release. Almost Blue (1981), recorded in Nashville with Nashville musicians and a Nashville producer, was filled with country standards that were all new to me. But I really liked the album.

There was one song in particular that I learned had been a hit by someone named Patsy Cline, the achingly beautiful Sweet Dreams. I told myself, "I'll have to check her out." And when I did, she knocked me off my feet. But I pulled myself up and dusted off my self-respect -- for missing her all those years -- and dove into her small but nearly flawless catalog. To this day, I still haven't heard a voice like hers.

As biographer Ellis Nassour put it when asked to comment on Cline's continuing popularity "Her voice really delivered the full intent of what the songwriters wrote, and [it was enhanced] by the quality and innovation lavished on her sessions by the real genius behind her sessions, Owen Bradley. No one sings a torch song like Patsy. It's like she's living her own story."

It wasn't hard to pick a personal favorite of Patsy's singles to feature here. Sweet Dreams, the song I discovered Patsy by, was an good possibility. Walkin' after Midnight was easily the song I'd poured the most money into jukeboxes for. But the wistful ballad below, Hank Cochran's She's Got You, is easily my favorite. It shows perfectly why a lot of folks, me included, think there is nobody that matches Patsy Cline.

So thanks Mr. MacManus. I would have been stuck a long while in my "country ain't cool" cave without your help way back in '81.

Patsy Cline, She's Got You (1962)

21 November 2010

An Album of (Mostly) Film Images

Here are a few film-related photos and movie posters -- with several music and miscellaneous wild cards included -- in my album at Golden Age of Hollywood. Click on any image for more information.

16 November 2010

The Dixie Chicks: Still "Not Ready To Make Nice"

A friend of mine put on an album the other night, one I hadn't written about since it took home five Grammys and tore up the charts in 2006. The Dixie Chicks' Taking the Long Way still sounds great these five years later. (Judge for yourself with the video above; as always, my apologies for the ad across the bottom.)

As an aging hippie, the idea that a band would stir up so much controversy by exercising an artist's right to criticize American foreign policy from overseas is more than a little disconcerting. I grew up at the height of the era where protest music and musicians speaking their minds were badges of honor. But judging on the first decade of this century, a band now puts its future on the line by stepping out of line. As I think about it, I guess its always been risky to oppose those in authority.

The Dixie Chicks are still thriving with a smaller fan base, having lost many of their more conservative, mainstream country fans. But they are still going strong, and their cathartic album Taking the Long Way stands as one of the decade's most important protest records.

10 November 2010

"Open the pod bay doors, Hal."

In 1968, when Stanley Kubrick's masterwork 2001: A Space Odyssey was released, I was 11 and my grandfather was 55. The pre-release hype on the film had been so big that he took me to the Tampa premiere of the film. He and I had never been to a film together before, but he thought this would be a culturally significant event and he didn't want me to miss it.

When we emerged from the theater after viewing the film, I distinctly remember the two of us looking at each other with expressions of "What the hell was that?" I'm sure it was the last Kubrick film he ever saw, but for me it was the beginning of a journey of exploration.

I'm 53 now and I'd guess I've seen the film 20 times since its release, each time comprehending a little bit more of what Kubrick was saying. It's been a slow, hard road, but well worth the investment of time and mental energy. Now, as I've, somewhat, come to piece the puzzle of the film together, one of the things I love most about it is that 2001 leaves so many questions unanswered.

It's been a mind blower for 40 years and I see no reason it will stop being a mind blower anytime soon.

So thanks, Granddad. I know you didn't have much fun that summer afternoon back in 1968, but you achieved your primary goal: getting me started early on exploring this historic film.

Readers who recognized the reference in this post's title will know this little taste I'm throwin' in above. But realistically, this is a film you have to study as a whole to get what it has to give. And it has plenty to give.

05 November 2010

Cyndi Lauper: "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" (1983)

Jeez, can't a boy have a little fun too without suffering through an advertisement embedded with wonderful video? And why is Wikipedia -- usually a fine source on popular music -- trying to convince me this song is an important feminist statement?

It's a fun song. It's danceable. It's a great video featuring Cyndi's real mom. At most, it's a girl's statement of how things are. But the point of the song just what Cyndi's plea is for, fun.

With my sincere apologies for the embedded ad, here's a little light pop that fueled a lot fun worldwide back in the eighties. And it still holds up. Enjoy.

30 October 2010

Billy Preston at the Concert for Bangladesh: "That's The Way God Planned It"

Three performances that most shaped where my musical tastes would wander are all from one concert film and album -- the first rock superstar benefit concert of its kind -- The Concert for Bangladesh (1972). Those performances were from Bob Dylan, Leon Russell and Billy Preston. Here's a little taste, Preston's song for the two Madison Square Garden shows in the summer of 1971.

Preston, the keyboard power behind the Beatles (at the very end) and the early seventies Stones, shows his gospel roots on this one, with all the hip rockers thinking they are in heaven. For me, when the movie finally did hit town, I was in heaven too.

25 October 2010

Pretenders - "Stop Your Sobbing"

While the Pretenders are obviously lip syncing in this clip, I include it because it's their first single, Stop You're Sobbing, and the line up is the original band: Chrissie Hynde, James Honeyman-Scott, Pete Farndon and Martin Chambers. Stop Your Sobbing (a Kinks cover) was produced by Nick Lowe and released as a single in January of 1979. Musically, it is not a direction the band would take on their acclaimed first album released a year later, but it shows the Pretenders search for their sound.

By 1983, both Honeymon-Scott and Farndon would suffer drug-related deaths. To my mind, though there was great music to come from reformed line-ups, nothing the Pretenders would subsequently do approached what the original band did on their self-titled debut album Pretenders (1980).

19 October 2010

Delta Moon, "Goin' Down South" (2004)

If you've ever sweated into your bramble cuts in the South Carolina summer sun and passed a kudzu-covered fence on your way, Delta Moon's biography (see the link at their name just above) is right up your alley. Delta Moon frontman and songwriter Tom Gray wrote Money Changes Everything, a favorite of mine made a hit by Cyndi Lauper from her first (and best) album, She's So Unusual (1983).

Delta Moon is a serious roots blues band. I haven't heard a guitar and dobro slide breakdown like Goin' Down South (above) since Lucinda Williams' Can't Let Go from Car Wheels on a Gravel Road (1998).

Definitely check this act out live if you get the chance. For a review of Delta Moon's 2004 album Goin' Down South see here. This eclectic record definitely deserves attention.

And I can't sneak out without comment on the photo array that accompanies the song. There's nothing hill-county-blues-breakdown about it, but for me, it works.

12 October 2010

Two Dylan Master Takes of "Tangled Up in Blue"

Bob Dylan, 1975

In September of 1974, Bob Dylan, recording in New York City, laid down the tracks that were intended to be released as his album Blood on the Tracks. But over that Christmas spent in Minnesota, Dylan became dissatisfied with the September version of the album: "I thought the songs could have sounded differently, better." (Liner notes: The Bootleg Series Vol. 1-3, p. 35). Dylan re-recorded some key tracks while in Minnesota in December. The album, with these re-recorded tracks, was released in January 1975.

Blood on the Tracks eventually came to be regarded as one of Dylan's best records. The rejected masters released later are excellent in their own right while also giving us insight into the evolution of this essential album. The two master takes of Tangled Up in Blue are a case in point.

Below are both the September '74 and December '74 alternate master takes of Tangled Up in Blue -- the December take is the one that was released on Blood on the Tracks.

Personally, this song played a huge part in the soundtrack to my life. First, it was the key breakthrough song in me coming to appreciate Dylan. I also look back fondly now on the hundreds of times I sang along with the song, scream/singing "Tangled up with you, Wendy" over the decade it took me to get over one of my college sweethearts.

But enough prelude, here are the two tracks side by side. I treasure them both and enjoy comparing them. I hope you do too. (Note: On the alternate master that didn't make Blood on the Tracks, you will hear a clicking sound near the beginning of the track; that's the buttons on Dylan's coat sleeve hitting the soundboard of his guitar.)

Bob Dylan, Tangled Up in Blue, Blood on the Tracks (1975)

Bob Dylan, Tangled Up in Blue (alternate master), The Bootleg Series, Vol. 1-3 (Rare and Unreleased, 1961-1991) (1991)

05 October 2010

Treasure Worth Waiting For: The Layla Sessions, "Mean Old World"

Eric Clapton, Carl Radle and Duane Allman (circa 1970)

As much as I loved the vinyl era I grew up in, the space limitations of an LP left a lot of excellent music unreleased. Great artists were quite often recording more songs than would fit on an album. Double albums were often risky propositions, and triple albums simply were not considered marketable.

I can't think of a better example of a superlative track that didn't make the original double album is Derek and the Dominoes' Mean Old World, an acoustic slide duet recorded by Eric Clapton and Duane Allman during The Layla Sessions in 1970, but not released until almost twenty years later.

A little blues rock history: Clapton and Allman cover Little Walter's version of Mean Old World. Mean Old World was first recorded by T-Bone Walker in 1942. Little Walter recorded his substantially reinterpreted version in 1957. (The liner notes to The Layla Sessions indicate that the Clapton/Allman cover is of Little Walter's version.)

This is a song that reached out and grabbed me the first time I heard it and every time since. I still remember the first time I heard it; I asked myself "Damn, how did this not make it onto the original Layla album?" I'd rank it as my favorite modern acoustic blues recording.

Thank goodness for box sets, eh? The two listed below give me the chance to let you hear this classic.

Mean Old World
Derek and the Dominoes, The Layla Sessions (1990)
Eric Clapton, Crossroads (1988)

30 September 2010

Cab Calloway and The Nicholas Brothers: "Jumpin' Jive" (from "Stormy Weather")

My fellow member Joe over at Golden Age of Hollywood posted this clip there recently and I can't get it off my mind. I'd seen it once long ago and then more recently at a friend's house in the film Stormy Weather (1943).

Cab Calloway, his band and the Nicholas Brothers dance team put on an incomparable performance. If you haven't seen it, do yourself a good deed and check it out. Music and dance in film doesn't get any better than this.

And that goes for Stormy Weather in general. As Wikipedia put it, the film is "a time capsule showcasing some of the top African-American performers of the time, [a time] when black actors and singers rarely appeared in lead roles in mainstream Hollywood productions, particularly of the musical genre."

I can't put it better than that.

25 September 2010

Tennessee Williams' "A Street Car Named Desire" (the 1951 film)

They won't let me show you a scene from this Hollywood masterpiece, though a great many are posted on YouTube, some listed at the end of the re-release trailer above. But A Streetcar Named Desire is playing in a few minutes on TCM and I couldn't think of a better topic to cover here.

This is the film that made Marlon Brando a star. This is the film where Vivien Leigh somehow embraces her own mental instability and channels it into her Oscar-winning performance. This film is one of the very best adaptations of a Tennessee Williams play brought to the screen.

So by all means, check it out on TCM tonight or see it at your first opportunity. Or if you're like me, see it again, just because you've got the chance. Elia Kazan's 1951 film is timeless; it just doesn't wear out.

Gotta go, it's almost showtime.

19 September 2010

Solomon Burke Covering Van Morrison's "Fast Train"

When I wrote recently about the HBO series The Wire, after seeing season one on DVD, I had no idea my enthusiasm for the show was going to turn into addiction. I just finished watching season three and I'm thoroughly hooked. But rather than throw superlatives at you about just how good, just how innovative this series is, here's the tune the show's creative team uses as the soundtrack -- a very rare thing for this show, soundtrack music being very sparse -- of the season three closing montage.

I heard this Solomon Burke track for the first time yesterday. I hope you dig it as much as I do. Now I've got to finish watching some additional material that comes with the final disc for season three. Then I can get it back in the mail to Netflix and feed this monkey on my back; the first disc for season four should be here by Wednesday.

11 September 2010

Noel Murphy: "Paddy and the Barrel/The Bricklayer's Lament"

Paddy and the Barrel/The Bricklayer's Lament performed by Noel Murphy

I racked my brain last week trying to think of a good song to post for Labor Day last Monday, but no inspiration came. Until yesterday that is. A friend turned me on to this fine little tune performed by Irish folk musician Noel Murphy. Though I'm almost a week late, I can't imagine a finer song to play (and sing along) while tossing back a few beers with your friends in a pub. So for all you working men and women out there, a belated Happy Labor Day.

05 September 2010

Belgrade Blues: Ana Popovic Performing "Navaho Moon"

Young women who are on the path to becoming true blues masters are out there, but they are few and far between. Even rarer is a woman blues guitar player from eastern Europe who plays a masterful electric blues slide guitar (think Bonnie Raitt). I've been hoping to feature a young woman blues player for a while and found one on my cable radio yesterday. Ana Popovic, hailing from what was once Yugoslavia (Belgrade, Serbia now), performed a slow burn slide blues solo that made me sit up and listen. It was a track from her 2007 album Still Making History entitled How'd You Learn to Shake it Like That?

I learned from Wikipedia that she had relocated to the Netherlands and on France's Daily Motion i found another gem of a cut: Ana performing Navaho Moon. This cut reminded me immediately of Stevie Ray Vaughan's cover of Jimi Hendrix's Little Wing. But Ana builds on the foundation Stevie Ray and Jimi laid.

Sippie Wallace, Bonnie Raitt and Lou Ann Barton, you've got some younger company.

31 August 2010

Creedence Clearwater Revival: "Who'll Stop The Rain "

With this classic, now 40 years old and aging well, songwriter John Fogerty pulls off what great songwriters do: he writes a song that's a bit of a downer if you think of it that way, but I don't know anyone who does. Part of the magic is in the uplifting, we're gonna keep-on-keepin'-on music, in essence denying the sober realities of the lyrics.

One of three double-sided singles off CCR's 1970 album Cosmo's Factory, the folk rock groove the band establishes becomes an anthem for the post-flower power generation -- an anthem fully aware that movements and governments aren't going to "stop the rain from fallin' down".

Punch it up on the jukebox next chance you get. I always do.

26 August 2010

Johnny Cash at San Quentin: The Song "San Quentin"

Johnny Cash Playing San Quentin Prison, 1969

When the double album Johnny Cash at San Quentin (1969) was released, a good bit of the show had to be edited out for space. The DVD special edition released in 2000, featuring almost the entire show, includes performances by supporting players Carl Perkins and June Carter Cash.

One little nugget Cash wrote just for this show, the song San Quentin, was the highlight of the evening for the inmates, but sadly left off the initial release. Here it is below. Even if you are not a country music fan, check it out -- it's an unparalleled musical commentary on prisons.

21 August 2010

Scorsese's "Shutter Island": "Someone is Missing"

In Martin Scorsese's latest film, Shutter Island (2010), we find the great director tackling yet another film genre, the psychological thriller. I saw it on DVD a few months ago, twice, and have been struggling to find a way to write about it since. The film is based on Dennis Lehane's excellent 2003 novel of the same name which I read about around the time of the book's release. My first reaction when I heard Scorsese was tackling this book was twofold: first, what is Scorsese doing working in this genre, and second, how is he going to make a film of that book.

That's not to say I had any doubts that Scorsese could pull it off, but I knew the master had his work cut out for him. As usual, he didn't let me down. This film more than anything makes me think of Hitchcock in his prime, but with a little something extra that represents, to my mind, a renaissance of the genre.

One thing I can tell you without playing spoiler is that Shutter Island does a fine job drawing you into the protagonist's perspective on the mystery. This is a film mentor of mine's observation. She, however, was disappointed in the simplicity of the solution to the mystery. As I note above, I wasn't. Though not a perfect film, I would recommend it highly.

That said, my recommendation is don't see Shutter Island with any knowledge of the plot or expectations about the world this film will take you to. I also recommend seeing the film twice in order to sort out the mysteries you're left with after your first viewing.

07 August 2010

Joni Mitchell: "A Case of You"

My buddy whiteray up at Echoes in the Wind just turned me on to a new tool that will allow me to place a song I'm discussing right into a post. Instead of being limited to what I can find on YouTube, where sound quality is hit or miss at best, I've now got my entire music library to work with, with high quality audio.

So let's try it out. All you have to do is click the play button below. Before you know it you will be wrapped in the arms of Joni Mitchell's A Case of You from her 1971 album Blue, arguably one of the best albums of our era -- it's listed at number 30 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.

With A Case of You Joni stripped the record down to the essentials: in this case her hammer dulcimer, her voice and her songwriting, in this song examining the ebbs and flows of a love affair. (This record is from when Joni was in her late twenties; in a more recent interview, a mature Joni says of love, 'Yea, I got that all figured out'.)

I hope you enjoy this favorite of mine as much as I enjoy having a way to let you listen to it. Just hit the play button below and sit back.


02 August 2010

Los Lobos Has Still Got It

I've written about Los Lobos here before. I followed them in their early years -- their first major label release was in the mid-80s -- but I lost track of them in the late 90s while the members pursued side projects. Until last Friday night. The band played a gig in St. Petersburg (Florida) and I got a chance to see them live for the for the first time. The show was all I could have hoped for: rock/latin/jazz fusion with an East LA spin that is unsurpassed.

Los Lobos often close their sets with their 1987 cover of La Bamba (clip above), recorded for the film about the late Richie Valens, the first artist to infuse this Mexican folk song with a rock rock beat (back in '58). Los Lobos had an international with their '87 cover and theirs remains the definitive version of the song.

28 July 2010

The Making of "Exile on Main St.": "Stones in Exile" (2010)

My ex-wife is a very opinionated lady. Back when we were together, she was never afraid to take a stand on some issue that was her view and often hers alone. And so it was when we got down to discussing Rolling Stones albums. Her view was that everything after Let it Bleed was a formula album. I never agreed. Exile on Main St. is by far my favorite Stones album, but until the release earlier this year of Stephen Kijak's documentary Stones in Exile, I had no retort other than "I don't agree!" Now, with this documentary, I do.

Stones in Exile, filled with recent interviews, rare photographs and excerpts from the notorious, unreleased documentary of the Stones' 1972 tour, lays to rest any notion that there was anything formulaic about the recording of Exile on Main St. The controlled chaos of the core recording sessions at Keith's villa Nellcôte in the the south of France is well documented here. Marathon 12 hour jam sessions extending over months with songs evolving as the sessions progressed is no recipe for "formula album". Quoted in the October 1997 issue of Guitar magazine, Jagger put it this way:
Just winging it. Staying up all night ... It was this communal thing where you don't know whether you're recording or living or having dinner; you don't when you're going to play, when you're gonna sing -- very difficult. Too many hangers-on. I went with the flow and the album got made. These things have a certain energy, and there's a certain flow to it, and it got impossible. Everyone was so out of it.
Jagger may not have been having much fun, but the result is an unparalleled rock/blues/country/soul document. So check out Stones in Exile and get a taste of how Exile on Main St. got made. It might even convince my ex-wife that this was no formula album.

21 July 2010

A Landmark in TV Crime Drama: HBO's "The Wire" (Season One)

I've discussed music, film and books here, but never television. Though I watch my share, this blog is simply not about TV. But HBO's The Wire is not television as we know it. Just Season One alone, of the 5 season series, with it's long story arcs and "visual novel" style creates a 13 hour film that reinvents the television crime series.

Former Baltimore crime reporter David Simon created, produced, and wrote much of the series. It vividly portrays the Baltimore City police department and the drug gangsters ruling the city's high and low rise housing projects in the 1980s. We also see the people in the middle, the pawns caught in "the game" as these rival institutions work to control the ghetto streets of a decayed urban world.

Though I lived in Baltimore in the 80s, The Wire showed me worlds the outsider never sees: the inner workings of both the police and the gangs. One of the many great aspects of the show is its portrayal of the dysfunctional nature of these institutions. The institution I worked in, the state attorney general's office, was dysfunctional in many of the same ways. The show is giving me a chance to work through many of the frustrations I had trying to make my little piece of the system work better. It's good to know I wasn't the only one dealing with this frustration.

The Wire demands of the viewer a commitment of time, concentration and emotional involvement, but that commitment is well rewarded. Season 1 is 13 hours of riveting television that, at the end of episode 10 yesterday, had me crying.

This is not feel good drama, but rather a hard look at real life in a modern American city. There's a lot to learn here, not the least of which is just how good television can be. In terms of realistic crime drama and innovative television, The Wire ranks with the best there is.

14 July 2010

"Memo from Turner"

This clip from the 1970 film Performance foreshadows the music video format to come years later. And the music here is raw rock 'n' roll at its finest.

In the clip Mick Jagger acts out the second of the two dramatic personae of his film character Turner. Earlier in the film he establishes Turner as a petulant, reclusive but seemingly harmless rock star. Here we see Turner shifting identities, now a rock-star-as-psychedelic-gangster personifying corruption and decadence.

The song would have disappeared into the void of Stones-related cult material but for Martin Scorsese placing a slice of Memo from Turner right in the heart of a cocaine binge sequence in his acclaimed film Goodfellas (1990). While very few people will ever see Performance, Scorsese brings Ry Cooder's searing slide guitar work on Memo to a wider audience. My hat's off to Mick, Ry, and Marty.

(A version of Memo from Turner with better audio quality is near the top of the red jukebox at left.)

07 July 2010

Pretenders Back on Track, "Night in My Veins"

In 1994, with drummer Martin Chambers back in the fold, The Pretenders' Last of the Independents album really takes me back to what made the band great in the first place -- Chrissie Hynde all guts and glory rockin' right up in your face. Here's a taste, my favorite single from the album, Night in My Veins.

30 June 2010

Emmylou Harris - "You Never Can Tell (C'est La Vie)"

Here the Acadian/country crossover possibilities of a 1964 Chuck Berry classic -- built from Louisiana culture in the first place -- are explored live by Emmylou Harris and one of her succession of red hot bands. So follow along on the 1950s journey of young lovers Pierre and the lovely "Mademoiselle." It's a good story.

22 June 2010

Robert Palmer: "Addicted to Love"

"... Whoa, you like to think that you’re immune to the stuff, oh Yeah
It’s closer to the truth to say you can’t get enough,
You know you’re gonna have to face it, you’re addicted to love...."

I started quoting that chorus to a friend the other day and she'd never heard it. That of course meant she'd never seen Addicted to Love's iconic 1986 video. In my head, I was sure I'd posted it here, but alas, no.

That oversight now stands corrected. Enjoy Robert and the ladies having a little fun with a damn great rock song.

16 June 2010

Rolling Stones: "Love is Strong"

I've always loved this opening track to 1994's Voodoo Lounge. It was the first single off an album that marked the end of a 5 year hiatus for the band while Jagger and Richards recorded a number of albums separately. It also marked the first album after bassist Bill Wyman's retirement and Darryl Jones took over as the Stones' regular bass player.

This track successfully reproduces the "archetypal 'Rolling Stones' sound". And the video is a perfect footnote to Martin Scorsese's remark in Shine a Light that the Stones are, in essence, 'a New York band'.

Voodoo Lounge is not a perfect album, but it's well worth exploring. Keith's track Thru and Thru, standing alone, is worth the price of the record. And very few Stones albums lead off as well as this one does with Love is Strong.

10 June 2010

Sonic Youth: "Superstar"

I first heard Superstar performed by Rita Coolidge on Mad Dogs and Englishmen (1970), followed by The Carpenters cover, and then Bette Midler's version on her debut album in 1972. Much to my surprise, all these years later, today I received an email from a well-informed friend with a link to Sonic Youth's cover above. Of all the versions I've heard, this is my new favorite.

It's the perfect requiem for Karen Carpenter. Listening to it makes me realize just how much I still miss her.

02 June 2010

Townes Van Zandt , "Dead Flowers" (Jagger/Richards)

I've always loved this song. I heard it first on The Stones' 1971 classic Sticky Fingers and learned it on guitar by playing along with the record. I loved the speeded-up version on 1995's Stripped. But then I spent a lot of time only hearing myself play it.

Cut to 2004. Out of nowhere, over a bowling game closing The Coen Brothers' The Big Lebowski, I hear iconic songwriter Townes Van Zandt performing Dead Flowers to close the film's superb soundtrack. Though I love the Stones versions, Van Zandt brings a Texas soul authenticity and converts it from an almost-country song into a real one.

But great country songs don't get written by accident. It's a credit to Keith and Mick that Townes put his stamp of approval on this little number. As far as the sparse video above is concerned, just think of yourself listening to the song on a long road trip.

26 May 2010

"Instant Karma!": John Lennon and Yoko Ono with The Plastic Ono Band

When I bought this single back in the early 70s, I had no idea what karma was. To define it in its simplest terms, "what goes around, comes around." Now "instant karma" is part of my vocabulary. As in, "instant karma's going to get those fools responsible for the ongoing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the death of 11 working men on that rig."

So for those deceased working men, our precious Gulf of Mexico and coast lines all along the Gulf Stream in peril, here's John & Co. with a little prayer from me.

21 May 2010

Classic Film This Summer at the Tampa Theatre

Beginning on June 6th with Topper, The Tampa Theatre (pictured above) Summer Classics Series will air a number of films of the "golden age" of Hollywood and one German expressionist silent classic. More information is available at the Tampa Theatre's website.

I'm planning on seeing three or four films in the series, including His Girl Friday, Casablanca, and the newly restored Metropolis (1927) with live musical accompaniment on the theatre's mighty Wurlitzer organ.

16 May 2010

From the Bruce Springsteen with Seeger Sessions Band Tour, "When The Saints Go Marching In"

There is one reason New Orleans can never die, no matter how much oil BP spills around it or Army Corp. of Engineers mistakes flood the region: the spirit of its music.

The concert footage above leaves out a verse Bruce wrote for the end of the song when they played it at Jazzfest in New Orleans four years ago -- when the city was still in the early stages of recovery from the post-Katrina disaster:

13 May 2010

Equal Justice in the American South: "Intruder in the Dust" (1949)

Recently I watched TCM's airing of a film I knew absolutely nothing about, an adaptation of William Faulkner's novel Intruder in the Dust. I gave the film a chance because my cable provider has a relatively reliable rating system for films and gave it 4 of 4 stars. As soon as I saw in the opening credits the film was based on a Faulkner novel I was persuaded.

I made a good decision. This 1949 film documents the real life racial conditions in rural Mississippi in the 1940's. I'll make just two minor additions to TCM's own summary of the film: "Only a young [white] boy and an [elderly white] woman stand between an innocent black man and a lynch mob." The film, with a few small flaws, is excellent.

The film was made on location in Faulkner's home town of Oxford, Mississippi, using the local residents as extras. This adds a raw, authentic quality to the townspeople and the sequences shot in the surrounding woodlands. The film weaves an thrilling crime story with a tale of, to paraphrase one of Faulkner's letters, the responsibilities whites owed blacks in the south -- one part of the United States where equal protection of the law for blacks was no where to be found.

While this film does not have the star power or depth of To Kill a Mockingbird, Juano Hernandez turns in a timeless performance as proud black farmer Lucas Beauchamp.

One side note in closing: I spent the entire film and a good bit of time afterward trying to understand the meaning of the film and the novel's title: Intruder in the Dust. For those of you who might have seen or will see the film, I've got a theory: lumber mill sawdust.

08 May 2010

Early Influences: The Temptations' "Psychedelic Shack" (1969)

The time was December 1969, Christmas; Santa brought me the first stereo I ever had. I didn't have an older sibling to help me sort out the good music from what I would outgrow -- specifically, almost all of what was considered cool at school. I started with were a few albums, my growing singles collection, top 40 radio and Rolling Stone magazine.

Lucky for me concerts were cheap back them and I could follow up on bands that I heard on the radio. The films Woodstook and The Concert for Bangladesh were also early influences, but that's another story for another time. My main resources were the radio and the 45s I was buying.

It was a glorious time to be learning. There were a lot of great bands making their mark in those years. Psychedelia was a big part of that scene, something I had no way of fully understanding. I had the right music, but acid just wasn't part of my world.

What was expanding my young mind in those days were singles and albums I bought after hearing them on the radio. One of those singles was by The Temptations, minus David Ruffin, backed by the glorious Funk Brothers, performing Psychedelic Shack. Unlike a lot of what I was listening to back in 1970, this song has stood the test of time.

This is the record that opened the window to Motown for me. And I'll never forget the thrill I got from singing along with Otis, "Music so low, you can't get under it, uh-huh!" I've learned a lot since then and my tastes have evolved. But I'll never forget one of the places I started, the Temps single Psychedelic Shack, ".... That's where it's at. ...." Uh, huh!

01 May 2010

Emmylou Harris w/ Willie Nelson - "One Paper Kid"

About eight years ago, I got my first chance to see one of my favorite artists, Emmylou Harris. I was prowling around the soundboard before the show and asked her sound man if One Paper Kid, from her album Quarter Moon in a Ten Cent Town (1990, reissued 2004), was on the set list. Her sound man told me she hadn't done that song live in quite a while.

The concert that night was superb -- all my highest expectations were met. As I was leaving the theater, I saw a short line of fans gather around her tour bus. As it turned out, everyone in that shout line would get a chance to meet Emmylou after she got back to the bus.

Ms. Harris turned out to be gracious and compassionate person in our brief meeting. For no reason I can remember, I'd stuck the CD liner notes to Quarter Moon in my pocket. And that was what she signed for me, now my prized souvenir of the concert. After our short discussion she told me she was going to write a little phrase on my liner notes she hadn't used in a long time. So my post today contains two things close to my heart: the song One Paper Kid above and, from Emmylou to me to you, "Happy trails."

27 April 2010

A Taste of That Old Wine Will Cost You: Update on Exile Outtakes' Release

Update: 28 April 2010

Below I wrote about the impending May 18th release of outtake tracks from the Exile on Main St sessions. While visiting Amazon.com last night to do some research I discovered how the outtake tracks are being marketed. Along with alternate takes of tracks that made the original album (e.g. an alternate version of Soul Survivor), the previously unreleased material is being sold separately from the remastered original album.

You can check out the track listing on the 2010 Deluxe Edition "bonus" CD here.

Sir Mick Jagger and Keith Richards didn't get to be the two richest men in rock n' roll by accident. Hell, they were tax exiles in France when they made the record.

22 April 2010

The Stones in Their Prime: "Plundered My Soul"

Once again my blogging mentor comes through with an grade A find -- an outtake track from Exile on Main Street (1972). The New York Times reports this song is one of ten Exile outtake tracks to be released May 18th on a upcoming remastered deluxe edition of the classic Stones double album.

From a bigger picture perspective, I've always felt the Stones have been very stingy about opening up their vaults, making this an extra special treat for me. And it comes from the vault I wanna explore most, the outtakes from the Nellcôte sessions that form the heart of Exile.

And now, since I get my wish, I'm gonna wait a while before I try to find the lyrics. It will be more like the old days, when a Stones fan had to work to discern what the hell Mick was singing.

16 April 2010

Sam Cooke - "Wonderful World"

It's hard to pick only one studio cut by Sam Cooke to put up here. Not only is he one of the true fathers of modern soul music, he is also one the most important black artists of the 50's and early 60's to crossover to the white pop charts.

His live album, and presumably his "chitlin' circuit" gigs, is another story. There you find a rough edge to his voice that never surfaced on his radio-bound studio work. His voice on his studio singles is as smooth as the finest cognac you could never afford to taste. With his untimely death in 1964, Smokey Robinson would pick up the torch of smooth soul music without him.

But Cooke's music lives on.
Wonderful World (1960) above is just one of Cooke's crossover radio hits. I picked it because I've always loved its blend of a perfect pop melody with elegantly simple poetry.

The body of Sam Cooke's recordings to this day sets the standard for soulful, accessible pop. So sit back and enjoy this pioneer of soul music giving us one of his many fine performances.

09 April 2010

Janis and Otis at the Monterey Pop Festival, 1967





Thank God for the Sundance Channel. My evening was going nowhere last night 'til I noticed that Sundance was airing D. A. Pennebaker's Monterey Pop, an 80 minute documentary on the first major American rock festival -- three days in June of San Fransisco's 1967 Summer of Love. Yeah, that's right, the festival where Jimi Hendrix becomes a rock icon, setting his guitar and the rock world on fire.

The performances are strand of pearls. In addition to Jimi, the blues and soul crowd out there gets more than they could possibly hope for: Janis Joplin with Big Brother and the Holding Company covering Big Mama Thornton's Ball and Chain; then Otis Redding redefining I've Been Loving You Too Long.

The YouTube clips of Janis and Otis above don't nearly do justice to the original sound and picture in the film. (Otis covering the Stones' Satisfaction wasn't in the original Pennebaker film, so take it as a bonus to make up for the bootleg quality of these clips.)

And by all means check out the film. All these years later, these landmark performances still rank as world class. Though only 80 minutes long, only a taste of the festival, Monterey Pop ranks with the finest rock films ever made.

03 April 2010

Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson

Alex Gibney's 2008 documentary film Gonzo examines the on-the-edge life and best journalistic work of Hunter S. Thompson, one of the greatest writing talents produced by the youth culture in the U.S. of the 1960s and early '70s. Focusing on Thompson's experience of and coverage of "the death of the American dream," the film is rich in essential background details. Through archival footage and audio recordings of Thompson in action; interviews with the people who were there; readings of his work by Thompson himself, friends, and quite powerfully by narrator Johnny Depp; a perfect soundtrack; right down to discussion of Thompson's suicide and its aftermath -- Gonzo tells Thompson's tale as thoroughly as I've seen it told.

Also examined is Thompson's Gonzo reporting, based on
William Faulkner's idea that "fiction is often the best fact." While the things that Thompson wrote about are basically true, he used satirical devices to drive his points home. (Wikipedia contributors, Gonzo Journalism.)
Material on the writing of all his major books (Hell's Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga (1966), Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream (1971)*, Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72 (1973)) is included.

Gonzo gives us Thompson's riding with the California Hell's Angels (complete with a consensual gang bang he witnesses), psychedelic San Francisco in the early 1960s, Richard Nixon ("the werewolf within us"), '71 in Vegas ("the final nail in the coffin of the sixties"), the 1972 McGovern campaign trail crumbling into
Machiavellian politics -- all undergirded by the moral imperative of opposing the war in Southeast Asia. All but the Hell's Angels book are gonzo journalism: Thompson's talent filtered through a whiskey, pharmaceutical and general "pushing the edge" subjective lens.

also covers Thompson the man: his life, his passions, obsessions, his beautiful and ugly sides. We see Hunter set against the backdrop of his times, from the sixties to the 2001 d
estruction of the World Trade Center and the ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that followed.

And in the end, we see Thompson unraveling toward a much anticipated suicide. As with any suicide, we see the immediate loss the act brings to friends, family and admirers. Yet another aspect of his suicide is highlighted: Hunter the man
released from the burden of the gonzo character he became. To paraphrase Thompson, the gonzo journalistic myth surrounding him would now be free to run where it may. The bottom line for me is that we lost a uniquely talented voice that provided a hopeful but correctly disillusioned view of America. (Note: Hunter Thompson shot himself in 2005 -- a time when the Bush administration was in full swing.)

Gonzo details the life and times of an uncommon, nontraditional voice in American journalism. That voice still rings loud and true today. This documentary film brings into high relief just how much we need such a voice.
*For a discussion of Terry Gilliam's 1998 film of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, see my 2008 post For the '60's Counterculture, the Road Didn't Go on Forever).

29 March 2010

Data on Gold Coast Bluenote: An Apparently Popular Post on the Film "To Kill a Mockingkingbird"

The post that, far and away gets the most hits here at Gold Coast Bluenote (GCB), is a discussion of the film made from Horton Foote's screenplay -- based on Harper Lee's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel -- for the 1962 film starring Gregory Peck, To Kill a Mockingbird. My hypothesis is that a substantial number of students assigned to read the book or see the film may find my 2007 GCB post, 'It's a Sin to Kill a Mockingbird', because the post's title is a line directly from the film. Image and article searches, therefore, using primarily but not exclusively Google search engines, hit home here.

I find it a good time, to repost this modest effort up front for those who might otherwise miss it.
Now, 'to play it again, Sam' so to speak, let's revisit my discussion of director Robert Mullingan's inspirational film:

The one place where a man ought to get a square deal is in a courtroom, be he any color of the rainbow, but people have a way of carrying their resentments right into a jury box. As you grow older, you'll see white men cheat black men every day of your life, but let me tell you something and don't you forget it - whenever a white man does that to a black man, no matter who he is, how rich he is, or how fine a family he comes from, that white man is trash.
(- Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird, Chapter 23, spoken by the character Atticus)
Gregory Peck's performance as Atticus Finch in the 1962 film adaptation of Harper Lee's novel To Kill A Mockingbird inspired many a young social activist and prospective lawyer to follow Atticus' example and seek social justice, whatever the personal cost. These young idealists would drop like flies as the realities of the real world closed around them. But a few survived to carry the torch for the equality of all men and women under the law.

And the film's impact stretches even further.

The Story of Movies Foundation uses the film To Kill A Mockingbird in the The Story of Movies as a way to provide middle school children a ".... guide to [the] students in learning how to read moving images. Although teachers frequently use films in the classroom, film as language and as historical and cultural documents is not widely taught. ...."

Lovers of great books -- me, I plead guilty -- are becoming fewer and farther between as the electronic media age progresses and instant visual and audio gratification becomes the status quo. But Harper Lee's novel survives as assigned classroom reading and Robert Mulligan's 1962 film adaptation still inspires idealists young and old to this day.

A large part of the credit goes to Gregory Peck for his performance in the role of Atticus Finch. Peck brings a sense of moral certainty, legal ethics and talent, as well as compassionate single-parent wisdom to the role that is truly astonishing.

Thanks Ms. Lee, Mr. Peck, and everyone who contributed to the creation of this film; I am re-inspired and given hope for humanity every time I see this film masterwork.