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)