26 June 2011

Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble: "So Excited" (1985)

The Sky is Crying is a posthumously released (1991) compilation studio album containing songs spanning most of SRV's career. This record is one I discovered on a jukebox in a little bar and grill I used to frequent. I wasn't drinking so the little money I had went into the jukebox and tip jar rather than to pay a beer tab. I used to take requests and one of the best I even got was from a hard working cook in the kitchen. It was for a SRV song I didn't know at the time, So Excited (recorded, 1985), but came to love so much I'd play it anytime he was working. My friend the cook would turn my grouper sandwiches into platters and he'd get all the music I thought he'd like.

To my mind, Texas blues rock instrumentals just don't get any better than this. It's only competition I know of is another SRV classic, Stevie Ray's cover of Jimi Hendrix's Little Wing, first released on The Sky is Crying album. But enough back story -- I'm gonna let Stevie Ray and his Statocaster do the rest of the talkin'.

21 June 2011

The E Street Band's "Big Man" Passes On

(top to bottom) Clarence Clemons and Bruce Springsteen

Clarence Clemons, or "Big Man" as Bruce Springsteen used to call across the stage to cue Clarence for one of his trademark sax solos, died last Saturday at 69 due to complications from a stroke. I'm still a bit stunned, so I'm gonna let Clarence tell the story of how he became part of both American cultural and also rock 'n' roll history. While on stage, Bruce often told the story of how he and Clarence met in 1971. Here's the story, retold in various interviews, by Clarence himself:
One night we were playing in Asbury Park. I'd heard The Bruce Springsteen Band was nearby at a club called The Student Prince and on a break between sets I walked over there. On-stage, Bruce used to tell different versions of this story but I'm a Baptist, remember, so this is the truth. A rainy, windy night it was, and when I opened the door the whole thing flew off its hinges and blew away down the street. The band were on-stage, but staring at me framed in the doorway. And maybe that did make Bruce a little nervous because I just said, "I want to play with your band," and he said, "Sure, you do anything you want." The first song we did was an early version of "Spirit In The Night". Bruce and I looked at each other and didn't say anything, we just knew. We knew we were the missing links in each other's lives. He was what I'd been searching for. In one way he was just a scrawny little kid. But he was a visionary. He wanted to follow his dream. So from then on I was part of history.
Rest in Peace, Clarence. You touched more lives than you could have ever known.

15 June 2011

Mattie, Rooster and LaBoeuf Have Got "True Grit" (2010)

U. S. Marshall "Rooster" Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) and Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld) on the Trail

There's a theory that while primarily men settled the American west, it was women that civilized the new territories. If films are any evidence at all for this theory -- which most classic westerns aren't -- the Coen Brothers' remake of True Grit (2010) certainly is.

A discussion of this film broke out recently among the Classic Westerns group members at The Golden Age of Hollywood networking site, comparing this new version to the 1969 original starring John Wayne, here's part of my contribution to the discussion.
Maybe it's a generational thing, but The Coen Brothers' 2010 True Grit is the one for me. The dialog is so crisp, the locations so real -- even the soundtrack built out of old English church hymns -- and "Leaning" as Mattie's theme -- are great. I love this movie. And I think Jeff Bridges does a fine job. But never let it be said that the Duke (John Wayne) doesn't deserve the respect that [another commenter] shows him. I think we can agree, it's one great story.
And here's another commenter, a little younger than I, who knows both films and also the book.
It was a fun film to see in the theater, the crowd just loved it, they were eatin' it up and it's a WESTERN by golly! I thought the dialog crackled along pretty good and you could sense people's recognition of repeated lines from the book and earlier film...The 3 leads on the trail played off each other really well -- the girl was the best thing. ... The locations were better this time. I travel the very same area of Oklahoma and Arkansas where the story is set twice a year so I know. [Another commenter noted that the film was shot in New Mexico and parts of Texas.]
Let me close by giving the film my strongest recommendation and, to paraphrase my colleague above, it's a classic modern western by golly -- a rare thing indeed.

Here's the trailer with one note: the great Johnny Cash song used in the trailer is not in the film.

09 June 2011

MusiCares 2010 Person of the Year: Neil Young

I caught the MusiCares broadcast of exerpts from it's 2010 award gala on VH1-Classic last week -- a show honoring Neil Young for his career as a performer, songwriter and philanthropist. Before I get to a one of the gala's highlights below, here's the MusiCares mission statement.
MusiCares provides a safety net of critical assistance for music people in times of need. MusiCares' services and resources cover a wide range of financial, medical and personal emergencies, and each case is treated with integrity and confidentiality. MusiCares also focuses the resources and attention of the music industry on human service issues that directly impact the health and welfare of the music community.
I want to do my part by showing you this clip and encouraging you, if you can, to make a donation here.

Now to a highlight -- my favorite was John Fogerty, Booker T., and Keith Urban covering Neil's Rockin' in the Free World ...

Let me mention two other performances I loved and can't find clips of: Dave Matthews doing Needle and the Damage Done and Elvis Costello beautifully reinventing The Losing End.

Congratulations Neil, you earned it, man.

04 June 2011

Nobody Can Sit Still When "Oye Como Va" is Playing

Great Youtube mining by a friend gave me a little more "evidence" for my theory that nobody can sit still when I'd play Oye Como Va by Santana -- or the original by Tito Puente -- at parties. See what you think when "Laurel and Hardy Meet Santana".

(Note: For anyone who wants to avoid the years that I spent finding a translation of the lyrics to English, see here.)