24 March 2010

Rock and Roll landmarks

A couple of days ago Chris Epting (known as hbwriter) posted on IORR his audio presentation about famous rock and roll landmarks. We've got Woodstock and Altamont, and even the bathroom where Jim Morrison recorded vocals to "L.A. Woman" ;-) Great photos and commentary, such a shame it's rather short. Hope you'll find it interesting ;-) Look here.

21 March 2010

Jimi Hendrix - Valleys Of Neptune

I dig it. Dreamy cover, mysterious title and 12 new songs by a man who's hailed the best guitarist ever. Well, Jimi Hendrix was really underappreciated when it came to singing and writing, so it's all good. Awesome quality and performances: there are no messy rehearsals, it sounds like it was recorded yesterday and can really be compared to what Jimi released during his lifetime. There's only one letdown: we are already familiar with some of those songs... Anyway, it deserves at least 4.5 stars I gave it on RYM ;-)

Although it's not all that good, it gets less interesting at moments and I don't like some of the songs, the mood slowly makes you play air guitar along with Hendrix ;) Renditions are agressive. Gotta love Noel Redding singing backup vocals to "Fire". Tricky "Lullaby for the Summer" rocks. The disc ends with a track called "Crying Blue Rain" which starts as a John Lee Hooker rip off and then turns into a mesmerizing blues. What a great way to finish it ;-)

It could've been released in 1969 when it was originally recorded. With maybe two new songs added and two "old ones" removed it would've easily stand beside "Axis: Bold As Love", "Electric Ladyland" and "Band Of Gypsies". I think the best tracks are two singles: "Valleys Of Neptune" and "Bleeding Heart". Cream's "Sunshine Of Your Love" is longer than it should but it's always more Hendrix :-)

I hope it won't be the best archival release of the decade but it will probably hold the title for several months at least. No matter if it was only released to promote other reissues of Hendrix material... It's a great thing to have "Valleys Of Neptune" in any rock and blues collection.

20 March 2010

Let me tell you 'bout Leo Parker

It's been a long time since I wrote about jazz music the last time. I've already reviewed my 5 favorite jazz records and wanted to leave it like that for a while to focus on my another real love: 20s and 30s barrelhouse blues :) I still can't do it, though. I just love exploring new artists ;-) I've had two released by Blue Note Records albums of Leo Parker for quite a long time but I haven't paid them any mind until today when I luckily and totally by accident put them on.

They are bloody brilliant! :) Everybody compliments Leo Parker for his fat, full tone... He's an outstanding saxophone player and really stands out of line: he's easily and instantly recognizable. Leo Parker played with the best musicians in the business for years and finally got to record his own Blue Note LP in 1961. Unfortunately he died after recording two brilliant sessions. One was released in 1961 as "Let Me Tell You 'Bout It", and the second during the 80s as "Rollin' With Leo". They sound basically the same and there's no need to review any of them separately.

I tend to like the first one better, but professional critics rate "Rollin' With Leo" a little bit higher. It doesn't matter, really. Telling you that a few of his tunes remind me of Sonny Rollins work would be a lie. But you can find the same happiness and optimism in the works of both masters. When I hear "Talkin' the Blues" I think about big city blinking at night. On the other hand centerpiece of "Let Me Tell You 'Bout It", the self-titled track, is reminiscent of New Orleans big bands... That's just a loose thought ;-)

Uplifting music for your body and soul and enormous joy for me. I would really love to be stuck in a small club with Leo Parker and his band, doing coke together and playing bebop.

5 reasons why Otis Redding rules

1. He was one of the best male singers ever. Otis was all about emotions. And was really black. I sometimes think he was so good because he didn't have to breath... ;-)
2. He wrote and produced his songs himself. He really knew what he wanted to achieve... His lyrics were rather simple but very witty and inteligent ;-)
3. His shows were among the best ever. Electrifying, fast and loud: many famous musicians learned from him, especially the Rolling Stones.

Some people call Otis a second coming of Jesus... Tragically lost at the age of 26, he was one of the most important musicians of the 60s. He's still called "the King Of Soul" ;)

4. He had the best band and sound in the land. Backed by wonderful Booker T. & the MG's and the Bar-Kays he sounded mighty. He also often collaborated with Steve Cropper and recorded an album with Carla Thomas.
5. He had the best repertoire of all soul musicians of the 60s. Wherever he went audiences knew every word of every song! "Your One and Only Man" is still one of my favorite songs.

17 March 2010

Grateful Dead in 1976

I fell in love with the Grateful Dead. Their music, most importantly, but their band formula as well... They created a whole new way of playing in the band with taped and easily accessible shows, devoted fan base (so called Deadheads), varied setlists and long, long jams in the most unexpected moments :-) Jerry Garcia was a true master of the guitar, too.

Grateful Dead played American music: it was folk, blues, sometimes rock and roll or bluegrass, at other times it could be even jazz. With two drummers, two vocalists and two guitarists they were tripping and mixing genres, styles and were focused only on making great music and constant touring.

1976 isn't hailed as most succesful year for the band by most Deadheads, but I focused on it and started collecting their concerts. Grateful Dead released a massive amount of archive recordings in awesome soundboard quality :) What makes a good GD's 1976 recording? It has to include "Scarlet Begonias" and "Wharf Rat" (my two personal favorites) ;) First tells a story of a girl ("I knew without asking she was into the blues" ;D) and the second is a great and deep tale of a man who ends up as a beggar due to various circumstances during his life, it may be really heartbreaking at moments.

"One More Saturday Night", "Promised Land" and "Johnny B. Goode" are great rock and roll pieces, "Mama Tried" is a charming up-tempo country tune... "Samson & Delilah" is a track I first heard by Blind Willie Johnson, who wrote and recorded it in 1927. Things like "They Love Each Other" and "Looks Like Rain" are always nice to hear and I can only imagine what a joy they were to hear live! I like the Dead most, though, when they are playing sped up tracks: "Deal", "Good Lovin'" or "Sugar Magnolia". Jerry Garcia's solos... You gotta love it :) I've just finished listening to "Sugaree" and "Cassidy" and I find them nothing short of wonderful.

Recordings to get: Live at the Cow's Palace (New Year's show!), Dick's Picks #20 and #33 (45 songs on the last one, that's just two shows) and Download Series #4. That's a good start :)

14 March 2010

Ramblin' Jack Elliott - A Stranger Here

I wanted to write something about recent Grammy Awards announcments but there wasn't much to write about: we've got only two categories, for traditional and contemporary albums. One of them was won by Derek Trucks with his "Already Free" which I don't find too pleasing, although I heard it the last time about a year ago. The second award, far more exciting, is in hands of old folk master, Ramblin' Jack Elliott. Yeah, that one. He's still alive just for you to ask ;)

It's not a strictly blues affair, he's rather a folk artist, but whatever. He made an album of old blues covers in style of Tom Waits. Songs are played on acoustic guitar but there are many weird sounds around.

Album's okay. Compositions by old devils like Blind Lemon Jefferson, Blind Willie Johnson, Son House, Leroy Carr or Mississippi John Hurt are amazing. "A Stranger Here" starts with "Rising High Water Blues" about the Great Flood in Mississippi in 1927. Ramblin' Jack almost happily sings: "back water rising, comin' in my windows and doors". Well, okay.

"Death Don't Have No Mercy" have never been a favorite of mine, even Grateful Dead messed it for me. Here it gets nice treatment with Keith Ciancia's piano line, but anyway to hell with it. It gets really better from here: "Rambler's Blues" is amazing and "The Soul Of A Man" has some of the nicest slide guitar licks played by a white guy. It's Ry Cooder-ish. Which is kinda obvious when you see that the tune was written by Blind Willie Johnson.

Remarkable is "Grinnin' In Your Face" but I'll never forget it with no accompaniament. It's not as angry as it used to be... It's all radio-friendly blues. Sometimes it's mourning blues, sometimes just barrelhouse fucking around, it's great that Ramblin' Jack Elliot decided to release a tribute to old blues folks, play their songs in an old-fashioned way and make it sound good in 21st century. And maybe this album has soul, really. We'll find out when it'll be 50 years old :-)

But I think it's better (and totally different) than Chicago Blues: A Living History and it deserves a Grammy.

13 March 2010

Get ready for Exile!

For many the best rock and roll album of all time, for me only the third greatest released by the Rolling Stones, "Exile On Main Street" will be soon re-released, remastered and with bonus discs added: one of them with extra tracks, second with video material. Allegedly even Mick Taylor added recently a few of his licks to the unfinished tracks. I'm all wet x) While getting ready for "Exile..." to come, you can grab some bootlegs with fine session material. See boots called "Hillside Blues" and "Taxile On Main Street". Also great is videotape of Montreux rehearsals from 1972 and audio bootleg called "Dallas Rehearsals 1972", all the material is in great quality and the band was on fire.

"Exile On Main Street" collected songs recorded between 1969 and 1971, but there aren't many outtakes. 6-minute version of "Loving Cup" with really drunk Mick on vocals always cheered me up, so did acoustic "All Down the Line". "I Ain't Signifying" is a good old-time barrelhouse blues tune. "I'm Going Down" and "Travellin' Man" are unfinished but very, very interesting takes on contemporary rock in 1971 :) There's also 10-minute-long heavy blues track called "Hillside Blues" also known as "I Don't Known the Reason Why". "(Can't Seem to) Get A Line On You" is an early take of "Shine A Light", amazing gospel tune with driving piano! Ans there's little short oddity called "Exile On Main Street Blues": a piano+vocals jingle promoting the new Stones' album, Mick wails: "exile on main street, a strange street to walk down" and mentions all titles of songs on the LP.

None of this is gonna end up on soon-to-be-released bonus disc so it's even better... :) Many new songs to be heard. Read an interview with Mick, Keith and producer Don Was here on the website of Rolling Stone magazine. Let's wait x) A feast's comin'.

09 March 2010

Mississippi Matilda Revisited

I'd like to begin with saying that this post contains my original research and, albeit it's rather short, I'm quite proud :-) I was recently listening to a great blues compilation by Saga Jazz Records called "Plantation Blues: Cotton Patch & Tobacco Belt Blues" and found there a track by mysterious Mississippi Matilda. None of my books mentioned her and I couldn't find anything on the net. Her sole song I got was "Hard Working Woman" (it's even on YouTube with only 56 views!). I listened to it about a billion times in a row and even then couldn't figure out all the lyrics ;-) Anyway, it was a love at first sight.

If there's one thing I'm good at, it's searching and digging for information. They say: if it doesn't exist on the internet, it doesn't exist. And slowly I started gathering information about Mississippi Matilda...

"Hard Working Woman" with 3 other songs was recorded on October 15, 1936. In St. Charles hotel in New Orleans :) That was cool enough for me, but Wirz.de was even more informative: artist's real name was Matilda Powell, she was the wife of Eugene Powell who recorded those songs with her (and probably Willie Harris, Jr.). I started looking for 3 more songs and found two of them in another source: "A&V Blues" and "Happy Home Blues" were on albums by Sonny Boy Nelson as bonus tracks. "Peel Banana Blues" (that song title is still on my mind) remains unreleased by Bluebird Records. I couldn't find any contact and the label seems dead.

Google Books is a great research tool I've never used before. I've searched for Mississippi Matilda and found two interesting results in two books: "Africa and the Blues" and "The tribe of black Ulysses". And voila! ;) I've got even photo of miss Powell from 1972 (by Steve LaVere).

I've even found lyrics for her best known song, "Hard Working Woman":

I'm a hard working woman, and I work hard all the time
But if you hear my baby, he just isn't satisfied

I have to go to my work baby, between the night and day
I didn't think my baby would treat me this way

I'm a hard working woman, but I'm becoming a rolling stone
And the way my baby treats me, Lord I ain't gonna be here long

I've uploaded Matilda's complete works on here, it's about 13MB.

08 March 2010

Ronnie's drawings

Ronnie Wood - widely covered here Rolling Stones guitarist ;) - is a nice painter. He paints mostly his band and favorite musicians & friends, and a couple of days ago I've found his portrait of blues legend Robert Johnson. Beautiful, isn't it? ;) See more of Ronnie's works here.

07 March 2010

The Allman Brothers Band - Eat A Peach

The best album by the Allman Brothers Band, period. Even better, more diversified than their breakthrough Fillmore live set. And the last one with slide guitar virtuoso, Duane Allman. "Eat A Peach" includes everything you can ask for in a blues record. It's surely the best studio album ever released by a jam band, on the other hand I don't know if I can call it like that 'cause large parts were recorded live.

There's amazing selection of tracks... Gentle acoustic instrumental piece by Duane called "Little Martha" closes the album. Somewhere in the middle we can find two classic covers, Elmore James' "One Way Out" and Muddy Waters' "Trouble No More" which are the angriest boogie pieces I've heard in a long time. Nearly as good as originals! "Ain't Wastin' Time No More" was a single and peaked at #77 only, which is a shame: nice lyrics and catchy piano riffs got me rocking :)

"Eat A Peach" has a strong follow up (1973's "Brothers and Sisters"), but also marks the end of the best times for the Allman Brothers Band, great band that still plays in the South. It's a kind of experimental album: "Les Brers In A Minor" sounds like an improvised jazz piece, I really miss Miles on it ;) And there's "Mountain Jam". 34 minutes of various ramblings and solos by every member of the band... A love-hate relationship IMHO, not the best tune for a party, but I'd like to hear it live.

Contrasts between "sweet & lovely" tunes like "Melissa" or "Blue Sky" and heavy blues tracks are something really worth hearing, I love to hear the album in its original form. And there's this 2006 deluxe edition with, sadly, no new tracks from that sessions, but a new disc with Allman's 1971 yet another Fillmore performance.

03 March 2010

Charles Mingus - Mingus Ah Um

It wails a little too much at times but don't get scared: it's probably the most popular album Mingus ever did and this is one of the few cases when general public is right: it's worth buying. Yeah, one of those albums that are worth $100, but only with high-quality package and original cover art. It's very long (9 tracks). It's also overflowing with ideas: that's strange, really, because when you listen to it it's very calm and... dreamy. Everybody has his own place - it's hard to describe. The silence is great!

Except for the first track, maybe, this album isn't meant to be played loud.

I immediately fell in love with "Fables Of Faubus" and "Better Git It In Your Soul". The 2nd one is without doubt my favorite jazz track ever: forget what I wrote before. "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat" is everyone's love. I find "Pussy Cat Dues" and "Jelly Roll" a duet of very pleasant closing tracks, they're moody. "Open Letter to Duke" is of course a tribute to Duke Ellington, although "Bird Calls", according to Mingus himself, has nothing to do with Charlie Parker. It doesn't really matter, does it? Hailed are also Lester Young and Jelly Roll Morton. Mingus has quite a taste :)

It might be eccentric and offbeat, but not for usual Mingus standards. It's just a quick review of jazz styles and imitations of greats of the past, but you might as well not even notice it: album's production is great. It has this very kind of consistent sound. You just hear it was recorded during one day (on a side note: was it really? :)).

Two trombones, three saxophones, a piano and usual rhythm section... Unique sound... Results? One of the 50 recordings chosen by the Library of Congress to be added to the National Recording Registry in 2003. It speaks for itself :)