Thursday, June 30, 2005

The Essential George Harrison

This guy hits me in a spiritual place that has previousy only been visited by Dylan and the Grateful Dead. As soulful as any R&B singer and as musically talented as they come. I'm not gonna break these albums down song by song because frankly, words won't do each one justice. Suffice to say, you need these recordings.
First off is the wellspring that is All Things Must Pass. This album is atop the Mt Everest of recordings. After having dozens of his songs rejected by John & Paul, the "quiet Beatle" is finally allowed to spread his wings and let it all hang out. With a super group backing him that is comprised of Clapton, Ringo, Bad Finger, Billy Preston, Jim Keltner, and many more, George leads the group through a collection of songs that can only be described sheer genius. I first got this album on vinyl back in the late 80's when my mother found it in mint condition, still in the original box, at a garage sale. I have listened to this album literally hundreds of times and it never loses its punch. The styles range from acoustic folk, R&B, to balls to the wall rock n' roll. The cherry on top is the brilliant "wall of sound" created by Phil Spector.
Next is an album called Living In The Material World. This comes from a period that I can best describe as George's "blue" period. While most of the songs are sad in nature, he somehow manages to line them all with a positive feeling of hope. That's one of the things I love most about him and can relate to in a personal way. Despite being overlooked and hidden in the shadow of John & Paul, he always puts such a wonderful uplifting spin to his music. I'd be surprised if you had ever heard any of the songs from this album on commercial radio, which makes it just that much more appealing. A true hidden treasure in George's catalogue if ever there was one. Top to bottom, it's an emotional plea for peace, love, and understanding among the human race.
It would be several years before he would release another consistently brilliant album, but he did just that in the late 80's with the album Cloud 9. Once again the supporting cast is nothing but chart toppers including Clapton, Ringo, Elton John, and Jeff Lynne(who produced as well). A album like none of his previous efforts, the unique song collection along with masterful production makes this a must have. At first listen it might appear to be just a hodge-podge of songs put together to fulfill a contractual agreement. And it may very well have been since some like 'Breath Away From Heaven' had been around for a few years(it first appeared in the disastrous Harrison produced Shanghi Surprise soundtrack). But let me assure you this is a truly original "come back" for George, no filler within earshot.
Finally, I come to the fantastic Traveling Wilburys Volume 1. A collaboration like none other, this recording brings together some of the biggest selling music stars of all time. How easily this could have come off as a pretentious-we're-only-in-it-for-the money event, but quite the opposite is true. Their cheeky humor and magical chemistry shines through in each song. While most of the songs were written separately, the "in the moment" recordings capture all the fun that must have been present in the studio with Orbison, Harrison, Petty, Lynne, and Dylan each given their moment to shine. While Volume 3 was more of a true collaboration, the spontaneity of this album surpasses its brother in both songwriting and sheer fun.

iPod Song of the Day: 'You're The Top' sung by Cole Porter

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Dylan: Acoustic 1966

Much has been written of Dylan going electric in July of 1965 through his climactic tour of 1966 with The Hawks. But not nearly as much ink has been spilled on his acoustic set that preceded each nights electric performance.
I was seduced by Dylan's acoustic sets from '66 long before I fell in love with his scorching amplified sets. Many of his sets are similar in song selection from both halves of the show during this period, so I'll just be focusing on the first disc from his Bootleg Series release entitled 'Live 1966'.
Beginning with a somewhat rushed version of 'She Belongs To Me', Bob is merely hinting at what is to come in this sonically brilliant set. Alluding, in his lyrics, to secrets some of us keep close to our chest for a lifetime. He recounts a story of love involving thoughts of thievery, perversion, and the magic of young love. Adding "red" to the ring that is sported by his love only enhances the gallop at which he approaches the song. And using the Manchester Hall's wonderful acoustics to his advantage, he wails on harp filling every corridor and ear with the angst and anxiousness of confusing love.
Only taking time to drop his guitar tuning, Bob begins a steady strum of the psuedo parody of Lennon's 'Norwegian Wood' entitled 'Fourth Time Around'. With hysterical lines like "Your words are not clear, you better spit out your gum" and "..I went and looked through her drawer.", Bob proves himself to be as witty as anything that ever fell from Lennon's pen. The final line, "I never asked for your crutch, now don't ask for mine.", seems to address his audience directly. Don't look for Bob to be standing there for any nod of approval, because he'll be moving at the speed of light in his own direction. A playful harmonica solo wraps up the song nicely, almost sounding like an accordion.
One of my personal favorites, 'Visions Of Johanna', is next up to bat. Handling each consonant and syllable with the care that only someone loaded on heroin could, Bob displays his brilliance at capturing a singular moment in time. Exploring his inner self with words that paint a picture as wonderful as any Hitchcock film and just as mysterious and beautiful. Not missing one detail, he places you right in his brick New York apartment with all of its wonderful sights and sounds set out before you. His staccato vocals at the finale of each verse are a joy to experience. His pain in the delivery of each chorus is almost whispered behind the words. And like a passenger trail pulling in to the station, he bring the steaming engine to a halt with another fantastic harp wail.

Next up is one of the finest warning signs ever recorded. Building each verse to a dramatic climax, he quickly pulls back on his delivery after the final line of each verse and falling with an effectively haunting warning, "It's all over now, baby blue." Again, Dylan utilizes the enormous acoustics of the hall to do loops with his harmonica mid song. Each note floating like smoke from a cigar, winding its way upward to the ceiling and beyond.
In the wonderful documentary, Don't Look Back, there is a truly magical scene in which Dylan, Donovan, and crew are sitting around a London hotel room passing the guitar and playing each other their newest compositions. When it's Bob's turn, he proceeds to strum out this little ditty for one of the first times to a mesmerized handful of listeners. Sporting a sly grin with the delivery of each chorus, Bob knows he has trumped all other songs played that evening(especially Dion's!).
A small cough starts off the spiritual reading of 'Desolation Row' that follows. Quite possibly the finest surrealist lyrics to flow from his electric typewriter, he takes his time with each character and nuance, weaving a web that ensnares the listener in a story of fantasy and despair. And once again, using his harmonica as a galloping white steed that projects the song forward through misty hills and cobblestone streets lined with storybook characters locked in a fairy tale for the ages.
If you've read my previous entries, you know of my fondness for 'Just Like A Woman'. This version is no exception. His voice rough from the previous songs, he tackles thoughts and feelings not touched upon by any other musical artist. So personal and universal are theses emotions, an artist could make a entire career out of this one song. Not Bob, though. Grasping for the untouchable and reaching for the unknown is his forte. This songs simplicity is its master stroke. Heartbreaking and uplifting all in the same breath.
As if to throw a bone to the crowd, he rushes through 'Mr. Tambourine Man' at a hurried pace. It's most effective moment is, surprise, during the mid-song harp solo. Swirling the reeds to their highest note and collapsing them to a delicate finale. And if you aren't swept away by the lyrics, "To dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free", you ain't livin' brother.

iPod Song of the Day: 'Keep It Greasy' from Frank Zappa's Joe's Garage

Monday, June 27, 2005

Red Rocks Or Bust!

I've wanted to go to Red Rocks Amphitheatre for probably 15 years now. On 6.24.05 my dream came true. It was all by accident really. After much prodding by my mother, I finally agreed to go to Denver for my cousins wedding, only to discover that Widespread Panic would be there for a three day run over that weekend. I contacted my college pal Leigh, and as luck would have it, he and his wife(Kristin)would be in town. Not only would they be there, but several other pals I had met through my journeys with the Grateful Dead would also be in attendance. My anticipation grew stronger as the date got closer.
I got to Denver mid morning on 6.24(Leigh's 38th birthday) and one by one my chums arrived. We sat in the "Red Rocks Bar" inside the airport for everyone to convene and had a drink on me. Leigh was the first to arrive, followed by Heidi and Marc. A hip little gal named Beth came to pick up the girls(Linda and Kristin would arrive later), while the guys all piled in to Danny's truck. After some ambiguous talk about the "supplies" everyone had brought along, we made it to the hotel and quickly headed off for the "Lone Star" cafe next door. The girls all caught up with us there and we all talked for a bit before heading off to the venue. The ironic part of lunch was that all the employees had shirts that read "Don't Mess With Texas". Here I had traveled a thousand miles to escape the Lone Star State, only to have it shoved in my face in Colorodo.
We arrived at the Red Rocks State Park about 3:00pm. To our dismay, we discovered that the gates to the lot wouldn't open for another hour. So, Marc and I grabbed some collapsible chairs, a few beers and water, and hiked up the road about a 1/2 mile to the upper parking lot and entrance. There was already a line forming that was about 75 people deep, so Marc and I plopped down and joined the fun. It wasn't too long before he recognized a group of folks a few people ahead of us and soon he was sharing some of his Northern California goodness with them. Shortly thereafter, Danny and Leigh showed up and we succeeded in snaking our way up to Marc's friends spot. More Cali goodness was shared and we were feeling pretty good about our position in line.
Free Image Hosting at
It was about 30 minutes later when a large cargo van pulled up directly in front of us in line. In one of the more surreal moments I've experienced at any rock concert, 2 dozen "frat" type guys piled outta this van along with 1 red headed chick. Like clowns out of a miniature car, they just kept pouring out. These guys had procured front door service for themselves! And no sooner had they filed out of the van, that they opened the back cargo doors and empty beer cans came spilling out on top of them. Too fucking funny! It was indeed and 'Animal House' type moment that I'll never forget. We all got a good laugh outta that one. We all agreed that we talked big about partying at these events, but these guys had it down to an art form or something like that.
Free Image Hosting at <a href=
Not much later, the line started moving and a kind of 'panic' overtook everyone and the crowd rushed the gates. The only trouble was that they weren't open yet. But fortune fell our way and Danny secured an even closer spot at the front of the line. We gave the tarps and carpet rolls to Marc and Danny and set off to meet the others in the lot.(Everyone we ran in to was indeed impressed that we would have carpet to dance upon).
Did I mention that I didn't even have a ticket for that evenings show yet? Well, I didn't and was more than a little concerned at this point in the game. My fears were soon put to rest as Kristin, who was set up with a free ticket for herself + 1, hooked me up. Leigh and I sat with the girls in the lot for a spell and enjoyed the freak show that it had become. It wasn't long after we arrived that Beth and Leigh procured a 'bag of hate' and the 3 of us dove right in.
As Leigh and I headed for the lower gate entrance, we ran in to Kristin who informed us that Danny had been stopped by security at the gate for a very LARGE container he had in his pocket. Unfortunately, they had already torn his ticket and he was not allowed back in the venue. Uuuugggh! But it wasn't too long before Kristin came to the rescue and managed to get another ticket for Danny and all was well. The Gods were smiling on us. This was a good sign.

As Heidi, Leigh, and I entered we began our search for Marc who had given his cell phone to Danny, thereby leaving us unable to contact him. About ten minutes later we found him about 12 rows back on the left side, a perfect vantage point. Slowly but surely, everyone gathered at our seats including Ted and Lisa Rockwell whom I've know since my college days back in Chicago. Ted is the publisher of a book and website called the "Everyday Companion", which catalogs all of Widespread Panic's shows and set lists. It was great to see them as I hadn't seen Ted since 2002 and Lisa since 1995! They are great folks who I've seen most of this country with during my travels with the Grateful Dead.

I jumped into my 'party pack' about an hour before showtime and got progressively higher as the night went on. Danny scored some 'excellent' goodness and also managed to still have some of the contents of the container he had been originally thrown out of the venue for(I didn't ask how). It wasn't long before that creepin' feeling was on my heels. And not long after that, the band came onstage and did their thing.
Now I don't know if it was the altitude, a contact high from the crowd, or a combination of the two(I suspect the latter), but I was soon flying in the stratosphere. The magic of the venue hit me like a 747. It felt to me like I was peaking for about 4 hours straight. I got a little worried because it was never leveling out. But the overwhelming feeling I had was of comforting love. How could I freak out when that's what I was feeling? I was a wreck inside my head for the second half of the concert, but again, I had a feeling of being smothered head to toe with LOVE. I was confused, anxious, and a little bit scared. But I kept reminding myself that the emotion I was drowning in was one of supreme nirvana. Everyone one there was looking and taking care of each other. I hadn't felt this since back in my Grateful Dead days. I was completely overtaken. Needless to say it was a bit overpowering, but never dark or sinister. Just all encompassing love. Everywhere I looked it was there. Above, below, and surrounding me. I hadn't been this high in a long time, if ever. My mind kept telling me to freak out, but my body would not allow it. I figured as long as I was standing, I was in good shape. I had to step out to the side a few times to get my space together, but each time I came back to our seats the smiles and joy I felt from my friends was as solid at the rocks that flanked each side of the venue. I had found ecstasy, literally and figuratively.
The band, of course, blew my mind with the lyrics I could make out. I felt as if they were speaking directly to me at times concerning my current situation. The music blew over me like waves of heaven. The light show tripped me out. The venue had me gasping with awe. The skies had be threatening rain all day, but it held off until the last song of the encore and it started to rain just as they tore in to it. Something bigger than us all was at play here. We could see the lightning rolling through the clouds in the distance and the twinkling lights of Denver below. Very cosmic!
As John Barlow wrote, "This must be heaven. Tonight I crossed the line." Indeed I had. My mind was swimming. Every pour of my body was spinning out of control. I thought of my friends back in Houston and the love I had for them and my family. It was a very humbling experience that I'm not soon to forget. My friends reminded me why I started doing this in this first place. The sense of security, despite my bewildered state, was enough to help me keep it together. I knew that if I was to fall, they would be there to catch and take care of me in a moments notice. I was as secure as a baby in its mothers arms. And best of all, I'm going to do it all over again in Vegas come October!

iPod Song of the Day: 'Train In Vain' from London Calling by the Clash

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Nirvana: Unplugged In New York

It starts off simple enough. "Good evening. This is off our first record, most people don't own it." Kurt was right. I don't own Bleach and I think I the only record I do own of theirs, aside from Unplugged of course, is a pirated copy of Nevermind.
My relationship with Nirvana was through television appearances, videos, and radio. I watched and listened as they grew over the few years they were in the public eye. I'm not the type to go searching out new music, per say. It kinda has to fall in my lap for me to even acknowledge its existence. That's just what these guys had done. I don't know when or where I first heard them. All I knew is that suddenly they were everywhere. And I do mean everywhere. There is a popular belief in the music industry that they were the first band to reach number 1 because of all the kids who returned the music cd's they had gotten for Christmas of '91 and exchanging them for Nevermind. In January of '92 they shot straight to the top of the Billboard charts, thus bringing so called "grunge" rock to mainstream America...and me. By the time their Unplugged performance aired on Mtv, I was hooked to every move they made.
This album is down right spooky. The black cloud of doom that hung over Kurt during the last few months of his life seems to have been magically recorded on magnetic tape. Naked and full of pain, the band somehow manages to bring as much feeling and importance to the cover songs as they do their own material. This is a band on the verge of a musical breakthrough. This performance gives us only a taste of what could have been. And what other band, still riding the crest of the tsunami they had created in popular culture & music, would abandon their "sound" and step aside to showcase their friends and mentors music?(the Vaseline's, Meat Puppets, & LeadBelly) Phenomenally brave.
Despite the gloom that is present throughout the recording, there are still moments of Rock n' Roll ecstasy. Who else, but Kurt, would use a distortion pedal on acoustic guitar for his solo on 'The Man Who Sold The World'? Brilliant. Kurt's wonderfully defiant "Shut up" in response to Krists' praise of his stunningly solo performance of 'Pennyroyal Tea'. And the Meat Puppets Curt Kirkwood exclamation of "FUCKING NIRVANA!" as he leaves the stage following a sublime performance of 'Lake of Fire". Fuck yeah.
Every song on this record is spectacular. A voice risen from the grave lingers above. More than a single listen in a sitting is difficult, though. Too haunting. Too truthful. Too heartbreaking. 'On A Plain' sounds as if it wants to break free of this world. 'Something In The Way' puts you right there, underneath the bridge. Even the premature vocal by Kurt in 'Polly' sounds...right.
I recall being embarrassed at my fondness for them when around my musician roommates back in the early 90's. When Mtv had what seemed like a 24hr repeating of this performance after Kurts suicide, one my roommates sat in on one of my multiple viewings. In the final break of 'Where Did You Sleep Last Night', the shows last song, Kurt looks straight in to the camera and gives a kind of over exaggerated eye roll followed by a sigh of exasperation. My roommate laughed as if it was the phoniest thing he'd ever seen. Maybe it was. But after a performance of this caliber, Kurt could have put on a pink tu-tu and danced to Debbie Gipson and still had my deepest respect.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

KISStory 9.1.77(The First Night)

Any child of the seventies, who was worth their weight in salt, grew up with an unhealthy fascination with KISS. If not, you must be retarded or have been living in the back woods of Retardedville. They were everywhere; lunchboxes, trading cards, posters, vinyl, comic books, television(who remembers the travesty that was 'The Phantom of the Park'?). They took every marketing device the Beatles had used and turned it on itself. Where the Beatles had signed away virtually every penny that was to be collected in the marketing process, KISS(with the devil/genius that is Gene Simmons) kept every dollar for themselves. I saw him a few years ago on the Howard Stern show promoting the new KISS MasterCard and something called the KISS Casket. That's right, if you have the money and desire, you can send your corpse straight in to Hell riding atop this satin-lined travesty. And make Gene & Paul a little bit richer in the process.
KISS rolled in to my hometown back in September of '77 during their "legendary"(as the opening remarks of the dvd state) Love Gun/Alive II era. My mother would have never let me go to this show at The Summit(now Oasis of Jebus) at the age of 7, so I had to wait until I searched out this gem of a video 25 years later. It's all here. From Gene's fire blowing finale to 'Firehouse' to Paul's glitter-lapelled and bedazzled tuxedo. There's Paul's double necked guitar(eat your heart out Eagles) and Space Aces' brilliant gold top Les Paul.
Bizarre moments included, Paul sporting a red fireman's cap for the length of 'Firehouse' and his 'sing-speak' between song banter(name dropping "Hooo-ston" in his best falsetto at every given opportunity).
Highlights included a raging 'Shock Me' performed by Ace that is so hot that his Les Paul smolders before finally bursting in to flames as he sets it on his guitar stand mid-stage. Other songs of note are, 'I Want You'(a personal fav), 'Dr. Love', 'Shout It Out Loud'. Even the famous side by side front line rockin' left and right move is here(YES!)
Ugly moments include, Paul's near shag-like chest hair that is on prominent display from his navel cut vest. ick! And Gene's black spandex outfit that's split up the side revealing his fish belly white thighs. Double ick!
From the 15ft. high illuminated KISS letters above the stage to the green smoke-filled-blood-spewing bass solo by Gene, it's all spectacle and all good. They had their day and got very rich. Ace and Peter blew it all on drugs, while Paul and Gene sleep atop their mountain of cash each night. They probably all(except for Ace) should have been shot after their disastrous "concept" album of the early 80's, 'Music From The Elder'. Although, I guess Peter had already been kicked out by that point, they should have shot him anyway.
The main part of the show concludes with Paul smashing his "stock" shiny black Ibanez mid stage before tossing the remains to the clamoring fans below. For the encore they plop Peter center stage to sing a mostly off-key version of 'Beth', along with a violin filled backing track. And finally, in a head scratching choice, they finish the show by giving Peter Chris the last word with a, nevertheless, rocking version of 'Black Diamond'. How generous of Gene & Paul. They keep the money and toss him a bone. VIVA SPACE ACE!

iPod Song of the Day: Sleepy Time Time(live) by Cream

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Who Tribute @ The Continental Club

After several rehearsals with the now infamous Mod Fag & The White Belts, we finally took the stage in the early morning hours of June 17 to a small but very enthusiastic crowd of drunken friends and barfly's. Our lead guitar player wore his best engine driver cap, while the bass player looked like he came straight from an official mafia dinner meeting(very smart). Rhythm guitar(and resident 'real rocker') James, was decked out in head to toe black. See, I told ya he was a true rock 'n roller! And drummer Shane in his Sunday best(sleeveless Mickey Mouse shirt & shorts). I wore a 'mod' wig from Partyboy, a tight fitting red-striped shirt from Value Village($1.60), and a bitchin' red leather cape, courtesy of the Cooper clothing experience. My sunglasses had me flying blind the whole night and that was probably best.
We(and friends) had braved the first 3 bands. I kept telling everyone they were like a "lame fuck". It's hard when it goes in, but before long turns in to a mushroom hump. While technically proficient at what they were doing, their stage presence just kinda laid there. They knew and played all the right notes, with few suspect harmonies, but were kinda like the regulars at the bar. Lame or doing their laundry in their heads.
Prior to the show I had been watching 'Lost In Translation' at this phat pad in West U. and noticed that in virtually every scene between Scarlett and Bill, they were drinking. So I figured a pad of this stature must have some good liquor in it.( Ya see, I swore off booze after a puke fest following the annual IBP gala in March. After too much vodka, I puked in the parking lot of a condo complex in which I was looking after a lesbian couples dogs. For several hours, during the early morning hours, I ralphed and came in and out of conciseness, finally passing out on their couch...good times). I found some Johnny Walker Red Label in the pantry. Goody for me?
I had told my pals we would be going on early, as Shane had implied, but we kept getting bumped for some reason that is still baffling to me. It had something to do with the date you had signed up for the gig.(WTF???) And in an even more baffling move, the "headlining" band took the stage first and proceeded to drive half the customers away. I guess their name "Dreambreakers" is appropriate.

Jimmy and Shane got mad. I got drunk.

We took the stage and immediately blazed in to 'Run, Run, Run' from the Who's 'A Quick One'. Probably our tightest song of the night. Shane broke a drum or a cymbal stand and we covered with some not so witty drunken stage banter. At least our banter was more amusing than the previous bands extended song explanations. Oye! 'Boris The Spider' came crawling out next. I stumbled over the last two lines in the 3rd verse, but if you were sober enough to recognize that, you were not at the Continental Club at 1AM. I'm kinds foggy on the order of the next 3 songs, but they were 'See My Way', 'Batman'(both from 'A Quick One'), and a cover of 'Daddy Rolling Stone'. I screwed the latter up during the second chorus, but I don't think that was all my fault.
As I walked off stage, the guitarist from the previous band told me we had "blown them off the stage". Check. And the MC got on the mike to say that the Who would have "approved" of our speeding locomotive of a performance. Checkmate. But the cherry on the cake was, after all the booze I had consumed and my offers to the friends who stayed to put a drink on my tab, the bartender only charged me 9 bucks. So, baby take a whiff on me!

I hope we do it again. The White Belts fucking rock.

Free Image Hosting at

iPod Song of the Day: 'Making Christmas' from the Nightmare Before Christmas Soundtrack

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Dylan on 60 Minutes

I saw the original airing, but this time I have a blog.
Still as sharp as a tack, he is. As in his reply to Bradley's obseravation of the irony that, he viewed himself the polar opposite of what others had seen him. His response lightning fast, "Ain't that somethin'". The old man has still got it.
But what he doesn't have, and admits, is the ability to write as he once did. You could almost see him coming to grips with this revelation right there on camera. And a weaker man would probably fall apart on the spot with this admission. How many of us have struggled with talents or ablilities we once had but can no longer conjure? I think most. He's realized his limitations on one front, but also realizes that he has aquired new talents to exploit. That's evolution, my friend. To stare in the face of a force strong enough to derail most men and rather than hold his ground until submerged in his own tears, he turned his back and searched for more. Un-fucking-believable!
I've been proud to say I've been a Dylan fan for more than 16 years, now. Not long, I know. But the strength and wisdom carried in this man has made me prouder today. Almost vindicated my choices. I can look at those who have smothered praise on lesser men/women and hold my head high.
A giant among men. Not a prophet or man-god. Just a man. A man whose life has taught him some very valuable lessons that he's been generous enough to share with us. A man who's kept this word with his maker. Fighting the fight that would, and has, killed men with similar vision. But, thankfully for us, he survived.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Trips To The Music Store

I went out in search of more dvd-a discs today and had little luck in finding much variety. The first store I went to, SoundWaves, didn't even carry dvd-a. They are a local chain of stores here in Houston that claim to cater to audiofiles. While they do have a rather extensive collection of eclectic music, they seem to more interested in selling skateboards and surfboards. Their skate shop occupies about 1/4 of the store. Prices for music are a little high too. When I asked the clerk at the counter if they carried dvd-a, he looked at me like a dog shown a card trick and had to ask a more "informed" employee. Again, the answer was "no". Not going back there.
Next up was an excellent music store called Cactus Records. While their dvd-a collection was small, they did have a few titles I was interested in. Namely the Grateful Dead's American Beauty and Neil Young's On The Beach. The latter was a few dollars cheaper than the former, so I bought it. They also have a bitchin' used vinyl collection that seems to get larger everytime I go there. After much thumbing, I decided on the Rolling Stones Goats Head Soup($7) and a newly pressed double album of Brian Wilson's SMiLE($25). It was a bit pricey, but I figured I wasn't gonna run in to many of those, so I had better grab it while I had the chance. I now officially have that recording in 3 formats, cd, vinyl, and dvd video. Excessive, yes. Worth it, you fucking bet.
Unfortunately, Cactus Records was sold out of SMiLE on cd, so I had to resort to Best Buy. They only had 3 copies and I bought 2. Their dvd-a selection was about as good as Cactus', but I didn't see anything I couldn't get at at a much better price.
You see, I had a dream last night that I needed to buy SMiLE for an old high school chum who lives in Austin. My mom & stepdad are visiting her this weekend and are gonna drop it off with her. I also bought a copy for Lisa D'Amore, an up and coming playwright commissioned to write an original play for the theatre company I work for in town. We recently had a discussion about it on the first night of her visit and as she was leaving, she mentioned that my enthusiasm for the recording & concert made her want to go and buy it herself. So, I thought it would be a nice gesture to hook her up. Last christmas I bought a copy for my stepdad. And not long after it came out, I bought a copy for my ex-girlfriend. So, that's 5 cd copies and counting. Suck on that music industry! If you actually put out good music, people will be more than happy to buy it multiple times.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Enjoying 5.1

That's just exactly what I am doing at the moment. Staying at a posh house for the next few days and I'm really enjoying their schweet set up. All the speakers are mounted in the ceiling with a tremendous woofer on the wooden planks. As I write this, the Beach Boys Pet Sounds is rumbling the floor beneath my feet. This kind of set up is the next thing on my list of electronic gadgets to procure. Despite the fact that I've invested in several dvd-a discs, I still don't own one.
The most dynamic mix I've encountered so far is the Flaming Lips Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots. They remixed the entire album for just this kind of set up. So, if you think you've enjoyed the recording on cd, you have no idea what you are in for. My only complaint it that they didn't offer the original mix on the dvd-a as well. Surely there was enough space left on the digital media to have been included. I've grown very fond of the original mix for Ego Tripping at the Gates of Hell and was a bit saddened by the fact that they had completely changed it for 5.1. According to Kliph, the 5.1 mix for The Soft Bulletin was completed earlier this year and might be out by fall. Let's hope so. GEEZUS, this sounds good. I'm gonna bring my new SMiLE dvd over tomorrow and watch it in its entirety.
The best way I can describe it is, having a psychedelic experience while totally sober. The music shoots above, below, around, and right through you. Spinning your head and sinking you in to the couch further and further. There doesn't seem to be that kind of trickery on the Pet Sounds disc, but it doesn't really call for that type of thing. It suits Flaming Lips music very nicely though. As does it for Beck's 2002 release Sea Change.
Already an album of moody folk rock, the 5.1 mix swirls around you like a music cocktail, intoxicating you more and more with each delicious note played. I'm truly swimming in an ocean of sound. What a delight!
The dvd-a I have of Neil Young's Harvest doesn't seem to have a 5.1 mix. Strictly phat stereo. I does, however, put you right in the middle of Neil's Northern California barn(converted to a recording studio) with the Stray Gators performing their musical wizardry as I've never heard. Thumping bass, floating pedal steel, and winning guitars all intact. I would have liked a 5.1 mix, though.
I'm gonna go out tomorrow and buy more dvd-a discs. Fuck SACD and HDCD, DVD-Audio is where it's at!

Ipod Song of the Day: Speed of Sound from Coldplays X&Y

Monday, June 06, 2005

Deer Creek '91

I had a '78 Toyota Corolla, a little cash(from a crooked job I had earlier that year), and tickets for all but 3 shows on the Grateful Dead's(mostly) mid-west and east coast 1991 Summer Tour. I was set. Then I made the bad decision of bringing along a guy I knew in high school who was the middle man to my pot connection. His name was Ron, but he insisted on being called "Cloud". Geez, I can't believe I didn't see trouble coming with him. I also should have known he was trouble when he bailed on his new born baby and wife to go on tour with me. What a fucking flake. He promised all these connections he had on tour and all the money he would make us along the way. All bullshit, but I wouldn't find that out for several more days.
So, off we went with plans of meeting my touring buddies at a campsite in Noblesville, IN the site of the first shows(not counting the LA show on 6/1). We traveled through Oklahoma where we crashed the first night by a river and ate some canned food I had brought along(he hadn't brought anything but a little change purse!).
Making it to Noblesville, we set up camp in the pre-arranged meeting site with no sight of my friends. We headed off to the first show at Deer Creek with much anticipation in the air, despite my growing suspicions of my traveling companion. While he loitered the parking lot, I found a gentleman who was offering some psychedelic enhancement for the evening with the caveat, "careful these are double dipped". I should have listened to him. I consumed all I bought and headed in to my pavilion seats. The energy in the place was electrifying and I steadily got higher and higher. As the band took the stage the place erupted with excitement and they used it to fuel their first set. Top to bottom, this set was probably the finest example of Grateful Dead music being pushed to the limit with each new song. A smoking Jack Straw stated things off and quickly oozed in to a magical They Love Each Other. The boys had really come to play and it was reflected in their mood and the crowds fevered pitch. Wang Dan Doodle had Jerry flexing his muscles with some midi saxophone, while Row Jimmy displayed his technique on midi flute. The chugga-chugga end was pure delight. A slight stumble at the beginning of Black Throated Wind did not deter from its strength at all. Bobby's neck veins were poppin'! Now this is where things got weird(for me). I had become very high much too fast. When Jerry blazed a trail in to Railroad Blues and its verse "My mama told me, my papa told me too", I realized it had been several days since I had called home to check in and let everyone at home know I was alright(I wasn't). Leaving the pavilion, I looked around the venue for a phone to call home. Finding one that was occupied by some hippie chick, I rudely persuaded her my need was much more important that hers and got her off the phone as quickly as I could. Of course at this point, I was much too high to even figure out how a phone worked and tried in vain to operate it. I then decided I was leaving. I had seen enough and need to be someplace else(Texas, I guess). The ticket takers told me if I left the venue there was no re-admittance. I brushed 'em off and proclaimed, "I had a GREAT time!". Uuughhh.
Back in the parking lot, I found a surprised Cloud who asked what I was doing outside the show. I don't know what I told him, but I suddenly became aware that he was Satan and meant me no good. I floundered around for a while, peeing my pants in front of strangers, and finally(in Clouds absence) tried to pull my car out of the parking lot to the warnings of several people. Cloud showed up just in time to keep me from smashing myself and many wandering Deadheads in to bits. In my freaked out state, I told him he could have all the rest of my summer tour tickets 'cause I was getting the fuck out of this place. He calmed me down somehow and placed me in the passenger seat of the car where I came in and out of consciousness for the remainder of the evening. Finally realizing my folly as I heard the band playing Box Of Rain(their encore). Uuugghh
The next morning, Cloud kept baiting me with his "I thought you were a pro at this", not making me feel any better about the situation and driving home the idea in my head that, while not Satan, this guy was no good as a traveling companion and I needed to ditch him ASAP. The one bright point of the day was that evenings show. I had even better seats that night and the band was again firing on all cylinders. It seemed to take them a bit longer to get things going, but once they did, there was no looking back. The opening Half Step had some tasty Jerry licks followed by some amazing slide work by Bobby on Stagger Lee. Other first set highlights included a raging Loser, Me & My Uncle>Maggie's Farm(even Bruce got a verse), Music Never Stopped>Don't Ease Me In. The second set fell right in to Scarlet>Fire without the usual pre-set tuning. The guitar licks by Bobby in the transition between the two will make the hairs on the back of you neck stand straight! The Truckin'>New Speedway Boogie also had some excellent transitional work,but by Garcia this time. New Speedway had just been revived and it was one of the only time I can recall Jerry getting all the words right. A real rarity. The post drums>space highlight was a staggering Standing On The Moon, that had Garcia taking it slow and easy with a rousing ending. The Weight wrapped up this weekend with each band member taking a verse(Bruce, too!).
The work between Garcia and Hornsby was quite simply the stuff dreams are made of, and this run of shows was the pinnacle of their onstage relationship. I would never see them again spark the magic that they created at these shows. It's unfortunate(for me) that the 3 shows on this tour I didn't have tickets for(RFK and 2 at Giants) would reach similar heights. I only know this because of the bootlegs that surfaced later. However, I am grateful that all 3 shows were filmed. RFK(6/14) was released as an early View From The Vault and a portion of Giants Stadium(6/16-6/17) was shown on ABC "In Concert" later that fall as part of the Deadicated album promotion. I've recently acquired outtakes from that show with a few more of their songs from that run. The Eyes Of The World from 6/17 clocks in at nearly 20 minutes and is a highlight of the Dead's 90's performances. Never had such a good time....

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Howlin' Wolf

Just got through watching an amazing documentary on Howlin' Wolf called The Howlin' Wolf Story. Talk about living the blues, geez. Two scenes that will remain with me; one was a filmed performance that Alan Lomax had set up to emulate a juke-joint in the backstage area of Newport ('66). The scene is, Howlin' playin a song and he's interrupted mid-song by a very drunk Sun House who goes on a rant about there only being one true blues, that between a man and a woman. The two exchange some words with each other in which Wolf gets in a jab about Sun having "drunk all his"(meaning the whiskey that was flowing). And finally ending with Wolf chastising Sun for "doing nothing with his life". Kinda sad. Makes you feel for this poor soul who was blessed with such amazing talent, only to have it wasted away on booze and be driven further down by an oppressive society. Howlin' then tears in to an amazing version of "Meet Me At The Bottom" that has him down on one knee testifying to the small crowd that had gathered.
The other is eloquently told by Hubert Sumlin in which he recounts a moving story of Wolf seeing his mother in Clarksdale after ten years of estrangement. Wolf started crying and gave his mother a $500 dollar bill(which Sumlin had never seen before) which she promptly stomped on and left on the floor having proclaimed her distaste for his "devil's music". In the end, when Wolf was dying, he reached out to his mother but she refused to see him.
And that made me realize, that's why I do what I do. My mother has been the greatest force of love in my life and will always remain in my heart as such. Everything I do in this life is to please her. Not myself or anyone else. Her words of praise are everything to me. She has done more for me than I could ever recount or express in words of gratitude. And I've got to believe that's why I've chosen the field of artistic expression to pursue in this life. There is no corporate job or amount of money that could repay the debt she's experienced in sacrifice for me. She been my strongest supporter and my greatest inspiration. I love her more than words can say. And I hope that love is expressed in what I do. That's all that I can ask for.

Friday, June 03, 2005

In The Studio

It's late and I'll make this brief. Just getting home after a recording and mixing sessions with my pal Eddie. We were working on another song for the aforementioned Tamalalia 10 cd project called "Tamarie, You Can Drive My Car". We took a demo I recorded a year or so ago on my home pc. We added some layered vocals ala 10cc's "I'm Not In Love", some harmonys to improve some vocals parts I wasn't satisfied with, some aditional guitar and mandolin, and humorous sound effects. I'm really pleased with how it turned out. I'm amazed at Ed's ability to float from one music editing program to the next, while adding effects, compression, equalization, and many other things I have no idea about. It was really fun collaborating with someone who really knows what he's doing in the realm of music. We shot the shit and had a grand ole time sitting in his home studio doin' our thing. Long night, but lots of fun. I hope we can do it again soon. I'm not gonna post an mp3, so you'll just have to find it on Usenet, your favorite P2P program, or support IBP and buy it. I'll post a link where you can buy it as soon as it goes on sale(probably July '05). I told you I would be brief...

iPod Song of the day: The Girl Is Mine by Michael Jackson & Paul McCartney

p.s. Get your King Of Pop memorabilia now, 'cause MJ is goin' down.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Cream at the Royal Albert Hall 5/5/05

Spring has sprung, and with it came the much anticipated reunion of the original super group Cream. I've downloaded several of the shows from Usenet, but am just now getting the opportunity to listen to one. First on the iPod is May 5, 2005. I must admit I went into this with much skepticism. I wasn't sure what to expect. What I heard was a very well rehearsed and tight unit. With the opening number "I'm So Glad"; I was afraid my worst thoughts would come true. Kinda uninspired to these ears, but it might very well have been the recording which was a bit sketchy and boomy. Even a few seconds were dropped at the false start, apparently to readjust recording levels. However, as they rip in to the next song "Spoonful", it's obvious these guys came to play and play HARD. It has Clapton throwing in some very tasty individual notes that would make B.B. King proud. The next surprise came with the first notes of "Sleepy Time Time" a personal favorite. Some classic rapid fire explosions from EC guitar make this a true joy to listen to. "Politician" also has some excellent guitar work by Clapton. I've not been too impressed with Clapton the last decade of so. I sometimes think he's too modest and only plays to his potential on special moments, with Dylan's 30th Anniversary Concert and Clapton's Crossroads Benefit from '99 being some of the few exceptions. But with the reunion show, it's clear he has stepped up to the plate to deliver the goods. A slow smoldering version of "Stormy Monday" also finds him in fine form. The show ends with several classic Cream tunes "Born Under A Bad Sign", "Crossroads", "White Room", and "Sunshine Of You Love" all played with spirited perfection. Clapton even used his wah-wah pedal for the latter. Throughout the show the only effect I could tell being used was perheps an overdrive pedal, leaving Clapton signiture "clean" tone to dominate. I'm afraid I can't really comment on Jack Bruce's bass playing as the recording was boomy and didn't leave much definition for the low end. His voice, though, is in better than expected shape as he tackled the majority of the nights vocals. Ginger Baker is still up to his old tricks bringing the nights set to a close with "Toad". Maybe not quite as quick as he used to be, but still laying down a steady beat with wonderful moments throughout. I wish they were planning a tour of the States (seems unlikely). But I know tickets and demand would be through the roof, killing any momentum they built over the multi day Albert Hall run. So, more that 35 years after they originally called it quits, they return to the scene of the crime to erase any doubts that they are still the cream! Nice job boys.

Recording nfo:
Royal Albert Hall London, England Thursday May 5, 2005
Lineage: Audience Recording>Solid-State Recorder(16bit, 44.1kHz WAV)>HD>Adobe Audition>WAV>FLAC Frontend>FLAC (Level-5)

Caveat: The first part of "I'm So Glad", was heavily under-recorded, (no sound check). Levels have been increased to marry with remainder of the recording. A poor signal-to-noise is evident during this period. A segment of ~4seconds is missing during the false stop whilst the levels were established. Left-hand channel was boosted to balance the binaural stereo image.

Venue Location: Circle, right-hand side.
Set-List: Disk-1: 57:26 01. I'm So Glad (Skip James) 05:40 02. Spoonful (Willie Dixon) 09:45 03. Outside Woman Blues (Reynolds) 04:32 04. Pressed Rat and Wart Hog (Ginger Baker/Mike Taylor) 03:24 05. Sleepy Time Time (Godfrey/Bruce) 06:34 06. NSU (Bruce) 05:46 07. Badge (Harrison/Clapton) 04:25 08. Politician (Bruce/Brown) 05:06 09. Sweet Wine (Godfrey/Bruce) 06:21 10. Rollin' & Tumblin' (Muddy Waters) 05:54
Disk-2 67:29 01. Stormy Monday (Walker) 08:11 02. Deserted Cities of the Heart (Bruce/Brown) 03:53 03. Born Under a Bad Sign (Booker T. Jones/William Bell) 06:31 04. We're Going Wrong (Jack Bruce) 08:19 05. Crossroads (Robert Johnson) 05:19 06. Sitting on Top of the World (Chester Burnett) 06:05 07. White Room (Bruce/Brown) 06:24 08. Toad (Ginger Baker) 13:43 Encore: 09.Sunshine of Your Love (Bruce/Brown/Clapton) 09:04
Duration: 2h:4m:56s