Sunday, July 31, 2005

An Evening With Neil Young Solo-The 1999 Tour

Easily one of the most important rock n' roll events of the decade took place just as it was closing. Neil Young's all acoustic tour of 1999 will go down in history as an event of epic proportions, despite it relative simplicity. Covering nearly the entirety of the United States and a portion of Canada, the tour started its first of 3 legs in Vancouver moving down the West Coast, across the Mid-West and East Coast, and finally wrapping up south of the Bible Belt in my hometown of Houston.
I have a number of field recordings from this tour and each is filled with its own surprises with songs covering the bulk of Neil's almost 40 year old recording career at the time. Each night was filled with classics like 'Nowadays Clancy Can't Even Sing' and 'Flying On The Ground Is Wrong' standing side by side with newer compositions such as 'Looking Forward' and 'Out Of Control'. A repertoire of almost 80 songs on this tour required that he have a notebook at his feet each night to keep him aware of his options.
There is a beautifully filmed official DVD of this tour released by the name of, you guessed it, Silver & Gold. It chronicles a magical night of music at the Bass Music Hall in Austin, Texas on May 29, 1999(Neil calls the venue a "music church"). It's just Neil alone on stage surrounded by a semi-circle of stringed instruments ranging from 6 and 12 string guitars of varying ages(including one of Hank Williams') with a guitjo(a six stringed banjo) thrown in for good measure. On one of the evenings I saw the show in Houston, he told the story of one of the guitars that had a bullet hole in it from where the original owner had been gunned down as he played it(yikes!). Flanked on his left and right by an upright and grand piano with a magnificent pump organ upstage center. The only bummer is that the DVD only showcases 13 of the 28 songs played on that evening. Maybe someday we'll get to see the rest in digital clarity.
This was a 'no frills' musical experience. With only a simple white scrim as his backdrop, Neil performed all the musical acrobatics needed to take your mind to that heavenly place that most performers fill several eighteen-wheelers to try and accomplish. A variety of pastel and primary colors were projected on the backdrop as the mood changed with each new song. A truly elegant, yet simple, approach. He let the songs do the talking and did not rely on gimmicks to dilute the ambrosia.
In one of the more beautifully organic moments of the DVD, while singing the song 'Daddy Went Walkin' he accidentally comes in a bar too early with his vocals but catches himself just in the nick of time. In that brief moment, someone in the audience gives a cheer of approval and Neil can be heard ever so quietly saying to himself..."yeah". Yeah, indeed.
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Songs performed on the 1999 solo tour:
Tell Me Why
Looking Forward
War of Man
Out of Control
World On A String
Shut Up Asshole
Don't Let It Bring You Down
Daddy Went Walkin'
Distant Camera
Ambulance Blues
Southern Pacific
The Needle and the Damage Done
On The Way Home
Goin' Back
2Time Spent In Detroit
Long May You Run
Old King
Old Man
Harvest Moon
Heart of Gold
Last Trip to Tulsa
After the Goldrush
Good To See You
Lookout For My Love
Unknown Legend
Razor Love
Lotta Love
Cortez The Killer
Dreamin' Man
Expectin' To Fly
Horseshoe Man
Love Is A Rose
I Am A Child
One Of These Days
Cowgirl In The Sand
Throw You Hatred Down
White Line
Mansion On The Hill
Nowadays Clancy Can't Even Sing
Comes A Time
Railroad Town
Flying On The Ground Is Wrong
Dance Dance Dance
Down By The River
Mr. Soul
Mother Earth
From Hank To Hendrix
Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere
Cinnamon Girl
In The Great Divide
Lotta Love
See The Sky About To Rain
Southern Man
Silver and Gold
Only Love Can Break Your Heart
On The Beach
Sugar Mountain
Last Trip To Vegas

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Truckin' Up To Buffalo

The most recent release from the video vault of the Grateful Dead takes us up to Rich Stadium in Orchard Park, NY. This 4th of July show has the band igniting their own brand of fireworks, magic, and comedy routines on stage as the cameras roll. Top to bottom the performance by the band is flawless. The weather was hot(as indicated by the beads of sweat) and so was the band.
I won't break it down song by song since each is a masterpiece in its own right, but I am gonna point out a few of the highlights...

Speaking of masterpiece, during their first set performance of 'When I Paint My Masterpiece' the first comedy routine takes place. Ya see, Bob Weir can't help but play the part of "rock star" since no one else in the band will. As he sings the line "ran on a hilltop following a pack of wild geese", Jerry joins in for a harmony with his eyes closed. At the conclusion of the line, Bob points out toward the sky to a flock of imaginary wild geese(or not depending on how high he was). Jerry opens his eyes just in time to see Bobs gesture and quickly looks to see what the hell he is pointing out. Nothing Jer. It's all in the mind. Bob gets a laugh and Jerry just keeps on rockin'.
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The next bit is pure Grateful Dead magic. In Bobby next song, 'Looks Like Rain', the lyric reads "I'll still sing you love songs written in the letters of your name. Brave the storm that comes, for it surely looks like rain." Just as he finishes the word "name" a crash of thunder, loud enough to be caught on the soundtrack, shakes the whole stadium. The rain would soon follow and the cosmic ballet begins.

The final bit of comedy presented on the dvd comes just as the band is walking on stage for their second set. Jerry can be see looking around in all directions as if he doesn't know what's going on or where he is. Ole Jer scratches the top of his head in a bewildered state. Brent sees the confusion on his buddies face and does what any friend would do in front of 60, 000 tripping Dead Heads...he mocks him and laughs aloud. Silly Jerry, trips are for kids! Jerry laughs it off and tears in to a raging set opener 'Touch Of Grey".
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This performance is killer any way you look at it. The only let down is, unlike the previous video vault releases, there are no filler tracks. However, the show does run over 2hrs and 40min. Plus you get to see Jerry playing his "midi-sized" Stratocaster during the Space segment of the show, a real rarity. In the words of Ted Knight, "Top Notch! Top Notch!"

iPod Song of the Day: 'Silver Train' performed by the Rolling Stones on Don Kirshners Rock Show 9.29.73

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Neil Young's Silver & Gold (cd)

This album is just exactly perfect. A little short, but perfect. At just over 35 minutes in duration it could use some fleshing out, but I think Neil donated the other songs that would have been included to his pals CSN on their 1999 album Looking Forward. Which is a real shame because if he had included the songs 'Looking Forward', 'Out Of Control', and 'Slowpoke' this would have been an even better album. It's hard to imagine this masterpiece getting any sweeter, but it would have been even more of a slice of heaven with those included. And as much as I love this album, I've read many Rusties(hard core Neil fans) criticize it for one reason or another("light-hearted", "fluff", "too comfortable"). All bullshit. Maybe I'm a softy, but I think it displays his writing, vocal, and musical abilities at the top of his game.
The album starts off with a very pleasant greeting in 'Good To See You'. As if welcoming a good friend after many years, it pops a grin on your mug and puts a bounce in your stride. Its "back to the woodshed" feel is carried throughout the entire album. Containing a very positive message accented by wonderful harmonica playing and pedal steel licks sprinkled generously throughout.
The title track actually dates back to 1982. I have many bootlegs that have this song appearing in a number of different styles through the years, but Neil seems to have really nailed it with this version. Just Neil and his acoustic guitar singing about the glory of love and all the joys that come with it. Peggy Young must be proud to know he's singing about his love for her that "never seems to get old".
The country sing-along 'Daddy Went Walkin' is next up. This is pure classic country, simple and sweet. Mama, daddy, and the old dog all get a mention. A gentle tale of uncluttered living and easy life on the farm.
The nostalgic 'Buffalo Springfield Again' makes me smile every time I hear it. It pretty much tells the story of his old band and band mates, describing his longing to see the old gang one more time to "show the world what we got". A beautiful backing track supplied by the Stray Gators colors his lyrics and emotions to perfection. A happy-go-lucky tune if ever I've heard one and one of my favorites of the album.
Even though 'Great Divide' lyrics paint a picture of loneliness and alienation, it still manages to feel "up" in its delivery. Great wailing pedal steel licks provided by Ben Keith add to the somberness of the lyrics. Neil's vocals floating ever so gently above the track as if they were a gentle breeze blowing across the ripples in an otherwise placid pool of water.
'Horseshoe Man' provides some of the best poetry on the album. It's Neil discovering that, despite his age, he still has a lot to learn about the complexities of love. The lyric "I don't know about love" with its double meaning is meant to twist your head, leaving you scratching it in a blissfully confused state.
Emmylou Harris provides a wonderful counter vocal line on 'Red Sunset'. It's dusk once again in the old railroad town and everyone's heading to the bar or home for a peaceful evenings rest. A lover is arriving home from a long journey to a heart filled with soothing care for ailing bones. A wonderful instrumental break in the middle between the pedal steel and either a squeeze box or violin, blend together sounding like bagpipes. You can almost see the rolling hills of Scotland before your eyes.
The reflective 'Distant Camera' is a song of love for his soul mate. More wining pedal steel incorporated to provide a wistful backdrop for this snapshot of Neil's heart and soul.
Which brings us to the final song 'Razor Love'. This song shakes me to my core. Another song that Neil reached back in to his past and finally recorded more than 13 years after it was written. I first heard this song on a bootleg from his acoustic 1989 world tour. I loved it as much then as I do today. Every phrase evokes deep emotion from me, as in the line "You really make my day with the little things you say". This song is how I picture love. Something that cuts you so deep, there can be no mistaking its presence. And as Neil stretches for the notes in the line "silhouettes on the window", my breath is truly taken away. A love song to end all love songs. Not silly, sappy, or embarrassing. Just heavy, heady, and stunning in its brilliance. One of my favorite songs of all time.

Funny story about 'Razor Love'.
The setting: Sitting at a friends house smoking lots of pot and watching Saturday Night Live with several strangers in the room.
I had come to his house because he had digital cable and I wanted to record Neil's performance in the best possible quality on video tape. So, we sit through the first half hour getting progressively more stoned as the not-so-funny sketches came and went. Finally, Neil is introduced and the band every so smoothly starts the song. Not having the album yet(it wasn't in stores for several more days), I had no idea that it was included on the album. As I slowly begin to recognize the song, I jump from my chair pointing and screaming "THIS IS THE SONG! THIS IS THE SONG!" All the strangers look at me like I'm a fucking loon and go back to their conversations, not paying an ounce of attention to the song. Meanwhile, I'm doing cartwheels in my chair with excitement. Neil did not disappoint, the version was magical. Those poor fools didn't know what they were missing.

iPod Song of the Day: 'Helen Wheels' from Paul McCartney's Band On The Run

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Searching For The Sound

Several weeks back a very nice woman, whose dog I walk, gave me the recently released autobiography of Phil Lesh, former bassist for the Grateful Dead. Those who know me, know of my fondness(bordering on obsession) with this band. I own several thousands of hours of their live music on cd, dvd, and tape. I've spoken in recent entries about my cosmic connection to them and their music which is truly unexplainable to others in words. You either get it or you don't. And after years of trying, I no longer feel the desire to waste my breath trying to convince others of the magic and joy they possess. Nevertheless, to this day, they affect me in such a profound way that I am moved to tears by their music and the memories I have of the wonderful times I experienced with them, and this autobiography is no exception.
Trying to recount Phil's journeys with them would be fruitless. However, I do recommend this book highly to those interested in learning about the inner workings of a successful rock n' roll band. Phil does not mince words. He's very candid about his drugs use(good & bad) and the highs and lows that a group can experience in 30 years of touring and recording. These guys were a family in every sense of the word. Encountering all the problems(lack of communication, enabling, petty bickering, money) and joys(love, children, music, adventure) that one would expect.
The glue that held these guys together was Jerry Garcia. All were brought together in some way by the charisma and light that was Jerry. Though all would form relationships through their travels over the years, Jerry was the guy who all would look to as the big man on campus. From the very first days of the band, Phil and Jerry would form a very special bond that was perhaps the strongest of them all. It's evident in their playing and would carry over in to their offstage life as well. It's amazing to me how this relationship would spill over in to the audience as well, breaking the "fourth wall" that exists for any other band. Ask any of my Deadhead pals and they will tell you of the personal relationship we all felt we had with members of the band even though we never met them personally. Our journey through their music and across America was enough to solidify our bond as brothers. We all spoke of them as though they were right there along with the gang, sharing our moments as if they were their own. A wonderfully unique relationship to share with others on such a grand scale.
I'll just note two specific moments that come in the closing chapters of the book that illustrate the magic that Jerry possessed and shown him to be the giant among men that he was. Phil was insistent that his family travel with him through their rigorous touring schedule, bringing his wife and sons, Grahame and Brian, along on the long strange trip. He tells how by the age of 8 his son, Grahame, had begun to journey beyond the special "kids room", set up backstage for the growing team of band & crew children, to the side of the stage having bonded with Jerry. Many nights Grahame could be found sitting atop an anvil case on Jerry's side of the stage listening to the show through headphones. As Grahame would give Jerry a wave, who at this point was beginning to backslide in to his old habits, Garcia would turn to face him and rip a beautifully inspired guitar line as only he could. Lifting himself and band to a higher plane of musical bliss in the process. Even a child could sense the beautiful lotus of energy that flowed from Jerry and his music despite his declining health and inner turmoil.

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Another tale written by Lesh is in the final years of the Grateful Dead. Having been offered the uniquely un-Grateful Dead like opportunity to guest conduct an orchestra for an annual fund-raiser Lesh, having been an orchestral conductor in college, jumped at the offer. Without informing his bandmates, Lesh was to conduct a piece called "A Celebration of Some 100 x 150 Notes" by one of America's greatest living composers, Elliott Carter. As he walked to the podium that evening, he thought he saw a familiar face out of the corner of his eye but was too focused on the task before him to turn and get a proper look. As he returned to the wings, he looked to the audience and saw, to his delight, Jerry sitting alone with his ineffable quicksilver grin shinning back at him. Jerry had discovered, through the newspaper, of the gig and had come to show support for his friend of so many years.
As I sit and listen to the sublime and unsung majesty that is Neil Young's 1999 album, Silver & Gold (too sad to listen the GD), I am reminded that Saturday marked the tenth anniversary of the final live Grateful Dead performance. And realize that I couldn't have planned it better, rather this moment was planned for me. Ole Jer is sitting just behind me, planning the next cosmic prankster move that will help me find my smile and bring the magic to the surface once again. I love these moments. Thanks guys, for everything.

"Days Between"

There were days
and there were days
and there were days between
Summer flies and August dies
the world grows dark and mean
Comes the shimmer of the moon
on black infested trees
the singing man is at his song
the holy on their knees
the reckless are out wrecking
the timid plead their pleas
No one knows much more of this
than anyone can see anyone can see

There were days
and there were days
and there were days besides
when phantom ships with phantom sails
set to sea on phantom tides
Comes the lightning of the sun
on bright unfocused eyes
the blue of yet another day
a springtime wet with sighs
a hopeful candle lingers
in the land of lullabies
where headless horsemen vanish
with wild and lonely cries lonely cries

There were days
and there were days
and there were days I know
when all we ever wanted
was to learn and love and grow
Once we grew into our shoes
we told them where to go
walked halfway around the world
on promise of the glow
stood upon a mountain top
walked barefoot in the snow
gave the best we had to give
how much we'll never know we'll never know

There were days
and there were days
and there were days between
polished like a golden bowl
the finest ever seen
Hearts of Summer held in trust
still tender, young and green
left on shelves collecting dust
not knowing what they mean
valentines of flesh and blood
as soft as velveteen
hoping love would not forsake
the days that lie between lie between

Thursday, July 07, 2005

R. Kelly's 'Trapped In The Closet'(parts 1-5)

I just watched a VH-1 half hour special that showed all five parts to this golden turd. This song is sooooo stoopid-bad, it's good. It's filled with guns, gays, gangsta's, and goofy-ass lyrics.

pt.1 has R. trapped in the closet when his stanky ho's husband comes home(he's also cheating on his old lady). As she and her man begin screwing on the bed, R.'s cell phone goes off! Her husband searches the house looking for the source. The cliff hanger arrives when the husband is opening the closet as R. reveals a hand gun.

pt.2 has R. waving the gun around as he's trying to walk out the door. Her man blocks the door and says he trusted her because of the 'Christian" in him. He then reveals that he's a pastor and says he's got something to tell them both and gets on the phone. R. and ho are confused as pastor-boy locks the door. They hear someone coming up the stairs. Who could it be? The cliffhanger reveals it's pastor-boys MALE LOVER!

pt.3 has a Mexican standoff between the four. R. threatens to shoot somebody, anybody! They all bicker some more when R. decides to call his old lady at home. Cliffhanger reveals that a MAN answers the phone instead of his wife!!(cue stoopid confused look on R.'s face)

pt.4 has R. speeding down the freeway(complete with phony-ass blue screen car images in his rear window). As he swerves in and out of traffic, our man R. gets pulled over by a cop. The smoking-bullet-proof-vest-wearing cop(not hot, but actually smoking a cigarette) gives him a ticket for doing 60mph in a 40mph zone. R. takes off and gets home to see the figure of a man in the shower with his old lady. As he pulls the shower curtain open, we see she is alone. He asks about the man who answered the phone and she asks him if he had forgotten her brother "Tron"(whenever I hear that name I can only think of Dave Chappell's crack smoking character) has come to visit. He feels stoopid for losing his cool and soon they are making monkey love in bed. She gets all jungle love on him and hops on top, screaming his name. He complains his "leg" is falling asleep and throws her off. When he does, the cliffhanger reveals an open condom wrapper in the bed.

pt.5 opens with R. threatening his bitch with his fists. He knows someone's been there cause he can smell cigarettes. She starts crying and tries to turn the tables on him. He backs her against the wall trying to get her to reveal her lovers name(he ain't playin', yo!). She finally reveals(drum roll) was the police man who stopped him on the freeway.


Who the fuck is buying this shit!? There doesn't seem to be any implied humor or even a nudge-nudge wink-wink kind of thing. Even if so called "minorities" are buying this stuff, can they be buying so much that this guy can actually make a living off of it? Geezus! For gods sake, this guy was busted peeing on minors on VIDEOTAPE! Not only did that not kill this guys career, but now he might as well be taking a shit in everyones ears! Lord knows I love a bad song(The Fat Boys & Chubby Checker's collaboration on 'The Twist' and even Brain Wilson's rap song with Beach Boy samples is worth a listen), but it takes no talent at all to crap this "Urban Opera" out. R. Kelly is a HACK and should be drawn and quartered for this travesty. Is it any wonder the music industry is losing money?

iPod Song of the Day: 'Wolves Lower' from R.E.M.'s Chronic Town

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Brian Wilson @ The Roxy(DVD-A)

This document of Brian's first ever solo tour is truly ear candy if ever there has been. Recorded over two nights at the legendary Roxy club in Los Angeles to a very enthusiastic(and lucky) crowd of 500 which included Peter Buck(R.E.M.), Elliot Easton(The Cars), Nancy Sinatra, Carol Kaye, Doug Feiger(The Knack), Ron Regan(who is credited with naming the Beach Boys more than 40 years ago), Don Was, and club owner and longtime friend Lou Adler. All were treated to two sets of Beach Boys classics, and many of Brian's solo gems.
The sound of this recording is spectacular! With his regular backing band in tow, Brian leads the group through a set of magnificent Beach Boy tunes such as 'The Little Girl I Once Knew', 'Kiss Me Baby', 'Do It Again', 'Add Some Music To Your Day', 'Please Let Me Wonder', 'Sloop John B', 'Caroline No', 'God Only Knows', and 'All Summer Long'. The timeless tunes 'In My Room' and 'Surfer Girl' are even given the acoustic treatment, while a rare performances of 'Back Home' and 'This Whole World' are an unexpected delight to hear.
As strong as those songs are, some of my favorite material on the album are Brian's lesser known solo material. 'The First Time' and 'This Isn't Love'(from The Flintstone's movie "Viva Rock Vegas"...yikes!) are beautiful.
Brian's voice is a little thin at times during the first set, but with his band there to support him, it's really hard to find any fault in that. And to his credit, it gets much stronger during the second. The practice of having Jeffrey(the C.E.O of falsetto) "double track" Brian's vocal line was not yet in play.
He displays the innocence of a child throughout the show, charming even the most hard-hearted listener. His offbeat humor is even displayed in his musical choices, like at the beginning of the second set following the band intros he begins by leading the band through a verse of the Bare Naked Ladies 'Brian Wilson' which segues brilliantly into a transcendent 'Til I Die'(one of my all time favorite Beach Boy tunes!). Other humorous moments include Brian having to calm down the frenzy of the SRO audience, getting a non-Brian Wilson song response from a clueless audience member when asking them for a favorite song(Brown Eyed Girl??!!), and the now legendary "cigarette lighter" joke included in the first set. Only Brian could pull off this tongue-in-cheek crowd pleaser.
Saving the best for last, Brain pulls out all the stops when performing the instant classic 'Lay Down Burden'(dedicated to his brother Carl), a joyful 'Be My Baby'(his favorite song), and a ballad that holds its own with any Beach Boys song 'Love & Mercy'(my favorite Brian Wilson solo song).
I got this DVD-A through my favorite retail website for just over $10 with a recent promotion they offered. With nearly 30 songs and a total playing time of close to 2 hours, the investment is worth every cent. I cannot recommend this site highly enough. No shipping cost and consistent speedy delivery. There's even a sister site called While never having ordered from it, I'm sure it's just as good.

iPod Song of the Day: Mix Master Mike>Intergalactic performed by The Beastie Boys @ the Mtv Video Music Awards

Monday, July 04, 2005

Mtv(sucks) L8

Geezus goddamn! Mtv just fucking sucks my sweaty balls. Why the fuck would you go through the expense of sending out correspondents to several different countries and do such a shitty job of covering the rock n' roll event of the year? Leave it to these cocksuckers to make a mess of it. For the first 2 1/2 hours they refused to even show a full performance from anyone. Someone needs to kill all the fucking assholes at that "music" station. I not even asking for the full sets by anyone, just a complete song, without Sway, Norris, MC Lyte?, or any of those other fuckballs interrupting and having nothing to say. Why not just fucking play a days worth of "Pimp My Ride" or "Made", rather than teasing us with this bullshit. Go fuck yourselves Mtv. You suck.
Now, what I did manage to see was actually pretty good performance wise(from Europe, that is). Don't even get me started on the bullshit line-up that was Philadelphia. Will fucking Smith? Destiny's Shithole? Geezus, that's the best this lousy country could do?
Green Day from Berlin was pretty smokin'. With any luck, these guys will save rock n' roll. They did a damn good job of rockin' the Rhein. It's a shame that no one had the balls to show Brian Wilson from there. The best we got was to hear a glimpse of 'Wonderful' in the background of those mindless talking heads that destroyed the Mtv "broadcast". Cocksuckers.
And what is more infuriating, is the fact that the Mtv guys kept ranting on about how good the collaboration between Coldplay and the former lead singer of the Verve was, only to show just a portion of 'Bittersweet Symphony'. Fucking fags.
Madonna did a pretty good job, I must admit. She a great entertainer who can get 200,000 people on their feet. She did look a bit confused that the African girl, whom Geldof brought on stage, remained there during her song. She kept pulling the poor girl farther and farther from center stage. Because after all, that's where Madonna lives, not her.
The Pink Floyd reunion was pretty fucking fantastic. It's good to see that these guys could put their differences aside for the sake of good ole Pink. Gilmore can still play the guitar like a mothafucker, too! I had never seen him, but I believe that was Snowy White on the second guitar as well. A nice tight unit for a 24 year break. I hope that they don't turn it in to a full blown reunion tour. Fuck the money, fame, and fans.
Also saw a bit of U2. They were good. Didn't get to see more than a glimpse of the Macca collaboration though. Wish I had. Paul closing his set with "The Long & Winding Road' was a piece of shit. Bad choice. And that 'Hey Jude' finale has been played out as well. I'm a Macca fan, but his need to please everyone all the time is just plain stupid.

Yeah, I know it's a pretty shitty blog entry. But it was a pretty shitty broadcast.