Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Year of the Dark Horse

OK everybody get ready, I am calling a Birthday Beatle Bash. Actually, truth be told I think this one is my favorite of all them Beatles. Definitely the most understated of the lot! Such a pity he was claimed so soon by lung cancer... he passed at just 58 and he'd have only been 71 today. I guess some people aren't meant to stay the full 80+ years sentence down here, but they make up for it by concentrating their transcendence into a shorter timespan.
I was sitting here last night wondering if this had ever been done... if someone somewhere had ever stacked up all of George Harrison's Beatles tunes on one release and showcased him for the underrated force he was within that most esteemed of groups. I searched around some and didn't see anything like that -- hard to believe there is no such thing -- so down I plunked with the 2009 stereo remasters box set (plus an extra instrumental jam from 1964 from the "Beatles Anthology" set of 20 years ago) and sifted. The result -- which, unastonishingly, is full of some of the very best popular music that will ever be made by humans, ever -- gleams before you now. As for me, I'll just curl up in the fetal position and wait for the inevitable RIAA SWAT team to make the scene and drag me away to be tortured in the secret prisons of Syria for copyright violations.
Included here you will find all the songs he wrote while a member of The Beatles, as well as a couple of the more famous ones he sang lead on but did not personally compose. Listening to it all straight through, I was struck by how stand-alone his output with them is... how when he was out front, it was basically him with them as a backing group. And I thought to myself wow, you have to be a pretty heavyweight dude to be featuring The Beatles, at the height of their global meltdown impact, as your backup band. I almost feel like if that's your résumé, you can steal all the Phil Spector melodies you want and no one should be able to protest... it's like noblesse oblige to the power of idol worship, I tell you.
George Harrison with The Beatles
One for You, Nineteen for Me

01 Taxman
02 For You Blue
03 I Need You
04 Blue Jay Way
05 Only a Northern Song
06 Old Brown Shoe
07 Here Comes the Sun
08 Savoy Truffle
09 Love You To
10 Don't Bother Me
11 If I Needed Someone
12 Long, Long, Long
13 I Want to Tell You
14 Chains
15 The Inner Light
16 Piggies
17 Do You Want to Know a Secret
18 Cry for a Shadow
19 While My Guitar Gently Weeps
20 Within You Without You
21 Think for Yourself
22 You Like Me Too Much
23 I Me Mine
24 Something
25 Roll Over Beethoven
26 It's All Too Much

Total time: 1:18:20

How's that for a badass Beatle birthday bash? Please do enjoy this little mix as we acknowledge and celebrate the life and legacy of George Harrison, 1/4 of the most influential and revered musical aggregation of our lifetimes. --J.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

New Directions in Anniversaries

Welcome to the 22nd anniversary of one of my all time favorite unissued gems... celebrating its 22nd on the 22nd, which only can happen once in a lifetime. I remastered this already-pristine performance especially for the occasion.
This group -- put together by drumming force of nature Jack DeJohnette -- first debuted in 1978 and made two fantastic records for the watershed ECM label in 1978/79, the latter of which was a live LP. This recording is from a very short reunion tour they did in 1992, taped to DAT with the assistance of the mixing desk engineer using a stereo soundboard feed and a feed from two microphones positioned at the front of the stage. Before I got a hold of this one, you'd never have known you weren't listening to a meticulously-captured live album... now that I've tweaked it a bit, it's vaulted into the category of top-drawer, extremely exceptional live recordings, if I dare say so.
I'll tell you what, this one makes me miss Lester Bowie even more, may he rest in peace. Near the midpoint of the last tune (a singular reworking of Miles Davis' Solar), he plays a sound that resembles one of the sea otters that hang out by Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco, and right around feeding time too. Lester always could make the trumpet sound like otherwordly beasts and he is on full form here, as usual.
Bass duties are handled by Eddie Gomez, and oh my! does he swing. Weaving a tapestry of lines through the music and leaving Jack to parry in, on, and around the pulse with a rock-solid, clocklike performance, he accomplishes what every bassist that plays with Jack has to... which is to anchor the proceedings like a three-foot-thick steel tentpost while still supplying a fluidity and flow at the bottom end. Eddie says "Mission Accomplished" on that set of Herculean tasks.
And then there's John Abercrombie. With signature chorus tone on display, he matches Lester solo for solo and really shines throughout, especially in the quieter acoustic pieces. There's a reason he's a lot of folks' favorite guitar player of our lifetimes and these two hours are illustrative of why that is. The reading of his signature tune Timeless in this concert is nothing short of shimmeringly stunning for certain.
New Directions
UVA Jazz Concert Series
Old Cabell Hall
Charlottesville, VA

01 Intro
02 Bayou Fever
03 Silver Hollow
04 When Lights Are Low

01 Where or Wayne?
02 Timeless
03 One Handed Woman
04 Solar

Total time: 1:57:57

Jack DeJohnette - drums, piano
John Abercrombie - guitar
Lester Bowie - trumpet
Eddie Gomez - bass

soundboard/audience matrix; DAT transfer remastered by EN
What a great set, made even greater by the sonic pixie dust I have judiciously sprinkled upon it and shared here in honor of the fact that it originally took place 22 years ago today. Enjoy these New Directions from four galaxy-glass players, still fresh after the passing of the decades! --J.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Heads! You Win

Original Modern Lover and erstwhile Talking Head (as well as prolific producer of vital acts from Violent Femmes to General Public to Black 47) Jerry Harrison is 65 today, so I finally have the opening to post one of my all-time favorite archival videos! I've been wanting to put this up since my pal Deb in Atlanta was enumerating her 100 favorite musical artists on Facebook the other day and the Heads were prominent among the first batch. My good friend Moe also reveres this footage, and used to make me play it repeatedly, in the days when all I had was a blurry, generated copy of it and we were housemates in West Oakland.
But back to Jerry Harrison, who joined the T-Heads right as their first single came out in 1977, after featuring heavily on the first Modern Lovers LP, produced by John Cale in 1972 but not issued until 1976. You'll see -- in this ridiculously intense set on German television from 1980 I've been itching to post -- exactly how integral to their sound he became.
Some of the precisely-repetitive, gamelan-reminiscent guitar contributions on this DVD just fry my mind, especially what he's doing in I Zimbra, maybe my all time favorite Heads tune (it's a tie between that and The Great Curve). If you love the "big band" Fear of Music/Remain In Light Talking Heads with Bernie Worrell and Steve Scales and Dolette McDonald -- as well as the always-dangerous Adrian Belew in full-fretted freakout mode -- this is your Holy Grail... sort of a video companion to the epic second half of the seminal live record The Name of This Band Is Talking Heads. You even get the amazing Busta Jones -- who looks tremendously exuberant and happy here, perhaps owing to the powdery party favors on offer amidst the legendary backstage Heads entourage of this era... or I guess he could be this pumped to celebrate the holiday season -- thumping a Fender bass with what can only be termed the utmost commitment and enthusiasm.
Talking Heads
Dortmund, Germany

01 Psycho Killer
02 Cities
03 I Zimbra 
04 Animals
05 Once in a Lifetime 
06 Crosseyed and Painless 
07 Life During Wartime
08 The Great Curve

Total time: 49:09

David Byrne - guitar, vocals and dancing
Jerry Harrison - guitar, Prophet-5 synth and vocals
Chris Frantz - drums
Tina Weymouth - bass, Prophet-5 synth, percussion and vocals
Bernie Worrell - keyboards, percussion and vocals
Steve Scales - percussion
Adrian Belew - guitar and vocals
Busta Jones - bass, Prophet-5 synth, guitar
Dolette McDonald - vocals and percussion

PAL DVD from WDR-TV U-matic master tape
This is really and truly a six-alarm fire of a burning set, with the nine-piece ensemble often resembling a herd of charging elephants as they hit full galloping funk mode over the course of eight scorching tunes. I can think of no finer way to commemorate the birthday of Jerry Harrison -- born February 21, 1949 -- than to offer up this gem, one of my absolute personal favorites from the vaults... so hit the button, pull it down and get busy! According to head Head David Byrne, if you dance, you might understand the words better ;)--J.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Remember the Sabbath Day, to Keep It Heavy

Metal maestro Tony Iommi -- easily the best guitar player on Earth to be missing portions of several significant fret-hand fingertips -- is 66 today, so I am posting the Black Sabbath installment of Don Kirshner's Rock Concert (my second consecutive DKRC post) from the Sabotage era to additionally enhance the esteemed and essential occasion.
The man's formative contribution to the vocabulary of face-crushing riffage needs little if any introduction or elaboration, beyond stating the central truth... which is that there are few folks who can legitimately claim to have constructed the foundations for an entire genre of music, and this guy can credibly do that. Streams emanating from something he helped start will continue to ripple out forever. That's the pinnacle of human achievement in a nutshell, at least in my puerile, pathetically pie-in-the-sky pantheon.
When you think about how diverse and broad metal has become since its inception at the unmercifully loud amplifiers of Black Sabbath in 1970, the achievement comes into even sharper focus. Every single guitar player in every metal band in every subgenre that was, is or will ever be will owe a serious debt to Tony Iommi. Not just in the raging riffs they'll invent -- which themselves will inevitably (and rightly) be derivations of the original, classic catalog he created -- or in the new depths and densities of distortion they will display. But also in that they'll have a recognizable framework to inhabit at all: a set of sonic axioms within an overall idiom to inherit and keep invigorated. A tried and true tradition that began with tracks that were laid down, like a million willing groupies on a million buses with the million bands that have existed ever since Sabbath started, by the birthday boy himself.
One of the most fascinating aspects of his story to me was always about his having chopped off a few of the tips of the fingers on his right hand in an accident at a sheet metal factory, and a friend, in the weeks immediately after the incident, playing him Django Reinhardt records to convince him not to let his injuries force him to abandon the guitar. Hearing what the Gypsy guitar deity could do with just the two remaining fingers on his fretting hand (the rest were burned and disfigured in a fire) kept Iommi at it, and the rest was heavy metal history.
In honor of the day please feel free to feast your eyes and ears on this broadcast-master sourced episode of the above-mentioned Don Kirshner's Rock Concert, starring Black Sabbath and recorded in September 1975 at the height of the Sabotage tour. This is the complete set (it used to circulate missing the first song until this U-matic TV tape surfaced) and in addition to some prime vintage (and as yet unissued) Sabbath features a few priceless cutaways to some pretty wildly enthusiastic concertgoers. It even "snows" in Snowblind, although I am certain they saved the real "snow" for the dressing room and for the party back at the hotel subsequent to the taping.
Black Sabbath
Don Kirshner's Rock Concert
Santa Monica Civic Auditorium

01 Killing Yourself to Live
02 Hole In the Sky
03 Snowblind
04 War Pigs
05 Paranoid

Total Time:  25:25

Ozzy Osbourne – vocals
Tony Iommi – guitar
Geezer Butler – bass
Bill Ward – drums

NTSC DVD from original U-matic station master
Hope you'll enjoy this brief-but-blisteringly-bludgeoning DVD as we celebrate the living legacy of a true originator, without whom music as we know it would be far different, and with a history a lot less heavy. --J.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Praise Bob 2!

When I was a kid of 14 or so, and all throughout high school, there was no music I was more into than DEVO. Just knowing, as an alienated adolescent perpetually disgusted by the social construct of stupidity-as-selling-point, that there were powerful and talented people who felt the same way about the slippery shape of the wiggly world was enough to get me through those times. In fact, I once had the opportunity to tell this to Mark Mothersbaugh -- how I must be one of millions of kids who'd had their lives changed by this band -- and he replied with words to the effect that it's comments like those that almost make the quarter century of unlubricated ass-reaming he had received from the music industry to that point worth it in some meaningful way.
So it is with a heavy heart that I just heard of the passing of Bob Casale (aka Bob 2), a founding member of DEVO, today of congestive heart failure... he was just 61. Original drummer Alan Myers died last year at the age of 58 from cancer of the stomach.
I am a firm believer that our friends will never really be dead to us as long as we have not forgotten them, so in addition to expressing the most heartfelt condolences to Bob's friends and family (especially his brother Jerry), I will offer this pristine vintage footage of the two appearances of DEVO on the legendary 1970s music show Don Kirshner's Rock Concert, recorded in 1979 and 1980 on the Duty Now for the Future and Freedom of Choice tours. These are digitized from a VHS tape of the original U-matic station broadcast tapes of these shows and provide a living testament to the truth about De-evolution better than any words I could invent right now.
Don Kirshner's Rock Concert 

01 Secret Agent Man
02 Blockhead
03 Uncontrollable Urge
04 Mongoloid

01 Freedom Of Choice Intro
02 Whip It
03 Snowball
04 Gates Of Steel

Total time: 24:37

master VHS from original U-matic broadcast tapes
879 MB NTSC DVD/January 2014 archive link
twist away the gates of steel
unlock the secret voice


Thursday, February 13, 2014

Destination: Out

Part II of our G-men birthday soiree is rated PG, all ages appropriate... but there are quite a few adult situations. But before all that, a story of adolescence: when I was 15, this sax player friend of mine -- I can't remember if he was a grade ahead of me or behind me -- came over with three records. Two were King Crimson albums, which is a whole other life story for another time. The third was Nursery Cryme, coincidentally the third Genesis LP. You look back and you realize, 32 years later, which days were among the most formative, and that one's in that firmament for me. 
They are putting him in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame again this year, this time as a solo artist. I personally put little stock in the RnRHoF as anything but a vanity indulgence project reflecting the personal biases and somewhat myopic tastes of the few who are in charge, but you have to tip your cap to Mr. Gabes here, knowing that the biggest prejudice of all is against (dirty word in 21/4...3...2...1...) Progressive Rock. So to go in twice under that banner is an accomplishment in itself, and really just a minor one in the pantheon of the Peter Gabriel portfolio.
If he'd just quit Genesis and left music behind forever to raise his kids and grow cabbages, he'd still be in the HoF with those guys. Luckily he didn't; he just took a year off, learned to play keyboards, and came roaring back into it, eventually becoming a world-beating superstar in his own right. Just his recording studio alone is a globally-impactful facility in terms of who has recorded there and so forth. He breaks more creative barriers before lunch than most species do in a millennium.
I have seen him in concert a bunch of times and met him twice (and got to hang with him for a minute up close and personal once), and he was never anything but a life-changing performer and a really nice guy to me. I grew up with his music and I would in no way be the same exact person I am without having done so.
But one thing has always bugged me. As a notoriously forward-moving artist, Peter rarely revisits past projects and such. Over a solo career of almost four decades, he has amassed dozens upon dozens of outtakes, alternates and B-sides. Non-album tracks from collaborations with a million luminaries to single songs on film soundtracks down through the years, the vast preponderance of which are as magnificent as his main, core catalog. To this point a significant amount of these has remained unreissued, and no collection or dream box set containing a compendium of these many jewels and gems has yet appeared. Color Joshy frowny pants blue.
Well, you know how the song goes... Do It Yourself and all. So until such a fantasy set comes down the 'pike we gotta do what we gotta do. What I have done here has been an ongoing project for a while, and these two CDs I have compiled are in no way intended as comprehensive or the whole story. They are just the first two volumes of what could eventually be a 10-installment collection... but I am hoping for the official megabox before I have to do ten of these, because putting them together and making them sound like they belong of a sonic piece, and aren't cobbled together from a million different sources with a million different masterings, is a MFer; I kid you not.
Peter Gabriel
ultimate alternates/B-sides/non-album tracks
volumes 1 & 2

vol. 1
01 Across The River (outtake 1982)
02 Me and My Teddy Bear (B-side 1978)
03 Games Without Frontiers (Massive-DB mix 1992)
04 Soft Dog (B-side 1982)
05 Slowburn (extended version 1977)
06 Shosholoza (B-side 1980)
07 D.I.Y. (alternate version 1978)
08 Bully for You (demo 1980)
09 This Is the Picture (w/Laurie Anderson,'Good Morning, Mr. Orwell' version 1984)
10 Out Out ('Gremlins' soundtrack 1984)
11 Biko (extended remix 1980)
12 Shaking the Tree (extended version 1989)
13 Strawberry Fields Forever ('All This and WWII' soundtrack 1976)
14 In Your Eyes (special mix 1987)
15 Curtains (outtake 1986)

Total time: 1:18:40

vol. 2
 01 Summertime (George Gershwin tribute 1994)
 02 I Have the Touch (remix 1983)
03 In the Sun (outtake 1997)
 04 Don't Break This Rhythm (outtake 1985)
05 Mother of Violence (B-side naked mix 1978)
06 Perspective (B-side extended version 1978)
07 Just Another Day (Kate Bush BBC special 1979)
08 Ain't That Peculiar ('Bristol Recorder' live version 1977)
09 Lovetown ('Philadelphia' soundtrack 1993)
10 Bashi-Bazouk (B-side 1992)
11 Party Man ('Virtuosity' soundtrack 1995)
12 Suzanne (Leonard Cohen tribute 1995)
13 Not One of Us ('Bristol Recorder' live version 1980)
14 Quiet Steam (B-side 1992)
15 Walk Through the Fire ('Against All Odds' soundtrack 1984)
16 No More Apartheid ('Sun City' compilation 1987)

Total time: 1:17:30

I could go on and on, but the music and the storied, still-vital career trajectory that began in the late 1960s speaks for itself. Hopefully this aggregation of tracks -- many still never reissued in the CD era -- will creep around the interwebs and fill a few holes in peoples' 45RPM collections. Every effort has been made to make these discs reflect the sonic excellence this music merits, down to the very expensive turntables used to transfer the vinyl by all the insane folks out there. Anyway he's 64 today and as far as I'm concerned, every day is rated PG. --J.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Let's Get Hackettized!

Sorry for my absence... work has been a task, tons to do. But I am back with the first of two consecutive 64th birthday posts of magnificence and splendor, beginning now with ex-Genesis guitarist, Progressive Rock torchbearer and, maybe most significantly, the father of the two-handed tapping technique... the only classic G guy I have never personally met: Steve Hackett.
In the interest of brevity I will state the obvious and say that there's only one Steve Hackett and that he's been doing this music stuff an awfully long time. Currently he is on the road with his "Genesis Revisited" project and I can't wait for them to get to the Bay Area... last time I saw Steve play was in 2005 and it's been too long. A friend of a friend is his singer now and maybe that means I'll finally get to hang out!
Please enjoy this set from England's legendary Reading Festival during Steve's first solo tour in 1979... it is meticulously remastered from the radio reels straight from the BBC archives and literally could not sound better if you sprinkled Les Paul's personal pixie dust on it. Great sound, great show, wish I'd have been there... but sadly I wasn't even 13 yet and I don't think my parents would have been willing to put me on a transatlantic flight at that tender age.
Steve Hackett
Reading Festival
Reading, UK

01 BBC intro
02 Land of a Thousand Autumns
03 Please Don't Touch
04 Tigermoth
05 Every Day
06 The Optigan
07 A Tower Struck Down
08 Spectral Mornings
09 Clocks
10 I Know What I Like
11 BBC outro

Total time: 46:45

pre-FM BBC reels, fan remastered
Enjoy this one and I'll be back tomorrow with a pretty wild sequel to this post... featuring another Prog heavyweight -- hint: he's also on the festival poster pictured above -- born precisely 24 hours after Mssr. Hackett. Stay tuned and a Happy 64th to Steve!!!! --J.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Ras Tafari On the Wall: The Home Tapes of Bob Marley

Today's excursion involves tapes recorded on various home reel and cassette recorders in less-than-optimal conditions. I rarely post anything this low-fidelity, but these provide a rare and unusual glimpse into the life and work of an iconic, world-changing figure. Only a couple of these tracks made it, in finished form, to records; the rest are entirely unrecorded and unreleased, save these 100% informal, totally spontaneous-yet-revelatory takes.
There isn't much I can say about Bob Marley that hasn't already been said a million times, so we'll let the music do the talking with these raw and rudimentarily recorded demos -- featuring Bob outside the usual reggae context and jamming in a communal sort of folk-blues mode, with a couple of hypnotic trance journeys clocking in at nearly 20 minutes -- as we take a moment to acknowledge that he'd have only been 69 today.
Bob Marley
Home acoustic tapes
1970s + 1980

"Mother Booker's tapes, Reel #1 remaster"
recorded sometime in 1979-80

01 Jailbreaker
02 Place of Peace
03 Record a New Song
04 We and Them
05 Vexation
06 Jump Dem Inna Babylon
07 Pomps and Pride (bonus track)
08 Jammin' (bonus track)
09 Waiting In Vain (bonus track)

tracks 7-9 recorded unknown dates, probably 1977-80

Total time: 1:11:26

"The Yvette bedroom tape"

 01 Are You Ready
02 When I Get to You
03 God of All Ages
04 Rumors
05 They Set You Up My Son
06 Jammin'
07 Easy Skankin'
08 Oh What a Day
09 Everyday Is Such a Lonely Day (bonus track)
10 Feelin' Irie (bonus track)
11 Can't Bow Inna Babylon (bonus track)

tracks 9-11 recorded sometime in the 1970s

Total time: 1:14:04

various low gen home reels and cassettes rescued from Mother Cedella Booker's home in the 1980s
It's hard to say anything new about him, but at least we can listen in as Bob improvises, spontaneously composes, and otherwise constructs small snippets and lengthier musical sermons from the teachings of Ras Tafari whilst relaxing at home with friends. What these tapes lack in fidelity they more than make up for in unique, vérité documentation of a Lion for the Ages hard at work and play at the peak of his powers. --J.

Monday, February 03, 2014

Forever and a Day: Return to Vienna, February 3, 1975

At the risk of unilaterally declaring this Fusion February (a subsidiary of Black History Month), I bring you this anniversary post of a truly face-frying concert, impeccably recorded in its entirety in Austria 39 years ago today and featuring what many feel to be the definitive lineup of Chick Corea's epic band, Return to Forever.
My personal favorite period of this group is documented here, which is that from Al Di Meola joining right up to the edge of their big billion-selling breakthrough, Romantic Warrior. That record, for me, was always a bit too slick and polished and suffered from a little too much 1970s record industry "shiny" sound and the tunes, while fiery, were always a little too technical for my taste. Give me the LPs represented by the setlist here, like Where Have I Known You Before? and No Mystery, where the precise fusionly technical prowess is balanced a bit better by raw funkiness and perhaps a slightly less overcomplicated melodic & harmonic approach.
This will sound to you like an official live album and it should; it comes from a 1st generation reel copy of the radio station master reel and is almost as awesome as so-called bootlegs can possibly be quality-wise. As for the performance, Al Di Meola blazes away as usual. Corea plays a ton of impossibly fast unison passages with him, and contributes ample Mahavishnu-era Jan Hammer-esque analog synth squiggle solos like a man in a demented, obsessive relationship with his Minimoog's pitchwheel. Lest it all get too Seventies, there's a beautiful sequence of timelessly melodic improvisation -- almost completely on acoustic instruments and sort of in the mold of the first couple of RTF records with Joe Farrell and Airto Moreira -- to balance the pyrotechnical ecstasy and electricity. 
Speaking of juice, of course you get Stanley Clarke just subsonically squashing the airspace around his amplifier en route to bass galaxies not explored before or since. Add Lenny White's uniquely funkified brand of skins wizardry -- and some of the most cannabinized-sounding between-song stage patter ever experienced! -- and you get this gig, which is (to paraphrase the ancient muso cliché) a burner.
Return to Forever
Vienna, Austria

01 Chick Corea announcement
02 Beyond the Seventh Galaxy
03 Song to the Pharoah Kings
04 The Shadow of Lo
05 Vulcan Worlds
06 No Mystery

01 piano solo
02 improvisations
03 Celebration Suite
04 Space Circus

Total time: 2:06:50

Chick Corea - piano & keyboards, percussion
Al Di Meola - electric & acoustic guitars
Stanley Clarke - electric & acoustic basses
Lenny White - drums & percussion

1st gen reel from station master reel
This is gonna be a busy month full of unique and excellent posts, so let's start it off in top-drawer fashion with this vintage jazz-rock jamboree, today celebrating nearly four decades since its Austrian advent :) --J.