Wednesday, August 27, 2014


There's just precious few people where you could say that they picked up an instrument -- in this case, one of the most popular and ubiquitous instruments -- and figured out a way to say something completely new and different with it. Today's post celebrates just such a player.
Born August 27, 1940, Warren "Sonny" Sharrock would have been 74 today. He is gone over 20 years now, but what he imagined with a guitar in his hands isn't going away any time soon.
Truth be told, Sonny Sharrock is my personal favorite guitarist of all time. He forged a completely unique and devastatingly visceral approach to the instrument, coaxing screaming, trilling assaults of machine gun mayhem from his axe one moment and muscular-yet-mellow melodies from it the next. Someone once said about him that he didn't play guitar, he played lead artillery... and they were exactly right.
He wasn't trying to become a guitar player at first. Growing up in the 1950s he sang in doo-wop groups, but his childhood asthma prevented him from singing a lot of the time. Taking up guitar at the relatively advanced age of 20, he was guesting on Miles Davis records and providing some of the most explosive sounds in free jazz by the end of the Sixties.
His echoplexed solo on the second side of Miles' A Tribute to Jack Johnson still has people going, "What the fuck is THAT sound???" 45 years later. He did stints in 1980s eclecticists Material, as well as Bill Laswell's coruscating outfit from that time, Last Exit. His own records run the gamut from wild free volcanic eruptions with maniac vocalist, ex-wife Linda (Black Woman, Monkie-Pockie-Boo) to bizarre avant garde disco (Paradise) to reflective solo electric records (Guitar) to leading his own groups (Seize the Rainbow). His acknowledged masterpiece is my personal favorite record of the 1990s and is called Ask the Ages... it features a superstar band including Elvin Jones and Sonny's frequent partner in crime, the immortal saxophone deity Pharoah Sanders.
This is a special guy to me, so for today's share we have a double dose of some of what made him so important. First, an utterly blistering set from German radio in 1987, which sees Sonny leading his own band through many of his best tunes, with an emphasis on experimenting with blowing the roof clean off the venue using just an electric guitar, some effects, a bottleneck slide and an amplifier. The second set is from the short tour to support Ask the Ages, with Pharoah blowing his brains out in top form and drum demon Pheeroan akLaff subbing for Elvin behind the skins. The 1992 set is extra delicious because they play the entire Tauhid album, which was a landmark collaboration between Sanders and Sharrock in 1966 on the seminal "Impulse!" label.
Sonny Sharrock
Live In Germany
1987 + 1992

Sonny Sharrock Band
Bremen, Germany

01 (She's Only) Fourteen
02 Stupid Fuck
03 My Song
04 JD Schaa
05 Seize The Rainbow
06 Princess Sonata
07 Dick Dogs
Total time: 58:42

Sonny Sharrock - guitar, announcements
Melvin Gibbs - bass guitar
Abe Speller - drums
Pheeroan akLaff - drums

FM broadcast master remastered by Tom Phillips

Sonny Sharrock & Pharoah Sanders 
24th Deutsches Jazzfestival
Bockenheimer Depot
Frankfurt, Germany

01 Little Rock
02 Japan
03 Upper And Lower Egypt
04 Venus
05 Many Mansions

Total time: 1:18:25

Pharoah Sanders - saxophones, vocal
Sonny Sharrock - guitar
Charnett Moffett - bass
Pheeroan akLaff - drums

FM rebroadcast from 2013, lightly remastered by EN

both shows zipped together
These are face-frying sets from undisputed master musicians, so I'd advise pulling 'em down and firing 'em up as we celebrate one of the most unique and individually expressive guitarists ever to live, born this very day in 1940.--J.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Someone Fetch a Priest

It's the 63rd birthday of the Metal God, so I am here to make my offering. Hopefully it's adequate and I'm not fed into some sort of Grinder.
Born in 1951, no one else could have dressed heavy metal up in the finest gay male BDSM gear and gotten away with it. 
One of those guys that makes me proud to be queer, in the realm of metal vocalists there's Rob Halford and there's, well, everyone else. You could make a case that he is the definitive singer of the genre ever.
This one is often held to be the definitive Judas Priest bootleg ever... it's from their 1984 Defenders of the Faith tour and it's a pre-FM from Long Beach Arena in May of that year. This version alleges itself to be direct from the master and it's as flawless sounding as such a supposition implies.
Judas Priest
Long Beach Arena
Long Beach, CA

01 Love Bites
02 Jawbreaker
03 Grinder
04 Metal Gods
05 Breaking the Law
06 Sinner
07 Desert Plains
08 Some Heads Are Gonna Roll
09 The Sentinel

01 Rock Hard Ride Free
02 Night Comes Down
03 The Hellion/Electric Eye
04 Heavy Duty/Defenders of the Faith
05 Freewheel Burning
06 Victim of Changes
07 The Green Manalishi
08 Living After Midnight
09 Hell Bent for Leather
10 You've Got Another Thing Comin'

Total time: 1:56:50

Rob Halford – vocals
K. K. Downing – guitar
Glenn Tipton – guitar
Ian Hill – bass
Dave Holland – drums

pre-FM master
This is a pretty shreddy show and I'm convinced it'll make yer metal Monday so I am tossing it up. I'll be back Wednesday with a double dose of seminal birthday fare, but for now enjoy this two hours of Priestly goodness as we celebrate the 63rd birthday of the one and only Rob Halford, born this day in 1951.--J.

Friday, August 22, 2014

House Call from the Bush Doctor

I gotta jet for the day's activities, but before I do, here comes a 35th anniversary burner for your Friday feelers.
I admit it, I am much more of a Peter Tosh type than a Bob Marley type, truth be told. Nothing at all against Bob --  he was, is and will ever be the Reggae King of the World -- but in terms of whose album I'm gonna put on the box, there's no doubt what my preference is.
The record which this show documents is one of my favorites of all time, any genre. Really it's one of my favorite recordings by anyone, as is the one that preceded it. Two loftier twin behemoth late-1970s reggae jams you'll never find: Bush Doctor and Mystic Man are the pinnacle.
This concert may be the best of the tour; it's surely one of the best-sounding. I have probably 15 PT shows from 1979 and this one's embers glow along for an hour and a half like a sizzling spliff fo sho'.
This must have been recorded by WLIR-FM for broadcast back in the day... the Calderone was a big time venue -- on Hempstead Turnpike, I believe -- back then, and that station would air shows from there all the time. This capture is the pre-FM feed, lightly remastered by a fan, and it's virtually indistinguishable from a real live album.
Peter Tosh
Word, Sound & Power
Calderone Theater
Hempstead, NY

01 intro
02 400 Years
03 Steppin' Razor
04 The Day the Dollar Die
05 Recruiting Soldiers
06 African
07 I'm The Toughest
08 Bush Doctor
09 Get Up Stand Up
10 Don't Look Back
11 Buk-In-Hamm Palace
12 Mystic Man
13 Legalize It

Total time: 1:27:40
disc break can go after Track 08

pre-FM reels remastered by mhg in 2005
Thirty-five long and eventful years have not diminished the Word, Sound & Power of this performance, so pull it down, take a pull off the chalice of your choosing, and start off the weekend Irie with a hearty Rasta "Bless up!" courtesy of Peter Tosh circa 1979. Mek we smoke it in the House of Congress!--J.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Middle Finger Accomplished

Welcome to Wednesday, and a pretty stellar 11th anniversary special. It ain't often I post music recorded in this century, but when I do I like it to be the very best.
Here's one of the most innovative and yes -- even though they so heartily reject the label -- progressive bands of the last 20 years, recorded for WBCN-FM in Boston at the absolute peak of their powers. For my (admittedly small supply of) money, these guys' best and most potent record is also their most political: 2003's epically metaphorical middle finger to the (brazenly, celebratorily) criminal Bush 43 regime, Hail to the Thief.
Recorded during the outset of the 2003 "Shock and Awe" invasion of Iraq, that record is like a twisted pit bull on the pant leg of the Donald Rumsfelds and Condi Rices of the world. But it's not an expressly political record, which is what makes it brilliant and what will ensure its lasting power. I love it because it obscures its polemic with a gauzy haze of imagery and allusion... almost like the sentiment of a Phil Ochs rant or the Garland Jeffreys track "El Salvador" crossed with an Arcade Fire or later Pink Floyd record like The Division Bell. And 101% Radiohead, of course.
So what have we here? Why, it's a direct pre-FM recording of the very first show of the Hail to the Thief tour, in near-perfect quality and virtually indistinguishable from an official live album. Honestly this has been an all-time favorite performance of mine since it was first broadcast -- I think I had a dub of it off the air the day after the show took place! -- so when the pre-FM surfaced a while back I was ready to put up a "Mission Accomplished" banner across the flight deck of my little aircraft carrier here.
Tweeter Center
Mansfield, MA

01 2+2=5
02 Sit Down, Stand Up
03 Paranoid Android
04 Kid A
05 Backdrifts
06 Morning Bell
07 My Iron Lung
08 Where I End and You Begin
09 Sail to the Moon
10 The Gloaming
11 Climbing Up the Walls
12 Creep

01 Like Spinning Plates
02 Go to Sleep
03 Scatterbrain
04 The National Anthem
05 There There
06 Lucky
07 Punch-up At a Wedding
08 Airbag
09 Everything In Its Right Place
10 No Surprises
11 Idioteque

Thom Yorke - lead vocals, guitar, piano
Jonny Greenwood - lead guitar, keyboards, electronics, backing vocals
Colin Greenwood - bass
Phil Selway - drums, percussion
Ed O'Brien - guitar, backing vocals

pre-FM master CDs
This is truly a no-holds-barred show in front of a spastic, roaring crowd -- first shows of tours often are -- and it's fueled by the ongoing Iraq War II raging alongside, and what many of these songs think of that military endeavor and its (lacking) legitimacy. This makes the content of the tunes all the more prescient and the electricity of the performance all the more palpable, especially given what we know now about the motivations for that conflict and the thoroughly duplicitous nature of its advent and implementation. Nothing like a flashback to the last BS invasion right before the next one, I always say! --J.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Look Sharp: Not Your Average Joe

Let's queue up a tasty little performance from way back in the Eighties today, in honor of the 60th birthday of one of my all-time favorite songwriters.
I have dug the music of Joe Jackson since I was about 13 or 14 years old... the radio station I grew up on, which was sort of a cutting-edge New Wave station in the first few years of the 1980s, played his stuff constantly. I think the first song I ever heard of Joe's was "Sunday Papers," which is a pretty great place to start, in around 1979.
Throughout adolescence no one's music meant more to me than his. For instance, later in life, when I read Joe's autobiography "A Cure for Gravity," I found out about his struggles with sexual identity as a young adult. But as a queer youth, at age 17 nothing meant more to me than his song "Real Men," one of the most frank portraits of gender issues ever crafted into song... before such things were acceptable or even permissible.
So for his big day here, I spent most of yesterday remastering and recalibrating an excellent performance from the tour supporting his most famous record, the ridiculously awesome Night & Day. This one is a full 80-minute extravaganza from the legendary Orpheum in Boston, featuring many of his best tunes. There's also NO guitar, which I love... the record had no guitars, so neither did the tour.
Joe Jackson
Orpheum Theater
Boston, MA

01 On Your Radio
02 Another World
03 Sunday Papers
04 Look Sharp 
05 Fools In Love
06 Is She Really Going Out with Him?
07 One More Time
08 It's Different for Girls
09 Target
10 T.V. Age
11 Steppin' Out
12 Beat Crazy
13 Got the Time
14 A Slow Song
15 I'm The Man

Total time: 1:19:15

Joe Jackson - lead vocals, piano
Joy Askew - keyboards, percussion, vocals
Ed Roynesdal - keyboards, vocals, percussion
Graham Maby - bass, vocals
Sue Hadjopoulos - percussion, vocals
Larry Tolfree - drums and percussion

master FM off-air cassette, remastered by EN
This is a smokin' set, I'd like to think improved by the audio massage techniques I have employed here in my little massage parlor of audio iniquity. So pull it down, fire it up and celebrate the birthday of a tremendously underrated songwriter, born this day back in 1954. --J.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

RIP MCA: Birthday Beastie Bootie Bounty

Today would have been the 50th birthday of the late Beastie Boy Adam "MCA" Yauch, so I have taken the liberty of assembling a couple of prime Beastie concerts from their heyday to commemorate the occasion.
A committed Buddhist and an activist in the movement for a Free Tibet, he died of lymphatic cancer in 2012 at only 47 -- coincidentally the same age I am right now (shudder) -- but not before a quarter century of helping put his band on the map as one of the essential hip-hop groups ever.
When these guys made their debut in 1987, the world was a totally different place. White rappers who had been a Punk band before, they were considered a novelty act for Caucasian kids to embrace the partier, more juvenile side of hip-hop. They played along until their first record hit it huge, and then they started to get serious.
Their second record is still considered a cornerstone of modern hip-hop; Paul's Boutique is a landmark from the art form's Golden Age of 1987-92 and may contain the most samples ever used on an album. They followed this watershed platter with what are IMO their two best records, Check Your Head and Ill Communication... it's those tours that are amply documented in this here post.
One of the first rap groups to use a live band and play their own instruments -- they had a head start in this regard from having been a Punk band -- these three sets run the gamut from rap to turntable-driven hip-hop to hardcore thrash to jazzy, organ-heavy funk and back again. The three Beastie brothers, of course, take turns screaming their rhymes over a thunderous backing.
Beastie Boys
New Jersey 1992 + Netherlands 1994-5

Randy's Rodeo
Trenton, NJ

01 To All the Girls
02 Slow and Low
03 Shake Your Rump
04 Pass the Mic
05 Looking Down the Barrel of a Gun
06 Rhymin' and Stealin'
07 Time for Livin'
08 Egg Raid On Mojo
09 In 3's
10 POW
11 Live at PJ's
12 Stand Together
13 Posse In Effect
14 A Year and a Day
15 Jimmy James
16 Sounds of Science
17 Finger Lickin Good
18 This One's for Todd
19 High Plains Drifter
20 So What'Cha Want?
21 Paul Revere
22 The Maestro
23 Groove Holmes
24 Something's Got to Give
25 Lighten Up
26 Gratitude
27 Stand Up
28 Time to Get Ill
29 Shadrach

Total time: 1:19:36
DAT soundboard, remastered by thir13een
edited to one-CD version by EN (no music lost)

Amsterdam, The Netherlands

01 Egg Man
02 Do It
03 Pass the Mic
04 Tough Guy
05 Futterman's Rule
06 The Update
07 POW
08 The Maestro
09 Alright Hear This
10 Time to Get Ill
11 Stand Together
12 Root Down
13 Bodhisattva Vow
14 Elbow Room
15 Heart Attack Man
16 Sabotage

Total time: 46:35
FM master tape, slightly remastered by EN

Den Haag, The Netherlands

01 introduction
02 Stand Together
03 Sure Shot
04 Shake Your Rump
05 Alright Hear This
06 Root Down
07 Slow and Low
08 Gratitude
09 Beastie Boys
10 Tough Guy
11 POW
12 In 3's
13 Fried Neckbones and Some Home Fries
14 Sabotage

Total time: 33:22
FM master tape, slightly remastered by EN

Michael "Mike D" Diamond - drums, vocals
Adam "MCA" Yauch - bass, vocals
Adam "Ad-Rock" Horovitz - guitar, vocals
DJ Hurricane - turntables, vocals
"Money" Mark Nishita - keyboards, vocals
Amery "AWOL" Smith - drums, vocals
Eric Bobo - percussion, vocals (2.10.1995 set)

the 2 Netherlands sets fit on a single CD
all three shows zipped together
There it is, my first hip-hop post ever... but surely not the last. Enjoy these monster concerts from the Beastie Boys at the very peak of their powers, and take a minute to remember the one-third of their ranks that is no longer with us, but who'd have been a half-century old today.--J.

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Ambient AECOsystem

Happy Sunday, Happy August and a very happy birthday #74 to Roscoe Mitchell! Who the F is Roscoe Mitchell? Why, he is the driving force behind one of my all-time favorite bands, that's who Roscoe Mitchell is!
Today I will use 'Sco's big day as a thinly-veiled excuse to post this mixtape I made a few weeks ago. It's a long story but Roscoe led the Art Ensemble of Chicago through nearly 50 years of musicmaking, so perhaps there's time for some elaboration.
It's like this: my personal favorite record by these guys -- OK, one of my ten favorite records of all time by anyone -- is called People In Sorrow. It's essentially a 40-minute collective improvisation, and a great deal of it barely registers above the level of pure silence. For me -- and I'm not alone in this assessment -- it's the greatest and most proficient example of free improvisation in a group context ever achieved.
This album was reissued from a vinyl transfer in 1998, as part of a package of 1970 Art Ensemble sessions called Americans Swinging In Paris. Other than that, only a reissue CD from Japan, released in 1988, exists... and good luck finding that one. I looked for decades for it, and never even sniffed a copy. Until two weeks ago, that is.
Here's the story, from an article I read years ago on the subject of why there are so many jazz recordings reissued in Japan that are nowhere to be found in their country of origin, the USA. Basically copies of master tapes were made to make stampers for records in Japan throughout the 1960s and 1970s into the 1980s. When the CD era came around, these masters were used to make one-off issues of CDs, usually going out of print one year after their issue. In the case of People In Sorrow, I always thought that the apocryphal Japanese CD would be of this ilk -- still others are straight vinyl dubs themselves -- but there was no sure way to know until I finally found one.
Sure enough, I managed to locate this Holy Grail of the AACM in Amoeba Music in San Francisco a few weeks ago, and yes indeed, it's a straight, pristine transfer of a safety master used for vinyl manufacturing. These AECO Nessa label recordings from 1969/70 were issued extensively on LP in Japan in the 1970s, and most likely the tape used to make this CD was originally slated for the purpose of making stacks o'wax. Seeing as how the original master tapes of People In Sorrow are long, long gone, this transfer is as good as we may ever get to represent this most seminal and unique album.
Of course I took the liberty of fleshing out the record's two long tracks with a baker's dozen of shorter ones in the same "ambient jazz" style of People In Sorrow... so now it's a full CD of the AECO's quietest and most reflective sounds from the turn of the Seventies, when they were at the peak of their powers in exile in Paris. On several tunes, they are joined by singers... most notably by the wife of trumpet chef Lester Bowie (R.I.P.), the legendary soul singer Fontella Bass (also R.I.P.).
Art Ensemble of Chicago
Massed Tranquo In Paris
AECOsystem, 1969-70

01 Tutankhamun (excerpt)
02 Eda Wobu (excerpt)
03 J'ai 26 ans (vocal: Brigitte Fontaine)
04 Proverbes (i)
05 Hello Chi (vocal: Fontella Bass)
06 Variations Sur Un Theme De Monteverdi (i)
07 Lori Song
08 Theme Amour Universal
09 Hello Chi
 10 Proverbes (ii) (vocal: Fontella Bass)
11 Le Brouillard (vocal: Areski)
12 From Bengali
13 Ericka
14 People in Sorrow (Part 1)
15 People in Sorrow (Part 2)

Total time: 1:19:42

Roscoe Mitchell - reeds, woodwinds, percussion
Joseph Jarman - reeds, woodwinds, percussion
Lester Bowie - trumpet, percussion
Malachi Favors Maghostut - bass, percussion

All right, this is quite a little compilation and as fine a way as any to celebrate the great Roscoe Mitchell, whom I once saw play one note (via circular breathing) on a soprano sax for a full half hour without a pause. Enjoy this passel of tracks -- I put People In Sorrow at the end because I felt it made more sense as the finale of this -- culled from one of the AECO's most fertile periods; all intended to commemorate the impossibly talented 'Sco, born this day way back in 1940.--J.