Thursday, February 26, 2015

Fabulous Cash Prizes

I woke up today having no idea it'd have been the 83rd birthday of iconic songwriter and legend-of-legends country music performer Johnny Cash... how'd that happen?
Even more amazing: this is the very first instance on this page where I get to post a birthday appreciation featuring a concert from someone's actual birthday!
This is considered by many to be the definitive JC bootleg, recorded as it was on the Man In Black's 40th birthday on February 26, 1972 and broadcast on FM radio many different times and with many different permutations of tracklist. This here is a composite of all the tunes ever broadcast, with John joined as usual by wife June Carter, axemaster Carl Perkins and the Tennessee 3 for a marvelous hour and ten minutes of country goodness, performed in that classic city of the American South: Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Johnny Cash
Nieuwe Rai
Amsterdam, The Netherlands

01 Intro/A Boy Named Sue
02 Ramblin' Around/Sunday Morning Coming Down
03 Man In Black
04 I Still Miss Someone
05 Band Introduction/Five Feet High and Rising
06 Pickin’ Time/Detroit City
07 These Hands
08 Me And Bobby McGee
09 Wreck of the Old 97/Orange Blossom Special
10 I Wish I Had Someone to Love Me
11 Cocaine Blues
12 Folsom Prison Blues
13 I Walk the Line
14 Jackson
15 If I Were a Carpenter
16 Help Me Make It Through the Night
17 June Carter Cash’s thanks to Holland
18 No Need to Worry
19 Will the Circle Be Unbroken/Daddy Sang Bass
20 Children Go Where I Send Thee
21 A Thing Called Love/Goodnight from The Johnny Cash Show

Total time: 1:08:58

Johnny Cash – vocals, acoustic guitar
Marshall Grant – bass
W.S. Holland – drums
Bob Wootton – electric guitar
Carl Perkins – vocals, electric guitar
Larry Butler – piano
June Carter Cash - guitar, vocals
The Statler Brothers - vocals
The Carter Family - vocals

complete concert, composited from several master FM broadcast cassettes
I've got this blasting right now and it's as advertised, a totally definitive, near flawless performance of a great guy giving the Dutch a fantastic present on his big day. So pull it down and let the gifts keep right on giving as we celebrate one of the most revered and legendary American cultural figures of all time, born this day way back in 1932!--J.
2.26.1932 - 9.12.2003

Saturday, February 21, 2015

The Legend of the World As We Know It

She'd have been 82 today, so let's fire up a tribute post worthy of a Nina Simone Saturday, shall we?
You all know who Nina Simone was, right? She passed away in 2003, but I shouldn't have to explain who she was. The notion that I might makes me fear for the future of this world, honestly.
See, a generation ago, music was a weapon and a primary organizing tool for social justice and its advocates. This, before the multinational corporations got a hold of it and made sure such a time would never come again. Think of life as Caddyshack, and the world as one big Bushwood Country Club... and we're all the lowly help, lugging around the golf bags. You'll get Justin, and like it.
It wasn't always thus. This monumental mama lion of a woman was a big factor in what came before, when people looked to musicians and artists as avatars of the true culture and the reality of human existence. Before the empty and insane Idiocrats and Amygdalans reasserted their bellicosity and retook what now passes for the World of Ideas. Before horseshit became fine and dandy, as long it was the horseshit we -- in our self-insulated Cell of Mirrors -- already thought was true and felt comfortable believing. Remember? Before people gave up on each other and retreated into the nattering nihilistic nastiness we see around us.
Yes, I sure do miss the days when music actually mattered to more than just the profit margins of the shareholders of gigantic media conglomerates, who need to dumb down great Art into a commodity that can better enable their shiftlessness and pathetic, neo-aristocratic mendacity. After all, why shouldn't 80 people own 51% of all the Earth's resources? Now get back to work, slave! They have cocktails to sip and balance sheets to peruse, these Holy Makers of All That Is Good.
But I digress, sort of. In honor of the birthday of this legend's legend, I am putting up an hourlong PAL DVD, captured directly from a satellite TV rebroadcast in Germany, of a concert she gave for the Hamburg Jazz Festival at the very end of the 1980s. Look out for when she changes the words at the end of Mississippi Goddamn, arguably her most important song, to reflect what's going on in Ronnie Raygun's Guns, Greed-n-God America.
Nina Simone
14th Hamburg Jazz Festival
Hamburg, Germany

01 Balm In Gilead
02 Instrumental
03 Plain Gold Ring
04 See-Line Woman
05 He Needs Me
06 Liberian Calypso
07 Instrumental
08 Mississippi Goddam
09 The Blood Done Change My Name
10 Zungo
11 My Baby Just Cares for Me
12 My Way

Total time: 1:01:38

Nina Simone - piano, vocal
Al Schackman - guitar
Leopold Fleming - percussion
Paul Robinson - drums
Chris White - bass

PAL DVD from a 2012 German satellite rebroadcast
I know I sound old and bitter, moaning on and on about how it sucks for sure. About how awesome things once were versus how they are right now. Oh, well. But at least we have shows like this to remind us that things really were once a whole lot different. And how that was thanks to towering artistic figures such as Nina Simone, born this very day in 1933.--J.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Higher Freducation

A warm Tuesday greetings and welcome to yet another birthday post in honor of yet another astonishing innovator!
Today is the 66th Earth-i-versary of the one and only Fred Frith, erstwhile Henry Cow-boy, Art Bear, Aksak Maboulian, Naked City dweller, as well as ten thousand million other collaborations and his own, inimitable solo records.
An improvisor's improvisor, he first came to public attention in the 1970s Rock In Opposition flagship band, Henry Cow. Beginning in the mid-'70s he began making his own records, often featuring the non-idiomatic improvisation style made famous by people like the great Derek Bailey (he will get his own post here someday soon) and John Stevens (him too) with his Spontaneous Music Ensemble.
When Henry Cow split in 1978 he immediately went into other groups, including stints and LPs with Art Bears, Aksak Maboul (with Marc Moulin, yet another potential honoree for here one day), and in John Zorn's (there's another one!) atomically volcanic Naked City group. He also began teaching, ending up at Mills College in Oakland, just a few miles from where I am typing this.
One of the main progenitors of John Cage's "prepared" technique for piano as applied to stringed instruments, he's never met a nail clipper he couldn't find a way to attach to a guitar. He's really been on the bleeding edge of several different kinds of music for the better part of four full decades.
I wanted to commemorate the 66th b'day of Fred Frith with something appropriate, so I pulled out this pristine Hi-Fi VHS FM capture of a rare performance of Fred's turn-of-the-Nineties avant-rock project Keep the Dog, with blistering guest spots from Zorn and vocalist Tenko. After I dumbed it down to 16/44, it didn't need much but a little sharpening with Sound Forge Graphic Dynamics. So where it sounded a little soft around the edges it now slices with an incisive power more in line with the content and quality of the music, which is funky and intense and a bit out of the realm of his more esoteric, free-improvisational collaborations, although there certainly are moments of that type of interplay.
Fred Frith & Keep The Dog
Glasgow Jazz Festival
Glasgow, Scotland, UK

01 Geistige Nacht/Laughing Matter/Propaganda
02 Terrain
03 Carnival on Wall Street
04 Square Dance
05 Gravity Suite

Total time: 53:56

Fred Frith - bass guitar, violin, electric guitar, voice
Rene Lussier - bass guitar, electric guitar
Jean Derome - saxophones, flute, voice
Zeena Parkins - harp, keyboards, accordion, voice
Bob Ostertag - sampling
Kevin Norton - drums
John Zorn - saxophone (tracks 03 & 04)
Tenko - voice (track 04)

1st gen Hi-Fi VHS recording of an FM broadcast, remastered by me
This is wholly appropriate as an intro to the work of this amazing musician, as it showcases some of his most enduring compositions. We even get fully half of the Gravity album! Overall this is a badass set more on the rock side of Fred Frith, one of the most prolific and challenging composers and guitar-molesters of our times and of course, born this day in 1949!--J.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

The St. Valentine's Day Masterful

Happy Valentine's Day to you all and welcome to a birthday post I think you'll find very well suited to the occasion.
Today would have been the 68th anniversary on Earth for a super-legendary songwriter, who was also the father of another one. Both left us way too fast but left behind enough stuff for us to chew on for a bit, I'd say.
You could almost postulate that Tim Buckley packed a very Miles Davis-like series of artistic metamorphoses into his short eight-year span of activity. No singer-songwriter ever took it as far and as out there as he did, this much is certain.
I'll never forget the first time I heard him. It was the mid-1990s and we were shooting pool at a friend's house in Oakland when one of our group put on Lorca, Tim's inaugural record in his undefinable-yet-exquisite Jazz Banshee phase. I about dropped my cue... who is this? What in the world is he doing? It sounds like they pulled a genius itinerant person off the street and into the studio, to howl and swoop and sway in an unfathomable, dervish ecstasy. There may have been drugs involved.
But it hadn't anything to do with substances... this man was doing this intentionally and as an artistic statement of purpose. Then, a while later, I heard more of his songs and was able to put his various transformations into perspective. When I heard Starsailor, that was it... it was all over. In a way, it still is... this is one of my Desert Island Dudes here.
There are legendary records, and then there is perhaps the most legendarily unavailable record of all time. I rarely post officially released material here, but today I will, if only to help in a small way to correct an unconscionable omission from the pantheon of human creativity. In all honesty, the idea that Starsailor and Blue Afternoon -- my personal favorite TB platter and also somehow nearly three decades out of print -- are so hard to get a hold of is a tragedy of grandiose proportions. Ah, the music industry, that long plastic hallway populated by pimps and thieves, where good men die like dogs... Hunter Thompson was right. And there's also a downside.
I mean it: this is probably the wildest singer-songwriter record that will ever be made; it's not an exaggeration. Tim howls at, caresses and eviscerates the microphone with 36 minutes of what can only be described as... well, it's indescribable, even by me. Suffice to say that if an artist showed up at the record company today with an album such as this, security would be summoned and time might be served.
After making possibly the two singlemost uncommercial records in the history of pop music, Tim went into acting, only to return a bit later as a funk-rock sex-shaman with a new, earthier approach. He passed away in 1975 due to an overdose of the heroin with which he liked to "reward" himself at the end of a tour; he wasn't a traditional junkie, but a once-in-a-while user whose low tolerance doomed him in this instance. His son, Jeff, went on to dominate the 1990s with his own songs before a drowning accident took him away as well. But neither before they left marks that could only be termed indelible.
Tim Buckley

Blue Afternoon

01 Happy Time
02 Chase the Blues Away
03 I Must Have Been Blind
04 The River
05 So Lonely
06 Cafe
07 Blue Melody
08 The Train

Total time: 39:55

Tim Buckley – 12-string guitar, vocals
Lee Underwood – guitar, piano
David Friedman – vibes
John Miller – acoustic & electric bass
Jimmy Madison – drums
Carter "C.C." Collins - congas on "Blue Melody"


01 Come Here Woman
02 I Woke Up
03 Monterey
04 Moulin Rouge
05 Song to the Siren
06 Jungle Fire
07 Starsailor
08 The Healing Festival
09 Down by the Borderline

Total time: 36:03

Tim Buckley – 12-string guitar, vocals
John Balkin – double bass, electric bass
Lee Underwood – guitar, piano, pipe organ
Buzz Gardner – trumpet, flugelhorn, solo on "Down by the Borderline"
Bunk Gardner – alto flute, tenor saxophone, solo on "The Healing Festival"
Maury Baker – percussion

long out of print 1989 Bizarre/Straight label CDs, artwork included
both zipped together
These albums are a) seminal, essential recordings in their own right and b) shamefully out-of-circulation for many's the year. The idea that you can't go to a shop or online and get Starsailor -- acknowledged for decades as one of if not the most unusual and transcendent LPs of the rock era -- is just flat-out wrong and a testimony to what happens when the lawyers' needs outweigh the needs of Great Art. But no matter... that's why I'm here. Pull 'em down and get your Valentine's on with one of the world's most treasured romantics and musical innovators, born this day in 1947. <3--J.
2.14.1947 - 6.29.1975

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Praxis Makes Perfect

Hello again! Today is birthday number 60 for a titan of the last 35 years of music, so I am front-n-center with the requisite festivities.
Bassist, bandleader, producer, conceptualist, bringer-together of disparate musical elements to form exquisite, never-before-heard tapestries of sounds at the bleeding edge: if you can accomplish 1/1,000,000th as much as Bill Laswell has in his sixty years so far, they'd likely build you a statue. Or a studio.
Progenitor of seminal bands from Material to Last Exit to Praxis to Tabla Beat Science, he's also the first guy to record Whitney Houston, on a 1978 cover of the Hugh Hopper song "Memories," a track made famous by Robert Wyatt.
He's probably recorded/played on/produced a half a million records, this guy. All the people in this hourlong concert I am posting have been associated with him, in various groups and projects, over the course of his career. And they represent just a fraction of the musicians he's collaborated with during that time.
Bill Laswell
Axiom Sound System Musical Freezone
Tabla Beat Science - Material - Praxis
WTTW Studios
Chicago, IL

Pt. 1
Tabla Beat Science

01 Untitled improvisations

Bill Laswell - bass
DJ Disk - turntables
Zakir Hussain - tabla
Karsh Kale - drums
Ustad Sultan Khan - sarangi
Salim Merchant - percussion
Nils Petter Molvaer - trumpet

Pt. 2

01 Untitled improvisations

Pharoah Sanders - tenor sax
Foday Musa Suso - kora
Bill Laswell - bass
Abegasu Shiota - keyboards
Hamid Drake - drums
Aiyb Dieng - percussion
Nils Petter Molvaer - trumpet
Toshinori Kondo - trumpet

Pt. 3

01 Big Sur Moon
02 Wires and Clips > guitar solo
03 Nunchucks/Robot Dance
04 The Seven Laws of Woo
05 Meta-Matic
06 Keep That Funk Alive (finale w/ Bootsy Collins and Grandmaster DXT)

Bill Laswell - bass
Buckethead - guitar
Brain - drums
DJ Disk - turntables

William "Bootsy" Collins - MC
Phelps "Catfish" Collins - The Clown
Grandmixer DXT - turntable, vocals
Pete Cosey - guitar
Ouiwey Collins - vocals
Oz Fritz - live sound

Total time: 55:48

NTSC DVD of a master satellite TV capture
Wow, that's a lotta monster players for just under an hour. There were also a ton of heavyweight music birthdays today -- Steve Hackett of Genesis fame, Michael McDonald from the Doobie Brothers, and The Left Reverend Eugene McDaniels to name but three --  and I could have went in any number of directions. But I hope you'll pull this down and celebrate the one on whom I chose to focus. Sixty is a big deal, and so is the musical output of Bill Laswell, born this day in 1955!--J.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Tuesday Tullavision

It's been a week since I posted, so here I am with some anniversary goodness for your 10th of February.
Last year I posted a Progressive Rock Remaster Project concert from this tour, which was recorded five days earlier in Manchester. So let's have some pictures to go with those sounds, shall we?
This was broadcast as it happened on the BBC programme Sight and Sound 38 years ago tonight and has been bootlegged approximately 38,000,000 times since. This version is an NTSC DVD made from a Japanese TV rebroadcast from somewhere back in the mists of time.
I want to dedicate this post to a musician and close friend of mine whose all-time favorite band is the one depicted here, and who is nearby me here in the East Bay recovering from a serious stroke he suffered last May. This one's for Kurt: SpacEKraft co-pilot, Six & Violence leader (Ian Anderson plays on one of their records) & composer of the scintillatingly synthetic score for last year's incredible Jodorowsky's Dune documentary (see it immediately, twice). Long may he ride... with an arsenal of vintage Sequential Circuits synths at his side.
Jethro Tull
Sight & Sound
Golders Green
London, UK

01 Skating Away On the Thin Ice of the New Day
02 Jack In the Green
03 Thick As a brick
04 Songs from the Wood
05 Velvet Green
06 Hunting Girl
07 Aqualung
08 Martin Barre guitar solo
09 Wind Up
10 Locomotive Breath

Total time: 1:01:29

Ian Anderson - vocals, flute, guitar
Martin Barre - guitar, xylophone
David Palmer - keyboards
John Evan - keyboards, accordion
John Glascock - bass guitar
Barriemore Barlow - drums, percussion

NTSC DVD from Japanese rebroadcast, date unknown
I shall return before another 8 days goes by (probably two days from now with more anniversary festivities), but do enjoy this full hour of vintage Tullavision from their Songs from the Wood tour. It'll make you feel much.... better.--J.

Monday, February 02, 2015

The Lion In Winterland

Another month is here, and with it the first blast of February and an anniversary special I'm sure you'll all enjoy.
You surely know who Van Morrison is so I won't bore you with grand explications of just how awesome and formative his music and influence have been and are. Last St. Patrick's Day I posted a concert of him and The Chieftains getting their Irish up, so this will be the second Van vid on here.
This one was shot 41 years ago today in the old Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco by Bill Graham's personal in-house B&W video crew. Every time I watch this one I think to myself that a promoter would never in a million years be allowed to professionally film concerts by artists these days. The lawyers would pull the plug on something like this before the lights ever came down in the theater. So try to contain your disappointment at the idea that 40 years from now, no one will have a blog featuring unissued, pro-shot Katy Perry gigs.
This captures an entire performance of Van's mid-'70s band from the St. Dominic's Preview-Hard Nose the Highway-Veedon Fleece period. Most of the footage is all about Van, but there are some pretty funky crossfades where you get to see the whole group and the audience... and of course the rather large cloud of smoke rising from their direction.
Van Morrison
San Francisco, CA

01 Ballerina 
02 Streets of Arklow 
03 Just Like a Woman 
04 Try for Sleep 
05 Into the Mystic  
06 I Just Want to Make Love to You 
07 Moondance 
08 These Dreams of You 
09 Listen to the Lion
10 Wonderful Remark 
11 Warm Love
12 Help Me
13 Here Comes the Night
14 Gloria
15 Caravan
16 Cyprus Avenue

Total time: 1:26:27

Van Morrison - vocals, guitar, harmonica
Dahaud Shaar - drums
James Trumbo - keyboards
Ralph Wash - guitar
David Hayes - bass
Dorothy Morrison - backing vocals, percussion
Bill Combs - backing vocals, percussion

NTSC DVD from in-venue 1st-generation videotapes
All right Van fans, pull 'er down and fire 'er up to get your Morrison Monday happening in all the right ways, and I'll be right back real soon with a February full of fun for y'all!--J.