Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Full Nelson

Welcome to Wednesday and a very special tribute to an absolute icon of American song.
There's nothing to really say about him that hasn't been said more eloquently elsewhere, other than he (and perhaps Tony Bennett) might be the oldest living treasures of American music. Beginning in the mid-1950s and all the way to now -- I was just looking at his tour dates for May, and friends just saw him play last month here in the Bay Area -- he is one of the few remaining constant figures.
Probably one of the most universally respected and revered musicians of all time, Willie Hugh Nelson has seen it, done it, heard it, played it, and smoked it all. That he is 82 today seems almost irrelevant... he is ageless. He plays with the passion and intensity of someone a quarter of his age and I truly hope he lives to be 182. Maybe by then he'll actually look and seem 80.
I could go on about the career that has him in several Halls of Fame, the iconic songs he's written, the activism on behalf of US small farmers, the champion advocacy for the sacred herb going back decades, the collaborations with other monumental artists, and back again. I mean, he kicked off one of the greatest music-related TV programs of all time, didn't he?
He sure looks young there, huh? That picture is from 40+ years ago and the premiere, pilot episode of Austin City Limits, like Willie still going strong after all these years. It was filmed in Austin, Texas on October 17th, 1974 as the Red Headed Stranger was touring his tremendous Phases & Stages opus, and it's (ridiculously) never been officially issued. It's often thought of as one of, if not the, best episode in the history of that legendary show. And it's today's share, direct from a VHS tape of the U-matic master.
Willie Nelson
"Austin City Limits" pilot
Studio 6A
LBJ Communications Bldg.
University Of Texas @ Austin
Austin, TX

01 Whiskey River
02 Stay All Night
03 Bloody Mary Morning
04 Redneck Mother
05 Okie from Muskogee (Bee Spears - vocals)
06 Funny How Time Slips Away
07 Crazy
08 Devil In a Sleeping Bag
09 Phases and Stages
10 I Still Can't Believe You're Gone
11 It's Not Supposed to Be That Way
12 Good Hearted Woman
13 Pick Up the Tempo
14 Will the Circle Be Unbroken
15 When the Roll Is Called
16 Mountain Dew
17 A Song for You
18 Turn Out the Lights
19 Nelson Family Jam
20 Rollin' In My Sweet Baby's Arms

Total time: 59:25

Willie Nelson - guitar, vocals
Jody Payne - guitar, vocals
Bee Spears - bass, vocals
Bobbie Nelson - piano, vocals
Mickey Raphael - harmonica
Paul English - drums

NTSC DVD from a Hi-Fi VHS tape recorded from the KLRN-TV (now KLRU) master
I found it an astonishing coincidence that Willie's middle name also belongs to another amazing musical luminary, Hugh Hopper, who passed away several years ago but would have been 70 today. Amazing as well that a life of legend and prolific music such as Hugh's would be circumscribed by his birthday mate and today's honoree, a still-vital figure of almost Olympian status as both a man and musician. We'll get to Hugh Hopper next April 29th, but here's wishing Willie Nelson the best possible 82nd Earthiversary, and long may he ride.--J.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

This Is How You Sonic

I apologize in advance for my absence from here, but it's been a bad sort of month with first the back injury and then the passing of my father last Monday morning. Having returned from NYC and his funeral, I am back on the blog today with something awesome emanating from that locale.
Today is the 62nd birthday of Sonic Youth bassist and originator Kim Gordon, so I am going to post an astonishingly coruscating 1992 radio broadcast of SY burning down Rome in the Fall of 1992, behind their Dirty album.
If you don't know Kim Gordon or her band, which has been leading open-tuned distorto-guitar assaults on civilization from NYC since the dawn of the 1980s, it would be impossible to explain what they are all about, except to say they fall somewhere between The Ramones, Television and the guitar symphonies of downtown NYC composer Glenn Branca. With a healthy dose of Leftist sentiment and even more punk rock intensity. This is not easy listening hour.
This concert comes from an off-air master and sounds like a reel cuz there's not the hiss of a typical cassette. Quality is impeccable and virtually indistinguishable from a real live record. Pull it down and crank it up is all I can say.
Sonic Youth
Teatro Tenda Strisce
Rome, Italy

01 Shoot
02 100%
03 Kool Thing
04 Swimsuit Issue
05 Sugar Kane
06 Eric's Trip
07 Theresa's Sound-World
08 Dirty Boots
09 Brother James
10 Tom Violence
11 Drunken Butterfly
12 Schizophrenia
13 JC
14 Youth Against Fascism
15 Expressway to Yr Skull

Total time: 1:13:03

Kim Gordon - bass, vocals
Lee Ranaldo - guitars, vocals
Thurston Moore - guitars, vocals
Steve Shelley - drums

off-air master reel from Italian radio
Obviously this is a very rough time for me, but I will be back over the next few weeks into May with more fluff for your feeder. Meanwhile, celebrate Kim Gordon... one of the pre-eminent women of Rock (who just wrote a memoir, by the way) and born this day in 1953!--J.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

First We Take the Netherlands, Then We Take L.A.

Hello and welcome to the weekend! I have returned with a first: a double anniversary special from one of Earth's greatest living songwriters.
This is unusual because it is exceedingly rare for one artist to have two well-recorded and exemplary performances fall on the same day, years apart. But it does happen, on alternate Saturdays where the fifth moon of Jupiter aligns with Venus... so here we are.
You likely know who this gentleman is. He's arguably the longest-tenured singer-songwriter, having been an award winning poet in his native Canada in the decade before Bob Dylan even came to New York City. He has authored probably upwards of 100 songs that will be listened to and pored over in detail a thousand years from now. His tours sell out continuously, even as he reaches his 80s. There may never be another like him.
So you've heard of Leonard Cohen, I will assume. What we propose to share today are two broadcasts -- one from FM reels captured off the air and the other from a pre-FM CD -- from 1988 and 1993, and both taped on April 18th. Both of these performances could pass as legitimate live records and I'm certain you'll find them in the utmost enjoyable!
Leonard Cohen
Music Theatre
Amsterdam, The Netherlands

01 Dance Me to the End of Love
02 Who By Fire
03 Ain't No Cure for Love
04 The Law
05 Heart with No Companion
06 I'm Your Man
07 Coming Back to You
08 First We Take Manhattan
09 Chelsea Hotel #2
10 Tower of Song

01 One of Us Cannot Be Wrong
02 Everybody Knows
03 There Is a War
04 Take This Waltz
05 Sisters of Mercy
06 Bird On the Wire
07 Hallelujah
08 Hey, That's No Way to Say Goodbye
09 I Can't Forget
10 Suzanne
11 So Long, Marianne

Total time: 1:52:36

Leonard Cohen - vocals, acoustic guitar
Perla Batalla - vocals
Julie Christensen - vocals
Bob Metzger - guitars, pedal steel guitar
John Bilezikjian - oud
Bob Furgo - keyboards, violin
Tom McMorran - keyboards
Steve Zirkel - bass, keyboard, trumpet
Steve Meador - drums, electronic drums

FM reels, possibly edited down from a master reel to a 1st gen reel

The Complex
Los Angeles, CA

01 First We Take Manhattan
02 Ain't No Cure for Love
03 Coming Back to You
04 Dance Me to the End of Love
05 Democracy
06 Waiting for the Miracle
07 The Future
08 I'm Your Man

Total time: 49:06

Leonard Cohen – vocals, guitar, keyboards
Perla Batalla - vocals
Julie Christensen - vocals
Jorge Calderón - bass
Bob Furgo - keyboards, violin
Bill Ginn - keyboards, vocals
Steve Meador - drums
Bob Metzger - guitar, pedal steel guitar
Paul Ostermeyer - flute, saxophones

pre-FM Columbia Records Radio Hour CD

both shows zipped together
The Amsterdam set required a slight amount of work... I repositioned a bunch of track markers to not occur 3 seconds into the songs, as well as doing a bit of volume adjustment where it was needed. Other than that, these are both stellar shows from one of our world's most revered and legendary songwriters, so you should wish them a very happy anniversary by pulling them down immediately!--J.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Green Party: Soul! '73

Hello, yeah... it's been a while. Not much! How about you? Sorry for my absence (and the quotes from 1970s pop-rock smash hits), but a bulging lumbar disc has got me on the permanent pain shelf these last two weeks. During that time I managed to miss Billie Holiday's 100th birthday and about a million anniversaries for shows, but if I can't sit at the desk I'm afraid there won't be much blogging going on.
I'm not, however, going to miss this one. Sixty-nine is a number often associated with love (and its bastard cousin, lust), and what better a pleasure than to celebrate birthday #69 for the man often held to be the greatest soul singer of all time. 
That's right, you woke up Tired of Being Alone this morning for a reason, and that reason is the incomparable artistry of Al Green, born this day back in 1946. He's been at this stuff for a long time and many people feel no one will ever do it better than he has done.
He started singing in church at age 8 and I guess he must have been pretty good even then, because merely 15 years later he was making his own, seminal records for the legendary Hi label. I think if you added up all the children conceived to different peoples' music over our lifetimes, you might get a statistical dead heat between Barry White and Al here. In this DVD I am posting, it seems all the audience can do not to just rip off their clothes right there in the studio.
Ah, yes, this DVD. You may remember this series, which ran on PBS out of the WNET flagship station in NYC from 1968-1973. It was called Soul! and it's perhaps the most glaringly unreissued musical TV show in human history. If all six seasons ever get boxed up and released, I would be camped out in the doorway of that morning, for realz.
Which brings us to this, the premiere episode of the program from its final season, sourced from the WNET masters and featuring the sublime stylings of the aforementioned Mr. Green in full force. This is one of those things where you put it on and you can't take it off til the hour is over... it will transfix you as Al glides and soars through some of his most brilliant songs, kitted out head to toe in a vintage 1973 plaid suit, no less.
Al Green
WNET-TV Studios
New York City, NY

01 Intro
02 Tired of Being Alone
03 Look What You Done for Me
04 How Can You Mend a Broken Heart
05 I’m Still In Love with You
06 Judy
07 You Ought to Be with Me
08 Love and Happiness
09 We’ve Only Just Begun/Let’s Stay Together

Total time: 58:21

Al Green - vocals, guitar
Michael Baker, Buddy Jarrett & Daryl Neely - horns
James Bass & Larry Lee - guitars
Lynda Harper - organ
Aaron Purdie - drums
Eddie Folk - congas
William McBroom - bass

NTSC DVD from WNET master tapes, issued illegitimately on the "Broadcast Archives" boot DVD in 2010
You are probably aware that an incident later in the 1970s with a crazy woman, a shower stall and a pot of fresh grits sent Al off the R&B track and into a career in Christian ministry which he continues to this day, but this here is the man in the peak of his prime before all of that happened, and when he was rising as the premier global star of soul music many people will always think of him as being. Anyway it's a stone killer, so pull it down and get your Monday moves on to it. I'll try to post a bunch of stuff this week as my body heals, but for now Let's Stay Together and groove to the birthday boy Al Green, 69 years young today!--J.