Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Duck Walk In the Shoes: London Berry

As promised, Wednesday brings a tribute, by way of a 45th anniversary concert, to the acknowledged father of Rock and Roll music, who passed 11 days ago and whose funeral arrangements were just announced, about 10 o'clock this morning in his birthplace of St. Louis.
You've read all the plaudits and honestly there ain't much I can add. It comes down to a very simple thought: If this guy were never born, music as we have come to know it in the last 60 years of history would not exist. Period.
I blogged his 90th birthday last October but some folks merit a return engagement on this page. This is easily and manifestly one of those people worthy of more than one homage.
We SJWs have a saying: when we march, we walk in the shoes of all the links on the chain who did so before us, and who sacrificed to show the way and light the path for our initiative. Well, all musicians -- not just Rock musicians, either -- walk in the shoes of Chuck Berry. Every Keith Richards, every David Bowie, every Beatles, every everybody moved the ball forward that this guy essentially invented.
When I heard he passed away I could not really be sad, knowing that he lived such a long, world-altering journey on this rock, and without doubt altered the basic DNA of the planet irrevocably. Nothing melancholic about that.
The entire basic riff vocabulary of Rock is extrapolated from his melodic arsenal, as is the basic three-chord structure of the music and the attitude unique to Rock as well. Every song you have heard in the last 60 years has some genetic linkage to what he began back in the 1950s. There are no exceptions... whether it's Eric Clapton, Aerosmith or King Crimson's The Great Deceiver, Chuck Berry wields an inestimable influence -- perhaps the influence above all others -- across the board.
Which brings us to the recent ARTE digital rebroadcast of this ridiculous show, taped for TV in the UK in 1972, exactly 45 years ago today. All the elements that made Chuck Berry such an indescribably gargantuan talent are in place for this performance, in the finest possible quality. How this stuff doesn't get rebroadcast in America is not fathomable, but thanks to the diligent satellite capturers out there we have it for you today in the most pristine condition possible.
Chuck Berry & the Rocking Horses
Shepherd's Bush Empire
London, UK

01 intro/Medley
02 Roll Over Beethoven
03 Sweet Little Sixteen
04 Memphis, Tennessee
05 Too Much Monkey Business
06 Beer Drinking Woman
07 Let It Rock (Can't Stop the Train)
08 Mean Old World (The Blues)
09 Carol
10 Rock and Roll Music
11 Promised Land
12 Reelin' and Rockin'
13 Nadine
14 Bye Bye Johnny
15 Bonsoir Cherie
16 Johnny B. Goode
17 end credits

Total time: 57:50

Chuck Berry - vocals & lead guitar
Jimmy Campbell - rhythm guitar
Billy Kinsley - bass
Dave Harrison - drums
Michael Snow - piano

mkv file of a Arte digital rebroadcast
Like I said there isn't very much to add. Chuck Berry may be gone from the Earthly realm, but the toys he left for subsequent generations to play with will last long after everyone any of us know has made their exit. This concert -- taped 45 years to the day -- provides a more revealing window into why that is than any placeholding words I could invent, so pull it down and you'll have a fine, high definition glimpse into what made his life such a momentous excursion.--J.
10.18.1926 - 3.18.2017

Monday, March 27, 2017

Banksgiving: Wuther Report

Let's Prog out with our cogs out on this Monday, with a birthday celebration of a most unlikely rock star, himself the principal architect of one of our age's strangest and most beguilingly beloved bands.
In the annals of modern popular music originating in Great Britain, there are only two acts who came from the staid, not terribly counterculturally-inclined English Public School system. The vast majority of Brit rock musicians come from the Art schools, a not surprising fact.
One was Nick Drake, a revered and one-of-a-kind songwriter who sold 20,000 records while he was alive (he died at age 26) and 20,000,000 since. The other is Genesis, who emerged from Charterhouse Academy in the late 1960s and followed a most unusual path to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Singers have departed for successful solo careers. Guitarists have done the same. But their guiding light across their evolution from Progressive Rock mainstays in the 1970s to Pop hitmakers of the 1980s and beyond has been none other than today's honoree, Tony Banks.
They began as songwriters, making demos for other artists to record their compositions, but soon discovered no other artists were even remotely interested. So they decided to do it themselves, eschewing upper crust careers in finance to try their hand at being a band. It took a while, but it worked out pretty well I'd say.
The core of their often grandiose symphonic group sound is their keyboardist and central writer, born this day in 1950 and turning 67 today. Trained in classical music and bred on The Beach Boys, he is indisputably one of the central figures of Prog for nearly the last 50 years.
He looks mean, doesn't he? I've met him several times and he's really very nice. One time in the 1980s, I ran into him on 6th Avenue in Manhattan and I made him laugh out loud. Is it really that hard to tune a Mellotron, Tony?
Obviously you know the G story, so to celebrate the guy's big day we have a couple of 40th Anniversary performances from their 1977 Wind &Wuthering tour... for some of their more hardcore, old school fans their last true hurrah as a creative force before Steve Hackett split and they started to ditch the longer songs for 3-minute pop hits.
Both of these shows aired on the radio back in the day, and I've shared the legendary British Biscuit performance from the pre-FM reels and with the commercials intact. You'll find that the Toyota ad that precedes the Rainbow Theatre concert segment is undoubtedly the funkiest car commercial ever recorded in human history. The Pioneer ones are equally as vintage, too... you can smell the incense, trust me. Ah, the Seventies.
Rainbow Theatre
London, UK

01 British Biscuit intro
02 Toyota commercial
03 Pioneer commercial
04 Squonk
05 ...In That Quiet Earth
06 Afterglow
07 One for the Vine
08 All In a Mouse's Night
09 Eleventh Earl of Mar
10 I Know What I Like
11 Pioneer commercial
12 Toyota commercial
13 British Biscuit outro

Total time: 53:11

Tony Banks - keyboards, 12-string guitar, vocals
Mike Rutherford - bass, 12-string guitar, guitar, vocals
Steve Hackett - guitar
Phil Collins - vocals, drums & percussion
Chester Thompson - drums

KBFH "British Biscuit" pre-FM reels remastered by Dan Lore

Gaumont Theatre
Southampton, UK

01 Squonk
02 One for the Vine
03 "The Story of Harry"
04 Robbery, Assault & Battery
05 Your Own Special Way
06 Firth of Fifth
07 ...In That Quiet Earth
08 Afterglow
09 I Know What I Like
10 Eleventh Earl of Mar

01 Inside and Out*
02 Carpet Crawlers
03 All In a Mouse's Night
04 "The Story of Romeo and Juliet"
05 Supper's Ready
06 Dance On a Volcano
07 Drum Duet
08 Los Endos
09 The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway
10 The Musical Box (ending section)

*bonus track, Earl's Court, London UK 6.24.1977

Total Time: 2:16:33

Tony Banks - keyboards, 12-string guitar, vocals
Mike Rutherford - bass, 12-string guitar, guitar, vocals
Steve Hackett - guitar
Phil Collins - vocals, drums & percussion
Chester Thompson - drums

master FM capture of a closed circuit, live FM broadcast exclusive to hospitals in the South of England, remastered by RMCH
*master FM capture, remastered by The Digital Brothers
762 MB FLAC/both CDs are in the same folder/March 2017 archive link
I took the liberty of adding a bonus track to the Southampton show -- a benefit  for local hospitals that went out on a closed-circuit FM broadcast to them -- so you'd have a full representation of what was played on this classic tour, itself the first ever in Rock to use lights onstage that were normally implemented on aircraft. So all you Proggers get your groove on, and I will return in two days with an anniversary tribute to one of the many heroes recently fallen, OK? And  of course a very happy 67th Banksgiving to Tony B. as well!--J.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Swiss Bang Account

This brain-frying show was coming up on its 30th birthday, and a DIMEaDenizen who'd been reseeding various concerts -- all featuring a viscerally immortal axemaster: the late Sonny Sharrock (my personal favorite guitar player of all time) -- asked for a re-up of this complete performance. It's the Ginger Baker-led "African Force" percussion ensemble that immediately precedes his "No Material" project from the Spring of 1987. Guesting is the aforementioned six-string samurai Mr. Sharrock, who supplies frenzy and fury to the proceedings all by his lonesome, atop a jungle-thicket forest's worth of percolating percussion pounded upon by Mr. Baker & Co.
Anyway it worked out perfectly, as I had, just the day before, begun working on the (already stellar) sonics for the anniversary edition, to make the thing as beatastically blammin' as it could possibly be. I ended up doing what I almost always try to do, which is at little as possible in terms of unnecessary modification. It had very slight clipping issues that I used Sound Forge 9 to take care of, and a minimal bit of EQ and Dynamics enhancement was applied to set things fully into audiomotion. The big, glaring "deficiency" was the fact that the second set's volume (the last three pieces) was slightly less than the first set's, and in the last two tunes the stereo balance was skewed pretty emphatically in one direction. I fixed this (as well as a few dropouts), and endeavored to make both sets sound as precisely of a piece as possible in doing so. A new set of fingerprints, plus titling/tagging of the files, and here she is just in time for the birthday festivities.
If you know this fairly well-circulated bootleg at all -- and thanks to the first ballot DIME Hall Of Famer Ricola, it exists here in complete, unedited form sourced gorgeously from a Metal Oxide cassette of the master tape -- you know it is a life-altering experience of third-eye-opening intensity, perhaps rivalled only by the "No Material" concert that was used for that (blazing) record. That scorcher comes from the Mühle Hunziken in Rubigen, only a week later that March.
This, however, has the percussion orchestra that Ginger Baker was touring with for the first part of '87. If I had to describe it, I'd say they sound like a herd of flying elephants on an alternative-reality Ghanaian savannah, escorted by a coterie of unspecified, otherworldly buzzing airborne creatures out of a Roger Dean "Osibisa" album cover... and that's before they start singing. And of course this show has Sonny -- unbridled in the absence of sax molester par excellence Peter Brotzmann, with whom he'd usually have to compete for space during 1980s Material maestroms. Sonny, in turn, wastes no time at all in assaulting his guitar with yet more relentlessly messy finesse than even fans of his particular brand of thermonucleic shock-and-awe will expect.
A good deal of it sounds totally off-the-cuff and improvised... maybe the untitled ones are based on actual premeditated songs, but I have no idea. The titles we have here are as introduced by Baker, between songs, but call it anything as he lays down a rock-solid, yet somehow fluidly flexible core of molten lava for the percussionists to bubble synchronistically upon like the trancemasters they are. They all also sing, sometimes several at a time, as if it could get any deeper. As per my research, we can't be sure if all of the five guys who comprised Baker's African Force conga colossus crew are on this still-somewhat-mysterious tape -- or what the names of the untitled compositions might be, for that matter -- but it sure sounds like the full Force, so I listed the five. Any clearing up of the personnel or titles is encouraged and very much appreciated.
All minutiae aside... meanwhile, back at the astonishing music: On top of it all (OK, over the top of it all) there's a whole lotta Sonny being... 101% Sonny, let's just say. In some ways this is as uniquely informative and blatantly naked an insight into his playing as any that may exist, at least that I've heard. At the least, a tasty missing piece of his forever legacy as a guitar player trying to do something that hadn't ever been done before, or really even attempted, prior to his arrival in the mid-Sixties.
Perhaps most essentially of all, the whole band sound like they are having a total blast, with none other than the notoriously irascible star of "Beware of Mr. Baker" audibly reveling in the marathon grooves the ensemble is emitting for the assembled Swiss. And playing his ass off -- in the finale of this sublime show, for a half hour of human clockhood, without any rest -- too. Drummers have passed out from less, you know. And been fired for doing so. Some have even been spontaneously replaced for the evening by someone who just bought a ticket and found their way into the Cow Palace.
**EDIT** as the notes careen offtrack because the distraction of whether or not Ginger Baker will have me subjected to batterie just for writing this -- or remastering and resharing this (admittedly worth dying for) concert -- is driving me a little bit batty. Maybe before he turns me to cheap cheese he can clarify the names of the songs, or at least the name of the Swiss club at which he and his friends authored the fecemelting delicacy of volcanic fire we find frozen like a fever upon the oxide of this ancient tape. I wake up, in a cold sweat... and then, the phony president. People, it's bad. Please, please, please. We're going wrong, better get into my big black car.**drives into nearest lake**
But yes, enough of these meandering mumblings... it's no oxymoronically "alternative fact" to say this is a damn fine show, yes indeed it sho'nuff is, bligitty bligitty blah. Please enjoy it despite these ill-conceived and poorly articulated words, and thanks to Ricola, Firusan and everyone who ever seeded it. Incidentally this was always listed as a soundboard capture, but spectral examination shows it to likely be an FM broadcast, as it only reaches the standard 15 kHz for that. But I could be wrong... again, I am as clueless as can be expected of anyone born amid the decaying, neon ruins of a forlorn empire's self-on-a-shelf, Satyricon-on-steroids social construct.
Ginger Baker African Force + Sonny Sharrock
unknown venue
Geneva, Switzerland

01 untitled
02 Brain Damage
03 untitled
04 Breaking the Poles

01 Palava
02 Want Come, Wait

Total time: 1:41:44

Ginger Baker - drums, percussion & vocals
Sonny Sharrock - electric guitar
Francis Mensah, Ampofo Acquah, Ansou Mana Bangoura, J. C. Commodore & Thomas Akuru Dyani - percussion & vocals

1st gen cassette, likely an FM broadcast, remastered by EN
Needless to say,  the biggest thank you of all goes to the musicians, living and dead (R.I.P. Sonny), who made this incredible document happen in the 1st place. And at last, a happy, hypnotic birthday to the pulse-pounding 101 minutes of mayhem they maestro'ed. Thirty years born, and still explosive and entrancing music coming from the soul of the Earth and the far reaches of the firmament... where it ought always be sourced, if you ask me. --J.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Voice Town

It's been too long but I am back to begin to get through some of the luminaries who've left the building in the last few months, each to be tributed on their respective birthdays.
First up is vocalist supremo Al Jarreau, who passed from respiratory failure in the middle of a tour exactly one month ago after a defining, nearly 50-year journey in music.
Born precisely ten years before and one day after percussive scat vocalist Bobby McFerrin (3.11.1950), he set the standard for modern scat singing and might have been the first to make that style his primary means of expression.
Of course many other vocalists from Ella Fitzgerald to Sarah Vaughan had that in their arsenal, and would utilize the wordless mode in the middle of a song. But with Al Jarreau, it became the song. Or started out there and ended even more so.
One of -- perhaps the -- original vocalist-as-percussion-instrument singers, he started doing it professionally fairly late in life, beginning in 1969 and dropping his first record in the mid-1970s at age 35. A few records later he scored a radio hit that was all over the airwaves in 1981, and proceeded into a smoother and more pop-sounding adaptation of his style.
For me, his truly mesmerizing innovations came on his first few releases, before he became a superstar. All subsequent singers who incorporate the elasticity and all-over-the-place, percussion-like style in what they do -- especially his fellow Pisces whom I mentioned earlier -- owe Al Jarreau a tremendous debt.
To honor his life of 76 years and his passing in February, we have a jewel of a PAL DVD from the moment of his advent upon the scene, recorded for German television right around the time of his first record. In the months following this incredible throwdown of a concert, he would star as the musical guest of episode #13 of NBC's Saturday Night Live and begin his meteoric rise to prominence.
Al Jarreau
NDR/Rolf Lieberman Studio
Hamburg, Germany

01 To Be
02 Letter Perfect
03 Your Song
04 Take Five
05 Susan
06 Stockings
07 You Don't See Me
08 Aladdin's Lamp
09 Somebody's Watching You
10 Lock All the Gates
11 Sweet Potato Pie
12 We Got By
13 Spirit

Total time: 1:24:23

Al Jarreau - vocals and percussion
Jerome Rimson - bass
Tom Canning - keyboards
Nigel Wilkinson - drums and percussion

PAL DVD of a master VHS from a 1990s digital satellite capture
This is almost an hour-and-a-half of this guy at his Jazziest, bursting out upon a unsuspecting musical landscape with real fire, and it's a superb capture as well so I'd encourage you to pull it out of the cloud and let its power warm you up for a proper Sunday feeling. As you do, remember what made Al Jarreau -- born this day in 1940 -- such a special talent, the likes of which won't likely come again in our lifetimes.--J.
3.12.1940 - 2.12.2017