Thursday, May 30, 2019

Middle Age Against the Machine: Tom Morello 55

I feel it's appropriate to finish off the May Days with one of the most committed Leftists and activists in modern music.
He was born this day in Harlem in NYC in 1964, just two years and change before me in Staten Island Hospital. No, I've never been back to Staten Island.
The great-nephew of former Kenyan Prime Minister Jomo Kenyatta -- also, his father was the first Kenyan ambassador to the United Nations -- in terms of sociopolitical involvement he is like the proverbial apple falling close to the tree.
First coming to prominence as the guitar player in one of the 1990s' most essential groups, he's been in several superstar ensembles since as well as carrying on a parallel, more acoustic solo career the whole time.
Perhaps the axegrinder most responsible for bringing the sonic palette of Hip-Hop into Rock, there's no one alive who is gonna coax more turntable-like sounds from a Stratocaster, unless Adrian Belew someday decides he's out of step with the times and joins The Roots.
In addition to his own prolific pedigree, he is also acknowledged as the man who formally introduced the members of Tool to each other, before they were a band. So he's almost singlehandedly responsible for the two coolest Nineties bands.
A stint as an intern for California Sen. Alan Cranston in his early 20s made sure he would never go into politics as a candidate.
Seeing the machinations of The Machine up close and impersonal put it in his mind that his role would be to oppose, rather than enable, the existing order of things.
He tried several different groups before settling on one in 1991 that would prove to be one of the most popular in the world.
This group still commands reunion rumors, even though they last toured in 2007 and last made a record in 2000. If there's ever been a more viscerally political band in American history -- the only one that comes to mind to rival them is Detroit's legendary MC5 -- I cannot name it.
It is this bunch that I've decided to chronicle today, whipping up a nice composite of two legendary performances given a few months apart at two big festivals -- one of which devolved into a near full-scale riot -- on either American coast 20 summers ago.
I dithered about which one to share for days until, last week, I decided to merge them into one, barely distinguishable-as-different thing.
Rage Against the Machine
Indio In Summer & the Fall of Rome
Woodstock & Coachella festivals
summer/fall 1999

01 intro
02 Testify
03 Guerilla Radio
04 Bombtrack
05 No Shelter
06 People of the Sun
07 Know Your Enemy
08 Born of a Broken Man
09 Vietnow
10 Bullet In the Head
11 The Ghost of Tom Joad
12 Sleep Now In the Fire
13 Wake Up
14 Bulls On Parade
15 Freedom
16 Township Rebellion
17 Killing In the Name

Total time: 1:17:36
Tracks 02-04 & 12: Coachella Festival, Indio CA 10.10.1999 phase corrected sbd from master VHS
Tracks 01, 05-11 & 13-17: Woodstock '99 Festival, Griffiss AFB, Rome NY 7.24.1999 sbd from master VHS

Zack de la Rocha - vocals
Tom Morello - guitar
Tim Commerford - bass & vocals
Brad Wilk - drums & percussion

PCM audio from 2 master VHS tapes' sbd audio, with the Coachella portion phase corrected and the whole set compiled & crossfaded by EN, May 2019
525 MB FLAC/May 2019 archive link
In the process of making this, I discovered that the famous bootleg of the Coachella portion was put deliberately out-of-phase to vex the archivalists and bootsellers, so I reintroduced it to correct phasing and now it sounds like 44 Hiroshimas to the power of 45 Nagasakis... or should I say 99 Weather Underground explosions, destroying 99 million Death Machine Recruitment Centers, simultaneously.
What else is there to say, except that the US -- itself a Dictatorship of Money, featuring one party with two right wings commonly called Bad Cop and Worse Cop, designed and implemented by the most consciencelessly egregious sociopaths with legalized, unlimited and anonymous bribery and for the sole purpose of delivering what remains of the Earth's looted resources into their own, omnicidal hands -- likely has to Sleep Now In the Fire for the human species to have a shred of a chance at survival? I knew you'd agree.
I'll return to boon June to the moon, but today we celebrate the 55th trip 'round the sun for Tom Morello by sharing some Rage... because as they liked to say, your anger? It's a gift, and it better be ripped from tomorrow's headlines if you want your kids to see 40.--J.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Butcher Baby Monitor: Wendy O. Williams 70

Let's close out the month of May with some real merriment, with two posts in three days celebrating two no-fuxx-given heroes of modern music.
Today we suspend the meaty sausagefest that constitutes my male-dominated page with one of those ladies for whom there is almost no historical analog.
As much a visual artist as a musical one, for ten years in the 1980s she tore up the rulebook, pissed on it, and then chainsawed it in half on live TV.
For those that believe that Rock 'n' Roll can only excel as confrontational Art that shreds the expectations and sensibilities of its audience with a kind of dangerous, Pure Rebellion, she is still, decades deceased, perhaps the most important and uncompromising female artist of the Rock era.
I remember when her band, The Plasmatics, hit in the late 1970s, and she became the poster child for what the Established Order had to put a stop to for a while.
There had really never been a woman before who middle fingered the norms of propriety like she did. The only other one I could name is Betty Davis, the eroticized funk bombshell who quit the industry after tiring of being told she'd have to "tone it down" to have a music career.
The person most credited for bringing the Mohican hairstyle we now take for granted into fashion, her transgressions and meta-infamous, barely legal stage antics made the Nicki Minajes of today look like Melanie on a dose of the flu.
A deeply committed anti-fascist intent on using music to spread her message, the political implications, both direct and indirect, of her work are often subsumed and forgotten amid the then-unprecedented spectacle she generated.
We take these things from female artists completely for granted today, and shamelessly attack them if they don't supply the sincerity and integrity-of-concept we expect.
But it wasn't always possible for women to make the sorts of often uncomfortable, extreme expressions necessary to great Art.
One of the people that made it possible was born 70 years ago today, and was named Wendy Orlean Williams. There will never be anyone like her, ever again.
I rarely share archival video on here because it takes up too many GB and it's not really the way folks consume it these days, what with the YouTubes and Dailymotions and all that surround us like All-Seeing Eyes.
Today we make an exception, because what Wendy did has to be seen to be fully absorbed. Suffice to say that if 10 artists had this sort of balls today and were not just interested in making the Great Cock of Empty Spectacle ejaculate the jizz-geyser of fame and fortune they crave, the world would change for the immeasurable better.
WDR Studios 
Bremen, Germany 

01 Butcher Baby 
02 Living Dead 
03 Dream Lover 

Total time: 12:36

Wendy Orlean Williams - vocals, chainsaw & sledgehammer
Richard Stotts - guitar 
Wes Beech - guitar 
Jean Beauvoir - bass
Stu Deutsch - drums

PAL DVD of a master VHS of the original German TV broadcast
Don't be fooled by the short length of this footage. Anything more than 12 minutes, the audience -- or the band -- might have burned the Reichstag.
I'll be back Thursday with some even more unfettered, fuck-you-twice rebellion... count on it and I've cooked up something tasty for the occasion too.
Today we have to remind ourselves that were it not for Miss Wendy O. here, artists like who I got coming the day after tomorrow might have never existed, and we should never forget that her uncompromisingly direct manifestations with a sledgehammer and a TV set helped make them all possible.--J.
5.28.1949 - 4.6.1998

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Lost String Theory: Marc Ribot 65

We'll slip this one in this afternoon, because this is a big time player and I've been looking for an excuse to share this wicked show for a while.
Today's extra-talented New Jersey native has been in more bands and been a part of more recording projects than just about anyone you could name over these last few decades or so.
I first heard of him in the 1990s, as part of several John Zorn projects. How I have never done John Zorn on here is just a mystery for the ages, but there it is.
Anyway he (our birthday guy, not John Zorn... he's a Virgo) is 65 today, born in 1954 and all as he was.
How do you celebrate the birthday of a player as unusual as Marc Ribot? He claims his music is so individuated because although he's left-handed, he learned his instrument right-handed as a kid... left-to-right players -- like Jimi Hendrix, Robert Fripp, and Duane Allman, for instance -- are somewhat rare.
Anyway to celebrate, I have this utterly trance-inducing 75 minutes of mayhem, recorded about five years ago with an all-star cast.
This was one of the concerts behind the Master Musicians of Jajouka tribute record, The Road to Jajouka, and features the mighty Bachir Attar leading the MMoJ alongside a slew of badass Westerners, including 2/3 of Medeski, Martin and Wood and today's hero, who sprays incendiary guitar all over the set with almost no break.
The Master Musicians of Jajouka + Billy Martin, Marc Ribot & friends
45 Deutsches Jazzfestival
HR Sendesaal
Frankfurt, Germany 

01 intro by Bachir Attar & Billy Martin
02 Unidentified Improvisation I
03 Unidentified Improvisation II
04 announcement by Bachir Attar
05 Unidentified Improvisation III
06 Unidentified Improvisation IV
07 Unidentified Improvisation V

Total time: 1:15:07

Bachir Attar  - ghaita, lira, gimbre & percussion 
Mustapha Attar - ghaita, lira, gimbre & percussion  
Mohamed El Attar - ghaita, lira, gimbre & percussion  
Abdellah Bokhzar  - ghaita, lira, gimbre & percussion
John Medeski - organ & keyboards
Marc Ribot - guitar
Shahzad Ismaily  - bass & electronics
Billy Martin - drums 
DJ Logic - turntables 
Falu - vocals 

digital capture of an HR2 digital FM rebroadcast
I shall return towards the month's end with some high voltage Punk Rawk and rebel music, because we don't get into enough of that shit here in Jazz Snob City.
Today, however, it's time for yall's morning to become eclectic with this soaring hour and fifteen of battering-ram trance music, courtesy of the birthday boy Mr. Ribot and his many compadres-in-sound!--J.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Birthday Cape: Rick Wakeman 70

We are back as promised with some more Affirmation, courtesy of the second of two birthdays of former bandmates turning 70 this weekend.
Today's maniac was all set to become a concert pianist in 1969, at the Royal College in London, where he was born this day in 1949. 
Then, the phone rang. It did not stop ringing. It may not have stopped ringing now, 50 years later.
From then on, he supplied iconic keyboard parts to a bunch of really great songs, and was making good bread doing it too. But he lamented being a hired hand with no creative input. Then the phone rang again.
On the other end was a music biz honcho, asking if he wanted to join The Strawbs, theretofore a Folk Rock band but getting Proggier by the day.
He consented to play on the record as a session, but ended up joining for real for a bit. Melody Maker dubbed him the next superstar. Then -- not surprisingly -- the phone rang.
It was three in the morning this time, and on the other end was Chris Squire, bassist and Human Resources Manager for Yes.
Our hero had seen Yes play and thought them unusual enough -- what with their diminutive alto singer and plectrum-only bass player calling him at all hours of the night -- to give them a try, so he came down to the studio to work on Fragile
The first day, he helped them write two of the most iconic songs in their repertoire, and in all of Progressive Rock. Then, the phone rang one more time, and this time the call was coming from the intersection of Career and Crossroads.
On the phone? That was David Bowie -- our b'day guy had supplied the incredible keyboards on Space Oddity and Life On Mars? among other tracks -- asking him to join the Spiders From Mars and tour Ziggy Stardust.
He had to make the decision in a second, no time for internal debates. He chose the more creative direction for himself, and opted to say Yes to the band and no to being Bowie's hired gun.
Then they went out on tour, and he started dressing up in mad capes, with 1970s sequins and rhinestones everywhere. Yes became huger than huge, and by the time of their next LP they were about to conquer America.
Well, they covered it first. The Simon & Garfunkel song, America. They toured triumphantly, even though the new drummer -- see yesterday's Bruford post -- had only three days to learn the set. Then it was time to record their next record, and things began to head south.
As legend tells it, they had too much for a single LP and not enough for a double. Padding was conceived. Our birthday hero was not pleased, nor was he pleased with the idea of basing an entire double album off of a single footnote in The Autobiography of a Yogi.
He'd already had a mega-smash with his first solo foray, so he went on his own and made several concept albums that sold well. One of them, the big concert was on ice. Literally. The music press mocked him ceaselessly. It was the Seventies.
He appeared in -- and scored -- Ken Russell's thoroughly ridiculous Lisztomania. Come on, it was the Seventies and perfectly normal to make campy, psychedelic epics about the hysterical groupies of 19th Century composers.
Then, whaddaya know, the phone rang again. It was Yes's manager, asking if he would come back because the other cats in the band had caused his replacement to have a full-on nervous breakdown.
He consented to play on their new record as a sessionist. But once he got there and heard the tunes, he couldn't help himself and rejoined for real. This would not be the second, or the last, time.
Then, they made one more (not so great) record before he -- and this time, the alto vocalist -- quit again. Today we share a cracking show, sourced from the BBC pre-broadcast reels, dating from that last 1970s Yes tour. 
This, intended to be all in celebration of the 70th birthday of one of Rock's all-time greatest keyboard deities: The Caped Crusader, Mr. Rick Wakeman.
Empire Pool
London, UK

01 "CE3K" intro
02 Siberian Khatru
03 Heart of the Sunrise
04 Circus of Heaven
05 Time and a Word
06 Long Distance Runaround
07 The Fish
08 Perpetual Change
09 Soon
10 Don't Kill the Whale
11 Clap
12 Starship Trooper
13 On the Silent Wings of Freedom
14 Awaken
15 I've Seen All Good People 
16 Roundabout 

Total time: 1:56:47
disc break goes after Track 11

Jon Anderson - vocals, guitar, keyboards & percussion
Chris Squire - bass, guitar & vocals
Alan White - drums & percussion
Steve Howe - guitars & vocals
Rick Wakeman - keyboards

BBC pre-FM reels, with applause slightly crossfaded at necessary points by EN, May 2019
It's important to get this back circulating from the legit pre-FM source, as there are remasters around that claim to be from the reels that, upon spectral inspection, turn out to be from off-air tapes.
I shall be back sooner than later as we turn to the homestretch of May, but do enjoy this classic Yes show and hack off a big slice of birthday cape in honor of Rick Wakeman, completing his 70th trip 'round the south side of the sky today.--J.