Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Transit Authority Figure

OK, forgive me in advance but we're closing out the month here with a birthday thing about a favorite drummer of mine, and it might get polemical.
Full disclosure: I identify as a drummer and hate it when my battering brethren get the shaft.
Fuller disclosure: today's hero helped start one of the most beloved bands in American history, and I've been meaning to blog them for six years and just never got to it. That changes today.
This has to happen because a couple of weeks ago I watched the Chicago documentary that's on Netflix or wherever, and in all honesty it pissed me off.
The way this guy was treated by his cohorts, for me, ranks as some of the pettiest, sorriest shit ever to take place between bandmates.
It's quite a story, this group. Really symbolic of the total and precipitous decline of Western civilization if you ask me. The transcendent degenerating into the inevitably transactive. Baby, what a big surprise.
It's sad because there'd never been anything like it before they showed up. Beginning life as an underground concept -- the full, molecular integration of horns into a rock band hadn't really yet happened up to then -- and progressing through monumental, almost crushing success through the Seventies, to the point where they could have released spoken word poems about their dreams as singles and brought down the house in global commercial terms.
The inevitable rot began to set in as they discovered a vein of songwriting that would lead to (shudder) Yacht Rock. Then a thoroughly ridiculous and unnecessary tragedy struck down their (oh sweet Jesus, was he a motherfucker) guitar player at the peak of their popularity. Fear not, I'm gonna get to him in January if I live that long.
The bass player -- principal architect of the shift and, in a group who at first intended not to feature a frontperson, increasingly the focal point -- began to take the thing completely over, to the increasing consternation of his buddies.
Well, consternation and unimaginable success and wealth, as every single ballad the bass player dude wrote bought each guy in the band another Swiss Alps villa or ten as it shot to #1 and beyond in the puerile, bad-drum-sounds-abound 1980s.
Eventually they started to shift entirely to electronic drums and the somnabulent sterility of the click track, and a feel drummer such as our birthday hero was forced out in the most humiliating fashion possible: being told his playing sucked by people who had essentially abandoned the ethos of their organic style for the love of Billboard magazine and the CD collections of upper-middle-class Caucasian housewives in the suburbs.
Maybe they should have changed the name to "Evanston" or something. Anyway, he wrote about all of this in his book about it, apparently. Eventually he started a California branch of the group that brought him to prominence, and I don't think most of the original cats and he speak much, if at all.
So Danny Seraphine -- the original pulse of Chicago and as responsible as anyone for their status, even given all the subsequent silly sadness, as one of the most classic and revered American groups of our lifetimes -- is 71 today.
Polemics on the decline of the music industry and its parallels to the decline of civilization aside, let's celebrate, can we? This is among their most fantastic bootlegs -- dating, as it does, from the peak of their powers and before the creeping decline -- and it's here straight off the pre-FM reels for your auditory engagement.
Freedom Hall
Kentucky Exposition Center
Louisville, Kentucky

01 Introduction
02 Call On Me
03 Saturday In the Park
04 Something In This City Changes People
05 Beginnings
06 Ballet for a Girl In Buchannon
   a. Make Me Smile
   b. So Much to Say, So Much to Give
   c. Anxiety's Moment
   d. West Virginia Fantasies
   e. Colour My World
   f. To Be Free
   g. Now More Than Ever
07 Dialogue (Part I & II)
08 Italian from New York
09 Hanky Panky
10 Life Saver
11 Just You 'n' Me
12 (I've Been) Searchin' So Long
13 25 Or 6 to 4
14 Feelin' Stronger Every Day

Total time: 1:21:33
disc break goes after Track 06

Robert Lamm - keyboards & vocals
Peter Cetera - bass & vocals
Terry Kath - guitar & vocals
Danny Seraphine - drums
Walter Parazaider - saxophones, flute, percussion and vocals
Lee Loughnane - trumpet, flugelhorn, percussion & vocals
James Pankow - trombone & percussion
Laudir de Oliveira - percussion

KBFH Quad pre-FM reels, converted to 16/44 stereo
Here's some more history, this time of a more personal nature: when I was 9, one of the very first records I owned was of Chicago IX, their first "Greatest Hits" platter from 1975.
A while back I made a recreation of it for my phone, to play when I am out and about, but I expanded it to exist as if it had been released after 1977's Chicago XI -- the end of the Terry Kath era -- and not Chicago VIII as it was.
It's got a unique edit of one of their tunes made by myself, and it now fills up a single CD. Of course, I would never place a link to get it in a post such as this, consisting of officially-released material as it does. And I would never, ever put such a link right here if I somehow did that. Never, never, never I tell you.
OK? There's your August augury for 2019; I am hard after a September to remember for y'all, all in all. Tune in next week for the start of it.
And don't miss out on all this Chicago fare, either... I have another superanniversary post lined up on them in a few weeks too. They were as good as music gets -- kind of like their country of origin -- before some of them exchanged dignity for dollars and disrespected their friends, such as today's birthday guy, born this day in 1948.--J.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Tin Pan Allez Vous: Leon Redbone 70

Let's continue with the backend of these two consecutives, celebrating what would have been a milestone birthday for a recently-departed iconoclast of all.
He almost made it, too. Passed away on May 30, just a couple of months shy of 70.
We bullshit a lot on here about how whatever artist I have up on whatever day is so totally unique and stands apart from everyone else. Today we have the real thing.
Today we feature someone so totally individuated and out there, that a whole lot of people have spent the last 50 years since he hit convinced he was some sort of scam or impostor, or even another musician whom they speculated had "faked their own death" and "become" this guy.
The (alleged) truth is that he was born in Cyprus seven decades ago this day, and his family moved to Toronto, Canada in the early 1960s to escape the violence around the always-boiling Greece/Cyprus dispute.
He learned the guitar and began performing around Toronto as a wholly invented persona, throwing things back to music that long preceded the Rock sounds then exploding out of 100,000,000 Marshall stacked amplifiers.
The ubiquitously mysterious Panama hat and the shades only fed the myth, once he began to get noticed across the border in the US.
He began to record in the mid 1970s -- no songs written after the 1930s -- and was one of the first musical guests ever to perform on Saturday Night Live.
Then he was in a beer commercial, and his cult was cemented forever. His profile exploded and more endorsements and records followed.
Eventually, a few years ago, he retired from performing, having almost singlehandedly kept all those old-timey tunes alive into the 21st Century.
Another thing is important to note. This guy's neo-Vaudevillian schtick concealed a manifestly evident reality: that he was and is one of the most shit-hot guitar players of our lifetimes.
Like I said, he jussssst missed getting to 70, but we are gathered here today anyway, to pay homage to the entirely unusual and highly entertaining character the world knew as Leon Redbone. 
So much for the babbling screed; now let's get to the music we need. This was recorded by an intrepid -- if somewhat technically challenged -- sound engineer who worked the board for this show.
Despite its strange issues -- he failed to capture the between-song patter, but got every note of the astonishing music -- it's an almost definitive document, dating as it does from the period when Leon was really blowing up in the public consciousness of the time.
Leon Redbone
Cotati Cabaret
Cotati, CA USA

early set:
01 She's My Gal
02 Desert Blues (Big Chief Buffalo Nickel)
03 A Hot Time In the Old Town Tonight
04 Hard Luck Blues
05 Shine On Harvest Moon
06 Diddy Wah Diddy
07 Big Time Woman
08 My Blue Heaven
09 If We Never Meet Again This Side of Heaven
10 The Gang's All Here
11 CC Rider

late set:
01 Marie
02 I Ain't Got Nobody
03 The Sheik of Araby
04 Big Time Woman
05 Your Cheatin' Heart
06 Diddy Wah Diddy
07 My Blue Heaven
08 Sweet Sue
09 Seduced
10 Champagne Charlie
11 If We Never Meet Again This Side of Heaven
12 Sári Barabás interlude: When a Bird Flies from Branch to Branch
13 unidentified title: "Every Morning When the Sun Comes Up"

Total time: 1:26:00

Leon Redbone - vocals, guitar, harmonica & percussion
Jonathan Dorn - tuba
Peter Ecklund - cornet
John Tomassie - drums
occasionally joined by unidentified players; possibly members of openers, the Rhythm Rowdies:
Tricia Berkow (Tricia Michaels) - piano & vocals
Gordy Ohliger - banjo & vocals
Peter Berkow - harmonica & vocals

soundboard master cassettes of both sets;
late set's thoroughly erroneous title/tag info corrected by EN, August 2019
I will be right back in 48 hours to finish out August with another milestone b'day -- this one's underrated but essential -- featuring a wild and classic bootleg plus a hidden-in-plain-sight Easter Egg you won't wanna miss.
Don't you dare miss out on this tremendous voyage into the modern antiquity of Leon Redbone, though... when he strapped it on, you knew it couldn't be nuthin' but a hot time in the old town tonight.--J.
8.26.1949 - 5.30.2019

Sunday, August 25, 2019

MacManus Festival: Elvis Costello 65

We are back, with our crippled back, with more milestone marvelousness.
Had I known before 15 minutes ago that it was the 70th birthday of Mali's albino supervocalist Salif Keita, I might have opted that way, but I didn't know so we'll get to Salif another time.
Today we'll cover someone whose 60th birthday I did 5 years ago, and lo and behold is 65 today.
There's precious few songwriters you could name, in this era of the last 50 years of musical explosion, whose output is as consistently excellent and varied -- over such a long period of activity -- as today's guy.
He arrived like a 16-ton weight out of Monty Python, falling on a music world transfixed by Punk.
Anointed instantaneously as the new big thing, he may have been the first artist to take the Punk attitude and three-chord energy and infuse it with actual tunes and topics that would last beyond 1977.
This became a trend soon after and has continued to this day, but he kind of started it, in terms of shaping the rawness into something beyond the mere expression of the formless, atavistic rage associated with British Punk.
From there, his immaculate observatory skills of songsmithing came streaming to the fore, and he produced record after record after record -- in an eclectic variety of styles -- that people still play every day they write their book.
He just continues, to now and this era, as if he's ageless. Still making interesting records, still packing huge venues, still a relevant artist as he reaches the retirement age at which most of us wind down.
Full disclosure: when I was a teen and he came out, I hated him. Hated his music. Hated his sneering, arrogant look. Hated the cheesy Farfisa organ in the music. Hate, hate, hate.
But you get older, and tastes evolve. I can't pinpoint the moment it changed for me, but gradually over the period of several years, he became one of my favorites.
There are LPs of his -- 1981's Country detour Almost Blue comes to mind -- that rank among my all-time preferred platters. Go figure.
So Declan Patrick MacManus is 65 today. That was another thing I didn't like at age 15! Who changes their name to Elvis? It seemed like a puerile attention play to my teenaged self.
I didn't understand then that the Costello surname was a piss-taking reference to classic buffoon comedian Lou Costello, of Abbott & Costello fame. I do now... things evolve, unless you're dead. And even then, who knows?
Anyway enough mindless chatter from me... it's all just a paltry excuse to share the rare at the end of the day, isn't it?
Here comes one of the classic Elvis Costello bootlegs, sourced from BBC pre-FM vinyl and capturing him at the high watermark of his acclaimed Blood & Chocolate period in 1986.
Elvis Costello & The Attractions
Royalty Theatre
London, UK

01 Accidents Will Happen
02 The Beat
03 Tokyo Storm Warning
04 Watching the Detectives
05 Battered Old Bird
06 Honey, Are You Straight Or Are You Blind?
07 Temptation
08 New Lace Sleeves
09 Blue Chair
10 Jack of All Parades
11 Uncomplicated
12 Lipstick Vogue
13 Beyond Belief
14 Clubland
15 I Want You
16 I Hope You're Happy Now
17 Home Is Anywhere You Hang Your Head
18 Lovable
19 Leave My Kitten Alone
20 Oliver's Army
21 (What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding?
22 I Can't Stand Up for Falling Down
23 Pump It Up
24 Poor Napoleon

Total time: 1:55:30

Elvis Costello - vocals & guitar
Steve Nieve - keyboards
Bruce Thomas - bass
Pete Thomas - drums 

BBC transcription LPs, sourced from the 1992 bootleg CD "This Is Tomorrow" on the Big Music label,
rearranged to correct the running order of the show and slightly retracked & cleaned
I'll be right on back tomorrow with yet more iconoclasm, courtesy of another hero of the firmament who left us a few moons ago but will not be forgotten if I have anything to say about it.
Today, however, is for Elvis Costello -- born this day in 1954 -- and you'd be smart to pop this great two-hour extravaganza of a show and pump it up.--J.