Saturday, April 29, 2023

Red Headed Stranger Things: Willie Nelson 90

Willie Nelson w. Leon Russell - Stardust Memories

Today is a great day, not least because how many people reach 90 and are still out entrancing people with what they do, having already done it for longer than most of us have been alive?

If I had him in front of me, I'd pass him the J and ask when this picture was taken... and before he could answer I'd say oh never mind, it says "1911" on the back!

We kid, we kid. That one was actually taken in the 1960s, when this bona fide hero was still just a lone songwriter in the night, trying to break through as a performer in his own right.

They say it all happened for him when he got the guitar.
That was in 1969. According to the documentary about it I watched last night -- you know you're iconic to the power of legendary when they make movies about your instrument -- he paid $750 for Trigger back then.

Considering the fact that he's probably at his birthday picnic right now playing it -- and it's been pretty much his only guitar since the day he got it, as identifiable as any axe in the history of all music -- I'd say that was a quarter thousand dollars extremely well spent.

How do you tribute Willie Nelson on his 90th birthday and avoid the clichés that have been repeated our whole lifetimes? I know I'll fall short, but here goes, Honeysuckle Rose.

A figure of this magnitude becomes what they are not just by shattering the previously held boundaries of orthodoxy, but by reaching across them to fashion an appeal beyond the merely demographic.

Of course there's no way around the history, of the fact that he made his breakthrough not just on the strength of his timelessly classic songs, but by creating an aesthetic that almost singlehandedly altered the face, sound and rules of the Country music genre itself.

That he did his Outlaw thing in such a congenial, universally lovable way -- not an easy line to tread! think of Gangsta rappers! -- that crossed both he and the subgenre he invented over to a million mainstreams whilst somehow retaining 101% artistic credibility and relevancy the entire six decades.... well, that says all that anyone somehow unfamiliar with the world of Willie would need to know to start on their path to discovering what makes him one of the most beautiful musical figures of this or any lifetime.

The story, as I've heard him tell it, is that when his house burned down on that fateful day in 1969, he rushed into the burning conflagration and rescued two items: Trigger, and a pound of weed.

You could say that he altered the trajectory of Planet Earth itself using just those two things, you know?

Let's keep the trajectory altering in nice ways with this (Jesus Christ, it's beyond unbelievable) classic bootleg I have remastered and restored to the best version of itself that's ever yet existed (so far!). As if Willie Nelson's galactic-class talents weren't enough, here he is accompanied by none other than Leon Russell, with whom he had, at this time, just made a record.

Willie Nelson with Leon Russell
Capitol Theatre
Passaic, NJ

01 WNEW-FM intro & walk-on
02 Whiskey River
03 Stay All Night (Stay a Little Longer)
04 Funny How Time Slips Away
05 Crazy
06 Night Life
07 If You've Got the Money I've Got the Time
08 Sweet Memories
09 Bloody Mary Morning
10 I Gotta Get Drunk
11 Shotgun Willie
12 Time of the Preacher/I Couldn't Believe It Was True/Blue Rock Montana
13 Blue Eyes Crying In the Rain
14 The Red Headed Stranger/Time of the Preacher (reprise)
15 Under the Double Eagle
16 Heartbreak Hotel
17 Trouble In Mind
18 A Song for You

01 Come On In My Kitchen
02 Detour
03 Will the Circle Be Unbroken?
04 Amazing Grace
05 Uncloudy Day
06 Only Daddy That'll Walk the Line outro
07 One for My Baby (And One More for the Road)
08 Blue Skies
09 Georgia On My Mind
10 All of Me
11 Stardust Memories
12 Mamas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys
13 I Can Get Off On You
14 Luckenbach, Texas
15 Whiskey River (reprise)
16 Only Daddy That'll Walk the line
17 WNEW-FM talk
18 Good Hearted Woman
19 Sioux City Sue
20 White Lightning
21 If You Can Touch Her At All
22 Truck Drivin' Man
23 Whiskey River (reprise & fade)

Total time: 2:05:34

Willie Nelson - guitar & vocals
Leon Russell - piano & vocals
Jody Payne - guitar & vocals
Mickey Raphael - harmonica & percussion
Bee Spears - bass
Paul English - drums & percussion
Rex Ludwig - drums & percussion
Marty Grebb - saxophone, vocals & percussion

master off-air reels from WNEW-FM in NYC
retracked, repaired & remastered -- with start of CD2 patched from an off-air master cassette -- by EN, April 2023
788 MB FLAC/direct link

I wanna say that both of the designs we made for this occasion -- our "Shotgun Willie" one and the luscious custom drawing by my childhood pal Adam G. with the cursive script shown below-- are up and running on the Teespring page for all y'all that can dig commemorating this man's latest milestone trip around The Sun with a bit of US-made swag!
That finishes up April for me, and I could think of no better way before we May than to pay homage to the monumental Willie Nelson, born this day in 1933! And still crazy, out there making the night life the good life with the energy of someone a third his age! You knew he was right when he told you it was funny how time slips away.--J.

Sunday, April 23, 2023

You've Got Mael: Amusement Sparks

Sparks w. Jane Wiedlin - Cool Places

As promised, I'm back with a sick 40th anniversary show by a group I've covered, but whom you can never say enough about.

It's their 26th studio album, and their first for the Island label in forever.

Obviously these two brothers have been at it for a long time. Their first song came out in 1966!

I think they originally went to UCLA to be film-makers, but those plans altered as they ended up choosing music.

While they'd have likely made great movie moguls -- born into Hollywood as they were, with their dad working in the industry --  a lotta people are very glad they made the choice they did.

This is a band that's been everywhere, in every configuration, from synthpop duo, to Rock stars with a full band, to movie scores and musicals, and back again.

Whenever they've seemed poised to break through to wider success over their 55+ years making music together, they've taken a hard left and sabotaged it with their dedication to something sadly lacking anymore in our world: Artistic Integrity.

I first saw/heard them in a 1970s disaster film, and thought they were made up just for the movie.

It's appropriate that Rollercoaster was set at the opening of the then-new Magic Mountain amusement park near Los Angeles, as these guys became sort of the unofficial house band of the amphitheater there.

We'll deploy the time-parachute back 40 years to the day, to a time when The Brothers Mael were as big as they ever were in terms of radio play and mass appeal. Heck, they were even on Saturday Night Live around this time.

So let's drop in for a 46-minute visit to just that very Magic Mountain amphitheater stage, shall we? I got the pre-broadcast BBC Rock Hour LP from a friend and made it all Sparkly just for you.

Magic Mountain
Valencia, California

01 Jingle Announcing Magic Mountain Concert
02 I Wish I Looked a Little Better
03 Angst In My Pants
04 All You Ever Think About Is Sex
05 Modesty Plays
06 Ron's Mickey Mouse intro
07 Mickey Mouse
08 Eaten By the Monster of Love
09 Moustache
10 I Predict
11 introduction of Jane Wiedlin
12 Cool Places

Total time: 46:44

Russell Mael – vocals
Ron Mael – keyboards
Bob Haag – guitars
Leslie Bohem – bass & vocals
David Kendrick – drums
James Goodwin – keyboards
Jane Wiedlin – vocals, Track 12

BBC Rock Hour #423 pre-broadcast vinyl LP
transferred by Pieter, Summer 2021
declicked and remastered by EN, December 2021 (with further retracking and modifications throughout, April 2023)
Track 01 is from the 1993 "The Hell Collection" CD on the Underdog label
315 MB FLAC/direct link

I worked on this a couple of years ago, but went back and did it again even better, so if I slid you this in private back then, you'll wanna get it again cuz it's better. We even made a Sparks-themed Earth Day shirt (that was the other day) to go with it... shucks, we may even start making a clothing item for every concert I post.

I'll return next weekend to end the month with an obvious choice, turning a milestone birthday few reach alive. Funny how time slips away, you know?

But do enjoy my little Sparks MM remaster mk2 here, 40 years in the making and surely one of the cooler places to visit!--J.

Friday, April 21, 2023

Fusion Nucleus: Ian Carr 90

Ian Carr w. Nucleus + NDR Big Band - Rainbows 4

Hey now! It's once again milestone birthday time for innovators now gone!

Today we have a guy who helped legitimize British Jazz, and one of the first cats to get Jazz and Rock music into the same room and eyeing each other lustfully across the dancefloor.

He led the same boundary-shattering group -- with an ever-evolving personnel -- over four decades.

Decades ago, before I ever knew who he was, I read his Miles Davis book, today considered one of the best ever written about his fellow trumpet deity.

But it's Nucleus -- surely one of the greatest and most intense fusion ensembles ever to seamlessly integrate the harmonic sophistication of Jazz with the high energy abandon of Rock -- for which he'll always be treasured by millions.

A decade before he began that seminal group, he was a central figure in the development of Jazz from the UK into a thing all of its own, and which would become acknowledged as some of the best ever played in the years to come.

Nucleus began at the outset of the 1970s, and by a year into their advent were packing in and blowing away all audiences they could get their horns on all across Europe.

Some of their records of that time are considered absolute essentials of the genre, and I concur. Belladonna, Elastic Rock and countless other albums of theirs are never far from my little Winamp window here.
He passed away in 2009, and myriad tributes from many essential players followed, one of which I'm sharing here today.

The great Ian Carr would have been 90 today, can you believe that? I'm gonna do Willie Nelson next week, he is too. Funny how time slips away. Where does the time go? To quote the also-great (and also-English) Sandy Denny, who knows, I guess.

Ian Carr with Nucleus + NDR Big Band
"Two of a Kind"
broadcasts, 1977-1987

01 Kaleidoscope of Rainbows: Prologue and Rainbow 1
Nucleus & NDR Bigband, conducted by Neil Ardley
Geoff Castle - piano
Brian Smith - tenor saxophone
Ian Carr - trumpet

02 Kaleidoscope of Rainbows: Rainbow 4
Nucleus & NDR Bigband, conducted by Neil Ardley
Brian Smith - tenor saxophone

03 Kaleidoscope of Rainbows: Rainbow 7 and Epilogue
Nucleus & NDR Bigband, conducted by Neil Ardley
Geoff Castle - piano
Brian Smith - tenor saxophone
Leo Wright - soprano saxophone
Ian Carr - trumpet

04 Fandango
NDR Bigband, conducted by Michael Gibbs
Ian Carr - flugelhorn
Rainer Brüninghaus - piano

05 Tapestry
NDR Bigband, conducted by Michael Gibbs
Herb Geller - alto saxophone
Wolfgang Schlüter - marimba
Ian Carr - trumpet
Rainer Brüninghaus - piano

06 Mother of the Dead Man
NDR Bigband, conducted by Michael Gibbs
Ian Carr - flugelhorn 
Rainer Brüninghaus - piano

Total time: 47:25

Tracks 01-03: NDR Studios, Hamburg DE 1.25.1977 FM
Tracks 04-06: NDR Studios, Hamburg DE August 1987 FM
digital capture of a 320/48k German rebroadcast from 2013, converted to 16/44 CD Audio, retracked and remastered by EN, April 2023

Nucleus Revisited
"Ian Carr Celebration Tour"
Queen Elizabeth Hall
London, UK

01 Mr. Jelly Lord
02 Selina
03 Roots
04 Mutatis Mutandis
05 Midnight Oil
06 Lady Bountiful
07 Things Past

Total time: 59:30

Phil Todd - saxophones & woodwinds 
Tim Whithead - saxophones & woodwinds
Chris Batchelor - trumpet
Rob Statham - bass
Nic France - drums & percussion
Mark Wood - guitar
Geoff Castle - keyboards
Ray Russell - guitar (Tracks 05-07)
John Marshall - drums (Tracks 06 & 07)

master digital capture of an off-air FM broadcast
first aired 4.23-24.2010 on BBC Radio 3
volume increased +1 dB throughout -- with dropouts repaired -- by EN, April 2023
299 & 365 MB FLAC, respectively/direct link

I will be back in 48 with a tasty anniversary remaster guaranteed to set Sparks flying.

This makes up for that day years ago when I had a post on Ian Carr all set to go, and then Prince died! But regardless of the purple pause that caused, it's better late than never for a Friday Forefather of Funky Fusion such as IC!--J.

4.21.1933 - 2.25.2009