Thursday, May 28, 2015

Thurs-Détente: Seven Days In May

Hello and welcome to an anniversary special with a hammer-n-sickle twist! This one's a regular chip off the Crocodile Bloc.
It's commonplace now, in the post-Soviet era, for all manner of acts to play in Russia. I could name a dozen or so official concert DVDs of the last 15 years that were shot in Moscow. But it wasn't always that way.
This post documents the first time a Western Rock musician ever played behind the Iron Curtain, way back in 1979 when Elton John asked to play there and was -- astonishingly at the time -- granted permission to tour the USSR for a week.
He took a film crew with him, from which came the famous documentary called To Russia With Elton, and played a handful of concerts around the country. This post documents the final one, which took place 36 years ago tonight in the Concert Hall of the iconic (and long-since-demolished) Rossiya Hotel in downtown Moscow.
It's interesting that recently Elton John has gone back to play in Russia again to stand up for gay rights amid all the persecution going on there... one can but imagine the controversy had he been fully "out" for this little excursion decades ago.
None of that matters, because the focus is on this first foray into the USSR and the man kills it. Think about the pressure involved, and then think about the idea that he went essentially bandless, performing mostly solo with an assist from percussionist Ray Cooper. When it's just you, the piano, the microphone and a concert hall full of people who aren't even allowed to clap along with the music, you better get busy.
And busy he does get, delivering a performance here that can only be described as absolutely devastating. Armed with a setlist full of obscure Taupin/John chestnuts -- I know he doesn't play all these Tumbleweed Connection tunes all the time -- and a bunch of songs the audience actually recognizes, EJ completely blows up the venue and even succeeds (with help from Cooper) in getting the crowd participating towards the end.
I wanted to remaster this volcanic performance for its 36th anniversary, so I set about messing with it in Sound Forge 9. I patched the missing beginning of "Candle In the Wind" in from the To Russia With Elton performance from St. Petersburg a week earlier and in doing so discovered that this tape was itself running almost a full semitone slow (95 cents), so I fixed that and sonically matched the two segments as seamlessly as possible, bringing back the Elton of half a lifetime ago. 
I worked on reducing the swimmy reverb-ness, which this recording is sorta famous for, and got it into much better shape, I feel... I also reversed the channels, which were swapped, and titled/tagged it all. Still a slightly flawed recording obviously, but the quality of the performance -- some of these renditions of the songs, esp. Sixty Years On, Rocket Man and I Feel Like a Bullet (In the Gun of Robert Ford), are arguably the best ever played by anyone -- plus the historical nature (with EJ playing multiple songs almost never heard in concert) win the day.
 Elton John
Rossiya Hotel Concert Hall
Moscow, Russia
EN FM remaster

01 Your Song
02 Sixty Years On
03 Daniel
04 Skyline Pigeon
05 Take Me to the Pilot
06 Rocket Man
07 Don't Let the Sun Go Down On Me
08 Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
09 Roy Rogers
10 Candle In the Wind
11 Ego
12 Where to Now St Peter?
13 He'll Have to Go
14 I Heard It Through the Grapevine

01 Funeral for a Friend
02 Tonight
03 Better Off Dead
04 Idol
05 I Think I'm Going to Kill Myself
06 I Feel Like a Bullet (In the Gun of Robert Ford)
07 Bennie & the Jets
08 Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word
09 Part-time Love
10 Crazy Water
11 Song for Guy
12 Saturday Night's Alright (For Fighting)/Pinball Wizard
13 Crocodile Rock/Get Back/Back In the USSR
Total time: 2:15:32

Elton John - vocals & piano
Ray Cooper - vibraphone & percussion

sounds like a master off-air FM reel, possibly from Radio Moscow? Maybe this was aired on radio in Europe? Who knows? Remastered by me.
***EDIT*** this show has been officially issued, and can be purchased here
This set is an absolute beastly blast, replete with songs I'm not sure I've ever heard him play in concert and featuring versions of songs -- played mostly by himself -- that for me just blow away the ones on the records. He sure doesn't play that Jim Reeves country classic about putting your sweet lips a little closer to the phone every night, that much is certain. Anyway, the idea that this is not issued legitimately, documenting as it does an entire show as Elton becomes the first Western rock musician ever to play Moscow, leaves me shaking my head... but until the record suits come to their senses this will have to do, I'm afraid. Enjoy and remember that time Elton John helped melt the Cold War ice for a week in the Spring of 1979! Consider it your Thurs-détente :D--J.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Shepp, Heard

Sunday has come, and with it a birthday tribute to one of my all-time favorite musicians and people, ever. No, it's not him. Although he's awesome and formative and the basis of modern songwriting, it isn't him.
No it's not Bob Dylan (74 today) and it isn't Patti Labelle (looking fine and still at it at 71), luminary as those folks might be. We wish them both a very happy birthday today, but we're gonna go with the man some call The Malcolm X of Jazz, Archie Shepp.
Poet. Afrocentrist pioneer. Saxophone colossus on multiple reeds, winds, horns and all. Teacher. Revolutionary. Keeper of the flame, who played on Coltrane's Ascension. Funny how he and Dylan started at the same time, just about. They are both absolutely titanic figures and among the monumental legends of our lifetimes, this much is certain. But Archie here is severely underrated -- jazz being the invention America often seems least proud of -- and every bit as powerful as Mr. Zimmerman in a recording studio or onstage. And still doing it, even at four years Bob's senior.
I was lucky enough to see him at Davies Symphony Hall as part of the SF Jazz Festival about 10 or 12 years ago, so cross that off the bucket list for Joshy. When you think of the remaining living legend saxophone deities, you pretty much think of Sonny Rollins, Wayne Shorter and Archie Shepp... the latter perhaps the most radical and visionary of them all.
Incorporating poetry and songwriting into his arsenal very early on, Archie's music runs the gamut from spoken word intonations over bowing cellos to free-blowing volcanic reed explosions in front of a 29-piece big band and everything in between. I would almost call what Archie does Progressive Jazz, in that it jumps off from the traditions of early-20th-Century New Orleans through to post-bop modal stuff and kind of leaps into uncharted, nearly performance art territory. There are elements of chanson, soul, rock, funk, even classical music and psychedelia occasionally, but they never overwhelm the central jazz and improvisatory approach of the many pathways Archie's music travels.
I was walking around the other day with this wild, double-disc compilation of my favorite Archie Shepp tracks of the last 50+ years in the headphones, and I found myself singing (speaking?) along to one of the poems... who makes you sing along to speech? That's how much I love this music and this man. To commemorate the occasion of his 78th birthday today, I am going to post that mix -- containing as it does completely unique, not-sold-in-stores edits of several of his longer, more labyrinthine tracks -- plus a scintillating, absolutely delicious avi video file of Archie leading Germany's HR Big Band through a program of John Coltrane standards from Trane's gorgeous and seminal Africa/Brass record, aired in 2011.
Archie Shepp
Shepp, Heard

01 I Got It Bad (And That Ain't Good) (vocal - China-Lin Sharpe)
02 Hipnosis (edit)
03 The Wedding
04 Attica Blues
05 The Cry of My People
06 Scag
07 Song for Mozambique (vocal - Bunny Foy)
08 Mama Rose
09 Sophisticated Lady (vocal - Jeanne Lee)
10 Money Blues (vocal - Joe Lee Wilson)
11 Wise One
12 Here Comes the Family (with Family Of Percussion)
13 Golden Lady (with Abbey Lincoln)
14 Theme from 'Proof of the Man' (with Dollar Brand)
15 Blues for Brother George Jackson
16 On This Night (If That Great Day Would Come) (excerpt)
17 Blasé (edit) (vocal - Jeanne Lee)
18 Back Back
19 Damn If I Know
20 There Is a Balm In Gilead (vocal - Jeanne Lee)
21 Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child (with Horace Parlan)
22 The Magic of Juju (edit)

Total time: 2:39:01
disc break goes after Track 10

Archie Shepp & HR Big Band
42nd Deutsches Jazz Festival
Frankfurt, Germany

01 announcement
02 Song of the Underground Railroad
03 announcement
04 The Damned Don't Cry
05 announcement
06 Ujaama
07 announcement
08 Greensleeves
09 announcement
10 Africa
11 announcement
12 On the Nile

Total time: 1:11:28

Archie Shepp - tenor saxophone & announcements
Charles Tolliver - conductor, arranger
Frank Wellert - trumpet
Martin Auer - trumpet
Thomas Vogel - trumpet
Axel Schlosser - trumpet
Günter Bollmann - trombone
Peter Feil - trombone
Christian Jaksjø - trombone
Manfred Honetschläger - bass trombone
Heinz-Dieter Sauerborn - alto saxophone
Oliver Leicht - alto saxophone
Ben Kraef - tenor saxophone
Karl-Martin Almqvist - tenor saxophone
Rainer Heute - bass saxophone
Peter Reiter - piano
Martin Scales - guitar
Thomas Heidepriem - bass
Jean Paul Höchstädter - drums

avi file from the 2011 digital WDR-TV broadcast

949 MB FLAC & 984 MB AVI/May 2015 archive link
I zipped the two things separately, so feel free to grab one, both or neither. And don't forget that although there might be more well-known and fetishized musos born on May 24th, none has had a more committed, more inspirational, and more varied career in the shaping of sound than today's honoree. So take a moment with me to celebrate Mr. Archie Shepp... born this day in 1937 and still going superbly strong <3 --J.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Monarch Angel: The Thrill Is Gone

It's a sad, sad day that had to come eventually; the legendary B.B. King has passed away at 89.
Everything I have to say, I already said here, back when he got sick and had to stop a concert in Chicago. In the end, it was fitting that his last performance should be there. I've also reposted that 1978 concert from WXRT-FM in the Windy City here, if you missed it back in October.
Obviously there are no words to express the loss, so I will get right to what I would like to share in his memory today. Part of this circulates in mp3 form on iTunes and elsewhere as a sort of "official bootleg," but it's incomplete and lossy so I am going to (mostly) correct those issues with this post. 
This comes from pristine master soundboard reels that I stayed up all night remastering a tiny bit once I had awoken from a nap and heard that the man had taken his last. I also edited out the songs from the first set that repeated in the second, that it might form a single-CD version that would fit -- with a special treat video from French TV, filmed later in 1971, that's so rare it isn't even on YouTube -- in a single upload folder for y'all.
B.B. King
NY + Paris 1971

Fillmore East
New York City, NY

01 Let Me Love You
02 Walkin' Doctor Bill
03 You're So Fine
04 Ain't That Just Like a Woman
05 Instrumental
06 Instrumental
07 Please Accept My Love
08 Instrumental
09 Every Day I Have the Blues
10 How Blue Can You Get
11 Instrumental
12 A Whole Lotta Lovin'
13 Nobody Loves Me But My Mother
14 Hummingbird
15 Instrumental
16 band intros
17 Sweet Sixteen
18 Instrumental
19 The Thrill Is Gone
20 Instrumental

Total time: 1:19:19

B.B. King - lead guitar, vocals
w/Sonny Freeman And The Unusuals:
Joseph Burton - trombone, percussion
John Browning - trumpet, percussion
Sonny Freeman - drums
Wilbert Freeman - bass
Milton Hopkins - guitar
Louis Hubert - tenor saxophone, percussion
Ron Levy - piano
Earl Turbinton - alto saxophone, percussion

soundboard master reels from Davmar77, slightly edited/remastered by EN

Paris, France

01 intro/talk
02 Whole Lotta Loving
03 interview w/B.B. pt. 1
04 If You Let Me Love You
05 Walkin' Doctor Bill
06 interview w/B.B. pt. 2
07 The Thrill Is Gone
08 outro

Total time: 23:37

B.B. King - guitar, vocals
w/Sonny Freeman And The Unusuals:
Joseph Burton - trombone, percussion
Sonny Freeman - drums
Wilbert Freeman - bass
Louis Hubert - tenor saxophone, percussion
Ron Levy - piano
Earl Turbinton - alto saxophone, percussion

B&W PAL DVD from a recent rebroadcast, exact date unknown

both shows zipped together
1.95 GB total/May 2015 archive link
Please accept these as a token of appreciation for the legacy of Riley B. King: a formative, indispensable musician whose music will live forever and a half.--J.
9.16.1925 - 5.14.2015

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Morris On: Wonderous Stories

OK, long story but I haven't slept in almost 30 hours, I just got off 90 minutes on the phone with my friend who's probably gonna be in the Baseball Hall of Fame someday, my shoulder feels like someone is stabbing it with a lemon-juice-soaked needle, and I have to hurry up and nap soon so I can get up and work a lonnnnnng shift tonight. In other words, it's time to blog the stuffing outta Stevie Wonder's 65th birthday!
You know who Stevie is, I take it, so no need to explain too much. When you've been doing it since adolescence at the toppermost level, and adolescence for you was back in the early 1960s, you need no introductions to the general public at large. Nothing Little about this talent.
My friends are a couple: a duo of touring musicians who travel the Earth playing concerts in every conceivable kind of venue. Her early surprise for his birthday this June? Hijack his unsuspecting ass 1000 miles to see guess who? play the entire suite of Songs In the Key of Life live in concert. When they give you as that kind of gift, your status as a living monument is cemented and that's the total truth of today.
A more loved legend of our lifetimes I cannot name and further than that he always struck me, having never yet met him, as a sincere and unpretentious sort of fellow. Which can be rare sometimes for a statesman of his caliber. I think folks really relate in a very direct, basic way to his music as a source of endless Joy and redemption and positive perspective... and if that's people's sort of unconscious assessment or critique of you as a human being or their review of the job you do, that likely means you're doing it a kajillion kinds of correct.
So enough Captain Obvious Hour... what to share? I have a bit. Let's fire up this thing that just busted out a couple of months back in the trading circles... it's a half hour of pristine footage of Stevie and his band headlining the MIDEM conference -- an annual weeklong European record industry shindig that still takes place in and around Cannes, France -- in 1974 just on the heels of Stevie's horrific accident with the log truck. Look out for "She's a Maniac" Flashdance soundtracker Michael Sembello caressing an electric guitar in a very fleet-fingered fashion, as well as diva-in-waiting Deniece Williams, harmonizing as one of the main man's backup vocalists before she hit it big on her own later in the Seventies.
Stevie Wonder/Wonderlove
Gala du Midem
Palais de Festival
Cannes, France

01 Contusion
02 Higher Ground
03 Don't You Worry 'Bout a Thing
04 All Is Fair In Love
05 Living for the City
06 You Are the Sunshine of My Life
07 Superstition

Total time: 25:51

Stevie Wonder - keyboards & vocals
Reggie McBride - bass
Michael Sembello - lead guitar
Marlo Henderson - rhythm guitar
Ollie E. Brown - drums
Shirley Brewer - vocals & percussion
Lani Groves - vocals & percussion
Deniece Williams - vocals & percussion

PAL DVD from what looks like a station pre-broadcast master; this may have been filmed for ORTF-TV and never aired
All right, I gotta crash for a while but do enjoy this 25 minutes of deep funk mayhem from the birthday boy at the peak of his powers. I'll return appropriately soon with more plangently poppin' pebbles for your proscenium, but please let's don't forget to sound a note of Wonderlove today for the insubstitutably awesome Stevland Hardaway Morris, better known as Stevie Wonder and born this day in 1950!--J.

Saturday, May 09, 2015

Careful With That Axe, Patti: Two Places At Once

Happy weekend and welcome to a double dose of poetic punk fury, courtesy of one of the art form's most passionate priestesses and performers. This post picks right up where the last one (5/4) left off, proceeding through today's anniversary special!
Back in the day when this kind of music was taking over the world, there wasn't anyone more at the forefront of it than Patti Smith. Her John Cale-produced debut, Horses, is as perfect a record as could be made IMO. My personal favorite album of hers just happens to be the one she's touring behind in today's share fare, Easter.
And what a share it is. I worked all day Friday on these shows, which took place at the same venue five days apart this week in 1978. They were both broadcast over the radio in Oregon live and I'm not sure they've ever even been rebroadcast. These were taped off the air from the absolutely classic 1970s radio station KZEL in Eugene, still on the air today.
Oh, these shows. These were the first performances where Patti was allowed on the airwaves uncut, unfiltered and uncensored. How the station wasn't taken off the air for good, given the steady stream of profanity-laced fun and ferocity she's unleashing throughout the three hours represented here, is a small miracle in its own right. What can you say? It was the 1970s.
The first set is from May 4th, just 8 years to the day after the horrors I detailed in last week's anniversary post. The second is from the 9th and was once issued in Europe as an illegitimate bootleg. Both performances are FM captures remastered by me, and the May 4th one has the infamous missing track patched back in from the compilation on which it was issued a few years back. Yes, I'm a geek. Like you didn't know that.
Patti Smith
In Two Places At Once
The Place
Eugene, Oregon

EN FM remaster

01 Land
Rock ‘n’ Roll Nigger
03 Privilege
04 No Jestering
05 Free Money
06 Pissing In a River
07 25th Floor
08 Pumping
09 You Really Got Me
10 Time Is On My Side
11 Ghost Dance
12 Because the Night
13 Easter
14 Radio Ethiopia
15 Gloria
16 Jailhouse Rock
17 My Generation

Total time: 1:22:07

disc break can go after Track 09

1st gen FM cassette, remastered by me

EN FM remaster

01 The Salvation of Rock 
02 Babelogue/Rock ‘n’ Roll Nigger
03 Kimberly
04 Till Victory
05 Redondo Beach
06 The Kids Are Alright
07 Space Monkey
08 25th Floor
09 It’s So Hard
10 We Three
11 You Light Up My Life
12 Be My Baby
13 Because the Night
14 Easter
15 Radio Ethiopia
16 Gloria
17 My Generation

Total time: 1:29:07

disc break can go after Track 08

1st gen FM cassette, remastered by me

Patti Smith - vocals
Lenny Kaye - guitar, vocals
Jay Dee Daugherty - drums
Ivan Kral - bass, guitar, vocals
Bruce Brody - piano, organ, vocals
Andi Ostrowe – percussion

if you get both sets, this fits on 3 CDs, with disc breaks after 5.4.1978 Track 12 and 5.9.1978 Track 06

These are just incendiary shows, complete for you here like a sweet little Bootleg Box of Patti for your auditory pleasure. Pull 'em down, crank 'em up, and as Patti so presciently states, "Fuck the clock!!!". Unless of course you're taking the long view of time, and celebrating the 37th anniversary of these burning performances with us!--J.

Monday, May 04, 2015

Kent Forget: 5/4 at 45

Good afternoon. I was disturbed today by the propensity of some to turn what should be a national day of remembrance into some sort of homage to a science fiction fantasy film, so I am here to write what I feel down.
See this guy here with his face splattered? He went to my high school. One year his mother came and they put on a whole day's worth of assemblies and lectures and films about what happened that day. Not pictured: Obi Wan Kenobi.
Maybe you recognize the more iconic, less graphic photograph. Just out of frame you'd see his teeth lying there, blown out of his atomized skull. Not pictured: Princess Leia.
Here come the National Guard, doing the bidding of the career criminal Nixon. Somewhere, Neil Young is about to go into the woods with his guitar and notebook. Not pictured: Han Solo.
Here's this guy with his famous black flag, trying to dialogue with the Guard. Right after this was taken, he was hit in the wrist and crawled away as the bullets hit the ground all around him. Guess the Guard weren't into talking things over that day. Not pictured: Chewbacca.
To me, this event is the turning point, when the power structure made it crystal clear what side of the bread got the butter and anyone with a grievance was taught to think twice lest they be next. Everything since this happened 45 years ago today has been the drain circling stemming from the National Guard's toilet bowl moment, IMO. Not pictured: C3PO.
And here we are on what should be a solemn day of reflection, inundated with tributes to a fictional movie. The most powerful government on Earth proved that it would exterminate its own citizens for the crime of dissent, and it was only a hop, skip and a jump to the Reagan Administration and from there right to "Free Speech Zones" and the fetching state of authoritarian-fueled unrest in which we so hopelessly find ourselves now. Not five decades later, dissent is met with the same military response as then... only now, they've cut out the volunteer middleman and those weapons are in the hands of every police department in every city. We are, finally, on our own. But by all means, do tell me what Darth Vader, that terrible villain, is up to today.
Simon & Garfunkel
"Concert Pop Music a L'Olympia"
Paris, France

01 The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy)
02 Punky's Dilemma
03 Mrs. Robinson

Total time: 4:00

Paul Simon - vocals & guitar
Arthur Garfunkel - vocals

PAL DVD sourced from ORTF-TV master tape
So here it is, the only thing I have recorded or broadcast on the date in question. Four minutes exactly, one for each student fallen so long ago, sung and played by an iconic duo of the times... and all without a single mention of Luke Skywalker, or whatever other horseshit fantasies the power possessing pigs have to distract us with whilst they loot this planet out from beneath our toes at the point of an automatic assault rifle.--J.
not pictured: anyone who lived long enough to see Star Wars