Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Woods, Shed

I have to keep this brief because I have a serious eye injury and can't really see too well. But I am here because I could be blind and still be able to see what Phil Woods, who passed yesterday at 83 after a career of absolute legend in Jazz, means to the music of my lifetime.
Even if you don't like Jazz, you know Phil Woods, if only by his trademark alto sax solo on a very famous and popular song to which millions of people have married. For it was he that did the deed on Billy Joel's signature song, Just the Way You Are. He also played on Steely Dan albums and approximately 4,000,000,000 other sessions in several genres. Did I mention that he also married Charlie Parker's wife?
He played his last concert, celebrating the seminal LP Charlie Parker with Strings, on September 4th, announcing to the audience at the close of the program that it would be his last time performing. Three weeks hence, he is gone from us, but what he left behind isn't going away so easily I'm afraid.
Surely one of the most elegantly recognizable tones in all of the history of Jazz, I just read a tribute by sax deity Dave Liebman in which Lieb was saying that if you stood next to Phil and tried to play, you could not hope to hear yourself. This is a man that didn't need a microphone to blow the roof off the spot at twenty paces and they just don't make 'em like this anymore.
Like I said forgive the brevity today but I can barely see to type this... I wouldn't bother but for the magnitude of the person of whom I am speaking. Phil Woods led a Jazz life, and since back in the 1950s he has been a big part of it and he deserves every tribute, believe me.
There are just some players who you can recognize from one phrase on their instrument, and this is definitely one of them. The silky-yet-emphatic tone --  even when blowing a gutbucket blues tune -- is beyond recognizable and undeniably at the forefront of the pantheon of improvised music. 
Let me cut the chatter and spin the platter: today we will share two brilliant German radio concerts, sourced from exquisite WDR reels that are perfectly recorded and totally indistinguishable from a real live record, of Phil's uncategorizable free-funk-fusion group The European Rhythm Machine that he had in the late 1960s and early 1970s when such sorts of ensembles were jumping off. This is two and a half hours of prime Phil Woods, never officially issued but brought to you today in memory of this one-of-a-kind and astonishing player.
 Phil Woods & The European Rhythm Machine

WDR Studio 2
Köln, Germany

01 introduction
02 Who Is This, Who Is Coming
03 The Unknown One
04 Doxy
05 introduction
06 Freedom Jazz Dance
07 Flowers
08 Riot

disc break can go after Track 04
Total time: 1:26:40

Phil Woods - alto saxophone
Gordon Beck - piano
Henri Texier - bass
Daniel Humair - drums

Berliner Jazztage
Berlin, Germany

01 introduction
02 Untitled pt. 1
03 Untitled pt. 2

Total time: 52:33

Phil Woods - alto saxophone
Gordon Beck - acoustic & electric piano
Ron Matthewson - bass
Daniel Humair - drums

pre-FM reels from WDR radio
both shows zipped together
I may not be around much as I recover from this eye issue but I wanted to make sure I was front-n-center today to chime in in honor of this most fantastic musician. Pull down and get down to these all-killer-no-filler performances -- I just noticed the 1972 one was taped on his 41st birthday -- and remember to remember Phil Woods, who may have died yesterday but whose music and tone remain entirely beyond the grasp of mere mortality.--J.
11.2.1931 - 9.29.2015

Monday, September 21, 2015

I Lit a Thin, Green Candle

Sometimes I find I get to thinking of the past.
We swore to each other then that our love would surely last.
You kept right on loving, I went on a fast,
now I am too thin and your love is too vast.
But I know from your eyes
and I know from your smile
that tonight will be fine,
will be fine, will be fine, will be fine
for a while.
I choose the rooms that I live in with care,
the windows are small and the walls almost bare,
there's only one bed and there's only one prayer;
I listen all night for your step on the stair.
But I know from your eyes
and I know from your smile
that tonight will be fine,
will be fine, will be fine, will be fine
for a while.
Oh sometimes I see her undressing for me,
she's the soft naked lady love meant her to be
and she's moving her body so brave and so free.
If I've got to remember that's a fine memory.
And I know from her eyes
and I know from her smile
that tonight will be fine,
will be fine, will be fine, will be fine
for a while.
Leonard Cohen
BBC Broadcasts
London, UK
(JWB FM+TV remaster)

01 You Know Who I Am
02 Bird On the Wire
03 The Stranger Song
04 So Long Marianne
05 Master Song
06 There's No Reason Why You Should Remember Me
07 Sisters of Mercy
08 Teachers
09 Dress Rehearsal Rag
10 Suzanne
11 Hey, That's No Way to Say Goodbye
12 Story Of Isaac
13 One of Us Cannot Be Wrong
14 Bird On the Wire
15 So Long Marianne
16 You Know Who I Am
17 Hey, That's No Way to Say Goodbye (duet with Julie Felix)

Total Time: 1:19:30

Tracks 01-13 Recorded Spring 1968 at Paris Theatre, London
Tracks 01-05 Broadcast August 31, 1968 on BBC2 TV ("Leonard Cohen Sings Leonard Cohen")
Tracks 06-13 Broadcast September 7, 1968 on BBC2 TV ("Leonard Cohen Sings Leonard Cohen")
Tracks 14-16 London, England - (BBC Piccadilly Studio 1) July 9, 1968 source: radio broadcast
broadcasted on John Peel's "Top Gear" BBC radio 1
Track 17 Recorded January 27, 1968 & Broadcast on BBC2 TV ("Once More With Felix")

all tracks:
Leonard Cohen - vocals and guitar
the band on the Paris Theatre segment is thought to be The Strawbs with Dave Cousins, but no one is really certain.
Julie Felix sings with Leonard on Track 17.
BBC tapes (Paris Theatre source unknown but possibly a cassette made from the U-Matic master from the BBC-TV archives before it was lost; Peel session possibly pre-FM; Track 17 aircheck tape from TV) all remastered by JWB
This is rated #9 all time on the 100 greatest bootlegs list... in some ways it surpasses Leonard's first record that he hated cuz the strings. He is 81 years young today, so pull it down and celebrate one of Earth's greatest songwriters that will ever be. This was remastered to perfection by audio guru of renown JWB, and should make a fine companion to your after-work glass of red wine and your evening's reverie. Tonight will be fine.--J.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Stick Figure, Batterie Powered

I've just received word of another death in the family and I am fairly well bummed right at this moment, but I wanted to make sure I got this up as today is the 63rd birthday of one of the most revered musicians on Earth, of any kind.
The smiling chap is widely considered for the lion's share of our lifetimes to be one of (if not the most) greatest drummers on this planet. He is one of the driving forces of one of the world's most beloved bands of the last 40 years, and he shows no signs of his skills diminishing. I try my best to steer clear of posting about too many rock stars on here, but this is a player whose reach and impact extend well far beyond just Rock, and whose intricate, often seemingly-impossible style will be scrutinized by percussionists and musos of all stripes, players and listeners alike, for thousands of years after we all leave here.
There are really no adequate words with which to describe Neil Peart, other than to say that even if he was just the lyricist for Rush, he'd have made ten lifetimes of sincere impact on the music of the last four decades. That he is additionally the percussive engine of that band, and has supplied the world of drums with food for thought that simply cannot be quantified, catapults him into the realm of the truly treasured musical figures of our times. Wholly none of what I just said is at all an exaggeration... in fact, it's an understatement.
I mean, think about it. This guy isn't just the world's best drummer in a lot of ways, or merely the most influential, emulated bloke on the block. He's the most widely imitated air-drummer too. If you had a dollar right now for everybody that has ever air-drummed to the opening of The Spirit of Radio, you could buy the Internet right now. Just roll up to Zuckerberg and pay cash for Facebook.
He's all, "Moi?!?" in the picture but do not be fooled by the shy, reserved, all-business modesty. This is one of the most devastating beasts on any instrument you will ever hear in your life. The Rolling Stone idiots don't usually ever put Prog bands in the Hall of Fame -- the only other one in there is Genesis, and they are there just as much (more, really) for their AOR-friendly 1980s run of hits than they are for the beginning of their tenure with Peter Gabriel prancing about out front with a flower on his head or pretending to be a lawnmower -- but even Jann Wenner and his puerile posturing had to kick down to these cats. Neil Peart here is one of the big reasons why that is.
How many people have seen Rush live since 1974 when they hit? This total surely rests somewhere in the million upon millions. Heck, chicks even come now. That's right, chicks dig Rush now. Say those words slowly. Chicks. Dig. Rush. When you are in a Progressive Rock band and the ladies are coming along to the gig, you know it wasn't always this way for the Proggers among us and that you are making music with soul as well as the requisite unassailable artistic integrity and Shiva-armed technical facility the boys often value. I first saw them in 1983 and twice, 20 years apart, since. The years have not curtailed their astonishing skills as players and songwriters in the slightest.
Did I mention he writes all the words? All those Rush tunes everyone adores like The Trees and Red Barchetta and Tom Sawyer and 2112 and on and on to the break of the Newfoundland dawn? He penned them all, presumably in his down time when he wasn't establishing the entire basis of modern Rock drumming technique. Some people are so talented you almost want them to have to donate some of it to charity, so those of us with none can get a taste. I remember when I was learning to play I would try to play to Subdivisions and just give up, so far out of my (admittedly serf-level) pay grade was this man's unprecedented approach.
So what to share to commemorate the day and a drummer that often sounds like ten men on ten different kits, all in perfect precision synch? I settled on one of the best-sounding Rush boots, remastered meticulously by two of the true heavyweights of such activities, and which has been released a few times over the years as an unauthorized CD. In the interest of putting the bootsellers outta business and also because it's a complete monster of a performance -- containing an absolutely wicked version of the convoluted-yet-crunchy La Villa Strangiato as the finale, preceded as it is by a five-minute solo from Neil that borders on the consciousness-altering -- with the lads approaching their most fertile and powerhouse period at the onset of the Eighties.
Kiel Auditorium
St. Louis, MO
01 2112 Overture
02 The Temples of Syrinx
03 Discovery
04 Presentation
05 Soliloquy
06 Grand Finale
07 Bytor and the Snow Dog
08 Xanadu
09 The Spirit of Radio
10 Natural Science
11 Beneath, Between, Behind
12 Working Man
13 Finding My Way intro
14 Anthem
15 Bastille Day
16 In the Mood
17 Drum Solo
18 La Villa Strangiato

Total time: 1:13:18

Geddy Lee - bass, keyboards, vocals
Alex Lifeson - guitars
Neil Peart - drums

pre-FM LPs, remastered by thir13en and Tom Phillips
This is a monumental show and the recording is 101% indistinguishable from an official live set like All the World's a Stage or Exit...Stage Left, so yack it down and blast it up to accentuate your Saturday sonic seasonings. And of course we'd be in danger of Canada cutting diplomatic ties with us if we failed to wish Neil Peart -- born this day in 1952 and turning the worlds of music in general and percussion in particular on their collectively astonished ear since 1974 -- the very most awesome of 63rd birthdays. Long may he drum!--J.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Crappy Anniversary: 9/11 Au Go-Go

I got knocked offline this morning but no worries, I am back with a rather strange and haunting little soundscape to commemorate some bad shit that happened 14 years ago today. This will be the first time, although probably not the last, where I share some of my own sonic work on this page.
There's no need to go into what happened or what didn't happen and what people believe about it and why. I personally no more buy into the official story of it than I'd believe a six-year-old's tale of being kidnapped by a tribe of militant teddy bears and forced into toy servitude, but I don't exactly sign on to a lot of official stories. That's not what this post is about.
This comes from my time on Berkeley Liberation Radio (formerly the old Free Radio Berkeley, technically the oldest continuously operational pirate station in the world) from 2005 to 2007. It's a live, improvised Radio Film I did on the topic of 9/11/2001, using all manner of original footage of the calamity and megamixed in real time on the air by me on March 21, 2005. Anyone I have ever played it for has claimed to be blown away by it even though it was totally made up on the spot on fairly primitive gear, so I am going to share it today for your auditory inquisition.
Not to make everyone relive the day and its (still ongoing) aftermath of course, but it seemed appropriate and it's been long enough ago that I feel comfortable going for it despite its somewhat controversial and unpleasant content. The basis of it -- kind of the spine that runs through it -- comes from the New York City-specific cable channel NY1, which was only in its infancy when this event happened and which covered the whole thing, of course, top to bottom as it unfolded. 
This is a pretty terrifying and gut-wrenching tape, I am warning you that just like that awful day, it is not necessarily for the faint of heart. I used all original, mostly un-narrated audio footage of firefighters' radios, air traffic personnel, TV and radio reporters onsite as the thing was happening, and various subsequent documentaries where footage was used of original participants from EMTs to police to WTC then-owner Larry Silverstein. There's even some footage of noted conspiracy hyper-loony Alex Jones (and equally-as-notorious war criminal Richard Bruce Cheney), just to grind everyone's gears. I offer no editorial comment other than to say that this is intended as art and not as any sort of concrete opinion or definitive statement about the whole mess. Segments are somewhat perversely titled after Brian Eno's seminal ambient work, Music for Airports.
 Emperor Nobody
Phase 4 Radio
Berkeley Liberation Radio 104.1FM
Oakland, CA

01 introduction by EN
02 1/1
03 1/2

01 2/1

Total time: 2:08:30

EN - tapes, effects, live improvised mix of a pre-FM CD recording

Of course what went on, and what has followed from the unconscionable mayhem and the horrifying slide into surveillance state and national security profiteering, is well documented and wholly up for continued analysis, debate and insight. I won't trouble you with those sorts of editorializations; your understanding of these events, and really any others, depends squarely on your own mind and your own decision-making powers of discernment and inquiry. I only post this in loving memory of everyone who perished 14 years ago today, as an artistic offering and example of some of what I have gotten into over a lifetime of participation in the medium of live radio.--J.

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Apocalypse In 9/8: The Fixx Is In

All right, I only figured out this was the 32nd anniversary of this show at 10pm last night, so forgive the brevity of this message. Honestly it's going to be 100 degrees here today and I better get this cooking before my computer is in flames.
Here comes one of my favorite archival items from one of my favorite 1980s bands. Yesterday we had The Pretenders, so let's continue the Eighties greaties with a taste of The Fixx in their prime.
I love these guys because they didn't fuck around. No hair, no funny clothes, no disposable songs. Just warped art-rock and tunes about the darker, more apocalyptically psychological aspects of things. No sappy balladry, no posturing. Simply magnificent songs about missing aircraft, the horrors of war, and depression and alienation. When I was 16 I worshiped this band, and the years have done little to diminish my affection.
For me, these guys are Progressive Rock for the '80s. Of course, all the accoutrements of Seventies Prog are stripped away for the new decade: no capes, no songs about demons and wizards, no abrupt technical timeshifts, no Brit silliness yet still tremendous fun. Several of their tunes remind me of a more New Wave Pink Floyd, in their subject matter.
So many killer songs, too. Red Skies at night. Cameras In Paris. Are We Ourselves? Saved By Zero. Stand Or Fall. Sinking Island. Lost Planes. One Thing indeed Leads To Another with these cats. Their first four records are as good as any recorded in that decade, IMO.
The guitar player, Jamie West-Oram, is astonishing in this band... even though he rarely plays what might be termed a solo. His chordings are so unique and he has a sound you recognize after a few chiming tones. His performance in today's share really drives the point home. 
So let's get to it. This is an NTSC DVD of The Fixx doing their thing in the Rainbow Music Hall in Denver in 1983. It was broadcast once: as one of the old Saturday Night Concerts on the original MTV, back when that network had something to do with music. It comes from a master VHS taped direct from the air, but because the sound on the original videotape had deteriorated and the concert was also recorded for broadcast on the King Biscuit Flower Hour, the audio from the KBFH broadcast has been substituted, and in full, pristine lossless PCM sound.
The Fixx
Rainbow Music Hall
Denver, CO

01 The Sign of Fire
02 Stand or Fall
03 Cameras in Paris
04 Running
05 Some People
06 Reach the Beach
07 The Fool
08 One Thing Leads to Another
09 Outside
10 Saved by Zero
11 Lost Planes
12 Sinking Island
13 Red Skies

Total time: 59:13

Cy Curnin - vocals
Jamie West-Oram - guitar
Rupert Greenall - keyboards
Danny Brown - bass
Adam Woods - drums and percussion

NTSC DVD from a master VHS tape of the original MTV broadcast, with song audio subbed in from the KBFH pre-FM CD
Two days, two prime examples of Eighties rock on two off-air DVDs. Someday, the record "industry" will get a clue, but until then I will sit here and make the effort they won't, because the music and the impulse to spread it around the existing vacuum is that strong for me. Anyway, enjoy this anniversary special from three decades plus ago and please don't forget to support the artists like The Fixx here -- who still record and play to this day -- by buying their records and attending their concerts.--J.

Monday, September 07, 2015

Hynde Sight

It's a working class holiday here in the USA, so what better way to celebrate than with a working class hero that just happens to be 64 today?
When I was 14 years old, there was simply no band I revered more than The Pretenders. OK, maybe DEVO. Is it strange that both these groups were born out of the Northeast Ohio zeitgeist of the 1970s? Cleveland rocks, but Akron was where the rubber hit the road back then.
Last night we were discussing what made and continues to make them so great, and we came to several conclusions. The rock solid reggae influence of the bass player, and the freedom of phrasing it allowed the guitar player. The massively manic and precise drumming accentuating the visceral. The punk-meets-pop-meets-The-Who melodic nexus. But really, there's a central reason for why almost 40 years later, this is still one of the most loved bands in the history of Rock. Those two words are Chrissie Hynde.
It couldn't have been a piece of cake, being a female bandleader in those days in the sausage fest of the music industry. My friend and I were talking about, what were the precedents for what Chrissie did? Were there any? The closest we could come up with would be the incredible funkstress Betty Davis; not musically necessarily, but at least for gauntlet-tossing, boundary shattering attitude.
Take the tune at the top of this page right now, The Adultress (my personal favorite Pretenders cut). There's precious few people that could pull off a Millie-Jackson-meets-The-Clash track like this without it sounding like a put-on. Perhaps Chrissie is the only person alive that could have hammered it home like this, with the sort of unapologetic, matter of fact sexual swagger and the hints of vulnerable femininity she stirs into it. There's nothing to understand. It's understood.
As a teenager, I was beyond hooked. I played their first two records and the Extended Play EP until the vinyl literally disintegrated and I had to get new copies or risk cartridge damage. I think my only regret is that I never saw them live, and still somehow haven't. I must surely be an idjit.
I won't go into too many biographical details here, because I want you to bust out some plastic right now and pre-order her story in her own, inimitable words, via her about-to-be-published memoir that will come out tomorrow. Suffice to say she was born in Ohio -- older brother Terry is also a top-drawer muso and longtime sax master for one of the most underrated bands in Earth history, 15:60:75 aka The Numbers Band -- and moved to London in the early 1970s.
In the UK she wrote for music magazines, joined infamous punk band The Moors Murderers, hung out with Mick Jones and Sid Vicious, and scuffled about with different groups until she was introduced to the three guys that would blow up the world as The Pretenders. Within three years of their advent, half the band would be dead from hard drugs.
A lesser light would surely have fallen apart, but "quitter" isn't a word I think anyone living or dead would associate with Chrissie Hynde. She assembled a new version of the group and proceeded to destroy the Billboard Hot 100 at an even more assiduous clip than the original one had done, scoring bat-flipping grand slam hits like Back On the Chain Gang, Middle of the Road and my personal favorite Christmas song of all time, 2000 Miles. 
She even managed to take a song about a return pilgrimage to Akron -- the ridiculously crafty My City Was Gone -- into the charts. Years later, an asshole "conservative" radio blowhard who shall remain nameless began using the unmistakable bass figure that begins it as his theme song. So Chrissie -- a vegetarian and perennially vocal supporter of animal rights -- let him do it and donated the not-insubstantial proceeds to PETA! If I had to pick one person -- not man, not woman, but person -- in Rock and Roll not to fuck around with, it'd be hard not to select Chrissie Hynde with whom to march into battle.
And she's still doing it. In addition to the autobiography that's days from dropping, last year she released her first solo album (Stockholm). She still tours with a revamped Pretenders lineup and I don't expect she'll stop doing what she does anytime soon. I sure hope not, anyway.
Which brings us to today's share, and a real monster it is. How this has gone unreleased (and not even rebroadcast since 1994) is so far beyond me as to be in a neighboring galaxy, but no worries cuz I got you. Here comes a PAL DVD, sourced from a master VHS made from the last time this was aired (a European satellite telecast from 21 years ago!), of the original Pretenders in full flight on the (OMG, seminal) German TV program Rockpalast, taped July 17, 1981 and featuring a complete, face-frying performance that shows exactly what brand of precision mayhem this gal and guys were capable of. It's from the tour supporting Pretenders II and they storm through a huge chunk of both that one and their first, considered by many to be the very best debut LP in the pantheon.
The Pretenders
Sartory Säle
Köln, Germany

01 announcement by Alan Bangs
02 The Wait
03 The Adultress
04 Message of Love
05 Louie Louie
06 Talk of the Town
07 English Roses
08 Birds of Paradise
09 Kid
10 Stop Your Sobbing
11 Private Life
12 Jealous Dogs
13 Day After Day
14 Up the Neck
15 Tattooed Love Boys
16 Bad Boys Get Spanked
17 Precious
18 Brass In Pocket
19 Mystery Achievement

Total time: 1:22:34

Chrissie Hynde - vocals, guitar
James Honeyman-Scott - guitar, keyboards, vocals
Pete Farndon - bass, vocals
Martin Chambers - drums, vocals

PAL DVD of a master VHS recorded from a 1994 satellite rebroadcast
This one's a real scorcher, so pull it down and let it induce some Labor Day contractions as you give birth to whatever you're grilling this day. As you do, please focus your thoughts on appreciation of this tremendous artist -- there's a word I know she hates, but with a track record such as hers there simply isn't a more appropriate sobriquet -- who's been at this stuff a real long time and whom has brought us so much enjoyment and so many killer songs. She's gotta have -- and manifestly deserves -- some of your attention!--J.