Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The Forgotten Records #3 - Forever Changes

This post was inspired by recent news that Love founder Arthur Lee was diagnosed with leukemia. I have found that most people I talk music with know nothing about Love, yet their 60's albums, particularly the 1967 masterpiece Forever Changes is widely considered to be one of the greatest rock albums ever made. I suppose it's a forgotten record to all but music critics and followers of rock music history.

One of the first integrated rock bands, Love was formed in 1965 by Arthur Lee, an African-American from a tough LA ghetto. Combining his talents with guitarist Bryan MacLean, who was steeped in Broadway show tunes and reportedly dated Liza Minnelli, the band became an eclectic mix of sounds. Lee was into British Invasion singers like Mick Jagger and Eric Burdon, and MacLean, in addition to the show tunes, was a roadie for the Byrds. So you've got a brew of folk, psychedelia, Beatlesque and Byrd-like pop with orchestral arrangements sung by what rock critic Lillian Roxon called "an amusing paradox of an African-American singing like a white Englishman singing like an old African-American." The results? Three terrific albums, culminating in Forever Changes in 1967. The album was a commercial failure, and the band never topped or even equaled this effort creatively and disintegrated by the mid 70's. Lee ended up in prison, and MacLean penned songs for Debbie Boone, among others.

Listening to Forever Changes today, the music is astounding, and so far ahead of it's time in 1967 that you have to consider it along with epic releases like Pet Sounds and Sgt. Pepper.

The Great Albums - Forever Changes

Listen: Alone Again Or


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Thursday, April 20, 2006

Seeger Sessions

No doubt many of you know of the upcoming Springsteen release containing versions of many great folk songs by or made popular by the legendary Pete Seeger. A friend of mine asked me to devote a blog entry to Seeger himself, knowing that I know a bit about folk music. As with most things these days, the topic is already well documented and readily available on-line, so there's really no sense for me to restate it here. At the end of this post there are few links that provide all the necessary biographical bits.

Simply stated, Seeger is at the root of the American folk music tree. His musical roots can be traced back as early as 1940 when he met and began a collaboration with Woody Guthrie. Seeger was a political activist with clear leftist leanings, including a brief association with the Communist Party. His musical success with the Weavers was stymied by the blacklisting efforts of the McCarthy era. To his credit, he was one of only a few to refuse to answer McCarthy's questions.

Seeger is the author of many well known folk 'anthems', including If I Had A Hammer, Turn, Turn, Turn, and Where Have All the Flowers Gone?

In the 60's Seeger recognized the potential of Bob Dylan, seeing him as a way to bring folk and protest music out of the coffeehouses and Chautauqua tents and into the mainstream. Of course, Dylan had bigger plans that could not be bound by the limitations of folk music. Legend has it that Seeger tried to extinguish the electric Bob at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965. As Dylan proceeded to change popular music on stage, Seeger threatened to cut the power with an ax.

For a concise bio of Seeger: the Wikipedia Seeger
For a Seeger Discography:Pete's Records

One new site that is just amazing is Songs of the Seeger Sessions If you want to know the recorded history of each song Bruce has selected for this release, you have got to check this out. The site was created by a guy named Matt Orel in about a month. Unbelievable.

Finally, here's Dylan's version of Froggie Went A-Courtin', an ancient song that has been around in many versions for 450 years, according to Matt. [Note: due to a change at yousendit.com, it will only be around for three days here].

I think it's great that Bruce is carrying on the tradition of performing and passing on these folk songs. Looking forward to the release on April 25th.

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Friday, April 14, 2006

Vintage Van

Here's a real gem posted on the DylanPool site recently. One of Dylan's greatest songs peformed by the greatest living singer. Seriously, who's got a better voice than Van Morrison? On September 5, 1971 Van performed before a small crowd at Pacific High Studios in California. The show was broadcast on FM, and eventually made it into bootleg circulation, where it can thrive today on-line. Here's what John Grissim Jr. had to say in Rolling Stone, June 1972:

"Still there are times when Van enjoys performing, when everything--the band, the sound, the audience, his mood--comes together. Those moments are likely to occur when he has a small audience, like the one last {September} at Pacific High Recorders in San Francisco, broadcast live over KSAN.

Before a studio audience of 200, Van opened with "Into the Mystic," then went into "I've Been Working," a cooker with Van extending the break while the horns did jazz riffs off a flawless rhythm section. After singing a shorter, looser version of "Ballerina," he caught everyone off guard with "Que Sera Sera"--the first three lines anyway, complete with a tinkly four-octave piano flourish--up through "Here's what she said to me"...when he broke into a stomping honky tonk rendition of "Hound Dog" that set the tone for what turned out to be a rare two-hour set.

Van never really established eye contact with his audience, and he never said much except 'thank yous', but he was in great form. He would hold a long high note at the top of a crescendo, raising his right arm up, then shout "Hit it!" as he pulled a fist down to cue the band. "Just Like A Woman" was just like Van Morrison, taking a few extemporaneous liberties with the lyrics:

Your long time curse hurts, but what's worse is this queer in here, ain't it clear...
I believe I believe I believe I believe it's time for us to ...(pumping his arm down) ...quit....
Please don't let on that you knew me when I was weird, (half-talking now) and you were weird,too....

For those few moments the song was his."
Enjoy: Just Like A Woman

Buy: Van the Man

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Thursday, April 13, 2006

Oh Rickie You're So Fine

Ok, the last post was a little weird. How I jumped from the Who to a chicken shack in DeKalb I'll never know. As promised, here's the answers to the song/artist quiz:

A. Danny's All Star Joint by Rickie Lee Jones. RLJ has always been one of my favorite artists, and this is from one of the best debut albums of all time. Streetwise lyrics and a knockout voice.

B. Tombstone Blues by Bob Dylan. What can you say? Bob's lyrics never cease to amaze me.

C. Back Door Man by Howlin' Wolf. Most people think of the Doors remake, and it's one of the strongest Doors tracks, but this is still the definitive version.

D. Drops of Jupiter by Train. One of a long list of grossly overplayed songs on FM Radio.

E. Dixie Chicken by Little Feat. A gimme. I think Garth Brooks covered this song, but who cares about that? What a great band.

A nice Van Morrison rarity for the next post.


Tuesday, April 11, 2006

More Posts About Buildings and Food

First and Foremost, a snippet about what the Who is up to, courtesy of Billboard...

The Who is eyeing a June release for a mini-opera, "The Glass Household," which is based on Pete Townshend's online novella "The Boy Who Heard Music." According to Townshend's Web site, the 11-minute Polydor release will precede a "conventional CD" in September and fulfills the artist's promise not to tour with the Who this summer unless new music was in the pipeline. Link to full article: The Who Moves Into the Glass Household

And now for something completely different....

I tend to notice little things in the built environment that are most likely overlooked by everyone else. I also like old roadside architecture, particularly the quirky stuff. These buildings tend to stand out like sentinels to me, amidst the corporate branding and generic designs of today's commercial architecture. Case in point, this restaurant in DeKalb, Illinois:

These buildings just catch my eye. You just don't see this everyday. There might have been a KFC right across the street for all I know. Of course, my mind then wanders to music, and the songs that include chicken in the lyrics. I could only think of a few. Can you name these songs and the original artist?

A. "Chicken in the pot, chicken in the pot."

B. "The sun's not yellow it's chicken."

C. "I eats more chicken any man's seen."

D. "Can you imagine no love, pride, deep-fried chicken?"

E. "If you'll be my Dixie chicken I'll be your Tennesee lamb."

I'll post one of these songs tomorrow.

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Friday, April 07, 2006

Smells Like Greed

I suppose it's inevitable, but I'm still dismayed when I see the shameless marketing of rock music (and dead musicians). I've seen the Hendrix action figure at Toys R Us, and of course I've seen the full catalog of merchandise the Dead camp offers. But an action figure of Kurt Cobain? Yes, folks, in case you haven't heard, it will be available soon. It's Kurt, rendered to look like he stepped out of the 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' video, complete with striped shirt and gym floor.

Do kids really want to put this on their bookshelves along with the McFarlane statues of Albert Pujols and Barry Bonds? It's very odd to me. Check out the hilarious press release, claiming that "the one thing that many fans have been asking for and have never received in ANY form, official or not, is an action figure." Huh?? I guess once you've got all of Nirvana's unreleased music and an exact published replica of Kurt personal journals, ya gotta complete the picture with the action figure. Now I wonder if a tattered, whorish Courtney Love doll is not far behind.

"...everything from toy guns that spark, to flesh-colored Christs that glow in the dark
It's easy to see without looking too far that not much is really sacred." -Dylan


Thursday, April 06, 2006

Pool Games

I won the only NCAA pool I entered Monday night. This is ridiculous because I was 0 for 4 in the final four picks, but I'll take it. While many people might have been focused on their NCAA brackets in the last few weeks, I've been a little more interested in a compelling pool at the Dylan Pool, where a few thousand Dylan fans complete in a friendly on-line game to try to predict the setlists on Dylan's current tour. Old Zimmy is back on the road, and although he doesn't mix up the set lists to the extent the Grateful Dead did, it's still fun to give to play along. Many of Dylan's fans are obsessive, and analyzing set lists, song frequencies, and orders can keep us occupied for days. Not to mention the thrill of the unexpected rarity or cover that Bob is known to pull out of his hat. When Link Wray died late last year, Bob began several of his shows with Wray's power surf classic Rumble. Last Fall Bob played Million Dollar Bash (from the Basement Tapes) for the first time ever, and the Dylan Poolers were buzzing for days. The site is not the best there is for All Things Bob, but it has an active and entertaining message board, a super list of Bob related links, a huge photo gallery and mp3 files from the current tours.

Here's a rarity from the 1990 tour: Dark As A Dungeon

Originally recorded by Merle Travis on Aug 8, 1946, Hollywood, CA, and released as Capitol 48001.

"The saddest songs are written when a person is happy. I was driving home after a date with a beautiful girl in Redondo Beach, California. I had a recording session to do the next morning and needed some material. I parked my car under a street light and wrote the verses to "Dark As A Dungeon." I got the idea from growing up around the coal mines in Kentucky. My father and brothers were coal miners."

Merle Travis


Monday, April 03, 2006

Oh Sweet April!

T.S. Eliot said April is the cruellest month. Eliot must not have been a compulsive baseball fan. For us, there is no greater joy than opening day and the promise of a new season. Today, every team is on an equal level. Even the fans in Tampa Bay can feel some optimism, however short that may last. Of course, if you're a White Sox fan, this Spring is particularly sweet. For Sox fans Spring was the time to rid yourself of the bitter aftertaste of another disappointing year. Now, coming off a unbelievable 2005 season and a stellar post-season, we may actually have a 2006 team that is improved. There is only one word for this feeling and that is swagger, baby.

Jeff Roberson/AP

I'm sure things will be a little different at Comiskey Park this year (it's still Comiskey to me, not U.S. Cellular, or the Cell). Ticket sales are going through the roof, and the Sox are much more visible in the media than ever before. At Spring Training, the players were like rock stars and we were the groupies, straining for a close-up glimpse, or holding a ball and a Sharpie through the fence for an autograph. The thought of more post-season play is not just springtime delirium, it's actually realistic. I know this feeling won't last; for now, I'm just trying to preserve it in mind.

In Tucson, my son about to get our World Series ball signed by Juan Uribe, the player who took control in the bottom of the 9th, WS Game 4.



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