Thursday, November 30, 2006

I Am Curious Yellow...

The second in my series on music with color related titles, this month we look at yellow. A meaningless exercise, perhaps, but a pretty interesting playlist has resulted here. Check it out, and feel free to suggest a song I've missed.

A color with dual meanings, yellow is associated with joy, intellect, and energy, but also cowardice, jealousy and deceit. Yellow produces a warming effect, arouses cheerfulness, stimulates mental activity, and generates muscle energy. When overused, yellow may have a disturbing effect; it is known that babies cry more in yellow rooms. Yellow is seen before other colors when placed against black; this combination is often used to issue a warning.

For years yellow ribbons were worn as a sign of hope as women waited from their men to come marching home from war.

In Egypt yellow signifies mourning. In Spain, executioners once wore yellow. In tenth-century France, the doors of traitors and criminals were painted yellow. In the Middle Ages, actors portraying the dead in a play wore yellow.

Yellow roses symbolize friendship and freedom. Yellow roses are also appropriate for sending congratulations to newlyweds, graduates, Texans, and new mothers.


Monday, November 27, 2006

Radio Cure - Wilco in Chicago 11-25-06

Wilco amazed me once again last Saturday night at the Auditorium Theatre in Chicago, a spectacular venue for any type of show, but one especially well suited to the sonic display this band has to offer. I don’t get around much any more, but I think these guys are among the most exciting live bands I’ve ever seen, and perhaps the most accomplished musicians. By keeping their touring schedule to a series of short stints throughout the year interspersed with side projects and solo tours, Wilco manages to keep things fresh and the energy level high. On stage, they come across as a tight, well rehearsed ensemble with just the right amount of rock and roll abandon. Quite an accomplishment, as their music has grown increasingly complex. Plus, these guys are a joy to watch on stage, whether it’s a sonic dogfight between the avant-garde Nels and Jeff Tweedy, or the phenomenal percussion of Glenn Kotche. I swear you could watch nothing but Glenn for the entire show and be entertained.

At a Wilco show, you never know what to expect. The show began with a 10 minute ambient electronic solo by a guy in a bunny suit. The bunny (or was it a bear?) turned out to be Bobb Bruno, a friend of guitarist Nels Cline. The intro caught everyone off guard and succeeded in getting the stragglers to their seats before the band took the stage (to the Bob Newhart Theme, I think). Never a band to hit you over the head with a hard rocking opener, Wilco eased into the set with two of their more difficult and brooding tunes. The music seemed to slowly unfurl, culminating in the feedback frenzied coda of Handshake Drugs.

Over the course of the evening, Wilco played 5 new tunes, hopefully destined for their 2007 album release. Side with the Seeds (the apparent song title) was the first band performance of the tune (Jeff Tweedy may have played it at a solo show recently). During the encores, the new tune Let’s Not Get Carried Away really impressed me, and came complete with an honest-to-God drum solo!

At some point Jeff remarked that this was the first time he could remember that he didn’t know when the band would play again. This may have alarmed some of the crowd, but what he meant was that nothing was immediately scheduled. This band is soaring right now, and I fully expect 2007 to be a huge year for them.

Set List

Radio Cure/I Am Trying to Break Your Heart/Handshake Drugs/Shot In The Arm/Impossible Germany/Poor Places/Shake It Off/She's a Jar/Airline To Heaven/Jesus, Etc./Side With The Seeds/Forget the Flowers/Walken/Theologians/I'm The Man Who Loves You

Encore One:The Late Greats/Ashes of American Flags/Heavy Metal Drummer/Let’s Not Get Carried Away/Kingpin/Passenger Side

Encore Two: Hummingbird

The photo is from an earlier show in Wichita, by ksmoke. See more here
Buy Kicking Television - Wilco Live in Chicago

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Thursday, November 23, 2006

U2 1981

In honor of the release of U218, let us turn to the wayback machine for this gem, recorded for the BBC on August 23, 1981 at the Paris Cinema Studio in London. Hindsight may be 20-20, but listening to this early performance 25 years later, was there any doubt these guys were headed for brilliance? Thanks to rbally for the files, a favorite blog that recently went into hibernation.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Tuesday, November 21, 2006

What's wrong with this guitar?

Sometimes guitars earn as much recognition as the musicians that play them. Lucille is forever linked with B.B. King, a Gibson ES-355. There is Angus Young and his inseparable red Gibson GS, Townshend’s numbered Les Pauls in the 70’s and Bruce’s battle-worn Esquire/Telecaster. And then there’s Blackie, Clapton’s legendary Strat. Here’s a brief history:

In 1970, Clapton bought six Strats for $100 each at the Sho-Bud guitar shop in Nashville, Tennessee. He took them back to England and gave one to George Harrison, one to Steve Winwood and one to Pete Townshend. From the remaining three, Eric took the best components and assembled Blackie. Blackie was Eric’s primary stage and studio guitar between 1970 and 1985, making her debut at the Rainbow Concert on January 13, 1973. Blackie was retired in 1985 after years of service. Not only had she been in the studio for every album recorded during that time, she was used at such famous events as the ARMS benefit tour in 1983 and Live Aid. Blackie ventured out of retirement on two occasions while still in Eric’s ownership. The first was for a television commercial for Honda Cars Japan in 1990 at the company’s request. The second instance was for one number at the Royal Albert Hall in 1991.

In 2004, the guitar was purchased by the Guitar Center at auction for a record price of $959,000. Proceeds went to Eric’s Crossroads Centre Antigua, an alcohol and drug treatment center.

All fine and good, and a remarkable story. Now comes the news that the Fender Custom Shop has ‘faithfully recreated’ Blackie in 275 new guitars, to become available to the general public this Friday, the day after Thanksgiving (Black Friday in the merchandising world). A portion of the proceeds benefit the Crossroads Centre and the whole thing is done with the blessing of Eric, but ethically, this raises some questions.

In my business, which is the restoration of old buildings, we respect what is called the ‘patina of use,’ the worn marble steps, weathered edges and character lines that define old from new. We would never dream of artificially aging new construction to give the appearance of old (leave that to the theme parks), nor would we replace those gracefully worn marble steps with crisp new stone. Art museums are careful to preserve this same patina in works of art, and I believe the same respect should be given to artifacts such as guitars. The new models will have artificially worn tuning knobs, cigarette burns, fake nicks and even a worn neck to replicate years of Slowhand's handiwork. This is the same technique that shady art dealers use to pass off reproductions as valuable antiques, and although I’m sure the fake Blackies will be properly dated and identified, but the lines are a little too blurry for me. I'm not quite sure why a guitarist would want to own a guitar like this. And anyway, the new Strats will never sound like Eric’s old patchwork 1970 beauty, even if the player’s got the chops.

Just my opinion. As always comments are welcome.

Badge- Rainbow Concert 1-13-73

Buy Clapton


Friday, November 17, 2006

The Boss at Wembley

Springsteen is still on tour with the Seeger Sessions band, playing some pretty interesting sets. Of special interest to me are the reworkings of his own tunes with this large ensemble. On Nov 12 Bruce opened with Blinded by the Light, followed by Does This Bus Stop at 82nd Street? both from his 1973 debut album Greetings from Asbury Park. He also played The River in this set, from the self titled 1980 album, and Johnny 99, from Nebraska. The previous night, Growin' Up, also from 1973. Check out these versions. Blinded almost sounds like klezmer music, and The River is downright gorgeous.

Blinded By The Light

Johnny 99

The River

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Friday, November 10, 2006

The Forgotten Records #7 - Hot Smoke and Sassafras

Today it seems that a new band pops up every day, courtesy of avenues like MySpace. Affordable digital technology, a few instruments and a hook (hopefully) is all it takes to get your music out there. Forty years ago, probably the same number of young aspiring bands existed; it was just infinitely more difficult to get heard. The British Invasion inspired nearly every kid to put together three chords and prayer. But instead of ProTools, mp3s and the blogosphere, it was the parent’s garage, cheap guitars, Farfisa organs, and a slim, slim chance of getting a record made. The best document of the garage rock era is Nuggets, but there are also countless other one-hit wonders that didn’t make it on that retrospective.

Bubble Puppy, from Austin, was a flash in the pan circa 1968 that combined garage rock and psychedelic pop. Linked musically and geographically to the 13th Floor Elevators, their only memorable tune is the immortal Hot Smoke and Sassafras. Consider these lyrics:

In the mist of sassafras
Many things will come to pass
And the smoke shall rise again
To the place above where it began
Time will bring the fire and flame
As surely as it brought the rain
But in the gardens of the moon
Time is held within the silver spoon
If you're happy where you are
Then you need not look too far
If you've found your place at last
Then you need not use the looking glass

A mist of sassafras? Hot Smoke hit #14 across the country in the summer of ’68. Weird times, indeed, but imagine my surprise to find that these guys have a new record coming out! Check the official Bubble Puppy web site to read founding member Rod Prince’s tale. Among other things the Puppy opened up for the Who sometime in 1966. Love that album cover, A Gathering of Promises.

Buy the Nuggets
Buy Bubble Puppy


Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Red is the Color...

To borrow a concept from the fantastic blog Locust St., I've assembled a playlist of 60 songs with the color red in the title, using the finetune web site. You are sure to find something to your liking here, and if you haven't checked out finetune, what are you waiting for?

The most emotionally intense color, red stimulates a faster heartbeat and breathing. In nature, red is the color of abundance, the color of ripe berries and tomatoes, the color of rubies and garnet, the color of poppy and poinsettia. It is also the color of blood, hence - the color of religious sacrifice, the color of the heart and flame. Because red excites us, it is not the choice of color in psychiatric wards, prisons, or hospitals. Excessive subjection to red can lead to agitation, anger, and even violence.



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