Spotlight: Springsteen’s Archival Live Releases

 2005_07_31 Columbus, OH

My obsession with bootleg recordings is well documented on BourbonAndVinyl. I can still remember going back up to college my junior year. When I arrived, my friend and one of my future roommates, Drew arrived triumphantly holding a shoe box full of newly minted cassette tapes (yes cassettes, it was a long time ago, I also had a mullet). He announced that he had found the “motherlode” of Springsteen live bootlegs and it was his advice that we listen to all 10 cassettes, one after the another, immediately. After quickly mixing several large pitchers of vodka and Rose’s lime juice, aka the dreaded Kamikazes, we hunkered down. This was during the week prior to school starting and there were numerous parties around campus, chock full of drunken, new female co-eds in need of male upper class-men “guidance”. But were we joining in the fray? No, we were listening to some of the greatest live recordings ever laid down. I can still remember the excitement I felt hearing Springsteen and the E Street Band on those ’75 and ’78 bootlegs, at their prime strength. The music was spectacular, as was the Kamikaze inspired hangover. I now know what death tastes like, it tastes like Rose’s lime juice and Popov (Idaho’s finest vodka).

A year ago or so, I heard that Springsteen, much like Pearl Jam and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, was releasing select concert recordings on the 2014 tour as MP3 downloads. Pearl Jam has been doing this for years. When they started, I went a little overboard and bought say, four or five of them, immediately. Patience and discipline is in short supply at BourbonAndVinyl. Springsteen went on to release every single show on the 2014 tour which was made extra special by the presence of guitarist Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine, Audioslave, The Nightwatchman). The E Street Band already had 3 guitarists including Bruce, but hey, you can never have too many guitars. I actually bought the 1-29-14 show from Capetown, South Africa. I showed a bit more restraint than the Pearl Jam situation.

Shortly after the 2014 shows were released, Springsteen released the E Street Band’s first show ever at the historic Apollo Theater from March 2012. It was a great show, broadcast live on XM/Sirius Radio. The penultimate moment was Springsteen calling for a moment of silence for his fallen comrade-in-arms Clarence Clemons, during the song “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out”. It was at the moment in the song when Bruce sings, “…the change was made up town and the Big Man joined the band…” If that doesn’t bring tears to your eyes, you’re not human and you’re certainly not a fan of Springsteen’s.

Shortly after that, Bruce announced he’d be releasing “archival” recordings of select concerts from the past. I felt that old, pre Kamikaze excitement return. I felt like a junior in college and my roomie Drew had just showed up with a shoebox full of cassettes. Now, here at BourbonAndVinyl, I try to keep a very close eye on new releases from veteran acts. I scour magazines and social media but even I missed a few of these archival releases. Like the post on the Dylan Official Bootleg Series, I thought I’d compile a quick run down of these live releases. I believe, these live releases constitute as important a set of recordings as Dylan’s Bootleg Series. All of these have been remixed for MP3 or CD release.

Full disclosure – I do not own all of these. Again, the restraint thing took over. The wife would have thought I’d gone crazy. This is more of an attempt to chronicle and shine a spotlight on these recordings, in case you’ve missed them. I must say, the ones I own, sound fantastic.

1975 – Tower Theater, Philadelphia, PA – The 75 tour in support of Born To Run. I have this tour, uh, somewhat covered with other recordings, acquired in a shoebox my junior year in college. Ahem. Anyway, this is a great show from Philly. I love that “Mountain of Love” is on here, a great cover tune Bruce was still doing in those days.

1978 – The Agora, Cleveland, Ohio. This was the tour in support of Darkness On the Edge of Town. This was described by Rolling Stone magazine as Bruce’s greatest live album. This tour is where the legend was born. This show opens with a cover of “Summertime Blues”. Listen and prepare to understand the myth.

1980 – Nassau Veterans Colesium, Uniondale, NY. This tour was in support of The River, which was my first Springsteen album. He came to my hometown on this tour and my buddy, unbeknownst to me, had 2 tickets. He took somebody else because he didn’t think I was into Springsteen. I should say, ex-buddy. It was described in the paper as “the concert of the year” and it was only February. So, naturally I had to have this concert. It’s also very special as it was a New Year’s Eve show on Bruce’s home turf. This is a mind-blowing show. My bootleg experience had never covered this tour, which I consider as important as 78.

1984 – Bryndon Byrne Arena, East Rutherford, NJ. The Born In the USA Tour. What a show this was. This was the tour I first saw Springsteen. If the bootlegs had made me a convert, this tour made me a disciple. If you listen to all of these shows in chronological order, you get a sense that this show is the culmination of something. He built this live show from 75 forward, adding new material, dropping old stuff. It all starts to makes sense why he completely changed directions after this tour.

1988 – LA Sports Arena, Los Angeles, CA. The Tunnel of Love Tour. This is where the Boss, perhaps freaked out by the mega-fame he’d faced after Born In the USA, decided to try and reinvent himself and the band. He changed where they stood on stage, the set list, and the approach to the shows. I never heard much about this tour, but I love the setlist. I remember hearing they played the Amnesty International shows with Sting and others at the end of the tour which marked a decidedly political turn for Bruce. This one is on my shopping list.

2005 – Schottenstein Center, Columbus, Ohio. Devils and Dust Tour. I just found out about this show over the weekend. I purchased it immediately. This is the first recording I’ve heard of Bruce solo – no E Street Band, no band at all – just him and an acoustic guitar, harmonica, piano and what sounds like an electric piano. I love this show. Its quickly slipping into high rotation. He opens up with an obscure gem he did for a movie soundtrack, “Lift Me Up” and the set list meanders from there. Someone in the crowd interrupts Bruce as he’s leading into a tune and yells out a request, “Growing Up”. Bruce just says, “Nah, I’m not playing that one tonight…” Play what you want Boss, the deeper you go into the catalog the better. This does feature a ton of the Devils and Dust LP, so be prepared.

So there it is folks, a quick recap of Bruce’s archival Live releases. Check it out, maybe you’ll like one… or maybe like me on the Pearl Jam bender, you’ll buy them all. You can’t go wrong with any of the releases listed here.

Cheers!

Advertisements

The Faces Reunion Show for Prostate.UK, a Recap

IMG_0445

I think it’s pretty obvious if you’ve read any of BourbonAndVinyl, I’m obsessed with Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood’s former band, The Faces. How great was it to see this picture on Rod Stewart’s Twitter account of Rod, Ronnie and drummer Kenny Jones taken after their reunion show for the charity, Prostate.UK. If you look closely, you’ll spot a glass of wine in Rod’s hand… ah, just like the old days.

From what I’ve read, it appears that the Faces only rehearsed for a couple of hours before the show. They only played for about 45 minutes in what was a rough and shambolic set. Under-rehearsed, a bit sloppy and Rod has a glass of wine in his hand – so, basically a typical Faces show. 40 years down the road and nothing has changed.

The set list was brief, but man, was it great. Here’s a picture of the setlist, again taken from Rod Stewart’s twitter feed:

IMG_0444

  1. I Feel So Good – off of their second album, my favorite, Long Player, I think this song had to sum up the mood of the band.
  2. You Can Make Me Dance – one of my favorite of their songs. It was wasted as a single and wasn’t released on an album until Rod’s boxset, Storyteller
  3. Ooh La La – the title track of the Faces final album, although Rod did cover this on When We Were the New Boys as a tribute to his fallen comrade, Ronnie Lane. This song was written by Ronnie Lane, but on the album sung by Ronnie Wood. I love that Wes Anderson played this song over the credits of his movie “Rushmore”.
  4. I’d Rather Go Blind – People forget what a great blues singer Rod is. This song was off his 4th solo LP, Never a Dull Moment, but all the Faces played on it and it was a staple of Faces concerts from way back. Great selection!
  5. I Know I’m Losing You – Great Temptations cover with some mammoth drumming from Kenny Jones. Again, a Rod solo track, but the Faces backed him on this track too.
  6. Stay With Me – their biggest “hit”, although they were never a hit-single kind of band. This is probably the only Faces tune people broadly know.
  7. Sweet Little Rock ‘n’ Roller – a raucous cover of Chuck Berry from Rod’s final solo album on the  Mercury label. Again, a live staple of the Faces live sets and some of Ronnie Wood’s best guitar work.

I love the selection. An even spread between Rod tunes and Faces tunes. Just like the old days. I don’t know what this holds for future Faces reunions, but I hope it sparks something with these guys. Rod played a show a week or so later at BBC2 Live In Hyde Park and his set list included: “Ooh La La”, “I Know I’m Losing You”, “Gasoline Alley”, “Angel” (his Hendrix cover from Never a Dull Moment), and “Rollin’ and Tumblin'” an old blues cover. There were also some of his, what I consider, weaker tunes, but it does appear the Faces reunion did spark some of that old classic Rod spirit. I love both of the new songs I’ve heard from his upcoming Another Country. Fingers crossed!

Review: Keith Richards, Crosseyed Heart – The Triumphant Return of Rock’s Gypsy Pirate Outlaw

Keith-Richards-Cross-Eyed-Heart

Is there anybody in the world who personifies BourbonAndVinyl more than Keith Richards? I don’t think so. Oh yes, Crosseyed Heart is going to be in “high-rotation” here at the house for quite some time.

I remember being at my friend Jack’s place back in the late 80s/early 90’s drinking giant martinis with blue cheese stuffed olives. I’m still not sure where the blue cheese came from. Anyway, he had his Chicago pal Kurt over and we were grooving before heading out for the night. Kurt pulled out Keith’s masterpiece 1988 album Talk Is Cheap, and started dancing around the smallish kitchen to the great song “Take It So Hard”. I think he was trying to do a Mick Jagger-type move but it looked more like a white man with an overbite running in place. As he was twitching and jumping around, impressively not spilling a drop of his vodka, he looked up and shaking his head from side to side as if in a grand mal seizure, said, “This is what rock and roll is fucking all about man, good times.” Sage words, Kurt, sage words.

I know what many are thinking, Keith Richards, ugh, that voice. I’m the opposite. Like my friend Drew, I always searched the liner notes on Stones albums wondering which tune would feature Keith up front. His songs were amongst my favorite Stones tune. I always liked when I read the words “Vocals: Keith Richards” deep in the credits of a song.

Keith Richards was always a reluctant solo artist. I think he would have been content to out-live us all, simply playing Stones concerts until the end of time. Enter the 80’s and Mick decided he wanted to make music with other people. Naturally Keith didn’t take it well. Since Mick hooked up with Anita Pallenberg, after Keith had stolen her from Brian Jones, there isn’t much Mick has done that has pleased Keith. His pissed off response was to finally do a solo album. Talk Is Cheap was a true rock masterpiece. That album is the best Stones solo album, although Have My Own Album to Do by Ronnie Wood is an overlooked gem as well.

Keith returned in 1992 with Main Offender, largely with the same group he’d used on his first album, The X-Pensive Winos, but it just didn’t make as much of an impact. Maybe since the Stones had resumed he wasn’t as pissed any more. Steve Jordan was the drummer in the X-Pensive Winos and he returns here on Crosseyed Heart to drum. co-produce and co-write. They wisely brought in their old friend, session guitarist extraordinaire, and X-Pensive Wino alum Waddy  Watchel (Warren Zevon, Buckingham-Nicks, Jackson Browne, etc) to play lead guitar. Waddy and Keith meld guitars like Keith and Ronnie do. “The ancient art of weaving,” as Keith is fond of saying.

This album is a triumphant return for Keith. I heard they tinkered with it casually for a number of years. The music doesn’t feel over-produced or fussed over, it’s simply straight up Keith. It feels like a labor of love. He covers the usual waterfront the Stones cover – not just blues and rock but reggae, country, folk and heart rending ballads. If there is one criticism of Crosseyed Heart, it might be there are a few too many ballads, but Keith has always been a softy. If you look at his tracks with the Stones, there are a preponderance of ballads. The one song that loses me a bit is the rocker “Substantial Damage” but even that tune has a funky rhythm guitar that is infectious.

The rockers on this album are among Keith’s best. The first single, “Trouble”, which I commented on in a “Stray Cats” entry on BourbonAndVinyl previously sounds like an outtake from Some Girls. “Something For Nothing” and “Heartstopper” are great songs. The singular greatest track here is “Nothing On Me”, as in “the cops got nothin’ on me”. No, Keith, none of us have anything on you.

The song “Robbed Blind” is a brilliant country weeper. I can almost imagine Gram Parson, Keith’s old pal, singing this with Keith if he’d lived this long. Keith chooses to cover an older reggae song, “Love Overdue” and it’s great fun. It’s a shame Peter Tosh, Keith’s old pal didn’t live long enough to hear that one… Hey, wait a minute, I see a trend here.

There is a fabulous duet here, with Norah Jones, “Illusions”. Full disclosure – I love Norah Jones’ voice. She could sing the phone book and I’d listen. Plus, were I still a single man, I wouldn’t mind buying her an Old Fashion and seeing where that went… but I digress. I do believe after hearing “Illusions” and watching her and Keith duet on “Love Hurts” on YouTube at a Gram Parson’s tribute, Norah was born to sing duets with Keith.

On the ballads, and there are several, you must check out “Suspicious”, “Lover’s Plea” and “Just a Gift”. The songs remind of “Theif in the Night” or “Losing My Touch” a couple of recent ballads he did with the Stones. These tunes have that Sinatra-esque, closing time, baby-let-me-crash-with-you feel that I have always loved.

The album starts off with an acoustic blues number, more a sketch than a song, the title track “Crosseyed Heart”. It sounds like a lost Robert Johnson track. At the end of the track, Keith can be heard saying, “That’s all I’ve got…” I beg to differ Mr. Richards. As the rest of Crosseyed Heart proves, you have a hell of a lot more. Let’s hope Keith has saved a little for the next Stones record, which they’re rumored to be heading into the studio to record next year…

Listen Loudly and Enjoy!

Dylan’s Bootleg Series – A User’s Guide

IMG_2630

Ah, the term “bootleg.” It conjures up so many wonderful emotions. Quickly after buying my first album, Some Girls, I discovered the secret world of bootleg recordings. A bootleg, or “boot” as they’re commonly known, is a song or collection of songs an artist has recorded but not yet released. I can remember being in used record stores, in the “special” section down in the basement where albums in plain paper wrappers with curious names by my favorite artists could be found. I vividly recall slipping cash into someone’s hands in the back room of a local record store in exchange for Springsteen bootleg concert recordings.

For the longest time, I thought Springsteen was the only artist who was bootlegged in a major way. In 1978 his tour in support of Darkness On the Edge of Town was epic and widely bootlegged. It was a bit of a comeback after his legal problems after Born To Run and those radio broadcasts found their way onto cassettes and vinyl albums. On one recording, he even says, “this song will likely find it’s way to you courtesy of your local bootlegger.” I love that the original bootleggers were enterprising individuals who smuggled whiskey into the U.S. during Prohibition. The marriage of Bourbon and Vinyl goes back many years, my friends. But I’m getting off point.

It turns out Bruce wasn’t the only prolifically bootlegged artist out there. Bob Dylan was just as bootlegged, and many of his boots were studio recordings Bob hadn’t released for one reason or another. His writing was so prolific he often had more songs than he needed, so there were always leftovers. Those leftovers he didn’t release as non-album singles, which was a wide spread practice, even into the 70’s, usually stayed in the can until someone made a copy, and someone made a copy of that and so on and so on. Now, one can sympathize with the artist who isn’t receiving any renumeration for these bootlegs but at the same time much of this music needed to be heard.

Dylan, frustrated by not getting paid for his hard work finally decided to trump the bootleggers and start his own “Bootleg Series” and open up the vaults. I must say, it has been an interesting journey into his creative process. But at this point, there are 11 in the series, not including his excellent first box set, Biograph, and with literally 12 boxes out there, it can get a little confusing. As a public service to rock fans and Bob Dylan fans everywhere, it occurred to me someone should put together a “user’s guide” of sorts. Think of it as a reference document detailing this brilliant series by this brilliant artist. Hope it helps, and as always, enjoy!

Volume 0.0 – Biograph – Biograph was not a part of the Bootleg Series. Released in 1985 it literally created the market for boxed sets. There would be no Eric Clapton’s Crossroads, or Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band’s Live 1975-1985 without Dylan’s Biograph. The baby boomers were getting older and had the money to shell out for a 5 album set. I own Biograph on vinyl and I treat it like a holy talisman. It has hits, album cuts, unreleased songs, and unreleased live versions of songs. It’s not chronologically based but loosely based around either a theme or a certain style. It is what it is named – a musical biography of the man. I’d put this up against his autobiography Chronicles, any day.

Bootleg Series Volume 1 to Volume 3 – Rare and Unreleased 1961 – 1991. This box set of 3 CDs, carries on in the tradition of Biograph, and contains unreleased studio cuts. The first disc, and the beginning of the 2nd, are Dylan only accompanied by his acoustic guitar and harmonica. It’s the Dylan who took the folk music world by storm. These were songs recorded by Dylan so he could get the tune and lyrics copyrighted and sold to other artists. Even the King of Folk needs to pay the rent folks. Early in disc 2, like his career, it turns electric. The real gems here are the unreleased takes from Blood on the Tracks, the early versions of songs from that album that were recorded in NY. I’m hoping for a Bootleg Series edition for just that album some day. This is a great, very deep collection of unreleased tracks.

Bootleg Series Volume 4 – Live 1966 – The Royal Albert Hall – This is simply put, a stunning historical document. If the American Revolution had been recorded, this is what it would have sounded like. Dylan decided to go electric, hired a band known previously as the Hawks, soon to change their name to the Band (as they were derisively referred to by Dylan’s once devoted folky fans) and toured England. It was a tumultuous tour to say the least. Levon Helm, the drummer in the Hawks/Band actually quit and flew back to the States, he couldn’t take the vitriolic response of the crowds. You can hear that hostility in this recording. Dylan realized he needed to do an acoustic set to start his concerts to placate the fans. But even during the acoustic set they hiss and make disruptive noises. I haven’t seen a fan base this hostile since the Chief’s had Todd Haley as their head coach. Toward the end of the electric set, one idiot in the crowd screams “Judas”. Dylan responds with “I don’t believe you,” then turns to the band and says, “Play fucking loud.” The band tears into Like a Rolling Stone. Simply riveting.

Bootleg Series Volume 5 – Live 1975 – The Rolling Thunder Review – This volume in the series documents a really under served part of Dylan’s career. The 60’s are over, the cynical me-generation 70’s are in full swing. Dylan started hanging out with a bunch of musical refugees in the West Village in New York and they eventually started touring. It’s amazing to hear the affection the crowd now holds for Dylan… all the hostility of ’66 was gone. This tour was around the time of Desire, so there are a lot of great live versions of that album’s songs here.

Bootleg Series Volume 6 – Live 1964 – Dylan at the apex of his popularity with the folk crowds. He was their King and he’s playing in Carnegie Hall. All acoustic, folky protestor Dylan. Later in the set, his girlfriend, Joan Baez shows up to do a few duets. I realize that they were the Jay-Z and Beyonce of their time, but I’ve never been a big Baez fan. I do like that her version of Babe I’m Gonna Leave You inspired Led Zeppelin to record the song, but I could do without her here. This is a virtual love in with Dylan and his folk music following. Great live recording, though.

Bootleg Series Volume 7 – No Direction Home – This is the soundtrack to the excellent Martin Scorcese documentary of the same name. This is for the true collectors only. There are some great live takes on the classics and some great alternative versions as well. The incendiary performance from Newport when Dylan went electric with members of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band is here. Michael Bloomfield – man, how we miss you!

Bootleg Series Volume 8 – Tell Tale Signs, Rare and Unreleased 1989 – 2006. This one came as a complete surprise. This era was not exactly Dylan’s high water mark. But this 2 disc set sounds like a “lost album” from the period. There are different takes on songs released from that era that are far superior here. There are also some cuts that inexplicably didn’t get released. This was a treasure trove of unreleased material and really hangs together well for a set that spans such a wide period of time.

Bootleg Series Volume 9 – Witmark Demos – This is the only volume I do not own. Again, my thoughts, this is for serious completists only. Dylan went to the Witmark Publishing Company and recorded these demo’s to get copyrights in order to sell the songs to other artists. Everybody has to make a buck and he could’t release everything he was writing. My issue here is 2/3 of these songs are on Volume 1 and a few more are on Biograph, so this is the first Volume in the series where you see serious overlap. I have heard from a friend that the audio and remix on this set is far superior to anything previously released. He said it sounds like you’re sitting in the recording booth on a stool next to Bob. So, the set has that going for it.

Bootleg Series Volume 10 – Another Self Portrait (1969-1971)- This was as big a shock to me as Volume 8. Self Portrait, an album Dylan released at a real crossroads in his life, is his most reviled. It is often cited as an album that could have ruined his career. He quickly released New Morning, which was heralded as one of many Dylan comebacks. This box has some unvarnished versions of songs that were overdubbed for the album release, and these versions are far superior. It actually covers the period from before Self Portrait, to right after New Morning, and I feel it gives a great picture of where Dylan the artist was at that time. This is a great glimpse into his creative process.

Bootleg Series Volume 11 – Bob Dylan & The Band, The Complete Basement Tapes – This one, at 5 discs, is the motherlode. Dylan and the Band released a 2 disc set compiled from the famous sessions at Big Pink, but that set was merely an appetizer. Finally, all these years later this box has all of it. The fifth disc disintegrates into mostly song sketches vs songs, but the sound quality and the quality of the music those guys performed in that basement is like the Magna Carta of rock ‘n’ roll. They invented country-rock, roots music and reinvigorated rock ‘n’ roll in that basement. This is a master piece.

So there you have it folks, my user’s guide to the Dylan Bootleg Series. Enjoy!

Review: The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Freedom: Atlanta Pop Festival (Live)

MI0003898051

Just when I thought I was done buying Jimi Hendrix albums…..he pulls me back in.

A few weekends ago, sitting around the house with the wife on a late summer evening, just chillin as the kids say, I flip on Showtime and they’re showing a Hendrix documentary entitled “Electric Church”. It was centered around the 1970 Atlanta Pop Music Festival and Jimi’s performance there. Naturally the movie had to cover the naked, druggy aspects of the crowd, the shock of the locals (I wish Lester Maddox had run for President, how much fun would that have been?) and the horrified reaction to the hippies and their music. It reminded me a lot of what the 1974 Ozark Music Festival must have been like (see my earlier blog entry on that one). After setting up the stunned Georgia residents as a backdrop, the documentary finally got to the performance. It was a reconfigured version of The Jimi Hendrix Experience. Mitch Mitchell was still on drums, but Jimi’s pal Billy Cox was on bass and what a difference he makes. The Experience came on around midnight on July 4th, 1970 and I must say I was blown away. My wife, a Hendrix novice, but a good rock ‘n’ roll woman, turned to me and asked, “How does he make those sounds with the guitar, he’s amazing.” How does he indeed?

As usual with me, when I see a documentary like Electric Church, I run immediately to the computer to check it out on the internet. It was then I discovered there was, if you will, a soundtrack to the documentary, or more simply put, a concert album, Freedom: Atlanta Pop Festival that was just released. I love Hendrix, but I must admit, his live stuff is a bit of a blind spot for me. My Denver pal Don (*name changed to protect the guilty) saw Jimi at the Fillmore East and when they invent time travel, that’s my first stop. Naturally, I own all of Jimi’s studio albums released while he was alive – Are You Experienced, Axis: Bold As Love, and Electric Ladyland which are possibly the greatest first three albums of any artist short of the Beatles. I even own the box set anthology West Coast Seattle Boy, which has outtakes and pretty much everything I hadn’t heard before. It burrows so deeply into the archive it contains Hendrix recording covers of the Band in a hotel room with a tape recorder.

But Hendrix’s live stuff, for me, was a bit more narrow. I bought the only live album he released while he was alive, Band of Gypsies, which is fabulous, but it’s a bit of anomaly of a live album. Most live albums are bands playing established, familiar songs. Band of Gypsies on the other hand was a live album of all new material that Jimi did to fulfill a contract he’d signed on the hood of a car. It wasn’t recorded with The Experience, but his new group, the Band of Gypsies. I followed up that purchase with Live at the Fillmore East, which were the outtakes from the recordings that resulted in Band of Gypsies so once again, it was live stuff, but none of the Hendrix canon.

I finally delved into The Jimi Hendrix Experience live with the sprawling box set Winterland. It was culled from three nights of concerts in San Francisco and captures the Experience a few weeks prior to the release of Electric Ladyland. It’s awesome, but it’s like Springsteen’s Live 1975-1985 or Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers’ The Live Anthology, it’s so sprawling it doesn’t really give you the feel of an actual concert the way that some of Dylan’s bootleg series does, like Live at the Royal Albert Hall, which is just one show recorded and released, as is.

Enter Freedom: Atlanta Pop Festival. Much like the documentary that it sprang from, I was truly blown away by this show. Instead of the all new songs like Band of Gypsies, this is Hendrix playing the songs I was familiar with. It was just one epic performance. The opening salvo of Fire, Lover Man, and Spanish Castle Magic is just amazing. Hendrix is coaxing sounds out of his guitar that neither my wife nor I had ever heard before. For me, Hendrix was one of the greatest bluesmen of all time, ranking up there with Muddy and B.B. Disc 1 of Freedom has two of his most amazing blues performances I’ve ever heard committed to tape, Red House and Hear My Train a Comin’. The solo’ing on those songs may be the greatest accomplishment ever on the guitar as an instrument. Its simply mesmerizing.

I didn’t have a live version of All Along the Watchtower in my collection but he does a nice version here, although he screws up the lyrics a bit on the front end. But thats one of the things I love about a live album that’s just a single show. It’s warts and all and it makes it distinctive. Great versions of Purple Haze and Foxey Lady are here but it’s Hey Joe, Stone Free and especially the amazing, epic version of Voodoo Chile (Slight Return) that will have you reaching for the volume knob and asking, “Holy shit, is that a guitar?”

The show ends with the obligatory Star Spangled Banner, this time with actual fireworks going off in the background (see Electric Church, it’s pretty amazing imagery) which leads into a new song, Straight Ahead. After it’s over you’re left simply in awe of what The Experience – and let’s not forget Billy Cox and his aggressive bass playing and the intrepid drumming of Mitch Mitchell – could do on a steamy 4th of July in Georgia.

Do yourself a favor and pick this gem up quickly. Turn it up loud and, as always, enjoy!

Cheers!

A Farewell to Summer Drinking

IMG_1192

“In the summertime, in the sweet summertime” – Bob Seger, Night Moves

Someone asked me recently why summer ends “so early”. For most Americans summer traditionally ends on Labor Day, which I agree seems a tad arbitrary, like Easter. No one has ever, to my satisfaction, explained to me why Easter moves around the calendar like some sort of “mystery holiday”. I suspect the Catholic Church or the Illumnati might be involved, but that’s another topic. I think the bracketing of summer between Memorial Day and Labor Day probably has something more to do with city budgets and costs associated with keeping the pool open that long. Maybe since all the lifeguards are back in school everybody just agreed to call summer quits on Labor Day. According to the meteorologist summer technically end around September 21st and may have something to do with the summer solstice. Who knew weathermen were pagans. For me summer sort of ends with the kick off of the NFL football season. Any warm weather after that I like to consider “Indian Summer”, but again I’m getting off topic.

With the passing of summer, alas, comes the passing of summer drinking. When I first got out of college I spent a summer in Boston, Massachusetts working at the Food Center Liquor Store. I was a kid from the midwest and the nutty crew at the Food Center took me under their wing. The store would close around 11 pm every night and they’d go out to some local bar. About a week after starting, the guys asked me to join them on the nightly run to the bar. I politely turned them down, thinking I was getting up in the morning for something “cultural”. Usually I just sat around watching TV until it was time to report to the liquor store. In what may be the most important thing I learned that summer, Mark (*name changed to protect the guilty), one of my coworkers replied to my “no”, with these sage words, uttered in a thick Boston accent: “Ken, it’s summer (summah), you drink beer with your friends.” He then looked at me and shrugged his shoulders like he’d uttered an ancient truth and to drive home the point repeated, “It’s summer (summah).” I could see he had a point.

There is something about summertime drinking. Patios open up in bars around town and they’re quickly packed with women in short shorts. I start to see the famous Summer Shandy in the liquor store. For me, summer means clear liquors. I put away my beloved bourbon and darker beers and shift to summer wheat beers, like Blue Moon and vodka or gin. My wife rotates her closet every spring and autumn so her wardrobe is appropriate to the season. Me, I rotate the liquor cabinet. No white liquor after Labor Day, tres gauche… Even my sainted mother once said to my friend Stretch (*name changed to protect he guilty) and me, one evening when she’d invited us over for a Sunday night steak when both he and I were living in small, pathetic apartments on the Plaza, “There’s nothing more refreshing on a hot summer day than a gin and tonic.” Stretch and I got a little carried away and I recall ending the evening in an altercation with a waitress in a Plaza bar named the Grandfalloon. Such is life.

Of course, my greatest summer adventure was with my friends Matthew and Jack (*as usual, names changed to protect the guilty). It was during my college years and after working in the hot sun all day with Jack, we collected Matthew and went to a bar we’d never been to before, in Wyandotte County, One Block West. We saw an awesome rock band, the Clique, who we thought for sure were going to be huge. I still wonder what happened to those guys. Anyway, we drank an unGodly amount of beer that night, it might have been a drink and drowned (thank God those went away, even I have limits). Jack, who worked harder than I did, fell asleep at the table as was his m.o. in those days. Matthew and I were making some new friends with some ladies at the next table when that dreaded last call came. Just like in a rock song, we ended up in the massive parking lot, sitting on the hood of the girl’s car, drinking beer. If only there’d been a “soft summer rain” it would have felt like we were in a Springsteen song. Unfortunately, sleepy Jack thought we’d gotten farther along with the ladies than we had and left in the only car we had. Soon the ladies followed suit and Matthew and I were standing in a dark parking lot at 1 a.m. with no ride home.

After calling every friend we knew, on a pay phone, (yes this is ancient history), we ended up calling my rather irate father who agreed to come and get us. Our drunken problem that night, as it often was in those days, is neither of us actually knew the directions to get to the bar. Jack was the only who knew how to get there. Matthew got on the phone with my dad and gave him directions so off the mark, my dad ended up in downtown KC, MO which was in the complete opposite direction from where we were. Matthew and I laid down on a grassy patch in the parking lot, finished our beers and passed out. My father finally got to the bar and yelled for us, but we were out cold and out of sight. A car load of youths drove by and apparently menaced my father, likely they just looked at him, and he assumed we were dead. He raced home and braced himself to deliver the news to my mother, who would surely grieve the loss of her eldest son. About that time, Matthew and I woke up, and called to angrily ask “where the heck are you guys?” That didn’t go over too well. My father ordered us to go and sit by the front door until he got there. They could hear his screaming all the way down the street as we pulled away. As we neared Matthew’s mother’s house, Matthew leaned into the of front seat of my dad’s car and said, “Sir, I know I screwed up on the directions to One Block West, but I can assure you, these directions to my house are spot on.” Even my father finally laughed at that. Matthew’s name still comes up and the first thing out of my dad’s mouth is, “One Block West, summer drunks…” Such is life.

So now, I sit here on the eve of the Chiefs opening game of 2015 and I realize another summer of fun drinking times is over. So I sit with my final vodka of the season and I toast summer. I toast the Food Center Liquor Store, One Block West and all my friends. Although I must admit, whilst toasting summer, I am still wondering… how do they figure out when Easter gets scheduled?

The Faces – Had Me a Real Good Time

MI0003897054

It’s strange how a man’s “train of thought” works….

I was at yet another party tonight, it was maybe the tenth in 2 weeks, celebrating my wife’s birthday. Her birthday has become more of a festival than a birth “day”. I was sitting at the end of a very crowded table when someone who was discussing current events leaned over and asked me if I’d heard of “Operation Chokehold”. I was taken aback but responded quickly, “Hey, I’m no stranger to rough sex, I came of age in the 80’s… My safe word, was ‘umbrella’…” Well, apparently his question had something to do with a federal investigation not S&M. Oh, well, times change.

Reflecting back on such things, pleasurable things, had me thinking of what a good time it had all been. Pretty soon a song by The Faces had popped into my head, “Had Me a Real Good Time.” The lyrics seemed to resonate: “I was glad to come, I’ll be sad to leave, so while I’m here, I’ll have me a real good time…” Are these not words to live by? The Faces are probably rock n roll’s greatest overlooked band of all time. And so, sitting at this table full of friends, I began to think of the new box set that just came out, You Can Make Me Dance, Sing or Anything: 1970 to 1975. I’m not sure how I got there from my wife’s birthday, but there you have it, a man’s train of thought is a wonderful thing.

The Small Faces, not to be confused with the Faces, were formed in 1965 and consisted of Kenny Jones (drums), Ronnie Lane (bass/vocals), Ian McLagan (keyboards) and Steve Marriott (guitar/lead vocals). They were all short guys, hence the “small” in Small Faces. They had a series of hits and were very popular with the Mods, very stylish 60’s London kids. The Who were also very popular with the Mods, and Pete Townshend and Ronnie Lane were actually close friends. In 1969 Steve Marriott up and quit the Small Faces to form a new band, with twin lead guitars, with a gentlemen named Peter Frampton. Hmm, that name seems familiar. Anyway, the Small Faces were devastated. Undaunted they began to seek another front man and guitarist.

Meanwhile, in another part of London, in 1967, recently sacked Yardbirds guitar wizard Jeff Beck formed a band creatively named, The Jeff Beck Group. He found a young singer and realized that while his guitar would bring in the dudes, a good looking singer would bring in the chicks. (Jimmy Page was watching closely…see Robert Plant). He finally found his man in Rod Stewart. Yes, that Rod Stewart. On bass guitar was none other than Ronnie Wood, later of Rolling Stones fame. They had various drummers, the most lasting being Mickey Waller. Jeff Beck and the record company basically treated Rod, Ronnie Wood, and the rest of the band like ‘sidemen’ and Jeff was “mercurial” to say the least. The band was slated to play Woodstock but Jeff Beck, who was partial to fast cars, wrecked one and was injured and had to cancel. In the interim Rod Stewart recorded his first solo album in ’69, creatively named, The Rod Stewart Album. After Beck fired Wood, The Jeff Beck Group was no more.

Somehow, Ronnie Wood ended up hooking up with the remaining Small Faces, Lane/McLagan/Jones and joined, not on bass but on his true instrument, lead guitar. Rod started dropping by rehearsals, at first sitting down the hall in the control room, and finally taking the walk down the hall to join in. Suddenly the Small Faces were now The Faces. Rod and Ronnie were a head taller than the rest of the band, so “small” no longer seemed appropriate. Rod still had a solo contract with Mercury records, the first artist to actually have a dual career – in a group and solo – which would spell their doom. They released a Faces album and Rod released a solo album every year between 70 and 75.

Which leads me to the box, You Can Make Dance… which compiles all four of their original studio albums, First Step, Long Player, A Wink Is As Good As a Nod (To a Blind Horse), Ooh La La. It’s, in my mind, a companion piece to 2004’s box set Five Guys Walk Into a Bar. Five Guys Walk Into a Bar is the best box set out there, with the possible exception of Bob Dylan’s Biograph. Five Guys Walk… is the greatest snapshot of who the Faces were – it has b-sides, non album singles, album tracks, rehearsals, BBC live tracks – it’s simply brilliant. The new box set, You Can Make Me Dance… perfectly compliments that with the studio albums. Buy this on vinyl – the album covers alone are worth the price. I especially like the Ooh La La cover, when you push down on the front the guy in the top hat makes a funny face ala Terry Gilliam of Monty Python fame.

First Step was the first album by the Faces, despite being called the Small Faces on the album cover. It has the great, great songs, Three Button Hand Me Down, Flying, Shake Shudder Shiver, and the Dylan cover Wicked Messenger. Its a typical first album, but it gels perfectly. These guys had to know they were onto something magical. On this enhanced version there are several unreleased songs, mostly rehearsals and early takes but there are a few hidden gems: Behind the Sun and Mona – The Blues are amazing outtakes. Even if you have this record, those songs make this worth the purchase.

Long Player- This one is my favorite. From the opening track Bad and Ruin, which was once used on The Sopranos, to Tell Everybody and Sweet Lady Mary, this album is a stone-cold classic. I think the only reason it wasn’t more popular was because several of the tracks were recorded live – an attempt by The Faces to capture their incendiary live chemistry. There are two fabulous bonus tracks on this album in the box, both live from the Fillmore East, Too Much Woman and Love In Vain (the old Robert Johnson standard made famous by the Stones). These are great additions to the Faces canon.

A Wink Is As Good As A Nod (To a Blind Horse) – This was their best known and highest selling record. Their only “hit”, Stay With Me is on this record. Ronnie Lane turns in his best song, Debris, with a beautiful harmony by Rod. The Faces even cover Chuck Berry on Memphis. It doesn’t get much better than this album. I will say, the 2 bonus tracks here were available on Five Guys Walk Into a Bar… but this record is so perfect it doesn’t need extra track adornment.

Finally, Ooh La La. The band was in conflict. Rod’s solo career had taken off with Maggie May and Ronnie Lane, the heart and soul of this band, felt his songs were under appreciated. There was a lot of “you save your best stuff for the solo albums” talk going on. Rod was starting to check out as the hostility was too much. Keith Richards was hanging out with Ronnie and pretty soon Mick Jagger was around to coax Ronnie into the Stones after Mick Taylor bolted. All the drama aside, I love his record. The title track is pure Ronnie Lane. Silicone Grown (about fake tits) and Cindy Incidentally are Stewart/Wood classic compositions. If I’m on the Late Side may be one of Rod’s best songs. Of the bonus tracks, John Lennon’s Jealous Guy, a Faces live staple, from 1973’s Reading Festival is the standout bonus track.

My advice – if you haven’t bought Five Guys Walk Into a Bar, do so immediately. My further advice, buy this one first. Start with these great 4 studio albums, plus bonus tracks and build to the other box set. Rod Stewart was at his creative zenith with these guys and the pay off with this band is worth it.

Tonight, or rather last night in England, Ronnie Wood, Kenny Jones and Rod got together and played a concert for charity, to raise money for prostate cancer in the UK. It’s the first time the Faces, with Rod Stewart, have played together since the late 80s. I’ve prayed for this reunion for years. Sadly, Ronnie Lane and Ian McLagan have passed away. But the rest of the lads got up and bashed away tonight. I can only hope someone had a tape recorder. And maybe, just maybe Rod will finally put the money aside and record some new music with his old mates before it’s too late. Regardless of whether they ever do anything together again… listening to the Faces…well, I had me a real good time….