Bob Seger’s KC 1980 Concert, Jack Daniels, & My Mom’s Knee

MI0002269744

My wife signed us up at a gym a few years ago. I was perfectly content to continue working out in our basement, all by myself. Such is my reclusive nature these days. Admittedly it’s been a great experience for my wife, she’s met people and made friends. For me, not so much. I keep running into people from all stages of my sketchy past: grade school, high school, college, even my current job. Talk about a motivation killer. I actually forced myself to go out there yesterday and I found myself staring vacantly at a TV screen blaring some young chick’s video. My wife startled me back to reality with the curt question, “What are you staring off into space for, you need to use that machine or move…” I hadn’t really been focused on the video, I had just seen someone I think I dated in high school. It ended badly (my fault). I mumbled a reply to my darling wife, “I’m just watching this Taylor Swift video…” She crinkled up her nose, “Honey, that’s not Taylor Swift, that’s Beyonce.” I thought everything was Taylor Swift these days… Oh, well.

Seeing someone at the gym I knew when I was in high school had me thinking. Music just seemed more dangerous back then. Punk had come and gone, new wave was big. Concerts were major events. They involved planning and cunning. You had to come up with the cash for the tickets, gas money, and most importantly booze. I couldn’t help but let my mind wander back to October 23rd, 1980 and the Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band show I saw that night. Seger was touring in support of his seminal album, ‘Against the Wind’ and my buddy Brewster (name changed to protect the guilty) and I were stoked to see him. Unlike the Springsteen concert later the next year, Brewster actually called me on this one. It was my first Seder show.

About a week before the show, we discovered a liquor store with an elderly cashier. He wouldn’t ask you for your I.D. he’d do this weird stare-you-in-the-eye thing. I was tall as a kid. I went to bed one night at 5 feet and seemingly woke up the next day over 6 feet tall, that’s how quick my growth spurt was. So I always drew the short straw and had to be the guy who went into the liquor store. My practically terminal acne couldn’t have helped… I had twice defeated the “stare-down” test. I believe I could now beat a lie detector because of this cooky old cashier. There was always more pressure to make the buy when it was for a concert.

The night of the show, I pulled out the flask sized bottle of Jack Daniels we’d purchased the previous weekend and stuffed it into the front of my pants. I pulled out the t-shirt and flannel shirt I had on and covered the bottle. I just had to clear about 15 minutes in the living room with my mother, my dad was out of town, and it’d be off to Kemper Arena to see Bob Seger. Fuck yeah! There was just something about Jack Daniels and rock and roll. I had seen the iconic pics of Jimmy Page swilling the stuff backstage at a Zeppelin show. There was a photo of Mick and Keith huddled around a bottle of Jack Daniels while recording ‘Exile On Mainstreet’. Oh yes, I was carrying the rock and roll flame. Even if I was carrying it hidden in my crotch. The top of the bottle stuck out where my belly button was but I just pulled out my shirt a little more and folded my arms, like I was hiding an unwanted hard-on in math class (we’ve all been there).

I sauntered down to the living room like Paul Newman in “The Sting”. I was a gangster. I was one with Mick & Keith. The TV was on in the living room and my mother, always an anxious woman, was bounding around the house. She was cooking dinner for my brother and racing into the living room to see the show. I wasn’t really focused on her, she was more of a blur around the house. Suddenly, she was standing beside me, in front of the TV. There was a woman in tights and gym clothes moving around the screen to some awful music. I thought she was having a televised seizure. My mother exclaimed, “Oh, Jazzercise, I love this…” I couldn’t help but mutter, “Ma, you wanna be careful here…” But before I knew what was happening my mother was doing a jerky imitation of what was happening on the screen. My mother had gone from cooking dinner and pestering me to exercising with little to no warm up. There was no way this was going to end well… I just kept thinking, at least she’s distracted. That’s when I heard the loud “pop” noise followed by a blood curdling scream from my sainted mother. Yep, she’d blown her ACL. She crumpled to the ground like a rag doll. I was going to bend over to help her up, but I had a bottle of Jack Daniels crammed down my pants.

She was frantic and I wasn’t much better. I knew I had to do something or I was going to miss the concert. This was Bob Fucking Seger, ma. My buddies were supposed to pick me up any minute. I didn’t want to leave my mom laying on the floor, but she was sort of forcing my hand. I quickly called the neighbor lady, my mom’s best friend. She could hear my mother caterwauling in the background and she suggested I call an ambulance. Jesus, how was I gonna pull this off? No one told me that when you call for an ambulance, the cops come. That information might have altered my strategy. Within minutes I had two cop cars in front of the house and a cop in my living room, standing over my mother. I stood, with my arms folded in front of the Jack, next to the cop, over my prostrate mother. “So, your mom says you’re gonna see Seger tonight?” I wanted danger, here it was…”Well, yeah Officer Friendly, I’m kind of a music nut…” He was eyeballing me like I was a “person of interest”. We continued to make small talk until my little brother finally emerged from upstairs to see what all the flashing lights were about. I was soaked in sweat. I had visions of the cop realizing I had whiskey in my pants, (and on my breath, I’ll admit I’d sampled the fire water) and going berserk with his night stick, beating me about the head and shoulders until I was laying next to my mother on the ground. With my brother now engaged with “the heat” I slowly moved outdoors to the front porch. The ambulance had finally arrived and was in the driveway. I waved meekly, while holding the Jack with my other hand. I looked like I had an upset stomach…

It was at that moment that Brewster’s car pulled up. I lived on a cul-de-sac. He was literally on top the two cop cars before he knew what was happening. I could see the look on his face – half questioning, half utter terror. If I’d lived on a through street he’d probably have kept driving. Although since I was holding the whiskey, I had some leverage. I immediately bounded off the front porch. I pointed to the front door for the EMTs and said, “She’s in there, I have to go now…” With my head bowed and my hands on my stomach I raced for the car and practically dove into the front seat. Brewster slowly turned the car around and then raced out of my neighborhood.

I felt awful for leaving my mother, but man what a concert that was. Buzzed on adrenaline and Tennessee sipping whiskey I was blown away by Seger. He opened with “Nine Tonight” and I was in rock and roll heaven. By the time he played the guitar solo in “Her Strut”, mid-concert, we’d abandoned our lower balcony seats and headed for the floor. We slipped past security and made it up to the stage in time for “Let It Rock” the monster encore. Drew Abbott, a true unsung hero guitarist in rock music, stood in front of me and destroyed his guitar solo. When the show was over, Brewster and I just stood there passing the Jack, as people filed out and the roadies took the stage. I had suddenly remembered my poor, frail mother, lying on the floor, when suddenly to my right a blonde woman had pulled up her shirt to reveal her two lovely breasts to the roadies in an attempt to get back stage. They were the first boobs I’d ever seen at a concert. I thought I’d died and ascended to Nirvana. All thoughts of familial loyalty fluttered from my adolescent mind.

Now that’s danger…

Rock and Roll and Jack Daniels… They belong together. Do you have a concert story to share? Comment and I’ll post it.

Be careful out there folks… Beware of any exercising mothers… Stretch out ladies…. and as always, Cheers!

Advertisements

Springsteen’s Winter-Storm Jonas Gift: Thank You Bruce

2016_01_19 Chicago, IL

 When Winter Storm Jonas rolled through the Northeast last weekend, wreaking havoc, one of the by-products was the cancellation of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band’s concert at Madison Square Garden Sunday, January 24th. As a free gift to make up for the cancellation Bruce released his previous show ‘Chicago January 19th’ as a free MP3 download for a two day period. Naturally I jumped on that gift, and let me say, Thank you Bruce. I’ve already written about Springsteen’s archival downloads in another blog post, but I’m not sure if I mentioned he’s now releasing every show as a live download through his website like Pearl Jam has been doing for 15 years or so. I downloaded his Capetown, South Africa show from his last tour. He finally found a way to beat the bootleggers. Springsteen and the E Street Band are out on the road to support last year’s box set ‘The Ties That Bind’ which celebrates the anniversary of Bruce’s epic double album, ‘The River’. I would be writing about ‘The Ties That Bind’ but there was a mix up at Christmas and despite the box set being at the top of my Christmas list, here I sit in January with no present. Apparently it’s “on it’s way”. Sigh, Christmas…

As part of this tour Bruce is performing ‘The River’ in it’s entirety, from start to finish. Ah, the album playback-centric concert. It can be dicey. Playing an album as it was released can often produce mixed results. I saw Motley Crue do ‘Dr Feelgood’ a few years back and left disappointed. I saw the Cult do ‘Love’ and ‘Electric’ and those shows were amazing. Of course the Cult is a hard rock band (and could really be defined across genre’s) so there is a cohesion on those records that lend themselves to a concert treatment. Of course, for the ‘Electric’ show I was drinking vodka with the Rock Chick and my buddy Stormin’ in Denver and I actually got a VIP package and met the band so that may have influenced my feelings about that show.

‘The River’ was my first Springsteen album purchase. I grew up in the suburbs of Kansas City, in Kansas so Springsteen was a bit foreign to me. He didn’t get a ton of airplay out here. I had only recently switched my radio from Royals’ games to KY/102 the lone rock station in town. I’d heard some Bruce but wasn’t that familiar with him. “Hungry Heart” was literally the first “hit” he had out here. I can still remember standing in the record store, the smell of incense in the background clutching the double vinyl album wondering if it was worth the investment. A double album in those days could be close to $15 which was a fortune on a lawn mower/bus boy wage. In those days, if I liked the first single on an album I’d wait until I heard a second then a third song. If I liked all three it was deemed “purchase-worthy”. What can I say, cash was in short supply when you spent half of it on beer and gas. I can say, all these years later, thankfully I made the buy.

I remember the jolt I got when the needle found the groove and “The Ties That Bind,” the opening track, jumped out of the speakers. It was like a jolt of amphetamine. I realized I’d made a very sound investment. Springsteen had been kept out of the studio for 4 years after ‘Born to Run’ and then had been very selective on what he put out on ‘Darkness On the Edge of Town’ so he had a back log of great songs that he’d been playing live (and being bootlegged) for some time. He had originally submitted a single album but wisely pulled it back in favor of this sprawling, masterpiece. Over the course of 20 songs the Bruce and the E Streeters do everything – rockers, rockabilly, ballads, politics, love, breakups, a wreck on the highway, literally everything. Every double album that comes along gets compared to ‘The White Album’ but this one may actually earn that description. The title track to ‘The River’ is one of Springsteen’s finest achievements as a songwriter: he captures the political ramifications of an economic downturn in the most personal way, and it’s much more effective for it.

It appears on this tour Bruce is opening with a song from ‘The Ties That Bind’ box, “Meet Me In the City Tonight”. How did this song not see proper release long ago? I can only hope that some day I’ll actually get my Xmas gift and hear the studio version (Damn you Santa). “Meet Me In the City” is an awesome opener. It just shows the depth and quality of the material Bruce was writing at that time. From there the E Street Band takes you through ‘The River’ in it’s entirety. It’s an amazing start to this concert (and I do mean “start” the show is 3 1/2 hours long). ‘The River’, with the way the album was paced, is a great album to play in concert. It’s music and moods are varied enough to withstand a concert treatment. Bruce tells a nice story before “Independence Day” which was a song I listened to constantly in my “angry-at-my-father” stage of life (does everybody go through that?). “Drive All Night” may be my favorite Springsteen love song. “Baby, I’d drive all night, just to buy you some shoes” is the line that always gets me and the way my wife buys shoes ended up being somewhat prophetic for me.

After they complete ‘The River’ album playback, it’s party time. I’ve looked at the set lists from other shows and they vary wildly. On the ‘Chicago’ show he plays several songs from ‘Born to Run’ and ‘Born In the USA’ (including “Cover Me”, “Dancing in the Dark” and “No Surrender” where Bruce blows the intro twice). He also plays “Human Touch” a song I’ve never heard live and was surprised to hear. Bruce even does a nice acoustic/violin version of “Take It Easy” as a tribute to Glenn Frey which is understated and powerful (although I would have loved one of Bruce’s patented pre-song stories about, say, Warren Zevon and Frey and he hanging out, but those records are probably sealed). After a towering run through “Rosalita” the party comes to an end with the old R&B tune, “Shout”. I’ve heard Springsteen, Billy Joel, and Tom Petty all do this song, and frankly no one will ever top Otis Day and at the Knights from the movie “Animal House” but the E Street Band do a great version.

The vocals on this live show are right up front. The Capetown show I purchased, the vocals were down in the mix, which was disappointing. Not so on this album, the sound is terrific. Since Clarence Clemons passed away Bruce has augmented the band with an entire horn section. For ‘The River’ Tour he’s paired it down to only Jake Clemons, The Big Man’s nephew. I must say, I was impressed with Jake’s playing. No one will ever play with the distinct power of Clarence, but his nephew does him proud. I like this stripped down version of the horn section. I am also very happy to see Bruce’s wife Patti back on rhythm guitar and vocals, she’s been missing the last couple of tours. Little Steven, who co-produced ‘The River’ is up front and appears to have replaced Clarence as Bruce’s main on-stage foil. I think we all love Little Steve, so this is good news. The sound of this recording is really great.

I don’t think ‘Chicago January 19th’ is still being offered for free, but it’s certainly worth the purchase price. My advice is to look at the set lists for his different shows, pay particular attention to the songs after song 21 where ‘The River’ concludes and pick the set of tunes you like. This is an epic tour and it appears Bruce is working on yet another “solo” project so it may be a while before you hear the whole band perform together again. Fans of “Live Music” recordings, look no further.

Enjoy and as always, Cheers!

After The Thrill Is Gone – RIP Glenn Frey

Glenn5_zps8d8936b7

**picture taken houseofhair.com

It’s been a tough couple of weeks here at BourbonAndVinyl. While I was not a huge Motorhead fan, I understood the influence and importance of Lemmy. Then Scott Weiland overdosed. I was shocked that happened, but I have to admit I was not surprised. Sad, but true. Then Bowie passed after dropping the brilliant “Blackstar” and everything turned upside down. I was up in Minneapolis this week, sitting in my hotel room, when Lester Holt announced Glenn Frey of the Eagles had died. It was at that exact moment my buddy B.J. texted to tell me the sad news. Coincidentally my wife texted me shortly after to tell me that Don Henley had died. Sigh… Well, the Rock Chick, like the Big Lebowski, was never an Eagles fan. The next thing I know, I’m reading on-line that Rolling Stone thinks “classic rock” as we know it may be “over”. Well, at least coming to a sad end.

It’s a new thing for me that people I know contact me when rock stars die. My passion for classic rock music and this blog probably have a little to do with that. I had several friends I hadn’t heard from in years contact me after Bowie, because they knew how much he meant to me (and to everybody). Frankly, I welcome everybody’s comments/shared grief when this stuff happens. Music conjures powerful memories. I was thrilled and surprised to hear from an old high school friend of mine, Brewster, when Glenn Frey passed…Brewster was a dear friend but he saw Springsteen on “The River” Tour and didn’t take the time to call me and ask if I wanted in and apparently did the same on “The Long Run” Tour. There was also a Who tour we were supposed to go to together, but for legal reasons, I can’t go into the details.

He said, “The one and only time I ever saw The Eagles was in Kansas City at Kemper Arena Circa 1980… Pretty sure (it was) “The Long Run” Tour. I remember the opening song was “Hotel California” and it was awesome, as was the entire show. Glenn Frey wore a Royals’ jersey with “Frey”on the back (Jim Frey was or had recently been the Royals’ manager). Kept thinking over time, I would make a point of seeing them again. (Now,) if that ever were to happen, it couldn’t be the same, obviously.”

In his defense, after not inviting me to some great concerts in the ’79-’80 era, at least Brewster had the kindness to say, “Anyway, assumed you would be reflecting – if not lamenting – upon these losses, and just wanted to briefly share a couple of memories.” I appreciate the sentiment. And like I said, I’m getting a lot of these notes/texts these days. If you feel the same folks, let me know by commenting.

The Eagles were a divisive group almost from the start. Hell, even in my own house, my wife hates the Eagles. Gram Parsons, who helped inspire the Eagles brand of hybrid country-rock described them a “plastic dry fuck”. I’m not sure what that is, but it certainly doesn’t sound pleasant. They were criticized as soulless craftsmen but their music sold in the millions and is woven into the fabric of our lives. I can’t help but think that there has/had to be a bit of jealousy involved in all this criticism. Sure, they lived like debauched French royalty, but they sang about it like they regretted it. Haven’t we all been there? I once predicted my tomb stone would read, “Party, Party, Party, Regret, Regret, Regret”.

Glenn Frey’s voice was amazing. That’s one thing about the Eagles that is beyond reproach – those harmonies. He was friends with Bob Seger from the early days and played a brilliant guitar solo on Seger’s hit “Till It Shines”. His nickname was “The Lone Arranger” for the brilliant way he could produce a song out of an idea. Listen to “Take It Easy” by the Eagles and Jackson Browne and you’ll hear the “secret sauce” that Frey brought to a song.

When I heard the news, the first song I put on was “After the Thrill Is Gone”, which was one of those beautiful Frey duets with Henley that define the Eagles. It expresses that amazing longing and jaded regret that was the Eagles stock and trade. “Best of My Love” wasn’t a cheesy song about loving your gal, it was an admission that you’d fucked up and you were going to try harder. Sometimes their craftsmanship may have confused some of those who weren’t listening closely. The second song I put on was “It’s Your World Now” which was posted on the Eagles website and is a beautiful epitaph for Glenn. Then I listened to Glenn’s great duet with B.B. King “Driving Wheel”. I love when rock stars sing the blues. It’s the root of where everything comes from. What struck me was Glenn’s diverse abilities – the guy could sing anything.

The Eagles have been around my whole life. I remember going over to my high school girlfriend’s house after school. Her parents both worked and we’d raid their liquor supply and do what high school kids do… She only owned 2 records, The Knack (horrendous) and “Hotel California”. I can’t hear that song without hearing the skip on her album during the phrase, “On a dark des-des-desert highway…”

I didn’t see the Eagles until 1995 on the “Hell Freezes Over” tour. It was a driving rain that night and I was standing on the lawn of a huge amphitheater with a trash bag over my head when Glenn Frey stepped forward. The Eagles were supposed to play the previous October but had to cancel because of Frey’s intestinal problems (who knew, even then, how serious the issues were). The April date I saw them was the make-up concert. Ever charming, Frey said, “Sorry about the original show being delayed, totally my fault. Sorry about the weather, not my fault.” I had recently gone through a break up with a woman who I later realized was a sociopath (again, who hasn’t been there) and that night, in the rain, listening to the Eagles sing the song “Learn to Be Still” was the first night I’d felt happy and free of all the crazy in a long time. It was a fabulous concert.

A few years back the Eagles put out “The Long Road Out of Eden” a double CD. Like all double albums there was probably a fantastic single album in there somewhere. I still love that album, despite a few too many Timothy B. Schmidt songs. I kept hoping that they’d put their personal issues aside and put out some more new music. Alas, that appears to be  a non-starter now. There are no Eagles without Glenn Frey.

As I find myself saying too much these days, my condolences to Mr. Frey’s family and friends. My condolences to all Eagles fans out there -and remember there are a lot more of us out here than you think. Classic Rock has lost another giant but I certainly don’t think the medium is dead or dying. Hang in there folks, it’s a dark ride. Tonight, I forgo my usual wintertime Bourbon and perhaps, just this once, I’m having a Tequila Sunrise.

Cheers!

The BourbonAndVinyl Essential Old School Double Vinyl Albums

IMG_1192

I was in Indy last spring for a wedding with some people associated with my wife. Some were friends, some were relatives, but the line was sort of blurry. Well, everything was sort of blurry that weekend. The wedding was a hippy-esque affair, performed outside, which I considered dicey in the Indy springtime. It was one of the few receptions where a “pub crawl” was part of the plan. As the drunken brawl raged on that March Saturday, I reached out to another friend of mine, B.J. He lives in Indy and I’d always promised if I was in town I’d give him a call. I never dreamed he’d actually join us at the bar at 10 pm on a Saturday night, but sure as I was (barely) standing there, in he walked a few minutes after I’d texted him. B.J. is a tea-totaller (and there’s nothing wrong with that…) and the crowd I was with was a rather rough and tumble herd. I think one of the guys might have been a biker (not that there’s anything wrong with that). I had been quietly cultivating that relationship all day. You never know when shit is going to break out on a pub crawl.

B.J. is an extraordinarily smart guy. One of the most erudite, well-read, well-traveled guys I’ve ever met. He strolled in and immediately I felt the fear rise up in my chest. He had those leather patches on the elbows of his cable sweater. He looked like a college professor who’d taken a wrong turn and had inadvertently walked into the seedy bar we were in to ask directions to the nearest coffee house, “uh, I’m late for a poetry reading”. I kept thinking, “Well, this will be fine, I’ll just keep myself between B.J. and the drunks… I’ll be the Chinese wall…” Almost immediately after his arrival, since he’s a very gregarious guy, he turned and started to introduce himself to the crowd arrayed around the bar table we’d commandeered. With his hands folded in front of him, like he was praying, he turned to address the entire table, “Well, I have to tell you folks, my wife and I were on the verge of finishing our binge-watching of “Downtown Abbey” when Ken contacted me. It was hard to pull away from that upstairs/downstairs drama, but here I am.” You could have heard a pin drop. I figured no one at that table had ever heard of “Downtown Abbey”. It was then that the biker looked up at B.J. and said, “Oh, I love that show. Don’t say anything, I’m still in season 2.” Turns out he was an architect. You just never know what’s going to happen in a bar.

My buddy B.J. loves rock and roll “lists”. “Ken, who are the best rock drummers, from American based bands, from the 70’s?” Uh, I don’t know. Over the past few months, the wife has decided we were going to sell the house and “downsize”. So I’ve been going through the process of moving which always includes throwing stuff out. Books, clothes, furniture, nothing is sacred from my wife’s pruning. Well, nothing except my albums. I spent the weekend gingerly packing my vinyl LPs into plastic, waterproof boxes, surrounded by egg crate stuffing and styrofoam peanuts. You’d think I was transporting an organ, I’ve taken so much care with these things. Mind you, I’ve endured the glaring stares of my wife during this entire process. However, I managed to stay firm. You have to draw a line in marriage or you’ll end up moving and “downsizing” before you’re ready… Hey, wait a minute.

As I began to look at these albums, I found myself pausing over the heavier, double albums I had purchased back in the day. Man, a double album meant commitment. When I first started buying albums from my meager busboy wages, a single record was $5.99 but a double album, that was over 12 bucks. So a double album had to be by an artist you trusted and had to be a major statement. With the advent of the CD the double album went the way of the Dodo. Ah, I still love to hold the album sleeve, typically a gatefold, where the herbal enthusiasts amongst us used to clean their pot. So, for my friend B.J., who loves rock and roll lists, here is the BourbonAndVinyl list of essential double-albums, that every music enthusiast needs to own. I’m not a completist, but you really should own each of these records as a start. Underscore the word, “records”, i.e. vinyl. These are in no particular order except perhaps the order I put them in the hermetically sealed moving package….I only included double studio albums. Live albums are not included, nor are albums that are a blend of live/studio stuff like “Eat a Peach” or “Rattle and Hum”.

  1. The Beatles – “The Beatles” (aka The White Album) – The Beatles came out of their psychedelic period and released this amazing, tour-de-force double album. What don’t they do here. George Harrison’s songs are some of his finest, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, “Piggies”. As has oft been written, this was a sound of four musicians growing apart rather than the broad artistic statement it was treated as upon it’s release. John had started bringing Yoko into the sessions. It’s easy to blame Yoko for the Beatles’ break up, but let’s remember, it’s guy code – the gang before the chicks…
  2. Bob Dylan – “Blonde On Blonde” – His magnum opus. Shortly after this album Dylan (purportedly) had a motor cycle accident and disappeared. What I love about this album is how bluesy it is. Dylan never gets credit for his wonderful blues. Lyrically and musically Dylan would never be stronger, with the possible exception of “Blood on the Tracks”.
  3. The Jimi Hendrix Experience – “Electricladyland” – I loved “Are You Experienced” but I thought “Axis: Bold As Love” suffered from the usual sophomore issues… recorded too quickly after the first album etc. Don’t get me wrong, “Axis” is amazing but “Electricladyland” is Hendrix’s Sistine Chapel. The 15 minute “Voodoo Child” is his most masterful blues tune and boasts organ by Steve Winwood.
  4. The Rolling Stones – “Exile On Main Street” – The product of the famous recording session in Keith’s mansion Nellcote on the French Riviera. There have so many albums after this one, based on the Stones template. It’s my favorite album and my favorite band. This was the final album in what was considered their “golden”, Mick Taylor period.
  5. The Who – “Tommy” – Pete Townshend’s first rock opera. I’m always surprised that it wasn’t until “Tommy” that the Who broke in America. Their first three albums were all amazing. They had a virtuoso bass player, drummer and guitarist. No one paints a soundscape the way Pete Townshend does with his guitar. If you listen to “The Who Sell Out” you knew Pete was into the concept album. Who knew he’d take it to an art form with “Tommy”?
  6. Derek and the Dominos – “Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs” – Eric Clapton, desperately in love with his best friend’s wife… Oh, and his best friend is Beatle George Harrison. Fiction writers can’t come up with stuff like this. This is one of the consummate blues-rock albums of all time. “Key to the Highway”, “Have You Ever Loved a Woman” and “Tell the Truth” are some of Clapton’s most inspired performances. Just to up the ante, he brought in Duane Allman of the Allman Brothers to play co-lead. Guitar heaven.
  7. Manassas (Stephen Stills) – “Manassas” – Bill Wyman, bassist for the Rolling Stones flew out to join the recording sessions for this one-off supergroup recording and was reported to have said, something like, “if I was going to quit the Stones it’d be to join Manassas”. Clapton once claimed he wanted to join the Band, so who knows. Each side is dedicated to a different type of sound, rock/blues/country/folk. There are Latin rhythms all over this thing. This is a must have for CSNY fans.
  8. George Harrison – “All Things Must Pass” – After years of his output being suppressed by John & Paul, George released not a double album, but a triple album. Though to be fair, side four is all jam sessions. He brought in Phil Specter to produce and the musicians that eventually became Derek & The Dominos as his backing band. His version of Dylan’s “If Not For You” is definitve.
  9. Miles Davis – “Bitches Brew” – I know this is a jazz album and not a rock album. I also know that I am not smart enough for jazz. But this album, only six tunes in length is amazing. Apparently influenced by Jimi Hendrix, Miles brought a bunch of musicians in and said, “Let’s jam”. This guy is on a whole other level.
  10. The Who – “Quadrophenia” – The second rock opera from Townshend. I actually like this album better than “Tommy”. It simply rocks harder. “The Real Me”, “Love Reign O’er Me”, and “5:15” are all part of rock’s canon now. The concept may be vague to US audiences, but let’s face it, all rock opera storylines are… odd.
  11. Stevie Wonder – “Songs In the Key of Life” – This album is the final record in what can only be described as Stevie’s greatest creative period, ’72-76. There isn’t a bad song on this album. Its political but soulful enough to dance to. “Sir Duke” for Duke Ellington is a definite highlight.
  12. Led Zeppelin – “Physical Graffiti” – Zeppelin’s entry into the “great bands do double albums” category. “Kashmir”, “Ten Years Gone” and “Trampled Under Foot”. What couldn’t these guys do. One of my favs from Zep.
  13. Elton John – “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” – I saw Elton in ’82 and he opened with “Funeral For a Friend/Loves Lies Bleeding” and I couldn’t help but wish, please just keep playing all of “Yellow Brick Road”. A sprawling, brilliant masterpiece.
  14. The Clash – “London Calling” – I heard Elvis Costello once say, “The Clash were different on the first two or three records, but after that it was just Joe Strummer’s record collection.” Well, if he meant “London Calling”, Joe had quite a record collection. The only hit was a song they almost left off the album, “Train In Vain”. That’s how strong this album is, they almost left the single off.
  15. Fleetwood Mac – “Tusk” – This album always got panned as a disappointment because it only sold 4 million copies vs Rumors 20 million. What are you gonna do? Heavily influenced by the punk movement Lindsey took the band on a huge left turn. This is still one of my favorite Fleetwood Mac albums.
  16. Bruce Springsteen – “The River” – the first Springsteen album I ever bought. I was nervous when I bought it as I only knew a hand full of singles from the Boss… This album did not disappoint me. Like all double albums it was a bit of a mess but all the songs here are great. “Point Blank”, “You Can Look But You Better Not Touch” and “Ramrod” are all great album cuts. After spending so much time in legal limbo after “Born to Run” Springsteen and a glut of material and thankfully he withdrew the single album version of this record and came out with a double album. The title track was his most political to date – he was able to communicate politically by making the song so personal.
  17. Pink Floyd – “The Wall” – Roger Waters’ masterpiece. Although he owns the rights to “The Wall” and was the principal creative force behind the stage show, it never would have gotten off the ground without the soaring guitar of David Gimour. I spent hours of my high school years listening to this. I always thought the line, “you can’t have any pudding if you don’t eat your meat” was “you don’t get any pussy if you don’t beat your meat” which was music to a high schooler’s ears.
  18. Prince – “1999” – Forget about the hits, “1999”, “Delirious” and “Little Red Corvette” this is an awesome album start to finish. This album has that Hendrix-y guitar married to funk that is mind blowing. There would be no “Purple Rain” without “1999”. I defy you to put on “D.M.S.R” and not dance around the room.

There you go folks. Head out to a record store and start collecting… Enjoy and as always, Cheers!

The Loss of a Titan: Bowie, #RIPBowie

MI0003984264

As the saying goes, this one is gonna leave a mark. Or perhaps better said, this loss is going to leave a void.

The world lost a Titan of rock and roll over the weekend with the passing of David Bowie. I was shocked and saddened when my dearest, oldest friend texted me early Monday morning to give me the news. “I read the news today, oh boy…” I had several friends call or text me about the loss to see how I was handling it. I once wrote a letter to Rolling Stone magazine on a cover article they’d done on Bowie during his 10 year “hiatus” from recording (prior to “The Next Day”) which was published in the next issue. Thus, my fandom of Bowie was somewhat more “public”. I had purchased “Blackstar” his brilliant, and alas final, album on Friday to review in this very blog. The words “hauntingly beautiful” were already on the tip of my tongue but with Bowie’s passing, the emphasis may be on the hauntingly part. Monday night, I poured a glass of fine bourbon, put on “Hunky Dory” and closed my eyes, focusing all my attention on that voice.

Oddly I saw part of the Golden Globes on Sunday night, something I rarely watch. I saw Tom Hanks present an award to Denzel Washington. One of the things that stuck with me from Hanks’ speech was that the greatest of the great only need one name. Bogart, Brando, Nicholson, DeNiro… the list went on. It was a great point and frankly, could just as easily be applied to the greats of rock and roll: Mick, Keith (or Keef if you’d rather), John, Paul, George & Ringo, Elton, Ozzy, Rod, Bruce, and of course, Bowie. He was a true genius, innovator, musical chameleon, unpredictable artist. He was the Pablo Picasso of rock. He was the King of Glam rock and the inventor of several other genres. He could play guitar, keyboards, and saxophone. He produced and helped the careers of Lou Reed, Stevie Ray Vaughn and Iggy Pop. He was a fashion icon and an accomplished actor. I won’t go into the mime thing, but yes he was a mime. This has all been said in countless articles. The one thing I fail to see mentioned – the guy’s music simply Rocks. Is there any other artist who has dabbled in as many different styles and done so on such a successful level? I think not. He experimented with many forms of music, but what always brought it home for me was that amazing voice. He could do so much with his vocal instrument – even in the context of one song – that most singers can’t do in a career.

I think the thing that made Bowie so universally revered is that he was the champion of the outcast. He sang a lot of songs about outer space and his most famous persona was that of an alien rock star from another planet. For me, that was all just metaphor for feeling out of place. He made all outcasts feel welcome. Who hasn’t spent part of their teenage years feeling that exact way, like an outcast. He was an early hero to the LGBT community and championed black music on MTV. He was the first artist who was widely popular who said, in essence, “it’s ok to think what you think, fuck who you fuck, and dress how you dress…It’s ok to be different or weird.”

I was in high school before I was even aware of Bowie. 20/20 News Magazine on ABC did a spot on his newest album, “Scary Monsters” and they played parts of the video from “Ashes to Ashes”. It was a trip-y, arty video where Bowie was wandering on some alien landscape, followed by chicks dressed as nuns. Oh, and he was dressed like an alien Pagliacci, the sad clown. He was the first artist, with the possible exception of Black Sabbath, who scared the shit out my parents. They were watching the video scratching their heads. “Was he on drugs?”, or worse in their minds, “Is he gay?” Or “Perhaps both?” It was thrilling to see my parents that freaked out. “Scary Monsters” was immediately purchased and brought into the house and played loudly. Nobody put on any make-up or a dress (we were lower case rebels, not “Rebel Rebel”material, it was Kansas after all), but the folks kept a closer eye on my brother and I.

When I was in college the awful movie “Cat People” came out and I bought the soundtrack only to hear Bowie’s title track. It remains in high rotation to this day. That led me to “Let’s Dance” his then current album which sent me hurdling through his catalog. “Hunky Dory” remains a favorite. “Ziggy”, “Aladdin Sane” and “Young Americans” and the Berlin Trilogy soon followed. Only the Beatles have a varied back catalog like Bowie. “Station to Station” is one my favorite albums, although the critics will tell you it was a “transitional” album for Bowie.

Shortly after college I lost touch with Bowie. I’d hear an occasional single but he got stuck trying to replicate the success of “Let’s Dance” and hit a bit of a slump. It wasn’t all bad, “I’m Afraid of Americans” is another fantastic song that I still play to scare my daughter. As the past century came to a close Bowie started to work with long time collaborator Tony Visconti again and put out a trio of albums that I absolutely loved. I totally reconnected with Bowie. It all began with “Hours” which was sadly ignored. “Heathen” followed up in 2002 and it is a stone cold, late career classic. “Reality” came a year later and was equally as strong. I was lucky enough to see Bowie on the “Reality” tour and he actually played “Station to Station”. I almost pissed myself. The wife, who prefers shorter songs, was not as impressed. Oh well. I am so thankful to have gotten to see him live. He was as charismatic a live performer as I’ve ever seen.

Those albums, what I’d call the “Late Career Trilogy” was widely and wrongly ignored by the public. As I’ve been shuffling through my entire Bowie catalog these past few days, every time a song from that period comes up, I look up and think, “Damn, that’s good”. Maybe our tepid reception of those three albums caused him to disappear for almost a decade. The world needed to be reminded how important he was. Absence makes the heart grow fonder… Of course his health was also in question, especially his heart.

I was so thrilled in 2013 when Bowie returned, seemingly out of nowhere with “The Next Day”. Critics complained it was retro but when your best music is some of the greatest music of all time, why not go retro. It a harkened back to the Berlin Trilogy but sounded fresh, new.

And now, Bowie has left us with a “farewell” note in the form of his new album, “Blackstar”. I had heard it was experimental and it is. I defy you to find any artist, in any medium, as willing to turn everything on it’s head the way Bowie did. I especially defy you to find an artist so willing to create without caution at 69 years old. To create without fear or concern about critical or commercial reaction is so rare any more. I was initially worried when I heard “Blackstar” was heavily influenced by jazz. I’m not smart enough for jazz. I can sit in a club and bob my head while drinking an Old Fashion and pretend I know if it’s good or not but that’s the extent of my jazz experience. There are elements of jazz in this music, most notably the saxophone of Donny McCaslin but it’s nothing to be afraid of. Its like Mick Gerson’s piano on “Aladdin Sane”, it holds the album together. The title track is a 10 minute epic, with Bowie’s voice coming through a gauzy filter. I was actually reminded of “Station to Station” another 10 minute epic. That’s not to say this music is retro or like anything he’s done before. He was clearly looking forward. “Lazarus” and the shocking video that came with it was clearly Bowie attempting to write us a goodbye note. It’s amazingly moving and my favorite song on the album. Critics will likely praise this album more now that Bowie has passed, but I felt it was brilliant, dark and edgy even before it was put in such extreme context by his death.

My world, the very universe itself feels like it shrank a little bit on Monday. There have been a lot of people who have emulated Bowie, who try to do what he did, but there will never be another David Bowie. One of the all time greats, one of the Titans has passed. Thank God he left “Blackstar” for us. It’s a hell of an album. I am left wondering, since this album opened up so many possibilities, what might have been…

My condolences go out to his family and his close friends. He gave me and all of us so much joy, so much music and yes, that is how we will remember him. But perhaps tonight, pour something strong, wander out into the clear, cold winter sky and look to the stars. Bowie always did and that is how I will honor him. R.I.P. David Bowie.

Cheers!

Review: The Cult, “Hinterland”, The 3rd Song From the Upcoming “Hidden City”

the-cult-Hidden-City

A third song, “Hinterland” from the upcoming Cult album “Hidden City” has been released and let me just say, “wow”. With all due respect to David Bowie and Elton John who both have albums coming out soon (Bowie tomorrow, Elton in February), The Cult’s “Hidden City” is my most anticipated album of 2016. I had promised myself, after reviewing the first two songs from this album as they came out, that I’d wait for the entire album’s release before I wrote anything further. This song is just too great to not comment on it.

Each of the three songs that have been released thus far feel like pieces of a puzzle. With each song the puzzle gets a little clearer. This is going to be a heavy album. Each of the songs have Billy Duffy’s trademark, enormous guitar riffs. Of the three songs thus far released, this one has the best guitar solo. I love that Duffy plays a Gretsch White Falcon…good craftsman work with good tools. If I was going to compare it to a more recent album, “Beyond Good and Evil” springs to mind. If I was to compare it to an older, classic record, from a sound perspective, I’d say “Electric”.

This record and particularly the new song “Hinterland” are not only “heavy” musically, they’re heavy lyrically as well. The chorus of “Hinterland” goes, “the dream of life is fading, each generation’s fading”. The “Dark Energy” of the lead single (reviewed previously on BourbonAndVinyl) is proving to be present in each of the subsequent singles. Another theme in the lyrics is the repeated line, “Destroy the destroyers”. Ian’s lyrics are always a bit opaque to me. I struggle for a while to discern where he’s going in his lyrics. It’s clear to me on this song, and the others, that this album is a direct warning to society. Astbury sings with a passion and clarity on this song that is hypnotic in it’s urgency.

I can not wait for this album. This song is a must have for any Cult or hard rock fans out there. Check out the new song and it’s video (available on YouTube) and as always, enjoy!

Cheers!

 

 

Review: David Gilmour, “Rattle That Lock”

MI0003920432

Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin were the twin Gods of Rock in the 1970’s. There are no two bands that define that era for rock and rollers like “Floyd and Zep”. If you throw in Rush you may have the High Holy Trinity of 70’s stoners. You don’t get much bigger than those two iconic bands even today. One of the cornerstones of the Pink Floyd sound was the guitar and vocals of David Gilmour. But much like Robert Plant, whose voice was one of the cornerstones of Led Zeppelin’s sound, Gilmour has eschewed any more reunions for Pink Floyd. In 2014 Pink Floyd released what appears to be their final album, “The Endless River,” a mostly instrumental album that was a tribute to Floyd’s keyboardist Rick Wright, who sadly passed away. I personally loved “The Endless River.” It reminded me of some of their pre-“Darkness” catalog. It was, as the saying goes, true headphone music.

Gilmour’s solo career has been a little harder to pin down. Expectations of another “Dark Side of the Moon” (or fans would likely settle for even just an “Animals”) probably drag down the reaction to his solo work. It took me three months to get to a place where I felt I could assess this record so, I’m a little overdue here. It hasn’t helped Gilmour that he’s decided for the latter half of his career to turn over most the lyric composition to his wife. Call it the Yoko-syndrome but no one ever seems to be happy when the wife/girlfriend joins the band. I don’t really have an issue with the wife writing the lyrics, I mean, who would know him and what he’s trying to express better than she would? She is an actual writer after all. I’ve ghost written a few letters and emails for the wife, who doesn’t like to write, and that has always gone well.

It’s not like the man has enormous body of work. He’s only done four proper solo albums since ’78. I bought “David Gilmour” on vinyl but a chick I was dating absconded with it. Pink Floyd was always a guy thing. Never trust a chick whose into Pink Floyd. I believe the woman in question may have been a dealer. The phone sure rang a lot. His second album “About Face” was much more accessible than “David Gilmour” and Pete Townshend actually wrote lyrics on two songs. It was a stronger album than his solo-debut, but never really blew me away. I skipped “On An Island” his last outing after one of my Pink Floyd-fanatic friends warned me away from it.

Which all leads me to “Rattle That Lock.” I’ve read a couple of things that suggested this was supposed to be a “song cycle” chronicling the thoughts that pop into a man’s head during the course of a day, similar to Roger Waters’ “The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking”. The title, I’ve heard, is from Milton’s “Paradise Lost”. After that I thought, conceptual song cycle like Pink Floyd, I need to check this out.

David Gilmour’s guitar playing is so distinctive and expressive, the man almost doesn’t need lyrics. His playing tells me what the song is trying to express by the sheer tone and the way he bends a note. When he plays on other people’s records (“Give Blood”/Townshend, “No More Lonely Nights”/McCartney), I always know that it’s Gilmour even without reading the liner notes. He is truly one of the greatest guitarists of all time. Wisely, he puts the lyrics aside and guitar out front as 3 of the 10 songs on “Rattle That Lock” are instrumentals. None of them feel like filler. In the old days great bands like the Faces, Rush, Zeppelin, and Floyd actually released instrumental songs on albums. It’s a lost art. My favorite of the three is “5 A.M.” which opens the album. Its a slow build and then boom that Gilmour guitar tone hits you. Its simply ethereal.

Of the remaining tracks, the stand out, and dare I say masterpiece, is “In Any Tongue”. The lyric “I know sorrow tastes the same on any tongue” in this anti-war song makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up. “A Boat Lies Waiting” is another song about Rick Wright’s passing and is another stand out especially with the harmony vocals of Crosby & Nash (check out their first two albums together as a duo from the ’70’s, thank me later). I also liked the Gilmour self-penned lyrics on “Faces of Stone.” The title track has actually grown on me as well but it took a few listens. The instrumentals and those four tracks are very strong.

Alas, (I always try to be positive on BourbonAndVinyl) some of the other songs just lose me. “The Girl In the Yellow Dress” sounds like something you’d hear in a jazz pub down on the corner. I just couldn’t connect with it. “Today” just never musters the firepower to take off. “Dancing Right In Front of Me” is actually hard to listen to.

At the end of the day, the things that stick with me most are what always stick with me when listening to David Gilmour’s work. His beautiful guitar and his smooth-as-slipping-into-a-warm-bath vocals. There are very strong moments on “Rattle That Lock” but for those looking for a 70’s era masterpiece, you’ll need to look elsewhere. Like Robert Plant’s latter solo career, Gilmour is more about making smaller, quieter statements. And you know, that’s ok.

Cheers!