Thursday, December 25, 2008

Gee Whiz...

... it´s Christmas. I tend to avoid X-mas songs as a rule, but you can´t go wrong with Carla Thomas and the Stax houseband featuring Steve Cropper on guitar. Gee Whiz, It´s Christmas was used as the first musical season´s greeting of the legendary soul label back in ´63. Thomas, who had scored her first big hit with a song called Gee Whiz a couple of years earlier, was sitting around with Cropper and trumpeter Vinnie Trauth, trying to come up with an yuletime ditty, when the latter jokingly suggested Gee Whiz, It´s Christmas. The rest, as they say, is history.

"Don't forget the party that we're throwing,
the warm fires of the fireplace will be glowing,
It's been a long long time,
still can´t figure out why you crossed my mind
I guess it's just to say gee whiz, it's Christmas..."

Bon nadal, readers!

Carla Thomas - Gee Whiz, It´s Christmas MP3

Saturday, December 20, 2008

That Inevitable List

And where would we be without that inevitable end-of-year round up, dear readers? I bet you´d like to know which albums were loved the most at For The Sake Of The Song headquarters this year. So without further ado, here goes... in no particular order.

Bob Dylan´s latest Bootleg Series installment, Tell Tale Signs, has been in heavy rotation since the day it came out. The exorbitant price tag on the 3-disc set was definitely a minus, but that´s about the only beef I have with it. A treasury.
Bob Dylan - Marchin´ To The City MP3

To me, Bonnie Prince Billy is the finest living singer/songwriter of the last fifteen years. You can´t go wrong with the remarkably lighthearted Lie Down In The Light.
Bonnie Prince Billy - For Every Field There´s A Mole MP3

Tunng side-project The Accidental released a nice batch of intriguing songs in freak folk territory on There Were Wolves. Dark, haunting and utterly beautiful.
The Accidental - Time And Space MP3

Scoring high in almost every end of year list, and with good reason, Bon Iver´s emotional For Emma, Forever Ago is a surprisingly original debut. Bonus points for being written and recorded in a remote Wisconsin hunting lodge.
Bon Iver - Flume MP3

Worthy successors to the Creedence throne, the Drive-By Truckers simply rock on. And on. Without ever sounding shallow. Brighter Than Creation´s Dark is another winner by a great band.
Drive-By Truckers - The Righteous Path MP3

Mark Kozelek´s Sun Kil Moon was one of my biggest discoveries this year. Late, I know. April is a desolate, yet uplifting masterpiece. Hurry and buy the edition that contains a 4 song bonus disc.
Sun Kil Moon - Moorestown MP3

Band Of Horses guitarist Tyler Ramsey proved with A Long Dream About Swimming Across The Sea that he´s a singer/songwriter in his own right. I guess Neil fans will love this. I know I do.
Tyler Ramsey - Ships MP3

It´s been 28 years since obscure outlaw Larry Jon Wilson´s last made an album, so let´s call it an understatement that this delightful selftitled comeback was way overdue... More on Larry Jon soon, I promise.
Larry Jon Wilson - Whore Trilogy MP3

Honorable mentions - because their albums were good but not great, or simply because I didn´t get a chance to play them much yet - go to Fleet Foxes, Silver Jews, Sumner Brothers, Le Loup, Woodpigeon and Port O´Brien. I haven´t heard Sugar Mountain yet either, but I´m pretty sure that ´68 Neil Young concert registration will prove to win the long-overdue-album of the year award. Or will that honour go to Hank Williams´ Unreleased Recordings box set? Come on Santa, rock me.

There were quite a few excellent music books as well that kept me busy this year. The Townes Van Zandt bio To Live´s To Fly by John Kruth, Jim Walsh´s oral history of the Replacements All Over But The Shouting and Julian Cope´s Japrocksampler all got write-ups in these pages already. I also enjoyed Hand Me My Travellin´ Shoes a lot, Michael Gray´s in-depth search for Blind Willie McTell, and dug the rock ´n´ roll fables and sonic storytelling of Mitch Myers in The Boy Who Cried Freebird. Check ´em out, y´all.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Roast Fish & Corn Bread

Still in doubt what to serve your guests at the Xmas dinner this year? The Upsetter´s got the solution. Keep it simple and eat ital food at your festivities: roast fish and cornbread for instance. Don´t forget to generously fill up them plates: "I´m a working man so I feed up strong... nothing can go wrong." Drink a lot of water too, because you have to take care of your body as if it was a car. "Throw some water in your radiator." If you don´t, you just might catch a case of soul fire. Seen?

People often say Scratch may be a wizard producer, but is lacking as a singer. A Jamaican nightingale he surely isn´t, but on the very rootsy classic Roast Fish Collie Weed & Cornbread - from ´78, and his first album to feature nothing but Perry vocals - his eccentric delivery is nothing short of amazing. Bon appetit!

Lee Perry - Roast Fish & Cornbread MP3
Lee Perry - Favorite Dish MP3
Lee Perry - Throw Some Water In MP3
Lee Perry - Soul Fire MP3

Monday, December 15, 2008

From London To Jamaica

Read somewhere that it´s former Clash bassist Paul Simonon´s birthday today (many happy returns...), which made me think of the bass-heavy reggae tunes The Clash were so fond of playing amidst all the punk mayhem. The Clash were one of the first bands to incorporate the rebel music outta Jamaica in their sound, and I always loved them for it. Somehow their white man´s takes on reggae always seemed genuine. The real deal, no cheap rip-off. Their main influence was probably legendary dreadlocked dj Don Letts, who played a mix of punk and reggae at early punk gigs in London. Out of necessity really, as there weren´t that many punk records out at the time.

Here are some great live tracks from The Clash in reggae mode. The Guns of Brixton, the Willie Williams cover Armagideon Time and Bank Robber were all recorded at the Jamaica World Music Festival on 27 November ´82. Must have been a blast for Strummer, Jones and Simonon, playing their punky reggae to a Kingston crowd.

The Junior Murvin-penned Police And Thieves was recorded in Leicester on 2 July ´77. Strummer´s intro: "Now you can rest your sweaty armpits and move your knees... your knees!" An amazing version, with passionate vocals and lots of improvised lyrics. "I ain´t Diana Ross," Strummer proclaims all echoey near the end.

And last but not least, there´s White Man In Hammersmith Palais (probably my fave ever Clash song), stemming from a show at The Palladium, New York City on 21 September ´79. "White youth, black youth, better find another solution... why not phone up Robin Hood, and ask him for some wealth distribution..."

The Clash - The Guns Of Brixton (live ´82) MP3
The Clash - Armagideon Time (live ´82) MP3
The Clash - Bank Robber (live) MP3
The Clash - Police And Thieves (live ´77) MP3
The Clash - White Man In Hammersmith Palais (live ´79) MP3

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Monster In The Mirror

I usually cover nothing but music here at For The Sake Of The Song, but that doesn´t mean I haven´t got any other interests. Far from it. Football (got my ticket for tomorrow´s edition of El Clásico... yes!), literature, movies, travel... And politics. And that´s what I´m on about tonight. Do not fear though, there´s a fitting soundtrack attached as well.

The recent Mumbai terror attacks must have shocked everybody, but I was kinda surprised to find how hard this catastrophe hit me, staying glued to the telly and surfing the web for days on end to check on how events unfolded. I´m usually quite cool in situations like these, but what happened in the city formerly known as Bombay had about the same impact on me as 9/11. Reason is probably that I´ve lived in that (cliche alert!) ´huge and fascinating country full of contradictions´ for five months in 2007, and stayed in quite a few Taj Group hotels (although not in the targeted Mumbai one) as well over the past few years.

When it was all over, I was waiting for someone who would put things in a broad perspective. That took awhile, but tonight I finally stumbled on a remarkably insightful piece by Arundhati Roy in British newspaper The Guardian, covering all I was hoping for and more. The Indian writer and activist, who won the prestigious Booker Prize in ´97 for the excellent The God Of Small Things, asks all the right questions in her well-informed article, and even manages to give a few answers, which is no mean feat.

Here´s a fitting excerpt. "Eventually the killers died and died hard, all but one. (Perhaps, in the chaos, some escaped. We may never know.) Throughout the standoff the terrorists made no demands and expressed no desire to negotiate. Their purpose was to kill people and inflict as much damage as they could before they were killed themselves. They left us completely bewildered. When we say "nothing can justify terrorism", what most of us mean is that nothing can justify the taking of human life. We say this because we respect life, because we think it's precious. So what are we to make of those who care nothing for life, not even their own? The truth is that we have no idea what to make of them, because we can sense that even before they've died, they've journeyed to another world where we cannot reach them."

The article ends thus: "The only way to contain (it would be naïve to say end) terrorism is to look at the monster in the mirror. We're standing at a fork in the road. One sign says Justice, the other Civil War. There's no third sign and there's no going back. Choose."

Read the complete article on the Guardian site here. And while you´re at it, here´s a fitting soundtrack, complete with songs from two of my fave singers from Pakistan (Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, the king of qawwali) and India (Lata Mangeshkar, the Indian nightingale).

The Damned - Born To Kill MP3
Julian Cope - All The Blowing-Themselves-Up Motherfuckers MP3
Psychedelic Furs - India MP3
Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan - Data Ke Ghulamon Ko MP3
Lata Mangeshkar - Kabhi Kabhi Bezuban Parbat Boltein Hain MP3

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Jesse´s Early Demos

I recently contributed a post to the Star Maker Machine blog on American-turned-Canadian artist Jesse Winchester. This week´s theme there (Winter Wonderland) gave me the welcome opportunity to showcase his exquisite ditty Snow, a song from Winchester´s eponymous debut from 1970. An impressive album, produced by Robbie Robertson and engineered by Todd Rundgren. I also put up a short and sweet acoustic demo of that track, found on a boot called Early Demos. And as there are plenty more treasures to be found on that disc, here we go.

I didn´t manage to find out when these demos were recorded exactly, but it must have been during the late sixties, when draft dodger Winchester had already left his native Memphis for the colder climes of Montreal. The liner notes to Jesse Winchester mention him working up some demos in ´69 at U.S. Army deserter Chuck Gray´s home studio in Ottawa. A friend of Jesse´s girlfriend at the time allegedly passed these on to Robertson. The 29 songs on Early Demos could very well stem from that session. If so, it´s no wonder that the Band guitarist was smitten by them.

Eight of these intimate snapshots of a budding talent, featuring just guitar and vocals, would later end up in full-band versions on that famed debut. It´s nice to hear that they work just as well in a simple acoustic setting - which goes for all great pop songs I suppose. Take Black Dog for instance, probably my fave Winchester composition. This demo manages to sound just as ominous and dark, even with just a sole acoustic guitar for accompaniment. "I don't know the black dog's name, when I call him he won't come... How'd I get this black dog, Lord, I never wanted one... Black dog don't believe in sin, think of where the black dog's been, think of where he's been... today." And the innocent version of Brand New Tennessee Waltz is arguably every inch as good as its better-known cousin. "So have all your passionate violins play a tune for a Tennessee kid... who's feeling like leaving another town, with no place to go if he did."

From the songs that didn´t make the cut for the first album for some reason, a few were left on the shelf to figure on the fine follow-up Third Down, 110 To Go (´72). Of these, I´m especially enamoured of Silly Heart, which reminds me of Buddy Holly somehow. The doper´s lament Twigs And Seeds had to wait even longer for its first official appearance, on Live At The Bijou Cafe (´77). "Twigs and seeds, twigs and seeds... and they sure don't deliver the punch that this ole head needs..."

Jesse Winchester is still gigging and making albums - all at his own pace - as we speak by the way. Check him out at his own site here. Oh, and don´t forget to buy that first album if you don´t own it already.

Jesse Winchester - Black Dog (demo) MP3
Jesse Winchester - Brand New Tennessee Waltz (demo) MP3
Jesse Winchester - Silly Heart (demo) MP3
Jesse Winchester- Twigs And Seeds (demo) MP3

Monday, December 8, 2008

American Primitives

If raw, old time music is your poison of choice, look no further than the two volumes of American Primitive. Released a few years back on the late John Fahey´s quality label Revenant, these collections are every inch as essential as Harry Smith´s famed Anthology Of American Folk Music. Beautiful packaging, exemplary liner notes, and what´s more: a truckload of obscure but timeless musical treasure.

The first volume is subtitled Raw Pre-War Gospel 1926 - ´36, and features no less than 26 rare tracks by artists with one foot on earth and one in heaven. Fahey calls these songs examples of ecstatic - as opposed to contemplative - religion, before stating that ´...underneath it all I hear pan pipes tooting and a cloven hoof beating time.´ Amen to that. The double disc second volume, subtitled Pre-War Revenants 1897 - 1939, features less Jesus and more hard blues, and is possibly even better than its predecessor. An overwhelming maelstrom of music that will suck you right in.

The congregation will now rise for two tasters from Vol. 1. Hallelujah, brothers and sisters! Blind Roosevelt Graves And Brother hailed from Hattiesburg, Mississippi and recorded this gem in ´36. Dig that fluent vocal interaction between Roosevelt and his brother Aaron. And for you guitar freaks out there: you´re hearing a metal National here. My lordy!

Blind Roosevelt Graves And Brother - Woke Up This Morning (With My Mind On Jesus) MP3

Not a lot is known about the good Rev. Ware, and believe me, I searched. So I guess we´ll never know if Ware was really a man of the cloth, or a blues singer performing pseudonymously to score a hit in the religious market, as happened quite often back then. The great Charley Patton recorded some sides as Elder J.J. Hadley for instance, which incidentally are present on this volume as well. Whatever the case, Ware and family sang a mean gospel.

Rev. I.B. Ware With Wife And Son - I Wouldn´t Mind Dying (But I Gotta Go By Myself) MP3

Now let´s preach the blues with a couple of amazing tracks from Vol. 2. The masterful Bo-Lita was recorded in ´27 in the windy city of Chicago. From the booklet, as I couldn´t possibly say it better myself: ´Bo-Lita. Rhymes with mean mistreater. Brown´s quivering falsetto thrills (Yay-eeeee...) tail off into the stratosphere, letting us know it´s no put-on: this brand new game will make you weep, it will make you moan.´ Bo-Lita refers to a game of chance commonly held at road shows and carnivals btw.

Kid Brown And His Blue Band - Bo-Lita MP3

The Mississippi Moaner: what a wonderful pseudonym. Whoooo! Isaiah Nettles, for that was his real name, put this to wax in Jackson, Mississippi in ´35. "Didn´t make me mad ´til you broke my diamond ring... hey mama, won´t be back no mo´..."

The Mississippi Moaner - It´s Cold In China Blues MP3

The liner notes call Geeshie Wiley, who´s present on this collection with no less than four impressive songs, ´perhaps the most tantalizing phantom of Mississippi blues´. Few details about her life and musical career are known, while her records are extremely scarce. Last Kind Words Blues (1930) is a must-hear beauty.

Geeshie Wiley - Last Kind Words Blues MP3

´Man whistles past the graveyard on his long walk home, imagines that his own heart stops and his hands get cold. But like in some Ambrose Bierce story he hears the church bells tone and the unbearable sound of nails driving home the coffin lid - his coffin lid! - and he sees two white horses poised in the line. Coffin gets lowered with golden chain. He shudders. Gets home, hugs his kids...´ I told you these liner notes were fantastic. So are the Two Poor Boys and their ´31 memento mori blues Two White Horses In A Line.

Two Poor Boys - Two White Horses In A Line MP3

Friday, December 5, 2008


You don´t receive a nice popsong in the mail that often, but I just got lucky. Antiqcool has already released two albums in the past, but I have to admit this British collective from Chester was not on my radar until now. Yesterday night, I played their Already Late two times, liked it, and promptly forgot all about it. Until I found myself humming its gorgeous melody in the shower this morning... Surely a good sign?

What do you think, dear reader? Top or flop? Hit or miss? I´d really like to increase the interaction a bit here, so go ahead and click that comments button below why don´t you...

Antiqcool - Already Late MP3

Thursday, December 4, 2008

From The Southside

It´s Southside Johnny´s birthday today, so I thought we´d better celebrate and make sure the guy is not forgotten anytime soon. For together with his band The Asbury Jukes, Johnny Lyon was responsible for the hottest Jersey Shore Sounds this side of Bruce Springsteen. His earlier albums from the late seventies are his masterpieces. I Don´t Want To Go Home, This Time It´s For Real and especially the hard-hitting Hearts Of Stone were all produced by E Street Band guitarist Little Steve Van Zandt. Rhythm & blues as it should be played, with special mention for Johnny´s soulful vocals and a horn section to die for.

Most of his later albums weren´t as satisfying, but in concert the tirelessly touring Southside Johnny (he´s from ´48 btw) has never let his faithful following down. Take these steaming live tracks for instance, recorded on 20 September ´85 at the Capitol Theatre, Passaic, New Jersey. They were actually played in this sequence that night, so when you download them into your iTunes you´ll experience a gapless piece of a great concert. New Coat Of Paint is a fine Tom Waits cover, while The Fever was written by Springsteen himself. Johnny arguably does a better job with it than the Boss. "There ain’t nothing that a poor boy can do, when he’s got the fever for a girl..." Check out that trumpet! And go see him when he´s playing a club near you. You won´t regret it.

Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes - New Coat Of Paint (live ´85) MP3
Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes - The Fever (live ´85) MP3
Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes - Trapped Again (live ´85) MP3

Monday, December 1, 2008

The Flatlanders: Now Again

Faithful readers of this blog will know all about my admiration for the Flatlanders´ More A Legend Than A Band by now. A country rock classic that spawned the solo careers of main members Joe Ely, Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Butch Hancock, it was recorded back in ´72, but for various reasons never got a proper release until Rounder records finally did it justice in ´91.

In ´02, the Lubbock three finally decided to get together again, and that´s what we´re on about in this post, because the resulting Now Again is definitely an album that deserves the attention of twang lovers everywhere. It´s nowhere near as good as that famed debut of course, but hey, that was too tough an act to follow anyway. It´s mighty fine to hear three great singers (and pals too) working together once again though, and the songs - all but two written collectively - are definitely of high quality.

The upbeat Right Where I Belong is a good example. "If it´s dog eat dog and cat eat cat, I might never see the light until I eat my hat... I´m caught between day and night and pretty mama I don´t care..." Ely´s typical My Wildest Dreams Grow Wilder Every Day showcases his rockabilly side to good effect, while The South Wind Of Summer starts off as a ballad that reminds me a bit of Gram Parsons´ Hickory Wind, until it surprisingly picks up speed and ends with some pretty wild picking. Strange though that it fades out just as things are really starting to cook...

And that´s where we get to the downside of Now Again: the production department. It all seems just a little too tame in here somehow. Where the flame undeniably still burns, the Flatlanders never seem to catch enough wind to turn this album into the blazing prairie fire one would hope for. If they´d ever decide to record together again, I´d recommend James Luther Dickinson to oversee proceedings. Satisfaction guaranteed.

And that signed album cover pictured above? That´s all mine, baby...

The Flatlanders - Right Where I Belong MP3
The Flatlanders - My Wildest Dreams Grow Wilder Every Day MP3
The Flatlanders - South Wind Of Summer MP3

Friday, November 28, 2008


Shopping for stocking filler that will satisfy even the most jaded rock fan? Look no further than Julian Cope´s latest book Japrocksampler, out now in paperback from Bloomsbury books. Following in the footsteps of his authoritative and now sadly out of print Krautrocksampler tome, which explored the highs and lows of the German music scene in the late sixties and seventies, Cope now looks eastward and lord, it´s a trip. Thoroughly researched, Japrocksampler first puts the whole shebang in historical perspective before going all out with enthousiastic descriptions of the highlights of Nippon rock. And all that in typical, no holds barred Cope stylee of course. Banzai! A lot of the music featured in Japrocksampler - subtitled ´how the post-war Japanese blew their minds on rock ´n´ roll´ - is for freaks only, but believe me, the genre spawned some real boss sounds... Here´s a few of them.

Yup, that´s them ridin´ their chopped-up Hondas bare ass down the highway on the cover of Copey´s book. Destination? Anywhere of course... The semi-legendary Flower Travellin´ Band made at least two great albums: Satori (more about that ´71 gem in an upcoming post) and their debut Anywhere (´70). Led by wild afro´d singer Joe, they managed to demolish quite a few well-known songs on the latter. Check out their amazing Stairway To Heaven-like treatment of ye olde classic House Of The Rising Sun for proof.

Flower Travellin´ Band - House Of The Rising Sun MP3

A glue sniffin´, amphetamine-crazed, longhaired free-blues power trio anyone? All hail Speed, Glue & Shinki. "I got a big headed woman who talks about herself... she drinks all my liquor and she smokes all off my stuff... yeah she smokes all my dope, she´s baaad..." The incredible ´young loud and snotty´ vocals and even snottier asides come courtesy of singing Filipino drummer Joey ´Pepe´ Smith, while we have to thank the great Shinki Chen for the down and dirty soloing. Heavy stuff that´s in heavy rotation around here at the moment.

Speed, Glue & Shinki - Big Headed Woman MP3

According to Julian, we´re not here to praise the aptly named First Album (´69) by the Helpful Soul, as it´s shit. And he´s right. But he goes on to say: ´...which makes side one´s closing song - the 10-minutes-and-33-seconds of Peace For Fools - all the more remarkable´, and he´s spot on again. Cope calls it ´a strung-out slab of monolithic genius´, while comparing singer Junio Nakahara to the Fall´s Mark E. Smith before he became ´a professional Northerner´... And that´s a mighty fine desciption.

The Helpful Soul - Peace For Fools MP3

Les Rallizes Dénudés are a cult band avant la lettre. Hailing from the Kyoto university scene, their destiny was changed abruptly when their original bass player Moriaki Wakabayashi was involved in the infamous hijacking of an airplane by the Japanese Red Army in 1970. Since then, Rallizes mastermind Takashi Mizutani has led a remarkably reclusive life in the isolated wilderness of northern Japan, releasing his dark, feedback-drenched laments mostly via live bootlegs. The Japanese Velvets? Definitely underground and well worth checking out.

Les Rallizes Dénudés - More Deeply Than The Night MP3

Love Live Life +1 (´71) was one of these ´super sessions´ which were huge in Japan in the early seventies. Its legacy? A mighty impressive, soulful album filled to the brim with freaky cosmic rhythm & blues. Title track Love Will Make A Better You makes one think of a Sly & The Family Stone from the land of the rising sun. Dig these horns and way-out-there guitars, brothers and sisters!

Love Live Life +1 - Love Will Make A Better You MP3

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Rai Rebels

Let´s go for something a little bit more exotic than usual here tonight, you chebs and chabas... Rai (or raï) is the rebel music of Algeria and surrounding countries. Challenging fundamentalist, conservative beliefs in songs about sex, drugs (mainly alcohol) and fast cars, it´s a music that consequently has often been censored by the authorities. With a little imagination, you can call it the punk rock, roots reggae or hiphop of North Africa.

Rai literally means ´opinion´ in Arabic, but in this particular form of music it´s used as an exclamation meaning ´oh yeah´, much like the use of ´olé!´ or ´agua!´ in Spanish flamenco. The singers call themselves cheb (when male) and chaba (when female), which means young or kid, to distinguish themselves from the older generation of singers, the aged and respected cheiks and cheikas of the old order.  

Cleverly mixing traditional instruments with western guitars and synths, it´s an art form that´s not only extremely popular in its native countries, but also in the big Western cities - Paris for instance - where many Arabs make a living. To give you a taste of the hypnotic beauty of rai, here are two tracks from the Virgin Earthworks compilation Rai Rebels, a very good introduction to the genre.

Chaba Fadela & Cheb Sahraoui - N´Sel Fik MP3
Chaba Zahouania - Sahr Liyali MP3

Friday, November 21, 2008

Bobby and the Plugz

On the evening of March 22, 1984, Bob Dylan appeared on the David Letterman show in order to promote his new album Infidels. And man, was he hot that night. Backed by the Plugz, one of the first Chicano punkbands to come out of L.A. in the late seventies , he literally slams into Sonny Boy Williamson´s Don´t Start Me Talking. In true Dylan fashion, it´s a song that doesn´t appear on the album he´s supposed to plug here. And what´s more: Dylan had rehearsed intensively with the band the night before, but this cover had apparently not been tried out, so it´s a small miracle that Justin Jesting (guitar), Tony Marisco (bass) and Charlie Quintana (drums) are able to follow him at all, let alone with such gusto. Dylan himself obviously doesn´t remember the words to the song very well - he even drops Sonny Boy´s to in the chorus - but makes up dummy lyrics that manage to sound utterly convincing.

Later in the show, Infidels-tracks License To Kill and Jokerman also get a fresh, speeded-up (even punked-up?) treatment, with Dylan totally into it, spitting out the lyrics like there´s no tomorrow. It wasn´t really his decade, but the Letterman performance was without a doubt one of the best things Dylan did during the eighties. The sound quality of these tracks isn´t that great, but I´m sure you´ll hear what I mean.

Bob Dylan - Don´t Start Me Talking (live Letterman show´84) MP3
Bob Dylan - License To Kill (live Letterman show ´84) MP3
Bob Dylan - Jokerman (live Letterman show ´84) MP3

Here´s Sonny Boy´s original. "Don't start me to talkin´, I'll tell everything I know, I´m gonna break up this signifying, cause somebody's got to go..."

Sonny Boy Williamson - Don´t Start Me To Talkin´ MP3

And if only for completion´s sake, here are the Plugz in their prime, from their ep debut Move (´78). Fun song.

The Plugz - Move MP3

And finally, here´s the clip of Bob doing Don´t Start Me Talking. Note that Letterman doesn´t get a word out of Bob at the end, although he tries; it was agreed before that Dylan would only play, but absolutely no interview please. Don´t start me talking indeed...

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Art Of Pepper

Art Pepper (´25-´82) was the west coast king of the alto saxophone. Where most of his contemporaries never managed to shake off the enormous legacy left behind by the great Charlie Parker, Pepper had a tone all of his own almost right from the start. His personal life was a real mess, with heroin and related jail time being constants. For all the sordid details, read his amazing - and often almost embarrassingly honest - autobiography Straight Life, masterfully transcribed by his wife Laurie.

But no matter how troubled the altoist´s life may have been, the quality of his artistic output was always surprisingly high (no pun intended). Pepper started out playing with the bands of Benny Carter and Stan Kenton, but soon started getting gigs as a sideman and as the leader of his own group, which resulted in a terrific series of albums recorded between ´56 and ´60. Long stretches in the slammer unfortunately put an end to that fruitful period. In the autumn of his career, having finally kicked heroin and getting by on methadone, Pepper made some great albums as well, but let´s focus for now on his early classics. Without further ado: here´s the art of Pepper, in chronological order.

Let´s start off with Pepper´s great collaboration with legendary trumpeter and drug buddy Chet Baker. Released on vinyl in ´56 as Playboys, the album was later re-titled Picture Of Heath, probably because of complaints coming from Hugh Heffner´s titties empire. Shame really, as the album cover is a beauty. The Pepper composition Tynan Time shows exactly what this fine duo could do.

Chet Baker & Art Pepper - Tynan Time MP3

The Artistry Of Pepper combines two hot sessions from ´56 and ´57. The first features Pepper on what´s really a gig by tenor player Bill Perkins, while the second one sees him in a setting arranged by Shorty Rogers, who also wrote all the songs. Noteable sidemen here are Bud Shank on baritone sax and Russ Freeman on piano. The playful Powder Puff is representative of this nonet´s highly original style.

Art Pepper - Powder Puff MP3

Which brings us to what´s his best album without a doubt: Art Pepper Meets The Rhythm Section (´57). A fluid jazz masterpiece featuring the rhythm section of the Miles Davis group at the time. You can´t really go wrong with Red Garland on piano, Paul Chambers on bass and Philly Joe Jones behind the drums, but Pepper climbs to unsuspected heights here. Just listen to Red Pepper Blues and Art´s signature tune Straight Life to see what I mean.

Art Pepper - Red Pepper Blues MP3
Art Pepper - Straight Life MP3

Art Pepper + Eleven (´59) finds the altoist fronting a - you guessed it - eleven piece band, interpreting modern jazz classics by Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk and Sonny Rollins amongst others. As a rule I´m no fan of big bands, but here the arrangements by Marty Paich are so brilliant I can´t help myself. Pepper is on fire throughout, as you can hear on the Bird & Dizzy bop original Shaw Nuff.

Art Pepper - Shaw Nuff MP3

As a sort of follow up to Meets The Rhythm Section, Art recorded Gettin´ Together! (´60) with then Miles Davis Band members Wynton Kelly, Paul Chambers and Jimmy Cobb, adding Conte Candoli on trumpet. Another classic. Bijou The Poodle may be a rather bizarre song title, but it swings like crazy... And believe it or not, Pepper really had a dog named Bijou. Woof!

Art Pepper - Bijou The Poodle MP3

Smack Up (´60) was made months before Pepper went to jail once more on a drug-related sentence. On the whole, he did time from ´54 to ´56, ´60 to ´61, ´61 to ´64 and ´64 to ´65; the final two in San Quentin. But in the meantime he was still groovin´ high, as the powerful title track proves. Jack Sheldon´s trumpet solo is mighty fine too.

Art Pepper - Smack Up MP3

The same year saw Pepper release another fine album, which wasn´t called Intensity for nothing. Art had been listening more and more to the new sounds in jazz as pioneered by Coltrane and Ornette Coleman, so his playing showed a fresh free sound in a surprising series of standards, Gershwin´s Long Ago (And Far Away) being a perfect example.

Art Pepper - Long Ago (And Far Away) MP3

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Townes Live At The Jester And At Carnegie Hall

About time for some Townes Van Zandt here again, the late great singer/songwriter in whose honour this blog was named. I guess most of you know and own his classic studio albums by now, or even the great live covers collection Road Songs (if not, see my earlier post here). But there are two more excellent live albums by the Texan rambler & gambler you should know about, both recorded pretty early on in his career.

First up is Live At The Jester Lounge - Houston, Texas 1966, a registration that didn´t see the light of day until nearly forty years later. By then Townes didn´t have any albums out yet and was still busy learning his trade in small clubs. And The Jester must have been tiny, as the picture on the album sleeve shows Townes performing nearly on top of a stack of podium speakers, which are in turn balanced on a few cases of that weak stuff most Americans call beer. Still with short hair, Townes plays a nice mix of covers (Hello Central by his idol and pal Lightnin´ Hopkins for instance) and originals (the beautiful Black Crow Blues). "Well it´s a funny old world, you can´t walk it alone..." A rough diamond.

Townes Van Zandt - Hello Central (live ´66) MP3
Townes Van Zandt - Black Crow Blues (live ´66) MP3

Three years later we find Townes - he´s got two albums under his belt and wears his hair long - performing at a Poppy Records label bash in Carnegie Hall of all places. This crystal clear recording - A Gentle Evening With Townes Van Zandt - also came out decades after the fact, and it´s a stunner. Sandwiched in between a rock band and a comedian, Townes must have felt somewhat out of place in these plush New York surroundings, but he´s in great form nevertheless. All songs minus one are originals now, and it´s a joy to hear that voice so youthful, not yet scarred by a thirsty life on the road. Was he listening to a lot of Dylan when he wrote She Came And She Touched Me? You bet. An essential document.

Townes Van Zandt - Second Lover´s Song (live ´69) MP3
Townes Van Zandt - She Came And She Touched Me (live ´69) MP3

Friday, November 14, 2008

Bonus Fat (a.k.a. Ball And Cheeseburger)

Used to be you had to show good behaviour to get out of jail before your sentence was up. In these obese times, being fat works just as well... This just in from the newsdesk: a 430 pound (195 kg) convict was released early from a Quebec prison because his jailers could not accommodate his enormous frame. Michel Lapointe served more than two years in jail on drug charges and was released three months early last Tuesday. The decision was made in May by a Quebec judge after prison officials said they were unable to find Lapointe a chair or table large enough to fit him. Sleeping wasn´t easy either, as the standard prison bed proved much too small. Lapointe described his time in prison as ´a living hell´.

Angry Samoans - My Old Man´s A Fatso MP3

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Bobby and The Band

No, not that Bobby. I´m talking about Bobby Charles here, spilling water melon juice all over his orange sweater in the picture above. His self-titled debut album from ´72 was finally re-released (and for a nice price at that) by Rhino Records UK recently. A rootsy, near-forgotten minor masterpiece with a relaxed but always funky Louisiana feel. "I saw a butterfly and I named it after you..." That´s producer and ´6th member of The Band´ John Simon on piano on the exquisite I Must Be In A Good Place Now.

Official members of The Band make an appearance here too: Levon Helm, Garth Hudson, Richard Manuel and Rick Danko all play on assorted tracks. Grow Too Old was written by Charles with Fats Domino and Dave Bartholomew. Good company, but hey, Charles just happened to be the author of See You Later, Alligator back in the fifties, so he could throw some weight around I guess. That saxophone´s way too bland though, which is what you get when you hire David Sanborn for the job. Strange choice, but as it´s the only flaw here we can easily live with it.

Bobby Charles - I Must Be In A Good Place Now MP3
Bobby Charles - Grow Too Old MP3

While we´re on the subject of The Band, let´s hear it for Danko/Manuel, a beautiful and heartfelt ballad by the Drive-By Truckers from their much recommended ´01 Southern Rock Opera album.
"Can you hear that singing, sounds like gold...
Maybe I can hear poor Richard from the grave,
singin' where to reap and when to sow...
When you've found another home you have to leave."

Drive-By Truckers - Danko/Manuel MP3

And to wrap this up, here are the two Band members in question, both sadly no longer with us. Whispering Pines was the showpiece of pianist and sometime drummer Richard Manuel (´43-´86). Find it on The Band´s eponymous second album. "Foghorn through the night, calling out to sea..." Amazing vocal. Grow Too Old (yup, same one) hails from a posthumously released album called Whispering Pines, Live At The Getaway Saugerties NY, recorded on 12 October ´85. Check out that piano. Bassist Rick Danko (´42-´99) sings lead on The Unfaithful Servant, also from that classic ´brown album´. "It´s no ones fault, makes no difference if we fade away, it´s just as it was, it´s much to cold for me to stay..."

The Band - Whispering Pines MP3
Richard Manuel - Grow Too Old (live ´85) MP3
The Band - The Unfaithful Servant MP3

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Uncle T´s Last Stand

Have been playing this blistering boot a lot lately, and I keep wondering why on earth it hasn´t gotten an official release just yet. The time sure seems right as the Uncle Tupelo legend lives on. They may not exactly have gotten the popularity they deserved during their existence (´87-´94), but nowadays almost everybody knows they more or less single-handedly defined the alt country genre, while the trio´s legacy keeps influencing loads of young gunslingers with loud guitars and crazy honky tonk hearts everywhere.

Their back catalogue has been milked pretty thoroughly by now - the first 3 albums were re-released with bonus tracks, while a best-of collection saw the light as well a few years back - and their offshoots are doing just fine. As you all know, Jeff Tweedy´s Wilco is one of the biggest bands around, and while Jay Farrar´s Son Volt may not be that famous, it´s still a well-respected combo that has released some pretty great music over the past few years.

So I guess it´s high time the registration of their last ever concert, which has been doing the rounds in collector´s circles for years now as the excellent sounding Not Forever, Just For Now, was made available to everybody. Because as strained as the relationship between Tweedy and Farrar may have been during their farewell tour, that final show - Mississippi Nights, St. Louis on May first, ´94 - was full of fire. Not just worth preserving for historical reasons, although there´s something to be said for that as well, but worthy in its own right.

Here´s some proof. Two powerful performances of their own compositions, complemented with two great covers. Atomic Power is a Louvin Brothers original (with great fiddle!), while Give Back The Key To My Heart was penned by Doug Sahm. Yup, them boys from Belleville had mighty good taste...

Uncle Tupelo - Watch Me Fall (live St. Louis 1-5-´94) MP3
Uncle Tupelo - Atomic Power (live St. Louis 1-5-´94) MP3
Uncle Tupelo - Give Back The Key To My Heart (live St. Louis 1-5-´94) MP3
Uncle Tupelo - Whiskey Bottle (live St. Louis 1-5-´94) MP3

Sunday, November 9, 2008

People Take Warning! pt.3: Man V Man (And Woman, Too)

It´s time to scream some bloody murder... In this third and final post about the amazing People Take Warning! box set (see below for the others) we´re going to take a closer look at disc 3, which is called ´Man V Man (And Woman, Too)´. The best of them all in my not so humble opinion, featuring lots of amazing murder ballads from that golden age 1913-1938. Take warning, y´all!

From the liner notes: "...performers of these songs early on learned that to stimulate sales of broadsides (one page song sheets hawked at the conclusion of a performance), natural calamities did well, murder ballads did better, and murder ballads written in the first person (with their voyeuristic ´you-are-there´ feel) did best of all. And if the murders could be related to the elimination of an unwanted pregnant lover - as so many seemed to be - so much the better". 

"Railroad Bill, ought to be killed, never worked and he never will, now I´m gonna ride, my Railroad Bill..."
Morris ´Railroad Bill´ Slater (that´s him pictured above, on the ´cooling board´) actually used to work in the terpentine plantations of Southern Alabama, but later took to robbing trains. He was gunned down in March 1897 by a railroad detective while eating crackers and cheese on the porch of a general store in Atmore, Alabama. The whites demonized him as a ´notorious negro desperado´, while the blacks saw him as a kind of black Robin Hood.
"Got a thirty-eight special on a forty-four frame, how in the world can I miss him when I´ve got dead aim, now I´m gonna ride, my Railroad Bill..."
That thirty-eight special type of gun Will Bennett´s powerful song (from 1929) mentions was actually introduced years after Railroad Bill got killed, but what the hell.

"Frankie went out a-walkin´, she did not go for fun...
For under her apron she had concealed a forty-four gatling gun...
Gonna murder the man... that done me wrong."
A great version of this oft-performed song by the splendidly named Dykes Magic City Trio. Here the tune´s called Frankie, but over the years it also became known as Frankie And Johnny or Frankie And Albert. It´s not known if this classic story of a jealous shooting was based on a true event, but with a song this good, who cares.

Frank Dupree had a girlfriend named Betty, and she wanted him to show her how much he loved her by giving her a diamond. Since he had no funds, he proceeded to steal one from an Atlanta jewelry store in 1921. Dupree fled to Memphis and later to Chicago, but the windy city brought him no luck whatshowever. Cornered there, he killed a detective named Walker (no relation to the singer of this song I presume) and wounded several other policemen. Caught sometime later while getting his mail, Dupree was sent to Atlanta for trial and executed for murder on September 1, 1922. "See here, mama, what you caused me to do?" Great song, great vocals, great guitar playing, and that second vocal - by an unknown accompanist - really is the cream on the cake.

Will Bennett - Railroad Bill MP3
Dykes Magic City Trio - Frankie MP3
Willie Walker - Dupree Blues MP3

Friday, November 7, 2008

Just A Little Green

As it´s Joni Mitchell´s birthday today, let´s celebrate with a couple of nice live performances from my beloved Canadian soprano. The songs below were recorded at the Second Fret club in Philly back in ´67, when she was still ´a little green´.

Joni Mitchell - Little Green (live 12 Oct. ´67 Second Fret, Philadelphia) MP3
Joni Mitchell - Marcy (live 12 Oct. ´67 Second Fret, Philadelphia) MP3
Joni Mitchell - Go Tell The Drummer Man (live 12 Oct. ´67 Second Fret, Philadelphia) MP3

Thursday, November 6, 2008

People Take Warning! pt. 2: Man V Nature

The second disc from the labour of love that is the People Take Warning! box set - for the first one, see my post below - is called ´Man V Nature´ and deals with natural disasters. Floods. Fires. Epidemics. Hurricanes and cyclones. Earthquakes. And dude, lets not forget that nasty boll weavil. 

From the foreword by Tom Waits: " These are emotional obits and cautionary tales by brave and sobered survivors. The scratches on the 78´s sound like the ocean in a shell and the songs are riding inside across time..." Here are some highlights. Take warning, people.

"The water´s gonna come and I´ll have no place to stay..." Decades before Led Zep, Kansas Joe & Memphis Minnie performed their When The Levee Breaks, a fantastic song about the mighty Mississippi flood of 1927. That great lead guitar is played by Minnie btw, a real blues pioneer. Go gal, go!

"The boll weevil said to the doctor: you can put out your little pills...
But when I get through with the farmer, he can´t pay no doctor bills..."
The boll weevil sure was no joke back in the day. It had migrated into the US from Mexico in the late 19th century and by the 1920s had infested all American cotton-growing areas, devastating the industry. Fiddlin´ John Carson´s song about that ole boll weevil is very funny though. Especially when he replaces the expected rhyme of ´hell´ with ´Griffin, Georgia´ at the end of the song.
"The boll weevil says to the farmer: I certainly wish you well,
the farmer says to the boll weevil: I wish you was in... Griffin, Georgia."

"The wind was like like a demon that tore across the land..." On a ´warm September night´ in 1928, the hurricane San Felipe hit Puerto Rico. Carson Robinson released his song about the disaster - that left more than forty people dead and the whole island in disarray - exactly two weeks after the event. Pretty fast, no? "And we should all remember each one must meet his fate, and get right with our maker before it is too late."

Next up: People Take Warning! pt 3. Murder ballads galore! Watch this space...

Kansas Joe & Memphis Minnie - When The Levee Breaks MP3
Fiddlin´ John Carson - Dixie Boll Weevil MP3
Carson Robinson Trio - The Porto Rico Storm MP3

Sunday, November 2, 2008

People Take Warning! pt. 1: Man V Machine

The great Nick Tosches, one of my fave writers on music, boxing, the mob and a lot of other subjects, recently said the following about the People Take Warning! box set: "I've been sitting here watching the remains of this short-lived country go down the drain, and there is no better soundtrack to this than People Take Warning!, a grand and beautiful set - in every sense, from the remastered recordings to the notes to the extraordinary design work - that gives perspective both to these days and those of the past. This is white-hot history, a danse macabre, and, above all, a wealth of great old and timeless music."

Can´t agree more, Nick. People Take Warning!, subtitled ´Murder Ballads & Disaster Songs, 1913-1938´, is a treasure trove of lovingly compiled old 78´s that sounds absolutely timeless. Released last year on the tiny Tompkins Square label, there´s some overlap with other compilations of the period such as Harry Smith´s Anthology Of American Folk Music, but not nearly so much to give it a miss.

The informative and beautifully designed booklet includes a foreword by none other than Tom Waits. "All are contained here: tragic chronicles of the perils of being human. Songs that are roadside graves dug quickly with crosses made from kindling while the grief was still fresh," he writes, and he´s right on the mark. In the era they were recorded (often mere days after a certain incident took place), these songs more or less served as newspaper articles.

We´re talking about a three disc set here, all with their own theme. Disc 2 is entitled Man V Nature and covers songs about natural disasters such as floods, epidemics and tornadoes. Disc 3 is called Man V Man (And Woman, Too) and deals exclusively with murder. In this post, let´s take a look at the first disc, Man V Machine, which is all about train wrecks, crashing cars and planes, and of course sinking ships, with special attention to the Titanic disaster.

Wreck Of The Old 97 is probably the most famous of all old time disaster songs. Johnny Cash played it a lot. It´s about the crash of mail train #97, which ran off the track and fell into a ravine somewhere in Virginia back in 1903. Nine people were killed. "They were goin' down the grade makin' 90 miles an hour, when his whistle broke into a scream... He was found in the wreck with his hand on the throttle, and scalded to death by the steam."

A great lonesome whistle serves as the intro to Cliff Carlisle´s Wreck Of Number 52, which chronicles the event of a trainfull of cattle getting derailed when it struck a spike left on the track by a small boy at play. "On his deathbed Allen lay from the burns he got that day, his wife and his children by his side... Then he heard the Master call, and he left them one and all, for Allen had taken his last ride." 

Down With The Old Canoe is one of many great songs about that seemingly infallible ship hitting the fateful iceberg, and probably my favorite of them all. "They all went down to never rise no more..." The concept of calling the Titanic an old canoe alone is priceless...

Watch this space for People Take Warning! pts. 2 and 3, containing many more goodies of the Depression era. Soon!

Skillet Lickers - Wreck Of The Old 97 MP3
Cliff Carlisle - Wreck Of Number 52 MP3
Dixon Brothers - Down With The Old Canoe MP3

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Got the tombstone blues

Tempus fugit. This day in 1971, Duane Allman was killed in a motorcycle accident in Macon, Georgia, just weeks before his 25th birthday. Brother Duane was a true master of the slide guitar. In his honour, here are two marvellous tracks from one of my fave Allman Brothers Band boots.

Allman Brothers Band - Trouble No More (live A&R Studios, New York 26-8-´71) MP3
Allman Brothers Band - Don´t Keep Me Wondering (live A&R Studios, New York 26-8-´71) MP3

On a different note: enjoy this blog while you still can. The music blogosphere is under attack at the moment; read all about it in this post over at Setting The Woods On Fire. Paul of that blog is both a lawyer and an American; he tells it much better than I ever could. Yesterday, those friendly people at Blogger bluntly removed a post of mine from Star Maker Machine. A post about a song by blues master Mississippi John Hurt, from the twenties, which came complete with a link inviting everyone to buy the album... 

Other music bloggers had the same problem with the so-called Digital Millennium Copyright Act the last few days. For some reason, the record industry is blind to the fact that blogs like this one actually make people go out and buy albums... If this goes on, I cannot do anything else but throw in the towel. Here´s hoping the whole thing blows over soon, but somehow I doubt it. So me? I´m in the kitchen. With the tombstone blues.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Your friend, Bobb

It´s surely a mark of genius when you put the following text on the back of your album (and in 1980 at that!): ´Dear John, Paul, George and Ringo, if I´m a good boy and work real hard, may I please be the 5th Beatle someday. Your friend, Bobb.´ Thanks to a recent short but intriguing post over at the Starmaker Machine blog, I recently discovered Bobb Trimble, a typical outsider artist.

Wikipedia has a fine definition of outsider music for us. "Outsider music are songs and compositions by musicians who are not part of the commercial music industry, who write songs that ignore standard musical or lyrical conventions, either because they have no formal training or because they disagree with formal rules. This type of music, which is often bizarre and emotionally stark, has few outlets; performers or recordings are often promoted by word of mouth or through fan chat sites, usually among communities of music collectors and music connoisseurs. Outsider musicians usually have much ´greater individual control over the final creative´ product either because of a low budget or because of their ´inability or unwillingness to cooperate´ with modifications by a record label or producer." Prime examples of outsider artists are Daniel Johnston (see my previous post), Florence Foster Jenkins, Skip Spence, Syd Barrett and The Shaggs.

A small town kid from Worcester, MA., Trimble sure fits that category very well. He played in a band in high school, wrote a couple of songs and when he was 22 years old, walked into a studio one day in 1980 and recorded the bulk of what turned out to be Iron Curtain Innocence. Luckily the engineer, a certain Don Christie, dug what Bobb was after and added many a fine effect tot Trimble´s songs. The result: intense neo-psychedelica, clearly influenced by the Beatles and Syd Barrett´s Pink Floyd, but also bringing Peter Hammill or Robyn Hitchcock to mind at times. When The Raven Calls is a fine example of that session. "When the raven calls, that´ll be World War 3..." Heavy stuff. But the fragile One Mile From Heaven, which was recorded at an earlier session and with a lot less sound effects, to me is the absolute highlight of the album. The impressive Killed By The Hands Of An Unknown Rock Starr (note the double R; this guy really had a Fab Four fixation...) stems from that time as well.

Trimble had about 300 copies of Iron Curtain Innocence pressed, but found there wasn´t a lot of interest in his particular brand of music at the time. Over the years, its legend slowly but surely grew though, and at one point vinyl copies went for ridiculous prices on Ebay when Bobb decided to sell the remainder of them, probably straight from a dusty box under his bed. A few semi-bootlegs did the rounds until Secretly Canadian records finally did the right thing in ´07 and released a proper version of Iron Curtain Innocence, with 3 home demo´s added on. Trimble made one more album by the way, Harvest Of Dreams, with a band called the Kidds (which was indeed made up of 12 and 13 year old kids), which I´m sure to be hunting down soon.

Bobb Trimble - One Mile From Heaven (Long Version) MP3
Bobb Trimble - Killed By The Hands Of An Unknown Rock Starr MP3
Bobb Trimble - When The Raven Calls MP3

Friday, October 24, 2008

Evol Yenoh - the Burt Walters story

Burt Walters was discovered by upcoming reggae producer Lee ´Scratch´ Perry when singing barefoot on the streets of East Kingston, Jamaica. Not much is known about him, although he is said to have been somewhat unstable mentally. In ´68 Perry produced two tracks by Walters and released them on his brand new Upsetter label. The Drifters cover Honey Love is ok but nothing to write home about really, but flipside Evol Yenoh provides a stunning example of Scratch´s budding revolutionary genius. By simply playing the entire vocal track backwards over the same rhythm, Perry creates something very special. It´s bizarre but it works, and I´ve never heard anything even remotely like it. Walters sounds like he´s singing in tongues, or has just been flown in from some faraway planet. Burt phone home: very spooky indeed. It´s funny to note that where Honey Love is credited to McPhatter/Wexler, and rightly so, Perry claims the writing credits for the B-side for himself...

To complete the Burt Walters story: Perry later released one more track by Walters, on the flip of his own People Funny Boy hit. His take on Blowing In The Wind must be one of the funniest Dylan covers ever. The wind doesn´t blow, it howls like a hurricane in the background. I bet you a bottle of Red Stripe that Scratch had just discovered the wind effects button there... As far as I know, Walters drifted straight back into obscurity after this outing, never to record another note. Find these tracks - together with many more early Perry gems - on the People Funny Boy compilation (Trojan records).

Burt Walters - Honey Love MP3
Burt Walters - Evol Yenoh MP3
Burt Walters - Blowing In The Wind MP3

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Walk with me in the morning dew

I don´t know if anyone here has read The Road, the most recent novel by one of my favorite authors, Cormac McCarthy? An incredibly bleak but very moving account of a father and son travelin´ down the road in a post-apocalyptic landscape after a nuclear showdown. Soon to be a motion picture, I guess only one song fits as the perfect theme song. And that´s Morning Dew, a fine piece of cold war paranoia written by folk singer Bonnie Dobson in ´62. In an interview she once remarked her song was based on a movie too by the way: On The Beach, a ´59 flick starring Gregory Peck, and based on the novel by Nevil Shute.

"Take me for a walk in the morning dew my honey, take me for a walk in the morning sun my love... You can´t go walking in the morning dew today, you can´t go walking in the morning sun today...." Bonnie´s version is apparently a live take, but that´s often said to be fake. Whatever the case, she sounds extremely vulnerable here. "Won´t you tell me where have all the people gone? Oh don´t you worry ´bout the people anymore..."

The first ones to cover Dobson´s composition were Greenwich Village folkies Fred Neil and Vince Martin, who rearranged it for their Tear Down The Walls album (´64). A nice interpretation, though just a little bit too stiff. Singer/songwriter Tim Rose based his ´66 cover of Morning Dew on the Neil version and added himself as a co-writer in the process. Through a loophole in American law, he even managed to get royalties this way. Bonnie Dobson has always protested this, but hey, what can you do... Fact is that Rose´s menacing full-band version has a lot of power. "What they were saying all these years is true, ´cause there´s no more morning dew..."

Subsequently, Morning Dew has been covered by loads of bands: Nazareth, Jeff Beck, and the Allman Brothers to name a few. The Grateful Dead´s jam version is probably the most well known. Goes on for ages too... Lee Hazlewoods take is interesting, especially because of that swirling psychedelic piano. But the only interpretation since Tim Rose that really blows one away must be credited to German noisemeisters Einstürzende Neubauten. Listen to their Morning Dew (from ´87) and you can almost hear the four riders of the apocalypse approaching... Blixa´s guitar is sharp as a razor here. If I directed The Road, I´d play the Neubauten version as a starter, and Rose´s one when the credits finally roll.

Bonnie Dobson - Morning Dew MP3
Fred Neil & Vince Martin - Morning Dew MP3
Tim Rose - Morning Dew MP3
The Grateful Dead - Morning Dew (live ´73) MP3
Lee Hazlewood - Morning Dew MP3
Einstürzende Neubauten - Morning Dew MP3

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Mosby Show

Over at the excellent Setting The Woods On Fire blog, Paul recently drew my attention to a hot honky tonk duo I hadn´t heard of before: Carl and Pearl Butler. They recorded the original of We´ll Sweep Out The Ashes In The Morning, that great song later made famous by Gram and Emmylou. Paul´s got two tracks up (check them out here) and I´ll add one more: Don´t Let Me Cross Over, their first release as a duo and a big hit in ´62. A real discovery.

But then we move on to the other twosome on the cd I just bought, Best Of Butler & Mosby - A Family Affair, which is Johnny and Jonie Mosby. They´re not as sharp as the Butlers, but it´s clear they weren´t called Mr. and Mrs. Country Music in their heyday for nothing. Jonie met Johnny when she auditioned for his band in Los Angeles back in ´56, and before she knew it she had landed both a job and a husband. 

They enjoyed many a hit - the Harlan Howard-penned Don´t Call Me From A Honky Tonk was the first in ´63 - until they split up in ´73. We can only hope their divorce proceedings went just a little bit smoother than the ones pictured in their wonderful courtroom drama Who´s Been Cheatin´ Who... "The custody of the family will go to me or you, but in the end it´ll all depend, on who´s been cheatin´ who..."

A nice piece of country trivia for last: in ´92, Jonie Mosby became famous once again as the oldest woman in the US known to have given birth to an in vitro-fertilized baby. She was 52 at the time.
Carl and Pearl Butler - Don´t Let Me Cross Over MP3
Johnny and Jonie Mosby - Who´s Been Cheatin´ Who MP3
Johnny and Jonie Mosby - Don´t Call Me From A Honky Tonk MP3
Johnny and Jonie Mosby - How The Other Half Lives MP3

Friday, October 17, 2008

My Summer Live Adventures pt. 2: Dylan (Of Course)

It was a long and hot, but very scenic drive from my home town to the fair city of Cuenca, where Dylan would perform yet another concert in the umpteenth leg of his Never Ending Tour on the first of July. In Estadio La Fuensanta to be precise, the pretty ramshackle but funky local football stadium. Dylan was in a good mood and in fine form throughout, with the songs from his last studio album Modern Times as stand-outs by far. And that´s probably because he recorded these with exactly the same group of musicians he´s touring with. Not a bad bunch btw, but I have to say they don´t really do it for me on the whole. Bass player Tony Garnier is always ok in my book (hey, he´s played with Dylan without interruption since ´89, the guy´s practically a legend), but I miss the fluid creativity of - for instance - the Charlie Sexton/Larry Campbell line-up. Compared to them, the current trinity of Denny Freeman, Stu Kimball (both on guitar) and Donny Herron (pedal steel, banjo and violin) sounds just a little too bland.

Halfway through the concert the beer ran out. In most European countries this would cause a full-blown riot, but the Cuenca crowd just shrugged and hit the harder stuff. Way cool. They served enormous whiskeys for two beer tokens only... Around that time, Dylan performed a majestic version of the old warhorse Masters Of War, a song that will never lose its relevance I´m afraid. "You play with my world like it's your little toy, you put a gun in my hand and you hide from my eyes, and you turn and run farther when the fast bullets fly."

I saw Dylan lots of times (and in six different countries, a tally that surprised me too) and this wasn´t the most memorable one artistically, but a grand time was had by all. And let´s face it: to be in the presence of the ´poet laureate of rock ´n´ roll´ is always something special. Next time he plays within reach I´ll see him again of course.

Bob Dylan - The Levee´s Gonna Break (live Cuenca 1-7-´08) MP3
Bob Dylan - Rollin´ And Tumblin´ (live Cuenca 1-7-´08) MP3
Bob Dylan - Masters Of War (live Cuenca 1-7-´08) MP3