Saturday, May 24, 2008
... Younger Than That Now
Happy 67th Birthday, Bob
... he not busy being born is busy dying ...
Saturday, September 29, 2007
Saturday Music Hall: Seeds
I'm at Focus Ink's progressive gathering today. Come on down. We need to sprout more seeds for peace, justice and equality.
A few more ...
Saturday, July 21, 2007
Saturday Music Hall: Live From Abbey Road
Amos Lee, Black River, Live From Abbey Road
Have you watched any of this series on the Sundance Channel? Every week they feature three musical artists each recording three songs live at the famous Abbey Road Studios in London, with some short interview clips tossed into the mix. After so many days filled with negative vibes coming from Washington, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, you name it, it was grounding to tune into the show last night at midnight and slide into a more soul nurturing corner of the universe.
Randy Crawford and Joe Sample, Street Life, Live From Abbey Road
Last night's episode featured singer-songwriter Amos Lee (top), jazz and R & B vocalist Randy Crawford with piano virtuoso Joe Sample, founding member of the Crusaders (above), and some of the stunning musicianship of guitarist/vocalist David Gilmour of Pink Floyd fame (below).
David Gilmour, On An Island, Live From Abbey Road
Gilmour, as always, was a flow unto himself, but I really enjoyed hearing Lee, who I'd never run across before, and Crawford and Sample, who I'd pretty much forgotten. There's truth to the old saw that music soothes the savage breast. I was soothed and swayed. Phew. Maybe you will be too, in these savage times.
More Amos Lee can be found at MySpace and his official website. He's got quite a range of styles and I find his vocals to be beautiful -- when was the last time you thought of that adjective when listening to today's music -- yet gritty enough not to be too precious.
More Randy Crawford can be had at Wikipedia and at this site. Explore more Joe Sample at Verve Music and Wikipedia. Check out their new album together, "Feeling Good." Classy stuff done right, with plenty of nuance and chops.
Saturday, June 30, 2007
Saturday Music Hall: African Roots
We've been lucky the past couple weeks to see performances by two powerful artists whose musical influences are, directly or indirectly, African. We saw Angelique Kidjo this week at the Santa Fe Brewing Company. She hails from Benin in West Africa, but as she explains in the video above, her music includes elements from all over the continent, as well as the Caribbean, and American pop, rock, blues and soul. She's also a UN Good Will Ambassador and does a lot of work with Amfar and other organizations. Her performance in Santa Fe was explosively energetic, rhythmic and infectiously engaging -- almost the entire crowd was up and dancing for the entire show. Her latest album, Djin Djin, emphasizes the diverse drumming styles Africa. More Kidjo videos, including her first hit in America, an exotic cover of Jimi Hendrix's Voodoo Child. She'll be appearing as part of the 7.07.07 Live Earth Concert from Johannesburg, South Africa.
Joan then (1976) singing Love and Affection
The week before, we saw long-time favorite Joan Armatrading bring down the house at Paolo Soleri in Santa Fe with excellent new arrangements of her older tunes and terrific new material. She's originally from St. Kitts, one of the Leeward Islands in the West Indies, where Caribbean music draws much from African roots. She grew up in Birmingham, England and later absorbed everything the London scene had to offer musically. Armatrading's music also spans everything from reggae to folk to her unique brand of pop. Her lastest album, Into the Blues, debuted at #1 on the Billboard Blues Chart last month. Not bad for a 56-year-old.
Joan now, singing Woman in Love from Into the Blues
On her new album, Joan gets to stretch out some on vocals and guitar, including some tasty slide. Below you can listen to Into the Blues and Liza from the new album.
More Armatrading videos.
Saturday, June 23, 2007
Saturday Music Hall: Sweet Home ...
From Young Turks , who ask that we merely think about it ...
We went to a magical, magnificent Joan Armatrading concert last night at my favorite New Mexico venue, Paolo Soleri Amphitheater, where the spectacular sunset provided an especially ethereal character to Joan's powerful performance. However, since I'm still soaring on a natural high from it, I don't have it in me to follow up with a Saturday Music Hall post on the experience yet. In the meantime ....
Saturday, June 16, 2007
Saturday Music Hall: Hillary Song
I was wandering the web this morning and came upon this ancient clip. I can't entirely explain it but, for some reason, all I could think of when listening to it (besides how young the lads were back then) was how descriptive it is in some way of the corporatist, "free" trade black hole that lies inside the faux-Democratic facade that is Hillary. She can't really be our nominee, can she? Let's hope Democrats "find out" before it's too late....
Saturday, June 02, 2007
Saturday Music Club: Indigos and Havens
We went to see Richie Havens and Indigo Girls perform at the Santa Fe Opera recently, a show billed as the finale of the two-day World Peace Conference. Whatever you think about a peace conference being funded by the Department of Tourism and set in a state filled with major components of what used to be called the military-industrial complex, this show was top notch and well worth the trip up north. There's something to be said about peace music and/or acoustic music and/or harmonic vocals carrying an audience up to the higher ground and echoing away towards the bomb making machinery.
Amy and Emily led some warmly received sing alongs of their old stuff, and featured a lot of their newer material, like songs from their latest album "Despite Our Differences." The video above, submitted for a contest by a fan, is set to one of my favorite numbers from that release called "Pendulum Swinger."
Indigo Girls were at the top of their strumming and vocal forms and the crowd was dominated by folks who had clearly been fans in the beginning and ever since. It was like old home day for the hippie-dyke enchantment dwellers of yore -- grayer and more wrinkled than before, but still parading their stuff. In other words, we were among family. Hugs were abundant. I even saw a fair number of spiked hairdos and mullets. Time for a retro comeback? Not yet, not yet.
They made great use of the top-of-the-line opera house acoustics and audio system, with the sound as clear as a bell. They changed guitars (or electric mandolins or banjos) every song. I've seen them live so many times in so many eras and in so many states of mind that they're like a part of my life fabric, comforting and pulsating warmth and good will. My favorite was a pounding version of Amy's "Go Go Go," tracing the protest movements from the suffragette days onward. Emily did some high vocal explorations that chimed like a bell. Wow. Nothing like being among friends, musical or otherwise, as the cold winds blew in off the still snowy peaks of the Sangre de Cristos and the lightning crackled across the skies as if on cue, I swear.
Richie Havens was rousing, funny and spiritual all at the same time. His energy and high intensity rhythm guitar playing are still going strong, as is his voice. I'm pleased to report he now has teeth of some sort, a big improvement over his physical state when he opened the Woodstock Arts and Music Fair oh so many years ago. His beard is now long and white and the top of his pate shiny. His foot pounding is still some of the best in the music biz, and his thumb is still wider than the guitar neck.
He was accompanied by tasty licks from talented lead player Walter Parks and a woman sawing expertly on an electric cello, much like in the video above. Yes, he did "Freedom (Motherless Child)" and "Here Comes the Sun," but also a rather somber rendition of "Woodstock." He opened with a wary and moody version of "All Along the Watchtower" that set just the right tone for an America as dangerous as the one we're experiencing. In between he performed a bunch of his own songs and told some funny stories. He noted how it was rather silly to be spending billions to get into outer space when we were already riding a chunk of rock zooming through it. Richie Havens -- still high on life.
Saturday, March 24, 2007
Saturday Music Hall: What's Goin' On?
I thought we could use some classic Motown on this rainy weekend. Here's the late, great Marvin Gaye doing a live version of What's Goin; On/What's Happenin' Brother in 1973 at a Save the Children concert. Note the top notch bass work by Rock and Roll Hall of Famer James Jamerson, who played on Motown hits during the 60s and early 70s. The video has scenes from the Maxwell Street Market, ghettos and parks of Chicago. Much has changed since that era, including the hairstyles, but many of the questions are still unanswered, the problems left unsolved, and another war's goin' on.
Saturday, March 10, 2007
Saturday Music Hall: Variations Over Time
Guinnevere, Crosby and Nash, 1970
Guinnevere, Crosby and Nash, Concord CA, 2006
A friend mentioned he'd started listening to CSN(Y) again after not hearing them for many years, and how wonderful it was to be in that space again. As for me, I've had the pleasure of hearing and seeing them over the course of their long career (and my life), in various combinations, acoustic and electric, in venues large and small. At times, I've traveled to other states to do it. I've witnessed concerts by CSN, CSNY, Neil Young, Crosby and Nash, Graham Nash alone, David Crosby solo and David Crosby in CPR, a band he created in 1997 with exquisite guitar player Jeff Pevar, an incredibly talented rhythm section and the son he didn't meet for decades, James Raymond, on piano and keyboards.
At a time when noise, static, soundbites, arguments, name-calling and IED explosions dominate the airwaves and our senses, I thought a dose of harmony and acoustic guitars was in order, so I focused on several incarnations of David Crosby. Time is strange and powerful. Cycles complete, disappear, return in a slightly different form. Variations on a theme. We change. We age. We evolve. Yet the song remains essentially the same. Deja vu.
Lee Shore, CSN, Japan, 1991
CPR doing Deja Vu, 1998, Dutch television
From Crosby's website:
"A human being is part of a whole, called by us the "Universe," a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest -- a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty." --Albert Einstein
Saturday, February 10, 2007
Saturday Music Hall: Mellencamp
Rain On the Scarecrow, Blood On the Plow
I've always really liked John Mellencamp (even when he was known, incongruously, as John Cougar). I liked his bands, often featuring the fabulous Kenny Aranoff on drums, and usually including African-American and women musicians. There were diverse people populating his videos. I also think it's got a lot to do with going to college in downstate Illinois, in Champaign-Urbana. I enjoyed the small town atmosphere there so much in that era that I stayed an extra year surrounded by the flat, flat cornfields. I met many guys like Mellencamp in those years, from nearby farming towns like Rantoul, Mattoon, Villa Grove, Decatur (DEE-ca-tur), Danville, Tuscola, Effingham, Flora, Vandalia.
I grew to love the wide open landscape of lonely grain elevators, Illinois-Central railroad tracks, straight-line county roads good for speeding rides on motorcycles, peeling paint wooden houses with generous porches and tiny town centers of chipped red brick. Most of it run down, fading, failing, but hanging on. Back then the interstate ended just south of Chicago so, if we drove down to Champaign, we rolled slowly through many of the tiny family farm towns and stopped to eat breakfast at the little diners where people still rolled their own cigarettes and wore bib overalls. If we rode the IC train down, the Black conductors were ancient, the club cars lively as we passed by the run-down backsides of the towns, listening to the mesmerizing clickety clack below us.
The first round of people in the rural Midwest were losing their family farms right then, owned for generations, and having to go to work in the factories that still punctuated the mostly empty landscapes. Their children exhibited a strong populist (and antiwar) streak because of this, something I could connect with given my own upbringing in second generation, blue collar, union enclaves in the Windy City. They were wise asses too, confronters, in a good way. I could connect with that too. And many of them even looked like Mellencamp, Germanic, short, dark-haired, wiry. Some were going to the U of I's big ag school, others were weekend visitors to the campus, searching out parties, music, adventures. Many were fans of Bob Dye-lin, as they used to call him, which always surprised me somewhat.
Mellencamp's music, videos and politics all remind me of that era, that attitude, that feeling of place at a time when the American working class was getting its first hits from the merging corporate monsters. At first they came for the family farms. Now they've got almost everything. What have the little people got? Little Pink Houses of course. Only this time they're flooded out and rotting while the stock markets rise astronomically, and Bush can't even utter the words "New Orleans." If we don't think it can happen to us next, we just aren't paying attention ...
Mellencamp recently released a new album called "Freedom's Road," with a new video release of the song This Is Our Country. Let's act like it and take it back. At last.
Saturday, January 27, 2007
Saturday Music Hall: Beware of Darkness
Given all the dark energies swirling in and around the White House and zigging zagging out into the wider world these days, I thought we could all use a little George Harrison to help help us keep our spirits strong. Here he is in 1971 at his Concert for Bangladesh.
Saturday, January 20, 2007
Saturday Music Hall: California Dreaming Edition
Denny Doherty of the 60s group, the Mamas and Papas, died yesterday at 66 of kidney problems following abdominal surgery, so I thought I'd feature some of their harmonic convergences today. Sweet harmonies. Besides filling a pop music niche before folk rock and psychedelia completely took over the music scene, the Mamas and Papas were also among the organizers of one of the very first rock music festivals -- Monterey Pop in 1967 -- that was the national launching pad for many including Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Otis Redding. David Crosby of the Byrds sang with Buffalo Springfield. Other performers included the Mamas and Papas, Jefferson Airplane, Ravi Shankar, Laura Nyro, The Grateful Dead, The Who, Country Joe and The Fish, Moby Grape, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Canned Heat, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, The Steve Miller Band, and The Blues Project. During the Summer of Love.
The video above captures their lip synching of California Dreaming on the weekly rock music TV show Hullabaloo -- shot in perhaps the only era that could accommodate a music event with go go dancers springing out of old fashioned claw-foot bath tubs.
Here they are closing out Monterey Pop with a live rendition of Martha and the Vandella's hit, Dancing in the Streets. By the way, it was Mama Cass Elliot who first got the members of CSNY singing together. She passed away way too soon of a fatal heart attack, at age 30 in 1974. John Phillips died in 2001 at 65, so Michelle Phillips is now the only surviving member.
Here's a triplet shot of some of their hits -- California Dreaming, Monday, Monday and I Call Your Name, again with the bath tubs. I have no idea why the tubs were such a theme, but you have to admit the impact of the clothes ensembles bests that of even the tubs in this vid.
As we move deeper into a time of neocon danger and confusion, settle in and enjoy the light-hearted silliness of the Mamas and Papas as we did back in the day, before the more serious and cutting edge aspects of the era settled over us.
My memory bank on this band includes my freshman year at the University of Illinois, living in one of the women's dorms, sharing a small room with 2 other plaid skirt wearing, knee sock donning coeds. Champaign-Urbana had lots of infamous beer only bars on or near campus that served the students, regardless of whether they were 21 or not. Some of them had been in existence since the 1920s, when the U of I created the rituals of college Homecoming and The Galloping Ghost, Red Grange, played halfback for the Fighting Illini football team.
You weren't allowed to have a car on campus or live in off-campus apartments until you were 21, so there were few student DWI problems. Female students, however, had to be back in the dorms by 10:30 PM on weekdays and 1:00 AM on weekends. Male students had no hours. We also were required to wear skirts or dresses to class. And don't even ask about sleeping with rollers embedded in our hair. Ah, the changes to come.
Once in awhile, usually during election time, these student ghetto bars were "raided" by the cops, but only after we were forewarned they were coming. Underaged drinkers were instructed to put their beers to the center of the tables and to order cokes for sipping while the police strode about. They usually arrested one or two rowdies, then left, and the underage drinking continued, with the university's unofficial blessing. Seems scandalous indeed in this era of police state control and safety at any cost lawmaking.
Anyway, one of the traditions of my freshman year was returning to the dorm with a definite beer buzz, hooking up with like-minded returnees from the bars, and singing harmonies to the Mamas and Papas playing on mostly mono record players, candles burning. It was a time. And it changed quickly into something much more complex and layered. But for those couple of years when the Mamas and Papas were all over the radio, everyone I knew in the flat cornfields of downstate Illinois sang along and smiled, dreaming of California.