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Monthly Archives: April 2011
Low Country Blues by Gregg Allman:
The Great New CD from Gregg Allman
How can I tell you how great this CD is? From the first note to the last it is awesome. This is Gregg Allman’s first CD in 14 years and it was worth the wait. The Blues ooze out of Gregg. He has been through a lot in his life in the past and present.
Gregg Allman has recently survived Liver transplant surgery due to his past I.V. drug problems. Gregg said it was the most painful thing he has ever experienced in his entire life. The CD is produced by the one and only T Bone Burnett. T Bone is in my mind the top Producer working in music today. He produced “The Union” … the latest CD from Elton John and Leon Russell; Robert Plant and Allison Krauss “Raising Sand”; “Oh, Brother, Where Art Thou?”, and the great CD’s of his ex-wife, Sam Phillips. (Martini’s and Bikini’s, etc…) and the list goes on and on and would blow you away if you knew. He is creating the sound we here today. He is Marshall Chess, Phil Spector, Ahmet Ertegen, Alan Parsons, and whoever else you want to name all rolled into one. T Bone seems hell bent on rekindling every rock star’s career he feels deserves to find a new generation of fans. All I have to say to him is: “You go, dude!!!! Thank God for T Bone Burnett.
This CD almost didn’t get made. Gregg Allman wanted to use his touring band. T Bone said it was a deal killer if Gregg would not use the “All-Star” band he put together for the project. Gregg said “fine, the deal is off…” Lucky (Or Good) for T Bone one of the “All-Stars” was Mac Rebennack (aka “Dr. John”). Dr John has been a close friend of Gregg Allman for many years. He convinced Allman to go ahead with the project. In addition Gregg was assured that the tour supporting the CD would be made with his regular band members. Deal On! The “All-Star” band also includes the great Doyle Bramhall II on lead guitar.
The CD is a tribute to some of Gregg’s favorite Blues Musicians. Some of the musicians who’s songs are covered are: “Sleepy” John Estes, Skip James, Muddy Waters, Little Milton, Junior Wells,, BB King, Buddy Guy, and Magic Sam. My favorite song on the CD is the Skip James song, “Devil Got My Woman”. The Song starts with just Gregg’s voice and acoustic guitar. The guitar is played by Gregg and it was Skip James actual guitar. Gregg sings “I’d rather be the devil than be that Woman’s Man…” It sounds ancient, like listening to Robert Johnson for the first time. Very spooky and powerful music! Every cut is good on this CD. I could go on and on, but just go out and get the CD, NOW!
My friend Jim is a member of an on-line chat room that is focused on Polk Audio Stereo Equipment. He held a listening party at his house Saturday. I really enjoyed this event a lot! First of all I got to hear some great music I haven’t heard before. Second, I got to hear some great stereo equipment. The experience provided a rare opportunity to experience a wide variety of sound equipment as well as recording formats. The equipment varied from small book shelf speakers and small amps to Floor standing speakers being driven by giant power amps. The recording format went from LP records to digital FLAC files streaming through a DAC converter. I brought my Rega P-2 and some LP’s as well as a number of different CD’s that were recorded with various audiophile techniques.
I heard a lot of great music. One CD I enjoyed was Charlie Robinson “Life of the Party”. Very cool outlaw country sound. I heard some book shelf speakers that were unreal. They were the Onix Reference One speakers. ($1200 per pair approx.) The real treat to me was listening to an LP though a high end Tube Amp, pre-amp and phono-stage. We listened to Supertramp “Crime of the Century” recorded in Half Speed Master by Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab and a regular recording of “L A Woman” by The Doors” Wow what a sound that was! Cosmic experience deluxe! The tube amp and pre-amp were made by Golden Tube audio: the SE40 and the SEP-1 respectively. The other turntable we heard was an old empire that had major modifications that included a Rega tone arm and a lot of other stuff. I forgot to identify the tube phono-stage. But it sounded so much better than the built in phono stage that was in the Music Hall integrated amp that we used to power my Rega P-2. The sound of that old vinyl through all that warm beautiful tube equipment was just a real treat.
It was particularly sweet because yesterday was national Record Store Day. A day where we celebrate all the Mom and Pop owned record stores in the country. I think it was a great accidental tribute that Jim’s Polk crew put together.
Along the lines of vinyl vs. digital; check out the May/June Absolute Sound magazine that came out this last week. They published a letter to the editor I wrote. My letter concerned a gentleman that wrote in to complain about any coverage the magazine devoted to covering vinyl. He was very blunt and nasty about his opinion and bashed any and everyone that wasted their time with the “inferior” format of vinyl. I couldn’t help it. I had to write in and defend vinyl.
So a great weekend event and it ended up honoring vinyl on national record store day. Thank you Jim A. for hosting a great event! All I have to say is dust off your LP’s and your turntables and use them. If you don’t have a turntable get one! LONG LIVE VINYL!!!!!!!
Have you ever heard of Nektar? I, for one, had not. This album is really cool. I really enjoyed listening to it and researching this band. Nektar was formed in Hamburg, Germany in 1969 by 4 Englishmen. They started out making psychedelic rock albums. Their third album was the first one released in the United States. It was called “A Tab in the Ocean”. They developed a cult following largely by word of mouth. The next album called “Remember the Future” (1973) was a big hit and made it up to the Billboard top 20 album chart. It was a concept album about a blind boy who could communicate with Aliens. The Album I have in front of me now was the follow up. “Down to Earth” was released the next year (1974). It is a concept album as well. It is about a circus. It also sold well and made it up into the Billboard top 40 album chart. The album features their only single that made it onto the Billboard charts “Astral Man”. in 1975 they released the album “Recycled” which is considered their masterpiece. I have read that is sounds a lot like Gentle Giant. What is really amazing to me is that they are still around performing and recording. They reformed in 2002. As a matter of fact they are in studio now recording a CD for release this year. Check out their website at http://www.nektarsmusic.com/nn/home/home_new.asp
So let’s review the LP.
Astral Man/Nelly the Elephant
The Album starts with the sounds of a crowd and circus music. Then the sounds of Astral Man. It’s a very easy song to listen to. Upbeat and happy. All the songs were co-written by the entire band. The song uses the Master of Ceremonies of the Circus to transition the song into the next cut Nelly the Elephant. Nelly starts out with a great brass instrumental passacaglia over which the lead guitar blasts out this great fuzz guitar solo. The MC returns “Elephants are extremely fond of Oranges of which they consume an enormous quantity!” The brass returns and fades out.
Early Morning Clown
This is a short and very beautiful song. It sounds like the Moody Blues to me. I really like the complexity of the opening instrumental.
Side one closes with this great cut That’s Life. Very jazz influenced. Great instrumental work. I really like the guitar work of Roye Albrighton (Lead Guitar, Lead Vocal). The song closes with the return of the Ring Master on a rant and the chorus.
The German Ring Master begins side 2 telling us how much we are going to enjoy the show. Fidgety Queen has the sound of Funk. Great brass playing. Once again a great guitar hook in the song followed by another great guitar solo. The lead vocal has a McCartney like quality to it.
This is just a great Rock n Roll song. It just makes you want to move. Then it goes into this dream like instrumental section. Awesome quiet guitar solo that leads to a crescendo and a recap of the rock section.
This is one of the best songs on LP in my opinion. It has great lyrics and melody. It also has a memorable chorus. It has a sound sort of like old Fleetwood Mac (Pre Buckingham/Nicks) or even old Moody Blues again. I can’t quite put my finger on it.
Show Me The Way
This song starts with great rock piano. It has an interesting middle section. The transition to the slower middle section is very creative. I love the transition back to the main rock them where the vocalist repeats over and over “show me the way”
The music fades in and we get one more taste of the great passacaglia of Nelly the Elephant and then fades out. A really creative interesting album. Nektar for my ears! n I loved it.
This album makes me want to explore more. I’d love to find Remember the Future and Recycled. I look forward to hear the newer music from Nektar as well. Check them out. You will not be disappointed.
Last night my wife andI attended our first concert of the Plano Symphony Orchestra. This is kind of embarrassing because Plano has had a symphony since 1983. It has grown from a chamber orchestra to a full fledged orchestra.
The performance of the Beethoven 9th is a test for any orchestra and conductor in the world. It is a massive composition of over one hour in length and requires a large orchestra, a full chorus, and four solo singers. It is a piece of music that is wired into my psyche. I have seen it performed live twice before and I listen to it every December 16th in honor of the birth of Beethoven. (So what if you think its silly:-) The attempt to perform such a masterpiece is a statement by the Plano Symphony that they feel they have arrived. After last night I would say they largely succeeded.
The evening began with the Mozart Symphony No 40 in G minor K.550. Mozart wrote this symphony late in his short life and he may never have seen it performed live. Hector Guzman, the conductor of the the Plano Symphony, set his tempo’s largely on the slower side. I for one like this approach to Mozart. Some time the tempo’s of Mozart performances are so fast that it seems like a race to see who finishes first. This is somber, uneasy music and Mr Guzman brought out the more romantic forward looking side of Mozart that led directly to the symphonies of Beethoven and everyone who followed. The andante is sometimes played too slow but Guzman and the orchestra nailed the Andante “walking pace” of the movement. The Menuetto/Allegretto was muscular and dramatic. Because Mr. Guzman didn’t play the first movement at a break neck pace, it set up the finale “Allegro assai” beautifully and it raced ahead full of angst, anxiety and drama. This was music making at a very high level.
The first movement of the Beethoven was again taken a little slower than I’ve heard. This added weight and foreboding to the music. I noticed that Maestro Guzman chose to skip the repeat in the opening Allegro. I think because of time concerns. The performance started at 8:15 and was delayed by a special presentation to the retiring executive director Alice Hobbs, who is responsible for bringing the orchestra to the level of success they have achieved. Usually when the 9th is performed only a short composition is performed before because the 9th is so long. In any case the first movement was performed deliberately and workman like. It never rose to the point of magic but still admirably executed. The Scherzo is almost as famous as the “Ode to Joy” Choral finale. It was wonderfully played with crisp and emotional execution by the orchestra although I did notice a few spots where co-ordination between sections was a little off. Unless you have heard the work as much as I have it was probably not noticed by the general public. It was in the third movement that had the most problems. Many people mistakenly feel that playing fast must be much more difficult than playing slow. It is my feeling that the reverse is true. First, when you play slow your rythme must be perfect andthe music must not lose it’s forward momentum. Second, mistakes are more easy to notice and so you are much more exposed during slow compositions. Both things seemed to affect the orchestra. There are several moments in the Adagio where various woodwind and horn players have solo moments. Not all of these were executed flawlessly. (By the way, these solo’s are also very demanding.) In the end the “molto cantablie” was achieved and set up the orchestral blast that leads to the finally beautifully.
The four soloist came out to be seated after the 2nd movement so that the orchestra could go straight into the finale with almost no break. The soloist were as follows: Alex Bumpas, Tenor; Blake Davidson, Bass; Laura Mercado-Wright, Mezzo Soprano; and(A last minute substitution) Algela Turner Wilson, Soprano. The finale was very well done with only a few minor faux pas. It is always so dramatic to me when the chorus stands up to sing. The chorus was very well prepared and performed admirably. Of the four soloist I thought that the Tenor, Alex Bumpas and the Soprano Angela Turner Wilson were fantastic. I predict that Alex Bumpas is going places. He was just amazing. Angela Wilson has a huge but beautiful voice. Even though the 9th taxes every singers range there was not sign of it last night from these two singers. What a performance!
So in the end I give the performance a B. Quite an accomplishment for a organization that was a chamber orchestra just a few years ago. The future is bright and Hector Guzman is quite a talented conduct and music director. I for one am going to buy season tickets for next year. This was the final performance of their 8 concert season. Congratulation to Hector Guzman, the Plano Symphony, it’s staff and to Alice Hobbs who played such an important role in bringing the symphony to this point. ENCORE!!