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Monthly Archives: April 2012
Finally, I am back to writing about vinyl. This album came to me by way of my new friend Dave. Dave said I could keep all his vinyl if I transferred them to CD’s for him. I have been working on that project steadily over the past few months. I have other albums he brought to me that I intend to blog about too, but I have more ideas than I have time to blog. Anyway, thanks Dave for this very cool record!
This new post is about the first all white band to sign with Motown Records; Rare Earth. Motown decided in 1969 that they wanted to start a new label that would be dedicated to only white performers. They wanted to create a label that would be equally branded as the Motown label was for black performers. Rare Earth was the first band signed under this new marketing effort. They were a local Detroit band and had already been recorded by Verve Records, but that album had not sold well. The title of this record is “Ecology”. This was Rare Earth’s third LP and and their second one released on the Motown owned “Rare Earth” label. It was released in 1970. The record label is pretty cool and 70’s looking. The members of Rare Earth actually named the label for Motown executives. The Motown A&R guys asked the band members what they thought the label should be called and they jokingly suggested their own band name. Later they were stunned to find out that Motown took them up on their idea! That’s how they came to record on a label named after their own band. I think this may have been an all time first in Rock-n-Roll history. Here are some pictures of the album and label:
This album came about in an unusual way. The second Rare Earth album “Get Ready” was very successful and the title cut was a cover of the great song by the temptations. The Temptations. But The Temptations version only made it to #29 on The Billboard top 100. Rare Earth’s version peaked at #4. Because of the success of this record Hollywood came calling. They wanted the band to contribute songs to a movie called “Generation”. The movie starred David Jannsen and Kim Darby. Once the movie was a hit then Motown was going to release a movie soundtrack. Unfortunately, the movie flopped. There would be no soundtrack. So several of the songs on “Ecology” were from the failed movie. The album has 7 cuts because two of the songs are fairly long. There is a 11 minute cover of The Temptations song (I know) I’m Losing You and a 6 1/2 minute version of The Beatles “Eleanor Rigby”. (I think it would be cool to do a blog on the best and worst Beatles covers of all time. Maybe I will do that on in the future?)
Here we go with SIDE 1:
Born To Wander
This song was a minor hit for the band and it appears on “Greatest Hits’ and/or “Best of” compilations of the band’s music. It’s a great opener and it is very typical of their R&B style. I really like the flute in this song.
Long Time Leavin’
This is a very bluesy number. One interesting thing about this group is that the lead singer was the drummer. Pete Riveria had a great, soulful voice. He was a huge part of why I loved this band. Great organ solo by Kenny James. This song also has a very jazz influenced Coda.
(I Know) I’m Losing You
I love this version of this song. There is also a great cover of this song by Rod Stewart on his great album “Every Picture Tells A Story”. But I really like the echo on the voice, the fade in beginning and the fuzz ladden guitar. It’s just a great extended version of a classic Motown song.
Side 2 begins with a band and Satisfaction is Guaranteed! This song has the attitude of Detroit Motown soul! I can hear this song being done by any number of Motown artist successfully. “You gotta trust me baby… you gotta believe me…”
Nice Place To Visit
This song has a real “Funk” feel to it. Great guitar solo by Rod Richards.
No. 1 Man
This song has kind of a far eastern intro and then emerges with a cool bluesy guitar sound. The chorus is kind of catchy isn’t it? I kind of want to sing along “I wana be your No. 1 Man…” Then the great guitar work of Rod Richards returns. A Rockin’ good time!
So the previous song fades out and the next sound we hear is this A Capella chorus performing a fairly complex round that is eventually joined by a string orchestra. It’ s a very interesting attempt to give a blues/almost gospel treatment to this classic Beatles song. You’ve got to admit that they make it their own. I think it’s kind of a cool version. Ray Charles tried the same thing with better results. A great closing track. Notice the fade out fade back in at the very end of the song. Very Beatles like…
So what happened to Rare Earth? Well, technically, they are still around. They have a website www.rareearth.com. The only original member is Gil Bridges. He plays flute, Tambourine, and sings. Rod Richards left the band over business differences. Kenny James left next because he was tired of touring. They replaced the band members and had a couple of more hits (I Just Want To Celebrate, Hey Big Brother) but they never had another hit after 1971. When Motown decided to relocate from Detroit to Los Angeles, John Persh decided not to move with the rest of the band. He died in 1981 of a staph infection. In 1974 Pete Riveria left the band after having major business differences with their manager. The other band members sided with Management, so Pete walked out and started another band. was inducted into the Michigan Rock and Roll Legends On Line Hall of Fame. In 2011 their song
Radiohead is not only the future of Rock, but maybe even the future of music. I used to tell people that had never head Radiohead that they were the modern Pink Floyd. The real truth is Radiohead is not like anyone else that has ever been. This band is so creative and smart there is no telling where they can take music in the future. Currently the lead guitar player Jonny Greenwood is collaborating with the avantgarde composer Krzysztof Penderecki. They did the movie soundtracks to “There Will Be Blood” and “Norwegian Wood”. They just released a CD on the Nonesuch label. The CD is a compilation of works by both musicians. It was just released on March 13, 2012. I haven’t heard it yet, but I assure you I will purchase it as soon as possible. Needless to say this is not the average rock band. Radiohead is heavily influenced by contemporary “Classical” (for lack of a better word!) composers. Another cool thing about this band is that they regularly employ some of the very first synthesizers ever invented. First is the Etherwave Theremin Kit:
This Synthesizer was invented in 1928 by a Russian Scientist named Theremin. It was first used in Rock-n-Roll by Randy California of Spirit, and Randy introduced it to Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin, who got a lot of mileage out of it during live performances with Led Zeppelin.
The other synthesizer is called the ondes Martenot. This synthesizer was invented in France in 1928. Radiohead owns two ondes Martenots! Here are a couple of pictures of the Martenot. They are very difficult to play and even harder to master.
So on to the show. My brother Joe went with me. He is a highly trained and excellent musician. (If I may be so bold as to brag on my brother…).
I have been a fan of this band for years and have always wanted to see them so needless to say I was very psyched for this show. The opening act was a band called Other Lives. This band was a real pleasure to see live. They sounded like a cross between old Peter Gabriel era Genesis, Kate Bush, and with a little Arcade Fire mixed in. Several of the musicians in the band played different instruments during their 30 minute set. At various times they had a cello, violin, trumpet, and many different kinds of percussion instruments playing. The poor bastards were jammed together in front of the giant pile of equipment for Radiohead. They could hardly move around but they really sounded great! Then to my surprise, when the lead singer introduced the band, he said they were from Stillwater, Oklahoma! I would never have guess that. They sounded English! Here is a photo gallery of Other Lives on stage at American Airlines Center, in Dallas, Texas.
After a brief intermission the main event began. Here’s a taste of what it was like.
They opened their two hour 24 song set with Bloom from their latest CD called King of Limbs and ended their set with Paranoid Android from their CD called OK Computer. From the very first song it was apparent I was in for a very special night. First of all their set included the live debut of two new songs. The first one came about half-way through their initial set. It was called The Amazing Sound of Orgy. The second new song was played during the second encore. (By the way, I’m told that two encore sets from Radiohead is extremely unusual too!) That song was called Skirting on the Surface. Both songs were excellent and bode well for the next Radiohead CD. They also played two other new songs that they have played other places on this tour: Identikit and Staircase. They played almost everything I wanted to hear. Of course they could play all night and I’d still think of a song I wished they had played. The light show was amazing. They had 12 giant flat screened televisions that were hung suspended above the stage. These screens could move up and down and rotate, creating mind boggling effects. Behind the band was an extremely sophisticated wall of lights that really blew me away. Here is a photo gallery of pictures I took at the show with my iPhone:
The most interesting thing about the light show, however, was what was not there. There was not one single spotlight used during the entire show. In all of my life of going to rock concerts (my first show was in 1969) I have never seen a band perform without using spotlights. The message is obvious and a real insight into the mindset of Radiohead. Radiohead is a BAND! The sum is greater than the parts. This band has no Star. They are truly an ensemble performing their joint compositions. Really, that is what I love about them. They are composers not song writers. They are practicing their art on the highest level. They could care less if anyone likes it. They write their music because they have too. Because their art always comes before their popularity it was very gratifying to see a sold out hero worshiping crowd at the AAC that night. The future’s so bright I gotta wear shades!
Here’s the Set List:
Little By Little
Morning Mr. Magpie
The Daily Mail
The Amazing Sounds of Orgy(Live debut)
Climbing Up The Walls
Everything In It’s Right Place(w/True Love Waits intro)
- Encore 2:
Give Up The Ghost
Skirting On The Surface(Full band live debut)
If you don’t know who Big Head Todd and the Monsters are, then you need to get to know them. I was not familiar with their music until last year. Now I have all of their music except the new CD of Robert Johnson covers. Big Head Todd was formed in 1986 released their first studio album in 1989 so they have stood the test of time. What I think Todd Mohr (The Lead Singer/Lead Guitar Player/ Song Writer) has accomplished is the perfect melding of alternative rock with blues rock. Simply put, The man can play the blues. The set they performed at the House of Blues was appropriately Blues infused! I think Todd had the blues in his heart and mind because he had just released “Big Head Todd Blues Club – 100 Years of Robert Johnson” in 2011 and his buddy, the great Hubert Summlin, had just died. Hubert was the guitar player for Howlin’ Wolf. Keith Richards was putting together a surprise birthday party for Hubert at the Apollo Theater in New York when Hubert passed away. The birthday party became a tribute concert. Todd was invited by Keith Richards and Eric Clapton to participate. That concert occurred in New York on February 24th right before I saw this concert on March 1st, 2012. I think the blues were on his mind.
I got invited to the show by a friend of mine who is one of their biggest fans and he is also the guy that turned me on to them as well. I had heard a few of their better known songs like “Bittersweet”, but I had never sat down and listened to an entire recording of theirs until Wojo came along. Thanks Wojo where ever you are! My friend Wojo is also a Founders Club member of The House of Blues. What that means is that we had a first class experience at the show. We had access to a private entrance to the club, a private bar, reserved seats, and table service for cocktails. That’s why some of the pictures are so good. I was sitting right next to the mixing board.
There was no opening act. Todd and the Monsters walked on stage at exactly 9:00pm and promptly blew the doors of the building. The sound quality was excellent. The musicianship was even better. Todd wields a major Ax! (It’s no wonder that Keith Richards and Eric Clapton invited him to participate in the Summlin tribute.) They played all of their hits as well as a good bit of material from their newer CD’s. The show lasted 2 hours but it went by way too fast.
Big Head Todd and the Monsters are on tour right now. Don’t you dare miss them. You will have a first class rock experience even if you’re not a Founders Club member. Buy their music too. You will not be disappointed. I for one am going to get the Robert Johnson CD as soon as possible. Also, check out their website: http://www.bigheadtodd.com – There is great video of the Hubert Summlin tribute as well as all of the music from this amazing band.
Sorry for the long hiatus form my blog. It couldn’t be helped. I was traveling a lot in the first 3 months of this year and I have really been working way too much. My focus is back on music and my blog now. I have several other blogs that I need to post, so expect much higher activity in the near future.
Happy Easter and Long Live The Blues!