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Category Archives: Vinyl
This is going to be one of my shortest blogs ever. Today, in the Wall street Journal, in the review section, on page C-11 there is an article called “Lack of Sleep costs Billions. How about Cats?” The article list the top ten things that put a drag on the economy. Number 4 on the list is “transferring vinyl to manageable mp 3 formats.” The author claims that this activity in costing the economy about $11.7 billion per year! I assume it is calculating the time it takes as well as it’s impact on the sale of music in other formats. She lays the blame squarely on the “Baby-boomers” She mocks us for taking our classic rock so “seriously”. If it is a crime, then let me be guilty… As a matter of fact, I plan to do some vinyl transferring today!
This is the last blog in my series on live albums. MILESTONE JAZZSTARS IN CONCERT is a fantastic “Live” LP featuring three jazz giants: McCoy Tyner, Sonny Rollins, and Ron Carter. They were accompanied on drums by a much younger Al Foster.
This 2 record set documents the 20 concert tour of the “Jazzstars” in the fall of 1978. McCoy Tyner (Piano), Sonny Rollins (Saxophone), and Ron Carter (Acoustic Bass) each had very different but potentially complementary styles. They were fascinated by the musical challenge of working together. The only reason it was able to be done, however, is because at the time they all recorded on Milestone Records.
The Album features solo’s by Tyner, Rollins, and Carter, as well as songs performed by duet, trio, and with the entire quartet.
I bought this LP at a garage sale. I had never heard it before nor did I know anything about this album. I think I paid 10 cents for it. I was blown away by the music as well as the sound quality of this record. Let’s give it a listen…
The Cutting Edge
This song was written by Sonny Rollins and it is performed by the entire quartet. The announcer is Quincy McCoy, who also helped with staging and lighting. This song is a tour-de-force of powerful Jazz. You think the opening riffs of Rollins are amazing and then Tyner takes over! Then Ron Carter lays a spell on everyone with his bass solo. This acoustic jazz with the force of fusion jazz. Rollins returns for an even more inventive solo, never losing any of the rhythmic power of the music.
This song was written by Howard Deitz and Arthur Schwartz. It was first introduced in a Broadway play called Flying Colors. The first jazz recording of this song was by Artie Shaw in 1939. It went on to become a Jazz Standard. This cut is a duet between Tyner and Carter. Tyner’s playing virtuosity defined! The bass at the end by Carter is mesmerizing. I love the word play of the title. They are alone, but they are also together. What a great name for a duet.
Saxophone solo written and performed by Sonny Rollins. This is a truly historic document of a genius at work. This solo is stunning! Rollins improvises for over 5 minutes and never bores you or becomes repetitive. This melody literally is a continuum. Live in front of an audience he puts to shame every musician who ever tried to improvise a solo. Everyone from the Grateful Dead to Coltrane must stand in awe of the genius of the man.
This song was written by McCoy Tyner. It appeared on his album Together, which was recorded and released the same year. Together was also produced by Orrin Keepnews. This is an emotional composition that features the entire quartet. Return to Forever would have been proud to have written this one. Tyner takes us on a 15 minute musical journey that out Chicks – Chick Corea.
This song was written by Ron Carter and features the entire quartet. Ron Cater has played with everyone from Bill Evans to A Tribe called Quest. He may be the most recorded acoustic bass player in history. This is an awesome jazz-blues number. About half way through Cater gets his turn to solo and displays the talents that he is so revered for: creativity, soul, and technique all in one. I love the slide at the end of his solo that leads back into the main theme.
Willow Weep For Me
Side three of the album is the Ron Cater Side. He wrote N.O. Blues and then he solos on this song written by Ann Ronell. This is a brilliant choice for a bass solo. Once again improvisational skills are at the genius level.
In A Sentimental Mood
This is the Duke Ellington classic that is performed by Rollins and Tyner. I think The Duke would have loved this arrangement of his classic tune.
A Little Pianissimo
Written by and performed solo by McCoy Tyner. Tyner is again using word play in the title of his song.Pianissimo hints at a combination of the words Piano and Solo yet it’s meaning is quite. Translated literally, the title would mean “a little quiet”. This composition is anything but small and quiet. It does have the “little pianissimo ” main theme. You can sense the spell he put the crowd under because of the slight moment of silence before the applause.
Don’t Stop The Carnival
This song is a traditional tune arranged by Sonny Rollins. The song is performed by the trio of Rollins, Carter, and Foster. It has that great Brazilian beat. It takes me straight to the streets of Rio… You can hear the crowd at several points in the recording and it sounds like a party’s goin’ on… The Milestone Jazzstars leave them dancing in the aisles.
So where did they go from this tour in 1977? Since 1996 Al Foster has been touring with his own band. Ron Carter became a great music educator. He recently retired from City College in New York where he was a Distinguished Professor of Music. He currently sits on the board of the Harlem Jazz Music Center. McCoy Tyner is still going strong. He has a new album out called “Guitars”. It features Derek Trucks, Bella Fleck, Bill Frisell, John Scofiled, and Marc Ribot. In addition the core band that plays with all of these great guitar players is Jack DeJohnnette, and of course Ron Cater! Last, but not least is Sonny Rollins. He went on just a few years later to record some memorable Sax solos on the 1981 Rolling Stones LP – Tattoo You. Including the great one at the end of the song Waiting on a Friend. Sonny Rollins has just announced that he, like McCoy Tyner, will tour in 2013. He just tweeted that details will follow after January 1st. What a world, what a world…
This is the very first “Live” LP Neil Young ever released. The album captures Neil Young on his first major solo tour after he released his best selling LP of his long and illustrious career, “Harvest.” Although this album was widely praised and sold over 1 million copies, Neil Young has refused to re-release it. There are still no plans to release this LP on CD or any other format. There are several reason that Neil has persistently resisted the pressure from his fans to release this LP again. We will get into that later.
I side with his fans. I LOVE THIS RECORD! I love it for many reasons. First of all, I bought this record in 1973 when it first came out, and I couldn’t quit listening to it. The music is fantastic! I had become a fan of Neil Young from the moment I first heard him on “Four Way Street,” the Live album from 1971 by Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young. I went on to purchase “Everybody Knows This is Nowhere,” the first album Neil made with Crazy Horse. And then I bought “Harvest” the week it came out. I am still a huge fan of Neil Young and I own almost everything the guy has ever recorded. I am also a proud owner of his Blu Ray collection “Neil Young Archives Vol. 1.”
I loved the album cover. I’d love to know who the guy is in the front row throwing up the “Peace Sign.” He must have been the envy of all his friends!
I love the parts on the album where Neil would talk to the audience. It reminded me of all of those moments on “Four Way Street” where they would talk to the audience. “TFA” seemed to echo “FWS” in many other ways. Just like CSN&Y did on their 1971 tour, Neil opened his 1973 shows with an Acoustic set (“Wooden Music”) and then an electric set. I always thought that was cool format for a live show. It seemed to me to be one of the foreshadowing ideas that led to “MTV Unplugged.”
I love the mood of the album. This record has a melancholy that is unmistakable. It truly captures a moment in time. This is reason enough for Neil to reissue this somber masterpiece. It is also the reason he won’t reissue the album…
His friend and fellow member of Crazy Horse, Danny Whitten; was supposed to tour with Neil. Unfortunately, Danny had developed a terrible heroin addiction. Whitten started to get clean so he would be able to tour, but replaced his heroin addiction with pain pills and alcohol. Whitten could not function well enough to get through rehearsals Neil had to fire his friend. Neil met with Danny privately and told him things were not going to work out for the tour, he gave him $50 bucks and a plane ticket back to L.A. Neil never saw him alive again. Danny died the next day of a heroin overdose. Neil blamed himself for Danny’s death. Now he had to go out on tour and play 65 shows in 90 days.
His back up band was “The Stray Gators.” This was the same band he had recorded Harvest with. The fans came out in force to hear all the new hit songs from Harvest, but instead they were greeted by a large number of new songs. These songs were not in the vain of the country-folk sound of many of the songs on Harvest. These songs had a hard edge to them that was closer to the music Neil produced when he was performing with Crazy Horse. The Stray Gators were also uncomfortable with these heavy edgy tunes.
The Stray Gators were basically an “All-star” Nashville band with egos to match. There was a lot of in-fighting among the band members as well as excessive drinking, etc… There are several stories floating around about band members showing up so messed up they didn’t even know what instrument they were playing during the sound-check The first Drummer Kenneth Buttrey quit two-thirds of the way through the tour. He was replaced by Johnny Barbata. Johnny played with CSN&Y on the Four Way Street Tour. He was also their drummer at Woodstock.
Another problem with reissuing the LP as a CD is the manner in which it was recorded. Neil Young wanted to use the very first “digital mixing” soundboard. It was called a “CompuMix.” Later it became known as the “CompuShit” because it was unreliable. The live recordings went straight from the soundboard to the CompuMix. As a result, there are no two track masters of these recordings. This complicates any reissue. Also, the CompuMix made the recording murkier. I think this adds to not subtracts from the awesomeness of this LP.
Very few of these songs have been released in any other format. What you are about to hear is quite rare. These were all new songs being played live. The only exception is “Love in Mind”. It was recorded on the 1971 tour. The same tour that resulted in the live recording on Harvest of “The Needle and the Damage Done.” (Neil’s song about Danny Whitten.)
According to Wikipedia Neil Young has made two main comments about this album. I quote: “It was recorded on my biggest tour ever, 65 shows in 90 days. Money hassles among everyone concerned ruined this tour and record for me but I released it anyway so you folks could see what could happen if you lose it for a while. I was becoming more interested in an audio verite approach than satisfying the public demands for a repetition of Harvest. ”
Also: “Time Fades Away was the worst record I ever made – but as a documentary of what was happening to me, it was a great record. I was onstage and I was playing all these songs that nobody had heard before, recording them, and I didn’t have the right band. It was just an uncomfortable tour. I felt like a product, and I had this band of all-star musicians that couldn’t even look at each other.”
His comment about not having the right band may be a reference to Crazy Horse.
So give it a listen and tell me what you think:
Time Fades Away
This song was recorded in The Myrid, Oklahoma city on March 1, 1973. From the very beginning we are in darkness. “Fourteen junkie too weak to work. One sells Diamonds for what they’re worth. Down on pain street, disappointment lurks. Son don’t be home too late!” Danny Whitten is in his mind from the beginning. Also, this cut establishes the Hard edged audio verite sound more closely associated with the sound of Crazy Horse.
Journey Through The Past
This song was recorded in Public Hall, Cleveland, Ohio on February 11, 1973. Neil tells the crowd: “This is a song without a home.” Simple and beautiful…
Yonder Stands The Sinner
After the quiet beauty of Journey Through The Past, we return to the hard edged country STOMP! Right before the song starts you hear David Crosby say: “This will be kind of experimental…” Then you hear someone else in the band say: “This is gonna be GOOD, man!” He turns out to be right… This song was recorded at the Seattle Center Coliseum on March 17, 1973.
This song was recorded at the Same show in Oklahoma City that the same show that the title cut came from. I can’t help but think that this song is about Danny Whitten. It makes the refrain of the song so sad…“Don’t you wish that you could be here too?
Love In Mind
This song is the only song on the record that was not recorded on the 1973 tour. This song was recorded at Royce Hall at UCLA on January 30, 1971. This is the same night that “The Needle and the Damage Done” was recorded. “The Needle…” ended up on Harvest and Love in Mind ended up on this album.
Don’t Be Denied
Side 2 starts with a very emotional rendering of a micro-Biography of Neil’s life. This song was recorded at Memorial Auditorium in Phoenix, Arizona on March 28, 1973. Neil could not be denied. This is just emotion laid bare for all to see. WOW…
This song was recorded in Sacramento, California on April 1, 1973. Yet another very personal song. For a number of years now Neil Young has held a charity fundraising concert for The Bridge School.
The Bridge School is a non-profit organization whose mission is to ensure that individuals with severe speech and physical impairments achieve full participation in their communities through the use of augmentative & alternative means of communication (AAC) and assistive technology (AT) applications and through the development, implementation and dissemination of innovative life-long educational strategies.
Neil has two children with these types of disabilities. Neil is still building his “bridge”. “It may take a lot of time…”
This song was recorded on March 29, 1973 in the Sports Arena in San Diego, Ca. Neil growls: “It’s the last dance!” This song captures a mood all of us have felt from one time to another…The grind of working for a living. Is this how he felt on the tour? I love the grind of the song. I love the harmonies provided by David Crosby and Graham Nash. The coda makes the song:
“You wake up in the morning and the sun’s coming up. It’s been up for hours, and hours and hours, and hours, and hours and hours. And you light up the stove and the coffee cup is hot and the orange juice is cold, cold, cold…Monday morning. Wake up, Wake up, Wake up. It’s time to go, time to go to work!! You can live your own life. Making it happen. Workin’ on your time. Laid back and laughing. Oh,no…Oh, no…”
Then at the end he repeats over and over “No, no, no..” and then… “Negative, Negative!!”
Then it’s over… Graham Nash yells “Last Dance!!!” and it was…
So where do we go from hear? Neil says in the next volume of the Archives he will not include any songs from this LP. He said he will include cuts from the earlier part of the tour that included drummer Kenneth Buttrey. Maybe the karma is just too bad for him to bear? Who knows, but Neil has got to stop saying “NO, NO, NO…” This is a powerful rock n roll statement that deserves to shine again.
Steal Your Face is a live LP from the Grateful Dead. The album was recorded during their 1974 “Farewell Tour”, but it was not released until 1976. This album is widely regarded as the worst live recording that the Dead ever released. It was released under duress because the band had to fulfill a contractual obligation with the record company, and the band wasn’t working at the time, so there wasn’t much choice.
As I stated earlier, the LP was recorded in 1974 during a four night stand at the Winterland in San Francisco, CA. It is a kind of “Greatest Hits” live. This tour was supposed to be the last tour ever. After all, the band had been on the road since they formed in 1965! It’s hilarious that they continued on as a band for years and years after this tour was completed. In spite of the overwhelming opinion of “Dead-heads” everywhere that the LP is not up to par, this LP has continued to be highly collectible. The main reason is the awesome cover art: the so called “Stealie” or “Steal Your Face” Logo. This logo is one of the most famous of all Rock-n-Roll art; not to mention some of the most famous Grateful Dead art. The Grateful Dead have a lot of art that is identified with the band. This logo was designed by Owsley Stanley and rendered by Bob Thomas. The skull with a lightning bolt going through it is an overt reference to L.S.D. as well as other drug use by the band and its fans. Not long after this LP came out you could buy this symbol on everything from T-Shirts to Blotter Paper. It captures everything about the Grateful Dead experience within its grinning skull!
The album title that also ended up naming the logo is taken from a song called “He’s Gone”. The lyrics are “Like I told you, what I said, steal your face right off your head”…The song was performed frequently on the tour and every night of the 4 night stand at the Wintergarden, but was not included on the album for some reason.
The main criticism of the album is twofold. First many fans feel that there are much better live recordings of every song on this record. Second that there are no “deep cuts” as well as none of the long jam sessions that made the band so famous. Both points are legitimate, however; I feel that it still does not diminish the performances on this record. I found the LP highly entertaining and I found several of the songs quite emotionally charged in view of the fact that the band thought they were about to call it quits. I think that the slower, mellower songs on the LP are especially effective. I have included the entire two record set for your personal consideration. I love the album! But let me know what you think…
The Promised Land
The LP opens with a straight ahead R&B cover of a Chuck Berry song. The band is tight, together and rockin’! What’s not to like?
Cold Rain & Snow
This song really features the slow grove jam sound that I associate so strongly with the Grateful Dead. There would be no “Jam Band’s” if it wasn’t for the Grateful Dead. They were the father to many children… This is a traditional folk song that was arranged by the Grateful Dead.
Around and Around
The Dead cover another Chuck Berry Classic. Admittedly, not the greatest cover ever, but it is still very hard not to tap your foot to the beat; if you know what I mean…
This is the first original song on the album, and it’s a great one. This song was co-written by Robert Hunter and Jerry Garcia. Richard and Jerry were the principle song writers of the Grateful Dead. Richard wrote the lyrics and Jerry wrote the music. Robert Hunter was often referred to as “the non-performing” member of the Grateful Dead. In spite of all the songs he wrote with Jerry Garcia and all the concert halls he went to with the band, he never once appeared on stage as a performer. When the band was inducted into the Rock n Roll hall of fame, Robert was also inducted as a band member. He is the only “non-performer” ever inducted into the Hall of Fame. This is a great “trippy” cut that is tinted at the edges in mellow but deep emotion. This is a beautiful performance.
Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo
This song is also an original written by Robert Hunter and Jerry Garcia. It has all the characteristics of an old folk song. Don’t you love the title. This song just has a happy go lucky feel to it that makes me smile.
Ship Of Fools
In the previous song Jerry Garcia sings the lyrics “When your ship comes in…” and then the next song is “Ship of Fools”. This is also an original song written by Robert Hunter and Jerry Garcia. It’s a great slow blues song. It almost has the feel of a spiritual. “Ship of Fools on a cruel sea. Ship of fools, sail away from me…”
Beat It On Down The Line
This song was written by Jesse Fuller. Jesse became famous by performing as a “One Man Band” in the San Francisco bay area. He is best know for a song called “San Francisco Bay Blues”. The Dead also covered other songs by Fuller. This is just a great straight ahead rock song.
So far on the album they have covered Chuck Berry and Jesse Fuller. Why not cover Johnny Cash? The Grateful Dead were such an amazing conglomeration of Rock, Jazz, Country, Folk, and Psychedelia! This is a perfect example of them working their craft.
This song was written by Bob Weir and John Barlow. Bob was, of course, one of the founding members of the Grateful Dead and John Barlow was a poet, essayist, rancher and political activist; who became friends with the Grateful Dead. Very cool stuff, don’t you think?
This song was written by Hunter and Garcia. A song written from the viewpoint of Uncle Sam.
Once you’ve covered Johnny Cash you kind of have to cover Marty Robbins, don’t you? This is a great version of a very well known song. Enjoy…
Once again an original song by Hunter and Garcia. I just really love this song. It just has such a nice way of mellowly rocking along. The lyrics are great too. “Please forget you know my name, my daring Sugaree…” Beautiful subtle guitar work from Jerry Garcia too.
It Must Have Been The Roses
This song was written by Robert Hunter. The lyrics are beautiful. So is the performance. Great music, passionately performed. Again I ask: What’s not to like??
The album closes with one of their best know songs. This was also written by Hunter and Garcia.. Okay, so it’s not the best “live” version of Casey Jones. So what? It is the Grateful Dead at their peak. They are not tired of playing their hits and the perform this song with energy and imagination. It think it’s a great version of this song.
Well there you have it. Steal Your Facein its entity. If you see it buy. Maybe even steal it! But don’t pass it over just because you heard it wsn’t that great. Sure it’s collectible just for the cover, but don’t overlook the contents. This album can be expensive. I’ve seen it on the internet from $25 – $85 or more. If the jacket is in good condition it could cost a pretty penny. All the more reason to enjoy the contents as well as the cover. Personally, I think this album is a Steal. Or should I say Stealie???
My next project is to write a series of blogs about 3 very different, but highly collectible “Live” LP’s. The first blog will be about the worst live album from one of the most famous live bands. I am referring to “Steal Your Face” by the Grateful Dead. This LP is widely considered to be the worst live recording of the Dead. The LP is still highly collectible, however; because of the album cover. Exterior condition is almost more important to the value of the LP than the interior condition of the actual vinyl. Here’s what the cover looks like:
This is the first appearance of the famous Grateful Dead logo. I think the album is better than advertised.
Next up will be a “Live” LP from an artist who is also known for his high quality “Live” performances. This record is a fantastic “Live” LP, but the artist has attempted to suppress it in spite of attempts by his fans to force him to re-release it. The LP I am referring to is: Time Fades Away by Neil Young. When the LP came out it got great reviews and sold over 1,000,000 copies. It was his first “Live” LP. It was never released on CD and Neil doesn’t even plan to include it in the next volume of his Archives. He has his reasons and we will discuss them in the blog at that time…
Here’s the album cover:
Last but not least is a “Live” LP from three Jazz giants: McCoy Tyner, Ron Carter, and Sonny Rollins. This is a truly great “Live” LP, and yet; I had never heard of this album before. I bought this LP by chance when I bought over 500 LP’s for $50 at a garage sale. I never knew the three of them had toured together and recorded a “Live” LP! This is music making at a very high level. It’s a mystery to me that this LP is not more well known. The LP is called “Milestone Jazzstars: Ron Carter, Sonny Rollins, McCoy Tyner – In Concert”
Here’s the Album Cover:
All three of these LP’s are collectible in their own right. Each is collectible for a different reason. I’m lucky to have all three. Each LP has a fascinating story behind it too. We will delve into each one. First up: The worst “Live” LP from one of the most famous “Live” bands in Rock-n-Roll history. The Grateful Dead – “Steal Your Face”…
Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band and their wild and crazy LP “Trout Mask Replica.”
It is curious that the general public has an easier time accepting the avant-garde in art and literature before music. It is a part of the history of music in the 20th century that music diverged into a never ending ever expanding delta instead of the river it used to be. Part of this divergence was directly attributable to the fact that some musicians and composers no longer sought or even cared about public acceptance of their music. Captain Beefheart was this type of musician. What you are about to hear is not an accident. It’s not a result of bad musicianship. And equally true, this is not some kind of joke or farce being perpetrated on you the listener. This is an attempt to make art for the artist sake whither anyone else enjoys it or not.
This record was made in 1969. It was produced by Frank Zappa. Frank actually named Donald Van Vliet “Captain Beefheart”. Van Vliet once told David Letterman that his named symbolized that he had a “Beef in his Heart against this society.” This may give insight into the genesis of this record. This record is highly acclaimed by Rock historians and critics. It is on The Rolling Stone top 100 LP’s of all time list and top 500 recordings of all time. It is also included in the book “1,000 recordings to Hear Before You Die” by Tom Moon.
The album would never have happened without Frank Zappa. Frank owned two record labels so he offered to put the record out on one of his labels if he could produce the LP and then he gave Captain Beefheart full creative authority to do what ever he wanted… Let’s just say that Captain Beefheart took full advantage of his creative freedom.
This songs were all meticulously composed by Van Vliet. The band moved in together and rehearsed the compositions for 8 months in a relentless, physically and emotionally abusive, cult-like atmosphere created and driven by Donald Van Vliet. At one time or another every member of the band bordered on having a nervous breakdown. None of them had any money and they subsisted on Welfare and shoplifting for food.
Van Vliet claims that all of these songs were written in one 8 hour session, however; it has been proven that at least 2 of the songs were written in 1968. What is true is that all of the music tracks were recorded in one 6 hour session. Vliet spent another 2 or 3 days adding in the horn overdubs and vocals. I guess rehearsing 14 hours a day for 8 months paid off. Keep all of this in mind when you hear the songs. Everything you hear was rehearsed until it was perfect. Hmmm… The band consisted of the follow cast of characters:
Donald Van Vliet (Captain Beefheart): Vocals, Tenor and Soprano Sax, Bass Clarinet, Musette, Smiran Horn, Hunting Horn, and jingle bells.
Jeff Cotton (Antennae Jimmy Semens): Slide Guitar and Vocals.
Bill Harkleroad (Zoot Horn Rollo): Slide Guitar and flute.
Victor Hayden (The Mascara Snake): Bass Clarinet and Vocals.
Mark Boston: (Rockette Morton): Bass Guitar and narration.
John French (Drumbo): Drums and Percussion.
Without any other comment to influence your opinions and/or insights to this album. I present to you the complete set of songs from the infamous album “Trout Mask Replica”!
The Dust Blows Forward ‘N The Dust Blows Back
Hair Pie: Bake 1
Moonlight On Vermont
Sweet Sweet Bulbs
Neon Meate Dream Of A Octafish
My Human Gets Me Blues
Hair Pie: Bake 2
When Big Joan Sets Up
Sugar ‘N Spikes
Ant Man Bee
Orange Claw Hammer
She’s Too Much For My Mirror
Hobo Chang Ba
Steal Softly Thru Snow
Old Fart At Play
Veteran’s Day Poppy
So there you have it. Trout Mask Replica in all it’s avant-garde, bluesy, free jazz glory! Did you like it? I think it gets better and better the more you listen to it. Most listeners probably won’t be able to do that. So, is music for the composer or the public? Here is a great example to debate. This album influenced people like Tom Waits, P.J. Harvey, The Sex Pistols and punk rock in general, even modern composers like John Cage. In the end I have to vote in favor of the composer. If it were not for the bold artist, writers, and composers that didn’t care about popularity, some of the greatest art, music and literature of all time would never have come into being. That’s what I think. But I’d love to hear what you think. In the end Captain Beefheart summed it up the best with the opening line of the first song…”My smile is stuck, I can’t go back to your Frownland…”
This record was purchased at Good Records (Check out their link on my Blogroll) in Dallas, Texas by my friend Jim. Jim saw the movie in the theater in 1970 and couldn’t believe he was holding the soundtrack in his hand. The LP is a reissue by 4 Guys With Beards. We bought the LP and I agreed to make him a CD of the music. This is the soundtrack to a movie that was voted one of the “Fifty Worst Movies of all Time.” It was directed by by Michelangelo Antonioni. Antonioni wanted to be a part of the counter culture movement in the United States. He was hired by Carlo Ponti to make three films for MGM that would appeal to the young “hippies” of 1970. This was the only film he ever directed in the United States. Antonioni hired Pink Floyd to do the soundtrack for the movie. Although the movie was a flop, it is now known for it’s amazing cinematography and it’s psychedelic soundtrack. The principles that contributed to the soundtrack, other than Pink Floyd, were Jerry Garcia, The Grateful Dead, The Kaleidoscope and The Youngbloods. Much of the work that Pink Floyd put into the movie soundtrack never got into the film. Much of it was never released until years later as ‘rarities’ on Pink Floyd compilation CD’s. During my research to write this blog I found some of these out takes and I am including them in this blog. I’d love to read your comments regarding these rare outtakes. The LP itself was new and unopened. It is on really nice quality vinyl and had very quite surfaces as well as great sound quality. So here’s side one of Zabriskie Point…
HEART BEAT, PIG MEAT
Written and Performed by Pink Floyd
This song is more of a sonic collage. All of the Pink Floyd songs were written in Rome in 1969 right after the release of their album Ummagumma. Can you see where Massive Attack might draw some inspiration from Pink Floyd?
Written and Performed by The Kaleidoscope
This song was written by the great side man and musician David Lindley. The Kaleidoscope was a favorite band of the LA scene and it was Lindley’s band. They were very respected by other musicians like Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin, but they could never get a hit record. They made three LP’s with Epic Records and called it quits. Lindley went on to fame with Jackson Browne.
Excerpt from DARK STAR
Written and Performed by The Grateful Dead
This song really should need no introduction since it is one of the Dead’s most well know songs. I think it sounds awesome and it doesn’t last long enough. (The opposite of when you see the Dead perform it in concert.) Rhino Records has a double CD of the soundtrack that includes another 30 minutes of outtakes of Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead.
Written and Performed by Pink Floyd
I think a lot of people might not identify this song as being a Pink Floyd song. It has a definite Country twist to it.
Written by Pee Wee King and Performed by Patti Page
This song appears in the movie during the heroine’s drive through the desert. She here’s it on the radio.
Performed by The Youngbloods
This song also was heard on the car radio by the Heroine of the movie during her drive across the desert. It’s a little more hedonistic than the Tennessee Waltz…
Written and Performed by Jerry Garcia
This is one of the great surprises of this record! This is a beautiful improvisation of Jerry Garcia. It contains everything that is great about his playing. The love scene is the core of the movie and it occurs out on Zabriskie Point in the desert. There is a lot of full frontal nudity and that may be one of the reasons that this movie has attained a level of cult followers… At any rate the music is sublime! Pink Floyd also wrote two different songs for this scene but both were rejected by Antonioni. I have included those cuts at the end of this blog for your evaluation and enjoyment.
I Wish I Was A Single Girl Again
Traditional folk song performed by Roscoe Holcomb.
Roscoe Holcomb was an icon of Blue Grass and Folk Music. This is him at his best. Quite a jolt after the Garcia Love music! Loud and proud!!
Written and performed by The Kaleidoscope
This is another cut by David Lindley & Company. It is a glimpse into the musicianship of this wrongly obscure band.
Dance Of Death
Written and performed by John Fahey
John Fahey is another interesting side story to this LP. He was a pioneer of the rediscovery and promotion of Folk Music. He single handedly rediscovered and revived the music of Skip James. He hated ‘hippies’, Antonioni, Jerry Garcia and anything else that appeared to undermine the United States of America. During the making of the movie he got into an argument with Antonioni and punched him in the face! How any of his music got in the movie, I can’t explain… By the way, it is rumored that he recorded hours and hours of music for the film that ended up on the cutting room floor…
Come In Number 51, Your Time Is Up
Written and performed by Pink Floyd
This song is an early version of Be Careful With That Axe, Eugene… This is the Pink Floyd we all know and love. This music is in the final scene where the Real Estate Developers house in the desert is blown up over and over and over again. The massive wall of guitar fuzz is the perfect accompaniment to total destruction.
Thus ends the soundtrack that is way better than the film it was made for. I am including the outtakes below.
Written and performed by Pink Floyd
Love Scene #1
Written and performed by Pink Floyd
Love Scene #2
Written and Performed by Pink Floyd
Untitled (aka Oenone)
Untitled (aka Fingal’s Cave)
Written and Performed by Roy Orbison
This was the song heard over the closing credits of the movie.
So what IS the point of Zabriskie Point? I don’t know, but there seems to be several lessons. First, not all great music is inspired by great art or beauty. Inspiration can come from anywhere. Second, if we’re not open to new things we could miss a lot of great stuff. But last, I think the biggest lesson I learned can be summed up by the William Hurt character in the great movie “The Big Chill”: “Sometimes you just have to let Art flow over you…”
Imagine if you will, a couple of guys setting around the house smoking pot and listening to blues records. The year is 1965. They get the idea to put together a jug band and jam in the garage. Two short years later they are playing at The Monterrey Pop Festival. Then in 1969 they performed at Woodstock in front of half a million people! Kind of cool,eh? That is the story of Canned Heat.
Canned Heat was founded by Alan Wilson and Bob Hite in Los Angeles, California. They took the name from a 1928 blues song by Tommy Johnson called “Canned Heat Blues.” What do you think this song is about? It’s about a man who has such a bad drinking problem that he is now drinking Sterno! Now that’s a blues song…
This album was their 3rd release. This album “Living The Blues” came out in 1968. It contains their most famous song: “Going Up The Country”. The line-up is considered the “classic” line-up of this band: Bob “The Bear”Hite, Alan “Blind Owl” Wilson, Henry “Sunflower” Vestine (a.k.a Harvey “The Snake” Mandel), Larry “The Mole” Taylor, and Aldolpho “Fito” De La Parra. The album was produced by Canned Heat and Skip Taylor. Bob Hite and Alan Wilson new more about blues and the history of the blues than anyone else in the world and they used their knowledge to their advantage. So let’s get to the music.
Pony Blues was written in 1929 by Charlie Patton. It was a ‘standard” of the Mississippi Delta region. It sounds ancient from the very first note. This song is typical of their “Boogie, Blues” style.
This song starts with that loose string blues sound just like the first cut on the album. My Mistake is an original song written by Alan Wilson.
Sandy’s Blues was written by Bob Hite. Very cool, slow blues crawl. It reminds me of the Segal – Schwall Band. I recorded this LP on the Friday of Memorial Day week-end. I was enjoying listening to it so much I posted what I was doing on Facebook. Almost immediately after I put it on the world wide web, the phone rang. It was a good friend of mine who will remain nameless. He said “I smoked a lot of pot listening to Canned Heat when I was in college.” I’m sure you were not alone my friend. “It’s the Blues now…”
Going Up The Country
This is the song that really got famous from the movie “Woodstock”. Although, Canned Heat played at Woodstock their performance did not appear in the original movie. The producer used Going Up The Country for the Opening sequence of the film and the song became a kind of anthem for the Back To Nature movement. This song made it to #1 in 25 countries but reached #11 in the United States. The song is a reworking by Alan Wilson of the song “Bull-doze Blues” by Henry Thomas. The song originally came out in about 1928. In the original version Henry Thomas performed the solo on a type of Pan-Flute that is called The Quills by old blues musicians. The Henry Thomas quill solo was performed note for note on the flute by Jim Horn on the Canned Heat version.
Walking By Myself
This is an old Jimmy Rogers song. It was originally released in the early 50’s on Chess Records. The song has a very obvious Chicago Blues sound. It features the harmonica playing of Alan Wilson. The original featured Little Walter on harmonica.
This song features Dr. John on piano. The song was written by someone named L.T. Tatman III. I can’t find anything on the guy. If you know anything about him I’d love to hear from you. More Boogie Blues and then at the very end a sample of very old original Delta Blues ends the side.
One Kind Favor
One Kind Favor is also credited to Tatman. The one kind favor is to keep his gravestone clean. This is a great blues song.
This is a highly experimental song. Yes, I spelled the name of the song right. This song is a medley of nine different segments. The segments are titled as follows: Nebulosity, Rollin’ and Tumblin’, Five Owls, Bear Wires, Snooky Flowers, Sunflower Power, Raga Kafi, Ice Bag, and Childhoods End. This cut was the brain child of Skip Taylor (the Producer of the album). The writing credit is shared by the entire band. Remember, it was the 60’s and they did a lot of drugs…I think it is a very interesting cut. Notice that several of the sections titles allude to the nick names of the band members. Those sections then feature that band member. (Example: Bear Wires features Bob “The Bear” Hite) It’s kind of trippy. I really like the boogie woogie piano part. What do you think?
Side 3 & 4
Refried Boogie Part I and II
This may be the longest song I have ever seen on a rock album. It takes up all of side 3 and 4. The song is recorded live at The Kaleidoscope in Hollywood, CA. It is a monster jam and I present it in it’s entirety. I had to split it into two tracks because there is no way around having to turn over the record without stopping the music. This is a great example of some of the psychedelic jams of the 1960’s and 70’s. Enjoy….
So there you have it. Canned Heat living the blues. So what happened to Canned Heat? Well they are still around. Henry Vestine was the first to leave the band. He had an on stage fight with Larry Taylor at the Filmore West in 1969. Larry Taylor left the band in 1970 and Joined the John Mayall Blues Breakers. Alan “Blind Owl” Wilson died of a drug overdose in 1970. He was found on a hill behind Bob”The Bear” Hite’s Topanga Canyon home. No one knows for sure why…He was only 27. Just a few weeks later Janis Joplin and Jimmy Hendrix also died. In 1981 Bob Hite passed out on stage at the Palamino in L.A. he had overdosed on Heroin. Later that evening he was found dead at the home of band member De La Para’s home. Harry Vastine died in Paris, France of Lung Cancer. De La Para continues to tour with a band call Canned Heat, but he is the only survivor from the glory days. With 3 of the band members taken by drugs and cigarettes, it only goes to show that you shouldn’t drink Sterno and if you play with fire you might get burned. Even by Canned Heat…
Yesterday was the 101st anniversary of the death of Gustav Mahler (1860 – 1911). Mahler was one of the greatest composers of all time. He is also one of my favorite composers. I am sure more people don’t know who he was than do know who he was, but what everyone should know is how important he is in the history of western music. Gustav Mahler ushered in the modern era of music. His influence can still be heard today in music as diverse as John Williams film music (E.T., Star wars, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Jaws, etc…) to Neil Young. (I have an idea for a blog I want to write called “Neil Young, Gustav Mahler and the Dirge). I’m sure Neil Young doesn’t think his music is influenced by Mahler but I can hear it clearly in many of his songs.
The music I have chosen to post in tribute to Mahler is the powerful song-cycle Das Lied von der Erde. (The Song of the Earth). This composition was one of the last works Mahler completed. His last complete work was his Ninth Symphony. His tenth symphony was on his work desk, with only the first movement completely fleshed out, when he died. Mahler never heard Das Lied von der Erde performed, nor did he ever hear his 9th Symphony performed. Das Lied was premiered by Bruno Walter on November 20th 1911. Bruno Walter was a student of Mahler.
Mahler was a very famous man in his time, but he was better known for his conducting than his compositions. He was probably the greatest conductor of his time. His principle occupation was being the conductor of the Vienna State Opera. Mahler virtually invented the modern concert experience by codifying the etiquette of the concert experience. He invented the concept of Opera direction and set design. He started the classical music tradition of not allowing late comers to enter the concert hall during a performance. He began the disintegration of tonality.
He had a tragic life, but ultimately he triumphed over his grief. This composition is a beautiful example of how he lifted himself from tragedy to triumph.
Das Lied von der Erde is really a symphony. (It was sub-titled by Mahler “Symphony for Contralto and Tenor Voices and Large Orchestra). Mahler was superstitious about composing a 9th symphony because Beethoven died after he composed his 9th symphony. Although this composition requires a large orchestra, the entire orchestra is used sparingly. Many times the music takes on an almost chamber music style. In addition, there are part of the composition where the vocalist seems to be accompanying an instrumental solo instead of the reverse. The song cycle is made up of 6 different movements. The lyrics are derived from ancient Chinese poetry. Some of the poems were used as they were originally written and some of the poems are combinations of two different poets, and Mahler himself added some lines of his own devising. I have included translations of the lyrics because the songs are all sung in German.
This performance is by Bernard Haitink and the Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam. The Tenor is James King and the Mezzo-soprano is Janet Baker. One of the reasons I chose this performance is because Mahler actually conducted the Concertgebouw orchestra for a period of time. And now, Das Lied von der Erde …
1. “Das Trinklied vom Jammer der Erde” (The Drinking Song of the Sorrow of the Earth)
The main feature of this movement is the repeating of the phrase “Dunkel ist das Leben, ist das Tod.” (Dark is life, is death). Each time the phase is repeated it is pitched slightly higher than before.
Here is the translation of the poem:
The wine already winks from the golden goblet, but do not drink yet – first I’ll sing you a song! The song of sorrow shall burst out in laughter in your soul. When sorrow draws nigh, the gardens of the soul lie wasted, both joy and song wither away. Dark is life, is death.
Master of this house! Your cellar holds the wealth of golden wine! Here, this lute shall be mine! Strumming the lute and draining the glass – these are things which belong together. A full wine-goblet at the right moment is worth more than all the riches of this world! Dark is life, is death.
The firmament is forever blue, and the earth will long remain and blossom into spring. But you, fellow man, how long do you live? Not even for a hundred years may you take your delight in all the false trifles of this world!
Look down there! On the moonlit graves squats a ghostly, bestial figure. It’s an ape! Listen t his howls piercing through the sweet fragrance of life!
Now drink the wine! Now is the time, comrades! Drain your golden goblets to the bottom! Dark is life, is death…
2. Der Einsame Im Herbst (The Lonely Man in Autumn)
The second song is softer and quieter than the first. Note how chamber music like the scoring is.
A blue autumn mist hovers over the lake; all the grass-blades are striped with frost; one would think an artist had strewn jade-dust over the delicate blossoms.
The sweet fragrance of the flowers has been blown away; a cold wind has bent their stems down. Soon the withered, golden lotus leaves will shift about on the water.
My heart is weary. my little lamp went out with a hiss, reminding me of sleep. I am coming to you, beloved resting-place! Yes, give me peace – I need to be refreshed!
I weep much in my loneliness; autumn has lasted too long in my heart. Sun of love, will you never shine again, and gently dry my bitter tears?
This poem is so obviously about the death of Mahler’s eldest daughter. She died after a brief illness. The line “My little lamp went out with a hiss…” is almost too sad to bear…
3. Von Der Jugend (Of Youth)
Note in this movement the extensive use of Our western musical scale consists of 8 notes.
In the middle of the small pond stands a pavilion made of green and with porcelain.
Like a tiger’s back, the bridge forms an arch of jade stretching to the pavilion.
In the little house friends sit, well-dressed, drinking, chatting; some are writing down verses.
Their silken sleeves glide back, their silken caps perch merrily on the backs of their heads.
On the quiet surface of the pond everything appears marvelously in mirror image.
Everything turned upon its head in the pavilion made of green and withe porcelain;
Like a half-moon stands the bridge, its arch inverted. Friends, well-dressed, drink and chatter.
4. Von Der Schonheit (Of Beauty)
Young girls pick flowers, pick lotus blossoms form the bank. They sit among bushes and leaves, collecting blossoms in their laps and teasing each other.
The golden sun dapples the figures, reflects them in the smooth water. The sun reflects their slender limbs, their charming eyes, and the caressing breeze lifts up the fabric of their sleeves, carries the magic of the fragrance through the air.
O, look, what handsome youths exercise their horses near the water, gleaming far and bright as sunbeams, already the sportive ones are trotting in between the green willow branches!
The horse of one of them neighs gaily, shies and dashes away; moving over flowers and grass, the giddy hooves, like a storm, heedlessly crush the drooping blossoms. Ha! How his mane flutters in a frenzy, how steamy the breath from his nostrils!
Golden sunlight dapples the figures, reflects them in the smooth water. And the most beautiful of the maidens sends longing glances in his direction. Her proud bearing is only fluff. In the sparkle of her wide eyes, in the darkness of her heated glance, the excitement of her heart still vibrates in lament.
5. Der Trunkene Im Fruhling (The Drunkard in Spring)
This movement acts as the Scherzo of the symphony. Note the constantly shifting rhythms
If life is only a dream, what good are cards and worries!? I drink until I can no more, the whole day long!
And when I can drink no more, when body and soul are full, then I stagger to my doorway and sleep marvelously!
What do I hear upon awakening? Listen! A bird is singing in the tree, I ask him if it is already spring – to me it seems like a dream,
The bird twitters: Yes! Spring is here; it came overnight! Roused form inward gazing I hear the bird singing and laughing!
I fill my goblet once again and drain it dry and sing until the moon shines out form the pitch-black sky!
And when i can sing no longer, I fall asleep again; what do I care about spring!? let me be drunk!
6. Der Abschied (The Farewell)
Der Abschied is easily one of the most beautiful pieces I have ever heard. This is highly emotional and intensely personal music. The composer lays his soul bare to the world. After Mahler finished Das Lied von der Erde, he showed it to his friend and student Bruno Walter. He said ” This is surely the most personal thing I have ever written.” The he showed Walter this last movement “Der Abschied”. He asked “Can this be endured at all? Surley the people will kill themselves afterwards?” i think I know what he meant…
The tempo is marked “Without regard for Tempo” . It is very difficult to conduct because of all the cadenza’s for the vocalist and instrumental soloist. The movement is almost as long as the other 5 movements combined. The last lines are added by Mahler himself and it turns all of this sorrow into happiness. “Everywhere the good earth once more greens and blossoms into spring. Everywhere, forever, distant spaces shine light blue! Forever…forever…
The last word is repeated over and over, quieter, and quieter until the last word is “imprinted on the atmosphere” as the composer Benjamin Britten beautifully described it.
The sun departs behind the mountains. Evening descends upon the valleys with its cool, refreshing shadows. O look! The moon, like a silver barque, glides upward on the sky’s blue sea. I notice a slight breeze blowing behind the dark fir-trees!
The stream sings melodiously through the darkness. The flowers turn pale in the twilight. The earth breathes a deep tranquility; now all longing wants to dream. Weary people make their way home, to learn once more in sleep forgotten happiness and youth! The birds perch quietly on the branches. The world falls asleep!
A cool breeze blows in the shade of my fir-trees. I stand here in wait of my friend; I wait to bid him a last farewell. O friend, I long to relish the beauty of the evening at your side. Where do you tarry? You leave me so log alone! I wander to and fro with my lute on paths swollen with soft grass. O beauty! Flush with love, with life unending – O drunken world!
He alighted from his horse and offered his friend the drink of farewell. He asked him where he was heading and why it had to be so. He spoke – his voice was muffled; My friend, fortune has not favored me in this world! Where am I going? I go wandering now in the mountains. I seek peace for my lonely heart. I wander to my homeland, my abode. I will never roam in the distance. My heart is quiet and awaits its hour! Everywhere the good earth once more greens and blossoms into spring. Everywhere, forever, distant spaces shine light blue.
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