Guitar Legend Alvin Lee: Dead at age 68…


745px-Alvin_LeeI hate to write another homage to another dead musician, but Alvin Lee, the legendary Blues Guitar player and founder of the band Ten Years After, died last week due to complications from a routine surgery.  I have to write about him.  He was too great to let this moment pass.

These things run in threes.  There are those that call this anomaly a “Trifecta” .  Somewhere in heaven there is a rehearsal studio and Alvin Lee, Van Cliburn, and Reg Presley are all jamming together.

Alvin Lee was an extremely underrated Guitar player.  He rose to prominence in 1969 when Ten Years After was featured in the documentary film “Woodstock”  His incendiary 11 minute jam on “I’m Goin’ Home” brought the house down.  I never get tired of hearing it.

Ten Years After had 12 albums in the Billboard top 200.  Although they only had one top forty hit, “I’d Love To Change The World” from their great album A Space in Time.  I have always loved this album and since it contains Alvin Lee’s biggest hit, I thought I would post this album to my blog and share it with anyone who hasn’t heard it before.  It’s a great one to own on vinyl.  It sounds great, it’s kind of psychedelic, and it’s just great music.

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Here is “A Space in Time” in it’s entirety.  All of the songs on this album  were written by Alvin Lee except “Uncle Jam” that was co-written by the entire band.

Side 1

One of These Days

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 The music fades in and the Blues begin.  Great harmonica on this song in addition to Alvin Lee’s great blues guitar work

Here They Come   Spacey is all you can call this tune.  I can hear the “space in time…”  

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I’d Love to Change The World  The year is 1971.  The Vietnam War is raging.  There is enormous disenchantment with the way the world is heading.  The feelings are global.  Protest songs are everywhere.  That’s one reason I love this song.  Everyone else was trying to claim they had all the answers.  Alvin Lee had the courage to say “I don’t know what to do…so I’ll leave it up to you…”

The technique of using electric and acoustic guitars in this song and the previous song shows the influence of Led Zeppelin.  But still there is a lot of originality here.  This song is the only Alvin Lee composition to make it into the top forty.  It was #40 in 1971.

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Over the Hill-Baby Won’t You Let Me Rock N Roll You

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 These last two songs merge into each other.  This song sounds so much like a lot of rock music that is coming out of Indie bands.  What’s old is new again… Then side one ends with a classic rocker.

Side 2

Once There Was a Time

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 I love this acoustic blues intro of this song.  It sounds ancient, like it came from one of the original Mississippi Delta Blues players.

Let The Sky Fall

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 This song has a typical R&B bass line and yet it is not typical in any other way.  It also continues the “Spacey” sound of the record.  There is a great “Trippy” guitar solo from Alvin in the middle of the song.

Hard Monkeys

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This  song also got some good airplay.  It is a song about drug addiction.

I’ve Been There Too

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 This song has a great sound and when Alvin Lee sings “I’ve been there too…”  I believe him.  The power chord chorus is great, as well. This song also gives you insight into how great a guitar player Alvin Lee was.

Uncle Jam

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 The intro is almost jazz.  This is exactly what the title implies…A  Jam.  There is some really great piano playing on this cut.

So Alvin has left us, like Van Cliburn, and Reg Presley.  He leaves behind his wife and daughter.  My deepest sympathy for your loss.  The sudden nature of his death could not have been easy.  His music lives on and his memory should be preserved.

 

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Van Cliburn’s legacy will be that of a musical ambassador…

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I was saddened to learn of the passing away of Van Cliburn this week.  If it were not for him, I may have never taken up playing the piano.  His victory at the 1958 Tchaikovsky International Piano Competition launched him into “Rock Star” status immediately.  He is still the only “Classical” musician who has ever had a New York City ticker tape parade.  The album you see above was the first classical LP to ever go platinum.  So if you own a copy, especially an early copy like my copy, you own a historically important LP, even if it is not a rare LP.

He was born in 1934 in Shreveport, Louisiana, but moved to Kilgore, Texas in 1941.  His dad was in the Oil & Gas business and his mother was a piano teacher.  My Dad and I knew a very talented pianist in Dallas named Newel Oller.  He grew up in Kilgore with Van Cliburn.  His claim to fame was that he finish second in every piano contest he entered because Van always finished first.  My Piano teacher and her son were close friends of Van and his mother.  I never met him, however, I did see him perform live twice.  Both times he played the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No 1 with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra.

Van lived in Texas so long that we claimed him as a native.  At the age of 13 he debuted with the Houston Symphony Orchestra.  In 1954 he graduated from High School and enrolled at The Julliard School in New York City.  In 1954 he won the Levintritt Award which included a debut with the New York Philharmonic.  Then in 1958 (the year I was born) he made history.

It is impossible to communicate exactly how stunning his victory in Moscow was.  It was like “The Miracle on Ice” in the 1980 Olympics, when the USA defeated the Soviet Union in hockey.  No American had even come close to winning a major international piano competition.  The United States was considered a backwater of classical music talent.  All the great musicians were born in and trained in Europe.  This was at the height of the cold war.  The cold war was so cold that the jury had to get Nikita Khrushchev’s direct permission to award the prize to Van Cliburn.  He was easily the crowds favorite. After he performed his concerto he received an 8 minute standing ovation.   What set him apart was his more deliberate pace that he took with the music.  In that time people had fallen in love with technical excellence and there was a lot of fast and loud playing.  Van took the time to make music.

He returned to America in triumph.  He appeared on the cover of “Time” magazine.  I love this quote from the Time magazine article describing him as  “The first man in history to be a Horowitz, Liberace, and Elvis Presley all rolled into one.”

In 1962 fans of Van Cliburn in Fort Worth, Texas organized “The Van Cliburn International Piano Competition“.  There is now an Amateur Piano Competition in addition to the main competition.  I entered the amateur competition a few years ago, but was not accepted.  I need to hire a teacher again and practice more. The Van Cliburn competition has done much for international good will.  It’s value cannot be overstated.  This May will mark the 14th quadrennial competition.  The Cliburn is one of the premiere competitions in the world.

Van Cliburn put classical piano playing on the map in the United States.  He caused numerous people to take up the challenge of playing the Piano.  His victory and fame caused my mother and father to encourage me to take up the hobby.  I never dreamed where it would ultimately lead me.

So my condolences to Van Cliburn’s friends and relatives, as well as music lovers everywhere.  The great ambassador of music has left us, but his music and his legacy will never fade.

Here it is in its entirety.  One of the most famous classical LP’s of all time.  The first classical LP to go platinum.  Van Cliburn, Kirill Kondrashin (Who was the conductor in Moscow during the competition)  and The RCA Symphony Orchestra.

First Movement

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Second Movement

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Third Movement

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The performance still resonates today and has inspired countless people to take up playing the piano, including yours truly…

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Reg Presley passed away today at age 71

Troggs_PresleyReg Presley, who was the lead singer of The Troggs, passed away today from lung cancer at the age of 71. His publisher Keith Altham stated “My dear old pal Reg Presley died today, one very real person in a sometimes very unreal world.” What a nice thing to say about someone. He must have been a good “Chap”. Altham stated that Presley died at home surrounded by his friends and family.

Wild Thing is one of the seminal songs of “garage rock”. It has to be up there with “Louie, Louie” as far as the history of rock n roll is concerned. It was covered, famously at the Monterrey Pop Festival by Jimi Hendrix.  Wild thing was also covered by Bruce Springsteen.  The Troggs never quit touring even though there star faded in the 70’s.  They experienced a revival in the 90’s when REM covered their other hit song “Love is All Around”. So rest in peace Reg and thank you for your contribution to “Three Cords and the truth…”

In his honor Click here: Wild Thing by The Troggs

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Buckingham Nicks LP to be released on CD? Maybe…

Album cover for Buckingham Nicks

Album cover for Buckingham Nicks

Gate-fold showing Lyrics and album credits for Buckingham Nicks
Gate-fold showing Lyrics and album credits for Buckingham Nicks

Label for side one of Buckingham Nicks
Label for side one of Buckingham Nicks

Copyright 1973.  Album was re-issued in 1975, but this is a first pressing.

Copyright 1973. Album was re-issued in 1975, but this is a first pressing.

This is one of the best known of all unknown record albums! This is the album Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks made right before they joined Fleetwood Mac. This album is responsible for them becoming members of “the Mighty Mac”. That story will be part of this blog too.  One other side note on the record:  In the credits they misspelled Stevie’s name.  It’s spelled Stevi…

Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham made this record after breaking up their current band Fritz.  It was a tough decision for them because they had become so close to their fellow band members.  Tension had built up in the band because Stevie Nicks was getting more and more of  the attention at their live shows.  By the way, Fritz must have been a pretty good band.  They opened shows for Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Credence Clearwater Revival, and even Santana.  But Polydor records was calling and they had to grab the brass ring while they could.  They had no idea how the course of their lives had just changed.  They thought they’d make this record, do a tour (possibly using some of the members of Fritz) and then pick up where they had left off.  And that is what very likely should have happened.

Stevie and Lindsey were romantically involved at this time.  They were also dirt poor. The two of them were waiting tables and getting any side gig they could during the recording of this record.  Money got so tight that at one point the producer, Keith Olsen, had to let them move in with him.  Then something amazing happened.  

Fleetwood Mac was in the midst of another major personnel change.  Bob Welch and another band member had left the band leaving Mic and John and Christine McVie.  Mic Fleetwood flew to California in search of a studio to record their next album and one or two new band members.  He walked into Sound City Studio where Stevie and Lindsey were recording their new album.  The first song he heard was Frozen Love.  This song features the great guitar work of Lindsey Buckingham.  The song is over seven minutes long and a tour de force rock song.  Mic immediately asked Lindsey to join  the band.  Fleetwood was very disappointed to learn that it was a package deal.  Lindsey said it was both of them or none of them.  The negotiations went on for some time but in the end Lindsey won out and the rest is history.

Then there is the album cover.  Stevie and Lindsey both topless.  Stevie hates this album cover.  When the photo shoot was coming up she took her last $100 and went out and bought a very cool blouse that she thought the photographer would love.  He took several photos of them and then suggested the topless picture.  After a tremendous amount of persuading she agreed to do it.  She still thought they would end up using a photo of her in her blouse.  So another reason to find and buy this record is you  get a topless picture of Stevie Nicks.  She never did anything close to this ever again…

And now here in all it’s naked glory is Buckingham Nicks

Side 1

Crying In The Night

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 This song was written by Stevie Nicks.  Tell me this doesn’t sound like Fleetwood Mac.  This song could have been on any of the records they made with Lindsey and Stevie.  This is just a great song!  How did this not become a hit?  The one thing we know is that Polydor really screwed up on the promotion of this great record.

Stephanie

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 One of two great instrumentals featuring Lindsey Buckingham’s awesome finger picking style of guitar playing.  It goes without saying that Lindsey also wrote the song.

Without A Leg To Stand On

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 Once again this song (written by Lindsey Buckingham) sounds like it belongs on a Fleetwood Mac album.  If you heard this song on the radio you would say “Hey that’s a new song from Fleetwood Mac!”  It kind of has an “Empire State” feel to it from the “Mirage” album.

Crystal

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 This song was written by Stevie Nicks.  This song actually did end up on the first Fleetwood Mac album they made.  Great harmonies in the chorus.  It’s just a beautiful song.

Long Distance Winner

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 This is one of my favorite songs on the album.  It’s a great song to close side one and really makes you want to turn the record over and hear side two.  This art of arranging the order of songs has largely disappeared in the age of digital music.  It was crucial during the age of vinyl…Lindsey’s guitar playing is fantastic!  By the way, the other musicians are studs too.  The session musicians featured Jim Keltner on drums, Jerry Scheff on bass, and the amazing Waddy Watchtel on guitar.  The lead guitar work by Lindsey is exactly the same great driving guitar sound that made so many hits for Fleetwood Mac. The song was written by Stevie Nicks

Side 2

Don’t Let me Down Again

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 This song could be the root inspiration for the opening song on Rumors:  Second Hand News.  I think the similarities are stunning!  This song is so good that it could have been substituted for Second Hand News and Rumors would have been just as great an album as it is today.

Django

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 This is the other instrumental on the album.  It is written by John Lewis.  John Lewis was the pianist for The Modern Jazz Quartet.   The music is a tribute to the great Brazilian Jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt.  Many guitarist will tell you that Django was the greatest guitarist who ever lived.  He had two paralyzed fingers and played all of his guitar solo’s with two fingers. You can imagine why Lindsey might want to put a tune on the album like this.  This is beautiful guitar playing by Lindsey Buckingham.

Races Are Run

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 This song was written by Stevie Nicks and it is absolutely beautiful.  I love the way Lindsey slides down the neck of the guitar to get the song going. The harmonies in the chorus are awesome.  This could have easily been on any Fleetwood Mac album. The acoustic guitar solo in the middle of the song is sublime.  The song fades out leaving you wishing that this song was longer.

Lola

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 This song was written by Lindsey Buckingham.  When the song starts it almost can fool you into thinking that “The Chain” is being played. It has that banjo sound to the guitar.  This is the weakest song on the album, but it’s still a good song.  It certainly can’t be lumped into the category of “filler”.

Frozen Love

 

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This song was written by Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham.  If you liked the  Buckingham Nicks Line up of Fleetwood Mac, then  you can thank this song for all the hits that followed. This is the song that Mic Fleetwood heard that caused the merger of the two bands.  This song is a powerful coda to the album.  It makes you wonder what would have happened if they had stayed on their own instead of joining Fleetwood Mac.  You can hear the root of everything that Fleetwood Mac went on to become in this last 7 minutes of great rock music.  The song starts out quietly and builds and builds…  I really enjoy the duel lead guitar sound in this song.  Stevie’s voice is powerful and emotional.

So this year is the 40th anniversary of Buckingham Nicks.  Fleetwood Mac is out on tour again (minus Christie McVie this time…) and it seems that every time they put out a new record or go on tour the subject of this record comes up.  Stevie and Lindsey both said in interviews in December of 2012 that they would like to see a 40th anniversary edition of the album released. They have both said they would write new songs for it.  They both said there are outtakes that could be included.  We have heard it all before.  The time has come.  The time is now.  And Lindsey and Stevie… If you do reissue this LP on CD please be sure to also put it out on vinyl…

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Transferring vinyl is a major drag on the economy?

My turntable in the middle of a vinyl transfer

My turntable in the middle of a vinyl transfer

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!

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“Live” All Star album is a Masterpiece…

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…

Side 1

The Cutting Edge

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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.

Alone Together

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 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.

Side 2

Continuum

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 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.

Nubia

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 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.

Side 3

N.O. Blues

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 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

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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.

Side 4

In A Sentimental Mood

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 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  

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 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

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 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…

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“Time Fades Away”, but this album won’t…

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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:

Side 1:

Time Fades Away

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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

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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

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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.

L.A.

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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

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 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.

Side 2

Don’t Be Denied

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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…

The Bridge

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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…”

Last Dance

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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.

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Steal Your Face is a Steal of an LP…

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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…

Side 1

The Promised Land

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  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

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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

 

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  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…

Stella Blue

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  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.

Side 2

Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo

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  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

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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

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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.

Side 3

Big River

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  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.

Black-Throated Wind

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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?

U.S. Blues

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This song was written by Hunter and Garcia.  A song written from the viewpoint of Uncle Sam.

El Paso

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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…

Side 4

Sugaree

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 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

 

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 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??

Casey Jones

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 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???

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Up next, A series of blogs about Live LP’s…

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:

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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:

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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:

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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”…

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Is Kat Edmonson the next Cole Porter?

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My Wife’s birthday resulted in the discovery of an amazing new musican. My wife wanted to get out of town for her birthday so we planned a weekend trip to Fort Worth. It just so happened that a new live music venue was opening up that weekend and my wife found an article in the weekend guide of The Dallas Morning News promoting a concert there the same weekend. The performer was a singer/songwriter from Austin named Kat Edmonson.  We had never heard of her, but the article described her as follows:  “that beautifully gray area that separates Americana from Jazz, country from folk”. Well that was enough for me.  We bought tickets.   She was performing at a new venue in Fort Worth called The Live Oak Music Hall & Lounge.  This is a great new place on the south side of Fort Worth.  It has an outstanding restaurant, a rooftop bar with an incredible view of Forth Worth, and a Music Hall that seats a little over 200 people.  The entire menu in the Lounge is also available in the Music Hall.  Pretty cool!

Our experience at the Lounge was first class.  The food and wine selection was excellent.  After dinner we went into the music hall and enjoyed the concert.  The opening act was Luke Wade.  He is a local artist from Fort Worth.  He was late because he had just played a private fundraiser for President Obama that was hosted by Bill Clinton.  The guy came in through the main entrance for the public, ran up on stage, and asked for two minutes to get ready. He performed on guitar with a fiddle player.  He put on a very enjoyable show.  He sounded too much like John Mayer to me.  That should tell you that he could sing and play at a very high level.

After a brief intermission Kat Edmonson sang and was accompanied by a acoustic guitar player.  Her guitar player was a French Canadian and he was a spactacular musicain.  She performed every song from her latest album and covered a song by Ella Fitzgerald (Champagne) and also Brian Wilson (I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times.)  Her cover of the Brian Wilson song was easily one of the highlights of a very magical night.  She infused the song with a pathos that exceeded the brilliant original song by The Beach Boys

Kat Edmonson was raised in Houston by her Mother and Grandmother.  She grew up listening to their LP records. (This is this story’s link to my blog..)  She especially loved her Grandmothers LP’s.  She grew up listening and loving The Great American Song Book.  Her songs are full of amazing lyrics.  She is also a very effective and interesting live performer.  She understands subtlety and technique like very few performers I have seen recently.  I picked up her latest CD “Way Down Low” and I cannot stop listening to it.  The CD features a duet with Lyle Lovett.  The lyrics are a great example of her work:

The Long Way Home

I’ll take the long way home tonight Please don’t wake up I’ll be alright Going about my usual day, I had no idea Cupid and friends had other plans for me, now i see And so, before I call it a day I’m making stops along the way Well I’ll be laughing with the moon in sea of delight and thinking every little bitty star in sight When I, take the long way home tonight I’ll take the long way home tonight Please don’t wake up I’ll be alright, going about my usual day, I had no idea Cupid and friends had other plans for me, now i see And so, first, before this day is through I’ve got some things I’ve gotta do Well I’ll be laughing with the moon in sea of delight and thanking every little bitty star in sight When I, take the long way home tonight Well I’ll be winking to the (? wise one?) who always knew And babbling with the brook about my love for you
When I, take the long way home tonight, tonight When I, take the long way home tonight.

If you can’t hear the Soul of Cole Porter in those lyrics then you must not have ever heard a song by him…

Check out Kat Edmonson.  She just recorded an episode of Austin City Limits with Willie Nelson.  Here is the link to her site:  Kat Edmonson.  Her music and lyrics are fantastic.  The ghost of Cole Porter lives!

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