Is Music for the listener or for the composer/performer??

Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band and their wild and crazy LP “Trout Mask Replica.”

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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”!

Side 1

Frownland

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The Dust Blows Forward ‘N The Dust Blows Back

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Dachau Blues

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Ella Guru

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Hair Pie: Bake 1

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Moonlight On Vermont

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Side Two


Pachuco Cadaver

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Bills Corpse

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Sweet Sweet Bulbs

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Neon Meate Dream Of A Octafish

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China Pig

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My Human Gets Me Blues

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Dali’s Car

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Side Three

Hair Pie: Bake 2

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Pena

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Well

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When Big Joan Sets Up

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Fallin’ Ditch

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Sugar ‘N Spikes

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Ant Man Bee

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Side Four

Orange Claw Hammer

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Wild Life

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She’s Too Much For My Mirror

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Hobo Chang Ba

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The Blimp

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Steal Softly Thru Snow

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Old Fart At Play

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Veteran’s Day Poppy

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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…”

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What’s the Point of “Zabriskie Point”??

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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…

Side 1

HEART BEAT, PIG MEAT

Written and Performed by Pink Floyd

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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?

Brother Mary

Written and Performed by The Kaleidoscope

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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

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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.

Crumbling Land

Written and Performed by Pink Floyd

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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.

Tennessee Waltz

Written by Pee Wee King and Performed by Patti Page

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This song appears in the movie during the heroine’s drive through the desert. She here’s it on the radio.

Sugar Babe

Performed by The Youngbloods

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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…

Side 2

Love Scene

Written and Performed by Jerry Garcia

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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.

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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!!

Mickey’s Tune

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

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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.

Outtakes

Untitled

Written and performed by Pink Floyd

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Love Scene #1

Written and performed by Pink Floyd

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Love Scene #2

Written and Performed by Pink Floyd

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Untitled (aka Oenone)

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Untitled (aka Fingal’s Cave)

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So Young

Written and Performed by Roy Orbison

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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…”

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Canned Heat “Living The Blues”

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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.

Side 1

Pony Blues

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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.

My Mistake

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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

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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

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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

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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.

Boogie Music

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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.

Side 2

One Kind Favor

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One Kind Favor is also credited to Tatman.  The one kind favor is to keep his gravestone clean.  This is a great blues song.

Parthenogenesis

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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

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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…

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A Tribute to Gustav Mahler…

Album cover of Das Lied von der Erde

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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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.

Forever…forever…

 

 

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Dallas Symphony performance of Bruckner’s 8th Symphony is breathtaking!

Sunday April 29th I attended the Dallas Symphony’s performance of the Bruckner 8th Symphony.  I was really excited to hear this piece performed live.  It is a magnificent symphony.  It is not performed very often because of it’s length, (over 70 minutes depending on the version performed) it’s complexity, and the massive size of the orchestra required to perform it.  The symphony is scored for  3 flutes (third doubling piccolo), three oboes, three clarinets, three bassoons, eight french horns (four doubling on Wagner tubas), three trumpets, alto, tenor and bass trombones, contra bass tuba, timpani, and a full complement of strings.  The Scherzo and Adagio movements also include 3 harps, triangle and cymbals.  Needless to say, the stage was crammed full of musicians.  We are very fortunate in Dallas to have one of the best conductors in the world as our conductor.  Jaap Van Zweden was just voted Conductor of the Year by Musical America for 2012!  I was even more interested to hear this performance because Van Zweden has just recorded this symphony with The Netherlands Radio Philharmonic for Octavia Records.  Mr. Van Zweden is currently recording the entire cycle of Anton Bruckner Symphonies.

One of the first things a conductor has to decide before he can conduct a Bruckner Symphony is which version?  Anton Bruckner was notorious for revising his work. There are two or three versions of almost all of his nine symphonies.  A total of 26 versions exist for his nine symphonies.   He was not a very confident person and was very reactive to criticism from peers that he respected.    There are 3 versions of the Bruckner 8th.  In this case Jaap Van Zweden chose the last version which was revised by Bruckner and two of his students Joseph and Franz Schalk.  It is the opinion of Maestro Van Zweden that the Bruckner 8th was the only symphony that was improved by the alterations.  This version was completed in 1980.  The symphony was debuted in Vienna on December 18, 1892 with Hans Richter conducting. This symphony is unique in the cannon of Bruckner symphonies for a couple of reasons.  First of all, it is the only Bruckner Symphony to include harps and second, it is the only Bruckner symphony that the Scherzo precedes the Adagio movement.

When I say this symphony is massive, I mean it is massive!  The last two movements are each over 30 minutes long.

If you are not familiar with the music of Anton Bruckner, think about the sound of the music of Richard Wagner.  Bruckner idolized Wagner and worshiped his orchestral techniques.  But that’s where the similarity ends.  Wagner was a hedonistic, atheist and an antisemitic.  Bruckner was a devout Roman Catholic and very spiritually centered in his personal beliefs.  He composed an enormous amount of music for Catholic church services in addition to his nine symphonies.  His love of God infuses his music.

The symphony No. 8 in C minor starts out in a whispering  tremolo in the strings, much like the Beethoven 9th.  Bruckner’s  music spins out in very long, slowly developing phrases.  The first thing that stuck me about the DSO’s performance is how beautifully Jaap led the orchestra and audience through these long beautiful phrases.  His vision of this symphony is beautifully clear.  Consequently, he made this normally complex, difficult composition stunningly easy to follow and comprehend.  What an amazing achievement!

We are also fortunate to have a world class concert hall in Dallas.  The McDermott Concert Hall at the Meyerson Symphony Center seemed to have been built for Bruckner.  This state of the art hall can actually be tuned to the type of music being performed.  The hall has an Acoustic canopy panel that can be raised and lowered as well as tilted to create various complementary environments for sound.  In addition the hall has reverberation chambers that can be adjusted  based on the amount of reverberation the conductor requires.  For this performance the canopy was raised as high as it could go and the reverberation chambers were opened all the way.  This created a cathedral like environment for the performance.  Bruckner was an organist by training and most of his music was greatly influenced by the sound of an organ.  The Bruckner 8th has several massive climaxes.  As the mighty crashes of the full orchestra occurred, the ambient tail of the music was breathtaking.  (When you think of ambient tail think of echo.)  The sound would literally hang in the air for  amazingly long times and Mr. Van Zweden would take full advantage of this effect.   It was a breathtaking!

This performance was nothing short of stunning.  As the finale came to it’s dramatic conclusion, the audience sprang to their feet in a totally spontaneous standing ovation that went on for 15 minutes.  70 plus minutes went by in the blink of an eye.  I was totally blown away by the vision of the conductor and the fabulous playing of the Dallas Symphony.  What a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon.  I for one am going to acquire the newly issued recording of this symphony my Maestro Van Zweden.  Congratulations to Jaap Van Zweden and the Dallas Symphony.  And how lucky am I to live in a city where I can experience a world class musical event like this!

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Rare Earth should not be so rare…

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:

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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

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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’

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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

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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

Satisfaction Guaranteed

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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

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This song has a real “Funk” feel to it. Great guitar solo by Rod Richards.

No. 1 Man

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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!

Eleanor Rigby

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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

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Radiohead fearlessly blazes their own trail… Radiohead live in Dallas March 5, 2012

Radiohead is not only the future of Rock, but maybe even the future of music.  I used to tell people that had never head Radiohead that they were the modern Pink Floyd.  The real truth is Radiohead is not like anyone else that has ever been.  This band is so creative and smart there is no telling where they can take music in the future.  Currently the lead guitar player Jonny Greenwood is collaborating  with the avantgarde composer Krzysztof Penderecki.  They did the movie soundtracks to “There Will Be Blood” and “Norwegian Wood”.  They just released a CD on the Nonesuch  label.  The CD is a compilation of works by both musicians.  It was just released on March 13, 2012.  I haven’t heard it yet, but I assure you I will purchase it as soon as possible.  Needless to say this is not the average rock band.  Radiohead is heavily influenced by contemporary “Classical” (for lack of a better word!) composers.  Another cool thing about this band is that they regularly employ some of the very first synthesizers ever invented.  First is the Etherwave Theremin Kit:

This Synthesizer was invented in 1928 by a Russian Scientist named Theremin. It was first used in Rock-n-Roll by Randy California of Spirit, and Randy introduced it to Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin, who got a lot of mileage out of it during live performances with Led Zeppelin.

The other synthesizer is called the ondes Martenot.   This synthesizer was invented in France in 1928.  Radiohead owns two ondes Martenots!  Here are a couple of pictures of the Martenot.  They are very difficult to play and even harder to master.

So on to the show.  My brother Joe went with me.  He is a highly trained and excellent musician. (If I may be so bold as to brag on my brother…).

I have been a fan of this band for years and have always wanted to see them so needless to say I was very psyched for this show.  The opening act was a band called Other Lives.  This band was a real pleasure to see live.  They sounded like a cross between old Peter Gabriel era Genesis, Kate Bush, and with a little Arcade Fire mixed in.  Several of the musicians in the band played different instruments during their 30 minute set.  At various times they had a cello, violin, trumpet, and many different kinds of percussion instruments playing.  The poor bastards were jammed together in front of the giant pile of equipment for Radiohead.  They could hardly move around but they really sounded great!  Then to my surprise, when the lead singer introduced the band, he said they were from Stillwater, Oklahoma!   I would never have guess that.  They sounded English!  Here is a photo gallery of Other Lives on stage at American Airlines Center, in Dallas, Texas.

 

 

 

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After a brief intermission the main event began. Here’s a taste of what it was like.

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They opened their two hour 24 song set with Bloom from their latest CD called King of Limbs and ended their set with Paranoid Android from their CD called OK Computer.  From the very first song it was apparent I was in for a very special night.  First of all their set included the live debut of two new songs.  The first one came about half-way through their initial setIt was called The Amazing Sound of Orgy.  The second new song was played during the second encore. (By the way, I’m told that two encore sets from Radiohead is extremely unusual too!)  That song was called Skirting on the Surface.  Both songs were excellent and bode well for the next Radiohead CD.  They also played two other new songs that they have played other places on this tour:  Identikit and Staircase.  They played almost everything I wanted to hear.  Of course they could play all night and I’d still think of a song I wished they had played.  The light show was amazing.  They had 12 giant flat screened televisions that were hung suspended above the stage.  These screens could move up and down and rotate, creating mind boggling effects.  Behind the band was an extremely sophisticated wall of lights that really blew me away.  Here is a photo gallery of pictures I took at the show with my iPhone:

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The most interesting thing about the light show, however, was what was not there.  There was not one single spotlight used during the entire show. In all of my life of going to rock concerts (my first show was in 1969) I have never seen a band perform without using spotlights.  The message is obvious and a real insight into the mindset of Radiohead.  Radiohead is a BAND!  The sum is greater than the parts. This band has no Star.  They are truly an ensemble performing their joint compositions.  Really, that is what I love about them.  They are composers not song writers.  They are practicing their art on the highest level.  They could care less if anyone likes it.  They write their music because they have too.  Because their art always comes before their popularity it was very gratifying to see a sold out hero worshiping crowd at the AAC that night.  The future’s so bright I gotta wear shades!

Here’s the Set List:

  1. Bloom
     
  2. Little By Little
     
  3. Weird Fishes/Arpeggi
     
  4. Morning Mr. Magpie
     
  5. The Gloaming
     
  6. The Daily Mail
     
  7. Pyramid Song
     
  8. The Amazing Sounds of Orgy
    (Live debut)
  9. Karma Police
     
  10. 15 Step
     
  11. Staircase
     
  12. Identikit
     
  13. Lotus Flower
     
  14. There There
     
  15. Feral
     
  16. Idioteque
     
  17. Encore:
  18. Separator
     
  19. Climbing Up The Walls
     
  20. Bodysnatchers
     
  21. Everything In It’s Right Place
    (w/True Love Waits intro)
  22. Encore 2:
  23. Give Up The Ghost
     
  24. Skirting On The Surface
    (Full band live debut)
  25. Reckoner
     
  26. Paranoid Android

 

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Big Head Todd is a Monster of Rock!

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If you don’t know who Big Head Todd and the Monsters are, then you need to get to know them. I was not familiar with their music until last year. Now I have all of their music except the new CD of Robert Johnson covers. Big Head Todd was formed in 1986 released their first studio album in 1989 so they have stood the test of time. What I think Todd Mohr (The Lead Singer/Lead Guitar Player/ Song Writer) has accomplished is the perfect melding of alternative rock with blues rock. Simply put, The man can play the blues. The set they performed at the House of Blues was appropriately Blues infused! I think Todd had the blues in his heart and mind because he had just released “Big Head Todd Blues Club – 100 Years of Robert Johnson” in 2011 and his buddy, the great Hubert Summlin, had just died. Hubert was the guitar player for Howlin’ Wolf. Keith Richards was putting together a surprise birthday party for Hubert at the Apollo Theater in New York when Hubert passed away. The birthday party became a tribute concert. Todd was invited by Keith Richards and Eric Clapton to participate. That concert occurred in New York on February 24th right before I saw this concert on March 1st, 2012. I think the blues were on his mind.

I got invited to the show by a friend of mine who is one of their biggest fans and he is also the guy that turned me on to them as well. I had heard a few of their better known songs like “Bittersweet”, but I had never sat down and listened to an entire recording of theirs until Wojo came along.  Thanks Wojo where ever you are! My friend Wojo is also a Founders Club member of The House of Blues. What that means is that we had a first class experience at the show. We had access to a private entrance to the club, a private bar, reserved seats, and table service for cocktails. That’s why some of the pictures are so good. I was sitting right next to the mixing board.

There was no opening act. Todd and the Monsters walked on stage at exactly 9:00pm and promptly blew the doors of the building. The sound quality was excellent. The musicianship was even better. Todd wields a major Ax! (It’s no wonder that Keith Richards and Eric Clapton invited him to participate in the Summlin tribute.)  They played all of their hits as well as a good bit of material from their newer CD’s.  The show lasted 2 hours but it went by way too fast.

Big Head Todd and the Monsters are on tour right now.  Don’t you dare miss them.  You will have a first class rock experience even if you’re not a Founders Club member.  Buy their music too.  You will not be disappointed.  I for one am going to get the Robert Johnson CD as soon as possible. Also, check out their website:  http://www.bigheadtodd.com  – There is great video of the Hubert Summlin tribute as well as all of the music from this amazing band.

Sorry for the long hiatus form my blog.  It couldn’t be helped.  I was traveling a lot in the first 3 months of this year and I have really been working way too much.  My focus is back on music and my blog now.  I have several other blogs that I need to post, so expect much higher activity in the near future.

Happy Easter and Long Live The Blues!

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Let’s give it to ’em right now!! The Inside Story of Louie, Louie…

Cover of Louie, Louie by Dave Marsh

Cover of "Louie, Louie" by Dave Marsh

This is a truly great book about rock and roll. The sub-title of the book is as follows: “The History and Mythology of the World’s Most Famous Rock’n’Roll Song; Including the Full Details of Its Torture and Persecution at the Hands of the Kingsmen, J. Edgar Hoover’s F.B.I., and a Cast of Millions; and Introducing, for the First Time Anywhere, the Actual Dirty Lyrics” Isn’t that intriguing?  You bet it is!

I was totally surprised by this book.  I thought it was going to be some kind of light, funny take on the history of “Louie, Louie”.  This is a serious and scholarly look at the song and it’s significance.  That’s not to say that the book isn’t entertaining as well, because IT IS!  This book will make you laugh and make you think. 

First of all, The Kingsmen did not write Louie, Louie.   A great soul singer from L.A.  named Richard Berry wrote the song.  He had a reasonable amount of success with it at first.  His story is a subject all by itself.  Paul Revere and the Raiders released a version of the song within days of The Kingsmen.  Their versions fought it out on the radio for weeks, but The Kingsmen ultimately won.  Why?, well that’s why you should read the book.  Well, that reason and because you want to know what the dirty lyrics are, right?  Dave Marsh makes a great case for Louie, Louie being the greatest Rock’n’Roll song of all time.  There are now over 3,000 version of Louie, Louie.  There is an annual Louie, Louie radio marathon called “Maximum Louie, Louie”.  Maximum Louie, Louie is held every April 11th and they play every known version of Louie, Louie.    There is a web site where you can report any new versions that you know of.  He also makes amazing connections between the primal scream of “Let’s give it to ’em right now!” and Kurt Cobain and the   birth of Grunge or The Seattle Sound.  After all, the Kingsmen were from Portland Oregon.  The F.B.I. spent more time and money investigating the song  than they did investigating John Lennon.       J. Edgar Hoover finally decided that the lyrics were indecipherable.  Ain’t Rock’n’Roll Grand!  There are so many fascinating stories in this book that I can’t share them.  Suffice to say the book is worth the time you will invest in reading it.  I strongly recommend it.  As for me?  “…we gotta go now!”

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Rare Copy of a Great Live album from Traffic: “Welcome to the Canteen”…

This LP came to me from the big garage sale collection.  I was very pleased to discover that this copy of “Welcome to the Canteen” is an original German pressing.  There are two versions of this LP.  One is on United Artist Records and identifies the band as Traffic on the spin of the jacket as well as on the back cover.  This version of the LP is very common and is not collectible.

The version I own is on Island Records.  The label is in German. (See The pictures below.)  In addition, the band Traffic is not identified anywhere on the jacket or on the LP label.  It just lists the names of all the band members.  This is how you can tell it is a very early copy of the LP.  The vinyl is heavy and thick, which makes for a quieter surface.  It is very likely 180 gram vinyl which is the highest grade of vinyl made.  Needless to say, the LP sounds terrific.  Here are some pictures of the LP.

Front Cover of "Welcome to the Canteen"

Front Cover of "Welcome to the Canteen"

Back cover of "Welcome to the Canteen"

Back Cover of "welcome to the Canteen" by Traffic

Record Label of "Welcome to the Canteen"

Record Label of "Welcome to the Canteen"

The album was recorded in July of 1971 at F airfield Hall in Croydon, England and the Oz Benefit Concert in London. The band consisted of Steve Winwood, Jim Capaldi, Dave Mason, Chris Wood, Rick Grech, Reebop Kwaku Baah, and Jim Gordon. All of these guys were first rate musicians. This was Dave Masons’ third stint with Traffic and his guitar work is a real stand out of the album. Dave Mason only played six dates on the tour and two of them are recorded on this LP. The Oz benefit concert was a fund raiser for the satirical magazine called “Oz”. The magazine had got themselves into an obscenity lawsuit with the English Government, the fundraiser was for their legal defense fund. Or as Oz called it “The Legal Defiance Fund”.

Steve Winwood performs on Vocals, organ, electric piano and guitar.  Rich Grech plays bass guitar.  Jim Gordon plays Drums.  Dave Mason performs Vocals, lead guitar, and acoustic guitar.  Jim Capaldi performs Vocals, tambourine, and percussion.  Chris Wood performs Saxophones, flute, electric Piano, and organ.  And lastly, “Reebop” Kwaku Baah performs congas, timbales, and bongos.

Side 1

Medicated Goo

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This song was written by Jimmy Miller and Steve Winwood. It features Steve Winwood on lead vocals.  This cut kicks off the LP nicely!  Steve Winwood sounds great doing his best “Blue Eyed Soul” vocals.  The lead guitar solo by Dave Mason is almost jazz.  This highlights the sophisticated sound that Traffic had.  They blended jazz, soul, rock and blues into their own “Musical Goo”.

Sad And Deep As You

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This is just a beautiful song from Dave Mason. Great lyrics too. I love the flute from Chris Wood.
40,000 Headmen

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This has always been one of my favorite Traffic songs. It’s almost spooky the way it starts out. Great vocals by Steve Winwood. It’s interesting how Steve is too far from the microphone at times during the performance. The band is extremely tight. They are one with the music. Great Jazzy extended flute solo at the end of the song. This song was written by Jim Capaldi and Steve Winwood. It features Steve Winwood on Lead Vocals.

Shouldn’t Have Took More Than You Gave

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Another great song featuring the song writing,vocal, and guitar skills of Dave Mason. I love the organ sound at the beginning. It’s such a classic sound from the early 70’s. Great lyrics too: “…but the dues we have to pay are still the same. You shouldn’t have took more than you gave.”

Side 2

Side two is the real treat of this LP. These two extended jams on some of their better known songs is just awesome!

Dear Mr. Fantasy

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This is one of Traffic’s best know songs. Jim Capaldi wrote the lyrics and Steve Winwood and Chris Wood wrote the music. This song was on the very first Traffic LP called “Mr. Fantasy”. It has been a long time staple of FM radio in spite of it’s length. (Thesong is over 10 minutes long.) This live version is paced a little slower than the studio version. It features Steve Winwood on lead vocals. They really thow themselves into this performance and the music just soars! This is a great live version of this song. It’s great how Steve Winwood and Dave Mason trade “clean” and “dirty” guitar solos during this song.

Gimme Some Lovin’

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To close the LP Steve Winwood reaches all the way back to his time with The Spenser Davis Group. (Steve was only 17 years old when he hit big with Spencer Davis). This song was written by Spencer Davis, and Steve and Muff Winwood. The original song was only 3 minutes long. This live version comes at you like a freight train for almost 9 full minutes! Get up off of that thing and Dance!!!  The Drummer Jim Gordon is just fantastic. Jim Gordon may be one of the most important musicians in rock history.  He played the drums on Eric Clapton’s great masterpiece Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs.  He also wrote the extended piano coda to the song Layla.  He played drums for Joe Cocker and the Mad Dogs and Englishmen.  He played with Gregg Allman, The Everly Brothers, The Beach Boys, Delainey and Bonnie, Harry Nilsson, Frank Zappa, Steely Dan, Dave Mason, and even Alice Cooper. He is widely known as one of the best drummers in Rock and Roll.  Here is some of his finest work.

Dave Mason left the band for good during this tour.  Traffic continued on in various forms until 1974 when Steve Winwood walked off the stage in the middle of a performance because he was so frustrated with some of the band members drug use.  That was the end of Traffic.  Reebop, Chris Wood, and Jim Capaldi are now dead.  Traffic was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004.  Dave Mason and Steve Winwood still have great solo careers.  So that is all for now from “… the Canteen”.  I think it’s time for a cocktail.  Peace, Out…

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