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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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Posted in Blues Music, Live Performance Reviews, Rock Music | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Keith Richards Tells All…

I just completed reading “Life”, the auto biography of Keith Richards.  This was not the book I expected.  I thought it would be a sensational tale of sex, drugs and rock and roll.  And it is all of that, but there is so much more to this book than S,D, and R&R.

From the very first chapter this book will grab you.  The book opens with Keith getting arrested in Arkansas during the 1975 U.S. tour.  I almost died laughing when I read this!  The number of times that Keith has cheated death or life in prison is unbelievable.  He tells tales of groupies, and drug dealers, and musicians.  He shares his version of the birth of the Rolling Stones and how Mick Jagger picked there name off a Muddy Waters record on the spur of the moment while he was talking to a booking agent on the telephone.  He writes “Satisfaction” in his sleep.  He steals Anita Pallenberg from Brian JonesBrian drowns in his swimming pool.   He shares his story of heroin addiction and cleaning up.  Keith is always very open and honest.  He never pulls and punches, even when it comes to his relationship with Mick Jagger.  If you are interested in all the sorted details of Keith’s life the book will not disappoint.  But, if you are interested in the music, that is really the reward of reading the book.

I came away with a much deeper respect for Keith Richards, the Musician.  He spends a lot of time talking about writing songs, recording music, arranging music, producing music, etc…  He tells the amazing story of learning about “open tuning” the guitar from Don Everly of The Everly Brothers.  His insights into how to record music is very interesting.  He talks about recording the sound of a group in a room.  Not overdubbing everything and using 30 different microphones to create a very sterile homogenized sound.  He wants it to sound real, to be pure, to have a live edge to the sound.  He talked about 3 microphones in a room and the entire band in there together.  Capture the sound of the band in a specific place.  A place like the basement of the house he rented in the south of France when The Rolling Stones recorded “Exlie on Main Street”; one of the greatest rock and roll albums ever recorded. 

So read this book.  Read it especially if you want to know more about how great rock music is created, recorded, and performed.  Read this book because it is a rare opportunity to look into the mind of a true musical genius who is still around to explain why and how they get things done.  Then listen to the music of the Stones and hear Keith paint his masterpieces on to the canvas of silence.  Hear him create drama with the silence between the notes.  The rest of the book is just a nice bonus.

What do you think?  Let me hear from you.

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Posted in Books I recommend | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hey Bo Diddley, What’d I Say…

This could be a long blog today.  For one thing, I’m snowed in and there’s not much else to do but listen to and record LP’s.  So I’m in heaven.  I should share how all of this LP recording got started.  I have been an avid purchaser of Vinyl since I was 9 years old.  I built up a large personal collection during my teen years and college.  I worked at a record and stereo shop during the summer when I was in college and could buy LP’s at cost.  It was like hiring a drug addict to run a pharmacy!  I feel in love with this girl in college and she lived in Kansas.  I sold my Rock albums to buy a plane ticket to see her during the summer.  This was one of the worst decisions I ever made!  It has taken me years to rebuild that piece of my collection.  It still is not what it was.  Some things can’t be replaced.  As Kurt Vonnegut says…”So it goes…”  I did hang on to the Jazz and Classical albums and I do love them.  Of course CD’s came along and I put up my LP’s for digital sound.  My turntable broke down and I never replaced.  Years pass… The CD collection gets quite out of hand.  I meet a woman, fall and love and get married for the second time.  She is a saint.  She encourages me to pursue my musical interests.  About seven years ago I buy a new stereo system and I include a Rega P-2 turntable.  I dust off the LP’s.  The first one I put on was Miles Davis “Kind of Blue”.  I’m hooked all over again.  I’m back collecting vinyl. Shortly after I begin to try to figure out how to turn these treasures into CD so they are portable and I can listen to them in my car, at other peoples houses, etc… My friend Raymond ( who is a techie Genius) helps me research the Digital Audio Converter.  I begin to transfer vinyl.  There was a lot to learn.  Some mistakes were made.  I had to do some over again.  But now it’s an organized, systematic, process.  I know exactly what I’m doing now. The next thing that happened was that I told people I had this capability.  I’m at a friends house and He gets very excited that I can work this magic.  He goes into a spare bedroom and brings out 2 boxes of LP’s.  He says “take ’em with you and bring them back when you’re done” .  There were 100 LP’s.  I’m about 2/3rds of the way through his collection.  The “Aretha’s Greatest Hits” was one of his LP’s.  I refer to this set of LP’s as the Jackley collection.  There have been some real gems that have come out of this set of LP’s. Then my neighbor came over one day to ask a favor and I happened to be in the middle of a listening/recording session.  He asked what I was doing and when I told him, he got very excited.  He says,”I’ll be right back!”  He returns with about 50 LP’s and says, (you can guess it) “keep ’em till you’re done.”   I refer tho this collection as the RB collection, I’m about half way through his collection.  Meanwhile the progress on my collect has slowed down. The next major incident is hard to write about because it involves tragedy.  A year ago I lost my brother-in-law to cancer.  He was a true Renaissance Man.  He was a software engineer, a cook, an artist (painting and pottery), a collector of art, a music lover, and an avid traveler and outdoors-man.   This really doesn’t scratch the surface of this amazing person.  My sister-in-law gave me his LP collection.  There are about 170 LP’s of all types. He had Jazz, Rock, Classical, electronic, international, and on and on it goes… It is a great treasure to me because it was his and it reminds me of him; and because the content is so good!  I refer to it as Bob’s garage.  When I blog about an LP I will try to remember to let you know about which collection it comes from. For some reason I am a magnet that causes people to give me music.  It has come to me in every format you can imagine.  And just like any good hoarder I cannot refuse it.  So I am in the middle of a giant project that is a labor of love.  Some of the LP’s I have already transfered are so interesting they will be worth re-visiting  later on.  Right now I am trying to blog about what I am currently working on.  I have a backlog of LP’s to write about because of the weather and the extra time I’ve had to work on things. Part 1:  Hey Bo Diddley… So that brings us to today’s listening session.  Three Ray Charles LP’s and the very first Bo Diddley LP.  All four of these LP’s came from my neighbor’s collection.  I nearly flipped out when I saw these LP’s.  Bo Diddley on Chess Records LP 1431.  This was one the great influences on the Rolling Stones. How cool is this album cover!  There’s Bo blasting out the blues in the middle of the cover.  Off on the far left is the maraca player Jerome Green.  He played four maraca’s in each hand!  Very cool stuff.  Jerome was almost like a brother to Bo Diddley but his drinking drove him out of the band.  I’m not sure what happened to him.  The Rolling Stones first major tour was with Bo Diddley, Little Richard, The Everly Brothers, and someone named Mickey Most.  He had a hit single that year (1963) Called “Mister Poster”.  The funny part is that Keith Richards had to keep up with Jerome Green because he would disappear right before he had to go on stage so he could get a drink in a bar!  Can you imagine Keith was the sober one!  Anyway on to the music and what awesome music it is! Side 1 1.Bo Diddley The genius of repetitive music as it builds and cast it’s spell.  Don’t you love the bluesy almost rockabilly beat? 2.I’m A Man Bo was a giant of a man and I bet when he sang this live you believed him. 3.Bring It To Jerome This song is about the maraca player. 4.Before You Accuse Me Forever associated with Bo Diddley!  I also love the Eric Clapton version. 5.Hey Bo Diddley I love the back up singer “Hey Bo Diddley!”  Even his name was rhythmic and musical. 6.Dearest Darling Jerome’s maraca’s make the song. Side 2 1.Hush Your Mouth I love the piano and the maraca’s.  The sound is almost primitive.  Call and response stuff.  I can see why the Rolling Stones worshiped Bo. 2.Say Boss Man A song about the curse of the workin’ man.  You can hear the sound of the machines as the laborer toils away for the benefit of his family. 3.Diddley Daddy Listen closely as Bo plays the acoustic guitar.  You can hear the soul of Robert Johnson. 4.Diddey Wah Diddey This song is so great I don’t know what to say about it.  I love the bending string break and the walkin’ bass.  It has drama and subtleties that infect you and make you move. 5.Who Do You Love This is the first song I ever heard Bo Diddley sing.  It’s been covered by everybody, but the original is still the best!  Don’t you love the voodoo lyrics? 6.Pretty Thing A conversation between Bo and the harmonica.  A great example of the importance of the harmonica in blues.  Very cool harp playing! Elias McDanials wrote every song on the record.  This name is not known to many but it is the real name of Bo Diddley!  I love all the Diddley songs on the record.  (Bo Diddley, Hey’ Bo Diddley, Diddley Daddy, Diddey Wah Diddy)  He ran out of Diddy names so he used Jerome once.  These songs sound ancient, like they always existed yet he wrote them all in the late 1950’s and early 60’s.  What a treat to hear this on an original Chess Record label.

If you want to see a great movie about the history of Chess Records.  Check out ‘Cadillac Records”.  Very Cool story about Marshall Chess, who recorded the likes of Etta James, Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Bobby Womack, Buddy Guy, Chuck Berry, Willie Dixon, and of course, Bo Diddley.  Marshall recorded Etta James song:  “At Last”.  Think of the impact this man had on Rock and Roll.  When a ‘Chess” artist had a gold record Marshall would buy them a Cadillac.  He supported Black artists when almost no one else would and his goal was to have cross-over hits so they could be heard by white audiences.  Some of the greatest blues records of all time were recorded at 2120 South Michigan Ave.

Part 2:  What’d I Say…

My neighbor also had three really cool Ray Charles LP’s. “What’d I Say…”, “Hallelujah I Love Her So”, and “The Ray Charles Story – Volume 1”.  Well, really he has 2 LP’s.  “The Ray Charles Story” has almost every song from “Hallelujah” on it too.  First there is “What’d I Say…”  Side one opens with this famous song.  The minute the needle hits the vinyl I’m hooked.  A great thing about vinyl are the liner notes and art work.  The back side of the album has notes written by Ren Grevatt of Billboard magazine.   It starts with this great quote from Ray,  “If I don’t feel what I’m doing on a record, then I’d rather forget it.”  Feel is what Ray is all about.  What feeling!  So feel this:

Side 1

1.What’d I say -Part I and II

2.That’s Enough

3.You Be My Baby

4.Tell Me How do You Feel

5.What Kind Of Man Are You

Side 2:

1.Rockhouse – Part I and II

2.Roll With My Baby

3.Tell All The World About You

4.My Bonnie

5.That’s Enough

The music is so great, I have nothing to add.  You can’t see it, you’ve got to feel it.  That’s enough.

Side One:

1.Ain’t That Love

2.Drown In My Own Tears:  This song blows me away.  You should hear the live version Joe Cocker does of it on “Mad Dogs and Englishmen.”

3.Come Back Baby

4.Sinner’s Prayer

5.Funny (But I Still Love You)

6.Losing Hand

7.A Fool For You

Side 2

1.Halleluhan I Love Her So One of his best.  The merging of R&B, Gospel, and Soul.  Wow!

2.Mess Around

3.This Little Girl Of Mine

4.Mary Ann

5.Geenbacks

6.Don’t You Know

7.I Got A Woman

As the notes on the back say “The blues are old, but they are not tired.”

Last but not least “The Ray Charles Story”.  I have only linked the songs that are not on the other two albums.

Side 1

1.The Sun’s Gonna Shine Again

2.  Losing Hand

3.  Mess Around

4.  It Sould’ve Been Me

5.  Don’t You Know

6.  Come Back Baby

7.  I Got A Woman

8.  A Fool For You

Side 2

1.  This Little Girl Of Mine

2.  Mary Ann

3.  Hallelujah I Love Her So

4.Lonely Avenue

5.Doodlin’

6.Sweet Sixteen Bars

7.  Ain’t That Love

Ray Charles has no peer.  He stands alone at the crossroads of country, jazz, R&B, gospel, and on and on it goes.  So on a cold winter day I’ll “put some coffee in my favorite cup” and let Ray melt the snow away.  That’s What’d I Say…

 


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Posted in Vinyl | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Listening to Aretha Franklin on New Year’s Eve

I am very saddened to hear that Aretha Franklin,
The Queen Of Soul; may have Pancreatic cancer. She is a national treasure.
It’s just one more crappy thing that happened in 2010 if it’s true. One
of my best friends was diagnosed with Pancreatic cancer in
September of 2009. He is still fighting with all his might
and I hope Aretha will follow his example. So it seemed
appropriate to listen to a couple of Aretha’s LPs this new year’s
eve. The two LPs were “Aretha’s Greatest Hits” (Atlantic SD-8295)
copyright 1971, and “Aretha” (Arista Records AL8442) copyright
1986. I listened to them in chronological order. Very
interesting to listen to two records back to back that were
recorded 15 years apart by the same artist. First the greatest
hits. I know what you’re thinking…”How many times can you
listen to Aretha sing “Respect?” Right? The answer for me is
there is no limit! The LP was in very good shape after
cleaning. I was surprised because the record was not in a
liner sleeve. Here is the song order for Side one:

1.  Spanish Harlem

2.  Chain of Fool

3.  Don’t Play That Song

4.  I say A Little Prayer

5.  Dr.Feelgood:  Dr. Feelgood

6.  Let It Be

7.  Do Right Woman – Do Right Man

Side 2:

  1. Bridge Over Troubled Water:   Bridge Over Troubled Water
  2. Respect
  3. Baby I Love You:  Baby I Love You
  4. (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman
  5. I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You)
  6. You’re All I Need To Get By
  7. Call Me

The cuts that seem to stand out the most
were the ones that were produced by Jerry Wexler alone.
Jerry seemed to stay the truest to the soul sound that I love when
I listen to Aretha. Dr. Feel Good and Baby I Love You are
real stand outs. If I could sing a song to Aretha I’d sing that
opening chorus arrangement of “Bridge Over Troubled Water”
“…Don’t trouble the water why don’t cha, why don’t cha Let It Be?
Still waters Run Deep… Like a Bridge over troubled water I
will lay me down” She turns the song inside out and makes it her
own. Tough thing to do with a song that familiar. There’s not
that much more to say about this album. It is classic
Atlantic R & B Soul.   The cut “Don’t Play That Song” was actually written by the founder of Atlantic Records and Rock-nRoll Hall Of Famer Amet Ertegun along with Betty Nelson.  Also, many don’t know that “Respect” was written and performed first by the great Otis Redding.  If you haven’t heard the original you really should check it out.

“Aretha” is another matter all
together. Here are the cuts in order: Side1:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

  1. Jimmy Lee
  2. I Knew You Were Waiting
    (For Me) (Duet with George Michael)
  3. Do You
    Still Remember
  4. Jumpin’ Jack Flash (Produced by
    Keith Richards):  Jumpin’ Jack Flash

 

Side 2

  1. Rock-A-Little
  2. An Angel’s
    Cries
  3. He’ll Come Along (Produced by Aretha
    Franklin):  He’ll Come Along
  4. If You Need My Love Tonight (Duet
    with Larry Graham)
  5. Look To The Rainbow
    (Produced by Aretha Franklin)

This is one of
those attempts to update a sound that doesn’t need updating.
There is a very bad duet with George Michael “I Knew You Were
Waiting (For Me). Also a duet with Larry Graham “If You Need
My Love Tonight” Equally 80’s boring. The band is a who’s who type
of line up that includes Kenny G., and Randy Jackson (American
Idol) as well as Chuck Leavell, Ron Wood and Keith Richards, and
Steve Jordan. Chuck has played with everyone from the Almond
Brothers to Eric Clapton and the Rolling Stones. Steve Jordan
has played in Keith Richards band “The X-pensive Wino’s as well as
Ron Wood’s solo album ‘Slide on This” This album becomes the Disco
Future vs. The R & B past. Aretha produces two
cuts. One of the Aretha produced cuts is “He’ll Come
Along”. She learned a lot from Jerry Wexler.
This is classic Atlantic R & B sound. The stand out gem of
the record is the Keith Richards produced cut of the Rolling
Stone tune “Jumping Jack Flash.” Aretha plays the piano
and does the vocal. This is an awesome performance! One
last thing about this album: It had hardly been played.
It was in almost perfect condition.

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Posted in Vinyl | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments