Wednesday, April 19, 2017

VIDEOS: Jimi Hendrix Plays the Delta Blues on a 12-String Acoustic Guitar in 1968, and Jams with His Blues Idols, Buddy Guy and B.B. King

by , Open Culture:

“I started playing the guitar about 6 or 7, maybe 7 or 8 years ago. I was influenced by everything at the same time, that’s why I can’t get it together now.”

When you listen to Jimi Hendrix, one of the last things you’re ever likely to think is that he couldn’t “get it together” as a guitarist. Hendrix made the characteristically modest statement in 1968, in a free form discussion about his influences with Rolling Stone’s Jann Wenner and Baron Wolman.

“I used to like Buddy Holly,” he said, “and Eddie Cochran and Muddy Waters and Elvin James … B.B. King and so forth.” But his great love was Albert King, who “plays completely and strictly in one way, just straight funk blues.”

Since Hendrix’s death and subsequent enshrinement in pop culture as the undisputed master of psychedelic rock guitar, a number of posthumous releases have performed a kind of revisionism that situates him not strictly in the context of the hippie scene but rather in the blues tradition he so admired and that, in a sense, he came of age within as a session and backing guitarist for dozens of blues and R&B artists in the early 60s.

In 1994 came the straightforwardly-titled compilation album Blues, which celebrated the fact that “more than a third of [Hendrix’s] recordings were blues-oriented,” writes Allmusic’s Richie Unterberger, whether originals like “Red House” and “Hear My Train a Comin’” or covers of his heroes Muddy Waters and Albert King.

Martin Scorsese devoted a segment of his documentary series The Blues to Hendrix, and an ensuing 2003 album release featured even more Hendrix blues originals (with “pretty cool” liner notes about his blues record collecting habits). Prolific director Alex Gibney has a documentary forthcoming on Hendrix on the Blues.

It’s safe to say that Hendrix’s blues legacy is in safe hands, and it may be safe to say he would approve, or at least that he would have preferred to be linked to the blues, or classical music, than to what he called “freak-out psychedelic” music, as a Guardian review of Hendrix autobiography Starting at Zero quotes; “I don’t want anybody to stick a psychedelic label around my neck. Sooner Bach and Beethoven.” Or sooner, I’d imagine, blues legends like Albert King, Buddy Guy, and B.B. King, of whom Hendrix sat in awe.

At the top of the post, you can see Hendrix flex his Delta blues muscles on a 12-string acoustic guitar. Then in the video below it from 1968, Hendrix gets the chance to jam with Buddy Guy, after watching Guy work his magic from the audience (Hendrix joins Guy onstage to jam at 6:24). Beneath, see Guy and King reminiscing a few years ago about those days of meeting and playing with Hendrix.

During their conversation, you’ll learn where Hendrix picked up one of his stage tricks, playing the guitar behind his head - and learn how little Guy knew about Hendrix the rock star, coming to know him instead as a great blues guitarist. 

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

VIDEOS: Pink Floyd Performs on US Television for the First Time: American Bandstand, 1967

by , Open Culture:

Pink Floyd - Apples And Oranges - 1967 American... by pentathlonstart

You may have noticed we’ve been in the midst of a mini-sixties revival for the past decade or so - what with the retro soul of Alabama Shakes or the late Amy Winehouse, the garage rock of Ty Segall, and the California psych of Australia’s Tame Impala.

That’s to name but just a few students of sixties’ sounds; many hundreds more populate events like the Psych Fests of Austin and Liverpool. And before these bands, late eighties/early nineties brought us a British re-invasion of sixties garage rock and pop like the Jesus and Mary Chain, the Chameleons, the Stone Roses, Oasis, and many other jangly, fuzzy, dreamy bands.

All of that is to say it’s nearly impossible to hear anything sixties rock with fresh ears. Not only has the incessant nostalgia dimmed our senses, but we’ve seen the ideas of the sixties evolve into myriad subcultures variously indebted to the decade, but no longer even in need of direct reference.

What would it mean, however, to hear the far-out sounds of a band like Pink Floyd for the first time, a band who may at times sound dated now, but much of whose more obscure catalog remains shocking. And it’s easy to forget that when Pink Floyd - or “The Pink Floyd” as they tended to be called - got their start with original singer and songwriter Syd Barrett, they made a much different sound than those we’re familiar with from The Wall or Dark Side of the Moon.

If you haven’t heard the sound of the band circa 1967, when they recorded their first album Piper at the Gates of Dawn, then you may nod along with Dick Clark’s ambivalent introduction of them to U.S. audiences in the ’67 American Bandstand appearance above - their first visit to the States and first time of TV.

They do indeed make “very interesting sounds”: specifically, “Apples and Oranges,” the third single and the final song Barrett wrote for the band before he suffered a psychotic break onstage and was replaced by David Gilmour. There isn’t much in the way of performance (but stick around for the interviews around 3:25).

As pretty much everyone did at the time, Barrett, Roger Waters, Nick Mason, and Richard Wright mime to a pre-recorded track. And Barrett looks particularly out of it. He was close by this point to the crippling mental health crisis that would eventually end his career.

But Syd Barrett did not disappear from music right away. The unreleased “Scream Thy Last Scream,” slated to be the next single released after Piper at the Gates of Dawn, gave much indication of the musical direction he took in two 1970 solo albums, The Madcap Laughs and Barrett.

Like later Barrett, early Pink Floyd is not music for everyone. Instead of the familiar stomping funk of “The Wall” or the soaring blues of “Comfortably Numb,” the songs meander, twist, turn, and wobble, often indicating the state of Barrett’s troubled soul, but just as often showcasing his brilliant compositional mind. Barrett is gone, as is keyboardist Richard Wright, and Pink Floyd is no more. But their legacy is secure. And we still have mad geniuses like Austin psych legend Roky Erickson to kick around, as well as all the many thousands of musicians he and Barrett inspired. 

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

CLASSIC ALBUM SERIES #15: Eric Clapton - From The Cradle

by Tom Caswell:

English: Eric Clapton Rotterdam June 23, 1978
Eric Clapton Rotterdam June 23, 1978 (Wikipedia)
For the 15th instalment of my CLASSIC ALBUM SERIES I turn to Eric Clapton’s incredible 1994 album From The Cradle, an album which saw him return to electric blues with one hell of a bang.

Two years earlier Clapton had recorded and released his Unplugged live album which contained a number of high quality acoustic blues performances and From The Cradle certainly expanded on his return to the blues.

The album opens with a fantastic version of the Leroy Carr song Blues Before Sunrise with influence taken from the Elmore James version. 

It’s a roaring rendition which certainly sets the tone for the rest of the album with Eric playing slide guitar, something he doesn’t usually do but has done occasionally over the years. He sounds great here and plays with authority, classic Clapton. 

The Willie Dixon song Third Degree comes next which sees Clapton supply some tasteful blues kicks throughout. It’s a slow blues number and Chris Stainton also plays some great piano here which compliments Eric’s playing exquisitely. 

But it’s perhaps the Lowell Fusion number Reconsider Baby where Eric really hits his stride. From a personal point of view it’s my favourite song on the album and it’s difficult to think of the last time Eric played the blues so perfectly before this. It’s a performance that was captured live on Later … with Jools Holland when Eric made an appearance on the show in 1995 and you can tell that Eric really gets into it, and the same can be said for the studio version here. It is absolutely stunning and reminds you that even after the multiple rock albums since 1970, he is primarily a blues guitarist. And one of the all time best.
  1. Blues Before Sunrise
  2. Third Degree
  3. Reconsider Baby
  4. Hoochie Coochie Man
  5. Five Long Years
  6. I’m Tore Down
  7. How Long Blues
  8. Goin’ Away Baby
  9. Blues Leave Me Alone
  10. Sinner’s Prayer
  11. Motherless Child
  12. It Hurts Me Too
  13. Someday After A While
  14. Standin’ Around Crying
  15. Driftin’
  16. Groaning The Blues
Hoochie Coochie Man comes next and the band as a whole really sound great here. It’s a song that has been covered by a wide range of artists over the years and it’s perhaps this version that has inspired blues bands and performers since it’s release on this album. I know it has with me. 

The great Five Long Years is the fifth song on the album and Eric really goes off here both vocally and on guitar. His guitar playing is explosive to say the least and on vocals he gives one of his finest performances on the whole album. It’s a great song which was originally recorded by Eddie Boyd in 1952 and hugely satisfying to listen to with Eric supplying some great guitar playing, something this album has in abundance.

The Sonny Thompson penned track I’m Tore Down is a song that was originally performed by the great Freddie King, a huge influence of Clapton dating back to when he first took up the guitar. It was of course Freddie King’s album Let’s Hide Away And Dance Away that was hugely influential on Clapton upon its release in 1962.

The acoustically driven How Long Blues follows the electrifying I’m Tore Down and sees Clapton in a more laid back mood, showing that the blues isn’t always fast paced Chicago Blues numbers. It’s the second Leroy Carr song on the album after the opener and features some great harmonica playing from Jerry Portnoy who had previously toured with the legendary Muddy Waters. His harmonica paired with Eric’s slide guitar and Stainton on piano results in a beautifully delivered song.

Goin’ Away Baby follows and again features Portnoy on harmonica where he mimics Clapton’s vocal lines while also performing a really good solo towards the end. Blues Leave Me Alone is a slow shuffle blues with forceful drumming and sees Eric deliver yet another fine vocal display. He’s obviously known mostly for his guitar playing but there’s no doubt that he’s become one of the finest blues singers the genre has ever seen, and this song captures him at his very best. 

Sinner’s Prayer features one of my favourite Clapton guitar tones on this album. It’s thick, muddy, and overdriven. Perfect for the kind of blues the album contains. The next song, Motherless Child, is my least favourite song on this album although it’s probably the most well known. It’s an ok song but for me personally I prefer the kind of blues that features in the next song, It Hurts Me Too. 

Just like Blues Before Sunrise, Eric takes on slide guitar duties and blows everything away in the process. There’s footage of him and his band playing this song on tour which shows the Gibson guitar he plays slide on, but it’s perhaps this studio version here that features the better tone which is certainly more focused. His slide playing here is phenomenal and from a personal point of view it’s a song, and a performance, that inspired me to start playing slide too. 

Another Freddie King song comes next in the form of Someday After A While and there’s no doubt that Clapton is at his very best when playing Freddie King songs. He nails it every time. There were a number of other King songs he played while touring this album, often played consecutively, and his playing on all of them is up there with the best guitar playing he has ever done. And Someday After A While is no exception.

Standin’ Around Crying by Muddy Waters is the third to last song and it’s a great rendition of a classic song. A slow blues number, the whole band sound fantastic here with the harmonica being one of the standout parts. 

Things then turn acoustic for the last time on the album with Driftin’, a song and a performance that could have been taken from his Unplugged album two years earlier. In a live setting this song would turn into an electric beast with the running time extended to 8 minutes or more while also including multiple key changes. But here it’s a 3 minutes acoustic blues track and sounds great for it. Simple, basic, pure acoustic blues. 

To end the album Eric turns thing up to 10 with a roaring rendition of Groaning The Blues. Vocally he is a man possessed here, ending the album on a high. His guitar playing dominates the song as well. There are a number of songs that are more band songs on the album but here, to end the album, it’s all Eric. The rest of the band take a back seat and let him do his thing the way only he could.

In terms of impact it’s a fantastic blues album and in many ways, in regards to his playing, it’s a perfect successor to the Bluesbreaker album he released with John Mayall in 1966. His blues playing here is absolutely incredible and showed the world and his doubters that Eric Clapton is, was and always will be a GOD.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Watch Janis Joplin’s Breakthrough Performance at the Monterey Pop Festival: “One of the Great Concert Performances of all Time” (1967)

by , Open Culture:

“No one to that point had seen a White girl sing the blues like she sang it. And she was a tough Texas girl, she lived really tough, she drank tough, she did drugs, too many and too tough. But as a vocalist, her performance at Monterey was also one of the great concert performances of all time.”

That’s famed music and film producer Lou Adler talking in 2007 about Janis Joplin and her performance 40 years before at the Monterey International Pop Festival. After those three days of music (June 16-June 18, 1967) in the Summer of Love, many of the acts catapulted to fame.

The Who exploded stateside, The Jimi Hendrix Experience essentially launched their career from that stage, Ravi Shankar got introduced to Americans, and Otis Redding played to a mostly white audience for the first time. Laura Nyro and Canned Heat became famous overnight.

And then there was Big Brother and the Holding Company, fronted by a 24 year-old Janis Joplin. Their first album wasn’t due until August, and most of the crowd had not heard of this blues band when they took the stage on Saturday afternoon, June 17. Five songs later, and finishing with “Ball and Chain,” the crowd had gone wild. They knew they had seen something special.

But D.A. Pennebaker, the documentarian behind Dylan’s Don’t Look Back and Bowie’s “Ziggy Stardust” concert films, had not filmed the set. In an unprecedented move, Joplin and band were invited back to recreate the set the following evening - the only band to do two sets at the festival - and that is the footage seen above. Joplin’s performance is just as good, maybe even better, though the Sunday performance does not feature James Gurley’s extended guitar solo. That version can be found here.

Not only did Monterey Pop launched several careers, it legitimized the idea that rock music was mature and important enough to have its own festival, just like the worlds of jazz and folk. For organizers Adler, along with John Phillips of the Mamas & the Papas, Alan Pariser, and Beatles publicist Derek Taylor, it was a huge success. Two years later a little gathering called Woodstock went even further. And the rest as they say is … whoever’s headlining Coachella this year.

If you enjoy this footage, you will want to pick up a copy of the film, The Complete Monterey Pop Festival, from the Criterion Collection. 

Ted Mills is a freelance writer on the arts who currently hosts the artist interview-based FunkZone Podcast and is the producer of KCRW’s Curious Coast. You can also follow him on Twitter at @tedmills, read his other arts writing at and/or watch his films here.

Friday, March 3, 2017

The History of Spiritual Jazz: Hear a Transcendent 12-Hour Mix Featuring John Coltrane, Sun Ra, Herbie Hancock and More

by , Open Culture:

Jazz has inspired a great many things, and a great many things have inspired jazz, and more than a few of the music’s masters have found their aspiration by looking - or listening - to the divine. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they subscribe to traditional religion.

As befits this naturally eclectic music that grew from an inherently eclectic country before it internationalized, its players tend to have an eclectic conception of the divine. In some of their interpretations, that conception sounds practically all-encompassing. You can experience the full spectrum of these aural visions, from the deeply personal to the fathomlessly cosmic, in this four-part, twelve-hour playlist of spiritual jazz from London online radio station NTS.

“During the tumultuous ’60s, there was a religious revolution to accompany the grand societal, sexual, racial, and cultural shifts already afoot,” writes Pitchfork’s Andy Beta. “Concurrently, the era’s primary African-American art form reflected such upheaval in its music, too: Jazz began to push against all constraints, be it chord changes, predetermined tempos, or melodies, so as to best reflect the pursuit of freedom in all of its forms.”

This culminated in John Coltrane’s masterpiece A Love Supreme, which opened the gates for other jazz players seeking the transcendent, using everything from “the sacred sound of the Southern Baptist church in all its ecstatic shouts and yells” to “enlightenment from Southeastern Asian esoteric practices like transcendental meditation and yoga.”

It goes without saying that you can’t talk about spiritual jazz without talking about John Coltrane. Nor can you ignore the distinctive music and theology of Herman Poole Blount, better known as Sun Ra, composer, bandleader, music therapistAfrofuturist, and teacher of a course called “The Black Man in the Cosmos.”

NTS’ expansive mix offers work from both of them and other familiar artists like Alice Coltrane, Earth, Wind & Fire, Herbie Hancock, Gil Scott-Heron, Ornette Coleman, and many more (including players from as far away from the birthplace of jazz as Japan) who, whether or not you’ve heard of them before, can take you to places you’ve never been before.

Start listening with the embedded first part of the playlist above; continue on to parts two, three, and four, and maybe - just maybe - you’ll come out of it wanting to found a church of your own.

Monday, February 27, 2017

ALBUM REVIEW: Bootleg Series #20: Cream – New Haven Arena, New Haven, CT, USA // 11th October 1968

Featured photo taken by Henry Mioduszewski
by Tom Caswell:

For the 20th instalment of my BOOTLEG SERIES I return to one of my favourite bands of all time, Cream, a band who have been the focus of four previous instalments in this series.

This show at New Haven Arena in New Havan, CT from the 11th October 1968 is one of the farewell shows the band played on their last tour of the United States and unlike many recordings from this tour, the band appear to be just getting through the show. That said there are countless great moments on each song and they’re enjoyable to listen to.

They open with the Jack Bruce/Peter Brown penned song Politician, a song that was released in studio form on their third album Wheels Of Fire in July 1968. This song has long been one of my favourites due to the extremely dark and moody sounding guitar riffs that Clapton so eloquently plays alongside Bruce on bass.

I’m So Glad comes next but it’s perhaps Sitting On Top Of The World where things really take off, starting with Clapton’s opening guitar riffs played on his Gibson Firebird I, of which can be seen in multiple photos from this show including the featured photo above. Clapton’s Firebird tone is gorgeous yet earsplitting, really hitting you in the core and knocking you for six. 

His solo at 2 minutes 25 seconds is outstanding and you’ve got to remember that this bootleg is somewhat muffled due to the age and equipment used, but the sharpness of his guitar still manages to cut through. Incredible. There are a few guitars that come to mind when you think of Clapton in Cream and the Firebird is right up there alongside the SG.
  1. Politician
  2. I’m So Glad
  3. Sitting On Top Of The World
  4. Crossroads
  5. Sunshine Of Your Love
  6. Train Time
  7. White Room
  8. Spoonful
  9. Toad
Crossroads is the fourth song and the tone sounds a lot different from the classic performance recorded at Winterland on the 10th March 1968. That’s because he’s still using his Firebird here, whereas he used the SG at Winterland. The tone is thinner and a lot barer at quieter volumes. That said Eric puts in a superb performance on lead vocals and continues to do so when he comes in with the solo. Bruce and Baker are as solid and sturdy as ever, acting as the bedrock for Clapton to do his thing over, which he does magnificently. Sadly there appears to be a portion of the performance missing in the middle of this song which was probably down to a tape malfunction. But we’re still left with a great performance. 

The band move on to Sunshine Of Your Love which at just under 5 minutes is a relatively short performance compared to other versions they were known to have played. But in those 4 minutes and 51 seconds we’re treated to a monster performance and you’re hit with how big and heavy this version sounds, making you wonder how huge it would have sounded in the actual arena. You’d have walked away with ringing ears no doubt, something Ginger Baker did every single night on this tour.

Things then move in a quieter direction with Train Time which only features Bruce and Baker. It’s probably my least favourite moment of the show but only because you can barely hear anything on the bootleg. That’s put right with the next song though, a storming rendition of White Room. Clapton’s wah tone cuts through and adds a gorgeous psychedelic feel to a wonderful song.  

Spoonful follows which is the longest performance of the entire show at just over 18 minutes in length. This song was always the one that contained the most improvisation and musical exploration and while it may not be as explosive as previous versions there are plenty of enjoyable moments. Toad is the last song and while I enjoy listening to Baker behind the kit I think having the song to end a show kills the overall mood a little. It’s just him playing and allows Bruce and Clapton to get away from things 10 minutes earlier than him. While I appreciate Baker’s greatness as a drummer, I just don’t feel this performance at all.

Overall it’s a decent sounding bootleg. Not the best, but certainly not the worst. It’s great to hear Cream during this period of their career though but at this show they are essentially playing through the motions waiting until the tour ends so each member can move on to something new. 

While there are one or two songs that definitely seem shorter than they were only six months earlier in the year, there are countless moments that prove Cream were one of the best live bands not only at the time, but in music history. But if you’re looking for a show that is explosive and dripping with excitement, this probably isn’t it. But for me it’s still essential listening.

Friday, February 17, 2017

INTERVIEW: The Real Story Behind Jethro Tull's 'Aqualung'

by Joe Bosso, Music Aficionado:!/article/the_real_story_behind_jethro_tull_aqualung_by_joebosso

Photo Courtesy of Getty Images
Jethro Tull had already hit the top spot on the U.K. charts with their 1969 release, Stand Up, but success in America was a harder nut to crack.

Their third album, 1970's Benefit, came this-close to the U.S. Top 10, but stopped one mark short, landing at No. 11. It wasn't until the band issued their landmark album Aqualung in 1971 that the doors to mainstream acceptance flung open in a big way, with the record going all the way to No. 7.

The album, a deft mix of pastoral folk-rock, thundering proto-metal and nascent prog, is generally regarded as Jethro Tull's undisputed masterpiece. But as Ian Anderson tells Music Aficionado, he wasn't initially sure that the record's broad blend of styles was a slam-dunk.

"We were getting quite esoteric on the album, and I felt that we might have pushed things too far in that regard," he says.

"What gets you noticed in one territory might not have the same appeal elsewhere. The record had a lot of more acoustic singer-songwriter material on it, and Jethro Tull had become thought of as more of a rock band. The riffy rock material had a pretty immediate appeal to live audiences, so I felt reasonably confident and gratified. But you never know until you put it out, and then the record did very well, so it all worked."

Many fans have called 'Aqualung' a concept album, but you've always maintained that it isn't anything of the sort.

It was never a concept album in my eyes. Yes, it certainly set out with the idea that there would be a few songs that kind of hung together, but there were a whole bunch of songs that didn't have anything to do with the others. When it came to the artwork for the album cover, which I rather left in terms of the pictorial images to our then manager, Terry Ellis, I thought that that would be best illustrated in terms of text by trying to give it some sense of order, by making it hang together a little bit more as a package. I guess that's what made people think it was a concept album.

I've always felt it a little difficult to deal with in response to the allegations that it was a concept album. As I said, it wasn't. There were just a few songs as I say that were in a similar vein and on a general topic of, I suppose, religion and growing up, and I still to this day would not call it a concept album by any means. Of course, speaking to the concept album question, I said, "I'm going to get my comeuppance next time around," and we did with Thick as a Brick, something quite surreal and preposterous - and we got away with it [Laughs].

As you mentioned, 'Aqualung' has some incredible riffs, like the title track, Hymn 43, Cross-Eyed Mary and Locomotive Breath. What was your process for writing them?

Oh, just sitting with a guitar in a Holiday Inn or somewhere on tour, and hoping that I came up with something. I was probably sharing rooms with [bassist] Glenn Cornick at that point - we weren't able to afford separate rooms then. Luckily, Glenn was a party guy, so he liked to go out a lot and meet people and do things, and I could sit in the room if it was a day off and try to come up with some tunes. But they all began very much on the acoustic guitar, and then you try to imagine taking them into the world of large-scale rock rather than hearing them as singer-songwriter acoustic-y things.

You've talked about being influenced by people like Roy Harper and Bert Jansch. Were those guys in your mind when you wrote the acoustic-oriented tracks?

Yes, there was certainly an influence from both of those people. I knew Roy Harper a bit. We'd done some shows together and appeared, I think, at the very first concert in Hyde Park. It was Jethro Tull, T.Rex, and, I think, Pink Floyd and Roy Harper. The previous year I'd met Bert Jansch, and I think we saw Pentangle play somewhere in Boston when they were staying in the same Holiday Inn as we were. I was aware of those guys, and some of them I liked and some of them I didn't, but the other thing was that I was never at that point really into any of the equivalent singer/songwriter, acoustic guitar type act in the U.S.

Simon and Garfunkel just passed me by, and even when I first heard Bob Dylan, he rather grated on my ear. I found his very Americana-Midwest kind of lyric and singing style rather … it didn't appeal to me. Later on I appreciated what an important artist he is, of course. But the English artists who were in that vein, who drew upon some of the more original English kind of themes or traditional English and Scottish and Irish folk music, I don't think they were ever as successful as were those two or three American artists who did big things with an acoustic guitar and carefully thought-out voices.

This was the first album with keyboardist John Evan as a full-time member, the first with bassist Jeffrey Hammond, and it was the last album with drummer Clive Bunker. What was the general mood in the studio?

It was a rather dark mood, actually, and it was a bit frustrating for me because the recording was being done in the then new Basing Street Studios, which was a converted church that Island Records had bought and turned into a pair of studios. Led Zeppelin were working in the smaller studio downstairs, which is a much nicer acoustic room - much cozier and more like a proper recording studio. Upstairs it was the big, cavernous church hall, which had a rather spooky and threatening atmosphere. It was quite difficult acoustically and technically - there were problems and shakedown issues with the equipment and wiring. It was a real struggle.

All of which makes it more difficult when you're trying to convey to other musicians what you're driving at. We had stepped away from the early Jethro Tull sort of music, and Clive Bunker found it sometimes beyond his points of reference. For Jeffrey Hammond, it was his very first album, so he was kind of just being given a list of notes and told how to play them. I was confident he would get it, but it was a little nerve-racking for him. Here, too, it was a little frustrating for me, trying to convey things to the other guys, which is why I just recorded some things on my own and then they came and overdubbed their bits afterwards.

"Locomotive Breath" was a particularly hard song to record because we just couldn't get a metronomic, solid feel. It just kept being kind of a bit scrappy and whatever, so I went out and played tambourine or something, or maybe I clicked two drumsticks together or something. I played bass drum and hi-hat all the way through the song, and everybody overdubbed their parts to that. I think I played one of the electric guitar parts as well, just to try and get something that would convey the feel of the song to the other guys. Then John went out and recorded the introduction part, which we edited onto the body of the song. But yeah, it wasn't a great atmosphere. By the end of it, I was quite relieved to get out of there.

You mentioned the religious theme to some of the songs. Did you ever get any flack from the Bible Belt in the States?

Yes, but that was the only place. It just happened a little bit in America where we got some fairly negative stuff and people were burning the album. But I also got from the U.S.A., as I did elsewhere, a lot of very positive and supportive comments from members of the clergy, from priests who understood what I was saying and why I was saying it, and who felt some empathy for the essential criticism of organized religion and the essence of not turning religion into a sort of power game for those in charge.

When writing lyrics, did you ever edit yourself at all? I remember the line in "Hymn 43" - "Jesus saves, well, He'd better save Himself." That's a strong line.

Yes, there were strong lines in "Hymn 43" and My God, some fairly strong sentiments, and I can understand people getting a bit bent out of shape. But back then we were all empowered with a kind of rather mouthy, Trumpish tone, and it was expected that you could get away with it, whereas I think today in a more politically correct world, while Mr. Trump himself would appear to get away with it at least half of the American public, most other people are absolutely appalled by it.

Sometimes to shock is a valid approach in the arts. I'm much more nervous about causing offense today than I was back then. Strangely, the place where I never really got any flack was in Italy, in the heart of Catholicism. The Italians loved those songs. I think in Spain we had a little bit of an issue for one particular line - "Got him by the balls," in "Locomotive Breath." They weren't too comfortable with that one.

When you were working on the record, did members of Zeppelin ever drop by? Did you pop into their sessions at all?

I think I might have popped my head downstairs. Some people quite like it when they get visitors, and they rather enjoy the camaraderie, but I felt like it would be very intrusive to go in while somebody else is doing a session, whether they're working on a backing track or doing overdubs or whatever.

Once or twice we did manage to get some work done in the studio downstairs when Zeppelin weren't in. The only time I remember seeing anybody from that band is when Jimmy Page came in when Martin Barre was recording the guitar solo for "Aqualung," and Jimmy sort of was standing behind me in the control room and waving some support to Martin. Maybe that enthusiasm imparted itself to Martin's playing on that recorded take.

What did you think of Iron Maiden's cover of "Cross-Eyed Mary"?

Oh, it was a very spirited rendition. I didn't hear it until much later on - I think they did it early on in their career, when Bruce Dickinson was probably quite new in the band. He, like some of the other guys, grew up in their early performing years listening to Jethro Tull, so I guess it was one of those cover pieces they might have played on stage. They did a high-energy version of it, and Bruce, as he does, went for the full-on high notes and big vocals and that I can't do. It was entertaining hearing them do a high-octane version of it.

'Aqualung' has gone on to be the band's biggest seller. Are you OK with that, or do you wish that distinction were for a different record?

Well, I'm glad it was that album and not some other ones. It was at a time when there was kind of a maturity coming about in terms of my writing and my understanding of music, so for me it was a very important album. It marked my move towards a more dynamic range in music, my understanding of creating more tension between loud and quiet passages, between simple and more complex pieces.

Indeed, those are things I probably learned the year before from being on tour and playing a number of shows with Led Zeppelin. Jimmy Page got all that figured out, so there were good lessons to learn from him as a writer, arranger and record producer, how the dynamics of rock music could be so exciting.

But yeah, I'm very happy how successful 'Aqualung' has been. It wasn't a huge hit out of the box, but it was a steady seller over the years, and that continues to this day. It's clocked up a lot of mileage, which has put it in that sort of top echelon of rock albums from that era. I'm quite happy with how it's regarded.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Doors, Dead, Cream Debuts Turn 50

by , Psychedelic Sight:

Doors' psychedelic first album1967 ushered in the psychedelic era, loudly announced by a series of historic recordings.

Fifty years on, we’re invited to celebrate the debut albums by the Doors, the Grateful Dead and Cream via splashy deluxe editions.

Other key reissues due in the year’s first quarter come from Soft Machine, the Who, Jimi Hendrix, Sun Ra, the Yardbirds, Procol Harum and Pink Floyd.

The Doors’ debut album - home of “Light My Fire” and “The End” - returns March 31 in a three-CD plus LP package dubbed “The Doors: 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition.”

The reissue features the compact disc premiere of the original mono mix, which also can be found on the box set’s vinyl disc. The package includes a CD of the “The Matrix” live performance from March 1967, made up of eight songs from the debut album. The live tracks hail from the “recently unearthed” tapes from that San Francisco gig, apparently a vast improvement over those sourced for the 2008 Matrix album.

The stereo mix of the studio debut album - “remastered for the first time in nearly 30 years” - takes up the other CD. The box set includes a 12-inch-square hardback book with liner notes from critic David Fricke.

The pricey package - pre-ordering for about $65 on Amazon - isn’t thrilling the Doors’ faithful, many of whom have the complete Matrix show on bootlegs, as well as the mono mix of the debut album on a Record Store Day vinyl release from a few years back. “There is not one second of previously unreleased material in this box,” one fan griped upon reading about the new box set.

Rhino is releasing “The Doors: 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition.” The usual downloads also will be available.

Cream debut album 

Cream’s debut album, “Fresh Cream,” celebrates its 50th year with a three-CD and Blu-ray set. Mono and stereo versions of the power trio’s album, plus outtakes, alternate takes and demos, etc. Various BBC sessions. The Blu-ray offers 24/96 high-res versions of the U.S. mono and stereo albums along with bonus tracks. Jan. 27 via Polydor. A Japanese version is planned with SHM-CDs subbing for the three CDs. A vinyl version also is expected in several months. 

The Grateful Dead also debuted in 1967, and their spotty first album returns on two CDs, fortified by early live recordings. “The Grateful Dead: 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition” contains the original album - newly remastered from the original tapes by David Glasser - featuring key tracks “The Golden Road (To Unlimited Devotion),” “Good Morning Little School Girl” and “Morning Dew.” The bonus disc of live Dead comes from P.N.E. Garden Auditorium in British Columbia, late July 1966, about six months after the Dead became the Dead. Also on offer, separately, is a vinyl picture disc, limited to 10,000 copies. Jan. 20 via the Dead’s marketing arm. 

The Who’s “My Generation” album also marks a half century (albeit a bit late) with a three-LP edition. “A disc of mono mixes, another containing mono bonus tracks and a third with 11 demos.” Eighty-page book and new liner notes from Pete Townshend. Geffen, Feb. 13.

Jimi Hendrix. Stand by for “the lost 1969 Jimi Hendrix single.” The song is familiar enough - “Stone Free” - but this version hails from April 1969. The story goes that Reprise was to release that version of the song as a single, but called an audible and issued the 1966 take that remains familiar today. The 1969 version saw light only after Hendrix’s death in one of those overdubbed versions. Sundazed has revived the 1969 “original performance” as a 7-incher, backing it with “Lover Man.” Both sides feature Billy Cox and Mitch Mitchell. Due Jan. 13. 

Soft Machine heats up takeaway “vindaloo for the ears” on “Live at the Paradiso,” a live set from March 1969. Then a trio - of Robert Wyatt, Mike Ratledge and Hugh Hopper - Soft Machine would later release much of this material as “Volume Two” later that year. Real Gone’s vinyl debut of the Amsterdam live set comes in a “soft” purple edition limited to 1,000 copies. Feb. 3. Also, the group’s hard jazz album “4” re-released on CD, Jan. 20 (import). 

The Flaming Lips return to studio action with “Oczy Mlody,” their follow-up to 2013’s “The Terror.” The spin doctors say they’re getting back to writing songs (12 of them). Enjoy on a standard vinyl disc or on two discs of orange vinyl (both with downloads). Via Warner Bros., Jan. 13. 

The Monkees‘ psych-soundtrack “Head” was strange enough, but along comes the new “Head Alternate,” with “first-time vinyl versions of ‘Porpoise Song,’ rarities like ‘Can You Dig It’ with Peter Tork’s vocal, ‘Daddy’s Song’ remixed with Davy Jones’ slow verse, and the rare stereo mix of ‘Circle Sky.'” Gold vinyl with gold foil cover. From Friday Music, March 3. 

More Dead: The 2017 subscription series Dave’s Picks closes Jan. 19. The picks so far: Vol. 21, a complete show from April 2, 1973, in Boston. Vol. 22, Dec. 7, 1971, at the Felt Forum in New York (“featuring the return of Pigpen”). The 2017 Bonus Disc will feature the bulk of the Dec. 6, 1971, New York show (other two picks TBA). These are limited numbered editions on CD. 

Rick Wakeman, the prog rock keyboard wizard, takes a break from his sonic explorations with an album of cover versions. “Piano Portraits” offers classic rock fare such as “Life on Mars,” “Space Oddity,” “Help!” “Eleanor Rigby” and “Stairway to Heaven,” as well as some actual classics: “Clair de Lune” and “Swan Lake.” Available on CD and on a double-disc vinyl. Feb. 3 via UMe. 

Sly & the Family Stone churned out a steady feed of hits in the late 1960s and early ’70s. They’re all here on “Anthology”: “Dance to the Music” through “Que Sera, Sera.” So what’s new? Two discs of translucent gold vinyl as a limited edition. Jan. 13 via Friday Music.

Sun Ra space rock 

Sun Ra was famed for his instrumentals, but any fan knows the man from Saturn loved to mix in singing and chanting, too. “The Space Age Is Here to Stay” touches down with 16 vocal tracks, including “Space Is the Place,” “Enlightenment,” “Walking on the Moon” and “Interplanetary Music No. 1.” With sci-fi artwork by Chesley Bonestell. One CD or two LPs. From Modern Harmonic, Jan. 13. Also available: A package of three 7-inch Ra singles: “Saturn,” “El Is a Sound of Joy” and “Plutonian Nights.” And “Spaceways,” live on vinyl from 1966-68 (previously only Record Store Day), Feb. 10 via ORG Music. 

Attilio Mineo put together “Man in Space With Sounds” for the 1962 Seattle Worlds Fair. “Beautifully textured space sounds with period-perfect narration” combine for a “cosmic eruption.” On “cosmic swirly green and yellow vinyl” or CD. Jan. 13 via Modern Harmonic. 

The Yardbirds turned psychedelic in their twilight years, due in large part to the guidance of Jimmy Page. The album “Sounds I Heard” (previously a Record Store Day title) returns on vinyl with some of their classic head-spinners: “Over Under Sideways Down,” “Happenings Ten Years Time Ago” and “Dazed and Confused.” Comes with a single-side 7-incher of Page’s showcase “White Summer.” Most tracks from BBC in “improved audio versions.” From Easy Action, Jan. 27 (UK) and Feb. 10 (US).

Procol Harum’s “A Salty Dog” pushed the English highbrow band into a commercial success of sorts. The nautical-themed album returns Feb. 24 on a Mobile Fidelity SACD. The title track, “The Milk of Human Kindness” and “The Devil Came From Kansas” remain highlights. The song “A Salty Dog” featured an orchestra, anticipating the band’s greater successes with that expanded sound. 

John Lord: Deep Purple keyboardist recorded “First of the Big Bands” with his pal Tony Ashton. The 1974 album’s supporting cast included Jeff Beck, Ron Wood, Peter Frampton and Cozy Powell. Also, 1982’s solo project “Before I Forget.” Both on CD, Jan. 27. 

Jethro Tull’s most popular songs are spun through the classical cycle with “The String Quartets.” John O’Hara arranged the music for the Carducci string quartet, recorded live in gnarly old churches with Ian Anderson doing the sermonizing. Two CDs or two vinyl LPs. Due March 24 via BMG. 

Pink Floyd staggered forward without Roger Waters on 1987’s “A Momentary Lapse of Reason.” Mixed reviews met the loose collection of songs, many originally intended for David Gilmour’s solo project. Most were recorded with minimal participation of the other two band members. The album memorably features the return of cover artist Storm Thorgerson. On vinyl, Jan. 20 via Legacy.

Also, “The Final Cut”: Roger Waters did the heavy lifting on this 1983 concept album about war. “You can hear the mad tension running through it all,” Waters said of the recording sessions marked by band infighting. Keyboardist Richard Wright is totally MIA. On vinyl, Jan. 20 via Legacy. 

Mountain’s live “Twin Peaks” spread the epic and masterful “Nantucket Sleigh Ride” over two sides. The band’s second live album also included the classics “Theme for an Imaginary Western” and “Mississippi Queen.” Recorded in Osaka, Japan, in 1973. Via Music on Vinyl, Jan. 13. 

Larry Coryell’s second album of electric guitar music finally resurfaces, making its CD debut via Real Gone. The heavy-jazz album features Ron Carter, Bernard Purdie and Albert Stinson. A must for fusion fans. Feb. 3. 

Also of interest: “Sweetheart of the Rodeo” by the Byrds on colored vinyl (Jan. 27); “Joe Cocker” (debut) on SACD (Jan. 27) and “Mad Dogs and Englishmen” on vinyl (March 17); “All the Colors of the Spectrum” by the Spectrum on two CDs (import, Jan. 27); “Arthur Brown’s Kingdom Come: Manchester Free Trade Hall 1973” on two CDs (import, Jan. 20); “Little Live Rooster” by Atom Rooster (Vincent Crane) on CD (import, Jan. 27); “Stand Up” (Steven Wilson remix) by Jethro Tull on single CD or vinyl (import, Feb. 17); and “Spy vs. Spy: The Music of Ornette Coleman” by John Zorn on vinyl (Jan. 27) …

Also: “Live in Tokyo” by Weather Report on red vinyl (Feb. 17); “Flowers in the Dirt” by Paul McCartney on vinyl (March 24); “Finest” by Funkadelic on vinyl (“January”); “Magnetic Waves of Sound” by the Move on CD and DVD (import, Jan. 27); “The GWR Years: 1988-91” by Hawkwind on three CDs (import, Jan. 27); “Return to Ommadawn” by Mike Oldfield on CD, vinyl and DVD (import, Jan. 20); and “Going for the One” by Yes on a picture disc (Jan. 20). 

To be announced: From the sugar-shock shack known as TBA: “James Gang Rides Again” on SACD and vinyl; “Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs” by Derek & the Dominos on SACD and vinyl; “Shady Grove” by Jerry Garcia and David Grisman on vinyl; “Taste” (Rory Gallagher) on vinyl; “30 Seconds Over Winterland” by Jefferson Airplane on vinyl; “A Tribute to Jack Johnson” by Miles Davis on SACD; “When Doves Cry” by Prince and the Revolution on 12-inch single; “BBC Sessions” by the Zombies on vinyl; and “Puttin’ on the Ritz” and “The Muffin Man Goes to College” by Frank Zappa - both two volumes. 

Note: Release dates for vinyl and SACD titles remain fluid until they actually ship. This record roundup will be updated through the quarter. SACDs are all hybrids unless specified otherwise; they’ll work on a CD player not offering advanced resolution.