Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Albums of Bob Dylan, Part One

Civil Rights March on Washington, D.C. closeup...Image via Wikipedia

The Albums of Bob Dylan, Part One by Russell Shortt

Bob Dylan, where to begin, all the superlatives have been used; the man dominates, simply dominates, all are in awe of Old Zimmy, the Eternal Trickster. Eternally inscrutable, he is what a musician should be, known for his sound rather than his life, something that has being forgotten somewhere along the line, doused by lazy journalism, the public's juvenile fascination with artists' paltry affectations and the dumb editorial policies of the rags to feed them, indeed they even make them ravenous for it.

Next week sees the release of his thirty-third studio album, Together Through Life (2009), how apt, The Old Wizened One has been around longer than most anyone playing, criticising or indeed listening to rock and roll. Sneak previews of the coming record have likened it to being quite similar to a Chess Record from the Fifties and that is Dylan - timeless. Howlin' Wolf and Muddy Waters are as much Dylan's bedfellows as Springsteen, Arcade Fire, Robert Johnson, Neil Young, Woody Guthrie, Nick Cave, Patti Smith, Tom Waits, Joni Mitchell, The Clash... the list is as endless as it is diverse.

But that only is the tip of the iceberg, comparisons go further, centuries further in fact, back to Keats and Tennyson, this isn't being in the slightest bit reckless, Dylan has been nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature more than once; and so rubs shoulders with the likes of Pablo Neruda, Eugenio Montale and Saul Bellow. Of course, many may disagree, detesting the overly dramatic tag of Messiah that are so often ridiculously planted upon him.

The dissenters point out his warbling voice, his many weak offerings and his unwavering acoustic and harmonica routine and ergo state that Dylan the prophet is a result of self hype, that the man behind the curtain is nothing more than the curtain.

Russell Shortt is a travel consultant with Exploring Ireland, the leading specialists in customised, private escorted tours, escorted coach tours and independent self drive tours of Ireland. Article source Russell Shortt:

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Saturday, April 25, 2009

Soul-Flower Newsletter - Earth Day

Earth day symbolEarth Day Symbol - Image via Wikipedia

We love our mama... Mother Earth that is. So, we felt it appropriate to send out a newsletter in honor of her and in celebration of Earth Day - hopefully it won't get lost among all the other dirt-digging, earth-loving, eco-conscious companies and organizations you love and promote. But, well, we want to do everything we can to spread the love.

Treat the Earth well. It was not given to you by your parents. It was loaned to you by your children (Kenyan proverb).

In honor of this year's Earth Day, we are offering 25% off of all the items in our organic CircleTees line (this week only), just use the code REVOLUTION when you check out. Here are a few earth-loving lines and ideas we are promoting at Soul Flower:

Organic Circle Tees

Buying organic cotton and other natural fiber clothing is a small thing you can do to help our environment. Circle Tees display eco-friendly messages on super soft tees and hoodies for the whole family. We use organic cotton and other eco-friendly fibers for this line of clothing - we also use earth-friendly (water-based) inks and nonreactive dyes on many of our t-shirts. And for this week only, get 25% off all circle tees (use coupon code REVOLUTION when you check out). Circle Tees: Making a revolution one tee at a time.

Earth Loving Accessories

We recently added a few new jewelry items, all of which have an eco-origin and are hand-made. Our newest hemp necklaces are a step above the typical hemp necklace and are beautifully interwoven with gorgeous beads (all hand-made by our bud Sherri). Our recycled belt bracelets are made by reusing old belts (hand-picked and made by our bud Kimberly). And our latest collection of necklaces and bracelets are made entirely from recycled seeds. Eco-Friendly Jewelry.

Organic Body Products

Our body products are made with simple, raw ingredients. We work with Mama's Herbal Soaps and Prairieland Herbs, both of whom promote green living by creating products in small batches and using only organic and other natural ingredients. No synthetic colors, synthetic fragrances or synthetic oils in these! Maggie and Shauna have worked closely with us to create our own special scents, Soul Flower exclusives such as Patchouli Soul and Patchouli Flower.... Love Your Body.


We continue to try to green up our work environment and day-to-day practices. Most of what we do is simple stuff, like reusing boxes and printing on recycled paper - but the key to everything we do is to just be mindful of our mother earth always. It isn't about celebrating the earth just one day a year - we think about things we can do to lessen our footprint every day. We love hearing about customers that do the same and have other green-i-fying ideas. So keep the ideas coming.


Your Buds (Mike, Peggy, Chad, Jennifer, Joe & Becky), Soul Flower

Friday, April 24, 2009

A Tribute to The Monkees: "They Didn't Play Their Own Instruments. . ."

Nesmith (far left) with the Monkees in 1967.Image via Wikipedia


The above condemnation of The Monkees has dogged their legend, and clouded their sparkling contribution to pop culture for the past 40 years. It shouldn't have.

For, as Oz-rock historian Glenn A. Baker has pointed out, neither did Simon and Garfunkel, The Mamas and the Papas or The Byrds on a lot of their recorded output – to name but a few. Session musicians played instead, indeed, quite plausibly the same session musicians for all of these bands, The Monkees included.

For that was the way pop music was laid down in those days – perhaps it still is: Time is money in the record company's studio and a session guitarist can get the track in the can for rock perpetuity in 3 minutes 30, no fluffs, no retakes, rock perfection, next please.

60s brainiacs, correct me if you will, but rock legend has it that The Kinks didn't play the immortal guitar riff on You Really Got Me, also that Them never played a note on Baby Please Don't Go, and Pete Townsend didn't play the famous lead guitar solo on Can't Explain.

So who did play all this stuff? One man evidently, a young session muso by the name of Jimmy Page – at a time when Led Zeppelin was but a gleam in his eye. Evidently Pete Townsend, whenever playing Can't Explain live, ripped out a solo as radically unlike Page's as he could in protest at this state of affairs.

I assume The Monkees might have protested also, if they’d had the time: In addition to outselling The Beatles and the Rolling Stones put together for a few years running, they were also spending 18 hours a day 7 days a week recording a top-rating TV show.

In the late 80s, Aaron Spelling, producer of The Love Boat, Beverly Hills 90210, Melrose Place, etc, conferred upon a grateful planet his version of The Monkees. It was called The Heights: Spelling brought together some young actors and musicians to play a fictional bunch of well-groomed American teens who share a house, form a band, hang out. If you never saw this TV show, you didn’t miss anything. It lasted about five minutes.

In the mid-60s, TV producers Bob Raphelson and Bert Schneider brought together two actors and two musicians to play a fictional bunch of well-groomed American teens who share a house, form a band, hang out. The show was a smash hit, they really did outsell The Beatles and Stones for a while, toured live as a band (even getting as far as Australia), started writing their own songs (even playing on some of their own tracks, I believe), also writing and directing their own episodes of the TV show and making an excellent cinema movie called Head.

The TV show went into international syndication and is still being played somewhere in the world as you read this, 40 years later. Oh, just a footnote, but the producers of the show took the profits to make a film you may have heard of. It was called Easy Rider.

A brief profile of The Monkees personnel: Davy Jones was the teen heart-throb of the group. English, he was a talented singer/dancer who'd played 'the Artful Dodger' in the West End production of Oliver Twist. Mickey Dolenz had been a child star in an early TV production called Circus Boy. A gifted singer, he evidently learnt to play drums for The Monkees in about two weeks flat. Mike Nesmith was the 'thinking' teenybopper's Monkee, and a fine musician in his own right, as was the most goofily likeable member of the quartet, Peter Tork, in real life an outspoken figure in U.S. hippy circles.

For something as transient and disposable as a Hollywood TV sit-com, The Monkees had an unusual energy about it. Even now it seems vibrant, at times anarchic, charming and very funny, not to mention the wonderful songs performed per episode. The episodes the Monkees actually wrote and directed themselves were even better, Nesmith's twisted fairytale homage being a stand-out for me…

Peter, the noble knight on a quest through the Enchanted Forest, meets Mickey, playing a demented Goldilocks, curls and all.
(Peter): 'But Goldilocks, aren't you scared?! I mean, this forest if full of wicked witches, vampires, demons, goblins and wolves! Aren't you scared they'll catch you and eat you?'
(Mickey as Goldilocks): 'Oh, no, they can't touch me, I'm not afraid, not me…'
(Peter): 'But how come? Do you have some magic spell or something?'
(Mickey): 'No...'
(Peter): 'Then how come you're not afraid?'
(Mickey): 'Because I'm a MEAN LITTLE GIRL.'

Other outstanding moments of this series include one of the final episodes (if not the final episode): Mickey Dolenz puts the whole show aside and says, 'Ladies and Gentleman, Tim Buckley.' His friend, Buckley, then plays the most hauntingly emotive version of one of his early songs (live in the studio, I think…).

Another episode features no less than Frank Zappa dressed up as Mike Nesmith, Nesmith as Zappa, complete with oversized rubber nose. Nesmith (playing Zappa) damns The Monkees' music as 'banal and insipid', Zappa (as Nesmith) vehemently defending the charge.

Indeed, as a group, The Monkees got serious respect from such credible musos as Zappa. And others too… One John Lennon saw the Monkees for what they were: According to the learned Mr Baker, Lennon called them 'the greatest comic talent since the Marx Brothers'. Indeed, The Monkees got respect from the people who counted. No wonder. They deserved it. Shame they didn't play their instruments…

Justin Sheedy

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Joe Cocker - A Soul Story

Cover of "With a Little Help from My Frie...Cover via Amazon

Joe Cocker - A Soul Story by Jacqueline Strong

Disappointingly for Joe Cocker, his 1964 debut single would not be the full-blown Ray Charles treatment of Georgia on My Mind which he had performed with a 22-piece orchestra at Decca's London recording studio.

A & R man Dick Rowe felt that its commercial appeal was limited so Joe was summoned back to cut a cover of Lennon & McCartney's I'll Cry Instead, from A Hard Day's Night, that had Jimmy Page and Big Jim Sullivan on guitars. It was the end of the road for his current persona as Vance Arnold and the Avengers, and time for Joe Cocker's Big Blues with a revamped line-up. He was granted six months' leave of absence from his gas fitter's job and a nationwide tour loomed alongside Manfred Mann, Little Eva and The Merseybeats.

That was a disaster from the word go, a loss-maker that ended prematurely. The record also bombed, no surprise to Joe who never thought the bread-and-butter pop tune showcased his vocal ability. Bookings were lean as New Year 1965 arrived. A last-minute invitation to trek around US air bases in France saved the day, though the band had to SOS for a girl singer to keep the servicemen happy. On the return to Sheffield, things were even leaner and no gigs meant no more Big Blues.

Joe started work at a wholesale newsagent's warehouse, but, despite not gigging for a year, he remained convinced that he was destined to perform. Out of the blue, he put a quartet together for a Sheffield University booking then talked, tentatively at first, about a return to the road.

The Grease Band was in the making and Joe would find a rapport with a new bassist, Chris Stainton, who would become his trusted friend and collaborator. The partnership would see Marjorine tickle the UK Top 50 in May 1968 and explode in a reworking of The Beatles' With a Little Help from My Friends hitting No 1 later the same year.

There would be US fame but no fortune and Joe would be grateful for the help of real friends who, unlike rock's hangers-on, were not out to bleed him dry. The road would be long and bumpy, but the man would survive.

Born and bred in the same city as Joe, I am a Yorkshire lass from Sheffield in South Yorkshire. I have watched the triumphs and the dramas of Joe Cocker unfold, often with pride, sometimes with sadness, but never doubting Joe's marvellous talent. To launch my "Remember When" series about singing legends I am starting with Joe Cocker.

It is a personal tribute rather than a review, but, in my opinion, the authorised biography, With a Little Help from My Friends, by JP Bean, is the most detailed and best researched of all the Cocker books dealing with the ups and downs of Joe's life and career. My tribute is in three parts and you can read the first by going to the link.

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Saturday, April 18, 2009

Joe Cocker: Legend of the 60s and 70s

Joe Cocker album coverImage via Wikipedia

Joe Cocker a Living Soul Legend by Jacqueline Strong

The living-room of the Cocker family's semi-detached home in the Crookes district of Sheffield, Yorkshire, reverberated to the sounds of nightly rehearsals once younger son Joe had formed his first group, The Cavaliers.

His parents were remarkably tolerant as the lads played youth clubs and the workingmen's club circuit - and practised a lot. Then came Vance Arnold and the Avengers with Joe finally able to pass over the drumsticks to a new recruit and concentrate on lead vocals. He had already quit school and had the daytime security of work as an apprentice gas fitter. It was now 1961 and Sheffield had produced a pop star at last.

As Jimmy Crawford, onetime draughtsman Ron Lindsay, sneaked into the Top 50 with Love or Money, doing even better with follow-up I Love How You Love Me which made No 18. A modest start, but Dave Berry, borrowing the surname of idol Chuck, would top that with eight UK hits from 1963-66 and establish an international reputation that stands him in good stead today. Dave rated Vance Arnold and the Avengers highly, but Joe Cocker would have to wait patiently for his turn to achieve worldwide recognition for his interpretation of rock, blues and soul.

In 1963 The Beatles played a ballroom date in Sheffield as Please Please Me was shooting up the chart and Joe travelled to Manchester when idol Ray Charles made his UK concert debut. As for Vance & Co, they had a club residency and a following at pubs and dance halls. Appearing on a Sheffield City Hall bill with the emerging Rolling Stones did no harm either and a demo sent to Decca Records led to a Manchester audition that paved the way for a debut single in 1964.

As a Sheffield lass, I have watched the triumphs and the dramas of Joe Cocker unfold, often with pride, sometimes with sadness, but never doubting Joe's marvellous talent. To launch my "Remember When" series about singing legends I am starting with Joe Cocker. It is a personal tribute rather than a review, but, in my opinion, the authorised biography, With a Little Help from My Friends, by JP Bean, is the most detailed and best researched of all the Cocker books dealing with the ups and downs of Joe's life and career. My tribute is in three parts and you can read the first by going to the link.

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Friday, April 17, 2009

A Tribute to The Supremes

Cover of "You Keep Me Hangin on"Cover of You Keep Me Hangin On

The Supremes - Motown Queens by Robert D Hill

The Supremes were an all female group from the 1960s that was signed to Motown Records. The group was formed in the year 1959 as The Primettes in the city of Detroit by Milton Jenkins, who was managing an all male group known as The Primes. The initial members of the group were Diana Ross, Betty McGlown, Mary Wilson and Florence Ballard. These girls had grown up in the projects of Detroit and formed the group as a female version of The Primes that included Eddie Kendricks and Paul Williams. These two later formed The Temptations.

Initially, The Supremes did not perform their own songs, but those by other renowned artists such as The Drifters and Ray Charles. They performed at social clubs, talent shows and sock hops in Detroit, and many of their 'live' gigs were mimed, as was the normal practice during this period when backing groups were not only not freely available, but also the expense was not considered worthwhile when songs could be mimed. It was a period when fans paid to SEE their stars, not listen to them singing live.

During this period, none of the girls was a designated lead singer, each taking on the role depending on the song. Shortly after the group was formed, they had a guitarist on board, Marvin Tarplin. With the guitarist, they could sing live instead of miming and this distinguished them from many of the other aspiring groups in Detroit.

The girls entered a local talent competition and won. With this under their belt, they decided to make a record and sign on with Motown. Diana managed to convince a neighbor, Smokey Robinson, to get them an audition with a Motown executive. They auditioned for Berry Gordy Jr. (father of Diana Ross's eldest daughter Rhonda) who refused to sign them because they were too young. Not to be deterred, they approached Lupine Records and got their first single out entitled "Tears of Sorrow", which was followed by their second one "Pretty Baby." None of these were hits.

During this time, McGlown was engaged to be married and decided to drop out of the group. Barbara Martin quickly took her place. The Primettes convinced Gordy to allow them to perform as background singers and he did. They performed for Mary Wells and Marvin Gaye among others. Finally, Gordy relented and signed them up as The Supremes in 1961. In 1962 Barbara left the group and went home to start a family living the remaining three Supremes to carry on.

In their first two years, The Supremes had no hits so they sang backup for The Temptations as well as Marvin Gaye. In the latter part of 1963, Gordy selected Diana as The Supremes lead singer. Their lucky break came with "lovelight" coming in at #23 in December of 1963. In 1964, they recorded "Where Did Our Love Go", which became their first number one single in America in August of that year. It was also their first song to be put on British pop charts, reaching number 3. This song opened up the flood gates of number one singles in the US by The Supremes.

The singles included "Come See about Me", "Back in My Arms Again", "Stop! In the Name of Love," and "Baby Love," this was simultaneously number one in the UK. It was also nominated for a Grammy in 1965 in the category of Best Rhythm and Blues Recording. Another hit "You Keep Me Hangin' On" received a Grammy in 1966 for the Best Pop Single. Among the number one hits were "I Hear a Symphony" and "You Can't Hurry Love." In the year 1966 they released their first album "The Supremes A' Go-Go."

They had become stars, featuring in movies and producing soundtracks for them. They began touring internationally and endorsing many products. The Supremes broke racial boundaries and were appealing to both black and white audiences. They were among the first musical groups to break such boundaries performing in supper clubs including the New York club Copacabana.

Their songs mixed rock & roll with R&B, making it difficult for others to copy their style. They also began appearing on TV shows regularly including The Ed Sullivan Show, on which they appeared 17 times, The Hollywood Palace, Hullabaloo and The Della Reese Show. It was on the back of The Supremes that groups like The Jackson 5 and The Four Tops found their own success.

As is the way of most famous groups, success brought internal wrangles. The group later became Diana Ross and the Supremes in 1967. Additional changes included replacing Florence Ballard with Cindy Birdsong. Diana left The Supremes in 1970 to pursue a solo career, and was replaced by Jean Terrell and The Supremes carried on.

Many young ladies joined and left the Supremes including Scherrie Payne, Susaye Green, and Lynda Laurence who joined the group in the mid 70s. In 1977 the 18 year reign of The Supremes came to an end. 12 of their singles had been number one on the charts. Of all the groups signed by Motown, they were the most successful, rivaling The Beatles in popularity around the world.

For the opportunity to learn more about the Supremes, shop for books, music, videos, and or apparel, check out You can also watch YouTube videos, view the latest Motown news and comment on our blog.

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

A Tribute to Andy Warhol

Andy Warhol during a reception for inaugural p...Image via Wikipedia

Who Was Andy Warhol? by David Johansen Auby

Everyone has seen one or more of Andy Warhol's famous paintings. But who was this somewhat mystical figure, and in what way did he put his mark on the world of art?

Andy Warhol (born Andrew Warhola) was an influential American artist known for his paintings, prints and movies. From the 1960s and until his death in 1987 Andy Warhol's famous paintings and art defined the visual art movement known as pop art.

When Andy Warhol was a child he became seriously ill and was often bed-ridden. This made him an outcast among his school-mates. But the hours he spent in bed would ironically become his greatest inspiration for his art. When ill young Andrew collected pictures of movie stars and used his time painting - thus marking the start of an astonishing career.

Warhol showed an early interest and talent for creating art. This would lead him to his studies of commercial art at the School of Fine Arts in Pittsburgh. After his studies he moved to New York to become a magazine illustrator. During the 1950s Warhol became very successful in his work, especially by designing album covers and promotional materials for RCA Records. Soon after, at the beginning of the 1960s, he held his first art exhibitions.

Among his most famous works are his paintings of Campbell's Tomato Soup, Coke bottles, and movie stars like Marilyn Monroe and Elisabeth Taylor. Warhol was attacked for "capitulating" to consumerism, but his pop art became wildly popular and controversial.

Looking back in time it has become obvious that Warhol marked a change in the modern art world. His work, his paintings and prints are still very popular.

David Johansen Auby runs the Warhol Auctions website where you, among other things, can find Andy Warhol famous paintings and Andy Warhol bags.

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Who Songs Span an Era of Experimentation

Cover of "Tommy"Cover of Tommy

The Who Songs Span an Era of Experimentation by Vince P Platania

The Who songs can be viewed as the fascinating creation of a band which metamorphosed from their original, radio-friendly style into a more complex, cohesive form of self expression that focused on telling a larger story than could be fit into an individual track.

The 60's were an interesting time for the record industry, in the sense that artists were beginning to explore the idea of making more than just 3 minute singles. At that time, and even in our modern age, radio was very resistant to playing songs that were longer than this standard. Since radio was the primary promotional avenue employed by record companies to get their 'product' out to the masses, label pressure was great when it came to forcing artists to fit their musical ideas into a specific amount of time.

Many artists chafed at this restriction, not the least of which was The Who. While their early records were chock full of radio-friendly unit shifters like 'My Generation' and 'Happy Jack', as time went on Daltrey and Townshend became increasingly frustrated by the limitations of chart-oriented music.

'The Who Sell Out' was an important turning point for the band in this respect. The album had been put together based on the concept of a pirate radio broadcast, and the band had recorded many vignettes that served as interstitial tracks between each of the songs. The album also contained the single 'I Can See For Miles", which was a huge smash in the United States but only made it to #10 on the UK charts. This perceived slight caused Townshend to give up on trying to write what he thought the public wanted, and he devoted himself full time to exploring his own personal musical concepts.

The immediate effect of this decision was the 'rock opera' 'Tommy'. The Who songs on this record were designed to function together to tell a complete story, and the double LP was a major milestone for serious rock music. Despite specifically working against the expectations of popular music promotion, 'Tommy' actually spawned several of the most popular songs by The Who.

'Pinball Wizard' and 'I'm Free' are staples of classic rock radio to this day. Interestingly, it was burnout following an unsuccessful attempt to create a second rock opera that led to the recording of the 'Who's Next' album which collected some of the best Who tracks ever: 'Baba O'Riley', 'Bargain', 'Behind Blue Eyes' and 'Won't Get Fooled Again'. is the mystical rehearsal studio for rockers DEMON TWEAK. Listen as they prepare for battle with the evil trickster Loki by playing home brewed classic rock direct from Ragnarok. Also read articles on your favorite classic rock band written by resident historian VIRGIL THE STORYTELLER.

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Monday, April 13, 2009

A Tribute to Carlos Santana

Carlos Santana & Buddy Miles! Live! album coverImage via Wikipedia

Carlos Santana - Tone Shaman by Greg Bahr

Carlos Santana formed his namesake band, Santana, in San Francisco in the late 1960's. The group's foundation was built upon Latin rhythms fueled by a percussion section which included drums, timbales, and congas, over which Carlos superimposed his tonal magic. Among his early influences were blues guitarist B.B. King - Santana not only imitated King's playing, but also the facial expressions of the "King of the Blues".

Building upon these stepping stones, he was able to create his own unique guitar sound from the use of jazz-rock scales augmented by feedback and sustain, creating a searing, soaring tonal montage. He once compared the three dimensional nature of his guitar tone to a pond, where you can see the sun reflecting from the surface, the fish swimming in the water, and the sand and corals at the bottom.

Santana's first break came from landing a gig at Woodstock, where they played the instrumental "Soul Sacrifice" to a receptive gathering that was perfectly suited to the spiritual nature of the embryonic band's musical offerings.

In this stage of his career, Carlos' musical vision was channeled through Gibson SG Special guitars and Mesa-Boogie amplifiers. Early tracks "Evil Ways" and "Jingo", from their debut album "Santana", as well as "Black Magic Woman" (written by Fleetwood Mac guitarist Peter Green) and "Oye Como Va", from the masterpiece "Abraxas", provided the launching pad for Santana's career.

Further expanding their jazz fusion direction, Santana added to their legacy with "Everybody's Everything" and "No One to Depend On", from Santana III, and a cover of the Zombies "She's Not There" (featuring the use of a Wah pedal) from "Moonflower". During this period Carlos was partial to Gibson Les Pauls.

In the 1980's Carlos collaborated with musicians such as keyboardist Booker T Jones (leader of the instrumental rhythm and blues group Booker T and the MGs, drummer Buddy Miles (alumni of the Band of Gypsys, led by Jimi Hendrix), as well as jazz keyboardist McCoy Tyner and jazz saxophonist Wayne Shorter. During this period, Santana began to endorse custom made Paul Reed Smith guitars. He received great critical reviews in this era, but not much commercial success.

However, that changed in 1999, with the chart topping CD "Supernatural", followed by another number one release, "Shaman" in 2002. At this point, Carlos was generating his trademark tone with custom made Dumble amplifiers.

From the beginning of his career to the present, despite all the changes in Carlos Santana's music and fellow musicians, and his choice of guitars, amps, and effects pedals, there remains one constant: his quest for the holy grail of magical, supernatural, transcendental tone.

Greg Bahr writes about the guitar and related topics. Read more at

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Sunday, April 5, 2009

OPINION: Five Rock Guitar Legends

Pete Townshend (Pete Townshend via

Five Rock Guitar Legends by Greg Bahr

David Gilmour

Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour has an ethereal, atmospheric style that is instantly recognizable. He used the versatile tones of the Fender Stratocaster in conjunction with Binson Echorec echo pedals to complement his and (bassist Roger Waters') singing and songwriting abilities in creating the unique Floyd sound. Two of his best known solos are heard in "Time" and "Money", both from the classic "Dark Side of the Moon" CD.

George Harrison

Lead guitar player for the Beatles, arguably the most influential band in the history of music, Harrison was known for his melodic style of lead playing, including his slide guitar work. In the early Beatles days he played Rickenbackers through Vox amps, and later in his career he would often be seen playing a Fender Stratocaster. Harrison became an excellent singer/songwriter, learning from the best rock songwriting team in popular music, his band mates John Lennon and Paul McCartney. A perfect example of his singing/songwriting/lead playing talents is the ballad "Something", from the CD "Abbey Road".

Pete Townshend

Leader of The Who, and possibly the best rhythm guitar player in rock history, Townshend is known for his strumming ability - the best example being "Pinball Wizard". Townshend favors Gibson acoustic and electric guitars, notably the Les Paul, played through Marshall and Hiwatt amps (which he mentions in the song "Long Live Rock"). He's also a great songwriter, and inventor of the Rock Opera; his first and most famous was titled "Tommy". Townshend is also an incredible showman. His trademark during the sixties was smashing his guitar at the end of the show, after playing the anthem "My Generation".

Keith Richards

One half of the Glimmer Twins (the other being Mick Jagger), Richards is known for his riff based songwriting for the "World's Greatest Rock and Roll Band", the Rolling Stones. Some of his most famous riffs are found in "Brown Sugar", "Jumping Jack Flash", "Start Me Up", and "Satisfaction". Keith is best known for playing a five-string Fender Telecaster, tuned to open G, through Mesa-Boogie amps. An excellent rhythm and lead player, Richards has also been able to work seamlessly with other guitarists in the Stones - first Brian Jones, then Mick Taylor, and later Ronnie Wood. He was greatly influenced by the next player on the list.

Chuck Berry

Although influenced by jazz saxophonist Louis Jordan, and blues guitarist T-Bone Walker, among others, Chuck Berry virtually invented rock and roll guitar. In the fifties he combined singing, songwriting, guitar playing, and showmanship into a combination that is the blueprint that subsequent rock musicians have followed. His main guitar is the Gibson ES-350T. Well known compositions include "Johnny B. Goode", "Maybelline", "No Particular Place to Go", "Roll Over Beethoven", and countless others. Chuck Berry's style of rhythm and lead playing are often imitated but never duplicated, and everyone who's played rock and roll guitar since has been directly or indirectly influenced by him.

Greg Bahr writes about the guitar and related topics. Read more at

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Saturday, April 4, 2009

A Tribute to The Who

Cover of "Who Are You"Cover of Who Are You

The Who Biography by Vince P Platania

The Who biography is a tale that captures all of the elements of hard work, success, dedication and tragedy that are typically associated with the larger than life classic rock bands that dominated their era.

This British band officially came together in 1964, after guitarist Pete Townshend and bassist John Entwistle folded their traditional jazz band into a new group at the behest of singer Roger Daltrey. The band initially performed together under a different name, The Detours, and Daltrey had not yet evolved into the powerful vocalist that would define later Who records. However, when the original singer of The Detours left the band, Daltrey assumed the role that would make him famous, and the group renamed themselves The Who.

Keith Moon, the band's drummer whose fits of destructive excess would become the stuff of legend, was the final piece of the puzzle. After the original drummer left The Who, shortly after the name change, the band used a session drummer who was merely adequate. 17 years old, Moon was in the audience at a show by The Who and approached the band afterwards to boastfully tell them that he was much better than their current man behind the kit, and offer his services.

The band found almost immediate success with a series of hit singles that were primarily derived from the band's first album, 'My Generation'. The title track, 'I Can't Explain' and 'The Kids Are Alright' gave The Who huge audience in both their native England and the United States. Early on, the band was associated with the Mod movement in Britain, and while they continued to find success on the charts, Townshend and the rest of the band wanted to push the limits of what they could do both on stage and in the recording studio.

Concept albums and rock operas like 'Tommy' and 'Quadrophenia' set the band apart from many other rock groups of the day, and for a time The Who seemed as though they had completely abandoned the trappings of traditional rock releases. 'Who Are You', the last album by The Who before the death of John Bonham in 1978 signaled a return to their chart rock roots.

The Who biography doesn't end with the loss of Moon, but the band never fully recovered. Dissolving in the 80's, each member would continue to be active musically, and The Who subsequently reformed to tour and perform at special shows in the ensuing decades, occasionally releasing new studio material. is the mystical rehearsal studio for rockers DEMON TWEAK. Listen as they prepare for battle with the evil trickster Loki by playing home brewed classic rock direct from Ragnarok. Also read articles on your favorite classic rock band written by resident historian VIRGIL THE STORYTELLER.

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Friday, April 3, 2009

Psychedelia: A 'Potted' History

Cover of "Beat Generation (Oneworld Class...Cover via Amazon

For What It's Worth (Psychedelia Revisited) by Tim Cantey

For days now I've been scouring YouTube for old TV and film clips to study the transition from bubblegum pop to psychedelic art rock. Now I just may be stoned and drunk enough to summarize my findings to date. What I witnessed was the emergence, not firstly but importantly, of the Beatles. This occurred around 1964, flooding the psyche of the American teenager and subsequently the consciousness of the world.

Prior to this, seminal events had already occurred. Jack Kerouac and the so-called Beat Generation had galvanized the mainstream culture of advertising and pulp literature into two distinct factions. On the mainstream side was, surprisingly, rock and roll, the music of rebellious youth. The fifties (actually the post-WWII forties) produced both rock and roll and the method acting of Brando, Monroe and Dean; charismatic; vital and life-like but at an impossible impasse with convention and tradition. Music after the swing era continued to swing, swing being a product and form of jazz, jazz conventionally considered an offshoot of the blues, ala Gershwin, et al, and gospel music, of which the blues can perhaps be considered a derivative. That was the mainstream.

Alternatively, literature had been charged up by a string of poets and writers, most all of whom were recalcitrant, lifelong alcoholics. Hammett, Faulkner, Hemingway, Crane, Fitzgerald, etc. whose works and aesthetic vision were transferred to film, often with jazz and later rock and roll scores. Up through this, or in spite of this, emerged Kerouac and the Beats. The beats listened to jazz, beatniks in movies listened to rock and roll. Interesting transition. Teenagers in movies began listening to rock and roll in emulation of beatniks in movies. This set up the dynamics of the coming decade, but adding to the cultural mix was Vietnam, the space race, the nuclear arms race and the CIA.

It was in CIA laboratories that LSD-25 was first synthesized, conceived of as a weapon of mind control to be used on enemy soldiers in the battlefield. What were they thinking? Probably something like, "we're fighting Asians in Vietnam when we just defeated the Japanese with the A-Bomb and fought the North Koreans and Chinese to a standstill. How can we follow that up and defeat these yellow bastards in the jungle?" Of course! Create a weapon whose effects are strangely similar to, you guessed it: Opium, heroin, marijuana, cocaine, all rolled into one. It would be irresistible and the enemy would demand to be dosed! This psychological napalm was to be sprayed over the countryside in the crop dusting fashion of napalm and Agent Orange. But instead of lighting the enemy's ass on fire, their brains would fry and the bastards would think they were at peace! Hmmm....

That the stuff would get all over our own troops seemed to be the operative idea behind scrapping the project. However, ever ambitious, LSD25 continued to be manufactured. It was thought wise if the project was ever to get off the ground to test what effects it might have on our own people. Therefore scientists, philosophers and artists were recruited from academia to conduct controlled experiments with low doses of the experimental weapon.

This was done during the late fifties and early sixties primarily in San Francisco, California, ironically the center of the nation's largest Asian population. Music at this time was staid and safe. Jazz had become incomprehensible be-bop; Broadway musicals were actively made into successful films complete with ballet derived choreography and classically derived scores. Often jazz was incorporated in the manner of early twentieth century composers Satie, Dvorak, Debussy, Rimsky Korsakoff, Ravel and Gershwin, et al. sometimes known collectively at Impressionists.

The beats were enthusiastic marijuana smokers, and the hippest among the hip were also heroin addicts. Now consider that many in the older generation were spurred into alcoholism by their own generation's rebellion.

Taking that into consideration, we have alcoholics who'd gone through their teen years (note: teenagers were 'invented' in the fifties by marketing firms as a consumer demographic upon seeing the rate at which pop records were consumed. Teens thus replaced housewives as a target audience for advertising, "Designer" products still years off), listening to, necking to, growing up with, the music of Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, and Rudy Vallee, some of the hipper elders turned onto Woody Guthrie who played regularly on the radio with his band the Weavers.

Kids were smoking pot because that's what real beats did. In the movies they were more often portrayed as alcoholics for some reason, and occasionally a junky would be presented as a hipster or vice versa (notably the films "Phantom Lady" and "The Man With The Golden Arm", one a pulp novel, the other 'serious' literature, as it were).

The older and inevitably business suited men who had inherited their position, power and education from a prior generation of staid womanizing alcoholics, saw the youth growing their hair and generally drift. So when some among the young formed rock and roll bands along the lines of the pioneers of the fifties it was seen as a logical continuation of the youth trend and thus ripe for commercial investment.

So the Beatles appeared, followed by the so-called British Invasion. Then American bands began to emerge fashioning themselves along what was seen and now accepted as the perceived commercial template. Many of these bands were from California; many also had access to LSD and really good weed. Bands that been playing safe, happy rhyming chorus and guitar music for squealing and giggling girls began to play what they saw and heard in their minds. The sound became psychedelic and the lyrics philosophical and surreal. The girls were stoned too and dug it.

Therefore, what was bland and safe music deriving from Broadway, jazz and early rock and roll shot through with the hyper imagined clichés of pristine versus rebellious youth (let's say "Gidget" versus "Rebel Without A Cause") became something out of William S. Burroughs' Naked Lunch, Ginsberg's Howl and Kerouac's On The Road; a druggy swirl of hip noise that was to coalesce at a later date into heavy metal and Glitter Rock, which as by-products of the psychedelic movement then progressed into art rock and punk rock.

But before all that, the psychedelic movement infiltrated mainstream culture to such an extent that long haired psychedelic bands were regularly featured on prime time television and soon even appeared on kiddy shows and in cartoons (along with what had become prototypical beat clichés), the kid's shows themselves, ostensibly aimed at those younger than teens taking on a decidedly psychedelic feel.

Evening sit-coms aimed at adults but watched by entire families pursued this cultural turn and in a final irony, the musicals Hair and Godspell (a psychedelic interpretation of the Gospel of Saint Matthew) brought the psychedelic movement to Broadway becoming the source for several mainstream pop songs.

Again, one might say that it was the Beatles that legitimized this adoption of such obviously drugged induced fantasia by the commercial media. But the Beatles did not create the psychedelic movement nor did it end with them. They were simply its most prominent cultural proponents. We have moved on.

Note: The psychedelic Mexican-American band? & The Mysterians, strongly influenced by surf music, are often cited as the first punk band.

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