Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Funk Brothers - Forgotten Yesterday, Feted Today, Remembered Forever

The Funk BrothersThe Funk Brothers via

The Funk Brothers - Forgotten Yesterday, Feted Today, Remembered Forever by An-Dinh Nguyen

"Who?" may be the most painful remark an accomplished artist can hear. The Funk Brothers, the Motown studio band whose dazzling, recognizable rhythms and riffs frenzied millions of fans before a single note was sung, heard that refrain for 40 years.

I was one of those unknowing fans. As much as I love listening to Martha and the Vandellas or the Tempts, as much as the tales of Tammi Terrell and Paul Williams sadden me, it was the Funk Brothers story that inspired me most.

Before Motown's unbelievable success left them behind, they were happy just playing music.

In the 1950s, Detroit clubs spilled over with talent. Some performers swung with a polished jazz beat. Some had more countrified R&B and blues backgrounds. Many excelled in both styles. But just a few interested Mickey Stevenson, the Artists and Repertoire director hunting for musicians to bring back to Hitsville.

In 1959, the Motown studio band took its first form. Bluesy pianist Joe Hunter (not singer-songwriter Ivory Joe Hunter) led the group. Big band drummer William "Benny" Benjamin and adventurous bassist James Jamerson also signed up. That pair alone would seismically influence the music scene, not to mention the Motown Sound.

The Funk Brothers' other key members soon arrived. Guitarist Eddie Willis, with his southern-fried rhythms. His comrade Joe Messina of the atomic-clock timing. Their cohort Robert White, the dependably melodic strummer.

Those three weren't the only ones who ended up with partners. Richard "Pistol" Allen had the skill to twirl his drumsticks in place of - or alongside - Benjamin.

In the keyboard corner, Johnny Griffith plied his craft with jazzy pizzazz. While Griffith tickled the ivories, Earl Van Dyke slammed them - with love, of course.

Less traditional touches enriched the Motown Sound, too. Eddie "Bongo" Brown added exoticism with instruments like - can you guess? - bongos, congas, and gourds. Jack Ashford could create new occupation names from his résumé: vibraphonist, tambourine player, wood blockist, plywood smacker, can tapper, hand clapper, etc.

The Funk family hadn't all congregated by 1962. But among the brass, reed, string, and additional rhythm players who crammed into Studio A, the first 11 of 13 Brothers were making their marks on keyboards, drums, bass, guitars, and percussion (almost literally in Van Dyke's case!).

When Hunter left Motown in 1963, Van Dyke became bandleader. Meanwhile, the drum section would rock even harder with Uriel Jones joining the group.

From that converted basement nicknamed the Snake Pit, the Motown Sound continued to erupt.

A song often began as just a general arrangement from composers. Various Funk Brothers, like the guitar trio or the drums-bass team, would huddle together. The musicians would bandy about ideas for fills and rhythms and how those specific textures would interact.

Once the recording gear and singers were ready, the band would play. Together. In one live take.

This was necessary at least initially because, with only three recording tracks, studio engineers couldn't overdub individual parts. So unless Berry Gordy loved a mistake for its spontaneity, it meant a do-over for everyone.

But apparently, "mistakes" and "Funk Brothers" rarely went together.

Other times, at Motown's behest, they would improvise some rhythms, set them to a track, and wait for composers to write a song from that!

In many ways, this band was the Motown hit machine.

Yet its sound was anything but mechanical. The drummers shuffled, swung, or machine-gunned the music forward, ever forward. Jamerson ran circles and zigzags around conventional bass lines. The guitarists' licks wound around each other while their hefty backbeats propped up their Brothers.

On acoustic or electric piano, organ, and harpsichord, the keyboardists sauntered, glided, and thunked along effortlessly. Then there was the mellow rush of Brown's bongos and Ashford's imaginative, remarkably prominent percussion.

When you heard all that plus several players on the same instrument or different instruments on the same lines, you knew that that was the Motown Sound.

The company wanted it available 24/7. In its prime from 1963 to 1967, the musicians had to record on demand. No matter that they weren't always conscious when the calls came! Jamerson and Benjamin were especially valuable.

Moreover, Motown was incredibly protective of its Sound. Exclusive contracts prevented the musicians from working at other labels - in print. Though they were earning a lot late that decade, their pay was still low by union standards. Companies like Ric-Tic and songwriters like Burt Bacharach and Hal Davis welcomed Motown band members in secret.

The Funk Brothers managed to escape not just the studio. Tours with Jackie Wilson and recordings in Chicago and as far south as Atlanta took them out of state.

Still, Detroit provided their most comfortable gigs. Sessions at the Chit Chat Club, the Twenty Grand, and Phelps' Lounge returned them to their jazz and R&B roots.

Back at Motown, Norman Whitfield's "psychedelic soul" pulled them into the pop future. Newer technology made their music more sumptuous and overwhelming. Guitarists Dennis Coffey and Melvin "Wah Wah Watson" Ragin added spacey spice to the mix.

Fans ate it up. And loved the singers for it.

At least British listeners knew the studio band. As did musicians who admired Jamerson's innovations. And, naturally, British musicians, like the Rolling Stones and the Beatles.

Even at its peak, Motown continued to exclude the musicians' names from records. Between that, the underwhelming wages, and the stricter musical arrangements, the Funk Brothers were not pleased.

Then came a much worse blow. After years of alcohol and heroin abuse, Benny Benjamin's body gave out in 1968. He was only in his 30s.

Meanwhile, his dear friend Jamerson had been battling mental and physical demons that made him flakier than before. So drummer Uriel Jones was not the only one who had to replace a legend by the decade's end. In 1967, Bob Babbitt had become the 13th Funk Brother and capable second bassist.

The updated lineup kept plugging away. Motown finally listed musician names in Marvin Gaye's What's Going On in 1971.

Fame at last? Not quite. The next year, with little notice, Motown Records moved to Los Angeles. Again, the Funk Brothers got left behind.

The members eventually scattered across clubs in Detroit or sessions in L.A. And that was basically that.

Fast forward to 1983. To the anniversary event Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever. To its musings on the Motown Sound and praise for the singers, songwriters, and Berry Gordy. To the TV viewers who enjoyed the special and returned to their lives without hearing one word about the musicians.

Months after attending the show and watching Motown ignore him more blatantly than ever, James Jamerson, 45, died from a combination of pneumonia and cirrhosis of the liver.

Eddie Brown passed later that same year.

How many more Funk Brothers would never get their due in life?

Guitarist Allan Slutsky spearheaded the 2002 documentary, Standing in the Shadows of Motown. That ode to the Funk Brothers, and the James Jamerson book that formed its basis, took over 16 years to fund and release.

It came too late for Earl Van Dyke and Robert White, who'd died in 1992 and 1994.

Pistol Allen got far enough to appear in and view the finished film before succumbing to cancer in 2002.

Johnny Griffith basked in the publicity blitz before his sudden passing that November, days after the world premiere.

Fortunately, their fame has spread beyond one movie. From Motown 40 and Rock's Hall of Fame (which inducted Jamerson and Benjamin) to Grammy-dom and shows that they headline on tour, the band members are finally receiving industry and fan appreciation.

Joe Hunter and Uriel Jones were two of those lucky musicians up until their deaths on February 2, 2007 and March 24, 2009, respectively. So went the last of the Brothers' keyboardists and drummers.

Hopefully, in another generation, those who think of Motown will automatically remember the Funk Brothers for the music luminaries they were.

© 2004-2009 All rights reserved.

Please include copyright when reproducing this article.

An-Dinh Nguyen celebrates classic Motown artists with biographies, discographies, and reviews at Soully Oldies. See for her original Funk Brothers profile.

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Saturday, June 27, 2009

DVD Review - Roy Buchanan - 'Live From Austin Texas'

Roy BuchananRoy Buchanan via

DVD Review - Roy Buchanan - 'Live From Austin Texas' by Greg Bahr

Roy Buchanan was a consummate guitarist's guitarist who influenced countless contemporaries and latter day disciples, including Jeff Beck, Robbie Robertson, Billy Gibbons, and Danny Gatton. With his mastery of chicken pickin', violin-like volume swells, and screaming pinch harmonics, he spoke through the instrument like few players have before or since.

The DVD begins with "Roy's Bluz," a slow tune whose lyrics tell an evil tale of betrayal and revenge. During the solo, Buchanan combines rapid right hand tremolo picking with over the fingerboard fretting to execute a manic staccato run. Later, he takes a drink of beer while yawning with a look of detached amusement as his left hand articulates an effortless legato lick.

Next is "Soul Dressing," a funky Booker T. & the MG's minor key instrumental. Bass player John Harrison and drummer Byrd Foster do their best Donald "Duck" Dunn and Al Jackson impressions, while Malcolm Lukens adds Booker T. Jones approved organ grinding and Buchanan solos like Steve Cropper on steroids.

Buchanan and the band mellow down easy on an instrumental version of Don Gibson's "Sweet Dreams." Meandering through the major key melody, Roy pulls touch harmonics and behind the nut bending from his endless bag of tricks to hypnotize the audience into a dreamlike trance with this bittersweet, lyrical lullaby.

The mood turns deadly serious with "Hey Joe," a dark, dramatic, re-imagined rendition of the classic rock standard made famous by Jimi Hendrix. Buchanan shows his sense of humor with an oriental phrase during the verse that momentarily breaks the tension. His solo starts slowly, increases in intensity, and finishes with a flourish while the crowd cheers its approval. Roy tacks on a coda with the riff from "Foxy Lady," a nod to the genius of the Stratocaster master.

"The Messiah Will Come Again" starts with a soft-spoken introductory sermon. Then the captive congregation applauds in recognition as Roy breaks into the song's beautiful, haunting melody. Buchanan displays his full range of technique and emotion, employing soulful bends, otherworldly vibrato, and an off the fretboard cascade of chromaticism to punctuate this spiritual psalm of Telecaster transcendence.

While he didn't receive the recognition deserving of his incredible talent, "Live from Austin Texas" serves as a testament to Roy Buchanan's contributions to the guitar vocabulary, earning him the title of "The World's Greatest Unknown Guitarist."

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

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John Mellencamp - The Cougar Stays Fierce‏

Mellencamp sept2000Image via Wikipedia

by Brent Warnken

Popular music can often draw in singing puppets that are willing to lend their voices to just about anything put in front of them. Thankfully, there are also artists like John Cougar Mellencamp, who understands the true core of pop, country, folk and rock music. His virtually unparalleled grasp on what makes good music has given him a loyal fan base that has stayed with him for decades along with adding new fans every year.

He will go down in history as one of rock's legends, and even with his reputation intact, Mellencamp is still pushing the boundaries of what popular music can do. Showing he can do more than pen top lyrics, Mellencamp has been enlisted to write the foreword for a book about Bob Seger, who was an early influence on Mellencamp. The book, called Travelin' Man, will be released in October.

An even more innovative project for Mellencamp is a collaboration with horror writer Stephen King. The two created a musical called Ghost Brothers of Darkland County, which started CD/book package production on June 15. The show was initially going to be released in the spring of 2009, but it has been pushed back to perfect the script. The chilling story is about an American Family who has to come to grips with a grizzly truth.

This summer will be even busier for Mellencamp as he is set to join two other legends, Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson, on a highly-anticipated tour. Be there yourself by getting John Mellencamp tickets online.

John Mellencamp was born in Seymour, Indiana in 1951, and he still chooses to live in the same state he grew up in. Even though he is a legend now, his career almost didn't make it off the ground. Mellencamp was interested in music from a young age, forming a band at 14. He had a wild streak, however, and eloped with a pregnant girlfriend at the age when most kids were graduating high school. He started taking any job he could to support his family, but he still kept working on his music.

Mellencamp started working with Tony DeFries in 1976, who had it in mind to turn Mellencamp into a overly-polished young star. He was billed as John Cougar, but his first releases didn't draw very much interest, pushing him to drop the ill-fitting image and regroup.

In 1979, Mellencamp finally found a footing with "I Need a Lover." Three years later, he released the album American Fool, which rocketed him to legendary status. That album featured the singles "Hurts So Good" and "Jack & Diane," both of which still get radio play today. His popularity continued throughout the 1980s with singles like "Pink Houses," "Small Town" and "Cherry Bomb."

The 1990s saw a slow in releases as Mellencamp also tried his hand at directing and starring in movies. His albums continue to reach high on the charts even today, like 2008's Life Death Love and Freedom, which reached the Top 10. His upcoming tour and musical will mark just another chapter in this storied musician's tale.

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Saturday, June 20, 2009

Bruce Springsteen - The Boss and the E Street Band Gear Up for Bonnaroo‏

A portrait of Bruce SpringsteenImage via Wikipedia

by Brent Warnken

While Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band aren't the typical act you might expect to see at Tennessee's Bonnaroo Music Festival, Little Steven Van Zant recently told Billboard online that the band is more than ready for the June 13 gig.

"I love the fact that we're playing to, I don't know, probably half of the audience who maybe never heard of us certainly never heard us. That's nothing but fun and nothing but exciting," Little Steven said about the group's upcoming Bonnaroo gig in a conference call, adding, "I'm hoping we do a whole lot more of these, and I think what I'm expecting ... is just, I hope, a lot of young people that have never seen us before, and it's going to be fun."

The Boss and the E Street Band will jump the pond to play at the U.K.'s Glastonbury Festival on June 27, and Van Zandt said he's excited that the music festival culture seems to be expanding in the States. "In Europe it's a festival almost every week in almost every country," Van Zandt observed before describing it as "a way of balancing out what has been a kind of isolated generation or two between computers and video games and that sort of thing."

Although Springsteen and the E Street Band might not be an obvious choice for Bonnaroo, best known for attracting jam bands like Phish and Widespread Panic, their tradition of playing long, highly-improvised sets will fit well into the festival.

Said Van Zandt, "We change things a lot normally. Every night is different... There is a very wide variety of songs that we've done over the years that Bruce has written over the course of ... 30, 35 years. There's a lot of stuff to pick from. And then on top of that we build in a certain amount of spontaneity right into the show... The last two weeks we played Ramones, Clash and Tommy James ... all kinds of fun sort of bar band type songs."

The E Street Band guitarist continued to say that this style of playing "just loosens everybody up and keeps the thing fresh. There's nothing like playing a song you've never played before and never rehearsed before 20,000 people. It's just kind of an immediate sort of electric sort of joke that kind of keeps everybody very awake."

Van Zandt, who hosts his own syndicated radio show The Underground Garage and also has a record label, Wicked Cool Records, does have a bone to pick with Bonnaroo organizers.

Little Steven revealed in the conference call that he noticed that the Bonnaroo lineup didn't include the garage rock that he plays on his radio show, saying, "I think as the genre starts to expand here ... more young people will be starting to get to know this garage rock world... So maybe in the next couple of years, Bonnaroo will start to have an underground garage stage or tent or some kind of garage rock day or some part of the festival." Check online for Bruce Springsteen tickets.

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DVD Review - Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble - 'Live at the El Mocambo'

Stevie Ray Vaughan playing his customized Stra...Image via Wikipedia

DVD Review - Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble - 'Live at the El Mocambo' by Greg Bahr

In 1983, Stratocaster slinger Stevie Ray Vaughan and his posse, bassist Tommy Shannon and drummer Chris "Whipper" Layton, rode into the El Mocambo Tavern in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and flooded the Great White North audience with a sonic wave of boogie and blues born deep in the heart of the Texas.

"Testify" and "So Excited" start off the proceedings with a shot of high energy instrumental brilliance, followed by "Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)," Vaughan's tribute to his mentor, Jimi Hendrix. Stevie sings "I got my voodoo right in my hands," before tearing into a solo that proves him to be a worthy successor to Jimi's throne.

Next up is "Pride and Joy," the song that put Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble on the map. Combining a walking bass line on the lower strings and chords on the higher strings, Vaughan creates the effect of two guitarists playing at once, as Layton lays down the shuffle beat and Shannon's Fender bass adds precision counterpoint.

With readings of Howlin' Wolf's "Tell Me" and Buddy Guy's "Mary Had a Little Lamb," Vaughan recites the lessons of the masters while lending his own phrases to the blues lexicon.

The centerpiece of the set is "Texas Flood," a slow twelve-bar blues reminiscent of Albert King's "Blues Power." Playing the Strat behind his back, Stevie Ray unleashes an unrelenting torrent of guitar fury that strikes the audience like a Lone Star State lightning storm.

The band shifts into high gear with "Love Struck Baby," an original Chuck Berry style rocker, and "Hug You Squeeze You," a John Lee Hooker boogie blues classic.

Another Jimi Hendrix tune, "Third Stone From the Sun," serves as a vehicle for Vaughan's dramatic stage theatrics. Shannon's driving bass groove and Layton's rolling drumbeat provide a launching pad as Stevie Ray spins the guitar around the stage, manically manipulating the whammy bar, volume, and tone controls to navigate a feedback fueled orbit through the solar system.

The frenetic pace cools down with "Lenny," a ballad named after Stevie Ray's wife, in which he deftly employs the Strat's five position pickup selector to maneuver through a myriad of jazzy, textured tones.

Closing the show with Lonnie Mack's "Wham!," Vaughan sends one last blast from his Stratocaster through the appreciative Canadian crowd. After the smoke cleared, Stevie Ray Vaughan packed up his six string and rode off into the sunset.

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

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Paul McCartney Still Rocking the Music World

Paul McCartneyPaul McCartney via

Paul McCartney Still Rocking the Music World by Kristin Stevens

Paul McCartney is best know as one of the founding members of The Beatles, originally called the Quarrymen before changing their name to the Silver Beatles and eventually The Beatles.

Paul McCartney met up with John Lennon and the duo went on to collaborate and write almost all of The Beatles' hit songs including songs like "All My Lovin'", "Penny Lane", and "The Long and Winding Road". The Beatles achieved worldwide superstardom and also helped legitimize Rock music as an art form with the production of the concept album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Paul McCartney revealed to the world, with his first solo album in 1970 entitled McCartney, that the Beatles had broken up. McCartney later went on to achieve success as a solo artist when he issued the album RAM with his wife Linda McCartney.

Paul eventually formed the band Wings which went on to produce numerous albums with number one songs and highly successful concert tours. McCartney broke from Wings and continued to make music as a solo artist playing a mix of solo, Wings and Beatles songs live in concert.

At one time during Paul's stint as a Beatle using clues from Beatles' songs and album covers, there were widespread rumours that McCartney had died and a look-alike had filled his spot in the Beatles. The hoax was eventually proven to be false - McCartney continues to create music and performs to sold out crowds and concerts all over the world. At one time McCartney was imprisoned in Japan for possession of marijuana.


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Friday, June 19, 2009

Eric Clapton - A Battle with Addiction

Eric ClaptonEric Clapton via

by Brent Warnken

When a musician is as talented and successful as Eric Clapton, it's easy to see them as a larger-than-life figure that is essentially indestructible. We idolize and worship rock stars and relish the idea of them living the stereotypical touring lifestyle on the road. In a profession where booze, drugs and anonymous women are commonplace, it's exceedingly easy for rock stars to fall victim to these vices. For Clapton, alcohol was one such vice that took control of him.

Millions of people battle addiction and millions of people lose that battle. It's extremely difficult for someone who is not an addict to put themselves in an addict's shoes, which is why there is often a communication breakdown between someone abusing drugs or alcohol and someone who is not. For the addict, there needs to be a wakeup call of some kind or they'll probably lose the battle. That wakeup call can come in an endless amount of different forms, but is essential to paving the road to recovery.

One would think that the death of a colleague, friend and music luminary like Jimi Hendrix would serve as the perfect wakeup call for someone like Slowhand. Unfortunately, it was not. "I'd bought Jimi Hendrix a guitar - this white left-handed Stratocaster," Clapton once said in an interview. "The following day, I learned that Jimi was dead, that he'd passed out after getting stoned on a mixture of booze and drugs, and choked on his own vomit."

Again, this seemed like an incident that would open Clapton's eyes and help him stop his abuse of alcohol, but it did not. "Why didn't that stop me?" he rhetorically asked in the same interview. "Well, I can only say that it was arrogance. Arrogance in that I believed that I was going to be all right. I guess I was behaving like some sort of pseudo-artist, you know, exploring the dark side."

Clapton acknowledged that people in his life tried to talk some sense into him, but were unsuccessful due to that communication barrier as mentioned earlier. "It must have been risky business for the people who tried to stop me," he said. "Upon reflection, I can see all the care and love that it took to come talk to me during the period when I was underground. I can see how fucking careless and callous I was to slap them all in the face by not listening."

It's the mentality of the addict that is a major barrier in the attempt to get them help, as it will only work if they themselves truly want that help. Clapton described his thought process as an addict questioning his life as "Everyone says I'm in a fix. Am I in a fix? I don't know, am I? I don't feel like I'm in a fix. How do I get out of the fix I'm in?" It must be a helpless feeling not knowing whether to believe what people you love are telling you about yourself. That's how clouded your own sense of self can be when mired in the depth of addiction.

While an event like Hendrix's death didn't hit home enough, it took an interesting series of events for Clapton to finally wake up to his problem. "It was the fishing rod that told me I had hit rock bottom," Clapton explained. "I had always thought of myself as a good fisherman. I drove to the River Wey and found a spot. I had just managed to get my gear set up when I lost my balance, fell over onto one of my rods, and broke it. I could no longer even fish. Bang, I was at rock bottom. You are not a fisherman, mister. Wake up."

It was that event that evoked the willingness to seek help for Clapton, who eventually came to terms with his addiction and has since bested his greatest foe. Just think, if he'd never decided to go fishing that day, the world may have lost out on so much of his great work since, and there may be no Eric Clapton tickets to see him perform today.

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

New Crosby, Stills and Nash Tour - It's a Return to the Magic‏

Crosby, Stills & NashCrosby, Stills & Nash via

by Brent Warnken

It's been five decades, but the legends of rock and roll David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash are still taking the stage even at their age, recently adding more dates to their summer flick. The 23 added dates see the guys hitting up 43 amphitheatres and music halls around the nation as they kick off the four month stint next month.

The first month is one like no other, not because the trio of rock veterans who have performed at everything from Woodstock to Filmore East are touring, but because they plan on doing something for the first time - being inducted into the Songwriter's Hall of Fame, June 18, in New York City.

It's been a decade since their Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction, the veteran musicians who penned hits like "Ohio," "Yours and Mine," "Teach Your Children and "Soldiers and Peace" have seen an illustrious career that will continue to rein in awards, acclaim and more. Enjoy the veteran stage this summer with Crosby, Stills & Nash tickets.

It's been a long and withdrawn career for the three mainstays of the group, who from the start developed an innate disguise with each other that initially plagued the group following the self-titled debut. After a brief hiatus that allowed for each member to create solo albums, the '70s saw a return of the trio with CSN, the fifth studio set that nearly topped the Billboard charts thanks to Nash's "Just a Song Before I Go." The album was also the last time the group would productively record and write most of their material without the majority of outside help.

Their politically tinged material allowed their tunes, like "Ohio," and "Teach Your Children," to retain the acclaim and prominence for such an extensive period, establishing them as one of the greatest acts to perform together and the most prolific of the '60s. Supporting Young's adventure with film, Deja vu Live along with the other politically appropriate sets, is now the album du jour with tunes like "Let's Impeach the President," "For What It's Worth" and 'After the Garden."

June 2009
3 - St. Louis, MO - Chaifetz Arena
4 - Chicago, IL - Charter One Pavilion
6 - Detroit, MI - Meadowbrook Festival
7 - Toledo, OH - Zoo Amphitheatre
9 - Niagara, Ontario - Fallsview Casino Resort
10 - Canandaigua, NY - Constellation Performing Arts Center
12 - Cooperstown, NY - Doubleday Field
13 - Mashantucket, CT - Foxwoods Resort Casino
14 - Boston, MA - Bank of America Pavilion

July 2009
25 - Portland, ME - Merrill Auditorium
26 - Bridgeport, CT - Seaside Park
28 - Saratoga Springs, NY - Saratoga Performing Arts Center
29 - Hershey, PA - Hershey Theatre
31 - Cincinnati, OH - PNC Pavilion at Riverbend Music Center

August 2009
1 - Milwaukee, WI - Pabst Theater
3 - South Bend, IN - Morris Performing Arts Center
4 - Indianapolis, IN - The Lawn at White River State Park
7 - Atlantic City, NJ - Borgata Hotel, Casino & Spa
8 - Wantagh, NY - Nikon at Jones Beach Theater
9 - Bethlehem, PA - Sands Riverplace
11 - Holmdel, NJ - PNC Bank Arts Center
14 - Vienna, VA - Filene Center at Wolf Trap
15 - Portsmouth, VA - Ntelos Pavilion
17 - Atlanta, GA - Chastain Park Amphitheater
18 - North Charleston, SC - North Charleston Performing Arts Center
20 - Hollywood, FL - Hard Rock Live at Seminole
22 - Clearwater, FL - Ruth Eckerd Hall
23 - St. Augustine, FL - St. Augustine Amphitheatre
24 - Melbourne, FL - King Center
27 - San Antonio, TX - Municipal Auditorium
28 - The Woodlands, TX - Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
30 - Kansas City, MO - Starlight Theatre

September 2009
1 - Morrison, CO - Red Rocks Amphitheatre
11 - Eugene, OR - Cuthbert Amphitheater
12 - Troutdale, OR - Edgefield
14 - Puyallup, WA - Northwest Concert Center
15 - Central Point, OR - Lithia Motors Amphitheatre
18 - San Jose, CA - San Jose Civic Center
19 - Murphys, CA - Ironstone Vineyards
22 - Santa Barbara, CA - Santa Barbara Bowl
23 - Indio, CA - Fantasy Springs
26 - Henderson, NV - M Resort & Casino
28, 29 - San Diego, CA - Humphrey's Concerts by the Sea

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Lynyrd Skynyrd - Songs About Love and Geography

Lynyrd SkynyrdLynyrd Skynyrd via

by Brent Warnken

Lynyrd Skynyrd has been creating music for the better part of three decades now, and their discography is filled with songs about love and geography's affect on love. While lovelorn separation is a common theme in rock music, Lynyrd Skynyrd seems to have a special reverence for love's relationship with time and space. Three of Lynyrd Skynyrd's most famous songs ("Sweet Home Alabama," "Free Bird" and "Tuesday's Gone") take on the love-space continuum, and they all add their own ideas and personality to the conversation.

"Sweet Home Alabama"

Lynyrd Skynyrd's most famous tune by far, "Sweet Home Alabama" is perhaps the most obvious example of the band mixing love with location. When you buy Lynyrd Skynyrd tickets online, you probably sing the song so loud and proud at the show that the lyrics never stopped to enter your conscious mind. But it's illuminating to read the lyrics like a poem, if possible. The chorus of the song "Sweet home Alabama/ Where the skies are so blue/ Sweet Home Alabama/ Lord, I'm coming home to you" isn't all that compelling as far as lyrics go, but it certainly beams with local pride.

The opening stanza, however, introduces a theme in Lynyrd's work that will reverberate many times down the line. It reads: "Big wheels keep on turning/ Carry me home to see my kin/ Singing songs about the Southland/ I miss Alabamee once again/ And I think its a sin, yes." The "big wheels" that the opening lines refer to might mean anything from a river boat's paddles, to a bus's tires, but from the other songs in the Lynyrd discography, we know that they're talking about the wheels on a train.

"Free Bird"

Free Bird is mostly known for its long, long, long guitar and keyboard solo, but the lyrics keep with the theme of love's sometimes heartbreaking geography. The song starts out: "If I leave here tomorrow, would you still remember me?/ For I must be traveling on, now, 'cause there's too many places I've gotta see./ But if I stayed here with you, girl, things just couldn't be the same./ 'Cause I'm as free as a bird now, And this bird you cannot change."

The song talks about leaving someone you love for the freedom of the road, the freedom of making your own life somewhere else. The mode of transportation isn't precisely clear, although with the analogy of the bird it hints at plane travel, something ironically tragic considering the history of the band and the plane crash that left it in shambles.

"Tuesday's Gone"

"Tuesday's Gone," a slow, rambling, sorrowful song, seems to pull together all the strings of what Lynyrd Skynyrd is about - mainly, a lover's need to leave for somewhere else. The song begins with "Train roll on, on down the line,/ Won't you please take me far away?/ Now I feel the wind blow outside my door,/ Means I'm, I'm leaving my woman at home, Lordy/ Tuesday's gone with the wind./ Oh, my baby's gone with the wind." You've got trains, the winds of change and the character Tuesday, who represents fleeting love and the eventuality of loss.

Tuesday, the day of the week, comes and goes, like the wind. It's also interesting to note that the narrator is traveling away from home, as opposed to back to home, as is the case with "Sweet Home Alabama." The next time you see Lynyrd Skynyrd in concert try to keep track of who is leaving who in some of their most important songs. has sponsored this article, which was written by Brent Warnken. StubHub is one of the leaders in the business of selling, sports tickets, concert tickets, theatre tickets, or even special events tickets.

OPINION: Sonny Bono Knew Music and Politics

Sonny BonoSonny Bono via

Sonny Bono Knew Music and Politics by Robb Austin

Former pop star and California Congressman the late Sonny Bono was once asked what made for a great rock and roll song. Without hesitation he responded: simplicity - keeping it simple.

His theory was that a song should have a clear melody and simple lyrics so the public can easily recall the song when it's played on the radio - which will increase record sales and move the song up the charts. Bono also knew that by keeping the lyrics simple an artist can put passion and soul into the song's vocals - a necessary ingredient for a hit.

It's easy to see why Congressman Bono enjoyed a successful singing and political career - he understood what so many do not - simplicity is exactly what makes for a great song - or a great political campaign.

Even a casual observer can see that most political campaigns miss the mark on Bono's theory. They are usually muddled with ever-changing messages, themes, explanations, clarifications and surrogate miscues. With so little clarity the voting public is usually struggling to figure out exactly where their local candidates stand on issues such as the economy, the war on terror, immigration, and energy.

One would think that today's political strategists would understand what Bono had to say about music and apply it to politics. Or better still take a cue from past election races where simple themes were applied across the board. As far back as 1948 in the barnstorming whistle-stop campaign of Harry Truman - a sure loser against Thomas Dewey - voters have responded to a simple message. In Truman's case it was "Give'm Hell Harry" and it scored one of the greatest upsets in all of Presidential politics.

In 1960 voters responded to a youthful John Kennedy and his campaign pledge to "get the country moving again" as the World War II generation grew restless in the aftermath of its great war triumph during eight complacent years of Dwight Eisenhower.

It's a bit ironic that Richard Nixon's winning theme of 1968 was his simple pledge to "bring us together" - but it worked as the turmoil of the Vietnam War raged on.

In 1976 Jimmy Carter promised voters that he would "never tell a lie"and he would bring a government to Washington that was "as good as its people." It was a fresh change for the voters and they responded - rejecting President Jerry Ford and his "WIN" button strategy (Whip Inflation Now) in favor of the simple Carter theme.

In 1980, it was Jimmy Carter who got himself bogged down in the minutia of big government while Ronald Reagan unleashed the American spirit by running a campaign on the theme that "government isn't the solution - government is the problem". The voters liked this message and responded to Reagan again in 1984 when his economic theories proved correct and he campaigned on the simple theme that it is "morning in America."

I might add that Reagan's opponent Walter Mondale also had a simple campaign message in 1984 - he pledged to raise taxes! The voters understood both messages and chose Reagan in a landslide.

In the 2008 presidential campaign Barrack Obama had a simple message - change - and it too worked.

Historians may long argue over whether a particular presidential campaign theme was an accurate portrayal of public policy - but the simple fact is Sonny Bono was right when he said: keep things simple.

Look no further than the simple song he wrote for "Sonny and Cher"in 1965 - their biggest single and their signature song: "I Got You Babe." It went straight to number one.

Robb Austin is a former newspaper reporter and elected Member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and has successfully run numerous Congressional campaigns. Learn more at

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Bob Dylan's Most Romantic Songs‏

“Lay Lady Lay” coverImage via Wikipedia

by Brent Warnken

Bob Dylan was mostly famous as a protest song writer, a poet and musician who captured a movement at just the right time in history. But some of his older songs were romantic as well, and often overlooked amid the cultural significance and influence of works like "Times They Are a-Changin;" and "Blowin' In the Wind."

Let's take a look at some of Bob Dylan's most famous and most romantic songs and try to do two things. One, we will attempt to decipher what this legendary sage was trying to say about love, and two, we'll try to determine Dylan's most romantic lullaby.

"I Want You"

Bob Dylan's famous song "I Want You" deserves to be on this list of romantic songs, even if the song only superficially gets romantic. Based on the nasally way Dylan sings the chorus of "I want you" repeated and "so bad' at the end, you'd think he was being sarcastic, but really it's just Bob Dylan's singing style, which you'll see if you get Bob Dylan tickets online. Most of the lyrics besides the chorus aren't too much about love in the standard sense.

Bob can't help but get metaphorical and headsy, bringing up "drunken politicians" and the "Queen of Spades." The closest Bob gets to romancing his audience is near the end of the song when he sings, "I returned to the Queen of Spades/ Talked with my chambermaid/ She knows that I'm not afraid to look at her/ She's good to me/ There's nothing she don't see/ She knows where I would rather be/ But that doesn't matter." Apparently his face displays his love for another woman so plainly that his "chambermaid" can sense it.

"Lay Lady Lay"

The main chorus line of "Lay Lady Lay" is, "Lay, lady, lay, lay across my big brass bed." Laying on beds is certainly sexy, especially when, near the end of the song, Bob sings: "Stay, lady, stay, stay while the night is still ahead/ I long to see you in the morning light/ I long to reach for you in the night." What else could he be talking about here? Bob even gets complimentary, telling his lover, "And you're the best thing that he's ever seen." While it might not be as intellectual and rife with double meanings, "Lay Lady Lay" is sure heavy on physical love.

"True Love Tends to Forget"

Bob gets realistic about love in "True Love Tends to Forget." Gone is the honeymoon of "Lay Lady Lay" where sweet nothings are whispered and two lovers lounge in bed all day and through the night. Dylan has aged here, been through hard times and realized that loving someone means letting go of regret. Dylan admits that the woman he loves hurts him sometimes, but he still needs her, exemplified by the lyrics, "You're a tearjerker, baby, but I'm under your spell,/ You're a hard worker, baby, and I know you well./ But this weekend in hell is making me sweat."

What's the most romantic Bob Dylan Song? It depends. Do you think of love analytically, metaphorically and politically? Do you believe love is all longing glances and spooning? Or do you think love is shown in forgiveness and mercy? Which one is correct? The answer to that, my friend, is blowing in the wind. has sponsored this article, which was written by Brent Warnken. StubHub is one of the leaders in the business of selling, sports tickets, concert tickets, theatre tickets, or even special events tickets.

OPINION: Best Blues Instrumental Music of the Past

Stevie Ray VaughanImage of Stevie Ray Vaughan via Wikipedia

Best Blues Instrumental Music of the Past by Aaron McLain

Whenever I'm feeling down or just plain bad, I sometimes find it beneficial to listen to some good ole fashion blues. But not just any old blues will do. I need the music without the lyrics. Come with me now as we head out into the vast world of blues in search of the best blues instrumentals to drown your sorrows to. Here we go.

The #1 spot for out best blues instrumental music of the past belongs to "Phillip's Theme" by Hound Dog Taylor and the HouseRockers. Theodore Roosevelt "Hound Dog" Taylor was an American blues guitarist who originally played piano. He is mostly known for his electric slide guitar and get down and boogie beats. I guess what really makes him stand out besides being an amazing blues guitarist is that he had 6 fingers on his left hand.

Moving on down our chart we come to #2 on my blues instrumental music chart with "The Supernatural" by John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers featuring Peter Green. John Mayall was not only a talented multi-instrumentalist, but a song writer and blues singer. He pioneered English blues and has a history that spans over fifty years. He has influenced tons of other mucisians like Eric Clapton, Peter Green, and Mick Fleetwood to name a few.

As all good things must end, here we are at our final spot on my best blues instrumental music list with none other than "Little Wing" by Stevie Ray Vaughan. A Jimi Hendrix cover song spoken through an amazing blues rock guitarist Stevie Ray. I love this instrumental rendition of Hendrix's song "Little Wings". Stevie Ray Vaughan is known widely for his warm bluesy rock sound and was ranked #7 by Rolling Stone magazine as one of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.

As we close my best blues instrumental music of the past, I just want to say you can never have too much instrumental blues. With that said, go out into the free world of blues inspiration and bring back a little for yourself. And remember once your hooked, there ain't no cure for the blues. Until next time...

Aaron is a freelance writer that enjoys a wide variety of instrumental music. He writes on the different topics like instrumental Christmas music on his website Instrumental Music HQ.

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ALBUM REVIEW: Together Through Life by Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan at Lida Festival in Stockholm, Swede...Image via Wikipedia

Together Through Life - Amazing Album by Patrick Daniels

When Bob Dylan released Together Through Life, his 33rd studio album, he had special hopes and goals for the overall feel of the record. Dylan is in a difficult place at this point in his career, with it being nearly impossible for him to outdo himself and better his already stout lyrical resume.

With this album, the goal was to be more reflective and to offer a more romantic feel for his listeners. That's why he went out and asked for the co-writing help of Robert Hunter, the man often credited with writing the poetic tunes of the Grateful Dead.

'Life is Hard' and This Dream of You' are two great songs on the album (both are love ballads). These songs are a good taste of what is on the rest of the album. It really portrays his classic feel and poetic excellence. The difference this time though is that he really has more of a jazziness to him this time around.

It has a more reflective sound, and features more love songs than a Dylan album has ever featured before. That is what makes it different than some of his previous albums. The days of folk rock are gone for Dylan, and this album speaks to what he has left to say.

The accompanying band brings more jazz to the table on this record, which is something that Dylan had wanted prior to recording. That bluesy addition will change the Dylan sound a little, but there will still be room for Dylan to lead with his piercing voice. Dylan has outdone himself in a whole different way this time. He portrays a softer, sweeter side of himself that fans love and appreciate. You can see that Dylan is getting more creative. With the help of Hunter, these two songs will be remembered for years to come and will keep adding to the rocker's legacy.

BOB DYLAN Together Through Life has really outdone a lot of his previous CD's. If you are trying to buy the New BOB DYLAN CD check out CDWow.

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Saturday, June 13, 2009

ALBUM REVIEW: Spyro Gyra - Down the Wire

Spyro GyraSpyro Gyra via

Spyro Gyra - Down the Wire by E. F. Nesta

Down The Wire: Down The Wire; Unspoken; Not For Nothin'; Island Pond; The Tippin' Point; Ice Mountain; A Flower For Annie Jeanette; La Zona Rosa; What It Is; A Distant Memory; Make It Mine

Personnel: Tom Schuman: Keyboards; Scott Ambush: Bass; Jay Beckenstein: Saxophones; Julio Fernandez: Guitars; Bonny B: Drums, Percussion, Vocals; Marc Quiñones: Percussion on "La Zona Rosa"; Gerardo Velez: Percussion on "Unspoken" and "A Flower for Annie Jeanette," Horn section on "La Zona Rosa"; Don Harris: Trumpet; Bill Harris: Tenor Sax and Flute; Ozzie Melendez: Trombone

Spyro Gyra - Down The Wire was released on the Heads Up International label a division of Concord Music Group. This marks the seventh release under the Heads Up Label.

What makes Down The Wire special is that this is the first release that the band recorded back in the place where it all started for Spyro Gyra, Buffalo, New York. Though the band has gone through a few changes with members since the early 70's, Buffalo was the bands' original hometown and this where they recorded the classic song, Morning Dance.

So, they have gone back to their roots and away from the unplanned distractions that recording in New York City tends to have, and the result is a free flowing fusion of music and creativity similar to the elements that were there when they laid down the track Morning Dance.

The title track, written by Scott Ambush, Down the Wire opens the release with funk and sass letting Scott's bass and Bonny B's drums set the tone for the rest of the release. They let the listener know that Spyro Gyra is back and their fusion of creative energy and improvisation is unleashed. Letting their instruments cool down a bit after the pace set by Down the Wire, the laid-back track Unspoken follows with the bass and drum line holding down the beat while letting the other members have a reunion as former band member and percussionist Gerardo Velez joins in on the fun.

Not For Nothing is a tight track that shines with some funky bass interludes and guitar riffs to complement the sax solos against a rhythmic melody. The track Island Pond slows it down and features a poignant melding of the saxophone and the piano, and the group's focus is on the emotional element that music brings with this calming track. The Tippin' Point moves to a swing-jazz beat that lets the band stray a bit as they each add their own unique element to the mix.

The track A Flower For Anne Jeanette brings back Gerardo Velez for some percussion work to meld with the exceptional fret work of Scot Ambush on bass and the moving keyboard work by Tom Schuman. Changing pace they break out the hot Latin beat on the track La Zona Rosa that brings back another former band member and percussionist Marc Quiñones, as well as features a superb three piece horn section and the blistering guitar work of Julio Fernandez.

Other tracks include the rousing jazz and funk track What It Is and a track that reflects a bit of the past with the present entitled A Distant Memory, which brings out a playful interplay as they look back at their beginning, and as Jay says "...was a time in our life that - although we didn't know it then - was supremely magical."

As the saying goes, you should always leave how you entered, so they close out the release with the track Make It Mine, a bookend funky backbeat track to the opening track Down The Wire. The song features Bonny B and Scot taking center stage with Bonny B's vocals playing MC and calling out the band members in a teasing and patronizing manner to invoke some great solos and grooves.

Websites where you can procure Spyro Gyra - Down The Wire are CD Universe, EMusic, Amazon, Concord Music Group, Tower Records, and Spyro Gyra.

E.F Nesta is the owner, contributing writer, and Publisher of Luxury Experience Magazine (

Luxury Experience Magazine is a monthly on-line publication, which is read in over 80 countries with a reach of over 100,000. Luxury Experience Magazine features experiential articles on luxury products and services; we do not book reservations or sell products on-line. Luxury Experience Magazine's mission is to provide experiential editorial exposure on luxury products and services, and introduce brands and products to an audience across 80+ countries. Luxury Experience Magazine is a team of high-energy professionals who bring a broad and extensive international background to their writing.

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