Friday, October 22, 2010

If You’re Going to San Francisco, Wear Flowers in Your Hair

Haight-Ashbury, San Francisco, California, USAImage via WikipediaScott McKenzie immortalised the 1960s hippie culture with his hit song, "San Francisco" (Be Sure To Wear Flowers In Your Hair). The lyrics spoke of a youth movement that rose in the mid 1960s in America and swiftly spread to other nations.

The word "hippie" is derived from "hipster" and early ideology set out the anti-establishment values of the Beat Generation. Along with the ideology came waves of sexual freedom and expression, widespread use of psychedelic drugs and the introduction of psychedelic rock music.

The Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco became a mecca of hippie culture. Fragments of flower power remain, but the Haight today is nothing like it was four decades ago. Smoke shops still dot the landscape with exotic names like Dreams of Kathmandu and Pipe Dreams, but only two distinct sections of the Haight remain.

The Upper Haight stretches from Stanyon to Masonic and is the commercial centre. It features exclusive boutiques, high-end vintage clothing shops, second-hand stores, trendy restaurants and internet cafes. The neighbourhood deteriorates as it moves towards Golden Gate Park. The Lower Haight, which spreads from Divisidero to Webster, is a different and rougher neighbourhood. The many dance music record shops and clubs like The Top attract many DJs and party people.

The hippie movement left its mark on American culture, influencing popular music, television, film, literature, and the arts. One has but to look around to see the hippie vision in contemporary times. Everything from health food to music festivals to a loosening of sexual mores and even the promise of cyberspace had its roots within the hippie group dynamic.

It should also be noted that the hippie movement had its dark side, initiated not by its belief system but by dark and evil followers such as Charles Manson and his murderous crew of drifters and misfits.

A visit to San Francisco and the Haight-Ashbury region truly is a fascinating glimpse into a world changing period in history. Use First Choice Discount Codes and First Choice Discount Vouchers for tours that will transport you to some of the sights of this colourful neighbourhood. When travelling, a visit to the Grateful Dead House is a recommended sight. Located at 710 Ashbury Street, the famous rock group lived together with many other transients in this building that dates back to 1890 and was built by the Cranston-Keenan architect team (former US Senator Alan Cranston’s grandfather).

No tour of the Haight-Ashbury section would be complete without a stop at the Red Vic Movie House. Located at 1727 Haight Street, this movie house is known for its vast selection of cult, independent and premiere films offered at reasonable prices. You can buy organic treats and popcorn with or without yeast and/or sip some coffee or tea. This unique theatre offers both couches and theatre seats and, at the front window, a calendar of month-to month film features.

Young people flocked to the intersection of Haight & Ashbury in search of a dream. It is this quest that remains to this day and its promise, however tenuous, needs to be remembered.

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Thursday, October 14, 2010

ALBUM REVIEW: Santana Covers Album Tracklist Unveiled

LAS VEGAS - MAY 27:  Music legend Carlos Santa...Image by Getty Images via @daylifeHi all,

This article is a little old, but it talks about Carlos Santana's latest release, which looks like a ripper!

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As previously reported, Santana's forthcoming release will be a collection of classic rock cover songs. Guitar Heaven: The Greatest Guitar Classics of All Time will be released on September 21 and features Carlos Santana teaming up with a variety of singers to tackle these legendary songs.

The guitarist himself had been discussing some of the collaborations (AC/DC's "Back in Black" with Nas, Cream's "Sunshine of Your Love" with Rob Thomas), but only now has the full tracklist been released. The album will be available in two versions: a 12-track standard edition and a deluxe, 14-track edition. The extra two songs are Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Fortunate Son" with Creed's Scott Stapp and the Red Hot Chili Peppers' "Under the Bridge" featuring Latin singer Andy Vargas.

Santana's Guitar Heaven track list

1. Whole Lotta Love featuring Chris Cornell (Led Zeppelin)
2. Can't You Hear Me Knockin' featuring Scott Weiland (The Rolling Stones)
3. Sunshine of Your Love featuring Rob Thomas (Cream)
4. While My Guitar Gently Weeps featuring india.arie and Yo-Yo Ma (The Beatles)
5. Dance the Night Away featuring Pat Monahan (Van Halen)
6. Back in Black featuring Nas and Janelle Monáe (AC/DC)
7. Riders on the Storm featuring Chester Bennington and Ray Manzarek (The Doors)
8. Smoke on the Water featuring Jacoby Shaddix (Deep Purple)
9. Photograph featuring Chris Daughtry (Def Leppard)
10. Bang a Gong featuring Gavin Rossdale (T. Rex)
11. Little Wing featuring Joe Cocker (Jimi Hendrix)
12. I Ain't Superstitious featuring Jonny Lang (Howlin' Wolf, Jeff Beck Group)
13. Fortunate Son featuring Scott Stapp (Credence Clearwater Revival)*
14. Under the Bridge featuring Andy Vargas (Red Hot Chili Peppers)*

*Deluxe edition only
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Monday, October 4, 2010

The Influences and Origins of Modern Rock

Bob Dylan and The Band touring in Chicago, 197...Image via WikipediaBy Simon M Cook

As you look back to the music scene of the late 50s and early 60s there's no doubt that many of the bands and artists around at that time had a major influence on the shape of modern music, ranging from the heavy rock produced by Led Zeppelin in the 70s right through to the sounds of Green Day today.

With pioneers like Elvis Presley, who brought a raunchiness and a new blues sound to the industry that shook the business up, and later the lyrics and sounds of Bob Dylan who took political and social commentary to the next level, you find that it took time and dedication from many artists to make sure that rock and roll music did not 'fade away' as many prominent people including politicians wanted.

As Jimi Hendrix took the art of playing the guitar to a new level, and Patti Smith broke down many barriers in both song writing and the acceptance of the female artist, rock music began to gain a momentum that would see the likes of The Clash take up and shape into a tool that could influence the masses, not only future musicians.

Once the Beatles evolved from a 'boy band' into an experimental rock band who challenged the notion of staying in one genre, and developed a style that incorporated many styles of music, it was inevitable that rock music was here to stay in its many different forms.

Today's music is a cornucopia of all the influential sounds of the 50s, 60s and 70s, from the dulcet jazz of Miles Davies, the dark rap of Run DMC and the haunting sounds of a young Kate Bush.

Modern rock simply wouldn't be the same without these bands, and bands like Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd, whose experimentation and ability to challenge the norm (of music and society) led to a freedom that allowed music to develop beyond the safeness it had been cocooned in for many years.

Bands like The Who and The Rolling Stones took the music to the people and wrote songs that took the pure emotion and angst of the people and gave it life; for the first time in history music began to tell the story of the youth, of their fears for society, their anger and their determination to pull through despite the obstacles - it was an exciting time for music and a time that changed the face of rock music forever.

Without some of the albums that influenced a whole generation, we simply would be listening to a different sound today. For some of the albums that had the biggest influence on rock click here.

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Friday, October 1, 2010

ALBUM REVIEW: Their Satanic Majesties Request (1967) by the Rolling Stones

Cover of "Their Satanic Majesties Request...Cover of Their Satanic Majesties RequestBy William Phoenix

Sometimes music is like wine or cheese. It gets better with age. Having said that, it's time to revisit an album from the past, boys and girls. In 1967 yours truly was still a little boy in elementary school in small-town Pennsylvania. At the same time, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were facing drug charges and the Rolling Stones' "Their Satanic Majesties Request" hit the shelves. For those of you too young to remember or to even be born yet, this record was their first foray into phonographic, phantasmagorical psychedelia.

Keith Richards, ever ready to talk sh*t about his fellow band members and past accomplishments, once called it "real crap". Sir Mick Jagger was less blunt but equally embarrassed. "I don't think any of the songs are very good" he confessed.

Rock journalists were also often unkind and many claimed that this record was a bad attempt to jump on the Beatles' bandwagon after the release of "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band". Even the kindest critics were quick to point out that the record sounded nothing like the Stones previous releases. Writer Nigel Williamson stated: "Coming between 'Let's Spend the Night Together' and 'Jumpin' Jack Flash', it's an album unconnected to anything recorded by the band before" adding that the project was "a weird and deviant blip on the radar that doesn't fit on some conveniently linear graph of the Stones' musical development".

As always there is another way of looking at this recording. Some now claim that "Their Satanic Majesties Request" is actually a classic example of psychedelic sounds. In fact, some consider this better than "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" when looked at as a document of the first "summer of love" in the UK.

Indeed, the spacey experimentation and sweltering, swirling sounds on "Request" seem a bit more acid-influenced and perhaps better demonstrate what was for the first time possible in a recording studio. One well-known visitor to the recording studios during the making of this disc was Marianne Faithfull. If you listen carefully you will discover her voice somewhere in the assorted noise and drug-influenced chatter on a lot of the cuts.

When asked about the previously-mentioned recording sessions Faithfull once said: "It's very much of its time, but it sums up an era. I think it's been unfairly maligned." Perhaps she was correct. Perhaps the record deserves further consideration.

Let's start at the beginning, shall we? The opening number is "Sing This Song All Together". This song is a mixture of interesting Asian percussion, bells, cool guitar riffs, free jazz and an old campfire sing-a-long. Add a chorus of hippies and Jagger singing "open our heads and let the picture come" and you have an oddly interesting introduction only very vaguely recognizable as something by the Stones. While it is true that the album continues along in a busy, druggy, crazy manner, there are some good tunes hidden here.

Upon reflection, the early experimentation with synthesizers somewhat admittedly silly atmosphere and creative use of tape looping makes the record alluring in its own way. Nevertheless, the disc does indeed contain at least a couple of classic cuts. For example, "She's A Rainbow" is a whirling pop orchestra composition with a characteristic '67 baroque personality. There is also the spacey, eerie "2000 Light Years From Home" which actually inspired David Bowie to create his futuristic "Space Oddity" a couple of years later.

Noel Gallagher, of Oasis fame, is another famous fan of this album. In 2004 he told the press that he wanted Oasis to record a record that sounded like a musical blend of The Stone Roses' debut disc, Bob Dylan's "Highway 61 Revisited" and "Their Satanic Majesties Request". Additionally, the band known as the Brian Jonestown Massacre think so highly of "Request" that they put together an homage album titled "Their Satanic Majesties' Second Request".

As Nigel Williamson states, this Stones record might be a bit "self-indulgent, sloppy and unstructured" but it's certainly not without merit. In fact, "Their Satanic Majesties Request" is also "one of the most gloriously spaced-out albums ever made." If you've never listened to The Rolling Stones' "Their Satanic Majesties Request", listen to it. If you've already listened to it ... listen again.

My name is Phoenix and ... that's the bottom line. Check me out on under the name William Phoenix!

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NEWS: George Duke and Al Jarreau Are on the Road Again

The Hague Jazz 2009 - George DukeImage by Haags Uitburo via FlickrBy Emily Cary

George Duke and Al Jarreau have been friends for many years since Jarreau began singing in a little club in San Francisco where Duke's Trio played. Now they have joined forces for a tour that is taking them cross country to venues great and small for evenings to savor and remember.

Their careers have gone in different directions over the years, but now that they have become what Duke politely dubs "old fellows," it seemed a good time to get together again. They first rehearsed this show in February to perform it in Seattle before Duke left for Europe. Each time they reunited during the spring, they tweaked it a little, but it remains basically the same two-for-one admission blast with each doing his own thing.

Both have staying power and audience rapport, so news of their touring together to the end of the year delights fans. Cognizant of the subtle changes in the music business over the past decade, they have wisely gone back to doing what they were doing in the beginning by playing for live audiences everywhere.

Early in August, Duke's latest CD, "Déjà Vu," was released. The title number is the clue that it's a retrospective of the music he's done in the past. Most of it is instrumental, a veritable treat for the ears that incorporates old synthesizers he took out of his locker and dusted off. Although we think of Duke as one of the greatest keyboardists ever, he plays drums on "What Goes Around Comes Around," but he is quick to clarify that they are computer drums difficult to distinguish from real drums.

He worked to make certain it came out exactly as he wanted. All the numbers are styles he's loved from the past, and since he was eager to finish it before taking off on a six-week round of European jazz festivals, he had all the more impetus to get it out. Listeners immediately discover that the old analog sounds give a very different feeling. At the same time, he contrasted the old technology with new devices which are a little more on the left side musically. The resulting daring moments are stretched beyond what we typically hear today when so many musicians have grown conservative.

Over the years, Duke has worked with the likes of Frank Zappa, Cannonball Adderley, Stanley Clarke and Miles Davis. Ray Charles was equally instrumental in his development. While Charles was initially influenced by church music, he turned it into secular styles that captured Duke's imagination. The beauty and variety of music created by these diverse artists has enriched Duke's own output and interest in the evolution of jazz. In keeping with his desire to help young musicians along the way, he participates as a judge each October at the Thelonius Monk competition in Washington, DC where the stars of tomorrow invariably are tapped.

Duke has one of the most outgoing personalities in the business. He loves to laugh, loves what he does for people, and regards the smiles on all the faces before him as a blessing. He is happiest when he feels he has drawn a new audience into an experience they can share together.

"It's not just me performing for them," he says. "I want their involvement and for them to have a good time. When Al and I are on stage together, we go to different musical planets, he to his own galaxy, and the Trio to ours, all part of a beautiful, big picture."

Emily Cary is a prize-winning teacher and novelist whose articles about entertainers appear regularly in the DC Examiner. She is a genealogist, an avid traveler, and a researcher who incorporates landscapes, cultures and the power of music in her books and articles.

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