Tuesday, September 27, 2016

ALBUM REVIEW: Bootleg Series #16: The Rolling Stones – Leeds University, Leeds, England // 13th March 1971

by Tom Caswell: https://tomcaswell.net/2016/09/12/bootleg-series-16-the-rolling-stones-leeds-university-leeds-england-13th-march-1971/

The UK tour of 1971 saw The Rolling Stones stage their first at home since 1966. The band played to sold out venues across the country between the 4th and 26th March, with most of those dates featuring two shows from the band per night. On the 13th however, they were in Leeds playing at the University and we are well and truly blessed to have an exceptional quality bootleg that exists from the one show they played that day.

The band open with Dead Flowers which is a song that featured on their 1971 classic Sticky Fingers, which wouldn’t be released until over a month later on the 23rd April. Along with the other songs on Sticky FingersDead Flowers sees the Rolling Stones take their music in a new direction after the death of founding member Brian Jones nearly two years earlier. Keith Richards at this point was friends with Gram Parsons which definitely influenced his songwriting, hence the country tones throughout the song. Mick Taylor plays a gorgeous solo during the third verse, showing you exactly why he was added to the band in the first place.  

Stray Cat Blues comes next which is from their 1968 album Beggars Banquet. Compared to an early live version played in Hyde Park in July 1969 which was lacking in many ways, this version is far superior with the band on top form and together musically. Jagger is a man possessed on lead vocals who has every single person in the audience in the palm of his hand. Taylor again plays a tasteful guitar solo. 

It’s followed by the Robert Johnson number Love In Vain which takes the show in a slower direction. The band sound fantastic as a unit here and deliver a cracking rendition of this blues classic.

The great Midnight Rambler from their 1969 album Let It Bleed follows and immediately shifts the gig into top gear. During this period of the band it was one of their best live songs and this performance is no different. The roaring guitar playing paired with Jagger’s sublime harmonica work make it one of the highlights of the entire show. The band start the song by jamming until they find that driving groove that makes the song so infectious, cemented of course by Keith Richards on rhythm guitar. The looseness of this song is what makes it so appealing and at just short of 13 minutes in length it’s the longest song of the set. 

It’s followed by another new song in Bitch which is played so beautifully that it could well be the studio version. The horn section is another element of the music they were making at this time which showed what direction the band were heading in and they sound fantastic as a result.
  1. Dead Flowers
  2. Stray Cat Blues
  3. Love In Vain
  4. Midnight Rambler
  5. Bitch
  6. Honky Tonk Women
  7. Satisfaction
  8. Little Queenie
  9. Brown Sugar
  10. Street Fighting Man
  11. Let It Rock
After a short band intro, the 1969 single Honky Tonk Women follows Bitch and Keith Richards is right at the forefront on this track. On the studio version it’s Charlie Watts who starts the song with a cowbell but it’s Keith Richards who goes straight into that guitar riff during this live version. When you think of the most legendary guitar riffs of all time, Honky Tonk Women is right up there with the best of them all, surrounded by many more classic Keith Richards guitar riffs from this period. The live version adds even more energy to an already energetic song. 

The Stones then move on to Satisfaction which, in the beginning at least, sounds a lot different to the original studio version recorded six years earlier in 1965. The opening riff sounds less definitive and more soul like in many ways, again highlighting their evolution as a band since the recording of the original. The addition of horns in the outro only confirms a more soulful direction which is wonderful to listen to.

The Chuck Berry classic Little Queenie follows immediately after Satisfaction although it lacks any of the high tempo featured in the original version. However it’s still enjoyable to listen to, even though the band take a more relaxed and laid back approach to it. The piano playing in particular is an exciting highlight and Jagger owns the song from the front of the stage. Keith Richards replicates Berry’s world famous guitar lines to make the song more reminiscent of the original version. 

The great Brown Sugar comes next, debuting for many that incredible opening guitar riff from Keith Richards, after all it wouldn’t be released as a single until over a month later on the 16th April. Sadly the guitars sound a little out of tune but apart from that it’s a great rendition even though it does lack the incredible sax solo from Bobby Keys which features on the studio version.

Street Fighting Man and Let It Rock are the two final songs and sadly the out of tune instruments remain on the former. Thankfully things are righted on Let It Rock which sees Keith Richards laying down some more incredible Chuck Berry riffs. Watts and Wyman keep the song locked in, enabling the rest of the band to do their thing so well.

Overall the bootleg is one of the finest featuring The Rolling Stones out there. The quality is second to none and the band are on top form from beginning to end. Hearing the band at during this particular musical period is fantastic because with Taylor having been on board for two years already they sound as tight as they ever did and have since. 

With a number of the songs you’re also able to hear the direction they were going musically, a direction which would ultimately lead to the recording and release of their 1972 classic Exile On Main Street, an album that is today widely seen as their all time best. Hard to argue with that. But this show is a must for all bootleg lovers out there, it’s incredible.

Friday, September 2, 2016

CLASSIC ALBUM SERIES #6: Blind Faith – Blind Faith

00602537803637-cover-zoomby Tom Caswell: https://tomcaswell.net/2016/08/31/classic-album-series-6-blind-faith-blind-faith/

1969 saw the formation of one of rocks most underrated and under-appreciated supergroups in the form of Blind Faith. 

Formed by Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood initially, bassist Ric Grech and drummer Ginger Baker would join a little later and the outcome of this musical melding of minds was their self titled album, Blind Faith, released in August 1969.

The album opens with Had To Cry Today which gives you your first taste of this gorgeous album. Clapton’s guitar playing is immediately infectious but in a different manner to his playing in Cream. The tone is softer, the playing is more delicate and there’s more intimacy between each of the band members. Steve Winwood is sublime on vocals and that’s a trend that continues throughout the whole album.

Can’t Find My Way Home is the second song which is dominated by acoustic guitar. Without taking anything away from the other songs, it’s by far the stand out track on the album. Winwood’s singing is as good as you’ll ever hear him but it’s the guitar that really stands out the most. There are two versions of this song, the acoustic on the album and an electric version which wasn’t officially released until the deluxe edition came out in 2001. Both are superb but the acoustic guitars add a beauty to it that is indescribable.
  1. Had To Cry Today
  2. Can’t Find My Way Home
  3. Well All Right
  4. Presence Of The Lord
  5. Sea Of Joy
  6. Do What You Like
Well All Right is a Buddy Holly cover and the only cover on the album. It’s a fun rendition with the band on top form just like the two previous songs. The piano and guitar playing fit together seamlessly while Baker does his thing on drums as only he could. With this song you really start to understand the direction Blind Faith are going with their music, with each of the songs sounding nothing like anything the band members had done previously in their previous bands.

Presence Of The Lord comes next which is an original Clapton number but Winwood takes lead vocal duties thanks to the insistence of Clapton himself. Clapton would eventually sing the song over a year later with Derek and the Dominos but with Blind Faith it was up to Winwood to do his thing which he does brilliantly. The solo section towards the middle/end of the song is superb, Clapton’s only lead part of the song. 

Sea Of Joy and Do What You Like are the final two songs, bringing the relatively short album to a close. Sea Of Joy is a Winwood original and a song that is often under-appreciated on the album as a whole. There’s a wonderful violin section played by bassist Ric Grech which adds another element to the band and their music, a unique aspect which continued in a live setting when they were on tour. There are a few photos of Grech playing violin with the band on their US tour.  

Do What You Like is a song written by Ginger Baker and the longest song on the album due to the inclusion of a long drum solo. It’s an extremely pleasing song to listen to though and Clapton’s guitar solo before the drum solo is unlike anything he ever played before. It’s superb.

Overall Blind Faith is a fantastic album and will (sadly) remain under-appreciated compared to other albums from that time period. It doesn’t help that the band are yet to be inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, something that is well overdue considering the amount of rubbish that manages to get in instead. Hopefully that changes soon and more people become aware of this gem of an album.