Wednesday, April 19, 2017

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

by , Open Culture:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

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

by , Open Culture:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

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

by Tom Caswell:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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