Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Bootleg Series #21: Jack Bruce & Friends: Fillmore East, New York, NY, USA // 31st January 1970

Jack Bruce has long been one of my all time favourite bassists due to his work with Cream but I’m ashamed to say that aside from his 1969 solo album Songs For A Tailor, I’m not overly familiar with the rest of his solo career. However that changed after hearing this excellent recording of a show he played at Fillmore East in New York with Jack Bruce & Friends, which includes Mitch Mitchell on drums, Larry Coryell on guitar and Mike Mandell on organ. The band only played seventeen dates together between the 24th January and 1st March 1970 and sadly there are less than a handful of live recordings of them. Thankfully, however, this late show recording from the 31st January is one of them.
The band open with the Cream song Politician. Immediately it’s obvious that Bruce has no hesitation in playing old material from previous bands unlike Eric Clapton who refused to play any Cream songs in Blind Faith aside from the odd track when the crowds demanded it. From Bruce’s point of view, he wrote them, so why shouldn’t he play them? While this version of Politician lacks Clapton’s explosive lead guitar work you can really get a sense of how the song sounds with an expanded lineup and the addition of a keys player. Mike Mandell on organ doesn’t do anything extraordinary here but he manages to lay down beautiful tones behind the bass, guitar and drums that gives the song a steady foundation that perhaps wasn’t there in the Cream version. It’s an extremely enjoyable listen which makes me wonder if this is what Cream’s sound would have gone on to become had they invited Steve Winwood to join them.
  1. Politician
  2. Weird Of Hermiston/Tickets To Waterfalls
  3. HCKHH Blues
  4. We’re Going Wrong
  5. The Clearout
  6. Sunshine Of Your Love
  7. Smiles And Grins (Jam)
A two song medley follows Politician which features two tracks from Bruce’s 1969 debut album Songs For A Tailor. The first is Weird Of Hermiston which is one of my favourite tracks on the album. Before listening to this bootleg I hadn’t heard a live version of this song before and while parts of the song are a little different in a live setting, I absolutely love it. Bruce’s strong vocal performance dominates the song and manages to control the band and audience perfectly. The band themselves are on top form here and you can really sense they are starting to get into things as they go straight from Weird Of Hermiston into Tickets To Waterfalls. The two songs are actually the other way around on the studio album but the rotation works perfectly and the band kick it up a notch in the process. The jam sections of this particular song are some of the best from the whole show and emphasise how great the band sound together, even though they were only a unit for a short amount of time.
The fourth song is taken from Bruce’s 1970 solo album Things We Like which was actually recorded when he was still with Cream in August 1968. The album wouldn’t be released until late 1970 in the UK but the band performed the song HCKHH Blues at Fillmore East. Whereas the studio version is all jazz the band transform the song into a blues/rock monster reminiscent of Cream with the addition of a more jazz based guitarist and an organ. It’s a wonderful track with an incredible amount of energy from start to finish. This is the first time you get to fully appreciate Mitch Mitchell on drums who lays down some incredible grooves from start to finish in a way only he can. It’s a sublime performance that lasts just short of nine minutes and even though the track changes directions numerous times the band never lose the energy or focus. We’re Going Wrong comes next which gives the show a needed mellow moment after the previous track. It’s impossible to compare these Cream numbers to when Cream actually performed them because they are just so different. The music may be the same, the lyrics might not have changed, but the way the songs are performed are different with Jack Bruce & Friends. It’s a really good rendition with the organ playing a key role although it’s sometimes difficult to hear on this particular recording.
After a brief break the band return with a song Bruce originally wanted to include on Cream’s 1967 album Disraeli Gears called The Clearout. This song can be heard being played by Cream in the studio on the expanded set Those Were The Days which was released in 1997 but it was left off and eventually included on Bruce’s debut Songs For A Tailor. It’s a great track and to be honest suits his solo album a lot more than Cream so I think it was the right choice in the end, although I would have liked to have heard a finished Cream version. While the album version is just two minutes and forty three seconds long the band here extend it to seven minutes which really gives it the life and depth that it deserves as a song. It’s great. Then, out of nowhere, the explosive riff that could only be Sunshine Of Your Love sends tremors through the auditorium and the crowd goes wild. The organ here sounds excellent paired with the bass and guitar, giving the riff some added depth. Mitch Mitchell on drums lays down the kind of grooves that he did when performing the track with Hendrix and then it hits you that two members of arguably the two best trios of all time are playing together on stage. It’s a monumental moment.
Nine minutes later the final song begins called Smiles And Grins, a song which wouldn’t be released in studio format until Bruce’s 1971 album Harmony Row. The studio song itself wasn’t recorded until a full year after this show so this is an early jam rendition which rounds the show of perfectly. In 1970 there were a lot of bands that copied Cream’s lead of jamming entire songs like The Allman Brothers Band and the Grateful Dead so it’s great to hear Bruce do what he did best in Cream once again. I’ve long thought that jamming brings out the best in musicians to the point where they have to think things up on the spot and this is exactly what happens here. The audience obviously feels the same as they explode with applause as the song comes to an end, capping off a magnificent show.
Peter Iacontino – Audience Member: “I was at that show. Mountain was also on the bill, we went to see Jack. I think Jack opened the show, Mountain was the headliner. Jack and the band were good. Played about one hour, I remember it filled the whole 60 minute tape. It was a more jazzy show with Larry Coryell on guitar, Mitch Mitchell on drums and Mike Mandel on organ. I think Jimi Hendrix was at the show also! It was a great night for music!
The cassette recorder I used for the show was new technology for 1970. It had a built in mic. The reason I’m telling you is because we had first row seats. I put the recorder on the stage. No one said anything. The Fillmore East was such a cool place to see concerts!”
I’d spoke to Peter previously about other concerts at Fillmore East including Derek and the Dominos, so to find out that this recording of Jack Bruce & Friends was his was very special. There are a vast number of great bootlegs recorded at Fillmore East and it was obviously a very special place not only to go and see bands but also to bootleg. As Peter says, no-one said anything to him when he put his recorder on the stage. And as far as recordings go it is extremely good to the point where a bit of remastering could result in an official live album, or at least some kind of official bootleg release like The Allman Brothers Band have done over the years.
This particular period of Bruce’s career isn’t widely talked about which is disappointing given the great music the band played right here on this bootleg. And as I mentioned at the beginning of this article, Jack Bruce & Friends weren’t together for that long and less than a handful of good recordings are known to exist. But thankfully Peter brought his cassette recorder that night because it was a great show. We can’t thank him enough.

Monday, October 23, 2017

VIDEOS: Watch David Gilmour Play the Songs of Syd Barrett with the Help of David Bowie and Richard Wright

by , Open Culture: http://www.openculture.com/2017/10/watch-david-gilmour-play-the-songs-of-syd-barrett-with-the-help-of-david-bowie-richard-wright.html

Though he eventually disappeared from the public eye, Syd Barrett did not fade into obscurity all at once after his "erratic behavior," as Andy Kahn writes at JamBase, "led to his leaving" Pink Floyd in 1968. The founding singer/songwriter/guitarist went on in the following few years to write, record, and even sporadically perform new solo material, appearing on John Peel’s BBC show in 1970 and giving a long Rolling Stone interview the following year. He even started, briefly, a new band in 1972 and worked on new recordings in the studio until 1974.
Barrett released two solo albums, The Madcap Laughs and Barrett, in 1970. Like the solo work of Roky Erickson and Skip Spence—two other tragic psychedelic-era geniuses with mental health struggles—Barrett’s later compositions are frustratingly rough-cut gems: quirky, sinister, meandering folk-psych adventures that provide an alternate look into what Pink Floyd might have sounded like if their original intentions of keeping him on as a non-performing songwriter had worked out.
Assisting him during his studio sessions were former bandmates Roger Waters, Richard Wright, and David Gilmour. The band still admired his singular talent, but they found working, and even speaking, with him difficult in the extreme. As Gilmour has described those years in interviews, they carried a considerable amount of guilt over Barrett’s ouster. In addition to the heartbreaking tribute “Shine on You Crazy Diamond,” Gilmour has often performed Syd’s solo songs onstage in affecting, often solo acoustic, renditions that became all the more poignant after Barrett’s death in 2006.
In the videos at the top, you can see Gilmour play two songs from Barrett’s The Madcap Laughs—“Terrapin” and “Dark Globe”—and further up, see him play “Dominoes” from Barrett, with Richard Wright on Keyboards. Gilmour has also revisited onstage Pink Floyd’s earliest, Barrett-fronted, days. Just above, we have the rare treat of seeing him play the band’s first single, “Arnold Layne,” with special guest David Bowie on lead vocals. And below, see Gilmour and Wright play a version of the early Floyd classic “Astronomy Domine,” live at Abbey Road studios.
It was, sadly, at Abbey Road where the band last saw Barrett, when he entered the studio in 1975 during the final mixes of Wish You Were Here. Overweight and with shaved head and eyebrows, Barrett was at first unrecognizable. After this last public appearance, he felt the need, as Waters put it, to “withdraw completely” from “modern life.” But the tragic final months with Pink Floyd and few sightings afterward should hardly be the way we remember Syd Barrett. He may have lost the ability to communicate with his former friends and bandmates, but for a time he continued to speak in hauntingly strange, thoroughly original songs.
This collection of videos comes to us via JamBase.

Monday, October 9, 2017

UC Santa Cruz Opens a Deadhead’s Delight: The Grateful Dead Archive is Now Online

by Colin Marshall, Open Culture: http://www.openculture.com/2012/07/uc_santa_cruz_opens_a_deadheads_delight_the_grateful_dead_archive_is_now_online.html

"They're not the best at what they do," said respected rock promoter Bill Graham of the Grateful Dead. "They're the only ones that do what they do." The band developed such an idiosyncratic musical style and personal sensibility that their legion of devoted fans, known as "Deadheads," tended to follow them everywhere they toured. The Dead withstood more than their fair share of classic-rock turbulence in the thirty years from their formation in 1965, but didn't dissolve until the 1995 death of founding member and unofficial frontman Jerry Garcia. The bereft Deadheads, still in need of a constant flow of their eclectic, improvisational, psychedelic-traditional, jam-intensive sound of choice, took a few different paths: some began following other, comparable groups; some would go on to rely on acts formed by ex-Dead members, like Bob Weir and Phil Lesh's Furthur; some made it their life's mission to collect everything in the band's incomparably vast collection of demos, live recordings, and sonic miscellany.
Grateful Dead completists now have another source of solace in the Grateful Dead Archive Online from the University of California, Santa Cruz. Lest you assume yourself Dead-savvy enough to have already seen and heard everything this archive could possibly contain, behold the newly added item featured on the front page as I type this: Jerry Garcia's Egyptian tour laminate. According to the press release, the archive's internet presence features "nearly 25,000 items and over 50,000 scans" from the university's physical archive, including "works by some of the most famous rock photographers and artists of the era, including Herb Greene, Stanley Mouse, Wes Wilson and Susana Millman." Rest assured that it offers plenty of non-obscurantist Dead-related pleasures, including television appearancesradio broadcastsposters, and fan recordings of concerts. Like any rich subject, the Grateful Dead provides its enthusiasts a lifetime of material to study. UC Santa Cruz, a school often associated in the public imagination with the Dead's greater San Francisco Bay Area origins as well as their penchant for laid-back good times, has just made it that much easier to plunge into.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

VIDEOS: The First Episode of The Johnny Cash Show, Featuring Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell (1969)

by Josh Jones, Open Culture: http://www.openculture.com/2014/03/the-johnny-cash-show-with-dylan-and-mitchell.html

Whether you hate-watched, love-watched, or ignored last night's Academy Awards, you may be tired today of Oscar talk. Take a break, unplug yourself from Facebook and Twitter, and travel with me back in TV time. It’s June 7th, 1969, and The Johnny Cash Show makes its debut on ABC, recorded—where else?—at the Grand Ole Opry (“I wouldn’t do it anywhere but here”). Featuring Cash ensemble regulars June Carter, the Carter family, Carl Perkins, the Statler Brothers, and the Tennessee Three, the musical variety show has a definite showbiz feel. Even the opening credits give this impression, with a decidedly kitschy big band rendition of “Folsom Prison Blues.” This seems a far cry from the defiant Johnny Cash who gave the world the finger in a photo taken that same year during his San Quentin gig (where inmate Merle Haggard sat in attendance).
But showbiz Johnny Cash is still every inch the man in black, with his rough edges and refined musical tastes (in fact, Cash debuted the song “Man in Black” on a later episode). As daughter Rosanne showed us, Cash was a musicologist of essential Americana. His choice of musical guests for his debut program—Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, and Cajun fiddler Doug Kershaw—makes plain Cash’s love for folk songcraft. The appearance on the Cash show was Kershaw’s big break (two months later his “Louisiana Man” became the first song broadcast from the moon by the Apollo 12 astronauts). Mitchell, who plays “Both Sides Now” from her celebrated second album Clouds, was already a rising star. And Dylan was, well, Dylan. Even if all you know of Johnny Cash comes from the 2005 film Walk the Line, you’ll know he was a huge Dylan admirer. In the year The Johnny Cash Show debuted, the pair recorded over a dozen songs together, one of which, “Girl from the North Country,” appeared on Dylan’s country album Nashville Skyline. They play the song together, and Dylan plays that album’s “I Threw it All Away,” one of my all-time favorites.
Initially billed as “a lively new way to enjoy the summer!” The Johnny Cash Show had a somewhat rocky two-year run, occasionally running afoul of nervous network executives when, for example, Cash refused to censor the word “stoned” from Kris Kristofferson’s “Sunday Morning Coming Down” and brought on Pete Seeger, despite the furor his anti-war views caused elsewhere. Ever the iconoclast, Cash was also ever the consummate entertainer. After watching the first episode of his show, you might agree that Cash and friends could have carried the hour even without his famous guests. Cash opens with a spirited “Ring of Fire” and also plays “Folsom Prison Blues,” “The Wall,” and “Greystone Chapel.” And above, watch Johnny and June sing a sweet duet of Dylan’s “It Ain’t Me Babe.”