Archive for the ‘blues’ category


The Act You’ve Known For All These Years

The Hunt For New Music:

“It was twenty years ago today, when Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play”….

Sg. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Lennon-McCartney)

Editor’s Note: Actually, it was 50 years ago that “Sgt. Pepper’s” was introduced in America. In celebration of that event, there are several posts and interesting links to checkout and enjoy about the most celebrated album of our time. 

There is an exact moment when The Beatles started the transition that would move them from their position as the world’s biggest rock band into the dominant cultural and musical influence that they became after “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” was released.

That moment was 29 August 1966, when The Beatles played their last live rock concert, in San Francisco’s Candlestick Park. The stadium was jammed and security for The Beatles was so tight that they had to be taken to the stage in an armored truck. One of The Beatles–looking out at the crowds and chaos that surrounded them–said simply “we can’t do this anymore”.

And after San Francisco, 1966, they didn’t.

As the band grew in popularity all over the world, the music was getting left behind. The screaming at the concerts was so loud that band members couldn’t hear each other, couldn’t hear their own instruments and, individually, they were getting restless–creatively, intellectually, musically. It was time for a change.

Ten months later that change materialized, in the form of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”. It was the first rock concept album, a total break with The Beatles tight and carefully Brian-Epstein- groomed image, a reach in terms of music and technology and instrumentation, a musical composition so complex it could not be performed live and stressed the limits of the then-available recording technology, a very complete break from the past. Those paying attention to the musical evolution of The Beatles knew that their music was changing, becoming more adventurous and complex. It started with “Rubber Soul” and gathered momentum on “Revolver”, an album that provided an early test of some of the concepts and musical ideas (“Eleanor Rigby”, “Tomorrow Never Knows”) that would reach full definition in “Sgt. Pepper”.

To produce “Sgt. Pepper”  took 400 hours of studio time and 129 days–an immense amount of time for that period in popular music, but nothing compared to the amount of time it can take a 21st century band to record an album today. Working for The Beatles was their drive to change, to create, to push the boundaries, along with a team that included their legendary producer George Martin (later and deservedly, Sir George Martin) and recording engineer Geoff Emerick. Working against them was the technology of the day: all analog, a modest four track Studer tape recorder, analog audio tape, the limits of electronic recording technology and techniques of the time.

It mattered not. Through diligence and drive and experimentation–and listening to what each other had to say–The Beatles pushed through, expanded the very limits of what was possible in the studio, turning the studio itself into a musical and creative instrument, not merely a recording device, and produced the album, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band”,  that Rolling Stone magazine has called the great rock album of all time.

At the core of the album’s concept was a step away from all The Beatles had been before and a step into what they would be going forward. Everything changed, from image and dress to composition complexity and musical density. The Beatles, in essence, created a band that could free them from the success and popularity of their past and give them again control over their musical destiny.

It was a risk. A massive, huge, intellectual, financial, business risk. If it went wrong, if their audience didn’t “get it”, if the album failed commercially, The Beatles could easily have been “over”.

But they did not play it safe, and that is the very greatest thing about “Sgt. Pepper’s”. They were fearless and opened a door into the future for themselves and for other bands by expanding the vocabulary of rock music. They elected to toss out the known for the unknown. Brian Epstein–their manager at the time” Sgt. Pepper’s ” was written, produced, and released–proved again to have perfect pitch for what to do and when to do it. Unlike other managers who  might discourage such an adventurous leap, Epstein–admittedly a little bewildered but totally committed to the group–backed the venture.

On June 2nd, 1967, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” was released in the United States. It was released in the “summer of love” and became the background music for a huge cultural change in the United States and the rest of the world. The album was loved, hated, revered, despised, analyzed, deconstructed, misunderstood, applauded.

But–it worked. “Sgt. Pepper’s” changed music and the possibility of rock; it also became the soundtrack the world needed at a time of volcanic change and international unrest.

There is a cost to change–there is always a cost to change. By August of 1967, Brian Epstein had died, the victim of “incautious self-overdosage” according to the English coroner. Friends of Epstein noted that he was worried if his management contract would be renewed, that he had been contemplating suicide for some time, that he knew his value as someone expert in staging large concerts and drawing huge crowds might be less valuable going forward when all the creative work would be done within the confines of the Abbey Road studio; that the band he had nurtured and grown into a worldwide phenomenon had, finally, and with his own urging, outgrown him.

By 1970,  after the release of  “Let It Be”,  it was over, as The Beatles, rich and famous and influential beyond comprehension,  lacking a centering influence (Epstein),  displayed signs of transitional difficulty from being merely the biggest rock band in the world to the dominant creative influence of an era, as infighting and self-absorbed musical and personal directions and personality conflicts mixed in with confused business activities and management, took it all apart.

What was left was the music, and in particular, this one rather spectacular piece of music, that changed everything.

The Fine Print: Image embed courtesy of our friends at Getty Images, who have the photographic history of the 20th and 21st century on file. This image has not been altered in any way. We thank them for sharing.

 

 


The Weekend Concert Series: Chuck Berry

The Hunt for New Music:

A classic to honor a classic: Chuck Berry live at the BBC, in 1972, with Rocking Horse. The camera work is very good (you would expect it from the BBC) and the sound is surprisingly clear (from the soundboard). We lost Chuck Berry this past week but he’s going to be around for quite a while, as his performances and music live on and on and on. Kick this one to the flat screen and run the audio through your sound system. It’s a good one and gives you an idea of the magic that was Berry on stage.

The Fine Print: Embed courtesy of our friends at YouTube, originally posted by Jimmy Saa(thanks Jimmy). All rights belong to their respective rights holders. 

 


Bruce Springsteen Plays Chuck Berry

Paying Attention:

To get an appreciation of how deep Chuck Berry’s influence went, you just have to look at the royalty of rock&roll and their performances of  his music. Here’s a great clip  of Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band doing the Berry classic “You Never Can Tell”. It starts off as rock&roll classic and bumps into a Dixieland tribute to the man at the top of the rock&roll food chain. Kick this one to the flat screen, run it through the stereo, and turn it up.

The Fine Print: Embed via YouTube, from Vevo, (c)2013 Bruce Springsteen. All rights reserved by respective artists, rightsholders. We thank them all for sharing.


Transitions: Chuck Berry (1926-2017)

Paying Attention:

“You know, my temperature’s risin’
And the jukebox blowing a fuse
My heart’s beatin’ rhythm
And my soul keeps on singin’ the blues
Roll over Beethoven and tell Tchaikovsky the news…”
–from Roll Over Beethooven by Chuck Berry
Charles Edward Anderson Berry died on Saturday. He was 90 years old and he was known throughout the world as Chuck Berry. The New York Times published an excellent appreciation of Chuck Berry’s life this weekend. Written by Jon Pareles, it will provide not just the starting point, end point, and specifics of Berry’s life, but also an appreciation of why Chuck Berry was so important to music, specifically rock&roll music.
Chuck Berry was one of the pioneers of rock&roll music. John Lennon said “if you tried to give rock & roll another name it would be Chuck Berry”. The Beatles, like the Rolling Stones, The Beach Boys,  and Nobel Prize winner Bob Dylan all put Berry at the top of the rock&roll food chain. Berry played with Clapton, Keith Richards, Bruce Springsteen.  Chuck Berry songs were frequently on their albums and live show playlists. It was Berry who put the rhythm in rock&roll,combining country and blues and R&B into one new music form,  sorted the chord structure and progressions, insisted on the driving drum and bass beat and the carefully articulated lyrics–the better to drive home the freedom of the message. Chuck Berry was present at the birth of rock&roll. His importance was such that he was in the first batch of honorees to the Rock&Roll Hall of Fame; Keith Richards handled his induction.
It wasn’t just the music that Berry shaped, it was the very soul of rock&roll–the attitude. Berry, in trouble more than once with the authorities, brought a rebellious attitude about life, love, and the importance of having a good time to his music. His songs talked about the driving forces of teenage life in America: cars, love, rebellion, lust, music, yearning, “You didn’t know whether Chuck Berry was black or white. It wasn’t a concern”, said Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones. His message and his voice was  universal and his attitude was perfect for the times and the music. Rock&roll is not the music of obedience; it is the music of rebellion, of push back, of dissent, of freedom.  It was, as my old pal and running buddy Professor Robert O. McAlister, Phd. says, “tire slashing rock&roll”.
On stage Berry was an accomplished, comfortable, energetic, charismatic performer. He was both an artist in performance and a performance artist. Nothing was left to chance: not the way he dressed, the level at which his guitar was strung, the choreography of his moves–the legendary “duck walk” among them–the carefully crafted pompadour hairstyle (Berry went to cosmetology school); the flamboyant sideburns and pencil thin mustache. Berry played with a twinkle in his eye and a smile on his lips, acutely aware of the intimate connection he had with his audience.  He didn’t ease into a show; he blasted into it, setting the tone for the night. His performances were powerful and jumping and joyful–a worship service in the mobile road show temple of rock&roll.
Chuck Berry has gone but he’s still here, present in the music and attitude he created and developed, and in the thousands of musicians he influenced. To get a wider appreciation of Berry’s influence, take the time to go through the Chuck Berry ClickPak below.
Chuck Berry: 20 Essential Songs (Rolling Stone magazine)
Roll Over Beethoven (Slate online)
With essential background provided by the ClickPak, below please find all you need to know about Chuck Berry:a collection of  songs that Chuck Berry left for us, from various performances.
Click through and turn it up.
You’ll feel a lot better if you do.
Johnnie B. Goode
My Ding-A-Ling
You Never Can Tell
Sweet Little Sixteen (intro by Dick Clark..”let’s turn him loose”…got it)
Brown Eyed Handsome Man
No Particular Place to Go
Run Rudolph Run
Back in the USA
Maybelline
Roll Over Beethoven
The Fine Print: Video embeds courtesy of our friends at YouTube. All rights belong to their respective artists. 
 

The Snow Weekend Concert Series: Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Guitar Festival 2004

The Hunt For New Music: It’s a winter weekend. Maybe you’re stuck inside because a blizzard is raging outside. Maybe you don’t want to watch the NFL playoffs. Maybe what you want to watch is a little blues, a lot of Eric Clapton, a bunch of good music played by very accomplished musicians—each of them a guitar ace. That your wish? Here’s your answer: Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Guitar Festival, 2004. The festival was started by Clapton to fund the Crossroads Center  a drug treatment center in Antigua; the very first concert was in 2004. Who will you listen to: Clapton, Buddy Guy, James Taylor, Jimmy Vaughn, Robert Cray, Steve Vai, Joe Walsh, ZZ Top, Carlos Santana. Just listen to the darn thing..you’ll get it. As always, kick it to the flat screen (CHROMECAST works really well), punch the audio through your stereo system(we use big McIntosh amps and Wilson Audio Speakers) and get engaged. A wonderful way to spend an evening or a snowy Sunday.

 

The Fine Print: Embed Courtesy of YouTube. Posted by Remy Tena. All rights reserved by their respective artists. Thank you for sharing. 


Weekend Concert Series: Robert Cray Band

The Hunt for New Music: There’ll be lots of New Year’s Eve Concerts to select from this coming Thursday, but, just to wrap up the Extended Christmas-New Year’s Holiday Weekend, why not a little searing music from blues master Robert Cray and his band. Here, as the final Weekend Concert Series program for 2015 is The Robert Cray Band. As always..bump it to the flat screen (Chromecast works very well), run it through your stereo system (we like big McIntosh amps but Pass, Mark Levinson, and Classe’ will also do the job and pair up with Wilson Audio speakers) and sit back and enjoy the a concert from one of our finest bluesmen. As for what to expect, this  comment from the YouTube post pretty much sums it all up:”Sings like Sam Cooke. Plays like a cross between Buddy Guy and Albert Collins. Perfect.” And so it is. Merry Post-Christmas and Happy Pre-New Year. See you in 2016.

The Fine Print: Embed via YouTube (thanks guys). Original YouTube post by Brother Lebowski (thanks Bro). Cookin’ in Mobile is from a live CD/DVD release by Robert Cray. It was released  on 27 July 2010. The CD/DVD was published through Vanguard Records (support them, please).  The concert was recorded on 21 February 2010 at the Saenger Theater in Mobile, Alabama. All rights belong to their respective rights holders. 


The Weekend Concert Series: The Blues Brothers Live at Winterland, 1978

The Hunt for New Music. The Blues Brothers, a traditional blues/R&B/soul band, began as an comical/music act on Saturday Night Live, inspired by a meeting that John Belushi had with blues singer Curtis Salgado while Belushi was filming Animal House.   In the faux-blues-band-turned-real-live-performers, Belushi performed as “Joliet Jake” Blues (Vocals) and Aykroyd was Elwood Blues(Backing Vocals and Harmonica). The backing musicians for the band were music all-stars: Memphis legends Matt “Guitar” Murphy (lead and rhythm guitar,  who worked with Howlin’Wolfe)), Steve Cropper (lead and rhythm guitar, Booker T & The MGs), Donald “Duck” Dunne (bass guitar, Booker T & The MGs) , Murphy Dunne (keyboards),  Willie “Too Big” Hall (drums, The Bar-Kays), “Blue Lou” Marini  (SNL House band and Blood, Sweat, and Tears),  Alan “Mr. Fabulous” Rubin (trumpet, SNL House Band) , Tom “Bones” Malone (Trombone, Blood, Sweat & Tears) were in the original lineup of the band, but over time another, equally impressive list of R&B and soul musicians and singers played or toured with The Blues Brothers. What started as a musical parody (one of Belushi’s specialities..who can ever forget his imitation of Roy Orbison) turned into a band to be taken seriously, because Aykroyd and Belushi knew the very best way to cover up any of their musical shortcomings (vocals) was to be backed by a powerhouse showband. The Blues Brothers movie was directed by John Landis, who had become a comedic legend for his direction of Animal House.  Aykroyd and Belushi’s commitment to the band and it’s concept was real: they scheduled tours and played dates. By the time the movie was released, in 1980, The Blues Brothers was a legitimate, totally committed and  entertaining musical act. The concert shown here was the last of their shows at Winterland in 1978. It looks like a concert shot in 1978–the lighting is touchy, the staging much less polished than seen today, but the music and performances are very good, exceptional even, and the sound is excellent. It’s a little piece of cultural history. What’s a perfect way to end a hot summer’s weekend? A date with The Blues Brothers, Live at Winterland. As always, bump it to the flat screen, and run the music through the stereo and the big speakers.

The Fine Print: Concert embed via YouTube(thank you). This concert was recorded live at Winterland on 12/31/1978. All rights reserved by their respective artists. 


Weekend Concert Series: Curtis Salgado

The Hunt For New Music. You can find the blues in a lot of places and in the case of this weekend’s concert series, we find it in the form of Curtis Salgado, from Portland Oregon, playing in a Blues Festival in Gaildorger, Germany. You may not have heard for Curtis before, but like a lot of blues, rhythm and blues, and soul singers, he’s paid his dues with a lot of travel and appearance in a lot of bands. Salgado played with Robert Cray for six years and then played the under-the-radar-band Roomful of Blues. He’s toured with Steve Miller and Santana, an indication how respected he is by some of the best musicians of our time.

What you may not know about Salgado was that he was the inspiration behind the Blues Brothers, the famous blues (tribute) band created by John Belushi and Dan Ackroyd. Salgado met Belushi when Belushi was in Oregon filming Animal House (certainly one of the great comedies of all time); the combination of the two personalities created a cult classic film (The Blues Brothers)  and a top selling album (Briefcase Full of Blues).

Salgado was diagnosed with liver cancer in 2005 and a series of benefits were held to help pay for his medical treatment. The guests musicians included Robert Cray, Taj Mahal, Steve Miller, Jimmie Vaughn, Everclear, and Charlie Musslewhite, among others.  Salgado has survived and evolved as one of the great artists of our era. In 2010 he won the Soul Blues Musician of the Year (and won it again in 2012) and in 2013, won the B.B. King Award as Entertainer of The Year.

Curtis Salgado knows the blues, has lived the blues, and can sing the blues. But don’t take my word for it.

Here’s his concert, from 2013 at the Gaildorfer (Germany) Bluesfest. The Full concert is included, so this is not just a single clip.

As always, bump it to the big flat screen (we use Chromecast off of Mac computers ) and through a big sound system.

Turn it on, and turn it up.

Thanks for listening (and watching).

The Fine Print: Embed via YouTube, upload by Marothhel Lehhtoram . All rights reserved to respective rights holders. Thanks for sharing. 


B.B.King ClickPak

Resources and research into the life and music of B.B. King.

B.B. King’s Playlist (Source: Daily Beast.Com)

How I Got My Sound (B.B. King Interview in Rolling Stone) (Source: rollingstone.com)

B.B. King Passing As Reported on BBC (Source: bbc.com)

An Oral History of American Music with B.B. King  (Source: pbs.com)

The B.B. King Museum (source: bbkingmuseum.org)

B.B.King Discography and Streaming Music Index  (Source: allmusic.com)


The Weekend Concert Series: B.B. King Live in Hamburg, 1991

An older performance, Hamburg, 1991, when B.B. King was a mere 65 years old. The video is what you would expect from a concert recorded two and a half generations ago; the music is still stellar. One of the things that jumps out about this concert is that B.B. jumps right into it…..

 

The Fine Print: Embed via YouTube (thank you), originally published in April 2012.