Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Hob Is Love: Oum Kalsoum in the Seventies

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It's the last day of 2013 (thankfully), so let's celebrate someone who was born on the last day of, I dunno... how about 1898? No one (not even the usually-omniscient Egyptian Ministry of Information) is entirely certain exactly what day she was born and there is even conflicting information as to the year (some think it was 1904). There doesn't even seem to be one agreed-upon way to spell her name in English; sometimes you see it as Oum Kalsoum, and sometimes it's Umm Kulthum. But whatever the details, let's call her the Birthday Girl of December 31, 1898 for the purposes of this (thoroughly awesome) collection of a couple of her electrifying concerts from towards the end of her life, dating from the early 1970s and featuring backing bands that are laying down what might be termed Funk Going Down the Nile.
This stuff is so badass. The music is so ecstatic and unique, with the woman who is considered by many the greatest female Arabic singer ever to live embroidering her one-of-a-kind, microtonal stylings over the phattest orchestra this side of the Giza Plateau. It's not funk in the traditional acid-jazz or American soul or hip-hop kind of way... but it's still the P and there's no faking it. This is utterly hypnotic, headshaking stuff here, with songs that sometimes go on for an hour. And you thought "Close to the Edge" by Yes went on for a while... this band makes Prog Rock seem brief by comparison. What amazes is that the songs are so long, but you get so wrapped up in what she and the band are doing that it goes by in what seems like the time it takes for your average three-minute single to play. This is music that distorts the (always-tenuous) temporal plane and takes you on a journey to places you'd never imagine you'd go. And in no way do you have to speak the language to take the ride. If back during her lifetime Billie Holiday had ever played in Egypt, the audience there -- most not speaking English -- would have gone home having understood exactly what the songs were about... Oum Kalsoum is the mirror equivalent, going from Cairo to Cleveland, of that scenario. The Beatles went to Japan and had the kids going bonkers singing along to every song at their shows, even though the vast preponderance of them spoke no Liverpudlian whatsoever. This lady is on that level. She's that transcendent. It's not an exaggeration. I mean it.
What continues to get to me since I discovered this music two decades ago is not just the singing but the accompaniment, which bumps in ridiculously orchestral ways. The whole thing taken together almost sounds like the Arabesque equivalent of Soul music in these parts, in that it's got this religious, gospel-esque aspect, yet the songs are all about romantic love... in the US we sometimes describe it as the music of Sunday morning with the subject matter of Saturday night. This is analogous to that: something like the muezzin's call to prayer in the world of Islam, except the prayers are odes to love remembered and sometimes, love lost. What can I say? Devotion is devotion and these folks are feeling it in every note and every phrase. And you can tell by how nuts the crowd goes when she is doing her thing that they know they are in the presence of an icon of epic proportions. 
 
When they react, you know she is not disappointing them in the slightest. Look out for the audience calling out for the ensemble and The Lady to repeat passages, which they obligingly do... with the vocal weaving a mindmelting improvisational variation on how she sang it 21 seconds or minutes ago. Almost like calling out for requests at a rock show, but instead of the Bud (or bud) fueled "Freebird!" the crowd know when to shout out what part of the song they want next. And unlike when people yell for Lynyrd Skynyrd at everyone from Tears for Fears to Tull in the States, the people at these shows get into this ebb and flow sort of dance with the performers, instinctively finding the appropriate lull at the end of one segment to get their desired feedback instantly at the start of another... the passages come cascading and recascading in an Escher waterfall  -- with the nuanced and perfect variations only the Masters can muster. Repetition as a form of Change, to paraquote the Oblique Strategy card. And all this, over the course of a set that is all one song -- modularly and molecularizingly metastasized in the moment -- into a whole set of its own.
If you've never heard/heard of her, these concerts are a good place to start; they sound the most modern, both in terms of the sound quality and the musical backing. She passed soon after these records were made... they date from 1970-72 and she died in 1975. Clearly, she was in fine voice all the way home, and as I earlier implied many people consider her the top of the tree when it comes not just to female Arabic singers or even Arabic singers, but singers of any kind. I'm not inclined to disagree and these discs illustrate in an indelible and undeniable way exactly why that is.
Oum Kalsoum
Live In Concert, 1970-72


CD1

ومرت الأيام

 We Marret El Ayam
(And the Days Have Gone By)
1970

ظلمنا الحب

Zalamna El Hob
(Aggrieved By Love)
1971

Total time: 1:17:27

CD2

ليلة حب

Laylat Hob
(A Night of Love)
1972

Total time: 59:25

out-of-print Sono Cairo CDs
583 MB lossless FLAC here
312 MB 320K mp3s here
Please enjoy this beautiful music as you ring out the old and bring in the new these next 24 hours, and on into 2014. I wish everyone the best possible New Year and I shall return in the first week of January with yet more sonorous and seductive soundings. If you need someone to blame, just tell 'em it's Nowbodhi's vault but mine ;-)~J.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

In the Hot Sun of a Christmas Day: Greetings from The Gospel-Loving Atheist

Deus homo factus est
Natura mirante
Mundus renovatus est
A Christo regnante

Gaudete! Gaudete!

Hello again and the happiest, merriest and grooviest Yuletidings to each and everyone! I emerge after 4 days and nights beneath the trusty headphones to bring you my gift to any that would receive it: a sort of instant box set, via my own custom-curate and completely crazed imagination, of Christ music. Not Christmas music -- because, let's face it, a lot of folks don't really like it and it tends to have an expiration date of somewhere in the vicinity of December 26th -- but Christ music. Kind of the crossroads where the anciently authentic and the universally unexpected sides of Gospel meet... all brought to you by me, perhaps the most Gospel-loving atheist this side of the River Unsuredan. If Richard Dawkins was a Celtic Caroler... if Christopher Hitchens was a record-counter cratedigger... if Noam Chomsky was a loaded loungy linguist in need of a lozenge in the Christmas chillzone... well you get the idea. I sure hope you do, because I can only manage so much trite and forced alliterative pretension up almost 21 hours on 5 hours sleep.
 
Yes, you read all that right, and anyone who knows me knows I think about as highly of Organized Religion of any kind as I do of that fun-loving atheist a-hole herself, Ayn Rand. Most sermons of any sort, for me, just cause my internal Atlas to shrug and my inner cartographer to cartwheel into confusion and (re)crimination quite quickly. I am much more Bob Dylan than Bob Jones, and firmly believe absolutely in little except that one becomes one's own worst enemy in the instant that they preach. Unless they are on really good psychedelic drugs... I'm always up for a lysergic sermon, even without the actual LSD! Actually the last time I took acid was on Christmas Day, 1991. I walked around the snowy, shoptastic sidewalks of New York City and honestly, even though the stores were closed I felt like I was the only one NOT tripping.
Faith aside, there's a truth beyond belief that can't be denied. Which is that today's most famous Birthday Boy is surely, certainly, absolutely one of the Top 5 social philosophers (in terms of lasting impact, probably Numero Uno) in the history of this species to which we all belong, no matter what our cosmological countenance might be. When I say I love Jesus Christ the Nazarene, a lot of my believer friends often seem puzzled, as if non-subscription to what I'd term the Sky Daddy Deity Mythos somehow excludes acknowledgement of the Divine Discourse laid down a couple of millennia back by The Big J in his Ethos of Eternal Empathic Ecstasy. One need only examine even the most mistranslated and ill-motivated Scripture and when you highlight just the words attributed to JC, you know you're into some of the most right-on rap anyone's ever rocked in any region... and the Dude didn't even need two turntables and a microphone to abide and guide.
I guess I am of the Gandhi gander, in that I LOVE me some Jesus... it's just that some of his followers -- a minority of Christians, certainly, but a real vocal and venal one -- kinda need Him to come back again, if only to let them know that they need to keep His name outta their mouths. But as my good friend Mr. Nic Caciappo (Volume One of today's triptych of tunes is inspired by and dedicated to him) likes to say, that isn't His fault and you could no more blame The Guy than you could blame the abovementioned Mr. Zimmerman (at one time a self-identified Born Again Christian, even!) for Justin Bieber (at one time a pimply Canadian teenager with a YouTube account and way too much free time). Just cuz you're the Alpha and the Omega of something doesn't mean you're responsible for every yahoo that ever subsequently tried on the jacket. We know it: there's a LOT of insistence in our Mammon-motivated world that we touch the hem of the varmint, and that ain't right.... especially for a socialist queer like yours truly that some believers would like to use for target practice twice on Sunday.
I admit I am not much for Christianity as it often tends to come across, but that's just me... and a few million other atheists I guess. But Christ is a whole other story, and His is one Sermon that IMO ought to be Mounted on every wall... in the hopes that maybe someday people will finally get their heads out of paper money's phony, fiat ass and start to comprehend in meaningful and actionable terms for today's world what He was on about in His, and on about it in such a revolutionary way that the authorities took him down (but not out... sorry, Augustus Caesar you toga-toting toady!) as an Enemy of the State. If the state (upper and/or lower case) is one of Imperial dehumanization and hatred and mistrust like Ancient Rome was, well... all I can say is we could use a few more like Him here in today's Empire, gate-crashing the moneychangers' perpetual piggy-party palace to tell 'em all what a great job they're not doing.
What makes Jesus so awesome for me isn't the fear-motivated punishment paradigm that has sprung up after he split, but the eloquence and simplicity with which He stated the case for the observable and basic facts of life, which are pretty simple and direct until we start going along with the Way of the Rival ($atan be hatin') to get along with what we think is survival. For me, treating others as I'd wish to be treated and understanding that what is done to the most vulnerable of us is thereby done to the as-yet-unknowable force that unifies us all, whether we care to recognize that connection or not... that's just good, common sense if you ask me. You could call it God, but that's just too hierarchical and top-down for some folks. For me, to attempt loving without precondition and forgiving and accepting the Humanity of people because of some fear of what, if I don't do it, is gonna happen to me after I stop breathing is wanting the right things for the wrong reasons. I just think the Traffic jam in all of our heads would clear up at the Intellect Interchange if we could just see that Heaven is in our minds. And maybe then we'd find the exit ramp off Dystopia Drive and get onto the Healing Highway the Man from Nazareth wanted so badly for us to travel the long road along to where we belong that he willingly died in a really torturous manner, as a down payment investment on the possibility of that eventual outcome. It Is Finished... but it's only just begun.
Listen to me, I am such a whiny li'l baby... the most preachiest and pedantic non-preacher in the proscenium, aren't I? I'll close by saying that the truth is I would be fine with religion if it would just adhere to one simple and elemental rule: no talking, only singing/musicking. If it's the Celestial you seek, I'd say music -- the Language of Vibration -- is a good place to start by moving the air with more than just the usual caustic heat. I guess this is why I am such an enthusiast of Gospel music and Gregorian Chant (I admit it, I really love Latin when it's sung) and stuff like that, even though I don't believe at all in an anthropomorphized God per se. Here's the Music of the Spheres that calms the fears and steers us clear of mere jeers, dears. I bet if Jesus were alive today and here in the flesh again, he'd make Jimi Hendrix look like Jimmy Hoffa on guitar, you know? Or something like that. You're damn right He had what the great Leonardo de Cohen calls the Blues for the Jews, that's for sure.
All right, enough crazy Christmas crapranting... like I said I dig the scene of the clean Nazarene so serene I made him an audio magazine -- a trinity of them, in fact, each with its own theme -- for His 2013th birthday today. He's not around right now -- except in the hearts and minds of the countless zillions of people (me included) whom he continues to inspire like perhaps no other human ever to walk the Earth -- so in lieu of His return I offer you this solstice Christmas Canticle to enrich this day and all days that lay ahead, whether they are in December or July or in months we don't even have names for yet. This is Christmas music that isn't just about Christmas, but I hope it captures and celebrates some essential qualities of what makes Jesus Christ -- truly a Man for all Seasons, no matter the reasons -- such the superlative Superstar. So thus bedecked with a gay garland, let us servire cantico!
"The Holy Trinity"
 (dedicated to Jesus Christ... who only lived to be 33 1/3, but whose records will never be broken)

CD I
Folke Solstice
(seasonal selections of a kinda Celtic category)

01 Steeleye Span - The King
02 Steeleye Span - Gower Wassail
03 Jethro Tull - Ring Out, Solstice Bells
04 Mike Oldfield - In Dulce Jubilo
05 The Pentangle - Lyke-Wake Dirge
06 Fotheringay - Winter Winds
07 Fairport Convention - Now Be Thankful
08 Kate Bush - December Will Be Magic Again
09 Steeleye Span - The Boar's Head Carol
10 Jethro Tull - Christmas Song
11 Silly Sisters - Agincourt Carol/La Route Au Beziers
12 The Albion Band - Snow Falls
13 The Pentangle - The Cherry Tree Carol
14 The Albion Band - On Christmas Night All Christians Sing
15 Silly Sisters - The Seven Joys of Mary
16 Kate Rusby - Sweet Bells
17 Steeleye Span - The Holly and the Ivy
18 Bert Jansch - In the Bleak Midwinter
19 The Watersons - There Are No Lights On Our Christmas Tree
20 The Pogues & Kirsty MacColl - Fairytale of New York
21 Steeleye Span - Gaudete
22 Jethro Tull - Jack Frost and the Hooded Crow
23 The Watersons - Christmas Is Now Drawing Near At Hand
24 Greg Lake - I Believe In Father Christmas

Total time: 1:19:06


CD II
Christadelic Soul
(where the music of Saturday night meets the words of Sunday morning)

01 Larry Jon Wilson - Canoochee Revisited (Jesus Man)
02 The Meditation Singers - I Love My Jesus
03 Staple Singers - The Savior Is Born
04 Rance Allen - The Jesus Thing
05 Preacher & the Saints - Jesus Rhapsody
06 Rotary Connection - Christmas Child
07 Last Call of Shiloh - Message of the Gospel
08 Sons of Truth - With Jesus You're Free
09 James Austin - I'll Take Jesus for Mine
10 Gospel Comforters - Jesus Will Help Me
11 Edwin Hawkins - Jesus, Lover of My Soul
12 The Doves - The Lord Is My Shepherd
13 The Southerners - Jesus Is Real to Me
14 Larry Norman -  Why Don't You Look Into Jesus
15 James Brown - Santa Claus Go Straight to the Ghetto
16 Al Green - Jesus Is Waiting
17 Ray Charles - Heaven Help Us All
18 Cannonball Adderley - The Black Messiah

Total time: 1:18:28


CD III
Tranquilitrinity
(a mellowish mix and possible fix for the Happy Holidays Hangover's kicks)

01 Aaron Neville - Ave Maria
02 The Roches - The Hallelujah Chorus
03 Caetano Veloso - In the Hot Sun of a Christmas Day
04 Agape - The King Is Christ
05 Alison Moyet - The Coventry Carol
06 John Prine - Christmas In Prison
07 Sam Cooke & the Soul Stirrers - Jesus Paid the Debt
08 Cyndi Lauper - December Child
09 Phil Keaggy - King of the Jews
10 All Saved Freak Band - Christmas Song
11 June Carter Cash - Follow Me
12 Crystal Gayle - What Child Is This
13 Miles Davis & Bob Dorough - Blue Xmas
14 Stompin' Tom Connors - Down On Christmas
15 Eartha Kitt - Santa Baby
16 Art Garfunkel - O Come All Ye Faithful
17 Presence - God Is Love
18 The Velvet Underground - Jesus
19 Wilson McKinley - He
20 Willie Nelson - Pretty Paper
21 Brian Dunning and Jeff Johnson - Christ Child Lullaby
22 Tom Waits - Silent Night/Christmas Card from a Hooker In Minneapolis
23 David Bowie & Bing Crosby - Peace On Earth/Little Drummer Boy
24 Dan Penn - Prayer for Peace

Total time: 1:18:37

get the lossless FLAC files here (1.3 GB)
get the 320K mp3s here (531 MB)

I wish you all the very best on this special day and of course the most exemplary 2014, 15, 16, 17 and on and on ad infinitum In Excelsis Deo.

Reddens laudes Domino!

Peace, Love, and Lux Aeterna,

--J.

Friday, December 20, 2013

A New Day Yesterday: Happy Tullaversary!

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Usually we do celebrations of a birthday, or a memorial for someone who has passed away. Today, I am pleased to report, is a bit different; for today we celebrate the birth of a band. Yes, December 20th, 1967 is a notable day for any number of reasons: NASA's Mariner 4 probe left the orbit of Mars, Mexican actress Eugenia Caudoro was born, and US President Lyndon Baines Johnson began a tour of the Far East. But any of these milestones pale by comparison to the real news, for it was on this day the legendary band Jethro Tull was formed by vocalist/flautist Ian Anderson and bassist Glenn Cornick in Luton, UK.
Taking their name from the 18th Century inventor of the seed drill, they added guitarist Mick Abrahams and drummer Clive Bunker and set about carving out the hard-driving progressive blues sound that would characterize their initial recordings. Gradually the personnel shifted as they moved away from the straighter blues style into a more eclectic territory encompassing jazz improvisation and classical motifs, as well as a more distinctively harder-rocking vibe. All of this was characterized by their singer, who was archetypically found at center stage, perched on one leg and blowing on a flute, then a most uncharacteristic instrument in rock.
After several further personnel changes, they eventually evolved into one of the most popular bands of the 1970s, creating monumental LPs like Benefit, Aqualung, Thick As a Brick and Warchild. By the time of the concert performance presented here, they were mere days from releasing their tenth studio record, the folk-rock masterpiece Songs from the Wood... no surprise then that the setlist features a good deal of tracks from that album. Taped on a night where Anderson was suffering from the flu -- before the gig he famously remarked that the doctors had told him he couldn't sing tonight, so it would be too bad for the audience the following evening, wouldn't it? -- this near-pristine capture from the mixing desk finds the band on fine form in front of an enthusiastic Manchester Apollo audience ready, willing and eager for some prime Tullification. They did not, I suspect, go home disappointed.
Jethro Tull
Apollo Theatre
Manchester, Lancashire, UK
5 February 1977

CD1
01 Wond'ring Aloud
02 Skating Away On the Thin Ice of the New Day
03 Jack-In-the-Green
04 Thick As a Brick
05 Songs From the Wood
06 Instrumental/Drum Solo
07 To Cry You a Song
08 A New Day Yesterday
09 Flute Solo
10 Living In the Past
11 A New Day Yesterday (reprise)
12 Velvet Green

CD2
01 Hunting Girl
02 Too Old to Rock'N'Roll
03 Beethoven's Ninth Symphony
04 Minstrel In the Gallery
05 Aqualung
06 Guitar Solo
07 Wind-Up
08 Back Door Angels
09 Wind-Up (reprise)
10 Locomotive Breath
11 Land of Hope and Glory
12 Back Door Angels (reprise)

Total Time: 1:51:01

Ian Anderson - vocals, flute, guitar
Martin Barre - guitar
John Glascock - bass guitar, vocals
Barriemore Barlow - drums
John Evan - keyboards
David Palmer - keyboards, saxophone

master soundboard cassette
remastered as "Down to Earth" by the Progressive Rock Remaster Project (PRRP 054)
 610 MB
So please do enjoy this treasure from the vaults and let it enrich your chilly morning as you go Skating Away on the Thin Ice of this blustery winter's Friday... hopefully there's a cup or two of the Crimson Wonder in your future as well, just to warm the inner reaches like we hope this little foray into Tullavision 1977 will accomplish.

Oh yes... and Happy 46th Birthday, Jethro Tull!!!!

Friday, December 13, 2013

The Indian National Anthem: Floyd Red Crow Westerman, 8.17.1936 - 12.13.2007

video
and I told them if they pollute the sky
man would have to move into the sea
they didn't listen
send the Task Force down from Washington
to check out their complaint
the Indians are unhappy
and they're puttin' on the 'paint
in a world without tomorrow
in a world that cannot last
in a world without tomorrow
my friend, that day is on its way
my friend, that day is comin' fast
for the lie that was spoken
for the blood that we have spilled
for the treaties that were broken
for the leaders you have stilled
where were you when
we needed you, our friend?
where were you when
we needed you to bend?
so now you claim to be
part Sioux or Cherokee
but where were you when
we came close to the end?
goin' back to find my past
and maybe peace of mind at last
leave me alone
can't you see I'm goin' home?
Floyd Red Crow Westerman
Perception recordings, 1969-70

Custer Died for Your Sins (1969)
01 Custer Died for Your Sins
02 Missionaries
03 World Without Tomorrow
04 Goin' Back
05 35 More Miles
06 Red, White and Black
07 Where Were You When
08 Here Come the Anthros
09 They Didn't Listen
10 Task Force
11 B.I.A.

songs based on the writings of Vine Deloria, Jr.

Indian Country (1970)
12 I Still Miss Someone
13 Nobody Knows
14 I Heard That Lonesome Whistle Blow
15 Me and Bobby McGee
16 Jambalaya
17 San Quentin
18 Folsom Prison Blues
19 Anita, You're Dreaming
20 Busted

an album of classic covers of songs by Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, Sr., Kris Kristofferson, Waylon Jennings, The Dillards and Ray Charles

 Floyd Red Crow Westerman - voice and guitar, lyrics
John Trivers - bass
Bob Abrahams - lead guitar
Jerry Shook - harp and dobro
Pete Drake - pedal steel guitar
Barry Lazarwitz - drums
Jimmy Curtiss - guitar, backing vocals, lyrics

Total time: 52:49
vinyl transfers from original Perception LPs by EN
277 MB
Kanghi Duta (Lakota Sioux for Red Crow) left us 6 years ago today, and it seems the world has only gotten more fucked up and dystopic since. Coincidence? Listen to these exceedingly rare LPs on Perception, from the Golden Age of the American Indian Movement, and decide for yourself. Suffice to say that no one rivals the résumé of this man, from commanding the silver screen in mega motion pictures (Dances with Wolves, The Doors) to star turns on television (he is the central figure in what many consider the greatest episodes of The X-Files), to his main work as an activist for Native American rights, environmental sanity and oh yeah... did I mention the music? These records are among my favorite recordings by anyone, and I have 16 TB of music so that's not something I say frivolously. The idea that these may never be reissued -- Floyd had to rerecord the first one in 1982 just to get the publishing rights back, making him one of the first artists to attempt this now-common copyright-retrieval process -- makes me just shake my head in terminal disgust, but at least we have these vinyl transfers I did, from near-mint LPs, back about 10 years ago. 
There is no human being more influential on me than Red Crow, it's that simple. These long-out-of-print records are a big piece of why, and if you don't get them immediately you're just willfully missing out. --J.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Sadness or euphoria? Why not both?

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Here comes another anniversary special!!! It's interesting to have so much archival, unreleased music that if I wanted to, I could pull out a different, vintage concert for each and every day of the year... I guess at some point it came down to a choice between music and heroin, and I had the marginal sense to choose the former. Anyway I remember listening to this concert on WNEW-FM when it happened... I was all of 11 years old!!!! My how time flies. This show took place not that far from where I grew up on Lawn Guyland, east of New York City. Thirty-six years later and it's still one of the best-sounding "bootlegs" of all time -- in fact it's essentially indistinguishable from a real live record in all the important ways: incredible sound, fantastic live mix by the person at the desk, wild performance in front of an utterly boisterous hometown crowd. Even Bill's jokes and impressions are on top form, including a spot-on Paul Simon spoof. All this, plus the soundcheck! In case you were ever curious about what the Nassau Coliseum sounded like empty, when there were no other rock stars (or New York Islanders hockey folk) around.
This is Billy Joel at the absolute apex of his initial mega-fame, fresh off the breakthrough of "The Stranger" (which was the big record at the end of 1977, with the single "Just the Way You Are" -- since then, the theme song for approximately ten million weddings -- burning up the charts like a butane torch). The album and the single went to #2 and #3 respectively -- his first (of many) top tens of any kind -- and firmly ensconced their creator in the firmament of music superstars.
I'll be honest... I'm a tad ashamed to admit it but I really dug this guy's records until he married the supermodel lady from National Lampoon's Vacation. After that, yikes to the power of ohnopleaseno... talk about a nosedive in career trajectory. I remember standing in line to see a movie -- it might have been Raiders of the Lost Ark but I really don't remember exactly -- at the Syosset UA 150 theater when I was about 15 or so and he and Christie Brinkley were waiting in line as well, with all the New Yorkers falling all over themselves trying to act like they weren't noticing them there. My most distinct impression at the time was that she was at least 3 heads taller than her husband. One of the funny things we used to do in high school was to retitle his previous songs declaring his eternal love for his first wife Elizabeth to be revised in favor of his new wife -- i.e. "You Used to Be My Home," "Just the Way You Aren't" and "She's Always a Woman, Until I Make Some Money and Marry Someone Hotter". We were cruel little bastards, weren't we?
Back then a favorite teenage hangout spot was the external grounds of his big glass house in Cold Spring Harbor... the one on the cover of that record, you know the one. Many of my first beers were consumed on that patch of grass, which was directly north of where we grew up, in the most aptly-named suburb in the history of white flight: Plainview, NY. Please try to control your undoubtedly intense (and thoroughly justified) feelings of savage, primal jealousy about where I spent the early 1980s. I'll still be here after the next picture, when you've calmed down a little.
So don't let your (admittedly well-founded) biases against "Uptown Girl" and "We Didn't Start the Fire" deter you from this excellent holiday season set. Particularly notable is the performance of sax guy Richie Cannata -- it's 1977, so forgive me if I detect that there may have been a few "snow flurries" in the dressing room before the show -- who frenetically blows his brains out with maximum enthusiasm on various reeds, including a very tasty soprano sequence at the outset of the "Italian Restaurant" song about the not-so-steady Brenda and Eddie. Guitar maestro Steve Khan, who played on "The Stranger" LP, joins in on one of the encores as well.
Billy Joel
Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum
Uniondale, NY
11 December 1977

CD1
01 Soundcheck/Introduction
02 The Mexican Connection
03 The Stranger
04 Somewhere Along the Line
05 Summer, Highland Falls
06 Piano Man
07 Scenes from an Italian Restaurant
08 Travelin' Prayer
09 Movin' Out (Anthony's Song)
10 Still Crazy After All These Years
11 Just the Way You Are
12 Prelude/Angry Young Man
13 New York State of Mind

CD2
01 The Entertainer
02 Vienna
03 Root Beer Rag
04 She's Always a Woman
05 I've Loved These Days
06 Miami 2017 (Seen The Lights Go Out On Broadway)
07 The Ballad of Billy the Kid
08 Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
09 Captain Jack
10 Say Goodbye to Hollywood
11 Only The Good Die Young
12 Get It Right the First Time
13 Souvenir

Billy Joel - piano, Fender Rhodes, lead vocals
Richie Cannata - saxophones, flute, harmonica, keyboards, backing vocals
Frank Vento - guitars
Doug Stegmeyer - bass
Liberty DeVitto - drums
Steve Khan - guitar on "Get It Right the First Time"

Total time: 2:09:11
WNEW pre-FM master reels
786 MB
I'm gonna start getting away from this type of Classic Rock stuff on this page as time progresses here... the posts will get more esoteric, but for now it's good fun to hop in the time machine 36 years back to the winter of 1977/78, when I was but a pre-pubescent 11-year-old lad, huddled in his room on a chilly December evening in Queens Village, NY (we didn't move to LI until April of 1978), with a transistor radio tuned to WNEW. Enjoy this one -- it wasn't taped off the air, but transferred from the original station reels that they played on the air, so it sounds as awesome as it's possible for these decades-old things to sound -- and I'll be back in a couple of days with a special treat in honor of one of my biggest inspirations (musical or otherwise) ever :)
--J.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Well! Frankie and Johnny at the Fillmore

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I have to admit, these death anniversaries get wearisome. I'd much rather post this on someone's birthday, the intention being that we remember them as they were in the full flower of life rather than to dwell upon the (more often than not tragic) circumstances of their leaving. This one is of course no exception, but it being such a heavy date in history I am gonna do it anyway.
We all know what transpired, so there's no need to go into it here. Both these men were gone from us way too young, but not before leaving recorded legacies that will endure for as long as people are born with ears... so I guess we're good for a while. Frank Zappa died 20 years ago from prostate cancer on 12/4/1993 and John Lennon was assassinated 33 years ago tonight. This brief-but-amazing slice of film stock originates from one of the two times they shared a stage -- this time at the old Fillmore East on 2nd Avenue at East 6th St. in New York City, where John and his life partner would emigrate only a few months after this concert took place on June 5, 1971.
This jam session apparently happened because Yoko Ono insisted that she and John do it... so all you anti-Yoko partisans out there can take a seat for a moment. I'm sure some will find this footage just one more reason to vitriolically bash her, but who cares? Early or late, the haters will hate. For my part, I'm one of those mad heretics that admires her music as much as I do his, so if you like you can gather some dry timber and burn me at the stake if it makes you feel better and validates your hard-won (and, in my opinion, deeply misogynist and not-a-little racist) stereotypes. What some hear, for example, as cacaphonous caterwauling on the opening version of Walter Ward's "Well!" (aka "Baby, Please Don't Go"), I hear as a running scream-singing commentary -- an unsugarcoated depiction of real feelings -- on the sound of your soul when your baby goes after you plead with them please on bended knees not to. So we be free to agree to disagree, if necessary.
In case you're wondering, this 24-minute encore sequence was indeed recorded at the legendary Mothers shows that produced the infamous Fillmore East - June, 1971 LP; yes, the one that contains the even-more-infamous "Mud Shark" story about what can happen when rock bands get bored out on the road and find themselves in hotel rooms with lots of down time, several willing young female groupies and one or two unusual sea creatures. When I dug it out and watched it I was struck by how much I liked the music, even though such loose jam sessions rarely produce anything of lasting interest and are usually just about the unique historical value and so forth.
Whatever the case, it's a fascinating document, filmed by none other than Bill Graham himself from the balcony of the Fillmore and dubbed with the soundboard audio later on. Of course it's a bit on the grainy side, given its vintage and the one-camera, somewhat primitive 16mm setup, but that doesn't detract from the fun and controlled sense of mayhem that much. Honestly it's kind of hilarious watching Frank spring the whole thing on his band, who have no idea what's about to happen or what they are going to be playing until he calls out the key of A Minor and away they go! No offense to the young man from Canada, but you just don't find such spontaneously collaborative goings-on at a Justin Bieber concert these days.
John Lennon & Yoko Ono with Frank Zappa & the Mothers of Invention
5 June 1971
Fillmore East
New York City, NY

01 Well! (Baby, Please Don't Go)
02 Say Please/King Kong/Jamrag/Aaawk
03 Scumbag

Total time: 24:29
NTSC DVD, sourced from first generation SVHS tape transferred from original master 16mm film

John Lennon - guitar, vocals
Yoko Ono - bag, vocals
Frank Zappa - guitar, vocals
Howard Kaylan - vocals, tambourine
Mark Volman - vocals, tambourine
Bob Harris - keyboards
Don Preston - Minimoog synthesizer
Ian Underwood - keyboards, alto sax
Jim Pons - bass, vocals
Aynsley Dunbar - drums
Obviously these two guys are sorely missed and I'm sure there will be more than a few tributes today to the fallen Beatle, as there most certainly should be. FZ's birthday is coming up on 12/21 and we are of course a few days into Zappadan -- the fan-invoked feast commemorating his life that runs from the 4th through the 21st -- so I couldn't dream of a more appropriate post to put up. Please enjoy this humble offering in fondest remembrance of two of the most adored, prolific and rightfully revered musicians of our lifetimes... or anyone else's, really. --J.