Monday, August 21, 2017

Titans of the Clash

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I'm really sick for weeks with a dastardly sinus infection that's got my ears in airplane mode, but I'm dropping by to fire off a 65th birthday post about a rare muso who truly mattered, and still does.
He was born in Turkey this very day in 1952, and by 1976 he was altering the DNA of the world as the leader of perhaps the most credible and beloved band of all time.
See, once upon a time, music mattered to the larger social construct of the world. When I explain to younger people that the battle lines between folks were once largely determined by musical identifications, they often look at me like the kids in Charles Schulz's Peanuts looked at their teacher.
The idea that a band could matter -- or be referred to as "the only band that matters" -- is an anachronism of a bygone age. But 40 years ago, almost everyone looked to one group for the hard truths and sobering assessments.
For it was then -- across a bloated landscape of dinosaur Rock and Prog pomposity, with arenas and hockey rinks the world over filled with stoned hipsters rawking out to their Spinal Tap heroes -- came lurching the greatest and moat lasting of the Punk bands, dead set on kicking the Dead Set through the goalposts of Hippie Hell.
Has their been a more authentic Rock band since they split up in the mid-1980s? Hard to say... only hip-hop has provided anything in terms of true stylistic innovation and 100% realness since.
Whatever the specifics or opinions, we can all agree there will never be another group like The Clash, and there will never be another messenger like Joe Strummer. Even now, 30+ years after their demise, there simply is no substitute.
They arrived in 1976 from a UK plunged headlong into the darkness of recession and rampant unemployment, and you could argue that they more than any artists served to document England's descent into the vile, top-down austerity of Thatcherism.
Eventually the Punks turned on them, as they drifted further from their original, raw sound into all sorts of diverse musical territories. And it all terrorized the Tories, too.
Their tours are ultra-legendary... a 1981 run in Times Square in NYC -- at the old Bonds International Casino -- had to have a month of dates added to accommodate the galactic demand.
The early 1980s saw them splinter apart, with Joe insisting upon a return to Punk basics and his co-leader Mick Jones eager to explore as many different genres as they could learn. Both had other, beloved groups, with Jones fronting Big Audio Dynamite and Strummer the Mescaleros. But their most Earth-shattering output came as part of The Clash.
It's almost impossible to believe that Joe is gone 15 years already, or that he only lived to be 50. But some folks pack centuries into decades, and are remembered for their contributions eons after they depart. Joe Strummer is as firmly in that category as any musician of the last 50 years.
To mark the occasion of what would have been the man's 65th b'day, I have placed cloudward an excoriating 41 minutes of vintage Clash, taped for French TV in 1980 and provided here as a PAL DVD sourced from a pristine rebroadcast in the 2000s.
The Clash
Palais des Sports
Paris, France
2.27.1980

01 Jimmy Jazz
02 London Calling
03 Protex Blue
04 Train In Vain
05 Koka Kola
06 I Fought the Law
07 Spanish Bombs
08 Wrong `Em Boyo
09 Stay Free
10 Janie Jones
11 Complete Control
12 Garageland
13 Tommy Gun

Total time: 41:18

Joe Strummer - guitar & vocals
Mick Jones - guitar & vocals
Paul Simonon - bass
Topper Headon - drums

PAL DVD of a 2006 Europe2 rebroadcast
1.21 GB here
I recall back to being a teenager and hearing The Clash for the first time in about 1978, my cousin having acquired their second apocalyptic blast of an LP, Give 'Em Enough Rope. To say I was hooked and hooked fast would be an understatement, and I remember distinctly when their triple-album masterpiece Sandinista! hit and my adolescent ass rolled to Sam Goody for the vinyl.
Yes, the Sharif may not like it -- he thinks it's not Kosher, after all -- but today is a day to celebrate the great Joe Strummer. So I hope you pull down this brilliant footage and find time to do so. This, because in these dark times London is still Calling -- decades hence -- and shows little sign of sinking into silence.--J.
8.21.1952 - 12.22.2002

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

King Harvest Has Surely Come

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Hello again and welcome to my first post in ten days, commemorating the death of an icon -- perhaps the icon -- of American culture 40 years ago today.
There's no need to explain to anyone who Elvis Presley was, or how his advent in the 1950s completely altered the DNA of the culture of the Earth.
Obviously his decline and demise are the stuff of legend, and he didn't make it close to 50 years old. What most people don't realize is that he toured up until the very end of his life in 1977, and that his voice never left him, even as his shape and his senses did.
Just look at that blue rhinestone ensemble! It almost seems like he has an angelic halo around him. Is it a Quaalude haze the camera is picking up? Or is he truly an higher dude? I mean, Public Enemy told me he was simple and plain, and I respect their opinion. We may never know the truth.
It matters not; 40 years after he OD'd on the toilet in Graceland, he's still considered one of the formative figures of the music of our age. If you had a dime just for every 1950s English teenager that started playing guitar because of him, you could buy the next British Invasion.
Did I mention he could rock a cape? It might have been an extra large cape, but a cape it was. At the start of the 1970s he followed a decade of inactivity and self-imposed irrelevance with a three-year series of comeback tours, where he performed at what many feel was the peak of his powers.
Today's share dates from the last of those tours, and supplies the never-issued soundtrack of the Elvis On Tour documentary from 1972 which turned out to be his last big movie. It's basically an unreleased live record, recorded by a mobile truck and sourced from a nicely-remastered bootleg CD.
Elvis Presley
"Blue Owl In Greensboro"
Greensboro Coliseum  
Greensboro, North Carolina 
4.14.1972
 
01 "Also sprach Zarathustra" intro
02 C. C. Rider
03 Proud Mary
04 Never Been to Spain
05 You Gave Me a Mountain
06 Until It's Time for You to Go
07 Polk Salad Annie
08 Love Me
09 All Shook Up
10 Teddy Bear/Don't Be Cruel
11 Hound Dog
12 Heartbreak Hotel
13 A Big Hunk O' Love
14 Bridge Over Troubled Water
15 Suspicious Minds
16 Love Me Tender
17 band introductions
18 For the Good Times
19 American Trilogy
20 Burning Love
21 Release Me
22 Funny How Time Slips Away
23 Can't Help Falling In Love
24 C. C. Rider
25 Proud Mary
26 Can't Help Falling In Love
27 Never Been to Spain
28 Lawdy Miss Clawdy

Total time: 1:17:07
Tracks 24-28 are bonus rehearsal tracks from March of 1972

Elvis Presley - vocals & guitar
Glenn Hardin - piano
Charlie Hodge - guitar and vocals
Jerry Scheff - bass guitar
Ronnie Tutt - drums
James Burton - lead guitar
John Wilkerson - rhythm guitar
The Sweet Inspirations - backing vocals
Kathy Westmoreland - backing vocals
JD Sumner & the Stamps - backing vocals
orchestra conducted by Joe Guercio

bootleg soundboard sourced & remastered silver CD, "Blue Owl In Greensboro" on the Inferno label
486 MB FLAC here
This is a truly smokin' show, with ace guitar deity James Burton in particularly stratospheric form and a whole building full of soaring background choir vocalists. The horns are burning too, and several of the songs -- holy Swamp Fox, the cover of Tony Joe White's Polk Salad Annie comes to mind -- aren't shy about funkin' hard, it being 1972 and all.
Anyway this one ain't lost a step in its 45 years, and has it really been four decades since I came home from PS 188 and plopped down at the kitchen table to watch Match Game '77, only to see the news flash about what happened to him? Pull it down and let it be your teddy bear today, and as you do, take a moment to remember rock-n-roll's once and future King, who left the building for good on this day in 1977!--J.
1.8.1935 - 8.16.1977

Sunday, August 06, 2017

The Lincoln Memorial

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I return on the sunny Sunday side of the street with a birthday homage to one of the all-time plush vocalists.
I posted a seminal video of her and her equally-as-legendary husband a few Januarys ago, but today is her day so I am going to revisit their extraordinary partnership.
Beginning in the mid 1950s and proceeding through a nearly 60-year career as not just one of the era's pre-eminent singers, but as a respected activist and actress as well, she left us in 2010 as one of the most singular and identifiable songstresses we'll ever see.
I have loved her since I was 11 years old, when we had "record recess" once a week in the listening library at elementary school -- a glass-walled room full of turntable stations with headphones -- and I selected the Civil-Rights-themed We Insist! record she made with her aforementioned partner in 1960.
Yes, I was a shit-stirrer even before puberty... I think the week before I discovered her, my choice was the then-current Animals by Pink Floyd, ripped from tomorrow's headlines and inspiring Trumpen Proletariat idiots to walk out of Roger Waters' current tour dates ("He's too political!!! Waaaaaaaahhhhhh!!!!!!") even now.
But back to the task at hand, and what would have been the 87th birthday of Abbey Lincoln. Nobody was more "political" in the stormy, seething Sixties than she and her then-husband, himself merely one of the most revered drummers in human history. Their passel of records from that decade stands the test of time as some of the most potent cries for Freedom emitted in those insistent times.
I go on and on til the break of dawn on this page about instrumentalists and vocalists where you know who it is by one note or phrase, and that categorization fits no one better than this lady. There could be no mistaking who was singing when Abbey Lincoln opened her mouth. Seven years after her departure, there still isn't.
Equal parts Soul and Swing, with a side of righteous sass in her delivery that almost demanded you open your ears and let Justice come in, there will never be another Abbey. No vocalist ever made the plea for equality sound more effortless, normal or natural.
To commemorate the occasion of her 87th, I have popped cloudward an absolutely stunning concert of her and her partner Max Roach that dates from Paris 50 years ago. I worked a little on the audio, which is from a France Musique rebroadcast from last year, to make it sound as optimal as the material deserves.
Abbey Lincoln & Max Roach
Studio 104
Maison de la Radio
Paris, France
5.19.1967

01 Right Now
02 Lonesome Lover
03 I Feel Thinking
04 Africa
05 C'est L'Homme
06 radio announcement/Up Jumped Spring
07 Prelude
08 When Malindy Sings
09 Triptych: Prayer/Protest/Peace
10 Sunday Afternoon
11 Sunday Afternoon (reprise)

Total time: 53:22

Abbey Lincoln - vocals
Max Roach - drums
Johnny Griffin - tenor sax
Maurice Vander - piano
Gilbert Rovère - bass

master digital FM capture of a 2016 France Musique rebroadcast, minimally remastered by EN
290 MB FLAC here
Indeed I dusted off this hourlong gem of a concert and spruced up the highs a bit, which sounded lacking to me, using Sound Forge 9's Graphics Dynamics tool. That was all, other than moving the full radio announcement to the start of Track 06 and titling/tagging up the files like I always do, so you iTunes folks can be stress-free.
It starts off with just the band, with a wailingly wicked drum solo from Max and a shredding tenor visit from saxmaster Johnny Griffin slotting into the first tune. Then Ms. Lincoln hits the stage and the fever is ramped up to just south of sweltering from there. Anyway you slice it, this show is as good as it gets... pull it down and never forget the thoroughly unforgettable Abbey Lincoln, born this day in 1930 and in no danger of being lost in the shuffle.--J.
8.6.1930 - 8.14.2010

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Hidden Handy: Indian Summer of '79

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After almost two weeks unblogged, I have resurfaced with a gorgeous and criminally undercirculated gem of a concert that is celebrating its 38th birthday today.
If you don't know the name of John Handy, you should... he's only one of the greatest musicians to walk the Earth during our lifetimes. He started out in the early 1960s with Charles Mingus and proceeded to go out on his own, lighting up the Monterey Jazz Festival of 1965 with certainly one of the most incredible ensemble performances in the history of Jazz, which was later issued on one of the genre's most revered live records.
This concert is just as transcendent, and dates from the late 1970s and Handy's second Seventies World Fusion project to feature legendary Indian sarod player Ali Akbar Khan. While their 1972 collaboration was mostly a duo, this show features as all-star of a band as you could put together.
Yes, this is a quintessential quintet JH has got onstage with him, with Brazilian guitar visionary Bola Sete, tabla deity Zakir Hussain and violin master L. Subramaniam rounding out the ensemble. When Handy finally got around to making a record of this project in 1980, a couple of the players had moved on.
Yes, this one was taped for National Public Radio on this very day in 1979 and boyo, whatta performance. As I was saying, Zakir Hussein and Bola Sete did not make the session for the one 1980 LP this group made, so their presence here makes a special hour of music even more special, composed as the lone piece was especially for this, this group's debut concert.
I remastered this powerful hour of entrancement a bit, hoping to make it about the very best it can be. I did little revision of the sonics, except to work on the slightly dull low end (in the tablas especially) and overall just bring the soundstage to the fore, as it was sort of flat sounding and a bit lifeless in terms of heft and fullness. I used Sound Forge 9 Graphic EQ and Graphic Dynamics tools for the fattening, and if I do say so now it sounds nearly indistinguishable from an official release.
John Handy's Rainbow
Great American Music Hall
San Francisco, CA
7.27.1979

01 John Handy interview and radio intro
02 Rainbow
03 radio outro

Total time: 1:00:45

John Handy - saxophones
Ali Akbar Khan - sarod
Zakir Hussain - tabla
L. Subramanian - violin
Bola Sete - guitar

master reel of a "Jazz Alive" pre-recorded FM broadcast from National Public Radio (U.S.A.), remastered by EN
372 MB FLAC here
This is, as I said, an hour of lilting, drone-slithering power, reminiscent of John McLaughlin's Shakti but not entirely as chops-focused as that group, and this Handy dandy quintet captures an organic vibe not unlike something, say, Don Cherry might mastermind. Anyway I thought it deserved a birthday refresh session, so I did the deed...  pull it on down and groove to it endlessly!--J.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Ode to Joy

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The weekend brings a tasty birthday post, all about someone who didn't live awfully long yet who made a very significant impact.
He committed suicide two months shy of his 24th birthday a long time ago, in despair, among other factors, over the clandestine affair he had been having and terrified of hurting/losing his wife and their then-newborn daughter.
The band he helped start only made a handful of records while he was alive, all of them among the most beloved and influential of our lifetimes.
When he passed, his bandmates decided to carry on in a different, more purely electronic direction. Then they became one of the most influential groups ever, all over again, in their new domain.
Certainly one of the most unusual and uniquely, darkly riveting frontmen of any band ever, his broodingly paranoid lyrics, often amelodic speech-singing style, and spasmodic stage dancing cast a tremendous shadow, even now almost 40 years since his demise. More than one film has been made about his tragically short, but hugely impactful, life.
Listening back to the 90 minute live compendium I put together to honor what would have been his 61st birthday today, I can't help but be struck by how dangerous and unhinged he sounds, and how his hyper-intense, commanding style of performance couldn't help but become iconic because it wasn't an act.
I remember at the beginning of the 1980s, hearing Joy Division first come on WLIR-FM in Garden City, NY. Obviously Love Will Tear Us Apart was all over those airwaves back then, but I remember being most captivated by his ballad -- one of the only non-punkish, mellow JD tracks -- called Atmosphere.
That track, with its repeated plea to not walk away, sounds like it's about the extramarital situation that eventually contributed to him ending his life. It never has failed to reduce me to instant, blubbery tears from the first time I heard it in around 1981.
Not that that was the only reason he took that final step... there was also the mental illness from which he suffered -- and the increasing epileptic fits, which he feared might curtail or end his ability to perform -- plus the terror he apparently felt about Joy Division becoming big enough to have been on the eve of departing for their first US tour at the time, in 1980.
This is all water under the bridge, because for 23+ years Ian Curtis lived. And whilst he did, he left traces and tracks that will live on long after all of us are gone from this place. Joy Division -- still probably the most famous and adored of the Post Punk bands -- became New Order post-Curtis, and set about inventing modern electronic Rock music as we know it.
There isn't an awful lot, in terms of high-quality archival material, of the former, as they only existed for about three years. Of course they were taped from the audience a whole bunch of times, but most of those dubs, unfortunately, sound like they were recorded by a tin can positioned roughly four city blocks from the stage.
Luckily there are a few radio sets that got captured back in the day, several of them issued at the start of the 2000s in incomplete, somewhat shoddily-produced form. One in particular remains -- stunningly -- unissued officially, with an incorrectly-tracked, inferior sounding bootleg box set from 2001 its only above-ground appearance thusfar.
Even luckier, there five years ago surfaced in trading circles the (nearly complete) pre-FM reels of this performance -- recorded for Dutch radio -- and oh my goodness, is it the Holy Grail of JD shows as was always advertised.
For inclusion here, I have substituted the opening track (on the pre-FM tape it's a very incomplete fragment) from another oft-bootlegged French radio concert from three weeks previous, as well as bonus material from an infamous gig -- in which the band's equipment temporarily malfunctioned -- in the UK a month later. All three component performances that form my little mashup have been meticulously remastered by an audio-expert Joy Division obsessive, and are likely to be the best-sounding form in which these incredible documents may ever circulate.
Joy Division
live in Europe
1979-80

01 Passover
02 Wilderness
03 Digital
04 Day of the Lords
05 Insight
06 New Dawn Fades
07 Disorder
08 Transmission
09 Love Will Tear Us Apart
10 These Days
11 A Means to an End
12 Twenty Four Hours
13 Shadowplay
14 She's Lost Control
15 Atrocity Exhibition
16 Atmosphere
17 Interzone
18 Colony
19 Incubation
20 The Eternal
21 Warsaw

Total time: 1:31:11

Tracks 01 & 18: Les Bains Douches, Paris FR 12.18.1979 fage FM remaster
Tracks 02-17: Paradiso, Amsterdam NL 1.11.1980 surfling pre-FM "Definitive Edition" remaster
Tracks 19-21: The Warehouse, Preston UK 2.28.1980 fage FM remaster

disc break goes after Track 11

Ian Curtis - vocals
Bernard Sumner - guitar, keyboards, vocals
Peter Hook - bass
Stephen Morris - drums
engineered by Terry Mason

an assortment of fan remastered pre-FM and FM captures
553 MB FLAC here
I truly cannot believe the Amsterdam, France and UK FM broadcasts of this utterly iconic and thoroughly uncompromising band are not available commercially from the most pristine sources, but that's the music industry for you on any day ending in "y". No matter, for that's what I am here for --  to fill in the gaps the suits are either too profit-motivated or too stupid to make right.
Ian Curtis -- surely one of the most beloved and imitated singers in all of Rock history on the basis of a mere three years of recording and performing activity -- deserves not one bit less, if you ask me. He was born this day in 1956 and didn't even make it to 1981, but as I said what he expressed and how he expressed it can never, ever die... not as long as people are still listening. I hope this hour-and-a-half of irreplaceably coruscating music helps keep you listening.--J.
7.15.1956 - 5.18.1980

don't walk away
in silence