Trying To Get To You

Friday, June 29, 2007

Bootleg Friday: Al Green, 1973

For this week’s installment of “Bootleg Friday,” I’m breaking out the heavy artillery. It’s Al Green from the WNET-TV special “Soul.” It’s a monstrous performance, taped in early 1973, prior to the July release of his best album, Call Me. Green’s on-stage mastery is breathtaking, as he explodes the versions of his hits and transforms them into unstoppable and transcendent locomotives. Notice the incredible intro to “Tired Of Being Alone,” the fiery and expanded version of “Love And Happiness,” and a genius cover of the Carpenters “We’ve Only Just Begun” that segues straight into a titanic “Let’s Stay Together.” (Only Al Green could imagine the Carpenters in the realm of soul.)

When you listen to this, realize that you’re listening to an artist at or near the peak of his powers. James Brown in ’66, the Stones in ’72, Aretha in ’68, etc. Long live the Reverend Al!

Download: "Tired Of Being Alone" (Live, January 1973)
Download: "You Ought To Be With Me" (Live, January 1973)
Download: "Love And Happiness" (Live, January 1973)
Download: "We've Only Just Begun ->Let's Stay Together" (Live, January 1973)

Thursday, June 28, 2007

A GREAT band

Jesus...the Faces were just unbelievable.

First, a colossal version of the Temptations "I'm Losing You."



Then an incredible version of their one hit, "Stay With Me." Notice the incredible groove the band had.



If Kenney Jones was known just for the Faces, and not his unfortunate time in the Who, he might be better recognized for being such a great drummer.

Of other note. The weirdish looking guy dancing in the wings - that's Brian Eno.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Marc Broussard Gets Back

I’ve been watching Marc Broussard since he got signed to Island Records over four years ago. The first time I saw him was at an audition for Island when I was doing A&R there. There were about forty people crammed into a rehearsal studio in midtown Manhattan. Marc opened with an a cappella version of Bill Withers’ “Who Is He And What Does He Mean To You” and the hair on my arms stood up (something that happens about 1 in a 100 times at a label showcase) as Broussard nailed it, singing it powerfully and passionately, referencing the original, but making the song completely his own. The rest of the showcase was a blur to me, but when I was asked my opinion about whether we should sign him, I was a vehement “yes.”

Marc released a fine debut album, Carencro, in August of 2004, and spent the following year on tour supporting it and building an increasingly enthusiastic fanbase. Watching a performer develop in front of your eyes is an incredible thing, and each time I saw Marc play, his command onstage - of both himself and the audience, was growing exponentially. He was able to use his entire band as an instrument in itself, fleshing out a couple of the more static pieces on record into tour de forces live, infusing them with humor and drama. And he walked onstage with a swagger that hearkened back to the soul men of the 60’s and 70’s; flashing a megawatt smile, Broussard carried himself like a star, even if the rest of the world hadn't gotten the news yet.

After recording an album for Island that was left unreleased, and winning his release from the label, Broussard has just released S.O.S.: Save Our Soul, a collection of covers of soul classics from the 60’s and 70’s by Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Otis Redding, Bobby Womack, the Pointer Sisters, Al Green and others. While the album is a stop-gap measure in between original albums (and labels), it also serves as a way for Broussard to return to his roots before charting his next musical course.

Broussard’s voice is in fine form, and the material is more than second nature to him – it’s music that is in the core of his being. Unfortunately, the album plays most of the material too safely. A little too faithful to the originals, Broussard sounds good, but is missing the joy, ecstasy and risk from his live shows that would transform these covers into something more than what they are, which is enjoyable. Broussard is a singer with considerable edge, and that edge is rarely present here – and that's unfortunate, because he’s much better when he’s being bad than when he’s being good.

The grand exception to this is Broussard’s version of Donnie Hathaway’s “I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know.” A lesser-known song than most of the others on the album, and perhaps because there's less of a legacy to live up to with it, Broussard owns the song. Finding a home in the sparseness of the arrangement, Broussard makes the love that he sings about tangible and present – and puts in a depth and drama that’s authentically his own, making it the transcendent moment on the album.

Marc Broussard still has all the ingredients needed to be a star – a great voice, loads of charisma and a musicality that’s in his blood. I’m eager and curious to see where he goes next with his next album of original material. What I believe will provide the difference for Broussard is a willingness to take more musical and emotional risks as well as quitting being so nice, and putting the swagger back front and center. Soul men may be vulnerable, but most of the great ones only show you their soft side after they’ve established that they’re a bad motherfucker.

Buy S.O.S.: Save Our Soul at Amazon

Download: "I Love You More Than Words Can Say"
Download: "Just Like That" (7/23/03, Birmingham, AL)

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Roy Orbison Singing For The Lonely

For whatever reason, I woke up with Roy Orbison's voice in my head. There isn't a better voice to wake up to.

The clip is from Roy's 1987 comeback special featuring a veritable "I've died and gone to heaven band," featuring Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello, Tom Waits, Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt, a very young KD Lang AND guitarist James Burton, bassist Jerry Scheff and drummer Ronnie Tutt, all who played with Elvis in the 60's and 70's.

The video is a treasure - Roy's voice never wavered, even after 30 years, and the clip is filled with the joy of the players. Look for Springsteen's final cue to bring the band back in - it's priceless. Even Tom Waits can't help but grin.

Monday, June 25, 2007

(Not) Missing The Police

I won’t be going to see the Police. And to be honest, even beyond the outrageous ticket prices, I’m not particularly interested in seeing them. Sure, I grew up with them, and like everyone else in the summer of 1983, I loved “Every Breath You Take,” along with some of their greatest hits and a few album tracks. But for me, they never quite reached the upper echelon of rock greats. I always found something missing in their music, namely an emotional depth and resonance as well as a willingness to go beyond their own intelligence to reach something primal. (“Every Breath You Take” is the great exception to this – it’s when Sting went beyond his own pretentions to get real with what a nasty bastard he is.)

The one time I saw them live was at the Amnesty International Conspiracy of Hope tour at Giants Stadium in 1986. U2 proceeded them, and absolutely killed, playing a titanic show. (It was the show, along with Live Aid the previous year that clued everyone in who was there that U2-mania would soon be upon us.) So when the Police followed by playing an extremely polite version of several greatest hits, I, along with most of the stadium, was immensely underwhelmed. I was so unimpressed with their set that I didn’t listen to them for a few years after that show. (Ironically, I really enjoyed Sting’s 1988 tour supporting Nothing Like The Sun.)

So when I got a copy of last weeks show at the Staples Center in L.A., I listened out of curiosity. Would this be a band staking a claim for themselves as one of the all-greats, or would they be just another nostalgia cash in? I think the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Listening to the show, what I sense is of is an incredibly competent group of professionals playing for the fun and challenge of it, with the desire to give the audience a nice evening out and to reconnect with one another. That may be enough for the people attending, but it’s not enough to make me care, and in listening to the show, I feel confirmed in my belief that I’m not missing a thing.

Oh, and in retrospect, I realize that the thing that was missing from the Police’s music was soul.

Download: “Message In A Bottle” (6/20/07, Los Angeles, CA)
Download: “Invisible Sun” (6/20/07, Los Angeles, CA)
Download: “King Of Pain” (6/20/07, Los Angeles, CA)
Download: “So Lonely” (6/20/07, Los Angeles, CA)

Friday, June 22, 2007

Bootleg Friday: Keith Richards - Toronto, 1977

This week’s installment of “Bootleg Friday” contains one of my favorite bootlegs ever. It’s a Keith Richards solo session from Toronto in March of 1977, recorded shortly after he was busted for heroin and couldn't leave Canada. It’s an incredibly beautiful session – just Keith accompanying himself on piano, with Ian Stewart adding support. Every song is an incredibly well picked cover including songs from George Jones, Hoagy Carmichael, Fats Domino, Merle Haggard and Jerry Lee Lewis, and it exhibits that above all, Keith Richards has exquisite taste in music. Keith’s vocals are sweet, delicate, heartfelt and completely soulful – he gets completely inside each song, and makes each one feel like an autobiography of sorts.

*Note: Keith’s reputation may be that of the rock n’ roll outlaw, but beneath his swagger lays a chivalrous gentleman. I’ll never forget the sight of seeing him play at Joey Ramone’s Christmas party at Life in NYC. He was backing up Ronnie Spector and when he came onstage, he got down on one knee, took Ronnie’s hand and gently kissed it. Then he plugged in a Gibson ES-355 hollow body and tore into Chuck Berry’s “Run Run Rudolph.” It killed, and it made every other band I saw that year seem superfluous.
Download: "Say It's Not You" (George Jones)
Download: "Don't" (Written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller for Elvis Presley)
Download: "Blue Monday" (Fats Domino)
Download: "Sing Me Back Home" (Merle Haggard)
Download: "The Nearness Of You" (Hoagy Carmichael)
Download: "Whole Lotta Shaking Goin' On" (Jerry Lee Lewis)
Download: "All I Have To Do Is Dream" (Everly Brothers)

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Freddie King - "Have You Ever Loved A Woman"

Thanks to our dear friend Greg (aka, "The All Star"), we found some great Freddie King footage from Sweden in 1973. Just watch it - and then please write in to tell me what a great player Jack White is.

The Magic Of Freddie King

Yesterday I got a wonderful Freddie King (no relationship to B.B. or Albert King) radio show from Dallas in 1975, roughly 18 months before his death at the age of 42. For those of you unfamiliar with Freddie, he was one of the seminal bluesmen of his generation; his influence on musicians, from Eric Clapton and Leon Russell to Led Zeppelin and Keith Richards was vast. (You can particularly hear his influence in Clapton’s playing.) (Read Freddie’s bio here.)

For me, Freddie’s music transformed my relationship to the blues, a form that for whatever reason had begun to occur for me as a cliché. But the second I heard “Help Me Make It Through The Day” (written by Leon Russell and linked below), I fell in love, and it rekindled my love of blues. In Freddie’s playing and singing you can hear the sense of loss that is at the heart of the blues, but you also hear an incredible swagger – all with a big, warm hearted smile. Freddie played big – his love of poker is immortalized in Grand Funk Railroad’s “We’re An American Band," (he cleaned Grand Funk out) and although he didn’t live a long time, he lived while he did. He was, and remains, an American treasure.

Buy Freddie King at Amazon

Download: “Help Me Make It Through The Day” (produced and written by Leon Russell)
Download: “Goin’ Down” 3/31/75, Dallas, TX
Download: “Big Legged Woman” 3/31/75, Dallas, TX
Download: “Early One Morning” 3/31/75, Dallas, TX
Download: “What’d I Say”

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

A Note On Files

I had to take the Amy Winehouse acoustic files down due to bandwidth issues. Sorry for the inconvenience or disappointment.

Fun piece in The Guardian today. Several musicians taking on "classic" records that they'd be happy never to hear again. Some very well written missives. I especially enjoyed the comments about Pet Sounds, the Stone Roses and the Strokes.

Is It Just Me?

Or does the White Stripes "You Don't Know What Love Is (You Just Do What You're Told)" sound an awful lot like Bad Company's "Shooting Star" in the verses?

Download: Bad Company - "Shooting Star"
Link to White Stripes: "You Don't Know What Love Is (You Just Do What You're Told)"

Monday, June 18, 2007

Which Looks Like More Fun?


I took this photo in Coney Island yesterday. The juxtaposition of the two images was priceless. Hmmmm...Mermaid Parade or the U.S. Army? Decisions, decisions...

The Most Beautiful Love Song Ever?

Last week, I was listening to the live Stevie Wonder tracks that I posted for this past week’s installment of “Bootleg Friday.” When “You Are The Sunshine Of My Life” came on, I wondered to myself, “Has anyone written a more beautiful love song?” So I started wracking my brain, trying to come up with what I could reasonable say might be the most “beautiful love song ever,” and I think I’ve got it.

Sam and Dave’s “When Something Is Wrong With My Baby” (written by Isaac Hayes and David Porter) wins my vote for most beautiful love song because it acknowledges that the measure of love isn’t taken when things are going great – it’s taken when life is dealing it’s harshest blows. It also wins my vote because of the overwhelming beauty of the arrangement (played by Booker T and the MG’s) and Sam and Dave’s vocals, which complement each other so perfectly that it’s beyond words.

I’m giving you three different versions of the song. The first is the original, released in 1966 on Atlantic. The second is a live version from Stockholm, Sweden in 1967. Notice on that version how slowly the song is played and how it gives Sam and Dave so much room for their gospel inspired vocal improvisations. Listening to Al Jackson Jr.’s drumming on the track is a revelation; it seems almost impossible to play that slowly and still maintain a groove, but he does it, and does it incredibly. Finally, there is a version from 2003, from Bruce Springsteen’s holiday show with the Max Weinberg 7, where Sam Moore performed and pretty much stole the show. This is from the third night of a three night stand – all I can say is that I was at the first night, and hearing it that first night was probably one of my top five moments in seeing live music out of hundreds and hundreds of shows. Utterly sublime - so good I cried.

Download: "When Something Is Wrong With My Baby" (studio version)
Download: "When Something Is Wrong With My Baby" (5/2/67, Stockholm, Sweden)
Download: "When Something Is Wrong With My Baby" (12/8/03, Asbury Park, NJ w/Bruce Springsteen)

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Sunday Morning Jazz Brunch

No commentary necessary - just download and enjoy. If the songs are gettin' to you, I urge you to buy the albums they're on - they're all sublime.

Roy Hargrove - "Greens At The Chicken Shack"
Lester Young - "I've Found A New Baby"
Sonny Rollins - "Hold 'Em Joe"
Cannonball Adderley Quintet - "Bohemia After Dark"
Eddie Harris - "Sham Time"
Lou Donaldson - "Blues Walk"
Hank Mobley - "Peckin' Time"

* Note - half of these files are in AAC format, so you will need iTunes to play them. (But who doesn't use iTunes?)

Friday, June 15, 2007

Bootleg Friday: Stevie Wonder, 1974

On today’s installment of Bootleg Friday, we have selections from Stevie Wonder’s incredible January 31, 1974 Innervisions tour performance at the Rainbow Theater in London. This performance is rumored to have been recorded for use as a live album, but as the story goes, the recording wasn’t of a high enough quality to use. You’ll never know that listening to these tracks. What you will hear is an artist at his peak, in full enough command of his material that he can break past the limits set by the recorded versions. You’ll hear extended versions of “Living For The City,” “You Are The Sunshine Of My Life” and “Superstition.” While the jams aren’t always spot on, what you get is a sense of the energy of the performance and the idea that every person playing has a sense that they’re in the middle of making history.

Download: "Don't You Worry 'Bout A Thing" 1/31/74, London
Download: "Higher Ground" 1/31/74, London
Download: "Signed, Sealed, Delivered" 1/31/74, London
Download: "Living For The City" 1/31/74, London
Download: "You Are The Sunshine Of My Life" 1/31/74, London
Download: "Superstition" 1/31/74, London

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Trying To Like Ryan Adams

Update: 6/18/07 - This article about Ryan in the New York Times did not help matters much for me.

Why don’t I give a damn about Ryan Adams?

On the surface, he’s always seemed like an artist that I would love. Earthy, somewhat rootsy but not retro – a rocker who’s obviously loved and learned from the greats, whether they be Keith Richards, Gram Parsons or Paul Westerberg. He is charismatic and committed to rock as something much more than entertainment, just like artists I love such as Pete Townshend and Bruce Springsteen.

But I just can’t seem to get into him.

I first saw Ryan play in the summer of 1995 at the Mercury Lounge when he was just starting out with Whiskeytown. I was just beginning my first A&R scouting job at Elektra Records, and I watched the show next to Seymour Stein (Whiskeytown was getting heavy attention from the A&R community). Ryan was absolutely kinetic in leading the band, and if the songs didn’t occur for me as anything too great, he seemed like a star in the making. I turned to Seymour and said, “This guy’s got it.”

But when I got the Whiskeytown albums, I listened and just kind of shrugged. And for the last ten years, every time a Ryan Adams album comes out, I get it, wait and hope to love it, and I end up shrugging once more. I’ve had people write me to tell me what I’m missing, listing songs I need to hear by him, but none of them have left any real impression. And seeing him live has been hit or miss - and with each miss, my patience with him has grown thinner.

So now I’m listening to Easy Tiger, the new Ryan Adams album, and it sounds nice, but once again, I’m left wondering if there’s something I’m missing, because this just ain’t doing a damn thing for me. It sounds lovely enough, and one song, “Halloween Head” is connecting with me, but the rest…well, as the Four Tops once sang, it’s the same old song.

Buy Easy Tiger at Amazon

Download: "Halloweenhead"

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Dear Amy Winehouse

Dear Amy,

Well, that was quick. You’re already on the cover of Rolling Stone. And Spin. Your album continues to do incredibly well and you’re getting love from everyone – whether it’s the hip-hop community or whites in the 40’s who rarely get into new artists. I can’t go into downtown Manhattan without seeing young women who’ve got your look, with the hair, the super dramatic eye makeup, tight jeans and stilettos. (The look has my full approval, for what it’s worth.) For you, I’d say it’s pretty much an unqualified triumph.

Still, as someone who really believes in your talent, I can’t help but be a little concerned. Reading the Rolling Stone article, all I got was a sense of your personal life and your whole schtick – the drinking, the possible drugs, the up and down relationship with your hubby, etc. That schtick has been a big part of your story – the bad girl, the Femme Fatale, etc. I read about it before I had even heard you late last year. It's a great hook and it no doubt helped get you to the point that you’re at now. But Amy, now is the point where that schtick of yours is threatening to take over the music. I hear that at your shows, people are now encouraging you to drink, encouraging you to play into your image. Don’t indulge them. Both the media and some of your fan base are going to want you to play that crap up because it sells papers and magazines and people get to live their rock n' roll fantasies through you. But you’re an artist, not a goddamned circus freak, and remember that while those people might be your “fans,” they may turn out to be your worst enemies. And also, you don’t have time for that shit – it’s not like your show couldn’t use some improvements.

You’ve got real talent – you’ve got a wonderful voice, and you’re one of the few singers of the past few years that possess both technical skill and the ability to convey many emotional dimensions (lust, regret, doubt, fun, rebellion) simultaneously. It’s why so many people are responding to you so intensely. In a world where Kelly Clarkson is taken seriously as an artist, your music has shown that it’s possible to be an artist of substance and commercial success. You’ve got a gift and opportunity to make a real contribution to music – please don’t blow it on all the clichéd bullshit. You've got a lot of people rooting for you.

Best,
Ben

Download: “Love Is A Losing Game” (Acoustic) From AOL Sessions
Download: “Rehab” (Acoustic) From AOL Sessions
Download: “Valerie” (Acoustic) From AOL Sessions
Download: “You Know I’m No Good” (Acoustic) From AOL Sessions

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Unfashionable Romance Of Mink DeVille

If you read any of the well known books about the New York City punk scene of the 70's, you won't find too much written about Mink DeVille. They were one of the house bands for CBGB's during it's 1977 heyday, but lead singer Willy DeVille's aesthetic was too romantic to be canonized alongside the cooler, artier and more nihilistic acts like the Ramones, Television, Blondie, the Dead Boys, Richard Hell and the Voidoids and Talking Heads. Willy DeVille was holding out for romance while his CB's cohorts were thinking apocalypse.

In Mink DeVille's music you heard the echoes and influence of Phil Spector, songwriters like Doc Pomus and Atlantic R&B acts like the Drifters and Ben E. King. Where the harder punk bands established all instruments except guitars, bass and drums as effete, Mink DeVille had no problems using tympani that sounded like it had been taken from "Save The Last Dance For Me." It was soulful in a time and place where soul occurred as an anachronism that had long since gone out out of fashion. For that, they were courageous; but that courage didn't ensure that they would get the recognition they deserved.

Willy DeVille continues to record and tour.

Buy Cadillac Walk: The Mink DeVille Collection

Download: "Spanish Stroll"
Download: "Mixed Up Shook Up Girl"
Download: "Cadillac Walk"

Monday, June 11, 2007

Regular Ol' Crackers

I can’t help but think of this clip when I listen to the new White Stripes album. (Actually, I can’t help but think of this clip when I listen to pretty much ANY White Stripes album.) In a climate starved for truly grand and great rock n’ roll, the White Stripes’ “regular ol’ crackers” have been somehow confused with greatness. I don’t think they come close. Icky Thump is another pretty good record chock full of somewhat forgettable songs, undistinguished riffs and monotonous drumming. Jack White may have a great rock n’ roll voice, but it’s one-dimensional; it conveys nothing but it’s own sound, and lacks the tenderness, depth and presence to be truly moving. It ain't got no soul. I’m sure the album will be hailed as a magnificent return to form - but to me, this is just another signifier that we’re starving for the real thing – and that we’ll take an imitation to ward off the starvation.

And that means more saltines, no Ritzs.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Sunday Morning With Lou Rawls

I've always loved Lou Rawls' voice. Smooth and rich, it was a thing of real beauty. I only really knew him from his hits, like "You'll Never Find A Love Like Mine." I recently got a wonderful compilation of his, The Capitol Jazz & Blues Sessions, of which I am posting a few songs. It's perfect Sunday morning music.
Sinatra said of Rawls that he had "the classiest singing and silkiest chops in the singing game." That kind of says it all. He was one of those singers that veered a little too close to the middle of the road to get the kind of critical adulation that artists like Otis and Aretha did, but if you're interested in beauty, you need to acquaint yourself with him.

Buy Lou Rawls The Capitol Jazz & Blues Sessions at Amazon.
Lou Rawls at a glance on Amazon.

Download: "Something Stirring In My Soul"
Download: "God Bless The Child"
Download: "Nobody But Me"
Download: "Goin' To Chicago Blues"
Download: "So Hard To Laugh So Easy To Cry"

Friday, June 08, 2007

Bootleg Friday: Otis Redding, 1967

I am announcing a new segment on A Deeper Shade Of Soul: Bootleg Friday, where I will be posting several songs from a great live bootleg. I've been putting up a bunch of live music already (and will continue to do so whenever it is called for), but I like the idea of having a special day for it.

Today's selection are taken from the great Otis Redding bootleg compilation A Soupcon of Soul, recorded at various points in 1967. With all the hubbub about the 40th anniversary of Sgt. Pepper, what is being ignored is that 1967 was the year that Otis Redding broke through to a new (and white) audience. His performance at the Monterey Pop Festival in June of '67 stole the show, and he was taking his music into new directions that would culminate into his final and greatest single, "(Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay," recorded a couple of days before he was killed in a plane crash in December of 1967. It would be his only #1 single.

Download: "Your One & Only Man"
Download: "Pain In My Heart"
Download: "These Arms Of Mine"
Download: "I Can't Turn You Loose"
Download: "A Hard Day's Night"
Download: "My Girl"
Download: "Shake"
Download: "Try A Little Tenderness"

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Terry Tolkin On The Afghan Whigs

One of the best things about doing a blog is occasionally reconnecting with people I haven't seen or spoken with in ages. After my Afghan Whigs post last week, I reached out to their former A&R man, Terry Tolkin, via MySpace. He got back to me and sent me some very illuminating (and suprising) stories and comments about his time with the Whigs. I'm happy to say that Terry is doing well; living in Oklahoma, working on family properties and writing his autobiography, which will be great. I read a few excerpts from it last week, and it's a fascinating story.

(Posted with Terry's permission)

I went over to your blog and it really made me laugh! You know, the Whigs were the only band that I ever signed that I never was totally in love with. Eventually I became good friends with Rick Mccollum. But Kras (Bob Krasnow, former head of Elektra) wanted a SubPop band and having saved that label from extinction in 1985 by infusing cash from my then employer Caroline (early attempt by Branson at a Virgin USA) I was able to pull that off. They were going broke putting out Catbutt and Bloodsport records. I never did like Greg though. And it did turn out to be a hugh mistake not dealing with an act that you truly loved.

I did not retire for "Personal reasons" (a euphemism for drug addiction) though. I took a seemingly enormous settlement to end my 5 year contract early. I could see the writing on the walls by then. Sylvia Rhone was an idiot. I got her to make me a VP by simply telling her that Kras was about to do it before he left and she fell for it. After one to many " I am in direct contact with the Aliens" conversations with new head of A&R Nancy Jeffries, I took the money and ran. I ran so far away...to Hollywood FL. where I bought a 35' sportfish boat that I lived on and became a SCUBA diving instructor. After a couple of years of teaching that it started to ruin my love of diving so I gave it up and started spearfishing commercially.
Then last December my Grandfather died and left us a bunch of rental properties here in Stillwater OK. that no one knew he had. Since I am the only bum in the family (no mortgage,wife or kids that I know about) I got sent here to tidy it all up. I was born in Kansas and most of my family lives here.

Do you remember that one off issue of the fake fanzine "Fat Greg Dulli" ? I supplied Yvonne Garret with the unflattering photos of him and she wrote it and put it out. Greg spent months trying to figure out who did it!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

So Good You Could Cry

I found this yesterday. Derek and the Dominos doing Chuck Willis' "It's Too Late" (from Layla) on the Johnny Cash show in either 1970 or 1971. As far as I'm concerned, Derek and the Dominos were Clapton's greatest moment by far; it is when Clapton's music became blues AND soul based, and you can hear that soul in Eric's vocal and even more so in the incredible backing vocals by Bobby Whitlock.

And if that's not enough, out comes a bad ass Carl Perkins to do "Matchbox" with Clapton AND Johnny Cash. It's difficult to believe that this all happened on a network TV show. Seeing the utter joy and freedom in their playing, and knowing that each of the three men fought off their demons before, during and after this was taped - well, I find it pretty goddamned moving.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

It's Official: I'm A Sugar Daddy

I've got a blog post up today on Elastic Waist, a website about women, weight, fitness, food and "other fixations." It was a fun piece to write; it's always a pleasure to write of the wonders of women. (Especially during the summertime.) I feel a little bit weird that they called me "Soul Brother Number One," since that title obviously belongs to James Brown, but what the hell, maybe I can borrow it just for today.

Arcade Fire Live In Portland

The reviews I’ve read on the Arcade Fire’s current tour have been so incredibly glowing that I have to admit, I’m really curious to see them again and I have been listening to their music anew. I saw them once in late 2004 in New York and liked them, but apparently, they’ve taken their performances to new heights. I’ve recently read some things from hardcore music fans I know that are talking about the Arcade Fire’s show as though it’s one of a handful of the best shows they’ve ever seen. And these people aren’t indie rockers – they’re people who have been going to shows for over 20 to 30 years.

So in that spirit, here are some tracks from the Arcade Fire’s May 27th performance in Portland, OR. The sound is very listenable, if not perfect, but you do get the vibe of the show, the happy delirium of the crowd, the kinetic energy of their performance and the great intro tape they’ve got going. I’m still not ready to proclaim them the second coming, but I’m getting a lot more open to what they’re bringing to the table. Is it possible that this is one band that is worthy of all the hype? I'll believe it when I see it with my own eyes and hear it with my own ears, but at least next time, I'll be coming in a little less skeptical and cynical.

And maybe the real question is this: Does the Arcade Fire have soul? Signs are increasingly pointing to yes.

Download: “Intro” 5/27/07, Portland, OR
Download: “Keep The Car Running” 5/27/07, Portland, OR
Download: “No Cars Go” 5/27/07, Portland, OR
Download: “Black Mirror” 5/27/07, Portland, OR
Download: “Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)” 5/27/07, Portland, OR
Download: “Wake Up” 5/27/07, Portland, OR

Monday, June 04, 2007

Alice Russell

It’s rare that I hear a new voice that captivates me, but late last week, I heard one that does. The voice belongs to Alice Russell, a UK soul singer who has recorded with several British electronic bands, released her own solo album and is due to record with Massive Attack. Her voice is one of the best things I’ve heard in a long while – check her out.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Weird Scene Inside The C Train

This past Thursday night, I was taking the C train home. The train car was basically empty except for a young guy in his 20's who was singing something softly to himself while he twirled around the poles in the subway car. He had longish blonde hair, an unkept sandy goatee and he looked a little, well, crazy. I was taking my iPod out of my bag when I heard a familiar melody coming from his lips. I couldn't place it at first, but then I heard a familiar line, "I've got God on my side/And I'm just trying to survive," and I realized that the guy was singing Springsteen's "Devils & Dust." It was kind of weird, because the guy was so young and in addition, "Devils & Dust" is far from one of Bruce's better known songs.

I couldn't help myself.

Me: "Singing some Bruce?"
Him: (looking up, very surprised) "Yeah! How did you know that?"
Me: "I'm a big fan. I know the song well...I was a little surprised to hear someone singing that song."
Him: "It's a great album. I'm a big fan. I always sing that song when I'm in a good mood."
Me: "Really? It's not a song I associate with being in a good mood, but cool."

So then my new friend sat down next to me, and for the next two stops, proceeded to tell me that he was a stand up comic and had just secured his first gig in a while, that it was testament to his newly found sobriety and that he now felt like he was on his way. I couldn't help but notice that the guy had a sort of weird electric energy about him - the kind of guy who as Hunter Thompson once wrote, "has abandoned all hopes of ever behaving normally." A true character.

He got off the train very soon after he sat down with me. We shook hands, smiled and wished each other luck.

Download: "Devils & Dust" 6/20/05, Paris, France
Buy Devils & Dust at Amazon

Friday, June 01, 2007

Black Love

The other day, while reading Pitchfork, I came across their review of a new Afghan Whigs retrospective. I found myself fascinated by the review – it had been years since I had even thought of the Whigs or Greg Dulli, and it brought back a lot of memories.

I started working in the record business full time in 1993, at Elektra Records. It was a great label then – eclectic in taste, spanning the gamut with artists such as Metallica, the Breeders, 10,000 Maniacs (who I couldn’t stand then, and still can’t), Tracy Chapman, Bjork, Brand Nubian, Motley Crue and more. It was absolutely an elitist label, filled with dedicated people who really believed that they were doing better work than their competitors at the other major labels. I loved being there utterly and completely.

1993 was the high water mark of the post-Nirvana era. It still seemed possible that any sort of weird, left-of-center band had a real chance of breaking it big. (Bands like Candlebox and Better Than Ezra were about to arrive, but we didn’t know that yet.) In the fall of that year, we were enjoying lots of success with the Breeders “Cannonball,” 10,000 Maniacs' cover of “Because The Night,” and the first Bjork album, Debut. In that environment of heady possibility, Elektra Records was very, very excited about the arrival the Afghan Whigs first album for the label, Gentlemen.

The Afghan Whigs were signed to the label by a true character, Terry Tolkin (MySpace link discovered today). Terry, to my 23-year-old self, was cool personified. He had an impeccable alt/punk resume; it seemed like he knew everyone who was anyone and it was even said that he introduced Thurston Moore to Kim Gordon. He was really great to me – we would go out to lunch on occasion and talk about our mutual love of Neil Young, 70’s British punk and the Dead (and he told me about all the closet Dead fans in the New York alt/punk scene). I was absolutely committed to doing A&R, and Terry gave me lots of advice – the main piece of which was that there was no one path into doing A&R and that I had to scam it myself. Terry had also recently signed Stereolab and Luna to the label, and when we would talk, he was absolutely committed that all of those bands blow up. “I want every band I sign to be the biggest band in the world,” he would say. He really believed it was possible, and his enthusiasm, along with my willingness to suspend my disbelief in his presence made me believe it was possible too.

There were huge expectations for Gentlemen, and the hype in the building was tremendous. We were talking about the album as though it was an instant classic. I liked the album upon first listen, but I remember wondering if it was a hit album the way I thought the Breeders’ Last Splash was the first time I heard it. No matter. I listened to the album at least 5 to 7 times a week during my commute from Jersey to the city (I was still living at home) and began to get into the album, especially “My Curse,” a duet that lead singer Greg Dulli sang with Marcy Mays of Scrawl. I remember the press reaction being incredibly positive, and bordering on ecstatic on the subject of their live show.

We worked the hell out of the album, but it never caught fire at radio. In retrospect, it wasn’t particularly surprising – the songs just weren’t that hooky. They were incredibly dense and probably a little too obtuse for mainstream consumption. We hoped that the band’s live show would take them to the next level, but it didn’t quite pan out.

I remember seeing the band at the Academy in the spring of 1994. I believe it was right after Kurt Cobain’s suicide. The show was great, and the fact that the band was obviously soul influenced was huge for me. By then, I could speak fluently about Otis Redding (not a big topic of conversation amongst my alt-rock peers), and Dulli’s love of soul made me root for the band even harder – and made me turn a blind eye to the band’s obvious flaws, the main flaw being that their songs were just not good enough to take them beyond a small to medium sized cult following.

And it was soon after that Academy show that things began to fall apart – at Elektra Records and possibly (I wasn’t an insider, but I heard lots of rumors) with the Afghan Whigs. Bob Krasnow, the great and imperious chairman of Elektra, was forced out that summer, and everything that had been special about Elektra was gone in about two years. Terry left the label in or around 1996. I never heard from him again, but I did hear that he left the business entirely to deal with some personal issues. I hope he’s well – he was a great guy.

As far as the Afghan Whigs go, they put out one more album on Elektra, Black Love, that I don’t remember at all and then went over to Columbia and put out 1965, which did nothing for me. I look back upon them fondly – not nostalgically, but as a band that had their ambition on their sleeve, that wanted to do something that no indie/alt band was doing; the fusion of the fire and passion of soul to the indie rock. It’s possible that it was an utter failure, but it was an incredibly noble one.

Buy The Afghan Whigs At Amazon

Download: "Papa Was A Rolling Stone" 2/24/99, Baltimore, MD
Download: "My Curse" 2/24/99, Baltimore, MD
Download: "Debonair" 2/24/99, Baltimore, MD
Download: "Rip This Joint" Spring 1999, New York, NY
Download: "What Jail Is Like" 2/24/99, Baltimore, MD

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