Fortunate Son 45 by Creedence Clearwater

September 28, 2010

“Fortunate Son” remains one of the most biting and critical anti-war and anti-political songs in rock history.

Originally released during the second half of 1969 as The Vietnam War was reaching its climax, it focused on the rich sons of the priviledged who did not have to serve in the military.

It made its first appearance as the flip side of the “Down On The Corner” single release. “Down On The Corner” reached number four on The United States singles charts and “Fortunate Son” made it a double hit release reaching number twelve.

It was a rollincking and in places vicious guitar based track. This rock anthem by John Fogerty has rung down through American music history.

Concert For George by Eric Clapton and Various Artists

September 27, 2010

George Harrison died of cancer November 29, 2001, at the age of 58. Exactly a year later Eric Clapton organized a tribute concert at Royal Albert Hall which featured a line-up of friends and former band mates. The resultant album was released almost a year later on November 17, 2003.

When Eric Clapton calls, people usually respond. Jeff Lynne, Gary Brooker, Joe Brown, Tom Petty, Billy Preston, Ringo Starr, and Paul McCartney would all play and share lead vocal duties on various tracks. In addition his son Dhani Harrison, guitarist Albert Lee, plus old Harrison sidemen, bassist Klaus Voorman and drummer Jim Keltner were also present to fill out the sound.

The first disc is a presentation of three pieces of Indian music composed by Ravi Shankar, which were performed and conducted by his daughter Anoushka. She was in her early twenties at the time, yet was already a virtuoso of the Sitar. The 23 minute “Arpan” is a production, and whether this track is enjoyed or passed over will be determined by the listener’s affinity for Indian music. Nevertheless the music was an appropriate addition to the tribute for George Harrison as it was an important part of his life. The fourth song was an interesting cover of “The Inner Light” performed by Anoushka and Jeff Lynne.

The second disc begins with Jeff Lynne’s vocal on “I Want To Tell You” from Revolver and rocks through twenty tracks.

Some of the songs work better than others. Ringo Starr’s two-song set is one of the highlights of the concert. He co-authored his number one hit “Photograph” with George Harrison and here gives a performance that provides an emotional center for the album. This is followed by a rendition of “Honey Don’t” with some fine guitar work by Albert Lee.

Another highlight is the vocal performances by Joe Brown. He was a famous early rock era British performer and personality but was little known outside of his home country. His vocal on “Here Comes The Sun” is just perfect. His choice of performing the obscure “That’s The Way It Goes” from Gone Troppo was brilliant.

Billy Preston’s exuberant performance of “My Sweet Lord” was the result of the song being a part of his live act for decades. Paul McCartney’s take of “Something” proves that many times simple is best. He also shines on “All Things Must Pass,” which is amusing given the fact it was a song The Beatles passed on at one time.

On the other hand the Tom Petty tracks are just average and Jeff Lynne’s voice is not in the best form. Eric Clapton provides the lead vocal on three tracks, but it is his support work throughout the album that ties everything together. The evening and album draws to a close with Joe Brown providing the lead vocal for the old (1924) popular tune “I’ll See You In My Dreams.”

Concert For George was the best and most fitting gift his friends could offer. It is rare tribute album that works.

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Brainwashed by George Harrison

September 27, 2010

George Harrison died of cancer November 29, 2001 at the age of 58. He had not released a studio album since 1987’s Cloud Nine. His participation with the Traveling Wilburys, a tour with Eric Clapton and its resultant live album (Live in Japan), plus his work on The Beatles Anthology project had kept him out of the studio for well over a decade.

He had been working on a new release for a while but once he realized that his latest cancer diagnosis was not treatable he began a final push to complete the album. He died before finishing but left notes for his son, Dhani, and longtime friend, Jeff Lynne, concerning its completion. It took a number of months to finish the work but it was finally released just about a year after Harrison’s death in November of 2002.

Brainwashed was a worldwide commercial success and received a gold record award for sales in the United States.

While a number of musicians appeared on various tracks, the core band consisted of only four people. Harrison provided the vocals, lead guitar, ukulele, plus some keyboards; Jeff Lynne played bass, keyboards, and guitar, Dhani Harrison was on guitar and piano, and old friend Jim Keltner was the drummer.

The album had a distinct advantage over most posthumous releases in that it was always intended as a real album rather than just an assemblage of tracks after the artist’s death. It may not be Harrison’s best work, but it is still very good in its own right and the poignancy behind its release certainly made it the most emotional.

“Any Road” has a flowing melody, tight harmonies, and reminds one of his work with the Traveling Wilburys. “Looking For My Life” is an introspective piece which is representative of his facing his mortality. “Marwa Blues” is a beautiful instrumental and may be the album’s best track. The only non-original cut is a cover of the old “Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea,” which he resurrects as an upbeat ukulele driven tune. The album ends appropriately with the title song, which is a criticism of the material world, allowing him to be true to himself right to the end.

Brainwashed is the last musical will and testament of George Harrison. As the final chapter of his life it is memorable, touching, and ultimately triumphant.

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Live In Japan by George Harrison

September 27, 2010

After the negative experiences of his 1974 Dark Horse tour, George Harrison did not go on the road for over 15 years. It took a call from old friend Eric Clapton to entice him to perform live again. He and Clapton would share the stage for a series of successful performances during December of 1991. Following the tour, he would become involved with The Beatles Anthology project. As such, it would be the final live performances of his lifetime and the resultant album, Live In Japan, would be the last release before his death.

He was accompanied by Eric Clapton and his touring band. Guitarist Andy Fairweather-Low, bassist Nathan East, keyboardist Greg Phillinganes, pianist Chuck Leavell, drummer Steve Ferrone, and percussionist Ray Cooper are typical of the excellent hands Clapton would assemble to support himself in concert. Of course, having Harrison and Clapton sharing lead guitar duties is a treat.

Harrison’s set, as represented on this album, is a fine retrospective of his career. He reaches back to some Beatles obscurities and well-known performances, plus a nice selection of his solo work.

“I Want To Tell You,” from Revolver and “Old Brown Shoe,” which was originally the B-Side to “The Ballad Of John and Yoko” single were inspired choices, as they resurrect some lost gems in a live setting. I could have done without the lyrical updates to “Taxman,” but the dual guitar work by Clapton and Harrison on “If I Needed Someone” is excellent.

The guitar work on “Something” veers a little from the original, but his takes of the White Album composition “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and Abbey Road’s “Here Comes The Sun” are classic.

Most of his well-known solo hits are present. “My Sweet Lord,” a jazzy version of “All Those Years Ago,” “Isn’t It A Pity,” and a rocking “What Is Life” all find him at his post-Beatles best.

The album comes to a fitting conclusion with “Roll Over Beethoven,” which was a Beatles staple during their live shows.

George Harrison could not have chosen a more fitting live album to present his legacy. It remains a fine representation of his music and talent.

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HeY Jude 45 by The Beatles

September 26, 2010

One of the grand single releases in rock history and The Beatles biggest hit.

The Beatles were nearing the end of their career but just seemed to be getting better and better. Released during late August of 1968, it would go on to top the American singles charts for nine weeks.

While the song is attributed to Lennon-McCartney, it was a Paul McCartney composition and featured his lead vocal. It was the first Beatles single released on their Apple Label and was a rare long hit single at over seven minutes.

By the end of 1968 it had sold four million copies in The United States alone and topped the charts in eleven countries. Even the flip side “Revolution” would become a hit in its own right. This guitar based song with biting social commentary lyrics would reach number twelve.

“Hey Jude” with its unique ending, which seems like it goes on forever, remains not only one of The Beatles finest hours but some of the best seven plus minutes in rock history.

Alison 45 by Linda Ronstadt

September 24, 2010

Picture discs were the rage in the late seventies and early eighties. They were mainly aimed at the collector’s market. They were usually LP’s but every once in awhile one would appear as a 7 inch 45.

While they could be played on a stereo system they were mainly for show. The sound was poor as the different color vinyl prevented any clarity.

The disc pictured above is “Alison” by Linda Ronstadt. Ronstadt was at the height of her career and this particular picture disc presents her allure well.

Killer Country by Jerry Lee Lewis

September 22, 2010

Jerry Lee Lewis is best remembered as the frenetic rocker who recorded for the Sun label during the latter half of the 1950s. Hits such as “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On,” “Breathless” and “Great Balls Of Fire” not only climbed to the upper reaches of The American singles charts but helped to provide the foundation for rock ‘n’ roll itself.

His career came to a screeching halt in 1958 when he married his thirteen year old cousin. He was blacklisted by radio stations across The United States and his concert opportunities dried up as well. While he continued to record, he practically vanished from the music scene. It was not until he returned as a country artist during 1968 that he made a personal and commercial comeback.

Killer Country gathers the best of his country material, 1968-1977, recorded for the Mercury label and its subsidiary Smash. He would issue four number one country hits and five more that would reach number two.

Many of his big country hits are sung with passion and sincerity plus his voice had taken on a new maturity. Songs such as “Another Time, Another Place,” “What Made Milwaukee Famous,” “She Even Woke Me Up To Say Goodbye,” and “Who’s Gonna Play This Old Piano” represent the best of late sixties and seventies country music.

His take on the Kris Kristofferson classic “Me and Bobby McGee” was brilliant. In a sense he deconstructs the song and reinvents it with a honky tonk interpretation.

His early material was stark and basic country with the emphasis upon story telling ballads. During the early seventies he began to fill out the sound with strings and backing choruses. “He Can’t Fill My Shoes” and “Middle Age Crazy” are representative of this change which reflected the evolution of American country music at the time.

He last track for the Mercury label was “Pee Wee’s Place” which reflected the smoky juke joints he had been performing in for the past fifteen years. “If the barbecue don’t get you, the music will” was a fitting conclusion to the most prolific period of his country career.

Killer Country finds a far different Jerry Lee Lewis from his rock ‘n’ roll days. Not many artists would have had the talent or resolve to reinvent themselves as did Jerry Lee Lewis.

Today he is the last man standing of the major artists who recorded for The Sun label during the fifties. Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison, and Johnny Cash are all gone but Jerry Lee plays on.

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Traveling Wilburys Vol. 3 by The Traveling Wilburys

September 22, 2010

The second Traveling Wilburys album may not be as consistently excellent as their debut, but it remains a very good release in its own right. Maybe it was due to the loss of Roy Orbison, who was treated as the grand old man of the first release, or possibly it did not contain the surprises of the group’s first album.

George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, and Jeff Lynne returned to the studio during April and May of 1990. The result was Traveling Wilburys Vol. 3. There had been no volume two; skipping that number was a joke to confuse their fans. They also took on new names: Harrison was now Spike Wilbury, Dylan was Boo, Lynne assumed the name Clayton, and Petty became Muddy.

The album was released October 29, 1990 and while it did not achieve the massive commercial success of its predecessor, it did receive a platinum sales award for selling over a million copies and reached number eleven on the United States album charts.

My favorite tracks have always been the first and last. For the opener, the rocking “She’s My Baby,” they imported guitarist Gary Moore to play lead; and play he does as he dominates the recording. And I never get tired of “Wilbury Twist,” the amusing piece of pop paradise that closes the album.

There are a number of other excellent songs as well. “If You Belonged To Me” is a nice outing by Bob Dylan, harking back to his folk days of the ’60s complete with some nice harmonica work. “The Devil’s Been Busy” has more lyrical depth than most of The Traveling Wilbury compositions, featuring a Petty/Dylan vocal with Harrison providing some backing on the sitar. “7 Deadly Sins” has a ’60s feel and the sax work by Jim Horn is exemplary. And like before, good old Jim Keltner was back as the drummer.

The album finds Tom Petty and Bob Dylan dominating the vocal and probably writing duties even though all compositions are credited to the group. And while he co-produced the album with Harrison, it primarily bears Jeff Lynne’s imprint. Harrison is most active as a musician, playing acoustic and electric guitars, sitar, and even some mandolin.

While it remains a cut below their first volume, Traveling Wilburys Vol. 3 contains a nice selection of early ’90s rock/pop. It is certainly still worth a listen twenty years after its initial release.

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You Can Always Turn Around by Lucky Peterson

September 22, 2010

Lucky Peterson is a contemporary blues artist whose roots are grounded in the Southern Delta of the United States. He was discovered by legendary bluesman Willie Dixon at the age of five while he was performing in his father’s nightclub. That led to appearances onThe Tonight Show and The Ed Sullivan Show before the age of six. In 1969 he released an album titled 5 Year Old Lucky Peterson, and despite backing such artists as Etta James, Little Milton, and Bobby “Blue” Bland,” he mostly disappeared from the spotlight for over a decade. He has now returned with his eleventh studio release since 1985.

You Can Always Turn Around features a trio of excellent supporting musicians, including guitarist Larry Campbell, bassist Scott Petito, and drummer Gary Burke.

Lucky’s new album is a combination of styles. There is the raw traditional blues that harks back to the Mississippi Delta of the early twentieth century, some rhythm & blues based tracks, and what can best be described as smooth, modern-day blues.

This is his first proper studio album in seven years and the first since he finished a stint in rehab. These facts contributed to both the album title and the selection of material which deal with his struggles and ultimate salvation.

Personally I prefer his excursions which explore some old classics. Robert Johnson’s “I Believe I’ll Dust My Broom,” Blind William McTell’s “Statesboro Blues,” and Rev. Gary Davis’ “Death Don’t Have No Mercy” all feature his unique, excellent guitar work which remains true to the originals.

There are a number of other songs of note as well. His cover of Lucinda Williams’ “Atonement” may seem like an odd choice, but it fits the theme of the album well and at six and a half minutes allows him to stretch out a bit. His version of the sixties gospel/civil rights tune “I Wish I Knew How It Would Be To Be Free” is passionate and effective. The album comes to a fitting conclusion with an interpretation of Curtis Mayfield’s “Think.”

Lucky Peterson has assembled an excellent if somewhat eclectic comeback album. At times I can’t help but think he would been better served by sticking with one style to create a better overall flow, but the individual parts are all well done. You Can Always Turn Around is a fine addition to any modern day blues collection.

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Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1 by The Traveling Wilburys

September 22, 2010

The Traveling Wilburys were one of the most understated and consistently excellent supergroups to ever grace the American music scene. Their saving grace was just having fun and not trying to overreach or become something they were not.

Some groups were just meant to be. George Harrison needed a B-side for a European single he was about to release. He was having supper with Jeff Lynne and Roy Orbison and they decided to work on the song together. They then called Bob Dylan who had a home studio. By chance Harrison had left his guitar over at Tom Petty’s house and so he came along for the ride.

The result was “Handle With Care,” which the record company declared too good to release as a throwaway flip side. The five musicians then agreed to create a whole album together and went into the studio during the spring of 1988.

They had fun with the group name, portraying themselves as the Wilburys, who were half brothers. George Harrison was Nelson, Jeff Lynne took the name Otis, Bob Dylan was Lucky, Roy Orbison was Lefty, and Tom Petty assumed the name Charlie T. Jr.

And while he was uncredited on the album, longtime Harrison drummer Jim Keltner provided the percussion. He eventually appeared in some of the group’s videos as Buster Sidebury.

Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1 was released October 18, 1988 and was an instant smash, reaching number three on the U.S. album charts and eventually selling over three million copies. It also went on to win a Grammy Award.

The music is joyful, polished pop. Lynne and Harrison produced the album and they added a sophisticated sheen that served the music well. The harmonies were some of the best of the eighties.

It is an album without a weak track. “Not Alone Any More,” which features Orbison’s tenor soaring above the mix, takes on an additional poignancy considering the legend died suddenly less than two months after the album’s release. Both of the Dylan tracks, “Tweeter And The Monkey Man” and particularly “Dirty World” are excellent and present his humorous side. “Rattled” is close to a rockabilly sound and has a nice lead vocal by Lynne. And “Handle With Care” features a Harrison/Orbison vocal with some expert slide guitar from George.

Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1 is the lighter side of eighties pop music at its best. Five superstars managed to keep their egos under control and just have a good time, culminating in an album that should be a part of everyone’s collection.

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