Genuine Blues Legends By Pinetop Perkins & Jimmy Rogers

January 30, 2016

Light Flight Pentangle

Pinetop Perkins (1913-2011) and Jimmy Rogers (1924-1997) were two of the last connectors to the Delta Blues movement of the pre-World War II era. Although they had long careers, it was not until the mid-1980’s that pianist Perkins and guitarist Rogers began performing together.

Ellsworth, Maine, may seem like an unusual place for two Delta Bluesmen to perform in concert but so it was on May 21, 1988, when they took the stage at the Grand Auditorium with Little Mike And The Tornadoes as their backing band. The tape was running as they ran through a performance of original songs and cover ttunes.

Even with Little Mike & The Tornadoes behind them, the music has a raw feel to it. Perkins and Rogers were not sophisticated musicians, which fits their blues roots well.

Perkins wails his way through the classic “High Heel Sneakers and his piano work on his own “Pinetops’ Boogie Woogie” and “Pine And Jimmy’s Jump” quickly prove that a true blues musicians is at work as his play is more emotive than technical. Rogers was a guitarist for the early Middy Waters band and his work on the nine minute “All My Sleep” harps back to the early electric Chicago blues. He also provides the lead vocal for three tracks including a cover of Jimmy Reed’s “Big Boss Man.”

The sound is average, which is normal for a concert that was probably never meant for general release and in a way it fits the blues better than a slick recording.

Pinetop Perkins and Jimmy Rogers are both gone and their connections to the first generation of Delta bluesmen with them. Left behind are rare recordings of their concert style and sound. Genuine Blues Legends is a good document of a blues generation that has left the building.


Goin’ Your Way By Neil Finn & Paul Kelly

January 30, 2016

Light Flight Pentangle

Superstars in their native New Zealand and Australia, Neil Finn ad Paul Kelly toured together during 2013. When they performed together at the Sydney Opera House the tape was rolling, which resulted in a double live album released in their own countries. Now Goin’ Your Way has been released in the United States and internationally for the first time.

Rather than present their material as solo artists with backing musicians, they formed a band, which resulted in each of them adapting to the others material and style. It also resulted in their songs acquiring new textures and tones.

The concert’s 29 tracks are built around Kelly’s solo hits “To Her Door” and “Before Too Long” and those of Finn, “She Will Have Her Way” and “Sinner.” Finn also brought material from his time with Split Enz and Crowded House. “One Step Ahead,” “Message To My Girl,” and “Don’t Dream It’s Over” are re-imagined and taken in new directions.

Excellent sound, scintillating guitar work, passionate vocals, and good packaging all add up to a memorable concert experience.

For anyone not familiar with Kelly and Finn’s work, Goin’ Your Way is an excellent introduction to their material and careers.


Back In My Arms Again By The Supremes

January 27, 2016

 

The Supremes set a record at the time when “Back In My Arms Again” became their fifth consecutive number one single.

The single debuted on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 May 1, 1965, at number 68 and six weeks later reached number one on June 12th. It only remained in the top position only one week but it was enough to extend their streak.


Groove With You ….. Live (New Vinyl) By The Isley Brothers

January 24, 2016

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The eighth annual Record Store Day took place last April with an annual Black Friday event occurring the day after Thanksgiving. This means that not only are record stores honored but a variety of releases are issued on vinyl in time for the holidays, which brings us to the Isley Brothers.

If there ever was a band that needs to be listened too on vinyl, it is the Isley Brothers. They were perennial party favorites during the 1960’s and then morphed into a funk band during the 1970’s and 1980’s, which led to their induction into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.

During 1980 The Isley brothers recorded a live album, which sat in the vailts. That album has now been released under the title Groove With You ….Live. It has been issued on colored 180 gram vinyl. The sound is pristine and the jacket is designed to match the albums released on the T-Neck label at the time of its recording.

Guitarist Ernie Isley, bassist Marvin Isley, vocalists Ronald, Rudolph, & O’Kelly Isley, keyboardist Chris Jasper, drummer Everett Collins, and percussionist Kevin Jones were at the height of their creative and commercial powers.

The 12 tracks are built around the hits “That Lady,” and “Fight The Power,” plus perennial concert favorites “Here We Go Again,” “Summer Breeze,” and “Voyage To Atlantis.” The pulsating bass and funky guitars carry extended versions of the songs into, at the time, unexplored territory. The medley “Hello It’s Me/Footsteps In The Dark/For The Love Of You” have textures that most bands could not create in the studio, never mind live.

The Isley Brothers career is now past the half-century mark. Groove With You ….Live is a nice slice of the midpoint of their career after their progression from a rhythm & blues sound to some of the grittiest funk of the era. It is one of those releases that will make you return to vinyl.

 


Bluenote Café By Neil Young

January 24, 2016

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If Eric Clapton is God, then Neil Young is the high priest of rock and roll. He has been clearing his vaults and the latest release is Bluenote Café. It gathers performances from ten different locations from his 1987-1988 tour. The era does not contain his well-known or most commercially successful material but despite the somewhat obscurity of a number of songs; there are plenty of positives to the release.

Neil Young has always been one of rock’s better guitar technicians and his expertise is on display as it weaves through and above the brass section. A 20 minute version of “Tonight’s The Night” and an extended 12 minute “Ordinary People” are worth the price of admission due to his searing guitar excursions.

In many ways it is an eclectic group of songs. “Bad News Comes To Town” is a slow ballad that percolates along. “Doghouse” strikes a funky note that was present during this period of his career. He reaches into his past for a modernized updating of “On The Way Home.”

There are some misses as “Ten Men Workin,’” “Welcome To The Big Room,” and “Married Man” are average songs that tend to disappear into the bland part of his legacy. The sound is fine and the backing band tight. The pick and choose approach from 10 different performances makes it an album of individual tracks, rather than a cohesive whole.

The mid to late 1980’s were a transitional point in his career as After The Gold Rush and Rust Never Sleeps were in his rear view mirror and Ragged Glory and Harvest Moon were in his immediate future. Many of these songs tend to get lost but there are some nuggets to be mined here. When Neil Young is at his rock and roll best, there are few better and some of the performances fall in to that category.


My Road By Bob Margolin

January 24, 2016

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Bob Margolin has now reached the traditional retirement age but shows no sign of slowing down. He has spent a lifetime immersed in the blues. At the age of 23 he began an eight year stint as a member of Muddy Waters backing band. When viewing the Martin Scorcese film The Last Waltz, look over Waters shoulder during his performance of “Mannish Boy” and there stands a young Margolin. He formed his own band in 1980 and has been on the road and in the studio ever since.

Like many bluesmen, Margolin is a survivor. He has always been adaptable to the changing times, which has enabled him to keep his music fresh. His new album, due January 8, 2916, is an album of where he is today. He wrote or co-wrote 8 of the 12 tracks and they find him examining his life. The themes of love, mourning, and the acceptance of aging are all explored within a blues frame work. “My Road,” “Goodnight,” “Understanding Heart,” and “I Shall Prevail” are all autobiographical snippets of his life’s journey.

He always keeps it simple. He provides the lead guitar, vocals, and bass work and is supported by drummer/vocalist Chuck Cotton, and harpist/guitarist Tad Walters.

Margolin is one of those blues artists who has put together an exemplary career without selling millions of albums. He has established his legacy with hard work, tough melodies, sizzling guitar work, and thousands of performances. My Road is an album that demands the attention of anyone interested in the blues.


Help Me Rhonda By The Beach Boys

January 21, 2016

“Help Me Ronda” was an obscure track on the Beach Boys TODAY album. Brian Wilson worked his magic with the song; adding layered harmonies, and changing the name to “Help Me Rhonda.” Released as a single, it entered the charts April 17, 1965. It was a quick trip to the top as on May 29 it became the number one song in the United States, where it remained for two weeks. It was a rare Beach Boys song to feature Al Jardine as the lead vocalist.

Interestingly the follow-up single was “California Girls,” which became one of the signature songs of the 1960’s but it stalled at number three leaving “Help Me Rhonda” as the second Beach Boys tune to reach the top of the charts.


Live At Fat Tuesday’s By Art Pepper

January 16, 2016

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Art Pepper’s stature as one of the premier saxophone players in jazz history continues to rise 33 years after his death. The release of a recently unearthed concert at Fat Tuesday’s, dating from April 15, 1981, only serves to add luster to his legacy.

The concert was recorded 14 month before his passing and finds him at his artistic leak. The small club setting was a relaxed atmosphere for Pepper, pianist Milcho Leviev, bassist George Miraz, and drummer Al Foster. Six extended songs make up the 70 minute performance, which leaves a lot of time for the musicians to stretch and improvise.

“Rhythm-a-ning is a 1957 Thelonious Monk composition. The six minute solo by Pepper finds him experimenting with the melody and twisting it further and further out of shape. Cole Porter’s “What Is This Thing Called Love” has been covered by hundreds of jazz musicians.  At over 16 minutes, the individual musicians and their instruments ebb and flow to create a smooth mid-tempo ambiance. “Goodbye” harps back to the Big Band era. Some of Pepper’ strongest work was on ballads as his sound had a natural moodiness and this one just saunters along.

Two original compositions close out the set. “Make A List Make A Wish” is a typical 1970’s jazz tune that fuses elements of funk and gospel into the mix. The song clocks in at over 18 minutes and establishes a smooth foundation to build solos upon. “Red Car,” originally released in 1976 by Pepper, is another smooth piece that fuses some blues and gospel into the jazzy mix.

The enclosed 39 page book is excellent on a number of levels. The center of the booklet is an extended 1980 interview by jazz historian Brian Priestley that covers all facets of Pepper’s career and personal life including his addictions and jail time. There is an essay by journalist John Koenig, an interview with Pepper’s widow Laurie, plus reminiscences by former Fat Tuesday’s manager Steve Getz.

Pepper is one of those jazz musicians best heard live and his performance at Fat Tuesday’s provides a fitting epitaph for his career.


Sneakers By Sneakers

January 16, 2016

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No one can actually pinpoint the exact date when the American indie rock movement was born but Sneakers release of their debut EP was close.

Guitarist Chris Stamey and drummer Will Rigby, who would go on to form the dB’s, plus bassist Robert Keely and guitarist Rob Slater formed Sneakers during 1975. Mitch Easter, Stamey’s friend since grammar school, also took part as a guitarist on four of the early tracks.

They were a band that spent more time rehearsing and recording than actually playing live. Stamey by this time was writing fairly sophisticated material but their ability in the recording studio was basic so the music has a raw and live feel.

This posthumous release (the band, not  the performers) is a combination of their original six-track EP and five later recordings.

“Ruby,” “Condition Red,” “Driving,” “Love’s Like A Cuban Crisis,” “On The Brink,” and “Nonsequitur” are primitive, yet contain quirky rhythms and melodies that make them interesting, especially for the time period.

Stamey and Easter reunited in 1992 with bassist Gene Holder and recorded four tracks that had been a part of the band’s concert set list. “Story Of A Girl,” “S’il Vous Plat,” Be My Ambulance,” and “Some Kinda Fool” reflect the passage of years yet are kept as simple as possible. The only cover song is a 2014 recording of “Let’s Live For Today.”

Sneakers is one of those rare bands whose influence far exceeded their ability at the time and commercial success. They helped establish a musical type that has grown into an ever burgeoning indie scene. Sneakers is a nice look back into history.


The Magic Of Christmas By The Soulful Stings

January 16, 2016

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During the 1960’s and 1970’s, rock pop, rhythm & blues, and country music sold tens-of-millions of albums. What is often overlooked is the huge commercial success of what has become known as easy listening music. Artists such as Ray Conniff, Andy Williams, and Percy Faith sold millions of albums by appealing to the generation that came to adulthood between the end of the Second World War and the advent of the rock and roll era. This all brings us to the Soulful Strings.

These types of music came together when labels and their rock and soul studio musicians would release albums in order to cash in on this easy listening market.

The Cadet label was a subsidiary of Chess and was the home to such artists as Etta James, Ahmad Jamal, The Rotary Connection, Ramsey Lewis, and The Dells. It may not have seemed like fertile territory for an album of laid back easy listening music but producer/arranger Richard Evans, (1932-2014), formed the Soulful Strings with the labels studio band including guitarist Phil Upchurch, vibraphonist Bobby Christian, organist Ordell Brown, bassist Cleveland Eaton, and an assortment of string players. They released seven albums 1966-1971, including The Magic of Christmas during 1968. That album has now been re-released for the first time.

The Soulful Strings had a slightly different approach. Instead of violins, thy used violas and cellos, which gave everything a little harder sound. Throw in some funky rhythms and you have easy listening music unlike most everything else that was being produced at the time.

“Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” is funk meets strings with some improvisational cello thrown in for good measure. “Jingle Bells” has some improvisational guitar excursions by Upchurch. Harpist Dorothy Ashby plucks the strings in a unique and bluesy direction, while Upchurch adds some jazzy guitar on “Merry Christmas Baby.”. “Deck The Halls” even incorporates a sitar among the lush strings. Christian’s vibes carry a traditional presentation of “The Christmas Song.”

The Soulful Strings created easy listening music but with a few twists. Not your normal Christmas background fare but perfect for when the party gets a little raucous.