February 22, 2017
I recently reviewed Justin Hayward’s new compilation album All The Way. It contained some good music but an odd song selection and only included half the tracks of the MP3 version. A companion release by Hayward is much more fulfilling. Live In Concert At The Capital Theatre is a 117 minute performance that presents Justin Hayward at his best.
Unlike his last release, the song selection makes sense. He moves effortlessly between some classic Moody Blues songs to exploring all periods of his solo career. Simple Versions of “Tuesday Afternoon,” “Question,” “Your Wildest Dreams,” and the eternal “Nights In White Satin” provide nice nostalgic interludes.
When Hayward digs into his solo catalogue; there are a number of treats to be enjoyed. “December Snow,” “I Dreamed Last Night,” “The Eastern Sun,” and “Forever Autumn” benefit from being performed live without any studio tracks. Guitarist Mike Dawes and keyboardist/backing vocalist Julie Ragins provide a good foundation for Hayward’s music.
Hayward’s voice has lost little with the passage of time as it remains a smooth instrument. The sound and video quality are up to modern standards and the fact that it is a complete concert provides a nice flow to the release.
Two bonus tracks, “Blue Guitar” and “Who Are You Now” are enjoyable but not essential to the concert experience. The bonus music video of “The Wind Of Heaven” introduces one of the better songs of Hayward’s solo career.
Justin Hayward has just turned 70 and Live In Concert At The Capital Theatre is a nice look at an artist celebrating a career at the half-century mark. A must release for any fan of Hayward or the Moody Blues.
February 14, 2017
The new live release by Brian Wilson and Friends is bittersweet. Wilson is now 74 years old and one has to wonder about his future. His voice is not of the caliber of his prime, so the emphasis on many of the tracks centers on his friends. In some ways he becomes the sideman. On the other hand he is one of the recognized genius’ of American pop music and his compositions remain a nostalgic part of American culture.
His friends include former Beach Boys Blondie Chaplin, Ricky Fataar, and Al Jardine who oddly is not mentioned anywhere in the liner notes but is a dominant figure in the music. Other friends include She & Him and Nate Ruess, the lead singer of the pop group Fun.
The sound and the DVD quality are both excellent. There are set differences. “California Girls” and “”California Saga” only appear on the CD. The DVD adds nine additional songs including the classic ballads “Don’t Worry Baby” and “God Only Knows.”
The concert was recorded at the Venetian in Las Vegas;. The music is a microcosm of Brian Wilson’s and the Beach Boys career. Al Jardine steers the band through “Wouldn’t It be Nice,” “Help Me Rhonda,” and the underappreciated classic “All Summer Long.” Chaplin and Fataar shine on “Marcella,” “Wild Honey” and “Sail On Sailor.” Ruess has a wonderful voice and he takes the lead on “Hold On Dear Brother,” “Darlin,’” and “Saturday Night.” Beach Boy staples such “Heroes And Villains,” “Dance Dance Dance,” “Fun Fun Fun,” and “Good Vibrations” are group efforts, which work well given Wilson’s vocal limitations.
His solo material is more reflective and runs counterpoint to the early Beach Boys songs. The two bonus songs, which close the DVD; “Pacific Coast Highway,” and “Summer’s Gone” are the statement of an aging musician looking back on his career and life.
While Brian Wilson takes a back seat to his friends many times; it is his music that is front and center and ultimately carries the album. It is a ride through the decades of the eternal summer that Brian Wilson created so many years ago.
February 14, 2017
Toto may not be a band that comes to mind when one thinks of the legendary Montreux Jazz Festival, but back in 1991, they were there, front and center. They would make a return appearance in 2015.
Quincy jones had always been a fan of Toto and he invited the band to appear. The core members of the group at the time were Steve Lukather, David Paich, Mike Porcaro, and Jeff Porcaro. Jeff would pass away shortly after their performance and Mike followed in 2014 before their return to the festival.
Toto is mainly known for their series of melodic rock hits during the late 1970’s and early 1980’s that featured tight harmonies. Songs such as “Hold The Line,” “Rosanna,” and the number one “Africa” sold millions of copies and made the band a consistent concert draw.
Down through the years Toto has been a musically consistent bad. One album flows into another and if you like one, you will probably like them all. That is what makes their set at Montreux so interesting. “Rosanna” and “Africa” are both there but the rest of their performance digs a little deeper into their catalogue, plus they stretch out a bit and cover some songs not usually associated with their style.
They take on the Jimi Hendrix classic “Red House” and Sly Stone’s “I Want To Take You Higher” and while the originals may be preferable, the energy is there and it is interesting to see and hear the band outside their comfort zone and taking some chances.
The CD and the DVD contain the same song set. Both the sound and video are excellent as they have been remasterd with modern technology. The booklet gives a succinct history of their performance.
Live At Montreux: 1991 is a nice addition to the Toto legacy and should please any fan of the band.
January 10, 2017
Deep Purple founding member Jon Lord announced his retirement from the band in 2002. He had other projects in mind after nearly 35 years with the group and he was feeling his age. He would pass away in 2012. The baton was officially passed on September 14, 20012, when Deep Purple took the stage at the NEC in Birmingham, England. New keyboardist Don Airey played with the band for the first half of the show and was then joined on stage by Lord for the second half.
This seminal concert by Deep Purple has only been available as part of the massive and pricey box set Around The World Live. Now the 109 minute performance has been issued as a stand-alone DVD. The video is clear and the sound crisp as it presents the modern day version of Deep Purple at its best.
Given the historic nature of the concert, the set list is made-up of their well-known songs. “Fireball,” “Woman From Tokyo,” “Space Truckin,’” “Speed King,” Smoke On The Water,” ”Hush” “Black Night,” and “Highway Star” are a trip through the first two decades of their career.
The transition occurs with Airey’s keyboard solo at the conclusion of “Speed King,” when Lord comes on stage to join him as they move into “Perfect Strangers. “ Whether Airey, Lord, or both; the music is straightforward. At this point in their existence, they take few chances but give the fans what they want with passion and energy.
The concert provides a dividing line in the career of Deep Purple. The music would remain the same but Lord’s absence took a major presence out of the mix. Live At The NEC is a historic concert for the band in that it both a farewell and a look toward the future.
December 15, 2016
The massive Voodoo Lounge tour may have been a little too much for even the Rolling Stones. Their next project, 1995’s Stripped album and documentary, went in a different direction as they cut out a lot of the frills and extras and returned to basics.
Now a little over two decades later, they have returned to that project with the release of Totally Stripped, which gathers live tracks from their club performances in London, Amsterdam, and Paris and combines them with a re-worked documentary. Please note that there is a deluxe version with four DVD’s, which presents each show in its entirety but this review is for the basic release.
The CD is a nice presentation of the obscure and the well-known. Songs such as “Not Fade Away,” “Dead Flowers,” “Like A Rolling Stone,” and “Rip This Joint” combine with “Honky Tonk Women,” “Street Fighting Man,” Midnight Rambler” and “Brown Sugar” to give it a career spanning experience.
The music is not as stripped back as the title would suggest. Bassist Darryl Jones, keyboardist Chuck Leavell, a full brass section featuring sax player Bobby Keys, and backing singers Lisa Fischer and Bernard Fowler are all on hand. It is the small clubs venues that give the music a laid back and intimate feel and when Ronnie Wood switches to acoustic guitar; it all takes on a very different feel.
The documentary is one of the better ones the band has produced. The banter finds the members relaxed and the music is truly stripped back to basics. Songs such as “The Spider And The Fly” and “Wild Horses” are very different from their usual presentation. The film is a nice look into a band moving in a different and creative direction.
Totally Stripped is a nice look at a short and unique period in the career of the Rolling Stones. The production is crisp, the music excellent, and the band is engaged. It is a nice trip back in time.
October 6, 2016
Pete Seeger walked this earth for nearly 95 years. He was a radio personality during the 1940’s, a member of the early folk-revival group The Weavers, and as a solo artist spent nearly five decades promoting peace and the environment, writing such songs as “Where Hale All The Flowers Gone,” “If I Had A Hammer,” and “Turn Turn Turn,” plus resurrecting folk songs from around the world.
Since his death, there have been a number of re-issues. The latest is a remaster of his first Grammy winning album Pete, originally issued in 1996 at the age of 77. This release is combined with a DVD that covers 23 years of his career. First is a 55 minute live performance with Paul Winter and friends at the 1982 Living Music Festival in Litchfield, Connecticut. Next is Pete-nic, which is a 17 minute spontaneous performance, recorded at a picnic in 1997 by many of the musicians who had participated in the Pete project. Finally there is a 2005 performance of “Take It From Dr. King,” commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Pettus Bridge March in Selma, Alabama.
Pete is probably the best of his late career releases. It combines traditional folk tunes, a number of covers, and two originals. “John Henry,” “Drunken Sailor,” “Roll The Old Chariot Along,” and “Old Time Religion” are the type of songs that have graced Seeger’s repertoire for most of his career. Songs that have no known author but have undergone changes due to time and place and Seeger’s interpretations are another link in their chain. The two originals, “My Rainbow Race” and “Well May The World Go” are poignant songs from a man nearing 80.
Most of Seeger’s albums have been sparse affairs but here many of the songs are within a band setting, including sax, cello and guitars. It is a rare nod to the modern age by a traditional artist.
The Living Music Festival live performance presents a 63 year old Seeger at the top of his profession. He is joined by The Paul Winter Consort and they form one big group. Seeger is relaxed and his banjo play is some of his best. The concert was recorded with three cameras and meant for release but sat in the vaults for 33 years. It is a highlight for any Seeger fan.
Seeger was an uncompromising traditionalist. Many of his songs had a meaning and message. Pete-Pac is a celebration of culture meeting music.
May 14, 2016
If there is anything more eclectic than a Frank Zappa concert, it is a Frank Zappa rehearsal for a concert.
The Lost Performance: The Full Performance is a film of a Frank Zappa and The Mothers Of Invention rehearsal recorded October 6, 1968, in Germany. As Zappa’s career progressed, he recorded dozens of performances but there is surprisingly little footage and documentation of the early Mothers Of Invention.
The rehearsal is a long continuous performance. Zappa plays director and the band will occasionally break into recognizable songs such as “King Kong,” “A Pound For A Brown On A Bus,” “Sleeping In A Jar,” “Let’s Make Water Turn Black,” and “Uncle Meat.” A brass section of Ian Underwood, Bunk Gardner, and James Sherwood, bassist/vocalist Roy Estrada, keyboardist Don Preston, and drummers/percussionists Art Tripp and Jimmy Carl Black were one of Zappa tightest units and able to follow his directions and signals.
It is a release that will basically appeal to fans of Zappa and especially of his early career. The lack of structure makes it difficult to follow unless you are familiar with the music.
There are issues with the sound and picture at times and it is certainly not up to modern day standards, so beware.
The Lost Broadcast: The Full Performance is more of a historical document than a release you will want to play continuously. Still, it is an interesting look into the mind of Frank Zappa and how he plotted his concert approach.