Miami Pop Festival by The Jimi Hendrix Experience

October 24, 2013


There seems to be a lot of Jimi Hendrix concert material in the vaults as it has been released on a regular basis during the past 12 months, starting with a celebration of what would have been his 70th birthday, November 27, 2012, and continuing to the present day.

The question is; does the world need another Hendrix concert release? While Hendrix would constantly change his songs through improvisation, the same songs are repeated on many of the releases. On the positive side, Hendrix was one of the seminal musicians in rock history and any new material is always welcome.

Miami Pop Festival is the first-time release of one of his more memorable concerts. It includes the first recorded stage performances of “Here My Train A Comin’” and “Tax Free.”

The Miami Pop Festival was the first major rock festival on the east coast. It took place in May of 1968 and one of the promoters was Michael Lang, who would become one of the organizers of Woodstock. Hendrix was a superstar and the concert headliner when he took the stage at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale, Florida.

He played two sets at the festival and one complete show is presented. It enables the listener to appreciate a full concert by the Jimi Hendrix Experience. There are also two bonus tracks taken from the afternoon show.

The set list is familiar to his fans. There is the rock of “Fire” and “Foxey Lady,” the electric blues of “Red House,” a laid-back version of “Hey Joe,” and the pyrotechnic performance of the concert ending “Purple Haze.”

The sound is better than expected given the technology of the day.  The selection of archival photos is a worth-while addition to the Hendrix legacy.

Miami Pop Festival catches Hendrix just after the release of Axis: Bold As Love. It may not reveal anything earth-shaking about him but it is a fine presentation of his sound and skills.

Cry Me A River 45 by Joe Cocker

February 3, 2012

Joe Cocker and his band pulled into the Fillmore East, March 27, 1970. One of the results was a live single release of “Cry Me A River.”

Joe Cocker was at the height of his popularity, mainly due to his performance at WOODSTOCK. His soulful and ragged voice was one of the unique instruments in rock music.

“Cry Me A River” was released October 10, 1970 and reached number 11 on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart.

Electric Music For The Body and Mind by Country Joe and The Fish

January 11, 2012

I’m not sure what was going through the minds of Country Joe McDonald and Barry “The Fish” Melton when they decided to form a band during the mid-1960s, but the result was one of the more unusual and ultimately influential bands of their era. Today many remember Country Joe and The Fish for their ringing fish cheer with 400,000 people at Woodstock and forget about their outstanding body of work.

McDonald and Melton would be the band’s constants, but the best known configuration also included drummer Gary “Chicken” Hirsh, keyboardist David Cohen, and bassist Dave Barthol. Their four albums together, 1967-1969, were some of the better, if somewhat forgotten, albums of the late 1960s.

Their debut album, Electric Music For The Body And Mind, may not have been the first psychedelic rock album but it set the standard for much of what would follow. Their fusion of rock, country, folk, and blues was unique, as were the constant tempo changes and chord sequencing. Add in a not always serious attitude, after all they named the band after Joseph Stalin who was called Country Joe during the 1940s, and you have one of the more unique and interesting albums in rock history.

The sound tended to center around Melton’s expert lead guitar, a tiny organ sound, and McDonald’s humorous, biting, and incisive lyrics. Their music bordered on the weird and unusual without crossing the line. “Not So Sweet Martha Lorraine” was a good example of their sound as hidden beneath the music was one of the more unusual anti-romantic love songs on record.

They would become known for their political commentary and anti-Vietnam War stance, of which “Super Bird” was an early example. It was basically a trashing of the Johnson administration complete with Marvel Comics superhero imagery. They just don’t create them like that anymore.

There were a number of other memorable tracks. “Death Sound Blues,” as the name implies, incorporated blues elements and featured a searing guitar solo that proved Melton was one of the best kept guitar secrets of the late 1960s. “Bass Strings” was a musical drug experience that traveled from the concert stage to the desert to the sea shore. “Section 43” was a tightly structured instrumental that allowed all the band members to shine. “Grace,” a tribute to Grace Slick of the Jefferson Airplane, was a trip in and of itself complete with some early guitar reverb.

Electric Music For The Body And Mind may sound a little dated today, but there can be no denying its influence and place in the American psychedelic music movement. It’s still good for a listen now and then. So turn on the black lights, hunker down, and have at it.

Article first published as Music Review: Country Joe and The Fish – Electric Music For The Body And Mind on Blogcritics.

Lay Down (Candles In The Rain) 45 by Melanie

December 26, 2011

Ater performaning at Woodstock, Melanie Safka wrote a ringing pop/folk song about the experience of singing before 400,000 people in the rain, while they held up candles.

“Lay Down (Candles In The Rain)” was a big hit reaching number six on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart. It would go on to be adopted by the anti-war movement of the Vietnam War era.

It would be the signature song of her career and a memorable single release from the early 1970s.

Going Up The Country 45 by Canned Heat

December 13, 2011

Canned Heat was an excellent boogie blues band whose “Going Up The Country” was the opening song of the legendary WOODSTOCK film.

The band, formed in L.A. during 1966, consisted of vocalist/harmonica player Bob Hite, guitarist Al Wilson, guitarist Henry Vestine, bassist Larry Taylor, and drummer Frank Cook.

“Going Up The Country” was released December 7, 1968, and became their highestest charting single when it reached number 11 on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart. It had a nice blues sound as it chugged along.

Wilson died 1970 at age 27 and Hite during 1981 at age 36.

Woodstock 45 by Matthews Southern Comfort

August 26, 2009

Ian Matthews founded the influential folk/rock group Fairport Convention. He stayed with them through their first three albums and then moved on. In 1978 he would would have a solo pop hit titled “Shake It” which would reach number 12 on The Billboard Magazine singles charts in The United States.

In the middle of these two endeavors he would produce what I believe was his best work. He would form Matthews Southern Comfort which was another folk/rock group but alot more mainline than Fairport Convention.

Joni Mitchell wrote “Woodstock” about the legendary concert. Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young would have a top twenty hit with the song in 1970.843l I believe that Matthews Southern Comfort’s version was superior as it two became a hit in 1971 reaching number 23.

It was a gentle verson of the song. It had a more melodic feel than the versions by CSN&Y and Joni Mitchell. It was also their one shining moment as a group as Matthews would leave shortly thereafter.

It is one of those forgotten tunes that is well worth seeking out as is alot of the material from this group.

The Woodstock Experience by Santana

August 24, 2009

Two things happened to Santana during the summer of 1969: they performed at The Woodstock Music & Art Fair and released their first self-titled album, which became an immediate commercial hit. These two events combined to make huge stars out of the group.

Legacy Recordings has issued a series of two CD releases that combine complete performances at Woodstock, plus the album issued closest to that performance. Such artists as Sly & The Family Stone, Janis Joplin, The Jefferson Airplane, Johnny Winter, and Santana themselves return in all their historic 1969 glory.

This recording features the original and classic Santana line-up: guitarist Carlos Santana, keyboardist/vocalist Gregg Rolie, drummer Michael Shrieve, bassist Dave Brown, percussionist Jose Areas, and conga player Mike Carabello. While there have been a lot of incarnations of Santana over the years, this was the tightest, featuring them combining Latin rhythms with a fusion of rock and blues.

Santana’s original self-titled album has been remastered and cleaned up, giving it a clear and pristine sound. I have owned this album on vinyl since its release forty years ago, and many of the songs are still instantly recognizable. The rhythms just wash over you, and Carlos Santana proves that his early solo improvisations showed the genius that would flower over the course of his career.

Songs such as “Evil Ways,” “Persuasion,” “Jingo,” and “Soul Sacrifice” all combine heavy percussion and bass rhythms with Rolie’s organ. Santana responds with intermittent guitar solos. He is one of those rare guitarists that can wring impossible notes from his instrument.

Santana’s complete eight-song, forty-five minute Woodstock performance sees its official light of day for the first time here. Seven of the eight songs are taken from their debut, album which hints at their lack of material at the time. Even so, it is nice to hear early live versions of these tracks. The bass and the percussion dominate more than on the studio tracks. Carlos picks his places carefully and his solos do not overpower the music.

The Woodstock tracks are a prisoner of their time, however, as the recording techniques of 1969 do not match those of today, especially in such a huge outside venue. They are passable, though, and what they lack technically, they more than make up for historically.

The Woodstock Experience presents the best of both worlds. You receive a classic rock album, plus a treasure trove of unreleased material from the most historic festival of all time. It is essential listening for any rock fan.

Woodstock: 40th Anniversary Ultimate Collector’s Edition (DVD) by Various Artists

August 14, 2009

Four decades have passed since Woodstock and the festival has now taken on an almost mythic status. It was one of the defining events of a generation. That generation has grown old, and since I was nineteen years old in 1969, I have grown old along with it.

And so it was with a great deal of anticipation that I purchased Woodstock: 40th Anniversary Ultimate Collector’s Edition. While you can never truly go back, I thought it would be nice to visit for a few hours.

This three-disc box set comes with a number of extras. There is a reprint of the 1969 Life magazine special edition, which is filled with photos and commentary about the festival. There is an acrylic paperweight (which I am not sure what to do with, to tell you the truth.) There is a pamphlet that presents just about every statistic you could imagine. There were 600 portable toilets, the stage was 80 feet wide, 400,000 attendees and marijuana was $16.00 an ounce. Anyway, you get the picture.

The foundation of the collection, however, remains the music and the resulting experience. The original movie returns in a director’s cut format. It is significantly longer, which is good news and bad news. The good news is that a number of performances have been added, which allows some of the artists to present a better example of their concert style at the time. It is also historically interesting, as some of these performances have not seen the light of day for forty years. On the negative side, the original movie tried to present the Woodstock experience and the music was interwoven with interviews and scenes from the festival. It all worked well on the original release, but here, the extra music lengthens the film so much that it ultimately has more of a concert feel than an overview of the entire festival.

There is an entire disc of never before seen performances. They include songs by The Grateful Dead, with an incredibly young Jerry Garcia, and Creedence Clearwater Revival. Both groups did not appear in the film or on any of the original vinyl releases. Some highlights from this disc include “My Generation” by The Who, “3/5 Of A Mile In 10 Seconds” by The Jefferson Airplane,” “I’m Her Man” by Canned Heat, and “Turn On Your Love Light” by The Grateful Dead. I was a tad disappointed that there is still no released footage of The Band, The Incredible String Band, Tim Hardin, or Blood, Sweat & Tears, but maybe they are saving it for the 50th anniversary.

The Woodstock generation and experience is now a pleasant memory. A hundred days after Woodstock, the Altamont festival would bring a quick halt to the Summer Of Love concept. Jerry Garcia, Jimi, Janis, Keith Moon and many other performers have passed away, cutting ties to this era. Today, all we are left with is the memories.

Woodstock: 40th Anniversary Ultimate Collector’s Edition is a long and sprawling affair that examines the culture of a generation of youth through music. This collection can be explored either from a historical perspective or just for the music itself.

Woodstock: Music From The Original Soundtrack and More by Various Artists

August 14, 2009

This was the IT album to buy when it was released in May of 1970. The Woodstock Music And Art Fair had quickly gained an almost mythological status, and while 400,000 people had been present, millions more wished they had been there. The movie and this album were as close as they were going to get to the actual event.

Woodstock: Music From The Original Soundtrack And More was a huge hit during the summer of 1970, and it would spend nearly a month on top of the Billboard album charts.

It was a brilliantly conceived album, going beyond just the music. It provided speeches, crowd noises, and generated a feeling that you were actually present at the show. The tracks, while only providing a snippet of the hours of music that was presented, make sense within the context of the album. While it helps if you have seen the movie, it does stand upon its own as a vivid and overall excellent presentation of this historic event.

I am a part of the Woodstock generation and many of these songs and performances are still instantly recognizable four decades later.

The album begins with “I Had A Dream” by John Sebastian, “Going Up The Country” by Canned Heat, and “Freedom” by Richie Havens. In a little over ten minutes, the philosophy of the event, the call to the faithful, and a statement of belief are presented through the music.

There are three outstanding tracks that help to convey the excitement of the festival. The “Crowd Rain Chant,” which morphs into “Soul Sacrifice” by Santana, almost allow you to visualize the famous mud slide. “I’m Going Home” by Ten Years After blasts from the speakers and features some of the most frenetic guitar playing on record. The thirteen minute medley by Sly & The Family Stone find this Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame group at the height of their powers. You can feel the energy build as the group romps through “Dance To The Music,” “Music Lover,” and finally “I Want To Take You Higher.”

The set ends with three tracks by Jimi Hendrix, including his famous performance of “The Star Spangled Banner.”

Thirty nine years after its release and forty years after its recording, Woodstock: Music From The Original Soundtrack And More remains a wonderful relic of the era and festival. An exploration of the Woodstock myth and music passes through this album.

The Woodstock Experience by Janis Joplin

August 13, 2009

When Janis Joplin took the stage on August 17, 1969 at The Woodstock Music and Art Fair she was already a star of the first magnitude. Her work as the lead singer of Big Brother and The Holding Company had brought her acclaim as one of the leading female rock vocalists in the world. The 1967 Monterey Pop Festival had been her coming out party.

1969 found her having left Big Brother and performing with her new back-up group, The Kozmic Blues Band. This was a funky-style outfit complete with a brass section whose playing was similar to the Stax rhythm and blues sound coming out of Memphis.

The Woodstock Experience has gathered her complete ten-song Woodstock set and combined it with her I Got Dem Ol’ Kozmic Blues Mama album which was released shortly after her performance.

Her live performance here is the gem. She did not appear in the original Woodstock movie or soundtrack and only one of her songs was included on the 25th and 40th anniversary editions. This is the third album I have heard from this series and it has the best sound by far. In fact I think it is one of the better sounding performances to have been recorded at the festival. It is crisp and clear which is amazing given the recording equipment of the time and the vastness of the outside arena which tended to wash out the sound.

All was not well with Janis, however, as drugs and alcohol had begun to affect her health. She also had to wait over ten hours to take the stage. Her monologues between songs are sometimes rambling and she has trouble with some of the notes on “Work Me Lord.” She just manages to keep it together and get through the song. Even forty years after the fact I found myself rooting for her to make it.

Her Kozmic Blues Band period was not my favorite. Sometimes she lets the band do too much which takes the focus away from her. She is almost a supporting player on the first two songs, “Raise Your Hand” and “As Good As You’ve Been To This World.” I’m more comfortable with a rock ‘n’ roll Joplin than a funky Joplin.

She finally hits her stride with a cover of the Bee Gees tune, “To Love Somebody,” proving why she was one of the best vocalists in the world. Other highlights include “Summertime,” “Piece Of My Heart,” and “Ball and Chain.” All in all it it’s a somewhat uneven performance though on a number of the tracks her brilliance shines through.

I Got Dem Ol’ Kozmic Blues Again Mama would be her only studio album with the group as they would part ways in 1969. While no Janis Joplin album can ever be considered average, she does struggle in places trying to re-create herself as a rhythm and blues singer. I much prefer her Cheap Thrills album with Big Brother and The Holding Company or her posthumous Pearl. Still, this album fits the time period and is a good companion to her performance.

Close to fourteen months after her Woodstock performance Janis Joplin would be dead. Rolling Stone ultimately ranked her as the 46th greatest artist of all time and 28th greatest singer.

The Woodstock Experience resurrects a historic performance by one of the queens of American rock music.