26 February 2010
25 February 2010
So happy birthday to The Quiet One.
“I’m really quite simple. I don’t want to be in the business full time because I’m a gardener. I plant flowers and watch them grow. I don’t go out to clubs and partying. I stay at home and watch the river flow.”
---George Harrison, from his autobiography I Me Mine
24 February 2010
"Lover, You Should've Come Over"
[Accompanied by: Mick Grondahl (bass); Michael Tighe (guitar); Matt Johnson (drums)]
Fire struck the location of world famous Philadelphia International Records on Sunday night, the site of a studio that spawned a string of rock and soul gems written and produced by Kenny Gamble & Leon Huff and producer Thom Bell. Initially labelled "suspicious" by fire officials, a local man was charged this evening with arson at the building located at 309 South Broad Street, a stone's throw from The Academy of Music and the Kimmel Center.
In a joint statement, owners Gamble & Huff cited the famous McFadden & Whitehead hit: "Ain't no stoppin' us now. Our space has been violated by someone who chose to set fire to it. But what's most important is that we will build it again and continue to rebuild. Nothing is going to stop us."
Gamble, Huff and Bell took over the venerable brick building in 1970, and the hits were plentiful from a stable of artists that became known collectively as "The Sound of Philadelphia": The Intruders ("Cowboys To Girls"); Billy Paul ("Me & Mrs. Jones"); Jerry Butler ("Only The Strong Survive"); Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes ("If You Don't Know Me By Now"); Joe Simon ("Drowning In The Sea of Love"); Mel & Tim ("Backfield In Motion"); The Three Degrees ("When Will I See You Again"); The Jacksons ("Enjoy Yourself"); MFSB ("TSOP [The Sound of Philadelphia])"; and, perhaps most memorably, The (Mighty! Mighty!) O'Jays ("For The Love Of Money," "Back Stabbers," "992 Arguments," and "Love Train").
The production duo estimates that they lost 40% of their memorabilia that adorned the walls, filled offices and was kept in storage, including gold records, awards and private tape collections of artists like Lou Rawls, Patti LaBelle, Teddy Pendergrass and The Jacksons. "Some of the things we lost in the fire are irreplaceable," said Gamble & Huff. "We will know better in the days ahead what our total losses will be."
Amazingly, the recording studio itself, located on the third floor, was relatively unscathed. Gamble & Huff use the studio to broadcast their Sirius XM radio series. It is also a popular attraction for students and tourists.
Before housing Philly International, the studio was the site where Chubby Checker's "The Twist" and Dee Dee Sharp's "Mashed Potato Time" were cut for the Cameo-Parkway label.
"The No. 1 thing that went through our minds as we walked through the facility is that thankfully, no one was hurt," the statement from Gamble & Huff concluded. "After all the years our building has been there, we've never had any problems that come close to this. The devastation is just horrible. It's unbelievable."
In 1999, four years after being inducted into the National Academy of Songwriters' Hall of Fame, Gamble & Huff were honored by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences with the Trustees Award for their extensive body of work, both as producer and songwriter, and their contribution to the entire fabric of popular music. In 2008, Gamble & Huff were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The Rock Hall is currently in the midst of a month long celebration of the Philly Sound.
Well, most of a rock monument was saved, so let's not worry about things we can't control, right? "Enjoy Yourself" instead with The Jacksons from 1976! [Chair dancing in the office allowed.]
21 February 2010
Crawdaddy remembers gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson on the fifth anniversary of his death. Obligatory Dylan mention included.
Saunter over to MBV and take a listen to the new single from Tracey Thorn, one of favorite voices from her days with Everything But The Girl and Massive Attack. "Oh The Divorces!" takes a nice Joni Mitchell route, accompanied by piano and strings. We're looking forward to Love and Its Opposite, dropping on 18 May (Merge).
Spinner brings us "In Living Color: 20 Important Black Rockers Past and Present."
Santogold and Devo together on record? So says clashmusic.com.
And on that odd note, TNOP signs off, but not without wishing our friends at Muzzle of Bees a very Happy 5th Birthday.
19 February 2010
On 6 April, the fourth album drops, titled I Learned The Hard Way. Again produced by Bosco Mann and recorded on an old Apex eight-track machine by Gabe Roth at independent Daptone Records, a sneak preview was provided this week: the title track, which to our ears echos the under appreciated Laura Nyro & LaBelle classic Gonna Take A Miracle, produced by Philadephia masters Kenny Gamble & Leon Huff back in 1971. "I Learned The Hard Way" is available via free download or you can listen here:
17 February 2010
The BBC interviewed Sir Paul McCartney this evening, who provided these comments: "There are a few people who have been associated with the studio for a long time who were talking about mounting some bid to save it. I sympathise with them. I hope they can do something, it'd be great. I have got so many memories there with the Beatles. It still is a great studio. So it would be lovely if somebody could get a thing together to save it."
Abbey Road's studios came into use when EMI bought the place and refurbished it back in 1931. Because the studio is large enough to fit a symphony orchestra, the space has been popular over the years for the recording countless film scores, including The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, as well as some of the more noted orchestras throughout the world.
In addition to the Beatles eponymous album, whose cover of the Fabs made the street crossing in front of the studio an iconic image, these revered works were also made: Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon; The Alan Parsons Project's I, Robot; and Radiohead's The Bends.
On 25 June 1967, the first worldwide television satellite broadcast originated from Studio Two at Abbey Road. The Beatles sang "All You Need Is Love" in an effort to promote world peace. Viewed by 400 million people in 26 countries, the telecast was in black and white, later to be colorized by the Beatles in their documentary Anthology (that's producer George Martin in the booth at the beginning of the clip; watch for Mick Jagger in the audience, as well):
15 February 2010
The elegant harmonies of the band were featured in the next two numbers, "Give Me Time" and "Bedside Manner." The former seemed sped up half a beat to match the electric treatment. The latter, a fascinating cradle to (mostly) grave tale that encapsulates the speedy passage of time and the question of whether faith - or simple remembrance - matters. Goldsmith delivers a beautiful, pleading vocal with Neil Young guitar riffs while playing off the stretched out piano chords of Alex Casnoff.
Dawes is out on the road honing their craft. See them in the small venues while you can; The Night Owl has a feeling this band is on the verge of bigger things.
13 February 2010
The latest project from Irish musical icons The Chieftains deals with an unknown chapter in the Mexican-American War in 1867. The soldiers of the San Patricios, a band of men who had fled the Emerald Isle due to the ravages of famine, were immediately conscripted into the U.S. Army. Instead of facing off against the predominantly Catholic Mexican forces, the battalion switched sides and fought, but to dire consequences. But this germ of an idea, discovered through research by Chieftains' leader Paddy Maloney, did not lead to an album of dirges. On the contrary, the tunes can be quite electric, with the able assistance of noted guitarist Ry Cooder. Also enlisted to help on the CD are Cesar Rosas and David Hidalgo of Los Lobos, Moya Brennan, Los Tigres del Norte, Lila Downs, Liam Neeson and Linda Ronstadt.
San Patricios is to be released 9 March on merge. Find out more about the project by viewing the promotional video above.
The Chieftains start a month long tour in the U.S. this coming week, culminating with a St. Patrick's Day concert in New York City. TNOP County Clare correspondent Celtic Ray will be on hand for the 6 March show in Milwaukee and will post his review on these pages.
11 February 2010
b/w Break Down The Door!
The Special AKA
Written by Jerry Dammers
Produced by Elvis Costello
2 Tone CHS TT26
Released 17 April 1984
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the English music scene was bubbling not only with the punk movement. In what was to become a complimentary sound as many punk artists matured, the revival of Jamaican ska - the precursor to rocksteady and reggae - swept the UK. Coventry native Jerry Dammers was a leading promoter of ska, both as a businessman as well as a musician. Forming the record label 2 Tone, Dammers' multi-racial group The Specials stormed the charts with such hits as "Ghost Town" and "A Message To You, Rudy." Label mates The (English) Beat, The Selecter and Madness also made a significant mark on the genre.
But by 1984, Dammers appeared to be a spent force. Three key members of The Specials left the band and formed Fun Boy Three. Personal issues were plaguing Dammers as well. Recalling a lot of idle time spent in the studio, struggling to finish a new album with replacement musicians, he recalled: "Part of it was my fault; I was working ideas out in the studio. Then there were a lot of other problems - drink, drugs, mental illness, across the board! I was very down after the Fun Boy Three left."
But Dammers had a tune in his head that he needed to get out. "Rock music was dead," Dammers recalled, "It was all electro-pop, hip hop, jazz or Latin. And also, Joe Hagen had this African club at Gossip's. I was inspired by the spirit and positivity of that African music. I was trying to get in a few Latin rhythms, but also township jazz." Lyrically, Dammers thought the song had to be on the scale of "Ghost Town," whose theme had been UK-wide unemployment, with not-too-subtle finger-pointing at the Thatcher government.
Then Dammers attended a 65th birthday party at Alexandra Palace for a man he - and the vast majority of others in the room - had never met: Nelson Mandela, the South African leader who had been languishing in a Robben Island, South Africa prison for 21 years. "I'd never heard of him, to be honest," Dammers said. "Various bands sang about him, particularly Julian Bahula. And that's where I got the idea to put this message into this tune I had hanging around."
For "Nelson Mandela," producer Elvis Costello brought in backing singers Afrodiziak and their opening a capella refrain makes the record memorable from the get-go. Then a lazy horn chart becomes a dance hall frenzy, and lead vocalist Stan Campbell takes the reins, educating the masses on the ANC leader that no one had heard from in almost a generation.
Dammers liked that he had crafted "a very simple melody, three notes - C, A and E. That meant the public could sing it." It went to #9 on the UK charts. The song, banned in South Africa, would nevertheless be heard in townships all over South Africa. And it was the centerpiece of the Mandela 70th birthday show, televised in June 1988 and viewed by 600 million people.
Twenty years ago today, Nelson Mandela was released from prison. After being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993, he went on to become the elected President of South Africa, serving from 1994 to 1999. Currently 91 years old, Mandela is one of the most recognizable figures in the world.
Artists United Against Apartheid
Written by Steven Van Zandt
Produced by Steven Van Zandt and Arthur Baker
EMI Manhattan Records
Released 7 December 1985
Meanwhile, in the United States, "Little" Steven Van Zandt left the gig of a lifetime - voluntarily - in 1984 when he split from Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band. He then turned to more overtly political causes, mainly aiming at Reagan-era foreign policy issues.
A fancy resort in South Africa called Sun City had become a vacation haven for the internationally rich and famous, with notable entertainers (including Queen, Elton John, Ray Charles and Rod Stewart) being paid huge sums of money to perform before them. In response, Van Zandt organized Artists United Against Apartheid, whose members pledged not to play in South Africa while the apartheid regime was still in power.
The resulting musical project included the Van Zandt penned "Sun City," a militant stomp aggressively produced with Arthur Baker and performed by 49 notable musicians. Enjoy the intro by the great Miles Davis and then see how many stars you can spot in the video:
10 February 2010
TNOP Patron Saint Bob Dylan showed up at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue last night - a day early. Seems as though all the snow you folks out East have been putting up with moved the Civil Rights music celebration at the White House up one calendar date. Jon Pareles of The New York Times reports he sang "The Times They Are A-Changin'" in waltz time. TwentyFourBit adds that "[a]ccompanied by stand-up bass and piano, Dylan sang his 1964 anthem loud and clear, highlighting the song's many apropos lyrical moments (Come senators, congressmen/Please heed the call/Don't stand in the doorway/Don't block up the hall). Then he stepped from the stage, shook President Obama's hand and left.
Bonnaroo has announced the bulk of its summertime festival lineup, to be held 10-13 June on a 700 acre farm in Manchester, Tennessee. Notables (as far as we're concerned) include: Stevie Wonder, The Flaming Lips, Tenacious D, Jay-Z, Phoenix, John Fogerty, LCD Soundsystem, The National, John Prine, The Black Keys, Steve Martin & The Steep Canyon Rangers, The xx, Miike Snow, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Calexico, Blitzen Trapper, Dave Rawlings Machine, and Mumford & Sons.
Our own Celtic Ray reports that Irishman Damien Rice introduced a stunning new tune the other night in Santa Monica, California at the opening of the Tibet documentary When The Dragon Swallowed The Sun. Contributors to the movie soundtrack also include Thom Yorke and Philip Glass. Give "What If I'm Wrong" a listen:
Aquarium Drunkard remembers Doug Sahm and The Sir Douglas Quintet on the occasion of the publication of Texas Tornado: The Times and Music of Doug Sahm, by Jan Reed (University of Texas Press).
No Depression gives us a nice sneak preview of some of the acts that will be appearing at their SXSW Showcase. Bands include Vandaveer, The Maldives and The Deadstring Brothers.
Jim Carroll of The Irish Times stirs the pot by taking on the album reviewers at Pitchfork. While that in of itself is (really) nothing new, alot of readers take the bait anyway. And if it adds to the discussion among bloggers as to the merits of various album releases, why not?
Josh Ritter's new album, titled So Runs The World Away, is to be released in Ireland on 23 April and in the States and the rest of the world on 4 May. He's also offering a free mp3 download of one of the songs, "Change of Time." Tours dates for April (Ireland) and May (United States) have been announced as well.
The Peter Gabriel covers project Scratch My Back that we previously reported on is available for free streaming at The Guardian. You can also download for free his version of Bon Iver's "Flume."
In the "we kid you not" category, The Grateful Dead Archive will soon be open to the public at the University of California at Santa Cruz. The Atlantic tells us about it and manages to proselytize that business students can learn from the band's management style.
Eric Clapton brings his guitar hero Crossroads Festival back to Chicago this summer on 26 June. Tickets - sales benefit his center in Antigua that helps the chemically dependent - are a cool $100, but check out some of the lineup confirmed so far: Albert King, The Allman Brothers Band, B. B. King, Buddy Guy, James Burton, Jeff Beck, Robert Cray, Joao Gilberto, Jimmie Vaughn, John Mayer and Vince Gill. Serious guitar slingers, all.
Speaking of B. B. King, next time you are in Las Vegas, TNOP says check out his new Blues Club at The Mirage. It's a refreshing change of pace - live music anchored by a fantastic house band, The B. B. King All-Stars, a rollicking 13-piece soul revue complete with three lead vocalists and a dynamite horn section. Highly recommended.
Rolling Stone reports on Wilco's Portland show last night, with special guest Peter Buck. And our friends at Muzzle of Bees bring us the boys' cover of Neil Young's "Broken Arrow" from the concert.
That's it from the news desk. TNOP has still got the new Spoon record on heavy rotation, so we'll leave you with their appearnce on Conan O'Brien singing "Written In Reverse":
03 February 2010
"Bad news on the doorstep."
Fifty-one years ago today, in Clear Lake, Iowa, rock and roll lost three of its pioneering artists in a plane crash. Perishing in a cornfield in the dead of winter were Texan Buddy Holly, Californian Ritchie Valens and DJ J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson, along with pilot Roger Peterson. All three singers were riding the crest of a wave of music popularity.
Holly, who had already established a solid career at the young age of 22 with hits like "Not Fade Away," "Peggy Sue" and "Rave On," would become hugely influential in the careers of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, among many others.
Buddy Holly & The Crickets, "Peggy Sue" (1957)
Buddy Holly interview with Red Robinson, Vancouver, October 23, 1957.
Valens, born Richard Valenzuela, was only 17 at the time, and had broken out with the rocking "Come On, Let's Go" and then topped the charts with the ballad "Donna." The teen would later be immortalized in the movie La Bamba and his music would again be brought to the masses by Los Lobos.
Ritchie Valens, "Donna" (live recording 1958)
Richardson, from Texas, had a novelty record called "Chantilly Lace" that gathered attention. What most do not know is that he was also the author of "White Lightning," a tune George Jones took to the top of the charts after the crash.
The famous odd-man out on the fatal plane ride? Waylon Jennings, whose playful comments with Holly about the cold and its potential effects on their respective means of transportation would haunt him until his death in 2002.
FURTHER LISTENING AND VIEWING:
The Rolling Stones perform Buddy Holly's "Not Fade Away" in a 1964 television appearance:
01 February 2010
CHECK LOCAL LISTINGS FOR TV TIMES AND/OR REPEAT SHOWINGS; ALSO CONSULT WEBSITES AND YOUTUBE
TONIGHT, 1 February
The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien (NBC) - John Mayer Trio
Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson (CBS) - They Might Be Giants
Last Call with Carson Daly (NBC) - Doves
TUESDAY, 2 February
Late Show with David Letterman (CBS) - Ben Harper & Relentless7
The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien (NBC) - Neko Case
Last Call with Carson Daly (NBC) - Crocodiles
Tavis Smiley (PBS) - Wyclef Jean
WEDNESDAY, 3 February
Late Night with Jimmy Fallon (NBC) - Harper Simon
Tavis Smiley (PBS) - Bill Withers
Last Call with Carson Daly (NBC) - Metric
THURSDAY, 4 February
Late Night with Jimmy Fallon (NBC) - Hot Chip
Last Call with Carson Daly (NBC) - The Raveonettes
FRIDAY, 5 February
Late Show with David Letterman (CBS) - The Swell Season
Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson (CBS) - Jill Scott
Tavis Smiley (PBS) - Patti Smith
Last Call with Carson Daly (NBC) - Lisa Hannigan