28 May 2010

Milwaukee Hip-Hop For The Holiday

Two great cuts to start the holiday weekend off with infectious old school beats and blaring speakers.

Frankie Flowers

Kid Millions
"Victim To The Beat"

27 May 2010

John Prine & Yim Yames: "All The Best"

The wonderful John Prine visited The Late Show with David Letterman last night and sang a duet of his "All The Best" with Yim Yames. My Morning Jacket's cover of the song is included in the upcoming Broken Hearts & Dirty Windows: Songs of John Prine, to be released 22 June on Oh Boy Records. Here's the track listing:

1 "Bruised Orange" - Justin Vernon

2 "Wedding Day In Funeralville" - Conor Oberst & The Mystic Valley Band

3 "All The Best" - My Morning Jacket

4 "Mexican Home" - Josh Ritter

5 "Six O'Clock News" - Lambchop

6 "Far From Me" - Justin Townes Earle

7 "Spanish Pipedream" - The Avett Brothers

8 "Angel From Montgomery" - Old Crow Medicine Show

9 "The Late John Garfield Blues" - Sara Watkins

10 "Daddy's Little Pumpkin" - Drive-By Truckers

11 "Unwed Fathers" - Deertick feat. Liz Isenberg

12 "Let's Talk Dirty In Hawaiian" - Those Darlins

26 May 2010

The Daily News Asks TNOP For The Dope

If your bus from downtown doesn't stop until 82nd Street uptown, TNOP's got some news to keep you company and while away the time . . .
A double CD of a 1966 Otis Redding show at Hollywood's Whisky-A-Go-Go, Otis Redding - Live On The Sunset Strip, was released this week. Pop & Hiss brings us a great story on the gigs, taped over four nights, using a noted eye-witness as its main source: Ry Cooder, who was playing guitar at the time for the warm-up act, Taj Mahal. "It was unbelievable," recalled Cooder. "He'd get up, stomp his foot, wave his arm, grab a microphone and sing with such searing intensity, I thought, this man's going to have a heart attack if he keeps this up. He's not going to make it. But it was good -- a great R&B show, the likes of which I'd never seen."

Step right up! Mr. Tom Waits edits the 200th issue of Mojo, on newstands in the UK soon. Wait a couple of weeks for it to show at your favorite bookstore in the US. Features in the July edition include Waits' interview of Harry Belafonte, a 15-song CD selected and sequenced by the singer and the magazine's guide to all of the Waits album catalog.

U2 had to cancel as the headliner at the massive Glastonbury Festival on opening night, 25 June. But The Guardian reports that Gorillaz have stepped into the breach. Speaking on behalf of 2D, Murdoc, Noodle and Russel Hobbs, Damon Albern said, "it was us or The Beatles, and they split up years ago."

The new Arcade Fire 12" will be released in the next couple of days. Nialler9 has posted both songs, "The Suburbs" and "Month of May" for you to sample in full.

The Cute Beatle visits The White House next week, feted by a number of noted musicians, including Stevie Wonder, Elvis Costello, Jack White and Emmylou Harris. Click Track gives us a Macca song wish list. TNOP agrees wholeheartedly that "We Can Work It Out" is the hands-down choice for The Wonderous One.

Drew Olson of speaks with Kurt Neumann of the BoDeans and provides a historical timeline of the underrated band. TNOP still fondly remembers the shows in the early 1980s at The Landing at Humboldt & North.

OK. So you are in your cap and gown at Brooklyn's Pratt Institute and thinking what boring commencement speaker am I going to have to suffer through? And out walks . . . Patti Smith! And she not only is funny, entertaining, name-dropping and emotional, but sings a couple of songs too! And how can't you love this send-off into the world: "be happy, take care of your teeth, always let your conscience be your guide. well, i wish you god and good luck." The Awl gives great video and The Smoking Bop Gun provides the transcript.

TNOP UK music correspondent and all-around bon vivant Miles Gallagher has been talking up Rock Island, Illinois singer-soItalicngwriter Lissie Maurus over the past couple of weeks. Now a great new video of a live performance with Ellie Goulding at the Brighton Great Escape has surfaced. Enjoy Lissie's composition "Everywhere I Go" (via TwentyFour Bit).

Here's a great excuse to escape to a great city: NXNE takes place 14-20 June in Toronto. Billed as "650 Bands - 7 Days - 40 Films - 50 Venues" the festival music headliners include Iggy & The Stooges, De La Soul and The Ravonettes and screens Don Letts' documentary on the late Joe Strummer.

Band of Horses, touring behind their third LP, Infinite Arms, played Los Angeles' Roxy on Tuesday night. Spinner was there.

Hot Press reports that the new Ra Ra Riot album called The Orchard will be released in both the US and Ireland/UK on 24 August.

Damn! They beat us to it. All Songs Considered solicits nominations for best opening tracks on an album. The blog is at 450 suggestions and counting.

To coincide with the 1974 release of Brian Eno's Here Come The Warm Jets (which, by the way, contained the classic track "The Paw-Paw Negro Blow Torch"), a pre-Pretenders Chrissie Hynde was sent by NME to interview the ex-Roxy Music chameleon. He answered the door to his London flat in a red satin kimono and black satin dress pants. Ah, those were the days . . .

TNOP told you. Janelle Monae's The ArchAndroid has garnered rave reviews from Pitchfork, The Boston Globe, and The Chicago Tribune, among many others. Greg Kot interviews the exciting young singer in Turn It Up.

The Telegraph profiles the legendary Booker T. Jones.

Well, our stop's coming up. Before we step off into the hustle and bustle of the big city, slip on your earbuds and listen to Stevie Wonder sing maybe the best Beatles' cover ever.

25 May 2010

This Date In Rock History: 25 May

On this date in 1926, Miles Dewey Davis 3d was born in Alton, Illinois. He would have been 84 today, had he not gone a-way.

Miles Davis grew up in East St. Louis, Illinois, the son of an affluent dental surgeon. On his thirteenth birthday, he was given a trumpet and music lessons with a local musician. By the age of 15, young Miles had obtained his union card and was performing in and around St. Louis with Eddie Randall's Blue Devils.

Trumpeter Clark Terry, one of Miles' idols, became his mentor and his local reputation grew. The Davises spurned offers for Miles to join several big bands. But when he was 18, the singer Billy Eckstine (another of Miles' personal favorites) came to town with his band, which included Charlie "Yardbird" Parker on alto sax and Dizzy Gillespie on trumpet. After another trumpeter took sick, Miles sat in with the band on a two week stand. It made him decide to move to New York City.

With the promise to his parents that he would extend his formal musical education, Miles attended The Julliard School of Music starting in September 1944. He studied by day and performed at jazz clubs in Harlem and on 52nd Street at night. Seduced by the unique rhythm of be-bop that Bird and Diz introduced him to, Miles put Julliard in the rear-view mirror and concentrated solely on jazz. In his autobiography he notes that "Up at Julliard, I played in the symphony, two notes, with be-bop, every 90 bars, so I said "Let me out of here,' and I left." With that unique musical bedrock, he began to craft his own musical style.

Early gigs saw Miles perform with saxophonists Coleman Hawkins and Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis. By 1945 he was part of a quintet with arguably the most talented and influential jazz saxophonist of all time, Charlie Parker. Jazz historians note recordings of "Koko" and "Now's The Time" with this group as the first be-bop sessions.

By the late '40s, Miles was striking out on his own, with a quintet that sometimes included Bird. But the sound was evolving, as it would throughout Miles' entire career. This phase is now identified as "cool jazz" because of the elaborate orchestrations he forged with arrangers Gil Evans and Gerry Mulligan. The movement was particularly influential on the West Coast.

The early 1950s saw Miles swallowed up by heroin use and his work in the first half of the decade is spotty. But he beat the addiction and once again was at the vanguard of the latest jazz variation: "hard bop." In 1954, he recorded with the giants Sonny Rollins (sax), Horace Silver (piano) and Thelonious Monk (piano). Miles triumphant return to the public arena is still considered his appearance at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1955 with his first seminal quintet in tow: Red Garland on piano, John Coltrane on tenor sax, Paul Chambers on bass and Philly Joe Jones on drums. This group would go on to record six albums in two years; supposedly the ferocity of the work was in part due to fulfilling a contract with Prestige Records, in order to sign with recording giant Columbia. These albums would bring Miles his first general notice of the music public at large.

In 1957, Miles had an operation on his vocal cords. As recounted in his life story, two days after the surgery he got into an argument and began shouting at someone "who tried to convince to go into a deal that I didn't want." The damage left him the now famous low tone, gravelly voice for the rest of his life.

Adding Julian "Cannonball" Adderly to the quintet in the late 1950s, Miles introduced a more sparse, stripped down style to the harmonies. The albums produced in this era, particularly Milestones and Kind of Blue (with Bill Evans replacing Garland on piano), are widely considered masterpieces, and have served as a literal introduction to jazz to millions of listeners. A great start if you've never heard Miles is "So What":

Electrified sound was the next stop on Miles' musical journey. In A Silent Way and Bitches Brew continue to be touchstones for not only the jazz set (the advent of "fusion") but the rock and roll community as well (fueling the impetus of what was to be known as "funk"). And once again, Miles introduced the music world to phenomenal musicians, who would go on to have significant careers in their own right: saxophonist Wayne Shorter, guitarist John McLaughlin, drummer Tony Williams, bassist Ron Carter and keyboardists Joe Zawinul and Herbie Hancock.

Miles' later years in music were marred by various physical maladies and probably fans and critics with overexpectations. He died in 1991. Almost 20 years later, Miles Davis is securely atop popular music's Mount Olympus.

24 May 2010

Rock 'n Film: "Upside Down: The Creation Records Story"

Intrepid TNOP UK Music Correspondent Miles Gallagher reports that the long in the works documentary on noted English indie label Creation Records will actually be released soon after some aborted debut dates. Although the official Creation site last commented on the project back in November of last year, a new, extended trailer of the film, titled Upside Down, has now hit the internet (view it by clicking here).

For the uninitiated, Creation (with the memorable motto "Doing It For The Kids") was founded in London in 1983 by Alan McGee, Dick Green and Joe Foster. It introduced the music listening public to such seminal bands as Primal Scream, The Jesus And Mary Chain, Ride, My Bloody Valentine, and -- most notably -- Oasis. The former managing agent of Creation, Tim Abbot, revealed to The Guardian the label's unusual method of making sure new bands came on board: "We often used to drink and drug the bands into submission." In the most famous example of Oasis, after the initial bond formed, Abbot said, Noel Gallagher was frog-marched to the pub where, unsurprisingly, all involved got "stuck into a session." 1994's Definitely Maybe became a critical and commercial success, followed by (What's The Story) Morning Glory? which was the biggest selling British album of the '90s.

Despite the success of its prize band as well as others mentioned above, and even though half of the company was sold to Sony in 1992, Creation still lurched financially from one crisis to another. "We were always skint," said Abbot. "It was like spinning plates, we were always trying to dodge the bailiffs. It couldn't go on like that." Creation Records dissolved in 1999.

No word on whether a soundtrack will be released in conjunction with the documentary.

Salute Him When His Birthday Comes

Forever Young.

23 May 2010

Tom Waits Flashback

Here's a great way to start the new week: revisiting a Tom Waits appearance in 1977 on Fernwood 2Night. The TV show is a lost cult classic. Produced by Norman Lear, it was a summer replacement show that ran for three months. Martin Mull played fictional talk show host Barth Gimble and Fred Willard was his sidekick Jerry Hubbard. The memorable house band was Happy Kyne & The Mirth Makers.

In this episode, Waits plays his classic "The Piano Has Been Drinking" and then goes to the couch for an entertaining interview.

21 May 2010

Your Weekly Dylan Cover (#5)

Nanci Griffith
"Boots of Spanish Leather"

Original Dylan version found on The Times They Are A-Changin' (1964)

This selection is a bookend to last week's choice (The Clancy Brothers' cover of "When The Ship Comes In") in that "Boots of Spanish Leather" is another track taken from Bob Dylan's 1964 album The Times They Are A-Changin'. In addition, the version by Texas singer-songwriter Nanci Griffith also had its roots in the 30th Anniversary Concert back on 12 October 1992.

In and around that time, Nanci Caroline Griffith was recording her tenth full-length record, to be titled Other Voices, Other Rooms. It was her first album of cover songs, and she had lined up an impressive array of musicians to play on songs written by indivduals who had most shaped her career and craft: Emmylou Harris, John Prine, Arlo Guthrie, Iris DeMent, Guy Clark, Jerry Jeff Walker, Allison Krauss, John Hartford, Leo Kottke - and Bob Dylan.

The version of "Boots of Spanish Leather" presented here is quite close to the original. But what makes it unique is Griffith's voice - not only its beauty and lilt, rambling down the road with a natural story-teller's ease, but also listening to the last three verses sung from a woman's perspective. Dylan's gentle background harmonica adds a subtle touch of grace to this intensely personal song between two lovers.

[Thanks to Peggy Day for the suggestion.]


Original Listening: Bob Dylan, "Boots of Spanish Leather"

Live Listening & Viewing: Nanci Griffith & Carolyn Hester, "Boots of Spanish Leather" (New York City, 16 October 1992)

Another Cover Version: Dervish, "Boots of Spanish Leather" (2007)

Breaking News: U2 Tour Postponed

The resumption of the U2 360 Tour, which was to begin again on 3 June in Salt Lake City, Utah, has been indefinitely postponed. Lead singer Bono underwent emergency back surgery in Munich, Germany earlier today due to an injury sustained while rehearsing with the band.

Check out the official U2 site for an announcement by long-time band manager Paul McGuinness and further updates, including ticket information.

19 May 2010

The Dictionary of Soul: Janelle Monae

Could this be the hit song of the upcoming summer months? Already?

TNOP might put some money down at the window betting on Janelle Monae's single "Tightrope" to win, place and show.

A Kansas City native, the 25 year old Monae (born Janelle Monae Robinson) trained in musical theater in New York City. Forsaking the formal stage, she moved to Atlanta and was discovered by Outkast's Big Boi (he's featured briefly on the recording of "Tightrope").

And, man, is this young woman a dynamite performer. With James Brown dance moves, powerhouse pipes and a natural ease allowing her to improvise on stage like a seasoned pro, Monae commands rapt attention from the listener/viewer.

Do yourself a BIG favor and click above to watch Janelle Monae tear it up on The Late Show with David Letterman last night.

It also helps that Monae has the marketing muscle of Bad Boy/Atlantic Records behind her. The debut album, The ArchAndroid (Suites II and III of IV), dropped yesterday. The official video to "Tightrope" is a kick too; watch it here.

This Date In Rock History: 19 May

Happy Birthday to the Maximum R&B front man of The Who, Peter Dennis Blandford "Pete" Townshend, born on this date in 1945 in Cheswick, London. The extensive use of feedback; the advent of the "Marshall stack;" the legendary windmill chord and on-stage leaps; arguable creation of the rock opera concept; and - oh, yeah - vanguard singer-songwriter: where's rock 'n roll without any of those? Well, that's Pete Townshend. Glad he didn't die before he got old.

18 May 2010

Ultimate Singles Jukebox [Slot 117]

Tighten Up (Part 1)
b/w "Dog Eat Dog"
Archie Bell & The Drells
Written by Archie Bell & Billy Butler
Ovide Records (later distributed by Atlantic Records)
Released 1968

This story is about a regional group that had an "overnight" hit record with some strange twists along the way. Like the fact that the lead singer singing about a dance craze was shot in the leg while serving in Vietnam. And while recovering from his wounds, kept making calls overseas pleading with DJs to stop playing the "wrong side" of his group's record - the "A" side.

But let's allow the lead singer to begin the story, as he does on the "B" side that became a smash.

Hi everybody
I'm Archie Bell of The Drells
From Houston, Texas
We don't only sing but we dance
Just as good as we walk
In Houston we just started a new dance
Called the Tighten Up
This is the music
We tighten up with

Archie Bell formed a group with four friends from high school in 1966. They called themselves "The Drells," a derivative of Archie's family name. Having won some local talent shows, The Drells' first champion was local DJ Skipper Lee Frazier. In 1967, the five young men recorded "Dog Eat Dog" for Frazier's Ovide Records. The flip side was a dance number called "Tighten Up."

Fate intervened (for good and for bad, it turns out). The Vietnam War was raging in the South Pacific. Bell was drafted and immediately inducted into the army. According to one version that has been passed around (and perhaps perpetuated by the singer himself), when he was sworn in, Bell raised his right hand in a black power salute and was answered with a one-way ticket to the platoon facing the worst of the fighting at the time.

Wounded in the leg by gunfire in Vietnam, Bell was sent to recover in Germany. While convalescing, he was advised by other members of the group that "Dog Eat Dog" was getting some significant airplay in Houston, and, of all places, New York City. He took to the long distance lines, calling DJs and telling them that they were playing the "wrong side" of the 45, even though "Dog Eat Dog" was - per custom in the days of the two-sided single - designated as the "A" side for promotional play.

The badgering of radio jocks worked. "Tighten Up" sold 800,000 copies in the New York metropolitan area alone, and over 3 million copies in the US. It hit Number 1 on both the Billboard Hot 100 and Hot R&B singles charts the week of May 18, 1968, only to be knocked off its perch by Simon & Garfunkel ("Mrs. Robinson") and Stevie Wonder ("Shoo-Be-Doo-Da-Day"), respectively.

Bell's explanation for how "Tighten Up" was written is a fairly direct one, not uncommon to many records of the time: a simple suggestion or observation. In this case, group member Billy Butler was dancing around backstage before a show. Bell told him that he didn't recognize the dance steps. Butler replied, "It's a brand new dance called the 'Tighten Up'." Bell took it from there, creating a unique call and response between the vocalist and the drums, bass and organ, no doubt influenced by the great James Brown's dominance of the soul charts during the '60s. From there he upped the ante: Bell recruited some horn players from Texas Southern University ("the Tornadoes") to pop the melody together with syncopated hand claps.

The result is a stone cold classic that instinctively makes you turn up the car radio as soon as you hear the first guitar chord. Or get up off your feet in the living room, because "everybody can do it" - The Tighten Up.

Listen to the original 45 rpm recording of "Tighten Up" by Archie Bell & The Drells.

Watch Archie Bell & The Drells perform "Tighten Up" on TV (date unknown; video is subpar):

16 May 2010

Read It In The Sunday Papers

Why should we go out when the internet's always on? TNOP brings you news from the music world outside . . .

Claudia Roth Pierpont reviews Harvey G. Cohen's new work Duke Ellington's America, which tackles the elusive link of the American master's compositions with the omnipresent subject of race in the US.

Jazz critic Howard Reich of the Chicago Tribune focuses on the New Orleans music-centric HBO series Treme.

For those who dig Everything But The Girl and her vocal guest spots with Massive Attack, you'll be pleased that vocalist Tracey Thorn has returned with a fine solo effort, released this past week. Thorn talks with The Alternate Side about the new CD, Love And Its Opposite. You also get some live performance from her home with the bonus of checking out her kids' art work. And NPR is streaming all of Love And Its Opposite for your sampling pleasure.

Unless you've been away from all things media, the re-release of The Rolling Stones' Exile On Main St. has been everywhere. TNOP has waded through alot of media hype and recommends the three pieces that Greg Kot contributed to his Turn It Up blog: separate interviews with Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, as well as a retrospective review of the classic double LP itself.

NME reports that both Keane and The National have hit the UK album charts with great success in their first week of release.

Jim Carroll of The Irish Times catches up with James Murphy in Spain. But he;s supposed to be in Dublin playing some shows. Seems volcanic ash got in the way. Is Murphy grumpy or is This Is Happening really the last LCD Soundsystem album?

The Black Cab Sessions recently shipped their well-travelled vehicle overseas to pick up some notables at SXSW. Laura Marling was among them, and she provided a fine version of her "Rambling Man" from the new CD I Speak Because I Can. And her show in Boston the other night also earned a rave review.

Devastated recently by flood waters, The Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville is cleaning up building damage and trying to salvage priceless artifacts.

Martin Scorsese's documentary on George Harrison now has a title: Living In The Material World. It will premiere in 2011.

The Hold Steady made an appearance on The Colbert Report this week. Craig Finn discussed Catholicism and the band played "Hurricane J" from the new Heaven Is Whenever.

Psyched for the upcoming summer festival season? The Times of London offers its "definitive guide to the top 100 music festivals" large and small, not only in the UK but Europe and the US as well.

Over at Muzzle of Bees, Daniel Brielmaier remembers a hot summer night in 1989 when The Replacements and a jammed crowd sweated through a memorable performance in a small room at a local university in Milwaukee. And offers a six-song EP of the set to show The 'Mats "could still kick it out."

That's it from here. Fold the papers nicely either for recycling or use in the kitty litter box. Joe Jackson leads us out . . .

13 May 2010

Your Weekly Dylan Cover (#4)

The Clancy Brothers & Robbie O'Connell with Tommy Makem
"When The Ship Comes In"
Original Dylan version found on The Times They Are A-Changin' (1964)

The 30th Anniversary Concert Celebration in honor of Bob Dylan's 30 years in the music business was held on 16 October 1992 at New York's Madison Square Garden. Famously dubbed "BobFest" by Neil Young, the star-studded affair featured artists performing exclusively Dylan compositions, including Johnny Cash, Stevie Wonder, Lou Reed, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers and George Harrison.

But amongst the musical firepower, an unassuming - and probably to the majority in the audience, unknown - group of middle-aged men almost stole the show.

The Irish folk singers Liam Clancy (tenor) and Tommy Makem (baritone) had been admired by Dylan since his early days in Greenwich Village. On this occasion, the two singers trade initial verses on "When The Ship Comes In," and then are joined in harmony by Liam's brothers Bobby and Paddy as well as nephew Robbie O'Connell. The choice is apt, as both the melody and lyrics fit the classic mold of an Irish rebel song.

After the lights were dimmed at the Garden, the after-party was held at Tommy Makem's Irish Pavilion on West 57th. Makem was coaxed onto the stage near the bar and sang songs he had recorded with The Clancy Brothers that were favorites of Dylan's.

All the Clancy Brothers have since passed away. Tommy Makem, too. Their cover of "When The Ship Comes In" is an important and historical recording, enhanced because it was captured on video as well.


The appreciation of this anthem was late in coming for me. "When The Ship Comes In" is not a song to be found on any of the Dylan Greatest Hits or Biograph. I had seen snippets of newsreel footage from The March On Washington taken in August 1963 with Dylan singing at the podium with Joan Baez. Later I found out that this was the song they were performing; the tune had supposedly been written a few weeks earlier. According to both Baez and once girlfriend Suze Rotolo, Dylan had written the song inspired by a hotel incident and then fit the words to a melody influenced by Kurt Weill & Bertolt Brecht.

Original Listening: Bob Dylan, "When The Ship Comes In"

Live Listening & Viewing: Bob Dylan & Joan Baez, "When The Ship Comes In" (Washington, DC, 28 August 1963)

Another Cover Version: The Pogues, "When The Ship Comes In" (from Pogue Mahone, 1996)

12 May 2010

Buzz Builds For The National

The positive buzz behind Brooklyn (via Cincinnati) band The National keeps gathering steam. In addition to the release of their new CD High Violet this week, the group divulged that it will be working with noted rock documentarian D. A. Pennebaker (Don't Look Back and Monterey Pop).

This Saturday (15 May) Pennebaker, his wife and frequent collaborator Chris Hegedus will direct a live webcast of The National's concert at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. (In addition, the duo will present a short film on the group just prior to the live gig.) The performance, beginning at 8.00pm EDT, will benefit the Red Hot Foundation. Expect special guests; maybe some artists who also contributed to the fine Dark Was The Night compilation last year.

In the meantime, make sure to catch their appearance tomorrow night on The Late Show with David Letterman.

And here's the new video for The National's powerful new track "Bloodbuzz Ohio" (by the way, that's Pennebaker in the role of bartender):

11 May 2010

Wilco: "Deeper Down" on Craig Ferguson

Wilco - TNOP's Best Band In America At The Moment (admittedly, they've held the title belt for a number of years now) - once again showed off their live prowess on last night's The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. The boys' selection was "Deeper Down" from Wilco (The Album).

Wilco starts the European leg of its latest tour on 21 May in Helsinki. U.S. dates resume at the end of July.

Bob Marley, 6 February 1945 - 11 May 1981

You think it's the end
But it's just the beginning
---Bob Marley, "Want More"

I know claiming Bob Marley as Irish might be a little difficult here tonight, but bear with me. Jamaica and Ireland have lots in common... Naomi Campbell, Chris Blackwell, a fondness for little green leaves... the weed... religion... the philosophy of procrastination (don't put off till tomorrow what you can put off till the day after)... unless of course it's freedom. We are both islands, we're both colonies - JAMAICA IRELAND - ... the common yoke... the struggle for identity, the struggle for independence... the vulnerable and uncertain future that is left behind when the jackboot of empire has finally retreated.... roots... the getting up, the standing up - and the hard bit - the staying up. In such a struggle, an often violent struggle, the voice of Bob Marley was a voice of reason so when I heard Bob Marley first I not only felt it, I felt I understood it. It was 1976 in Dublin, we were listening to was The Clash who brought him home to us, that and E.C.'s cover of 'I Shot the Sheriff'. Bob Marley and the Wailers had love songs you could admit listening to, songs of hurt...hard but healing... Tuff Gong politics without rhetoric, songs of freedom where that word meant something again, new hymns to a dancing God, redemption songs, a sexy revolution where Jah is Jehovah on street level not over his people ... with His people not just stylin... jamming' the lion of Judah down the line of Judah from Ethiopia where it all began for the rastamen, where everything began...well maybe.
I spent some time in Ethiopia with my wife Ali and everywhere we went we saw Bob Marley's face... wise, royal, Solomon and the queen of Sheba on every street corner, there he was, dressed to hustle God... 'let my people go' an ancient plea...prayers catching fire in Mozambique, Nigeria, The Lebanon, Alabama, Detroit, NEW YORK CITY, Notting Hill, Belfast... a king in dreads... a third and first world super star. Mental slavery ends where imagination begins... here was this new music rocking out of the shantytowns, born from calypso and raised on the chilled out r 'n' b, beamed in from New Orleans... lolling lopping rhythms... telling it like it is, like it was, like it ever shall be...skanking mon! Ska, Bluebeat, Rocksteady, Reggae, dub and now ragga... and all of this from a man who drove 3 BMWs, BMW!? BOB MARLEY AND THE WAILERS!!! (that was his excuse!) rock and roll loves its juvenilia, its caricatures, its cartoons, the protest singer, the gospel singer, the popstar, the sex god and of course... your more mature messiah types?! we love extremes and we're expected to choose... the mud of the blues or the oxygen of gospel, the 'hellhound on our trail' or the 'band of angels'. Marley didn't choose or didn't walk down the middle, he raced to the edges embracing all extremes and creating a oneness. He wanted everything at the same time and was every thing at the same time... prophet, soul rebel, rasta man, herbsman, wild man, a natural mystic man, ladies man, island man, soccer man, family man, Rita's man, showman, shaman, human, JAMAICAN.

---Bono, "Induction Song" (Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Special Awards Ceremony, 1994)

10 May 2010

Music On TV This Week


The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson (CBS) - Wilco
Last Night with Jimmy Fallon (NBC) - Green Day; Taj Mahal

The Late Show with David Letterman (CBS) - MGMT
The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson - Jonsi
Late Night with Jimmy Fallon - Keith Urban; Mike McCready
Lopez Tonight (TBS) - Ozomatli

The Tonight Show with Jay Leno (NBC) - Macy Gray
Late Night with Jimmy Fallon - Queen Latifah; Sheryl Crow; Chuck Leavell

The Late Show with David Letterman - The National
The Tonight Show with Jay Leno - Jakob Dylan
Late Night with Jimmy Fallon - Phish; Dr. John
The Colbert Report (Comedy Central) - The Hold Steady

FRIDAY, 23 April
Jimmy Kimmel Live (ABC) - Dr. Dog
Late Night with Jimmy Fallon - A screening of "Stones In Exile"

Prince Meets Miles, 31 December 1987

TNOP's intrepid Jazz & Pop correspondent Miles Gallagher recently tracked down this elusive footage of Miles Davis jamming on stage with Prince on New Year's Eve back in 1987. With the help of our French interpreter (tip of the hat to MER), here's the description accompanying the video:

Historic concert in Minneapolis makes for a princely new year in 1987. Miles loved Prince and vice-versa. We talked about it, we dreamt it, we heard the jam sessions on the bootlegs which were quickly taken out of circulation. Four years ago Prince Rogers Nelson was talking about releasing the tapes, but nothing came of it. Here we see it -- and hear it -- finally this meeting at the summit with Miles Davis and Prince. For the appearance, go directly to the 56th minute.

The rest of the filmed concert is vintage Prince, so of course it's worth checking out. The performance is a direct line to the dynamic soul revue of James Brown & His Famous Flames in the 1960s.

07 May 2010

Your Weekly Dylan Cover (#3)

The White Stripes

Original Dylan version found on Desire (1976)

[Ed. note: Regular readers of this blog know that Bob Dylan is affectionately referred to as the "Patron Saint" of TNOP. This weekly feature sifts through the thousands of cover versions of Dylan songs and provides you with our favorites, as well as a quick memory to our first exposure to the Dylan original.]

Some of the best stories in rock and roll are about the artists that go against the grain of what seems to be pervasive in the musical world at the moment. And so it was that Jack White and his "sister" Meg unleashed their raw, garage band assault on the blues at the beginning of the new century. It was contrary to in-your-face rap and the growing impersonal electronic noodling on the rock landscape.

It should not be surprising, then, that Jack White would form a musical bond over the years with another famous contrarian, Bob Dylan. The native Detroiter's choice here (from 2001, when the duo was just starting to draw international attention) is "Isis," a chorus free song written by Dylan and Jacques Levy from Desire. (The White Stripes' debut album included "One More Cup of Coffee," also from Desire.) White's vocal urgency here is definitely traced to the feverish delivery of Dylan on his performances of the song during the Rolling Thunder Revue in 1975.

The White Stripes have also been known to pull out covers of "Outlaw Blues" and "Love Sick" in concert. In addition, the debut album of White's side project, The Dead Weather, includes a version of Street Legal's "New Pony."

Dylan himself has often tipped his hat to The White Stripes: in addition to joint live appearances (see below), the band's songs have been included on Theme Time Radio Hour. Jack has also popped up as a guest on the show; and Meg was mentioned as a female drummer in the episode "Musical Instruments."

It comes as no surprise that Jack White has supposedly been quoted that he is the progeny of his biological father, spiritual father (God) and musical father (Bob Dylan).


First off, a side note. There's no doubt I was drawn to "Isis" this week simply because of its reference to "the fifth day of May" - Cinco de Mayo. But "Isis" is also one of my personal Dylan favorites.

Like many in their teens, when Desire came out in the beginning of January 1976 there was great anticipation. To me, there was still a newness about Dylan; I certainly was on an on-going discovery of the bulk of the vital 1960s output. But in the midst of the singer-songwriter revolution in the early 1970s, Blood On The Tracks was a watershed to those my age, from a melody as well as lyrical standpoint.

Dylan had been in the pages of Rolling Stone pontificating about the innocence of boxer Rubin Carter and a single tracking the athlete's plight, "Hurricane," had made quite a splash. He would also play some benefit concerts (that presumably cleared no profit) on behalf of Carter, who had been convicted of murder (and would be exonerated in 1985). This was the first time that I had really witnessed Dylan entering into the public fray. But, not surprisingly, reaction to his strident stance on the former middle-weight champ's innocence was decidedly mixed.

Now the majority of that band had assembled in New York City to record a new set of Dylan tunes, and the title Desire was stamped on the album. So placing the 33 1/3 disc on the turntable, carefully placing the needle on track two, I held my breath for the first new shot of Bob. A simple rolling piano riff played by Dylan introduced me to "Isis." And off I went into a land that seemed drawn from one of those old John Ford westerns. The fable unravels in verse after verse - there is no chorus - and is dominated by the violin of Scarlet Rivera. The tale of a mysterious stranger and the lure of buried treasure is countered by the narrator's love of an equally mysterious woman. And Dylan gives the narrator's wife the name of the ancient Egyptian deity Isis, the goddess of magic and light.

As luck would have it, one of my teachers was writing his doctoral thesis on Isis, and this fact made me more drawn to the song. Not that I could understand all the nuances.

In his liner notes to Desire, Dylan writes: I have a brother or two and a whole lot of karma to burn . . . Isis and the moon shine on me. At that stage of my life, no light of understanding was shining on me as to why Dylan was throwing in, for example, a Middle East pyramid into "Isis," a story presumably set in Mexico or America's Wild West, and anchored by a clearly Celtic harmony. But hell if it didn't leave me more intrigued.

Original Listening: Bob Dylan, "Isis"

Live Listening: Bob Dylan, "Isis" (with The Rolling Thunder Review, from Biograph)

Further Collaboration: Bob Dylan & Jack White, "Ball & Biscuit" (Detroit, 17 March 2004); Bob Dylan & Jack White, "Meet Me In The Morning" (Nashville, 19 September 2007)

06 May 2010

The Live Vault: Daytrotter Barnstormer 3

28 April 2010
Turner Hall, Milwaukee

[On occasion, our far-flung correspondents attend and review shows. Here's another installment.]

The web site Daytrotter has become popular with music fans for creating a unique format that has since been imitated, but never duplicated, in various forms. Based out of barnlike studio in Rock Island, Illinois, a town on the banks of the Mississippi River, Daytrotter's recording studio has been host to many popular and upcoming independent bands.

Now, for the third consecutive year, Daytrotter has put together a mini-caravan of acts to perform in the Midwest in what it dubs as its "Barnstormer 3." TNOP recently caught the second of five shows at Turner Hall, joined by our UK correspondent, Miles Gallagher.

Free Energy

Free Energy, a openly proud rawk 'n roll quintet from Philadelphia (but hatched in Minneapolis) took the stage as we entered Turner Hall, an old German gymnastics building converted by some imaginative music entrepreneurs. Miles wrote an Ascending column in these pages last month on the band, emphasizing their promise on the live stage. He confided to me his disappointment in their freshman CD Stuck On Nothing - despite production by James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem - concluding that Free Energy's studio recording had "been slow by half a beat." After a listen to the record, I knew what he meant; and apparently the public did, too, as the release fell flat with listeners, despite an appearance on Letterman and a media push from the likes of Paste and Rolling Stone.

With a retro look that could have landed them the band lead in Almost Famous, Free Energy powered through their set with plenty of fun and hooks to spare. Echoes of T. Rex, Thin Lizzy and The Stones perked up the crowd. Lead singer Paul Sprangers delivered time and again, adapting a Joey Ramone stance and leaving the stage antics to his more than able guitarist, Scott Wells.

"We're breaking out this time," Sprangers sings on the tune that bears the band's name. And with the freedom to hone their craft on an intimate stage, power pop confections like "Bang Pop" have both Miles and I bobbing our heads in unison. Although they pay homage to the above mentioned bands - and a few more - Free Energy fills a void that seems to have been missing in rock lately.

Missouri singer-songwriter Nathaniel Rateliff comes next, and immediately seems out of place. Fiddling endlessly with mic checks and then not even introducing himself or his band, the crowd first deflates during a couple of (albeit lovely) three-part harmony numbers without musical accompaniment. The band is certainly proficient but frankly rather lifeless as it continues its set of Americana. Then "Laughing" and "You Should Have Seen The Other Guy" provide shots in the arm and their finale (a straight cop of a Bon Iver harmony) draws the biggest reaction from the crowd. Rateliff will be opening for The Tallest Man On Earth in the coming weeks; TNOP is confident that his act will translate better on that bill.

If this had been coined an old-fashioned "Battle of the Bands," San Diego's Delta Spirit would have skipped away with the crown on this particular evening. "Bushwick Blues" is a great opener. Drummer Brandon Young serves notice right off the bat that he means business behind the skins, bashing the snare with such intensity that he breaks a stick (which would occur more than once in this truncated set). His partner in rhythm, bassist Jon Jameson, also kills throughout. Guitarists Matt Vasquez and Sean Walker play off each other nicely. Although this act obviously has roots in Americana as well, Delta Spirit has got soul. During "Ransom Man," Miles yells in my ear what a great bottom sound the group has. Vasquez is comfortable at the mic, singing with eased emotion whether Delta Spirit is playing a ballad or boogie woogie. The group's second album, History From Below (Rounder) drops 8 June. TNOP can't wait.

Ra Ra Riot

Rounding out the night was Ra Ra Riot, probably the most recognizable name on the bill. The Syracuse band has a cool factor that flows from the fact that their sound isn't immediately derivative of any genre in particular. In a refreshing (and admittedly ironic) twist, cellist Alexandra Lawn and violinist Rebecca Zeller "take the place" of seemingly ubiquitous synthesizers. While vocalist Wes Miles noodles with a keyboard every once in awhile, his noteworthy range makes the listener stand up and notice, particularly on songs like "Dying Is Fine" and "Ghost Under Rocks." Bassist Mathieu Santos drives the beat of Ra Ra Riot; again, in a rock juxtaposition, Milo Bonacci's guitar is usually complimentary rather than up front. Along with the steady drumming of Gabriel Duquette, it all adds up to a fresh cocktail of rhythm that leans on Celtic and African influences.

The Black Keys Prep New Album & Tour

The Akron, Ohio sonic assault duo of Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney, known as The Black Keys, release their sixth full-length LP on 18 May. Entitled Brothers, it is the follow up to 2008's lauded Attack & Release. This go-round was recorded at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio and is self-produced, save for the first single release, "Tighten Up," which finds DJ Danger Mouse at the controls.

And if you haven't caught The Black Keys live, do yourself a favor and catch them this summer on tour. In addition to opening for Kings of Leon on a handful of dates, the boys headline at some pretty great venues around the country, joined by The Morning Benders, Nicole Atkins or The Whigs.

04 May 2010

In Memoriam: Four Dead In Ohio

4 May 1970
Kent State University

From the New York Times front page story by John Kifner:

Four students at Kent State University, two of them women, were shot to death this afternoon by a volley of National Guard gunfire. At least 8 other students were wounded.

The burst of gunfire came about 20 minutes after the guardsmen broke up a noon rally on the Commons, a grassy campus gathering spot, by lobbing tear gas at a crowd of about 1,000 young people.

Frederick P. Wenger, the Assistant Adjutant General, said the troops had opened fire after they were shot at by a sniper.

"They were understanding orders to take cover and return any fire," he said.

This reporter, who was with the group of students, did not see any indication of sniper fire, nor was the sound of any gunfire audible before the Guard volley. Students, conceding that rocks had been thrown, heatedly denied that there was any sniper.

The dead:
Allison Krause, 19 (shot from 110 yards away)
William Schroeder, 19 (130 yards)
Jeffery Miller, 20 (90 yards)
Sandra Scheuer, 20 (130 yards)

It's still hard to believe I had to write this song. It's ironic that I capitalized on the death of these American students. Probably the most important lesson ever learned at an American place of learning. David Crosby cried after this take.
---Neil Young, liner notes to Decade on his song "Ohio"

03 May 2010

Albums You Must Own (#11 in a series)

T. Rex
Electric Warrior (A&M 1971)

I was dancin' when I was twelve . . .
---Marc Bolan, "Cosmic Dancer"

Well, so was I. And T. Rex was one of the reasons.

It is easy to be enamoured by the Marc Bolan story that has been weaved by journalists for the 35 years since his death in an automobile accident on a southwest London street in 1977: Mod to psychedelic to Nancy boy to glam rocker to failed substance abuser.

But in 1971, Bolan had one goal in mind: conquer the American charts. His gambit was to update and use the skills of past masters that he had admired since his teenage years: the straight ahead rock and roll beat of idols Gene Vincent, Eddie Cochran, Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry. And the simple strategem of Elvis Presley: sex sells.

The initial salvo by his band T. Rex was the summertime smash single "Get It On (Bang A Gong)." The muscular three chord monty wove circles around this young listener; backed by a driving sax and anthemic chorus, Bolan purred You got a hubcapped, diamond starred halo/You're dirty, sweet and you're my girl. What else did a 12 year old boy in Midwest America need in order to feel a semblance of rebelliousness?

So, "meanwhile," as Bolan sang on the fadeout of that number 1 tune, "I'm still thinking," so were The Night Owl and a buddy of his, riding endlessly around the neighborhood on two-wheeelers with banana seats and high handle bars. More specifically, where did this T. Rex come from and where to find more of the same?

The answer came in September with the release of the long-player Electric Warrior. My friend knew a guy from the public school whose brother had secured a copy of the album. It was smuggled out of the older sibling's room and shuttled over to my parents' hi-fi. Fortuitously, I had a new portable AM/FM radio with built in cassette player. Most importantly, that cassette player had a glorious key: RECORD. Although the best sound would come from recording directly off the radio via a blank tape, I had convinced my father to buy me a cheap microphone that I could plug into the side jack on the contraption.

Strategically placing the microphone between the two speakers, and flipping the switch to "on," thus was born one of the worst recordings of Electric Warrior in the annals of bootlegging rock and roll.

But it was my copy. And I literally wore that cheap Memorex tape out. That slowed down Bo Diddley chug-a-lug of the opening cut "Mambo Sun" set the stage for a record of get up off your seat and turn-it-up. "Jeepster" - a cut likening his girl to a Jaguar - and "Rip Off" breezed with the driving, carefree rhythm of the young who naturally believe themselves to be immortal. Even the slower ones had a measure of cool to them: the count-off of "Lean Woman Blues" (One . . . Two . . . Buckle my shoe!) and swagger of "Life's A Gas" (It really doesn't matter at all/Life's a gas/I hope it's gonna last).

Lester Bangs said something to the effect that "what they tried to do with David Bowie was create another Marc Bolan." Like alot of his musings, I leave it to disciples like Jim DeRogatis to draw back the covers on a statement like that. But to me, Electric Warrior was the type of album that Bangs probably admired; because true rock and roll chooses you, whether it's in your car or alone in your room listening on your headphones. And this album is always gloriously decadent and one you can turn up. And really, can you expect much more?

This Date In Rock History: 3 May

Ladies and Gentlemen! Mr. Please, Please, Please! The Godfather of Soul! Mr. Dynamite! The Hardest Working Man In Show Business! Happy Birthday to James Brown, who would have been 77 today, had he not gone a-way.

Watch him tear it up at The T.A.M.I. Show in 1964: