30 July 2010

Bang! Pop! Free Energy!

TNOP's UK pop and jazz correspondent Miles Gallagher reports that his pick-to-click band of 2010, Free Energy, after making a quick hit in the Far East, will spend the rest of the summer bouncing back and forth between North America and the UK.

In the interim, the group found time to cut a cover of Bruce Springsteen's "I'm Going Down." The tune will be part of a split 7" single sold exclusively at concert venues.

The Philadelphia power pop quartet is toiling on the road in support of the James Murphy (DFA/LCD Soundsystem) produced Stuck On Nothing. This time round they are sharing the bill (and the 7" split single) with critic's darlings Titus Andronicus.

TNOP caught Free Energy at the Daytrotter show back in April (click for our review here) and gave them a hardy thumbs up. Here's the tour schedule:

08-07 Osaka, Japan @ Summer Sonic Music Festival
08-08 Tokyo, Japan @ Summer Sonic Music Festival
08-14 Bangor, ME @ Kahbang Festival / Bangor Waterfront
08-19 Hoboken, NJ @ Maxwells +
08-21 Boston, MA @ Royale +
08-22 Montreal, Quebec @ Il Motore +
08-23 Ottawa, Ontario @ Mavericks +
08-25 Ithaca, NY @ Castaways +
08-28 Leeds, UK @ Leeds Festival - SOLD OUT
08-29 Reading, UK @ Reading Festival - SOLD OUT
09-05 San Diego, CA @ Belly Up Tavern +
09-07 Los Angeles, CA @ Viper Room
09-08 San Francisco, CA @ The Independent +
09-10 Vancouver, British Columbia @ Biltmore Cabaret +
09-11 Portland, OR @ Doug Fir Lounge / Music Fest Northwest +
09-12 Seattle, WA @ The Tractor Tavern +
09-13 Boise, ID @ Neurolux +
09-14 Salt Lake City, UT @ Kilby Court +
09-15 Denver, CO @ Bluebird Theater +
09-16 Omaha, NE @ Waiting Room +
09-17 Minneapolis, MN @ Triple Rock Social Club +
09-18 Chicago, IL @ Metro +
09-19 Newport, KY @ Southgate House +
09-20 Atlanta, GA @ The Earl +
09-21 Durham, NC - Duke Coffeehouse +
09-22 Charlottesville, VA @ Jefferson Theatre +
09-23 Philadelphia, PA @ First Unitarian Church +
09-24 Washington, DC @ Rock and Roll Hotel +
09-25 New York, NY @ Webster Hall +

+ = w/ Titus Andronicus

28 July 2010

Your Weekly Dylan Cover [#13]

PJ Harvey
"Shot of Love"
Original Dylan version found on Shot of Love (1981)

The purpose of music is to elevate and inspire the spirit. To those who care where Bob Dylan is at, they should listen to "Shot of Love". It's my most perfect song. It defines where I am spiritually, musically, romantically and whatever else. It shows where my sympathies lie. It's all there in that one song. --- Bob Dylan, 1983 interview with NME


Polly Jean Harvey was born in 1969 and grew up on the family farm in the southwest part of England. From an early age, her parents exposed her to a wide array of music, feeding their daughter a steady diet of blues, Captain Beefheart and Bob Dylan. Young Polly Jean took up the saxophone and found her way into bands as a teen.

Moving to London at the age of 22, Harvey was intent on earning a degree in sculpture. However, her primary interest soon turned to music. In 1991, Polly Jean, drummer Rob Ellis and bassist Stephen Vaughn form the core of the band PJ Harvey. A couple of singles are generated and receive acute attention from famed BBC DJ John Peel. By 1992, debut album Dry lands on many critics' year-end best-of lists, Harvey graces the cover of NME and Rolling Stone hails her as songwriter of the year.

Three more proper full-length albums follow along with a string of acting gigs in indie films. By the end of the decade, Polly Jean Harvey has been nominated for BRIT and Grammy awards, and also becomes the only artist to receive three nominations for the Mercury Music Prize.

It is against this historical backdrop that we come to this week's Dylan cover. Harvey becomes involved with the UK's Channel 4 "Music of the Millennium" project. Interviewed for the show, she cites Bob Dylan's Desire as one of her albums of the millennium and then gives a live performance - captured on audio above - of Dylan's "Shot of Love".

The title song from the third album of the so-called "Born Again" phase, "Shot of Love" is a raging, hell-fire sermon which chastises those who forsake the power of love for personal gain or abuse. Of all the tunes that Harvey could have chosen, this is certainly an interesting selection, not only for its lyrical content but also the continuing controversy the album as a whole garnered from the time of its original release in 1981. Although the disdain of critics - and even Dylanophiles - seems to have mellowed over the years, Shot of Love will never make even a Top 25 of Dylan's works among most listeners.

Harvey's take is aggressive, similar to Dylan's. But the driving, direct musical treatment by the power trio PJ Harvey draws out the startling dichotomy contained in Dylan's words: which path do you choose to take? And if the path is really that clear, are the sacrifices involved really that easy to make?

No matter your take on the lyrical content, it is bravura rock and roll.

Original Listening: Bob Dylan, "Shot of Love"

27 July 2010

The Boss & Alejandro Escovedo Sing The Stones

Last night, Bruce Springsteen joined Alejandro Escovedo on stage at Asbury Park's Stone Pony. One of the world's great rock and roll venues, The Stone Pony has made its name by featuring early performances by local boys made good Southside Johnny, Jon Bon Jovi and, of course, Springsteen.

Maybe moved by the fact that it was Mick Jagger's 67th birthday, the two rockers tackled "Beast of Burden," the Rolling Stones' classic from Some Girls (check out the video above). Springsteen stayed on to duet on Escovedo's "Always A Friend" and "Faith" as well.

As with most Springsteen surprise appearances, he has a history with the artist he joins for some musical magic. In 2008, Escovedo joined The Boss in Houston to sing "Always A Friend." And Escovedo was the headline opener in the same year for The E Street Band at the massive and memorable Harley Davidson 105th Anniversary Bash, which drew a reported 100,000 fans to Milwaukee's lakefront.

26 July 2010

Mercury Prize Nominees Announced

The 2010 Mercury Music Prize nominations were released last week. The annual award goes to the best album of the year in the UK and Ireland. Chosen by a selected panel of musicians, music executives, journalists and other figures in the music industry in the UK and Ireland, presentation of the award usually take place in September.

Here's a look at the nominees and what some of the critics had to say about their work:

Biffy Clyro: Only Revolutions
"All these moments are the jigsaw pieces that finally do complete the puzzle for Biffy, as it were, but it’s as a whole that Only Revolutions springs the band instantly level with the greatest rock acts in the world. The only thing that can stop them being recognised as such is the 2010 trend of UK guitar music being treated with contempt by the electro-pop-fixated mainstream. But don’t call them a band out of time – they’re the very sound of loud now, and finally it’s time for the last few stragglers to get in the saddle." - NME (9 November 2009)

Corinne Bailey Rae: The Sea
"The singer-songwriter reaches into the depth of her grief and delivers a moving, if not seminal, album." - L.A. Times (22 January 2010)

Dizzie Rascal: Tongue 'N Cheek
"Understandably, his fourth album is a kind of victory lap, a 45-minute revel in the fact that no one wants to hit him with a concrete post any more. It's Never Mind the Bollards." - The Guardian (18 September 2009)

Kit Downes Trio: Golden
"A hugely promising record that reveals fresh angles with each listening." - The Jazz Mann (8 December 2009)

Foals: Total Life Forever
"Total Life Forever is a massive leap forward for the band. The music writhes with a renewed ambition, capable of moving from near ambient strains of electronica to propulsive African funk in a drum break. Shifting from their 2D debut album, Total Life Forever is a three-dimensional triumph." - Clash Music (10 May 2010)

I Am Kloot: Sky At Night
"I Am Kloot continue to trace their version of that voyage, recording its moments of beautiful regret and uplifting melancholy in tuneful tales that want to hang around for endless retelling, beguiling their listeners into believing they have the time for just one more." - Pop Matters (20 July 2010)

Laura Marling: I Speak Because I Can
" . . . I Speak Because I Can is an album of elegance and brilliance. Marling has developed from her debut, and her voice has grown both physically and lyrically. The songs are bathed in the folk traditions of England, and as such end up sounding timeless by proxy. Through Marling's unique touch they avoid sounding derivative, or tired. Side stories and back stories are just diversions from the real tale here – the age old bildungsroman of the artist turning into the master of their craft." - Drowned In Sound (16 March 2010)

Mumford & Sons: Sigh No More
"Ever since our trip to Ireland . . . last summer, TNOP has been dropping Mumford & Sons' name to all that would listen. While driving endless kilometers around the Emerald Isle, the band's new single "Little Lion Man" seemed to be eponymous on BBC Radio 1; but it was exciting every time the DJ spun the record. The debut album, Sigh No More, hit the UK charts in September 2009 and landed #1 in Eire and #7 UK [and] the US racks this past spring. Despite landing - and nailing - performance spots on both the David Letterman and Craig Ferguson shows, the CD has struggled to take hold in the States. But TNOP likes to think of it as a slow build, and once again we take the opportunity to recommend these unique London four-part harmony folk rockers to new ears." - The Night Owl Presents . . . (21 June 2010)

Paul Weller: Wake Up The Nation
"Weller's new album's relentless vigour is exhausting but he strikes gold all over again. Rating: * * * * *" - Telegraph (16 April 2010)

Villagers: Becoming A Jackal
"Despite the huge weight of expectation, Conor O'Brien delivers possibly the finest Irish record you'll hear this year in the shape of Becoming A Jackal. Free from the constraints of the 'too many cooks' nature of The Immediate, O'Brien is allowed to soar. In his own words: 'When I grew bolder/out onto the streets I flew/released from your shackles/I danced with the jackals/and learned a new way to move.' And what an accomplished way that is." - CLUAS (13 May 2010)

Wild Beasts: Two Dancers
". . . with every aspect of the record exceeding expectations, Two Dancers makes a strong case to be named album of the year. Yet if this release has taught us anything, it is to not assume what is and isn't possible in music. Ignore speculation, and simply make time to bask in the seemingly endless supply of luxurious delights contained within this stunning achievement." - music OMH (3 August 2009)

The xx: xx
"Mostly recorded at night (and sounding like it), xx combines its economy and discipline with all-out sultriness. The songs are unapologetically sexually fixated without being confrontational or hysterical. The male-female vocals are plain, quiet, and technically barely adequate, perfect for grounding the potentially lurid lines. The result is sexy like early Portishead and thoughtful like Young Marble Giants—a perfectly formed debut with a genuinely new sound way beyond the sum of identifiable forebears." - The A.V. Club (5 January 2010)

Aha (Expletive Deleted) Heartbreak

In what has to be a first in rock and rock history (and heaven knows there have been a wide array of weird incidents dotting popular music's time-line), aspiring arena rockers Kings of Leon were chased off a stage last week in St. Louis three songs into their set because of . . . pigeon excrement. Moments later, an announcement over the PA at the Verizon Amphitheatre indicated that the group would not complete their show in deference to "concerns over the band's safety." The paying crowd was not pleased. Concert promoters are promising full refunds.

The Guardian, cleverly coining the gig "Top of the Plops," quoted Kings of Leon manager Andy Mendelsohn: "It was ridiculous. [Bassist] Jared [Followill] was hit several times during the first two songs, and on the third number, droppings landed near his mouth. They couldn't deal any longer. It's not only disgusting – it's a toxic health hazard."

"Don't take it out on Jared," drummer Nathan Folowill wrote on Twitter. "It's the fucking venue's fault."

Opening acts the Postelles and the Stills managed to complete their sets.

22 July 2010

Jack White Plays The White House

It's already been quite a year for rock and roll at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. In February, a celebration of songs of the Civil Rights Movement brought TNOP Patron Saint Bob Dylan to The White House. The last month, Sir Paul McCartney was honored in tandem with his award of the Gershwin Prize For Popular Song.

Among the luminaries at the U.S. President's residence for the Macca fete was Jack White. Last year, the White Stripes/Raconteurs/Dead Weather member revealed his fondness for The Cute One. "Paul is my favorite Beatle," the guitarist told MTV News backstage at the Outside Lands Festival. "He's been a big influence on me — especially the way that he sings."

White cited an early track as the point of inspiration for his Paul admiration. "I heard a cover song they did early on called 'Hippy Hippy Shake' (from Live At The BBC) that Paul sang, and I loved how high he sang it," White said. "My voice isn't comfortable in that higher range, but that song was a big influence on me trying to get my voice somewhere like that."

On June 2 at The White House, Jack White strapped on an acoustic guitar and treated the Leader of the Free World and the rest of the audience to The White Album track "Mother Nature's Son" - and for good measure threw in a few bars of "That Would Be Something" from McCartney's first solo album.

Paul McCartney: The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song In Performance At The White House premieres on PBS at 8.00pmEDT/7.00pmCDT on Wednesday, 28 July with a repeat airing that night again at 9.30pmEDT/8.30pmCDT.

21 July 2010

Arcade Fire's MSG Concert To Be Live Streamed (WITH UPDATE!)

One of the most anticipated (and, to be honest, most hyped) records of 2010 is Arcade Fire's The Suburbs, hitting the racks and web on 3 August. Now comes word from Gorilla vs. Bear that the Montreal band's live gig at New York's world-famous Madison Square Garden will be broadcast on YouTube on the evening of 5 August. Rumors persist that a "well-known, as-yet-unnamed luminary" (Spike Jonze?) will be directing the festivities. In the meantime, view the cool little promo above.

UPDATE - 26 July: Consequence of Sound reports that ex-Monty Python Terry Gilliam will direct the proceedings from MSG.

20 July 2010

Your Weekly Dylan Cover [#12]

"To Ramona"
David Gray
Original Dylan version found on Another Side of Bob Dylan (1964)

Mancunian David Gray needed to fail with three record labels and retreat to his own apartment in London in order to make the album that would launch his career. In 1998, after voluntarily bolting from EMI due to a disastrous marketing campaign for his record Sell, Sell, Sell, Gray gathered a couple of musical buddies and hunkered down in his flat with a 4-track recording machine and little else. The arresting lyrics and gentle, layered melodies hatched during this time frame resulted in White Ladder, which sold six million copies worldwide and is still the top-selling album ever in Ireland.

As a boy, he was drawn to artists and groups as diverse as Madness, Frank Sinatra, Van Morrison and Led Zeppelin. But it was a road trip with his father that changed David Gray's life forever. "I discovered Bob Dylan for the first time," he told ABC News in 2009. "Which sort of stopped me in my tracks." There was one tape in his father's car that they played over and over. On one side was Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits, Pavarotti was on the other side. "Bob won out," says Gray. "He's had the greater effect although I do eat a lot of pasta and it could have been to do with old Pavarotti."

It was the lyrics in Dylan's songs that Gray found so profound. "The fact that there was so much space for the words," he explains, "and the idea of the song and his imagery is so vivid, so you sort of don't need anything else. And I love that."

In 2007, Gray released the web-only A Thousand Miles Behind, a covers album of 12 songs, including three by Dylan. [The title of the LP is taken from Dylan's "One Too Many Mornings."] Here we present his live performance of "To Ramona." It is a song that comfortably fits in Gray's musical wheelhouse, and the singer delivers a wonderful rendering of the emotion-laden tale of a close friend (former lover?) trying in vain to break through to a soul mate about the need to blaze one's own trail in life.

It seems fitting that on 4 July 2010, David Gray was the opening act for his hero at Dylan's concert at Thomond Park in Limerick, Republic of Ireland.

Original Listening: Bob Dylan, "To Ramona"

Live Listening: Bob Dylan, "To Ramona" (The Bootleg Series, Vol. 6: Live 1964, Concert At Philharmonic Hall)

Another Cover Version: Sinead Lohan, "To Ramona" (Irish television, 1996)

Still Another Cover Version: Lissie, "To Ramona" (homemade video)

New Mavis Staples Track Now Streaming

As previously reported in these pages, Mavis Staples' new album, You Are Not Alone, will be released on Anti- on 14 September. The record was produced by Wilco front-man Jeff Tweedy.

The first song released for streaming is the title track, a gentle ballad penned by Tweedy. Enjoy it by clicking below. A masterful vocalist, Mavis' performance reaches through the speakers with an arm around your shoulders solace befitting of the author's lyrics.

Mavis Staples: "You Are Not Alone"

Mavis Staples - You Are Not Alone by antirecords

17 July 2010

St. Vincent Covers The National

Sometimes the most interesting art comes when no almost no one is watching.

Such was the case this past week in Lyon, France at a sound check when Annie Clark, a/k/a St. Vincent, took a run at The National's "Mistaken For Strangers." The song, from the Brooklyn-based band's album Boxer, has a prototypical haunting melody and word structure.

Fans will readily recognize the voice that joins in with Clark's after the first verse: that of Matt Berninger, lead singer and chief lyricist for The National.

St. Vincent is back in North American for some upcoming dates, including the Pitchfork Festival in Chicago tomorrow (18 July), the Calgary Folk Festival (24-25 July) and Central Park Summerstage in New York City (1 August).

The National returns to the continent on 27 July for a sold-out Celebrate Brooklyn! show with Beach House. The tour in support of High Violet continues with a few Europe/US criss-crosses at least through November of this year.

Rock 'n Film: "Howl"

The trailer for the film Howl is now available for viewing below. The movie, which stars James Franco in the role of the late beat poet Allen Ginsberg (1926 - 1997), revolves around the obscenity trial that followed the publishing of his work "Howl" in 1957. The stellar cast also includes Mary-Louise Parker, Jon Hamm, Jeff Daniels and David Straithern.

Ginsberg was a noted influence on the rock and roll generation, most famously embraced by Bob Dylan. (The two are pictured above backstage at one of the performances of The Rolling Thunder Revue back in 1975.) Over the years, Ginsberg appeared on stage with a diverse group of musicians, including Dylan, The Fugs, Phil Ochs, The Clash and Patti Smith. Shortly before his death, Ginsberg recorded “Ballad of the Skeletons” with an eclectic lineup of musicians that included neo-classical composer Philip Glass, Lenny Kaye, Marc Ribot and Paul McCartney; the accompanying video, filmed by award-winning director Gus Van Sant, was both humorous and poignant.

Howl opens in selected cities on 24 September.

15 July 2010

Roxy Music Reunite (Sort Of) (WITH UPDATE!)

The Guardian reports that the new Bryan Ferry album, titled Olympia, will drop on 25 October, with first single "You Can Dance" scheduled for release on 9 August. The record will consist of all originals, save cover versions of Traffic's "No Face, No Name, No Number" and Tim Buckley's "Song To The Siren."

The collaborators revealed thus far for Olympia are in the all-star catagory: Johnny Greenwood (Radiohead), David Gilmour (Pink Floyd), Flea (Red Hot Chili Peppers), Nile Rodgers (Chic), Mani (Primal Scream) and Scissor Sisters.

But the real interest revolves around Ferry's first collaboration since 1973's For Your Pleasure with former Roxy Music mates Brian Eno, Phil Manzanera and Andy Mackay (Eno wasn't involved in the other Roxy-labelled records subsequent, including the seminal Avalon). The songs involving the four apparently are the remnants of a reunion attempt that was shelved. As Ferry told The Times of London back in November, "We worked together for a few days, weeks maybe, and I decided I didn't really want to do a Roxy thing."

Roxy Music headlines the Lovebox Festival in Victoria Park, London this Saturday, 17 July and the sold-out Bestival on the Isle of Wight on 11 September. In addition, here are the other dates on the abbreviated Roxy Music tour schedule:
31 July - Japan - Fuji Rock
8 August - Belgium - Lokerse
27 August - Holland - Lots Festival
29 August - Paris - Rock En Seine
1 September - Bonn - Solarworld
3 September - Portlaoise, Co. Laois, Republic of Ireland - Electric Picnic
And MOJO now reports that dates have been set for a short UK tour in January and February 2011:
Newcastle Arena (January 25)
Glasgow Clyde Auditorium (27)
Glasgow Clyde Auditorium (28)
Manchester MEN Arena (30)
Birmingham LG Arena (31)
Nottingham Arena (February 2)
London O2 Arena (7)

13 July 2010

Tribute (In Memoriam) - Harvey Pekar

Harvey Pekar, the originator of the autobiographical comic American Splendor, which was later made into a critically acclaimed movie, died in his hometown of Cleveland, Ohio on Monday. He was 70 years old.

Pekar's stories of the mundane, usually centered around the colorful characters he worked with while a clerk with the Veteran's Administration, brought him collaboration with noted underground illustrators such as R. Crumb. His quirky personality came to the forefront of American culture when he appeared as a frequent guest on Late Night with David Letterman in the late 1980s.

The film premiered in 2003, with actor Paul Giamatti playing Pekar, but Pekar himself also appeared in live and animated form in several scenes.

What isn't as well known about Pekar was that he was a long time jazz critic, whose pieces were published by Jazz Times, Downbeat and The Village Voice. He also regularly wrote liner notes for Verve and other record labels. In a previous interview with, Pekar listed his "Top 10 Jazz Innovators." It's a great primer or refresher for our readers:

Jelly Roll Morton & His Red Hot Peppers
"A great early jazz composer/arranger."
RECOMMENDED: Jelly Roll Morton, Vol. 2: The Red Hot Peppers

Louis Armstrong with Earl Hines
"Swing wasn't exactly a quality of jazz in the beginning; it started about 1923 with Armstrong and Sidney Bechet. Armstrong's playing was idea rich and thrilling. The combination of Armstrong on trumpet and Hines on piano was just amazing. Huge innovators."
RECOMMENDED: The Louis Armstrong Collection, Vol. 4: Louis Armstrong and Earl Hines

Duke Ellington
"Around 1940/41 Ellington and Basie had the two greatest big bands in jazz history. Ellington was the greatest composer/arranger and his personnel was at a peak in 1941 with Jimmy Blanton on bass and Ben Webster on tenor sax."
RECOMMENDED: Never No Lament: The Blanton/Webster Band

Count Basie
"In the '30s, Basie led the greatest most swingin'est big band rhythm section of all time, the 'All American Rhythm Section' with Basie on piano, Jo Jones on drums, Freddie Greene on guitar, and Walter Page on bass."
RECOMMENDED: Count Basie: The Complete Decca Recordings

Lester Young (with Count Basie)
"Young was incredibly graceful and swinging on tenor sax and had a great melodic imagination. His work with Count Basie on Columbia is particularly of note. It's also worth listening to the classic sides he did with Billie Holiday."
RECOMMENDED: Count Basie: America's Number 1 Band, The Columbia Years

Dizzy Gillespie & Charlie Parker
"The main contributors to the bebop movement, to creating the language of bebop in the early '40s. Their collaborations are coincidentally the best stuff they ever did and my favorite is the complete Savoy records . . . but 'Bird & Diz,' the reunion record they did in 1950, was somethin'. I don't know what they had in mind before they came to that session, but it's like they were loaded for bear, not necessarily to tangle with each other but wanting to play their best. At that session, both of them invented licks and phrases that they never played before -- as good as they were they had pet licks -- but this was fresh and just unprecedented . . . they were so imaginative, and it was still bebop."

Miles Davis
"Miles was very sharp and at different points he would take an overview of the whole jazz scene, who was heading in the direction he was wanting to go in . . . he was often the second guy, the guy who popularized movements not who started them. 'Kind of Blue' did that for modal jazz, and the guy he brought in with the sound he wanted was pianist Bill Evans."

John Coltrane
"'Giant Steps' -- on this record Coltrane plays with blistering heat and boundless imagination."

Ornette Coleman
"The records Coleman made for Atlantic was the real beginning of Free Jazz, which means jazz not based on set foundation like chord changes or anythin'. His band was terrific with [Coleman on sax], Scott LoFaro and Charlie Haden on bass, Ed Blackwell on drums, and Don Cherry on trumpet."
RECOMMENDED: Beauty Is A Rare Thing: The Complete Atlantic Recordings

12 July 2010

Your Weekly Dylan Cover [#11]

"Down In The Flood"
Fairport Convention
Original Dylan version found on Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits, Vol. 2 (1971)

Outside of England the group Fairport Convention still doesn't register much name recognition. In the forefront of the English folk rock movement in the late 1960s, the band was inspired by North Americans Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell. Championed by legendary BBC disc jokey John Peel, Fairport Convention's first breakthrough on the charts was "Si Tu Dois Partir," a French language version of Dylan's "If You Gotta Go, Go Now."

The two members of Fairport Convention that would make an indelible mark on rock history would be ace guitarist, writer and singer Richard Thompson and vocalist Sandy Denny. While Thompson would leave the band in 1970 to strike out on his own, Denny would serve two terms with Fairport. It was on the second of these stints that she appeared at the Sanders Theater on the campus of Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1974. One of the selections on this particular evening was Dylan's "Down In The Flood."

Sandy Denny had covered "Down In The Flood" on her May 1971 solo LP The Northstar Grassman and The Ravens, on which Thompson played and served as co-producer. The song, originally recorded by Dylan with The Band in 1967, was bootlegged famously as part of The Basement Tapes and titled "Crash On The Levee (Down In The Flood)." Its first official recorded appearance was in November 1971 on Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits, Vol. 2.

The Cambridge performance highlights the sharp move to a harder electric sound for Fairport Convention. Denny mines the natural blues in Dylan's composition, adding a extra edge that shows her to be more than a pretty English voice. Tragically, within four years she would be dead, a victim of a cerebral hemorrhage after a fall down some stairs.

Original Listening: Bob Dylan, "Crash On The Levee (Down In The Flood)"

Music On TV This Week


TONIGHT, 12 July

The Tonight Show (NBC) - Tracy Bonham

Late Night with Jimmy Fallon (NBC) - Big Boi

TUESDAY, 13 July

The Late Show with David Letterman (CBS) - M.I.A.

Last Call with Carson Daly (NBC) - The Morning Benders


The Late Show with David Letterman - Laurie Anderson

Late Night with Jimmy Fallon - M.I.A.

Last Call with Carson Daly - OK Go

Lopez Tonight (TBS) - Big Boi

The Ellen DeGeneres Show (syndicated) - Weezer


The Late Show with David Letterman - Jimmy Cliff

The Tonight Show - Grace Potter & The Nocturnals

The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson (CBS) - Marina & The Diamonds

Late Night with Jimmy Fallon - The Cast of "Million Dollar Quartet"

FRIDAY, 16 July

The Tonight Show - The Swell Season

Last Call with Carson Daly - Nas and Damian Marley

The Ellen DeGeneres Show - Jack Johnson

10 July 2010

Los Lobos Returns With "Tin Can Trust"

If you have followed TNOP over the years, you know that Los Lobos is not "just another band from East L.A." The group's last release, The Town and The City, made our "best of" list in 2006. Now comes the long-awaited Tin Can Trust, which will be released on 3 August, along with a fully plugged-in tour starting with an appearance at Los Angeles' Greek Theatre tomorrow, 11 July.

Los Lobos member David Hidalgo, fresh off his noteable appearance on Bob Dylan's last album, once again wrote the music to bandmate Louis Perez's lyrics. Randy Lewis of the Los Angeles Times was witness to the songwriting process and files a profile in the paper's Sunday magazine section.

09 July 2010

There Will Be News

TNOP stays on top of the latest doings in music for your reading, viewing and listening pleasure. And we promise no one-hour specials for announcements that take all of 15 seconds to make. So without further ado, this news . . .

MIA, The-Dream, Wavves and Ariel Pink are featured in this month's "Summer Music" issue of The Fader.

Express Night Out interviews Wilco's guitar-slinger Nels Cline, who reveals that the band's contract with Nonesuch is over. Recording for the next Wilco (The Album) will commence later this month. "Jeff [Tweedy] was basically not wanting to be on a record label for a while — he didn't renew his contract with Nonesuch — so we're striking out on our own, our own label," Cline said. While Cline added that Wilco might first release a "souvenir" 7" single through their nascent label to coincide with the Wilco-curated Solid Sound Festival, a band rep told Rolling Stone, "It has not yet been determined who will release the next Wilco record, but forming their own label and releasing future albums through it is definitely a potential scenario."

Hard to believe Metro opened in Chicago way back in 1982, but the concert venue is still chugging along. Pitchfork reports that on 22 July a compilation titled Metro: The Official Bootleg Series, Vol. 1 will be for sale, with proceeds benefiting charity Rock For Kids, a non-profit that centers its efforts on providing music lessons to underprivileged children. Tracks from The Flamings Lips, The Decemberists and Alejandro Escovedo are included.

Elton John has recorded an album with the assistance of one of his chief influences, the under appreciated Leon Russell. Called The Union and produced by T-Bone Burnett, it is set for release on 19 October in the US and 25 October in the UK. Russell began his career as a session musician in Phil Spector's "Wall of Sound" productions, then went on to produce Bob Dylan, Joe Cocker, George Harrison and other notables. "I remember when Leon lost his publishing," Elton told MOJO. "I was so distraught at the time. That was in the '70s. Now his music is with EMI Records and we are hoping to relaunch his catalogue when this album comes out. There's no point in doing this record and not bringing all his great work to light at the same time. It's the old story; you sign your life away when you're young so when you hit 70 you've got nothing left. Look at Nina Simone. We're trying to repair that damage." Musical heavyweights abound on the record: Marc Ribot on guitar, Jim Keltner on drums and guest appearances by Neil Young and Booker T. Jones.

Who discovered America? Ozomatli wants you to remember the Latin contribution to our melting pot. In anticipation of the band's appearance at Celebrate Brooklyn! tonight, they talk to The Village Voice.

Richard Starkey, MBE turned 70 this week. So Paul McCartney sang "Birthday" to him in New York. Before thousands of fans, naturally.

Mark Bowen, the co-founder of Wichita Recordings, talks to The Guardian about his favorite recordings for the label over the first ten years. In addition, Bowen and Dick Green provide The Quietus with a great Spotify playlist.

The Oxegen Music Festival, just southwest of Dublin, opens today and continues through the weekend. Headliners this year are Arcade Fire, Muse and Eminem, but the undercards are loaded with great acts. Celtic Ray says don't forget your wellies. And if you can't make it, the next best thing is listening to Nialler9's Oxegen mixtape.

Giving West coast baseball its due (uber-Red Sox fan Stephen King represents the Eastern seaboard above), No Depression brings us this tidbit: On Monday August 9, the San Francisco Giants will pay tribute to Jerry Garcia on the 15th anniversary of his passing. Jerry Garcia Tribute Night will see Garcia’s daughter Annabelle will throw out the first pitch while Bob Weir will perform the National Anthem. Later, during the seventh inning stretch, Mickey Hart will attempt to set a Guinness World Record for the world’s largest kazoo ensemble, leading more than 7,000 fans in “Take Me Out To The Ball Game.” Fans who purchase special event tickets will receive a seat in the Jerry Garcia designated section at AT&T Park along with a limited edition Jerry Garcia/Giants themed bobblehead, portraying Garcia’s National Anthem performance at Candlestick Park back on 4/12/93. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Rex Foundation.

Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey are gearing up to tour next spring. Apparently, the hook this time would be performances of the rock opera Quadrophenia, which the duo took on recently at London's Royal Albert Hall with the help of Pearl Jam and Kasabian. Daltrey tells “We definitely don’t want to stop. We feel it’s the role of the artist to go all the way through life ’til you can’t do it anymore.”

That's it from the news desk. Stay cool and listen with us to The Lovin' Spoonful . . .

08 July 2010

This Date In Rock History: 8 July

On this date in 1924, Johnnie Clyde Johnson was born in Fairmont, West Virginia. Arguably the most influential piano player in rock history, he would have been 86 today, had he not gone a-way.

Johnnie Johnson's move to St. Louis, Missouri in 1952 set into motion one of the most famous partnerships in popular music history. On New Year's Eve of that year, his jazz trio was playing a gig at the Cosmopolitan Club in East St. Louis. Johnson's saxophonist suffered a stroke. In a fix, Johnson called a musician that he knew had hardly any professional experience, thinking that individual would not be working on one of the biggest music nights of the year. He called, and the young man came to play.

His name? Chuck Berry. Adding vocals and showmanship to the group, Berry's version of Bob Wills' "Ida Red" got the attention of the Chess Brothers, who signed him as a solo act to their Chicago blues label. Johnson went with him and played piano on classic Berry track in his catalogue: "Maybelline," "Sweet Little Sixteen," "Carol," "School Days," "Roll Over Beethoven" and "Nadine" to name a few.

Johnnie Johnson and Chuck Berry toured and played together until 1973.

In 1987, Johnson was driving a bus in St. Louis. The film documentary of that year organized by The Rolling Stones' Keith Richards and directed by Taylor Hackford, Chuck Berry Hail! Hail! Rock 'n Roll, brought Johnson in from the cold and allowed him to start making music again. A number of solo records and sessions with other notable players were released throughout the 1990s.

In 2001, Johnnie Johnson was elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame after a long, concerted effort led by Richards and others. He died 13 April 2005.

Here's a great example of the blues and boogie-woogie piano style of Johnnie Johnson:

07 July 2010

Ultimate Singles Jukebox [Slot 119]

The Message
b/w The Message (Instrumental)
Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five feat. Melle Mel & Duke Bootee
Written by Ed "Duke Bootee" Fletcher, Grandmaster Melle Mel & Bobby Robinson
Produced by Ed Fletcher, Clifton "Jiggs" Chase & Sylvia Robinson
Sugar Hill Records
Released May 1982

The United States is in the midst of one of its worst recessions since the 1930s. The unemployment rate is high, and in black communities it is unconscionable. Cities are broke. Roads and transit systems are in sore need of repair.

Modern day woes? Yes. But these were also acute problems in the early 1980s. And like most branches on the rock and roll tree, a new style was borne as a result from this gritty street life.

It would be known as "hip-hop." Its "Sun Records" moment, if you will, for the birthing of this music would be New York's Sugar Hill Records. Named by founders Joe and Sylvia Robinson for the neighborhood which is part of Hamilton Heights, a sub-neighborhood in Harlem, Sugar Hill was named to signify the "sweet life" in that area of NYC, which was home at one time to noted African-Americans W.E.B. DuBois, Thurgood Marshall, Adam Clayton Powell and Duke Ellington.

Visiting New York for an extended time in 1979, The Night Owl experienced the genesis of hip-hop on the city's sprawling and scorched summertime streets. Boom boxes were everywhere, playing tapes of new mixtures of beats and raps, telling stories of urban experience, using a mixture of brutal truth and hyped rhyme. And 12" singles were being plucked out of record stores, to be spun at discoteques.

Sugar Hill's initial breakthrough - and first rap Top 40 single - was "Rapper's Delight" by The Sugar Hill Gang, an infectious tune to this day. The Funky Four Plus One and Kool Moe Dee churned out notable product as well.

But the record that would have the most influence in the music world was "The Message" by Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five. The unyielding pressures of urban life (Don't push me/'Cause I'm close to the edge/I'm tryin' not to/Lose my head) sprays a verbal blast of frustration, dismay and calamity through the speakers (It's like a jungle sometimes/It makes me wonder how I keep from goin' under), the rappers' verses sidling up to the edge of insanity.

"The Message" has been labelled by some as the greatest record in hip-hop history. But that label implies limits. In truth, it is one of the greatest records in rock and roll history.

Matador Records To Celebrate In Vegas

Matador Records has announced a three day celebration of the 21st anniversary of the label to be held at The Palms in Las Vegas from 1 October. Dubbed The Lost Weekend, the headliners include the reformed Pavement, Sonic Youth, Belle & Sebastian and the classic '93 - '96 lineup of Guided By Voices.
But the "undercard" is even more intriguing to us: Spoon, Cat Power, Yo La Tengo and The New Pornographers. The indie label's genesis began in of the NYC apartment of Chris Lombardi in 1989.

Tickets go on sale on July 9 via There are VIP packages and three-day passes in coordination with hotel stay available on that date. More info to come on that subject, says the site.

Matador also states that as the weeks roll on, other "special guests" will be announced further filling out the roster of bands that will play at the 2,000 seat arena at The Palms. Our suggestions? Current label residers Interpol, The Ponys and Mission of Burma. And from the alumni list, The Fall, Laura Cantrell, M. Ward, Smog and Teenage Fanclub.

05 July 2010

Your Weekly Dylan Cover [#10]

"All Along The Watchtower"
Neil Young & Bruce Springsteen
Original Dylan version found on John Wesley Harding (1967)

Neil Young constitutes with Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen the great triad of 'moral' voices of American popular music. Their art is . . . first and foremost, a fusion of music and words that identifies with their era's zeitgeist.
---Piero Scaruffi, The History of Rock Music - The Sixties

While there is certainly room for vigorous intellectual discussion among rock music critics and fans as to the thesis above, there is no doubt that Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young are the closest disciples of Bob Dylan. Although more overtly political than their mentor, the duo have the innate ability to engage with a wide range of the listening public by weaving tales of the common man and his everyday struggles.

And so it was no accident that in the fall of 2004 in St. Paul, Minnesota, Neil Young joined Bruce Springsteen on stage to perform a unique version of "All Along The Watchtower." No accident, given the talent, experience and scars between them that the two had the chutzpah to take on the most famous Dylan cover of them all. No accident that the performance was a paint-peeling electric version in the Hendrix style that Dylan himself had adopted for 30 years. And certainly no accident that the summit of these two rock giants took place in Dylan's home state.


"All Along The Watchtower" was one of the handful of songs that Bob Dylan reportedly penned in the aftermath of his famous (and mysterious) motorcycle accident in the summer of 1966. When the track was recorded for the John Wesley Harding album, Dylan - armed as usual with guitar and harmonica - was joined by Nashville studio vets Charlie McCoy on bass and Kenny Buttrey on drums. The LP was released at Christmas time in 1967. "Watchtower" was the second single in advance of the album being racked; Dylan recorded the song on 6 November and the 45 r.p.m. was delivered to record stores on 22 November. The single did not chart.

In October 1968, Dylan spoke with Happy Traum in an interview for Sing Out! magazine. He spoke of the nature of the tunes on John Wesley Harding, which were thought to be in sharp contrast to previous efforts. Dylan seemed to sense that the narrative change was jarring for some of his listeners: "I haven't fulfilled the balladeer's job. A balladeer can sit down and sing three songs for an hour and a half... it can all unfold to you. These melodies on John Wesley Harding lack this traditional sense of time. As with the third verse of 'The Wicked Messenger', which opens it up, and then the time schedule takes a jump and soon the song becomes wider... The same thing is true of the song 'All Along the Watchtower', which opens up in a slightly different way, in a stranger way, for we have the cycle of events working in a rather reverse order."

Of course, that was just the beginning of the notoriety of "All Along The Watchtower." The Jimi Hendrix Experience recorded the definitive version for its third album, Electric Ladyland. Dylan is on record about Hendrix's take on his song on at least two occasions. In the liner notes to Biograph, he says: "I liked Jimi Hendrix's record of this and ever since he died I've been doing it that way. . . Strange how when I sing it, I always feel it's a tribute to him in some kind of way." And in an interview with the Fort Lauderdale Sun in 1995, Dylan stated: "It overwhelmed me, really. He had such talent, he could find things inside a song and vigorously develop them. He found things that other people wouldn't think of finding in there. He probably improved upon it by the spaces he was using. I took license with the song from his version, actually, and continue to do it to this day."

Original Listening: Bob Dylan, "All Along The Watchtower"

Live Listening: Bob Dylan & The Band, "All Along The Watchtower" (Before The Flood, 1974)

Other Cover Version: U2, "All Along The Watchtower" (Rattle and Hum, 1988)

03 July 2010

Robert Plant Surprise Appearance At Taste of Chicago

Robert Plant made a surprise appearance with Los Lobos the other night at Taste of Chicago, tearing into Morphine's blues chestnut "Treat Her Right." The Chicago Sun-Times reports that the former Led Zeppelin lead singer had been seen milling about town for a few days, even conducting an impromptu jam session in a hotel lobby.

Plant's new album, Band of Joy, co-produced by Buddy Miller, will be released on 14 September. One of the tracks is The Little Band From East L.A.'s "Angel Dance." "Apparently he's been a fan of our songs for a long time," Los Lobos' Louie Perez recently told Rolling Stone. The band will be filming a video with Plant for his version of "Angel Dance."

02 July 2010

Danger Mouse Provides The Holiday BBQ Soundtrack

Here in the U.S., we're heading out the door for a long Independence Day Holiday weekend. Thoughts turn to backyards, apartment porches or parks, with mondo grills or tiny hibachis, along with coolers of one's favorite beverages. Now all you need is a soundtrack.

Producer extraordinaire Danger Mouse (aka Brian Burton of Gnarls Barkley and Broken Bells fame) has come up with a summer soundtrack of 147 (count 'em!) records for your listening pleasure. The fine Irish music site Nialler9 took things a step farther and looped the entire list onto YouTube.

So point your speakers out the window, click and turn it up. Happy 4th, everybody.

Oh, and here's our favorite Independence Day song to add to the list. In the immortal words of Mr. Chuck Berry, "Let It Rock!"

Of Montreal Offers Free Single

Above behold the cover art for the new Of Montreal album, titled False Priest, to be released on 14 September via Polyvinyl Records. The band is offering a free download of the first single off the effort, "Coquet Coquette." Followers of the band will be familiar with the song from in-studio and live performances of it in 2009, but the tune has now morphed into a Beatlesque cum motion picture soundtrack.

When asked to describe the approach to the album, always entertaining Of Montreal front man Kevin Barnes told, "If Philip K. Dick was a black soul singer in the '70s, what kind of songs would he write? Or, If William S. Burroughs was a black songwriter from the '70s what kind of song would he write?" Um . . . right.

False Priest was produced by Jon Brion (Aimee Mann, Fiona Apple, Rufus Wainwright, Kanye West). Here's the track listing (note the special guests!):

1 I Feel Ya' Strutter
2 Our Riotous Defects [ft. Janelle Monáe]
3 Coquet Coquette
4 Godly Intersex
5 Enemy Gene [ft. Janelle Monáe]
6 Hydra Fancies
7 Like a Tourist
8 Sex Karma [ft. Solange Knowles]
9 Girl Named Hello
10 Famine Affair
11 Casualty of You
12 Around the Way
13 You Do Mutilate?

01 July 2010

Fagen, Scaggs & McDonald Team Up For New Rock & Soul Revue

We got a notice the other day from Red Rocks that piqued our interest: a new rock and soul revue starring Donald Fagen, Boz Scaggs and Michael McDonald will be starting to tour in late summer.

The venture is sort of a reprise of the now legendary New York Rock and Soul Revue that hit selected cities back in 1992. As expected, the musicianship was stellar and the mix of tunes selected memorable. A compilation of songs from that tour, titled Live At The Beacon, is available on CD and highly recommended; beside the three artist mentioned above, contributions are made by Phoebe Snow, Charles Brown and The Rascals' Eddie & David Brigati.

This tour is dubbed The Dukes of September Rhythm Revue. In a recent interview with, the three principals had some interesting comments on the upcoming show and its preparatory stages.

Fagen: "I still love playing the music from the late 50s through the 60s, soul music and R&B, and this is really a chance for me to play it. It's just so much fun to play that music. And for me it's a total no-stress thing because the focus isn't so much on me. I just get to play without it being so much of a job in a certain way. It's a lot of fun." What does he have in mind? A melody of songs from The Band (Fagen often palys at Levon Helm's Midnight Rambles); a version of The Grateful Dead's "Shakedown Street"; and material from his three solo albums.

McDonald, meanwhile, expects to play some Motown songs -- though not necessarily ones from his pair of "Motown" releases -- as well as "some Ray Charles things." "We always wind up doing a Beach Boys thing here and there; that's another favorite of all of ours," adds McDonald, a former adjunct Steely Dan member who also plans to perform Doobie Brothers hits such as "What a Fool Believes" and "Takin' It To the Streets" as well as his own "I Keep Forgettin' (Every Time You're Near)." "We want to put our best foot forward with our own songs because we're doing so many great old songs that all of a sudden the bar gets raised. You don't want to get up there and do something too obscure that is a dimmer moment in the evening."

And the blue-eyed soul master and erst-while restauranteur from San Francisco, Boz Scaggs? "There'll be some blues, some Stax material. I've got a Chuck Berry thing I want to do too." As a result, he predicts that the show will go "a little farther afield" than the Rock and Soul Revue, mentioning songs such as Little Anthony & the Imperial's "Hurt So Bad," David Ruffin's "My Whole World Ended" and Mink deVille's "Cadillac Walk." "Out of hundreds of songs we've picked out of a hat," he says, "what are the gems and how can we fit it all into a two hour show?...What I know for sure is that I'll have the best seat in the house."

The dates so far for the Dukes of September Rhythm Revue tour include:

Aug 19 Danbury, CT (Charles Ives Center)
Aug 20 Atlantic City, NJ (The Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa)
Aug 22 Loudon, VA (Belmont Country Club)
Aug 25 Charlotte, NC (Roadrunner Mobile Amphitheatre)
Aug 26 Atlanta, GA (Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre at Encore Park)
Aug 28 Raleigh, NC (Raleigh Amphitheatre)
Aug 29 Richmond, VA (Innsbrook Pavilion)
Aug 31 Boston, MA (Wang Theatre)
Sept 2 Holmdel, NJ (PNC Bank Arts Center)
Sept 3 Wantagh, NY (Jones Beach Theatre)
Sept 6 St. Paul, MN (Minnesota State Fair)
Sept 8 Detroit, MI (Fox Theatre)
Sept 10 Cincinnati, OH (PNC Pavilion)
Sept 11 Chicago, IL (Chicago Theatre)
Sept 14 Council Bluffs, IA (Mid-America Center)
Sept 27 Denver, CO (Red Rocks Amphitheatre)
Sept 29 Los Angeles, CA (Greek Theatre)
Oct 2 Las Vegas, NV (The Joint)