31 August 2010
b/w "H.B. Goose Step"
Written by Henry Glover
Produced by Morris Levy
Riviera Records R-1401
Recorded and Released 1964
Since summer is now looking at us in the rear-view mirror, it seems only proper that our fourth and final jukebox single in tribute to Henry Glover would be forever associated with perpetual warmth. But in reaching that stage in the music listener's consciousness, it took some weird turns, indeed.
In 1961, Glover was essentially a free agent. Having left King Records in the late 1950s, he followed with a short stint at Roulette Records. But now he had a record to peddle to EMI called "California Sun." Oddly enough, the song was assigned to veteran New Orleans R&B singer Joe Jones, who was looking for a follow up to his Top 5 hit from 1960, "You Talk Too Much." Jones' version of "California Sun" is given the classic Crescent City arrangement popularized by such local legends as Fats Domino and Allen Touissant; the horn chart dominates the melody, and Jones certainly delivers a solid vocal.
It reached #85 on the charts and became an afterthought.
But that prelude is important to note, because most fans of the song identify "California Sun" with the Beach Boys sound, which did not become ubiquitous on the radio until well into 1962.
Enter five teenagers in 1964 from . . . South Bend Central High School in Indiana. The Rivieras took their name from the Buick automobile made in the heartland of the Midwest. The boys were part of the "frat rock" movement in the early 1960s, playing high school dances and college parties. Somehow, they created a garage rock classic that fused the California surf sound with the burgeoning British Invasion on the verge of dominating the American music scene.
The Rivieras' version of "California Sun" - released on the local Riviera label - is memorable for its cheesy organ and the monotone vocal of guitarist Marty "Bo" Fortson. Originally stocked only at the local South Bend Kreske's, it eventually got regional and national distribution, and raced all the way to #5 on the US pop chart.
Almost every decade since, this one-hit wonder has crept back into the musical lexicon, either via The Rivieras' version in movie soundtracks (Good Morning Vietnam and The Doors) or spirited new covers by artists like The Ramones, Brian Wilson and Chris Isaak.
30 August 2010
After warming up a capacity crowd - most donned in their wellies - at the Electric Picnic Arts & Music Festival this coming weekend in Stradbally, Co. Laois, original members Glen Hansard and Colm Mac Con Iomaire will cross the Atlantic for eight gigs throughout America:
19 Nov 2010 - Theater of Living Arts, Philadelphia, PA
20 Nov 2010 - Terminal 5, New York, NY
21 Nov 2010 - 9:30 Club, Washington, DC
23 Nov 2010 - Vic Theatre, Chicago, IL
26 Nov 2010 - The Showbox, Seattle, WA
27 Nov 2010 - Wonder Ballroom, Portland, OR
28 Nov 2010 - The Fillmore, San Francisco, CA
30 Nov 2010 - Avalon Ballroom, Los Angeles, CA
No word on whether a new album may be in the works. However, TNOP listeners are well-advised to take advantage of this rare opportunity to see a dynamic live act. For a sample, here's The Frames performing one of their show-stopping numbers, "Fitzcarraldo," from Lollapalooza in Chicago's Grant Park, 2006:
27 August 2010
The Everly Brothers
Original Dylan version found on Biograph (1985)
That Bob Dylan would be a fan of Don and Phil Everly comes as no surprise. The Everly Brothers were prolific hit makers in the late 1950s and early 1960s, steeped in country and mountain folk traditions. Championed by Chet Atkins, they modernized their sound when they hooked up with Acuff-Rose music publishers and became the most successful rock and roll duo ever on the Billboard charts.
One of the first ten acts inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, The Everly Brothers' remarkable harmony particularly influenced The Beatles and Simon & Garfunkel. The former would nod to the brothers who spent their formative years in Shenandoah, Iowa in "Two Of Us" on the Let It Be album and Paul McCartney would call out to "Phil and Don" on his solo hit "Let 'Em In." The latter covered the Everlys' first hit, "Bye Bye Love" on Bridge Over Troubled Water and on their last reunion tour had the duo open for them. Paul Simon notably used the Everlys on harmony vocals for the title song on Graceland.
The story of Dylan and The Everly Brothers goes back to the late '60s. Phil Everly recounted in an interview that after one of the duo's concerts at The Bottom Line in New York City, Dylan offered them a song to record. He proceeded to play the tune quietly, but the brothers misunderstood the lyrics and passed. Later, the Everlys heard the song on the Top 40 - sung by Dylan. It was "Lay Lady Lay," and, now able to understand the words, regretted their earlier decision. (The Everly Brothers would later cover the song on the album EB 84.)
In the summer of 1975, Dylan had just started recording sessions for what was to become his Desire album. One of the first songs he reportedly wrote and worked on was "Abandoned Love." The musical vibe is clearly in line with the rest of the tunes that were selected for Desire, but was not to be included on the LP. An intimate lyric centering on the last throes of a once true relationship, "Abandoned Love" could have just as easily fit on Blood On The Tracks.
In an excerpt from the book Encounters With Bob Dylan: If You See Him Say Hello, Joe Kivak recounts:
On a Thursday night in July 1975, I headed to see Ramblin' Jack Elliott at The Bitter End in New York City. As the lights flashed on and I got up to leave, I glanced around the club and was stunned to see Bob Dylan seated toward the back with Jack, wearing the same striped tee shirt and leather jacket he had on in a photo with Patti Smith on the then-current Village Voice.
Naturally, I sat right back down . . . the engineer set up another microphone, we knew Bob was going to sit in. After a couple of songs, [Elliott] began "With God On Our Side." After the first few lines, he turned his head and said, "Bob, you want to help out on this?" The place went nuts as Dylan walked onstage. He . . . was nervous . . .
Their first song was [Woody Guthrie's] "Pretty Boy Floyd," with Bob singing harmony and his guitar buzzing right along. Then Jack started "How Long Blues." After the first verse, he looked at Bob in a way that seemed to ask him to sing a verse. Bob simply shook his head and mouthed something inaudible. When the song finished . . . his guitar was still buzzing, and he asked Jack to trade instruments with him. At that moment, everyone in the room was in a trance; it's not every day one gets to hear an impromptu Bob Dylan performance in a tiny club. After a couple of lines, we realized that he was performing a new song, with each line getting even better than the last. The song was "Abandoned Love," and it still is the most powerful performance I've ever heard.
"Abandoned Love" would eventually be released ten years later on the five-disc Dylan retrospective Biograph. And The Everly Brothers would record it that year as well, included on the album Born Yesterday. Tapping into the roots of the Celtic melody, Scarlet Rivera's violin is replaced neatly by Irish uilleann pipes. And, as always, Don and Phil provide the immediately recognizable harmony that has earned them a unique corner of rock history.
Original Listening: Bob Dylan, "Abandoned Love"
Live Listening: Bob Dylan, "Abandoned Love" (The Bitter End, New York City, 1975)
Another Cover Version: George Harrison, "Abandoned Love" (Artifacts I - The Definitive Collection of Beatles' Rareties, 1995)
Still Another Cover: Chuck Prophet, "Abandoned Love" (Outlaw Blues, Volume 2, 1995)
25 August 2010
1. "Man On The Street (Fragment)"
2. "Hard Times In New York Town"
3. "Poor Boy Blues"
4. "Ballad For A Friend"
5. "Rambling, Gambling Willie"
6. "Talking Bear Mountain Picnic Massacre Blues"
7. "Standing On The Highway"
8. "Man On The Street"
9. "Blowin' In The Wind"
10. "Long Ago, Far Away"
11. "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall"
12. "Tomorrow Is A Long Time"
13. "The Death of Emmett Till"
14. "Let Me Die In My Footsteps"
15. "Ballad Of Hollis Brown"
16. "Quit Your Low Down Ways"
17. "Baby, I'm In The Mood For You"
18. "Bound To Lose, Bound To Win"
19. "All Over You"
20. "I'd Hate To Be You On That Dreadful Day"
21. "Long Time Gone"
22. "Talkin' John Birch Paranoid Blues"
23. "Masters Of War"
24. "Oxford Town"
1. "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right"
2. "Walkin' Down The Line"
3. "I Shall Be Free"
4. "Bob Dylan's Blues"
5. "Bob Dylan's Dream"
6. "Boots Of Spanish Leather"
7. "Walls of Red Wing"
8. "Girl From The North Country"
9. "Seven Curses"
10. "Hero Blues"
11. "Whatcha Gonna Do?"
12. "Gypsy Lou"
13. "Ain't Gonna Grieve"
14. "John Brown"
15. "Only A Hobo"
16. "When The Ship Comes In"
17. "The Times They Are A-Changin'"
18. "Paths Of Victory"
19. "Guess I'm Doing Fine"
20. "Baby Let Me Follow You Down"
21. "Mama, You Been On My Mind"
22. "Mr. Tambourine Man"
23. "I'll Keep It With Mine"
23 August 2010
And speaking of covers, looking at the track listing of the new record reveals a healthy dose of them, including Les McCann & Eddie Harris' classic anti-war raver "Compared To What," Marvin Gaye's spiritual masterpiece "Wholly Holy" and a very fine version (below) of The O'Jays' 1974 social justice hit "Wake Up Everybody" which features Melanie Fiona and Common.
CHECK LOCAL LISTINGS FOR TV TIMES AND/OR REPEAT SHOWINGS; ALSO CONSULT WEB SITES AND YouTube
TONIGHT, MONDAY 23 August
The Late Show with David Letterman (CBS) - Big Boi
The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson (CBS) - Willie Nelson
Last Call with Carson Daly (NBC) - Daniel Merriweather
Tavis Smiley (PBS) - Rufus Wainwright
Lopez Tonight (TBS) - Los Lobos
The Ellen DeGeneres Show (Syndicated) - Maxwell
TUESDAY, 24 August
The Tonight Show (NBC) - Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings
The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson - Wilco
Last Call with Carson Daly - David Gray
Tavis Smiley - Jon Landau
Chelsea Lately (E!) - Rufus Wainwright
WEDNESDAY, 25 August
Late Night with Jimmy Fallon (ABC) - Will Ferrell; Mike Posner
Last Call with Carson Daly - Fanfarlo
THURSDAY, 26 August
The Late Show with David Letterman - The Specials
The Tonight Show - The Robert Cray Band
Late Night with Jimmy Fallon - Titus Andronicus
Last Call with Carson Daly - The Raveonettes
Lopez Tonight - Lynyrd Skynyrd
FRIDAY, 27 August
The Tonight Show - Tracy Bonham
Jimmy Kimmel Live - The Black Crowes
The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson - Eric Idle
Last Call with Carson Daly - Snoop Dogg
Live with Regis & Kelly (Syndicated) - Larry David; Norah Jones
22 August 2010
01 “All Delighted People (Original Version)”
02 “Enchanting Ghost”
04 “From the Mouth of Gabriel”
05 “The Owl and the Tanager”
06 “All Delighted People (Classic Rock Version)”
“Le Noise” is complete. It is a solo record. Playbacks are happening now. Release date is September 28th. It will be available in Vinyl, CD and I tunes in the first edition, followed by Blu-Ray, and an APP for I-Phone and I-Pad a month or so later. The app will be free. It gives you an interactive album cover. Forgive my use of the word “album”. I am old school. When you buy the songs/movies from I- tunes they show up in your APP. Peace ny
The album was produced by Daniel Lanois, who recently told Rolling Stone, "We cut a couple of solo acoustic songs, but the rest is very electric. There's no band, but I got in there with my sonics. There's nothing else out there like it."
We haven't uncovered the track listing as of yet, but during his recent tour, Young has been road-testing new songs. One strong contender is the intensely autobiographical song "Hitchhiker," which has its roots going all the way back to 1992. Here's a recent performance of "Hitchhiker" at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville (great audio):
19 August 2010
"The Man In Me"
Original Dylan version found on New Morning (1970)
In his review of Bob Dylan's LP New Morning in October 1970, the noted rock critic Ralph J. Gleason proclaimed in Rolling Stone magazine "WE'VE GOT DYLAN BACK AGAIN." There were two reasons for this sentiment. First, the familiar twangy voice that was missing on Nashville Skyline had reappeared. And second, the new album wasn't Self Portrait, the double dose of covers that had landed like a thud just four months earlier.
As a newer Dylan fan at the then-age of 12 1/2 years, I had liked Nashville Skyline and its (mostly) tenderhearted ballads and countrified stew, and was not bothered by his voice affectations. Now with the physical cover of New Morning in hand, my first impression was how cool Dylan looked in the black and white portrait on the front side. Still sporting the beard from Skyline, but this time round a more serious, contemplative look as opposed to the tip of the hat and gentle smile. Turning the cover over, the grainy photo of a very young Bob next to Victoria Spivey made me wonder: why this contrasting choice? Maybe this picture of his first recording session was a direct reference to the chosen title of the record?
Anyway, placing New Morning on the turntable turned out to be the equivalent of Indian Summer. "If Not For You," "Time Passes Slowly," the title track, and "One More Weekend" all swung at a leisurely pace, with periodic threats that the melodies would break loose. But for some reason, "The Man In Me" struck me as another side of Dylan I had yet to experience.
The first "verse" is Dylan singing wordlessly, setting a stage for an adult lyric that, while brief (especially for Dylan), seems deeply personal. The author's barrel house piano style anchors the song, nicely complimented by Al Kooper's organ and the harmony of Hilda Harris and Albertin Robinson.
Within two years, the a cappella group The Persuasions had stripped "The Man In Me" to its core and revealed it for its true colors: a soulful, late night ode best sung gathered around a fire barrel in the middle of the city. The cover presented here is from their wonderful album Street Corner Symphony (1972). Jerry Lawson grabs hold of the lead and wrings the soul out of it, dynamically backed by on top by Jesse "Sweet Joe" Russell, Jayotis Washington, Herbert "Toubo" Rhoad and Willie C. Daniels and on the bottom by bassman Jimmy "Bro" Hayes.
Original Listening: Bob Dylan, "The Man In Me"
Movie Bonus! Bob Dylan, "The Man In Me" (opening credits to The Big Lebowski)
Another Cover Version: My Morning Jacket, "The Man In Me" (live, Louisville, Kentucky, 18 June 2004)
Still Another Cover: The Clash, "The Man In Me" (London Calling: 25th Anniversary Legacy Edition, 2004)
18 August 2010
Back in April, TNOP reported on the great show that San Diego band Delta Spirit put on as part of the Daytrotter Barnstormer 3 Tour. Their opener, "Bushwick Blues," blew us away. The group's latest album, History From Below, has been on shelves since June.
Drummer Brandon Young drives "Bushwick Blues," an intimate story of a real life relationship experienced by Matt Vasquez, Delta Spirit's singer-songwriter. Vasquez told Spinner, “‘Bushwick Blues’ is about a woman I met outside a club in New York called Pianos in 2008. She handed me a demo of her music and I was immediately smitten. A few times when I came back to New York we were able to spend some time together. We played each other songs and shared our life stores. For a long time, it was hard not to compare other women to her. I’ve since recovered.”
For the month of September, Delta Spirit sets off on a European tour.
17 August 2010
Our third single to make the TNOP Ultimate Jukebox with Henry Glover connection is a song that capitalized -- literally -- on the dance sensation "The Twist." Chubby Checker's massive hit song reached Number One on the Billboard charts twice: the first time in July 1960 and then again in January 1962.
Q - Dick Clark said that you sang lead on the Peppermint Twist, only because the original lead singer couldn't get the right feel. Is that true? And is it true that up till that point, you'd never been a lead singer?
A - Dick Clark was right on the money when he said I sang lead on the Peppermint Twist after the original lead singer Dave Brigati couldn't get the exact feel that the producer Henry Glover wanted. And the reason I think I got it a lot quicker is because Henry Glover and I were the co-writers of the song. I immediately felt the exact way it should feel. And after about 2 takes, Henry decided this is what he was seeking. We went with my version of the Peppermint Twist. Up until that point, I had been mostly a background singer and I played alto sax for Dave Brigati and Roger Freeman who were my two lead singers. But I did sing an occasional lead like 'You Must've Been A Beautiful Baby' and 'Ya Ya'. I just had a good feel for certain songs and I still feel that same way, that certain, particular songs, I can sing better than anyone else.
13 August 2010
Born in Cedar Lake, Iowa, Hayward began his love with rhythm at an early age, banging on an orange crate, an eponymous object in most Midwestern US towns. Saying "there's no where to play drums in Iowa except at the local Ramada Inn," Hayward left for California. Upon arrival in 1966, he saw an ad in the LA Free Press which read "Drummer Wanted, Must Be Freaky." Thus began a relationship with Frank Zappa and one of the fringe bands of the Mothers of Invention called The Factory. It was with that group that he met Lowell George, the ace songwriter and slide guitarist who would be the cornerstone of Little Feat, along with keyboardist Bill Payne and bassist Ray Estrada.
Little Feat landed a deal with the exclusive Reprise record label (home to Neil Young, Randy Newman, Ry Cooder and Frank Sinatra). The band's first three albums were critically lauded but went nowhere on the charts. After some internal strife, Little Feat convened at a run-down studio in Maryland and came up with its masterpiece: the funky Feats Don't Fail Me Now (1974). Somehow, someway the public discovered the group: it sold 150,000 copies and staved off financial ruin. The Last Record Album (1975), Time Loves A Hero (1977) and one of the greatest live recordings in rock history, Waiting For Columbus (1978), followed, but by then George's substance abuse problems had reached critical stage. The original lineup of Little Feat split for the final time.
While working on a solo album in 1979, Lowell George suffered a fatal heart attack. Hayward, recuperating from another motorcycle crash, had spoken to George the day before. "He called me at the hospital and said that when he came back from that tour we'd start a band up again," he recalled. "Next day he was gone."
The following years would find Hayward's piledriving beat in demand in the studio. He worked on albums for, among others, Ry Cooder, The Doobie Brothers, John Cale and Carly Simon. And he went out on the road with Joan Armatrading, Robert Plant and one of his heroes, Bob Dylan.
Little Feat reformed in 1988, and the band soldiered on solidly for the next 20 years, touring regularly and producing some well-received albums. But the sense of what could have been always seemed to haunt Hayward. "Some of us were fighting big demons at the time," Hayward once recalled. "That was the reason for all the dissension in the band, and if we'd lasted just long enough for us to all discover abstinence, I wonder what it would have become?"
12 August 2010
Los Lobos appeared on The Tonight Show last night and premiered the opening cut from Tin Can Trust, the group's album that was released this week in physical and digital formats. "Burn It Down" features vocals and incendiary guitar from David Hidalgo.
TNOP highly encourages its readers to listen to the album in its entirety, courtesy NPR Music.
11 August 2010
The first full-length LP, Becoming A Jackal, was released two months ago, and is getting heavy rotation on TNOP's stereo. O'Brien wrote all the songs and played all instruments (save strings and horns). In hopes of creating a small groundswell in the States, O'Brien recently played acoustic sets across the country, usually in coordination with independent radio stations.
Here's a sampler for your ears. We think you'll want to hear more.
"Becoming A Jackal" (video)
"Ship of Promises" (official promo video)
"Set The Tigers Free," "Home," "Becoming A Jackal" & "Twenty-Seven Strangers" (Capitol Hill Block Party, Seattle via Nialler9)
09 August 2010
b/w "Honolulu Rock-A-Roll-A"
Moon Mullican with Boyd Bennett and His Rockets
Written by Buck Trail, Louis Innis & Henry Glover
Produced by Syd Nathan & Henry Glover
Released March 1956
In the second of our four jukebox worthy singles written by pioneering music executive Henry Glover, we visit the brand new landscape of rock and roll, circa 1956. The charts are filled with songs like James Brown's "Please, Please, Please," Little Richard's "Long Tall Sally," Howlin' Wolf's "Smokestack Lightnin'" and Fats Domino's "I'm In Love Again."
And into this breach attempts to step a brazen, good timin' East Texan, Aubrey "Moon" Mullican. He first learned the guitar from a local sharecropper but then took up the pump organ and the piano (later famously remarking that he chose the latter because "my beer kept sliding off my fiddle"). By the time he was in his 20s, Mullican was playing in bands that were riding the wave of the Western Swing craze.
In 1946, Syd Nathan of King Records in Cincinnati signed Mullican to a long-term contract. An originator of the "two finger style" of piano playing, his songs were a mix of maudlin country ballads and blues and boogie tunes that anticipated the advent of rock and roll.
Increased sales of records on King allowed Moon Mullican to tour outside Texas. At a concert in 1949 he became friends with Hank Williams, which led to a regular gig on the Grand Ole Opry. A year later Moon had his first million selling song, "I'll Sail My Ship Alone." And there is evidence that he is the uncredited co-writer of the huge Hank hit "Jambalaya" (he received 50% royalties on the song). In his biography of Hank Williams, author Colin Escott unearths an interview in Country Song Roundup Magazine in which the immortal star mentions Moon as one of his personal favorites.
But while critics said that Mullican could sing honky tonk and sentimental tunes as well as anyone of the period, the performer wanted to "make the bottles bounce on the tables" with an array of blues and boogie tunes. He left the Opry and lit out on the road.
One of the most enduring cuts of Mullican's career would be 1956's "Seven Nights To Rock." Billboard described it at the time as "the guy spreads himself thin as he rocks with 7 different chicks in seven nights. A swinging bit of commercial wax that could connect at the juke level."
Unfortunately, it didn't. Why? Elvis and Little Richard, probably. Moon Mullican was a 245 pound bald man who was not going to break into that realm. The era of Bill Haley was quickly over, and Mullican was a casualty.
Moon continued to perform into the 1960s, basing himself out of Texas. He died on New Year's Day, 1967. Rock and roll pioneer Jerry Lee Lewis consistently lists Mullican as one of his two main influences, along with Hank Williams. And artists like Nick Lowe and Bruce Springsteen (don't miss The E Streeters version!) regularly cover "Seven Nights To Rock" to make sure new generations never forget that some songs -- even those 55 years old -- always rock.
07 August 2010
Drown In My Own Tears
Written by Henry Glover
Produced by Ahmet Ertegun & Jerry Wexler
Recorded in New York City, 30 November 1955
"I suppose I’ve always done my share of crying, especially when there’s no other way to contain my feelings. I know that men ain’t supposed to cry, but I think that’s wrong. Crying’s always been a way for me to get things out which are buried deep, deep down. When I sing, I often cry. Crying is feeling and feeling is being human. Oh yes, I cry."
Anybody that has spent time in a bar knows that the place isn't always hoppin'. And these are the times that the jukebox can come in handy, especially late at night when loneliness and brooding can set in after a few drinks.
That's why the classic Ray Charles tune "Drown In My Own Tears" is a natural for the TNOP Ultimate Singles Jukebox. A number one hit on the R&B chart in early 1956, Brother Ray's treatment of Henry Glover's song melds the formula that literally gave birth to soul: the swaying gospel beat with the intimate tale of secular problems.
In the intriguing liner notes written by Robert Palmer for the Atlantic compilation Ray Charles: The Complete Atlantic Rhythm & Blues Recordings , 1952-1959, it is noted that even though the rock and roll wave had broken through to white audiences (Elvis Presley had covered Charles' "I Got A Woman"), "at this crucial junction in Charles' career, a very surprising thing happened. Charles refused to compromise his music with the simpler beat, more adolescent lyrics, and smoother singing that white rock and roll fans seemed to favor. He continued to write, arrange, play and sing from his soul, and his records continued to sell almost exclusively within the black community. Even more remarkably, Atlantic an enlightened company but one that needed to sell records as much as any other label, backed Charles all the way. His music suffered no delusion. In fact, mid-fifties Charles landmarks like . . . "Drown In My Own Tears" . . . . recorded during rock and roll's breakthrough period in 1955, was more soulfully incendiary, churchy and rootsy -- more "black" if you will -- than . . . his earlier discs."
Henry Glover's composition, written in 1951 and originally recorded by Lula Reed on King Records, became a classic and constant in the Ray Charles canon throughout the remainder of his career. The stunning backup of The Cookies near the end of the tune's arrangement led Charles to permanently integrate female singers into his act and many of his recordings (the most famous being The Raelettes).
Provided below is a 1986 live performance of "Drown In My Own Tears." Charles is joined on stage by Ron Wood on guitar, Paul Shaffer on organ and Steve Jordan on drums.
After leaving King in 1958 to join Roulette Records, Glover worked with Sarah Vaughn, Dinah Washington, Sonny Stitt and Ronnie Hawkins. The latter would prove important as he became an early backer of Hawkins' backup band, The Hawks, who would later famously back up Bob Dylan and then leave a music imprint of their own on rock history as The Band.
06 August 2010
"A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall"
Original Dylan version found on The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan (1963)
A native Oklahoman, Claude Russell Bridges suddenly found himself an in-demand studio musician in California in the mid-1960s. He was part of the famous "Wall of Sound" on some Phil Spector records and played on songs by artists as diverse as The Byrds, Bobby "Boris" Pickett and Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass.
By 1967, the man now billing himself as Leon Russell had a studio built for himself in the Sooner State. With partner Marc Benno, he cut his first solo album, Look Inside The Asylum Choir.
Russell's major breakthrough was his production (with collaborator Denny Cordell) of Joe Cocker!, released in 1969. The album was a hit and contained two Russell-penned compositions, "Hello, Little Friend" and a song that was to become a signature for Cocker: "Delta Lady." A highly successful - and very raucous - tour followed, resulting in the double live LP Mad Dogs & Englishmen.
In late 1970, Russell's second album, released on Shelter Records, was cut in the studio. Leon Russell and the Shelter People remains a great effort worthy of any record collection. Along with a group of stellar originals, Russell tried his hand at a number of Bob Dylan selections during the Shelter People sessions: "It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry" (which made the cut), "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue," "Love Minus Zero/No Limit" and "She Belongs To Me" (which all didn't).
And one notable other Dylan gem: "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall," the chilling and daunting number that electrified the folk community upon its introduction back in 1962. I still love the way that Russell put his stamp on this cover. His rolling New Orleans-style piano is perfectly accented by the deft slide guitar of Jesse Ed Davis and the ace drumming of Jim Keltner. The vocal is quintessentially Midwestern American - just like the original - except the geographic tone is obviously turned more to the south.
Cocker had also recorded two Beatles' tunes during the Joe Cocker! sessions. This, as well as his studio playing and production prowess, brought Russell to the attention of the Fab Four's Apple Records. Along with George Harrison and Klaus Voorman, Russell was an uncredited musician on Badfinger's Straight Up (1971), an album that spawned two big singles that remain staples on classic rock radio to this day: "Baby Blue" and "Day After Day."
By March 1971 Russell found himself in a small studio in New York's Greenwich Village, playing on and producing some new songs written by Dylan. "Watching The River Flow" and "When I Paint My Masterpiece" were included on Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits, Vol. 2.
And on August 1 of that same year, Leon Russell would be standing on stage playing bass with Harrison and Dylan at the Concert For Bangla Desh in New York City. The selection? "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall."
Reams of paper have been devoted to analysis of "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall." We'll leave you with two quotes.
One from Dylan himself, in a 1963 interview with Studs Turkel on Chicago radio (courtesy transcript in Jonathan Cott's compilation Dylan On Dylan: The Essential Interviews): "No, it's not atomic rain, it's just a hard rain. It isn't the fallout rain. I mean some sort of end that's just gotta happen . . . In the last verse, when I say, 'the pellets of poison are flooding the waters', that means all the lies that people get told on their radios and in their newspapers."
The second is from an emotional Allen Ginsberg, from the Martin Scorsese film No Direction Home:
Original Listening: Bob Dylan, "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall"
Live Listening: Bob Dylan, "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall" (The Concert For Bangla Desh, 1971; with George Harrison, Leon Russell)
Other Cover Versions: Bryan Ferry, "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall" (These Foolish Things, 1973); Pete Seeger, "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall" (Live in Australia, 1963)
04 August 2010
[On occasion, our far-flung correspondents attend and review shows. Here's another installment.]
BY THE NIGHT OWL
In between songs during The National's sold-out concert Wednesday night at The Riverside Theater, guitarist Bryce Dessner recounted the days years ago when their visits to Milwaukee would revolve around shows at a RiverWest neighborhood tavern. Naturally, someone in the audience shouted out "I was there!" To which Dessner replied, "Yeah, it was just you and me, buddy."
Sometimes it is hard to believe that The National is now rating lengthy profile pieces in The New York Times Magazine, selling out Radio City Music Hall, and packing 2,500 seaters like The Riverside. After all, this is a band whose latest album begins with the words "terrible love and I'm walking with spiders" and ends with "I'll explain everything to the geeks." And their lead instrument is arguably the drum. Not exactly mainstream stuff, right?
Well, on this warm and humid night, on a stage purposely compact and intimate, The National continued to make its bones and amble down the road to becoming, quite possibly, America's best band.
Without fanfare, the group took their places: twin guitar playing brothers Bryce and Aaron Dessner; drummer Bryan Devendorf; bassist Scott Devendorf; and vocalist Matt Berninger. They were accompanied by a multi-instrumentalist and a two man brass section.
Berninger, surely the tallest lead singer in all of rock and roll, stood ramrod straight at the mic stand and greeted the crowd with "there's no savin' anything," the opening line to the song "Runaway," a tune off the new CD High Violet. It was accompanied by a beautiful, subtle building of melody and got The National quickly in the pocket. But this reading of "Runaway," much in the mold of the tightly produced version found on the LP, proved deceiving. For outside the studio, The National showed that it gladly revisits its bar band roots and knows how to play to a crowd after over ten years on the road.
"Mistaken For Strangers" revs things up. The brothers Devendorf are joined at the hip musically and almost figuratively when one focuses on them on stage. And the haunting New Order hollow guitar sound compliments the detached lyrics written by Berninger.
"Anyone's Ghost" and the amazing "Bloodbuzz Ohio" follow, and there's no subtlety now. The bass drum is thumping into your heart. Heavy metal guitar breaks fill the air. Berninger has taken his black blazer off and rolled up his sleeves; he's shadow boxing with the drummer. It's time to go to work.
"Squalor Victoria," an underrated gem from the new album, turns into an unlikely clap along anthem. [Ed. note: "Squalor Victoria" is mistakenly identified above as being a cut from High Violet. In fact, the song is off of Boxer. Thanks to our readers for the heads up.] "Afraid of Everyone," a deeply affecting Berninger tale of new fatherhood, takes on a spooky vibe. It is a riveting performance by the entire crew, nicely accented by the horns.
It is at this stage that your reviewer is reflecting on just how full the stage sound is of The National. Quite a contrast from the meticulously produced albums that almost seem at times like a nod to minimalist classical works. As the Stones eloquently put it, it's live where this group gets its ya-yas out.
The set continues to rely heavily on High Violet, and rightly so, as it is an early contender for album of the year. "Conversation 16" is brilliant; it sounds like a lost Flannery O'Connor short story set to a brooding melody. "Sorrow" and "England" are affecting as well. The former starts with a high hat nick from "Theme From 'Shaft'," evolves into a Edge-like sonic guitar, and then adds still another layer with a melancholy horn chart. "England" creates a pastoral feeling; while The National publicly states that they try to avoid outright musical influences, the song is a perfect live partner to "Sorrow" as it is also in the U2 wheelhouse, building up to an anthemic chorus.
The wonderful "Fake Empire" closes the set, a not so veiled shot at the previous presidential administration and now no doubt at the money changers who have brought ruin to so many. Its cacophony of sound at the end of the song is glorious.
The four encores are highlighted by "Secret Meeting" - leaving this reviewer agape at the drumming of Devendorf - and the roof-raising "Mr. November," in which Berninger leaves it all on the stage. In the tradition of great rock and roll, The National departs the stage in a buzz of sound.
A band makes its mark on popular music when its influences - face it, everybody nicks from their idols - are not readily evident and, as a result, create their own sound in the listener's mind. These are the bands that prevail over the years despite changes in style and in turn create a road map for future musicians, regardless of sales and/or acclaim. While I'm not ready to proclaim The National as part of the unique succession of American rock and rollers that so many now (or will) point to as seminal - Chuck Berry, Bob Dylan, The Velvet Underground, Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band, R.E.M., Wilco - the potential is there. The National has paid its dues and learned their trade. They tell compelling stories that are drenched in Heartland Americana. They get better with each studio album. And they are a confident and an original presence on stage.
The mantle of Best American Band may change hands in the near future.
SET LIST (Thanks to Connor)
Mistaken For Strangers
Afraid of Everyone
Geese of Beverly Road
Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks
03 August 2010
The fine Tuscon, Arizona-based band Calexico has released Live In Nuremberg, a record full of treats for both long-time fans and the uninitiated. TNOP readers can enjoy the full stream of the album simply by clicking below or can download it for free by visiting this site.
Calexico has just commenced a summer tour of the US, Canada and parts of Europe, which will culminate with a headlining spot at The Hollywood Bowl with Ozomatli and others on 19 September.
Calexico, Live in Nuremberg by cashmusic
02 August 2010
Willie Nelson and Neil Young allowed their names to be affiliated with Farm Aid and have served on its Board of Directors and performed at the annual concert for a quarter century. Along with other high profile artists John Mellencamp and Dave Matthews, it was announced this morning that Farm Aid 25 will be held at Miller Park baseball stadium in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on 2 October. JSOnline reports that tickets for "Farm Aid 25: Growing Hope for America" will go on sale at 9 a.m. Aug. 14, at the Miller Park box office, by calling (414) 902-4000 or online at www.tickets.com. Ticket prices range from $39.50 to $97.50. Farm Aid will offer special advance sale tickets to Farm Aid members beginning Friday, August 6. To become a Farm Aid member, visit www.farmaid.org.
In addition to Nelson, Young, Mellencamp and Matthews, the full lineup of the concert will be announced in the coming weeks. TNOP will keep you updated.