Friday, May 31, 2013

Fillmore The Last Days 1972

It's an artifact. Similar to the Woodstock soundtrack, it is variable quality of performances across a wide spectrum of musical styles. So it's not like the record you'll sit around listening to frequently.

The music does have San Fransisco in the late sixties in common. There's more of a unity of sound, at least to a small degree, because of that filter.

There are certainly highlights. The 9-minute White Bird by It's A Beautiful Day is a fine jam, as is Keep Your Lamps Trimmed And Burnin' by Hot Tuna. Santana's Incident At Neshabur gets a good reading. Tower Of Power show off the horn section on Back On The Streets Again. The Sons Of Champlin have fun with Poppa Can Play.

There are also long stretches without much excitement. Not that much of it is bad (the closing jam session gets awful close), but it's a dated sound today, and many of the song selections are weak choices (Boz Scaggs' meandering Baby's Callin' Me Home, the Grateful Dead's take on Johnny B. Goode, again).

You might feel differently, especially if you loved some of these acts. Elvin Bishop, Cold Blood, Stoneground, Quicksilver Messenger Service, and Lamb all show up and play songs. They're OK.

It has it's occasional moments that might make it worth it for the avid fan of the San Francisco music scene. I don't know how many of them are left, and besides, they probably own this already in it's original 3-record vinyl set. The sound is good, but not great.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

David Bromberg How Late'll Ya Play 'Til? 1976

David Bromberg's records suffered from too much. Too much different styles. Too eclectic. This record suffers from it, too. Bromberg could do so much so well that, well, he did.

Or you can just relish a super-hot band featuring violin and horns and playing everything from country, New Orleans jazz, horn-heavy rock, and Chicago blues. Quite a bit of blues, and Bromberg is no slouch on guitar. And his nasal vocals can be heartfelt, broken, or uplifting. The stylistic range of the music is broad.

So forget the commercial aspirations that this record represented in its time, and everything else, and just enjoy a singular artist and rocking band. The live half is great, with Will Not Be Your Fool and Sweet Home Chicago. The studio sides offer the staccato-funk of Danger Man, the New Orleans funeral dirge of Dyin' Crapshooter's Blues, and the over-the-top crazy of Great Big Idol With A Golden Head. In between there is the lovely Kaatskill Serenade (it'll break your heart) and the nostalgic Summer Wages. Americana is this record.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Live From Darryl's House

Live From Darryl's House is a made-for-internet TV show. It's been delivering quality musical content since 2007, and more recently has shown up on cable on VH-1 Classic. The show features Darryl Hall (of Hall and Oates fame), an extremely talented house band, and various guests. The episodes include some interview segments, and often conversation over a meal with the band and guests. They include 5-8 songs, with at least one or two of Hall's songs in the mix.

One of the most amazing things is how cool Darryl Hall is. I mean, Hall and Oates didn't exactly go out on top, and the eighties music they specialized in sounds dated these days. But Hall's outstanding pipes are quite intact, and his Philly soul-flavored songs are really good, and everything gets class A treatment from this hot band.

And then there's the guest list. Not every episode is going to appeal to everyone, but there's mostly good ones. I'm very partial to the Cee Lo Green episode, not just for Cee Lo's great songs, but Green also helps incinerate Hall's One On One and I Can't Go For That (No Can Do), inspiring the band to exalted funkiness. Shelby Lynne, Joe Walsh, Fitz and the Tantrums, Sharon Jones, Booker T. Jones, Smokey Robinson, Todd Rundgren, Nick Lowe and many more make appearances, and frequently there are extra good live versions and inspired song choices.

It's worth checking out, and you might just be there for a while. Live From Darryl's House

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Rickie Lee Jones Girl At Her Volcano 1983

I was deliberately looking for something unusual, something different, something I liked but hadn't heard in along time. This idea sent me to the back bedroom, where vinyl records that overflow from the living room stacks reside. And just look what I found!

This 1983 Rickie Lee Jones product was originally released as a 10-inch vinyl EP with seven tracks. That's the one I pulled out and listened to.

Side one opens with a nice reading of Lush Life, recorded live, and featuring wonderful piano and a distinctively Rickie Lee Jones vocal. You either like her or you don't. It's a very different thing from you either love her or hate her.

This is followed by Walk Away Renee, a magnificent baroque pop song given an incredible arrangement and super-dynamic recording. The synthesizer break is nearly orchestral. The original Left Banke version is lovely, but this is even more than that.

Hey, Bub follows, and it's a pretty, slow ballad. Then she tackles My Funny Valentine (the other live recording), and it is a bold vocal showcase that Jones almost pulls off. It's good but not great.

Side two opens with Under The Boardwalk, and even though we didn't need another version, even back in 1983, well, here it is and it's a cooker! Jones is joined by four other vocalists, and the song gets another magnificent recording. Close-miked and dynamic. Bests every version but the original Drifters.

Rainbow Sleeves gets the big orchestral torch song treatment, and deserves it, but it's still just OK. So Long, another slow ballad, is pretty and delicate and benefits from stunning orchestration with electric piano, oboe, and strings.

It's jazzy and eclectic, bur really it is a vehicle for Walk Away Renee and Under the Boardwalk. These two songs are well more than enough to cover the cost- and it's available in reasonably-priced used vinyl, CD, and download versions. Two great songs given covers worthy of their remarkable originals, from a sometimes brilliant artist willing to take chances for her art.