Monday, December 22, 2014

Elton John 17-11-70 1971

I've pulled this little gem out an unusual number of times in the recent past. Unique in Elton John's output, it was recorded live in a studio with a small audience for radio broadcast, and includes only the core band of John, Dee Murray (bass) and Nigel Olssen (drums).

It is the interplay of this tight outfit, and Elton's rocking piano, that make the record so special. Elton still had plenty to prove at this point. His songwriting was never a question, but this was his first American tour, and the band plays like it is now or never. Murray's bass lines are all over the place, almost a bass/lead instrument, and Olssen's drumming is equally wild and ferocious. And Elton plays like a man simultaneously possessed by Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis. Piano can rock. Here's all the proof you need.

Take Me To The Pilot starts things off in fine form, followed by Honky Tonk Woman, on which the trio sings some knock-out harmonies, and John rips the piano to shreds. The slow burner Sixty Years On turns incendiary, and Can I Put You On keeps the rocking front and center. Side two features an eighteen-minute Burn Down The Mission, that includes bits of Arthur Crudup's My Baby Left Me and The Beatles Get Back.

Elton never did this same thing again, and a little over a year later, guitarist Davey Johnstone was a full-time band member. John's live performances became more sophisticated, but never really recaptured the raw power of this dynamic trio.   

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Zappadan 2014 again Imaginary Diseases 2006 and You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore Vol. I 1988

During the previous two Zappadan celebrations, I've discussed recent acquisitions of Zappa releases. This year didn't contain the revelations found in either Wazoo or Orchestral Favorites, but I did add to the stacks with the two in the title.

Imaginary Diseases is a good Zappa release in a number of ways. It is a live recording of the 1972 10-Piece Band, or as it is often known, the Petite Wazoo.This band followed hot on the heels of the 20-piece Grand Wazoo featured on the aforementioned Wazoo release. Nine of the members of this unit also played in the previous larger one.

The disc contains some fine recordings, all instrumentals, that cannot be duplicated elsewhere. The 6-man horn section gets heavily involved right away on Rollo, while Been To Kansas City In A Minor rocks a fairly regular blues under smoking solos on trumpet, guitar, and trombone. Farther O'Blivion again features horn charts and solos, and at 16 minutes, covers a lot of ground. D.C. Boogie is mostly guitar solo, and it's a good one. Imaginary Diseases and Montreal both feature more guitar than horns, and they keep your attention. After the Grand Wazoo, the Petite Wazoo is less amazing. But there is no denying that these are some very hot performances.

Recommended then for the already deep into Zappa type. Might not be for the uninitiated.

No one really needs YCDTOSA Vol. I all that much. Disc one is filled almost entirely with inane humor.  Let's Make The Water Turn Black/Harry You're A Beast/The Orange County Lumber Truck from the 1969 original Mothers line-up is three minutes of perfection. There are good versions of I'm The Slime and Big Swifty from the 1973 band featuring George Duke and Ruth Underwood. That's three tracks out of fourteen. The second disc almost has to be better, and it is. Two more tracks from 1969 (Plastic People  and Oh No).  A version of The Torture Never Stops from the 1977 band featuring Adrian Belew on guitar would be indispensable were it not for so many other good versions of the song. Fine Girl and Be In My Video are always good. The recordings of Frank's eighties bands are less distinguished, and maybe some of the material is weaker. There's some priceless stuff for the obsessed, but as a CD to sit and listen to, it doesn't hold up. Without getting too negative, Vol. II (The Helsinki Concert) is where this series really starts.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Zappadan 2014

December 4 - December 21
Seventeen days devoted to the celebration of all things Frank Zappa.

American Composer.
Band leader.
Family man.
Music producer.
Film maker.

Sixty-two albums during his lifetime. From the first, Freak Out! in 1966, to the last, The Yellow Shark in 1993 (both masterworks), with many a strange side trip along the way. In fact, those two might be a pretty good introduction to Zappa's music. Or just something to do during Zappadan.