Trying To Get To You

Friday, February 22, 2008

Bootleg Friday: Steely Dan, 1974

In the movie Knocked Up, there’s a scene where the characters played by Seth Rogen and Paul Rudd (playing an A&R man) argue about Steely Dan. I think the exact line that Seth Rogen says is that “Steely Dan gargle balls.” It’s a funny scene, but I’ll admit that as I watched it in the theater, there was a part of me that wanted to shut his bitch ass up. Because Steely Dan are awesome.

Why are they awesome? Because they sound so goddamned good. I’ve listened to their songs hundreds, if not thousands of times and I can’t tell you what any of the lyrics are about, except they always occur to me though they’re about peering into the abyss that Nietzsche wrote about – and laughing at it. But their arrangements are so impeccable, their playing so beautiful and the production on their records so stunning (Has anyone made better sounding albums than Steely Dan?) that my affection for their music grows deeper the more I listen.

I know plenty of people that disagree with my assessment. My friend Lewis, who loves soul music as I do, argues with me about the Dan, accusing them of being soulless. I disagree. Vehemently. Steely Dan are what I call weirdo soul; musicians continually inspired by jazz, blues and soul but far too self-conscious to play black music on its own terms. Donald Fagen and Walter Becker were geeky hipsters incarnate, 70’s style; smart, bookish, loaded with irony, but never so much that it overwhelmed the obvious reverence and love they had of black music. That’s the weakness of most hipster acts today; they lead with the irony and the love of the music comes in a distant second. Not so with the Dan.

Today’s episode of Bootleg Friday is a great Steely Dan show taped at the Record Plant in Los Angeles on March 20, 1974, promoting the release of Pretzel Logic, a masterpiece in every sense of the word. If you’re already a fan, then you’ll be in love with what you hear. If you’re not, I ask you to set aside whatever your opinions have been – at least for a few songs. I just don’t get it – how can anyone not like this music?

Buy Steely Dan at the Amazon MP3 store.

Download: Steely Dan – Live At The Record Plant, 3/20/74

Track Listing:
"The Boston Rag"
"Do It Again"
"Any Major Dude Will Tell"
"King Of The World"
"Rikki Don't Lose That Number"
"Pretzel Logic"
"Instrumental (Your Gold Teeth II)"
"Reelin' In The Years"
"This All Too Mobile Home"

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Of Dreams And Chasing Pavements

In August of 1987, I was in Washington state, spending the month mountain climbing. I was sixteen, a music fanatic and an indifferent student (at best). I didn't fit in socially in high school, and it was beginning to dawn on me that whatever the "normal" path was for most upper middle class suburban kids, I wasn't really going to enjoy "normal" too much.

The month of mountain climbing was broken up into two trips; the first trip was a ten day backpacking trip and the second was a 9 day climb of Mt. Baker, a 10,000+ foot peak in Northern Washington. We finished the first trip and had a three day layover to shower, get resupplied and do laundry. I picked up a copy of Rolling Stone (the cover was "The Best 100 Albums Of The Past 20 Years" - they were celebrating an anniversary; can you believe it?) and in the front of the magazine was an obituary for the legendary A&R man John Hammond, who through the course of his 50+ year career, had signed (among others) Bessie Smith, Benny Goodman, Charlie Christian, Count Basie, Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen. I read the long obituary and was completely inspired. I looked up, looked back down again at the magazine and declared, "That's exactly what I want to do."

Since that day, my entire professional life has been in the pursuit of that goal and I've been fortunate enough to actually live my dream out. I've worked at several labels, done A&R and signed a couple of terrific artists who made albums that I am very proud to have worked on. More importantly, I've met some incredible people and have made lifetime friendships in the process. It's been a great ride.

I got let go from my job doing A&R at Island Def Jam in the summer of 2006. I wasn't that upset about it - I had ceased to feel like I belonged there. But what I wasn't prepared for, and only now have really begun to come to terms with, is that the job I dreamed of is dying as a possibility. Who I dreamed of being - the A&R guy discovering, shaping and promoting great musicians and then having it impact peoples lives and popular culture in a significant way, the way Elvis, the Beatles, the Stones, Aretha, James Brown, Dylan and Springsteen did; well, that is simply going by the wayside (especially in a rock context). It's not dead yet, but it has been diminished substantially. We live in a Long Tail world and in an era of audience fragmentation. Artists don't need the "yes" of a music executive to produce, promote and release music. Consumers have far more choice in how (or if) they purchase music. Overall, I'd say those things are good developments. But it has decimated my livelihood for the time being, and the livelihoods of a lot of people.

I'm writing this because I'm at a crossroads in my life. I still make money from music, although nothing even in comparison to what I made a couple of years ago. And I'm still just as committed to music; my passion is perhaps even greater now than it was when I was a teen. This blog is a reflection of that. I will never be cynical about music and what it can be for people. I was a very lonely child, and music took away much of that loneliness and made me know that there was a world out there for me to discover and find my place with.

But I want to make a living. A real living. Now. And I honestly don't know if the music business is the right place for me to do it anymore. I don't know if it isn't, but I don't know if it is. So I am in a place of major uncertainty as I write, and that place keeps having me hear Adele's "Chasing Pavements" in my head. It's a song by a new British artist who is emerging in the wake of Amy Winehouse. Adele is far sweeter and seemingly more innocent. But "Chasing Pavements" is hitting home the way that for me, only a song can. There's a sadness and a weariness in the song, along with a steely determination to keep going, all the while wondering whether the chase is worth it. Today, I can really relate.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Dylan Likes "The Cowboy Song"

I'm stealing this from the letters section of The Lefsetz Letter, but it's too priceless not to share.

From Lonn Friend:

I was sitting with Richie Sambora in San Marcos Square that day and a half we spent in Venice in '01. Drinking pinot grigio, my video rolling, pigeons mulling. He tells me a story about the night Bon Jovi was doing some benefit somewhere maybe Tokyo and Dylan is on the bill. In fact, he's backstage, drifting about the halls, no doubt halting each and individual he passes dead in their tracks (please see the retrospective at Skirball ASAP it's breathtaking). I'll try and paraphrase in Sambora voice. "So anyway, man, he just appears. Fucking Bob Dylan. And Jon and I are standing there, talking or whatever, and as he's passing, Dylan stops, looks at us and says, "I like the Cowboy song." ("Wanted Dead Or Alive")

Friday, February 15, 2008

Bootleg Friday: Guns N' Roses, 1988

Why are people still interested in Guns N' Roses?

It's been over twenty years after their debut album (Appetite For Destruction) and over sixteen years since their last relevant studio albums (Use Your Illusion I & II). Yet Guns N' Roses (in name only) can still fill arenas in the U.S. and abroad and there's still a sizable group of people waiting for the elusive Chinese Democracy, even though its release has been delayed possibly more than any album in history.

Perhaps it's because for a lot of people, Guns N' Roses were the last real rock band; dangerous, sexual, rebellious and thunderous, a combination of the Stones, the New York Dolls, punk and Aerosmith that served as a bridge between classic rock and the alternative revolution that would follow almost five years later. No band has filled the vacuum left by GN'R; indie bands have almost none of the power and the corporate rock bands have little of the heart, swagger or personality. I have think the reason people miss Guns N' Roses, and why they're still looking for their reappearance, is because they miss hard rock itself as a vital form, one that can command the attention of not just a niche audience, but the world. Perhaps the idea of hard rock as "danger" was an illusion all along, but it sure didn't seem to be back then.

As for me, I was a big fan of Appetite, but I could feel the end nearing for GN'R when I saw them at Madison Square Garden in December of 1991. Two and half hours late in going on, the band felt bloated; they had needlessly taken on a horn section, Izzy Stradlin was gone and I think Axl went through about three or four costume changes. The show was pretty good, but ultimately disappointing. What was most memorable about the show was the intermission; the P.A. blared the hits of the day and when "Smells Like Teen Spirit" came on, the arena erupted. It was before Nirvana-mania had hit full bloom, but I could feel it coming, and in that, the end of GN'R's relevance, except as a foil to the Alternative explosion.

But today's Bootleg Friday is before all of that. It's from a February, 1988 show at the Ritz in New York City, before the band exploded, and while they were still lean, mean and hungry. What future relevance holds for Axl Rose and his band I do not know. But I sure wouldn't bet on them.

Download: "Mr. Brownstone" 2/2/88, New York, NY
Download: "Sweet Child Of Mine" 2/2/88, New York, NY
Download: "Welcome To The Jungle" 2/2/88, New York, NY
Download: "Night Train" 2/2/88, New York, NY
Download: "Paradise City" 2/2/88, New York, NY
Download: "Rocket Queen" 2/2/88, New York, NY

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Be My Valentine

So what is this thing called love?

I'll be damned if I know, but much of the little I've learned about love has come from the great love songs I've listened to. Music, more than any art form, just goes with love. It's there when we first meet someone and turn them on to the music we love, it's there as a couple, and it's especially there when there's a breakup. There's nothing like the feeling when you first fall in love like hearing a love song, even one that you might have heard a thousand times before, and feeling it was written just for you on that day. And there are few feelings more stomach churning than hearing a song about love gone bad when your love is going the same way.

But since Valentine's Day is a celebration of love, that's what we're going to do today. I'll leave it to other blogs to post the break up songs. Without further delay, here's the A Deeper Shade Of Soul Valentine's Day Mix 2008. The songs on it are all pretty spectacular, so whether you're coupled or single, you can't lose. Have a soulful Valentine's Day, everyone!

For Ariel - I love you!

Download the ADSOS Valentine's Day '08 Podcast, Featuring:

Aretha Franklin - "Oh Me, Oh My (I'm A Fool For You)"
Chet Baker - "My Funny Valentine"
Otis Redding - "That's How Strong My Love Is"
Al Green - "Your Love Is Like The Morning Sun"
Bobby "Blue" Bland - "You're All I Need"
Frank Sinatra - "All Of Me"
Etta James - "Sunday Kind Of Love"
Carl Perkins - "Only You"
George Harrison - "What Is Life"
Candi Staton - "He Called Me Baby"
Coleman Hawkins - "How Deep Is The Ocean"
Bruce Springsteen - "Valentine's Day" (7/31/05, Columbus, OH)

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Wonder Of Cannonball Adderley

Occasionally, I get lucky enough to come across a piece of music I've never heard before that reconnects me to why I fell in love with music in the first place. It's a feeling of profound connection to the universe, a sense that everything is in its right place, a profound joyousness and sense of wonder of what human beings at their best are capable of.

This happened a couple of weeks ago. I was running some errands and was listening to my iPod with it on shuffle and on came an unfamiliar jazz piece. I continued walking, concentrating on whatever mundane task was at hand and then I slowly found my attention being drawn, no, rather taken, by the music. I took my iPod out and saw the song: "Spontaneous Combustion," by the Cannonball Adderley Quintet.

It's a long song, almost 12 minutes, but every second of it occurs as essential; it's playing not for the sake of playing, rather, it's exceptionally skilled musicians communing with their audience, conveying not just a love of music, but a love of being alive and all that it entails, both the good and the bad. As pianist Bobby Timmons finishes his phenomenal solo toward the end of the track, you can hear the people in the crowd erupt - and then when Cannonball (on alto saxophone) and his brother Nat (on cornet) do a brief call and response before they go into the final solo, you can hear the audience sensing that they're seeing and hearing something extraordinary. It's an astonishing piece of music.

What they saw and heard was soul, perhaps a different version of what we think of when we hear the word "soul." But it continues to astound, almost fifty years later.

Download: Cannonball Adderley Quintet: "Spontaneous Combustion"

Buy The Cannonball Adderley Quintet in San Francisco at the Amazon Mp3 store

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

R.E.M. - Then & Now

Somewhere along the line, R.E.M. and I parted ways.

I think what started it was the release of Monster and "What's The Frequency Kenneth," the first lead single from them in years that not only did I not love, I didn't even like. And once I parted ways with them, I really parted ways; I can't even name five songs that they've released since 1994. Perhaps I missed some great songs from those albums, but if I had, it seems as though there was no consensus on what those great songs were.

In my teenage years, R.E.M. were the "underground" band that slowly penetrated above ground. I heard about their early albums sometime in 1985, almost like a whisper; "Have you ever heard R.E.M.? Have you heard Murmur? You have to get it." Murmur was different from anything I had ever heard; opaque and mysterious, but completely compelling and unforgettable. It was my first introduction to rock that wasn't either of the classic variety or just straight punk, and I took to it as an opportunity to, well, feel cooler than the kids in my high school, most of whom had no idea who R.E.M. were. And I also genuinely loved the music, and recognized it as something that was uniquely belonging to my generation, which, given my love of soul, Springsteen, the Stones, and 50's rock, was a nice change. It was different, a little weird, and it was a window into an alternative world that I knew nothing about. Through my love of R.E.M., I found out about the Replacements and the Velvet Underground - for that alone I'll always be grateful to them.

The band seemed to grow as I did, hitting their full stride in the late 80's and early 90's, with Document, Green, Out Of Time and Automatic For The People, all albums I enjoyed tremendously (with the exception of Green). And their emergence as a popular band presaged a million "sellout" debates to come: I remember their signing with Warner Brothers in 1988 instigated my first "'Have they sold out because they went to a major label' argument" with some holier than thou, "Maximum Rock & Roll" reading punk. My answer then (as it is now) was "no." (Punks never really got that selling out had little-to-nothing to do with what label you're on.)

So I was a fan, at times a big one, but for me, there came to be something missing. Perhaps the transition from clubs to theaters to arenas left me cold, as R.E.M. isn't exactly the world's greatest arena rock band. Or maybe it was the loss of Bill Berry - the chemistry of a band like R.E.M.'s is a sensitive thing not to be trifled with. The last time I saw them was in on the Vote For Change tour in October of 2004 in Orlando, Florida, when they played with Springsteen. They played well and they played a set of songs filled with songs that once upon a time, impacted me. But a more disturbing thought crossed my mind; maybe they were a very good band, but maybe they weren't as great as I made them out to be when I was a kid looking for my own sounds. I'd like to think that they're as great as I thought they were. Repeated listenings to Reckoning tell me that.

R.E.M. have a new album, Accelerate, coming out on April 1. The lead single, "Supernatural, Superserious" is the first single that's gotten me even remotely excited about a new R.E.M. album "Drive" was the lead single for Automatic For The People in 1992. Mike Mills' background vocals in the chorus make me smile and remember why I loved them. I hope Accelerate is wonderful - the world could use a great R.E.M. album.

Buy R.E.M. albums and songs at the Amazon Mp3 store

Here's a homemade video for "Supernatural, Superserious."

Required Reading Of The Day

Simon Napier-Bell, former manager of the Yardbirds, has a great piece that's in today's Guardian. It's about his 40 year odyssey in dealing with labels. Highly entertaining stuff. You can read it here.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Final Grammy Thought

The Grammys have been trying to shake their fuddy-duddy status for years, changing their rules and making sure that the awards broadcasted will be for artists who reach a younger demo.

How amusing it is then that with one award, Herbie Hancock's win for Album of the Year, all of that youth outreach will seemingly go out the window, and the recording academy will once again be thought of as the curmudgeons who gave Jethro Tull a Best Metal award instead of Metallica (in 1989) and gave Steely Dan the Album of the Year award instead of Eminem (in 2000). It's sort of funny, if you ask me.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Searching For Soul At The Grammys

Finding soulful moments at the Grammys is often akin to looking for a virgin in a whorehouse. But tonight, A Deeper Shade Of Soul is going to look hard to find the moments (or a moment) that are actually soulful. And we're going to rank them, 1-10 on the Soul Meter. Turn on, tune in and pray for the best.

8:01 - Sinatra is speaking to us from the beyond. He's still the man. Oh God. Alicia Keys is doing one of those creepy duets with Frank. She can't sing jazz for shit. She knows nothing about singing with subtlety. This is a crime against humanity. I'm kind of pissed. Soul Meter - 2.5

8:05 - Carrie Underwood looks like she stepped off the set of the Avengers. Great legs, strong but generic voice and forgettable song. Who comes up with the ideas for these sets? These dancers are kind of disastrous. She finishes it up with the Mariah Carey melisma, signifying emotion but containing none. Soul Meter - 2

8:09 - Prince struts out onstage to introduce the Best R&B Performance Female. He owns the stage. Soul Meter - 7

Alicia Keys wins. No big surprise. Very tasteful speech. I'm not a huge fan of her music, but she's impossible to dislike.

8:17 - A Time reunion! Morris Day looks great. They're doing "Jungle Love." This song has not dated at all. I'm happy. Oh comes Rihanna and "Umbrella." Another classic single, but...what is up with this mashup shit? She's adorable, but there's just something slight about her. Morris comes out to close it. Soul Meter - 6

8:23 - Tom Hanks emerges to introduce The Band. After Rihanna and the Time, honoring the Band feels completely surreal. Robbie Robertson gets about 3 seconds on camera. Now he's introducing the Beatles. Ringo and Yoko both look great. Cheesy introduction. Cirque De Soleil doing "A Day In The Life." Kind of a cool interpretation. John Lennon's voice still gives shivers and makes the whole production of the Grammys seem faintly ridiculous.

Good version of "Let It Be." Reminds me that it was written originally for Aretha. Good version. Whoever the male vocalist is, he's excellent. He brings it without overdoing it. Soul Meter - 7.5

8:34 - Amy Winehouse wins Best New Artist. Cyndi Lauper is wearing some great opera length black leather gloves.

8:45 - It's Kanye time. He's really not such a great MC. What makes him effective is his complete willingness to make a fool of himself. And he's got good taste in music. Cool glasses. Daft Punk doing some cool futuristic shit. Now he's singing for his recently deceased mother. It's very over the top and Kanye ain't much of a singer, but it's authentic and it works. Soul meter - 7

8:52 - Battle of the bland! Fergie and John Legend. Her voice is so damned ordinary. She sounds like the understudy at "A Chorus Line." She just tried to belt out a note that made my fillings fall out. Soul Meter - 4

9:03 - Cher is presenting Tina Turner and Beyonce. Cher's face doesn't move. Beyonce is doing a routine about the legacy of black jazz and r&b singers to introduce Tina Turner. Oh shit. Ok, I love Tina Tuner, but why can't people just age naturally??? Well, her voice is still there. And I'll shut up...she's Tina Turner and can do whatever the hell she wants to. Tina and Beyonce doing "Proud Mary" together. John Fogerty is in the audience somewhere. I hope he's smiling. Soul Meter - 6.5

9:15 - "Rehab" wins Song Of The Year. Cool.

9:22 - Foo Fighters. Dave Grohl looks really good. He's such a likable guy. I wish I enjoyed his music more. It just seems like there's no 'there' there with them. The girlfriend says, "They're boring." Soul Meter - 5.0

9:33 - Brad Paisley is doing the country portion of the show. That's all I have to say about that. I'm using this time to read up about the results of the Maine primary. Obama won. Excellent.

9:38 - I love Akon's coat. Kanye wins Best Rap Album. He got them to stop the music to talk about his Mama. God bless.

9:42 - The gospel portion. Aretha is good, but not quite on her 'A' game. The Madison Bumblebees kicks some serious ass. Their trombone players were the highlight of the night so far. Soul Meter - Aretha - 6.5, trombone players from Madison Bumblebees - 8.5

9:56 - Carole King introduces Feist. I'm feeling the acoustic "1,2,3,4." Really good rearrangement with the horns, who are giving it a cool New Orleans feel to it. This is a winning performance for her. Her sales are going to go through the roof tomorrow. Great song, very good performance. An actual moment of understatement! Soul Meter - 7.5

10:00 - Weird matchup of the night. Keeley Smith and Kid Rock. Kid Rock doing Louie Prima. And he's doing a great job. I'm actually digging him. Keeley is always fun. Great performance. Soul Meter - 7.5

10:04 - Foo Fighters win Best Rock Album. I don't need to mention that I think Springsteen should have won this. Dave Grohl is a nice guy. Soul Meter - 5

10:11 - Stevie Wonder gets standing ovations just for showing up. He's introducing Berry Gordy as a Grammy Icon. Berry gets a smattering of applause instead of getting the five minute ovation he deserves. Now Stevie's introducing Alicia Keys who does "No One" for what will hopefully be the last time on an award sow. People really love this song. I'm not one of them. It's ok. John Mayer comes out to play guitar. Is it just me, or is he quickly becoming the American Phil Collins of his generation? Soul Meter - 6

10:25 - "Rhapsody In Blue" never gets old. Eighty-three years old and it still feels modern. One of those pieces that makes you believe in God. Herbie Hancock is an eternal bad-ass. And Lang Lang doesn't suck. Pretty awesome. Soul Meter - 9.0

10:41 - It's Amy time from London. "You Know I'm No Good" opens. She sounds good, but she seems a little scared to cut loose at first. She does some great phrasing in the second verse, and lets herself go. Then "Rehab," with a sly grin as she does the chorus. I still have the same complaint about the Dap-Kings; they play way too politely. Her voice is in good form, but there's something uneven about the performance. Soul Meter - 7.5

10:50 - Amy wins Record Of The Year for "Rehab." She looks stunned, but gets it together for a little speech and actually gathers some momentum toward the end. Is this the beginning of her getting it together, or a quick pit stop on the descent?

11:05 - Josh Groban. It's hard for me to take. Soul Meter - 4.5

11:13 - John Fogerty with Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis. I'm scared. Fogerty's voice is ageless. The great thing about Richard and Jerry Lee? They're just as weird today as they were in 1957. Jerry Lee looks and sounds old. Little Richard, the queen that he is, has kept himself in far better shape. Watching the kids in the pit jump for John Fogerty and Little Richard makes me feel like I'm coming down from taking some acid. Soul Meter - 6

11:25 - is doing a Grammy medley. Uh, ok. He worked hard on it. Soul Meter - 5

11:28 - Ok. Album Of The Year award. The big one. Kanye wants it badly. And the Grammy goes to...Herbie Hancock. Oh boy. I would not want to be in Kanye's crew tonight. I haven't heard the Herbie album, but you can bet there will be some controversy over the selection. Soul Meter - 6.5

Another Grammys in the books. Actually, not at all a bad show. I remember them being a lot worse when I was a kid. See you next year.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Bootleg Friday: Lou Reed, 1978

I spent much of yesterday in downtown Manhattan, walking from meeting to meeting, reveling in New York City on a mild winter day, and then, of course, thinking about Lou Reed. More than any other rock performer, Lou Reed is New York, embodying its intelligence, sardonic wit and restless spirit. His unflinching eye, depicting the New York demimonde in all of its alluring and occasionally dangerous darkness, took rock to places it had not gone before. But what most people don’t realize is that there’s a deep thread of compassion running through the best of Reed’s work (“Busload of Faith,” “Perfect Day,” “What’s Good,” “Walk On The Wild Side,” “Jesus”), and it’s what makes his great work soulful. Reed may seem to epitomize the jaded New Yorker, but his cool (and cynicism) should never be confused with jadedness; he’s way too romantic for that (even if he'd tell you differently).

Reed, of course, is best known for the seminal work of the Velvet Underground. And while they may be the band that truly gave birth to alternative music and earned their avant-garde bonifides through their association with people like Andy Warhol and the poet Delmore Schwartz (who Reed studied with when he went to Syracuse), in my estimation, what ensured Reed of a long and illustrious career has been his love of appreciation of the great early rock and r&b artists from the 50’s and 60’s like Carl Perkins and Dion (who Reed called “Bronx Soul” when he inducted him into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame).

I was lucky enough to see Reed play a very up close and personal set about 15 years ago. I was friends with the owner of Reed’s rehearsal space in Chelsea and he invited me to his Christmas party, telling me to stay late, because there’d be a “special guest.” Sure enough, at around midnight, Lou and his band went into one of the rehearsal rooms, plugged in and played a 40 minute set for about 30 of us. They opened with an extra long version of “Rock & Roll” similar to the one on Rock N Roll Animal, with a brilliant opening guitar solo by Reed and played a blistering set. My friends and I just sort of stared at each other, slack-jawed, not quite believing what we were seeing. I may be a Jew, but it had never felt more like Christmas.

Today’s episode of Bootleg Friday is Lou Reed at Park West in Chicago recorded in April of 1978. There’s a distinct element of funk and soul in this show; his rhythm section played much more syncopated than his usual on the beat style, and with a trio of black female background singers, the nod to soul is unmistakable. Enjoy.

Buy Lou Reed at Amazon MP3 store

Download: Lou Reed “Gimme Some Good Times” 4/14/78, Chicago, IL
Download: Lou Reed “Satellite Of Love” 4/14/78, Chicago, IL
Download: Lou Reed “Leave Me Alone” 4/14/78, Chicago, IL
Download: Lou Reed "Walk On The Wild Side" 4/14/78, Chicago, IL
Download: Lou Reed “Coney Island Baby” 4/14/78, Chicago, IL
Download: Lou Reed “Sweet Jane” 4/14/78, Chicago, IL
Download: Lou Reed “Rock And Roll” 4/14/78, Chicago, IL

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Bobby Womack Appreciation Day

There’s something about the sound of Bobby Womack’s voice that I’ve always loved. It’s that mix of gritty and romantic, earthy and ethereal, the same mix that the best soul singers have always had. Womack has never won the acclaim of an Al Green or an Otis Redding (which, truth be told, is understandable, given that he never released an album as epochal as Call Me or Otis Blue), but if there’s an artist who has been everywhere that soul music has been, it’s been Womack.

I wrote about Womack last year, and listening to him today, I can't help but ask; What's more beautiful than the sound of Bobby Womack singing?

Bobby Womack mp3's at Amazon

Download: "Across 110th Street"
Download: "Woman's Gotta Have It"
Download: "Everybody's Talkin'"
Download: "If You Don't Want My Love"
Download: "It's All Over Now"

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Here Come The New Soulsters

It had to happen. In the wake of Amy Winehouse’s success last year, there is now a flood of “soulful” female artists whose albums are about to come out. One of the most anticipated ones is Duffy, from the UK. She hearkens back much more to the pop/soul tradition of Jackie DeShannon and Dusty Springfield (pre-Dusty in Memphis). I haven’t heard the album yet and my experience with her so far has been reduced to seeing a few videos, but so far, I’m not that impressed. She’s got a fine technical voice; excellent range and tone. But in watching the videos, I’m not getting that hit of emotional depth that I need for my soul music to occur as, you know, actually soulful. I’ll hold off on rendering a real verdict until the album drops in mid-May. Here’s one of her videos.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Bootleg Friday: Southside Johnny & Little Steven, 1993

I’ve been a Southside Johnny fan for a long time. He’s a true believer in the power of soul music and despite his never “making it” to even close to the degree of a certain friend of his named Bruce has, he’s persevered, continuing to release albums and putting himself on the line with every performance. His first three albums are all excellent, and Hearts of Stone, his 1978 album produced by Little Steven when he was still known as Miami Steve Van Zandt, is a masterpiece, fusing the hard rock of the Rolling Stones with the soul of Stax.

One of my favorite live music moments was at a Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes show in 1995 at the Stone Pony. It was a Saturday night show and the Pony was packed – a homecoming show for a band that, by that point in time, knew that it would never achieve it’s original dream, but played as though none of that mattered. All there was was a Saturday night and an audience to slay. The band and Southside kicked ass, and during “The Fever,” I was next to the stage singing along (with the exact phrasing that Southside was doing, cause I’m a dork), and Southside saw me, locked eyes with me and then he stuck his microphone in my face and demanded, “Sing it to me my brother!” I did as told. My friend Michael looked at me in astonishment and then almost died laughing.

Today’s edition of Bootleg Friday features a few songs from a Southside Johnny radio performance that he did with Little Steven in 1993. It was a benefit performance for Hungerthon, and to raise money, the band (Southside, Little Steven, Bobby Bandiera, David Haynes and violinist Soozie Tyrell) took requests over the phone, which resulted in a great set of covers, from artists like Neil Young, Van Morrison, Springsteen, Chuck Berry and more. But the most hilarious and unlikely song here is, Madonna’s “Like A Virgin,” which somehow works. Listening to the show you can hear the commitment of a singer who’s always been in the moment, even if big success ultimately eluded him.

Download: "Broke Down Piece Of Man" (Sam & Dave) 11/21/93
Download: "Little Queenie" (Chuck Berry) 11/21/93
Download: "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" (Hank Williams) 11/21/93
Download: "Like A Virgin" (Madonna) 11/21/93
Download: "I Don't Want To Go Home" 11/21/93

Download Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes at Amazon