Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Kind Tune of the Moment

The Left Banke, Walk Away Renee

I had heard this song growing up, and was reintroduced to when I saw Badly Drawn Boy on his first tour of America, at a tiny club in Chicago called Schubas. The song suited him perfectly, and I've loved it since. 

I was reintroduced to the song again thanks to Mojo Magazine's list of the 10 greatest Motown albums of all time. Other than the Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder albums that made the list, I can't say I've spent much time listening to Motown albums from front to back. It was the first genre of music that I fell in love with, but to me it was pretty much all about the singles, the hits. Well I'll be sure to check out the other albums on the list if they include gems like the Four Tops cover of Walk Away Renee. It's a pretty straightforward cover, nothing too unremarkable at least until the grittiness and passion of the vocals kick in on the second verse. You can hear the Tops really connecting with the song. Perfect.

Here's the original from The Left Banke. Can't say I'm aware of anything else this band has done. Maybe a one hit wonder, but what a hit it is.

And finally, with official confirmation of what a depressing song this must be, here's a version by Elliot Smith. I can't say I'm too big of an Elliot Smith fan, although I like pretty much everything I've heard by him. Just not much of an urge to seek his music out. And this isn't the first time he's shown up covering a tune in my Kind Tune of the Moment series. Probably won't be the last, if I ever get to Don't Fear the Reaper.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Nicotine all around my brain

Look at Jerry admiring Bob sucking down that heater. He's proud, yet his befuddled smile masks an undercurrent of jealousy, knowing no matter how hard he tries, how many hours of practice he puts in, how  much he dedicates himself to his craft, he'll never attain the same level of nicotinal satisfaction as the master, the poet laureate of rock 'n' roll. The voice of the promise of the 60s counterculture. The guy who forced folk into bed with rock. Who donned makeup in the 70s and disappeared into a haze of substance abuse. Who emerged to find Jesus. Who was written off as a has-been by the end of the '80s, and who suddenly shifted gears releasing some of the strongest music of his career beginning in the late '90s. Ladies and gentlemen — Columbia recording artist Bob Dylan!

Phil Lesh Quintet

Phil Lesh Quintet

Like a phoenix rising from Arizona, bassist Phil Lesh assembled varying lineups of musicians that would carry on and reinterpret the Grateful Dead's legacy to the present day and into foreseeable future. Phil began playing with the younger generation of jamband musicians a few years after Jerry died in 1995. Following his liver transplant, he notably played with Trey Anastasio and Page McConnell of Phish during his "comeback" shows. This trio of shows pointed to the direction Phil would take in years to come: putting an updated spin on the Grateful Dead songbook by adding an avante-garde twist, increased technical precision, and an exploratory and at times belabored perspective to the music. The last few years of the Grateful Dead found the band stuck in a rut, playing a more select group of songs, familiar setlist placement, and very little risk-taking. With a new lease on life and the freedom to do what he chose with the music, Phil has played the role of Johnny Appleseed for the Dead, and ensured that the music will continue to reach new generations of musicians and heads. 

The height of the Phil and Friends lineups came with the beloved Phil Lesh Quintet, consisting of Warren Haynes (guitar, Allman Bros, Govt Mule), Jimmy Herring (guitar, Aquarium Rescue Unit, Widespread Panic, Allman Bros), John Molo (drums, Bruce Hornsby), and Rob Barraco (keys, Zen Tricksters, Chris Robinson, Dark Star Orchestra). They joined forces around fall of 2000, and stuck together for a few years. While each member was a virtuoso at his instrument, this could be the band's downfall as well as a strength, as they had a tendency to exhaust every musical possibility within a song before moving on to something new. At times these explorations could be exhilarating, other times tedious. Another strength of the band was the vocals of Warren and Barraco, able to take lead on some songs, and actually giving a nice vocal blend and harmonies when signing with Phil's often cringe-worthy voice. The musicians were also very much simpatico, clearly enjoying playing with each other, feeding of one another's musical ideas, in a psychedelic Dixieland rock that Phil was striving for, in which all musicians are simultaneously soloing. To my ears, The Quintet was the perfect combination of elements of my favorite bands: the songs of the Grateful Dead, the southern harmonies and dueling guitars of the Allmans, and the technical precision and creative exploration of Phish.  

Their run together culminated in an unfortunate studio album, There and Back Again, that just couldn't come close to capturing the magic they had on stage. There really isn't anything positive I can say about the songs or performances on the album, so I'll just leave it at that. But live, they were a whole other animal. The show that got me on the bus occurred during their initial tour, at the Riviera Theater in Chicago. The old rules were gone. A laser sharp 15 minute Fire on the Mtn in the first set. Air guitar Olympics during Blue Sky. A Terrapin sandwich with Stella Blue as the meat. And a sublime Mountains of the Moon encore. Here's video from a show a few days earlier displaying some similar magic:

A year later, they were like a jamband on steroids, clearly flexing their muscles. Check the Good Times Bad Times jam coming out of St. Stephen:

A show from a year later at Red Rocks in 2002, is like a jamband cream dream. Forget the folk tune B.S., here's the cosmic slop:

I: Jam> Help On The Way> Slipknot!> Lovelight
Til The Morning Comes> Jam> Lay Of The Sunflower
Mason's Children
II: Jam>Dear Mr. Fantasy>Other One V1>
Tomorrow Never Knows>The Eleven>
St. Stephen>Other One V2>
The Wheel>Cosmic Charlie 
E: Slipknot!>
Franklin's Tower

That was more or less the end of the band for about 10 years, as the members went off to pursue other projects, and Phil enlisted various other musicians for interesting if less compelling takes on the Dead's catalogue. They played a handful of shows again in 2012 at Phil's new seafood restaurant in Marin County. Good music for sure, but something seemed to be missing. A band taking a victory lap is not necessarily a bad thing, but not an opportunity to break new ground either.


Seems Phil has moved on to more interesting things at his venue these days:

Since the end is never told, we pay the teller off in gold,
In hopes he will come back, but he cannot be bought or sold.

Thank You Trey!

Phish Summer Tour 2013

Gone are the days of loading your Maxell XL II's into your boombox and dubbing crappy audience tapes several months or years after the shows occurred and the band had already moved onto other things. Here we have a generous Phishhead who has compiled a survey of the best jams of the summer, included in which you can listen to each track to decide for yourself. It's too easy. Kids these days have no fucking idea what I had to go through back in the 90's to hear the kind jams, all while smoking some Mexican ditch weed! The survey below has Youtubes embedded for most of the tracks. Otherwise you can go here or here for the audio. 

Thank you Trey! You're welcome!

Best Jams of the Summer 2013
I mean, back in my day we didn't have no freaking internet. We had to cut holes in a tapestry, stick our heads through it, and pretend we were on a spaceship heading to the dark side of the moon. Fuck it.

David Howell Evans

Monday, August 12, 2013

Me & Zimmy Down By the Schoolyard

Bob Dylan & Paul Simon, Live 1999

I was just recently introduced to a live music blog, Brooklyn Steve,which has an overwhelming amount of shows to download. If you can sift your way through the Deep Purple and String Cheese Incident bootlegs, there are several great recordings to be found. The one that stands out most to me is a soundboard of a Bob Dylan and Paul Simon concert during their summer tour in 1999. They co-headlined, taking turns opening and closing the shows, and in between would play a few numbers together with each others' bands. I was lucky enough to catch the show at Summerfest in Milwaukee on 7/4/99, which is easily the most patriotic thing I've ever done, as well as being pretty gosh dang awesome. The show I saw had Dylan open and Simon close, and while I'm a bigger fan of Dylan, this worked well with Simon's more upbeat tunes coming late in the evening (wink). The order is flipped on this recording, but it's still great. The highlight, and most memorable moment of the evening for me, was the duet on The Sound of Silence. The Simon and Garfunkel (best name ever) version is beautiful, tender, even uplifting despite the darkness of the song. Dylan gives the song more gravity, yet Simon keeps the song from becoming too heavy and collapsing on itself. Really a perfect rendition, even Dylan's acoustic guitar and harmonica meshing well with Simon's world-beat band. The show I saw also had a medley featuring their shared influences, like Buddy Holly's That'll be the Day. This recording has nice versions of I Walk the Line and The Wanderer. They wrap things up together with Dylan's Knockin' on Heaven's Door, which features a few ad lib lyrical references to Fats Domino's I Hear You Knockin', popularized by Dave Edmunds. Always a good sign when Dylan is being playful. 

On either end of the duets are great sets from each performer. Both were playing with top notch bands at the time. I believe the core of Simon's band, featuring two excellent guitar players, had been together for some time. In 1999 Dylan and his band were on an upward swing, Charlie Sexton having been in the group for about a year or so, joining string virtuoso Larry Campbell, former Jerry Garcia Band drummer David Kemper, and, Dylan's longest live collaborator, Tony Garnier on bass. This band would stay together for a few more years, hitting their peak around the fall of 2000 if my memory serves me well. Unfortunately Dylan's been trending downward for the past several years, so be sure to check out his set for a glimpse into the last great (or at least most recent) live peak of his Never Ending Tour.

To contrast from the recording, here are a few videos from the tour, The Sound of Silence and Knockin' on Heaven's Door, but with Dylan's band rather than Simon's providing the backing. Top notch:

Friday, August 9, 2013

Happy Jerry Garcia Death Day!

Captain Trips, RIP

Bob Dylan's press release regarding Jerry Garcia's death:
 "There's no way to measure his greatness or magnitude as a person or as a player. I don't think any eulogizing will do him justice. He was that great, much more than a superb musician, with an uncanny ear and dexterity. He's the very spirit personified of whatever is Muddy River country at its core and screams up into the spheres. He really had no equal. To me he wasn't only a musician and friend, he was more like a big brother who taught and showed me more than he'll ever know. There's a lot of spaces and advances between The Carter Family, Buddy Holly and, say, Ornette Coleman, a lot of universes, but he filled them all without being a member of any school. His playing was moody, awesome, sophisticated, hypnotic and subtle. There's no way to convey the loss. It just digs down really deep."

Here's an amazing video of JGB doing Shining Star, broken into three parts.

Not sure if I posted this one before, but a great JGB show from 78:

18 years...remembering #garcia @grateful__dead .  thank you jerry.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Psychedelic Backwash

The Tahoe Tweezer

37 minutes of the finest Phish you've ever heard. Apparently this is the longest they've jammed any song out in 10 years, and I was lucky enough to witness it in beautiful Stateline, NV in the most magical parking lot turned concert venue on PLANET EARTH! This is not boring Phish. During the show I had no idea how long the song went on for, could've been 10 minutes for all I knew. It felt like a long time, but it had been a long couple of days, and I was in no state of mind to check the time on my waa, er phone. What's amazing about this jam is that it's driving, directed, spontaneous composition. No soloing, noise rock, funk vamping, gadgets or gimmicks. It always sounds like they're going somewhere, and one peak leads to a brand new valley to explore.


A few highlights: Around the 12 minute mark they start a jam that reminds me of Wilco's Bull Black Nova, but of course is not really it at all, just similarly dark and nasty. Around the 26 minute mark they find a jam reminiscent of the Uncle John's/Feelin' Groovy jam the Dead would go into during the transition from China Cat into I Know You Rider during those glorious versions from around 73 - 74. Again, it's similar, but totally not the same thing. In fact, in listening back to the whole show, it sounds more like they're jamming the outro of the song Architect which they would play later in the set. But yet again, that's not quite it at all. Whatever this jam was, it lead to one of those moments of magic that Phish and their crowd seem to have mastered: during a start-stop jam in which the instruments all drop out, the audience spontaneously let out a "Woo!" The band immediately pick up on it, they go through it a few more times, build it up, and it leads to an ecstatic musical explosion. The band and audience would revisit the "Woo"s a few more times later in the show, during the set closing Antelope and encore of Tweezer Reprise.

What I find interesting in looking back on the experience, is how distorted time became. This has always been one of the things Phish is great at: taking a song for a walk, ending up in some unfamiliar territory, and then ending up back where you began the journey to finish the song off. With the right combination of mind-altering chemicals, which likely have already distorted your perception of time, it can be quite exhilarating and confusing. So we had the long Tweezer that took up half the set, and ended back where it began. But within that Tweezer, we also had a possible foreshadowing of what was to come later in the set with Architect. And what I haven't mentioned yet, is that the audience's "Woo"s foreshadowed another song the band would play later in the set, the aptly titled Twist. The lyrics in Twist reference things being all mixed up, and include the band calling out "Woo" throughout. Shit's getting weird.

I spoke your name for many days
Pronouncing it in several ways
And moving letters all around
And substituting every sound

And when you heard the end result,
I told you it was not my fault,
If you were here more of the day,
It wouldn't twist around that way

What is the central theme to this everlasting spoof? During great psychedelic experiences, time reveals itself as being non-linear. And on that night in Tahoe, there was some pretty heavy psychedelic shit going down. So, were those familiar jams and Woo's during Tweezer foreshadowing what was to come, or maybe as Terence McKenna described in True Hallucinations, a psychedelic"backwash," like ripples vibrating across Lake Tahoe to us from some future event. I know, sober me thinks it's a pretty cracked out theory too, but you should see what some other people are saying about the Tahoe Tweezer. So while these may be the insane ramblings of a deranged lunatic, at the very least it is some pretty good music.

7/31Official (J.Soto)

Ric Flair probably sums it up best:

Now that summer tour is over, some phishheads put together a best of compilation. Ten discs worth if you can handle that much Phish. Tahoe Tweezer included on disc 5.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

01. Energy >
02. Ghost >
03. The Lizards (7/21/13)
04. Mike's Song >
05. Simple >
06. Weekapaug Groove (7/13/13)
07. Chalkdust Torture (7/16/13)
08. Quinn The Eskimo (7/17/13)

01. Rock N Roll >
02. Steam (8/3/13)
03. Sneakin' Sally Thru The Alley (7/27/13)
04. Lengthwise >
05. Maze (8/3/13)
06. Stash (7/14/13)
07. David Bowie (7/22/13)

01. Crosseyed and Painless (7/10/13)
02. Light >
03. Boogie On Reggae Woman (7/14/13)
04. Undermind (7/27/13)
05. Tweezer >
06. Cities >
07. The Wedge (7/12/13)

01. Down With Disease (7/22/13)
02. Seven Below (8/2/13)
03. Scent Of A Mule (7/14/13)
04. Rock N Roll >
05. Heartbreaker >
06. Makisupa Policeman (7/16/13)
07. Driver (8/3/13)
08. After Midnight (7/27/13)

01. Tweezer ->
02. Tela (7/31/13)
03. Golden Age
04. Waves >
05. Piper > (7/20/13)
06. While My Guitar Gently Weeps (8/5/13)

01. Rock N Roll >
02. 2001 (7/12/13)
03. Frost (7/17/13)
04. It's Ice (7/14/13)
05. Gotta Jibboo (7/30/13)
06. Run Like An Antelope (7/3/13)
07. Sanity >
08. Bold As Love (8/4/13)

01. Wolfman's Brother (7/30/13)
02. Harry Hood > (8/5/13)
03. Light >
04. The Mango Song > (7/5/13)
05. Say Something (7/27/13)
06. The Oh Kee Pah Ceremony >
07. AC/DC Bag >
08. Vultures (8/2/13)

01. Crosseyed and Painless (7/26/13)
02. Wilson >
03. Tweezer >
04. Silent In The Morning (7/16/13)
05. Dinner and a Movie (7/21/13)
06. Meat (8/2/13)
07. Energy (7/17/13)
08. Jesus Just Left Chicago (8/3/13)
09. Babylon Baby (8/2/13)
10. First Tube (8/3/13)

01. Prince Caspian >
02. Twist >
03. Ha Ha Ha >
04. Possum (7/20/13)
05. Light >
06. David Bowie (8/4/13)
07. Cars Trucks Buses (7/12/13)
08. Split Open and Melt (7/6/13)

01. Energy >
02. Runaway Jim > (8/4/13)
03. Carini (7/6/13)
04. Harry Hood (7/13/13)
05. Walk Away (7/30/13)
06. You Enjoy Myself (7/14/13)


An alternate video of the last 12 minutes of Tweezer, with some nice close ups showing the band and fan interaction: