Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Song of the Day 7/11/10

Less than three weeks til our best 666 songs of alltime countdown reaches #1…and then we start with the 1000 best albums of alltime. Sunday’s song is #18:

The Electric Light Orchestra – Kuiama

This majestic, practically twelve-minute antiwar epic is the centerpiece of the vastly underrated 1972 ELO II album. The solo on the bridge, Jeff Lynne’s poignant slide guitar giving way to Mik Kaminsky’s wildly swooping violin, might be the most blissfully exhilarating moment ever recorded by a rock band.

July 11, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 6/15/10

Every day, for the next month and a half anyway, our best 666 songs of alltime countdown continues all the way to #1. Tuesday’s song is #44:

The Electric Light Orchestra – Laredo Tornado

Raw, wounded, careening anthem mourning the loss of a better time and place. The tradeoff from Jeff Lynne’s lead guitar over to Mik Kaminsky’s electric violin midway through the solo out is one of the high points in rock history. From the Eldorado album, 1975.

June 15, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review from the Archives: Blue Oyster Cult at Westbury Music Fair, Westbury, Long Island 6/13/97

[Editor’s note – out of town for the weekend, we’re mining the archive as we used to do during slow periods, our first year. This doesn’t qualify as a NYC concert since it was out in Westbury but here it is anyway]

Spur of the moment decision: ten minutes after dinner, we were on the LIRR on a cruise to nowhere. The crowd was as expected: kids from the smoking section in high school, twenty years later, with bigger beer guts and more cellulite. Pat Travers opened and only got about 25 minutes ending with Snorting Whiskey and Drinking Cocaine – he actually has good technique and a sense of melody, but bends every note he plays gratuitously like Jimmy Page at his most, well, gratuitous. Foghat followed and got a standing ovation. A long, long cover of Sweet Home Chicago (looks like they didn’t have enough tunes for a whole set), led into a wildly applauded Fool for the City and Slow Ride: enough mindless, audibly painful guitar masturbation for a lifetime. How someone as cool as Lynda Barry can like a band this awful stretches the imagination. Blue Oyster Cult vacillated between boredom and inspiration: half of lead guitarist Buck Dharma’s solos went nowhere. But the best wailed, hard. This particular version of the group has a new rhythm section (the Bouchard brothers haven’t been in this unit in awhile), but Dharma, guitarist/keyboardist Allan Lanier and frontman Eric Bloom are still in the band and game to be plying the nostalgia circuit. Bloom, in fact made it a point to mention how they were playing their old stomping ground, lapsing into his best Lawn Guyland accent with the knowing authenticity of someone who’d had the misfortune to grow up here. They opened with a swinging version of the art-rock anthem Stairway to the Stars opened, later ripping through a fast take on the drug dealer murder ballad Then Came the Last Days of May, where the band picked up the tempo and went almost doublespeed on the break before the last verse. The instrumental Buck’s Boogie screamed, like ZZ Top if they’d been born in Europe (impossible, but just try to imagine it) and featured a pleasantly brief drum solo; Cities on Flame and Godzilla were metal by the numbers as expected. The powerpop smash Burning for You was absolutely smoking; Dharma’s solo started wildly metallic, then suddenly note for note with the furious version on the live On Your Feet or On Your Knees album. Without much fanfare, Don’t Fear the Reaper closed the show, stripped down and a bit cursory. Since the venue was on a tight schedule, there no encores; Steppenwolf or whatever’s left of them were next so we were out of there after Sookie Sookie and two other awful tunes.

June 13, 2010 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 5/8/10

The best 666 songs of alltime countdown continues every day, all the way to #1. Saturday’s song is #82:

Genesis – Heathaze

Don’t let the presence of Phil Collins scare you off – this beautiful Tony Banks keyboard ballad vividly yet offhandedly captures the reluctant triumph of realizing how completely alone you are in the world – and also how surrounded by idiots you are. From the Duke album, 1977.

May 8, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 3/13/10

The best 666 songs of alltime countdown continues every day, all the way to #1. Saturday’s song is #138:

Procol Harum – Fires That Burnt Brightly

With the organ and the piano and all those murky gypsyish melodies, these guys could get completely macabre and this is one of their most ominous numbers, especially with the Swingle Singers’ phantasmic vocalese in the background. The last truly great song the band ever wrote, from the Grand Hotel album, 1973.

March 13, 2010 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 3/11/10

The best 666 songs of alltime countdown continues every day, all the way to #1. Thursday’s song is #140:

The Strawbs – New World

Future Beegee Derek Weaver’s mellotron roaring into the verse and then out of the chorus of this titanic anthem by the otherwise usually much mellower Britfolk/rock band might be the single most intense crescendo in any rock song. “May you rot, in your grave new world!”  The centerpiece of their loudest, artsiest and most psychedelic album, Grave New World, 1972.

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March 11, 2010 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Wishful Thinking: Led Zeppelin Live on West Ninth St., NYC 11/26/07

[Editor’s note: we’re going to let this writer get away with this just this once]

The concept was beyond ludicrous: the world’s most popular heavy metal band (maybe the world’s most popular band, period) schedules their first New York show in almost thirty years outdoors, for free, on a side street in the West Village. No matter that it wasn’t advertised or announced to the public: I learned about it about four hours earlier from a friend, who got a phone call from a friend in the union who was setting up the sound equipment. One can only assume that a few more phone calls would be made, and in a few minutes’ time a flashmob the size of several ocean liners would clog the westside streets, requiring a police presence sufficiently gargantuan to protect the band and the lucky few who made it inside the “security zone” hours before the band went on. Which is why I didn’t cancel my two scheduled afternoon appointments: after all, I had no expectation that I’d get to see the show. Or that it would happen at all. Altamont, by comparison, was a brilliant idea.

But curiosity got the best of me, and a few minutes after the 4 PM scheduled start time, I decided to get off the train a couple of stops away from where I was going so I could scope out the neighborhood, just for the hell of it. When I exited the subway, the sky was dark and ominous. It had been cold all day, and threatening rain. For that reason, it wasn’t surprising to see the streets pretty much empty of pedestrians. There was also absolutely no police presence. Or any sign, audible or otherwise, that anything was happening. I kept walking, and suddenly I began to hear music in the distance. It was the bassline to Kashmir. Could this be true? I was loaded down with gear but I must have started running. I don’t remember. I was in a dream state. When I reached the end of the block, there on the sidewalk, playing through their amps (Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones had huge 4X12 cabinets) was Led Zeppelin. The only thing going through the PA was Robert Plant’s vocals, amplified by a couple of medium-sized JBL speakers, like the kind you see at street fairs. For a band whose reputation was built on volume and grand gestures, they sure were quiet, especially considering the size of the amps they were using. But the most unbelievable thing about this was that it was happening at all. There wasn’t a cop in sight, nor was there any kind of canopy over the band, who were facing possible electrocution in the event that the rains finally came. By my count, there were about 200 people assembled, a mix of old hippies and working-class metalheads all watching silently and reverently from a distance, even though anyone could have gone right up to the mic and ripped it from Plant’s hand if they so desired: there were no barriers or bouncers. The band didn’t even have a stage to play on: the sound mixer was perched on a stoop behind them. Was it possible that not a single person who knew about this spilled the beans to anyone who would have then IM’d their entire address book in seconds flat? Or was everyone here on the same page as I was? After all, I didn’t tell anybody about this because I had no plans to be here in the first place. And what about all the people in the surrounding buildings? Maybe they heard the low volume and assumed that it was just a Zep cover band practicing. After all, it was all but impossible to hear anything but the bass just a couple of blocks away, and the songs they were playing were all pretty iconic: most musicians know how to play them, at least the central hooks.

After Kashmir, the rest of the band sat out while Jimmy Page played Tangerine, solo. He did it thoughtfully but deliberately, without hardly any of the ostentatious vibrato that is his trademark. This was Page’s show, a clinic in dynamics. He didn’t cut loose too much, so when he did, the effect was spine-tingling. His guitar had three necks, looking like a prop straight out of Spinal Tap: one with six strings, one with twelve, and one with bass strings (which he never used). Jones is still a groovemeister, and had a clavinet to his right that he played on Stairway to Heaven. Plant’s voice is shot: his upper register is completely gone, but that’s a blessing in disguise, since he can’t overemote anymore. He just stuck to the melodies, using what little range he has left, and in a sense he’s never sounded better. The new drummer played a simple seven-piece kit: kick, snare, a couple of toms, ride and crash cymbals and hi-hat. He wasn’t amplified, so when the music got loud, it was impossible to hear him. He didn’t even try to do any of the complicated double-bass stuff Bonham used to do, although it was clear that he was a good timekeeper and seemed to be locked with Jones when the two were both audible.

After Tangerine, they picked up the pace with The Ocean, then followed with some of the more obscure tracks from Physical Graffiti. Since I’d gotten there late, I missed what could have been the first two or three songs, which conceivably could have been big radio hits like Whole Lotta Love. They closed, predictably, with Stairway to Heaven. When they got to the big guitar break, Jones, who still had his bass hanging around his shoulders, left the keyboard and jammed with Page. At the end, they brought it down to just the vocals and the clavinet. The crowd was completely silent for a second or two, then breaking out into polite applause. Not what you’d expect at a heavy metal show.

“Go ahead and put some money in the tip bucket,” Page growled at the crowd, motioning to a big green bucket to his left that looked like it had held flowers and sod until a few minutes previously. “Or buy us some beer.” As if on cue, at least a couple dozen audience members made a beeline for the deli on the corner. Meanwhile, I was trying to recapture the whole experience, wondering how I could relate here what I’d just experienced, if I could remotely do justice to such an exhilarating, completely unexpected performance. Sadly, I never got the chance to figure that out, because that’s when I woke up. This, then, is the best I can do. Now before you get all worked up and upset at me for writing this piece, just think for a minute about how depressing it was for me to return to a waking state from a dream like this.

November 28, 2007 Posted by | Conspiracy, Music, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments