Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Album of the Day 9/5/10

OK, we missed a day (up at Graceland North celebrating Labor Day). But our daily countdown of the 1000 best albums of all time all the way to #1 continues. Sunday’s album was #877:

Jimmy Reed – At Carnegie Hall

This 1961 album is neither live nor was it recorded at Carnegie Hall, but it is the great bluesman at the peak of his sly, seductive, sleepy power. It’s a bedroom album right up there with anything Al Green or Sade ever recorded, a dusky, nocturnal tour de force. Reed was a big hit with the ladies but also with the guys for his wry sense of humor and his confident subtlety: he doesn’t beg, he beckons. This one gets the nod over the others in his catalog because it’s a double album with more tracks. It’s got all the big hits: Bright Lights, Big City; Baby What You Want Me to Do; Big Boss Man; Going to New York; Take Out Some Insurance, and Ain’t That Loving You Baby. And who’s that laid-back, terrifically interesting, counterintuitive drummer? Believe it or not, that’s Albert King. Extra props to Reed for helping launch that guy’s career. Here’s a random torrent.

September 6, 2010 Posted by | blues music, lists, Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 8/21/10

Every day, we count down the 1000 best albums of all time all the way to #1. Saturday’s album is #892:

Albert King – Live Wire/Blues Power

A characteristically intense yet nuanced concert recording by the great blues guitarist, clearly amped to be playing in front of a captive audience at the Fillmore West in 1968, probably making twice as much as he did playing the chitlin circuit where he honed his chops. Like a lot of lefthanded guitarists (Hendrix, Otis Rush, Randi Russo), Albert King had an instantly recognizable, signature style, in his case a finely honed, bent-note attack where he could say more with a note’s subtle inflection than most players could say in an entire album. This album captures both sides of King, his subtlety and ferocity, in a mix of extended excursions – Elmore James’ Blues at Sunrise and a sprawling, ten-minute version of King’s own Blues Power – as well as a spirited blast through the instrumental Night Stomp and a bit later, B.B. King’s Please Love Me. Booker T. & the MGs drummer Al Jackson Jr. is his magnificently understated, groovemeister self and the rest of the band hangs back and lets King do his thing without getting in the way. Ask any fan of electric blues if they have this and the answer is that most of them do. As good as King is on this date, he’d get even better as the years wore on: pretty much any bootleg from the 80s has at least a few transcendent moments. Here’s a random torrent.

August 21, 2010 Posted by | blues music, lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 6/19/10

Every day, for the next forty days anyway, our best 666 songs of alltime countdown continues all the way to #1. Saturday’s song is #40:

Albert King – As the Years Go Passing By

The studio version of Don Robey’s dark, stately, minor-key 6/8 blues ballad on the 1965 Born Under a Bad Sign album is ok, but it’s the live versions that really haunt. The best we know of is a ten-minute version on a 1979 double live album on the French Tomato label. The link above is a nice extended version from that same period.

June 18, 2010 Posted by | blues music, lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 4/14/10

The best 666 songs of alltime countdown continues every day, all the way to #1. Wednesday’s song is #106:

Otis Rush – Double Trouble

The original 1956 Willie Dixon-produced single with a big horn band might be the eeriest noir blues song ever. Yet in the decades that followed, the lefty guitar legend has outdone himself at every turn – a ten-minute live version from Chicago Blues in New York as recently as 2000 (which we had the good fortune to get our hands on) is transcendent, as are probably hundreds of other bootlegs. Look ’em up.

April 14, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 6/15/09

Every day, our top 666 songs of alltime countdown gets one step closer to #1. Monday’s song is #408:

Chris Thomas King – Bonnie & Clyde in D Minor

Best known for his deadpan portrayal of the blues singer in O Brother Where Art Thou, Chris Thomas King has also had a prolific career as a songwriter, spanning soul to acoustic blues to hip-hop. He’s also an excellent guitarist, one of the few who claim to be influenced by Albert King who actually play with the same kind of soul and restraint. The murderously intense, layered guitar leads on this track would make Albert (no relation) very proud. From The Legend of Tommy Johnson cd, 2001; mp3s are out there.

June 15, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 3/8/09

Every day, our top 666 songs of alltime countdown gets one step closer to #1. Sunday’s (did you turn your clock ahead?) song is #507:

Elmore James – Cry for Me

One of the most technologically advanced artists of his era, James was multi-tracking in stereo as early as 1956! Not to be confused with the boogie Cry for Me Baby, this is a fast, sinister shuffle featuring the great Chicago blues guitarist in terse, fast, minor-key mode without his trademark slide. Mp3s are out there, but be prepared for some sifting.

March 7, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 2/10/09

Every day, our top 666 songs of alltime countdown gets one step closer to #1. Tuesday’s is #533:

Howlin Wolf – I’ll Be Around

Name another more powerful male singer. No, you can’t. This one features perhaps his most anguished, bitter vocals: “Yeah, I’ll be around, to see what you’re puttin’ out.” The ferocity of Willie Johnson’s lead guitar matches up. Mp3s are out there; the 1954 vinyl single is strictly a collector’s item, although MCA reissued it on the More Real Folk Blues album in all formats in the mid-80s (download the whole thing with the link above).

February 10, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review from the Archives: Joe Louis Walker, Matt “Guitar” Murphy, Scotty Moore and Ike Turner in Central Park 7/26/97

A fair approximation of what the Robert Cray/Albert Collins/Johnny Copeland album Showdown might have sounded like, live. Roomful of Blues opened the outdoor show with a set of pedestrian, swingy blues. Joe Louis Walker followed, backed by an excellent band featuring a terrific rhythm guitarist who only got one solo all night long but made the most of it. Walker is the absolute real deal: the guy can play. His opening tune was a long, extended number, possibly titled Hip Shaking Mama, featuring all kinds of searing, distorted solos on a black Gibson solidbody. Another original, Slipping and Sliding was next, and just as long, Walker switching to a Les Paul, playing with in an open tuning with a slide and this was as good as Sonny Rhodes at his best. It was pretty obvious that Walker knew this would be a shootout, and he was trying his best to establish himself as the meanest guitarslinger onstage before the others appeared.

Matt “Guitar” Murphy, of Blues Brothers fame, was the first to join him. Early on, he tried several of his trademark lightining-fast triplets and couldn’t get off the ground with them, so he stuck wailing furiously up and down on chords and burning through innumerable, supersonic blues runs, and ended up stealing the show. It’s hard to imagine Murphy, or for that matter any lead guitarist, turning in a more exciting performance than Murphy’s today: pretty impressive, considering the rest of the crew who would be up there with him. After a gentle, jazz-inflected solo in the duo’s first song together, he took a fiery, searing one in the next tune that had everything a good solo should have: spectacular speed, melodicism and a point to drive home, hard. Later he took another one but lost focus and fell back into triplet mode. At that point, Walker, who was playing rhythm, hit his distortion pedal and really slammed out his chords, as if to say, Matt, get your act together. Which Murphy did, spectacularly.

Scotty Moore, the legendary lead player in Elvis Presley’s original band then joined them, somewhat of a fish out of water. He comes from an earlier era, a jazzier, more reflective school of lead playing, like Les Paul or an even mellower Jimmy Rogers. He looked lost up there more often than not, surrounded by so much adrenaline: ostentation is not his thing. Walker savagely stepped all over the outro to one of Moore’s solos, bringing the intensity up to redline again in seconds flat.

Then Ike Turner joined the fray, first playing sensationally good, fast, brightly chordal blues piano, then wailing on a Strat running through all kinds of effects: chorus, digital delay and then a phaser. Which was showy, assuring him the spotlight whenever he took a solo, regardless of what he played. Although he was also excellent, using short bursts a la Albert Collins from time to time and with the phaser, this was intense and extremely entertaining. They did Rocket 88 as Turner returned to the piano and sang it; vocally, he’s lost quite a bit. Later, they all did Mystery Train, showcasing Moore again. Their lone encore had all five of the guitarists soloing and playing off each other and rather than sounding like Phish, this was amazing, Moore even being swept up in the madness and turning in his most incisive, bluesy solo of the night. A frequently transcendent, historically significant show.

July 26, 2008 Posted by | blues music, concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: Duke Robillard at Wagner Park, NYC 7/17/08

Duke Robillard has made a reputation as one of the few blues guitarists who can indulge in a lot of pyrotechnics without overplaying. Tonight, the former Roomful of Blues lead player turned in an almost shockingly terse set: has he lost a step, or was he just in a minimalist mood? Those who came out expecting to hear mile-a-minute solos and wild, frenetic wailing doubtlessly came away disappointed, but for those who think long guitar solos are overkill, this was a show to see. The crowd was weird: in addition to the usual contingent of old stoner guys in Pink Floyd t-shirts, there were tons of rugrats, and a young woman who looked like the actress in Carnival of Souls clinging tightly to a pillow-sized stuffed animal that she wouldn’t let go of, even when her boyfriend showed up. There was also a mobster and the muscular, tattoed guy who appeared to be his enforcer, arguing over a favor the enforcer wanted. Whenever the conversation got really heated, they went closer to the stage to keep their discussion private. No dummies, those guys.

Robillard had an excellent band behind him, a saxist who doubled on harp, keyboardist and rhythm section. Robillard’s always been more of a swing jazz guy than a straight-up blues player, but it was mostly all the latter tonight. Robillard’s remarkably chordal aproach has always distinguished him from similar flashy players, and unsurprisingly, it was that material that stuck out from the rest of the songs in the set, particularly a straight-up, Stonesy rock song possibly titled She’s a Live Wire. Early in the set, Robillard tried taking flight a couple of times but couldn’t get off the runway, so he held back the rest of the way. He started playing his usual big, beautiful Gibson hollowbody, then switched to Telecaster and immediately found his groove. Then, surprisingly, he put it down and sang a cheesy old 50s hit, which didn’t exactly work out because nobody comes out to hear Robillard sing: he’s one of those guys who sounds like he has a frog in his throat. He then picked up the Tele again for a couple of cuts from his new album Swing Session, a jump blues and a slow ballad, then picked up another Fender that he said somebody had handed him and asked him to play, and complied. And played his most interesting solos of the night. With the same charmed guitar, he then tackled a T-Bone Walker number (now there’s a jazzcat playing blues!) and began it with some classic T-Bone style 4-on-3 playing, before closing with a long, almost Grateful Dead-style one-chord jam to close the set.

To answer a question recently posed, why would anyone want to see a blues show? Well, you can dance to it – the kids definitely were. It’s fun, and if the band is good and doesn’t overdo it the soloing and interplay between musicians is very cool (translation: it’s great stoner music). And the blues cats keep dropping like flies: someday you or your children may not get to hear any of this anywhere but on a recording.

July 17, 2008 Posted by | blues music, concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review from the Archives: Jimmy Rogers at Chicago Blues, NYC 3/9/95

[Editor’s note: from time to time we delve into the archives if we don’t have something brand-new to keep the front page fresh. Consider this an obscure alternative to “this date in rock – or in this case blues – history.”]

The band went on immediately at showtime, and they were good. The new keyboardist was the star of the show and took most of the solos. The white guy playing rhythm guitar had some unfortunate heavy metal tendencies but his Gibson’s sweet, sustained tone took the edge off. After the band had run through a few standards, Jimmy Rogers came up with his big, hollowbody Gibson and tentatively launched into Rock This House. He’s an uncommonly subtle, urbane player, fond of big, sustained jazzy chords: he doesn’t bear much resemblance to the guy who provided all that deceptively simple chordal work behind Muddy Waters back in the fifties. He rarely soloed, once trading off a few licks with the keyboardist, but that’s about it. The harp player who marred Rogers’ previous New York show at Downtime with his ridiculous ostentation was wisely kept in the background this time; the keyboardist stepped all over him every time he tried to solo. If that’s what it takes – other than outright firing the guy – to keep him in check, that’s what the band needs to do. After Rogers had been up there about 35 minutes, they decided to take a “break” which at this venue can mean a couple of hours, so it’s anybody’s guess if they ever came back or if there was anyone left at the bar when they did.

[Postscript: Rogers’ performance at this show was vital and energetic, at least as energetic as the relatively phleghmatic guitarist ever got; his death about about two years later came as quite a shock]

March 9, 2008 Posted by | blues music, concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment