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JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Album of the Day 11/7/10

Hey, did you turn your clocks back an hour? You’ve just earned sixty free sleep minutes! Every day our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Sunday’s album is #814:

Live Yardbirds – Featuring Jimmy Page

Recorded live in New York in the spring of 1968 on the band’s final tour with Chris Dreja on bass and Jimmy Page on guitar (with some help from Keith Relf), first released in 1971, this one’s been reissued several times but always quickly taken out of print since Page has apparently never liked how he played on it. Which is mystifying because this is the best thing he ever recorded. Wild, inspired, and sloppy (isn’t he always?), he bends notes crazily, fires off fast-foward staggering blues runs and burns through a stunningly fluid six-minute open-tuned blues instrumental that’s half bluegrass. The big blues jam happens at the end of side one; the hits are represented by completely unhinged, paint-peeling versions of You’re a Better Man Than I, Heart Full of Soul, Shapes of Things and the best-ever version of Over Under Sideways Down (sorry, Jeff Beck). Johnny Burnette’s Train Kept a-Rolling is closer to Led Zeppelin than anything the Clapton-era Yardbirds ever did; they also rocket through a lickety-split, open-tuned version of the old standard Drinking Muddy Water. But the killer track here is I’m Confused, an early version of Dazed and Confused which benefits as much from Relf’s gruff, casually unaffected vocal as it does Page’s murky, molten metal Middle Eastern riffage. There doesn’t seem to be an official version of this currently in print; vinyl copies of the 70s albums are prized on the collector market. Here’s a random torrent.

November 7, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Debra from Devi’s Top 10 Guitar Albums

This falls into the “ask an expert” category. Debra, who plays lead guitar and fronts the ferocious, psychedelic power trio Devi (whose excellent debut cd you can get at itunes and in stores) knows a thing or two about guitar – she’s one of the most uniquely individual, virtuosic stylists of this era. Here are the ten albums that really hook her up:   

 

Key to the Highway, Freddy King – Best phrasing in the blues and so tuff and sexy it makes me want to dance on a table in hot pants for Mr. King. I snuck a lick from “Hideaway” into Devi’s jam version of “The Needle and the Damage Done.” (You can hear it at 3:43).

 

Another Perfect Day, Motorhead – I moved into a grungy cat-stank apartment on Avenue B one December and by Christmas Eve I couldn’t breathe. Found myself in Bellevue sucking adrenalin from a tank to open my lungs and was told I’d die if I tried to spend another night in my apartment. The only friend I knew who didn’t have a freaking cat was bassist Nick Marden. He had a bird, a rat, a pitbull and a snake. Slept under the Christmas tree in the living room and awoke to Nick handing me this album, saying “Merry Christmas.” Thin Lizzy guitarist Brian Robertson was kicked out of Motorhead after the tour for Another Perfect Day for wearing leg warmers and being generally fey, but I was hooked from the opening note on his soaring, searing, gorgeous playing. Thanks Nick.

 

That’s Entertainment, Gang of Four – Every once in awhile a guitarist comes along who is so original, he makes everyone else sound boring and dated and stupid. Andy Gill’s playing is utterly fresh, sharp, and compulsively danceable. I saw Gang of Four play and all I remember is flying into a state of spasmodic ecstasy from the Gill’s first slashing rip across the strings.

 

Filth Pig, Ministry – God, I love this record. I’ve been known to put it on repeat and listen to it for 8 hours in a row. The guitars sound like thunder, like earthquakes, like tsunamis. One of my fave moments ever was meeting Al Jourgensen and having his wife Angie ask him, “Guess which Ministry album Deb likes the best?” and me and Al both hollering at the same time “FILTH PIIIIIIIIG!!”

 

Dreamboat Annie, Heart — Nancy Wilson’s acoustic guitar playing is exquisitely feminine and also every bit as rock as the Celtic touches Jimmy Page was giving Zeppelin. Otherwordly and heartbreakingly beautiful. Need to cry your way through a breakup? This is the album.

 

Country Life, Roxy Music — Phil Manzanera’s romantic passionate solos slay me. When he lets that delay fly, it sounds like flocks of magical sparkling geese heading straight to heaven. Saw Roxy Music at Radio City Music Hall. Cried. Sighed. Swooned.

 

Texas Flood, Steve Ray Vaughan – Hands that could crush a Volkswagen. His best solos are on this album and they are bursts of fire. I learned his solo on “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and I use what I learned all the time. Snuck a few variations on the licks from that solo into mine on “C21H23NO3”.

 

Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols, Sex Pistols – Guitars like a punch in the face. Steve Jones set the standard for the tightest, most powerful playing on the tightest, most powerful punk rock record ever. Taught the rest of us how to triple track separate parts for maximum wallop. It still makes me want to throw furniture and slamdance as hard as it did the first time I heard it.

 

Ritual de lo Habitual, Jane’s Addiction – Dave Navarro’s solo on “Three Days” is a rippling, cascading masterpiece. He took what Daniel Ash was doing in Bauhaus with digital delay and mixed it up with Jimmy Page and superscorchers like Nuno Bettencourt to create a new style that everyone’s been ripping off every since.

 

Santana, Santana – Jimmy Page said “tone is in the fingers” and Carlos Santana’s fingers make the guitar sound like a celestial viola. His gorgeous sense of melody is like nobody else’s either…he never gets stuck in a blues bag. Even just trying to play along with him for just a few minutes opens up entire new vistas.

 

 

Honorable Mention:

 

Everything by Led Zeppelin, everything by Pink Floyd

 

Pretenders, The Pretenders

 

Sweet Forgiveness, Bonnie Raitt

June 24, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

CD Review: Kelly Richey – Carry the Light

Admired by her fellow musicians and blues fans around the world, singer/guitarist Kelly Richey and her band live on the road, playing a punishing schedule throughout mostly the midwest and south. Like a lot of great blues guitarists, this immaculately produced studio cd only hints at the intensity she can generate onstage, although her playing here is supremely tasteful. She gets a lot of Stevie Ray Vaughan comparisons, but her style is considerably more terse than his ever was, a lot closer to the more thoughtful side of both Freddie King and Jimi Hendrix (think Little Wing and Castles Made of Sand). Richey also happens to be a terrific singer, a song stylist with the same kind of subtle command and inflections as late-period Chrissie Hynde. This latest cd is more of a rock album – the blues here tend to have more of a modern feel. But that’s ok. Like any other style of music that’s still being played, the blues are bound to evolve. Richey manages to carry the torch, doing justice to her influences while putting her own unique stamp on it.

 

The cd opens with Leave the Blues Behind, a fast soul song in a Robert Cray vein with terse chorus-box guitar, beautifully modulated vocals and an equally terse, tasteful solo. The following cut, I Want You is not a Dylan cover – it’s darkly creeping late 60s/early 70s style riff-rock a la Cries from the Midnight Circus by the Pretty Things with a tasteful Freddie King-inflected solo. What in the World reminds of a cross between gentle, pensive Hendrix and vintage Tracy Chapman. After Carry the Light – a Texas boogie with some sly Billy Gibbons-style guitar – there’s Angela’s Song with its gospel-fueled southern soul groove.

 

With its layers of guitar sustain and vocal harmonies, Jericho Road is a slowly swaying, sunbaked minor-key haunter building to an impressively big, whirling outro. The next track, Run Like Hell isn’t a Floyd cover: it’s a return to late 60s style riff-rock. When All Is Said and Done starts out something of a Little Wing ripoff, growing more stately and anthemic with its atmospheric, David Gilmour-esque layers of guitar. The cd ends with a couple of boozy, Led Zep inflected riff-rockers and then another big ballad, Time for a Change, equal parts Henrix and Allmans with some of the most beautiful vocals on the album. Fans of the current crop of blues guitar hotshots – Johnny Lang, Mike Welch and the rest won’t be disappointed. Or if you like the idea of John Mayer but can’t stand the Lite FM sound of his albums – or if you like Bonnie Raitt in concert but can’t stand the Lite FM sound of her albums either – this is for you. Or sneak this into the mix at a Clapton fan’s barbecue and watch the jaws drop: “Who’s that playing guitar? Oh, that’s her. She’s good!”

March 11, 2009 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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