Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

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.

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August 21, 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

Concert Review: Sam Sherwin at R Bar, NYC 6/3/10

Sam Sherwin is a guy whose time has come. Actually, his time never went away – the southpaw guitarslinger has always had a gig, whether playing lead with someone else (most memorably with late 90s/early zeros New York noir rock legends DollHouse) or fronting his own band. But with 80s music in vogue more than it ever might have been during that decade, it’s somewhat surprising that there’s a style of music from that era that hasn’t been resurrected yet. On one level, that’s to be expected: the indie rock trendoids who worship that stuff the most are a fearful crowd and shy away from anything that wasn’t popular to begin with. But for those willing to do a little digging, the strain of powerpop that was coming out of New York in the late 70s and early 80s, with its Gotham sarcasm and just enough of a punk edge to give it a leg up on the tamer stuff coming out of other parts of the world, is overdue for a resurrection. That’s what Sam Sherwin plays.

Playing Telecaster and backed by an inspired trio of Jimmy Buffett keyboardist Pete Vitalone, Bernie Worrell sidewoman Donna McPherson on bass and Dena Tauriello on drums, Sherwin’s baritone croon was part menace and part leer, evoking Iggy Pop in his most off-center phase from the days of albums like Soldier or Party. The set mixed songs from his upcoming album Iodine Cocktails along with tracks from his previous cd Dirty Little Secrets. The second song of the night, a snide slide guitar shuffle was a perfect example. Vitalone got up from his piano and strapped on an accordion for a surprisingly direct, even wounded version of the kiss-off ballad You Got It Wrong, from Dirty Little Secrets. A new, bluesy rocker with an early 80s Stones feel possibly titled Long Time Coming could have been an outtake from Emotional Rescue; another one in a similar vein had Sherwin snarling about “licking my wounds at the scene of the crime.” They slowed down the jailhouse rocker Sittin’ on a Bench (a vivid Rikers Island narrative, probably because it’s a true story) with some ominously echoing Rhodes piano; the darkly bucolic, backbeat-driven number they followed with shifted into urban noir territory without missing a beat. They closed with the catchy powerpop anthem Get Close, a showcase for Vitalone’s majestic organ work. Watch this space for information on the upcoming album.

October 8, 2008 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review From the Archives: Albert King at Tramps, NYC 4/24/92

[editor’s note: we were going to review the Moisturizer show last night at BPM, but something got in the way. From the looks of it, about five charter buses full of fresh-faced white kids looking like they came straight from the prom. There was literally a line around the block. I’ve never seen that many people waiting outside a small club in my life. Maybe someone spotted one of the Olsen twins, texted their whole IM list, and what we saw was the resulting flashmob. It would be heartening to believe that they’d all showed up to see the band, but Moisturizer’s dazzling musicianship and Satie-esque wit don’t exactly fit into corporatized suburban “culture.”

It was quickly obvious that those who weren’t already inside the club were never going to get in, but nobody seemed to mind. To complicate matters, there had just been a stabbing, obviously a white person since there were police cruisers speeding up and down the surrounding streets and a couple of helicopters overhead. So we went over to a friend’s place instead. In lieu of a full review of Moisturizer, we’ve pulled one out of the archives: legendary southpaw guitarist Albert King at Tramps in April of 1992]:

We rushed up here after an interesting and inspiring day at the Socialist Scholars’ Conference downtown on Chambers St. The club was crowded, but, happily, not ridiculously oversold and jampacked like it usually is. This was an incredibly moving show, perhaps the best blues concert I’ve ever seen. His band opened with two instrumentals: the rhythm guitarist played an unreal, lightining-fast, bone-chilling solo in the second. Albert King then took the stage: “Are you ready? I’m not,” warmed up with Every Day I Have the Blues (which he took slowly) and then launched into a brilliant set. Maybe the best song selection I’ve ever seen at a show like this. The anguished, screaming power of Elmore James’ The Sky Is Crying was overwhelming. A swinging Born Under a Bad Sign, an upbeat Crosscut Saw and a driven Stormy Monday were crowd-pleasers, as the band took turns soloing around the horn: first King, then the rhythm player (who got to showcase his jazz chops), and the keyboardist, whose talents unfortunately didn’t measure up to the rest of the band. It seemed he only knew one flashy descending riff, which he played on the cheesiest setting available. But even this could not detract from the power of King’s guitar playing and singing, which were, for lack of a better word, deep. With his guitar, he can say more in the microtones of a single bent note than most people could say in a whole album, and his vocals are the very definition of soul.

As much as King loves minor keys and slowly smoldering crescendos, he was in an upbeat mood tonight. Maybe the ever-present wine glass was part of it. “Ain’t nothing like a glass of red wine,” he mused. The best of many highlights was when the band went into an ominous, slow 6/8 minor-key groove, the keyboardist hit that unexpected major chord and King began to dedicate the song, “From the album Born Under a Bad Sign, As the Years Go Passing By.” He was rudely interrupted by a fan during his second solo, when some asshole handed him a piece of paper (a request? why not wait til he finished?). Later, they also did Robert Cray’s Phone Booth (which King popularized a few years before Cray hit it big). In a word, exhilarating.

[postscript: This was Albert King’s last New York show. He died less than eight months later.]

June 23, 2007 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CD Review: Dina Dean – 4 Songs

Her auspicious but all-too-brief debut. Always leave them wanting more, the saying goes and it’s never been more true here. Dina Dean is a lefthanded guitarist and in that tradition, she uses a lot of interesting, uniquely incisive licks and chordlets. She’s also a hell of a lyricist, a terrific storyteller with a fondness for weirdos and the down-and-out. And a hell of a singer with an alto delivery capable of minute yet very powerful subtleties. When she gets loud, which isn’t often, you know something’s up. These songs are all midtempo rock but draw deeply on classic 60s soul with a tinge of country here and there.

The album begins with Radio Song, a vivid late-night portrait of a neighborhood character who hangs out in the park with her radio amidst a whole lot of chaos

She’s counting down the top 10 from ‘65
When she should be counting sheep
Warming up some cold coffee
As she wonders why –
She can’t fall asleep

And then the chorus kicks in, driven by echoey Fender Rhodes piano, spiced with guitar and harmonica. The next track, Same Grace is a gospel-inflected tribute to street musicians everywhere:

Rivers rolling down your face
With an accent I could hardly trace
Singing about that Same Grace
That’s kept you here

Some of Them Days, with its swinging beat and soaring steel guitar has a warm, evocative summery feel. The cd’s final track Down in the Dust is a richly imagistic chronicle of an ancient dancer from the 1930s looking back on her trials and travails:

The queen madame of the minstrel
In my own travelin’ show
In the days of Silent Cal
And that no count Jim Crow
I was living high on the hog
In my ruby studded shoes
And went back to a hollow log
When jazz blew the fuse on the blues

Four songs, five bagels. Toasted with butter at some all-night joint. This cd is available for a ridiculously low price at shows.

June 5, 2007 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Concert Review: Randi Russo at Cake Shop, NYC 5/8/07

When the band took the stage just after 8, there wasn’t much of a crowd, perhaps because this was a last-minute gig at an odd hour for NYC’s reigning chatelaine of outsider rock anthems. The sound, usually pristine at this venue, left something to be desired for much of the show, Randi Russo’s vocals cutting in and out of the mix. She and her bass player were clearly ticked off, but the drummer and lead guitarist Lenny Molotov were exuberant. The energy was high right off the bat, as they launched into a ridiculously catchy new song, possibly titled Invisible: “I am, I am invisible/I feel, I feel invincible.” At the end, Molotov picked up the delicious soul-infused lick that opens the song. Next on the set list was Wonderland, a big alienation anthem and audience favorite from Russo’s first full-length cd, Solar Bipolar. “I heard you went to Wonderland/Come back and see me if you can.”

They followed with another unreleased track, a titanic, 6/8 epic called Prey which the band built to a towering crescendo and an uncharacteristically metalesque ending. After that, they dug out one of her earlier songs, the stomping, hook-driven, Velvets-style One Track Mind, from her Live at CB’s Gallery ep. The next tune was another unreleased number, House on the Hill which built from a swinging backbeat on the verse to a percussive firestorm on the chorus, then back again. Following that, they did the funky, haunting, minor-key Battle on the Periphery, a dayjob-from-hell number that gave Molotov a chance to show off his love of evil, Middle Eastern-inflected licks. The set’s final song was the surprisingly upbeat Ceiling Fire, from Russo’s latest album Shout Like a Lady.

Russo didn’t say much between songs, busy changing from one tuning to another. She’s lefthanded and plays Hendrix-style, upside down, and with the odd tunings, gets a maelstrom of eerie, ringing overtones out of her Gibson SG guitar. She and the band encored with a long, ragaesque, psychedelic number that gave them a chance to stretch out and play off each other. They’ve been heading in a more improvisational direction lately, unusual for a group whose job is basically to flesh out Russo’s meticulously crafted songs. For anyone who missed this show – and by the looks of it, most did – they’re playing Cake Shop again at the early hour of 5:30 PM on Saturday May 19 in celebration of the bass player’s birthday, as they’ve done for three years in a row now. No doubt much of the crème de la crème of the NYC underground music scene will be there (which means that you won’t have to worry about bumping into Lindsay Lohan or her legions of lookalikes).

May 10, 2007 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment