Posts Tagged ‘Andres Segovia’

Masterpiece: 1928 Sessions

12 December 2010

[Today: The bottom of the Blues…]

It’s easy enough to look at the Blues and see a music rooted in pain and suffering. If you focus exclusively on the story lines of the songs or the whiskey in the voices, that’s probably a fair enough takeaway. But when you get beneath those surfaces it’s easy to see that at its bottom, this is life affirming music. It feels funny to be a white kid from Oregon writing about the Blues, but I grew up around blue collar folks – much of my family and many of our neighbors plied their trade in the local lumber mills – so I knew people who left a little piece of themselves at their jobs every day. You’d see dads trudging home at 5pm, looking battered by another day on the green chain, and if that didn’t double your resolve to work harder on your homework you were just plain crazy or dumb enough to deserve what was coming.

Work that hard demands good times, and my relatives and neighbors were good people to unwind with. Gregarious, quick-witted and able with a story, they could drink and laugh and tell tall tales with the best of them. My impression was that if work was determined to squeeze the life out these people, they were equally determined to squeeze the life out of their free time. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger – has there ever been more insidious false advertising than that? A more truthful version would be that what doesn’t kill you makes you REALLY appreciate not having something try to kill you (not as catchy or uplifting, I know).

When Mississippi John Hurt sings about laying his burden down, his voice has a carefree lilt that sounds more like someone punching the time clock on Friday evening than someone cashing in their chips. Hurt’s voice could swing from pure joy to the deep sadness of a man who saw his promising music career crippled by the Great Depression and put on hold for more than 30 years. Whether or not he had been rediscovered in the early 60s, his musical legacy was long ago sealed by the dozen pre-Depression Okeh recordings compiled on 1928 Sessions.

What these songs reveal is a guitarist of the highest order, a gifted storyteller, and wise soul. Hurt delivered his music with a ray of sunshine, and even murder ballads like ‘Frankie’ and ‘Stack O’ Lee Blues’ come off as good stories rather than bone-chilling narratives. In John Fahey’s liner notes to the CD re-release of Harry Smith’s Anthology Of American Folk Music, he opines that “‘Frankie’ is… probably the best guitar recording ever. Rumor has it that when this piece was played for Segovia, he couldn’t believe there were not two guitars at work.”

Hurt’s own take was that “The Blues ain’t nothin’ but a good woman on your mind.” Clearly, for this great bluesman, life was hard, but the music came down to something good…

Listen: Stack O’Lee Blues

Listen: Frankie

Listen: Avalon Blues

Weekend Playlist

20 September 2010

“My earliest memory is shouting: at what and for what reason, I don’t know. Probably a tantrum; or I may have been rehearsing. I was always an early starter.” ~ Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead


Michael Nesmith & The First National Band | Magnetic South


LCD Soundsystem | LCD Soundsystem


Whiskeytown | Pneumonia


M. Ward | Hold Time


Various Artists | I’m Not There Soundtrack


James Brown | Star Time


The Rolling Stones | A Bigger Bang


The Kleptones | A Night At The Hip-Hopera


Mark Lanegan | Whiskey For The Holy Ghost


Buzzcocks | Singles Going Steady


Kasabian | Kasabian


Daft Punk | Discovery


William Shatner | Has Been


The Pharaohs | In The Basement


Radiohead | In Rainbows


INXS | Listen Like Thieves


Motorhead | No Remorse


Andres Segovia | The Segovia Collection


The Isley Brothers | 3 + 3


Kruder & Dorfmeister | The K&D Sessions

Doubleshot Tuesday: Black Pearls/Black Sabbath

13 October 2009

[Today: It was a dark and stormy day…]

John Coltrane | Black Pearls
Black Sabbath | Black Sabbath

All day yesterday, dark storm clouds gathered around the Bay Area and then just hung there, doing nothing and looking ominous. Around three o’clock this morning, the storm finally broke, and we’ve been in a deluge ever since. When the weather gets really nasty like this, there are two music genres that I reach for – heavy metal and jazz. Motörhead, Slayer, Metallica, and especially Black Sabbath are the right sound for a day like today, when the winds are screaming and the rain is hissing. Sabbath’s debut was the LP I grabbed off the shelf this morning, and it proved to be a wise choice. Side One opens with a bell tolling, followed by a thunderclap and pouring rain, before the group launches into the title track – which like the rest of Black Sabbath, is the perfect soundtrack for staring down black sheets of rain and hilltops shrouded in clouds.

Happy, melodic jazz won’t do for a rainstorm – the occasion requires something with internal discord, something that feels like nature gone awry. John Coltrane fits the bill. He played with a passion that was almost supernatural – the man was a locomotive on the sax. Some of the lines he cuts loose with on his 1958 album Black Pearls – mid-way through both the title track and ‘Lover Come Back To Me’ – are the musical embodiment of being caught in a rainstorm. Notes come down one on top of another, and just when you’d swear they can’t come any faster, they turn into a torrential downpour. This isn’t Coltrane in full squall mode, but Impressions and The Age Of Bronze are on deck, just in case this storm really starts bringing it…

Listen: Black Pearls [John Coltrane]

Listen: Black Sabbath [Black Sabbath]

Listen: Lover Come Back To Me [John Coltrane]

Listen: Wasp/Behind the Wall of Sleep/Bassically/N.I.B. [Black Sabbath]

*****

Six more for a storm…

Andres Segovia | The Segovia Collection
The Band | Music From Big Pink
The Doors | L.A. Woman
Nick Drake | Pink Moon
Slayer | Diabolus In Musica
The Benedictine Monks Of Santo Domingo de Silos | Chant

Weekend Playlist

31 August 2009

“I’ve had three wives and three guitars. I still play the guitars.” ~ Andres Segovia

ZZ Top | ZZ Top's First Album
ZZ Top | ZZ Top’s First Album

Little Feat | Hotcakes & Outtakes
Little Feat | Hotcakes & Outtakes (Box Set)

Bob Dylan | Time Out Of Mind
Bob Dylan | Time Out Of Mind

Outkast | Speakerboxxx/The Love Below
Outkast | Speakerboxxx/The Love Below

Tom Waits | Swordfishtrombones
Tom Waits | Swordfishtrombones

Beastie Boys | Ill Communication
Beastie Boys | Ill Communication

Parliament | Mothership Connection
Parliament | Mothership Connection

The Cure | Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me
The Cure | Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me

The Segovia Collection
Andres Segovia | The Segovia Collection

David Holmes | Let's Get Killed
David Holmes | Let’s Get Killed

Tropicalia | A Brazilian Revolution In Sound
Various Artists | Tropicalia: A Brazilian Revolution In Sound

Peanut Butter Wolf | My Vinyl Weighs A Ton
Peanut Butter Wolf | My Vinyl Weighs A Ton

INXS | Stay Young (1979-1982)
INXS | Stay Young (1979-1982)

The Jimi Hendrix Experience | The JImi Hendrix Experience (Box Set)
Jimi Hendrix Experience | Jimi Hendrix Experience (Box Set)

The Coup | Genocide & Juice
The Coup | Genocide & Juice

T. Rex | Electric Warrior
T. Rex | Electric Warrior

Danger Mouse | The Grey Album
Danger Mouse | The Grey Album

Neil Young | Chrome Dreams
Neil Young | Chrome Dreams

Various Artists | Music From The Coffee Lands (Putumayo)
Various Artists | Music From The Coffee Lands (Putumayo)

The Black Keys | Magic Potion
The Black Keys | Magic Potion

The Rolling Stones | Tattoo You
The Rolling Stones | Tattoo You

Yo La Tengo | And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out
Yo La Tengo | And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out

Dave Alvin | King Of California
Dave Alvin | King Of California

The Replacements | Pleased To Meet Me
The Replacements | Pleased To Meet Me

The Undertones | The Undertones
The Undertones | The Undertones

M. Ward | Transfiguration Of Vincent
M. Ward | Transfiguration Of Vincent

Masterpiece: The Segovia Collection

24 November 2008

[Today: The original guitar maestro…]

The Segovia Collection

“The guitar is a small orchestra. It is polyphonic. Every string is a different color, a different voice.” For Andres Segovia, that wasn’t just a nice sound bite, it was a musical philosophy. He almost single-handedly established the guitar as a classical instrument, and helped popularize it well beyond that genre. A self-taught guitar maestro who introduced many common playing techniques that were radical in his day, Segovia was more interested in finding the perfect sound than following musical convention. So he played Bach, strummed with his fingertips as well as his fingernails, and used nylon guitar strings – and pretty soon everyone else did too.

Born in Linares, Spain in 1893, Andres Segovia owned his first guitar at age 6, gave his first public performance at age 15, turned professional at age 16, and was an international figure of repute before his 20th birthday. By 1928, he had built a following large enough to sell out a series of concerts along the East Coast, including his triumphant US premiere, at Town Hall in New York City (“A New York audience has seldom been quicker or warmer with its approval” concluded the New York Times’ review of the event).

Segovia was repeatedly discouraged from trying to integrate the guitar into classical music, but he persisted, building a repertoire for the instrument through his own transcriptions of a variety of existing classical pieces. By the 1920’s his persistence and rising profile paid off when a number of classical musicians began writing specifically for the guitar. That the instrument was never again seen as exotic is tribute to Segovia’s iron will and singular genius.

He cut plenty of 78’s, but it wasn’t until the advent of Long Playing (LP) records in the late-1940’s that Segovia’s music was finally given the format it deserved. Here every note was distinct, every finger squeak audible (another innovation), the warmth of his playing waiting to fill a room like a crackling fire. But sloppy digitization of his music for compact disc in the 1980’s left a generation of guitar players to wonder if Segovia had been overrated. Thankfully, the 2002 4-disc set The Segovia Collection restores much-needed audio fidelity to a fine cross-section of his music, preserving his legend in all its colorful, polyphonic glory.

Segovia gave his last recital on April 4, 1987 in Miami, shortly after his 94th birthday. A few months later he died in Madrid, widely recognized as the father of modern classical guitar.

Listen: Eight Lessons For The Guitar – No 1 In A Major – Aguaduo

Listen: Eight Lessons For The Guitar – No 8 In E Minor – Aguaduo

Listen: Allemande from: Suite For Lute In E Minor BVW 996

Guitar Gods – The Cover Art

19 November 2008

Here’s the cover art for one of my latest mixes – a four disc box-set called Guitar Gods. A compilation like this invites furrowed brows, lists of corrections, and plenty of harrumphing from all corners. Strike up the chorus: “But what about ____________?” There were dozens more guitarists that ideally would have been included, but four discs seemed like enough, and the line had to be drawn somewhere.

World B. Furr (sometime commenter on this blog) was kind enough to collaborate on this mix with me, and help me figure out where to draw that line, and it was a clear case of two brains being better than one. We had a lot of back and forth about who to include and who to leave out, and inevitably there were compromises to be made.

From the liner notes to this mix, here’s a six-pack of guitarists who just missed the cut:

Ace Frehley – When I was a kid I thought every guitarist should sound like The Spaceman. But then somewhere along the way I grew up. Still, I have a strange desire to shout “ACE FREHLEY! SHOCK ME!!!” and put him in the mix. Didn’t happen… [dk]

Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman – Scott Ian of Anthrax once said that if he goes to Hell, there’s no doubt Slayer will playing on the loudspeaker. These two guys have spent the better part of the last 25 years kicking out some of the heaviest and most sinister riffs of all-time — never once losing the fire that first got things started. [Furr]

George Brigman – Brigman is a Guitar God for me because he represents the dreams of the everyman player. As a 17 year-old kid, Brigman self-released his debut album Jungle Rot in 1975 and then watched it disappear. Time has proven it a fuzzed out, lo-fi classic. [dk]

Mick Taylor – Although we ultimately chose ‘Satisfaction’ and the Brian Jones-era Rolling Stones, I feel it’s imperative to point out the genius of Mick Taylor. Few could argue that the Taylor years were the Stones finest, and that’s largely due to the “other” Mick. [Furr]

Peter Green – The driving force of the original, bluesy Fleetwood Mac, Green was one of the best guitarists of his generation. Unfortunately, he lost his sanity in a worm hole of drugs, and disappeared from the music scene for decades. But his is a brilliant, if truncated, body of work. [dk]

Alex Lifeson – There are a lot of excuses people will give for hating Rush. Alex Lifeson’s guitar work is never one of them. This guy is one of the greatest players ever and he’s one-third of the reason why I absolutely LOVE Rush. [Furr]

Without further ado…

[Here’s the front cover…]
Guitar Gods | Front

[Here’s the inside front cover…]
Guitar Gods | Front Inside

[Here’s the inside booklet cover…]
Guitar Gods | Booklet Cover
[Guitar pick photos courtesy of Umlaut!]

[Here’s the guts of the inside booklet…]
Guitar Gods | Inside Booklet

[Here’s the back inside…]
Guitar Gods | Back Inside

[Here’s the back…]
Guitar Gods | Back

[Here’s the track listing…]

Disc 1ne
Chuck Berry * Johnny B. Goode
The Rolling Stones * Satisfaction [Keith Richards]
The White Stripes * Seven Nation Army [Jack White]
Link Wray * Rumble
Dick Dale & The Del-Tones * Let’s Go Trippin’
Cream * Sunshine Of Your Love [Eric Clapton]
Quicksilver Messenger Service * Mona [John Cipollina and Gary Duncan]
Merl Saunders, Jerry Garcia etc * Keepers (Live)
The Allman Brothers Band * In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed (Live) [Duane Allman]
The Faces * Around The Plynth [Ron Wood]
Santana * Black Magic Woman/Gypsy Queen [Carlos Santana]
The Who * Won’t Get Fooled Again [Pete Townshend]
ZZ Top * La Grange [Billy Gibbons]
U2 * Bullet The Blue Sky [The Edge]

Disc 2wo
John Fahey * St. Louis Blues
Robert Johnson * Sweet Home Chicago
Mississippi John Hurt * Frankie
Muddy Waters * Baby Please Don’t Go
Bo Diddley * Who Do You Love?
Howlin’ Wolf * Smokestack Lightnin’
Albert King * Born Under A Bad Sign
Otis Rush * I Can’t Quit You Baby
Freddie King * Key To The Highway
Buddy Guy * A Man and The Blues
Johnny Winter * Dallas
B.B. King * Everyday I Have The Blues
Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble * The Sky Is Crying
Albert Collins * Frosty
The Paul Butterfield Blues Band * East-West [Mike Bloomfield]
Roy Buchanan * Sweet Dreams

Disc 3hree
Nirvana * Come As You Are [Kurt Cobain]
Deep Purple * Smoke On The Water [Ritchie Blackmore]
Aerosmith * Sweet Emotion [Joe Perry]
Black Sabbath * Fairies Wear Boots [Tony Iommi]
Ted Nugent * Stranglehold
Spinal Tap * Sex Farm [Nigel Tufnel]
Sex Pistols * God Save The Queen [Steve Jones]
The Ramones * Judy Is A Punk [Johnny Ramone]
The Clash * Clampdown [Joe Strummer and Mick Jones]
Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers * One Track Mind
AC/DC * Highway To Hell [Angus Young]
Van Halen * Eruption [Eddie Van Halen]
Ozzy Osbourne * Flying High Again [Randy Rhoads]
Guns N’ Roses * Mr. Brownstone [Slash]
Judas Priest * You’ve Got Another Thing Coming [Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing]
Iron Maiden * The Trooper [Dave Murray and Adrian Smith]
Metallica * The Four Horsemen [Kirk Hammett]
Rage Against The Machine * Bombtrack [Tom Morello]

Disc 4our
Andrés Segovia * Suite Compostelana: I. Preludio
Buena Vista Social Club * Chan Chan [Ry Cooder]
Jeff Beck * Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers
Led Zeppelin * White Summer/Black Mountain Side [Jimmy Page]
The Jimi Hendrix Experience * Little Wing
John McLaughlin * Peace Piece
Funkadelic * Maggot Brain [Eddie Hazel]
Neil Young * Cortez The Killer
Pink Floyd * Comfortably Numb [David Gilmore]
Buckethead * Lone Sal Bug
Dire Straits * Ride Across The River [Mark Knopfler]
The Beatles * While My Guitar Gently Weeps [George Harrison]
Les Paul * Lover

*****

[I’ll be extremely disappointed if there are less than two dozen fired up comments about how we screwed this up. This mix couldn’t possibly cover off on everyone’s personal list of Guitar Gods, so I look forward to hearing who you think we missed, and what we got wrong. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to slip into my flame retardant Kevlar suit…]


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