Posts Tagged ‘Lynyrd Skynyrd’

Doubleshot Tuesday: Croweology/Black Light

28 September 2010

[Today: New albums from old favorites…]

Throughout the last half of the 90s and first half of the 00s, the Black Crowes gave every indication of being a band in serious decline. Brothers Rich (guitar) & Chris (vocals) Robinson fought with each other and made pointless solo albums, while Chris married the obligatory Hollywood starlet (Kate Hudson). True fans of the band would point to albums like Three Snakes And One Charm and Lions and see vessels that were half full, but for the rest of us, the spark seemed to be missing, and the Crowes sounded very much like a band going through the motions.

If that comes off as complaint, forgive me, because it’s not meant as such. Most rock bands are lucky (and extremely talented) to be able to drop three meaningful albums within their lifespan (four gets you into Stones/Beatles pantheon territory). With their 1990 debut, Shake Your Money Maker, 1992 album Southern Harmony & Musical Companion and 1994’s Amorica, the Crowes pretty much single-handedly resuscitated Southern Rock and gave every classic rock fan enough great songs to last a lifetime.

You’d have to be pretty hard-hearted to begrudge a band like that the spoils of rock star success. But you’ve have to be downright foolish to expect that a band with so many ups and downs and personal problems would bounce back to make some of their most inspired music 20 years after their debut. The upward trend for the Crowes started with their 2008 album Warpaint. At that point a good-not-great album with flashes of their past brilliance was enough to awaken excitement in their longtime fans. But with 2009’s Before The Frost/Until The Freeze they made an album that was on par with their best work.

With its easy Americana sound, Before The Frost… reflected a mature, seasoned touring band that was stronger than ever for the presence of guitarist Luther Dickinson. Because of their Southern roots, this band had historically drawn comparison to the Allman Brothers and Lynyrd Skynyrd, but the laid back country flavor they were delving into evoked other vintage groups – The Grateful Dead, circa Workingman’s Dead and The Band.

So good music and some pretty heady comparisons – but even an eternal optimist couldn’t have foreseen their next move. With Croweology, they’ve re-recorded a career-spanning selection of songs, in most cases creating defining versions. But this doesn’t feel like a Greatest Hits-type album as much as re-assessment of their own work. Like much of this album, ‘Remedy’ and ‘Jealous Again’ have less bite and more soul than their original versions. Elsewhere, songs like ‘Under A Mountain’ and ‘Soul Singing’ sound refreshed and very much like hits, even if they went un-noticed on original release. Croweology is reportedly the last album by the band before they go into extended hiatus. A well-deserved rest is in order, but let’s hope this isn’t the last we hear from a band that is finally hitting on all cylinders again.

Groove Armada has also given the world three very worthwhile albums: 1999’s Vertigo, 2001’s Goodbye Country (Hello Nightclub), and 2003’s eternally pleasing Love Box. These albums saw them progress from a big-beat, techno sound, into more nuanced, layered songs that increasingly featured guest vocalists. These albums were some of the best in electronica, and were clear inheritors of the disco sound. And like Disco in the 70s, Groove Armada have set about polishing their music to a pin-drop sheen, while being overpowered by vocalists who are trying too hard to sound important. With Black Light, they’ve effectively become a backing band on their own album.

Croweology reminds me of the regenerative power of rock and roll, and why it has survived so many insurrections through the decades, while Black Light reminds me of why Disco died such a preening, spectacular, flaming death in the late 70s…

Listen: Soul Singing [Black Crowes]

Leonard Skinner (1933-2010)

22 September 2010

How does a former Jacksonville, FL gym teacher and basketball coach end up with his own Wikipedia page, and an obit that runs in the New York Times and becomes one of the top five stories on When the teacher in question was the inspiration for the name of one extremely famous Southern Rock Band, of course. The story has been told many times of how Leonard Skinner, a notorious old-school hardass, busted a bunch of students for wearing long hair in violation of school code. One of those busted, Gary Rossington, went on to form a certain rock band and name it in the coach’s honor. Coach Skinner, who wasn’t initially flattered by that honor, died on Monday at age 77.

Skinner claimed that his tough-guy reputation was overblown: “A lot of teachers and a lot of coaches sent a lot of students – boys and girls – down for violation of the dress code. But lucky me, one of the ones I sent down was in this band…” After 13 years of teaching at Robert E. Lee high school, he left education to go into real estate in 1970. After he let Lynyrd Skynyrd use a photo of one of his real estate signs (complete with phone number) on the inner sleeve of their third album, Nuthin’ Fancy, the phone calls started coming.

“I’m laying in bed,” he remembered, “and it’s four o’clock in the morning, and the business phone rings and I reach over and pick it up and I say ‘Leonard Skinner Realty’. I hear music in the background, and this voice says ‘Uh… who’s speaking?’ And I say ‘Leonard Skinner’ and he said ‘Far out!’ He was calling from California, he was partying – it was one o’clock in California – and that was the first call I got. And there were thousands and thousands of calls after that, from all over the world.”

Skinner grew to accept his connection to the famous Southern Rock band, and even somewhat embraced the role, once introducing them at a Jacksonville concert. Asked about how it felt to be so closely identified with such a notoriously hard-partying band, he replied with a smile that, “It’s made me infamous by proxy.” Skinner claimed to not be much of a music fan, but he had a quick response when asked about his favorite Skynyrd song – ‘Sweet Home Alabama’. Why that tune? “I just like everything about it – I like the rhythm, I like the music, I like the words. It’s just a real neat song.”

According to Rossington, “Coach Skinner had such a profound impact on our youth that ultimately led us to naming the band… after him. Looking back, I cannot imagine it any other way. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this time.” For his part, Skinner finally saw past the long hair and grasped the essential value of Skynyrd: “They were good, talented, hard-working boys. They worked hard, lived hard and boozed hard.”

The 25 Greatest Live Albums Of All-Time

3 July 2010

“A concert is not a live rendition of our album. It’s a theatrical event.” ~ Freddie Mercury


Punch your ticket to 25 of the best live albums of all-time…

25] Yardbirds | Five Live Yardbirds – A young Eric Clapton flashes the skills that would earn him all kinds of silly nicknames, and influence half a generation of guitarists…

Listen: Smokestack Lightning

24] Black Lips | Los Valientes Del Mundo Nuevo – “This is gonna be the greatest live album ever,” yells one of the Lips during this set recorded in Tijuana, Mexico. It’s somewhere closer to the best live album of the ’00s…

Listen: M.I.A.

23] Grateful Dead | Reckoning – Freed from psychedelic pyrotechnics, the Dead shine on this stripped down, pre-Unplugged set…

Listen: Deep Elem Blues

22] Thin Lizzy | Live And Dangerous – Thin Lizzy capped a glorious run of mid-70s albums with this double-live epic…

Listen: Jailbreak

21] Various Artists | Woodstock – A bit of the good, bad and ugly, but Richie Havens, Santana, Jimi Hendrix, Country Joe, Canned Heat and Alvin Lee save the day(s)…

Listen: Soul Sacrifice [Santana]

20] Bob Dylan | Live 1966: The Royal Albert Hall Concert – Dylan’s willful clashes with his audiences in ’66 would be echoed by Johnny Rotten in ’77 and Axl Rose in ’88, but the original punk is still the snarlin’est of them all…

Listen: I Don’t Believe You (She Acts Like We Never Have Met)

19] Eric Clapton | Unplugged – Clapton rejuvenated his career – and gave his fans a new way to hear his songs – with this groundbreaking MTV Unplugged show…

Listen: Layla

18] Talking Heads | The Name Of This Band Is Talking Heads – What do you know, they actually were punks! The first album comes from the years 1977-79, while the second covers 1980-81. Both trump Stop Making Sense

Listen: New Feeling

17] Otis Redding | Live In Europe – Recorded in March 1967, during the Stax/Volt ensemble tour of Europe, this album overflows with the enthusiasm of the audience, and foreshadows Redding’s knockout performance at the Monterey Pop Festival just a few months later…

Listen: (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction

16] Muddy Waters | Live At Newport 1960 – At the 1960 Newport Folk Festival, Muddy Waters wasn’t yet a Rock-and-Roll Hall of Fame inductee or Chicago Blues titan – he was simply a man with a band trying to impress a whole bunch of white people. This soulful yet blistering set did the trick, and sent him on his way to all those accolades…

Listen: I’ve Got My Mojo Working

15] The Rolling Stones | LiveR Than You’ll Ever Be – The original concert bootleg was recorded in Oakland, CA on November 9th, 1969. Highlights include a ferocious version of ‘Midnight Rambler’ that lays bare the psychotic violence at the heart of the song, and a tough-as-nails take on Robert Johnson’s ‘Love In Vain’. This is one of the best documents of the self-proclaimed ‘World’s Greatest Rock & Roll Band’…

Listen: Midnight Rambler

14] Led Zeppelin | How The West Was Won – Taken from a pair of Southern California shows in June of 1972, this is the live showcase that Led Zeppelin always deserved. Jimmy Page considers the group to have been at its artistic peak during this period, and How The West Was Won bears out such an opinion…

Listen: What Is And What Should Never Be

13] Neil Young | Live Rust – Recorded at the Cow Palace on October 22nd, 1978, this double LP is the audio twin to Young’s concert film Rust Never Sleeps. The CD version omits ‘Cortez The Killer’, so stick to LP…

Listen: Sugar Mountain

12] AC/DC | Live From The Atlantic Studios – Originally released as a promo for radio stations, this show was captured on December 7th, 1977 at the Atlantic Recording Studios in New York City. AC/DC was a purring beast by this point, and the sublime aggression of songs like ‘Live Wire’ and ‘High Voltage’ come through loud and clear…

Listen: Live Wire

11] Dzihan & Kamien | Live In Vienna – Aided by a grant from the Austrian government, Vlado dZihan and Mario Kamien threw a very special release party for their 2003 album Gran Riserva. Featuring three percussionists, a horn section, five violins, a viola, a cello, a DJ, bass, guitars, a sampler and keyboards, and a host of exotic middle eastern and african instrumentation, the dZihan & Kamien Orchestra created live electronica like you’ve never heard it before, and likely never will again…

Listen: After

10] Little Feat | Waiting For Columbus – The best concerts are parties, and no band this side of the Dead threw a better party than Little Feat. Filled with pure boogie and swinging grooves, Waiting For Columbus includes definitive versions of ‘Fat Man In The Bathtub’ and ‘Spanish Moon’. Recorded in August of 1977, less than two years before group mastermind Lowell George suffered a fatal heart attack, this album remains a fan favorite…

Listen: Spanish Moon

9] Lynyrd Skynyrd | One More From The Road – The plane crash that killed most of Lynyrd Skynyrd remains the largest scale tragedy in the history of rock, and not just because of the body count. When that plane went down on October 20th, 1977 it took one of the best live acts of the ’70s. Ronnie Van Zandt was a good old-fashioned ass-kicking frontman, and his moxy is on full display throughout One More From The Road. Recorded July 7th-9th, 1976, this one’s a keepsake…

Listen: Call Me the Breeze

8] Ramones | It’s Alive – The Ramones were straight ahead, no bullshit rawk-an-rowl. No “We love you Cleveland!” or “There’s a story behind this next number…“, they just blasted away. Recorded at the Rainbow Theatre in London on New Year’s Eve 1977/78, It’s Alive features 28 songs in 54 minutes – you do the math. Better yet, just sit back and get blasted…

Listen: Blitzkrieg Bop

7] Nirvana | MTV Unplugged In New York – Recorded just months before Kurt Cobain’s death, this album functions as a roadmap of Nirvana’s influences. The covers included here shed light on several of the band’s musical relatives; from Leadbelly to David Bowie to Meat Puppets to the Vaselines, one can connect the dots among a number of influences that might not otherwise have been readily apparent. By all reports, Cobain was seriously addicted to heroin and in poor health during the weeks leading up the Unplugged date in November of 1993, and alienated his bandmates to the point that Dave Grohl offered to quit the group during rehearsals. [read full review]

Listen: Where Did You Sleep Last Night

6] The Band | The Last Waltz – Scorsese. The Band. Guest stars aplenty – Dylan, Neil, Van, Muddy, Joni, etc. Critics have quibbled over some of the performances captured here, but The Last Waltz is still the classiest goodbye from any band of the rock era. Rather than ending in death, insanity, internal strife or commercial failure, The Band threw a party. And you’re invited…

Listen: It Makes No Difference

5] Jimi Hendrix | Live At Winterland – Hendrix may have lit his guitar on fire at Monterey, but he burns down Winterland on the shows captured here. ‘Killing Floor’, ‘Fire’ and ‘Crosstown Traffic’ find their ultimate expression in these live versions, and the album is topped off with an epic, note-perfect reading of ‘Red House’. Live At Winterland is not only a fine place to wade into the guitar legend of Jimi Hendrix, but ultimate proof that he was a man apart on his instrument…

Listen: Red House

4] Jerry Lee Lewis | Live At The Star Club, Hamburg – The Star Club in Hamburg, Germany is the cabaret where The Beatles perfected their live act before conquering America and the world. It’s hard to say whether that connection played into the fire that Jerry Lee Lewis played with on this particular evening, but from the word go he assaults his piano with a beautiful fury that is breathtaking to behold. His backing band, The Nashville Teens, were clearly in over their heads, and spend the entirety of this show holding on for dear life and trying to keep up with The Killer (“Play that thing right boy!” Jerry Lee yells at one Teen during a cover of Ray Charles’ ‘What’d I Say’). From the first notes of ‘Mean Woman Blues’, this is a nasty, snarling, unhinged performance that presages the nihilism of punk rock. “Jerry, Jerry…” he chants along with the crowd at one point, before cutting them off with an acidic “Alright already!”. Johnny Rotten, your grandpa is on line one… [read full review]

Listen: Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On

3] James Brown | Live At The Apollo – Recorded on October 24th, 1962, Live At The Apollo was more than just a financial gamble. Live albums were unusual at that time, and this particular album was recorded before The Apollo Theatre’s famously fickle and unruly Amateur Night crowd. The audience was well-mic’d, and their squeals, screams, and gasps of delight are no small part of what makes this such an amazing document. JB’s sizzle comes blasting through the stylus, and at times he toys with the crowd, cajoling them to give it up before unleashing his own orgasmic yelps of joy. Regarding his stage presence, Brown explained that “Sometimes I feel like I’m a preacher as well [as a singer], ’cause I can really get into an audience.” [read full review]

Listen: Lost Someone

2] The Allman Brothers Band | At Fillmore East – This LP finds Duane Allman at a short-lived peak – he would die in a motorcycle accident in Macon, GA just a few months after the release of At Fillmore East, and a few weeks shy of his 25th birthday. His epic soloing on ‘Whipping Post’ and ‘In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed’ reflects Coltrane’s ‘sheets of sound’ approach to playing, and stands as some of the most outstanding guitar work of the rock era. ‘Whipping Post’ goes for 22:40 and sees Duane build up an amazing piece of musical architecture, before tearing it down piece by piece. It ends the album with a few bars of the intro to ‘Mountain Jam’ – which itself would occupy two entire sides of the double album Eat A Peach. Even if he’d lived to be a hundred, it’s hard to see how Duane Allman could have topped his work here. [read full review]

Listen: In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed

1] Johnny Cash | At Folsom Prison – Johnny Cash was one of the most charismatic performers to ever set foot on stage – put him in front of a delirious and potentially dangerous audience on one of his best days, and you’ve got a recording for the ages. If you want to hear how thrilling live music can be, and find out what happens when a legendary performer is driven ever higher, until he reaches something close to the zeitgeist, pick up a copy of At Folsom Prison. [read full review]

Listen: Folsom Prison Blues


25 More That Are Worth A Spin…

Curtis Mayfield | Curtis/Live!
Tom Waits | Nighthawks At The Diner
Van Morrison | It’s Too Late To Stop Now
Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers | Live Anthology
Various Artists | Wattstax
The Clash | From Here To Eternity
MC5 | Thunder Express
Jay-Z | Unplugged
Duke Ellington | Ellington At Newport
The Kinks | BBC Sessions 1964-1977
Bob Marley & The Wailers | Live
J. Geils Band | Full House
Charles Mingus | Mingus At Antibes
Fred Neil | The Sky Is Falling
KISS | Kiss Alive II
The Byrds | Live At Royal Albert Hall 1971
The Stooges | Live In L.A. ’73
Elvis Presley | ’68 Comeback Special
Jeff Buckley | Live @ Sine-E
Ozzy Osbourne | Tribute
Velvet Underground | The Quine Tapes
The Jam | At The BBC
Miles Davis | Live Evil
Stevie Ray Vaughan | Blues At Sunrise
The Steve Miller Band | King Biscuit Flower Hour Presents…


And 6 More That Should Come With Earplugs

Elvis Presley | Having Fun On Stage With Elvis
Bob Dylan | Live At Budokan
Led Zeppelin | The Song Remains The Same
The Beatles | Live At The Hollywood Bowl
Jimi Hendrix | Isle Of Wight
The Doors | Absolutely Live

Weekend Playlist

12 April 2010

“Above all else he was an entertainer and I will miss him, and so should you.” ~ John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten) on the passing of Malcolm McLaren

Nat Adderley | Work Song

Xavier Cugat And His Orchestra | Waltzes… But By Cugat!

Lynyrd Skynyrd | (Pronounced Leh-nerd Skin-nerd)

The Byrds | Live At Royal Albert Hall 1971

Love | Forever Changes

Hector Lavoe | Revento

Richie Havens | 1983

Hubert Sumlin | Hubert Sumlin’s Blues Party

Tom Waits | Swordfishtrombones

Sex Pistols | Spunk

Little Feat | Feats Don’t Fail Me Now

Bob Dylan & The Band | Before The Flood

The Band | Northern Lights – Southern Cross

Various Artists | Verve Remixed 2

The Doors | Waiting For The Sun

Los Lobos | Kiko

Led Zeppelin | Led Zeppelin II

Albert King | Live Wire/Blues Power

B.B. King | Live In Cook County Jail

Joe Turner | The Boss Of The Blues

Furry Lewis | Shake ‘Em On Down

Weekend Playlist

7 December 2009

“Do not let any record company disturb your creative flow. You are not writing for the record company. You’re writing for the public.” ~ Grandmaster Flash

Ambulance LTD | Ambulance LTD

Erma Franklin | Super Soul Sister

Lightnin’ Hopkins | Best Blues Masters Vol. 1
[album cover not pictured]

Girl Talk | Night Ripper

Lynyrd Skynyrd | Winterland – San Francisco, CA – 3/7/76
[album cover not pictured]

The Outsiders | CQ

Slint | Spiderland

HKB Finn | Vitalistics

The Smoke | It’s Smoke Time

Reigning Sound | Too Much Guitar

Ghostface Killah | Supreme Clientele

Cafe Tacvba | Cafe Tacvba

Curtis Mayfield | Curtis/Live!

Various Artists | Mile Marker 383

Lee Hazlewood | Requiem For An Almost Lady

Jeff Tweedy | Chicago, IL – 10/21/99
[album cover not pictured]

G. Love & Special Sauce | The Best Of

Rodney O. & Joe Cooley | Everlasting Hits
[album cover not pictured]

U2 | Melon

Funky 4+1 | That’s The Joint

Grandmaster Flash | The Official Adventures Of Grandmaster Flash

Masterpiece: Street Survivors

7 September 2009

[Today: Lynyrd Skynyrd go down in flames…]

Like Old Glory flapping in the breeze, Lynyrd Skynyrd were defiantly and unapologetically Southern. Along with The Allman Brothers, Skynyrd (named after Leonard Skinner, a hardass gym teacher from their high school) became the foremost practitioners of Southern Rock, which in their hands meant songs about boozing, chasing women, and kicking ass. But Skynyrd’s triple guitar attack and frontman Ronnie Van Zandt’s macho charisma ensured that they transcended stereotypes and genres. Van Zandt was a genuine badass who wasn’t afraid of using his fists to make a point – in 1975 alone he was arrested for fighting nine times – and that hard edge comes through in every one of the group’s songs.

On October 20th, 1977, on their way to a show in Baton Rouge, LA, the group’s ancient charter plane blew its right engine, which caused a panicked co-pilot to jettison the plane’s fuel just before the left engine also went out. When the plane crashed into the wooded swamps outside McComb, MS, three members of the group – Van Zandt, guitarist Steve Gaines, and backup singer Cassie Gaines – were killed on impact. In a 1997 Mojo article on the crash, journalist Jaan Uhelszki describes the aftermath:

Since the helicopters couldn’t get in, it was left to the local farmers who got to the scene to rescue those still clinging to life, carrying them out of the mud, one by one. But help wasn’t all that arrived. While police and medics bulldozed a makeshift road through the woods, human vultures had already reached the crash site. Rather than offering assistance, these backwoods scavengers began rummaging through the pockets and possessions of the dead and survivors alike, rooting in the wreckage for whatever valuables they could make off with. Especially prized was anything bearing the name of the famous rock band the chartered aircraft was carrying. Some say that during that long night, as many as 3,000 people came to the crash site. By the next morning the carcass had been picked clean.

Released just a few days before the crash, Street Survivors features an eery cover photo of the band engulfed in superimposed flames. Like much of Skynyrd’s output, the album chronicles the life of a rock-n-roller. ‘What’s Your Name’ (groupies), ‘That Smell’ (drugs), and ‘Honkey Tonk Night Time Man’ (self-explanatory) chart the day-in, day-out drudgery, hassle, and excitement of life on the road. Skynyrd’s genius was translating the details of touring into muscular rock classics. Their songs still pack a wallop, and in spite of the fact that surviving members of the band still tour under the name, they are missed.

Listen: That Smell

Listen: You Got That Right

Listen: What’s Your Name

A Dozen Pieces Of Sound Advice

12 February 2009

When it comes to words of wisdom, musicians are generally full of shit. Most are too busy rhyming ‘moon’ with ‘June’, spouting third-rate philosophy (think Sting) or pontificating on matters beyond their realm (think Bono) to offer much in the way of sound advice that a body can live with. But the dearth of deep thoughts in rock only makes the genuine pearls of wisdom shine that much brighter. Here are a dozen of my favorites…

Bob Dylan | Bringing It All Back Home
The artist: Bob Dylan

The song: ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’ (from the album Bringing It All Back Home)

The advice: You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.

What makes it good: In typically cryptic fashion, Dylan speaks to the value of thinking for yourself, and puts a cool hippie twist on Mom’s old favorite: If All Your Friends Jumped Off A Cliff, Would You?

Listen: Subterranean Homesick Blues

The Fabulous Johnny Cash
The artist: Johnny Cash

The song: ‘Don’t Take Your Guns To Town’ (from the album The Fabulous Johnny Cash)

The advice: Don’t take your guns to town.

What makes it good: As Plaxico Burress can tell you, these are words to abide by…

Listen: Don’t Take Your Guns To Town

Woody Guthrie | Dust Bowl Ballads
The artist: Woody Guthrie

The song: ‘Pretty Boy Floyd’ (from the album Dust Bowl Ballads)

The advice: Some will rob you with a six gun, and some with a fountain pen.

What makes it good: Leave it to a man from The Great Depression to sum up the current economic mess. Bank bailout anyone??

Listen: Pretty Boy Floyd

Supertramp | Breakfast In America
The artist: Supertramp

The song: ‘Take The Long Way Home’ (from the album Breakfast In America)

The advice: Take the long way home.

What makes it good: Modern life often feels like a race – it never hurts to slow things down and look around some.

Listen: Take The Long Way Home

Lynyrd Skynyrd | Pronounced Leh-Nerd Skin-Nerd
The artist: Lynyrd Skynyrd

The song: ‘Simple Man’ (from the album Pronounced Leh-Nerd Skin-Nerd)

The advice: Take your time, don’t live to fast. Troubles will come, and they will pass.

What makes it good: Those words speak for themselves…

Listen: Simple Man [Live]

Funkadelic | America Eats Its Young
The artist: Funkadelic

The song: ‘If You Don’t Like The Effects, Don’t Produce The Cause’ (from the album America Eats Its Young)

The advice: If you don’t like the effects, don’t produce the cause.

What makes it good: George Clinton shares a simple formula for happiness.

Listen: If You Don’t Like The Effects, Don’t Produce The Cause

The Clash | Combat Rock
The artist: The Clash

The song: ‘Know Your Rights’ (from the album Combat Rock)

The advice: Know your rights.

What makes it good: A well-informed citizen is a good citizen.

Listen: Know Your Rights

Beatles - Revolver
The artist: The Beatles

The song: ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ (from the album Revolver)

The advice: Turn off your mind, relax and float downstream.

What makes it good: Stress kills…

Listen: Tomorrow Never Knows

Jim Croce | Photographs & Memories
The artist: Jim Croce

The song: ‘You Don’t Mess Around With Jim’ (from the album Photographs & Memories: Jim Croce’s Greatest Hits)

The advice: Don’t spit into the wind.

What makes it good: Beyond the literal interpretation, this is a good reminder to pick your battles wisely.

Listen: You Don’t Mess Around With Jim

The Rolling Stones | Let It Bleed
The artist: The Rolling Stones

The song: ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’ (from the album Let It Bleed)

The advice: You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find you get what you need.

What makes it good: Might as well get used to little defeats – life is full of ’em.

Listen: You Can’t Always Get What You Want

John Phillips | John, The Wolfking Of L.A.
The artist: John Phillips

The song: ‘Holland Tunnel’ (from the album John The Wolfking Of L.A.)

The advice: Hock your watch and ring, ’cause it don’t mean a thing.

What makes it good: Shiny trinkets are not what happiness is made of…

Listen: Holland Tunnel

Music From Under The Cherry Moon
The artist: Prince

The song: ‘Kiss’ (from the album Parade: Music From Under The Cherry Moon)

The advice: You don’t have to watch Dynasty to have an attitude.

What makes it good: An open invitation to work that sass…

Buried Treasure: Anyway The Wind Blows

15 January 2009

[Today: J.J. Cale bypasses the music biz…]

The Anthology

J.J. Cale is best known as the writer of ‘Cocaine’ and ‘After Midnight’ (both popularized by Eric Clapton) and ‘Call Me The Breeze’ and ‘I Got The Same Old Blues’ (both popularized by Lynyrd Skynyrd). It’s no accident that he’s been overshadowed (though exceedingly well-compensated) by those covers of his songs, because he’s spent his 35 year career assiduously avoiding the spotlight. “Americans are the ultimate consumers,” he told Rolling Stone in 1979. “They eat their own art, especially popular music. They suck everything they can out of one guy, then say ‘Next.’ If you want to stay in the business you got to find a way to bypass all that.”

To that end, he’s released solid but unspectacular albums with vanilla titles (Naturally, Really, 5, etc), each with two or three killer tunes – making Anyway The Wind Blows a must-have. This anthology compiles 50 tracks over two CDs, including all the highlights and hidden gems from his studio albums. The music here is the very definition of laid back – each of these tunes, even the faster ones, shuffle along and don’t seem to be in any hurry to get where they’re going. Cale also enhances his lazy sound (a huge influence on Clapton’s 70’s vocal style, by the way) by mixing his vocals way down in the tracks, so that at times he’s almost submerged under the music.

In his minimal contact with the press, Cale likes to pass himself off as a plainspoken Okie from Tulsa, but he’s smart enough to avoid the machinery of the music industry while living off his songwriting royalties, and saavy enough to self-produce his albums in his own studio, whenever it strikes his fancy. The music on Anyway The Wind Blows is post-Country and pre-Americana, and provides ample evidence of his considerable songwriting skill.

Listen: After Midnight

Listen: Call Me The Breeze

Listen: Crazy Mama

Doubleshot Tuesday: The Sting Soundtrack/ Second Helping

25 November 2008

[Today: Ghosts of Thanksgivings past…]

The Sting | Soundtrack
Lynyrd Skynyrd | Second Helping

Every year without fail when I was a kid, The Sting was on television on Thanksgiving Day. Don’t ask me why – I don’t remember the movie having any kind of holiday theme, or even being particularly evocative of the holiday spirit. But there it was on the tube, every year like clockwork. At some point along the way, it became a fond reminder of the holiday, and if I caught a snippet of it on TV I’d find myself transported to Piedmont St and the Thanksgivings of my youth. We didn’t have much money, but we were blessed with a large extended family full of people who liked to get together and celebrate. Plenty of those Thanksgiving evenings ended with our Uncles engaged in spirited, ramshackle jam sessions on whatever instruments could be unearthed. Of course, as a “kid” I was off wrestling or playing video games with my cousins, or sneaking sips of champagne when nobody was looking. Good old times…

The mid-1990’s found me freshly graduated from college and living on Nob Hill in San Francisco. I didn’t go home for Thanksgiving (December was and is my time for holiday traveling), and many years neither did my roommates. Pretty soon we were hosting Thanksgiving dinners for any and all friends (and friends-of-friends) who stayed in the Bay Area for the holiday. These grew into festive 12-20 person gatherings that always featured turkey and the trimmings, fine wine, football on the tube, a funny cigarette or ten, and plenty of good music. The albums usually flew fast and furious, but Second Helping is the LP that most reminds of those holidays, quite possibly because of its too appropriate name. It’s pretty amazing to have a day when you can get together with friends – and even some people you don’t know – and it feels exactly like family.

Listen: The Entertainer [Marvin Hamlisch]

Listen: The Ballad Of Curtis Loew [Lynyrd Skynyrd]

The 20 Greatest Bootlegs† Of All-Time

9 September 2007

†[’Bootleg’ is defined here as a previously unreleased work, such as a concert or a collection of demo recordings. A ‘pirated’ recording is an illegal copy of a copyrighted work. In other words, ‘bootleg’ good, ‘pirate’ bad.]


“Taste cannot be controlled by law.” – Thomas Jefferson


The term ‘bootlegging’ orignally referred to moonshine whiskey that was made and sold during prohibition, but the act of copying the artistic works of others goes back to Shakespearean times. In fact, if it weren’t for actors smuggling scripts, and audience members transcribing lines (the renaissance equivalent of wearing a mic into a concert) many of Shakespeare’s plays wouldn’t have survived to modern times.

In 1966 some enterprising souls marketed a set of alternate recordings by Bob Dylan under the title Great White Wonder. These records marked the first rock bootlegs (live opera, classical, jazz and folk had been recorded for years) and started a sensation that persists to this day.

Clinton Heylin’s excellent book Bootleg: The Secret History Of The Other Recording Industry is a must read for anyone with even a shred of interest in the topic. Bootleg weaves a spellbinding narrative around the renegades, music-lovers and money-grubbers who have perpetuated this black market industry.

Heylin’s book was written in 1994, so it ends before the advent of affordable recordable CDs, Napster, mp3s, and RIAA lawsuits against downloaders of music. These developments have made bootlegs much more readily accessible to the lay listener. Indeed, many savvy musicians now set up websites that allow their fans to download shows and demos – often at a price.

While some in the music industry claim that bootleg recordings eat into artist profits, in almost every case someone downloading a show will spend – or has spent – money buying the studio albums of the artist in question. Indeed, as bootlegs have become more readily available, it’s easier than ever to see that only the die-hard fans are interested in most of the marginalia floating around.

But for those with an insatiable desire for music, these below the board recordings are something of a Rosetta stone, used to try to unlock the hidden secrets of their favorite bands. Live music being what it is, you never know when a magic moment might occur. Thankfully, there’s usually somebody in the audience hiding a mic, and capturing this fleeting magic for the rest of us.


Lou Reed | American Poet

Lou Reed * 12/26/72 Ultrasonic Studios, Hempstead NY
(aka American Poet or Despite All The Amputations or Streets Of Berlin)

This is the show that every Lou Reed fan would love to see. It’s got minimal attitude, lots of great songs (including a generous smattering of hits) and FM quality sound.

Also check out: 6/22/03 The Warfield, San Francisco CA

Neil Young | Chrome Dreams

Neil Young * Chrome Dreams

This would-be 1976 release contains alternate takes of songs that would appear on American Stars and Bars, Comes A Time, Rust Never Sleeps, and Hawks & Doves.

Also check out: 5/16/74 Bottom Line, NYC & 11/15/76 Auditorium Theater, Chicago IL

The Rolling Stones | LiveR Than You'll Ever Be

The Rolling Stones * Live R Than You’ll Ever Be (11/9/69 Oakland Coliseum, Oakland, CA)

The first concert bootleg album – many still consider it to be the definitive live document of the Stones experience.

Also check out: The Alternate Exile On Main St. (aka Arcives Pathfinder) & The Trident Olympic Sessions, Volumes 1 & 2

Van Halen | Zero
Van Halen * Zero

The demos for Van Halen’s first album prove that the group was fully formed and ready to rip on their very moment of arrival. KISS’ Gene Simmons put the money up for these sessions, and he must have been very pleased with what he heard.

Also check out: 5/29/83 US Festival, Devore CA

Lynyrd Skynyrd | The Unreleased KBFH Show

Lynyrd Skynyrd * 11/4/75 Capitol Theater, Cardiff Wales (aka The Unreleased KBFH Show)

One of the best live groups of the 70’s swashbuckle their way through a great set. A ferociously focused band and sparkling sound quality make this the ultimate Skynyrd experience. Ronnie Van Zandt is pure badass, of course.

Also check out: 3/7/76 Winterland, San Francisco CA

Bob Dylan | Ten Of Swords [Box Set]

Bob Dylan * Ten Of Swords (Box Set)

Beautifully packaged box set of rarities was issued a few months before Dylan’s own Biograph box; many critics felt this was the better release.

Also check out: The Genuine Basement Tapes

Traffic | Fillmore East 11/18/70

Traffic * 11/18/70 Fillmore East, NYC

Bill Graham intones, “In association with her majesty the queen, we bring you Traffic” someone titters, and you’re off. The sound just jumps out of the speakers, making this a perfect timepiece from the Fillmore East.

Also check out: 1/23/70 Anderson Theater, NYC (aka Woodwind)

Grateful Dead | Barton Hall, Cornell University 5/8/77

Grateful Dead * 5/8/77 Barton Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca NY

The, er, users on Deadbase rate this the greatest Dead show of all-time, and they know of what they speak. Versions are in circulation with Donna Godchaux’ voice digitally removed, but with or without her, it’s a fantastic show.

Also check out: 9/15/78 Gizah Sound & Light Theater, Cairo Egypt & San Diego, CA 11/14/73

The Beatles | The White Album Demos

The Beatles * 5/68 George Harrison’s Home, Esher England (aka The White Album Demos)

Listen in as the Fab Four take a dry run through the songs that would comprise the White Album – plus a few that didn’t make the cut. Below average sound quality, but well worth the trouble.

Also check out: The Alternate Revolver & 8/29/66 Candlestick Park, San Francisco CA

Pink Floyd | Total Eclipse [Box Set]

Pink Floyd * Total Eclipse (Box Set)

A comprehensive collection of rarities from 1967 to 1990 spread over 4 discs and lovingly packaged like a real box set, complete with liner notes. The 8-Track version of ‘Pigs On The Wing’ should have been mastered from a better source, but otherwise, this deserves an A+ for breadth alone.

Also check out: Brain Damage & 9/30/71 Paris Cinema, London (aka Meddler)

Hendrix - photo

Jimi Hendrix * 2/24/69 Royal Albert Hall, London

While most Hendrix boots are of questionable sound quality, this Royal Alert Hall show is crystal clear, and (of course) a virtuoso heavy guitar performance by the master himself.

Also check out: Acoustic Jams

Ramones | On The Road To Ruin

Ramones * On The Road To Ruin

The hardest working band in punk was fairly new to the road when these nuggets were plucked from the soundboard. Take a band that gave their all every night, factor in youthful energy, and then take the best of the best of that, and you’ve got this stone classic.

Also check out: X * 7/23/82 Clutch Cargo, Detroit MI

Hank Williams | Live At The Grand Ole Opry

Hank Williams * 1949 Grand Old Opry, Nashville TN

The best sound recordings have the power to literally whisk you back in time. This is one of my personal favorite episodes of this phenomenon. Pull up your 200lb radio and listen to Hank Sr. crank up the hits and change the face of modern music.

Also check out: Johnny Cash * Unreleased Acoustic Demos

Jimmy Page & Robert Plant [1974]

Led Zeppelin * 2/12/75 Madison Square Garden, NYC (aka Flying Circus)

Even better than the 1972 shows that made up How The West Was Won, 2/12/75 features Robert Plant in a great mood (and voice), the usual bevy of hot licks, and crystal clear sound quality.

Also check out: The Alternate Physical Graffiti (aka Brutal Artistry)

Sex Pistols | Never Mind The Filthy Lucre...

Sex Pistols * Never Mind The Filthy Lucre… Here’s The Sex Pistols

Filthy Lucre… interweaves songs from the Pistols’ last show ever (from Winterland) with hilarious snippets of a SF radio call in show featuring the band fielding calls from haters, groupies, loonies, and one guy who simply asks “What makes you guys so great?” Essential listening for any fan of punk.

Also check out: The Clash * I Fought The Law (aka 1/3/79 London Lyceum)

mmj - photo

My Morning Jacket * 5/28/04 Opera House, Toronto ONT

Of the nearly 100 MMJ shows available on (if you love live music and don’t know about this site, do yourself a favor…) this takes the cake. A greatest hits-like set list, and above average sound do justice to a sizzling live band.

Also check out: Allman Brothers * 8/26/71 WPLJ-FM NYC

The Kleptones | A Night At The Hip Hopera

The Kleptones * A Night At The Hip-Hopera

This quantum level mash-up features hip hop’s best of backed by tasty power riffs courtesy of Queen. Spoken word segments from sources as far out as Dan Rather and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off add to the sense of joy ride.

Also check out: 24 Hours


KZEW (Dallas, TX) | Production Masters 1975

KZEW (Dallas, TX) Concert Promos * 1974-1979

A collection of 70’s concert promotion ads for Dallas/Ft. Worth radio station KZEW, these hilarious time capsules of rock hype are ready-made comic relief for your iPod or CD changer. The Alan Parsons Project and Aerosmith spots are particularly side splitting.

Also check out: There’s nothing quite like this one…

Calexico - photo

Calexico * 4/25/03 China Theater, Stockholm

Another steller outing from the Southwest’s finest. Calexico burn through a greatest hits-like set on a tape that is soundboard quality. This show also features a wide spectrum of guests and instrumentation to match the group’s cinematic vision.

Also check out: Michelle Shocked * 8/31/02 Strawberry Music Festival, Yosemite CA

White Stripes - photo

White Stripes * 3/1/01 Silver Lake, CA

There are plenty of really great Stripes shows out there, but this blistering set from 2001 gets the nod on set list alone. From ‘Dead Leaves & The Dirty Ground’ to ‘Jolene’, this is a fine representation of one the best live bands around.

Also check out: “Mississippi” John Hurt * 1955 Youngstown, OH


20 more on the RIAA’s hit list…

Jeff Tweedy * 10/21/99 Chicago, IL
Bob Marley * 12/79 Santa Cruz, CA
AC/DC * 11/2/79 Hammersmith Odeon, London
Stevie Wonder * 7/4/73 Brighton, UK
Miles Davis * 11/6/67 Salle Pleyal, Paris
Beastie Boys * 5/22/92 Seabright, NJ
Radio Birdman * 11/30/77 Geelong, AU
Van Morrison * The Inner Mystic
Kings Of Convenience * 10/16/04
Bob Dylan & Johnny Cash * CBS Sessions – Nashville
Nirvana * 3/87 Raymond, WA
Eric Clapton * 6/6/04 Dallas, TX
The Yardbirds * More Golden Eggs
Iggy Pop * 8/20/88 The Ritz, NYC
Flying Burrito Brothers * 3/3/69 Avalon Ballroom SF
Elvis Presley * Elvis’ Greatest Shit
Steve Earle * 3/30/02 Byron Bay, AU
M. Ward * 9/22/06 Denton, TX
David Bowie * 10/20/72 Santa Monica, CA
Ween * 8/18/00 Bizarre Festival


General releases packaged to look like bootlegs…

The Who * Live At Leeds

The Beatles * White Album

Aerosmith * Live Bootleg

Joy Division * Still

Pearl Jam * Live Releases (’00 series)

Sublime * Acoustic: Bradley Nowell & Friends

Led Zeppelin * In Through The Out Door

Pink Floyd * Wish You Were Here

Neil Young * Living With War


Bootlegs that became legit releases…

Bob Dylan & The Band * The Basement Tapes
The Beatles * Live At The Hollywood Bowl
Sex Pistols * No Future
New York Dolls * Seven Day Weekend
Frank Zappa * Beat The Boots Series
Elvis Presley * The Sun Sessions
Iggy & The Stooges * Metallic KO
Bob Marley & The Wailers * At The Roxy
The last disc of every box set in existence


Inspired by boots…

Beatles * Anthology I, II, & III
King Biscuit Flower Hour
Bob Dylan * Bootleg Series
Grateful Dead * Dick’s Picks Series
The last disc of every box set in existence