Posts Tagged ‘The Who’

Masterpiece: Rushmore

13 January 2011

[Today: A much richer soundtrack...]

At their core, soundtracks are really just big budget mix tapes, designed to set a mood. In my opinion, the very best among them is Rushmore, an album that checks every box on the soundtrack wish list: its whole is much greater than the sum of its parts, it blends together seamlessly, and (most critically) it’s full of great songs you either hadn’t heard or hadn’t paid much attention to before. Assembled by director Wes Anderson and Devo founder Mark Mothersbaugh, Rushmore is a 56-minute master class on how to put together a killer mix tape.

The movie Rushmore is about a teenager named Max who has more smarts than common sense, and his interactions with the hyper-interesting people around him. The opening credits – a montage of the various high school clubs Max belongs to, including the Beekeeper’s Club – cracked me up because I helped found Springfield High’s first (and only) Peace Club. Like Max, I was a smart-alecky, love sick kid who didn’t have the slightest idea where he was going in life.

This soundtrack sets that mood perfectly, with a collection of British Invasion bands like The Kinks, The Who, and The Faces, along with forgotten gems by the likes of The Creation, Chad & Jeremy, Unit 4+2 and Cat Stevens, as well as offbeat additions by French chanteur Yves Montand and jazz saxophonist Zoot Sims. The whole thing is stitched together by short, upbeat yet baroque instrumentals created by Mothersbaugh on glockenspiel.

Wes Anderson originally envisioned the soundtrack as nothing but Kinks’ songs before coming around to the eclectic selections that eventually informed this album. That was a very good decision. When asked about working with Anderson, Mothersbaugh replied that “He makes great choices. He’s really into music. He’s interested in B-sides, things besides the hits. It makes for a much richer soundtrack than if you just make a deal with the record company about what they will give you.”

Rushmore is the opposite of a big-budget, paint-by-numbers Hollywood soundtrack. Anderson and Mothersbaugh’s soundtrack feels like it was built by hand, with loving care, from a great record collection. It’s an outstanding musical journey through the minefield of adolescence, and it gets my vote for the best soundtrack of all-time…

Listen: Concrete & Clay [Unit 4+2]

Listen: Here Comes My Baby [Cat Stevens]

Listen: Ooh La La [The Faces]

*****

Further reading: The 20 Greatest Soundtracks Of All-Time

Sleeve Notes: Who Are You

25 July 2010

The chair was flipped around to hide his paunch, but the message – NOT TO BE TAKEN AWAY – couldn’t have been any more prophetic. Keith Moon would be dead within three weeks of the August 1978 release of this album, his life a monument to excess. He popped the most pills, drank the best brandy, told the funniest jokes, pulled off the biggest pranks, trashed the most hotel rooms, and played drums like a manic, grinning octopus. I’m not a big Who fan, but even I get chills from Moon’s drum fills and rolls. He recreated the sea on Quadrophenia, blistered the kit on Who’s Next, and punctuated Tommy. The music and the legend, those can’t be taken away…

On The Fence: Live At Leeds

30 June 2010

The Who’s 1970 concert album Live At Leeds has a lot of admirers and generally ranks pretty high on any best-of lists relating to live albums – a plaque outside the University Refectory at Leeds where the group played this show refers to it as “the most celebrated live album of its generation.” That may well be, but to my ears, this is a good-not-great record that has moments both sublime and snoozy. Which makes it a perfect candidate for a spot on the fence…

THUMBS UP: I’ve never been a huge Who fan, but even I recognize that Pete Townshend is a wicked guitarist and Keith Moon was one of the best drummers to beat the sticks. While neither are in top form throughout this set, ‘My Generation’ in particular benefits from the 14-minute live treatment presented here, and I applaud the overhaul they give the ‘Magic Bus’. The Who justified their reputation as one of the most exciting live acts of their day, and this album offers a few jolts of the energy they brought in concert. Several factors (noted below) make it something less than the greatest live album of all-time, but given the right set of expectations, this is an enjoyable document of a top-notch rock group very near their peak…

THUMBS DOWN: The LP release of Live At Leeds is such a vastly edited version of the true show it came from (represented on the two-disc Deluxe Edition of the album) that it really only hints at the ebb and flow of a real Who show. Their take of Eddie Cochran’s ‘Summertime Blues’ is wildly beloved, but it falters in places and feels sludgy in the extreme, while Johnny Kidd and The Pirates’ ‘Shake It All Over’ just gets mauled. And while Townshend and Moon generally deserve their props, lead singer Roger Daltry has only two gears and neither are exceptional. This is by no means a bad album, but for the quote-unquote greatest concert album of all-time, I expect more than a mixed bag of six songs. Call me crazy…

Album info:

Release date
16 May 1970

Producers
Jon Astley, Kit Lambert and The Who

Label
Decca Records

Side One
Young Man Blues
Substitute
Summertime Blues
Shakin’ All Over

Side Two
My Generation
Magic Bus

[Ear plugs or standing O - what's your take??]

Buried Treasure: Mose Allison Sings

8 April 2010

[Today: The real deal...]

Mose Allison has spent a long career in the shadows of the bridge that connects Jazz and the Blues. Not fully either, but a whole lot of both, he plays piano and sings in a distinctly jazzy style, but his music is built from the raw materials of the blues. His songs include prison sentences, tragic love, country shacks and mystical signifiers, but they’re always leavened with a wry, detached delivery. Because he’s a white man singing the Blues, Allison has often been suspected of musical tourism – one interviewer actually accused him of stealing the blues, an encounter that inspired his 1990 song ‘Ever Since I Stole The Blues’.

Born in 1927 on his grandfather’s farm near the small town of Tippo in the Mississippi Delta, Allison grew up absorbing the music of blues artists like Memphis Minnie, Tampa Red and Lightning Hopkins, as well as jazz pianists Nat King Cole, Fats Waller and Earl Hines. Regardless of his credentials, he has created a singular style that hasn’t changed much through the decades. “You have to suffer a little to do anything well,” he told the Phoenix New Times in 1992. “It doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with singing the blues. If blues had to do with suffering, believe me, we’d have a lot more blues singers.”

On his 1963 album Mose Allison Sings, he covers a wide variety of artists (including Jimmy Rogers, Willie Dixon and Duke Ellington), but every song is tailored so well to his style that each feels like an original. The few true originals here are keepers, including ‘Parchman Farm’ and ‘Young Man’, which was later covered by The Who as ‘Young Man Blues’ on Live At Leeds. But Allison’s influence extends well beyond The ‘Oo – The Rolling Stones, Van Morrison, J.J. Cale, Tom Waits, The Clash and Frank Black are just a few of the artists that have been swayed by his style. Black has even claimed that the Pixies’ song ‘Allison’ is about Mose. He’s frequently been cited as a primary influence on the blues-based British Invasion artists of the late-60s, and he’s still going strong – after a 12-year recording hiatus, he just released his 27th studio album, The Way Of The World.

Listen: Lost Mind

Listen: Parchman Farm

Listen: The Seventh Son

Super Bowl Winners & Losers

8 February 2010

Once again, the Super Bowl was an exciting game that provided us with heroes (Drew Brees, Tracy Porter, Sean Payton) and goats (Peyton Manning, Pierre Garçon, Hank Baskett). And just like the action on the field, the commercials (and pre-game and halftime entertainment) gave us some obvious winners and losers. Here’s how I scored it at home:

WINNERS

Jay-Z – I’ve never been a big fan of the Jigga Man, but pairing him with Rihanna, a full orchestra, and action clips from the Saints’ and Colts’ season-long drive to the Super Bowl (favorite quote: a Colts defensive player screaming in the huddle “ALLS I WANT IS EVERYTHING YOU GOT!!!”) was an appropriately adrenaline-pumping way to kick things off.

Queen Latifah – I’ve heard and read speculation that she was singing with a backing track (more on this phenomenon in a bit), but regardless, her stirring version of ‘God Bless America’ was right on the money.

Jack White – He got paid to let some advertiser use the tune to ‘Fell In Love With A Girl’. The fact that just 24 hours later I can’t remember the company behind that ad bodes as a win-win for Mr. White.

Stevie Wonder – He didn’t sing, but Stevie Wonder once again revealed his good sense of humor with a cameo in VW’s ‘Punch Buggy‘ spot.

Arcade Fire – The NFL’s promotional use of their song ‘Wake Up’ – paired with shots of ecstatic fans – was sublime…

*****

LOSERS

The Who – Let’s count the ways: they looked and sounded stiff and old, Roger Daltrey blatantly flubbed his lip-sync with a backing track during ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ (oh, the irony), they were totally upstaged by their stage (possibly a first in rock history), and the corpse of Keith Moon would have been more interesting on drums than Zak Starkey. Better than the infamous Elvis Presto Super Bowl halftime show, but nearly as pathetic…

KISS – OK, I get it, Gene Simmons is a whore who would sell his grandmother’s soul for a nickel. But seeing my once-favorite band hawking Dr. Pepper and sharing the stage with a group of midget Kiss impersonators made me want to lose my chicken wings.

Carrie Underwood – I went into her rendition of ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ wanting to be won over. “What am I missing here?” was my thought. The answer, after a fairly flat performance: “Not much.”

Bill Withers – Sure, he got paid for it, but his lovely ballad ‘Ain’t No Sunshine (When She’s Gone)’ was totally miscast in a commercial for a blood and guts video game. A sadly inappropriate use of a great song.

The Chicago Bears Shufflin’ Crew – Note to Boost Mobile: The 1984/85 Chicago Bears were one of the greatest teams in football history. If you’re going to rip off their legendarily kitsch performance of ‘The Super Bowl Shuffle’, at least have the decency to do something interesting (and preferably tasteful) with it. And double shame on you Mike Ditka, for pimping out an idea you weren’t even part of in the first place.

Weekend Playlist

1 June 2009

This weekend The P and I enjoyed a fun overnight trip to the Russian River, with good friends, great food, and lots of music. Here’s some of what we heard…

The Who | Who's Next
The Who | Who’s Next

John Lee Hooker | Chill Out
John Lee Hooker | Chill Out

Dave Alvin And The Guilty Women
Dave Alvin And The Guilty Women | Dave Alvin And The Guilty Women

Miles Davis | Kind Of Blue
Miles Davis | Kind Of Blue

Fleetwood Mac | Then Play On
Fleetwood Mac | Then Play On

Dr. John | Dr. John's Gumbo
Dr. John | Dr. John’s Gumbo

The Flying Burrito Brothers | Last Of The Red Hot Burritos
The Flying Burrito Brothers | Last Of The Red Hot Burritos

Merle Haggard | Ramblin' Fever
Merle Haggard | Ramblin’ Fever

Nitty Gritty Dirt Band | Will The Circle Be Unbroken
The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band | Will The Circle Be Unbroken

Fred Neil | The Many Sides Of Fred Neil
Fred Neil | The Many Sides Of Fred Neil

Various Artists | KB Presents... Early 90's Hip-Hop Gems & Walkman Hits
Various Artists | KB Presents… Early 90′s Rap Gems & Walkman Hits

Jimmy Rogers | Chicago Blues Masters: Volume Two
Jimmy Rogers | Chicago Blues Masters: Volume Two

My Morning Jacket | Celebracion de la Cuidad Natal
My Morning Jacket | Celebracion de la Ciudad Natal

Jeff Beck, Tim Bogert, Carmine Appice | Beck Bogert Appice
Jeff Beck, Tim Bogert, Carmine Appice | Beck Bogert Appice

Malo | Ascencion
Malo | Ascencion

Rolling Stones | Exile On Main St
The Rolling Stones | Exile On Main St.

Living Colour | Vivid
Living Colour | Vivid

Jackie Wilson
Jackie Wilson | The Jackie Wilson Story
[Album cover not pictured]

A Tribe Called Quest | The Low End Theory
A Tribe Called Quest | The Low End Theory

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

Porter Wagoner
Porter Wagoner | A Satisfied Mind
[Album cover not pictured]

Stevie Wonder | Songs In The Key Of Life
Stevie Wonder | Songs In The Key Of Life

Little Feat | Electrif Lycanthrope (Be-Bop Deluxe)
Little Feat | Electrif Lycanthrope (Be-Bop Deluxe)

Louis XIV | The Best Little Secrets Are Kept
Louis XIV | The Best Little Secrets Are Kept

Eric Matthews | The Lateness Of The Hour
Eric Matthews | The Lateness Of The Hour

Love And Rockets | Express
Love And Rockets | Express

The Electric Prunes | Underground
The Electric Prunes | Underground

Grateful Dead | Blues For Allah
Grateful Dead | Blues For Allah

Bob Dylan & The Band | The Basement Tapes
Bob Dylan & The Band | The Basement Tapes

Masterpiece: Who’s Next

30 May 2009

[Today: The Who ditch the opera and rock out...]

The Who | Who's Next

The songs that eventually became Who’s Next were actually pieces of a conceptual album/theatrical production/motion picture that Pete Townshend was calling Lifehouse. Ultimately the narrative strings holding Lifehouse together proved to be too frail for Townshend’s multi-media ambitions, and he and the group handed the songs over to producer Glyn Johns to see if he could turn them into an album.

Johns did, and how – Who’s Next would go on to sell 3,000,000 copies in the 70′s alone. Album opener ‘Baba O’Reilly’ – with its flighty synthesizers and “Teenage Wasteland” refrain – is one of the most recognizable tunes of the rock era, even if it didn’t chart in the States. Album closer ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ is a perennial protest song that will ring true as long as governments stand. In between those highlights sit no minor songs, no filler, nothing less than arena-sized rock & roll. ‘Bargain’ and ‘Love Ain’t For Keeping’ are two of the group’s very best tunes, and ‘The Song Is Over’ is a surprisingly tender turn from a band who fancied themselves a bunch of hooligans.

During a February 1971 interview with Keith Altham, Townshend admitted to the crisis of confidence he was having with the Lifehouse material. “I’ve thought of having it released under a pseudonym but that’s no answer – not because I couldn’t bear it if it was a flop because I’m sure it would be, but because it is very personal material.” What he didn’t realize was that the conceptual baggage of the rock opera model had only served as a barrier to The Who’s music, and free from the puppet strings of Lifehouse, the intensely personal nature of Who’s Next made it their baddest and best album.

Listen: Love Ain’t for Keeping

Listen: Won’t Get Fooled Again

Listen: Bargain

Weekend Playlist

27 April 2009

Here’s the latest from our turntable:

Freddie King | The Best Of Freddie King
Freddie King | The Best Of Freddie King

Queens Of The Stone Age | Queens Of The Stone Age
Queens Of The Stone Age | Queens Of The Stone Age

Lyrics Born | Everywhere At Once
Lyrics Born | Everywhere At Once

The Temptations | Anthology
The Temptations | Anthology

Bob Marley & The Wailers | Soul Rebels
Bob Marley & The Wailers | Soul Rebel

Burning Spear | Garvey's Ghost
Burning Spear | Garvey’s Ghost

Sublime | Sublime
Sublime | Sublime

The Who | The Who Sings My Generation
The Who | The Who Sings My Generation

Los Lobos | La Pistola Y El Corazon
Los Lobos | La Pistola Y El Corazon

Eric Clapton | 461 Ocean Boulevard
Eric Clapton | 461 Ocean Boulevard

Neil Young & Crazy Horse | Rust Never Sleeps
Neil Young & Crazy Horse | Rust Never Sleeps

Lee Oskar | Lee Oskar
Lee Oskar | Lee Oskar

Various Artists | Om Chilled 2007
Various Artists | Om Chilled 2007

Big Star | #1 Record
Big Star | #1 Record

The Four Tops
The Four Tops | The Best Of The Four Tops
[Cover not pictured]

Moby Grape | The Place And The Time
Moby Grape | The Place And The Time

Kanye West | Late Registration
Kanye West | Late Registration

Nitty Gritty Dirt Band | Will The Circle Be Unbroken
The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band | Will The Circle Be Unbroken

Mad River | Mad River
Mad River | Mad River

Donny Hathaway | Live
Donny Hathaway | Live

Al Green | Livin' For You
Al Green | Livin’ For You

Various Artists | Africafunk: The Original Sound Of 1970s Funky Africa
Various Artists | Africafunk: The Original Sound Of 1970s Funky Africa

Horace Silver | Silver's Blue
Horace Silver | Silver’s Blue

Charles Mingus | Mingus Ah Um
Charles Mingus | Mingus Ah Um

Statuesque Accordion

29 March 2009

Jim Baggio | Accordionist Extraordinaire

Most towns have statues of war heroes on horseback – but not Cotati, CA. The statue that stands in the southeast corner of Cotati Plaza honors local accordionist extraordinaire Jim Boggio, who passed away in 1996. Boggio has been described as “one of the happiest and nicest men you could ever hope to meet” and his memory is honored each year at the Cotati Accordion Festival. His statue is a smiling, happy departure from the typical small town memorial.

*****

Here are two accordion-related tunes – one featuring the instrument, and another about it…

Listen: Jesus Doesn’t Want Me For A Sunbeam [Nirvana]

Listen: Squeeze Box [The Who]

Buried Treasure: Mexican R ‘n’ B

20 February 2009

[Today: The Stairs lead to nowhere...]

The Stairs | Mexican R 'n' B

“This is ENTERTAINMENT, this is analogue madness, for an unsuspecting universe.” The liner notes to The Stairs’ tragically underappreciated 1992 album Mexican R ‘n’ B read like psychedelic gloating, but those three phrases sum up the fortunes of the band behind the greatest ‘lost’ album of the 90′s. Its 57 minutes are made up of 19 lo-fi, three-minute jewels that would each fit comfortably on Lenny Kaye’s legendary compilation Nuggets.

But timing is everything, and by releasing an album during the height of grunge that sounded like it came straight from a 60′s garage, The Stairs missed their window of opportunity by about six or eight years. Had they dropped this beauty on the other end of the decade, when bands like The White Stripes were making raw fuzz and dirty blooze all the rage, who knows what might have become of them. This great debut certainly deserved a follow-up, but when it stiffed, the group’s label cut them loose.

The scant few reviews of this album tend to dwell on whether or not the songs are tongue-in-cheek parodies of 60′s music or genuine homage to a long lost sound. Either way, lead singer Edgar “Summertyme” Jones sings with a fierce growl that’s pitched midway between Aftermath-era Mick Jagger and Captain Beefheart. Songs titles like ‘Weed Bus’ and ‘Mr. Window Pane’ lend credence to the parody angle, but these slabs of day-glo fuzz jump and reach well beyond their influences.

In an appallingly shortsighted review, Allmusic.com concluded that The Stairs’ “blatant theft of entire riffs from the Who and the Byrds keeps them from achieving anything remotely valuable.” Nothing could be further from the truth – Mexican R ‘n’ B sounds like the ‘Oo and Byrds dropped acid and made a great album together, which is an altogether different proposition. This lost masterpiece will thrill any fan of the wooshing psychedelic 60′s.

Listen: Flying Machine

Listen: Weed Bus

Listen: Russian R ‘n’ B (The World Shall Not Be Saved)

Listen: Sometimes The World Escapes Me


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