Jakob Dylan previewed some of his new record Women And Country, at SXSW last week. Singing with him are Neko Case and Kelly Logan, they sound pretty good together. Women And Country comes out April 6, it’s produced by T-Bone Burnett.
How about a little change of pace today? Okay, here’s Strangers In The Night by Frank Sinatra. When this album was released in 1966, rock and roll had pretty much taken over -but there were still plenty of older listeners around who dug Andy Williams, Perry Como and the Rat Pack. That’s kind of what made the era’s AM radio so cool: you could hear the Beatles, then Aretha Franklin, then the Byrds, then Sinatra, then Bob Dylan … and that’s also why many car radios came with buttons so you could bail on a station playing a “bad” song.
By this time Frank Sinatra had already left Capitol Records and started his own label, Reprise. He recorded Strangers In The Night with long-time arranger/conductor Nelson Riddle and his orchestra. Sinatra had started a comeback of sorts in 1965, playing tons of shows and cutting the hit album September Of My Years. The new album, Strangers, built on that success with the title track, which was the first song recorded for this album. Although Sinatra later claimed he disliked the song, it still stuck to the core of his sound and put him on the radio. One of the most memorable and recognizable features of the record is Sinatra’s scat improvisation of the melody with the syllables “doo-be-doo-be-doo” as the song fades to the end. Some fans said the song fades too early (how would they know?), cutting short Sinatra’s improvisation. The greatest-hits CD Nothing But The Best corrects that: the song was remastered and the running time clocks in with an extra nine seconds of Sinatra’s scat singing.
Sorry to pester you with more stuff from last week’s festival but this was too weird and funny to pass up. Reports that actor Bill Murray was all over last week’s SXSW festival have now been confirmed with both photographic and video evidence.
It seems Murray entered one bar accompanied by members of the Wu-Tang Clan, headed behind the bar and proceeded to serve drinks. No matter what anyone ordered, the actor served them tequila. Pictures also show Murray at an unidentified house party sitting in with a band and drinking with fellow party-goers. Why is this news you might ask? This website might explain everything; then again, maybe not. You can always try this but I’m not sure it will be much help either.
YouTube: Bill Murray bartending at SXSW
Whether you agree with it or not, you have to admit this was a big week up in Washington. It’s going to affect us one way or another, depending on who you listen to. Nobody really knows how it’s going affect us because the news media is so worked up about who won, or who lost, that the Everyday People aren’t getting the background info. No matter where you go, you gotta hear everyone’s two cents. Here’s mine:
YouTube: “All You Need Is Love” by the Beatles
We didn’t get to see him this time around, but I heard Roky Erickson (along with Okkervil River) was great at SXSW 2010. Here’s a video of them performing “Goodbye Sweet Dream” from the new album True Love Cast Out All Evil which comes out April 20.
The other day I heard someone say that late March-early April is a prime time for surfin’ off the Texas coast. Didn’t know the Gulf of Mexico had any decent waves to speak of, in fact although I grew up along the upper Gulf Coast I don’t know a thing about surfing. Would that make me a ho-dad?
Well, I do know this: the best surf music came out in the early 1960s. So while our wave-riding bros are down in Galveston and Corpus waiting to hang ten on the right wave, here are some surfin’ (and car ridin’ down to the beach) tunes. The final song is a Beach Boys ringer from their final (terrible) album, tossed in here just as a goofy foot kinda thing. Or something.
MP3: “Malibu” by Bruce Johnston (pre-Beach Boys)
MP3: “Jersey Channel Islands Part 7″ by Bruce Johnston (still pre-Beach Boys)
Still rifflin’ through the big box o’ records given to me by my sister’s boyfriend, who is also a DJ at a cool radio station. This one was a bit of a head scratcher for me, until I put needle to vinyl. The Rill Thing by Little Richard is from 1970, a time when many of the artists from the first rock and roll era had moved on to movies and live shows (Elvis, Chuck Berry) or just got plain psychedelic (Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters).
Little Richard had a bunch of seminal rock hits in the 1950s, then turned religious and became a preacher in the early 1960s. But by the late 1960s he had gone back to performing in big live shows in the big “Rock and Roll Revival” craze of the era. And he was also drinking and drugging pretty heavily – guess he’d lost Jesus at that point.
So by 1970 he signed with Warner Bros./Reprise after a three-year layoff from recording. The resulting album, The Rill Thing, is just that – and it’s pretty good. It kicks off with the joyous “Freedom Blues,” a return to form (at least vocally) for Richard. Presto- “Freedom Blues” cracked the Billboard Top 50 and became Richard’s first hit single in 13 years. His scream going right into the sax solo was a refreshing reminder that the Georgia Peach was still a force to be reckoned with.
The psychedelic guitars kick in during “Greenwood, Mississippi,” which became the second single off the album. “Dew Drop Inn” is another rocker of Little Richard’s old blueprint, and “Somebody Saw You” is one of the swamp rockers that serves as this album’s filler. Attempting to reach the current audience, Richard wrote “The Rill Thing,” which was a 10-minute instrumental that kind of brings an otherwise fine album to a screeching halt. It’s a horn-drenched kind of funk thing that wears out its welcome after about two minutes or so.
After that ill-advised title track, the album wobbles to a close with two covers: Hank Williams’ “Lovesick Blues” and Paul McCartney’s “I Saw Her Standing There.” Richard turns the former into a New Orleans-styled jaunt and blisters through the latter to at least end the album on a rockin’ note. The Rill Thing is a return to form for an artist who’d been out of the spotlight (on record, at least) for a while. The album failed to make a splash, and Richard cut a followup for Reprise that mirrored his traditional sound more closely – but it wasn’t nearly as good as The Rill Thing.
After a close call with death and the demise of some people close to him, Little Richard finally went back to the Lord for good in 1977. He has maintained a pretty decent career in entertainment over the years while also fulfilling his heavenly obligations. In recent months, he’s given a few interviews where he says he plans to retire soon. After all, he’s 77 years old!
So what happened to the “first day of spring”? Forget that – spectacular thunderstorms early Saturday morning gave way to a stiff, cold wind with fangs that put a damper on many events during SXSW’s final day. Some of the smaller side events were cancelled outright while even the larger, official shows were rearranged due to the weather.
A full schedule of performances at Auditorium Shores Saturday night was edited to give each performer about 20 minutes onstage, in order to get headliners She & Him onstage by 9 p.m. They were still late, and just a few cheerful, poppy songs into the set by M. Ward and Zooey Deschanel a lot of cold, soggy people headed toward the exits.
You didn’t come here for a weather report, though. The music was still pretty good. We liked the psychedelia of Minneapolis prog-rockers Jake Dilley and the Color Pharmacy. Lead singer Dilley played guitar, keyboards and a little percussion as he wove listeners in and out of candy-colored soundscapes. Somewhere in the middle of a glorious mind-melding song he dropped in a few bars of “Eleanor Rigby,” to keep us all from flying off into a hole in the sky. But the trio ripped through their rock stomper “Detour” and set us right back on terra firma where the journey began.
We also liked Surfer Blood, one of the festival’s so-called buzz bands. These boys (and lead singer John Paul Pitts looked like he could still be in high school) rocked a windblown crowd with riff-happy tunes like “Floating Vibes” and “Fast Jabroni” and most likely sold a few thousand copies of Astro Coast, their first album. Touring as a five-piece, the group from West Palm Beach seemed a little taken aback by the cold (sorry) but played about 13 shows over the four days of SXSW music. They wound up a particularly tight set with their single “Swim” and I figure that’s good enough to make them big stars in a month or two.
Gotta hand it to Home Slice Pizza along South Congress – not only do they make a killer New York-style slice, they put on a helluva little music festival right in their back yard. We dug Wye Oak on Friday, and caught some of Winter Gloves, appropriately titled (sorry again) for Saturday. We really got into the bands playing a side stage, usually two or three sets while they got the main stage ready. Like La Strada – the Brooklyn-based multi-taskers crowded onto a tiny stage to deliver some nice melodic tunes that went really well with a couple hot slices of pizza. Anyway, Home Slice Pizza: they put on the best shows of SXSW and check ‘em out next time you are in Austin.
And a word here about Japandroids, an intense rockin’ duo from Vancouver. Oblivious to the cold, they rocked a hip happenin’ crowd behind the Urban Outfitters and made a lot of friends in the process. Guitarist Brian King and drummer David Prowse can really shred, and they tore up “Young Hearts Spark Fire” with unflagging energy. Look for these boys to make it big somewhere down the line, too. Also let’s mention Cymbals Eat Guitars, A Sunny Day In Glasgow, Here We Go Magic, Sweet Apple and Free Energy – good luck boys and girls, you deserve it!
Well. We made it through a SXSW post without mentioning any of the big names. What do you need to know? Jakob Dylan’s new stuff (with Neko Case and Kelly Logan singing backup) sounds nice, Courtney Love’s enhanced face is more interesting than her new music and we didn’t make it out to see Snoop Dogg either.
It was fun people-watching and making fun of the hipsters, hopelessly un-hip as we are. We especially liked the people who dressed like rock stars – jet-black, styled hair (think Ron Wood’s bed head), black jeans with skinny legs and a leather jacket. When everybody who is Nobody tries so hard to look like Somebody, it’s hard to spot the Real Somebodys. This one guy, his white hairline almost to the top of his head, passed me twice on the street before I recognized him as Michael Nesmith. He’s no longer a Monkee, he’s now a visionary and foreman of Videoranch 3D, a nice little project that put live shows on the internet and allowed listeners to experience the music like being in a video game. That would have been a good idea on a cold Saturday.
Sad news coming out of Memphis tonight, the legendary Alex Chilton died today of an apparent heart attack. Chilton, currently fronting his band Big Star, was 59 years old. The Memphis native was the gruff-voiced teenager who sang with the Box Tops in the 1960s, and fronted the power-pop rockers Big Star in the 1970s. Chilton sang and wrote some of Big Star’s best-remembered songs, like “In The Street” (heard over the opening credits of “That ’70s Show”) and “September Gurls.”
Big Star was scheduled to play a Saturday night showcase at the SXSW music festival in Austin. Now there might be some sort of tribute to the fallen lead singer.
YouTube: “In The Street” by Big Star