Actor Dennis Hopper died today at the age of 74. He was a movie star and a movie director, but he is important to rock and roll for his role in the creation of Easy Rider, from 1969. He took the music that he liked and put it into his movie, and created the movie soundtrack album that we know and love today. Pretty cool.
Archive for May, 2010
In America we celebrate Memorial Day this weekend, honoring those who have given their lives serving our nation over the years. Wars may be fought for one dishonorable reason or another, but in this country the brave men and women in our military are willing to lay down their lives at any time for the freedom we all enjoy.
We salute you.
YouTube: “The Unknown Soldier” by the Doors, live at the Hollywood Bowl
I can’t remember a Memorial Day when there have been so many good albums out – or at least, albums that I like. OK then: albums that are fairly universally acclaimed. How’s that? Anyway, let’s go through a handful of new ones then at the end of this post I’ll recap the best albums released so far this year.
Anders Osborne is a transplant from Sweden who settled in New Orleans in 1985 and since then has released albums of increasing quality. American Patchwork, his first record for venerated blues label Alligator Records, is a sensational collection of tuneful blues/rock with heaping helpings of Osborne’s sizzling guitar work. Osborne has a soulful voice and it’s showcased to perfection on “Echoes Of My Sins” and “Acapulco.” You get some rockin’ guitar on “On The Road To Charlie Parker” and so on – this album is a powerful statement of purpose that can be a great starting point for Anders Osborne. His backing band is sharp – Galactic’s Stanton Moore is the drummer and producer – and Osborne’s songs are an apt metaphor for his reborn adopted home city. I love this album, and upon first listen I think you will too.
YouTube: Anders Osborne doing a live in-store at New Orleans’ Louisiana Music Factory
It’s always cool to hear artists perform songs that you’ve always known from listening to records. I remember once seeing the Who in the Houston Astrodome, and when Pete Townshend hit those familiar chords to begin “Pinball Wizard,” I literally got goosebumps because this was a song I’d heard thousands of times on the radio and on record. It’s even better when an artist or band plays a song you had completely forgotten about.
This was the case last year at the 40th anniversary of Woodstock, held at the Bethel Woods Center in New York. Ten Years After took the stage, and although Alvin Lee is no longer their frontman/guitarist, the band is still pretty good. They were doing some of their familiar blues-rock things (and saving Woodstock highlight “I’m Going Home” for last) when one of the band asked, “Anybody like psychedelic songs?” It was an introduction to the song “50,000 Miles Beneath My Brain,” from the 1970 album Cricklewood Green – which is the record we’re spinning today.
Woodstock happened in 1969, and the band’s performance of “I’m Going Home” at the festival and in the subsequent movie made them huge stars. Ten Years After, led by fiery guitarist Alvin Lee, formed in 1966 – ten years after the first appearance of Elvis Presley, who Lee idolized. TYA was a blues-rock band, in the style of the early Rolling Stones, and before the Woodstock watershed they made a minor name for themselves by touring Europe and the United States. Their 1969 album Stonedhenge found them turning a little more experimental, but not really “psychedelic” (despite what the title implies) – the album featured some jazz and classical touches.
But when Cricklewood Green came out in 1970, TYA could now be considered a truly psychedelic outfit. The eight songs that appear on the original LP were all written by Alvin Lee, but bandmates Chick Churchill (keyboards), Ric Lee (drums) and Leo Lyons (bass) apparently had a lot of input in the final sound of the entire record. The result is a more comfortable and assured set than its predecessor, mixing the trademark blues workouts (“Me and My Baby”) with some songs featuring diverse styles (the rock shuffle “Working On the Road,”, the almost country-ish “Year 3,000 Blues” and the ballad “Circles”). Most likely, it’s the best album of the Alvin Lee years.
New Orleans musician Theresa Andersson (who is actually from Sweden) has a new DVD, “Theresa Andersson: Live at Le Petit,” and it features this amazing performance of the Civil War-era spiritual “O Mary Don’t You Weep.” Theresa is a singer and a fiddler, but on this video you can see how she’s taken her performance to the edge to deliver something really new and exciting. She so deftly blends her live performance with the backing track that it’s truly spellbinding to watch. “Theresa Andersson: Live at Le Petit,” with special guests including the legendary Allen Toussaint, is available now at Theresa’s website.
Here’s a new video from da Houston rapper Flawless The Hip Hop Elixir, featuring Magno – “Spittin’ What I’m Livin.” The video is produced and directed by White Dawg Productions here in H-Town, it’s run by our good friend Marvin Suggs. Here ya go!
Usually we focus on music matters around here, but we just had to mark this weekend’s passing of former professional baseball pitcher Jose Lima. Lima pitched for a number of teams during his career but he had his best years with the hometown Houston Astros, winning 21 games in 1999 and earning a spot on that season’s NL All-Star team.
We remember Jose as the free spirit who made every outing “Lima Time.” Even when he was one of the Astros’ best pitchers, Jose ran with the Dome Patrol in the Astrodome, tossing out freebies and interacting with the crowd. He was also a bit of a singer – more enthusiastic than talented, naturally – and he recorded a couple albums as the lead singer of a merengue band. His TV commercials for the Mexican restaurant chain Casa Ole were classic. As a Los Angeles Dodger, Lima would hang out with fans in the stadium parking lot after each game. His shutout against the St. Louis Cardinals in the 2004 NLDS was classic, too. So once more, let’s make it Lima Time.
Thanks to Erin Skelley (The Fantasy Girl) for the photo of Jose Lima roaming with the Dome Patrol!
Goin’ into the weekend with some new albums to play on the patio …
Stone Temple Pilots reformed earlier this year to perform at SXSW, so a few months later their new, eponymous album is on the shelves, and it’s a good one. This band sounds better than ever, particularly on those mid-tempo rockers they do so well. “Take A Load Off” and “Dare If You Dare” fit into this mold, but there’s always a gut-crunching riff around the corner: “Hazy Daze” is almost stoner rock, while “Bagman” slyly evokes the old “Batman” TV show theme song. And opener “Between The Lines” could be Pearl Jam, if you squint your ears (don’t ask). Stone Temple Pilots! It ain’t the ’90s, but I like it!
MP3: “Between The Lines” by Stone Temple Pilots
It ain’t so easy with Love Is Strange, a live 2-CD collection from Jackson Browne and his longtime sideman David Lindley. On one listen, I like the mostly acoustic settings, the introductions done in Spanish (this was recorded during a tour of Spain) and the obtuse humor of Lindley. On another listen, I’m put off by the overly reverent treatment of a few of the songs, and the overly bloated feel of the album (do we really need an acoustic-fiddle version of “Take It Easy”?). To his credit, Browne shares the stage also with some talented Spanish artists like Luz Casal, who takes over lead vocals on Browne’s classic “These Days” and Kiko Veneno, who puts his stamp on what Browne introduces as “a very famous Eagles song.” In the end, I’m drawn to the spare, affecting versions of “For Everyman” and “Running On Empty,” both powered by Lindley’s incredible guitar work. Browne/Lindsey kick into their cover of the Mickey & Sylvia classic “Love Is Strange” and I shouldn’t have been surprised how it ended. I shouldn’t have enjoyed this album, but I did – immensely.
MP3: “Tu Tranquilo” by Jackson Browne & David Lindley with Kiko Veneno
Remembering the late, great Ronnie James Dio, who died Sunday of stomach cancer. It’s almost doing him an injustice to say he was a great metal singer – he was a powerhouse rock singer, period. Our friends at WFMU radio in Jersey City have a great post today on their Beware of the Blog about Dio’s early years as a duck-tailed rock and roller.
At one time or another, he was lead singer of the Vegas Kings, Ronnie and the Rumblers, Ronnie and the Redcaps, Ronnie Dio and the Prophets and finally, the Electric Elves. That takes us into Dio’s more familiar territory, as the Elves became simply Elf in 1969 and that’s where Deep Purple guitarist Richie Blackmore first heard Dio’s vocals.
The rest, of course, is history – when Blackmore left Deep Purple he recruited Dio and other members of Elf to become Rainbow.
Dio’s given name was Ronald James Padanova and he took on Dio in 1961 after Mafia member Johnny Dio. The great post on Beware of the Blog – written by Dave the Spazz, presumably after a mafioso named “Spazz” – also has a few songs from Dio’s early rock and roll career. I have lifted one to include here … but please go by Dave the Spazz’s great blog post and pick up the others. Thanks Dave, and thanks to Ronnie James Dio. \m/
If you’ve been living on another planet for the past week or so you may not know Exile On Main Street, the classic 1972 album by the Rolling Stones, was re-released yesterday with a whole bunch of bonus junk. Exile shows up on a lot of “best of all time” lists, and it’s famous for a number of things including its gloriously shitty “basement” sound. That apparently happened because some of the songs were supposedly put together and recorded in the basement of a mansion in the south of France.
So when they said they were reissuing Exile with remastered sound, I wondered: “What, are they going to make it sound shittier than it did in 1972?” Well, yeah … kind of. The new version sounds pretty good – mainly louder – and it makes you wonder how much of it really was recorded in a basement. That’s the way it is with the Rolling Stones: you get the music, and you get the myth. Pick up a copy of the new Exile on Main Street and you get plenty of both.
Video: “Plundered My Soul”