Classic Rockers – Fall 2008 edition
Way back in 1978, the Grateful Dead had this hare-brained (drug-fueled) idea that if they played near the Great Pyramids in Egypt during a total eclipse of the moon and wired up one of the ancient burial rooms as an echo chamber then … something cosmic would happen. It didn’t, and now you can hear the proof for yourself. Rocking The Cradle: Egypt 1978, a three-disc set (2 CDs, 1 DVD), is a record of a lackluster concert with few highlights – “Fire On The Mountain” has a little more energy than most of the stuff here, possibly because it was a fairly new song at the time. For Deadheads only; especially the awful home-movie DVD.
Dave Mason is, of course, the guitarist/singer who spent a short stint in Traffic during the late 1960s. He has subsequently made a career of showing up on other people’s records and occasionally putting out a pleasant solo album. 26 Letters – 12 Notes is his first album of new material in about 18 years and it’s, ah, pleasant. Two songs were written by the late Traffic drummer Jim Capaldi and Willie Nelson plays guitar on a couple tracks. Mason’s voice still sounds good, as does his guitar.
San Francisco’s Creedence Clearwater Revival was the anti-Grateful Dead. In other words, John Fogerty and Creedence bucked the trends and stayed away from long jams (mostly) and tightened their music into radio-ready instant classics. Fantasy Records has issued Creedence’s best albums as remastered and enhanced discs (again), this time with outtakes and bonus tracks. But that’s misleading – in its short history Creedence put out two albums a year, so there really wasn’t much left in the can. What you get are familiar live songs, impromptu studio jams (with Booker T. and the MGs) and awful B-sides (“45 Revolutions Per Minutes, Parts 1 and 2” from Pendulum). The best stuff is, as always, the original music – and that’s some of the best rock music ever.
Keith Reid is a rock lyricist whose main claim to fame is writing the impenetrable words to Procol Harum’s hit “A Whiter Shade of Pale,” way back in 1967. He also wrote the lyrics to all of Procol’s other music (mostly with Gary Brooker) and was a full-fledged member of the band although he doesn’t sing or play an instrument. Reid has assembled a number of musicians and singers as The Keith Reid Project, and their new album The Common Thread is a surprisingly decent effort. Guest vocalists such as John Waite, Chris Thompson (Manfred Mann’s Earth Band) and Steve Booker (writer of “Mercy,” a recent hit by Duffy), work up some tasty pop and country-rock hooks that occasionally recall these artists’ heyday. “Venus Exploding” sounds like Procol Harum, “Silver Town” (with Booker) sounds like Springsteen and “In God’s Shadow” (with Waite) is a ’70s-style pop ballad.
And finally, we have ZZ Top’s classic Eliminator, recently re-released as a 25th anniversary edition. It’s been remastered, sounds great, and the bonus stuff includes five live cuts and two remixes of the monster hit “Legs.” Perhaps most useful as a time capsule is the DVD of the videos from songs like “Sharp Dressed Man,” “Gimme All Your Lovin'” and of course, “Legs” that helped put MTV on track way back then. Meanwhile, our bearded buds are in the studio with Rick Rubin … stay tuned.