Archive for November, 2010

“The Boss” answers questions live on E Street Radio tonight

Posted in Uncategorized on November 15, 2010 by 30daysout

Mere hours before the release of the massive Darkness on the Edge of Town boxed set and the 2 CD package The Promise, Bruce Springsteen will venture to Manhattan and the studios of Sirius/XM’s “E Street Radio” for a live Q & A session with fans. Twenty lucky contest winners will be in studio with The Boss and get to ask him questions in the first hour. The second hour they will open up the phones for the rest of us. If you want to give it a shot, the number is 1-877-70-BRUCE.

The live broadcast begins at 8 p.m. Eastern time. If you miss the live broadcast, you can hear it again on Nov. 16 at 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. EST, Nov. 17 at midnight and 4 p.m., Nov. 18 at 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. and Nov. 19 at 8 a.m. and 11 p.m. Good luck.

E Street Radio official website

Your Sister’s (Record) Rack: Leon Redbone

Posted in Lost Classics! with tags , , , , , on November 14, 2010 by 30daysout

We are giving our sister’s record collection a rest for the time being, and playing some of our own favorite records.  Today let’s dust off On The Track, the 1975 debut from mysterious singer/guitarist Leon Redbone.  He’s mysterious because nobody knows for certain where he comes from, or who he is for that matter.  He did gain some notoriety playing in Toronto in the early 1970s but Leon made his national impression with this album, followed by a 1976 appearance on “Saturday Night Live.”

Whomever he may be, Redbone is a tremendous musician and singer – with On The Track he put his great talents to work interpreting songs of the old Tin Pan Alley, some dating back to the turn of the (20th) century.   The album’s 11 tunes have sparse instrumentation, and nothing here sounds “modern” in the strict sense – you get a sense you are listening to a gramophone record of the 1920s.  Actually most of the album was played by some serious studio heavyweights including percussionists Ralph McDonald (castanets) and Steven Gadd (drums) as well as legendary jazz cats Milt Hinton (bass), Garnett Brown (trombone), Seldon Powell (sax) and Jonathan Dorn (tuba).

So you have Leon on guitar, starting the proceedings with “Sweet Mama Hurry Home Or I’ll Be Gone,” which puts the listener square in the pre-World War II era.  Then there’s the Fats Waller classic “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” which sets up as a duet between Redbone on guitar and a cool violin.  Irving Berlin’s “My Walking Stick” adds horns and a tuba to the mix, and it’s a good showcase for Redbone’s voice and nimble guitar picking.  “Lazy Bones” is a sultry piece of Dixieland blues, written by Hoagy Carmichael and Johnny Mercer.  Then Irving Berlin’s “Marie” swirls like an island breeze, with nifty clarinet work by Billy Slapin.

On “Desert Blues (Big Chief Buffalo Nickel)” Leon unveils his unique “throat tromnet,” a type of singing that sounds like a trumpet crossed with a trombone.  His scat singing and yodeling at the end is pretty good, too – the Singing Brakeman Jimmie Rodgers could never have envisioned this throwaway becoming the highlight of an album four decades after his death.

“Lulu’s Back In Town” opens with the sounds of a pool hall, where Redbone is said to have started his singing career, and the album closes with the 19th century “Polly Wolly Doodle,” which was often performed around the turn of the century by blackface minstrel Dan Emmett.   Clearly, the vaudeville performers and blackface minstrels are among Leon Redbone’s heroes – he even said so when we met him backstage before one of his shows.

Another of Leon’s heroes – and mine too – is the obnoxious show-biz amphibian Michigan J. Frog, who appears on the album cover.  Created by Warner Bros. cartoon animator Chuck Jones, Mr. Frog made his one and only big-screen appearance in “One Froggy Evening,” a 1955 cartoon short (they used to put cartoons on at the movies back then).  Michigan J. Frog made a number of cameos on other TV cartoons, and was most famously the official mascot of the WB television network from 1995 until 2005, when the frog was unceremoniously “killed” by network brass.

On The Track was an auspicious debut but it wasn’t a big hit.  A lot of people “discovered” Leon Redbone with his appearances on “Saturday Night Live” and later on “The Tonight Show.”  He put out a follow-up, Double Time, in 1977 and has cut about 12 or so albums since.  Redbone appeared on a number of TV commercials and duetted with Zooey Deschanel on “Baby It’s Cold Outside” for the movie Elf.  Leon Redbone still performs today, with pretty much the same schtick he had back in 1975.  Nice to know some things never change.

MP3: “My Walking Stick”

MP3: “Desert Blues (Big Chief Buffalo Nickel)”

MP3: “Lazy Bones”

MP3: “Polly Wolly Doodle”

Leon Redbone official website

YouTube: Leon Redbone medley


BONUS: “One Froggy Evening” from YouTube


Review: “The Promise,” Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band

Posted in Bruce Springsteen with tags , , , , , on November 13, 2010 by 30daysout

Bruce Springsteen wrote more than 70 songs during a period in his career when a lawsuit with his former manager, Mike Appel, prohibited him from recording. He and the rest of the E Street Band spent the down time at his farm in Holmdel, NJ, rehearsing incessantly and going into debt. When they were able to finally get back in the studio, the 70 tracks were whittled down to ten and those ten made up the classic, Darkness on the Edge of Town. The other 60 were either given to other artists (“Because the Night” to Patti Smith and “Fire” to Robert Gordon and later the Pointer Sisters) or tucked away for another day. Well, more than 30 years later, the other day has finally arrived in the form of The Promise.

Many of the 21 songs (22 if you’re lucky) were unfinished. Some were lacking lyrics, while others needed more instrumentation and vocal work. It’s not hard to tell which songs were recorded back in 1977 and which ones were recorded recently, but who cares? New/old Springsteen, it’s all good.

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Getting ready for the “Darkness” box: Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, Houston 1978

Posted in Bruce Springsteen with tags , , on November 11, 2010 by 30daysout

Bruce Springsteen in 1978 (Photo by Mark Wyville)

When the big box set for The Promise: The Darkness on the Edge of Town Story comes out next week, the six-disc set will include a bonus DVD with an entire live show from Houston in 1978.   I’m not quite sure I want to buy this set, because I was at that show … and I don’t know if I have the stamina to relive it all over again.

December 1978 came to Texas with a cold and bitter wind, and I was in Austin covering a girls’ volleyball tournament for the Port Arthur News.  The final games were Thursday afternoon at the University of Texas, and we were hearing rumblings about a big concert across campus: Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.  I had seen Springsteen once before, at the Armadillo World HQ about four years earlier; another media guy from my area had never experienced a Springsteen show before and he really wanted to go.

Not my ticket, I found this on the internet

Our tournament rolled on into the early evening, and we knew attending any concert was out of the question as we dutifully interviewed sweaty high school girls and filed our stories.  Later we walked down Guadalupe toward Conan’s Pizza in a bitterly cold wind; it felt like someone was hurling steak knives into our asses, their points digging even deeper because we knew we were walking away from a Springsteen show.

By this time everybody had heard about Springsteen’s marathon shows, about 25 songs stretching into three hours or so.  Upon seeing Springsteen in 1974 at Houston’s Liberty Hall, my friend Cindy said “this guy has to be on speed” and talk of these marathon shows seemed to confirm that notion. Well, no use dwelling on it … time for pizza and beer.   But every time somebody opened that goddamn front door the freezing wind blew in some ecstatic couple raving about the killer rock show they’d just seen.

So the next day, Friday, we’re driving back to the Armpit of Texas through Houston.  Listening to rock station KLOL, we heard the announcement that a handful of tickets was about to go on sale at the Summit box office for Springsteen’s sold-out show that night.   In the days before online ticket ordering and cell phones there were just a few ways to get a primo concert ticket.  One was to camp out for hours – or maybe days – at the venue box office until they went on sale.   The other was to drive like a freakin’ lunatic down Houston’s Loop 610, dodging other cars like A.J. Foyt on a DUI.

Long story short: $10 apiece (eight bucks and some change, plus a bogus “service charge” even then), and we were in!  Crummy seats to the right of the stage, but at least we had tickets.  Cruising down the ramp with our prizes in hand, we heard a squeal of tires on the other end … another Boss fan about to get his wings!

The Summit - Now it's a freakin' church!

Show time!  Springsteen and band hit the stage roaring into “Badlands.”  Just a couple of tunes into the show he introduced “It’s Hard To Be A Saint In The City,” dedicating it to the Liberty Hall crowd.  A little later, Springsteen caught his breath by asking, “What’s the deal with the lousy weather?   It’s like New Jersey down here!”

Ah, what else do I remember?  They did “Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town,” with the big intro (“It was a cold December night … me and Steve walking on the boardwalk …”  They also did “Because The Night,” which was a Patti Smith single (I had the “topless” picture sleeve) and “Fire,” which I knew from the Robert Gordon-Link Wray version (the Pointer Sisters hit came a little later, I believe).

He also did “The Fever,” which was huge in Houston because they played the hell out of it on KLOL.  And that long-ass guitar intro to “Prove It All Night” was pretty good.

The concert hit its homestretch with “Rosalita,” much longer because that’s where he introduced the band members, and “Born To Run.”  For the encore Springsteen and the E Streeters came out and did their version of Mitch Ryder’s “Devil In A Blue Dress” medley which pretty much whipped the crowd.  Nobody wanted to leave, and they were doing old Sixties covers when the lights went on again.  Springsteen refused to leave, taunting the crowd with “I thought you guys in Texas are so tough!”

When they finally managed to get the guy off stage for good, we walked out toward the parking garage.  The icy wind blew through, and I shivered harder than I had all week.  Only then did I realize: I was soaked in sweat!

Editor’s Note: The complete December 8, 1978 show will be included as a special DVD in the box set coming out next Tuesday. The Summit was one of the first venues in the country to employ an in-house closed circuit TV system during rock concerts; this show is the video seen by the audience, at least those who weren’t flailing around in rock and roll ecstasy.

“Because the Night”  Houston, Dec. 8, 1978 – (Don’t worry, the lights do come up!)

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Video courtesy of Spinner.com

Bruce Springsteen.net

Video of the Week: “Something In The Water,” Brooke Fraser

Posted in News with tags on November 10, 2010 by 30daysout

Brooke Fraser is a big pop star in Australia and her native New Zealand, and the recent release of her third album Flags promises to make her more popular in Europe and the United States.  A sort of throwback to the old-school singer/songwriter, Fraser’s personal songs earned her following and Flags raises the bar a bit for her.  “Something In The Water,” a catchy little stomp, is the hook-filled first single.  She’s currently on a U.S. tour in support of the new album.

Brooke Fraser official website

“The Promise” trailer, part deux

Posted in Uncategorized on November 9, 2010 by 30daysout

Bruce Springsteen’s camp has been releasing new tidbits from the massive Darkness on the Edge of Town box due next Tuesday. Today, it’s another trailer from “The Promise” documentary.

Lovett signs off “Austin City Limits” from UT campus

Posted in News with tags , , , on November 9, 2010 by 30daysout

Willie Nelson to inaugurate new "ACL" studio? We'll see ... (Photo by Scott Newton/KRLU Austin)

Editor’s Note: Our Austin, Texas, correspondent Lily Angelle took time out of her busy class schedule to attend the final taping of “Austin City Limits” for the 2010 season, also the final show to originate from KRLU-TV’s Studio 6A.

Last night people gathered in Studio 6A to witness the last performance on the legendary “Austin City Limits” stage on the University of Texas campus.  Just down the street at the Hogg Memorial Auditorium, fans who couldn’t get in to see the last taping in person gathered to watch a live simulcast straight from the studio.

Before Lyle Lovett came onstage, there was a preshow featuring clips from the past 36 years of ACL tapings.  People reminisced as they saw Willie Nelson performing on the 1974 pilot episode, not a gray hair on his head.  Other clips shown were of Stevie Ray Vaughan, Lyle Lovett, Eddie Vedder and many more.

The official t-shirt

Lyle Lovett’s performance was a perfect farewell to the venue on the UT campus.  At the end of his set Lovett led a sing-along of “Closing Time,” and it was obvious this was an emotional and important performance to him, and he honored the end of Studio 6A well.

It was sad to see such a historical place go, but there is much anticipation for the new studio in downtown Austin.  With this new venue, ACL will be able to accommodate a larger audience, something they were having trouble doing in the 6A studio, which seats only 300. Although ACL has outgrown its original home there is much more to come, and much more history to be made in the new studio.

An ACL rep addressed why Willie was not the last act, since he did the pilot episode.  The rep said, “We have special plans for Willie . . .”  It looks like the first act to grace the new studio might fittingly be the act that first performed on the pilot episode of ACL – we’ll see when the new season begins taping next February.

Austin City Limits official website

A photo album from the Lyle Lovett performance by the Austin American Statesman

Your Sister’s (Record) Rack: John Stewart

Posted in Lost Classics! on November 7, 2010 by 30daysout

Decided to give my sister’s record collection a break for the next few weeks … today we’re going to spin one of my all-time favorites, Cannons In The Rain, a 1973 selection from singer-songwriter John Stewart.

In the early 1970s John Stewart was a leading, although unappreciated, practitioner of the country rock movement.  This singer with the booming voice actually got his big break om 1961 when he replaced Dave Guard in the Kingston Trio, one of the best-selling folk acts of the early ’60s.  Stewart toured and recorded with them until their breakup in 1967, after which he went solo and wrote songs for other people, most notably “Daydream Believer,” a big hit for the Monkees (and later, Anne Murray).  In the early ’70s he signed with RCA, his third label, and cut Cannons In The Rain.

A moody, introspective album, Cannons begins with one of Stewart’s better story songs, “Durango.”  What makes it one of his best?  Well, it’s true.  Movie director Sam Peckinpah was set to make a movie in Mexico about the final days of Billy the Kid, called Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid.  Stewart was up for the lead part of Billy, and after meeting with casting directors and producers, they finally decided to get someone younger for the part: Kris Kristofferson.  They tried to offer Stewart another part, of Billy’s friend Alias, but that one went to the guy they hired to do the music: Bob Dylan.  Well, at least Stewart came away with his song “Durango.”

This album is about moving along, about living a life without roots, and some of the songs address that subject.  “Chilly Winds” is one of these, a simple song with a memorable tune which Stewart co-wrote with John Phillips of the Mamas and the Papas.  The song was actually written in 1962 for the Kingston Trio while Stewart was still a member; at that time Phillips was part of the Journeymen folk group.  The Trio put it out as a single that year and it appeared on College Concert, the largest-selling release by the Kingston Trio while Stewart was a member.  Stewart’s solo version appeared on a 1973 single (with “Durango” as the B-side).

One song off Cannons In The Rain which inexplicably wasn’t a single was the uptempo “Road Away,” another leavin’ song.  That was the tune I heard on the radio often during that time, and which led to this album in the first place.  Another uptempo track, “Lady And the Outlaw,” begins with some studio tomfoolery but eventually kicks into a credible country rock tune which could have been a bid to get in on the “outlaw” country music trend that was beginning to take off in Austin with Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, et. al.

Critically acclaimed but not a hit, Cannons nevertheless kept Stewart at RCA until 1975.  He then went with the RSO label and in 1979 scored his biggest album with the Lindsay Buckingham-produced Bombs Away Dream Babies and the Top 5 hit “Gold.”  Stewart disappeared from the pop charts after that although he continued to perform until 2008, when he died of a massive stroke.  Cannons In The Rain is perhaps the best album from a great singer and songwriter.

MP3: “Durango”

MP3: “Road Away”

MP3: “Lady And The Outlaw”

MP3: “Cannons In The Rain”

Video:  “Chilly Winds” combining the Kingston Trio’s version with John Stewart’s solo version

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Chilly Winds – John Stewart official website

Your Sister’s (Record) Rack: Johnny Rivers

Posted in Lost Classics! with tags , , on November 6, 2010 by 30daysout

Going through my sister’s record collection yesterday, I realized that my sister seems to be a step or two behind the so-called “hip” crowd.  Remember when we reviewed the British Invasion bands who got psychedelic in the late 1960s?  It’s like she wasn’t hip enough to latch on to these acts when they were emerging or cutting-edge, she caught ’em on their downslide … know what I mean?

Well, I think that’s pretty cool – we’ve all heard their hits anyway.  So in that spirit, today we will spin Realization, a 1968 psychedelicized concept album from pop-rocker Johnny Rivers.  In the early to mid-1960s Johnny Rivers had a string of Top 40 hits including “Secret Agent Man,” “Poor Side Of Town,” “Seventh Son” and handful others.  He took a number of cover versions to the upper reaches of the pop charts, often outselling the original versions of some of these songs – he hit with Chuck Berry’s “Memphis” in 1964, with Leadbelly’s “Midnight Special” in 1965, Willie Dixon’s “Seventh Son” in ’65 and Pete Seeger’s “Where Have All The Flowers Gone?” also in ’65.

Johnny Rivers dependably rocked the Top 40, but by 1966 he wanted to grow as an artist so he took over production duties on his records and started writing more of his own songs.   Unlike other established artists who wanted to get suddenly freaky in those psychedelic daze, Rivers’ wig-out album was gentle and introspective with keyboards, flutes and strings instead of sitars and fuzz guitars.

And it has just the right blend of originals and well-chosen covers, including his version of “Hey Joe,” which kicks off the album.  Actually Rivers’ “Hey Joe” has its share of Sgt. Pepper-inspired sound effects and electric guitars to begin his song cycle about living in California (I guess).  “Look To Your Soul” is a nice ballad, one of three songs from the album written or co-written by Rivers’ collaborator, James Hendricks (who was a member of the New York group the Mugwumps, which also included future Lovin Spoonful members John Sebastian and Zal Yanovsky, and future Mamas & Papas Cass Elliot and Denny Doherty).  Hendricks and Rivers co-wrote “Something Strange,” and Hendricks alone penned the album’s big hit “Summer Rain.”

Upon its release “Summer Rain” was sort of an instant classic  – it evokes the turbulent era by name-checking the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band while embracing a nostalgic memory of a summer that could be just past or lived long ago.  The song would climb into the Top 20 and was Rivers’ last big hit of the 1960s.

The covers include a killer version of Procol Harum’s “Whiter Shade of Pale,” Bob Dylan’s “Positively 4th Street” and a knockout blue-eyed soul version of “Brother, Where Are You” by Oscar Brown Jr., who was a poet/singer/civil rights activist of the era.  Rivers alone wrote “Going Back To Big Sur,” which evokes the laid-back vibe of the central California coast, where redwoods and rocky cliffs overlook the majestic Pacific Ocean.

Realization was a hit album, and Johnny Rivers kept rockin’ into the 1970s, where he scored more hits like “Rockin’ Pneumoniaand the Boogie Woogie Flu” (1972), and his last Top 10 hit “Swayin’ To the Music” (1977).  Rivers’ cover of Leadbelly became theme song for the popular TV show “Midnight Special,” a rock variety show hosted by Wolfman Jack.  Johnny Rivers continues to play concerts today, and if you go to one of his shows make sure you yell out a request for “Going Back To Big Sur.”

MP3: “Brother, Where Are You”

MP3: “Whiter Shade of Pale”

MP3: “Going Back To Big Sur”

Secret Agent Man – Johnny Rivers official website

YouTube: “Summer Rain” by Johnny Rivers in 1973


New Video Alert! “The Promise” by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

Posted in Uncategorized on November 5, 2010 by 30daysout

Another video has been released from the upcoming Darkness on the Edge of Town box set due Nov. 16. A live in studio version of “The Promise” from DVD 2 is here for your enjoyment.

Bruce Springsteen official website

Backstreets magazine