Archive for February, 2011

Your Sister’s (Record) Rack: Dejan’s Original Olympia Brass Band

Posted in Lost Classics! with tags , , on February 27, 2011 by 30daysout

In the more civilized parts of this country, carnival season is under way and reaches a peak week after next, when Ash Wednesday brings on Lent.  I’m talkin’ Mardi Gras, ya’ll, so this week let us spin a record that can be played at this time of the year or any time when your spirits need to get up and dance.

We have a copy of New Orleans Street Parade, a 1968 offering from Dejan’s Original Olympia Brass Band. The brass band tradition is nearly as old as the Crescent City itself, and the Dejan’s band is one of the last of the old-time street bands that played parades, particularly those funerals that wound through the streets in a raucous second line.

The tradition of funeral parade music in New Orleans reaches back to the 198th century when slaves under the French were allowed to bury their dead with music. The custom was practiced in many countries, but no more than in the southern United States – particularly in New Orleans – and that music became what we now know as jazz.

The original Olympia brass band formed around 1883 and over the years its personnel revolved in and out and could have included at one time or another jazz greats Sidney Bechet, Joe Oliver and Louis Armstrong.

There always was an Olympia brass band in New Orleans throughout the 20th century – drummer Arnold du Pass was its leader when saxophonist Harold Dejan joined up in the 1920s. Back then they were known as the “Olympia Serenaders.”  He took over the Olympia Brass Band in 1960, scouring the city for its best players to fill spots in the 12-piece group.

The outfit that cut New Orleans Street Parade included Dejan, Andy Anderson and Milton Batiste on trumpet, Klaus Einfeld on tuba and many others. They cut the album in Berlin, presumably sitting still in a studio rather than dancing down the streets of the German capital.

The album offers a pretty good sampling of the repertoire of those old-timey New Orleans brass bands: “We Shall Walk Through The Streets To The City,” which opens the album, is perhaps the most famous New Orleans funeral song. Then you also gotta have a hymn or two, so “Glory Land” and “Take Your Burden To The Lord” fill that requirement.

Dejan wrote one of the tunes, “Olympia Special,” which is a spritely Dixieland jazz tune peppered with flavorful trumpet work.  “Shake It And Break It” begins with some call-and-response shouts from the band members and it too lopes into that familiar Dixieland beat. The old folk tune “Lilly Of The Valley” has some sweet clarinet and “Leave Me Savior Me” is the requisite mournful dirge.

I’m not sure how New Orleans Street Parade fared when it came out in the late 1960s, because it seems to have been made solely for a European audience. The Dejan’s Original Olympia Brass Band played a lot at Preservation Hall in its heyday, and the band continued well into the 1990s.  Dejan himself had a stroke in 1991 and although he couldn’t play sax any more he still led the band and occasionally sang; he died in 2002.  You can see the band in the 1973 James Bond flick Live And Let Die, playing a funeral march in New Orleans.

MP3: “We Shall Walk Through The Streets To The City”

MP3: “Shake It And Break It”

MP3: “Olympia Special”

MP3: “Lilly Of The Valley”

MP3: “Leave Me Savior Me”

Bonus Video Du Jour: Foo Fighters w/Lemmy

Posted in News with tags , , on February 24, 2011 by 30daysout

For those who may have thought the previous video posted today (see below) is a little fruity, we give you “White Limo,” the new one from the Foo Fighters.  The song is from the Fighters’ forthcoming, as-yet-untitled album, out April 12.  And of course the star is Lemmy Kilmister, from Motörhead and the star of the current documentary LEMMY: 49% Motherf**ker, 51% Son Of A Bitch.  This one rocks!

Foo Fighters official website

LEMMY movie official website

Video Du Jour: Emily Hearn w/Bill Murray

Posted in News with tags , on February 24, 2011 by 30daysout

You know we love Bill Murray ’round here … with SXSW coming up in a few weeks, we wonder where he’s gonna show up this year.  Well, for starters, he makes a guest appearance in a new video by Emily Hearn, who is a singer/songwriter from Athens, Ga.  “Rooftop” is from her first EP, Paper Heart, and she will record a full album later this year.  The video was shot in South Carolina by film students on a shoestring budget; when Murray heard about the project, he immediately agreed to appear in the video.

Emily Hearn official website

SXSW 2011: The Strokes to play free show in Austin

Posted in News with tags , , on February 22, 2011 by 30daysout

The Strokes at Austin City Limits Festival, 2010 (Photo by Lily Angelle)

UPDATE: Here’s a short review of the show at SXSW in Austin on March 17.

Just about six months after they headlined the Austin City Limits music festival, the NYC band The Strokes return to Austin for a free, open-to-the-public SXSW show March 17 at Auditorium Shores.

This is all courtesy of the fine folks at Levi’s, who will also provide footage of the show online one day after their performance. The New York five-piece rock band return with their highly anticipated fourth album, Angles, to be released March 22 in the United States, and March 21 in the United Kingdom.  Angles is the band’s first new release in five years, and their showcase will be their first return to SXSW since their now-legendary 2001 showcase at the Iron Cactus.

You can also catch ’em on “Saturday Night Live” March 5.

SXSW.com – Announcement of the Strokes show

The Strokes official website

Your Sister’s (Record) Rack: The Seeds

Posted in Lost Classics! with tags , , , on February 22, 2011 by 30daysout

Today we take a turn into the psychedelic Sixties, with the Seeds’ Future from 1967.  Here we have a vintage LP from a truly bizarre outfit; they emerged in 1965 from Los Angeles under the leadership of singer Sky Saxon.

The Seeds had one substantial Top 40 hit, “Pushin’ Too Hard,” which was originally cut and released in 1965 but didn’t reach the pop charts until two years later.  Throughout their career, they were little more than a marginally talented garage band and pretty much everyone knew that except the band itself.  Saxon’s songs and his druggy singing is pretty hilarious most of the time.  The Seeds were apparently patterned after the Doors, and they feature Ray Manzarek wannabe Darryl Hooper on keyboards.  Hooper’s inept solos were often a highlight of Seeds records – I saw someplace where a critic said “Hooper’s idea of a creative solo was to play the same riff over and over at varying octaves.”

The same writer quoted above said it best about the Seeds: “It is highly doubtful that their music could have been any worse than it was.  Their singular charm lay in the fact that, due to their lack of skills, their music could not have been any better, either.”

So, we have Future: cut apparently as a song cycle, or a psychedelic rock opera, it’s perhaps the Seeds’ best album.  Blessed with a large enough budget to be as creative as they wanted, the Seeds were ultimately clueless and nearly accidentally turned in a masterpiece.  Trouble is, today it’s pretty hilarious. Kicking off with some spoken word nonsense about children playing in a flower garden, the album begins in earnest with “March Of The Flower Children,” tripping fuzzily through beds of harpsichords, oomphing tubas and pretty much everything the band could lay hands on.

“Out Of The Question” is the album’s first rewrite of the Seeds hit “Pushin’ Too Hard,” although it’s not that obvious.  The keyboard work by butter-fingered Hooper tips it off; “Flower Lady And Her Assistant” slows it down a bit but it’s still a rip of that hit.  Then there’s “A Thousand Shadows,” complete with a whispered message to the “flower child,” completely rippin’ off “Pushin’.”  Hooper doesn’t even try to change it up here, he just plays the same riff from the original hit.

“Two Fingers Pointing At You” is the album’s best song.  Still soundin’ a little like “Pushin’ Too Hard,” it nevertheless features some really strange and snarling singing from Saxon.  This song earned the Seeds a spot in the movie Psych Out, which features a ponytailed Jack Nicholson as the leader of an acid rock band in San Francisco.  I would imagine this would have to seen in order to believed.

Swirling harps and ominous drums signal the coming of “Fallin'” the nearly eight-minute-long epic that closes out the album.  Here we have a great example of the druggy kitchen-sink production that characterizes Future; Saxon goes all out vocally on this one, as if to thank the listener for suffering through the previous songs on the album.  Hooper also rises to the occasion with probably the best organ solo of his career.

It’s been fun to rag on the Seeds, but you know what – Future is a pretty entertaining album.  You could call it a guilty pleasure.  In fact pretty much any album of the era would fit into that category; at any rate, these boys were sincere in their approach even if they were a little lacking in the talent department.  That may sound familiar to anyone who followed punk rock in the 1970s … snicker all you want, but the Seeds were pioneers.  Sky Saxon died in 2009; I hope he’s somewhere cool right now, writin’ tunes and gettin’ stoned.

MP3: “March Of The Flower Children”

MP3: “A Thousand Shadows”

MP3: “Two Fingers Pointing On You”

MP3: “Fallin’ “

YouTube: The Seeds in the movie Psych Out

Bonus: The great Psychedelic Lion Music Archive blog has the full soundtrack for Psych Out

Review: “The King of Limbs,” Radiohead

Posted in Review with tags , , on February 20, 2011 by 30daysout

Radiohead, the English alt-rock outfit, abruptly released their new album The King Of Limbs last Friday, just a little less than a week after anyone knew it even existed. Without the typical big pre-release hype, the album seems to have become an “event” with the usual suspects scrambling to offer their reviews, reactions and rejoinders.

That wouldn’t be me: this is the first Radiohead album I’ve had the privilege to hear, having ignored all of the hype surrounding In Rainbows back in 2007 (pre-blogging days). My take on The King Of Limbs is that it’s a fairly straightforward album by a band known for its sometimes obtuse approaches, and it offers enough interest and variety while giving long-time fans (presumably) more of the same they’ve come to know and love.

“Lotus Flower,” the first single, is accessible enough to be accompanied by a video (see below) and it’s got some of the album’s best vocals from Thom Yorke. Kind of like Coldplay slowed down a notch, you know? “Little By Little” perhaps relies less on electronics than any other song from the album, with Jonny Greenwood’s guitars driving this little foray into the sunlight.

“Bloom,” the album opener, promises some dark moods even though the song is beautiful; “Morning Mr. Magpie,” which follows, delivers with its sinister, uneasy almost African beat. The album comes to a premature close with a trifeca of hope, delivered by “Codex,” “Give Up The Ghost” and “Separator.”

And it does seem premature – The King Of Limbs is all of about 37 minutes long and while it didn’t exactly have me ravenously wanting more, it piqued my interest enough to inspire me to seek out Radiohead’s past efforts. This new album may not be the band’s best, but it may be their most forward-looking: surely Brian Eno and U2 are listening.

YouTube: “Lotus Flower”

Dead Air Space – Radiohead official website

More Cowbell! Less Cowbell!

Posted in Rock Rant with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 20, 2011 by 30daysout

"Don't blow this for us, Gene!"

It started for the youngsters in 2000, when “Saturday Night Live” first telecast the sketch pictured above.  It was called “Behind the Music: Blue Öyster Cult,” but later became (in) famous simply as the “Cowbell Sketch.”  Yeah, the Cult had a cowbell in its song “Don’t Fear The Reaper,” but you know that was about the only true-to-life thing in this short, delightful bit of fantasy.

We saw Blue Öyster Cult play live last summer, and during the intro to “Reaper,” singer Eric Bloom (who Will Ferrell’s character seems patterned upon) did a sort of “air cowbell” but even though his hands were empty, we heard a cowbell!  Turns out some clown in the audience had one.  Of course.

Anyway, we come back from a long and distracting work week with his lame bit of nonsense, featuring some of the greatest cowbell rock songs of all time.  Please excuse any rust, I haven’t written a blog post in a while.  So – I’m sure you can check the internets for a comprehensive list of rock songs featuring the cowbell, and I invite you do to so if that’s what blows yer skirt up.  I just want to talk a little bit about the cowbell its own bad self, and explore the reasons why it may have found its way into rock songs.  Well, it’s cheaper than a drummer and doesn’t require much coordination (or rhythm, if that guy in the Blue Öyster Cult crowd is any indication).

Well, that was a shallow well … what about cowbells as noisemakers during sporting events?  The only place where they could have some effect would be in the confines of a gymnasium, during a basketball game.  I do know at the University of Texas (and many other schools in the NCAA) bans noisemakers like cowbells, whistles and air horns.  And maybe thunder sticks too, if that’s what also blows up yer skirt.  Certainly vuvuzelas, those are annoying in any context.  Oh man, I’m dyin’ here.

Let’s just listen to some music with cowbells (not the usual suspects, except for maybe one or two) and I’ll tack on the date the song first appeared.  Perhaps one day we can talk about sleigh bells in rock music – maybe Brian Wilson can guest on “SNL” and they can create a whole new skit!

MP3: “Grazing In The Grass” by Hugh Masekela (1968)

MP3: “Time Has Come Today” by the Chambers Brothers (1966) (Long version, with more and “psychedelicized” cowbell!)

MP3: “Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except Me and My Monkey” by the Beatles (1968)

MP3: “Low Rider” by War (1975)

MP3: “Evil Ways” by Santana (1969, live at Woodstock)

MP3: “Stone Free” by Jimi Hendrix (1966, mono version)

MP3: “Killing In The Name Of” by Rage Against The Machine (1992)

MP3: “Welcome To The Jungle” by Guns n’ Roses (1987)

And the all-time greatest rock song featuring cowbell: “Honky Tonk Women,” by the Rolling Stones.  This video is from the Stones’ Voodoo Lounge tour from 1994 or so … and how awesome is Keith Richards playing that famous riff one-handed?  It’s that open-G tuning he keeps his guitar in; read his book.


Review: “The Last Play at Shea” by Billy Joel (DVD)

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , on February 14, 2011 by 30daysout

“I’m just a kid from Levittown, and I’m playing Shea Stadium” says Billy Joel at the beginning of the brilliant documentary, The Last Play at Shea. The 90-minute film takes us through the history of both Joel’s career and Shea Stadium, a ballpark that opened in 1964 and had it share of classic moments. Everything from The Beatles historic concert in August, 1965 to the 1969 “Miracle” Mets to Bill Buckner’s costly error in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series to New York Mets catcher Mike Piazza’s emotional home run to win the first game back after 9/11.

The interviews make this DVD sing. Joel recalls being on vacation and looking up and seeing supermodels Elle MacPherson and Christie Brinkley leaning on the piano he was playing, Paul McCartney tells us what it was like on that magic night in 1964, and how he was able to make it work in his schedule to play with Joel on the final night, Daryl Strawberry taking offense to people calling Shea “a dump,” and Keith Hernandez remembering how the stands shook with such force as he sat in the clubhouse during the ninth inning of Game 6 that he thought the fans were going to fall right through.

One of the most moving segments is about Pete Flynn, an gruffy Irishman who had been the head groundskeeper at Shea since 1964. Everyone from Tom Seaver to Strawberry talks about their love for the guy and how he was as much a part of the Mets as anyone. One scene shows Flynn driving McCartney to the stage and telling him “I drove you in 1964.” Classic.

Joel was the perfect choice to close Shea. He is New York and The Last Play at Shea is a fitting tribute to a “dump” that New Yorkers won’t soon forget.

Billy Joel Official Website

“The Last Play at Shea” trailer

Your Sister’s (Record) Rack: Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell

Posted in Lost Classics! with tags , , , , , , on February 13, 2011 by 30daysout

Wrapping up our duets albums just in time for Valentine’s Day: today we spin the Motown/Tamla classic You’re All I Need, by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell, from 1968.

Marvin Gaye was an established star at the Detroit label Motown when he was asked to cut a duet with a female singer in 1967.  Gaye, who had giant hits way back in 1965 with “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)” and “Ain’t That Peculiar,” Gaye recorded “It Takes Two” with singer Kim Weston for Motown’s Tamla label in ’67.

Written and produced by William “Mickey” Stevenson (also Weston’s husband), the song wasn’t Gaye’s first duet but at that time it was his most successful.  It also made him an international star by going to No. 1 in the United Kingdom.  But there wasn’t gonna be a followup: by the time the record hit the top of the charts, Weston and Stevenson had already left Motown.  In fact, at this point Gaye had three duet partners: Weston, Mary Wells and Oma Page, and they had all left the label.

But label chief Berry Gordy wanted to repeat the duet success, so he enlisted Motortown Revue singer Tammi Terrell, who also happened to be the girlfriend of singer David Ruffin, of the Temptations.  Initially she cut her vocals separately from Gaye, and they hit with “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and “Your Precious Love,” both written by Nicholas Ashford and Valerie Simpson.

Gaye and Terrell toured behind these singles and their first duet album, but in 1967 Terrell collapsed onstage and was later diagnosed with a brain tumor.  She had the first of six brain surgeries, and she was pretty much finished as a live performer.  When she came back in a wheelchair to cut vocals with Gaye, it was face-to-face in a studio and one of the first songs they recorded is a classic: “Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing,” by Ashford & Simpson.

“Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing” is perhaps the archetypical Motown duet, with instrumentation by the Funk Brothers and the “sweet” Motown strings usually present on the label’s more romantic offerings.  Gaye and Terrell hit their marks as vocalists, and this was a nearly perfect record: listeners thought so as well, as it was an R&B and pop hit in 1968.

“You’re All I Need To Get By” was even bigger: it was a Top 10 pop hit in the United States and the United Kingdom and reached No. 1 on the R&B charts, where it stayed for quite a while in ’68.  “You’re All I Need” had a sort-of gospel backing choir (which included Ashford & Simpson) but it was assembled in the studio, with Gaye and Terrell cutting their vocals separately.

In fact, due to Terrell’s condition it was impossible for her to record new vocals for a full album.  So they took some of her old solo songs and overdubbed Gaye’s vocals into them to create duets.  Some of these included “Memory Chest,” “Baby Dont’cha Worry”, “Give In, You Just Can’t Win” and “When Love Comes Knocking At Your Heart.”

The album, You’re All I Need, on the Tamla label, was a moderate success (Motown usually had more success with singles) and would be the final album the duo would really record together.  A third duet album, Easy, was assembled and released in 1969, but Valerie Simpson sang along with Gaye in the studio for “guide vocals” then Terrell came in and painstakingly cut her own vocals.  In 1969 Motown also released Terrell’s only solo LP, Irresistible, but by this time she was too ill to promote either album.

She finally died in 1970 of the brain tumor.  Marvin Gaye would later say Tammi Terrell was his best duet partner, and her death would really tear him up emotionally.  His classic album What’s Going On is reportedly partially inspired by Terrell’s death.  Marvin Gaye would himself die prematurely, shot fatally by his own father in 1984.

MP3: “You’re All I Need To Get By”

MP3: “When Love Comes Knocking At My Heart”

MP3: “Keep On Lovin’ Me Honey”

MP3: “Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing”

MP3: “I’ll Never Stop Loving You Baby”

Video Du Jour: Alejandro Escovedo

Posted in Rock Moment with tags , on February 10, 2011 by 30daysout

Texas rocker Alejandro Escovedo has been a favorite of ours for a few years, and if you don’t know this man’s music do yourself a favor and check him out.  His album Street Songs Of Love was hands-down one of the best mainstream rock albums of 2010, and the one before that, Real Animal from 2008, is also a classic.

Al and his awesome band will again anchor the Friday night lineup of South by San Jose at SXSW 2011, and if you can’t wait till March you can catch him every Tuesday night at The Continental Club in Austin.  Here’s a conceptual video by Todd V. Wolfson of Escovedo playing the old Gun Club song “Sex Beat,” at the Continental and other points in Austin.  You can feel the low-rent art love, can’t you?

Alejandro Escovedo official website