Talk From The Rock Room: November 2013

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger-'Manifestation at Brooklyn Pool' 11-23-2013

     On November 23, 2013 Sean Lennon and Charlotte Kemp Muhl's expanded edition of the GOASTT played a melodic and multifaceted musical set at Brooklyn's intimate Union Pool.  A small but excitable crowd of 150 to 200 people sprinkled with respected musicians, as well as Lennon's Mother Yoko Ono were on hand to bear witness to a musical display brimming with originality and invention. Backed willingly and professionally by Brooklyn group the 'Invisible Familiars', featuring Jared Samuel, Tim Kuhl and Robbie Mangano the band conquered the Union Pool with psychedelic expressions, unique grooves and far out sounds. The group had been obviously road tested by their shows with Tame Impala and the Flaming Lips and were much tighter as a band than the fantastic show I had witnessed at the end of September in Kingston, NY. The group has become not only more aggressive in their approach, but more expansive in their instrumental coloring and communication, especially Lennon's anomalous guitar work.
     The band appeared promptly on the diminutive crimson lit stage at 10:30 and immediately opened with a few well timed waves of rippling feedback breakers and Mellotron clouds, segueing nicely into an adrenaline infused 'Jardin du Luxembourg'. Following 'Jardin' the band continued without pause, blending seamlessly into a song off of their upcoming record, a nameless funky workout, irresistible, and solidly locked in place by the rhythm section of Muhl and Kuhl. Spectral and transparent harmonies delicately draped over the hard groove like a cozy winter coat, initiating a swirling musical contrast.
     The set was similar to others on the tour, but with a shuffled order, the limited length due to the fact that the band is in the process of building their catalog. Two more new songs came in quick succession again spotlighting dreamy vocal blends and glistening metallic grooves. 'Xanadu' was cultivated into a mantra of flashing Super 8 images and a flexing rhythm encouraging even the most rigid of spectator to move in erotic time with the band. The band had their foot pressed firmly on the gas, there was no letdown in tempo or intensity.
     The mid section of the set continued in much of the same impressive fashion, with the GOASTT revealing musical mysteries during their slow musical wade through thick seas of psychedelic jelly. Lennon's guitar prowess was on full display during 'Charlotte's Song(?)' a track thematically channeling South Africa through thumping tribal percussion and a majestic guitar exploration by Lennon. Charlotte's vocals sweet and warm, a welcoming whisper amidst the cacophony of instrumentation. 'Midnight Sun', loving referred to as 'Midninght Schlong' from the stage, wore a groove pinned on its chest that brought to mind the Harrison/Clapton classic 'Badge'. Mangano and Lennon collaborated on a shaky phased dual guitar line that shimmered under the fractal light from the gentle evening glow.
     A long time highlight of GOASTT performances and a song that the last two times I have seen  the band has established itself as a centerpiece, followed with the dramatic 'Last Call'. The band rolls this one up into a tight circular package that swings between drama and hope, prefaced by a watery slide guitar introduction and highlighted by the quintessential GOASTT vocal blend. Everyone in the band looked lost in the music at some points, a genuine feeling of investment eminated from the stage.
     The ten song set came to its quick and unfortunate conclusion with another as of yet unreleased song, this one dealing with the topic of Alien conspiracies, that again featured an immense guitar solo by Lennon, dual harmonies and a substantial heavy feedback conclusion. A disappearing into the dark horizon version of Syd Barrett's 'Long Gone' then ended the set, the band became smaller and smaller as they moved away, heading toward the pinched end of a flat earth. Some musical chairs occurred as Samuel moved to bass and Muhl to keyboards for this considerable and weighty reading. Deep, dark and edgy this version was a fitting ending to the show and a proper summation of the talents and abilities of the group.  These final songs appeared fully formed and blossomed from cracks in the frigid Brooklyn streets, defeating the concrete, becoming alive with leafy green stalks, supporting multicolored and panoramic musical heads, their aroma rich in musical statements and organic creation.
     I find it a pleasure to watch Lennon kick off the shoes of his past and manifest the GOASTT into a tangible performing creation worthy of inspection and respect. With the music able to take its own natural course it feels to me Lennon has found his identity, free from the obvious historical connections that may or may have not stunted his previous artistic growth. The GOASTT will be releasing their new music next year, to the anticipation of this writer and many others. The band is experimenting and finding the alchemy needed to create magic, the pleasure is found in witnessing the journey and reaping the aural results.

GOASTT-Clip From First Show/New Line Up

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Van Morrison 'Our Souls Were Clean' 1974 LP Veedon Fleece

        There are a slew of superlatives that can be used to describe Van Morrison's 1974 LP Veedon Fleece. Hardcore fans of Van the Man know the album well, it's moodiness, it improvised grooves, the relentlessness of Van's soulful vocals. The album comes at a time when Van was reinventing his musical presentation, going through a divorce, traveling, as well as writing some of his most affecting melodies. The record reminds me emotionally and in some ways musically to Dylan's own soul bearing 1974 LP Blood on the Tracks. Both records subscribing to the theory that 'pain' sometimes creates the best art. Morrison's recording sounds if created by an ancient Celtic troubadour, with sound as spacious as an open horizon, loose, alive with breath. The album not only analyzes Morrison's emotional status, but is a reexamination of his Celtic roots. Today in the 'rock room' I am spinning Veedon Fleece on a cool fall afternoon, sun bleeding through trees, the evening slinking in. The music fits the scene, a warm wool covering to keep out the chill.

     The LP opens with 'Fair Play' like a weather worn wooden door slowly opening, its matted moss and tangled vines parting to reveal the crystal waters of Killarney's blue lakes. Intimate instrumentation skips on light brushes and cozy descending guitar lines. The glorious horn that is Morrison's vocal attack, sings a montage of scattered shots from his consciousness. Syncopated vocal images ricochet off of the expertly arranged and courteous band. A magnificent opener and mood maker, 'Fair Play to you Van', the song is one of his finest moments.

     'Linden Arden Stole the Highlights' begins with the gentle duo of piano and guitar weaving the introduction to Morrison's tale of toughness, attitude, and responsibility. As the strings stir, Morrison's vocals soar to the summit, to the place where only his voice can reach the note. Stunning. A brief pause and 'Who Was That Masked Man' enters, a decedent of Linden Arden, moving slowly, coming closer, with Van's comforting falsetto taking center stage. His exclamations answered by rain water clear acoustic guitar replies, and wine class piano taps. The tone definition of the stand up bass on this vinyl is likened to a big warm plush fuzzy ball, ticklish, defined.

     The shady introduction to 'Streets of Arkow' begins the slow dark march down moist cobblestone streets, hearts on fire. The flute over Van's vocals creates its own melody line that ascends high above Van's narrative. The music is slightly dim, then turns dramatic as strings enter, initiating a call and response conversation including the piano, and flute. The song then peaks, increasing in dynamic attitude, swelling organically, rolling to a gentle stop. A mature song fully realized and excitedly intense.

     What I would call the 'centerpiece' of the record comes next, this song being the sun in which all the other songs orbit around. 'You Don't Pull No Punches, but You Don't Push The River', is a cinematic ride on a roller coaster of clouds. The song rolls over on top of itself constantly changing, feeling frisky, locked in a loose jazzy groove. The music sensually pulses with every change in Van's vocal approach.  The stripped down band undulates relentlessly on this developed jazzy mantra, Van directs the approach vocally, as the strings enter coloring between the lines created by the the woody groove. The Veedon Fleece is name checked in this song, referred to as something Van is constantly looking for. 'Punches' rolls on for over nine minutes, finally cascading into a gentle eddy, slowing to a conclusion and ending side one. One for the books, an absolute all timer, and we are only half way through.

     Side two opens with the pastoral imagery and 'Celtic Country' of 'Bulbs'. It must be said if you can pick up any of the live versions of this track from Van's 1974 tour, I promise it will fulfill all of your musical desires. I digress, the studio version of "Bulbs' breaks dirt and blossoms into striding and beautiful version worthy of repeated listening. If you love Van, you know this one well.

     The slow turn around of another timeless song residing on Veedon Fleece follows with the moody mid tempo 'Cul de Sac. You will be hard pressed to find another vocal performance that compares to this one. Grunts, growls, horn wails, icy smooth deliveries, and soulful screams, this one has em all. The rhythm section is so in the pocket they sound related. Soul music. The twisted call and response guitar and vocal climax the makes up the extended outro is where its at. Van the man, machine gun scat, barking commands. Dig it.

     After the heavy experience that is 'Cul de Sac', 'Comfort You' is a tender come down. Morrsion's plea to be the 'rock', and offering himself up to the lady of the song is set to a transparent waltz. The back porch serenade becomes something bigger as understated strings drizzle sweetness over the acoustic instruments. The song, similar to previous tunes of the LP, builds and drops nicely, breathing organically. The strings ring, the piano is a blue bell, restrained, yet virtuosic.

     'Come Her My Love' is a fitting follow up, it feels like one piece with the previous, both songs decorated with delicate wooden instruments. 'Come Here' is a stark acoustic guitar and vocal performance, reminding me of Neil Young's 'Will to Love' in atmosphere. Van sweetly sings of showing his love the way to escape through the wonder of nature, accompanied by crisp finger-picked acoustic backing. This is candle light music here, no doubt about it.

     The record concludes with the enchanted unveiling of 'Country Fair'. A song of innocence, a song of remembrance, a song that I will admit moves me deeply when I hear it. The song hangs weightless, a thin clean cotton sheet, windblown, rising and falling on the line. The melody developed by Van is the only sturdy thing amidst the swaying instrumentation made up of swirling and brilliant musical particulates, coming together for moments, then drifting apart. Containing acoustic guitar, flute and bass for form, the lyrics are a pale water painting, expressing worlds of emotions through simple images, and then reveling other views of those worlds through the movement of the music and through every detailed edge of Morrison's voice. These are the times I struggle to adequately describe what I hear, and wish for a deeper sense of expressing what this song is. But such is the greatness of music, and why we love it, and probably why you are reading this article. It's impossible to properly verbalize the magic we hear, but it sure is fun to try.

     Van Morrison's Veedon Fleece is only one small segment in a long and varied career brimming with amazing moments. I can tell you it's my favorite Van record...obviously, but what is amazing to me, is that the record often goes unnoticed and upraised in grand scheme of Van's career (even by Van). In previous rants on this page I believe I have discussed that certain type of record, that has to be played in its entirety, and has to be played at the right moment for full enjoyment. This is one of those records. When played the LP takes on a life of its own, containing transportational qualities engrained in its grooves.  For those who need it now, I have included some gold in the links below. As always, thanks for reading.

Fair Play
Country Fair


Sunday, November 3, 2013

Put the Boot In: Faces-'To Drunk for the BBC'-BBC In Concert 2-8-1973

     Groovin in the 'rock room' today is a rocking little set by the Faces for the BBC, hailing from February 2, 1973.This original performance had been thought to be lost in the mists of time, submerged in the bottoms of the forgotten dead soldiers of imbibed wine. The band was originally thought to be 'too tipsy' during the concert, therefore the BBC never originally aired the performance as planned. The tapes languished on the dusty shelves of the BBC tape archive to be forever forgotten--- until 2003. The mythical concert was then aired on BBC6 digital for the first time ever, by accident! Another tape had been planned to be aired and instead this show sneaked its way from storage an onto the airwaves. The airing was thankfully captured by an enterprising listener who obviously knew the importance and rarity of the performance! The concert has since been pressed to silver CD under the monicker 'Too Drunk for the BBC', which is the recording I am currently enjoying. This is a mono live recording taken direct from the 2003 accidental broadcast. Whereas the BBC had their opinion of the boys during the concert, a listen forty years later shows the band hot, slightly inebriated, Stewart in a rambling and talkative mood, and a set list played with flush excitement and eager enthusiasm.

     The show begins with John Peel's stately introduction, as the band slithers into the opening 'Silicone Grown'. Woody enters with the fuzzy and buzzy opening guitar introduction, that is followed by the rest of the group falling into place like a shuffled deck of cards. The tune swings with a boozy swagger, with McLagan the early star, sliding across the back and whites in a rock and roll fervor. Barley taking a breath, Rod exclaims, 'One, and now we'll do two', as the band grinds into a rough and ready Cindy Incidentally'. McLagan and Lane bounce buoyant counter melodies off of Jones bricklayer rhythms, as Stewart and Woody bump body parts hovering around the stage.

     Rod is obviously excitable on this evening and feeling fine, but there is no doubting the power and range of his golden throat. Jimi Hendrix's 'Angel' comes next and is a faithful reading and fitting tribute. Allowing the crowd time for contemplation and a cooling down, the 'sing a long' Angel appears in silver and gold outlined in clouds and is elegant version.

     The following two songs find the band hitting their stride and the concert reaching its first boiling point. To my ears the sound quality improves at this point almost sounding as if the recording moves to a slight stereo. 'Memphis, Tennessee' rolls like a flat tire on a Cadillac, with a rotund groove that increases in tempo allowing Woody to disperse a plethora of Chuck Berry riffs, answered in kind by McLagan who replies with well timed rainwater glissando's. Lane's pulsing bass moves enough air to act as another lead instrument, which reaches virtuosic qualities when the band follows 'Memphis' with a florescent version of 'True Blue', a song originally featured on Stewart's Never a Dull Moment LP.

     The opening chunk of Wood's introductory guitar riff garners applause from the studio audience, as the band flies a colorful rendition of the Stewart classic. The mid section breakdown of the song accelerates and shifts tempos, featuring the group speeding along asking, 'Don't you think I'd better get myself back home?' The collaborative lyrics are sung over racing and well timed statements by Wood, and McLagan. A welcome and well played version. At this point in the band's career their set included a varied selection of covers, Stewart 'solo' tracks like 'True Blue', and Faces songs. By this point in their career the band assimilates all of these songs into their own, making classification pointless.

      An always consistently played version of Sam Cooke's 'I'd Rather Go Blind' follows and its always a difficult task to find a bad performance of this track, which Stewart always invests himself in so fully. Wood answers Stewart's pleading vocals with his own clear tear drop assertions that pirouette under Rod's vocal lines. The Faces inject a dramatic anticipation into the song that never fails to elicit goosebumps. Through Mac's tender organ underpinnings reminiscent of the Band's Garth Hudson, and Wood's own vocal workout through his guitar's strings, 'I'd Rather Go Blind's'
dynamic creep is a keeper, its emotional content becoming even more honest with the urging of flowing booze.

     After the compassionate version of 'Blind' the band returns to the vehemence of the earlier tracks with a 'song of much renown', 'You're My Girl' (I Don't Want To Discuss It). This track kicks off a four song run of intensity and rock fervor. 'You're My Girl' is a jumpy multifaceted shred that tells the songs subject exactly like it is. Stewart will except no excuses from his lady friend, and has the Faces there to back him up. Woody ferociously attacks his instrument answering Stewart's pleads by flashing sharp teeth and clenched fists. Jones and Lane are lock and key holding the songs subject in a tight embrace, working together to expose the melodic statements of Stewart, McLagan, and Wood. The song hits a well timed musical orgasm, and concludes as intensely as it started.

     An interesting vocal exchange between Stewart and an audience member precedes the raucous and easy 'Twistin the Night Away' that follows. Rod invites the audience member to 'come up here' if the spectator does indeed 'want a job'. 'Twistin' teeters precariously on Woody's edgy slide licks and Jones pots and pans drumming. Characteristic of the Face,s this track feels as if it could fall apart at any moment but retains a kinetic energy that emanates through the magnetic tape.

     A husky and chunky 'It's All Over Now' keeps the loose bar band attitude going. At this point in the show is becoming slightly unshackled musically but somehow more intense. The beast has escaped, is looking for the nearest pub, and is stumbling through everything and anything in its path. "All Over Now' bangs recklessly through its changes and segues quickly into a similarly characteristic 'Miss Judy's Farm'. Lane's funky bass is the centerpiece on which the loopy groove balances, as the band plans their attack on the sinister Miss Judy using slicing and distorted riffs. Quintessential Faces.

     An always welcome opportunity for Ronnie Lane to take some vocal duties comes next with the Faces cover of Paul McCartney's 'Maybe I'm Amazed'. The introductory vocals are met with various on stage chuckles and snorts for some unseen reason. This is a bombastic version featuring Kenney Jones snare shots, and Lane with an original take on the melody line with his 'lead' bass playing. Wood stretches out his ropy solo over the syncopated lead in to the final round of chorus vocals, eventually falling into the originally unique conclusion the band tacked onto the track.

     The dual lead riff between bass and guitar signals the introduction to 'Three Button Hand Me Down' the concluding track on the Faces 1970 debut LP. What begins slightly out of tune and out of sync, becomes a raucous back door slam, hanging from one hinge, chipped paint, rusted hardware and all. Stewart replies at the songs conclusion, "That was really horrible', which is hard to find the truth in, because of the joy felt in listening to the performance!

    The recording and concert conclude with a obstreperous reading of 'I'm Losing You' that shakes like with rock and roll desperation. Prior to the song beginning Stewart mentions that this will be the last song of the evening because the 'pubs are closing and we want to get there'. The band then screams through an insistent reading of one of their most well known performances. The few mistakes during the track actually add to its uniqueness and its edgy reading. The 'Ohh, ohh' vocal breakdown is littered with giggles, and emphatic expressions. The tempo pulls, dragging weight, and then suddenly breaks free running with wind blown musical hair. Jones cavernous drum solo precedes the musical detonation that culminates with jangling keys, thumping bass, and ravaged guitar then ends as quickly as it started.

     John Peel follows the end of the performance with the statement, 'The Faces, still the best rock and roll band in the world for those of us who really care', a fitting declaration for those who have enjoyed this recording or any of the Faces concerts when they really hit it. It's somewhat strange to listen to this recording and realize that it was left collecting dust for thirty years because the BBC felt the band was not 'sober' enough to warrant its broadcast. Only because of an error are we even able to enjoy it now, or it would still sit unheard. Only those familiar with the history of the BBC's carelessness with tapes and recordings will realize how lucky we are that these tapes didn't end up in the bin!

      In less than six months from this concert Ronnie Lane would be gone and the Faces would never be the same. Woody would start his affair with the Stones, Stewart with his ego, and Mac and Jones would be temporary left behind. Throw this recording on in your own 'rock room' and see if you agree with Peel's assertion on who was the best rock and roll band in the world. I know how I feel.

True Blue 2-8-1973
I'd Rather Go Blind-2-8-1973  
I'm Losing You 2-8-1973