Monday, May 26, 2014

Now Playing: Grateful Dead -'The People All Complain' Dark Star 10-26-1989

    
In this edition of 'Now Playing', I have spinning the second set of the Grateful Dead's October 26th, 1989 performance in Miami, Florida, the final stop on their Fall 1989 tour. After the unique and well jammed pairing of the second set openers 'Estimated Prophet' segued into 'Blow Away', the band plays the last version of 'Dark Star' of that  tour. Following its break out in Hampton, VA a bit over two weeks prior on October 9th after a 5 five year absence, the band then played two more versions of the song on the tour. The next in New Jersey on the 16th and the subject of this 'Now Playing' in Miami on October 26th. Many Deadheads believe these to be the best late era 'Dark Stars', never to be equaled over the last six years of the bands career. After enjoying the 10/16 'Dark Star' (Available of 'Nightfall of Diamonds' CD) and the break out on the 9th (Available on 'Formerly the Warlocks' Box Set) I really find the 26th to hold the gold.
After years of mind expanding and boundary stretching versions from 1968-1974 of 'Dark Star', the band found that their glorious tool to access secret realms of improvisation had become stale. The song could no longer offer the transformational doorways so accessible to the musicians in the past. From 1978 to the 'Dark Star' breakout in 1989, the band would only play the song three times, with the three versions in my opinion paling in comparison to the versions preceding it. The Fall 1989 versions initiated by the new MIDI effects units that the group had introduced in the Spring revealed an enlivened and refueled 'Dark Star' with fresh avenues for exploration.

There is a consensus that from Spring 1989 until Brent Mydland's untimely death after the 1990 Summer tour that the Grateful Dead had a achieved a renaissance, never again to be reached before Jerry Garcia's death in 1995. Multiple factors including but not limited to Garcia's renewed health, the bands new found popularity, as well a new found camaraderie and consistency in the band equated to a tour that reached new and exciting heights. Garcia also returned to his beloved 1970's guitar, 'The Wolf', outfitted with a full MIDI exploration hook up. The tour was brimming with song breakouts and extended improvisations none more impressive than the return of 'Dark Star' The version on October 26th the final of three, is arguably the best and the one I am enjoying, although all of them offer unique moments deserving of inspection.
What makes the version of 'Dark Star' from Miami worthy of review is its wealth of new exploratory ideas unearthed do to the advent of a new sound arsenal and confidence. The preceding Hampton version is similar in its expansive qualities as well as set placement. The Meadowlands version I feel suffers a bit from being split between pre-drums and post-drum in the second set. The 'Playin' from that Meadowlands concert appears to hold the majority of special jamming prior to falling into drums, a common occurrence for this era. This Miami 'Dark Star' is played as one piece prior to drums and space and is played with a concentrated focus similarly to pre-retirement versions. The song would soon return to the groups song rotation in various guises following these break outs, but in my opinion never mining the rich psychedelic veins of these Fall 1989 performances.

After an extended spacy tuning break, the band opens the mossy ancient door of 'Dark Star'. After settling into a dreamy pre-verse jam Garcia quickly sings the first verse, standard for these three October versions. By two minutes and following a squealing feedback statement by Weir, Garcia sings verse one in a tour worn rasp,ragged, but still soulful.

When the first verse is disposed of the group eagerly, the band pops into a jazzy excitable groove with the drummers in particularly wonderful form. Garcia scrutinizes the theme with a shimmering tone that leaves a trail of glitter across the rhythm section. Brent inserts well timed glissando's as the band pushes anxiously.. At half past four minutes Lesh thumps a series of low sepulchral notes that initiate the group to veer down a barely visible and secluded path. Lesh is very active and Garcia follows, now with a clean tone disassembles the band, the knot loosens and the drummers up the ante.
At close to six minutes there is an old school 'Live Dead' mini melt, the group mind begins to coalesce into one organism. Weir contributes skid mark interjections, Hart drops in multiple percussive emotions, and Garcia endlessly accepts and rejects cosmic guitar melodies. At half past six minutes, approaching seven the bottom drops out and Garcia becomes a hollow woody horn, then a scurrying multicolored video game character. Garcia starts to throw multifarious riffs against the wall to see what sticks while the drummers keep the jam bobbing above water.

At eight minutes the martian flute tone materializes for Garcia. Lesh and the drummers induce an erratic dance while bearing cavemen clubs. The central orbit of 'Dark Star has been reached, the band caresses the muse and at half past nine create a series of rotating concentric mandalas. The heart of the jam has been found, fluttering planetary anomalies rush by while the music becomes colorful and waxy, with the band feeling the space for extended riffing. The groove slithers dynamically and beautifully with Garcia zoning out, only stopping to admire the sonic horizon that starts to coalesce as the second verse comes into distant focus.  A sweet 'Dark Star' themed jam hits the spot as Garcia sings the slightly flubbed second set of lyrics.

After the verse the band anxiously and immediately falls into deep space improv. Garcia uses sizzling distortion and then muted tones against Mydland's crazy house piano lines. The space becomes clustered with woodland flutes, a chiming series of bells and pitch bending keyboards. Lesh starts to lay a foundation down coaxing the group into stacking stones on top of the slowly pulsing hand drums. Weir hits on a hot riff, Lesh is all over the fret board, static forms, Hart gets strange, Mydland starts to assert himself with massive pieces of found piano sound. Comedic car horns and confused panning of the stereo image create insanity as the jam peaks suddenly then languidly evaporates into drums. Weir, Mydland  are the last to leave the stage to the drummers, conjuring a fragmented prelude to drums.

This particular performance is a flashback to 'Dark Star's' of years past. Years of the huge two verse variety, where time was of no issue for the band. Regardless of your feelings about the incorporation of MIDI into the bands sound, on this particular evening everything comes together to create a magical series of improvisations. The drummers are playing particularly well, pushing the band even when they deconstruct into free space. Garcia's 'Wolf' guitar is a glorious psychedelic horn, navigating the aural jelly of the grooves created.

The song would appear again on New Years of 1989 and then stick around the bands song list for the next few years. Always a special and hoped for performance, this Fall 1989 version is the greatest of the three performed that October, and in my opinion the best late era version. Pick any Grateful Dead performance from October 1989 and you are bound to find a moment of pure bliss for your own 'Now Playing'.

Dark Star 10-26-1989
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Sunday, May 18, 2014

Put The Boot in: Cream - 'Getting Near Dawn' April 5, 1968 Boston Bay Back Theatre

 
Detonating in the 'rock room' today is a classic field recording hailing from April 5, 1968 at the Bay Back Theater in Boston Ma. A clean, slightly thin audience recording of unknown providence exists of Cream live and smack dab in the middle of their extended Spring US 1968 tour. The 4,000 seat venue was to be witness to one of the most psychedelic and improvised concerts to take place in the 1960's. What the circulating low generation tape contains is a virtuous performance by three intense musical personalities fighting it out through extended rocket fueled improvisations. The breathing space allowed by the band's three instruments allows the audience recording to breath heartily with acceptable dynamics. After playing a show almost every evening for over a month Cream is a powerful and angry beast, spraying fire across the audience, practiced and locked in tight.
 The recording and performance begins with a version of 'Sunshine Of Your Love' that immediately extends to almost 17 incendiary minutes. Clapton's first solo is elongated and during his second turn through the changes its obvious the band is feeling something. Bruce gets loopy and Clapton squeezes out colorful statements that stretch from the basic melody. When the band departs from the normal song structure they at first slam away at the expected themes, before Clapton starts to construct a frame comprised of buzzing and fractured chording. Bruce takes the opportunity to play his bass like a crooked lysergic trumpet while leading the band, encouraging Bakers tribal skin snapping.  At half past seven the first chromatic wave occurs as Clapton weaves a tangled sparkling web to which Bruce responds with amplified and sticky moaning. The music pulses amoebic, morphing into a white wash at half past nice minutes, Bruce and Clapton clash silver swords that detonate into transparent rain of the sun. Clapton throws solar mandalas from his guitar that rotate kinetically in cool flame. The improvisation has turned dramatic and at 11 minutes a smoky Egyptian flavor drifts in, alien in nature but slotting perfectly in the context of the jam. Leaving the desert sands the jam reaches dusk and turning slightly dark, grinds like the hulls of two large ships scraping together. The groove teeters slightly, before rising into a full tempo detonation that comes to rest in a danceable groove at thirteen minutes. After fourteen minutes the jam reaches a segment of euphoric start/stop syncopation's that bubble like heated plastic, Clapton hits a series of glissando's that boggle the mind and induce the band to even greater efforts. Failing to reprise the tune the band finally descends to solid ground with a proper ending, concluding on what sounds like Jack Bruce replying from  the stage, 'We like to get warmed up'. Indeed! The finest performance of the song you will ever hear in my humble opinion, not just because of length but because of girth.

Following the opening musical assault, the band unleashes another extended improvisation, this time in a blues format with the sixteen minute version of 'Spoonful' that comes next. A thick bitter dose of heavy blues follow with Clapton snuggled in his element and discharging an array of uniquely electrified blues licks. After warming up through the changes, at shortly after four minutes Clapton swallows the whole dose, now taking the jam to an unknown place. Bruce expresses some excited vocal interjections, getting off on the groove, driving the drill bit deeper. At six minutes Clapton  gets jittery exploding into a dizzying array of riffs, leaving the blues, spinning into the cosmos. Clapton begins to scream, squealing, bending metal, stretching for the mystical note. The jam slides into a fast funky plane, dissolving into a rolling Baker/Clapton holding pattern. The jam turns firmly hallucinatory, cloudy, churning organically in strange ways. The cymbals drop out at almost eleven minutes leaving Bruce and Clapton to enter an embrace. A gruff stone groove is hit upon that reenters a bluesy alley made of hot concrete. Exiting the jam Baker slams into a gritty Diddley groove that enters the back door on a drone of feedback while falling back into the muddy groove of 'Spoonful'. Amazing stuff, the first two songs of the concert are an alchemical display of psychedelic improvisation at its finest-- perhaps of all time.
'Sleepy Time Time' is another tasty slap of electric blues, an original song composed by Jack Brice and his then wife. The band takes a heavy footed nighttime creep through the elastic vocals of the verse. Clapton takes an insomniacs swing at his first round of soloing, setting the stage for Jack Bruce to step up and solo through a series of the changes. Bruce highlights this particular performance with clutch vocals and trailblazing bass lines. A top notch group performance with each member contributing professional performances.

A stand out of numerous Cream concerts and an early career favorite of Clapton, Memphis Slim's, 'Stepping Out' became another important jam vehicle for the Cream. This version in my opinion surpasses the Live Cream II version available on official release. The band hugs the corners as they blaze through the accentuated and speedy changes of the tune. At around almost five minutes Clapton displays a boggling guitar trick, spraying a multitude of metallic shavings of sound, stretching the seams of the song, exposing its innards. Bruce then drops out leaving the stage to Clapton and Bruce who challenge each other, slamming horns and grinding gears. For the remaining seven minutes of the song Baker rattles off a rainstorm of poly rhythms to which Clapton decorates in an endless supply of chilling guitar mastery. From twelve minutes til the songs conclusion, Clapton hits a spot that I can honestly say I have only ever seen exposed by a few guitarists. This is obvious to all rock fans because Clapton is a known legend and is arguably the greatest guitarist ever. But when revisiting this era of Cream the wealth of jamming can seriously make anyone question what true improvised psychedelic rock music is. Wow. It doesn't seem possible that this music can be created from silence by these three musicians.
Bruce and Baker get together for a harmonica laced run down the tracks with 'Traintime' that cuts in already in progress losing about a minute I would guess. Bruce lays it down dirty with train whistle wines and off mic interjections. Baker keeps up with the motion of the locomotive conducting the trip through punchy kicks and cymbal hits. The song a fine example of where Cream's roots truly dug into the earth, a trusted location to return to when the dizzying heights of music and mind expansion became too much.

The recording concludes with another extended number, Ginger Baker's spotlight masterpiece, 'Toad'. The inspiration and blueprint for John Bonham's future drum excursion 'Moby Dick', this version extends past sixteen minutes and features Bakers early samplings of future Blind Faith classic 'Do What You Like'. After some truncated jamming by the trio Baker shows his numerous percussive talents, slamming double bass paradiddles, into deep tribal hollow grooves that touch on jazz influences before interspersing with aggressive cymbal smashing a crashing. The conclusion is a gigantic Himalayan avalanche of rock and snow, thundering and echoing through the halls of the mountain king. The band returns to restate the theme and conclude the recording and I assume the performance, unless there is a missing encore.

The three powerful and distinct personalities of Cream not only induced their finest musical moments but also initiated their quick destructive demise. For the short time that these musicians could coexist, their combination of talent, attitude, drugs and initiative combined to create some of the most multifaceted and combustible improvised the music the world has ever seen. The stress of this music's creation, in addition to the added pressures of stardom and abuse would splinter the factions within the band, leaving only the smouldering remains of the places they performed. Check out this audience recording created by an enterprising fan in the Spring of 1968, take a journey back to when consciousness changing music was still being created on a nightly basis.

Sunshine of Your Love

Steppin Out

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Sunday, May 11, 2014

Bob Marley and the Wailers- 'Small Ax'-The Complete Upsetter Singles 1970-1972

 
It's a slow burn this evening in the rock room, fresh from a vacation in Jamaica, reggae is the order of the night. Spinning currently is the collection Bob Marley and the Wailers- The Complete Upsetter Singles 1970-1972, which compiles through 36 tracks all of the Lee 'Scratch' Perry era Wailers tracks in a tight little set. These tracks will be familiar to the informed Wailers fan from various collections, but this particular set is nice because it puts them all neatly in one stash box. Many versions are in mono as some of the gear Perry and Wailers were working with was still pretty primitive even at the date of these sessions.

The music highlights the original Wailers line up featuring, Bunny Wailer, Peter Tosh and Marley in addition to backing by the 'Upsetters' band, spotlighting eventual Wailers veterans the Barrett brothers on drums and bass respectively. Glen Adams and Alva 'Reggie' Lewis add keyboards and addition guitar to the proceedings. What started out as a rocky and almost bloody relationship between Perry and the Wailers became a definitive and revelatory conglomerate of inspiration and sounds. Perry and Marley would continue their ascent into the hierarchy of reggae and dub music throughout the 1970's, both through their respective relentless hard work and unparallelled creativity.

'My Cup' begins on a jumpy ska groove, the first recording and single of the collaboration between Perry the producer and the Wailers as the band. Groovy falsetto vocals mingle with Marley's heavily echoed voice. The detailed backing by the group is flirtatious and ticklish in its attack, with Aston Barrett's bass scurrying across the fretboard like a spider to shadow. This Summer of 1970 cut documenting the formative stages of the Perry and the Wailers relationship is the perfect place to lift off from.

For the second single 'Man To Man', a Perry/Marley collaboration, the Wailers sound has congealed into a revolutionary blend of spirituality, commentary, melody and soul. Marley would later re-cut this track and also rename it, "Who the Cap Fit' on the Rastaman Vibration LP. This version is definitive, beautiful and a product of a perfect moment of collaboration. The three part harmonies of the Wailers are at their finest here, the studio is blue with ganja smoke, and the instrumental balance is perfect.

The Wailers big single of the moment in September of 1970 was 'Duppy Conqueror' the next track on the collection. The uptempo 'one drop' groove is accentuated by clip clopping percussion and Tosh's empty cave scratch rhythm. Short keyboard interjections color the embryonic version of a song later re-cut for 1973's Burnin' LP. Similar to the aforementioned 'Man To Man', its hard to replicate magic twice and this version contains a special ambiance and vibe that makes it essential listening.

'Mr Brown; follows and is a hearty spoonful of studio madness and ingenuity. The track sounds like a haunted 'Louie, Louie' bellowing out call and response graveyard vocals using the previous 'Duppy Conqueror'' 'riddim' with additional overdubs performed by a creepy slithering Tosh on heavy keyboard. Marley's rap flows as water through the Glen Adams penned lyrics, dripping over the morphed Duppy groove like sparkling ocean currents. Lee 'Scratch' Perry's vital contributions and forward thinking musical experimentation is wonderfully demonstrated on this track. His manipulation of the mix as well his ear for the perfect ambiance of a record while using a primitive four track machine is astonishing. This is what 'dub' is all about and this track illustrates it achieving amazing and creative success.
 The fat fruity bass of 'Kaya' thumps heartily, while the reggae rhythm shakes like a street corner band, the groove revealing itself based on the direction of the breeze. Breathy, irie vocals, hopeful and thankful for the 'Kaya' on a rainy day, illicit the stony pull of the herb. Marley's vocals the sweetest green, while Peter and Bunny support with hopeful tribal additions. Its my opinion that while the 1978 Island Records remake of this song on the LP Kaya is sonically superior, this version puts you under the rusted roof of a roadside shanty bar, clouds passing by, rain in a free fall, followed by steamy sun, huge spliffs fill the tropical air with a fog, while this song plays on a busted up transistor radio balanced on a concrete windowsill. Yeah.

Possibly the finest early recorded moment for Perry while working with Marley is the track, 'Small Ax'. Recorded with a full horn section and using the house band from Dynamic Studio's, 'Small Ax' is a true collaboration between Perry and Marley despite the numerous errors during previous publishing of the tune's songwriting credits. This type of confusion was common for the era in Jamaica. Marley has never sounded more expressive, hopeful and youthful vocally.The chorus hides a warning shot to the big recording company's in Jamaica, sung so sweetly you would never notice the threat. Perfect.

The popularity of 'Small Ax' caused Perry to release an alternate version, now days known as a 'remix' of 'Small Ax', titled 'More Ax'. The alternate track contains a fantastic shimmering soul Stax groove, wah-wah'd guitar and an alternative vocal performance by the Wailers.

'All In One is Perry's released medley of nine Wailers mixed into one performance, interesting, unique and another example of Perry's new lines of production thought. The mashed songs are divided into parts I and II and extend past 4 minutes. A conglomerate of everything you would need to know about the Wailers on two sides of a 7!

'Hailing from 1971 come the tracks 'Dreamland', 'Lovelight' and 'Downpressor'. Here we get a Bunny Wailer spotlight and signature song, an obscure Marley love song, and a Tosh explosion against Babylon. 'Lovelight' highlights Bunny's beautiful voice and contains perky bubble gum backing by the Wailer's/Upsetters, in the sense that the song pops and percolates in glistening colors, while the vocals sit in smooth contrast with a honey sweet restraint.
 'Lovelight' is quintessential Marley, containing a roots rock groove that resonates deeply ,while still retaining his distinctive musical fingerprint. A sexy off kilter sway, the song dances in silhouette against sunset before settling into a sweltering sweaty groove.

Tosh's dramatic 'Downpressor' is a shady echoed mantra sounding futuristic in its representation. One of the best songs of the collection, the keyboards, pianos and scratchy guitar chirp the aggressive melodic details like birds communicating across forest treetops. The harmony filled vocal lines inflate with the applied tape echo and wobbly chorus expanding the sonic palette of the track.

The classic Wailers reading of 'Keep On Moving' illustrates the groups love of American vocal bands, with a true 'R and B' and Reggae mash up. Another amazing display of the Wailers underrepresented vocal prowess.

Based on the Richie Havens 1969 track, 'Indian Rope Man', 'African Herbsman' pops along buoyantly its groove a disparity to the content of the words. Haven's lyrics are representative of Marley's own expressions of oppression and freedom being generated in his own consciousnesses. Soon Marley's messages will reach full maturity, his melodic medium becoming prolific.

'Run For Cover' featured on this collection as a bonus track is a single from the Escort label in 1970, the liner notes reference this being an alternative take. The songs addictive rhythm track so popular that it has been used as a bed for many other performances and 'remix' opportunities. This practice is also referred to as a track being 'versioned' through manipulation of existing tracks or additional overdubs.

Marley would record 'Sun Is Shining'  for a 1970 single the track featured here, then later for 1978's LP Kaya. In this version, Family Man's bass rests in the pit of the listeners gut, while the minimalist backing track is  provided by the group the 'Soul Syndicate'. Peter Tosh plays a whining flute like melodica line throughout the song, playing Marley's musical foil. The song's expansive yearning chorus even more expressive in this early version, if that is possible.

Released as a 1970 'B' side, 'Stand Alone' is another strong and somewhat obscure track, representative of Marley's prolific output during this era.

Another moody and rhythmically diverse Tosh track, 'No Sympathy' follows, a song that was supposed to be a single in England but never passed the test pressing stage. The song features again, Tosh's big throat using his melodic sensibilities to make sense of his role in the world of Babylon. The sneaky organ and Tosh's rhythm guitar taffy pull against the straight forward rock beat of Carlie Barrett making the song even more strange melodically. The vocals layered and stacked similarly to the style of the 'Band' toward the songs fadeout, making its conclusion quite disorienting.

On the last song Tosh again takes lead vocals for the tune, "Brand New Second Hand', a straight forward 'one drop' rhythm with Marley and Bunny offering smile inducing 'sha-la-la' backing vocals. Tosh's matter of fact vocal expression is a pleasure as he tells the lady subject of the song how he feels about her posturing. Tight and crisp, arguably some of the best Reggae ever created is contained on this set.
The remainder of this collection gathers all of the 'dub' versions that would appear on the 'B' sides of these collected singles. For those not aware the 'dub' versions are instrumental tracks put on the flip side so dance hall DJ's, producers, and musicians could manipulate the 'riddim's' by increasing the bass, lowering treble, slowing down or speeding up, among other practices. Sometimes these 'dubs' were even given alternate titles or titles that tied them to the original song. Putting these 'dubs' with their respective singles is a fantastic plan for the release.
While the discography of Bob Marley and the Wailers prior to their major label signing with Island in 1972 can be confusing, this collection purchased either on numerous vinyl 7's or on a two CD set is a nice way to enjoy the single releases in one spot. The sound quality varies between songs but as a whole the sonic s are more than acceptable. This anthology, covering the vital years of 1970-1972 captures the definitive historic moments when Reggae was developing into a world changing art form. This set is essential listening for the fan already familiar with the songs and who wants them together, or for the fan who wants to experience the original Wailers prior to fame ripping them apart. The exuberance and creativity exudes from the speakers in 'one drop' drums, shag carpet bass and the Wailers trademark three part harmonies.

Wailers Upsetter Singles

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Sunday, May 4, 2014

Put the Boot In: Paul McCartney and Wings-'Got Any Toothpicks?' Live 1972

      Spinning today in the ‘rock room’ is a bootleg classic and loosey-goosey early flight by Paul McCartney and Wings. The recording 'Got Any Toothpicks?' captures the best available soundboard clips from Wings introductory 1972 tour of Europe. The title of the bootleg hails from Linda McCartney's exclamation at the beginning of the recording. Released on famed label Vigotone in 1998, 'Got Any Toothpicks' is a core release in terms of documented Wings live performances. The soundboard recordings are warm, clean and balanced, obviously hailing from the bands professional recording gear.
     The first nine tracks of the collection capture the last song of the bands first set and the majority of the second set hailing from August 22, 1972 in Antwerp, Belgium. This early configuration of Wings featured the McCartney's, Denny Laine, Denny Seiwell and Henry McCullough. The group at this junction was acting as McCartney's experiment at returning to smaller venues and reviving a true 'band' experience, similar to the Beatles early attempts at fame. Eventually and obviously McCartney's popularity would over shadow his attempts at creating any sort of anonymity or illusion of who the band was really about. What is unique about these initial concert excursions is the rough attitude and intimate glimpse into McCartney's rebuilding of his career, post-Beatles. 
     The Antwerp tape begins with the closing number of set one, 'Best Friend', a unreleased rocker from these formative Wings days. The song sways like a summertime swing set, while McCartney channels Elvis during the middle eight, quaking his legs and curling his lip. A tight little rock number that illuminates the talents of this early line up.
       Streaming in on a Morse code guitar plucking from high on the neck, the concert favorite 'Soily' is ushered in on marching band snare drumming and Macca's rumbling bass. The song is comprised of many breakdowns rooted in a funk aesthetic combined with crashing descending guitar lines. McCartney can be heard yelling changes off mic during this fine performance. A testament to the staying power of this song is that it would appear four years later on 'Wings Over America' as well as being the 'B" side to 1977's 'Maybe I'm Amazed' single.
     After some on stage hi-jinx, the Wild Life track 'I Am Your Singer' follows, a collaboration between Paul and Linda. The song is received well by the audience, and is a favorite 'deep' cut of the 'rock room'. The percussive pulse of drums in conjunction Macca's bass give the song a feathery ocean feel. The shaky phased guitars and moist slide solo add to the breezy vibe.
     Linda's own 'Seaside Woman' follows and is introduced by Paul enthusiastically. The reggae groove chucks along buoyantly, its creation inspired by Paul and Linda's visit to the island of Jamaica in 1971. 'Seaside Woman' would eventually see release as a single in 1977 with Wings playing under the monicker, Suzy and the Red Stripes. The songs horny rhythm is contagious, and regardless of your opinion of Linda McCartney's songwriting abilities, this one rocks.
     Denny Laine emerges from the shadows to sing 'Say You Don't Mind' a lost 1967 single composed by Laine after his stint in the Moody Blues. The reason for Laine's long stint as McCartney's right hand man in 'Wings' is obvious when his original songs are given proper stage readings. The man's talent  for melody and song is strong, but unfortunately his career was destined to be that of a sideman.
     Henry McCullough gets his moment to share his talents next with the aptly titled, 'Henry's Blue'. The song a straight blues, with ample room for McCullough's clean toned guitar examinations of the songs changes. McCartney's bands are not normally a vehicle for blues jamming, but this is a well played, though straight forward musical jam.
     A moving and wonderfully played version of Wings current single, 'Give Ireland Back to the Irish' that follows becomes a revolutionary sing a long. Composed in response to England's involvement in the 'Bloody Sunday' massacre, the song had been banned throughout England but was continued to be played on stage by the band. The version reviewed here cuts out before the songs conclusion.
     The extremely rare reading of the Leadbelly classic 'Cottonfields', possibly the only time this track was performed comes next. McCartney pumps out the lyrics with a kinetic syncopation and joyous attitude. The band is locked in tight, making this performance worth the price of admission. The soundboard recording is clean and the music fantastic! This is a foot-stomping rendition, its enthusiasm cannot be expressed properly through this review.
     After asking the crowd to settle down, the band begins a delicate and formative version of 'My Love'. The song runs through the changes once before Macca enters with the vocals. Paul's Fender Rhodes quivers, quaking through the recording tape, his voice flawless, the performance priceless, though the backing vocals are slightly flat. Kudos to McCullough's fine solo, that would reach perfection on the upcoming studio release.
       The Antwerp concert tracks end here and what follows next is another reading of 'Henry's Blue', this time coming from the August 20th Amsterdam concert. The sound quality improves quite a bit, highlighting another fine blues improvisation by the band.
      The unreleased Wings song, '1882' originally planned for inclusion on the Red Rose Speedway, is featured here in a slightly doctored guise. This is a live performance from August 21, 1972, but when the track was in the running for Red Rose Speedway, McCartney added vocal overdubs to the song. A lost classic that moves like a lead footed waltz contrasting McCartney's honey thick vocals.
     Unfortunately only a bit over two minutes of 'Wild Life' exists from the same August 21 concert, but what is here is heavy and well played, though short lived. 'Hi, Hi, Hi' is also featured in a slightly truncated fashion, but worthwhile because the performance is incendiary and thick with smoke. These aforementioned two musical clips come from the soundtrack of a unreleased MPL project hence their chopped up and incomplete existence.
     The final track on the disc is from Dutch radio on August 20, 1972 and contains Paul, Linda and Denny gathered around a piano singing like a group of drunk sailors. The performance is brief but fun and unique and ends the bootleg in a pleasing fashion.
     The bootleg recording 'Got Any Toothpicks', is a proper and fine document of Wings during a unique period in the bands development. The featured Antwerp show can be enjoyed in its entirety by finding circulating audience recordings in addition to these aforementioned soundboard tapes. McCartney's first post-Beatle excursions are abundant with amazing compositions and small venue rock celebrations available on recordings like this one. Start here for fine sound quality, rare performances and historic rock in a enjoyable collection.

Wings-'Got Any Tooth Picks?'