Sunday, July 27, 2014

Put the Boot In: The Who-'The Simple Things'-August 24, 1968 Oklahoma City, OK

 Windmilling in the 'rock room' this evening is an amazing audience recording hailing from the Who's second American tour in August of 1968. On August 24th the Who played an early and a late show at Wedgewood Amusement Park in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. According to notes the band played on a grandstand in front of the main building and across from the 'Tornado' roller coaster. Audio documentation by Pete Townsend referring to the sun 'bearing down on their necks as well as beaming in the audience's eyes point to this recording as coming from the afternoon performance. The group's LP Magic Bus had just been released in July and the band toured in support of the record, with the schizophrenic visions of Tommy already visible on the horizon.

This recording is biting and raw, an amazing capture for a tape made on somewhat still primitive recording devices. The personality of the individual instruments is sharp and in focus. The hallmarks of any forty plus year old tape in existence are slight anomalies and sonic reediness. But it the case of this recording, the capture is an absolute pleasure and makes one forget the few issues. Only thirty minutes exist of this tape, so I am certain it is only a partial recording. What is available is a crushing display of a band starting to discover what they were capable of as writers and stage performers.

The master recording hails from a silver bootleg disc called 'Cry Blue Murder' and begins with the opening strains of the performance, as some tuning is captured before the band thrashes into the blinding opening lick of 'Substitute'. There is some muffling to the recording as the taper presumably adjusts his gear for optimal operating parameters, but this dissipates quickly. What is most striking about the sound quality is John Entwistle's elephant bass tone underpinning Townsend's violent guitar strikes, these features comes through on the tape as elastic and warm for the bass and as violent exposed power lines for the guitar respectively.
The band pauses briefly before launching into the kinetic syncopation of 'I Can't Explain'. Shouts from the stage can be heard on the recording increasing the intensity. This tune is performed a proto-punk garage mod kick in this face. The brisk youthful energy as well as Moonie's over zealous kick drum comes through loud an clear on the tape, placing you center stage. (actually slightly toward the Ox's side) The music washes from the performers in charged electric waves invested with the ambient fairground afternoon from all those years ago. Daltrey growls over the collaborative falsetto backing vocals, a street tough hippie in training. There are some slight sonic issues on this track, but they are outweighed by the stellar performance.

A short pause for Townshend to explain that the next song is one of the band's most requested numbers and then the band initiates the haunted and thumping opening to 'Boris the Spider'. Townshend's horror flick vibrato surf guitar shimmers across the thick bass lines of aural webbing strung across the doorways of the song by Entwistle. This rendition is truly demented containing shadowy vocals and laboratory experimentation with off mic chuckles. The song ends with a deep burp lending some more comedic relief to the intense performance of a fan favorite.
 In my opinion the highlight of the performance, as well as many early Who concerts follows next with the mini-opera, 'A Quick One, While He's Away'. This track is broken into many movements and is Townshend's first foray into composing a 'rock opera'. Reaching ten minutes this version flawlessly navigates all of the various segments of Townshend's tale of seduction. A precursor to Tommy, which is still on the horizon, 'A Quick One' is Pete's formative, yet successful attempt at the extended rock tale. The band romps hornily through a version very close in intensity to the Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus rendition still to be played in December. What makes this one so amazing is the ambiance and personality that translates from the tape. Raw and gritty, there is no processing on this bad boy. Entwistle is sneaky in his clattering helicopter lead bass lines, even slightly overshadowing Townshend's shimmering Stratocaster assault strikes. The 'Remedy' section of the movement is celebratory in its status. The closing 'We Are Forgiven' section is unwavering in its aggression and finds Townshend experimenting with distorted silver static readings of the melody lines. As the finale reaches its vigorous conclusion the bands overlapping three part harmonies peak with Entwistle's definitive falsetto statement bringing the band to a proper conclusion.
After an introduction by Daltrey the band enters into the recently released 'Magic Bus', introduced by Moon's clickety-clack wood blocks. A twisted 'Bo Diddley' groove develops out of Entwistle's plump bass groove and Townshend's brittle scrubs. The resonance of Pete's guitar in this segment is a fine jewel placed under perfect illumination for inspection. Teetering on the edge of psychedelia Moon's drums cascade into an explosive 'rave up,' the unbelievable moment to follow is captured flawlessly by the enterprising taper. Townshend's guitar and Entwistle's bass are two Goliath's wrestling for control of the apocalyptic jamming. Beneath it all Moon thrashes his kit into submission with a constant hearty series of rolls. Townshend starts to abuse his guitar covering the crowd with a sonic wash like a blanket over a bed. Entwistle's bass takes the lead, pounding out the rhythm through amplified rubber bands and hearty bends, initiating a complete avalanche of  musical noise crushing everything in its path. This musical maelstrom is jaw dropping in its muscle flexing tonal strength

After properly destroying the mountainside and surrounding communities, without a pause the band segues into the 'Johnny Kidd and the Pirates track, 'Shakin All Over'. While not as mature as the version to be featured on the future Live at Leeds record in 1970, this version slams doors and breaks windows of the garage it was born from. Daltrey struts with an attitude, a young punk on the prowl, honing his craft, soon to be a 'golden god' of the stage.
This short but plentiful slice of primal 'Who' from 1968 belongs on a list of definitive tapes available of the band 'Pre-Tommy'. The priceless recording places you front row center for the fleeting but intense moments otherwise left to drift on the unattainable breezes of rock and roll history. The group is bursting at the seams and full of confidence while developing the stage craft that would make them one of the pillars of rock. You can experience the feeling of discovery permeating the band as they deconstruct 'Magic Bus', or witness the elicited enthusiasm of Keith Moon's off mic shouts of joy prior to detonating a tune on the stage. For rock fans who are dependent on sound quality you will find issues with this recording. For Who fans and bootleg fans who want to get inside an evening of music that took place of forty years ago through sonic time travel- there are multiple gifts awaiting for you, all you have to do is listen.


A Quick One-8-24-1968

Magic Bus-8-24-1968

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Saturday, July 19, 2014

Tools of the Trade: 'All Will Be Revealed'- Jimmy Page's 1961 Danelectro 3021 Guitar

 Instruments are often inseparable from the artists that use them. Their shapely contours and placid tones are identifiable characteristics for both the artist's expression and for the brand or maker of each particular instrument. Each individual musical implement is a tangible representation for a particular artist's outward soul expression. Over time these instruments will gain an aura, a certain mysticism commensurate with  the personality aspects of its user. Today's rant from the 'rock room' will focus on a famed disseminate of rock riffs.... Jimmy Page's 1961 Danelectro 3021 guitar.

Mr. Page's arsenal of guitars could very well be the most impressive in rock. His astonishing instrument vault, which was briefly witnessed in the rock documentary, 'It Might Get Loud' is stacked with 'Telecasters', 'Stratocasters', acoustic guitars and of course 'Les Paul's'. In addition to Page's numerous guitars sit a Hurdy Gurdy as well as Sitars, Theremins and plentiful electronic wizardry and amplification.

The guitar put under the 'rock room' microscope is an unassuming budget guitar that in Jimmy Page's hands became a tool of screaming argentate resonance. The 'budget' double cutaway Danelectro guitar became the destructive instrument of choice for Page when playing in alternate tunings as well as when playing slide guitar. Page allegedly gained possession of the 1961 Danelectro 3021 guitar from the 'Selmer Showroom' in downtown London date unknown. The first documentation of him playing the guitar comes from a photo dated from 1965 where he is seated at a studio session with it.
The 'shorthorn' guitar contains a masonite body, two plated 'lipstick' pickups, a white waved pick guard, tone and volume knobs and pick up selector.

The guitar was available in mail order catalogs at the time, so during the era of Page's mid 1960's use it was by no means a 'rare' instrument. But inside the body of the guitar resided a chiming 'silvertone' if you will, a crisp treble that in the hands of a player such as Page' shot sonic streaks across numerous stages.

Used on famed tracks such as 'White Summer'/Black Mountain Side', the guitar sounds as if it is transmitting as an alien transistor radio precariously balanced on a sharp cliff of a Himalayan peak. Scratching and over driven tones abound. Page often used the Celtic modal tuning of DADGAD, where the first, second and sixth strings are tuned down a full step. Page's exploratory and exotic riffing sounds sonically disturbed when passed through the internal electronics of the 3021 in unique tunings. The officially released footage of Led Zeppelin at the Royal Albert Hall in 1970 is a priceless document of Page and the instrument in action and is included in this review below.

The guitar was used on stage as early as 1968 when Page was still a member of the Yardbirds, on their version of 'White Summer' hailing from the Little Games LP. It would continue to be used until Led Zeppelin's final European tour in 1980 and even made an appearance in 1988 (Atlantic Records 40th) and 2008 (It Might Get Loud) respectively. Similarly to 'White Summer/Black Mountain Side' the other tracks which featured the Danelectro in studio and on stage also found the instrument being tuned to the previously mentioned alternate tuning. The rare appearances of 'When the Levee Breaks' during the 1975 tour featured the 3021 with Page's gravelly slide coaxing deep blusey melody's from its rosewood fingerboard. During the same era the guitar became the permanent instrument for additional concert staples, 'In My Time of Dying' and the legendary 'Kashmir'.

'In My Time of Dying' again illustrated Page playing with slide and strangling the 21 frets in fearful excitement. A highlight of numerous late era Zep performances, look to the included Earl's Court's shows from 1975 for Page using the Danelectro to its full capacity. In 1977 when 'White Summer'/Black Mountain Side' was paired with 'Kashmir' the 3021 became the spotlighted guitar for the rest of Zeppelin's career for this powerful pairing

The substantial neck appears thick in photographs, which is perhaps why Page also preferred to play bumpy slide guitar in live performance on the piece. From other players comments on Danelectro guitars and from witnessing Page play the instrument, it appears that the guitars idiosyncrasy's are also its greatest asset. The qualities that originally made it a 'budget' buy have made it bargain for later day guitarists. It fires of sonorous tones and bleeds rough and ragged soul.

The brand has continued to thrive right up through present times obviously due to Page's playing of the instrument as well as other respected players such as Peter Buck, R.L. Burnside, Jeff Beck, Nels Cline and a host of others donning their own Danelectro guitars. But it was Page, in all of his dark, demonic and revolutionary glory, conforming the instrument to his needs while using it to propagate his guitar creations. Check out the clip included below from It Might Get Loud, of Page revisiting a battered and war worn old friend for a bit of give and take.

In My Time of Dying-1975 Earl's Court

Kashmir-It Might Get Loud

White Summer/Black Mountain Side 1970 RAH

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Sunday, July 13, 2014

CSNY 1974 Box Set- 'Don't Forget to Hide the Roaches' (2014)

 
Finally. Officially released after years of rumor, conjecture and speculation the new forty track Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young document from the famed 'doom' tour of 1974 has hit the shelves of your local record shops. Compiled and developed by self proclaimed group archivist Graham Nash and famed rock photographer and Neil Young archive keeper Joel Bernstein the box set is a true labor of love for an era of the band which has been misrepresented by the passing of time, flapping of lips and rumination by the media.

The 1974 CSNY tour was a massive stadium tour brimming with all of the usual rock excesses, unfortunately magnified to extravagant and unbelievable levels due to the size of the undertaking. Drugs, attitude, money, mental derangement unbelievable talent and extravagant actions all combined to cover this concert tour with an air of mystery, dread and 'rumored' sub par performances. While all of this and more may be true, this era was also a time of four individuals reaching summits of their respective careers. Neil Young in particular was composing songs of stunning power and was wading through the most prolific time of his storied career. Stills was playing unbelievably well during this time and Crosby and Nash both has a sheath of new songs of grace and beauty. True, the harmonies suffered due to the imposing stadium venues and the ongoing volume competition on stage between Stills and Young, but there were plenty of moments containing that spellbinding magic.The massive venues while a sonic struggle, also allowed for a certain poignancy to be touched upon during the concerts, due to entire crowds becoming silenced through unique musical moments as well as by experiencing the kinetic energy exchange between crowd and performer.

Nash and Bernstein painstakingly waded through the existing tapes from ten concerts hailing from Landover, MD, Chicago, IL ,Hempstead, NY, Wembley Stadium and a Crosby/Nash concert from December to develop the ideal representation of the concert experience developed over the course of 31 dates. While  musty and aged treasures still remain to be found among the numerous field recordings of these concerts, Nash and Bernstein have finally compiled a definitive statement on the tour containing pristine sound quality, rare cuts and true representations of what happened musically on this legendary excursion. Yes, there are songs missing that I wish were included, "Southbound Train', Pardon My Heart', 'First Things First' and an extended rendition of 'Carry On', but as Nash as stated, sometimes versions of tracks were not sonically up to par, or the performances suffered. What has resulted from the producers choices is a true representation of the tour that puts the band in the best light possible. The hourglass of time has revealed this tour to be clouded by the principals views, we must be ecstatic that it has finally gone under the microscope and is receiving a proper examination.

The collection begins excitedly with the usual opener for the tour, an undulating 'Love the One You're With', the song augmented by the legendary rhythm section of Russell Kunkel, Tim Drummond and former 'Manassas' percussion master extraordinaire Joe Lala into a swirling rhythmic stew.

For too long now the only official live representation of CSNY has been Four Way Street,  a proper collection yes, but too narrow a view for the fan peaking through the keyhole. After hearing the first track of the set, even the layman can realize this is an entirely different glimpse of the group. The simulated first set moves along expectedly through well played renditions of  buoyant 'Wooden Ships' and serious 'Immigration Man' before settling in on the first major highlight of the recording, a full band rendition of one of  David Crosby's finest compositions, the yet to be released, 'Carry Me'. The normally placid song settles in with a slight funk and is delicately interpreted by Crosby with both Young and Nash contributing on creaky backing vocals. Immediately the marvelous sound quality is noticeable and welcomed, each instrument in perfect balance, each individual harmonious voice retrievable in the sonic pallet.
A series of special takes on unique tracks follows with an intricate country oasis version of Manassas's 'Johnny's Garden', as well as Young's unreleased song outline 'Traces' and Nash's underrated LP track 'Grave Concern'. 'Grave Concern' is the epitome of the term 'lost classic'. First appearing on 1973's Wild Tales its luminescent and catchy melody covers the slightly dark lyrical content in a peaceful haze. Young is featured on this track playing a solo in his very recognizable and quirky piano style.

Perhaps the peak of the entire first disc and possibly the collection is the version of 'On the Beach' from Young's self titled release that follows the performance of 'Grave Concern'. A dark and brooding late night stroll occurs. Stills punctuates Young's shore lapping vocals with moaning and bubbling statements. Stills and Young eventually embrace for a shady duel guitar captured in a call and response sequence. Separated by an explosive series of dynamic verses, Stills and Young undertake another sonic rendezvous, this time intertwining for a classic 'Buffalo Springfield' guitar interaction and conclusion.

'A distorted and spiteful 'Black Queen' follows with Stills examining his blues chops through an impressively loud and extended series of Wah-Wah'd melodic statements. The disc then close out the first set with 'Almost Cut My Hair', a version also featured on the accompanying DVD that contains selected tracks from the Landover, MD and Wembley Stadium performances. This particular performance hails from Landover and is highlighted by aggressive Stills/Young soloing, though the version suffers from David's voice sounding slightly tour weary. A proper tune for the closing of the first disc in extravagant style.

The hypothetical concert construct now moves on to disc two represents which the acoustic set. A big and beautiful strummy version of 'Change Partners' starts things off with the band sounding giddy, with an added and extra emphasis on the vocals from all of the members. This is an all time performance. Illustrated here, Nash and Bernstein made the important decision to leave much of the important dialog surrounding the tracks to more successfully allow the listener to attend the performance in their own head.
"Lee Shore', 'Only Love Can Break Your Heart', and 'Our House' follow and all contain masterful performances. 'Lee Shore is started with Crosby instructing the overzealous percussion to play 'nice and light' which results in a version that slowly gains momentum waves as it moves forward.
The 'rare' solo piano version (Crosby helps at the end) of Graham Nash's 'Fieldworker' is  a welcome addition as is the concert staple 'Guinevere' which is always magical. But the real jewel here is the crystalline version of  Crosby's 'Time After Time', breathtaking in its intimacy and vocal touch, thankfully immortalized on this collection. Of note is Stills and Nash offering spine tingling vocal assistance.

Nash's 'Prison Song' comes next with Young pitching in creaky back porch vocals and acoustic guitar before being spotlighted for a definitive version of 'Long May You Run'. Performed as a duo with Stills, their acoustic guitars play as one, their vocals a full bottle of wine passed around a late night fire. Neil's harp a lonesome moonlight train whistle moaning in the distance. A multitude of emotions are disseminated from this pull you close and whisper in the ear version.

The one time performance of Neil's ditty, 'Goodbye Dick' performed on solo banjo is a one minute rarity, historic and humorous, just the sort of impromptu song choice the later shows in the tour were accustomed to. A neat addition to the song list of the collection. 'Mellow My Mind' one of Young's most beloved songs follows and is another banjo rendition, this time Crosby and Nash drape their vocals over the verses, singing every line with Young, making this track a disc two highlight.

A Stills guitar clinic is illustrated next with a solo acoustic 'Word Game' that never fails to thrill in live performance. Not a wasted note or lick, Stills is in his best gruff throat for this legendary talking blues. Stills 'cuts heads' with this dusty Southern commentary, sketched with some of the quickest chicken picking you will ever here.

Stills sits at the piano next for a personal favorite of this reviewer, 'Myth of Sisyphus', a highlight of many 1974 performances, a commentary on the absurd as well as man's psychological struggles, this sparse piano ballad soaks up the silenced crowd and digs it fingers into the musical cliff it hangs precariously from. Stills ringing piano hits in addition to his sweet reaching falsetto reach deep into his own pain for such a heartfelt performance.

A 'CSN' staple, the version of 'Blackbird' found here proves the straight up assertion by David Crosby that 'CSN' sing it better than the Beatles ever could.

Neil Young's next feature moment in this longer than usual concert representation comes in the form of two legendary unreleased tracks that are seeing their premier on this set. 'Love Art Blues' is a lazy saloon door swinging from a bent hinge and features a full band performance. The song illustrates the internal struggle between creation and relation in a slow country sway. Following 'Love/Art Blues' is the floral island aroma of the unreleased 'Hawaiian Sunrise', a song in the running for the proposed 1974 LP, 'Human Highway' is featured here with Young on beach acoustic and Stills on woody stand up bass. Crosby and Nash wipe off their sandy feet before loaning morning bird vocal support.

The acoustic set concludes with crowd pleasing renditions of a full band singalong 'Teach Your Children' marked by Stills twangy Chet Atkins guitar filigrees, as well as  a golden and sparkling 'Suite Judy Blue Eyes', one of the finest performances of the song captured for posterity. The trio of 'CSN' move their way through a patient version that gazes out of the windows longingly, each harmony a line of thick sweet honey coating each chosen word.

Disc three represents the second electric segment that bookends the juicy acoustic center of the show. The concluding segments of the 1974 shows often featured extended readings and jammed out tracks. Opening with an extended and starry night 'Deja Vu', the band takes the title track from the 1970 album and stretch it out while investigating its cobwebbed nooks and crannies. A thorough reading of a strange song that continues to be a hallmark of 'CSN' sets to this day. Worthy of attention is Stills hearty SG work and Young's plunky piano additions.

'My Angel', a track of Stills yet to be released 1975 LP Stills is premiered on this collection in a live version the balances on the edge of funky world music disco. Stills plays piano and Young a slick Hammond B3 while Crosby and the rhythm section excitedly percolate underneath. The sexy silhouette of the song shadows the stage when Stills takes a exclusive and spongy clavinet solo.

The electric set continues with 'Graham Nash's 'Pre Road Downs', a track from 'CSN's' debut album coming dressed as another definitive version. The song hugs the corners in a precarious tour bus, smoke pouring  from the windows, women's garments hanging from windows and antennas. Stills smokes his solo down to the butt, its smouldering remnants left laying on the highway.

A flag flying 'Don't Be Denied' is represented in its 'CSNY' format, the song having been performed with David and Graham on Young's 1973 Time Fades Away tour. This version similar to those performances, its strength in the songs enduring melody not any unique instrumental approaches.

What follows 'Don't Be Denied' happens to be a very unique performance as well as a highlight of the collection. Young's incendiary 'Revolution Blues' bounds over fences and under barricades under the clandestine cover of dusk. Stills and Young both take aggressive and knifing solo guitar spots, Stills sharp and snaky, Young's blue and shaky. What is interesting is that a few members of the band showed their displeasure at the lyrical content of the song from Young's 1974 On the Beach, so on stage performances of the track are a definite anomaly for the band.
The illustrated set list of the collection now builds to the hypothetical conclusion of the show. 'Military Madness', 'Long Time Gone', 'Chicago' and 'Ohio' all express the political undercurrent and unabashed commentary the band is famous for. The crowd is stirred into a frothing boil of emotion through the fiery renditions of the bands activist sensibilities. 'Military Madness' becomes a joyous sing a long with the crowd lending their voices to the 'No more war' mantra sung by the band. "Long Time Gone' has already gained its status as one of the finest 'political' musical statements from the 1960's and here is given a uptempo and chunky reading.

Placed in the middle of the aforementioned four tracks is one of the most legendary and sought after 'missing pieces' from Neil Young's massive discography. 'Pushed It Over the End' is a shifty off tempo musical movement that somehow escaped official public release. It did appear as a 'B' side on an overseas single for a brief time, but otherwise has been left languishing in the vaults for 40 years. In this live set the song is finally given a proper introduction to the record buying public in this power position in the second electric set. The song begins a haunted waltz and dances through feedback drenched pauses, inspired melodic changes, accented rhythmic ideas and four part harmonies. Arguably one of Young's greatest compositions, the song, similarly to Dylan's tune left  unreleased 'Blind Willie McTell' was destined to be forgotten and left to collect dust until the time was right. Young coaxes grey cloudy notes from his famed 'White Falcon' as the band swindles up a chunky slab of musical meat. A definite anticipated highlight of this amazing collection.

 'Chicago' and 'Ohio' are given towering and ragged portrayals, the groups excitement unable to be contained on the recording, the music bursting from the seams and leaking from the lids. I am going to assume that these songs originally resided at the end of the respective concerts they were pulled from as the voices are frayed and the instrumentation is rough and ready. Stills stands tall on both of these numbers blowing out distorted guitar lines like a highway tire on a runaway tractor trailer truck.
The collection fittingly concludes with 'Ohio', probably the best example of the 'CSNY' collaborative strength and attitude. The song that illustrated to the band exactly what their music could accomplish given the proper time and attention. A big song for a big concert conclusion.

As previously mentioned, in addition to the three discs of music a bonus DVD is included in the package, lending a visual document to accompany the journey through the 1974 tour. Four songs exist in color pro shot format from the August 20, 1974 Landover, MD show, never before seen and exclusive to the collection, in addition to four songs from the famed Wembley Arena show in England which has circulated in 'bootleg' form for some time now. While the completest would like it all, Nash and Bernstein have distilled the existing videos down to what the regard as an appropriate representation of the band. Separating the 'wheat from the chaff' so to say. The Wembley performance has often been ruminated on because of the questionable condition of its participants, captured here, only the best tracks are disseminated.
It is often said, 'The best things come to those who wait' and that cannot be more relevant than when applied to this lovingly crafted box set. The CSNY 'doom' tour has become the stuff of legend, sometimes not always true, sometimes maybe too true! Regardless, what cannot be denied is what occurs when the four members put aside their egos and attitudes to create music. In deference to outside forces and factors, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young are magical minstrels whose powers increase when placed together. This new anthology disregards the fluff and focuses on the songs,  a simple idea that sometimes even the musicians can forget. It took forty years to happen, but finally as fans we can look back and enjoy at a time we may have lived through, or we may have missed. But one thing we can now know for sure, at this particular time,'CSNY' were the best rock and roll band on the planet.

Love the One Your With-1974

Deja Vu-1974

Pushed It Over the End-Wembley 1974

Helpless-1974

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