Talk From The Rock Room: February 2016

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Put the Boot In: Janis Joplin and the Full Tilt Boogie Band - Honolulu, Hawaii 1970 'Let's Not Forget What Rockin' Means'

Spinning in the 'rock room' today is a true original. Released after Joplin's death in 1970 by legendary bootleg producers Trademark of Quality, a yellow colored vinyl Get It While You Can immortalized Janis Joplin and the Full Tilt Boogie Band's 1970 performance at the Honolulu International Center Arena for an assembled crowd of 7,000+. The direct and very raw soundboard recording captures the entirety of Joplin's hour long set in surprisingly good sonic quality. The recording also captures a crazed crowd and much of the onstage discussions and song choice decisions that are called out by Joplin.

The recording I am enjoying is a transfer from the aforementioned original LP release. There are a few minor mix issues and anomalies but nothing that detracts from this special capture. Janis is feeling no pain and is obviously a bit fuzzy around the edges but performs admirably and is laid way back and not looking at the clock in any way. She chats with the crowd, kids with band members and puts on a wonderful late era performance. This recording a classic in every way, from the performance to pirated production.
The concert begins after the MC's introduction with a typical for the era, which means an excitable and sensual reading of 'Tell Mama'. The 'Full Tilt Boogie Band' which Janis referred to as her band opens it up with a mid song John Till guitar solo that pours out of the PA like molten lava racing for the sea. Janis brings down the groove and while squinting through the steam enters into her 'rap'. Beginning a sweet call and response section Janis reminds the 'rock room' of Presley during the same era. She is in complete control of the band and acts as a baton swinging R and B princess directing the groove.

After the conclusion of 'Tell Mama' some banging from the stage can be heard on the tape as Joplin tells the crowd that she and the band came for one reason and that is to rock. Joplin calls out for 'Half Moon' a song that would appear on Joplin's posthumous release, Pearl. A musical hero of the performance, Richard Bell on piano is stunning during this rendition. Bell, for those not aware was a  the 'Revols' from Stratford, Ontario which also featured Richard Manuel of 'The Band'. The quivering guitar now gets funky and follows the big splashing cymbals in to the song proper. Classic big band Joplin. Janis pushes off from the safety of shore and gets it on. Till's first solo flies low almost banging tree tops setting the stage for the plethora of string acrobatics to follow. Joplin responds with hearty wines that syncopate with the high tempo rim shots. The song starts to dissolve into dusk with Joplin wailing to the sky before reaching a starry silence and concluding in a big way.

The concert continues in this breathless fashion as the Joplin penned 'Move Over' follows. The track would later appear on Janis's last album Pearl as the opening song. Beginning a gunshot snare from drummer Clark Pierson with a Joplin cry of 'Get it on' the song slams into the venue's shared seating bumping anyone close by to the floor. Till's steel wool guitar duets with Joplin through the verses. Joplin encourages the increasingly rowdy crowd to singalong. Relentlessly 'Move Over' churns from the stage while Joplin plaintively pleads for her man to stop playing with her and to just move on with it. The band shifts for the solo segment and digs in for the most intense musical movement of the evening thus far. While not breaking down the barriers of the song Janis shows great control, patience and presence while touching the edges of orgasm. She howls with eyes closed ecstasy' while still keeping the tension from breaching the musical framework. Stunning.
Following the accelerated R and B and euphoric vibe that has just occurred since the opener, the band takes some time to deal with some guitar issues and technical problems. The tape revels some classic stage banter that I will leave for you my treasured listener to discover. The band tosses out various tuning quotes including 'Tequila' before  the thick breaking into the gooey sweet center of the concert.

The 'soul' set of the concert begins here.The band enters into a cover of  'Maybe' originally performed by the 'Chantels' in 1958.  Highlighted by dramatic organ flourishes by Ken Pearson the song is stamped with stuttering drums and well times caesura's. Joplin's vocals are sweet Southern Comfort and swirl around the arrangement like the last thick swig in a bar glass.

'Summertime' starts in the same tractor tracks of 'Maybe', except its arrangement is floral and as vibrant as diffused sunlight. The song though only two years removed seems like ages because of Joplin's brisk maturity and constant artistic flux. Full Tilt channels Big Brother but in a tighter wrapping here as 'Summertime' plays from a psychedelic music box. Joplin is again in fine form directing the band up and over and under and around as 'Summertime' gets a heavy response from the crowd.
Joplin then takes the opportunity to introduce her band of 'Canadians'. The only American in the band being drummer Clark Pierson.There again follows some prime dialog from the stage here as Janis invites someone in the crowd to 'Pearl's House' for drinks if they can make it. Again, I'll leave it to the listener to enjoy these audio verite' moments of Joplin. There is no doubt that Joplin is nipping good as the show continues into the evening.

Introduced as a 'kind of a new song', One of Joplin's signature cuts, 'Get It While You Can' becomes the centerpiece of the elegant place setting of music developed by the performance. The track illustrates Joplin's range and soul in a sympathetic arrangement. While not an 'all time' reading, this version stays true to the good time, easy vibe of the show. Bell's saloon piano and the slow steady rhythmic sway support Joplin's breathy verses. Prime Janis.
Closing the main set is a dynamic version of 'Kozmic Blues', a song from the 1969 LP I Got Dem Ol' Kozmic Blues Again Mama!. The song starts low and ends high becoming a triumphant detonation of sound by its conclusion. The band corners with Joplin for every tight turn. Janis initiates a sing along throughout her series of falsetto exclamations, the whips the crowd into a frenzy documented by the recording. Perfectly placed and paced the performance ends confidently and stunningly.

The MC returns and tries to contain the crowd while controlling his own excitement. You can tell that something is going down in the auditorium from the audio evidence, but I cannot confirm what. Joplin and the band return in response to the crowds calls and unidentified chaos to which Janis says, 'Figure out what it costs and I'll pay for it'. She then calls for 'Piece of My Heart' which is played in a uptempo but somewhat tired fashion. I think Janis is feeling really good at this point of the show. The oft played but mega popular song gives the crowd even greater reason to celebrate and at its conclusion the response is tangible. The MC explains Janis and the band have left as the crowd screams for more.

Janis Joplin's classic performance and bootleg recording from Honolulu 1970 has made the rounds for years and rightfully so. While arguably not the 'best' Joplin performance available, its charm is in the edgy vibe, the honest unadorned soundboard mix, the insane crowd and Janis's awesome vocals and raps. The recording is a rock time capsule trapped in the grooves of the original yellow vinyl release, released by enterprising collectors and passed on for eternity for rock fans like all of us. Janis would not be long for the earth after these Summer 1970 concerts, throw this recording on to find her performing like there is no tomorrow.

Live In Honolulu

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Now Playing: The Who - Live at the Marquee Club 1965 'Le Mods'

‘Now Playing’ in the ‘rock room’ is a significant eight minute black and white clip of ‘Mod’ gods, The Who, live and in concert at the famed Marquee club on February 16, 1965 and broadcast on French television in March of the same year. This choice clip of The Who was compiled from  the 1965 French documentary, Seize Millions De Jeunes - Les Mods which is now included in its entirety on the Blu-Ray edition of the Quadrophenia film as additional bonus footage. 

This film is absolutely must see, capturing the young and hungry Who emanating a shaky energetic power just on the verge of severe detonation. No extended ‘rock opera’s’ or artsy ruminations here, just ‘Maximum R and B’ and a tight practiced band reaching for new, exciting and progressive ways of musical expression.

The one downfall to this footage is that it exists in a highly edited form with some voice over that makes the viewer hunger for the whole delicious performance. Even in the complete documentary Seize Millions De Jeunes - Les Mods what exists is all you get.

London’s famed Marquee Club was the launching point for and location of many of rock and rolls most legendary bands and performances and as previously stated, this Who performance is one of the finest visual captures you can hope for.  Six months from being called ‘The High Numbers’ this small slice of ‘Mod’ history is thrilling yet somewhat frustrating because of its brevity.
 Four snippets of song were thankfully released by the French television crew and all are cover songs displaying the formative influences that the The Who took to heart and used as launching pads for their own artistic development. The songs featured are James Brown's ‘Shout and Shimmy’, Garnett Mimm's ‘Tell Me Baby’, Martha and the Vandella's ‘Heatwave’, and a devastating take on Willie Dixon’s ‘Spoonful’. 

The footage begins with ‘Shimmy and Shake’ already in mid progress. Dapper Daltrey is dressed in a checkered suit and choking tie and he sways to the seething rhythm. Townsend stands hunched over his Rickenbacker, undulating to Moon and Entwistle’s heavy groove.  The intimate footage is stunning as the camera soon fits Townshend’s head to the frame and focuses on his face and backing vocals to the performance.

The next clip is of ‘Tell Me Baby’ which is perfectly funky and highlights Entwistle and Townshend falsetto vocals. All band members have a microphone which allows Moonie to lend his vocals to the mix as well. Moon soon becomes the focus of the camera and these moments find Moon at his best. He flips and twirls sticks, lands back on the beat and dances across the skins with aggressive taught strikes. The band heavy steps through the track and the later distinctive Who fingerprint is discernible all over this delectable cover.
‘Heatwave’ follows and again is charged with electric energy, with Moon banging in conjunction with Townsend’s orchestrated yet still infantile windmills.  Daltrey taps his tambourine against his thigh, his stage presence still under construction while Townshend boogies at the assembled on lookers. Unfortunately Entwistle is only caught in glimpses in this footage, but his bottom end is well discernible. The tail end of this particular clip also features a enjoyable look at the Who’s early back line of amps, highlighted by Pete’s already war torn Hi-Watt/Fender full stack amp.

The final song of the featured clip and the most spectacular of the bunch begins with Daltrey blowing hard on harp as the jam sounds as it is being played from a dank alley; prospective handfuls of purple hearts and glasses of ale lend a nervous quality to the streaks of feedback escaping from Townshend’s guitar.  Pete and John start to stretch bluesy moans from their taught strings. Daltrey becomes silent as Moonie looks to the twin pillars of Townshend and Entwistle for signals he steady's the hard changes that sound like a version of ‘Spoonful’.  

Entwistle twists some lead lines around Pete’s hastily constructed wall of sonic debris. Townshend then extends his arms scarecrow before thrashing his Ric aggressively and burping out further shots of live ammunition. He then thrusts in an erotic rhythm while continuously stroking shards of steaming metal from his guitar neck. Moon answers accordingly. In the ‘rock room’s humble opinion this is some of the finest available footage of the band one can enjoy, especially from their early club days. Pete then starts to stab his guitar into the flesh of his amp cabinet coaxing additional waves of sound and it is there the footage concludes. Ouch, but wow.

Available for your enjoyment, this 8 minute clip of prime early Who is sure to get your blood pressure up and your musical interest piqued. We can all hope for a complete version of this performance to appear someday. Fingers crossed.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Put The Boot In: Little Feat - 'Boogie On Ultrasonic' Live September 9, 1974

Jamming today in the 'rock room' is one of the most famous live documents to ever circulate of legendary rock and rollers and classic ‘Country Funkers’ Little Feat. This particular performance features the band in their prime, nestled between the album releases Dixie Chicken and Feats Don’t Fail Me Now and playing for a small and intimate assembled studio audience. The recording is a clear Pre-FM soundboard recording that luckily enough catches the band playing at an astronomical level. Often recognized as their ‘best’ line up, this recording calls attention to the 1974 version of Little Feat containing Lowell George (Guitar, Vocals), Paul Barrere (Guitar, Vocals), Kenny Gradney (Bass), Richie Hayward (Drums,Vocals) Sam Clayton (Percussion, Vocals), and Bill Payne (Keyboards). This recording circulated for years on vinyl under the title Electrif Lycanthrope, a classic representation of a capture from radio broadcast that in turn helped cement Little Feat's performance legacy.

The concert opens on the phased and stuttered opening of ‘Rock n Roll Doctor’, who slips in the back door for a special home visit. Intertwining keyboards and a slide guitar by George wrap themselves around the groove, tightening like a tourniquet. The drums and rest of the instrumentation play a tug of war with one another, the drums racing, the vocal melody slightly dragging behind, sweet, patient. George’s clean Stratocaster slide guitar adds a sleek narcotic dressing to the track, that by its conclusion has become a joyous call and response vocal jam riding the bumpy roads of the Feat’s rolling rhythm.

'Two Trains’ from 1973’s Dixie Chicken follows and is an earthy Southern tinged track brimming with percussion, Hammond organ accents and syrupy vocals by George. Minus the additional horn section, this is chunky New Orleans funk, reminiscent of Dr. John, Allen Toussaint and The Band. Little Feat illustrate their conglomerate of influence, while contributing a cosmic improvisational dusting to their homegrown sensibilities. ‘Two Trains’ begins to gain momentum, entering a darkened tunnel of extended jamming. Barrere solos first with a slightly over driven tone to which Payne answers with his own keyboard excursions that also contain a sinister bite.

An urgent version of ‘The Fan’ mischievously creeps from the backseat of a tour van, the aggressive rhythm lending shape to Payne’s slick keyboard riffs that develop the basis of the song. A sly staccato verse about the misgivings of a teenage groupie finally gives way to an extended Bill Payne keyboard liftoff. The insistent cadence of the track is memorizing as Payne concocts a plethora of melodic statements, manipulated into bends, swells, and crescendos. A verbal reply of ‘heavy’ can be heard coming from an on stage band member on the recording, and is a proper analysis of the preceding jam.

The mood quiets slightly with the slowly sinking Allen Toussaint cover, ‘On Your Way Down’ being offered next. A slinky, slightly shady version follows, with Payne’s keys again being a focal point, the opening of the song sounding like an acoustic piano saloon salute. George sings the straight up lyric with the soul of a man who has been hurt in the past, Barrere is sympathetic to every sweetly sung line with tasteful echoed statements.

A song suite of three songs as funky as old gym shoes follows and becomes an obvious highlights of the performance. ‘Spanish Moon’ starts things off with a sexy stomp created by drums, percussion and bass. Walking with the light of the night, the narrator peers through the window a dusty, musty saloon to see a dark bluesy beauty playing guitar. The band paints this picture in charcoal with their sensual reading of the song that eventually slips seamlessly into the Barrere penned ‘Skin It Back’. The Feat get six feet deep funky on this one, George lays down hand in glove slide playing that fits perfectly. A short drums and percussion interlude lays the groundwork for the next segue into a bubbly ‘Fatman in the Bathtub’. Dual slide guitars are prominent in this recording as well as some sudsy Fender Rhodes enveloping the jumpy calypso tinged groove. An ass shaking version of one of Little Feat’s most beloved classic tracks and the tasty topping to a stellar medley.

After some thanks from the band to the assembled studio audience the band breaks into an ‘Oh Atlanta’ rock and roll romp. Longing for the friendly skies and his lovely lady Bill Payne takes over the vocal chores on this one, also contributing some roly poly honky tonk on the black and whites. George concentrates on his guitar work and lends silvery filigrees of sound from his strings.

Often thought of as the most well known and popular songs in the Little Feat canon the bootleg recording ends with ‘Willin’, a song also covered beautifully by Linda Ronstadt. Road weary and spun on weed, whites, and wine, George sings an intimate version, with Payne’s rain on the windshield piano decorations played pianissimo over the top of George’s acoustic. High and lonesome the song follows the white lines with the windows cracked to let the smoke out, subject to contemplation, and always looking forward.
 The rock room recording that I am listening to concludes here, but during a WILR rebroadcast of the performance a suite of three additional songs were added that were not included in the original radio broadcast and on bootlegs; a  jammy 15 minute medley of  ‘Cold Cold Cold’, ‘Dixie Chicken’ and ‘Triple Face Boogie’.  ‘Cold, Cold, Cold’ gets an appropriately chilling reading that starts low key, but builds in girth, eventually culminating in a stunning vocal jam and slide guitar spotlight that falls perfectly into ‘Dixie Chicken’. Dixie is a celebratory version with grinning vocals, chippy piano additions, and tasty wah-wah’d guitar licks. Barrere and George both bring some riffs to the table, not harmonizing with their instruments like the Allman’s but having a excited conversation like Stills and Young.

After ‘Dixie’ runs her course she falls in the lap of the ‘Tripe Face Boogie’, and the tune is off an running. Straight rock, no chaser, the Feat stomp their through the flower garden and sprint their way through this welcome addition to an already legendary concert performance. The song breaks apart in the midsection separating into individual elements briefly, then coming together to blast through into the conclusion soaring on George’s hot knife through butter guitar neck navigation.

This immortalized Little Feat performance from 1974 finds the group in the midst of arguably their most creative era. The song selection, sound quality, and energy exhibited by band are all reasons for the eager listener to search out this recording and to spend an afternoon with it. In a time where glam and disco were becoming king, Little Feat stayed close to home and just kept on jamming.

'Oh Atlanta' 1974 Footage

Ultrasonic 1974