Talk From The Rock Room: 2021

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Now Playing: Grateful Dead - Calibration August 30, 1970

Now Playing in the ‘rock room’ is a long time circulating audio and video performance by the Grateful Dead. Taking place on August 30, 1970 and broadcast on KQED San Francisco as well as local television the performance has long been a favorite of 'Deadheads' over the years. Shot in glorious color the available unreleased and heavily bootlegged footage has always been marked by shaky tracking, bleeding film and generally below average visuals. To the 'rock room's' great satisfaction, a restored version has recently been making the rounds online. Broadcast on the local San Francisco show Calibration, the cameras capture the dead smack dab in between the release of their Workingman’s Dead and their famed upcoming LP American Beauty which would hit the shelves in November.

As previously stated, in addition to being shown on local television the performance was also broadcast on FM radio. There are only a few minor glitches sonically, the rest of the show has been upgraded in supreme soundboard quality. Due to the lack of Grateful Dead footage from this particular era this footage is particularly important. Here, we get to see ‘Pigpen’ in all his bluesy glory, Garcia playing his Live Dead Gibson SG and the hungry two drummer primal line up. Recently a much welcome restored and upgraded of this show has made its way to the interwebs and has made its way to the flickering flat screen of the ‘rock room’. There is an assembled studio audience full of excited hipsters and tripsters in addition to an extremely psychedelic lightshow by Jerry Abrams Headlights. The band blasts their way through a six song set that is made up if tunes from both American Beauty as well as the yet unreleased Workingman's Dead

The show begins with a hearty version of ‘Easy Wind’ freshly pulled from the grooves of the group’s recently released Workingman’s Dead album. ‘Pig’ grips the microphone stand tightly as Weir looks in focused concentration... or he’s just super high. The drummers immediately crash around their kits in beautiful stereo. Chasing their own tail the group forms a fire breathing circle around the Pig placing him in a groovy musical pen. While later era Grateful Dead footage is often (in the ‘rock room’s humble opinion) marred by unneeded visual effects and digital manipulation, here the psychedelic display is organic and actually adds to the vintage of the performance and capture. That being said, per usual it does get a bit bothersome later in the show.

As Pig stands at the mic, roughed up cowboy hat cocked on his head its easy to understand why Garcia always considered him the front man. Pig takes a harp solo the first time around before Weir splays a snaky solo spot while setting the stage for Garcia’s reading. The cameraman misses Bobby for his solo spot but nonetheless catches Garcia’s exclusive rhythm chops. Garcia then precedes lays down a fat and rotund solo spot; his classic Gibson SG sound in full aural display. While this may not be the ‘best’ performance of ‘Easy Wind’, just having the visuals alone is enough to stun this humble viewer. As the on screen imagery pulses the band moves their way through the chord changes with a funky attitude. Jerry is loosey goosy, riding the earthy breezes conjured by the drummers. Lesh while somewhat buried in the mix is describable flailing some frenetic fretwork. The group returns to the verse right on time and Pig finishes it up. Priceless stuff.

A formative version of ‘Candyman’ follows and is a favorite of many fellow Deadheads as it features sticky sweet Garcia vocals in addition to subtle harmonies by Weir and Lesh. After a small stumble at the top the band moves through an endearing yet rickety version. Taken at faster pace than later versions of the 1970’s, Garcia is animated and fully invested in the reading. It’s also interesting to note how different the song sounds with the band’s earlier guitar line up of Gibson guitars. Garcia’s solo spot is an obvious highlight as the band makes a dynamic return to the verse.

The assembled crowd howls their approval at 'Candyman's conclusion.. As the camera pans it’s easy to see the majority of the crowd have just been transplanted from the Fillmore West to the confines of the recording studio. Garcia counts the song off and ‘Casey Jones’ smokes out of the station following the ‘Candyman’s departure. While not straying too far from the tracks of the original studio version, the band’s youthful enthusiasm for their plethora of new music is tangible on the recording especially as we are able to see their clear investment in the number. The band plays, a cornering locomotive chugging down the track. It is here that the effects get slightly annoying but nothing to majorly detract from my major enjoyment of this upgraded footage. The band accelerates toward the destination, an album worthy reading by the group.

Following what was a television commercial break, ‘Broke-down Palace’ the closing track from the yet to be released American Beauty is played in wonderful fashion. The song had only made its debut two weeks prior on August 18, 1970 at the Fillmore West along with other American Beauty tracks. Similarly to the previous ‘Candyman’ the band’s harmonies are on point and their approach as fresh as a sprouting flower. No dirge here, a brisk thoughtful rendition of one of Robert Hunters finest and most endearing lyrics. The later rejected outro ‘do-do-do’ vocals are especially inspired.  As an aside, there are still some inherent tracking issues with the film and some ill timed skips. But nonetheless, this upgraded version is welcome.

With only a brief pause, the opening song from Workingman's Dead, ‘Uncle John’s Band’ is the closing song for this performance. Again, and it sounds crazy saying this, the harmonies are a highlight of the song. Billy and Mickey play active and delicate drums that are often lost on later live versions of the track. It’s thrilling to see Garcia, Lesh, and Weir at three close mics focused on the changes and invested in each other’s fret work. Garcia peels off the first solo which rides on the rapping of Hart’s percussive additions. Every lyric is nailed, every nuance revealed, I feel lucky to be able to watch. The band takes the concluding jam out for a walk just around the front yard, staying relatively close to the original studio cut while hinting at the majesty of future versions.

A brief but stunning capture of the ‘Grateful Dead’ when footage and in some instances tapes are in short supply. ‘Primal’ Grateful Dead, the era recognized as 1966-1970 is the vintage sought after by virtually all fans of the band. This particular and critical piece of celluloid is an important glimpse of the group. In less than six months Hart would leave the Band in in a bit over a year Keith Godchaux would be on boarded as the new pianist. Thankfully by excavating tapes like this, we can enjoy all of the varying faces of the group's history; as well as the number of faces that they stole.

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Rock Room on the Road - Bob Dylan - Rough and Rowdy Ways Tour: Cleveland November 5, 2021

Bob Dylan and his ‘Rough and Rowdy’ band of musicians made their third tour stop in Cleveland, Ohio on November 52021. Dylan, never one to pander to any sort of expectation real or imagined has taken to the road for a tour that is earmarked to run through 2024. Following a strikingly consistent and critically acclaimed 2019 tour that found Dylan in fine fettle. Dylan now hits the road with a sheath of new compositions hailing from his stellar 2020 record Rough and Rowdy Ways.

The 3,200 seat KeyBank State Theatre in Cleveland hosted Dylan and his group providing wonderful sightlines, intimate seating and crystalline sonics. Dylan played for an hour and forty minutes and while like the tour moniker suggests, focused on his recent songbook he also sprinkled in a variety of older classics that fit into the evenings aesthetic hand in glove.

Dylan ‘band leader’ Tony Garnier returned to his usual bass duties along with guitarist Bob Britt and long time instrumentalist Donnie Herron. Former Dylan fixture and guitarist Charlie Sexton was not present for this evening or the tour. He was replaced by guitarist Doug Lancio who is now learning trial by fire. Dylan also newly added dynamic drummer Charley Drayton who offers the group a series of tasteful and unique percussive approaches.

In typical early tour Dylan fashion his band was swinging, slightly rickety but offered an undulating canvas on which Dylan’s endlessly creative vocals could nestle. A hallmark for the evening was Dylan’s obvious investment in his new songs, while also injecting his catalog numbers with soulful singing and poetic dictation.  While on his 2019 tour Dylan played both guitar and piano, on this evening, he stayed close to his stand-up piano unless coming center stage with a silver bullet mic, legs astride and steely eyes for a bit of focused crooning. There was a stack of lyric sheets on the piano top which Dylan would thumb through prior to each number. Throughout the evening the band kept their respective eyes on Dylan’s black and whites, with Garnier using dynamic bass plucks to signal changes that his recent bandmates may not be familiar with.

Dylan has been enjoying a slowly ascending late era peak as he begins his 80’s. Starting with his triad of ‘Sinatra’ and ‘standard’ records in 2015, Dylan’s stage shows, vocals and then finally a full LP of original music has cemented his current renaissance. In addition, Dylan’s 2020 pay per view Shadow Kingdom also assisted in fueling his current inspiration and fresh tour with rearranged readings of songs from Dylan’s back catalog.

Dylan and band took to the underlit and stately stage opening the show with a percolating and rolling over rock’s rendition of ‘Watching the River Flow’. A fitting opener for what Dylan may or may not have been doing during his pandemic time off. The sound was dialed in quickly just in time for the following ‘Most Likely You’ll Go Your Way and I’ll Go Mine’ from 1966’s Blonde On Blonde. The band’s playing is brisk, slightly funky and disseminates the new arrangements of old warhorses dynamically. A musical framework in which Dylan’s newly improved vocals can be the focus.

The first two songs from Rough and Rowdy Ways followed the band’s well received opening numbers. ‘I Contain Multitudes’ and ‘False Prophet’ are a well thought out one, two punch as successful on stage as on the grooves of the LP. Silence, space and breath are key for ‘Multitudes’ which drifts drumlessly on Dylan’s vocal melody. In complete biographical contrast the jump blues ‘False Prophet’ grooves at a higher tempo than the official recording. Dylan is already exploring the nuances and clandestine opportunities for conjured melodies and unique approaches to the recently immortalized songs. Dylan digs his heels in for this one, kicking up dirt and causing a ruckus.

‘When I Paint My Masterpiece’ follows in a fun countryfied rendition highlighted by Dylan’s only harp playing of the evening. Deftly setting the table for another new song, Dylan shuffles to center stage for ‘Black Rider’. The band’s strength for this song is restraint. Each sung line is its own encapsulated moment, the airy instrumentation allowing for a singular focus on Dylan’s imagery. Dylan, breathy, gruff, and melodic all at the same time. A highlight of the evening for this listener.

The spooky waltz of the newly created ‘My Own Version of You’ is bracketed by an acoustic based and violin dressed ‘To Be Alone With You’ from 1969’s Nashville Skyline, as well as a churning version of the John Wesley Harding closer “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight’ and in an anticipatory and high tempo performance. The triad of tracks, similarly to the construction of the entire set list have a silver thread of resonance that connect them in some sort of ambiguous way. While having a couple of minor lyrical stumbles on the sinister ‘My Own Version of You’ (forgiven as these songs are brand new), Dylan still emitted a shady attitude. His searching and singing obviously interested in birthing something new from his approach. The band followed his moves deftly hitting well times exclamations and pulling back when appropriate.

                                 Photo: Nate AC

Over the last few years of Dylan tours the blues of the ‘Early Roman Kings' has been a standard of his sets and here it acts as a token blues cut. Dylan, in what is a theme for the evening tries on and discards a plethora of vocal approaches to the 12 bars adding up to a version that kept my interest and kept the excitement high.

‘Key West’, the major number from Rough and Rowdy Ways is an epic and a cut that excites with its sonic possibilities. On LP the song emits a warm drift and a hazy view. In concert the song in in a state of becoming. Dylan played piano for this reading, whereas according to reports this was not the case at the preceding two shows. An additional welcome inclusion was an accordion part, aptly played by Donnie Herron and lending welcome instrumental detail.

Similarly to Dylan’s instrumental exploits on guitar during his ‘Never Ending Tour’ Dylan will hit on a melodic lick on piano and then pass it’s smoking embers around the stage. Sometimes his aural creations turn to flame, sometimes they smolder to ash. But such is the ramshackle creative energy that Dylan has emanated since his earliest coffee house days. He did this a few notable times in Cleveland, once at the conclusion of ‘My Own Version of You’ and again experimenting with the flow of ‘Key West’.

Part of the dramatics of the song and performance is the feeling that Dylan’s aged and fragile musical ship may be busted apart on the creative rocks. But that’s where Dylan works the best, the razors edge, running the red light toward high-speed artistic expression. The closing song from 2020’s Rough and Rowdy Ways, ‘Key West’ is the perfect recipient of this familiar approach. Part of this can be attributed to new band members but the other bit is Dylan’s refusal to stay stationary musically. An obvious factor in his longevity and creativity.

This was a peak for me as a listener at the concert as it seemed from this point on in the show every single performance topped the last. ‘Gotta Serve Somebody’ followed ‘Key West’ in a white-hot guitar attack, a highlight of the evening. The arrangement which is like the 2019 version also recalls the incendiary 1981 live renditions. Dylan has also updated the lyrics as he is apt to do. The crowd responded in kind to such a substantial reading of the ‘gospel trilogy’ classic.

‘I’ve Made Up My Mind to Give Myself to You’ appears as if out of a mist, it’s weightless central melody a highlight of the Rough and Rowdy Ways record. Dylan sings as if he’s trying not to wake a baby. In the middle of the verses, he unexpectedly stretches the warmed syllables while gently rising his voice into the honey of the sun; before ending the line in his lowest light of the moon. Small stumbles and tentative changes are forgiven as once again the effort for inspiration and dissemination of these new songs is notable. As Dylan states in the song, ‘My heart’s like a river, a river that sings’.

The one song to remain from his ‘standards’ set is Frank Sinatra’s ‘Melancholy Mood’, somehow also fitting perfectly into the context of the set. The song being one of the more important standards to inspire Dylan’s current vocal approach. In Cleveland, Dylan stands up front with microphone in hand, other hand outstretched, prowling the stage during a typically wonderful reading.

A second pairing of Rough and Rowdy Ways conclude the set proper with the anthemic vocal ballad ‘Mother of Muses’. A dramatic sermon sung to influence and inspiration and quite unlike anything in Dylan’s canon. The song contained some of Dylan’s most emotive vocals of the evening. The crowd realized this and listened in assembled silence as Dylan closed his delicate series of lines with the perfect finale, “I’m travelin’ light and I’m a-slow coming home’. Before the applause had faded for ‘Muses’ the band cracked open the intro to a fizzing ‘Goodbye Jimmy Reed’.

‘Jimmy Reed’ acts as a cathartic release from the prayer like dictation of ‘Mother of Muses’. Dylan attempts several bluesy meters and vocal twists that expand on the official recording. The only blemish on the song’s attempt this evening being a microphone missing half of the opening line. The song soon starts a slow roll over the edge and picks up intensity as it gains momentum. Dylan feels his way around the new song, finding comfortable places to put up his feet.

What happened next was a highlight of my previous 24 Bob Dylan concerts. The two earlier Rough and Rowdy performances had concluded per usual with the expected two song encores.  But on this evening in Cleveland we were in for a different approach. Dylan and band didn’t leave the stage prior for an encore call. Instead, Dylan stayed on stage for band introductions and then gathered the group around his piano in a tighter than previous formation.

Dylan then began to play the opening chords to his ‘Every Grain of Sand’, played for the first time since 2013. The closing song off Dylan’s 1981 LP Shot of Love was perfection in its chosen place. Tony Garnier nodded his bass to the band members signaling important changes. The song’s original melody was still discernable and delicately expressed by Dylan’s emotional vocals. I, as well as others sat in stunned silence. It’s moments like this that cannot be adequately explained. Nothing else could be said by Dylan and band. Any additional music would certainly be welcome, but superfluous.  

Since this night in Cleveland the setlist has slotted into comfortable positions first explored on November 5, 2021. Dylan had to have felt he got the set right. As Dylan continues to take his Rough and Rowdy Ways performances to venues around the world the new songs are already expanding and morphing into unique and different disseminations. Only a week removed from this concert and the nuts and bolts of the performances are already being tightened down. The constant allure and mystery of Dylan concerts are his continuing search for alternate ways of musical expression. The pandemic break did nothing to Dylan but strengthen his resolve and his need for creativity on the live performance tight rope. The music on the Rough and Rowdy Ways tour is going to get better and better and Dylan is going to keep chiseling away at the arrangements with the chance that he may finally paint his masterpiece.

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Michael Bloomfield - The Gospel Truth

'The Gospel Truth' is a two compact disc compilation recently released by Sunset Boulevard Records. The collection reveals a diverse conglomerate of LP cuts, rarities, as well as an entire unreleased live performance from the 'Guitar King', Michael Bloomfield. It was in the 1960's that Michael Bloomfield cultivated his legend. He began working his trade in the blues clubs of Chicago and continued by disseminating his substantial stringed influence across records by Bob Dylan, the 'Paul Butterfield Blues Band', Janis Joplin and his own 'Electric Flag'.

By the 1970's Bloomfield had retreated from the legend. He found solace from his demons of insomnia and varying addictions by recording at home and playing in small clubs. Bloomfield took a deep dive  into his endless well of influence while retreating back to his roots. He recorded guitar lesson LP's, he also released a series of small label solo records in the 1970's. Along the way he compiled an impressive band of pals including former 'Butterfield' bandmate Mark Naftalin, Bay area bassist John Kahn and saxophonist Ron Stallings all whom appear on this collection.

Disc one of this set, subtitled, 'Best of Acoustic and Electric Sessions' reveals a strata of American music ranging from early 20th century rags, waltz's and traditional blues from electric Chicago to acoustic Delta. Bloomfield was skillfully adept at any and all genres. As sonically illustrated on this collection, Bloomfield also played jazz, funk, Dixieland, pop and straight rock and roll to amazing effect. These two discs will appeal to new converts to the Bloomfield legend as well as to long time admirers of his guitar work. Most if not all of these solo records have been out of print for a number of years. Sonically upgraded, speed corrected and lovingly curated, this collection; while not a complete discography offers a number of essential highlights.

On the set, many tracks originate from Bloomfield's 1977 LP Analine and glisten with homespun virtuosity. The others are pulled from the grooves of his recordings for 'Tacoma Records', Michael Bloomfield, Between the Hard Place and the Ground, and Crusin' for a Brusin'.  Bloomfield's ascendant slide excursions on the various instrumentals contained within are otherworldly. The moody, cinematic cover of  Duke Ellington's 'Mood Indigo' and the ethereal slide guitar drenched instrumental 'At the Cross' are of note. His famed three fingered leads on blues cuts are stunning. He fingerpicks, flatpicks and plays piano. Bloomfield sometimes played all of the instruments on his recordings including the title track of this collection. The song which in the 'rock room's opinion encapsulates this personal approach to the creation of music with stunning results. While not lacking in abilities as a songwriter, in the era covered by this set, Bloomfield often found himself exploring traditional and gospel songbooks in more fascinating ways.

Also included on the diverse opening cd are heavy horn driven funk grooves delicately explored by Bloomfield and his bandmates. 'Papa-Mama-Rompah-Stompah' is particularly frisky, highlighting splays of silly stringed Bloomfield licks. A souped up version of the weary 'Junkers Blues' hails from his underrated final 1980 recording, Crusin' For a Brusin' and stomps around the room in a good way.

Additional exceptional performances include the slow burn of the smoky electric blues cover 'Guitar King' and the lacy contrast of Bloomfield's dreamy reading of the early 20th century 'Hi-Lo Waltz'. Bloomfield's instrumental prowess and ability to play anything that has strings is on full display. Not to mention his obvious and multifarious layers of deep musical knowledge. Elevating this opening track list to stunning heights is the rare inclusion of a 1963 recording with Bloomfield playing guitar sideman to blues pianist Eurreal "Little Brother" Montgomery for an intimate two man set at a small Chicago venue, the 'Fickle Pickle'. An additional and unique audio glimpse of Bloomfield as a blossoming youngster in his most comfortable element, a blues club.

A stellar audio bonus in the form of the second disc is a 'Michael Bloomfield and Friends' show from the Swing Auditorium in San Bernardino on February 19, 1971. This long time circulating soundboard recording sounds even better to these ears in its official capacity. The concert was a triple bill featuring Bloomfield and his band, Fleetwood Mac, and Quicksilver Messenger Service. Bloomfield's friends for this show included the aforementioned John Kahn on bass and Mark Naftalin on keyboards. Also joining Bloomfield is Ron 'Rev' Stallings on saxophone and vocals, John Wilmeth on trumpet and Skip Prokop on drums. The band is groovy loose and Bloomer's is in particularly fine fettle.

Bloomfield while not a vocalist by trade would let loose once in a while on his solo records as well as in concert. He does the same on this set while sharing vocal duties with Stallings. One thing that cannot be denied is while Michael was not a 'singer' by trade, his absolute investment and awareness of the blues idiom is masterful.

Highlights are plentiful in the live set that runs slightly less that an hour. Bloomfield is content to act as band director. But when they time is right he steps up from the back line of amps for run after run of snaky and classic Bloomfield riffing. The 'Friends' set includes a unique and cool attempt at the Beatles cut 'You Wont See Me' and a chooglin' 'Booker T' like rendition of 'Statesboro Blues'. All of which contain crisp, clothes line hung clean riffing by Bloomfield.

The majority of the live set moves in similarly celebratory fashion with churning R and B numbers. But it' s the red light and blues numbers where Bloomfield disseminates his most substantial string bending of the evening. 'Poor Kelly', a song Bloomfield heard done by Big Maceo and Tampa Red is played as patient as a tortoise. Bloomer's opening licks are perfection. A few of the clearest cleanest blues expressions to be pulled from his endless well of influence. No flash here, all organic substance and a respectful and thought out expression of sound. This is the quivering tone that made Bloomfield his name. Michael also decides to take the lead vocals on this blues with an impressive call and response between himself his guitar and Naftalin.

The closing 'Drifting Blues' surpasses ten minutes and is another sneaky display of Bloomfield live and in the moment. 'Drifting Blues' is one of a few foundational blues standards, and in typical fashion Bloomfield investigates each and every way his strings can tell the tale. Following a boozy horn spot by Wilmeth and Stallings and a Naftalin keyboard solo, Bloomers slides in with a brisk yet measured solo. It's intensity soon increasing in grit and melody while promptly guiding the band to an explosive peak.

The new two cd release from Sunset Boulevard Records deftly collects moments from Michael Bloomfield's 'lost' 1970's solo excursions. The provided scope of the collection illustrates Bloomfield's work from the era both in the studio and on stage. The set offers a well rounded view of his gifts as a guitar player and interpreter of multiple genres of music. Bloomfield's personal story is a familiar tale of a musician, 'too soon gone', but his musical legacy is still tangible and ably compiled on this set.

Friday, October 1, 2021

Raspberries- Self Titled Debut 1972 - 'It Feels So Right'

Dropping it's juicy fruits on the ‘rock room’ turntable today is a fine 1972 full length record by ‘Raspberries’. The band’s self-titled LP is a creative and melodic slab of what has since lovingly come to be referred to as ‘Power Pop’. ‘Raspberries’ are an American grown rock band hailing from Cleveland, Ohio. The group came together on the vine in 1970 from the remains of two previous Cleveland acts, The Choir and ‘Cyrus Erie’ and had a successful five year run of albums and performances before disbanding in 1975.

The band’s first and classic line up was made up of members, Eric Carmen on vocals/piano/guitar/bass, Jim Bonfanti/drummer, Dave Smalley on guitar and bass, and Wally Bryson/guitar. On the band’s debut cover the group looks well dressed, crisp and put together like a pre-Badfinger, ‘Ivey’s. This ‘conservative’ look in addition to some well styled ‘poofter’ hair doo’s brought them some media ridicule. Regardless of any media sought after aesthetic, the band’s debut was stuffed with stellar tunes. Carmen had commented the band’s clothing choices, (which also included on stage tuxedos) ‘complemented the style of our music’. Additionally, said music contained within the album's grooves features lush strings, piano melody and yearning vocal lines. Expansive string-scapes and luxuriant movements dress the ballads appropriately. As sticky sweet as the music, the special treat when purchased new, the LP came with an  'scratch and sniff' sticker so the buyer got a big wiff of fresh Raspberries.

Similarly to a lot of stellar music that gets passed over at super sonic speeds by the music industry, 'Raspberries' didn't do something right and they have since fallen into record collecting 'hipsterdom' which admittedly at least gets them heard. Throw in the fact that like a close contemporary with a similar story, Peter Cetera, Eric Carmen had the 'unfortunate fortune' to stumble into some huge hits in his later career which further 'soured' the Raspberries' legacy. Why? Soft rock leanings, clothing? Silly stuff in the 'rock room's' humble opinion. Carmen reflected back on the band during an interview in the 2000's, 'What we had tried to do had been successful on one level and a complete bust on another level. The rock critics got it and the sixteen year old girls got it but FM radio was just not about to play a band that sounded like they were making singles, so it was kind of like beating your head against you head at a certain point, it was time to move on and try something else'.

Everything that the 'Raspberries' did on their debut was against the grain. Heavy on the ballads, thick with the syrupy melodies and weighted down with crisp production and well written songs. At the time, in 1972 the elements that created great music were often looked upon as passe. Already the music was becoming secondary to the image.

But I digress. The label applied to the band, ‘power pop’ was first coined by Pete Townshend in 1967 when asked what style of music the ‘Who’ played by a journalist. Since that time the term has become a catch all for rock bands that play heavy and loud but retain unique melodic elements. ‘The Who’ were an obvious influence on ‘Raspberries’ as co-founder and lead Raspberry, Eric Carmen told a reported in 2007, ‘It (Power Pop label) did stick to these groups that came out in the 70’s that played kind of melodic songs with crunchy guitars and some wild drumming. It just kind of stuck to us like glue, and that was ok with us because the ‘Who’ were among our highest role models’.

Placing the tag ’power pop’ on the band gathered them in the realm of bands including but not limited to, ‘Badfinger’, ‘The Jam’, ‘Big Star’ and others. The group’s April 1972 self-titled debut is an immediate flashback to the not so distant past. Harmonies, nectarous melodies and major 7th’ chords are the norm as Eric Carmen and bandmates layer on the songs that may give you a rock and roll sweet tooth!

As soon as the stylus touches down the kinetic opening guitar lick of ‘Go All the Way’ quakes from the speakers. My mind always flashes to the ‘Small Faces’ as the gruff riffing begins and Carmen’s opening vocal salvo, ‘My My Yeah, brings to mind  Steve Marriott’s well timed howls. This opening cut reached the Top 5 in the US, selling well over a million copies and is probably the band's biggest hit. Though classically trained on piano, Carmen plays guitar and sings on the group’s debut single. The songwriting efforts are collaborative as well as pretty even on the record, though later in the band’s career Carmen would come to dominate.

'Go All the Way' undulates from an edgy opening to sleek and breezy through the verses. Everything you (or the rock room') can ask for in a rock song is packaged up nicely here. Crunchy guitar, blended harmonies and an addictive central melody line. There is a rocking middle eight with foggy echoes of the Mercybeat spotlighting call and response vocal lines. The song is a well spring of the incredibly creative band and refurbished aspects of  all of the group's levels of influence. Like previously mentioned the song was a smash, regardless of it's lyrical sexual innuendo.

'Come Around and See Me' is a opalescent cha-cha composed by guitarist Willy Bryson and is brimming with addictive licks and a number of tasty sprigs of melody. An acoustic churns out the sandy rhythm with ringing punctuations from island drums. Midway through the verse the band hits a double time groove taking the song to a higher level. Bryson and Carmen harmonize throughout culminating in a big break down during the fade out joined with percussive explanations and holler's of joy. A wonderful band bang opening to the record.

'I Saw the Light' follows and is a Bryson/Carmen co-write. Listening to the record, I am sure you will say to yourself, 'Another knock out melody?' Because that is exactly what follows. While the lyrical content is simple and straight forward it's the chorus that feels it was pulled from the grooves of the 'Beatles' Revolver. Music box piano and stratified vocals highlight a sweet song of thankfulness. Cover your eyes as the shine is resplendent on this track.

'Rock and Roll Mama' may be a step below the preceding cuts but still retains a tart melodic sweetness while lending a straight forward chunk rocker on side one. Composed by guitarist Dave Smalley the song features some gritty riffing and jangling piano throughout. A horny jam focused on that particular woman who does it all and has a good time doing it. Wally Bryson takes the song to the horizon with a plethora of riffing that speeds toward the fade out.

Side one closes gently with a song that foreshadows Eric Carmen's future mid 1970's love anthems. 'Waiting', is a piano ballad sung with Carmen's best clean sheet vocals that sway between poles of a quivering and emotive falsetto. Moving sympathetic strings shift beneath the songs basic structure increasing Carmen's pleading. It's easy to understand why mulleted and jean jacketed rockers would feel uncomfortable with some 'Raspberries' cuts like 'Waiting'. But for those of us who are suckers for love songs packaged in melody with find a comfortable place to curl up.

Flipping the record over, the second side begins similarly to the conclusion of side one with an impassioned piano balled composed by Carmen and Bryson. 'Don't Want to Say Goodbye' was actually the first single from the LP and is an addictive melody wrapped around a straight forward lyric imploring to the subject that the narrator is going to 'Try a little harder'. A complex arrangement, lofty chorus dressed with winging strings and seamless harmonies are the song's hallmarks. A groovy tempo shifting mid song breakdown which appears throughout, all equates to one of the groups finest tracks.

Lending some additional diversity to the LP, Wally Bryson contributes another unique track with the portly dance hall vibe of 'With You In My Life'. A drizzling of saloon piano and the honking tuba bass make up the unique instrumental inclusions. Per usual for this album, a highlight is the backing vocals and sugary harmonies. 

Dave Smalley seems to be the one with his eye on the target as far as 'rockers' go on the debut. His second side cut 'Get It Moving' is also his second contribution to the LP. A prickly descending and opening lick drops into a twelve bar slammer where the lyrics of 'Get It Movin' just might be a plea to the 'Rock and Roll Woman' on side one. Dual guitars express the anxiousness felt by the narrator waiting for his female visitor. While not earthshattering, like all great LP's the song adds to the whole and makes the gentle Carmen refection's that more more intense. 

Following 'Get It Moving' the album closes with Eric Carmen's extended composition, 'I Can Remember', a pop ballad in multiple movements. Beginning with Carmen on piano and the gentle lilt of strings, at three and a half minutes the piano morphs into guitar strings and the song dynamically segues into a celebratory chorus with drums and bass joining. A lip puckering variation on the previous theme, a syncopated groove develops with Carmen lending chilling falsetto vocalizations. 

Jim Bontfani is an absolute star on his kit when at six minutes Carmen yelps, 'I Can Remember' initiating a change that lands into a weighty reassessment of the chorus melody. This time Carmen's sweet vocals as well as the backing voices of the band mesh with bombastic drums and delicately phased guitar. Bontfani tears around the skins, singing in time with the now heavy recitation of the melody proper. The song's multifarious movements and dynamic seguing between movements end up making the closing song into a epic. Wow.

Raspberries 1972 debut is an odd duck. The album is bursting with melodic magic and well constructed songs, yet it still sinks to the bottom of the bowl covered by more sought after fruits. Even the 'AllMusic' review refers to Carmen's love of balladry,  as 'treacle'. How about just mentioning how great the music is whether a ballad, rocker or saloon swinger? 

The band would last five years (70-75) and with each release gain in maturity but also in the realization that the music industry is fickle and moves on quickly. Carmen's increased creativity would cause fissures in the group. In order to operate successfully the 'Raspberries' needed to keep a delicate balance. The band's debut continues to influence melodic rockers (Brendan Benson, Autumn Defense) right on through current times and often sits undisturbed in three for five bins at your local record shop. Stop by and see if one is available for you to sample.

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Put the Boot In: Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks – February 24, 1964 London, Ontario - 'Bacon Fat'

Spinning today in the ‘rock room’ is a 30 minute archival tape of 24k musical gold. Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks captured live and in action on magnetic tape in London, Ontario, Canada, February 24, 1964. Three weeks removed from the arrival of the Beatles, music was on a spacecraft to the stars and the 'Hawks' were riding shotgun. Live performances by the ‘pre-Band’ Hawks are quite rare and range from acceptable to acceptable minus as far as audio quality goes. This capture finds the 'Hawks' ready to soar on their own as they would within a year leave the 'Hawk' on their way to becoming the 'Band' via Bob Dylan. The tape has circulated for a number of years and is a proper document of an evening with 'Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks'

This particular recording was made by an enterprising audience member and captures the band in full flight with only some distortion on the vocals. Unfortunately Rick Danko’s bass playing is not very audible on the tape in addition to some rough spots on the reel. This is also the shortest of the currently circulating ‘Hawks’ recordings, but it does contain Ronnie Hawkins fronting the group which makes the recoding that much more exciting! There is no specific venue listed with the tapes information but it’s easy to tell that the crowd is amped and the band is playing well. In spite of the tapes sonic limitations, it really does place you right in the room. There are a number of discernable comments by concert goers and some humorous on stage tom foolery. You are going to want to put your bootleg ears on for this one, but it will be well worth the sacrifice!

This band line up of this particular recording is Rick Danko (bass), Richard Manuel (vocals, piano), Garth Hudson (organ, saxophone), Levon Helm (drums), Robbie Robertson (guitar) and Jerry Penfound (saxophone, percussion) who would only be the group for a limited time more and of course the 'Hawk', Ronnie Hawkins. The quintessential front man and star of the show until the 'Hawks' started to fledge.

The recording picks up with the band already grooving in progress with ‘Who Do You Love’. The groove is rutted deep as a Canadian two track and Robertson’s guitar growls on the tape. I don't think much music is missing here. The recording’s fidelity is such that you can discern individual voices from the crowd in addition to Hawkins shouting on stage direction. The issues with the tape come from the substantial sonic maelstrom emanating from the grandstand and causing distortion. The band is chugging along dynamically while the ‘Hawk’ primes the pump. Fans of the female persuasion can be heard close to the taper with remarks and giggles. The ‘Hawk’ in typical fashion plays with their emotions and stirs up their excitement.

Soon after Hawkins snarls the opening lyrics the group detonates the central jam into a frantic whirlwind of sound. Manuel’s fingers clang around the upper register of the piano as Robertson peels of reams of swollen licks. Hudson is audible and shifts the floorboards underneath the venue with thick coats of  rich organ. The tension is delicious as the group falls back into the verse groove. Manuel and Robertson volley licks back and forth. Helm’s ride cymbal is crystalline driving the rhythm. I've said it before and I'll say it again, 'The Hawks were the best band in the world at this point in time". Wow.

There is a plethora of kinetic passing of the musical pipe as the 'Hawks' quiver with energy. Another detonation of sonic madness takes place with Robertson getting ultra demented. The ‘Band’ brings it back down yet again before Hawkins calls for Garth Hudson to lay down a solo. Hudson sneaks in low with a musical army crawl, spreading a wash of unique sound with Helm popping off rim shots. At a bit past seven minutes the ‘Hawk’ says, ‘Ok Robbie', as the jam undulates between an aggressive ‘Bo Diddley’ beat and that of a sonically serrated hand saw slicing wood. Robertson, in his infancy as a player, cuts deep with distorted slices and jabs distilled through the sheet of sound.

Manuel rattles along underneath and soon links up with Danko as the sonic haze gains some clarity. The sound improvement is in addition my ears becoming accustomed to the recording. The 'Hawks' increase the tension with Robertson hitting on a circular lick and Helm riding the train right next to him. Hawkins screams and the band opens the tap. The tension is thick, palm mutes, and rock and roll  screams grind the 'Who Do You Love' jam to a thrilling and sexy conclusion.

A respite to the onslaught of sound comes with Hawkins lubing up the crowd, 'We got a lot of requests, we gotta do some slow ones for the sake of the people rubbing around on each other out there’. There is alot of cool dialog and audio verite gold that I will leave you my dear reader to discern on your own. That's the fun!

Giving the 'Hawk' a break, 'Beak' gets the spotlight for 'Share Your Love' a song the later 'Band' would revisit on 1973's Moondog Matinee. Manuel croons 'Share Your Love', getting the little girls to giggle and swoon. While focusing in and picking through the sonic debris of the tape I can hear Robertson picking watery filigrees and Helm' shuffling the beat. This is priceless. 

At the conclusion of  'Share Your Love', there is a bit of fantastic dialog between the 'Hawk' and the females in the crowd. Hawk asks the ladies yelling for Levon to 'show him what you want'. Hawk tells the fans to 'not be bashful now' and tell Levon what they want him to sing. Hawk then mentions, 'We got the horns here now so we'll let 'Beak' sing one more then we'll let Levon. There is a small cut in the recording and we hear the count off for 'A Sweeter Girl Has Never Been Born'. This is where it's at. While this may be a Bobby 'Blue' Bland song, Richard Manuel makes it his own.

This is swinging R and B at it's finest and the 'Hawks' are as tight as a bank vault. After a double snare hit by Helm, the 'Hawks' jump into the pocket. There is some hi distortion on the tape but Manuel comes in loud and clear. Helm swings with his ride cymbal and the horns bleat out well placed punctuations. Manuel's vocals rattle the light fixtures as he plainly illustrates why he was the lead vocalist for the 'Hawks'. I'm pretty sure its Garth Hudson and Penfound on horns. Oooooooh, lord this is the stuff. Take note that right at first sax break Manuel lays down a beautiful descending line on the piano and then hits boogie-woogie just in time for the first sax solo. Chills. 

It's sounds to these ears that Garth takes the first solo spot but this a total guess on my part. Dig on the song's conclusion when the 'Band' drops out and Richard really gets into it with Helm nailing the beat to the floor. Highlight reel stuff even with the questionable audio at points. 

Hawkins mentioned that they group has time for two more songs and runs down a list of possibilities before remembering that Levon was supposed to sing one! There is some more audio verite' rarities from the 'Hawk' to be mined here. Cutting in already in progress, Helm is singing the hell out of Howlin Wolf's, 'Howlin' for My Baby'.

The sound here is very alright, Manuel parrots the verses with Helm on the upper register of the piano and Robertson strangles out responses. The Hawks are are hot to the touch as Robbie takes a serpentine first solo with his trademark sustained notes. Levon is Levon, which is to say en fuego. Robertson takes an additional solo with even Danko's guttural thumping entering the sonic spread. The guys bring it down and you can hear a grin in Helm's vocals as the girls squeal in delight. Mr. Hudson flies in for the outro with a series of technicolor washes. Damn, this is the 'Band' right here. The crowd knows it as they start to clap in time, Robertson riffs again and the song concludes magnificently.

The 'Hawk' replies, 'It's Levon Helm and the Helmettes' at the song's conclusion. There is a brief cut before we are placed into the Garth Hudson/Robbie Robertson composition 'Bacon Fat' a song that would continue to be played on stage by 'Levon and the Hawks' into 1965. There are no vocals on this version. 'Bacon Fat' is a syncopated piece that highlights Hudson's substantial abilities and Robertson's rapidly ascendant guitar stylings. The song displays all of the elements that made the 'Hawks' a musical powerhouse. A natural gestalt linkage between the players, an organic trading off of licks and a tight rhythm section that hits the mark through any and all changes. Hudson is especially frisky with heavy finger work. Toward the song's conclusion Levon Helm announces, 'I'd like to introduce the future leaders of Canada' to a great response. You can tell things are getting crazy by this point in the evening. Penfound takes a sweet final sax solo, Levon says 'goodnight' and Hudson takes it home.

What an experience to be lucky enough to witness 'Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks' in a small Canadian club at their peak. The 'rock room' will never be able to make that happen but thankfully there are audio documents like this one to get us as close as possible. Until the long rumored 'Hawks' box From Bacon Fat to Judgement Day sees a release this will have to do. (I wont hold my breath). The talent and ability was obviously there from the formative days with Ronnie Hawkins and the future 'Band' as they all ended up with music careers that would place them in the pantheon of the very best at what they do. Here, we can check them out when they had the fire in their guts and stars in their eyes. They were the best r and b band in the land and tapes like this prove it every time.

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Now Playing -George Harrison - Live at the Olympia 1974 - Hari's On Tour Express

Some special rock footage guaranteed to blow your mind has recently come into circulation and for the time being is available for review online. In 1974 Ravi Shankar and George Harrison undertook a 45 show concert tour across the US running concurrent with Harrison' s release of his 'Dark Horse' single and his announcement of his own Dark Horse records. Obviously anticipation was high for the tour as this would be the first time a Beatle would tour North America since the group retreated from the road in August of 1966. For a long while, any documented footage from this tour has been at a premium and only a miniscule amount of officially sanctioned product has ever been released from the tour (Living in the Material World documentary). In recent times YouTube has been the recipient of more than a couple different Harrison and Friends tour clips that have been recovered from various collections. As of the writing of this article the footage has been removed from You Tube, but can be found in the dusty corners of the internet for those who want to search.

Harrison put together a 'hot shit' band for the tour and was thrilled to share a bill with one of his musical hero's Ravi. Baked by Tom Scott and members of the the L.A. Express as well as Billy Preston, Willie Weeks, Jim Keltner and Robbin Ford.  Originally a double LP of music was planned to be mined from the shows but unfortunately this never occurred due to a number of contributing factors. The most affecting of these was that media vas vicious in their reviews of the tour. The criticized Harrison's voice ( which was admittedly rough on some nights due to overuse and abuse), other outlets complained that Harrison only played four Beatles song throughout his set and most obnoxiously they complained about Ravi's stage time.

Like anything we view through the hazy lens of rock and roll history these media observations can now be looked at as a skewed representation of what occurred on the tour. The recent and previously mentioned clips and snippets of varying quality that have been circulating can now reveal the tour to fans in the different light. There are available clips from Atlanta, as well as a few fan made compilations around , but nothing the compares to the gold we will discuss today.  Which takes us to the subject of today's TFTRR 'Now Playing' feature. I am enjoying beautifully shot, vividly colored and highly welcomed Super 8 footage from George Harrison, live December 4th 1974 at the Olympia in Detroit, Michigan. Harrison played two shows on this date at the venue and this particular footage was shot from very close to the stage at the afternoon performance.

An enterprising fan has lovingly synced the available audience recorded audio to this amateur footage providing us with the most amazing capture of Harrison's famed 1974 tour we could ever hope to see. In the case of a few of the songs no concert specific audio was available so music from shows in Los Angeles and Toronto was flown in. The 'rock room' will try to note when this is the case. The total length of the footage is just short of 28 minutes; and while not complete and frustrating at times, totally worth its weight in rare gold! Most importantly its a steady shot with close to tripod quality.

The footage begins with a version of 'Hari's On Tour (Express) ' in full bloom. The cameraman is fully focused on Harrison while  the clarity and steady hand of the film is breathtaking. Harrison is a striking image in denim donning his slide and grooving kinetically to the pumping horns. He is shaking it like it's 1964! Out of frame is band member Robben Ford contributing a soaring slide line to the churning rhythm section comprised of  WIllie Weeks on bass and Jim Keltner on drums respectively. Harrison looks like he is having a blast on his woodgrain Stratocaster taking a gritty solo spot which the steady camera captures in all it's glory. At one point Hari looks directly at and through the camera. 3 minutes of this track exist before being dropped into a version of 'While My Guitar Gently Weeps' all ready in progress. But such is 'bootleg' material.

'While My Guitar Gently Weeps' again finds the camera loving George, as it should. For this much to small snippet of the track, Harrison is armed with "Lucy" the famed cherry red Gibson Les Paul Harrison was gifted by Eric Clapton. George is fully invested in the vocals then leans waaaaaay into his solo before we are dropped into a 'Something' already in progress.

Harrison is still playing 'Lucy' and swaying to the heavy stepping rendition. In the 'rock room's opinion Harrison's obvious investment in the song is more than enough to prove the extreme worth of this film. Sure, the vocals are 'shouty' and rough hewn, but so were Dylan's in 1974. The taper obviously caught the sweet stuff as Harrison again digs into the solo spot, eyes closed, switches pick up's and squeezes out a beautifully emotive solo spot. I feel myself getting fired up, this is where its at. The taper pulls back for a wide stage shot and all of a sudden I'm sitting front three rows, only a small glitch brings me back to the 'rock room' couch. Harrison sings the final verse with some updated lyrics, while at 6:40 the camera frames a toothy Hari grin that gives me shivers. Stunning.

A perfectly framed and vibrant shot of Billy Preston fills the screen as the band orbits around Preston's first number one hit, 'Will It Go Round In Circles?' The band is jamming here and we are placed up front as the camera pulls back for a full stage shot just as Preston takes a funky melodica solo spot. The energy from the film is tangible. We get some muffled sonic's at about half after eight minutes which continue through to the end of the song. 

The next segment finds us dropped mid way into a churning horny and percussion filled jam. 'Soundstage of Mind' spotlighted all of the contributors to the show and it's obvious George and the band are having a tremendous time. This spotlights some stunning close up footage of George now donning an additional Stratocaster. Wow, this makes me sweat for an official release from this tour. We know it exists, lets do this!

These concerts were unknowingly ahead of their time, the mixture of styles as well as, artists. Beginning with the 1971 Concert for Bangla Desh, Harrison was always looking to expand his and own own sonic pallet. The 'rock room' firmly believes that part of the reason for questionable media reviews in regards to Harrison 1974 tour, was because of the closed ears of the reviewers! In our meaningless opinion these performances are ace!

The following clip places us into the first verse of  the 'Beatles' 'For You Blue'. Harrison and his band play a slippery and jazzy reading which the camera operator tries to capture the key moments which the do with great success! Harrison takes a measures solo on his Strat, percussionist Emil Richards takes a (bell/chime?) solo to which the horn section takes great joy in. Next we get Alvin Lee on a beautiful Gibson 335 getting his moment to shine. Hari grins his way through another verse as Willie Weeks' breaks us down with a thumpy solo spot that overwhelms the recorder.

Sticking with the film makers theme a perfectly framed Harrison stands armed with an Ovation acoustic guitar while playing a lilting reading of 'Give Me Love, Give Me Peace On Earth' with band before we are dropped into the tour's unique arrangement of the 'Beatles' 'In My Life'. Harrison's arrangement of the Rubber Soul Lennon/McCartney cut was preformed on the 74 tour in a bombastic reading, like a lost All Things Must Pass track. The camera gets Harrison and Lee in frame as Hari takes a concluding solo thankfully captured. 

The following clip finds the Harrison band playing 'Tom Cat' from band member Tom Scott's fusion record with the horn section L. A. Express. A funky number, the track adheres to the theme of Harrison providing his fans with a plethora of different genres and musical experience. Our mystery filmmaker does a fine job of scanning the stage for whomever is contributing at the time. The band is cooked under red lights here, though I do believe that the audio has been flown in from another performance for this clip.

Harrison has his famed psychedelically painted 1961 Beatles Fender Stratocaster and slide for this next rendition of 'Maya Love' from Harrison's then current Dark Horse record. The famed instrument named 'Rocky' was part of numerous Beatles sessions and continues to be owned by the Harrison estate. Stunning footage here as Harrison takes two icy slide solo spots in his recognizable tone. I could watch this repeatedly as Harrison plays sinking in inspiration.

The fantastic Billy Preston again takes up the screen with yellow shirt and resplendent afro for his current 1974 cut 'Nothing From Nothing'. Preston gets the crowd going with a hand clapping break down. The camera pans and everyone on the stage is drenched in the joy of creating music. Following a few blips, Preston comes out from behind his keyboard to get down in front of the crowd. Harrison is beaming as he and Billy groove. The lights are bright and the musicians are brighter as the music churns. Classic! The music heard on this clip hails from the Toronto performance. 

The recorder turns their television eye into the crowd to collect the vibe and then back to the stage where this piece of historic celluloid concludes. This is the kind of stuff the the 'rock room' lives for, rare footage, a underrepresented era,  and one of my musical idols in full blow. It remains to be seen if anything will ever come from this footage or the pro shot stuff the Harrison estate has in their archives. (see Living In the Material World) But what we can be thankful for is that a kind renegade taper immortalized this footage forever and we are lucky enough to delve into it. 

Typically the media misses the mark when their unrealized expectations are not met. That is definitely the case with George Harrison and Ravi Shankar's 1974 tour where unique combinations of music collided with familiar sounds and were expressed by a special collaborative of musicians.


George Harrison's 1974 Tour

Monday, August 2, 2021

Take One: Thin Lizzy -'Cowboy Song' 1976 Single

Thin Lizzy's intelligent and rowdy singer, songwriter and bass player Phil Lynott was inspired and seduced by American pop culture. What better inspiration for a peaking songwriter then the plethora of imagery provided by the American Cowboy? Co-written by Phil Lynott and drummer Brian Downey 'Cowboy Song' was released as an edited Mercury Records single in September 1976 b/w 'Angel from the Coast. Both tracks hailed from 'Thin Lizzy's' breakthrough and probably their most popular LP, Jailbreak. This would be the third single to be culled from a record that put the group on the map with the previous hits being, 'The Boys are Back In Town' and the title track, 'Jailbreak'.

While the lyrical content is more fictional mind movies than some deep introspective soul reveal, what the context does is give 'Thin Lizzy' a starting point for a cinematic and glorious guitar rocker. In the cut, there are multiple movements as well as an organic navigation through interweaving dual guitar lines, popping snare shots and Lynott's rotund bass work. The song starts from humble and dusty origins and by the end of its tale dynamically reaches its destination.

Lynott must have fancied himself a traveler on the open plains, a stranger in a strange land as the band made their way across the U.S. on tour. Of Irish (born in England) and African American decent Lynott was something of an oddity in the world of rock and roll. It also provided him with unique views and a quirky lyricism. While songs of 'Cowboys and Indians' may seem trite, 'Thin Lizzy' is one of the only groups that can use the germ of an idea like the cowboy and scrawl it out with glorious attitude using the penmanship of hard rocking dual guitars.

As previously mentioned the single was truncated for release, so the 'rock room' will review the full length LP version. We would also like to direct you to the frenzied version available on 'Thin Lizzy's June 1978 live album, Live and Dangerous which you can find here. Dripping with drama and attitude this is a must hear rendition.

The song opens with a harmonica blowing from somewhere on the chalky horizon. A dusky chorused guitar accompanies Lynott's gentle introductory lead vocal on the look out for coyote. From out on the edge of darkness, a snare snaps, a pulsing riff appears and coagulates into a orchestrated dual guitar attack. This sizzling intro rides toward and lands on a delicious and chunky verse melody. 

A man and his horse reflect on the woman they left behind, the classic cowboy song. But here, injected with some punky molten rock and roll riffing and a delinquent attitude. The descending chorus line  resets the pallet in response to the addictive melody that gallops through the high speed verses.

A duo of aggressive Les Paul's through Marshall stacks is the aesthetic as Scott Gorham takes the first solo over the gritty verse melody, a glorious wind through the hair ride on the back of a stringed stallion. Gorham's guitar eliciting freedom with a series of triumphant exclamations. Soon both guitarists collaborate for the opening melodic statement but played here higher up the neck, before dropping low into a downstroked and spacious gallop. 

Lynott raps some verses from the chorus over a 'Television-esque' groove. 'It's ok amigo, just let me go, ridin in the rodeo' as the band churns. Dual guitar lines push through like fingers in balloons for clipped statements, but the airy arrangement continues until Brian Robertson saddles up with a screaming solo spot. Sweetly distorted with six shooter blazing, 'Robbo' take a series of edgy replies to Gorham's previous excursion. Woo- hoo! The band returns right to the chorus and concludes the song with the line, 'the cowboy's life is the life for me'. 

'Cowboy Song' is a terribly underrated cut from a extremely famous LP. That being said, 'Thin Lizzy' hardcore fans love it! Jailbreak was the record that took 'Thin Lizzy' to levels of stardom that they had never thought possible. Through diverse arrangements, true lyricism and a heavy rocking Phil Lynott, the band offered an originality that became  a great success. Alternatively that originality kept some of their compositions from main stream acceptance for a number of years. One thing the 'rock room' can confirm, you can never go wrong with heavy guitars, a tight rhythm and well written songs.

Friday, July 16, 2021

Now Playing – Memphis '69 - The 1969 Memphis Country Blues Festival

“We Don’t Know What the Heat Says, But it’s Cool to Dance.”

Flickering on the flat screen of the ‘rock room’ is a historic piece of celluloid immortalizing three days and two nights of oppressive heat and stunning blues music. Filmed for posterity, on June 6th-8th 1969 the Memphis Country Blues Society put on their annual Memphis Country Blues festival which ran from 1965 for 4 years. The film was once thought to be lost to the ravages of time, though luck would eventually intervene. A casual conversation between ‘Fat Possum Records’ (who will release the film on August 6) co-owner Bruce Watson and Gene Rosenthal from Adelphi Records resulted in these reels of blues gold being excavated, synced up, beautified and released for our listening and viewing pleasure. 

Rosenthal had originally filmed the festival himself, traveling from Maryland with a crew, exhausting his budget and shooting over 40,000 feet of film. The film was shelved and remained in suspended animation as Rosenthal had to sell his gear just to process the media! We are sure glad he did. Because 47 years later all his hard work finally paid off. Due for online release on August 6th and on physical media September 17th, this previously unreleased vibrant capture of blues, brotherhood and music making has been over a half of a century in the making. Order the film here.

Ironically, held only a few days after a Klu Klux Klan rally at the same civic shell, Memphis 69 illustrates the collaborative power of music and how the musicians involved didn't see color. The current timing of the release of this film couldn’t be better considering the fractured state of relations in the United States. This is a rare musical documentary where the blues, the counterculture and all walks of life get it on and let the music guide the way. Featured in the film are special performances by blues legends, Bukka White, Yank Rachel, Furry Lewis, Johnny Winter, Mississippi Fred McDowell and a formative performance by John Fahey. Most of those appearing at the festival were local performers just doing their job. The film offers up a plethora of flashing images of the diverse crowd intermingled with the montage of music culled from the three days of performances resulting in an effective expression of the festival.

The film begins with movement, pictures of Memphis, classic imagery with a radio station acting as the soundtrack while making announcements for the upcoming festival. The antiqued scent of a cracked time capsule fills the ‘rock room’ as each artist is placed in the marquee with the corresponding reels of archival footage. Within moments I am seated on the speeding train flashing over the bridge and placed in preparations for the show. Hippies, blues cats, fine ladies and hipsters stroll through the turnstiles for day one. Before long the grainy footage and movement settles on the steamy stage basked in brutal sun.

The ‘Bar-Kays’ open the proceedings soaked in sunshine, the former backing band for Otis Redding taking the family canine out for a spin while they ‘Walk the Dog’. A bounding groove and a fob twirling Stax swing get me up and getting down. An absolutely triumphant beginning to the film. Soon after, you can feel the heat emanating off of the film as the assembled crowd fan off as Bukka White takes the stage. Bukka the one man substantial band puts on a guitar clinic with his glistening resonator guitar, silvery slide, percussive ham boning and guttural vocalizations.

Estimated at the time of the concert as being 106 years old, Nathan Beauregard takes the stage with his electric guitar for a set of the ‘real’ blues. Protected from the oppressive sun with an umbrella Beauregard gets way down. ‘Rediscovered’ in the late 1960’s in Memphis, this rare recorded appearance allow the viewer, like those in attendance, to deeply experience the blues by someone who had lived it and disseminated it in the prewar era.

The next performers are legendary bluesmen Sleepy John Estes and Yank Rachel who plays some killer electric mandolin on this track. A pretty young girl holds an umbrella over Sleepy John's head as he cooks up a jambalaya of bubbling blues with his young white rhythm section, illustrating just how wonderful the collaborations were during this long musical weekend. Later in the film Estes and Rachel will be spotlighted again during the evening performance as an acoustic duo swapping licks and vocals. Stunning stuff.

A cut in scene with test tone shows a 'Friday Evening' sign before placing me in a night time seat for English blues woman Jo Ann Kelly and 'Backwards Sam Firk' who accompanies her for Son House's 'Death Letter Blues'. The voice that comes out of this white woman's throat could have been pulled from the rutty grooves of a dusty 78. This is a highlight performance from the film, as it has introduced me to something new and illustrates the talented diversity on display at this long forgotten gathering of musicians. Son Thomas follows with a reading of 'Crossroad Blues' as dirty as the bottom of the Mississippi River. Thomas dredges the depths with his voltaic reading of the blues standard. The film then suddenly cuts to a plea from the stage that equates as a sign of the times. 

A pivotal moment in the film follows when it is announced from the stage that one of the musicians was arrested outside the venue while enjoying a beer. The MC notifies the crowd that there will be a cup being passed around to take up a collection to assist in getting her out of jail. Can you imagine this happening in a modern day venue?  The camera captures looks of concern across the assembled crowd before returning to the songs. A small but telling piece of film nudging me to understand that music wasn't just a side gig for these performers, but a way to survive.

A stunning Lum Guffin solo performance follows as he duets with his finger picks and pocketknife slide for a serrated performance that cuts deep and which draws a handshake from someone close to the stage. Reverend Walter Wilkins and Family follow close behind with a celebratory gospel jamboree.  Cooking over canned heat, the Wilkins family band stomp in close precession for the army of the lord. A fitting conclusion to the films documentation of the first day of performances.

The second day of music begins nestled in pastoral imagery and a sense of calm. John Fahey pulls on a smoke dangling from his lips before revealing to the crowd an emotive solo finger picked prelude. The chiming strings and persistent thump of his bass notes lend a calming soundtrack to the film. A breezy clothesline of portraits of the attendees increases the emotion of the music as well as lending a a deep realism and historic context to the film.

Sid Selvidge with Moloch continue the introspective day two of the gathering. A smooth R and B sound plays against studies of beautiful women and shirtless gentlemen. John D. Laoudermilk sits solo on a stool for a dramatic reading of 'Tobacco Road' undulating between aggressive bass notes, fingerpicking and well timed harp toots. Fields of cotton and farm hands hard at work elicit the true source of the festival as they move in time with Laoudermilks expressive playing. A moving series of moments in a film brimming with them.

Memphis's own Furry Lewis takes the stage next, a man who lived the original Delta blues and a musician who influence reached even the 'Rolling Stones'. Fluid strumming, guitar body percussion and backward hand work on his acoustic neck shuffles out the 'Walkin Blues'.  Lewis moves, jigs and squirms his way through straight Delta blues with no chaser. Once Lewis hits his flow, the tap opens revealing undistilled and crystalline soul music. A second song, 'Let Me Call You Sweetheart' follows and is played as a cross between jump blues and a waltz. Lewis serenades the crowd deeply and in a way the film's viewers as well.  Lewis leaves the stage and returns just as quick with a beaming smile as the crowd urges him back. We get one more number before the MC announces the conclusion of the afternoon performances.

The mood of the film changes with the angle of the sun. People return to their seats as the dusk settles on the crowd like liquid night. Bukka White sits center stage with glorious resonator guitar and his substantial hound dog throat. White digs deep, plays his guitar behind his head and stuns the crowd into honorable silence An even better appearance than his playing on day one. Hot on Bukka's performance, blues legend Piano Red, sits at the blacks and whites, bowler cap perfectly in place and performs 'Rocky Mountain'. Rolling notes and delicious caesura's punctuate Piano Red's highlight performance.  Bukka White shares the piano stool with Red while lending gritty off mic asides and gruff encouragement. I fell lucky to have witnessed this.

The local 'Jefferson Street Jug Band' takes the stage next with John Fahey joining for a rickety back porch jam with kazoos, jugs and clarinet. A screaming and ragged reading of Country Joe and the Fish's', 'Feel Like I'm Fixing to Die Rag' brings the crowd to their collective feet. 'Insect Trust' follows next and is a wonderful and fitting representation of the festival. The band is a full electric whirling dervish of blues, rock, jazz conglomerate with a saxophone and a hearty female vocalist.

Another well timed interlude takes place with a plea from the stage that while 800 people paid to get into the festival there are 3,000 attending. The voice announces that these musicians have been working their whole lives for recognition and that there is going to be a hat passed so that the performers can get something for their art. As these pleas are executed, the film pauses on crowd shots, an effective approach, and successful in making me want to pay for my own ticket!

Moloch, who appeared earlier in the film play a harmonica driven slab of blues rock with a full band and a singing drummer. Staying thematically consistent as the MC reads a poignant poem to the crowd, 'Johnny Winter Band' and his '300 amps' take the stage. Winter's 'blues trio' sizzle in the evening air. Winter disseminates series upon series of brisk prickly blues riffing. Winter's rhythm section puts eight ball in the corner pocket while Winter breaks the cue over his knee. Once Winter, just a young lad here tugs on the musical tread everything unravels magnificently. The camera scans the front row of the crowd, there are no phones, iPads or drunk floppers. Just a series of young impressionable faces and fully engrossed music fans. A blue howl of feedback segues the film into the closing Sunday morning as snippets of cells from the final day of the festival coagulate on screen.

'The Salem Harmonizers', a gospel vocal group sound just like a glorious Sunday morning with only guitar accompaniment. The camera pans across the early morning assembly all ages, colors and denominations clap hands and sing collaboratively about 'old time religion'. This is church. Now performing in the grass as opposed to the stage Mississippi Fred McDowell sits on a chair and states, 'These folks behind me are all nice Christian people, you see I'm a Christian too but I play the blues'. Armed with amplified hollow body guitar and slide McDowell is easy on a Sunday morning with a slowly swaying jump groove. McDowell's slide work is patient and orchestrated and as smooth as the silver on his ax. This is a legend, up close and intimate. McDowell's set concludes, people applaud, faces smile and we are then placed in the back of the venue looking at a clearing stage.

In this age of instant gratification, Memphis 69 is a film that took a decades long gestation period. Not really lost, just never found. The film as we have explored, is a diverse collaborative of the blues players and admirers from the Memphis area and beyond. The film can also be viewed as a metaphor for what we as music lovers and people may have lost in the interim. While the documentary focuses on the art and performers, through the music and images captured it also illustrates to the viewer empathy, collaboration, faith, and creativity. That being said, on the outskirts of the magic of music there is also prejudice, disrespect and entitlement. These elements can sometimes be held in check by the power of song. Memphis 69 allows us to feel all of these divergent emotions with a visual soundtrack of historic proportions.

Friday, July 2, 2021

Elvis Presley – ‘Closing Night’ -September 3, 1973

Jamming this evening in the ‘rock room’ is a live Elvis Presley performance hailing from the closing night of a 58 show season at the Las Vegas Hilton. This particular recording is a well-balanced reel to reel in contrast to the usual Presley cassette soundboards to circulate. This concert is also an official release by the Follow That Dream label, a subsidiary of RCA for serious Presley collectors and to ‘steer fans away from bootleg products. Many if not all of these FTD’s quickly go out of print as they are pressed in limited fashion. In the case of the October 2004 title Closing Night, reviews and attitudes were mixed but the release nonetheless remained in high demand. On the Closing Night cd the first seven tracks hail from Presley’s dinner performance with the rest of the CD featuring the Midnight show. The recording is a clean soundboard line tape from reel to reel, a little bit sterile, but with a respectable balance of instruments.

A caveat emptor, this review will be a bit longer than some as there is a lot to unpack on this evening. There are both psychological and musical aspects to the concert as well as a plethora of dialog and a substantial amount of musical highlights.

A bit of historical context regarding the performances featured on the recording is needed to fully appreciate the concerts. Reportedly prior to the show Presley had said to others around him that he was done playing Vegas and was fed up with the Colonel’s tactics. The magnetic tape reflects these repressed emotions of the King through the performance with Presley’s playful and tipsy mood is underlined with a dose of angst. 1973 is a year when everything was coming to a head for the ‘King’. This was his 9th Las Vegas season and he was getting fed up with Vegas, Parker and personal issues including but not limited to his increasing reliance on prescription pills. Following this Vegas residency Presley would take five months off of touring. When he would return there would be set changes and a temporary improvement in his Vegas stage show. But really, this particular show in the 'rock room's opinion, is where Presley started to pull away from being a commodity. Unfortunately it was already too late.

The media line regarding Presley during this time is not simple, there is strata to be revealed by peeling away layers of myth. Admittedly 1973 was a strange year for Elvis, subpar performances, An upcoming divorce, and a deeply buried longing for something that not even he could not discern. The ‘rock room’ doesn’t deal in tall tales, we listen to the sounds. The band is crisp and Presley is on for the most part. But this is not the usual Presley performance as his emotions get the better of him. The September 3rd dinner show which as previously stated begins the CD is pretty chill with ‘E’ in a goofy mood. He does at times song slightly medicated but typical to other shows of the time pulls out more than a couple slam bangers for the crowd. The dinner show is just a precursor to the main event, but regardless the entire collection allows for an insider’s view of the entire event.

Admittedly there are much better performances Presley available, but only a handful so revealing and charged emotionally. Presley, the consummate showman, usually left his luggage at the door, but for this one Las Vegas evening he revealed more than usual while putting on a memorable evening of music. The ‘TCB’ band is as to be expected, professional, brisk and ass kicking.

The dinner show begins with the usual for the era ‘CC Rider’ opening which spits up gravel in a jittery version highlighted by James Burton chicken pickin’. Presley is turning the key for a cold engine and it takes a bit for him to get cooking. Presley remarks, ‘Is this the right song?’ toward ‘CC’s’ conclusion. A brief intro and the beginning of Presley’s humorous dialog for the evening.

Elvis comments about destroying his microphone before entering into a chat with Charlie Hodge which gets a great laugh from the crowd. Presley mentions being ‘straight’ for those who had not witnessed the show before to which Hodge responds, ‘I’ve never been straight in my life’. Inside jokes and silliness prevails early on. Presley slurs his way into a fluid ‘I Got a Woman’ that lays so far back that it almost lays down. Glenn D. Hardin’s piano is a major highlight on the tape as well as the vocal dive bomb By J. D. Sumner (backing vocalist) that became a great place of amusement for the ‘King’ during concerts. Sumner’s ability to reach subterranean depths of bass with his voice placed him the Guinness World Book of Records and during this particular show Elvis got extra pleasure out of it and had J. D sing it again!

Another set list standard follows with ‘Love Me’ which is as loose as is the show thus far. Presley takes the opportunity to smooch with some female fans while some off mic giggles continue to litter the stage. James Taylor’s ‘Steamroller Blues’ follows and the things begin to get wrenched down on the stage. Again, Glenn D. is a superstar, with some dirty saloon stylings leading into a typically stellar James Burton Tele solo spot.

While Presley’s voice is not as strong as the later show, ‘Steamroller Blues’ gets him fully invested and ends up being a strong version. The band flattens everything in the Hilton playing a swinging rendition of a ‘rock room’ Presley on stage favorite. Highlight.

‘You Gave Me a Mountain’ follows and continues the upswing of the first show. This reading is sung well and played dramatically with Presley exhibiting some superb vocal strength. Oddly enough, Elvis sings midway through the number, ‘The sound system in this hotel isn’t worth a damn!’, then apologizes to his own long time sound engineer Bill Porter following the performance.

The final featured song from the dinner show tape is a good one. Presley jumps into ‘Trouble’ played for the first time since the 1968 Comeback Special, the original featured on 1958’s King Creole soundtrack. Prior to the song beginning Presley remarks to the crowd, I’d like to do a medley of Spanish folk songs for ya’ to a limited response. This Leiber/Stoller classic has, in keeping with the theme of the concert has a chill vibe but a fully present Elvis. The band plows through the 12 bar with a gritty Telecaster spotlight solo on Burton and Presley crooning free.

Thus ends the available tracks from the dinner show and we are placed in the midnight show already in progress. Photos show that Presley begin the midnight show by coming on stage with a stuffed monkey on his back! The aural evidence is not present on the FTD release, but the symbolism of Presley's statement makes too much sense. The ‘rock and roll’ medley begins and Presley is in the same sort of mood as the preceding performance. The band sizzles through the changes connecting each classic seamlessly seguing verses of ‘Long Tall Sally/Whole Lot of Shakin Going On/You’re Mama Don’t Dance’/Flip Flop Fly/Hound Dog’. No surprise to the ‘rock room’ James Burton is en fuego with a plethora of heady playing.

Giggle and snorts are the order of the day as the show begins its descent into the alien land of strange. ‘Fever’ follows and finds Presley swapping out lyrics, snorting, embarrassing his stage mates and just plain being odd. I find myself laughing out loud during this unique rendition.  I'm sure the assembled crowd was blown away by the Elvis show on this twilight zone evening.

Just when you think the late night show can't possibly get any stranger, according to reports following 'Fever' a bed is then rolled out to center stage.  Yes, a bed in which Elvis gets comfy and performs a fitting 'What Now My Love' laying down (with questionable movements). Howls of laughter and a confused response from the crowd litter the performance. Actually, not a bad performance that concludes in a massive conclusion. Hmm.

What happens next could be one of the weirdest moments on a Presley stage. James Burton picks out the opening lick to 'Suspicious Minds' and Presley promptly starts to sing the lyrics to 'Bridge Over Troubled Water'! This segment is admittedly kind of painful, but definitely funny and you can discern that Elvis is having a good laugh at both Tom Parker and the Hilton's expense. Presley quirks to the orchestra director, "I gotta stick to one song or the other'. After calling the director lovingly a 'son of a bitch' Presley decides on 'Bridge Over Troubled Water' and again flubs lyric after lyric before completely forgetting them  and causing the crowd and back ground singers to collaboratively sing the words back to Presley! Classic. Presley emerges out of the fog and proceeds to sing the shit out of the rest of a powerhouse reading. Proof positive of why this is such a mercurial concert and how much of a emotional yo yo Presley was at this point.

'Suspicious Minds' finally gets its chance and is played fast and carelessly. Not even a shadow on the 1970 versions. It's unfortunate that we cannot see what is transpiring on stage! Presley is reverberating between Yin and Yang at this point because as he prepares to introduce the band and notices some sheet music on the floor of the stage. When someone goes to pick it up, Presley starts calling out members of the mafia to come out and pick up the music stand, 'There's 25 other employees around backstage!' The band grooves on behind the King as he continues the introductions while also acknowledging friends and family in the audience. 

What comes next many consider to be a highlight of the two closing  Fall 1973 Vegas shows is Presley's reading of 'My Boy'. Elvis had covered the song on his 1974 LP Good Times and played it on stage during this Vegas run while also dedicating it to Lisa Marie Presley. You can tell Elvis connects deeply with the song and like flipping an emotional switch he grabs the crowd and holds them in the palm of his hand. There is no joking here, just prime Presley. Elvis is obviously content and feeling it as he takes the opportunity to thank Charlie Hodge with a comment that when he sings with Elvis that 'it sounds like one voice'.

Elvis is feeling it as we now hit the home stretch with a series of tight but loose performances beginning with a hearty 'I Can't Stop Loving You' with horny punctuations from the orchestra. At the songs conclusion a disappointed Elvis says, 'Thank you for the light applause'. You can just feel that Elvis is searching for a different venue, audience, direction, anything on this particular evening. 'American Trilogy' follows, always a highlight, but here it takes until the song conclusion to reach a boil as Presley is back with messing with the words in an obvious response to the crowd. By the time the song hits the 'Hush little baby' lyric, Elvis pulls up his boot straps and digs in.

Presley quickly calls out 'Big Hunk' and Glen D. bangs the ivory's for 'A Big Hunk O' Love' a 1959 single from Presley's one and only military recording session. Here is a brisk version with Presley sweetly slurring the verses and the band popping through the syncopated licks. In contrast, Elvis then introduces 'a favorite' of his with 'The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face', a song made famous by Roberta Flack and a 1972 single for Elvis as well as the 'B' side to 'American Trilogy'. Presley is fully invested in this song and you can feel it. The show now takes a strange but welcome turn as Elvis bets big and cashes out bigger. Elvis concluded the song with, 'I hope you like it, it don't make no difference'. 

As what was rumbling beneath the surface during 'My Boy' with Presley's mood, he is in fine fettle and sinks himself into the song with total aplomb. Then, at the song's conclusion Presley takes a small break to draw attention to the chain around his neck which he said was given to him by the staff of the Hilton for playing a third show the evening prior. Elvis then mentions a Hilton worker named Mario who presides in the Italian restaurant who is going to be fired after Presley's stand at the hotel. Presley states plainly, 'I don't want him to go, he needs a job, and I think the Hilton's are bigger than that'.

Presley calls out 'Mystery Train' and then precedes to devote the evening's energy and his performing energy to Mario's cause as the band peels through a sidewinding version on 'Mystery Train/Tiger Man' medley. Ronnie Tutt is all over the kit with tribal explosives and the rest of band and the bank vault tight proving why they are the best in the land. The energy pouring off of the recording as James Burton pulls out a series of  reverberant twang laden licks. 

What happens next is a major highlight of my personal 'rock room' collection and any 'bootleg' recording for that matter. Presley has the band bring it way down before calling out over the undulating groove, 'This next song is dedicated to the hierarchy, the staff, of the Hilton Hotel' as he roars into 'Tiger Man' leaving no doubt as to who is the king of the LAs Vegas jungle. Classic stuff.

Presley hitting his stride continues as he introduces the 'Stamps' quartet and introduces a 'gospel number', which is 'How Great Thou Art'. A usual concert highlight, this performance is no different and similarly to the preceding songs is wonderfully performed. Elvis displays his vocal power and control and its obvious to the 'rock room' where Presley's true heart lies. There is some distortion on the tape here but this does not deter from the stellar musical display. The song concludes to great applause to which Presley replies, 'Thank you, thank you, you're very nice, you finally showed some appreciation for something. The King is definitely not being clandestine with his feelings toward the Hilton, the crowd, or his situation. Elvis then asks the crowd, 'Do it again?' The band and Elvis then look skyward with a second substantial conclusion, to which Elvis says, 'I'll sing it all night' and enters into a second reprise!!! Amazing stuff. 

The concert settles into a mellow introspective vibe, with the expected closer of 'I Can't Help Falling In Love' providing the finale. Presley first sings the always welcome 'Help Me Make It Through the Night' wonderfully before another special concert moment.

'Softy As I leave You' continues the unique aspect of the performance as this is the 'song's' debut with Presley reciting the lyrics as opposed to a full band version which would be the case when he recorded it the following year. Obviously, something is haunting Presley throughout this evening and 'Softly as Leave You' is dictated with great feeling. A unique and special performance. An expected and well sung rendition of 'I Can't Help Falling In Love With You' brings this idiosyncratic show to a well played conclusion. While putting on his usual fully invested performance Presley exercised some demons on this particular Las Vegas concert stage evening. 

A concert like this particular 1973 Elvis Presley show offers as much to the artist's personality an off stage existence as it does to the performance. Shows that blur the line between the art and the artist are always interesting glimpses in the window's of the artist's soul we enjoy and idolize. Jim Morrison and the Doors in Miami 1969, Keith Moon at the Cow Palace in 1973, are just a couple examples of how rockers played out their own issues in front of paying fans on a concert stage. It's shows fans and listeners the human side of rock as well as illustrating that these artists are not infallible. The 'rock room' will leave you with a Presley quote following the performance of 'A Big Hunk O' Love' that we feel sums up the entire experience on this Closing Night, 'We kid a lot, and have a lot of fun, but we really love to sing and play music and entertain people. That's the name of the game. As long as I can do that I'll be a happy old son of a bitch!"