Talk From The Rock Room: February 2021

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Take One: Jim Capaldi – Short Cut Draw Blood - 'It Don't Scare Me'

The portentous Jamaican adage, ‘Short cut, draw blood’ warns that taking the easy way out can offer dire consequence. It also says that the even quickest strike can also cause injury. 

Both of these eventualities carry substantial thematic weight on Jim Capaldi’s 1975 album of the same title. Recently, the Jim Capaldi Estate  announced a worldwide digital release of this vital album in Capaldi’s discography across numerous streaming platforms. This  reassessment of the record has started with a release of the first single and title track, ‘Short Cut, Draw Blood’.

The title was brought up to Capaldi by Chris Blackwell of Island Records, who was also Bob Marley and the Wailers producer, hence the use of and familiarity with a Jamaican proverb. 

The album was Capaldi's first following the disillusion of Traffic. He had a number of former and current members of the band he founded including his songwriting partner Steve Winwood appear on the LP.

The subject of today’s Talk from the Rock Room ‘Take One’ feature is the title track of Capaldi’s 1975 LP. Featuring the former Muscle Shoals rhythm section of Hood, Hawkins and percussionist Rebop the song’s striding groove moves impatiently through Capaldi’s verses. 

The song’s construction brings to mind Bob Dylan’s ‘Hurricane’, another melodic proclamation from 1975 that both jams and informs. 

While not always fashionable in the music industry to be globally or environmentally conscious, these were ideals held close to Capaldi’s heart. He was a straight shooter and with this cut he hit the mark.

The song enters with a picked acoustic lick that signals the introductory verses. Capaldi itemizes the acts being perpetrated on the Earth and its inhabitants through swirling lyrics winding around flashing keyboards and passing sonic washes. 

Each verse gains momentum on jagged electric guitar, moans of Moog, before crashing into the matter fact chorus, ‘I’m telling you that a short cut is gonna draw blood, and you are gonna get you face pushed in the mud’. 

Capaldi elicits a sneer when navigating the lyrics and then a sly smile on the chorus. After the third verse a guitar solo enters with all of the various song’s elements colliding. Capaldi comes back following the solo and free forms with the stratified guitars, adding well timed shouts and vamps on the chorus until the fadeout.

Similarly to all enduring art, Capaldi’s song has gained relevance in the intervening years. The finger pointing in his lyrics assess a mystery figure who pulls the strings. Not much has changed. Capaldi’s lyrics are honest, and honesty is sometimes too much,’ 

'Well you can build a lot of buildings that you want in this world, till a man can't see a thing. Keep on spraying the crops with your suicide juice, till the birds no longer sing’. These acts were happening when Capaldi composed the song in the mid 1970’s and they continue to this day. Proof that Capaldi was on the right path of environmental consciousness and his venomous voicing and dulcet musicality the perfect combination to distribute his message.

Jim Capaldi’s 1975 record and track Short Cut, Draw Blood deserves a critical reassessment and a new audience. Its messages and musicality are just as important to listener’s ears today as they were in in middle 1970’s. Capaldi’s talents ranged from composing, arranging, singing, and of course drumming and his recordings need not languish is the dusty recesses of a record store. As an addition, please enjoy this live version of 'Short Cut, Draw Blood' and 'Goodbye Love' from the 'Old Gray Whistle Test' November 18, 1975 before you go. Here’s to enjoying Jim Capaldi's music as well as adding a new generation of listeners that I am sure will be hopeful recipients to his message.

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Put the Boot In: Traffic – Live in Fort Worth 1974 - 'Done With Reality'

Spinning today in the ‘rock room’ is a newly circulating (I believe) audience recording from the final ‘Traffic’ tour in 1974. This recording hails from the Tarrant County Convention Center in Fort Worth, Texasand is a brisk and groovy listen with all instruments balanced and up front.  This recording comes from a first generation reel with perfect ambiance and sonic’s. It is the ‘rock room’s’ humble opinion that this October 12th, 1974 recording could pass for a professional recording with the exception of some audience chatter. Within two weeks of this particular ‘Traffic’ tour the band would conclude and ‘Traffic’ would be no more. The concert is a well-developed cross-section of the group’s career with a number of new songs intermingled with fan favorites. This is another ‘stripped down’ version of the band reflecting their 1970 performances with the normal triplicate of Winwood, Capaldi and Wood joined by Rosco Gee on bass guitar. Light as a seed travelling on the breeze, the band navigates the concert deftly and leaves behind memories of an amazing band.

The 1974 tour is an odd duck. While there are a number of ‘Traffic’ recordings for the collector to enjoy. Most available tapes are BBC recordings or field tapes from their early days. In recent times, tapes recorded by enterprising audience members have started to seep through the cracks. Tapes from London and Manchester from the Spring, Reading in the Summer and this one from the Fall show a band who has reinvented themselves regardless of how close to the end. With the release of When the Eagle Flies, ‘Traffic’ stripped away the band additions of Roger Hawkins and David Hood on drums and bass respectively who had toured with the band throughout 1972-1973 and returned to the powerful triad of Winwood, Capaldi and Wood, but with Rosco Gee on bass to allow for easier instrument swapping between Wood and Winwood. This is a tight, light band ready to play and the ‘rock room’ is thankful for a first generation audience tape like the one we are going to review.

Like can be deduced from an excitable female fan caught on the circulating tape, ‘let’s get down!’ The band responds in kind and begins the show with a slick extended instrumental jam. The concert begins with this lead in instrumental that lets the players warm up and slides into a sleek groove with Winwood taking a crispy guitar solo spot. Wood takes up residence at the piano stool, with Capaldi and Gee making up the rhythm section respectively. Once a danceable foundation has been set, Wood moves to sax and Winwood to Rhodes as the band develops a super funky syncopated lead in into the opening ‘Shoot Out at the Fantasy Factory’.  Note: There is a small cut on the tape in this spot.

‘Shootout’ features a dual keyboard attack with Wood lending a quivering Moog drone and Winwood a spongy Fender Rhodes dressing. Capaldi is endlessly creative on the kit with a number of rhythmic shifts, while Wood moves to flute for the outro jam. A wonderfully extended and unique opening track that sets the standard high for the rest of the evening.

An introduction of Rosco Gee prefaces a high tempo version of ‘Empty Pages’. Winwood sings a siren song and is in stunning voice. There is another dual keyboard attack in the arrangement here. I can hear some amplifier issues during the song but it seems that by the conclusion the crew gets them sussed out. Winwood’s first solo spot with the Rhodes is an ornate scrawl across the blank background of the songs arrangement.  Top notch stuff.

‘Empty Pages’ segues into the spectral pulse of ‘Graveyard People’ from the just released When the Eagle Flies record. ‘Graveyard People’ lyrically is a complex dissertation of the psychology of those folks who cannot see past the end of their own nose. A slippery sax solo by Chris Wood closes the gate and leaves a misty beam of moonlight on a unique song pairing and wonderfully played duo from the early and late era of ‘Traffic’. A 'rock room' must hear.

Following an impressive introductory series of jammed out cuts, the crowd responds to a down and dirty reading of ‘Pearly Queen’ hailing from ‘Traffic’s’ 1968 self-titled second LP.  One of the most delectable guitar licks in rock history is played here by Winwood and propelled by a classic groove. The song builds to a peak that the band collaboratively holds up and inspects under the stage lights for all in attendance to see. An underrated player of six strings, Winwood shreds this one to strips.

Capaldi, speaks from the stage and asks the crowd to sing along and if they don’t, they’ll get a ‘kick in the ass’. ‘Who Knows What Tomorrow May Bring’, follows,  a long time opener for the band is played here in a grooving reading,  the pendulum swinging between rock and roll. Winwood hits the note vocally, while Wood honks and squawks his way on some blurry horn. I can feel the momentum swing on the first generation tape, as the crowd swings with the intensity of the band. 

Another new for the time song follows with ‘Walking in the Wind’ which elicits a walk along an unnamed ridge in the highlands. This song was released as a single at the time. The crowd responds with hoots and hollers as Capaldi locks down a rubber band snap of a rhythm with brisk accents. Winwood plays acoustic piano over Gee's skipping bass line. Cool, calm and collected the groove blows my hair back in a room with no open windows. As the title implies the arrangement is spacious and the recording breathes with the music. One of the 'rock room's favorites in the 'Traffic' discography.

A short acoustic based interlude follows with the sought after ‘John Barleycorn’ played from a special place where one finds the angel’s share. The crowd is silent and each instrument is discernable on the field recording. Capaldi invests himself in the hand percussion as well as the harmonized vocals during the song’s final verses.  Wood steps up to take a few perfect flute recitations that leave the crowd in a boozy stupor with their respective ‘nut brown bowls’ and brandy.

’40,000 Headmen’, gets a hearty approval from the crowd as it too is played with a woody sensibility. Introduced by Capaldi who returns to drums, he remarks to the crowd, ‘You just gotta stand up and keep going no matter the odds’. ’40,000’ drifts beautifully with Chris Wood’s flute spot eliciting screams from the crowd.  Winwood free forms vocally while Capaldi and Wood deftly answer each other’s parts, before taking his own turn in having a conversation with Wood.

Following a bit of chill, a series of four songs from the current, When the Eagle Flies album are played for the final stretch of the concert. All but the song ‘Memories of a Rock n Rolla’ from the new album would be played on this evening. Beginning the run with ‘Love’, the band exposes the crowd to their current direction and new songwriting experiments. 'Something New’, which was the albums’ opener comes next and is a joyous celebration of the conclusion of a relationship. Catchy enough to be placed as the LP’s opener, here the song feels like it’s been a part of the catalog forever. Classic cut.

The sparse arrangement and ecologically relevant lyrics of ‘When the Eagle Flies’, the title track of the last ‘Traffic’ album speaks of a day of reckoning and judgement when an eagle flies and clears the earth for its next life or phase. The performance features Winwood with accompaniment on bass by Gee. A message not so passé’ and ‘hippy’ anymore and packaged here in an intimate stony soul arrangement.

In the ‘rock room’s opinion one of the finest late era ‘Traffic’ songs, cut from the same detailed cloth as ‘Low Spark’, is ‘Dream Gerrard’. On this final ‘Traffic’ tour the song stretched out to lengths reaching twenty minutes. This version is around twelve minutes. Based around Chris Wood’s oblique central mantra, Winwood on piano and Wood on sax navigate distorted faces, strange mists and a disorienting groove. Around eight minutes in Gee takes a bass solo with rhythmic accompaniment by Capaldi. Gee brushes by the circular melody while taking off on varying melodic paths. The band repeats the central riff and returns to the song proper bringing the song and set to a conclusion.

The tape captures the arena imploring the band to return to the stage for more. The band responds in kind for a double encore of two ‘Traffic’ classics. The first, ‘Heaven Is in Your Mind’ hails from ‘Traffic’s debut LP, Mr. Fantasy, a hallucinatory tale and groovy sound. Wood takes a lascivious horn break and the end of the track and the band conjures the best part of the trip.  Finishing off the evening is a slow and steady ‘The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys’ that travels the side streets and familiar avenues for a crushing reading to end the night.

The first break finds Winwood torching his Moog for a series of sonic solar flashes that aggressively enter the ear. Wood saunters over to what sounds like the Rhodes to support Stevie’s soloing. The band find finds their way back to the song’s warm palpitation for verse two. Following the verse, Capaldi picks up the tempo for a warm syrupy jam with syncopated Winwood Rhodes and the moan of Wood’s alien saxophone. Again, in what has been a theme for the concert Stevie and Chris are listening intently to one another. Winwood, returns to sing the final verse and with that the concert has reached its conclusion. The crowd roars and after thanking the assembled, Capaldi (I think) says, ‘We sincerely hope Muhammed Ali beats George Forman on the 29th’.

Like previously stated, ‘Traffic’s’ 1974 tour is a worthy chapter of their varied and important and musical career form 1967-1974. In spite of lineup changes and usual politics, the core of Capaldi, Winwood and Wood never wavered in their vision nor their love to create new music. While the band dissipated the connection between the players lasted a lifetime. The concert recorded in Fort Worth, Texas on October 12, 1974 is right where the traffic started to back up, but until the end of the road every night was a chance to renew their connections and play the music they created together.



Monday, February 1, 2021

Taste – ‘Live Taste’ 1971 – 'It’ll Be the Same Old Story'

Jamming aggressively in the ‘rock room’ today in the third and final album by Irish rockers ‘Taste’. Released in February of 1971 following the band’s demise, Live Taste was recorded during the group’s final tour at the Montreux Casino, in Montreaux, Switzerland. This was also the band’s only official live documentation at the time. Famed Irish guitarist Rory Gallagher fronted the power trio with the muscular rhythm section of Charlie McCracken on bass and John Wilson on drums. Recorded professionally, the existing LP does exhibit some limitations of the time. The performance is similar to the now officially released Live at the Isle of Wight CD/Blu Ray combo, which means it is just as thunderous and awe inspiring. Gallagher would soon move on from the group that helped propel his career after these aforementioned recordings. Unfortunately business often interfered with music making during this era and ‘Taste’ fell into that trap and it pried the group apart. Luckily for us they left behind a brief but tasty discography, which the ‘rock room’ will delve into today.

The performance begins with ‘Sugar Mama’, a famed Gallagher reimagining of a classic blues covered by everyone from Tampa Red to Led Zeppelin. Here it begins with Gallagher shredding his vocal chords with his solitary, yet kinetic guitar accompaniment. The assembled crowd keep time with their hands. At a bit after a minute the band drops in like a piano of a rooftop crashing into the verse. Almost immediately Gallagher peels away a euphoric series of licks running parallel with his hollers. McCracken thumps out a resounding sludgy bass, just as rock and roll should be. Dynamically, the band lets some air out for the second verse. After Gallagher dispenses with his husky shout, he moves into a probing clean toned exploration of the blues changes. At four and a half minutes Rory starts to peel paint with an explosive trill detonation and some off mic screams. The band soon navigates its way into an elastic false feedback conclusion that Gallagher shreds into a proper and smoking conclusion.

Gallagher dons his brass slide for a chance reading of ‘Gamblin’ Blues’, a blues cover written by Melvin Jackson. A straight dirty boot stomp, Rory performs like a back porch bar patron, laying down streaky blues slide, as a speeding set of headlights passes through liquid night. Mid song Gallagher hits on a haunted ringing string, stomps his foot in time and chimes through a series of unique interpretations of a typical blues change. Rory closes the number with a shimmery slide vocal duet, no band here, just rock wood shedder Gallagher and his ax.

Big Bill Broonzy’s ‘I Feel So Good’ follows and is a straight up rock and roll workout, complete with swinging bass and drum spotlight segments. The band cooks through a weighty shuffle before dropping into a thumping Charlie McCracken bass solo. Hot on it’s heels a wash of cymbals introduce a well played John Wilson drum solo. What is listed as ‘Feel So Good Pt 2’ (on the original LP this is the start of Side 2) exits the drums as Gallagher and McCracken chase each other’s tails in a blusey vamp. The band then brings it down, simmering to almost silence. Gallagher uses a sweet tone while vocally testifying before a substantial return to the song proper. McCracken climbs the rungs of his bass in unison with Gallagher shredding his guitar. Explosive.

In the ‘rock room’s opinion the next cut is a highlight on the record and may be a highlight of the band’s career! Responding to crowd requests, ‘Taste’ casts their bait into the deep end for ‘Catfish’ which is introduced as the final song of the set. I’m saying this right now, definitively, you aint’ never heard heavy electric blues until you have heard this! Change my mind! The band drops anchor into the murky depths of the song with a destructive splash. Dredging the submerged earth the band reveals a chilling pulse to which Gallagher gags out the hook and line. Singing a duet with his strings the Gallagher and the band move dynamically through bluesy currents. There is a sense of anticipation as the band sinks into the undertow allowing Gallagher to quote from the blues ‘Two Trains Running’. The band resurfaces, sailing into a plucky improve segment. McCracken and Gallagher enter into a bird’s nest of runs, Wilson steading the ship with firm pounding. Gallagher finds a stringy sun touched feedback note that stretches from shore to shore with the band watching it’s ripples. Swirling, another round of kinetic jamming occurs that ends with a hard stop, a quick band introduction, and then a boulder off of the bridge back into the song proper. Gallagher sings the ‘Catfish’ verse melody on guitar and concludes a heady jam on a classic blues. Wow.

Side two of the LP concludes with the Gallagher penned, ‘Same Old Story’ from 1969’s self-titled album. The cut is an undulating, syncopated slab of aggressive rock. Simple and ass shaking, Gallagher takes what could be his best solo of the night! This piece is like Chuck Berry on space amphetamines! Charlie and John seal up the vault with a relentless groove and just like that the song, the LP, and the band are concluded.

‘Taste’s’ 1971 album Live Taste in the ‘rock room’s’ opinion one of the finest examples of the ‘British Blues Boom’…….to come out of Ireland of all time. While Rory Gallagher would go on to a quite wonderful career, for a short era, ‘Taste’ may have been the best band in the world. (See Isle of Wight 1970) Perhaps, they broke up right in time, as the ‘power trio’ would soon be considered passé’, but when listening to an album like Live Taste, it always leaves me wanting for more music. Underrated but overwhelming with talent, Ireland’s ‘Taste’ has left a smoking legacy behind even if only smoldering for 3 years.