Tag Archives: Johnny Cash

Layla at 40

One hit wonders, iconic albums, career peaks…you could file Layla under every one of those categories.  And while words like classic and timeless are tossed around too often, Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs – the sole studio effort by supergroup Derek and The Dominoes – fits that bill.

I’ve worn the damned thing out in almost every conceivable format; I’ve heard several boots of outtakes and demos and even spent many an hour sifting through the live albums (both official and not) over the years. But the twin guitars of Eric Clapton and Duane Allman, the piano section from Bobby Whitlock that even Goodfellas couldn’t rob, the constant battle over which of the four sides (that’s album talk, kids) was actually superior…these are memories and images that have stood the test of time.

I’m not a big fan of these highly priced reissues that expand original albums beyond belief; for some they are a true testimonial of respect while others are a transparent cash grab. But that’s not my wallet in your pocket; I’m just here to pass the word. Looks like there will be a two-CD edition and a fully loaded motherlode version which includes books, vinyl, DVD-audio and more. I’m probably shooting for the former, since it contains some great live material on the second disc as well as a remastered version of the original masterpiece. From the press release:

THE 2CD DELUXE EDITION features:

 • Six exciting performances from what was to be Derek and the Dominos’ second album, all remixed by the original session engineer, Andy Johns. The highlight of the six tracks is “Got To Get Better In A Little While” – the group’s last recording – presented in this collection both as a mesmerizing jam version and as the first-ever release of the fully produced studio version, finally completed by founding member Bobby Whitlock on keyboards and vocals.

 • All four audio performances from Derek and the Domino’s sole, historic television appearance on The Johnny Cash Show, November 9, 1970 – including Clapton’s famous jam on “Matchbox Blues” with Cash and rockabilly legend Carl Perkins.

 • The two tracks produced by Phil Spector in early summer 1970 that amounted to the first release by Derek and the Dominos: “Tell the Truth” and “Roll It Over,” the A- and B-side of a single that was quickly pulled from circulation by the group.

 • The Layla session out-take “Mean Old World”: the legendary acoustic duet performed by Eric Clapton and Duane Allman.

 The SUPER DELUXE EDITION additionally includes:

 • Newly remastered and expanded 2-CD set of Derek and the Dominos: In Concert, recorded at the Fillmore East and remastered from the original master tapes.

 • Audio only DVD featuring DTS 5.1 and Dolby Surround 5.1 versions of Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs mixed by legendary engineer Elliot Scheiner.

 • High-fidelity, 180-gram reproduction of the original vinyl double album, remastered directly from the original UK album masters, featuring slightly alternate mixes of some songs.   

 • A hardcover book, artfully designed with rare and never-seen photographs, and featuring four meticulously researched essays by noted music historian and author Ashley Kahn fashioned from new interviews with Bobby Whitlock, Allman Brothers drummer Butch Trucks, engineer Ashley Kahn , producer Albhy Galuten, guitarist Derek Trucks; plus historic interviews with Eric Clapton, Duane Allman, and producer Tom Dowd.

 • Facsimiles of Derek and the Dominos concert tickets and various promotional items, including the famous “Derek is Eric” button created to assure fans of the identity of the group’s lead singer and guitarist.

 • Pop-up 3-D artwork and a high quality Layla art print based on the oil painting that graced the original album cover – “La Fille Au Bouquet” by Emile Theodore Frandsen de Schomberg – which has achieved cultural significance in its own right.

 

Or maybe all you really need to do is pull that old vinyl album off the shelf…there’s nothing wrong with that. But either way, one listen will remind you that they just don’t make ’em like they used to.

2 Comments

Filed under Music, Reviews

Thursday’s This ‘ n’ That

Thoughts on a snowy Thursday afternoon…

Who would have thought Charles Nelson Reilly and Rip Taylor were born on the same day, January 13th? Can you really put that much flamboyant wackiness on one single calendar date? Reilly left us a few years ago but Rip is still out there somewhere, no doubt throwing confetti

On this day in 1968, Johnny Cash performed at Folsom Prison and cemented his legend. What a man of many colors – contrast that guy with his later television show persona and then the last albums prior to his death. Truly a legend, and equally effective at both ends of his career. Early cash is pure gold, as are the Rick Rubin albums. The video for “Hurt still haunts me.

And a Happy Birthday also to Aussie singer/songwriter Paul Kelly, a real treasure and a legend in his homeland but vastly underrated in the States. I’ve always liked his work but admit that I don’t go to that well as often as I should, but that may have to change – I just discovered this!

Now back to that snow shovel

1 Comment

Filed under Film/TV, Music

New Album! Tom Jones

No blame, just praise.

When Johnny Cash hooked up with Rick Rubin to make the inspired series of albums known as the American Recordings, he proved that a talented artist could reinvent himself beyond a lifelong public perception. But where Cash had a long legacy of artistic credibility to go along with his popular success, Tom Jones was known for his booming voice and the collection of underwear tossed at his feet.

No one expected that he’d issue a stark blues and gospel album, and I’m certain that nobody predicted he’d release an album that is a serious contender for the best record of the year.

Surprise.

Fronting a stripped down sound often comparable to the chunk and thwack of The White Stripes, Jones has created a spiritual journey that begins soft and subtle, surfs the River Styx and ascends towards the heavens before leaving the listener by the doorstep with a personal challenge. In other words, Jones not only got around on that fastball, he crushed it.

Jones, at seventy, still possesses those powerful pipes and sounds absolutely rejuvenated on these selections. The myriad of well chosen songs taps the songbooks of Bob Dylan, Pops Staples,  Billy Joe Shaver and John Lee Hooker, whose “Burning Hell” is punctuated by greasy slide guitar and the guttural bark and howl of the singer. I saw him do this live with just a drummer and guitar player as accompaniment and it was riveting.

Sometimes people release an album outside their wheelhouse to be trendy and widen their audience. I don’t know Jones personally nor can I speak for his religious beliefs (or lack thereof). But I can tell you that after listening to this forty minute sermon, I’m converted.

Go listen to clips and judge for yourself.

1 Comment

Filed under Music, Reviews

Blast From The Past: Whiskeytown

When the insurgent roots music movement started to take hold – call it alt-country, No Depression or Y’Alternative music – a flood of bands that tied back to Gram Parsons, Neil Young and classic country artists from Hank Williams to Johnny Cash started to milk a serious buzz. Near the front of the pack was a loosely raucous band from Raleigh, North Carolina called Whiskeytown, and their lead martyr singer and songwriter Ryan Adams.

A skilled and interesting collaborative band (with Caitlin Cary, Phil Wandscher, Eric “Skillet” Gilmore and Mike Daly), Whiskeytown released its debut Faithless Street, which bowled over critics and landed them a major label deal. By the time the second album Stranger’s Almanac was released, the group was known for its self-destructive tendencies as much as its musical brilliance, the lion’s share of that squarely on the head of Adams. Reading interviews at the time I realized that I was watching someone emulating Keith Richards; I just didn’t know how much of it was by accident.

Thankfully, I was wrong about Adams in a multitude of ways. He didn’t drink himself into an early grave, even when the band imploded in 2000. In fact, he was so prolific between 2000 and 2005 (eight releases!) that the plaudits became even more gargantuan. Like some of his heroes and influences, he juggled both popular acclaim and commercial success, and it looked like he was a step away from releasing that album or song that would place his name on everyone’s lips (or perhaps spontaneously combust).

Having juggled the solo image and with his more traditional band The Cardinals, he opted for the latter and released two more albums over the next five years. Like contemporaries and heroes Wilco, he’s prone to experiment with styles and now has left them to form a rock trio. I haven’t even heard Orion, his newest record; I’m not certain I want to hear Ryan Adams doing metal (even if he did get his start in a punk band). But there’s no denying the early classics, and I hope he still has a few tricks like that left in his worn out sachel.

Here’s my short shot review of Strangers Almanac from 1997:

+++

Ryan Adams is a hell of a songwriter for a guy in his early twenties, but I’d get the suicide watch started right now. Desperation set to music works both ways, and Adams mines the vein like the forefathers he so drunkenly pretends he isn’t influenced by (perhaps his own line sums it up best – “I can’t stand to be under your wing”). When he’s more uptempo he wears his Paul Westerberg on his sleeve (“Yesterday’s News”) and other times a Neil Young ghost will rear its head (“Turn Around”).

But he’s also savvy enough to diversify the instrumentation. Fiddle and horns alternately pick a song up (“Sixteen Days”) and take it out at the knees (the pained and haunting “Everything I Do”). One of the most powerful and depressing records of 1997, and I mean those both as compliments.

Listen to clips from Strangers Almanac

Whiskeytown page at Lost Highway Records


1 Comment

Filed under Music, Reviews

Happy Birthday, Billy Preston

Murray The K wanted to be the Fifth Beatle, but I think Billy Preston earned the title. Considering the legacy of the band and the state of society in those days, adding Billy Preston as a member of The Beatles might have ended racism in 1970.

Back in the 60’s, it wasn’t unusual for musicians to be all over a band’s album and get no credit whatsoever. Motown, Stax and other labels had crack house bands that made everyone sound great. Most pop acts were noted for their vocal performances while a session band did most of the work in anonymity. Highly paid work, mind you, but still behind the pop culture curtain.

Consider that most people were shocked when The Monkees admitted that other musicians played on their albums, and at the time they were just four actors pretending to be a band! Glen Campbell and Jimmy Page played on countless sessions before becoming famous under their own name, much like many of the classic songwriters (Neil Diamond, Carole King, Burt Bacharach, etc.) figured out that you could make a ton of money behind the scenes but a ton more out front.

Ringo says he can join!

Billy Preston – has he ever not been smiling? – added a great vibe to the Beatles sound. His solo in “Get Back” makes the song what it is, and the track is actually credited to “The Beatles with Billy Preston” – the only time in the band’s career outside of the Tony Sheridan era where another artist shares billing with them. Nice resume, Mr. Preston!

Sadly, we lost him in 2006, three months shy of his 60th birthday. So whether you know him from his long list of guest stints (everyone from Little Richard and Ray Charles to Johnny Cash and The Rolling Stones – the list is almost endless) or his own chart topping hits “Nothing from Nothing” and “Will it Go Round In Circles“, celebrate the memory of Billy Preston today.

Billy Preston on Wikipedia.

Leave a comment

Filed under Film/TV, Music

T.G.I.F. – Ten More Anniversaries

 

It’s not that I wanted to repeat last week’s model of ten famous birthdays that fall on the same day, but damned if February 26th wasn’t a key date for a lot of entertainers and artists who made an impact upon me. Just more credence for the MDC Theory (Memorial Day Conceptions) I proposed last Friday. (I determined that my birth was the result of a St. Patrick’s Day party that got a little crazy.) 

And it’s not all birthdays either – February 26th is also the day we lost a couple of favorites, including one of the best and most influential comedians of all time. So here are ten anniversaries, in chronological order; celebrate their contributions today. 

Seven birthdays...

Tex Avery, 1908 – One of the top animators, voice actors and cartoon directors of all time. He could be a legend just for creating Daffy Duck but in fact was involved in hundreds of cartoons and characters for Walter Lantz studios and the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies series, whose ribald humor I appreciate more as an adult than I did as a child. 

Jackie Gleason, 1916 – Maybe we just take some people for granted, especially when they make it look effortless. Gleason was a television pioneer; his eponymous variety show and The Honeymooners are seminal influences in the medium (the Honeymooners concept even spawning a more long-running animated version in The Flinstones). But his turns in The Hustler and Requiem For A Heavyweight show that he was no slouch as a dramatic actor either. 

Video: The Great One 

Fats Domino, 1928 – The congenial, portly piano player continues to inspire blues players and rockers alike with his trademark style. “Blueberry Hill”, “Ain’t That A Shame”, “I’m Walkin” – the list is endless. I’m ashamed to admit that it took me until the 80’s to realize that Fats was why Chubby Checker chose his stage name. We almost lost the legend in Hurricane Katrina but he’s 82 today. 

Godfrey Cambridge, 1933 – Cambridge was a very intelligent man; he earned a full scholarship to medical school but dropped out to pursue an entertainment career.  He was a staple on talk shows in the 60’s and 70’s with a smooth and smart style like fellow comic Bill Cosby (but talked about black and white issues with a more sarcastic edge). He died early; sadly his albums are out of print and he is known to many only for his acting in films such as Watermelon Man and Cotton Comes To Harlem

Johnny Cash, 1932 – Nothing much need be said about The Man In Black that you don’t already know, his recorded legacy is essential listening. But you might not have seen that the last album in the American series has just been released entitled Ain’t No Grave

Listen to sample clips from Ain’t No Grave 

Chuck Wepner, 1939 – The Bayonne Bleeder. Watching Muhammad Ali fight in his prime was like watching Mike Tyson; odds were the challenger wasn’t going to last long. Wepner was given no chance by the pundits but took everything Ali threw at him for fifteen rounds, even flattening the champ in the ninth round. This fight inspired Sylvester Stallone to create Rocky

Mitch Ryder, 1945 – I’ve certainly written plenty about my fondness for Mitch Ryder, and although the link shows you just how prolific he continues to be, it’s not the same as hearing the music. The newest album (misnamed on the AMG entry) is Detroit Ain’t Dead Yet, his first American release since 1983, and an autobiography is scheduled for release this Summer. 

...and three fond farewells.

We remember those lost on this day, including… 

Buddy Miles, 2008 – Most famous for his work with Jimi Hendrix in Band of Gypsys and his hit “Them Changes”, Miles was also a player with Wilson Pickett, a member of The Electric Flag, and leader of his own group The Buddy Miles Express, featuring a hot-shot guitarist named Jim McCarty

Video: Buddy Miles 

Lawrence Tierney, 2002 – Quintessential tough guy for whom it was no act; his real-life boozing and brawling cost him an A-list career. Quentin Tarantino, for all his quirks, has a knack for putting an actor past his prime in a plum role and Tierney will forever be remembered for his turn in Reservoir Dogs as the curmudgeonly caper mastermind Joe Cabot

Bill Hicks, 1994 – I’ve expounded upon Bill Hicks at great length; he’s one of the most important comics in the history of the art form. Although his death at 33 meant an abrupt end to his career, he left us an incredible body of work and continues to inspire comedians to hold a mirror up to society and tell the truth

Leave a comment

Filed under Comedy, Features and Interviews, Film/TV, Music

Blast From The Past: Rockabilly Raveups

For all the countless repackaging that we are constantly drowning in, sometimes the major labels throw us a bone with brilliant anthologies. Being a fan of garage rock, the pinnacle for me might be the original Nuggets collection, although I’m certainly not sneezing at the various label series that have followed in those caveman footprints to issue regional and chronological; collections of little-known garage and punk singles.

Rhino and Sony Legacy have really stood out in this regard (although in fairness to other labels, their access to the entire Columbia and Warner Brothers libraries is a hell of a head start). When these efforts are done right, you get a great cross-section of material in its best available sonic condition combined with some entertaining and/or authoritative liner notes written with care. If there’s one major drawback to the digital download medium – and there are several – the loss of liner notes might be the leading contender.

I didn’t grow up an Elvis or rockabilly fan, but I did grow up loving rock’n’roll, and chasing the roots of an art form is a worthwhile exercise for any devotee. These collections are far from complete but are an excellent primer for someone wanting to know what the fuss was all about.

When I saw that Whistle Bait is on sale at Amazon for $6.99, I figured I should pay props to these killer anthologies once again. Here’s my original review from 2000 as it ran in PopMatters

Fifty—count ‘em—50 snips of rockabilly, America’s original punk rock music, collected on two CDs to awaken your latent juvenile delinquent tendencies. Rockabilly was the cross-cultural spawn of hillbilly country, southern R&B, urban blues and rock’n’roll (which, of course, was itself a hybrid of the previous three). If you think the ‘50s were all about American Graffiti and Happy Days, you’re as wrong as the people who think Pat Boone butchering “Tutti Fruitti” was the cat’s meow. This was rebel music, parent-scaring yelps from garages and small towns across America. In your town, it was that kid down the block who chain-smoked and had a pompadour seemingly held in place by 30-weight motor oil. Thirty miles away, some kid with a buzzcut and an attitude was making the “bad girls” swoon.

Whistle Bait and Ain’t I’m a Dog strip-mine the vaults of Columbia Records—who, through their strong country music associations had a leg up on these things—and their associated labels. Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash, in their post-Sun era, are just two of the stellar names among The Collins Kids, Johnny Horton, Link Wray and Marty Robbins. Perkins checks in with some pre-requisite sharp clothing titles like “Pink Pedal Pushers” and “Pointed Toe Shoes”, but cuts like “Jive After Five” prove who Dave Alvin spent a lot of hours listening to. Billy Crash Craddock might not have been the star that Elvis was, but “Ah Poor Little Baby” could fool many people in a blind taste test. For me, the revelations were Ronnie Self and The Collins Kids—it’s no accident that the first track on each volume comes from their catalogue.

Hard not to learn a few things along the way, too. I never knew that Ronnie Dawson cut tracks under the unlikely moniker of “Commonwealth Jones”, nor did I realize that Webb Pierce had a hand in writing both “Bop-A-Lena” and “Bo Bo Ska Diddle Daddle” (although now that I look at those titles side by side, I know why Mensa passed on my application!). Then there are the classic monikers like Ornie Wheeler, Ersel Hickey and Werly Fairburn; three names impossible to pronounce without a little twang in your thang. Many of these acts had one or two records and then disappeared; some (Cash, Perkins, Dawson) had long careers, and some wound up in unexpected places (how the hell did Larry Collins cut tracks like these and then later pen schlock like “Delta Dawn”?). Although the genre primarily existed for but a few years (the tracks here range from 1955-1961), there sure were a hell of a lot of great records, and you know there are plenty more where these came from. File these two right alongside Nuggets when not playing loud.

Listen to clips from Whistle Bait

Listen to clips from Ain’t I’m a Dog

Leave a comment

Filed under Features and Interviews, Music, Reviews