Tag Archives: Mick Taylor

Blast From The Past: Let It Bleed

It might be their greatest album, and that’s saying something.

Took a drive through the country Sunday afternoon and slapped this puppy in the player. My god, it sounds as fresh and vital as it did in 1969, and as many Stones albums were during their apex, there’s not a duff track in the lot. Many people focus on the legendary tracks – “Midnight Rambler”, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”, “Gimme Shelter” – and those three are certainly landmark tracks of the rock’n’roll era. But it’s the deeper dive that makes this album more rewarding.

Keith’s “You Got The Silver” is among his finest performances, and a perfect example of the “front porch” sound that he gleaned from his relationship with Gram Parsons. Hell, “Country Honk” could have been a Flying Burrito Brothers track. I remember being stunned that the band did not put “Honky Tonk Women” on the album; it was a massive hit single and leaving it off almost seemed counterproductive to the promotion of the album. But as a Stones fan, I was thrilled to have such a different take.

The title track is joyful (and sordid); impossible not to sing along to and timelessly infectious. Speaking of sordid, “Live With Me” is one of their raunchiest, featuring a killer bass line and a nasty sax solo. “Love In Vain” is a prime example of how the blues roots of the band flowered over time; what started as simple expositions of the form started to flower into inventive arrangements.

Charlie Watts is a monster, as always, but the underrated Bill Wyman has some great moments as well. And as much as I love Brian Jones, Mick Taylor was the greatest guitarist the Stones ever had (Ron Wood is a great player, but he has been wasted as a Rolling Stone). The band also pulled out all the stops with horn sections, gospel choirs and majestic arrangements; the sound of this album was phenomenal considering the year it was made.

This album came out as big cultural changes were occurring in the industry and for fans. AM radio was still pretty cool but FM was rearing its head. Singles were still huge (and selling) but albums started to become definitive statements rather than a collection of hit and failed singles. Let It Bleed was proving that these English boys not only understood Delta and Chicago blues, but country music and roadhouse rock as well. Hearing it made me feel cooler than I was. It gave me a window to what could (and would) be.

Listen to clips here…oh just buy the damned thing, willya?

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Rock’s Darkest Day?

July 3rd is the anniversary of the deaths of both Brian Jones and Jim Morrison. Ask rockers about Morrison and you’ll get a highly divided camp; some revere his poetic lyrics and unique artistic expression with The Doors, while others see him as a bloated, self-indulgent hipster who yammered nonsense and called it art. 

I was a Doors fan and still enjoy their music – there are a series of great singles and many of the deeper tracks on the album were pretty fascinating. I thought L.A. Woman was a tremendous album and am saddened that they never got to continue that journey. But the drunken escapades, the supposed incidents of exposure, the pretentiousness of it all…yeah, I could understand someone resisting their work because they can’t get past that. 

But I’ll wrestle you to the mat about Jones

Brian Jones was The Rolling Stones. Without him, there wouldn’t be a band, let alone a Sticky Fingers or an Exile on Main Street or a Let It Bleed. Because it was Jones the blues purist who set the course, charted the direction and marketed the band in the earliest days when everyone else was ready to fold the tent and quit

Mick Jagger would have graduated from the London School of Economics and been a prissy accountant. Charlie Watts would probably have joined a jazz band and would be famous to a whole other audience. Bill Wyman might have lived the suburban life he seemed to be drifting towards, playing in r&b bands on the weekend and still pulling birds half his age. 

And Keith Richards? He probably would have done the same damned thing – overindulge in life’s pleasures and play some of the most timeless riffs man has ever wrangled from an electric guitar. 

I remember being crushed when Jones died. I was just a kid – other iconic deaths like Buddy Holly either predated my awareness or (like Sam Cooke and Otis Redding) involved people I liked but was not fully invested in. But The Rolling Stones were my lifeblood, and this was like losing a brother.

You have to realize that at the time, lines were drawn between Beatles fans and Stones fans; peer pressure said you had to be one or the other, and you’d better choose. All the cute girls chose The Beatles, of course…and that was reason enough for me to side with the Stones

He was the first rock star in my world; looked (at the time) like a golden god, played any instrument you put into his hands, added flavor to Stones singles that other bands would later copy and seemed like the coolest guy on the planet. When I saw the Stones on Ed Sullivan I looked right past Jagger and was mesmerized by him. And I wasn’t the only one…five hundred miles north of my New York City house, Andy and Greg of The Chesterfield Kings were watching the same program and getting their minds blown as well. 

And then he died – murdered, I still believe – and what had been this picture perfect vision of music and peace and utopia started to crumble. Soon it would be Jimi, and Janis and Jimoddly connected…and finally the nail in the coffin,  Altamont

Don’t get me wrong – I love the Mick Taylor era of the band, and although he’s been underutilized in his tenure, Ronnie Wood is one of my all time favorite guitar players. But the London singles the early Stones cut? Pure magic

Listen to the magic!

Had the Stones broken up after Exile, they would have that same unfinished legacy that Buddy Holly, The Beatles and James Dean have – a permanent snapshot of genius in its prime.  No chance to stumble and fall, or go ages between artistic releases, or climb on stage long past their prime and sing about want and boredom and being unsatisfied…right before pocketing millions per gig and taking a private plane home. 

What would Brian Jones have done after he got over the heartbreak of being squeezed out of his own band? I can only wonder. But I can also revel in what he left behind, which is a brilliant anthology of classic music that is as powerful to me now as it was as the impressionable boy with a transistor radio and a dream. 

What a drag...it is getting old.

And Happy Birthday to (among others) Kurtwood Smith, Fontella Bass, Franz Kafka, George Sanders, Dave Barry, and the late, great Ken Ober.

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Happy Birthday, Ronnie Wood!

Happy Birthday, Ronnie Wood!

One of my favorite rock’n’roll characters of all time, Ron Wood has enjoyed a solid solo career as well as being a fixture in two of the best bands of all time, The Faces and The Rolling Stones. In the mid-60s he was the guitarist and principal songwriter for The Birds (not to be confused with these guys) and briefly joined The Creation in their waning days before joining The Jeff Beck Group as bassist. While with Beck (along with Rod Stewart and drummer Micky Waller) they recorded two classic albums, Truth and Beck-Ola, before he and Stewart joined the remaining members of The Small Faces after Steve Marriott’s departure.

With Stewart, he rejuvenated the band in a more arena rock direction, and their four studio albums released in the early 70s remain stone cold classics. Although they only had one hit in the United States (“Stay With Me”), their shows were booze-drenched wonders, sloppy yet inspired, brilliant yet imperfect. In other words, everything a great rock band should be. Too many great songs to pick favorites, but with four strong and prolific songwriters in the band, it looked like they would be around forever.

The Faces also acted as Rod’s supporting musicians for the albums he released as a solo act during the same time. When Stewart started hoarding much of his material for himself and his solo success eclipsed the band’s, Ronnie Lane left and one album later it was over…and there was Woody standing at the altar.

Then he had his own album to do.

Perhaps (along with Ian McLagan’s album Bump In The Night) the best Faces album never made, Wood’s solo debut is as fresh and vital today as it was upon first release. Featuring mates from both the Stones and Faces helping out and a first-rate rhythm section of Willie Weeks and Andy Newmark, I Have My Own Album To Do is easily as good or better than anything the Stones or Rod Stewart has put out since.

Live Video: I Can Feel The Fire

His follow-up album Now Look was more r&b oriented thanks to a collaboration with Bobby Womack, one of Woody’s favorite artists. The pace slowed after that, but Wood has released six studio albums (plus Mahoney’s Last Stand recorded with Ronnie Lane); there are also several live and compilation albums available.

It’s odd to think that Wood has been a Rolling Stone for thirty-five years; a tenure as lead guitarist that dwarfs the combined span of Brian Jones (1962-69) and Mick Taylor (1969-1974). In Wood, Keith Richards finally found the perfect mate for his preferred style of guitar weaving; onstage they play like a two-headed, four-armed man. He also found a drinking and carousing buddy, and Wood moved right from the Faces’ pub lifestyle to a new global level of decadence. Despite their years of friendship and Wood’s proven status, he remained a salaried employee for over twenty years before finally becoming an official partner in financial affairs.

For those who loved Wood’s tone and solos with The Faces, however, the Stones years have been a disappointing experience where his songwriting is not welcomed by Mick and all musical direction comes from Keith. Why buy a hot sports car and leave it up on blocks in your garage? Likewise, despite his financial and popular success,  Rod Stewart never again hit the creative heights he did when Wood was his writing partner.

Imagine if the material from Stewart’s solo career from 1971-1974 had been combined with the work The Faces produced – how huge they could have been! But rather than household names and multi-millionaires, their legacy lives on through the hundreds of bands that used them as a step-stool and a model. It is one of the biggest injustices in rock history.

Personally, I look back upon the Stewart-Wood years as pure bliss. Like Jagger-Richard, it’s a partnership that draws the best out of the two halves and a system of checks and balances that helps push the creative work to its peak. I can’t imagine Wood signing off on any of the schlock Stewart released during his latter career, and Stewart’s commercial sense probably would have sharpened Wood’s songwriting.

Watching them reunite for Stewart’s Unplugged special in 1993 briefly recaptured the magic, but in recent years not even their personal bond can overcome the demands that Rod (or his management) continue to throw up as roadblocks to a Faces reunion and tour (a tactic the band may finally have tired of).

I’m not certain what the man himself thinks of the past three decades, but I can assure you that if you want to hear Woody having fun, listen to the New Barbarians albums, where he and Keef are free of Rod and Mick.

Years of booze and smoke wore down a voice that was always rough and ragged to begin with. Perhaps this was never more clear than when Wood covered Bob Dylan’s “Seven Days” and the realization set in that Dylan sounded almost sweet by comparison. But like Dylan, you could look past the imperfection of the technique to reap the emotion and the soul of the performance. Woody always had heart and soul.

Wood is also an accomplished artist and painter whose portraits and sketches are collector’s items; many of his albums include samples of his work.

Sadly, in recent years Wood has been in and out of rehab and has suffered through some serious some family issues as a result. Here’s hoping that body and mind recover fully and we have many, many more songs and paintings and quips from one of the last true rock stars of his generation.

New to Woody? The Essential Crossexxion isn’t a bad place to start.

Ron Wood website – art and music!

Ron Wood discography and wiki page

***

June 1st also marks the 30th anniversary of CNN’s first broadcast as well as the birthday of Pat Boone, Andy Griffith, Marilyn Monroe, Morgan Freeman, Jonathan Pryce, Brian Cox and Cleavon Little; it’s also the anniversary of the deaths of David Ruffin and Sonny Boy Williamson.

And a belated R.I.P. to counterculture icon Dennis Hopper. I was traveling when I heard the news of his death (and the completion of the trifecta of Gary Coleman and Art Linkletter). I’ll pay tribute by spotlighting ten classic Hopper performances in this Friday’s TGIF.

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Under The Radar: Lions In The Street

Old souls in young musicians

Old souls in young musicians

I’ve been sitting on this one for a short time and was going to hold off on writing about them until their debut album came out (in the can and hopefully out very soon). But I listened to these songs again this weekend and I can’t keep this secret any longer. (Credit where credit is due…kudos to my fellow scribe Michael Toland and his blurb in The Big Takeover for turning me on to this one – thanks buddy, I owe you!)

You need to get on this bandwagon and do it right now.

These guys breathe the masters, old and new. Their southern gospel/blues and swamp rock fever features slide guitar, swirling organ and the heartbeat of a steam train. There are many young bands reaching back to the past for inspiration, like Rose Hill Drive and Wolfmother with Led Zeppelin and Cream, and The Darkness with Queen. But this band ranks among the best, and I’m as excited about them as I was when I stumbled upon Shuggie ten years ago (and yes, grab that before it disappears forever!). The Pacific Northwest strikes again; Shuggie was from Seattle, Lions In The Street are from Vancouver. But their sound defies locale and time.

It took me about four beats of “Shangri-La” to conjure up an image of Steve Marriott fronting The Black Crowes, and when the song changed tempo, Derek and the Dominoes. These are not compliments given lightly, folks – I revere those bands. “Ruthless Baby” is pure sweet soul; and just how do Canadians nail that sound of the American South filtered through a British Band’s ears? “Already Gone” recalls The Faces in their Nod era, as does “Mine Ain’t Yours”, which blatantly swipes the riff from “Stay With Me”. And “You’re Gonna Lose” is that irresistible greasy guitar blues that the Stones spat out with abandon when blessed with Mick Taylor as their lead player.

“Feels Like A Long Time” has a pretty standard chord structure (think “Can’t You See” by The Marshall Tucker Band), lifted by a yearning vocal – not unlike Jagger circa Flowers – and a brilliantly emotional guitar solo.  Not to mention anytime you have a Hammond adding flavor to the stew, the stew tastes much, much better. The slow burn and build of “Still The Same” has Adam Duritz written all over it.

But listen to the jewel in this collection, “Oh Carolina”, and tell me you’re not channeling the first Rod Stewart albums with Ron Wood and Martin Quittenton trading leads above Mickey Waller‘s pulse. I can play that song ten times in a row and get goosebumps every time – it’s among my favorite tracks of the year.

I cannot wait for this album to drop; if the rest of it is as good as these tracks we’re talking “best of” list for certain. Keep your eyes open, folks.

little lions

Clips of new songs and downloads of the ep Mixtape on the website are available for free (or you can donate if you want to). The details on that free EP – and the band’s perseverance – are here.

If you need Cat Got Your Tongue, try here, but hurry.

More sounds and info on their MySpace site.

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No Stoned (Page) Unturned

EXILE ON MAIN ST. – A SEASON IN HELL WITH THE ROLLING STONES

Robert Greenfield, © 2006 DeCapo Press

 

Someday, someone will write the definitive book about The Rolling Stones – factual, insightful, revealing and objective. This is not that day. This is not that book.

Some of the central stories in Exile emanate from recent interviews with insiders like Marshall Chess, Andy Johns and Mick Taylor’s then wife Rose. Not exactly the every day inner circle, although each has perspective. Then again, two were hardcore smack addicts at the time and a dusty haze of thirty-five plus years stands in-between their current brain cells and the facts at hand. Of course, what they said about the sixties was also true in 1970 and 1971 – “if you can remember it, you weren’t there”. Greenfield also pulls tidbits of information from an extensive list of websites and print titles – in one case, even sourcing his own book – to construct a rambling, lazy, sordid tale about the famous, not-so-famous and hangers-on of the day. Not that you should be surprised by the lack of factual revelations, as Camp Stones closed that door a long time ago. Perhaps one of Greenfield’s quotes best tells the tale…”a great story always trumps the truth”. In other words, you’ll need an entire salt lick to get through this one, a grain just won’t do.

In Greenfield’s defense, he admits that he has no interest in scribing a track-by-track analysis of Exile, nor a detailed re-enactment of the recording sessions in journal format. Fair enough. But what at first appears to be an insider’s peek into the mental squalor and drug-addled debauchery of the recording sessions at the Nellcote mansion quickly dissolves into the same third-hand gossip we’ve read a thousand times before. The mansion was a former Nazi headquarters, the south of France has some pretty creepy people, cops can be bought, and drugs and money cause more problems than they solve. Keith was a mess, Mick was a jerk, and somehow the band was able to cobble together enough riffs (and borrow enough leftovers from previous sessions) to issue what is arguably one of the ten best rock records ever made. Keith is the centerpiece of the story, somehow heroic and pathetic at the same time, a description even Keef would probably own up to today with a wrinkled grin and a cackling laugh.

The major flaw in Greenfield’s book is the smarmy, know-it-all attitude taken by the author. Making the reader feel like an unwanted eavesdropper rather than an invited voyeur is counterproductive. Oddball references and bad puns are more frequent and annoying that rock lyrics in a Stephen King novel, but Greenfield’s bizarre metaphors pale in comparison to the maneuver he pulls while recalling an anecdote about a certain musician being ousted from the inner circle. Stopping the chapter’s progress on a dime, he mockingly calls out not one but two fellow Stones authors, claiming the first got a fact wrong and simply insulting the work of the second. Meow! I can’t recall ever seeing a more sophomoric, unprofessional move in a published book.

But hey, when all is said and done, it’s only rock’n’roll (journalism). If you’re a Stones fan and have an afternoon with nothing to do, keep your wallet in your pants and borrow it from the library. That way you know you’ll get your money’s worth.

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