Tag Archives: Tom Waits

R.I.P. Solomon Burke

We lost Solomon Burke yesterday.

Although he had been making records since the 60s, he never reached that huge level of fame that many of his gospel-to-pop contemporaries like Aretha Franklin and Sam Cooke did, perhaps because he never had a crossover Top 20 hit to spread the word. But he ruled the R&B charts when recording for Atlantic Records in the 60s, and his music has been covered by everyone from The Rolling Stones to The Blues Brothers . No wonder producer Jerry Wexler called him “the best soul singer of all time”.

Eight years ago, several of those major names who were influenced by his music collaborated and submitted songs for a comeback album with Joe Henry producing.  With Burke singing his own songs as well as tracks from Tom Waits, Bob Dylan, Nick Lowe, Brian Wilson, Van Morrison and Elvis CostelloDon’t Give Up On Me took home the Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Blues Album. Besides spreading the word to a whole new generation, it also woke up a lot of people who didn’t realize he had simply been cruising under their radar.

Burke was still actively touring the globe at seventy. He will be missed.

A message from his family from the website:

Early this morning, Sunday, October 10, 2010, the legendary King of Rock & Soul, Solomon Burke, our father, passed away due to natural causes. Solomon had just arrived at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, the Netherlands for a sold out show at Paradiso with Dutch band, De Dijk.  He was on his way to spread his message of love as he loved to do.

This is a time of great sorrow for our entire family.  We truly appreciate all of the support and well wishes from his friends and fans.  Although our hearts and lives will never be the same, his love, life and music will continue to live within us forever.  As our family grieves during this time of mourning, thank you for respecting our privacy.

Video: “Everybody Needs Somebody To Love”

Solomon Burke website

Leave a comment

Filed under Editorials, Music

New Album! Darrin James Band

It’s tough to keep up with everything that comes down the pike, and I completely missed out on Thrones of Gold, the 2006 debut album from Darrin James. Had I read a quote like “As a songwriter, I have wanted to combine honest, dark lyrics with old school blues and a fusion of styles, to express the emotions and stories of tragic or flawed characters” I would have been all over that album in a heartbeat.

Fortunately this second effort did cross my desk. Having no expectations whatsoever, I let it unfold organically and found myself pleasantly surprised by the results. James spent a few years traveling the world playing and writing music, and this album is all over the map as well – but in a good way (kudos Matt Gill for solid recording in multiple studios). Blues, folk, rock, country; a nice blend of atmosphere for his characters and stories to take root in.

Critics have been pretty effusive, dropping comparisons to Robbie Robertson, Joe Henry, Lyle Lovett, Paul Westerberg, Tom Waits and Elvis Costello, among others. I drop a couple more names below.

Live Video: “Baby Don’t Bitch

James has a raw and expressive voice that can at first be jarring, but it does suit his material. His cadence in “I Was Wrong” makes him sound like Neil Diamond on a bender, while the voodoo blues of “Baby Don’t Bitch” might bring Captain Beefheart to mind. But when he settles in on something more pensive (“Shallow Grave”), he can float the timbre and wisdom of John Prine. It’s a nice chameleon act, so when he rolls into Dylan’s “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You”, it fits hand in glove…

Read the full review at PopMatters.

Visit the Darrin James Band website.

Listen to clips at CD Baby

***

R.I.P. Lynn Redgrave. Goodbye, Georgy Girl.

True Royalty

Leave a comment

Filed under Music, Reviews

Blast From The Past: Rod Stewart

Not Forever Young

Not Forever Young

 

When I realized that The Faces finally really broke up, I was devastated. The Kinks and The Faces were (are) my favorite bands, and during Ray Davies’ Preservation rock opera era in the early 1970s, the boozy raucous songs from Rod Stewart, Ronnie Wood and Ronnie Lane clearly took the lead. Even more amazing was that every year, The Faces would release and album and so would Rod Stewart, and in those days the material on both was largely interchangeable. But soon enough, the lure of solo fame and the huge dollars waiting in the American market led Rod in a different direction. Where before he might have been saving his better songs for the solo projects, it was all a moot point now. First Lane quit in disgust after watching the band he started being referred to as Rod’s backup group once too often, then Wood succumbed to the umpteenth invitation to join the Rolling Stones, and it all ended with a whimper, not a bang. It just…dissolved. Ironically, although Stewart had the most critical success, Wood, Lane and Ian McLagan all released solo albums that were probably better records overall; had they been able to continue to pool that talent one can only imagine the heights they might have reached.

Then one night in February 1993, Stewart performed a set recorded for MTV Unplugged and brought along his partner in crime, Ronnie Wood. The show and the subsequent album were a hit (hitting #2 on Billboard and spawning four singles) and seemed to re-energize the perception of Stewart as a serious singer, songwriter and interpreter. Unplugged and Seated drew heavily on his early years (a logical choice when Woody was sharing the stage) and although lesser solo hits like “Hot Legs” and “Tonight’s The Night” were included, the arrangements were stripped down and improved. Stewart had always chosen cover material well, and the performances of Van Morrison‘s “Have I Told You Lately” and Tom Waits‘ “Tom Traubert’s Blues (Waltzing Matilda)” are especially strong here. In the coming years Stewart would write less and less and record sets of rock covers (When We Were The New Boys and Still The Same) as well as a career-changing move with the Great American Songbook series.

I guess technically I could have also listed this under the New Album header, since it is a newly released CD/DVD combination, and the audio version of the show does include two songs (“Gasoline Alley” and “Forever Young”) not included in the original album release. The audio sounds great, of course – a warm but full core band of multiple guitars, mandolins, banjos and keyboards propelled by solid rhythm from drummer David Palmer and bass player Carmine Rojas. Several songs benefit from the addition of three soulful background singers and/or a small orchestra, the presence of whom keep Stewart comically pinned to a three foot radius on stage. There are times when he looks like he’s about to launch out of his chair, while the more pensive songs allowed him to simply sit and get caught up in the moment. The space limitation brought the focus squarely upon his personality and his voice instead of the flamboyance that he had gotten used to as an arena rock act, and it must have felt like the old days in more ways than one.

I’m thrilled to finally have a DVD version of this brilliant performance to enjoy again and again, the warmth and camaraderie between Wood and Stewart is palpable, a genuine bond we haven’t reaped the rewards of for so many years. Besides being excellent songwriting, collaborators, they simply bring the best out in each other; Wood is fine as a Rolling Stone, but he was majestic in The Faces. When he’s onstage, the camera wisely focuses in on the two-shot, and it’s obvious we are watching two friends who have probably run the gamut of emotions with each other but are truly savoring the moment. Wood doesn’t always flash – Jeff Golub frequently plays the lead lines while Woody plays rhythm – but it’s a real treat to watch him energize the room during “Maggie May”, “Mandolin Wind” and especially “Stay With Me”. When they leave the set, arm in arm, headed for the pub (and no, they weren’t kidding) how I would have loved to tag along for when the real fun probably started…

The show itself appears to be the original broadcast performance, complete with fade-outs at what would have been the commercial breaks. This also means that it’s still an edit from the actual show, so in addition to missing “The First Cut Is The Deepest” and “Highgate Shuffle” (included on the CD) we don’t see “It’s All Over Now”, “The Killing of Georgie”, “I Was Only Joking” and “Sweet Little Rock’n’Roller”, which never aired. Rhino‘s package, as usual, is attractive and contains solid liner notes from one of my favorite writers, Bud Scoppa, a man who was there the first time around. Video is decent quality and probably as good as can be expected from a sixteen year old taping, but there are no extras – no commentary, no retrospective interviews, no rehearsal footage. Perhaps none exists, or perhaps this Collector’s Edition will someday be eclipsed by the Expanded Collector’s Director’s Cut. (I kid.)

 

Had Them a Real Good Time

Had Them a Real Good Time

I don’t know how I feel about the long-rumored Faces reunion. Not having Ronnie Lane there to celebrate would be hard to swallow, and if the guys got together and play “Debris” and “Glad and Sorry” and “Ooh La La” without him it would be bittersweet. Ian McLagan has been keeping Ronnie alive from the stage at his every gig by featuring several of his songs, and Kenney Jones has quietly continued to make certain that the legacy of both The Small Faces and The Faces is rescued from legal and managerial madness. No matter what kind of arrangements would have to be made between the four surviving members (read: what Stewart’s manager would insist upon), I can’t see Wood or Jones or Mac participating unless Ronnie’s legacy got its due. But one can’t help wonder how things might have been different had The Faces been able to pull it off in 1993, when Ronnie would have been able to benefit spiritually and financially, let alone a few years earlier, when he might have been able to participate even in limited fashion. Rod Stewart might have surrounded himself with more technically proficient musicians over the years, but the results never exuded that pure soulful joy since he made his Atlantic Crossing. But more on The Faces another time, and at greater length, which they deserve.

Although I would have liked a complete, full-featured release of the show, Unplugged and Seated is a set to be treasured as is, a wonderful reminder of just how good Rod Stewart can be when he puts his heart and soul into it. On that night in February 1993, he definitely did.

Leave a comment

Filed under Editorials, Film/TV, Music, Reviews

NEW ALBUM! Felice Brothers: Yonder Is The Clock

 

Grab your shovel, let's get to it...

Grab your shovel, let's get to it...

You have to take press releases with a grain of salt. While some are effervescent hyperbole, others spin wild yarns about the origins of the band (are The Hives still staunchly defending their Svengali bullshit?) and then there are the ones that fall in-between. But whether or not you believe that The Felice Brothers adopted a wayward dice player and tossed him on bass, or that the newest album was recorded in a studio built from remnants of a chicken coop doesn’t matter. What does matter is that Yonder is the Clock is a big step towards bringing recognition to one of the more genuinely interesting bands to come down the pike in a while.

The album both begins and ends with somber, quiet songs shouldered by the off-kilter vocals of Ike Felice. I’ll be blunt – there’s a good chance that you will absolutely hate his vocals, a nasal hybrid of Bob Dylan, Tom Waits (“Sailor Song” would fool a Waits fan) and Townes van Zandt. But like those artists, there’s so much emotion, heart and feeling happening within those vocals that you would do yourself a disservice not to make the effort. I mean really – does anyone complain about Dylan’s voice anymore, or do they simply celebrate his music and accept it? I’m not trying to put Felice on that pedestal, he’s nowhere close to earning that kind of comparison, but don’t judge a book by its (aural) cover.

There is one line in the press release that does capture the album’s impact – “the record is teaming with tales of love, death, betrayal, baseball, train stations, phantoms, pandemics, jail cells, rolling rivers and frozen winter nights.” Part hoedown, part revival meeting, The Felice Brothersare a cacophony of stringed instruments, organs and pianos, accordions and fiddles, like a rough-and-tumble version of The Band. Sometimes the instruments sound like they are slightly out of tune, and I can’t guarantee that everyone hits the beat exactlyon the mark every time, but songs like “Chicken Wire”, “Penn Station” and “Run Chicken Run” could kick-start any room full of people into a throbbing mass of jello.

But they can also toss out something as pretty as “Katie Dear”, a song that could be slipped into the tracklist of any album by Ronnie Lane’s Slim Chancewithout raising suspicion. My favorite track might be “Cooperstown”, a song so visual that a screenplay could be written around it. “Rise and Shine”, the closing track, is anything but a wake-up call, rather it sounds like Shane MacGowan singing a prayer at last call . But as the gentle coda to the rest of the album, it’s a gentle roll to a stop. I’ll be playing this all year long.

The Felice Brothers recently rolled to a stop in my town along with opening act Taylor Hollingsworth – read my review of their concert at Blurt Online.

2 Comments

Filed under Music, Reviews