Jonathan Demme has died.

Jonathan Demme’s life is rightly noted for his versatile and diverse talents and interests, though his love of music seems to be the unifying connection between his genre films, documentaries, blockbusters, and humanitarian work. I liked much of his oeuvre, maybe not as passionately as some, but I admired his restless and generous life. And when I heard the news I thought of this, as I’m sure did many:

Allman Brothers, One Way Out

Sonny Boy Williamson wrote this song, or maybe he wrote it with Elmore James. Or they wrote it together with another guy, too. Someone knows the story, and he’s probably gone.

This cut is live, comes from the Fillmore East but was from the last show ever at the Fillmore East, in 1971, not at the other shows in which the band made their bones at that place.

It’s a remarkable cut. Berry Oakley is percolating and that great rhythm section is propulsive. The guitars are sweet, and Gregg sings. You taught me good. This band was great at getting jazzy and improving and turning meh lyrics into musical profundity, but given this piece of meat they come back concise, energetic, and unbeatable. In other words, with the best.

Film Review: Eight Days A Week: The Touring Years

Ron Howard is a master cinematic storyteller, for sure, but not someone with much interest in complexity or ambiguity. Which can be good for storytelling, but for me usually comes up wanting. I like the messy, the complicated, the things that make you say oh.

screenshot-2016-10-04-23-04-32I was curious about this picture, but would have let it slide, or ride, but friends invited me and my daughter wanted to go. So we went to Greenwich Village for some fine wood-fired brick oven Neapolitan pizza and Ron Howard’s joint, plus the promise of the whole Beatles at Shea Stadium film, remastered visually and auditorily using all the modern tricks.

The movie is a gas. The camera is up close on the Beatles and their fans through the 28 Days Later rush of Beatlemania, during the charge of concerts around the globe, and headlong up to the show at Shea Stadium. These guys, when they were young, ambitious and full of energy, were terrific cutups. And then it stays up close through the despair that followed the exhaustion that came after, when cutups transformed into turnoffs.

As I had expected, I felt as if I’d seen most of this footage before, but all of it was delightful, looked fantastic, and there are some revelations (for me anyway):

Early footage of some English shows in 1963 are fantastic and transforming. This wasn’t just a group of clever songwriters and melody makers, with winning personalities, but a hard rocking band. Ringo pounds on his kit, and the Beatles deliver with equal and transformative energy. Great songs, but also tight and terrific arrangements and wickedly and aggressively good playing.

McCartney, mostly, and Lennon, too, from old interviews, talk about their songwriting, and the need to hew to a schedule to put out a new single every three months, and an album every six months. The studio footage and tales, plus the clips from all the live shows they’re doing, and movies they’re making, really dial up the grueling nature of it all.

At one point Lennon talks about how silly the lyrics are in those early albums, really just placeholders while they worked on the music. Which seems like a throwaway, since so many are so clever and perfect to the form, until, later, he and McCartney talk about the personal content that John weaves into the lyrics of Help!, a song that to me has always seemed a novelty tied to the movie of the same name. But of course not!

I always forget what a cutup George was, even when I consider the hilarity of his film producing career. I mean, Withnail and I? This movie confirms he’s funny and serious, too.

I assume there will be a follow up, a sequel. Maybe Blue Jay Way: The Studio Years, but more likely Strawberry Fields Forever: The Studio Years, which will go further into the making of the last five elpees. That will no doubt be an equal treat. But the takeaway here is that the Beatles were really great, in a way that has no match, and we would be fools to forget about even a part of that greatness.

Ron Howard’s movie is a crowd pleaser, and lives up to that not modest ambition. Go and enjoy.

Afternoon Snack: The Horrors, “So Now You Know”

I do love Brit pop. No question.

The other night I woke up somewhere in the middle of what should be deep sleep time, turned on the tube to ease me back into the arms of Morpheus, and in the process stopped at the Palladium channel, which is all concerts and music all the time.

As it happened, I stumbled into a long late night broadcast from Glastonbury a couple of years back, and this song and band.

I am not too sure about the band name, but this song is really nice and dreamy. And, the guitar player does some fun stuff with his 12-string on an axe that looks like he found it in a pawn shop (which is good).

Irrespective, I like this song a lot.

 

 

Night Music: Jefferson Airplane, “Volunteers”

Since Paul Kantner passed away recently, I have been seriously into listening more and more and deeper and deeper into the catalog of his fantastic band.

Last weekend I was in Phoenix for LABR, and I wound up having a great discussion about music with Sirius/XM’s Kyle Elfrink.

We talked about a lot of stuff, however, Kyle asked me who my favorite bass player was and I said Jack Cassady. “Who,” asked Kyle? Kyle is in his early 30’s meaning he was born long after the Airplane split up, so he certainly can be forgiven this oversight which I promptly corrected by sending the link to The Other Side of This Life from Bless its Pointed Little Head.

However, while checking that video out I first stumbled onto this version of Volunteers the band played when inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Of course the retired Grace Slick was absent, but the rest of the band was there full force. I think what I love–what being an old guy who is proud to call #iambecomingabesimpson my very own hash tag–is the band core of Jorma Kaukonen, Marty Balin, and Cassady, look so neat and trim and nattily attired, yet they still kick the shit out of the song.

The bonus was I stumbled onto this fantastic interview with Kantner and Slick who reminisce about touring with The Doors and Jim Morrison, the first time both bands were in Europe. Its awesome.

 

 

It’s Been A While

So I haven’t been on here in a while. That’s for sure. And since I last posted, my music tastes have gone in a new direction heading towards soul, R&B, and hip hop. Thought I’d share a few of the songs that have stuck with me lately:

I found Leon Bridges when I was looking into Outside Lands artists to study up before the festival. All of his music is great in my opinion, although he doesn’t have a whole lot out yet. Can’t wait to hear what he does next!

I am generally partial towards male singers, but Alice Smith is definitely an exception to that. As Lawr might say, she can really wail. This entire album (called She) is wonderful. This is actually a (better) cover of a Cee Lo Green song.

And then there’s D’Angelo who has got this whole other thing going on. His music is so interesting and fresh. I dig it.

And on the off chance anybody is steal reading/ listening, I thought I’d throw in this guy. He has a very unique sound. Interesting music and good lyrics. You can’t go wrong!

These are a few of my latest favorites. All of them but Alice Smith will be at Outside Lands. Unfortunately, I can no longer attend, but I was still exposed to all kinds of great music from the lineup!

Upper Crust at Bowery Electric. Late Night Report Updated.

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UPDATE: Tech issues made posting last night a nightmare. Here are a few quick notes this morning before work.

Went out to dinner with Mrs. Rotoman and two friends, Lisa and Terry, at a tasty and crazy Bengladeshi place off Sixth Street. Good food, good fun.

Walked over to Bowery Electric in the cold, and got hands stamped (always fun). As showtime approached we met another friend, Walker, and headed into the charming room downstairs. The crowd was mostly middle-aged rockers, probably 150 or so souls. I didn’t feel old, for instance, but I did feel preppy.

The UC emerged at 10:47, two minutes late. Count Bassie kept his pinkie extended, politely. The crowd cheered. The band plugged in, Lord Bendover said, “we are here to roq-cue you,” and they played Let Them Eat Rock.

Another early fave was “Little Lord Fauntleroy.” Bendover introduced “Badminton” by saying it light of the impending summer they would play a song they rarely played live. It was a rare song in which the vocals weren’t crisp and clear, which was too bad, since they’re delightful.

Other highlights were the Duc d’Stortion-sung I Shall Winter Elsewhere, a lively ode to winter holidays set to a Chuck Berry riff, and Count Bassie on vocals for the Small Faces’ like Come Hither Fair Youth, followed by the stomper I’ve Got Class Up the Ass.

Yet another friend, another Lisa, had arrived a bit late. I found her upstairs on the mezzanine. The show wound down at midnight, with one encore that came after they took off guitars but didn’t leave the stage. “We must conserve our energy,” Bendover said while remounting.

It was a great fun show by a most unusual band. Who knows why they keep doing it, playing smallish clubs has to be a hassle and not that remunerative. But they are a tight rock band playing songs in a variety of hard rock styles with truly clever and funny lyrics and stage patter. That never gets old.

Here’s a bad clip (and big file that will take some time to load) to give just a taste. I’ll find more on the rocking web and post later.

Concert: Jake Bugg and Black Keys

As Lawr mentioned in an earlier post, I saw The Black Keys with opener Jake Bugg last week in Sacramento. This was a rare occasion when I saw a show where I love both the opener and the headliner. Bugg is about my age, but his age is apparent only in his appearance, not in his ability. His stage presence, though not riveting, was impressive for such a young guy in a huge venue. Both acts put on a great show. Though the Keys were more of a spectacle than they needed to be, there’s no doubt they know how to please a crowd.

Here was my favorite that Bugg played, and a favorite off the Keys’ new album that they played in the encore.

Breakfast Blend: Bob Dylan, “It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)”

Since Diane and I have been up in the mountains the past week, evening time has meant movies for the most part (don’t get me started on trying to stream the World Series or the NFL on a laptop or tablet or IPhone: to frustrating and worse than flying cos’ every keystroke costs something).

Diane had never seen the wonderful Martin Scorsese PBS film, No Direction Home, the American Masters documentary on Dylan covering his childhood up to the infamous Royal Albert Hall performance in 1966 (I still posses a vinyl bootleg that was called The Great White Wonder of the set).

What has always struck me about both the film as well as his autobiography, Chronicles, Volume 1, is what a normal guy Dylan seems to be despite all they hype and adulation and craziness that has surrounded the bulk of his career.

I particularly love the press conference scenes in the movie, like this one:

Anyway, Gene’s post on Louis, noting folk is not dead, sort of stirred it up in me as to just how amazing and prolific and ridiculously good Dylan was at everything folk before he led the charge to changing the rules and plugging in and pissing off the traditional folkies, for example, at said Royal Albert Hall gig.

There is a lot of footage in No Direction Home of Dylan at Newport in the early 60’s and he is just riveting, not just as a songwriter, but the dude is also a fantastic acoustic guitar player, and this showcases just how good he is!

Festival Finds: John Butler Trio

I attended Outside Lands music festival this summer and saw a lot of great bands, many of which I had never heard of previously, which is one of the best things about music festivals. One of these bands was John Butler Trio. One of my friends, a guitar buff, convinced me to see them and they ended up being one of my favorite acts the whole three-day festival.

I don’t know exactly how to classify their music. iTunes calls them alternative. There are certainly elements of rock but with a twist of bluegrass and sometimes a bit of funk. What really stood out, however, was the guitar stylings of John Butler himself. Man can he shred. Here is a taste of Butler solo, but check him out with the band too!