Monday, September 27, 2021

Springtime In New York

 


Do you consider the records you play the most, the best records by those artists? 

I thought about this as I listened to the new Bob Dylan bootleg series, "Springtime In New York," almost 60 tracks covering the years 1980-1985, and the albums "Shot Of Love," "Infidels" and "Empire Burlesque," with two of those three records receiving a considerable amount of derision over the years. 

I was more excited by this entry into the Bootleg Series as I was at just about any other and that is because I play "Shot Of Love" and "Infidels" more than any other Dylan records. "Empire Burlesque," not so much.

While "Springtime In New York" may not offer any revelations as mind-blowing as the first time songs like "Foot of Pride," "Dignity," "Blind Willie McTell" or any of the alternates of "Mississippi" were heard on previous boxes, "Springtime" feels the most consistent. 

The band, the singers and Bob himself all sound truly inspired throughout. And if you're thinking covers of "I Wish It Would Rain," "Sweet Caroline," or the 1979 AM hit "This Night Won't Last Forever" are novelties, think again. Yes, I was taken aback by hearing Bob sing "Hands, touching hands, reaching out, touching me, touching YOU!" But it's real! This is not a piss take. And again, let me say, Bob Dylan can sing!

The rehearsal take of "Senor," a song that was not originally found on the three subjects of this set, opens the box and it's a keeper. As one friend mentioned this weekend, "How is this not the official take?"

I found myself feeling this way about most of the box. There are few throwaways. I'll admit that maybe there are no stunners like "She's Your Lover Now." But tracks like "Mary Of The Wild Moor," "Fur Slippers," or the alternate of "Emotionally Yours" should toggle your switches, not to mention both superior versions "When The Night Comes Falling From The Sky" or both superior versions of "Don't Fall Apart On Me Tonight." Or "This Was My Love." Or "Tell Me."

I tried to create my Bob Dylan Top 10, but each time I thought I was satisfied, it looked funny. These are the records I play the most and with both "Infidels" and "Shot Of Love" in my Top 5, it might explain why I love "Springtime In New York" as much as I do. That aside, if you are more than a casual Dylan fan, there is more than enough on this set to satsify.

1.  Blood On The Tracks
2.  Blonde On Blonde
3.  Oh Mercy
4.  Shot Of Love
5.  Infidels
6.  Highway 61 Revisited
7.  Desire
8.  Time Out Of Mind
9.  Another Side
10. Bringing It All Back Home

 

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Songs Of The Week, 2021: 9/18-9/24


 

Eighteen- Connie Francis
The World Is A Ghetto- The Paragons w/Roslyn Sweat
My Mistake- Marvin  Gaye & Diana Ross
Stealin'- Taj Mahal
Better By Far- Terry Reid
Come To Realise- Ronnie Wood
How Could We Dare To Be Wrong- Colin Blunstone

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Eighteen- Connie Francis
There is a great collection called "Rocksides," which features a "rock" side of Connie Francis that is quite different from the schmaltzy pop and Italian sides she is mostly known for. This cool one opens up that set and this.

The World Is A Ghetto- The Paragons with Roslyn Sweat
A lovely vibe from one of my favorite albums of the genre.

My Mistake- Marvin Gaye & Diana Ross
This is one of my all time faves from Motown, and though it was Top 20 in 1974, it still baffles me that it wasn't a #1.

Stealin'- Taj Mahal
All of Taj's records on the Columbia label are guarantees. I tend to forget about them. But when I pull one out, I am usually in a blissful trance when it's over. This comes from "Happy Just To Be Like I Am."

Better By Far- Terry Reid
A conversation with a friend who just discovered Terry Reid led me to this, one of his two early singles before the release of "Bang Bang...," and a good example of why he was Jimmy Page's first choice for Led Zeppelin.

Come To Realise- Ronnie Wood
I've mentioned a number of times on these pages that I think Roxy Music's "Siren" has one of the best drum sounds ever recorded on record. Ronnie's "Gimme Some Neck" has one of the worst! But there are some great tunes, and this, crappy sound be damned, is my favorite.

How Could We Dare To Be Wrong- Colin Blunstone
The voice of The Zombies closes things out. Blunstone's "One Year" is a much better record than his follow-up "Ennismore," but you shouldn't sleep on "Ennismore." There is plenty to love, including this incredibly beautiful track that finishes Side Two.

Thursday, September 23, 2021

On Mr. Sting

 


There was a period from 1985 to 1993 where Sting could do no wrong in my eyes. 

I was a fan of the Police, but I loved the ground Sting covered with his solo albums even more. The Police records were a breath of fresh air in the late 70's, but by 1983, they felt like pollution. I grew tired of Stewart Copeland showing off. Though he often thrilled me behind the kit, he just as often made me wince with fills and crashes that tried too hard to make the songs all about him. I got off the Police bus when "The Dream Of The Blue Turtles" was released.

The drummers on Sting's solo records, Omar Hakim, Manu Katche and my personal favorite Vinnie Colaiuta, could amaze in much more subtle ways. But Sting's solo records during that period offered more than good musicianship. The songs were both accessible and daring. There were jazz chords and pop harmonies, funky bass lines and extended soloing, danceable rhythms and gorgeous melodies. 1993's "Ten Summoner's Tales" remains one of my favorite records of all time. And though it was fashionable then and even more so now to hate Sting, I did not. Not at all.

Then, it began. Each record starting with "Mercury Falling" became less interesting and Sting became more pretentious with concept albums featuring lutes and boats and symphonies and dolphins, and of course that whole tantric sex type thing. I was beginning to feel for those haters and was even prompted to say so in a short piece I had written for The Huffington Post called "Sting, Where Is Thy Death?" The piece is nothing more than a poorly written vehicle to use that title. But nonetheless, the well had been poisoned and I couldn't listen to the Sting records or The Police records I had loved. 

But then in 2016, Sting quietly returned to the pop world with "57th and 9th," and while it wasn't quite like the glory days of "The Soul Cages" and "Ten Summoner's Tales," there were no lutes or Mary J. Blige duets in earshot. It was a solid record with some great playing and more than a few memorable songs. It renewed my interest and once again I felt a need to defend the man.

But, the rekindling of the love affair did not last long, as the five years that followed featured a so-so collaboration with Shaggy, another reworking of his old songs called "My Songs," which Sting explains "is my life in songs. Some of them reconstructed, some of them refitted, some of them reframed, but all of them with a contemporary focus," and then a live "My Songs" which is really just a live album, isn't it? I mean, don't you usually play your songs in concert? What's the point of specifically calling it "My Songs Live" unless it was designed to annoy me.

That brings us up to date and a new track from Sting's November release, "The Bridge." 

"If It's Love," on first listen," seemed like a bit of nothing, with somewhat cringemaking lyrics and an arrangement that is just a bit too cute. But when I listened a second time, I minded it less. And by the third pass, I actually thought, "Sting could still write a pop song." And I think writing a good pop song will always keep me in your good graces.

Maybe a few of you are looking forward to "The Bridge" in November, while some of you are warming up in the bile pen. Either way, I am hoping "The Bridge" offers something to remind me why I was a fan back then and not more of what made me get off the bus.

Time to listen to "The Soul Cages" and "Ten Summoner's Tales."

 

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Kasim Sulton's New Release, "Kasim 2021"

 

 

 

Kasim Sulton has been Todd Rundgren's right hand man since his debut on a Utopia record in 1977. I've been a fan of Kas for just as long. His voice is a perfect harmonious companion to Todd's and his bass playing is as important to the sound of Todd and Utopia's records as Bruce Thomas or even Paul McCartney was to their respective bands. 

Sulton's last solo album "Three," was a favorite of 2014. In many ways, Sulton does a better job at keeping the music of classic Todd Rundgren alive than Todd himself. Sulton just released his new album, "Kasim 2021" and like "Three," it is full of great melodies, great playing and some fine songwriting. 

The first single "Fast Car" is not unlike classic Fountains Of Wayne, and throughout much of "Kasim 2021," you will be reminded of Lennon, the aformentioned McCartney and even Jason Falkner, who Sulton has covered in the past.

If you dig these tracks, you can pick up "Kasim 2021" just about anywhere CDs are sold, including Amazon and Kasim's merch page.

 

 

 

 

 



 

Monday, September 20, 2021

The Wailers In Hollywood

 

In 1973, Bob Marley & The Wailers played to an incredibly small group of people at the Capitol building in Hollywood. It was special for a number of reasons, but what stands out for me is the unique lineup of The Wailers, which had the legendary Joe Higgs in place of Bunny Wailer. Both a two record set and an accompanying film were just released. I've been loving the set, but the film blew my mind.

I haven't seen very many live reggae performances. I got to see Peter Tosh and Black Uhuru at The Ritz in the 80's, and I have caught a few acts at the New Orleans Jazz Fest. But watching The Wailers up close at the Capitol studio was a revelation. I know many dismiss reggae and ska, finding the rhythms and arrangements indistinguishable from record to record. This document of The Wailers just might change your mind. 

The musicianship is precise. Quite frankly, it astonishes. Carlton Barrett's drumming is a mesmerizing combination of magic and restraint, and along with his brother Aston on bass, form a rhythm section for the ages.


 

 

And speaking of Peter Tosh, his harmonies underneath Bob Marley throughout this entire performance are something to behold. I think of great singers like David Crosby, John Lennon of course, and going back, Laverne Andrews of the Andrews Sisters, who had that natural ability to just grab the most difficult part and change the entire sound of the song. Tosh does this with incredible cool.

I can't say enough about this live document, and I imagine another 500 words won't change the minds of the staunch reggae non-supporters. But if you like the music a little, Bob Marley & The Wailers' Capitol Session just might turn you into a full blown fan. It's that special, and though it is almost 50 years old, it might be the best record of 2021.

Listen to the set on your favorite streaming service, though for full service, watch the film on Amazon Prime.

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Songs Of The Week, 2021: 9/11-9/17

 


Dancing With Tears In My Eyes- X
If I Promise- Jerry Reed
You're Humbuggin' Me- The Fabulous Thunderbirds
If There Was A Way- Rosie Flores
When The Alarm Clock Rings- Blossom Toes
Listen, Listen- Sandy Denny
Me You And Us Too- Small Faces

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Dancing With Tears In My Eyes- X
Tucked away on Side Two of "Under The Big Black Sun" and on the b-side of "Blue Spark" are these two minutes of bliss from X.

If I Promise- Jerry Reed
If you don't know Jerry Reed's debut, "The Unbelievable Voice & Guitar," I suggest getting in on it, toot sweet. I guarantee it won't be what you're expecting. Start with this gem.

You're Humbuggin' Me- The Fabulous Thunderbirds
There are so many things I love about buying record collections, not the least of which is getting instant catalogues of an artist. September 1st, I had no hard copies of any Fab T-Birds. September 2nd, I had them all, including the Nick Lowe produced "T-Bird Rhythm," where you will find this killer track.

If There Was A Way- Rosie Flores
Rosie has been around for some time, but 2019's "Simple Case Of The Blues" might be her best. This is one of the many I love on that album.

When The Alarm Clock Rings- Blossom Toes
I think The John Sally Ride knocked this one out of the Cutting Room last week, if I do say so myself. Give a listen to the original from one of the greatest 60's psychedelic records of all time.

Listen, Listen- Sandy Denny
This will be the most beautiful music you will hear today. (Maybe even tomorrow and the next day, too.)

Me You And Us Too- Small Faces
As a lover of all things Small Faces and as someone who has spent more money than I'd like to admit on the countless versions and reissues and upgrades of their catalogue, which is technically only three albums in their heyday, I was blown away when this track popped up on the iPod. At first I didn't recognize it and thought it was some lost Mott The Hoople track. Turns out to be the b-side of "Autumn Stone" and man does this baby rock!