Friday, November 20, 2020

Pirate Alert: Doors Love Hides Live In Pittsburgh

 


The Doors Love Hides Live In Pittsburgh 2 May 1970 (Radio Looploop RLL031)

[review by Bill Glahn]

Venue: Pittsburgh Civic Arena, Pittsburgh, PA May 2, 1970

Cover: Single pocket jacket with close up of Jim Morrison on the front, a grainy live shot of band on back with track listing

Sound quality: excellent

Tracklist: (side one) Back Door Man/ Love Hides/ Five To One/ Roadhouse Blues (side two) mystery Train/ Away In India/ Crosroads Blues/ Universal Mind (side three) When The Music's Over/ Break On Through/ The Soft Parade Vamp (side four) Someday Soon/ Tonight You're I(n For A Special Treat/ Close To You/ Light My Fire

Comments: Despite the assertion in the lower right hand corner of the front cover that this is sourced from a Westwood One broadcast, it is no such thing. America's biggest syndicator didn't exist until 1976. Nice try Radio Looploop, but you're not fooling anyone except, maybe, the pressing plants in the UK (where certain radio broadcasts are fair game). What this presents is a vinyl release lifted directly from the 2008 Rhino/Midnight Archives CD release, Live In Pittsburgh 1970 with different artwork. Even the sometimes subjective track titles are lifted straight from that release.

The performance is is a fine one - the Doors had been recording dates on this tour for their first live album, Absolutely Live, an album that may well have been live, but is also highly edited from various dates. Recording for that album ceased on May 8, 1970 which puts Live In Pittsburgh in the right time frame, although none of the recordings here were ultimately used on the 1970 release. The result is an excellent recording of a more historically accurate live performance by the band.

With so much unreleased material by a multitude of deserving bands, Love Hides goes against any cogent argument that bootleg collectors (such as myself) raise. This isn't something that "superfans" desire to fill in the gaps left by official record companies. Rhino/Midnight Archives have already filled that gap. Doors fans will not need this. Vinyl fetishists might.

Grade: F


Thursday, November 19, 2020

Back Pages: Rory Gallagher Roll The Tapes!

 
Back Pages: Roll The Tape – Rory Gallagher, The Last Irish Bluesman [Reviews by Rev. Keith A. Gordon, Feb. 1999 edition of Live! Music Review, available on the Internet for the first time.]


Venue: The Hippodrome, London, UK March 17, 1974
Source: 72 minute audience cassette, performance (7), sound quality (6)
Tracklist: Hands Off/ What In The World/ Walk On Hot Coals/ Bottle Of Gin/ Race The Breeze/ Voodoo Blues/ Bullfrog Blues/ Tattoo’d Lady/ Back On My Stomping Ground/ Who’s That Coming
Comments: Although no one can say with any certainty that extraordinary blues guitarist Rory Gallagher, had he lived, would be afforded the same sort of “elder statesman” status as Eric Clapton enjoys today, he certainly deserves better than the obscurity that threatens to envelope him. A young sixties blues prodigy along the lines of “Slowhand” Clapton, Jimmy Page, Peter Green or Jeff Beck, the Ireland-born Gallagher was the first to create a sensation as the frontman for the British blues trio, Taste, recording a couple of critically acclaimed albums and performing a legendary set at the Isle of Wight Festival 1970 after the band’s equipment had been stolen. After Taste broke up amid mismanagement and strained relations, Gallagher embarked on a solo career that ran from 1971 until his death in 1995.

Gallagher hit his stride in 1973, with the release of two solid albums, Blueprint and Tattoo. It was during this period that Gallagher would see his closest brush with American stardom, enjoying immense critical acclaim and a fair degree of commercial acceptance throughout the decade. Although he remained a big name in much of Europe, and a literal conquering hero in Ireland and Scotland, Gallagher never really got the big break that would ensure his legend on this side of the big pond.
This 1974 show, from the Hippodrome in London, is typical of the sets Gallagher was performing at the time, similar to the performance he would eventually capture with Irish Tour ’74, the second of several live discs that Gallagher would release during his lifetime. This London show kicks off with the announcer introducing Gallagher and “Hands Off,” a blusey number from Blueprint. It was during this period that Gallagher, with four solo albums under his belt, would begin what would be a welcome tradition. Whereas many artists (still) only perform songs from their latest releases, with maybe an older hit song or two thrown in for good measure, Gallagher would kick out the jams with whatever song struck him in the moment. Some, like Blueprint’s “Walk On Hot Coals” or Tattoo’s classic “Tattoo’d Lady,” both performed here with a great deal of  elan, would become live staples, as would classics like “Bullfrog Blues,” here provided a rousing performance. Other songs, such as the southern-fried soul of “Race The Breeze” or “Back On My Stomping Ground,” with it’s careful bottleneck riffs, were performed by Gallagher only sporadically.

This Hippodrome performance has also been released on CD as Bottle of Gin, and it is a wonderful showcase of Gallagher’s talents and a great place to begin for the novice collector. It was during this era that Gallagher tried his hardest to break through to mass acceptence, releasing an album every year  (sometimes two, considering live discs) and playing such high-profile projects as Muddy Waters and Jerry Lee Lewis’ individual 1973 London Sessions albums, impressing the blues godfather Waters so much that the legendary artist called upon Gallagher’s talents again the following year for his London Revisited album. It was also during this period that Gallagher was rumored to be Mick Taylor’s replacement in the Rolling Stones.
 
Venue: My Father’s Place, Roslyn, NY, September 7, 1979
Source: 80 minute audience, performance (8), quality (7)
Tracklist: Shin Kicker/ Last of the Independents/ Moonchild/ Mississippi Sheiks/ Tattoo’d Lady/ Too Much Alcohol/ Pistol Slapper Blues/ Shadow Play/ Bought & Sold/ Walk On Hot Coals/ Messin’ With The Kid/ Bullfrog Blues/ Sea Cruise
Comments: Gallagher’s 1979 tour was ostensibly in support of his latest album, Top Priority. But in keeping with his tradition, the setlists seemed to draw as much or more so from the previous year’s Photo Finish as it did from his new album. Top Priority proved to be Gallagher’s last flirtation with commercial success in the U.S., and although it is remembered as one of his artistic high points, by no means did it represent the end of the Irish guitarist’s creativity or a weakening of his musical abilities. 
Kicking off with the rowdy “Shinkicker,” a Photo Finish cut, this set at My Father’s Place offered the audience a mix of the old and the new. “Last of the Independents” is a typical rocker, Gallagher’s red hot guitar blazing through the now-familiar chords. An acoustic reading of J. B. Hutto’s “Too Much Alcohol” proved eerily prophetic, as it would be the drink that would eventually kill the hard-living rocker.

Another classic blues tune, Blind Boy Fuller’s “Pistol Slapper Blues,” receives a reverent rendering from Gallagher, who cranks it up a notch or two afterwards with high-octane performances of “Shadow Play,” “Bought And Sold,” and “Walk On Hot Coals,” a crowd pleasing favorite from Blueprint. Gallagher tries to close with “Messin’ With The Kid,” a boisterous boogie tune showcasing some wickedly soulful bottleneck playing. By the end of the song, Rory is having so much fun that he jumps into the traditional blues, “Bullfrog Blues,” that song itself running into a manic cover of the fifties hit “Sea Cruise,” Gallagher leaving the club patrons on a decidedly high note.


Venue: The Apollo, Glasgow Scotland May 29, 1982
Source: 80 min. FM broadcast, performance (9), sound quality (7) – somewhat low but clear sounding, sharp definition on vocals and guitar
Tracklist: Brute Force & Ignorance Double Vision/ Moonchild/ Out On A Western Plain/ Philby/ The Devil Made Me Do It/ Wayward Child/ Nuthin’ But The Devil/ Tattoo’d Lady/ Ride On Red/  Jinxed/ Secret Agent/ Left Me The Mule/ Shadow Play/ Shin Kicker/ Last Of The Independents
Comments: By ’82 Gallagher has already passed his commercial peak in the United States and with the scene dominated by blustery punk and vacuous “new wave” there was no room for an authentic bluesman. He still managed to thrill loyal audiences with dynamic live shows and top notch playing, however, appealing to both blues purists and hardcore rockers alike. Touring in support of a new album, Jinx- which was to be his last release for almost 5 year – Gallagher literally rocked the house, playing to a sympathetic Scottish crowd, the show broadcast by Radio Glasgow.

Several of the songs caught on this tape illustrate Gallagher’s skills as a guitarist and performer. By the third song in the set, the popish “Moonchild,” Gallagher had the crowd in his hand. The Morricone-influence “Out On A Western Plain” saw the audience engaged in a bit of the old “call and response.” A beautiful mesmerizing intro leads into “Philby,” an underated track from 1979’s Top Priority LP. Another fantastic extended intro comes across closer to a Middle Eastern raga than a blues riff, but it leads into “The Devil Made Me Do It,” a rollicking boogie number from Jinx. “Nothing But The Devil” is a lengthy blues romp, the crowd favorite “Tattoo’d Lady” receives its usual raucous treatment and some molten heavy metal surf riffs open up “Secret Agent,” a power blues song. An extended Gallagher jam on “Left Me The Mule” leaves the audience drained for the closing trio of familiar Gallagher favorites, the show finishing with “Last Of The Independents.”

These three tapes represent just a handful of the Rory Gallagher music that’s out there to be discovered. A solid 1991 show from the Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis may be the topic of future review in this column, and there are also other shows from Philadelphia, New York, Berlin and London that are readily available in tape trading circles. Over two dozen Gallagher bootleg albums and CDs exist, including a great 1985 show from Montreaux.

Gallagher had played constantly until his death in 1995 following complications from a liver transplant. He spent the better part of a quarter century on the road, including some thirty tours of the United States. Sadly, his recorded catalog is in terrible disarray, with many of his best albums currently out of print. [Editor’s note: This situation was largely alleviated later in 1999 with a series of reissues with bonus tracks on the Buddah label.] Although he is overshadowed by contemporaries like Jimmy Page and Eric Clapton, Rory Gallagher always will be the last great Irish bluesman.

Bonus views: Glasgow 1982, the full show





 

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Officially Speaking (vinyl division): Acoustic Rory Gallagher!! Cleveland 1972

 

RORY GALLAGHER

Cleveland Calling

(Chess Records/Universal Music)

VENUE: Live WNCR-FM radio broadcast from Agency Recordings Studio, Cleveland Ohio; August 7th, 1972

SOUND QUALITY: Pretty darn good, actually, given the antiquated original source material. If you want to be overly-critical, there’s a lack of depth to the performances, which are missing the electrifying dynamic present on most of Gallagher’s records. However, the nature of an acoustic performance covers a lot of sonic flaws as there are not as many layers to capture – just the magic of a man and his guitar, his voice, and his harmonica – another gig played by a bluesman older in spirit than his young age (24) would suggest. 

COVER: Simple but effective major label quality packaging with separate B&W photos of the legendary Irish guitarist on the front and rear covers and an overall neutral greyish tone. The inner sleeve is in color with track listing and credits, and photos of the current in-print Rory Gallagher album catalog should newbies wish to discover more great music from the gifted guitarist.

TRACKLIST: (Side A) Pistol Slapper Blues • Don’t Know Where I’m Going • Gypsy Woman • Out of My Mind (Side B) The Cuckoo • Banker’s Blues • Should’ve Learned My Lesson • Blow Wind Blow

COMMENTS: Like many a U.K. youth in the 1950s, Irish blues-rock guitarist Rory Gallagher found early inspiration in popular skiffle artist Lonnie Donegan. Gallagher began playing guitar at the tender age of nine years old, and bought his first electric guitar (a Stratocaster) at the age of twelve. Listening to Radio Luxembourg and the American Forces Network (AFN) late at night, Gallagher broadened his musical palette with early rock ‘n’ roll influences like Buddy Holly and Eddie Cochran. It was when he discovered the music of Muddy Waters that he fell in love with the blues and, throughout his teenage years, he would play a mix of folk, blues, and rock music, finding further inspiration in artists like Woody Guthrie and Big Bill Broonzy. Gallagher subsequently taught himself to play slide guitar, harmonica, saxophone, mandolin, and banjo with vary degrees of virtuosity.

Gallagher’s first band of note was Taste, a blues-rock power trio formed in 1966 when the guitarist was a mere 18 years old. That band released a pair of well-received studio albums – 1969’s Taste and 1970’s On the Boards – before breaking up; a pair of live albums were released in the wake of the band’s demise to capitalize on Gallagher’s bourgeoning reputation as a six-string prodigy. Gallagher released his self-titled solo debut in early 1971 and followed it up a few months later with his sophomore effort, Deuce. Gallagher broke into the U.K. Top 10 for the first time with 1972’s Live In Europe, which was unusual in that the album featured performances of five songs that hadn’t been previously-recorded by the guitarist.  

The eight-song Cleveland Calling LP was released for October’s third Record Store Day “drop” in a limited edition of 3,000 copies and documents Gallagher’s live broadcast by Cleveland’s WNCR-FM radio in August 1972. I don’t know how they did it at WNCR, but I do know that their crosstown rival (WMMS-FM) used to broadcast slews of live performances, and taped many (if not all) of ‘em, creating a treasure-trove of live 1970s-era classic rock that languishes in a vault somewhere (hopefully). Evidently, things didn’t work out too well as many of the WNCR on-air staff revolted against company efforts to overly commercialize the station, going on strike in late 1972. They were subsequently fired en masse by management after a late-night meeting mediated by the station’s morning DJ, Don Imus (who would soon go onto bigger broadcast markets). The station itself switched over to an automated country format on January 1st, 1973. 

But I digress…Gallagher’s acoustic performance here is stunning in its passion and complexity. After a brief intro from the station’s deejay, Carolyn Thomas, Rory starts his short, sharp set with a rowdy cover of Blind Boy Fuller’s Piedmont blues gem “Pistol Slapper Blues,” one of the previously-unrecorded tunes from Live In Europe. With spry guitar pickin’, Gallagher does an admirable job in capturing the joi de vivre of Fuller’s original performance. “Don’t Know Where I’m Going” is one of three Gallagher originals from Deuce, a harmonica-driven country-blues jam that could easily be mistaken for 1930s vintage, Rory’s vocals flowing above simple strummed chords, the overall result greater than the sum of its parts.

“Gypsy Woman” was a cover of a Delta-dirty Muddy Waters song that first appeared as a bonus track on the 1999 CD reissue of Gallagher’s debut album. Probably the bluesiest track here, Rory’s scattershot vocals and imaginative fretwork make the performance a pure joy. Another song from Deuce, “Out of My Mind” is a folk-styled rocker with impressive vocal gymnastics, nimble guitar playing, and more than a few stylistic nods to the skiffle tunes of the musician’s youth. Flipping the flapjack, second side opening song “The Cuckoo” is a traditional English/Irish folk song that wouldn’t find proper release until the posthumous 2003 album Wheels Within Wheels, itself a treasure-chest of acoustic outtakes and lost recordings from across 20 years of Gallagher’s career. 

Deceptively complex in the manner of many a rusty old song from musty, forgotten songbooks, Gallagher pours his soul into the performance, gilding “The Cuckoo” with exotic fretwork and strong vocals that help shape the song’s lyrical story. The guitarist follows up with a reading of his idol Big Bill Broonzy’s “Banker’s Blues,” which he’d record a year later for the critically-acclaimed Blueprint LP. After giving Ms. Thomas a lesson in harmonica styles, he launches into a fine approximation of Broonzy’s folkie proto-Chicago blues sound, capturing all of the tongue-in-cheek humor of the lyrics with his light-hearted vocals and intricate guitar strum. The last of the three original Deuce tunes, “Should’ve Learnt My Lesson” is another slab of old-school blues, rich with Gallagher’s elegant string-bending and the overall “high lonesome” Piedmont vibe captured by Rory’s mournful voice.       

Cleveland Calling closes out with “Blow Wind Blow,” as obscure a Muddy Waters song as you’ll find (it’s from the oft-overlooked classic 1969 LP Fathers and Sons). Fresh from playing on the Chicago blues legend’s The London Muddy Waters Sessions album, Gallagher acquits himself nicely here, digging into the song’s roots in the Mississippi Delta of Waters’ plantation-raised early days, his up-tempo guitar playing matched by syrupy vocals and a just-beneath-the-surface energy that threatens to explode with any random note. Sadly, a studio recording of the song wouldn’t be released until the excellent 2019 “odds ‘n’ sods” collection, Blues, a three-disc collection of rare, unreleased, and live recordings that would land Gallagher back on the Top 20 of the U.K. charts.

Gallagher moved past 1972 to enjoy a modestly-successful career throughout the 1970s and ‘80s, releasing a total of eleven studio and three live albums over a 20-year span, with 1990’s Fresh Evidence representing the guitarist’s swansong. Gallagher would die of complications from a liver transplant (a tragic necessity due to decades of living a rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle) in June 1995. Over the course of his career, Gallagher had the opportunity to perform and record with musical idols like Lonnie Donegan, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Muddy Waters and was part of the band Box of Frogs with former Yardbirds Chris Dreja, Paul Samwell-Smith, and Jim McCarty. While he never rose above the status of “cult artist” in the U.S. his loyal following has supported a steady stream of posthumous live albums and DVDs. 

Perhaps most importantly, Gallagher’s undeniable talents would subsequently influence artists as diverse as Johnny Marr of the Smiths, Alex Lifeson of Rush, Glenn Tipton of Judas Priest, and fellow blues guitarists Gary Moore and Joe Bonamassa, among many others who all cited the humble Irishman as an influence on their own music. Gallagher also swayed contemporaries like Eric Clapton (who once credited Gallagher with “getting me back into the blues”) and Jimi Hendrix (who, allegedly asked how it felt to be the world’s greatest guitarist, replied “I don’t know, go ask Rory Gallagher”) and had been asked to join both Deep Purple and the Rolling Stones to replace those band’s wayward guitarists. 

While Gallagher could strangle his Stratocaster and torture a stack o’ Marshall amps as loudly and energetically as 1970s-era contemporaries like Johnny Winter, Leslie West, or Pat Travers, Cleveland Calling is a fine representation of the often-understated (acoustic) aspect of Gallagher’s talents, his between-song conversations with the station’s DJ providing the barest of glimpses into the personality of the gifted musician and performer. Cleveland Calling is a “must have” if you’re a longtime Gallagher fan but stands tall on its own for blues fans who just want a taste of this too-frequently overlooked artist.  Grade: A (Rev. Keith A. Gordon)

Bonus view:



Monday, November 16, 2020

Officially Speaking (CD division): Mike Felten sings away the blues

 

Mike Felten: Fast Mikey Blue Eyes (studio release, Landfill Records)

Tracklist: Three Drinks In/ Detroit Woman/ Dead Old Girlfriend/ Swee That My Grave Is Kept Clean/ A Girl Walks Into A Bar/ Chasing A Rumor/ Homan Avenue/ Godzilla Jones/ 2302/ Y’ll Are Guilty/ Where The White Lady Lives/ Like Listening To Charlie Parker

Review: While, in one respect, Mike Felten’s 6th studio delivers what might be expected from this veteran of the Chicago streets, that’s not the whole story. To the novice listener, Felten might be put squarely in the middle of the “Americana” genre, his previous releases featuring elements of folk, country, gospel, and blues. All with a decidedly Chicago-centric feel. 


Fast Mikey Blues Eyes, like earlier Felten releases, is rich in stories of the Chicago landscape like “Homan Avenue,” an infamous worst-kept-secret where criminals don’t want to end up while in police custody. It’s a place where “the good lord forget about you and the devil never calls.” And where even the innocent are guilty. It’s the kind of story that Brit disciples of Chicago Blues like Fleetwood Mac never imagined when they crossed oceans to play with the founding fathers of Chicago Blues over 50 years ago. It’s a story that needs to be told in these times. So does the story of the resisters like “Godzilla Jones.” 


It’s the musical landscape that is different this time out. Fast Mikey Blue Eyes is firmly rooted in the kind of Chess Blues that attracted all those Brits in the first place. Felten enlists some of Chicago’s most notable living artifacts of that bygone era, people like Corky Siegal (harmonica, Siegal-Schwall Band) and Barry Goldberg (piano, Dylan, Paul Butterfield Blues Band, The Electric Flag). And if that’s not enough, Brad Elvis (The Elvis Brothers and The Romantics drummer for the last 16 years), and Harmonica Hinds (a long time fixture on the Chicago Blues circuit who immigrated from Trinidad).


Harmonica Hinds, who plays on 4 tracks, most signifies the Chicago that Felten grew up and lives in. While the most played-up aspect of the Chicago Blues legend is the one rooted in the great Afro-American migration from the Mississippi Delta, modern day Chicago is made up of a vast amount of immigrants from all areas of the globe. These are the kind of neighborhoods where Felten’s Record Emporium, a long established iconic record store was located. Every shade of human pigment could be seen as the residents arrived home at the L-train stop down the street, returning from jobs around the city and beyond. And with them, their accents, culture, traditions and sweat equity. July 4th was a big holiday for all, one in which the Record Emporium would hold a “feed-the-neighborhood” event in front of the store, which included blood pressure checks by real nurses (you can’t even get that in a doctor’s office anymore). And at Record Emporium, Harmonica Hinds had a venue to play in-stores and hawk his CDs. Bonds were forged. Times change - not always for the better.

 

When the owner/ruling class decided the 3-flats that proliferated the neighborhood, along with its numerous L-stops in the region and its close proximity to Wrigley Field, were prime for luxury condos with young well-heeled and well-moneyed tenants, the neighborhood took on a decidedly pale complexion. That was stage one. Stage two was for retail store landlords to capitalize on the influx of professional class residents by raising rents drastically – rents which no record store or used clothing store could afford. Hipster bars and themed restaurants were now in vogue. Felten saw the writing on the wall and started a second career - one that he had abandoned in younger years, although never completely.


Felten had spent his teenage and early adult years as a member of the Chicago folk scene. Although he never recorded any records, he shared the stages with such luminaries as John Prine and Steve Goodman. When the responsibilities of raising a family demanded a more stable income, he switched to selling used and new records. But he never put down his guitar or songwriting skills. When the real estate market outpaced the record business he was, at last, forced out of business. He started releasing CDs on a regular basis and played 150-200 gigs a year, mostly in small music venues and coffee shops with the occasional midwest tour mixed in. In his spare time he volunteered as a guide at the Museum of Chicago History, teaching classes of children, many of them immigrants, many others multi-generational residents, about the people’s history of Chicago – not always the history you read about in school books. This is the type of oral history you can find on any of Felten’s albums.


Fast Mikey Blue Eyes delivers that, but also an element more personal in nature, starting with the title. “My Mikey blue eyes” is how his wife, Gail, used to refer to him. Used to – Gail passed away two years ago. FMBE is a Blues album, start to finish. It’s an up-tempo blues album – juke joint music. You won’t find any country-ish tales here – no “drowning in my tears” sad-eyed tales of woe. Chicago breeds a certain toughness that you won’t find in more southward states in the midwest. It starts and ends in two different sides of the same picture. “Three Drinks In” is a rollicking, rambunctious tune fueled by Goldberg’s barrel-house piano, Siegel’s vibrant harp, and Brad Elvis’ solid back beat with the focus on communal drinking. “Like Listening To Charlie Parker,” the closing tune, is a slow-to-mid-tempo song that reflects the alone moments. But one where Felten even manages to interject a little dark humor (the “hipster” verse is hilarious). 


Brent Best of Slobberbone once wrote a song called “Find The Out,” which is sort of a self-help song about lost loved ones. With Fast Mikey Blue Eyes, Felten has chosen to stick to The Blues, a genre that, at its best, is all about lifting ones self up, no matter what you might have heard. Felten succeeds here with his most exhilarating release yet. Now get out on the floor (your living room floor until further notice) and DANCE to it. You’ll find the out for covid isolation. [Bill Glahn] 

Sample view. Get dancin'!



Sunday, November 1, 2020

Live vinyl releases by Townes Van Zandt & Guy Clark, Joan Jett

 


Joan Jett & the Blackhearts: Live At The Bottom Line, New York, 12/27/1980 WNEW FM Broadcast (Mind Control Mind 734)

Venue: as titled

Sound Quality: Top notch!. Most likely from off-air master. 

Cover: Simplistic but attractive single pocket jacket. Nice period photo of Jett on front cover, track list on back.

Tracklist: (side A) Intro/ Bad Reputation/ I’m Gonna Run Away/ You Don’t Know What You Have Got/ Wait For Me/ Too Bad On Your Birthday/ Teenage Sex Machine/ You’re Too Possessive (side B) Wooly Bully/ Black Leather/ Do You Wanna Touch Me/ Rebel Rebel/ Shout/ I Love Rock n Roll/ I Love Playin’ With Fire

Comments: Released previously as I Love Playing With Fire Live (CD, 2018) on the Rox Vox label (unofficial), this is apparently the first vinyl release of this show. The Rox Vox release received mixed reviews on sound quality, something that can’t be questioned here. It’s great. Curiously, the Rox Vox release is available for streaming on Amazon.

Joan Jett and the Blackheart’s 1st album, Bad Reputation, wasn’t the instant success that its legendary status might indicate. Her 2nd, I Love Rock ‘n Roll, wasn’t either. But Jett had a solid and loyal fan base in her newly adopted hometown. The rest of the nation would follow in 1981 when the nationally distributed startup, Boardwalk Records, picked up their first self-released album, Joan Jett, and re-titled it Bad Reputation. [Boardwalk went bankrupt after founder, Neil Bogart, – who previously founded (and sold) Casablanca Records – died of cancer in 1983, whereupon Jett and business partner, Kenny Laguna, revived the Blackheart Records label with a distribution deal with MCA.]

At the time of this recording, Jett was at a crossroads in her career. A previous career as a member of the Runaways gave her some stature in the world of rock and roll, but more so in Europe and Japan. The Runaways had never made much of a dent in the U.S. charts. It was make or break time. 

Bad Reputation would not make its national debut on Boardwalk until the following January. The second album, from which this set draws 3 tracks, not until November of 1981.                                                                                                            

With the backing of Boardwalk, Bad Reputation would peak at number 52 on the Billboard album charts. I Love Rock ‘n Roll would follow a year later peaking at no. 2 - fueled by the record’s title track (a number one single for 7 weeks), a cover of an Arrows tune Jett had heard while touring the UK with The Runaways.

So how does an artist without a national following end up being broadcast on New York’s FM radio powerhouse, WNEW? Simple enough – Jett was already experiencing massive popularity in the metro area. The Blackhearts at this time consisted of Gary Ryan (bass), Eric Ambel (guitar), and Lee Crystal (drums), who turn in a riotous performance from the opening track through the closing  "I Love Plain’ With Fire,” a song resuscitated from The Runaway’s 2nd LP, Queens of Noise.

With a setlist pulled primarily from the 1st album, an album which at this point was self-titled and distributed out of the trunk of Kenny Laguna’s car, there’s also covers of David Bowie (“Revel Rebel”), The Isley Brothers rave up, “Shout,” and The Runaways (the aforementioned closing track). Also the live rarity, “Teenage Sex Machine,” which Jett played at her shows during 1980-1981.

With great sound, rare songs, and a hot performance, it’s hard to find fault with this release.

Grade: A                                                                                                                                                       [Bill Glahn]

TOWNES VAN ZANDT & GUY CLARK

Live at Great American Music Hall

(Radio Looploop Records U.K.)


VENUE: The Great American Music Hall, San Francisco CA; January 20th, 1991


SOUND QUALITY: Could be better…very shallow sound with lots of echo and some distortion, the instruments sound tinny and distant, and the vocals are slightly muddy. Definitely not a first generation recording as there are just too many sonic artifacts, the flaws often distracting from what is, overall, a lively and charming performance by both artists.


COVER: Radio Looploop seems to have a simple formula for their album covers – big photo on the front, sturdy cardboard package holding two shiny flapjacks in individual paper sleeves. This one has a sepia-toned photo of Van Zandt and Clark on the front, individual photos of both artists on the back set against a nice maroon background, and a complete track listing with writer credits. The same front cover photo, with the image flipped, was used for the Live…Texas ’91 bootleg album. 


TRACKLIST: 

(Side A) Ramblin’ Jack & Mahan • If I Needed You • L.A. Freeway • Mr. Mudd & Mr. Gold • Texas • Marie


(Side B) Old Friends • Buckskin Stallion Blues • Let Him Roll • High, Low & In Between • The Carpenter • No Place To Fall • Desperados Waitin’ For A Train


(Side C) Rex’s Blues • Rita Ballou • Pancho & Lefty • Like A Coat From the Cold • Tecumseh Valley • New Cut Road • Flyin’ Shoes • Watermelon Dream


(Side D) Better Days • Lover’s Lullaby • Anyhow, I Love You • Snowin’ On Raton • She Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere • Texas Cookin’ • Come From the Heart • No Deal


COMMENTS: 


Texas-born singer/songwriters Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark are widely considered to be two of the most influential and talented wordsmiths to work on the fringes of the country music scene of the 1970s and ‘80s. Whereas Van Zandt has often been classified as a folk singer, his masterful hybrid of country, blues, and folk music won him a loyal cult following that continues to grow. Van Zandt never experienced much commercial success as a recording artist, and he played dive bars while living for years in a shack without electricity outside of Nashville. He suffered for years from alcoholism and drug abuse and, diagnosed with bipolar disorder, Van Zandt lost much of his long-term memory after undergoing controversial insulin shock therapy.   


Van Zandt enjoyed a stellar reputation as a songwriter, though, and he had songs recorded by artists as diverse as Emmylou Harris, Bob Dylan, Nanci Griffith, Jason Isbell, and Gillian Welch, among many others. It was the 1983 recording of his song “Pancho & Lefty” by Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard, which topped the Billboard magazine country chart, that brought Van Zandt the most notoriety. By contrast, Guy Clark enjoyed more modest success as a recording artist, placing several albums into the mid-regions of the country chart over the span of his 40+ year career. Clark was also well-respected as a songwriter, with artists like Rodney Crowell, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, and Jerry Jeff Walker recording his songs. Much like his longtime friend Townes, Clark walked the fine line between folk and country music, and won a Grammy™ Award for “Best Folk Album” for his 2013 release My Favorite Picture of You.


Both Clark and Van Zandt honed their skills on the Houston folk music scene throughout the ‘60s, with both artists moving to Nashville where Clark, along with his wife Susanna, opened their home to fellow songwriters and musicians. Americana legend Steve Earle followed the two artists from Texas to Tennessee, and both Clark and Van Zandt mentored Earle in songwriting and performing, a kindness that Earle would later repay by recording separate albums of his friend’s songs (2009’s Townes and 2019’s Guy).  


Van Zandt and Clark were joined at the hip in Nashville, and often toured and performed together, at local clubs like Mississippi Whiskers and The Bluebird CafĂ© as well as across the southern states and in Europe. They had a following in San Francisco, California which brings us around to Live at Great American Music Hall, a document of the artists’ January 20th, 1991 performance that was recorded for radio broadcast and recently reissued as a double-vinyl set by Radio Looploop Records. Offering a fairly-balanced set of 29 songs (15 by Clark, 12 by Van Zandt, and two they wrote together), the album provides a veritable feast of the two talented songwriter’s best-known and beloved material.


The show begins with Clark’s ode to folk legend Ramblin’ Jack Elliot, “Ramblin’ Jack & Mahan,” a loping country tune with brilliant story-song lyrics, gorgeous acoustic guitar, and a heartfelt performance by Clark that is plagued by poor sound. Clark’s “L.A. Freeway” (from his 1975 debut LP Old No. 1) is one of his better songs, a slice of working-class blues with a pop undercurrent and a humorous spoken word interlude. Guy’s “Texas – 1947,” also from his debut, is an acoustic country-rocker with an infectious chorus and an up-tempo arrangement that’s sparse on instrumentation, relying instead on Guy’s rollicking vocals. 


Side two’s “Let Him Roll” is another leathery story-song by Guy that perfectly captures the hard luck life of a Texas loner while “Desperados Waitin’ For A Train” is a wonderful remembrance of a young man and his older mentor. Townes is represented on the first disc by a number of fine songs, beginning with the charming “If I Needed You,” a poignant romantic ballad with a lilting melody while “Mr. Mudd & Mr. Gold” is a strident tale in a Dylan-esque vein that Van Zandt nails with his somber vocals. Van Zandt’s “Marie” is a folkish dirge with poetic lyrics as stark as anything Springsteen did on Nebraska, a fateful story of star-crossed lovers pulled in different directions. “If I Had No Place To Fall” is a wistful romantic ballad with lovely lyrics and a passionate delivery by Van Zandt.   


The second disc is comprised largely of the duo’s second set from the night (the entire show was evidently 42 songs performed across two sets, so this LP offers only a portion of the concert). Van Zandt’s “Rex’s Blues” offers up some spry guitar-pickin’ resting alongside melancholy vocals, the song a sort of folk-tinged talking blues whose beauty is marred by the shabby recording. The aforementioned “Pancho & Lefty” is Van Zandt’s best-known tune; shorn of its glossy major label production, the tale of south-of-the-border hijinks takes on a more haunting ambiance. The bluesy “Flyin’ Shoes” is an imaginative lyrical fantasy with heavy guitar strum and strong vocals and “Lover’s Lullaby” is a beautiful nod to romance and relationships.   

   

Clark brings a mix of some of his better-known and more obscure songs to the second set, and they’re all winners, beginning with the ribald Western swing of “Rita Ballou” and the reflective “Like A Coat From the Cold,” a pastoral ballad with haltering instrumental backing and emotional vocals; “Watermelon Dream” is a folksy tune with slice-of-life lyrics that wander only sparingly into hyperbole; and “Better Days” is an ethereal song of hope and determination. The rowdy “Texas Cookin’” is a bluesy, twangy, ramshackle tune that crackles with joie de vivre.   Of the pair’s co-written songs, “Come From the Heart” is the stand-out, the two men’s voices intertwined to deliver the song’s positive lyrical message above melodic strummed guitars. 


Overall, Van Zandt and Clark deliver an engaging, sometimes magical performance on Live at Great American Music Hall, both artists supporting one another and weaving their respective songs into an overall narrative of American music. From what I’ve been able to find, Van Zandt toured fairly extensively throughout 1991, frequently with Clark, the pair sometimes joined by friends from Texas like Robert Earl Keen and Jimmie Dale Gilmore, and they even returned to San Francisco in the fall. It seems that several shows were recorded during the year for radio broadcast or a possible live record, but only this album and Live…Texas ’91 seem to have survived to document Van Zandt’s 1991 tour.


After his death in 1997, former friends and associates circled Van Zandt’s legacy like vultures feasting on road kill. The singer’s former manager and Poppy Records label owner Kevin Eggers released better than a dozen posthumous albums without consent of Van Zandt’s wife Jeanene. His former road manager also released a number of unauthorized live concert videos and audio recordings of Van Zandt performances. It took the singer’s estate over a decade to iron out all these legal issues, and today Fat Possum Records is the official home of Van Zandt’s musical legacy. The Mississippi label has reissued much of the singer’s early catalog, including classics like Flyin’ Shoes, Our Mother the Mountain, and the critically-acclaimed Live at The Old Quarter album. 


If you’re unfamiliar with the talents of this gifted songwriter, I’d recommend checking out the aforementioned albums and, if you like what you hear, move on to Live at Great American Music Hall. As for Guy Clark, he continued to make great music until his death in 2016, his final album – My Favorite Picture of You – peaking at #12 on Billboard magazine’s country music chart. Although not as prolific as his longtime friend, Clark’s back catalog of music is nearly as precious, and albums like Old No. 1, Texas Cookin’, and Dublin Blues are widely considered as jewels of Americana music. Clark’s performances on Live at Great American Music Hall are as vital and engaging as Van Zandt’s but, again, check out those early albums first and then sink your teeth into this heady 1991 performance. Grade: B- (notched a grade due to poor sound)

(Rev. Keith A. Gordon)




Thursday, October 29, 2020

Rev. Keith A. Gordon has a new book out!

 


review by Bill Glahn

Planet of Sound [Rev. Keith A. Gordon, Excitable Press]

It's always exciting news when one of Live! Music Review's contributors has a new book on the shelves and I'm especially pleased to announce this one by the ever prolific spiritual force of Rock 'n' Roll journalism, the mighty master of Blues criticism, and music historian extraordinaire, Keith A. Gordon.

Comprising of 34 essays, reviews, and artist profiles, the latest volume focuses on Gordon's writing in Rock and Roll Globe from 2018-2020. As to be expected from many such compilations, Gordon writes about such luminaries as Keith Richard, Buddy Guy, Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, John Lee Hooker and Black Sabbath, but also delivers the unexpected as well. Gordon has dug deep into rock n roll history with profiles of such worthy footnotes as Buzzy Linhart, Eugene Chadbourne, The Flamin' Groovies, The Pretty Things, and Will Kimbrough - all personal favorites. But it doesn't stop there.

Gordon also includes essays on the industry itself, including  a highly educational obituary for Grande Ballroom founder, Detroit DJ and promoter Russ Gibb, a dissection of Woodstock '99 (an event held on a superfund disaster site), a look back at the Ann Arbor 1969 festival, and Stax Records' second round of success after being sold.

Planet of Sound not only makes for some excellent reading, benefitting from Gordon's inventive use of descriptive (and accurate) phrasing, second to none, but also as a reference source when researching other projects. For example, with the release of Mike Felton's new CD  (another Live! Music Review contributor back in the day) which includes Corky Siegel among the credits (some GREAT harp playing on that one, review in the works) there's a highly informative chapter on the Siegel-Schwall Band. Of course, I went immediately there for a refresher course.

I have nothing but the highest recommendations for this book. And I'd say that even if I didn't know Gordon. He's a veteran of some 4 decades of music journalism and it shows. I was reading his writing before he ever wrote a sentence for L!MR.

Planet of Sound can be purchased from Amazon or directly from the author here.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

The Z-Files: Led Zeppelin Scandinavian Broadcasts on vinyl (plus back pages)

 

[reviews by Bill Glahn]

Led Zeppelin: Scandinavian Broadcasts 1969 (Magic Dice MGCD 002)

Cover: single pocket jacket with attractive graphics. Track listing and venue information listed on back. 

Sound Quality: Very good stereo on side 1 (FM), mono on side 2 (TV)

Venue: (Side 1) Koncerthuset, Stockholm, Sweden, March 14, 1969 (Side 2) RV-Byen Studios, Gladsaxe, Denmark March 17, 1969

Track List: (Side 1) I Can’t Quit You Baby/ I Gotta Move/ Dazed And Confused/ How Many More Times (Side 2) Communication Breakdown/ Dazed and Confused/ Babe I’m Gonna Leave You/ How Many More Times

Comments: Let’s dispatch side 2 right away. It is simply the soundtrack to what already appeared on the official Led Zeppelin 2003 double DVD set called, simply enough, DVD. Only presented without the benefit of Jimmy Page’s remastering. It’s useless to any serious Led Zeppelin fan and the official 2DVD set is easily available on various Internet retail sites for a fraction of what this LP would cost you. It might serve a purpose to vinyl fetishists, but ultimately, it’s a wasted opportunity, being that there are other shows from the same Scandinavian tour that haven’t been released officially. Notably, two very good to excellent recordings from March 15 when the band played shows at two different teen clubs in Denmark.

On to side one.

The Koncerthuset broadcast first appeared on the impossibly rare Japanese bootleg, Missing Links. Doing an a/b comparison, it is immediately obvious that Magic Dice has used a different tape source. This release includes a lengthy DJ intro (in Swedish) that was not included on Missing Links and, after the fade out on “How Many More Times,” a DJ outro as well. Missing Links opened with the first notes of “I Can’t Quit You Baby” and finished with a quick fade out of “How Many More Times,” which left listeners wondering, “where’s the rest of the broadcast?” This time around, “How Many More Times” is extended a bit longer before the DJ interrupts to close out the broadcast in mid-song. Time limitations on radio – don’t you just hate them? 

On the down side, the sound quality on Missing Links was stunning while the source used for Scandinavian broadcasts has some periodic level fluctuations. Still, the instrument separation is still wide and enjoyable.

The performance? It’s astonishing, The band opens with “I Can’t Quit You Baby,” a number from their recently released first album. There’s some fine picking from Page and tight support from the band, not wavering far from the studio version. Then things get interesting. Plant announces to the audience that Page has broken a string and tells them that the performance will feature a couple of numbers from the new album. “I don’t know whether you’ve heard it.” Plant is not being facetious. Dead air being the enemy of radio, the band proceeds as a 3-piece with a version of the non-LP Otis Rush song, “I Gotta Move.” Unlike many influences for songs on their albums, Plant gives proper accreditation to Rush. It’s as close an arrangement to “traditional” blues as you will ever hear from Zep, and they shine. Backed by a superb bass line by John Paul Jones and some solid, in the pocket drumming from Boham, not to mention Plant’s harp work and vocals, It’s a rare glimpse of Zep sticking close to their roots. One listen to this, and no nay-saying critic will ever accuse Bonham of being “ham-fisted” again. Freed from his usual position of accenting Page’s guitar licks, he’s brilliantly subdued on this track.

Having finally taken care of his broken string, Page and company continue on to “Dazed and Confused” skipping what most likely would have been “You Shook Me” or “Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You,” standard parts of their repertoire at the time. It’s a rather subdued first half of “Dazed,” Page using his violin bow to good effect and an appropriate follow-up to “I Gotta Move” in feel. Then, Wham! Page puts down the bow and delivers a blistering rave-up – the kind that made Led Zeppelin the notorious kings of bombast that they became. The band follows with their set-closer “How Many More Times,” with Plant giving each member the intros that would no longer be needed within the next year. But, alas, allotted time has run out and the radio feed fades to nothing with the MC giving a short outro announcement. For a complete version of the song in all it’s manic glory, see side 2.

Grade: This is a tough one. I’m torn between the importance and quality of Side 1 and the duplicity of Side 2. Whether taken from an independent source tape or simply lifted from an official DVD, Side 2 reeks of piracy, something that I have never supported. Until such time as the Stockholm show becomes available on vinyl with more appropriate material, I’ll give it a “buy” recommendation and leave it at that.

Back Pages [The print version of Live! Music Review began in 1993, well into the CD era. Our last issue was in 2000, well before the reemergence of vinyl as a popular format. As a vinyl enthusiast, I wish there had been some vinyl reviews to post here. But it is what it is. Led Zeppelin is the most bootlegged band in history, and it seems, especially in Japan, not a newly discovered source tape was overlooked. We tried to cover them all. I’m sure we missed a few. Here is a small sample of Zep reviews that appeared in the April 1999 L!MR, an issue which covered 27 new Zep & Zep-related bootlegs over a one month period. Now available on the Internet for the first time.]



Led Zeppelin: Rare Short Party (Image Quality IQ 003-004)

Venue: Yale Bowl, New Haven, CT 8/15/70

Sound Quality: Awful – lots of hiss, but you can hear Page’s guitar clearly. There are numerous cuts and the taper and his buddy just won’t shut up. It gets better as you go along, but playing this one is akin to scraping fingernails on a blackboard.

Cover: Typical low budget packaging from Image Quality. “Fat boy” double jewel case with inlay cards and no booklet.

Tracklist: (Disc 1) Immigrant Song/ Heartbreaker/ Dazed & Confused/ Bring It On Home/ Since I’ve Been Loving You (Disc 2) What Is & What Should Never Be/ Moby Dick/ Whole Lotta Love medley/ Communication Breakdown> Good Times, Bad Times

Comments: The pathetic quality of this recording prevents any enjoyment of what sounds like a pretty exciting concert. The Image Quality discs that we received for review have all been regular silver CDs and not CD-Rs. So while we have had some readers writing to say that all Image Quality releases are CD-Rs, it just ain’t so. But whether it’s on silver, or blue or green or gold disc, Rare Short Party is still a dog.



Led Zeppelin: Fillmore 69 Definitive Remastered Edition (House of Elrod)

Venue: Fillmore West, San Francisco, Cab 4/24/69. The final track is from the Boston Tea Party 1/26/69

Sound Quality: Mind blowing! Even the Boston Tea Party material is better than you’ve ever heard it before.

Cover: Fabulous laminated gatefold cardboard cover with blimp flying over the Golden Gate Bridge in brownish duotone coloring scheme.

Tracklist: As Long As I Have You/ You Can’t Judge A Book By It’s Cover/ Killing Floor/ White Summer/ Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You/ Pat’s Delight/ How Many More Times medley

Comments: Despite the fact that this material has appeared on bootleg CDs previously, this has to be the best Zep disc to come down the pike in eons. The upgrade in sound quality for both shows is a major one, a jaw-dropping adventure to be sure. The only question I have is, “where is the rest of Boston in this quality?” Killer disc. Hands down, pick of the month. 



Led Zeppelin: C’mon Everbody (House of Elrod)

Venue: disc one and disc two tracks 1-3 are from the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco on 11/6/69, disc two track 4-8 are from the Teen Club, Gladsaxe, Denmark 3/15/69 [2020 edit: as mentioned in vinyl review above, prime material for pairing with Stockholm for a vinyl release], disc two 9-11 are from Glensaxe, Denmark TV-Byen 3/17/69. The cover erroneously listed disc two 4-11 as Danish TV Studios 3/13/69.

Sound Quality: Outstanding audience recording, lots of bite with an occasional glitch. This show has never been available in this quality before. The Danish stuff are the usual sources, a good audience tape from the 15th and an outstandinfg TV studio recording from the 17th [2020 edit: the 17th received an official release in 2003].

Cover: Laminated 4-panel insert and two-sided tray card. Very nice layout. The CD-R discs are silk-screened.

Tracklist: (disc 1) Communication Breakdown/ I Can’t Quit You, Babe/ Heartbreaker/ Dazed & Confused/ White Summer> Black Mountainside/ What Is and What Should Never Be/ Moby Dick (disc 2) How Many More Times/ C’mon Everybody/ Something Else/ Train Kept A Rollin’/ I Can’t Quit You, Babe/ As Long As I Have You/ You Shook Me/ Communication Breakdown/ Dazed & Confused/ Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You/ How Many More Times

Comments: A stunning document for fans of Page’s most aggressive Marshall boogie. The Good Times Bad Times” intro to “Communication Breakdown” started on the Fall UK tour and is most commonly found on the Lyceum shows, both which come nowhere close to the quality found on this disc. This was the start of a Zep tradition where Page would play a tease from one song to introduce another. The Eddie Cochran encores are a rare treat and most commonly found on BBC recordings and the Japanese 1971 tour. A winner!

Bonus view:
One I'd love to see on vinyl!