Monday, October 29, 2012

Cryin' and pleadin' won't do no good (Billy Boy Arnold)

I made a compilation of blues songs for Keegan recently and it occurred to me that I write a lot about pop and rock genres and jazz from time to time but seldom about the blues. And when I do venture into the blues it's usually from a white perspective: Alvin Lee; Rory Gallagher; Eric Clapton; Paul Jones, Hot Tuna and so on.

I am not sure why I haven't written more about blues favourites such as Howlin' Wolf, Willie Dixon, Sonny Terry, Brownie McGhee and Muddy Waters. I love their stuff and I love the blues!

Here's the track listing on my CD blues primer for Keegan:

Evil Gal blues – Albinia Jones
Chicago breakdown – Big Maceo
I wish you would – Billy Boy Arnold
Shake your moneymaker – Elmore James
Dust my blues – Elmore James
You don't have to go – Jimmy Reed
Sittin' here thinkin' – John Lee Hooker
Mannish Boy – Junior Wells/ Muddy Waters
Young man blues – Mose Allison
Rollin' stone – Muddy Waters
Got my mojo working – Muddy Waters
That's alright – Jimmy Rodgers
Milk cow blues – Sleepy John Estes
I'm a king bee – Slim Harpo
Good morning little schoolgirl – Sonny Boy Williamson
Whoopin' the blues – Sonny Terry
Good morning blues – Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee
The midnight special - Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee
Smokestack lightning – The Yardbirds
How many more years – Howlin' Wolf
Moanin' at midnight – Howlin' Wolf
I'm ready – Muddy Waters
I was trying to cover as many bases as I could in roughly an hour and I think I got the balance pretty right - Chicago blues, boogie woogie, harp and guitar, white (Yardbirds and Allison), folk blues, shouters, women blues singers,  dirty blues, slow blues, country blues, electric, urban blues.
It's not supposed to be comprehensive at all (I figured Keegan had heard Robert Johnson for instance) and, of course, there are many omissions and it does show my bias towards Waters/Wolf/Sonny and Brownie.
My love of the blues began properly after I watched Sonny and Brownie playing at the Nambassa music festival (late seventies I think). I remember the moment well because I was standing about ten feet from the stage with not many other people around me.
Someone led Sonny on to the stage, they settled down on their seats and Brownie started playing his guitar and tapping his foot. I watched in awe. 
It was one of those epiphanies I have had from time to time as I listened and watched and grooved.
Obviously I am not alone in letting the blues strike it's chord in my soul. For some reason I never tire of the form, or get depressed when I hear it. In fact I find the tales inherent in the blues very life affirming in a Grapes Of Wrath kind of way. Hardships are overcome and have been sung about in a cathartic way since the genre began in the American south's slave plantations.
It's true that I came to many of these songs from white blues inspired acts like Hot Tuna.
Billy Boy Arnold's I Wish You Would is a case in point.
I first heard it on Hot Tuna's Hoppkov album and then they did a stonking live version on their live double - Double Dose.
I hadn't heard of Billy Boy Arnold until that point. I'm sure Jorma and Jack from Hot Tuna would be thrilled to know that they made Arnold's version accessible via their own, very different treatment.

Friday, October 26, 2012

I haul you in a sea of silence (Rain Tree Crow)

Moods.  Music and mood sometimes match perfectly in a synergistic way.

Today is Saturday (I know it says Friday in the post title bar - I have no idea why it does, but trust me - it's Saturday). A beautiful sunny day. Jacky and I have just returned from a long walk into the shops at Oneroa to get an engagement card for Samantha and Jesse. We are now back home, Jacky's having a nap and I have Rain Tree Crow (by Rain Tree Crow) playing on the p-pod dock.

It's a perfect match - languid, spacious, thoughtful, atmospheric, ambient music for a languid, sunny afternoon on Waiheke Island. 

Rain Tree Crow (released 1991) is really Japan's last album before David Sylvian closed up shop and went solo, so it's got elements of Japan style pop but leans towards a proggy ambient sound scape. Actually, I couldn't help thinking about Porcupine Tree while I listened to it. Richard Barbieri is common to both endeavours after all and Steven Wilson's vocals could easily be substituted for Sylvian's.

Blackwater was the album's only single.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Forget the past, present tense works and lasts (Pantera)

Jade asked me an interesting question recently. I mentioned that I didn't feel in the mood to buy a CD yesterday when I went to JB Hi-Fi at St Lukes with Keegan.

She asked, "Do you need to be in the mood to buy music?" My initial thought was 'no' but my reaction yesterday was 'yes'.

Normally I can go into a store like JB Hi-Fi and latch onto at least 3 or 4 CDs I really want to buy but not so yesterday for some reason.

I thought about these four new albums but didn't end up with any:

The Datsuns - Death Rattle Boogie

Evermore - Follow The Sun

ZZ Top - La Futura

Diana Krall - Glad Rag Doll
The main problem with the first three is that their last albums were disappointing. The Datsuns have gone away from their first album sound more and more with each album they've released. Evermore put out a clunker last time out which I really didn't like and ZZ Top did the unthinkable with XXX - released a ho hum album.

Diana Krall's Glad Rag Doll is an album I feel obligated to buy for my father's sake. Problem is the album isn't a jazz one and dad wouldn't have liked it much I suspect (who knows - he loved Diana Krall!).

The reviews and youtube videos above have helped me a bit. The Evermore single (also called Follow The Sun) starts out okay but is not their usual hook laden pop confection. The Datsuns have a tad more energy this time out and seem to have returned to things that made The Datsuns special in the first place. The ZZs are in awesome form with Billy's dirty as guitar sound well to the foreground and the video is brilliant as well. Less is more!

So - next time on the mainland I may have to get in the mood and pick up the Datsuns and ZZ Top albums!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Boom boom - out go the lights (The Blues Band)

Paul Jones (real name Paul Pond) has a phenomenal blues voice. So good that Keef and Brian Jones offered him the job of lead singer in the early Rolling Stones. He turned them down so they had to settle for ole rubber lips instead.

Mr Jones is in the tie

I was a young pup working with Roger Marbeck when I first became aware of his fantastic voice. One day the EMI rep came in and raved about The Blues Band album - Official Blues Band Bootleg Album, He loved it and when we played it on the shop's stereo (we're talking records here) so did we.

The promo liner notes mentioned his discography and I suddenly realised that his voice was the one I'd loved on some great Manfred Mann hits.

Those early Manfred Mann singles are as  tight as a drum instrumentally and then Paul Jones starts singing and we're in a different place.

He's still active as The Blues Band are still going strong with the same original line up!

Here's my Paul Jones favourites - some of his Manfred Mann, Blues Band and solo moments:

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

You made us feel like we could fly (Queen)

Radio Wozza is an amazing station. It mixes genres and decades into a wonderful eclectic mix of magical music moments. Mmmmmmmm. I love it.

Radio Wozza doesn't really exist as a broadcasting unit, of course, because I'm usually the only one who gets to hear it (if you're lucky enough to live with me you'll catch glimpses of it).

Radio Wozza beams out of the p-pod whenever I'm away from my collection. The play list comes from the 23,000 songs it holds (how amazing is that and there is still room on it for more).

Radio Wozza is the audio version of Mojo Magazine - a head spinning, psychedelic, gush of wonderful noise.

Jacky and I are currently staying on Waiheke Island with her dad. I'm away from my collection so I've set up the p-pod dock in the lounge so that I can listen to music while I read. All was going fine until Well by Captain Beefheart came on Radio Wozza.

Well did that cause a ruckus as both Jacky and Brian stopped their conversation and honed in on me - what the hell is that???

It's singing, I said.

That's not singing, said they.

Yes it is, said I.

This kind of intellectual riposte continued for some time but neither side gave ground. You can imagine their reaction when I said it was by Captain Beefheart. That just confirmed things for them (the name - they don't know who Captain Beefheart was)

For my money Captain Beefheart is a great great singer. Mmmm - maybe an acquired taste I admit but Well is one of his most accessible songs - certainly on Trout Mask Replica. You be the judge!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

My word's but a whisper (Jethro Tull)

Thick As A Brick 2 was a CD that I had to own but I was also nervous approaching it.
Like millions of others, I love Thick As A Brick - the 1972 album with the song split over two sides of vinyl. It is definitely the Tull album I play most often (Benefit and Aqualung come in second equal). I don't listen to it as a parody of a concept album, instead I always get lost in the word play and the wonderful music.
My worry with TAAB 2 was that it wouldn't live up to expectations, but Ian Anderson has successfully avoided that in cunning ways.
  • He doesn't try to produce another long song to compete with the original.
  • The sound he creates is identical to Jethro Tull of the early seventies, Aqualung and TAAB, era. It's so uncanny I had to read the liner notes to make sure Barriemore Barlow, Jeffery Hammond-Hammond and Martin Barre aren't on it. They are not.
  • He starts and ends the album with a musical motif lifted from the original before soaring off in new directions, so there is a continuity of sorts between the two albums.
  • The story of whatever happened to the central character of the original album allows enough scope for adventure and invention.
Quite Frankly I'm amazed. I read an article in Prog Magazine about it which was reassuring but I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't heard it.
Ian Anderson in unlikely prog epic remake in 2012. Who would have thought it?