Clips & Pix: Sonny Landreth & Derek Trucks/Congo Square

If you’re into electric slide guitar blues, check out this clip captured during Eric Clapton’s 2013 Crossroads blues festival, showing two of the finest artists in that genre: Sonny Landreth and Derek Trucks – damn!

Trucks, part of the Tedeschi Trucks Band and former member of The Allman Brothers Band, probably needs no further introduction. I’m not sure the same can be said about Landreth, who I don’t believe is widely known beyond blues circles. Admittedly, I wasn’t aware of this ace slide guitarist either, until a good friend recommended that I check him out – BTW, the same friend who told me about this new Tom Petty live box set covered in my previous post. If you like Petty, you’re going to love this!

Congo Square was co-written by Landreth, Mel Melton and David Ranson. Melton heads a blues band with the awesome name The Wicked Mojos. Ranson is a bassist, who frequently plays with Landreth and is also in the clip. The tune appears on Landreth’s fourth studio album South Of I-10, which was released in 1995. You can bet I’m going to check out additional music from him!

Sources: Wikipedia, YouTube

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Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers’ New Live Box Set Showcases Band On Top Of Their Game

“San Francisco Serenades” features hits, covers and rarities from 1997 gig at Fillmore

When chatting about music with a dear friend this morning, he asked me whether I had heard of this 3-CD box live set from Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers, which had come out recently. I had not but was immediately intrigued, especially when my friend added it features numerous great covers, including Satisfaction (The Rolling Stones), You Really Got Me (Kinks) and Louie Louie (The Kingsmen).

He had seen it on Amazon. While still on the phone with him, I searched Apple Music/iTunes and came up empty. Then I started searching the Internet for this box set called San Francisco Serenades. The first hit was the enclosed YouTube clip, which based on its length of more than three hours seems to capture the entire thing! Of course, I realize there is a high likelihood the shelf life of this link is limited, but heck, as long as it works, I’m happy to feature it on the blog.

According to the website of Spin CD, a UK music retailer, the box set captures the last show of a 20-date residency at The Fillmore in San Francisco, which the band had there from January 10 to February 7, 1997. Apparently, that gig was recorded live for FM broadcast. In addition to some Petty gems like I Won’t Back Down, American Girl and Free Fallin’, the set predominantly includes cover versions of tunes by Chuck Berry, JJ Cale, The Rolling Stones and other artists. In addition, John Lee Hooker joined the band to perform three of his tunes.

Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers Filmore West 1997

After having listened to the first two hours in a row and sampled the remainder, I have to say I’m really blown away! The fact that the Heartbreakers were a terrific band wasn’t news to me; what I didn’t fully appreciate is how many covers these guys played, and damn, do they sound great! While taking three hours to listen to the entire clip is a significant time commitment, if you are a Petty fan, you should do it!

Following are some highlights of the covers with time stamps: Around And Around (Chuck Berry; 0.00); Call Me The Breeze (JJ Cale; 17:18 – Petty credited Floridian compatriots Lynyrd Skynyrd, which also covered the tune); With John Lee Hooker: I Found My Baby, It Serves You Right To Suffer & Boogie Chillin’; 50:05 – 1:07:07); Green Onions (Booker T. & The M.G.s; 1:19:40); You Really Got Me (The Kinks; 1:53:55); Shakin’ All Over (Johnny Kidd and The Pirates; 2:09:15); Gloria (Them; 2:38:07); (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction (The Rolling Stones; 2:52:38); and It’s All Over Now (The Valentinos; 2:59:35).

Here is the full set list.

Disc: 1
  1. Around And Around 2:48
  2. Jammin’ Me 4:41
  3. Runnin’ Down A Dream 5:05
  4. Time Is On My Side 4:28
  5. Call Me The Breeze 5:54
  6. Cabin Down Below 2:48
  7. Diddy Wah Diddy 3:51
  8. Slaughter On 10th Ave 3:46
  9. Listen To Her Heart 4:10
  10. I Won’t Back Down 3:56
  11. The Date I Had With That Ugly Homecoming Queen 8:10
  12. Find My Baby (featuring John Lee Hooker) 5:03
  13. It Serve You Right To Suffer (featuring John Lee Hooker) 4:21
  14. Boogie Chillun’ (featuring John Lee Hooker) 8:39
Disc: 2
  1. It’s Good To Be King 12:05
  2. Green Onions 4:54
  3. You Are My Sunshine 2:07
  4. Ain’t No Sunshine 3:32
  5. On The Street 3:28
  6. I Want You Back Again 3:37
  7. Little Maggie 3:38
  8. Walls (Circus) 3:45
  9. Angel Dream 2:53
  10. Guitar Boogie Shuffle 3:44
  11. Even The Losers 3:12
  12. American Girl 2:33
  13. You Really Got Me 2:51
  14. County Farm 8:38
  15. You Wreck Me 4:18
Disc: 3
  1. Shakin’ All Over 2:44
  2. Mary Jane’s Last Dance 10:21
  3. You Don’t Know How It Feels 7:08
  4. I Got A Woman 3:00
  5. Free Fallin’ 5:20
  6. Gloria 10:46
  7. Bye Bye Johnny 4:06
  8. Satisfaction 3:02
  9. Louie Louie 3:51
  10. It’s All Over Now 4:54
  11. Alright For Now 3:17

 

What’s a bit of a mystery is when exactly the box set appeared. Leeway’s Homegrown Music Network, which describes itself as “independent bands, representatives, venues, stores, fans and people like you all working together to improve our world through good music,” indicates February 9, 2018 as the release date. AllMusic notes the box set is available on Amazon with a date of December 1, 2017. Amazon simply indicates 2018 as the release time. I suppose, it matters less when the bloody box set came out than the fact that it is outstanding.

Sources: Spin CD, Leeway’s Homegrown Music Network, AllMusic, YouTube

Tom Dowd, Humble Music Genius Behind The Scenes

Recording engineer and producer shaped sound of some of greatest music recorded during second half of 20th century

This post was inspired by Tom Dowd And The Language Of Music, one of the most fascinating music documentaries I recently watched. Before getting to it, I’d like to give a shout-out to Music Enthusiast who recommended the film to me.

Created by Mark Moormann, the documentary, which premiered at the 2003 Sundance Film Festival and was a 2005 Grammy Award nominee, tells the fascinating story of Tom Dowd, a recording engineer and producer for Atlantic Records. Over a 50-plus-year career that started in the 1940s, this man worked with an amazing array of artists, including John Coltrane, Charles Mingus, Bobby Darin, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, Booker T. & The M.G.sEric Clapton, Cream, The Allman Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and the list goes on and on. During that period, Dowd also advanced studio techniques that would revolutionize recording.

Tom Dowd and Ray Charles
Tom Dowd with Ray Charles

Dowd was born on October 20, 1925 in New York City. From the beginning of his life, he was exposed to music. His mother was an opera singer, while his dad worked as a concertmaster. While growing up, Dowd learned various instruments, including the piano, tuba, violin and string bass. After high school, he continued his musical education at City College of New York. During that time, Dowd also played in a band at Columbia University and became a conductor. Undoubtedly, all of this contributed to his great ear for music, which would come in handy for his later professional work in music.

Interestingly, Dowd’s path could have been very different. At 18, he was drafted into the military and through his work at the physics laboratory at Columbia University became involved in the Manhattan Project – yep that project, which developed the atomic bomb! Dowd planned to become a nuclear physicist after finishing his assignment. There was only one problem: His secret research for the military had been much more advanced than the university’s curriculum. So he decided against pursuing studies in nuclear physics and instead got a job at a classical recording studio in New York, before starting his longtime career with Atlantic Records.

Tom Dowd and Jerry Wexler
Tom Dowd (left) with Jerry Wexler

In addition to helping shape the sound of some of the most amazing music recorded during the second half of the 20th century, Dowd was instrumental to drive innovation in the studio. He convinced Jerry Wexler, a partner in Atlantic Records, to install an Ampex eight-track recorder, putting the company on the cutting edge in recording technology. Dowd also popularized stereophonic sound and pioneered the use of linear channel faders on audio mixers as opposed to rotary controls. He then became a master in operating the linear channel faders, almost as if he was playing a keyboard!

Initially, various of the musicians were skeptical or even hostile when they saw Dowd. During the documentary, Eric Clapton said, “To be perfectly frank, I wasn’t interested in people like that.” Pretty much along the same lines, Gregg Allman noted, “Suddenly, you get to the studio, and there is a new guy there critiquing all this stuff, and you think, ‘where did he come from?'”

But when they realized what kind of artists Dowd had recorded in the past, how much he knew about music (likely, more than they did all combined!), and what he could do at the mixer, they listened. Heck, Dowd even managed to suggest to Ginger Baker, who undoubtedly is one of the best rock drummers but not exactly a warm fellow, the drum groove for Sunshine Of Your Love! The fact that all these musicians put their big egos aside and listened to this gentle recording engineer is truly remarkable.

Tom Dowd and Duane Allman
Tom Dowd (second from left) and Duane Allman working on final master mix-down of Layla

Dowd passed away from emphysema at the age of 77 on October 27, 2007 in Florida, shortly after the above documentary had been finished. In 2012, he was posthumously inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame – better late than never, I suppose! One can only speculate what would have happened to Layla by Derek and The Dominos, Sunshine Of Your Love by Cream and so many other great recordings Dowd impacted!

Following are two video clips. First up is the trailer to the documentary, which in addition to Dowd includes commentary from Ray Charles, Clapton, Allman and Atlantic Records founder Ahmet Ertegun. Listening to the beginning of the clip when Charles is taking about the importance of sound is priceless in and of itself. I also recommend watching the remainder and hear all the other people talk about Dowd. It becomes obvious how much they revered him!

Here is how Dowd summarizes his amazing experience with artists from the ’50’s to the ’80s and the evolution of recording technology. I just find it fascinating and could listen to the man for hours!

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Dowd was his modesty. In the documentary, there is a scene where he notes that while he had worked with all these artists, he wasn’t a millionaire – far from it! Obviously, many albums these artists released became big-time sellers. But apparently, money didn’t matter to Dowd. Instead, it was all about the music. I think his following statement sums it up perfectly: “Music has been very kind to me over the years.” Boy, the music industry could need visionsaries like Tom Dowd these days!

Sources: Wikipedia, Tom Dowd And The Language Of Music (Documentary, Mark Moorman, 2003), YouTube

My Playlist: Bonnie Raitt

While I previously wrote about an amazing Bonnie Raitt show I saw in 2016 and included her in a few other posts, it occurred to me I haven’t done anything related to her recorded music. Considering how highly I think of this lady as a musician and songwriter, this feels like a big miss that is overdue to be corrected.

First a bit of history. Bonnie Lynn Raitt was born on November 8, 1949 in Burbank, Calif. She grew up in a musical family. Her dad was John Raitt, an actor and acclaimed Broadway singer. Bonnie’s mom, Marjorie Haydock, was a pianist and John’s first wife. According to her online bio, Raitt was raised in LA “in a climate of respect for the arts, Quaker traditions, and a commitment to social activism,” all important influences that shaped her future life.

Raitt got into the guitar at the age of eight, after receiving a Stella as a Christmas present. According to an AP story in a local paper, she taught the instrument herself by listening to blues records – yet another example of a self-taught musician who turned out be exceptional!

Bonnie Raitt 1969

In the late ’60s, Raitt moved to Cambridge, Mass. and started studying Social Relations and African Studies at Harvard/Radcliffe. She also began her lifetime involvement as a political activist. “I couldn’t wait to get back to where there were folkies and the antiwar and civil rights movements,” she notes in her online bio. “There were so many great music and political scenes going on in the late ’60s in Cambridge.”

Three years after entering college, Raitt decided to drop out to pursue music full-time. She already had become a frequent performer on the local coffeehouse scene, exploring slide guitar blues and other styles. Soon thereafter, she opened shows for surviving blues legends, such as Fred McDowell, Sippie Wallace, Son House, Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker. Word spread about her great talent, which led to her first record contract with Warner Bros.

Bonnie Raitt_Bonnie Raitt

Since her 1971 eponymous debut, Raitt has released 16 additional studio albums, three compilations and one live record. Over her now 45-year-plus career, she has received 10 Grammy Awards. She is also listed at no. 50 and no. 89 in Rolling Stone’s lists of 100 Greatest Singers Of All Time and 100 Greatest Guitarists Of All Time, respectively.

Like many artists, Raitt’s life wasn’t all easy peasy. She struggled with alcohol and drug abuse but became sober in 1987. “I thought I had to live that partying lifestyle in order to be authentic, but in fact if you keep it up too long, all you’re going to be is sloppy or dead,” Raitt told Parade magazine in April 2012, adding, “I was one of the lucky ones.” Yep – time to get to some music!

Mighty Tight Woman is from Raitt’s 1971 debut record – just love that tune, which was penned by Sippie Wallace and recorded in 1929.

In September 1974, Raitt released her fourth studio album Streetlights. One of the gems on that record and frankly Raitt’s entire catalog is Angel From Montgomery, a country tune written and first recorded by John Prine.

Among the early ’60s pop songs I’ve always dug is Runaway by Del Shannon, a tune he co-wrote with keyboarder Max Crook for his 1961 debut Runaway With Del Shannon. Raitt’s version of the tune, which is included on her sixth studio album Sweet Forgiveness from 1977, is a brilliant cover with a cool bluesy soul touch. Here’s a great live performance, which apparently was captured at the time the album came out.

In addition to recording songs from other artists, Raitt also writes her own music. Here is Standin’ By The Same Old Love from 1979’s The Glow, which prominently features Raitt seductive electric slide guitar work.

Can’t Get Enough just about sums up how I oftentimes feel about Raitt’s music. Co-written by her and keyboarder Walt Richmond, the track appears on Raitt’s 1982 record Green Light. I just love the cool reggae style groove of this track and the saxophone accents.

Raitt’s 10th studio album Nick Of Time perhaps is the equivalent to Carole King’s Tapestry. In fact, even though King’s music is quite different and unlike Raitt she’s a full-blown singer-songwriter, Raitt does remind me of King in another aspect. Like King, she has that warm and timeless quality to her music, a rare gift. While better known for its title track and Thing Called Love, Nick Of Time includes another track that is one of my favorites from Raitt: Love Letter. The tune was written by another Bonnie, Bonnie Hayes, who according to Wikipedia is an American singer-songwriter, musician and record producer. Here’s a cool live version that makes me want to groove along!

Oh, and did I mention Raitt also knows how to perform beautiful ballads? Here’s I Can’t Make You Love Me from 1991’s Luck Of The Draw. The tune was co-penned by country music artist Mike Reid and country songwriter Allen Shamblin. Following is what appears to be the official music video.

Another powerful ballad Raitt recorded for her 13th studio album Fundamental from 1998 is Lover’s Will. This tune is from John Hiatt, one of Raitt’s favorite writers. He recorded and released it as a mid-tempo track in 1983 on his studio album Riding With The King. It’s beautiful how Raitt slowed it down, making it her own, similar to Runaway!

Used To Rule The World is from Slipstream, which appeared in April 2012. Widely acclaimed, Raitt’s 16th studio release became her highest charting album in 18 years, climbing to no. 6 on the U.S. Billboard 200, and hitting no. 1 on both the Top Rock Albums and Top Blues Albums charts. The tune, which is another great example of Raitt’s feel for groove, was written by Randall Bramblett, a singer-songwriter, session keyboarder and touring musician. Here’s a nice live performance.

When it comes to an artist like Raitt with so many great tunes and such a long career, it’s hard to keep a playlist to ten tunes, but that’s the maximum I’m setting myself. I’d like to conclude with Gypsy In Me from Raitt’s most recent studio album Dig In Deep, which appeared in February 2016. The song is a co-write by Gordon Kennedy and Wayne Kirkpatrick, two Nashville-based songwriters and musicians.

While I haven’t seen any hints about a new album, it looks like 2018 is going to be a busy year for Raitt. Her tour schedule lists a steady stream of U.S. gigs from mid-March to the beginning of July, immediately followed by various concerts in Europe. Among the highlights are an opening/special guest appearance for James Taylor & His All-Star Band during his U.S. tour from May to the beginning of July, and Paul Simon’s farewell concert in London’s Hyde Park on July 15.

Sources: Wikipedia; Bonnie Raitt official website; Bonnie Raitt discovers her roots in Scotland (AP/Lawrence Journal-World, Jul 14, 1991); Parade; YouTube

 

Clips & Pix: Buddy Guy/Whiskey, Beer & Wine

Earlier today, I listened to a blues playlist curated by Apple Music, which included the above killer tune by Buddy Guy. It’s almost like a Jimi Hendrix reincarnation played by a man who was 78 years old when he recorded the track – damn!

Whiskey, Beer & Wine appeared on Guy’s last studio album aptly titled Born To Play Guitar. That record was released on July 31, 2015, one day after his 79th birthday. The song was co-written by Richard Fleming (couldn’t find anything specific on him) and the record’s producer Tom Hambridge who also played drums and percussion. According to Wikipedia, Guy has called him “The White Willie Dixon.” Hambridge certainly has worked with an impressive array of blues artists, who in addition to Guy include Susan Tedeschi, George Thorogood and Johnny Winter, among others.

Born To Play Guitar climbed to no. 60 on the Billboard 200, not too shabby for a blues record these days, and topped the Billboard Blues Albums chart in late August 2015. It also won the 2016 Grammy for Best Blues Album.

According to his website, the now 81-year-old Guy continues to tour vigorously. In case you are wondering, he is scheduled to play Mystic Lake Casino Hotel in Prior Lake, Minn. tonight. The current temperature in that part of the country is -7F, so a dose of smoking hot blues sounds like a good proposition! Between January 4 and April 24, Guy has 39 additional scheduled gigs, if I counted it correctly! I saw him last July. If you’re into electric blues and like guitar shredders, I can highly recommend his show.

Sources: Wikipedia, Buddy Guy website, YouTube

Clips & Pix: Willie Dixon, Koko Taylor, Albert King, B.B. King, Robert Cray et al/Blues Medley

Inspired by this recent post from Music Enthusiast, I’ve been listening to Koko Taylor and originally intended to post a clip of this amazing artist who was also known as The Queen of the Blues. Then I came across the amazing clip above, which apparently was captured at the Grammy Awards in 1987 and shows two back-to-back performances by some of the greatest blues artists on one stage.

Things kick off with Willie Dixon and Taylor singing the Dixon tune When I Make Love. The backing band includes Dr. John, Junior Wells and Ry Cooder, among others. Next up is the Louis Jordan song Let The Good Times Roll, performed by Albert King and B.B. King, together with Big Jay McNeely, Robert Cray and Etta James. The audience is on their feet and McNeely on his back by the end of the track – any doubts you may have had whether the blues is here to stay will be gone after you’ve watched this!

I’ll definitely do something on Taylor soon and also post on some of the other blues pioneers who wrote music that was made popular by others, often white artists.

Sources: Wikipedia, YouTube

Today, Gregg Allman Would Have Turned 70 Years Old

As true Allman Brothers Band connoisseur and fan Music Enthusiast posted earlier, today Gregg Allman would have turned 70 years old.

Gregg, one of the finest artists who sadly passed away this May at the age of 69, played the blues hard. He lived and partied just as hard, especially during the anything-goes 70s. While he sobered up following the band’s induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1995, undoubtedly, Gregg’s lifestyle was a factor in his untimely death.

But his music will live on, and there is so much incredible material this artist has recorded. Here is one of my all-time favorite clips showing Gregg and the band he used for his solo recordings and performing Just Another Rider, which appeared on his excellent second-to-last 2011 studio album Low Country Blues. Gregg was very proud of these musicians. When you watch this clip, you’ll understand why:

 

Sources: Wikipedia, YouTube