Archive for the ‘music_history’ tag
Based on courtroom transcripts, Densmore works up a cautionary tale of the ugly collision of art and money. Densmore writes that the opposing legal team attacked his character and labeled him un-American and a communist for not taking the Cadillac deal. "They tried to convince the jury I was an eco-terrorist because I am involved with a handful of peaceful, credible environmental organizations," said Densmore, who was once arrested with Bonnie Raitt for protesting the cutting down of old-growth trees. "I couldn’t believe some of things I heard them say. I felt betrayed, hurt and very alone. . . Now, you can probably google my name and al Qaeda will come up. Great, let’s go to Abu Ghraib! It was really disturbing." During the trial, several musicians –including Raitt, Neil Young, Eddie Vedder, Tom Petty, Tom Waits and Randy Newman – all showed support for Densmore.
Blind Willie McTell is perhaps most famous nowadays for his song “Statesboro Blues,” most likely titled after the city he grew up in. Although McTell was somewhat well-known on the blues circuit during the 1920s and 1930s, most folks who know this song today know it because of the Allman Brothers. Their version is electric and extended. McTell played a fluid twelve-string and the occasional slide. He live for sixty years and played throughout the southern United States in a style of picking known as Piedmont—named after the region of the Carolinas it originated in. While Bob Dylan was recording songs for the album eventually known as Infidels, he recorded his song “Blind Willie McTell.” A masterpiece of a song from a man who has many such songs to his name, Dylan’s work is about much more than the blues singer Willie McTell. It is an angry message transmitted via Dylan from an angry god. Even more, it is about a people & a nation that continues to suffer what Abraham Lincoln…
Today’s edition of Random iTunes Friday has been brought to you by the letters Y, H and F…
- Baaba Maal- Souka Nayo (I Will Follow You)
• part of the charm of this track is Baaba Maal’s voice contrasted against his female chorus. I wouldn’t go as far as saying this is traditional Senegalese music, more of modern pop with Senegalese accents.
- Pavement- Angel Carver Blues/ Mellow Jazz Docent
Westing (By Musket And Sextant)
• and now for something completely different…can one write about Pavement without resorting to such cliches as angular guitar? Hmm. I’ve listened to this song hundreds of times over the years, and I still have no idea what it is about.
- Conet Project, The- Phonetic Alphabet – NATO
The Conet Project: Recordings of Shortwave Numbers Stations
• If you like scratchy radio recordings of an accented woman repeating “Yankee, Hotel, Foxtrot” over and over, before switching to some other phrases equally as opaque, this is a great track for you. I’m guessing Jeff Tweedy is a fan…
- Talking Heads- The Great Curve
The Name Of This Band Is Talking Heads
• If you haven’t picked up a copy of this live album, and you like The Talking Heads, then what is wrong with you? Dense, unrelenting grooves, a band at the peak of their power, expanded touring lineup and all. Love it. Adrian Belew goes wild on the electric guitar.
- Stills, Stephen- Song Of Love
• probably the last interesting Stephen Stills album, at least that I’ve heard. Catchy tune.
- Camper Van Beethoven- Ambiguity Song
Telephone Free Landslide Victory
• agh, takes me back to my callow youth in Austin. “Everything seems to be up in the air at this time.”
- Wire- Fragile
• ooh, a double angular guitar cliche in one sitting! This great song is only 1:18 long though.
- Williams, Lucinda- Changed The Locks
Live @ The Fillmore
• live, this song is a lot more powerful than the original version. Ms. Williams voice is on the verge of hoarseness, but she muscles through.
- AC/DC- If You Want Blood (You’ve Got It)
Highway To Hell
• Angus Young has some fun with Bon Scott…an update of The Doors song, Peace Frog. Now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure this is the very first album I ever purchased with my own money – on cassette tape no less. I was living in cultural wasteland of East Texas, going to middle school, but this album helped ameliorate some of the ennui.
- Temptations, The- Don’t Let The Joneses Get You Down
• a good sentiment, and a great, funky track
- Big Bill Broonzy- Glory Of Love
Uncut: Soul & Fire – Compiled By Paul Weller
• Paul Weller has good musical taste, this is a favorite song of mine as well. Great acoustic blues guitar too. Don’t confuse it with the pop tune by Peter Cetera.
- Coup- 5 Million Ways To Kill A CEO
• a Proto-Occupy Wall Street song, though with a little more imagined violence against CEOs than Occupy would be comfortable with.
Some politician wants to make Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lover’s seminal tune, Roadrunner, into the Official State Song. I could agree with that. I remember listening to this song back in the stone age, before CDs, and I always loved it. Maybe because it is so much a descendant of the Velvet Underground sound, or just because it is cool. I had forgotten that John Cale produced the song.
One of these days I’ll be a tourist in Boston…
Roadrunner, filmed in Boston, circa 1976
I’ve never been to Massachusetts, but this song evokes what MA is, to me anyway.
Richman’s band The Modern Lovers first recorded “Roadrunner” with producer John Cale (previously of the Velvet Underground) in 1972. This version was first released as single and in 1976 on The Modern Lovers’ long-delayed but highly acclaimed debut album (originally Home of the Hits HH019). Later in 1972, the group recorded two more versions with Kim Fowley, which were released in 1981 on the album, The Original Modern Lovers (Bomp BLP 4021). A live version from 1973 was also later officially released on the album, Live At Longbranch Saloon. The most commercially successful version of the song, credited to Richman as a solo artist, was recorded for Beserkley Records in late 1974, produced by label boss Matthew King Kaufman, featured Jonathan backed by The Greg Kihn Band and released at the time on a single (Beserkley B-34701) with a B-side by the band Earth Quake. Kaufman stated: “To record “Roadrunner” took the 3 minutes 35 seconds for the performance, about another 30 minutes to dump the background vocals on, and another 90 minutes to mix it”. Actually Kaufman was mistaken – this version is listed on the UK release of the single as being 4:40. This version was reissued in 1975 on the album Beserkley Chartbusters Vol. 1(Beserkley JBZ-0044). In the UK, where Richman had received substantial and very positive publicity in the music press, it was released in 1977 as a single (Beserkley BZZ 1), known as “Roadrunner (Once)” and credited to Jonathan Richman, with the Cale-produced “Roadrunner (Twice)” on the B-side, credited to The Modern Lovers, and lasting approximately 4:06. This single reached number 11 in the UK singles chart in August 1977. The differences among all these versions are in the lyrics, the duration, the instrumentation (electric garage rock vs. acoustic rock) and the way Jonathan sings them.
(click here to continue reading Roadrunner (Jonathan Richman song) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.)
and from Rolling Stone:
Jonathan Richman used to describe “Roadrunner,” the best-known song by his band the Modern Lovers, as a “geographical love song.” Now his affection for his home state is on the verge of being institutionalized: there is a movement underway to make the classic song – an ode to the singer’s native Massachusetts as it appeared through his windshield (“Gonna drive past the Stop and Shop with the radio on”) – the state’s official rock song.
Last week, Massachusetts State Representative Marty Walsh filed a bill proposing as much. Jerry Harrison, who joined Talking Heads after the first recorded lineup of the Modern Lovers split, tells Rolling Stone he’s pleased. “I can’t tell you how many congratulatory emails I’ve gotten,” he says.
The push to designate “Roadrunner” as the official rock song of Massachusetts began with Joyce Linehan, a Boston publicist who did A&R for Sub Pop Records and now has a record label with Joe Pernice. She has political connections, too: she worked closely with Elizabeth Warren on her successful campaign for the U.S. Senate.
(click here to continue reading Modern Lovers’ ‘Roadrunner’ Proposed as Massachusetts’ Official Rock Song | Music News | Rolling Stone.)
one two three four five six
Going faster miles an hour
Gonna drive past the Stop ‘n’ Shop
With the radio on
I’m in love with Massachusetts
And the neon when it’s cold outside
And the highway when it’s late at night
Got the radio on
I’m like the roadrunner
I’m in love with modern moonlight
128 when it’s dark outside
I’m in love with Massachusetts
I’m in love with the radio on
It helps me from being alone late at night
It helps me from being lonely late at night
I don’t feel so bad now in the car
Don’t feel so alone, got the radio on
Like the roadrunner
Said welcome to the spirit of 1956
Patient in the bushes next to ’57
The highway is your girlfriend as you go by quick
Suburban trees, suburban speed
And it smells like heaven(thunder)
And I say roadrunner once
I’m in love with rock & roll and I’ll be out all night
Going faster miles an hour
Gonna drive to the Stop ‘n’ Shop
With the radio on at night
And me in love with modern moonlight
Me in love with modern rock & roll
Modern girls and modern rock & roll
Don’t feel so alone, got the radio on
Like the roadrunner
O.K., now you sing Modern Lovers
I got the AM
Got the car, got the AM
Got the AM sound, got the
Got the rockin’ modern neon sound
I got the car from Massachusetts, got the
I got the power of Massachusetts when it’s late at night
I got the modern sounds of modern Massachusetts
I’ve got the world, got the turnpike, got the
I’ve got the, got the power of the AM
Got the, late at night, (?), rock & roll late at night
The factories and the auto signs got the power of modern sounds
Right, bye bye!
More reasons to love this song:
Roadrunner is one of the most magical songs in existence. It is a song about what it means to be young, and behind the wheel of an automobile, with the radio on and the night and the highway stretched out before you. It is a paean to the modern world, to the urban landscape, to the Plymouth Roadrunner car, to roadside restaurants, neon lights, suburbia, the highway, the darkness, pine trees and supermarkets. As Greil Marcus put it in his book Lipstick Traces: “Roadrunner was the most obvious song in the world, and the strangest.”
One version of Roadrunner – Roadrunner (Twice) – reached No 11 in the UK charts, but the song’s influence would extend much further. Its first incarnation, Roadrunner (Once), recorded in 1972 and produced by John Cale, but not released until 1976, was described by film director Richard Linklater as “the first punk song”; he placed it on the soundtrack to his film School of Rock. As punk took shape in London, Roadrunner was one of the songs the Sex Pistols covered at their early rehearsals. Another 20 years on and Cornershop would cite it as the inspiration behind their No 1 single Brimful of Asha, and a few years later, Rolling Stone put it at 269 on their list of the 500 greatest songs of all time. Its impact would be felt in other ways, too: musicians playing on this song included keyboard player Jerry Harrison, who would later join Talking Heads, and drummer David Robinson, who went on to join the Cars. Its power was in the simplicity both of its music – a drone of guitar, organ, bass and drums around a simple two-chord structure – and of its message that it’s great to be alive.
(click here to continue reading The car, the radio, the night – and rock’s most thrilling song | Music | The Guardian.)
David Bowie adored Kraftwerk, writing the track V-2 Schneider for his 1977 album Heroes (the band would namecheck him back on Trans-Europe Express). African American DJs also found an odd kinship with the Germans. Keen to find a new musical language, they were familiar with the urban sounds Kraftwerk were using; 1978′s The Robots became particularly influential on the dancefloor, and in the burgeoning B-Boy and breakdancing scenes. Afrika Bambaataa fused the melody of Trans-Europe Express and the rhythm of 1981′s Numbers to create Planet Rock, one of hip-hop’s pioneering tracks. Trailblazing electro group Cybotron used a loop from 1977′s Hall of Mirrors; its founder, Juan Atkins, would create techno, and from there came modern dance culture.
Why Kraftwerk are still among the world’s most influential band
Same argument raged when I lived in Austin – does everything old have to vanish to focus on what’s new and sleek? Les Ami, Captain Quakenbush’s, and many, many other institutions of the Austin I grew up in are no more.
Old Austin clashes with New Austin nearly every day, causing much worry among the city’s natives: Will these new condos and luxury hotels rub out everything that makes their weird city great? Will the shows for hipster musicians dry up? Is $10 guacamole really worth it?…
A generation of Austinites has unsuccessfully battled against losing iconic institutions like the Armadillo World Headquarters, Liberty Lunch and Las Manitas — all razed to make way for New Austin. But one developer is trying to prove that the old and new can cohabit.
For the last eight months, the developer, Transwestern, has been overhauling a seven-acre plot in South Austin. The area is a mess: bulldozers and excavators sit among tall piles of dirt and rock; 20-foot-high concrete piers jut out of the ground; and a jagged eight-foot trench is framed by hundreds of feet of orange-and-white highway barriers lining the road’s shoulder.
At the center of this chaotic scene sits an old, squat red building, dwarfed by pipes and slabs, looking like the last proud holdout in a world gone mad. This is the Broken Spoke, and it is arguably the greatest honky-tonk of all time. The Spoke, which was built by James White in 1964, has hosted everyone from Bob Wills and Willie Nelson to an unknown George Strait. It attracts tourists from Japan and England and celebrities from Hollywood. They gawk and drink and dance at the most famous club in a city that bills itself as the Live Music Capital of the World.
(click here to continue reading In New Austin, Accommodating the Broken Spoke Honkey-Tonk – NYTimes.com.)
Of the places mentioned in this NYT article, I’ve been in the Broken Spoke, eaten eggs many times at Las Manitas, and where I first stayed in Austin1 was a scant two blocks from the Armadillo2, but by far the biggest loss to me was Liberty Lunch. I went to probably over 100 live music events there, from the time I was a snot-nosed 15 year old in the mosh pits, up until I moved away. I saw punk rock, heavy metal, reggae, acts like Thomas Mapfumo, Burning Spear, Sonic Youth, Bob Mould, Timbuk3, yadda yadda. I would have seen The Pogues, circa 1989, but I got too drunk and fell asleep on the Congress Avenue bus. J’Net Ward was some sort of business partner at the restaurant I worked at to put myself through school3, and I always remember her being an all-around cool person.
Anyway, let’s hope the Broken Spoke doesn’t get plowed under too.
For today’s dosage of theremin news, comes this report about the New York Theremin Society. Aunt P and I should go…
Since 1928, when the Russian Léon Theremin received a U.S. patent for an apparatus “embodying an electrical vibrating system,” the theremin, his electronic instrument that’s played without being touched, has become associated in film soundtracks with arrivals from outer space or hair-tugging psychotics. In rock and pop, the theremin may add a touch of the avant-garde. To the inventor Robert Moog, the instrument is where electronic music began.
With virtuosity and no small application of wit, the New York Theremin Society seeks to elevate the instrument to the status its members believe it deserves. At a show at Joe’s Pub in mid-December, five thereminists performed a range of material—including ambient and techno music, classical compositions by Alexander Scriabin and Richard Wagner, and pop by the Beatles, Enya, and Dorothy Fields and Jerome Kern. During the concert, the instrument’s bizarre nature was often secondary to its beauty and versatility.
At the Joe’s Pub concert, Ms. Chrysler and Mr. Schwimmer performed two songs together, a vampy cocktail number and a lovely version of the Beatles’ “If I Fell.” On her own, Ms. Chrysler sang and played over electronic beats, coming across as a futuristic Lotte Lenya as well as a disciplined technician and superb musician. Mr. Schwimmer punctuated his performance with glib commentary, but his moving reading of Wagner’s “Träume” to a prerecorded solo piano suggested a reassessment of the instrument’s potential. Others excelled as well: Over electronic beats by her musical partner Tigerforest, Améthyste sang and played pleasing voicelike lines on the theremin, bending notes with care. Cornelius Loy gave the evening’s most melodramatic, and ultimately heartening, performance, in which he coaxed both melodic and violent sounds out of his theremin, played over big, textured electronic tracks. Mr. Loy, who was dressed in black leather, including gloves, created with his music a sense of chaos and domination, of a somber mood exploded by rage.
By its end, the evening proved what Ms. Chrysler had claimed over lunch: “A theremin is a cool contemporary instrument. It’s not only retro and classical; it’s cool and now.”
(click here to continue reading The Theremin Comes Into Its Own | By Jim Fusilli – WSJ.com.)
There are some YouTube videos on the Joe’s Pub site for this concert, which is running until January 4th…
Nuggets Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era, 1965-1968
Before he would achieve recognition as the guitarist for Patti Smith, Lenny Kaye wrote reviews and articles for Rolling Stone in its early years and was hired as a freelance talent scout by Elektra Records in 1970. During that period, Elektra president Jac Holzman told Kaye about a record he wanted put out consisting of songs that were either hidden on records or minor hit singles. The result? Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era 1965-1968.
“In a way, it seemed to me that these songs were in a twilight zone,” Kaye tells Spinner, “between what was then the AM format — catchy three-minute singles with a good chorus and a hook — and the more expansive album-oriented music that developed in the ’60s when all these artistic parameters were kind of pushed aside, and a certain sense of possibility came into the music where you could think expansively and imaginatively beyond certain time lengths and song lengths and song constructs. Having lived through it as a teenager, I felt very much connected with it in terms of my own artistic growth and what I could see as the possibilities within music.”
With songs selected by Kaye and released in 1972, Nuggets became a classic garage rock album featuring bands that never achieved long-lasting fame. In marking the record’s 40th anniversary this year, Rhino Records reissued the original set as a single CD (it was previously released as an expanded 4-CD boxed set in 1998).
(click here to continue reading Lenny Kaye and ‘Nuggets’: 40 Years of a ‘High-Class Oldies Album’ – Spinner.)
Hypnotic Beat of Your Band.jpg
The sequel, Nuggets 23 is quite worthy as well.
Two words on the shrink-wrap sticker on “Nuggets II,” a Rhino Records box set, say it all: The collection, four CDs each running more than an hour, contains “no hits.”
In the record industry — heck, even in the world of box sets, which are often filled with filler — this would seem to be apostasy. No hits? Why would anybody want to buy a box set with no hits? You may as well manufacture CD-sized Frisbees.
But there is a method to Rhino’s madness. After all, this box set follows in the tradition of “Nuggets,” four CDs of 1960s American garage band music from the same era, based on the famous 1972 double-LP compiled by Lenny Kaye.
That box set ran the gamut from national hits — the Count Five’s “Psychotic Reaction,” the Beau Brummels’ “Laugh Laugh” — to regional obscurities such as the Merry-Go-Round’s “Live” and the Sonics’ “Strychnine,” all celebrating the DIY ethic of countless Beatles/Stones wannabes.
It also surprised the heck out of Rhino (a division of AOL Time Warner, as is CNN.com).
“It sold four or five times what I expected,” says the label’s vice president of A&R, Gary Stewart, noting that sales tallied about 45,000 copies. (Sales of 20,000 copies of a box set is considered good.) The popularity of “Nuggets” cemented a decision, made even before “Nuggets” hit the stores, to do a sequel.
But what to focus on? Stewart and his colleagues decided to do anything but more American indie rock.
“We realized, rather than go to the next level of garage rock, there was a whole other world out there,” he says — a world of 1960s rock songs from locales ranging from Great Britain to Iceland, Peru and Czechoslovakia.
And so “Nuggets II” began, a box set that would feature more than 100 songs most Americans had never heard of.
What is on “Nuggets II” is still a record collector’s dream. There are bands that were big in their native countries, such as the Move, that never had a U.S. hit. There are bands that featured future stars (the Rolling Stones’ Ron Wood in the Birds, Yes’ Steve Howe in Tomorrow) and bands that were obscure even in their native lands.
Best of all are the songs themselves. Sure, there are a couple recognizable tunes — “Friday on My Mind” and “Pictures of Matchstick Men” — but many are classics from Uruguay, the Netherlands, Denmark and Spain that likely would have been lost if not for Stewart and his merry band.
(click here to continue reading CNN.com – The making of a box set with ‘no hits’ – March 6, 2002.)
Pick up a copy of either if you can…Footnotes:
Exciting news for a die hard Led Zeppelin fan like myself.
”It will be coming out, bit by bit,” Jimmy Page says with a tantalizing lilt in his voice. The Led Zeppelin guitarist is referring to his current labors in the band’s archive, preparing new deluxe editions of each of Zeppelin’s studio albums, from 1969′s Led Zeppelin to 1979′s In Through the Out Door, plus the 1982 post-breakup collection, Coda. Page says the reissues will include “added sonic and visual thrills,” and he expects to begin issuing the first albums in the series sometime next year.
“The catalog was last remastered 20 years ago,” Page said, referring to the 1990 release of the four-CD box set, Led Zeppelin. “That’s a long time. Everything is being transferred from analog to a higher-resolution digital format. That’s one of the problems with the Zeppelin stuff. It sounds ridiculous on MP3. You can’t hear what’s there properly.”
Based on the unreleased studio tracks that have circulated on bootlegs since Led Zeppelin split in 1980, following the death of drummer John Bonham, the group did not record a lot of additional songs for each LP. “But there was an overage of material – different versions of things, different approaches to the mixes,” Page explained. He mentioned experiments with equipment and sound on early alternative takes at Headley Grange, the English manor where Zeppelin recorded some of their most iconic work, particularly their 1971 untitled fourth album.
“The classic there was ‘When the Levee Breaks,’” Page said, “where the drums were set up in the hallway. You know what it sounded like – immense – from the recorded version. But we used the drums in the hall for a number of things, like ‘Kashmir’ [on 1975's Physical Graffiti] – some with closer miking. So there were a lot of different approaches. It will be fascinating for people to witness the work in progress.”
Page is also looking at relevant live recordings and film to accompany the reissues. “There are concerts that were recorded – some that might have appeared on bootleg in some shape or form – and a certain amount of footage, though not a lot,” he said.
(click here to continue reading Jimmy Page Digs Up ‘Substantial’ Rarities for New Led Zeppelin Remasters | David Fricke | Rolling Stone.)
For some of the Led Zeppelin albums, this will be the fourth time I’ve purchased them. I originally had the entire Zep catalog on cassette tape, then I upgraded to vinyl – some records were purchased used from Waterloo, or the Record Exchange on The Drag, and thus not sonically pristine, like In Through The Out Door and the live The Song Remains the Same. I think initially, I wanted to see what the crazy Physical Graffiti artwork was all about, or I’m just a consumer. I also remember spending $20 on a bootleg album that had such crappy sound, I could barely listen to it. New LPs were in the neighborhood for $7 at the time, so this bootleg was a lot of money, and used in addition, I was crushed when the album quality sucked so bad. I forget where it was recorded, but it was probably from the 1973 tour.
After I reluctantly started buying CDs1, I picked up copies of all the albums again, plus the box set Led Zeppelin, and so on. That isn’t even counting converting CDs to MP3 files – and then re-ripping later at a higher bit rate, and even a third time, for some albums.
I just finished reading Light and Shade2, Jimmy Page’s new biography/autobiography, and there is discussion of the process of finding all the original analog tapes, and cataloging them. Page takes this archival work very seriously, which is a boon for fans. I can’t wait until these are released, again! If I was in charge, I’d release them one at a time, every week, in order from oldest to newest. Let them stand alone for a moment.
Gil-Evans-with-Miles-Davis Photograph: Michael Ochs Archives.
By the time he arrived in London 34 years ago, his repertoire had moved on. Fans hoping for the coolly luminous sounds unfurled on earlier albums were to be disappointed. Instead of the delicate reimagining of pieces by Kurt Weill and Léo Delibes, we were presented with bold, driving versions of Jimi Hendrix songs, taken from Evans’s LP devoted to the guitarist’s themes, recorded four years earlier. As a conductor, he preferred to sit at the piano, giving occasional cues but mostly allowing the music to form itself.
Evans met Hendrix through Davis, and the guitarist’s death thwarted their plan to make an instrumental album together. The LP that eventually appeared bore witness to one of Evans’s enduring weaknesses: the painful slowness of his working method. In order to meet the deadline for a Carnegie Hall concert that preceded the recording sessions, five of the eight arrangements were contributed by members of his orchestra, only three coming from his own pen.
(click here to continue reading Purple hazer: the many lives of Gil Evans | Music | The Guardian.)Footnotes:
- or was killed [↩]
Earlier, I read…
Even in an arena it was a cozy event. Dozens of luminaries from rock, soul and country — among them Gregg Allman, Jakob Dylan, Bruce Hornsby, Mavis Staples, John Prine, Joan Osborne, John Hiatt, Jorma Kaukonen and Ray La Montagne — were backed by the Levon Helm Band. It’s now led by the guitarist and fiddler Larry Campbell and, Mr. Campbell announced, renamed the Midnight Ramble Band. Fondly, fervently and with few displays of vanity, they sang Band songs and songs from Mr. Helm’s 2007 solo album, “Dirt Farmer” …Roger Waters — the non-American on the bill — gave another “Dirt Farmer” song, “Wide River to Cross,” the kind of stately, overwhelming crescendos he used in Pink Floyd. Mr. Waters had brought a red baseball cap that Mr. Helm impulsively gave him in 1990, and it hung on a microphone stand — a relic and down-home talisman — as the entire lineup gathered to sing “The Weight,” belting its tales of comic woe like a family anthem.
‘Love for Levon,’ Tribute to Helm at Izod Center – NYTimes.com
IN 1948, a radio repairman named Leo Fender took a piece of ash, bolted on a length of maple and attached an electronic transducer.
You know the rest, even if you don’t know you know the rest.
You’ve heard it — in the guitar riffs of Buddy Holly, Jimi Hendrix, George Harrison, Keith Richards, Eric Clapton, Pete Townshend, Bruce Springsteen, Mark Knopfler, Kurt Cobain and on and on.
It’s the sound of a Fender electric guitar. Mr. Fender’s company, now known as the Fender Musical Instruments Corporation, is the world’s largest maker of guitars. Its Stratocaster, which made its debut in 1954, is still a top seller. For many, the Strat’s cutting tone and sexy, double-cutaway curves mean rock ’n’ roll.
Johnny Cash once called 1968 the happiest year of his life. It was the year his masterpiece At Folsom Prison came out, the year he was named the Country Music Association’s Entertainer of the Year, and the year he married the love of his life, June Carter. So it was a fortunate time for a young filmmaker named Robert Elfstrom to meet up with Cash for the making of a documentary. Elfstrom traveled with Cash for several months in late 1968 and early 1969. The resulting film, Johnny Cash: The Man, His World, His Music, is a revealing look at Cash, his creative process and his ties to family.
Director Mark Landsman totes his cameras to a tight-knit North Houston community in this poignant documentary, which celebrates an inner-city high school bandleader’s lasting influence on his now-grown students.
The calendar year isn’t over yet, but as of today, my favorite album of the year is a compilation of high school marching band music from Kashmere High School in Houston, TX, recorded by their band director, Conrad O Johnson in the years 1968 – 1974. I wish my high school band funked as hard. I’m looking at you, Beth.
In fact, I wish I knew of some contemporary bands that funked as hard. Wow. Hard not to dance in one’s chair when the songs pulse out of one’s speakers. We mentioned the release of this compilation a few months ago, and I bought the CD within the week, of course.
NPR/KUT-Austin recently broadcast a small article, with some song samples:
At first, judges didn’t know what to make of the kids from Kashmere in their platform shoes and matching crushed-velvet suits. Their impeccably choreographed moves were more James Brown than high school big band, and the music was often an original funk composition by Johnson himself.
But KSB was soon winning national championships, and a larger-than-life reputation as undefeatable. For 10 years, even with constant changes in the lineup as kids graduated, KSB was considered by some to be not only the nation’s best stage band, but one of the best funk bands — period.
Between 1968 and 1978, KSB recorded eight studio albums. As Johnson neared retirement in 1978, the band broke up, and before long, the band was largely forgotten. But not by everyone. Kashmere’s recordings became prized by hip-hop producers and DJs, who sampled them and played them in clubs.
I’ll admit, I have owned the CD, Largo, for quite a long time, but had forgotten about how much I liked it until this evening when Largo came up via my Album Randomizer. Really, really good, you should give it a spin, presuming you can find a copy. As far as I can tell, Wikipedia doesn’t even have an entry for Largo.
The impetus for the album is artists reacting to Dvorak’s New World Symphony
Dvořák was interested in the Native American music and African-American spirituals he heard in America. Upon his arrival in America, he stated:
“I am convinced that the future music of this country must be founded on what are called Negro melodies. These can be the foundation of a serious and original school of composition, to be developed in the United States. These beautiful and varied themes are the product of the soil. They are the folk songs of America and your composers must turn to them.”
The symphony was commissioned by the New York Philharmonic, and premiered on December 16, 1893, at Carnegie Hall conducted by Anton Seidl. A day earlier, in an article published in the New York Herald on December 15, 1893, Dvořák further explained how Native American music had been an influence on this symphony: “I have not actually used any of the [Native American] melodies. I have simply written original themes embodying the peculiarities of the Indian music, and, using these themes as subjects, have developed them with all the resources of modern rhythms, counterpoint, and orchestral colour.” In the same article, Dvořák stated that he regarded the symphony’s second movement as a “sketch or study for a later work, either a cantata or opera … which will be based upon Longfellow’s [The Song of] Hiawatha” (Dvořák never actually wrote such a piece).
He also wrote that the third movement scherzo was “suggested by the scene at the feast in Hiawatha where the Indians dance”. Curiously enough, passages which modern ears perceive as the musical idiom of African-American spirituals may have been intended by Dvořák to evoke a Native American atmosphere. In 1893, a newspaper interview quoted Dvořák as saying “I found that the music of the negroes and of the Indians was practically identical”, and that “the music of the two races bore a remarkable similarity to the music of Scotland”.
Most historians agree that Dvořák is referring to the pentatonic scale, which is typical of each of these musical traditions.
(click here to continue reading Symphony No. 9 (Dvořák) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.)
Allmusic’s Geoff Ginsberg writes:
Largo is everything Americana should be. It is also (easily) one of the most ambitious albums of the digital era. Just their luck: they hit a home run while the entire crowd was out in the beer line. Between major-label mergers and the fact that it just says “Largo” on the cover, this flat-out masterpiece was lost in the shuffle and almost no one heard it.
It is a swirling concept album touching on believable stories seen through the eyes of diverse Americans. Make no mistake, though, this is timeless rock with big hooks, not roots revivalism. Largo was produced by Rick Chertoff and his college roommate Rob Hyman of the Hooters; the two co-wrote nearly the whole album with Hooter Eric Bazilian and singer/songwriter David Foreman.
The A-list talent (several of whom have hit records produced by Chertoff) is almost an embarrassment of riches, but it never sounds like a compilation album; it is focused and unified. “Freedom Ride,” an out of the gates rocker, is sung by Taj Mahal. “Gimme a Stone” is a duet between Levon Helm of the Band and Foreman. It’s a song for all but those who root for Goliath. Cyndi Lauper wails out on “White Man’s Melody,” and Joan Osborne turns in a memorable vocal “An Uncommon Love,” a Carole King co-write that King also sings on. Osborne is also all over “Hand in Mine,” which features a bleary-eyed co-lead from Hyman, whose knack for universal melodies is on full display on the track (and the whole album). Foreman’s voice is deep and resonant, and his performances (as on the down, dirty, and devastating “Disorient Express” and the ballad “Largo’s Dream”) make you wonder where this guy has been all these years.
Willie Nile turns up for the punky “Medallion,” a song about a Pakistani cab driver working to make enough money to bring his family over. These songs are about people you might meet, not some spent myth. The album has several versions of Dvorak’s “Largo” (performed by the likes of the Chieftains and Garth Hudson of the Band) which separate the groups of songs; it was Dvorak’s trip to the New World that inspired Largo. The album has been completely out of print for years, but Roger Daltrey (who performs “Freedom Ride” and “Gimmie a Stone” live) pressured iTunes into providing a digital option.
(click here to continue reading Largo – Largo : Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards : AllMusic.)
From a 1998 NYT review by Jon Pareless
The austere, comforting melody of the Largo movement of Antonin Dvorak’s ”New World” Symphony drew on the spirituals and parlor songs that the Czech composer heard during his residency in the United States. A century later, the theme set Rob Hyman, Rick Chertoff and various collaborators thinking about American roots, immigration and cross-cultural encounters; the result is the ambitious album ”Largo” (Blue Gorilla/Mercury). In variations and extrapolations of Dvorak’s tune, the collaborators came up with homey songs about an America where exploitation and promise are inseparable.
Mr. Hyman, Mr. Chertoff and Eric Bazilian have worked together for two decades; they specialize in a kind of rusticated folk-pop, with hymnlike tunes and arrangements that use instruments like mandolin, accordion and churchy organ. …The three have also produced or written songs for Taj Mahal, Cyndi Lauper and Joan Osborne, all of whom sang both on the ‘’Largo’’ album…
David Forman, who collaborated on many of the new songs, Willie Nile and Sissel (a Norwegian singer whose wordless vocals are on the ”Titanic” soundtrack) were also on hand, generally keeping Mr. Hyman’s vocals in the background. Garth Hudson of the Band sat in on keyboards.
”Largo” brought out the best in the longtime collaborators. Mr. Forman’s presence seems to have curbed the Hooters’ old penchant for platitudes. Most of the songs have a Celtic and Appalachian flavor: waltzes and marches that carry tender love songs like ”Hand in Mine” or the jaunty ”Gimme a Stone,” which retells the David and Goliath story with the melody of a reel and a reggae backbeat. In a few songs, Ms. Lauper played the penny whistle; Mr. Bazilian supplied keening, off-tune hooks from a hurdy-gurdy.
Ms. Osborne brought poise and kindliness to love songs, warming lines like ”All the walls we build between us make it so hard to be together.” In a barely rehearsed encore, she turned backup vocals into joyful affirmations. Mr. Mahal and Mr. Forman applied scratchy, weathered voices to songs hinting at tough immigrant experiences: slavery in ”Banjoman,” Chinese railroad labor in ”Disorient Express.” Mr. Nile sang a Pakistani cab driver’s soliloquy in ”Medallion.” Mr. Hudson turned the ”Largo” theme into a free-form hymn on keyboard, then switched to tenor saxophone for a bluesy, confiding version of the melody. And Sissel sang the words to ”Goin’ Home” with a sweet, almost operatic purity, honoring the unlikely source of some worthy new songs.
(click here to continue reading POP REVIEW – POP REVIEW – Long After Dvorak, Perils and Promise of the ‘New World’ – Review – NYTimes.com.)
An unusual and interesting piece of pop and roots music comes from an unlikely collection of musicians. The brain children of Largo are producer/writer Rick Chertoff, Eric Bazilian and Rob Hyman, both members of the roots-rock band The Hooters and NYC songwriter David Foreman. Sharing an interest in Antonin Dvorak’s “New World Symphony” (of which “Largo” is probably the most familiar and hummable melody), the two decided to write an album of pop songs based on the lyrical themes of the work. In addition to their own voices and instruments, they have pulled together an impressive cast of artists to complete the vision; Garth Hudson and Levon Helm (The Band), all of The Chieftains, Taj Mahal, Joan Osborne, Cyndi Lauper, Willie Nile and Giovanii Hidalgo.
There is a unique quality to this recording, and while it occasionally gets to be like a wanna-be of The Band (not a bad thing to emulate, I guess), the crisp, direct style pulls it back most of the time. The themes are pretty standard “American Dream” fare, of highways and workers, lovers and sideshows, modern versions of Dvorak’s stories of “the road” to the American west, but they all touch on personal stories and characters.
(click here to continue reading Roots World – Largo.)
Like I said, you’d probably like this album if you gave it a chance…