[Review] Graham Nash: Songs For Beginners (1971)

songs for beginners album coverKronomyth 1.0: ALL THINGS MUST NASH. If “Our House” was the best Beatles song the band never wrote, then Songs For Beginners is the best Beatles solo album that none of the Fab Four ever released. That’s not to suggest that Graham Nash was consciously copying The Beatles or Bob Dylan, at least not anymore than anyone else, but his first album combines British pop, ballads and a social conscience in the best possible ways. Though the last member of Crosby, Stills and Nash to release a solo album, Nash made it the best of his career. Honestly, the first three solo albums from Crosby, Stills and Nash were better salve to the wounded hearts of their fans than what John, Paul, George and Ringo had to offer. When I tell you that Songs For Beginners is my favorite solo album from Crosby, Stills or Nash (Neil Young’s Harvest is better in my opinion), it’s with the caveat that I’m a anglophile at heart. Beatles fans should immediately warm up to “Military Madness” and “Be Yourself;” Bobby Keys’ sax solo on “There’s Only One” will also feel like a bit of home. CSN fans will instantly recall “Chicago,” introduced a month earlier on the live 4 Way Street, and appreciate the acoustic “Wounded Bird.” Over the course of the album, Nash emerges as a remarkably complete songwriter. There are a few lyrical missteps (“You’ll wear the coat of questions till the answer hat arrives” from “Wounded Bird” always makes me laugh), but the balance decidedly falls on the side of wisdom and love. Where Stills’ first record was sometimes overshadowed by his guests, and Crosby seemed to prefer working in the shadow of his own inscrutable muse, the supporting musicians on Songs For Beginners are the spice to Nash’s humble pie. Dave Mason, Jerry Garcia, Phil Lesh and David Lindley provide a distinctive flavor to Nash’s simple songs without overpowering them (although Mason comes dangerously close). I had secretly hoped that Nash’s first record would sound like the home that “Our House” built. Songs For Beginners doesn’t disappoint. It proves that music can change the world and make it a better place, even if only for half an hour.

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[Review] Graham Bond: Holy Magick (1970)

holy magick album coverKronomyth 5.0: GRAHAM BOND’S DARK FORCE. Love Is The Law was Evil Bond on a budget. Holy Magick is Evil Bond with a full band. The result sounds like Gong infiltrated by a Satanist cabal or Ginger Baker’s Air Force working for darker forces. At this stage in his life,  Graham Bond was a better candidate for the looney bin than the record bin. I find it amazing that Bond could get a legitimate label (Mercury) and professional musicians (Rick Grech, Alex Dmochowski, Victor Brox) to tag along for his descent into madness. (In an odd twist, Brox appeared that same year as Caiaphas in Jesus Christ Superstar.) If you can ignore the fact that “Holy Magick Suite” is a Satanic ritual set to music, you might see it as an interesting continuation of Bond’s unique progressive blues/rock/jazz style. But you won’t be able to ignore that fact, because the whole purpose of this music is to usher in a new Age of Aquarius. Bond calls upon the dark angels of light, invokes the Qabalistic cross and perverts pieces of Christian liturgy (the suite closes with Christ’s final words, “It is finished”) in what must constitute some of the most profane music ever committed to vinyl. Side two features shorter songs that have a connection to the Tarot. “Return of Arthur” deals with Arthurian legend and the prophecy that Arthur will return as England’s savior. “The Magician” is actually something of a love song from Bond to Stewart and is not only the best track on here, but the only one that can be safely excised from the album’s Aquarian theme (that is, it works on two levels). The final two tracks are written by Diane Stewart and, while neither could be considered musically adventurous, they’re not bad, just a bit bland as invocations of evil go. I remember thinking holy crap the first time I heard this album—not because I was amazed, but because it was quasi-religious crap that, as a Christian, I found naturally offensive. I wish it had been otherwise with Bond; the man was supremely talented, but fundamentally tainted. Unable to separate his music from his mental and spiritual deterioration, I would pronounce Holy Magick one of the most depressing records on record.

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[Rambling] Jefferson Starship: “Runaway” (1978)

runaway 45 rpm singleStarlog 4.2: THE SONGS OF THE BALIN MAN. I’ve had this “creator vs. curator” discussion going on my head for the last few days. (There’s always some kind of side conversation going on in my head. It’s maddening at times. I blame parentheses.) Creators write their own music: David Bowie, Roxy Music, I’m not actually going to list them all. Curators collect material from other songwriters and present it to the public under their own brand. Sometimes, the curators have a pang of conscience and try to help the songwriters in their own career aspirations (e.g., Ringo Starr signing Carl Grossman to Ring O’ Records, Marty Balin helping Jesse Barish get a contract) or legitimize the relationship by bringing the songwriters into the band (e.g., Dave Mason hiring Jim Krueger and Jerry Williams for his Dave Mason Band). One of the major distinctions between Jeffersons Airplane and Starship is that Jefferson Airplane were creators of the highest order. Even when they did curate (“Somebody To Love,” “White Rabbit”), the resulting music was a unique work of art. Jefferson Starship owed much of their success to other people’s ideas: Jesse Barish, Nicholas Q. Dewey, Jim McPherson. I’m sure they made money for their authors, and the world is certainly richer for having heard them, so I’m not saying that curation is evil, but it does seem a bit vampiric. Anyway, what’s a bit of bloodsucking in exchange for this runaway success: one of those timeless love songs that reaches through the years like the lost summers of youth and fills you with a warm feeling. In the single version, it was cut down by a minute and a half; seems that they spliced the first half and the ending together, deleting the music that appeared after the guitar solo. The flip side, “Hot Water,” actually dates from the previous elpee, Spitfire, and suggests that Grace Slick’s creative energies had cooled considerably since her high-flying days in the Airplane.

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[Review] The Velvet Underground: Squeeze (1973)

squeeze album coverKronomyth 6.0: DON’T BUY IT, YULE BE SORRY. When John Cale left The Velvet Underground, the band became normal. When Lou Reed left the band, they became nominal. But without Sterling Morrison and Maureen Tucker, well, they simply ceased to be. VU manager Steve Sesnick apparently didn’t get that memo, and arranged for Doug Yule to record an entire album of music to be billed as the next Velvet Underground record. Squeeze isn’t just a terrible VU record (which it really isn’t), it’s a pretty disappointing debut record from Doug Yule (which it really is). In Yule’s defense, it’s completely unfair to expect to man the write and play an entire album in the mode of a highly distinctive band that he had only joined as a replacement for John Cale (although he did become an increasingly important member of the band, particularly after Lou’s departure). If VU had recorded a final album with the 1971 lineup of the band (Morrison, Yule and Tucker plus Walter Powers on bass), Yule’s attempts at writing Lou Reed songs (“Caroline,” “Mean Old Man,” “Friends,” “Louise”) would likely have had a better outcome. Instead, being asked to write an album’s worth of material and play almost everything on it (Purple’s Ian Paice somehow ended up on drums), all under the heavy brand of The Velvet Underground, proves to be (not surprisingly) an unbearable weight. Since its release, Squeeze has enjoyed a rare infamy as a crass attempt to squeeze any remaining juice from the original lemon that was The Velvet Underground…

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{Review, in two parts} Dave Mason: Mariposa De Oro (1978)

mariposa de oro album coverKronomyth 10.0: NO KRUEGER ADDS FOR DAVID. You would think it impossible to play bottleneck slide in a leisure suit. And you would be wrong. Mariposa De Oro is a strange hybrid: the army of backing vocalists and orchestral arrangements are clearly influenced by disco, but the songs themselves are California rock with tasteful slide guitar and solid playing from a crack session band that now included Jeff Porcaro, Gerald Johnson, Mark Stein and songwriter Jerry Williams. Jim Krueger, Dave Mason’s primary collaborator up to this point, was off making his own solo album, so Williams was brought in to fill the gaps, and fill them he does with some terrific material including “Share Your Love,” “All Gotta Go Sometime” and “No Doubt About It.” The album’s big hit was an update of the old Shirelles song, “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow,” which is a bit like shooting a fish in barrel but at least not the beating a fish to death with a club that Jim Capaldi’s “Love Hurts” was. Stephen Stills, who appears here on two tracks including the a capella “Warm And Tender Love,” arrived at much the same place musically on his next album, Thoroughfare Gap. Both Mason and Stills were products of the Sixties who were trying to sell their product in the disco-crazed landscape of the late Seventies. They made some concessions to the times but continued to turn out good product. Like Stills and Eric Clapton (who would later retain the services of Mr. Williams), Mason gets some much-needed support from backing vocalists, experienced studio hands and an infusion of energy and ideas from a second guitarist (George Terry, Donnie Dacus, Jim Krueger, Jerry Williams, and there were plenty more where they came from).

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{Review, in two parts} Rick Wakeman: Rock N’ Roll Prophet (1982)

rock n' roll prophet album coverKronomyth 10.0: TURN A PROPHET OUT. It was a good idea: the reigning king of prog rock excess trading in his cape for a trenchcoat and releasing a new wave synthesizer album in the mode of the day—specifically, The Buggles, who were currently resting atop most European pop charts with their hit, “Video Killed The Radio Star.” Unfortunately, the reigning record executives didn’t think it was a good idea at all, and Rick Wakeman had to shelve the tapes until he could find a label to release them in 1982, at which point Rock N’ Roll Prophet was little more than the punchline to a joke nobody remembered. The knock on the record—and it has been knocked around a bit over the years—is that Wakeman is out of his (super)natural element. As I see it, he simply tries to do too much: play all of the instruments (save percussion), sing and produce. He has a barely serviceable voice, no worse than Anthony Phillips or Tony Banks, but no better than them either. Also, some of the keyboards and synthesizers produced at the time were first-generation creations that didn’t age well; they may have sounded advanced in 1979, but were horribly dated by 1984. And so, you have an album of Rick Wakeman, pretending (tongue in cheek) to be a pop star, multitracking several generations of keyboards and singing. I probably would have passed on it too, except that Wakeman actually does quite a good job replicating the spirit of The Buggles on the three songs featured here: “I’m So Straight I’m A Weirdo,” “Maybe ‘80” and “Do You Believe In Fairies?” They’re good enough that you wish Wakeman sang more often. (Okay, maybe “wish” is too strong a word, but you wouldn’t rush to cover your ears either.) As for the instrumental tracks, they’re in line with the music of Criminal Record, though on a smaller scale since only Wakeman and percussionist Gaston Balmer are there to pull the job off.

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[Review] Frank Zappa: Waka/Jawaka (1972)

Kronomyth 14.0: DIDJA GET ANY OUIJA? While Frank Zappa was convalescing from an assault on stage that resulted in a paralyzed arm and crushed larynx, he released two jazz-fusion albums with an updated version of The Mothers that now included Tony Duran on guitar, Erroneous (Alex Dmochowski) on bass, Jeff Simmons on guitar/vocals and a full horn section featuring Sal Marquez on trumpet. Containing a pair each of extended instrumentals and mutant blues songs, Waka/Jawaka is sometimes presented by critics as an extension of Hot Rats, a comparison likely occasioned by the album cover’s reference to the album in the illustration (suggested by Sal Marquez). In fact, I’ve done that myself. But what it really is, is a transitional record between Chunga’s Revenge and The Grand Wazoo. The two songs align almost exactly with “Road Ladies” (“Your Mouth”) and “Rudy Wants To Buy Yez A Drink” (“It Just Might Be A One-Shot Deal”) in terms of their approach and effect on the listener. The two extended instrumentals, “Big Swifty” and “Waka/Jawaka,” are the visions of things to come: surreal semi-classical jazz-fusion giants that amble preponderously in the ear canal for twelve minutes or a lifetime, depending. Transitional records are arriving, they haven’t arrived. Waka/Jawaka doesn’t arrive at the genius of The Grand Wazoo. Among the great Dubyas (which would winclude Weeny, Wazoo and Weasels), Waka/Jawaka might be the least impressive. Or not. They’re all brilliant records, so it’s a little like picking a favorite Beethoven symphony. The ninth. Okay, so that was easier than I thought. But you get the point: you wouldn’t want only eight Beethoven symphonies, and you don’t want to eke out your miserable, crotch-kicking existence without Waka/Jawaka. Because, truly, nothing will re-inflate your balls like listening to an acid trip about a frog segue into the most beautiful pedal steel guitar solo you’ve ever heard and then careen into “Waka/Jawaka,” knowing that only a small percentage of the general population will ever share that joy with you. Lying down and placing a rolled-up towel under your testicles also does the trick, apparently, although I’d put the second side of Waka/Jawaka on the turntable before you lie down just to be safe, since you don’t want to put too much faith in a rolled-up towel.

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[Review, in two parts] Todd Rundgren: Something/Anything? (1972)

something/anything? album coverKronomyth 3.0: EVERYTHING. One-man band be damned, Todd Rundgren is a one-man radio station. Something/Anything? is a landmark in the annals of DIY (do it yourself) recordings, a nearly perfect songbook of pop music that displays remarkable breadth as a songwriter, musician (Todd plays every instrument for most of the double-album set) and producer. You could argue that he was building up to this on the last two Runt albums, but I’m not buying it. Those albums had a handful of strong tracks between them, while Something/Anything? buries you in brilliant ideas: “Hello It’s Me,” “I Saw The Light,” “Couldn’t I Just Tell You,” “Marlene,” “Torch Song,” “It Wouldn’t Have Made Any Difference,” “You Left Me Sore” and seriously I’m just tired of typing of song titles because the list goes on. Carole King’s Tapestry is the precedent for some of this, but I think we can all agree that Tapestry didn’t rock, and a lot of Something/Anything? does. Frankly, I’m inclined to recall Zappa’s early albums like We’re Only In It For The Money when trying to explain how so much genius could be crammed into one head. Frank Zappa and Todd Rundgren are different artists, yet no so different as you might think. Both are uncompromising artists, perfectionists and geniuses with a genuine affection for doo-wop. While not everything on Something/Anything? is a gem, nothing on here is a trifle, from the souped-up instrumental “Breathless” (foreshadowing the synthesizer work of Healing) to a bad trip set to music, “I Went To The Mirror.”

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[Review, in two parts] George Duke: Feel (1974)

feel album coverKronomyth 6.0: FUNK, FRANK AND FLORA. Feel is a transitional record between the space fusion of his last effort, Faces In Reflection, and the synth funk of the future. It also features Frank Zappa’s blistering electric guitar on two tracks, billed here as the mysterious Obdewl’l X. If you’re approaching this from Faces, a lot of this will feel familiar. The new wrinkle is the funk (“Funny Funk,” “Old Slipper”) and a certain Barry Whiteness in the spirit/love vibe of songs like “Feel” and “Love.” George Duke has a gentle voice, which he multitracks to give it an extra dimension. Flora Purim also appears on one track, “Yana Aminah,” but it’s a missed opportunity as Duke seems musically out of synch with what should have been a slam-dunk Brazilian jazz number. Zappa is the elephant in the room, literally. His guitar solos on “Love” and “Old Slipper” completely dominate the surrounding landscape like an eclipse; in fact, Duke seems to throw a musical wrench into “Old Slipper” just to prepare the listener for Zappa’s heavy footfalls. The remaining songs follow the space fusion of Faces for the most part: “Rashid,” “Cora Joberge,” “The Once Over.” An interesting exception is the short theme from an unfinished opera, Tzina, a classical jazz piece that explores a heretofore hidden dark side to Duke. (Pieces of Tzina would appear over the years on other Duke works.) The album’s closing “Statement” simply restates the theme to “Love.”

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[Review] Stephen Stills: “Turn Back The Pages” (1975)

Kronomyth 5.1: WHO HAS TIME FOR REPETITIOUS PAGES? This was the first and only single released from Stephen Stills’ new album for Columbia Records, titled simply Stills. Once again, it was the album’s lead track, following a long-standing tradition of putting his best musical foot forward. It’s also one of two tracks co-credited to new guitarist Donnie Dacus. In this case, it sounds as though Stills and Dacus fused two different songs together, since the main verses and chorus have a completely different tempo and feel, and the lyrics don’t jibe. As a result of this, I’ve never been clear on what this song is about; maybe a reference to a soured friendship? I couldn’t tell you with any certainty which half belongs to Stills and which to Dacus. The lyrics throughout the main verses sound like Stills, but so does the Latin-themed music in the chorus. At any rate, the song didn’t capture the attention of radio listeners for nearly as long, and quickly dropped off the charts. The version that appears on the single is edited, with chunks of the second chorus and third verse cut out and a shorter fadeout.

Turn it on again.
The song’s title has always had a nostalgic quality, even if the lyrics don’t bear it out. When CSN toured in 1977, “Turn Back The Pages” was included in the group’s concert set. The harmonies from Crosby and Nash replaced the vocal harmony from Marcy Levy (who did an amazing job on the original). Twenty years later, CSN featured the song again in their 1996 tour, although at that point age had robbed their voices of their original luster. Some years later, a compilation of Stills’ Columbia recordings (including his early Super Session recordings) was packaged under the name Turnin’ Back The Pages. Of minor interest, the myriad song lyrics sites that popped up on the Internet years ago (and seem to continue to skirt copyright issues for the most part) have quite a few errors. I remember thinking at the time that the poor people who did the data entry for those sites had the most miserable job on earth. That is, until I started writing reviews that no one reads for free. On a brighter note, the B side is the album track “Shuffle Just As Bad,” which is some of the better blues this side of Eric Clapton.

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[Review, in two parts] Laurie Anderson: Mister Heartbreak (1984)

mister heartbreak album coverKronomyth 2.0: THE GREAT COMMISSION. In my middle doughy age, prior to the proper dotage that awaits me, I mused that Laurie Anderson plus a backing band of alternative rock stars equalled pure left-handed Heaven, an observation occasioned no doubt by Mister Heartbreak’s stylish handshake, “Sharkey’s Day.” After that handshake, however, Anderson returns to the haunts of her earlier work, mixing minimalist accompaniment with all the warmth of a low-wattage lightbulb and words like shadows, weightless and ominous. “Langue d’Amour” and “Blue Lagoon” favor the primitive, powerful style of her earlier work. “Gravity’s Angel” sounds like it was deconstructed and reconstructed with the wrong parts, which is what a lot of Bill Laswell’s music feels like to me. “Kokoku” is a collaboration with kayagum artist Sang Won Park, who had recently emigrated to New York City and insinuated himself with the avant-garde elite. The album’s second collaboration, “Excellent Birds,” is the most boring thing on here. It’s a case of Peter Gabriel appropriating Anderson’s art for his own designs, with her consent I’m sure, but birds of a feather they’re not. The album closes with Anderson doing Burroughs doing himself on “Sharkey’s Night.”

O Superman, where art thou?
“O Superman” is a miracle of music. The trouble with miracles is that they cease to be miracles the second time around. You’ve seen it happen once, so you know it can happen again. Eventually, the miraculous act becomes a matter of fact. There are some miraculous moments on Mister Heartbreak, but they seem like minor epiphanies in the shadow of Big Science. Maybe the biggest epiphanies are that Laurie Anderson can rock and roll and sing. But the album doesn’t achieve anything musically that Talking Heads didn’t already achieve on Remain In Light. Their excellencies Laurie Anderson and Peter Gabriel? Lol Creme and Kevin Godley bested them by a few years on Ismism’s “Ready For Ralph.” Mister Heartbreak is a very smart album made by a very smart lady who had attracted a coterie of high-profile admirers and the cachet to make the art she wanted on a big budget. It’s not a breakthrough moment, it’s not a standing in place, it’s a plain commission with a song about birds.

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[A defense] Deep Purple: Shades of Deep Purple (1968)

shades of deep purple album coverKronomyth 1.0: A DARKER SHADE OF PURPLE. Hammer Films made a small fortune on movies featuring Frankenstein and Dracula that were both stylish and scary. Yes, you could look back from the vantage point of the 1970s or 1980s and say that these films were timid compared to the movies of Dario Argento or John Carpenter, but that would be taking them out of context. I mention this because a similar thing happens to Shades of Deep Purple. People look to the Purple of the future and the heavy metal movement in general, and find this a shade too pale for their tastes. At the time of its release, however, Shades of Deep Purple rose through the ranks of the psychedelic blues beserkers with the “hush” heard ‘round the world (or at least in our corner of the globe). Produced by Derek Lawrence, the record had more than a hint of horrorshow in it: an opening organswirl that crept from the crypt of darkest imagination, a wailing wolf to herald “Hush,” foreboding thunder at the onset of “One More Rainy Day.” Past those points of no return, you entered a world where Cream, The Who and Jimi Hendrix were championed as ideals. Added to these accolades was Jon Lord’s armored organ mounted atop a psychedelic tank. Critics today are apt to throw shade at Deep Purple Mk. I, but they are in my opinion jaded metallurgists with the luxury of Mk. II to compare. How many young bands would have dared approach “I’m So Glad” so soon after Cream, let alone introduce it with a brilliant classical rock piece? Or offer up such a daring interpretation of “Help!” And then there’s the closing cover of “Hey Joe,” which matches Hendrix in intensity and execution. This isn’t a band finding its voice; it’s a declaration of war. The psychedelic traces of “One More Rainy Day” would disappear, the pretty thefts of Hendrix (“Mandrake Root”) and The Who (“Love Help Me”) would pass. You can even forgive the band for accidentally taking credit for “Hey Joe.” The combination of organ and lead guitar strapped to an explosive rhythm section and equipped with a voice that could stop the world with a “Hush” was something remarkable in 1968, a sort of Procol Harum Scarum. Yes, the story gets deeper later, but their opening salvo remains a blast from the past.

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Brian Eno with Daniel Lanois & Roger Eno: Apollo – Atmospheres And Soundtracks (1983)

apollo atmospheres & soundtracks album coverKronomyth 15.0: LOVE IT TO THE MOON AND BACK. I remember a friend playing this record for me when it first came out and him being super-jazzed about it and me nodding politely but secretly counting the minutes until I could go home and play Here Come The Warm Jets to flush out the uncomfortable experience of what to me sounded like Brian Eno beating an owl with a rain stick in an empty grain silo. It took me years to appreciate the ambient music of Brian Eno, which came only after forgiveness for what I perceived as mucking up half of Heroes and Low and turning his back on a promising career as a rock artist. It really wasn’t until listening to Discreet Music that the whole ambient thing clicked with me and I realized that music could be static and lovely, suspended in a perfect moment and examined absent of time and space. Brian Eno created Apollo: Atmospheres & Soundtracks to accompany film footage from the first lunar landing. The music, co-created with brother Roger and Daniel Lanois, captures the alien beauty and stillness of space in a way that Tangerine Dream touched upon but never rested at because of their classical need for thematic development. Tangerine Dream wrote space symphonies, Eno wrote a meditation on space. Comparing this album to other “space” soundtracks is like comparing 2001: A Space Odyssey to other space movies; both works use the native silence of space to speak volumes about the vastness, coldness and strangeness of the cosmos. Notes resonate in isolation, falling slowly in endless space, forming ice crystals and apparently inducing spontaneous haikus. Unfortunately, about midway through (the dark side of the moon), the soundtrack gets hijacked by a cowboy movie as Daniel Lanois breaks out his steel guitar (Eno had earlier shown a predilection for maudlin country music on “Everything Merges With The Night” and “Here He Comes”), and only in the closing “Stars” does the record return to its original state of space-grace. If you’re listening to this on a programmable CD player (which I realize is now as antiquated as a turntable), just skip through tracks eight through eleven. Artists through the ages have tried to capture the otherwordly beauty of the moon; few have done it was well as Apollo. Owl never hear the moon the same.

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John Lennon: “Whatever Gets You Thru The Night” (1974)

whatever gets you thru the night 7 inch singleKronomyth 7.1: CARIBOUGIE. John Lennon and Elton John come together, what(ever)’s not to love? When this came on the radio, it was like being invited to a three-and-a-half-minute party. The sax solo from Bobby Keys is pure magic (not bad for a first take). Elton bet Lennon that the song would reach #1 (until that point, Lennon was the only member of The Beatles not to achieve the feat) and Lennon agreed if it did to join Elton John on stage. Two months later, John Lennon appeared on stage during Elton’s Madison Square Garden performance and played “Whatever Gets You Thru The Night,” “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” and “I Saw Her Standing There.” The flip side is “Beef Jerky” from the same album, Walls and Bridges. It’s an instrumental with horns and a pulsating rhythm; reminds me of the half-baked treats that Paul included on his early albums. “Beef Jerky” is credited to John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Nuclear Band with Little Big Horns and Booker Table and the Maitre D’s, that last name being a playful twist on Booker T. and the M.G.’s.

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Jerry Garcia Band: GarciaLive Volume Two – August 5th 1990, Greek Theatre (2013)

garcialive volume two album coverBy way of warning (once again), we are now in the weedy fringes of the Dead. If you are considering purchasing this disc, you probably have too much money, too much time and too much optimism regarding the number of times you’ll actually want to hear Jerry Garcia mumble his way through an nth retelling of “Deal.” Fortunately, if you are an Amazon Prime member, you can stream this for free and rest comfortable in the knowledge that your fiscal responsibility and honesty will net the estate of Jerry Garcia nearly twelve cents. For your troubles, you’ll be treated to a surprisingly good live concert of the Jerry Garcia Band featuring an interesting setlist and a brief appearance by Béla Fleck at the beginning of the second set. The concert starts out on familiar ground (“How Sweet It Is,” “Run For The Roses,” “That’s What Love Will Make You Do”) but introduces some unexpected twists in the middle: “My Brothers And Sisters” and “Tears of Rage” (from The Basement Tapes). The second set opens with Old And In The Way’s “Midnight Moonlight” (which originally featured Garcia in the banjo seat) and “The Harder They Come,” Fleck joining in on the festivities with some presumably improvised picking. The pairing is intriguing in a “gee, so that’s what reggae music would sound like with a banjo” sort of way, but as carrots go it’s kind of a carrot. The real highlights happen after, with a version of Van Morrison’s “And It Stoned Me” where Garcia totally nails the timing (as opposed to “Tangled Up In Blue”) and Bruce Cockburn’s “Waiting For A Miracle.” While archival interest in this concert is likely fueled by the participation of Béla Fleck, it’s the rock-solid performance of the Jerry Garcia Band (here in their longest-running lineup) that makes this one a keeper. They’re a backing band in the trust sense, as they have Garcia’s back throughout, giving him just the right amount of support without overshadowing him. Also, this seems as good a place as any to plug deaddisc.com, which has proven an invaluable resource in tracking down the Dead’s ever-expanding repertoire over the years.

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