Friday, November 28, 2003

Favorite not-quite-official concert recordings (don’t call them bootlegs!)

Miles Davis – Salle Playel; Paris 11/3/69

This is an excellent sounding radio broadcast of the so called “Lost Quintet,” the Davis band that included Wayne Shorter, Chick Corea, Jack DeJohnette and Dave Holland. This band never recorded in the studio but left a number of semi-official concert recordings from their 1969 European tour.

Miles had left behind the standard repertoire that he had been playing since the mid-50’s and with the young rock-influenced band backing him up he embarked on his electric period which would lead to classics like Bitches Brew and A Tribute to Jack Johnson.

The music like most of his concerts from this period, the music is made up of long suites with themes that would become the Bitches Brew record popping up amongst the improvisation. The band is hitting on all cylinders, but Wayne Shorter is in particular a revelation – playing some of his most abstract and intense tenor and soprano of his career.

More to come…

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Favorite blues albums (in no particular order)

Muddy "Mississippi" Waters Live
Howlin' Wolf - His Best
Sonny Boy Williamson - The Down and Out Blues
Robert Johnson - The Complete Recordings
Elmore James - King of the Slide Guitar
Junior Wells - South Side Blues Jam
John Lee Hooker - The Ultimate Collection
B.B. King - Live a the regal
Magic Sam - West Side Soul
J.B. Hutto - Hawk-Squat

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Wednesday, November 26, 2003

New additions - I finished up my monthly downloading allotment on Emusic with the following free jazz albums:

Frank Wright - Your Prayer
Sonny Simmons - Music of the Spheres
Gunter Hampel - Music From Europe
Jeff Parker - Out Trios Vol. 2
Revolutionary Ensemble - Vietnam

Also - a couple of concert trades came in the mail (thanks Stefan & Bob):

Pharoah Sanders - Chateauvallon, France 8/17/77
Pharoah Sanders - San Francisco 11/9/73
Pharoah Sanders - Knitting Factory, NYC 9/16/98
Pharoah Sanders - Berlin 10/23/99
Dave Douglas - Zurich 10/25/01
Elvis Costello - London 11/23/86
Bill Frisell - Brooklyn 6/8/02
Sun Ra - Detroit 12/27/80

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Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Guaranteed to spark debate, I offer my top ten favorite rock albums of all time:

1. The Velvet Underground and Nico
2. The Clash – London Calling
3. Neil Young – Rust Never Sleeps
4. Van Morrison – Astral Weeks
5. Chuck Berry – The Great 28
6. The Kinks – Village Green Preservation Society
7. Elvis Costello – Armed Forces
8. Bruce Springsteen – Nebraska
9. REM – Automatic For the People
10. Grateful Dead – American Beauty

Jazz and Blues lists to come!

Send comments to: Tim

Monday, November 24, 2003

Today's Spins:

The Kinks - The EP Collection (Rock)
Various Artists - The Great Blues Men (Blues)
Matthew Shipp - Equilibrium (Jazz)

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The Kinks – The EP Collection (Essential, 1998)

The Kinks were one of the most criminally underrated bands in the history of rock and roll. Part of the problem in the United States was that much of the band’s music focused on traditional English themes and could be seen as conservative during their greatest period, the late 60’s and early 70’s. Most of the rock bands of the era were promoting revolution, while the Kinks longed for a return to the village green of yore. Also, The Kinks were banned from performing live in the United States due to a dispute with the musician's union.

This collection of ten EP’s put out by the band covers their most productive period of 1964-74, before Ray Davies decided to start writing music hall operas (but that’s another story.) Blasting off with the quintessential garage anthem “Louie Louie” the band sets the tone for their raucous early recordings. Their most well known work follows “You Really Got Me,” “All Day and All of the Night” and the ominous “Sunny Afternoon” put The Kinks at the forefront of the British invasion on both sides of the Atlantic.

Then The Kinks became more album oriented and singles became less a part of the band’s overall concept. Which isn’t to say that the band couldn’t spin off an amazing stand alone song. “Waterloo Sunset” which is found on this collection and also as the final track on the Something Else album has competition only from R.E.M.’s “Nightswimmng” as the most beautiful pop song ever written (ahem… Todd and Matthew.) Also from the same album is “David Watts” a blasting up-tempo send up of the beautiful people in a high school setting.

For those who have most of the records from this period, there are some obscurities that can make this collection attractive, non-album tracks like “Milk Cow Blues” and “Gotta Get the First Plane Home.” This is an excellent supplement to the overview records Greatest Hits and The Kink Kronikles both of which have been released on Reprise.

Rating: 10

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Sunday, November 23, 2003

Daily Spins:

Michael Hill's Blues Mob - Electric Storyland Live (Blues)
The Dishes - 3 (Rock)
Revolutionary Ensemble - Vietnam (Jazz)

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Saturday, November 22, 2003

Daily spins:

Joe Strummer - Streetcore (Rock)
Robert Randolph - Live @ Wetlands (Blues)
Frank Wright - Your Prayer (Jazz)

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Joe Strummer – Streetcore (Hellcat, 2003)

Joe Strummer didn’t mount much of a solo career during the years between the breakup of The Clash and his tragic passing in 2002. A couple of solo records and some acting and producing duties and that was about it. So this posthumous CD comes as something of a shock, all the more surprising and saddening is how good it is. If Strummer had this music in him all along, where was it? Or was he starting to come into his own as a solo artist right when he was cut down by illness, just as he was ready to take his rightful place as one of the elder statesmen of rock & roll?

There’s a fascinating mix of songs on this record. It takes a great deal of moxie to cover Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song” and while it doesn’t quite come off as straight reggae, Strummer certainly gets points for trying. What works well for the record is when disparate music is blended together, whether it’s the rock and dub of “Midnight Jam” or the gospel/reggae of “Get Down Moses.” Strummer mixes and matches music like a mad scientist, and in staying away from the tried and true makes a fascinating record that will cement a lasting legacy.

Rating: 8

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Robert Randolph – Live at Wetlands (Dare, 2002)

Steel guitar player Robert Randolph first came to the attention of the blues and jam band community by playing sacred and gospel music. On this live album, Randolph and his regular backing “Family Band” rips through a series of instrumental and a few vocal numbers.

“Ted’s Jam” and “The March” open the disc and set the tone. Randolph’s stinging pedal steel guitar slides over a backing of electric bass, organ and percussion. The band stretches out quite a bit melding gospel, blues and jam band rock and roll. The tempo shifts on “Pressing My Way” as Randolph takes to the microphone for the lead vocal shared with gospel-tinged singer and bassist Daniel Morgan. During this twelve-minute jam, the band shifts tempos several times and the enthusiastic crowd is very responsive.

The second half of the disc is a carbon of the first – up-tempo, near over the top improv based on gospel and blues motifs. It’s fun to listen too and must have been a blast to see in person, but it will be interesting to see what Randolph and the band can do in the studio. Will they be able to mix tempos to keep the music fresh or will they turn out to be one of the many jam bands that are interesting on stage, but are unable to bring that energy into the studio.

Rating: 7.5

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Thursday, November 20, 2003

Grant Green - Grantstand (Blue Note, 1962)

This is my favorite Grant Green recording and I have almost everything he recorded for Blue Note as a leader. He was just the model of consistency during this period.

Grantstand finds Green on guitar, Brother Jack McDuff on organ, Yusef Lateef on tenor saxophone and flute and Al Harewood on drums. Green is no stranger to organ jazz having record many albums with Larry Young and one with Jimmy Smith. Harewood and McDuff are in excellent form really driving the music forward and Green is with them step for step.

Yusef Lateef's presence is what makes this album particularly interesting and also makes it stand out from Grant Green's many other albums, even his more progressive ones like Solid and Matador. "Blues in Maude's Flat" is a wonderful bluesy jam stretching out over 15 minutes, and Green shows how well he plays the standard jazz canon on "My Funny Valentine." Lateef's flute sounds wonderful with the guitar and organ also, it's a shame that Green didn't record with this lineup more often.

Rating: 10

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Monday, November 17, 2003

REM – In Time (Warner Brothers, 2003)

In Time is a compilation of work that REM has done for Warner Brothers from 1988 – 2003. Not exactly a greatest hits, it’s a bit of a hodge-podge of well known songs, obscurities and a few new tunes thrown in. There’s also a special two-disc version that has an extra disc of b-sides and rarities, something like Dead Letter Office from the Warner Brothers years.

The disc kicks off with “Man on the Moon,” one of their most radio-friendly songs and somewhat unrepresentative of their melancholy yet extraordinary album Automatic For the People. Things bog down a little bit with music from their most recent and least successful albums. “Bad Day” is one of the new songs recorded for this disc and it builds on the old “It’s The End of the World…” template with varying success.

“Losing My Religion” is a throwback to the IRS years with the jangling guitars and ominous, pained vocals. In general, the most recent material from albums like Up and Reveal are the least successful. Originally Michael Stipe was quoted as saying that the band would breakup on December 31, 1999. In retrospect, this may not have been such a bad idea. While they aren’t exactly floundering, the music of recent years lacks the spark of their earlier music. The disc ends on a strong if somber note with three of their finest ballads, “Everybody Hurts,” “Electrolite,” and “Nightswimming” which is rivaled only by The Kinks “Waterloo Sunset” as the most beautiful pop song ever written.

Longtime fans may not much to interest them besides a few new songs, but dabblers and radio listeners may find this to be a listenable package of the band's recent music.

Rating: 7.5

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Emusic has finally rolled out their new subscription plans. They are charging $9.99 for 40 downloads and $14.99 for 65 downloads. I went with the 65 download plan - even though the halycon days of unlimited downloads are over, it's still a pretty good deal. Check out My Mix Tapes: An Emusic Fansite for more reaction to the changes. So far with my available downloads I've gotten Sleater-Kinney's All Hands On the Bad One, The Vandermark 5's Single Piece Flow and a few other things I can't remember at the moment. I still have 18 downloads left for the month.

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Saturday, November 15, 2003

Ornette Coleman – Virgin Beauty (Portrait, 1991)
Ornette Coleman – Love Call (Blue Note, 1968)

These are two vastly different releases from Ornette Coleman. The first is an electric record with his Prime Time ensemble, and has a fond place in the heart of musically adventurous Deadheads worldwide for the appearance of Jerry Garcia on three cuts. The music is quite complex, combining melody and harmony in Coleman’s “Harmolodic” concept of free jazz.

Although complex, the music is highly enjoyable – Ornette’s keening, yearning alto swoops and dices through a thicket of two electric guitars (three when Garcia sits in) plus electric bass and percussion. There is a palpable sense of adventure and unexpectedness with this recording, and it’s more joyful and playful than some of Coleman’s other recordings. This would make a great starter disc for any rock fan who has heard of Ornette, but doesn’t know where to begin.

Love Call comes from before Ornette's Prime Time era, and consists primarily of outtakes from his 1968 Blue Note recording New York Is Now. On this record, Ornette has an acoustic super-group of Dewey Redman on tenor saxophone, and ex Coltrane band members Jimmy Garrison on bass and Elvin Jones on drums. Ornette also adds trumpet to his alto saxophone on three selections. Redman and Coleman always seem to have an affinity for each other when they play together, coming from a similar Texas background and set of influences. The music is very raw, especially when Coleman switches from his primary alto saxophone to trumpet but it fascinating to hear Ornette and Redman play with a driving rhythm section like Garrison and Jones.

Rating: (both records) 8

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Thursday, November 13, 2003

There will be a free concert at the Old Bridge (NJ) Public Library by acoustic blues musician Frank Fotusky, Saturday, November 15th at 1:00 p.m. For more info: Library Events or Frank's web site.

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The first set of a three set concert by the Trey Anastasio Band, from the Hammerstein Ballroom, New York, NY - 5/27/03 is available Glide Magazine Downloads

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Bob Dylan – Boston, MA 11/16/02

This was one of the concerts I received during a recent concert trade. Dylan has been on quite a run lately and he’s got a great band backing him up. What’s most interesting about this concert is the number of cover tunes that turn up. You’d think that somebody with a catalog of original music like Bob Dylan would stick to his own music, but he covers Neil Young’s “Old Man” as well as a couple of Warren Zevon tunes and the Rolling Stones “Brown Sugar.”

It’s a pretty solid show, not the best I’ve heard but very solid. The band jumps back and forth between up-tempo electric numbers like “Tombstone Blues” and the aforementioned “Brown Sugar” and more introspective acoustic songs such as Dylan’s “Every Grain of Sand” and “Mutineer” by Zevon.

Rating: 7.5

Concert set list
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Monday, November 10, 2003

Albert Ayler’s Last Album (Impulse, 1970)

This record was released posthumously after Ayler’s body was dragged from the East River – the crime (if it wasn’t suicide as the police allege) was never solved. Albert Ayler was one of the most controversial avant-garde jazz musicians in history, and in an ironic twist, there was a backlash against his final LP’s which came inside a little bit, experimenting with vocals, rock and r&b. Still he kept the raw edge in his saxophone playing right up the end.

There’s a little bit of everything here – solo bagpipes, electric guitar, and Mary Maria’s vocals. It’s a mixed bag, sure to displease the die hard free-jazz fan, but for those who have followed Ayler’s career and collected his music, it makes for a fascinating “what might have been.”

Rating: 7


Saturday, November 08, 2003

There's a copuple of new concerts available at the Dark Funk website for downloading, a Medeski, Martin & Wood concert from Halloween, and a very recent Sex Mob concert. Check out the web site and click on "latest shows."

There's also another White Stripes concert for downloading at

Friday, November 07, 2003

Neil Young – Greendale (Reprise, 2003)

A lot of people are ready to toss ole Neil in the rock & roll scrapheap after a series of “mediocre” albums of the late '90’s and early ‘00’s (listen again, those albums may have been a little inconsistent, but were hardly failures) and now comes something sure to annoy – a full length retro-60’s concept album covering such topics as peace and love, redemption and ecology. Needless to say, the reviews have been mixed at best.

Which is a shame because it’s a great disc; probably Young’s finest since Sleeps With Angels. Yep, it’s a hippie concept album too, about a fictional town in northern California called Greendale where Grandpa hasn’t watched TV since Leave it to Beaver was on, Grandma’s preaches about “a little love and affection,” Sun Green wants to break away from her parents and Jed just shot a cop in a drug deal gone wrong. The story creaks and groans but it provides fodder for some great songs.

Back with Crazy Horse, the music is mostly a loping, sometimes sloppy groove that they’ve put together over the years. It lacks some of the urgency of Ragged Glory and Weld, falling more toward the lumbering extended jams of Broken Arrow. Many of the tracks clock in at 8 or nine minutes, and Young solos at length on many of them.

Young’s lyrics are a sharp as ever, taking on grief and anguish in the poignant “Carmichael” and attacking corrupt government officials, their corporate bedfellows and polluters in “Sun Green” and “Be the Rain.” Say what you will about the soap-operaish idea behind the story, it’s lit a fire under Neil to write some of his finest recent songs.

Rating: 9

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Thursday, November 06, 2003

Sun Ra – Nuclear War (Atavistic 1982/2002)

Sun Ra told everyone that would listen to him that he hailed from Saturn, and the A & R people at Columbia Records must have believed him when he tried to pitch this record to them in the Early 1980’s. Ra thought he had a hit in the making with the title track (who knows, he may have if he had a chance!) but it would have been hard to believe that this chorus could have come out of Regan-era radio:

Nuclear war
It’s a motherfucker
When they push that button
Your ass gotta go!
Whatcha gonna do
Without your ass!

The epic title track was eventually re-made into an EP by Yo La Tengo and caused a brief stir when this disc was re-released last year. The rest of the disc is fine latter-day Sun Ra with Ra running down some standards (late is his career, Ra took on a lot of standards) and some fine originals. June Tyson gets some fine vocal spots, and Sun Ra shows off his organ chops.

All is all it’s a fine record, one of the many quirks and turns of the interesting career and life of Sun Ra.

Rating: 8

Send comments to: Tim

Sunday, November 02, 2003

Van Morrison – The Bang Masters (1969, 1992)

The Bang Recordings were the first solo recordings that Van Morrison made after the breakup of the Irish blues-rock band Them. He signed a contract with Bert Berns’ Bang Records in which he gave away most of the songwriting royalties and would later come to regret. Most of the later misanthropic anti-music industry songs of his later career can be traced to this period.

The music itself is never less than fascinating. Everybody knows the radio friendly pop hit “Brown Eyed Girl” that leads off this collection, but the sense from listening to the disc as a whole is the diverse nature of Morrison’s musical interests. Of course, Bang was looking for another hit after “Brown Eyed Girl” made the Top 10, so many of the songs are filtered through a pop sensibility. There’s a female backup chorus on several tracks, but they are arranged well in a call and response fashion, particularly on the remake of Leadbelly’s “Midnight Special.”

Special mention must me made of one of Morrison’s greatest songs, “T.B. Sheets.” It doesn’t fit in well at all with some of the more superficial pop music on this disc, but the harrowing seven minute epic about a visit to a friend who is dying with tuberculosis is one of the most gut-wrenching songs in the Morrison cannon.

Also, it’s interesting to see him setting the stage for his first masterpiece with early run-throughs of “Beside You” and “Madame George” which would appear a year later on Astral Weeks. All in all, this could be seen as a transitional album for Van Morrison, testing the waters of a solo career and injecting pop to the soul/blues framework he had used with Them, but the music stands up on it’s own as one of the first steps of a fascinating and mercurial journey.

Rating: 10

Send comments to: Tim

Saturday, November 01, 2003

I've decided to dip a toe back into the tape trading waters. Slowly, I'm putting up a very ugly web site with my tape list on it. The site is: Tim's Tape List

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E-Music is going throughquite a few changes, but the "list" I made of some of the best jazz avaliable through the service is still up at the following url:
"Not necessarily free, but…"

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A great day in Princeton...
A beautiful fall day for a college football game and a trip to the Princeton Record Exchange. Serious vinyl plunder today:

Eric Dolphy - Other Aspects
John Coltrane - Concert in Japan
Andrew Hill - Grass Roots
Wayne Shorter - Etcetera
Larry Young - Heaven on Earth
Spiritualized - Amazing Grace
Louis Armstrong - 1932-33
An Audience With Betty Carter
George Benson - Beyond the Blue Horizon

BTW, Princeton beat Cornell 28-6.

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