Archive for the Current Events Category

Back In The Saddle Again

Posted in Current Events, Music with tags , , , , , on November 6, 2012 by greedycherry

Aerosmith Playing Live In Allston, Massachusetts

(Before I begin, let me credit the above picture to my talented photographer friend Mathew Tucciarone, who took it with his amazing camera while standing further away from the stage than you can possibly imagine. You can find more photos from yesterday’s Aerosmith concert on his photo blog, which you should totally check out here. And, if you like his stuff and are feeling generous, drop him a comment or the ubiquitous “Like”, won’t you? Gracias.)

After an eleven year wait, today is the day Aerosmith returns with a new album for all their fans, entitled “Music From Another Dimension!” Is it just a coincidence that it’s also Election Day? Perhaps….

Yesterday, an amazing event happened in Allston, a bustling, college-student-infected suburb of Boston. To celebrate the release of Aerosmith’s new record, as well as (so they say) to emphasize the importance of voting, the city and classic rock radio station WZLX put on a show the likes of which I had never seen (not around these parts, anyway). The city shut down a good few blocks of Commonwealth Avenue (a main thoroughfare that runs from the heart of downtown Boston all the way out to the far suburb of Newton, near I-95) and set up a stage right in front of the building numbered 1325. It was here that the members of Aerosmith began their long, arduous climb to the stratospheric heights of rock and roll success, but I’m sure the five guys who shared that small apartment on the second floor in 1971, of course, had no idea of what the future held for them.

So the stage was set. Literally. Hard to believe, but it was a free outdoor concert for all of Boston! Police were everywhere keeping an eye on things, and the streets filled quickly with fans and spectators alike. After a dedication and a few opening statements (including a game ball given to Aerosmith by New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft), the band started playing, the crowd went nuts, and it sounded great.

But let’s pause here and take a moment to talk about what’s really important: a HUGE new pet peeve of mine. I’ve recently heard people complain about the proliferation of mobile devices at concerts, and how people, now equipped with a camera and a link to the world outside the concert hall, spend most of their time in the audience looking down instead of up. I’ve read columns and blogs where disgust has been expressed at those who seem more concerned about capturing an 8-megapixel memory than actually experiencing the event itself. And I have to say that I do find it stupid that you would pay so much money for a ticket, and then go to the show and not use your eyes to watch what’s happening on stage. However, I can’t say that I’ve never raised my iPhone and taken a picture mid-show before, so I just figured it was a case of live-and-let-live.

That was until today. When, with thousands of people crowding the streets trying to get a good glimpse of Aerosmith rocking out, there were multiple idiots in front of me with their arms raised straight up, video cameras on and recording. The ENTIRE show.

SERIOUSLY??

Okay, look …. I understand if you can’t see very well, and you raise your camera phone up quickly to try to get a good shot to look at later. I even understand if you do this a couple of times during the show. But……if you insist on putting your arms straight up, blocking any chance I have of getting a decent view of the concert, and then keeping them there for an hour????

Then you are a dick. Plain and simple.

Frankly, I don’t care what your reasons are, and I don’t care who you are. I don’t care if you’re Jesus Christ himself. Put your damn arms down and let the rest of us enjoy a little bit of the show, you selfish bastard. So many people around me were having a hard time getting a good look at the band yesterday, and yet there were two guys directly in front of me with video cameras, filming away like they had no one behind them (and don’t even get me started with the girls who think it’s cool to jump up on their boyfriend’s shoulders and sit there for the duration of the show). Sadly, even when I did manage to peer around the video cameras in front of me, I was confronted by a minefield of handheld devices taking pictures and, of course, video. I actually probably would have been able to see some of the show if people had just put their damn arms down.

Anybody else have this kind of thing happen to them? Got a rant or pet peeve of your own regarding live concerts? Lemme hear about it. For now, on to the final paragraph regarding the show….

Despite its proximity to Election Day, of course, this day was really all about Aerosmith and promoting their new record. No one really made an effort to connect the concert to the election, save for the “Vote This Way!” slogan on the red, white, and blue signs WZLX was handing out and the patriotic confetti that was launched skyward at the conclusion of the final number. But it didn’t really matter. I mean, I doubt there was anyone thinking about Election Day, the issues, or either of the candidates as the huge speakers stacked on the flat beds of nearby tractor trailers rocked the massive crowd into a frenzy.

Then again, come to think of it, “Back In The Saddle” would make a good victory song for the Democrats if Obama wins….

P.S. – GO VOTE!!! 🙂

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No, Not THAT Sandy

Posted in Current Events, Music, Music Video with tags , , , , , on October 31, 2012 by greedycherry

Sandy Denny With GuitarWell, with all of the Hurricane Sandy excitement these past couple of days, I seem to have slipped a little bit on the ol’ blog here … but honestly, I am trying to keep a regular schedule. Therefore, I thought I’d jump in – even if only briefly – to share an interesting fact that I didn’t know until this past year. (And after reading this, most of you will then be able to say the exact same thing…)

Anyone out there a fan of Led Zeppelin? Good. Now, quick … name the only duet ever recorded and released by Led Zeppelin.

Know that answer? Wow, you’re pretty smart! Now here’s your follow up question, good for a year’s supply of turtle wax, a new set of steak knives, and a year’s supply of Rice-A-Roni, the San Francisco treat:

Who was the person who sang that duet with Led Zeppelin vocalist Robert Plant?

In case you’re not familiar with the answer to either question, here’s a short story for you. Back in 1970, Led Zeppelin was on the upswing, building on their first two records and solidfying what was to be an incredibly successful career. They had spent most of the year recording what was to be released in October as “Led Zeppelin III“, not one of their greatest-selling albums, but certainly one that was artistically important and showed off the band’s range and versatility. There was a great emphasis on acoustic and folk-leaning compositions with this effort, and there was a lot of experimentation in the air. This mindset ended up carrying over into the work the band did for their next record, and it was in this more relaxed and experimental atmosphere that Jimmy Page picked up a mandolin.

“Battle of Evermore” was made up on the spot by Robert and myself,” Page recalls. “I just picked up John Paul Jones’s mandolin, never having played a mandolin before, and just wrote up the chords and the whole thing in one sitting.”

Plant came up with some epic lyrics and they fleshed the song out, but something was missing: another voice. This track, Plant felt, was something that needed an extra vocal to help tell the story, and so he reached out to his friend Sandy Denny, a very popular English singer-songwriter who had just the previous year come off a stint as the lead vocalist for iconic folk-rock band Fairport Convention. (I could pivot here to talk about the insanely talented Richard Thompson, who was a founding member of that group, but I feel that perhaps that’s best left to another post….) Sandy’s role in the song was to be a counterpoint, a “town crier” to Robert Plant’s role as narrator. Or, as Page put it, “we figured we’d bring Sandy by and do a question-and-answer-type thing.”

I’ll tell you … for years I thought that Robert Plant sounded a bit different on some parts of that song, like he was singing in falsetto on certain lines just for effect. But no, he wasn’t employing Janet Jackson-type vocal tricks, I eventually discovered … it was a duet. It’s amazing to me that no matter how much you think you know about music, there’s always something else to learn….

Anyway, another interesting footnote to this little story: Led Zeppelin’s fourth album is often known as the “four symbols” album, as there were no words on the record jacket at all, just a framed photo of an old man and some symbols. These four icons were actually chosen (or created, in the case of Page) by the band members to represent themselves anonymously on the outside sleeve of the record. Again, a priceless quote from Page:

“After all this crap that we’d had with the critics, I put it to everybody else that it’d be a good idea to put out something totally anonymous. At first I wanted just one symbol on it, but then it was decided that since it was our fourth album and there were four of us, we could each choose our own symbol. I designed mine and everyone else had their own reasons for using the symbols that they used.”

What’s not commonly known, though, is that there is a fifth symbol on the record. On the inside sleeve credits, a small icon showing three triangles touching at their points appears. This symbol represents Sandy Denny and honors her contribution to the album.

Now, if you can tell me the only guest vocalist the group Rush has ever recorded with and who that was (and on what song), well, I guess I’ll have to do better than a stupid set of steak knives now, won’t I?

Celebration Day

Posted in Current Events, Music, Music Video with tags , , , , , , , , on October 23, 2012 by greedycherry

Led Zeppelin Live at O2 ArenaThis past Thursday night, I got to do something that I never thought in a million years I would have a chance to do: I saw Led Zeppelin live in concert.

Well, okay, I guess that’s stretching the truth a little bit. (Or a whole lot, depending on how much of a buzzkill you want to be here…) It wasn’t really live, per se….it was a movie. In a movie theater. There was a crowd, sure, but they were mostly seated and chewing popcorn … not so much with the crowd surfing.

What I witnessed, in actuality, was the brand new concert film “Celebration Day”, which captures Led Zeppelin’s triumphant reunion show at the O2 Arena in London back in 2007. Of course, it can never be a complete and true reunion …. drummer John Bonham died back in 1980, which led to the group’s breakup in the first place. Despite this, however, it can be noted that keeping the same genetic material in the lineup seems to be the next best thing: John’s son Jason Bonham was tapped for this show, and turned in a performance that was breathtaking in its endurance and its power. But I think I’m getting ahead of myself….

The concert was officially billed as the “Ahmet Ertegun Tribute Concert”, in honor of the legendary music executive and founder and president of Atlantic Records who had died the previous year at the age of 83. If you’re unfamiliar with his name, or the legacy of incredible music he’s responsible for, allow me to give you a link. Ahmet Ertegun signed and developed some of the biggest talents in the music industry for over three decades, names like (and see if you recognize any of these little-known artists) Aretha Franklin, Eric Clapton, Genesis, Ray Charles, Yes, and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (which was only Crosby, Stills & Nash until Ahmet hooked them up with Neil Young). Most important to this little story, however, is the fact that he heard a demo in the late 60s from a new group named Led Zeppelin, and loved it so much that he quickly signed them to his label.

So Ahmet passes away, and it’s decided that a tribute concert will be held, with all the proceeds going to the Ahmet Ertegun Educational Fund (which pays for university scholarships in the U.S., U.K., and Turkey, where the Ertegun family was originally from). Some acts from the Atlantic stable of artists were lined up, like Paul Rodgers (former lead singer of Bad Company), members of Yes, Mick Jones (former lead singer of Foreigner)…..and it’s rumored they even tried to get a reunited Cream together for the show. Well, they didn’t manage that, but they got something (in my humble opinion) MUCH, MUCH better.

It was announced on September 12, 2007 that the surviving members of Led Zeppelin would reunite for the show, performing a whole concert together for the first time in 27 years. On drums would be Jason Bonham, who had played on two previous occasions when brief “one-off” reunion performances had been held (fortunately, he hadn’t been involved with the disastrous 1985 performance at Live Aid, which the members of Zeppelin hated so much they refused to let it be put on the concert DVD when it was finally released). This time, however, it was not just a song or two, but a full show. Was he up to the challenge? Were the reunited members of Led Zeppelin up to the challenge?

To paraphrase Whitney Houston (God rest her soul): “HELL TO THE YES.”

Led Zeppelin Reunion PortraitI have to say that watching this concert film was an exhilarating experience, from the opening chords of “Good Times Bad Times” to the closing drum flourishes of “Black Dog”. I was alive when Led Zeppelin were in their prime, but really too young to have gone to the shows or known anything about the band (or music, for that matter….I was 8 years old when Bonham died). I guess if my parents had been hippies or metalheads or something more exciting, perhaps I would have ended up at a show sooner or later, and that certainly would score me bragging points in a conversation. But the fact is that I wouldn’t remember a damn thing about it (hell, I attended shows a year or so ago I can’t remember anything about), so what good would it do me? Now I was sitting there in the theater, fully aware and with my memory circuits on, watching these men who revolutionized music – who, in my mind, created a catalog so amazing and diverse, so full of power and beauty, that it rivals any output by any group that has ever existed – rock.

So very happy was I. (Said Yoda once.)

I knew it wasn’t precisely what it must have been like to see them in their prime, but there certainly were moments, sometimes more than moments, where I don’t believe it could have gotten any better. Lead vocalist Robert Plant, while not screaming, moaning, and wailing on every tune, certainly still has range, and used it quite a few times to jaw-dropping effect. Sometimes, it seemed like he was having trouble momentarily, and I’d think, “Oh, maybe his voice isn’t what it used to be”…. and then he’d turn around a moment later and let out a high-pitched wail that scolded me for even having the thought.

Guitarist Jimmy Page looked like he had consumed a valium cocktail before he took the stage, but wasn’t so relaxed that he couldn’t resurrect every distorted power riff that made Led Zeppelin the gods of rock’n’roll for so many years. He even reached into his bag of favorite weapons and pulled out the violin bow, the double-necked guitar (obligatory for playing “Stairway To Heaven”), and the theremin, which revealed itself to be good for much more than an extra sound texture in the Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations”.

Bassist/keyboardist John Paul Jones has always been one of my favorites, and that’s not just because I’m a bass player. (Well, okay….maybe a little….) This multi-instrumentalist really was, in some ways, the glue that held Led Zeppelin together. Coming from a session player background, he had not only learned to play and master many different instruments, but also to arrange and write as well. He spent some time after Zeppelin broke up working as a producer and composer, and actually is responsible for the string arrangements on my favorite R.E.M. album, “Automatic For The People”. Still, watching him here, back in the role that made him rich and famous, was pretty neat. He didn’t do anything too outrageous, and he didn’t need to. Whether grooving on bass or laying down pads on the synthesizer, John Paul Jones is simply rock solid.

And lastly, Jason Bonham. I can only imagine the emotion involved, if he took the time to think about it (which I believe he probably did), in realizing that the last time these people got together to play a rock concert was 27 years ago, and your father was the drummer. Now after all these years of learning your father’s instrument, mastering his craft and making it your own, you’re on stage with these people, these amazingly talented musicians, who, with your dad, made rock and roll history. To just play those famous parts his father wrote, note for note, sometimes adding your own flourishes … I can’t even imagine the weight of that. But if he felt it, it never showed. He started playing and never stopped, never slowed, never flinched, for almost two hours.

When it was all over and the crowd was cheering, and the band members were all standing at the edge of the stage waving, I thought then that I saw tears in his eyes, but, of course, I really can’t blame him. What an amazing night for him that must have been. Or, as Jimmy Page noted in a later interview, “I look back on that night with a great amount of fondness, but Jason was the hero. For me that gig was about him.”

The limited release shows in movie theaters are over now, but don’t despair … “Celebration Day” comes to CD, DVD, and Blu-Ray on November 19th. My advice? Get the best speakers and the biggest TV screen you can find, run out and grab yourself a copy of the DVD, and then rush home and play it as loud as you possibly can.

And, really, forget the popcorn … just pack your living room with friends and crowd surf.

The Bramble Rose (or “How Tift Merritt Broke Up My Band”)

Posted in Current Events, Music, Music Video with tags , , , , , , , , on October 16, 2012 by greedycherry

Tift MerrittFrankly, I can’t remember the last time I went out to see a live show (well, one that wasn’t free to the public, anyway). I’m sure it wasn’t that long ago, but money hasn’t exactly been plentiful these past couple of years, so I haven’t really been that inclined to go donating large chunks of my hard-earned cash to Ticketmaster.

This month, however, has proved to be an anomaly. First item of note: my boss was kind enough to donate to my worthy cause a ticket to see the Alabama Shakes at the House of Blues on Friday the 5th, which, if I may say, was a pretty damn good show. But, as this post isn’t about that, I’ll move on.

Even more odd (and more relevant to this post), a few days before that I had won a pair of concert tickets on the radio. It was a Sunday afternoon, and I was listening to “Sunday Morning Country with Cousin Kate”, an EXCELLENT show on local Boston College station WZBC. (If you’re in the Boston area, I would recommend you make it regular listening. If you’re not, they keep the past two weeks’ worth of shows online, so you’ve got no excuse …. you can listen any time you’d like!) After a particularly good set of tunes, Cousin Kate suddenly announced that if you heard a Tift Merritt song in the next set and were caller number five, you would win tickets to see Tift in concert at Johnny D’s in Somerville. As I consider myself a Tift Merritt fan, this definitely got my attention, and when I heard the unmistakable sound of her voice begin to ring out, I jumped on my phone (not literally, of course) and dialed the station’s number.

The phone started ringing, and Kate picked up, telling me I was caller number three. “Well, crap,” I thought. No reason to bother calling back … if I was three, statistically, how could I possibly call back in time to be five?

Still, my finger hit “redial”.

Now here’s the odd part. You ever have that thing happen where your phone indicates that it’s dialing, but you don’t hear anything? And then the time starts ticking on your display, as if someone’s picked up and you’re already talking, but you still can’t hear anything? Well, if you haven’t, consider yourself lucky. It’s infuriating. Even more so when you’re trying to win tickets….

Now my phone says I’m connected, but there’s no sound….I should be talking to someone, but I hear only silence. So I do what calm, rational people usually do when this happens: yell frantically into my phone. “HELLO? HELLO?? HELLOOOOOOOOOOOOO???”

And because the only way it could possibly get worse is if you can suddenly hear the other person but they still can’t hear you, that’s exactly what happens.

“Hello? WZBC … hello?”

“HELLLLOOOOOOO?????? HELLLLLLLLLLOOOOOOOOOOOOOO???????”

So I’m pretty sure of two things right now. One, I think I’m actually, somehow, the right number caller to win these tickets. Two, because of my stupid phone, I’m about to lose these tickets. Then, a miracle.

“Oh, hello! You’re caller number five!”

She can hear me now. Sweet.

Anyway, that’s a long route to travel to make the point that I won tickets to see Tift Merritt on the radio. But you’re never getting those minutes of your life back now, so you’ll just have to live with it.

"Bramble Rose" Album CoverI can’t remember the first time I heard Tift Merritt, but I do know that I was impressed from the moment I did. Her voice, capable of both tender whispers and powerful shouts, is one of those unique instruments that you hear once and recognize it instantly from that point forward. The songs are great too, which is definitely a plus, but it’s the voice that wraps around them that makes it all so unique and special. There’s an intimacy in the way she sings, especially on the down-tempo numbers, that makes you feel like she’s sitting right in front of you with her guitar, singing directly to you. Never heard Tift before? I recommend you start here, with the first track from her first record “Bramble Rose”: “Trouble Over Me”.

Anyway, the first time I saw Tift Merritt live was the only time I’d ever seen her, on the tour for that first record. I had purchased the CD a few months earlier and wore it out (well, you really can’t wear out CDs, I suppose, so that’s outdated terminology), and, on the strength of what I heard and loved, I bought a ticket to see the show. Honestly, though, I’m not sure I was prepared for what I experienced that night at Iota Club & Cafe in Arlington, Virginia.

And since we’re now getting to the main story behind this post, let me give you a little bit of background. I was in a band at this time that I had formed with an old high school friend of mine. I always thought that he and I would find our careers in music together, playing gigs, releasing CDs, and climbing the music industry ladder to success over time. In addition to being friends, we both had the same love of music history and trivia, and I thought we were both pretty good songwriters. It seemed that with just a bit of effort and luck, we could most certainly carve out some sort of success with our band and really make a go of it, as we had always talked about.

Unfortunately, without getting into too much personal detail, let’s just say that I was sadly mistaken. My friend went off to college to become an engineer, and, although the band started back up after he returned, I really don’t think he took music seriously after that. Sometimes I thought we were both still in the game, and that we were working towards similar goals, but over time I felt a large chasm grow between us. Whenever we had band practices, he seemed withdrawn and unengaged, and I began to think he just didn’t want to do it anymore. It seemed to me that the group was some sort of strange unwanted obligation to him, rather than the invigorating, life-changing experience it had always been. And so the band staggered forward, containing an unspoken (most of the time, anyway) undercurrent of tension, and it was really starting to become no fun. I wanted my friend back and pushed hard at his apathy. He found me, I’m sure, to be an overbearing prick, and withdrew further. Sure, we were starting to get more gigs as a band, but the tension was always there, and that made things hard for everyone.

And so it was that I bought my ticket to see Tift Merritt and traveled down to Virginia for the show. I took a spot near the stage, waited for her arrival with anticipation, and when that musical dynamo hit the stage, it was simply awesome. She rocked, she rolled, she belted, she whispered, and had everyone in the club dancing and singing and smiling. The energy was just pouring off the stage and devouring every person in that audience, and it made me feel great. I was happy, and I could tell that the band was happy. They looked like they were having the time of their lives … and that’s when it hit me.

Music is supposed to be fun.

I thought to myself, “This is what being in a band is supposed to feel like. Not misery. Not tension. Not arguments and cutting comments under your breath. Not indifference or disdain. But FUN. It’s supposed to be fun and make you feel good.”

And at that moment, I knew that my time in my band was over. I was simply wasting my life and my time, spending however many hours a week rehearsing, practicing, playing music … but having no fun. It just wasn’t worth it anymore.

Maybe I could go solo. Or form another band. Or just quit doing music for a while and give myself some time to reflect. I really wasn’t sure what I was going to do at that point, but I knew what I wasn’t going to do anymore.

And so it came to pass on that fateful night so many years ago, that the wonderfully talented singer/songwriter Tift Merritt broke up my band.

Tift Merritt Live

Eric Heywood, Tift Merritt, and Jay Brown

So … here we are about a decade later, and I finally had another chance to go see Tift live in concert. As expected, it was a great show, although not as rip-your-face-off rocking as the one at Iota. (However, it must be said that Johnny D’s is a sit-down dinner-type joint, while Iota was a stand up small bar-type venue which lent itself more to ‘loud and rocking’…) Still, solid performances, great music, fun audience interactions, and fabulous pedal steel guitar courtesy of Eric Heywood. (Always a plus, in my opinion.)

So the show’s over, and I’m putting on my coat. Mere moments away from turning around and heading for the door, I suddenly see Tift and her bassist come out of the back and start to make their way across the club. Considering where I’m standing, it’s obvious to me that she’ll be passing close by shortly, and that I may be able to say something to her. It’s that moment that all fans hope for: you go see an artist whose work you admire, and you get a chance to express your appreciation. An ever-so-brief tête-à-tête with the star of the show….how exciting (and, may I add, nerve-wracking)! What should I say?

Well, as she strode towards me, I quickly came up with a line or two in my head. My little speech went something like this: “Hello Tift! Great show tonight! Just wanted to let you know that I saw you on your very first tour, and it was an amazing show that night too. Thanks for all the great music!”

I mean, nothing Shakespearean in nature, obviously, but it would do the job just fine.

Problem was that Tift wasn’t looking at me. She was headed right for me, but kept her head down. I couldn’t make eye contact to indicate I wanted to say something, and I felt awkward just blurting out something as she passed, so I wasn’t sure what to do. Finally, as she walked right in front of me, she raised her head and looked at me. My lead-in time was gone. I had a half second to say something as she passed by. Quick! Think of something! Start talking! SAY. SOMETHING.

“Good job!”

I recoiled in horror as the words fell out of my mouth, dropping straight to the carpet with a thud. What the hell was THAT? “Good job”? “Good job”????? That’s something you say to your eight year old if they clean their room up like you told them … it’s NOT something you say to a talented artist who just put on a great show for a couple hours! I wondered how I could possibly do anything more stupid than utter the phrase I just uttered, when I quickly found out.

I heard myself weakly mumble the same phrase again to the bass player trailing behind her, not wanting him to miss the incredible gift of my amazing eloquence.

Idiot.

Come to think of it, maybe there’s a reason I don’t go to live shows anymore….

Seems Like A Dream

Posted in Current Events, Music, Music Video with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on June 7, 2012 by greedycherry

I don’t get it.  I really don’t.  Is it just me, or are an inordinate amount of musicians dying lately?  Every single time I turn around, someone else is passing away, and I’m really, REALLY trying to swear off making my blog, as one of my friends so aptly joked, the “Greedy Cherry Obituary.”

Therefore, I’ll try to keep this short.

It’s hard not to honor the life of a talented musican, especially being a musician myself (for which the “talented” part, of course, is up for debate). But the death of Bob Welch today (a suicide, unfortunately) likely only strikes me so strongly because I have just recently come to appreciate his songs.  Or, to be honest, one song in particular.

“Hypnotized” was a song Welch wrote and performed when he was the lead guitarist and vocalist for Fleetwood Mac back in the 1970s. “But wait a minute,” you say. “Wasn’t Lindsey Buckingham the lead guitarist and vocalist for Fleetwood Mac in the 1970s?”

“Sure,” I reply. “He was certainly one of them.”

Many people don’t realize the lineup shifts and changes that went on in the ranks of the Mac back in the day, and that they only rose to global superstardom once the boyfriend/girlfriend duo of Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks joined up in 1975. But Fleetwood Mac had been around since 1967, originally formed as a three-piece consisting of drummer Mick Fleetwood, bassist John McVie, and popular blues guitarist Peter Green. All of them met while performing as part of John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, and eventually struck out on their own, adding slide guitarist Jeremy Spencer and releasing their first album “Fleetwood Mac” in February of 1968. In fact, Fleetwood Mac was mainly a blues band for the first few years of their existence, and only started to segue into playing with the rock and pop styles as the 1970s dawned. Other guitarists who were members of the Mac that helped them stretch out into those styles in the early part of that decade were Danny Kirwan and Bob Weston (who, oddly enough, also died this year, back in January).

I promised to make this short, didn’t I?

Anyway, long story short: main guitarist Peter Green went a little bonkers and left the band, and they hired Christine Perfect (now known much better as Christine McVie) on to help fill out the lineup.  Shortly thereafter, Jeremy Spencer went out for a magazine and never came back (they found soon after he had joined a religious group called “The Children of God”), so the Mac was in the market for another guitarist.

Enter Bob Welch.

Welch was with the band from 1971 through 1974, and I frankly had never heard anything from that era until just a few months ago, when, on my Pandora station I listen to at work, the song “Hypnotized” came up on rotation. From the very first seconds, as the recognizable drum rhythm loops over and over without any other instrumentation, pounding its way into my subconscious, I took notice. I made a point to listen. The song didn’t disappoint.

It’s got a very relaxing, almost mystical vibe to it despite the drum prelude, and when the reverb-laden guitar hits its first lick, it’s almost the perfect antidote to the driving, unyielding rhythm Mick Fleetwood lays down. Further ambience is established by the swelling harmony vocals on the chorus. After my first listen, I wanted to hear it again. After my second, I rated it with the little orange “thumbs up” so that I would be sure to hear it (and other songs like it) again in my rotation.

After the tenth listen, I went to my local record shop and bought the CD, 1973’s “Mystery To Me”.

Anyway, Bob Welch would end up achieving greater success after leaving Fleetwood Mac. In 1977, as the Mac were ruling the world with the release of “Rumours”, Welch put out his first solo effort entitled “French Kiss”.  It contained two hits, the track “Sentimental Lady” (which was originally written and released during his time with Fleetwood Mac, but didn’t become a hit until this solo version….which, funny enough, features Mick Fleetwood, Stevie Nicks, and Lindey Buckingham as session players) and “Ebony Eyes”.  I’m sure, just as you likely didn’t know who the hell Bob Welch was in the first place, you probably wouldn’t recognize those songs by their names, but take a listen….chances are you do know them (at least “Sentimental Lady”).

(Don’t you love those moments where someone mentions a song, and you go, “What? No, I don’t know that song.” And then they play a bit of it, or hum it to you, and you go, “Oh YEAH….I know that.”  Sometimes I find it amazing how much we know that we don’t know until someone digs it out of a buried corner of our brain….)

So, in conclusion, after my one single blog entry where I didn’t mention dead musicans, I must now cave and say these words: rest in peace, Bob Welch. And thanks for the music.

Call It Done

Posted in Current Events, Music with tags , , , , , , on May 27, 2012 by greedycherry

Brooke ParrottA former classmate of mine from the Berklee College of Music, a talented young lady named Brooke Parrott, completed work on her sophomore CD entitled “Buried” not that long ago, and now is getting ready for the official release on June 1st.  Having supported the recording via a donation to her campaign on PledgeMusic (I like to support all the former classmates I can who are making great music whenever I am able), I feel a little word or two on my blog about her new EP is warranted. Word of mouth is so very important when it comes to getting one’s music out to the masses and heard (and hopefully purchased), so I want to do my part to spread the word. If you have a few moments after reading this (or maybe even while reading this), take a listen and support Brooke with a little cash-eesh if you like what you hear. Cool? Let’s get started….

The first time I heard this EP was a couple months back when I received the tracks via download because of my participation in her PledgeMusic campaign. I took a quick spin through the tracks, and one immediately jumped out at me…..the up-tempo and memorably melodic “Call It Done.” Kicking off with a little bit of rhythmic electric guitar, Brooke’s voice jumps in with a smooth delivery that doesn’t seem to move much in note choice for a line or two, belying the deft plunge into melody which is on the way. By the time the chorus kicks in and the bass joins the fun, there’s a hummable ditty that especially turns nicely on the phrase  “Let’s just quit while ahead, no one’s winning this one.”  And then when the hand claps kick in, fuhgeddaboutit. I’m a sucker for hand claps.

“Call It Done” never seems to lose momentum, and this could be due to the four-on-the-floor bass drum that’s present throughout the majority of the song, but I think that the trick’s in the arrangement. Follow the progression here: the song begins sparsely and the bass doesn’t kick in until the first chorus; a heavier drum sound is added at the beginning of the second verse; hand claps hit on the second chorus and stay throughout the sparser-feeling bridge and the third verse; and things build ever so slightly as she launches into the last chorus, where her voice is doubled in a more obvious way than on previous choruses, thickening the sound until a unison chorus of other voices kick in behind her on a second go-round. I’m a big fan of good arranging, and I think this is a pretty good example of fabulous execution. Take a listen to the song on her website and see if you don’t become hooked on this tasty little tune!

"Buried" by Brooke ParrottOf course, that’s not to say that the rest of the songs on the EP are bad….nowhere near it. It’s just that on any record I’ve ever listened to (and I’m sure it’s the same for all of you), there’s always one song that leaps out at you….one that’s your favorite. And with the “Buried” EP, “Call It Done” is that song for me.

Having said that, I received my advance hard copy of the CD this past week and decided to take another listen while looking over the whole package. Actually, if you’d be so kind, allow me a diversion here: no matter how many downloads anyone ever offers me, there’s nothing I appreciate more than holding a tangible item in my hand, a finished product that speaks to a total artistic experience and the realization of a vision. I mean, it’s bad enough we have mostly lost the lovely canvas that was the 12″ vinyl album….do we have to lose our CD booklets too? Or maybe I’m just the only person left in the world who likes reading the credits of an album and seeing who played on it and where it was recorded, etc…..

Sigh. Anyway, regardless of that little off-the-cuff rant, here’s a quick word about the rest of the songs, all of which are quite good:

  • “Head Over Heart” – An atmospheric opening number that brought to mind the ambient music of Tennessee-based group Hammock. The vibe suits Brooke’s voice like a glove.
  • “Wanting” – A lovely ballad where Brooke’s piano becomes a bit more prominent, but the heartfelt vocal performance outshines everything. If you’re a Tift Merritt fan, especially of her early work, you may find the track reminiscent of “Sunday”.
  • “If You Don’t Know” – One of my favorite sounds, the hammond organ, augments this song, which contains a unique drum rhythm on the verses, a half-time bridge, and a bouncy chorus.
  • “Waterproof” – Loping and dirge-like for a good part of the song (which is in a waltz-like 3/4), this track caught my attention due to the drums as well, with somber drum rolls marching each verse toward the gallows and a solid crack on the “&” of 1 and the 3 of each measure of the chorus.
  • “Buried” – I found it odd that the title track was the last song, but, upon listening, it certainly feels right to make this the closer. An intimate piece featuring Brooke’s voice and piano, this is best listened to in a quiet room…..the ending needs the space and silence to hang in the air, and you’ll be inclined to keep your eyes closed and just sit for a few moments after it’s over. Great ending to a CD.

Anyway, the EP will be available for purchase on Friday, so if you liked the preview you heard on her website, I would encourage you to return at that time to make a purchase and support a great songwriter. And if you really like what you hear, I would also suggest heading over to Brooke’s CDBaby page and snagging a copy of her debut full-length CD, “Another City”. I can’t see how you’d possibly regret it.

See? I told you my next blog entry wouldn’t be an obituary!  🙂

Dim All The Lights

Posted in Current Events, Music, Music Video with tags , , , on May 18, 2012 by greedycherry

Donna Summer

I believe that when fans think of Donna Summer, who passed away Thursday morning at the age of 63, they’re probably in one of two camps.

The first camp is people who were around in the 1970s and think of her as the unchallenged queen of disco. In four short years, she seemed to put out more four-on-the-floor disco tunes than anyone around; from the extended recorded orgy that was 1975’s “Love To Love You Baby” to 1979’s prostitution-themed “Bad Girls”, Donna Summer ruled dance floors all around the country. Hit after hit rose up the charts, and she seemed unstoppable.

Then the 1980s hit, and the inevitable backslide began (remember, kids….no one ever stays at the top forever). Sure, she was still popular, but she now expressed an interest in wanting to move away from disco and try some other styles. Her record label Casablanca, sensing that a cash cow might be slipping through their fingers, of course tried to discourage this. No compromise could be reached, and, as a result, Donna Summer left Casablanca in 1980 and signed with brand new label Geffen Records.  (Brand new…..HA.  Now I feel old….)

And thus began the second period that most of the fans in the other camp know her best for: 80s pop. Infusing her new songs with a bit of rock and New Wave, Summer managed to crank out another hit, called “The Wanderer”, right away, and followed that with a can’t-miss partnership that produced my favorite song of hers. Geffen recruited Quincy Jones to work with Donna on her second album for the label, and six months later, “Donna Summer” was released, generating the top ten hit “Love Is In Control (Finger On The Trigger)”. I was in middle school when it came out, but it made quite an impression….I heard it on the radio and just fell in love with it. As an adult, I can speak to the wonderful arrangement, the tight horn section, the great use of synthesizers….but back then I just thought it was COOL. Especially the robot voices.

(Side note and great piece of trivia: the very next album Quincy Jones produced after “Donna Summer”? “Thriller” by Michael Jackson. As a matter of fact, he was already working on it when Donna’s album was released.)

In a last hurrah of success, she released another album one year later to fulfill an obligation on her previous contract to Casablanca. Too bad for Geffen Records…..the album, titled “She Works Hard For The Money”, generated another top ten hit and a Grammy nomination for Donna. Unfortunately, she had now reached the end of her successful period.

Although she continued to make music – even charting one last top ten hit in 1989 with “This Time I Know It’s For Real” (awesome I could find a clear version of the video here, but, being an extended dance mix, you might want to skip ahead to about 1:40 to get to the actual song….unless you enjoy seeing idiots try to dance) – Donna Summer never again reached the dizzying heights of success that she had experienced in those eight years. Eleven albums, thirteen top ten hits, three consecutive double albums to reach number one (the first artist – and only one I know of – to ever do that), and a top forty hit in the Billboard Top 100 every single year from 1976 to 1984.

Now that’s impressive.

LaDonna Adrian Gaines, known to music lovers and club goers the world over as Donna Summer……..rest in peace.

(P.S. – I swear my next blog entry won’t be another obituary. I swear. Really I do.)