music – SHEPHERD SIEGEL https://www.shepherdsiegel.com Tue, 17 Sep 2019 18:41:47 +0000 en hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.2.4 https://i0.wp.com/www.shepherdsiegel.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/cropped-DisruptivePlay-5.jpg?fit=32%2C32&ssl=1 music – SHEPHERD SIEGEL https://www.shepherdsiegel.com 32 32 137988190 Bring ‘em in with the Ear Candy Pop…then Throw ‘em the Red Meat Blues https://www.shepherdsiegel.com/bring-em-in-with-the-ear-candy-popthen-throw-em-the-red-meat-blues/ https://www.shepherdsiegel.com/bring-em-in-with-the-ear-candy-popthen-throw-em-the-red-meat-blues/#respond Fri, 06 Sep 2019 00:02:31 +0000 https://www.shepherdsiegel.com/?p=1891 After the flowering of Sixties rock and before the blunt commercial thunder of 80s arena rock, fans took a breezy ride up the escalator of power chords, catchy hooks, and growing audiences—listening, bobbing and maybe dancing to the major acts of the mid-Seventies: Led Zeppelin, Queen, The Who, Pink Floyd, Aerosmith, The Eagles, Cheap Trick, Fleetwood Mac, Alice Cooper, Kiss, Van Halen, Blue Oyster Cult, Styx, Jethro Tull, Journey et al. Some of these acts created less lucrative but more innovative music in the Sixties: Zeppelin, The Who, Floyd, Fleetwood Mac, Jethro Tull, and my guilty pleasure, the Steve Miller Band.

I got to go hear and see the Steve Miller Band for about the eighth time, at the mid-sized Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery here in Western Washington. It’s a nice place for us oldies…comfortable, in a setting among trees and vineyards, but still capable of hosting raucous and swinging rock music. This show, at the end of Miller’s tour, brought great music, entertainment, communality, and satisfaction to the crowd, a crowd he schooled and made wriggle, rock, and roll.

Partly due to my bias of growing up in the Bay Area, but mainly by way of how great their first five albums were, I fell for the Steve Miller Band’s psychedelic blues approach. They landed with the trippy but sturdy late-Sixties LPs Children of the Future and Sailor. The next two albums, Brave New World and Your Saving Grace, featured some of the best rock piano playing by the best rock piano session man, Nicky Hopkins. They recorded evergreen hits like Livin’ in the USA and Space Cowboy (my deep cut: off the album Number 5, “Goin’ to Mexico”)Miller explored a rock/blues/psychedelia form along with countless other white boy bands, mainly Brits and Yankees. He tweaked and mutated the music until he found a commercial resonance, and then ree-bop ba-diddly bop, he rode a wave of huge radio hits: The Joker, Take the Money and Run, Rock’n Me, Fly Like an Eagle, Jet Airliner, Jungle Love, etc. And after more than fifty years as a consummate, professional, rock’n act, Steve Miller continues to write his own ticket, playing classic blues and blues-infected country to audiences in their 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s.

Miller wants to be remembered as part of the blues lineage, both bringing the tradition back and innovating upon it. And he will be. He serves on the Board of Directors at Jazz at Lincoln Center. He learned guitar at a very young age listening to Les Paul in his living room and getting lessons from family friend T-Bone Walker. He played with Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy, Junior Wells, James Cotton, and Paul Butterfield. His first San Francisco band included his Texas high school buddy Boz Scaggs. Steve Miller is one of Paul McCartney’s favorite and most frequent collaborators. He’s the real thing.

Steve Miller with Les Paul, 2004.

He hit me over the head with his 2 by 4 of love. First, Miller gave his own history of the blues and his influences to the audience, including among those influences the original electric jazz guitarist Charlie Christian. He then shared his artistic goal: to sound like Jimmy Reed and Freddie King playing a Robert Johnson tune with a T-Bone Walker guitar solo. Okay, cool. But in our over-saturated music-as-wallpaper world, most people, a, don’t listen to music, and b, once they recognize a genre, for example a T-Bone Walker solo, they go oh yeah, this is cool for about 7 seconds and then go back to talking to their friends about whatever. Which is what this show was like. Crappy audience not really giving the musicians enough of a chance…until Miller pulled out that 2 by 4.

He did something I’d not witnessed or participated in for a long time: he got that crowd to listen to, dance to, and dig a T-Bone Walker styled blues, like, all the way through. Who’s T-Bone Walker? He’s Mr. Stormy Monday Blues, he’s the original urban blues artist, but from Texas, he’s the originator of the guitar style that Chuck Berry took and made into rock and roll. So congratulations, Mr. Miller! Thank you for that bit of psychic surgery, taking that audience on a trip down Blues Alley.

And the overall achievement of this show is that Miller has dialed back the arena rock bombast enough to allow for sets that travel through several genres, mixing in blues, country, love ballads and hard rockers. They sounded like a band, not a hit machine.

Steve Miller, Chuck Berry, and Lonnie Turner. 1967, San Francisco.

Take a look at that list of big rock acts from the Seventies from the beginning of this piece. Who among them has taken their prestige as an “oldies group” still able to command a substantial audience, and used that as a means to educate more people about our country and blues roots and some of the truly great artists who continue to go undiscovered, under-appreciated and uncompensated?

Speaking of which, this 2019 tour featured the incredible Marty Stuart and his Fabulous Superlatives, opening the show and joining Miller and his band for several tunes. Stuart is cut from the same cloth as Johnny Cash, but with a more urban sound (when he wants), as well as the ability to change hats and go for a bluegrass-tinged acoustic country sound. In fact, he’s made entire albums of honky-tonk, rockabilly, country rock, traditional country, Western music, gospel, and bluegrass. He’s the real thing, too, having come to fame in 1972 at the age of 13 playing mandolin in Lester Flatt’s band, and in the 80s he joined Johnny Cash’s band. He plays that mandolin still, and well…he’s killer, and able to connect his virtuosity with audiences. He’s got a little of that telepathic mojo that began to bring the audience into the music. Stuart and his band played Woody Guthrie, they played Cash, they played a song about Martin Luther King, JFK and Bobby Kennedy (Tommy Cash’s “Six White Horses”…they took you home before you sang your song). He’s one of the main consultants on Ken Burns’ upcoming Country Music documentary series. He’s about to begin his tenure as the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum’s Artist-in-Residence. And he’s performed with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.

Steve Miller loves his life as a musician, and he’s a musician on a mission, really on a bunch of missions. He toured with Peter Frampton last year, to give him one last hurrah; Frampton has had to stop touring due to a rare degenerative muscular disease. Now Miller continues on his determined path with Marty Stuart, educating the audience on musical connections as he rocks us. Calling the tour Classic Rock Meets Classic Country is an understatement, if not a downright misnomer. The two bands’ sets combine in a breathtaking panoply of disparate styles—from the glitzy synthesizer effects of Miller’s Seventies hits to one of his traditional blues, The Lovin’ Cup. From Stuart tearing it up on his mandolin with the fiddle riffs from Orange Blossom Special, to a bred-in-the-bone folk rendition of Woody Guthrie’s Pretty Boy Floyd. And that’s just a small sample.

What once was guilty pleasure has grown to shameless admiration for the music, accomplishment and missions of Steve Miller.

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Music? Review? You decide, then play. https://www.shepherdsiegel.com/music-review-you-decide-then-play/ https://www.shepherdsiegel.com/music-review-you-decide-then-play/#respond Mon, 15 Jul 2019 19:05:43 +0000 https://www.shepherdsiegel.com/?p=1833 You know, I never get asked, “Shepherd Siegel, the world knows you as an intergalactically recognized artist…but what are you REALLY like?” Nope, never been asked that.

Well, I just live life by three simple rules. Yours may look a little different, but I think you’ll get the idea. In fact, I’d love to hear what YOUR Three Simple Rules to Live By are.

 

  1. When you’re walking down the street and you see some kind of monkey just sitting on a swing, go ahead and give that monkey a little push.

 

 

 

 

 

2. Have warm and meaningful conversations with your friends

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And 3, Join in with Big Stuffed Bears that Dance to The Moondogies.

[no dadgummit, I couldn’t get it to rotate. Turn head to the right.]

The Ballard Seafoodfest put some fine acts on a pretty well-appointed stage. Four of ‘em on Sunday July 14. The Dusty 45s, who have been on the scene for over 20 years, have a tight show built straight from the DNA of Americana roots and rockabilly. Lead singer Billy Joe Huels is pretty damn good at it, and that’s how you want to kick things off, with a shoot ‘em up fun-lovin’ band. Yes, the flaming trumpet was featured. The Dusty’s set the tone for the evening. And every act—The Dusty 45’s > Carrie Akre > Pickwick > The Moondoggies—as different as they were, featured quality singing. Here be them Dusty 45s.

And what a singer is Carrie Akre. We got a sonic assault of great material from her early 90s Seattle band Goodness. Akre is a Seattle grunge essential, a powerful songwriter, singer, and bandleader tearing through material that is almost 30 years old. It was a true blast from the past, with a different band. But material that might as well have been Nirvana’s jolted us right back into that grunge lightning storm. Given how long ago this stuff was shaking up the world, when we visit it now…grunge joins the ranks of other ‘oldies’ bands. And there’s nothing wrong with that. We all remembered,oh yeah, I love this stuff.  Perhaps Goodness’ most iconic song, Superwise.

 Pickwick’s been making records since 2013. I saw them do an in-store at ye olde record shoppe in 2017. They were real good then, but in 2019…well, they’ve come a long way, almost perfecting a soulful sound, influenced by the likes of Memphis Soul and various rock sources, and pulling off a pretty great vocal mix and a tight and unique band sound. I got realexcited, even dripped mustard from my hot dog onto my shirt (dammit!). the live mix was getting better with each act, so the fun factor was growing. I’d mos’ def’ like to hear what Pickwick can put down into the tracks of their next recording. Here’re two goodies:  Turncoat and Hacienda Motel.

But the night’s honors have to go to the headlining Moondoggies. The beauty of their sound is discovered through their influences, not least of all John Lennon and The Doors, but that said they lean heavily into a country groove and overall play exactly like a 1960s rock band, running through very familiar rock permutations, chords, progressions and sounds, and rarely if ever bringing in any kind of an updated feature. Because they accomplish this in such an unaffected way, they achieve an authenticity that is fresh and not derivative, soulful and heartfelt and not precious. Rock my soul, Moondoggies!

Oh, and by the way, I’ll be hanging out in public and talking ‘bout Disruptive Play, NOTkind of like Gary Busey NOT showing up at the West Seattle Street Fair (harrumph!!!).

See you Wednesday, July 17, 4 PM at Barnes and Noble Downtown Seattle (600 Pine St), or Saturday, July 20, 1 PM at !ndigo Robson, Vancouver, BC (1033 Robson), or Sunday, July 21, 11 AM at !ndigo Granville, Vancouver, BC (2505 Granville). More at www.shepherdsiegel.com

Plant you now and dig you later!

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Dead & Company . . . We’re Still Interstellar! https://www.shepherdsiegel.com/dead-company-were-still-interstellar/ https://www.shepherdsiegel.com/dead-company-were-still-interstellar/#respond Tue, 11 Jun 2019 18:51:57 +0000 https://www.shepherdsiegel.com/?p=1794

Sometimes there is something special about Grateful Dead music. Of course, they’re special even when the singing is out of tune, when they fall off the horse and you experience them getting back on. Their flaws only add to the fun and joy of being among their millions of fans. So . . . there is almost always something special about Dead music.

But by “sometimes” I am referring to times like the Dead & Company June 8 concert at The Gorge at George, Washington.

As to this particular sometime at the second night’s show, and those endearing and frequent human and awkward flaws that bedevil, bewitch, and be bop (a-loola) Dead music—when they are full on ‘on,’ the flaws fall away, and somewhere amongst the mix of psychedelia, funk, blues, reggae, EDM, space, drums, jazz, rock; the place where genres truly join up and touch each other; the swaying and dancing and tripping tuned-in crowd; and the unnamable’s—a moment emerges that can go on for an hour, where the music plays the band, where all is surrender to some greater force that just plain tickles.

And here at The Gorge, in the throes of an epic sunset, That Gorge laid bare the Skin of the Earth, and the River Columbia, the sun, the clouds, the air, the music all come in harmony and we return to nature, to joyful connection and remembering that existence itself is fun.

Not just a special show, but an experience that one hopes can integrate us humans, being alive and being nice to each other, appreciating our earth, where appreciation is an active verb, feeling the call to steward such enormous beauty. We are in fact a part of this beautiful earth, and summoned to the challenge of saving and sustaining life. Feel it!

The second set was particularly wonderful. Dead setlists almost don’t matter. It’s how  swinging and groovy they’re playing at whatever moment in whatever song. Most all their songs serve as worthy launching pads for whatever emotional and musical adventure they might pursue. To highlight the peak chunk of this consistently powerful show, and for those who are familiar with the songs, they played Deal > Viola Lee Blues, and then on to an otherworldly jam. Deadheads call it Drums and Space . . . but that doesn’t do its transportive and transformative powers justice. The Gorge is all about playing music with the earth itself as witness, and when all is in tune, the earth itself as lover.

After that jam segued into The Wheel, we fell back into our earthly souls with Bob Weir giving his all to Bob Dylan’s historic reminder, A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall. Bandleader Weir sang with fervent passion, paying the dues Dylan’s sadly-still-relevant prophecy demands…and he didn’t even forget any of the words!

Again, save mother earth, na na na-na na. Love mother earth.

This was one of the best shows ever. In fact, more than a show.

The previous night, I learned through pictures but no words that something was up with Mac Rebennack, known to those who bought his records and went to his shows as Dr. John.

And God love you, Mr. Rebennack. At The Gorge, they were putting up pictures of Garcia playing and mugging with him. I hadn’t heard the news. His dress was more conventional than the hoodoo voodoo getup, kind of like a blazer and tie. So I wasn’t certain it was him. but, yeah, I would’ve nailed it in a flash had they put this up:

This be the New York Times obituary.

So I’m sayin’ to myself, what’s up? Is that Dr. John? Did he die or something?

Yeah, he done died.

Death Don’t Have No Mercy In This Land.

We knew we were on to something special 53 years ago, at the birth of the Dead. We wondered where “special” would go after Jerry Garcia died. The Grateful Dead had survived and then thrived despite the major loss of Ron “Pigpen” McKernan in 1973, but Jerry’s death could have been a deal breaker. We wondered, but we also knew that there was a torch burning and it could be passed.

Through several iterations with various surviving members, the Faithful kept on twirling and had many good times. But this current lineup and approach of Dead & Company, with even a different musician rappin’ that bass (Oteil Burbridge, who also does a great job singing Garcia’s most plaintive ballads) and possibly the Dead’s best keyboardist ever (Jeff Chimenti), has grabbed that torch, recruited an exceptional guitarist and singer in John Mayer, and listened to how others playing in this 21stcentury . . . and we’re all doin’ the Half Step Mississippi Uptown Toodleoo. S’Wonderful. Buy the ticket and take the ride.

And as to that whole who’s alive and who’s dead thing, Weir has this to say: “I think death means more to most folks than it does to me. I take it fairly lightly. I don’t know how much of a divide death puts between us and the hereafter—if after is even an applicable adjunct there.”

Hello baby, I’m gone, goodbye.

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Happy Birthday, Erik Satie! https://www.shepherdsiegel.com/happy-birthday-erik-satie/ https://www.shepherdsiegel.com/happy-birthday-erik-satie/#respond Fri, 17 May 2019 15:42:33 +0000 https://www.shepherdsiegel.com/?p=1751

One of the very greatest exponents of tricksterism in music. Wikipedia sez: Éric Alfred Leslie Satie (French: [eʁik sati];[1] 17 May 1866 – 1 July 1925), who signed his name Erik Satie after 1884, was a French composer and pianist. Satie was an influential artist in the late 19th- and early 20th-century Parisian avant-garde. His work was a precursor to later artistic movements such as minimalism, repetitive music, and the Theatre of the Absurd.[2]

Wikipedia be sayin mo’…

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Get Hip to the Hot! Hot Club of San Francisco, that is . . . https://www.shepherdsiegel.com/get-hip-to-the-hot-hot-club-of-san-francisco-that-is/ https://www.shepherdsiegel.com/get-hip-to-the-hot-hot-club-of-san-francisco-that-is/#respond Wed, 12 Dec 2018 15:51:13 +0000 https://www.shepherdsiegel.com/?p=1362 Whether you are new to the Hot Club of San Francisco or a longtime fan (or even a longtime fan who already has many of their 14 previous CDs) . . . 30 Years is a worthy addition and pretty much a must-have album.

For the person just at the gateway of gypsy jazz and wanting an introduction to one of the world’s great gypsy jazz combos…well, just how wide is HCSF’s range? A friend borrowed 30 Yearsand thought it was a mixtape of various groups…THAT’S how wide HCSF’s range is, boyo!

30 Years is elegant and sublime in how it spans the three decades of repertoire and the release hits on all the unique niches, nooks, crannies and celestial romper rooms where the HCSF likes to play. HCSF’s founding leader, Paul “Pazzo” Mehling sings and plays all manner of instruments, constellating around his inventive guitar improvisations. His reimagining of the catalog kicks off with a treatment of Thelonious Monk’s ‘Round Midnight…a jazz tune that might seem quite distant from what Django played, yet HCSF shows you a bridge you did not know existed. Vocals adorn and extend the instrumentalist foundation of the group, and are simply delightful—from Isabelle Fontaine’s elegance and cabaret cred(I Love Paris)to the 40s chorus flavor of La Gitane, to the unheard-of French rendition of the Beatles’ If I Needed Someone.

Jonesin’ is an all-time favorite HCSF original composition, and one hopes we get more of these from Evan Price, HCSF’s award-winning violinist, arranger, and multi-instrumentalist.

30 Years works as more than just an anthology. It’s a coherent album creatively fashioned. The eclecticism and range are held together by thoughtful and innovative sequencing. In a pretty gutsy move, a slow tune(Alle Prese Con Una Verde Milonga) is followed by an even slower one, Messe/Improvisation…and it works!

And Messe/Improvisation is a unique piece, a work of musical archeology that deserves an award all its own. Django Reinhardtcomposed it, dictating bits and pieces to a clarinetist. It was performed once on organ, and HCSF discovered a rare and rough recording from which Evan Price pulled themes and then wrote an arrangement for woodwind quintet. The original finished score is long gone, but a few years ago a French jazz (not gypsy) guitarist found the remaining scraps (literally scraps of paper with ideas but no page numbers or cohesion other than a few random notations: voices here, strings here, horns here,etc.). Price pieced it together. There is even now a scored but as yet unperformed symphonic version in the works. Bottom line, it is a gorgeous piece of music, reminiscent of Maurice Ravel’s compositions and it alone is worth the price of admission. If it’s one of your favorites, too, find it and Choros again bringing a satisfying climax to HCSF’s most conceptual and phantasmal album, Bohemian Maestro: Django Reinhardt and the Impressionists.

Putting Beatles tunes at the end of the album helps a new listener understand the depth of the HCSF’s craftsmanship in connecting the Fab Four with Django. All of a sudden, it’s not a novelty, but a sacred and swinging response to two of the great creative forces of the last century, performed by one of the great creative ensembles of this one.

For the casual fan who is about to become less casual and wants to go deeper into HCSF’s catalogue…this is the one to get. And for veteran fans of HCSF, this collection of previously released recordings is nonetheless a keeper and value-added. As THE Hot Club of the CD era, one always got their money’s worth on every HCSF release…a lot of music! Sometimes the true range and variety could get lost in the embarrassment of riches. With such careful selection of tunes and thoughtful sequencing, many HCSF’s fans are likely to rediscover gems they may have overlooked. The mastering is smooth and doesn’t mess with the original sound, so a great listen is guaranteed. Don’t walk, RUN to the nearest record storecomputer, and get your copy of 30 Years.

Get it? Good. Get it here

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Let’s Hear It For Burt Bacharach!!!! https://www.shepherdsiegel.com/lets-hear-it-for-burt-bacharach-songwriting/ https://www.shepherdsiegel.com/lets-hear-it-for-burt-bacharach-songwriting/#comments Sat, 15 Jul 2017 06:49:27 +0000 http://shepherdsiegel.com/?p=569

In the first half of the 20th century, something wonderful happened in America. Out of vaudeville and music hall theaters, jazz and folk, and the native songs of Stephen Foster, there arose an amazing outpouring of great songwriting. Popular songs, Broadway show tunes, jazz standards, and eventually songs from movies. Some were all four. Some artists, like Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan, Frank Sinatra and the like performed and recorded in a way that put them in multiple categories. The songwriters were numerous. Many are household names: Rogers and Hammerstein, Rogers and Hart, Irving Berlin, Hoagy Carmichael, Jimmy Van Heusen, Jerome Kern, George and Ira Gershwin, Johnny Mercer, Cole Porter, Duke Ellington. Many are less well known: Walter Donaldson, Harry Warren, Isham Jones, John Green, Ray Noble. All in all, Alec Wilder lists over 150 songwriters and lyricists in his definitive American Popular Song: The Great Innovators 1900-1950 (Oxford, 1972). The craft of these composers explodes in so many directions. Many of them explored the possibilities of incorporating complex rhythms, harmonies, melodies, and chord changes without losing a mainstream audience.

Then along came Elvis and rock and roll. While popular songs continued to be crafted, rock ‘n’ roll took center stage and beckoned the young public of the 1950s to swing to America’s simpler and more raw country, blues, soul, and jump band roots. New dances, harder-hitting rhythms, sexier inferences. Good stuff!

And the market for non-rock popular music shrank.

But soon enough there were songwriters and artists who took up the challenge of creating popular songs in the new popular vein, but again, with innovative time signatures, chord changes, harmonies, and melodies. The list of those who consistently innovated in the 1960s is much much shorter. It starts with Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys, who were soon surpassed in popularity by John Lennon and Paul McCartney of The Beatles. Then you have Stevie Wonder, Joni Mitchell, and Jerry Garcia & Robert Hunter of the Grateful Dead. And maybe Paul Simon, Laura Nyro, Jimmy Webb, Carole King & Gerry Goffin and Smokey Robinson. There were bunches of others with the occasional hit or two, but this short list of twelve has, in my opinion, only one glaring omission: Burt Bacharach, who likely penned more Top 40 hits than any one of the above. Here’s an incomplete list:

Song followed by Artist
“The Story of My Life” Marty Robbins
“The Blob” The Five Blobs
“Please Stay” The Drifters
“Baby It’s You” The Shirelles, The Beatles
“Any Day Now (My Wild Beautiful Bird)” Chuck Jackson, Eddie Kendrick, Percy Sledge
“The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” Gene Pitney
“I Just Don’t Know What to Do with Myself” Tommy Hunt, Dusty Springfield, The White Stripes
“Make It Easy on Yourself” Jerry Butler, The Walker Brothers
“Only Love Can Break a Heart” Gene Pitney, Bobby Vinton
“Don’t Make Me Over” Dionne Warwick
“Wishin’ and Hopin’ Dionne Warwick, Dusty Springfield
“Blue on Blue” Bobby Vinton
“(They Long to Be) Close to You” Richard Chamberlain, The Carpenters
“Twenty Four Hours from Tulsa” Gene Pitney
“Wives and Lovers” Jack Jones
“Anyone Who Had a Heart” Dionne Warwick
“Walk On By” Dionne Warwick, Isaac Hayes
“A House Is Not a Home” Dionne Warwick, Brook Benton
“You’ll Never Get to Heaven (If You Break My Heart)” Dionne Warwick, The Stylistics
“(There’s) Always Something There to Remind Me” Lou Johnson, Dionne Warwick
“A Message to Martha/Michael (Kentucky Bluebird)” Lou Johnson, Dionne Warwick
“What the World Needs Now Is Love” Jackie DeShannon
“What’s New Pussycat?” Tom Jones
“My Little Red Book” Manfred Mann
“Are You There (With Another Girl)” Dionne Warwick
“Alfie” Cilla Black, Dionne Warwick
“Casino Royale” Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass
“The Look of Love” Dusty Springfield, Sérgo Mendes
“I Say a Little Prayer” Dionne Warwick, Aretha Franklin
“One Less Bell to Answer” Keely Smith, The 5th Dimension
“Do You Know the Way to San Jose” Dionne Warwick
“This Guy’s in Love with You” Herb Alpert
“Promises, Promises” Dionne Warwick
“The April Fools” Dionne Warwick
“I’ll Never Fall in Love Again” Burt Bacharach, Dionne Warwick
“Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” B. J. Thomas
“Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do)” Christopher Cross
“That’s What Friends Are For” Rod Stewart
“On My Own” Patti Labelle and Michael McDonald
“Toledo” Elvis Costello

On July 14, 2017, I got to see and hear Mr. Bacharach perform many of these songs at Seattle’s Jazz Alley. With impeccable arrangements and a quality band of studio musicians featuring five singers, counting Mr. Bacharach, the 89-year-old tunesmith brought the house down all night long. Originally inspired by Maurice Ravel’s Daphnis and Chloe, and later a student of composer Darius Milhaud, Burt Bacharach has taught America to sing in odd time signatures and make difficult melodies seem as simple as 1-2-3 (try to count out Promises, Promises for example). We tend to think such artistry just spills out of these creative souls, but more often than not, it is a hard-fought dedication to craft and the 90% perspiration that gets started with that 10% inspiration. Thank you, Mr. Bacharach, for the chance to be in the same room with you and hear these great songs performed tonight.

If you think there is a great songwriter of the 60s I’ve left off, one who consistently utilized innovative harmonies, chord changes, melodies, and rhythms, by all means, comment and edumacate me!

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June Music: What Do You Think I Am, Some Kind Of Idiom? https://www.shepherdsiegel.com/june-music-think-kind-idiom/ https://www.shepherdsiegel.com/june-music-think-kind-idiom/#comments Mon, 26 Jun 2017 17:07:44 +0000 http://shepherdsiegel.com/?p=566 June 20-25, five shows in six days. Let’s save the best for the first, on Tuesday, June 20th Pharrell ‘Pharoah’ Sanders, one of the last titans of jazz still with us, concluded a three-day run at Seattle’s Triple Door dinner club. At 76, he continues the journey that he began by the age of 21 when he left Oakland for New York, playing spiritual jazz all the way. He played with Sun Ra, who nicknamed Pharrell Pharoah. Such gorgeous and pure music, accompanied only by the empathetic, complex, pulsing piano of William Henderson. One cannot and should not and why would you not revel in his love letter from the early 60s, when Sanders helped John Coltrane shape a new form of jazz. As much as that era and that idiom is evoked, it’s just as true that the Pharoah rides that jazz to an idiom-free eternal spring of Music and Spirit, and his 90-minute set was pure bliss. Four of us—Theresa, Dan, and a zombie from the set of 28 Days Later—soaked it in and our souls smiled.

The next day a friend and I drove down to Portland to witness Nick Cave at ‘The Schnitz’, a great old theater in the mold of San Francisco’s Warfield or Seattle’s Paramount. Cave takes you on a thrill ride through hell. He preaches the gospel of the dark passions of love relationships, the hurt and the exultation. He restores, re-creates, refreshes our faith in the great frontman who sings his songs in supra-animated sky, combusting with the fans, all this to the music of The Bad Seeds, a band bold and creative. DIG those crazy vibes. The Bad Seeds have all the tools of any of the great rock bands, but they use them like no other: dynamics, distortion, bone-crunching basso vibrations, solos…all in an idiom all their own. Cave loves you madly and welcomes you with open arms into the warmth and rabid teeth of his soul. Jumping into and out of the audience, leading our thrill ride…he’s an adventure!

On Friday, Steve Earle did one of his pretty regular in-store performances at Silver Platters (I think that this is the third one I’ve gone to…), and then he sells his new record. This one honors the late Guy Clark, hotshot forest firefighters, love, and all the ways Steve Earle sings so sincerely. He led us in a rousing This Land Is Your Land to lead us off, and then told his warm stories between tunes. Earle is still writing great ones, and he is an outlaw country and folk singer and songwriter, a soldier on our march to freedom. Within a few sentences, he’ll talk about how he lines up with Willie and Waylon and Johnny and then remind us that, when he lived in Seattle in the 90s, he was more into Alice in Chains and Soundgarden than Nirvana.

But Paul and I had to leave early to get to Benaroya Hall, where Ludovic Morlot, who we now know will leave after two more seasons, conducted the Seattle Symphony in Ligeti’s Requiem and Mahler’s 5th Symphony. The Ligeti piece was clear and away the trippiest music I heard all week. Segments of it grace Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. It is a very difficult piece to play, as the music emanates more from the randomness of the universe, of sound effects, than from even the most radical reinterpretation of an established art music idiom. In other words, it’s as close to ‘pure’ music unaffected by culture or tonality as one is likely to hear. I loved it.

After the intermission, Morlot channeled a highly-appreciated interpretation of Mahler’s Fifth Symphont. The musicians seemed happy to be back on earth, and having roamed the cosmos with Ligeti, their re-entry brought a freshness to the Mahler piece. Those familiar with the symphony already know the soaring beauty of the Adagietto, the fourth of five movements. I like this symphony very much, if not in its entirety. Its 65 minutes have more than enough beautiful, expressive, German-ish angst-ridden and narcotically swooning phrases to make for a great musical experience. My companion Paul discovered portals into previously unknown places through this great Romantic symphony.

The Golden Age of Rock began with the Beatles’ Please Please Me in 1963, and concluded with Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon ten years later. Roger Waters has kept that torch lit, and to attend his magnificent 2017 show was less about seeing a classic rock dinosaur and more about a jumping into a living monument to the apex of psychedelic rock: iconic songwriting; Surrealist visual art; postmodern politics of alienation and resistance; and taking that message of progressivism to as broad a swath of America as rock can, as Wonder Woman did with feminism and movies this same summer. Simply a brilliant show. I commented to my music-mate Michael that Waters has been playing to very large audiences for the past 45 years. He knows what he’s doing. He methodically drew the somewhat rowdy crowd tuned only to the hits into a deeper sphere of influence, music, listening and message.

And maybe I lied. Maybe the best was saved for last, in the Tacoma Dome. I’m now ready to fry some people’s grits and go on record as saying that the Tacoma Dome has better sound than Key Arena. Even though he’s probably only been to the Dome a few times in those 45 years, his sound crew and musicians sliced the air with Pink Floyd heaven for 3 solid hours, they owned the crowd and they owned the sonics of the Dome. And the visual artists who are as much the show as the music are the best in the business. All this psychedelic perfection confection, drone-powered orbs and pigs, surround sound, screens that bisect the room and drop artistically, perpendicular to the stage. All this and enough time to relentlessly attack war and oppression, and the world’s most hated leader of the moment. It’s not Waters’ fault that Donald Trump showed up to perfectly fill the bill as Pigs and other songs from the second-set featured album Animals. And for me, Animals live was more creative and entertaining than the studio version, I think I finally got it. And Waters was relentless in his skewering of Trump and his call to resistance. This did not go down well with everyone in the Dome, but probably with 90%…despite the occasional ‘fuck you’ from Trump supporters, such dissent was pretty much overwhelmed with the imagery of the suffering in the world and our predilection for bombs not food. It was a remarkably satisfying show and a beautiful end to a week-long string of pearls that made my June Music Swoon of 2017.

Roger Waters 2017 performance of Pigs in Mexico City, this year:

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Six Songs Each From Six Great 1966 Albums https://www.shepherdsiegel.com/six-songs-each-from-six-great-1966-albums/ https://www.shepherdsiegel.com/six-songs-each-from-six-great-1966-albums/#respond Sun, 26 Feb 2017 06:21:03 +0000 http://shepherdsiegel.com/?p=463  

 

If the Beatles of 1963 were the arrival of modern rock, 1966 was the year it moved into its second phase.  I think of 1966 as a year of pregnancy.  The momentum built by the British Invasion and the American Response signaled support from the record companies and sureness from the artists, as record sales, the radical facelift of Top 40, Dylan, the Stones and Beatlemania attested to…so many creative folks in their 20s had engaged through rock, and something was going on here, and no one was really sure of what it was.  The Doors, Hendrix, Monterey Pop, Sgt. Peppers, The Band, the Summer of Love, Pink Floyd…none of those ships had landed, but the pregnant expectation was there.

I don’t include Revolver on this list, because it automatically is: we all know that entire album, UK and US versions, very well.  It is the prime indicator.  Rubber Soul (1965) was like nothing the Beatles had ever done before, and Revolver was nothing like Rubber Soul.  The creative faucets of the Beatles were turned on full blast and leading the charge, and there were many great artists and albums joining in that inspiration.

These six aren’t the best albums of 1966; they are simply among the best.  One could just as easily choose Simon and Garfunkel’s Sound of Silence or Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme; The Mamas and the Papas If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears; Buffalo Springfield, their debut, the first country-rock album?  John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers with Eric Clapton, the greatest British blues-rock album ever?  Cream’s debut, Fresh Cream (score two for Eric Clapton); The Byrds’ Fifth Dimension, they were leaders of the change in rock, it was already their third album.  The Monks’ Black Monk Time that predicted punk and may be the most amazing one-shot wonder album of all time.  Or Phil Spector’s gorgeous production of Ike and Tina Turner, River Deep, Mountain High.

But a serious dip into each of these six albums gives a richer view of the era than a sound bite singles survey.  I select so you can delect.

The band whose creative arc was best keeping pace with the Beatles was the Beach Boys, who released their timeless masterpiece Pet Sounds.  The Kinks’ Face to Face signaled their transition from a great singles hard rock act to a creative force whose songs addressed class issues in Britain; they unveiled a more sophisticated sound and set the stage for their next four albums, all classics(Something Else; Village Green Preservation Society; Arthur; and Lola versus Powerman and the Moneyground, Part One).  The Rolling Stones were in transition as well, though it was less ubiquitous than that of the Beatles.  They released Aftermath, with a critical five-song variance and different song sequencing between the US and UK versions.  The album veered between fidelity to their R&B roots and the songwriting maturity of the Glimmer Twins.  Leapfrogging over the recycling of Between the Buttons and the mostly failed Satanic Majesty’s Request, Aftermath is the true mother of the creative burst of their next four albums that unveiled Jagger/Richards’ muscular ballads and redefined the hard rock sound: Beggars Banquet, Let It Bleed, Sticky Fingers, and Exile on Main Street.

Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde is a special case, and I quote the Allmusic review: It’s the culmination of Dylan‘s electric rock & roll period—he would never release a studio record that rocked this hard, or had such bizarre imagery, ever again.  Thus he was perhaps ahead of everyone, done with rock and roll and heading for the country and the more stable and storied imagery and sounds those Americana roots offered.  Yet after John Wesley Harding and Nashville Skyline, for the first time since his debut, Dylan would release albums that were less than excellent (Self Portrait; New Morning; Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid; Dylan; Planet Waves), until 1974’s Blood on the Tracks.  It’s ironic that he detoured when others were having their artistic orgasm, yet his overall artistic profile outlasted and out-produced just about the entire 1966 crowd.

By 1966, modern rock had been established long enough to be satirized, on the one hand, and on the other, for the musical foundations to have rock’s harmonic and rhythmic ideas expanded.  No one defined themselves by this opportunity better than Frank Zappa, and the Mothers of Invention debut in 1966 with Freak Out!  There had not really been music like this before, and even though the Mothers continually went to the 50s doo-wop archives for some of their sounds, they pretty much invented progressive rock with their others.

And as the Mothers began their journey, another great artist concluded his.  Complete and Unbelievable: Otis Redding’s Dictionary of Soul was the last studio album released by Otis Redding during his lifetime.  Though his catalog is substantial and provides hours of great listening, his death at age 26 cut short a major voice.  His appearance at Monterey Pop the following year cracked the divide between rock and rhythm and blues.  His influence on the music—besides his iconic and soul-wrenching singing he brought the Stax/Volt Booker T. band and the Memphis sound of soul to prominence—is still hard to articulate more than 50 years later…because there is no one like him.  Listen to Mick and the Stones, complete with a Memphis-style horn section, play their homage to Otis, I’ve Got the Blues off Sticky Fingers.  It’s really really good.  It’s not Otis.  At any rate, Dictionary of Soul is a paramount achievement and essential music.

So here they are, I’ve assembled these songs as a 2-cd in-depth survey of that year.  Disc One for the adventurous, and Disc Two for those who have built a ramshackle barn out in the country of Old Weird America with a neon sign that crackles  and sputters out the word Authentic.

Disc One
The Kinks: Face to Face

  1. This Is Where I Belong
  2. Dead End Street
  3. Fancy
  4. Holiday in Waikiki
  5. Rosie Won’t You Please Come Home
  6. Sunny Afternoon

 

The Mothers of Invention: Freak Out!

  1. Hungry Freaks, Daddy
  2. Go Cry On Somebody Else’s Shoulder
  3. Who Are The Brain Police?
  4. You Didn’t Try To Call Me
  5. Trouble Every Day
  6. Help I’m A Rock!

 

The Beach Boys: Pet Sounds

  1. Wouldn’t It Be Nice
  2. Don’t Talk (Put Your Head On My Shoulder)
  3. God Only Knows
  4. I Know There’s An Answer
  5. I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times
  6. Caroline, No

 

Disc Two

The Rolling Stones: Aftermath

  1. Flight 505
  2. Doncha Bother Me
  3. Under My Thumb
  4. Lady Jane
  5. Out Of Time
  6. Goin’ Home

 

Bob Dylan: Blonde on Blonde

  1. I Want You
  2. Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again
  3. Rainy Day Woman #12 and 35
  4. Just Like A Woman
  5. Absolutely Sweet Marie
  6. Visions of Johanna

 

Otis Redding: Dictionary of Soul

  1. Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa (Sad Song)
  2. I’m Sick of Y’All
  3. Tennessee Waltz
  4. Sweet Lorene
  5. Try A Little Tenderness
  6. Love Have Mercy
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Musical Improvisation and Play: Dead Beatles https://www.shepherdsiegel.com/musical-improvisation-and-play-dead-beatles-2/ https://www.shepherdsiegel.com/musical-improvisation-and-play-dead-beatles-2/#respond Mon, 20 Feb 2017 22:20:55 +0000 http://shepherdsiegel.com/?p=421 Dead Beatles

The play of children and the play of ensemble improvisers like the Grateful Dead share numerous co-identifying qualities. Definitions of play and improvisation precede a comparison of the Dead and the Beatles. These two bands have been exhaustively described, but herein is a focus on the quality of play and the play ethos they both inspired. This spirit of play as it emerged in other forms of 1960s rock and its implications for communitas bespeaks the potential for playfulness and music to advance society, not unlike the message of dada-Surrealism. Get the scoop here…Dead Beatles

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