music – SHEPHERD SIEGEL Mon, 05 Oct 2020 20:09:16 +0000 en hourly 1 music – SHEPHERD SIEGEL 32 32 137988190 Workingman’s Dead ::: Re-Mastered Re-Viewed Mon, 05 Oct 2020 20:09:16 +0000 Short version: You want this recently-released three-disc set if you like this album.

Version version: They did a great job. The songs sparkle and crackle, they weep, they moan, they get naked, they twist, and shout.

On the CD, I don’t like the way the bass is managed for Uncle John’s Band. Other versions that are less boomy better serve the song (and this is something a remastering could have addressed), but bless you and your bombs, Phil Lesh! On the vinyl, it works somewhat better.

Every other cut is just so clear and unaffected, CD and vinyl, you’re really getting close to the song and the diligent work that went into capturing that “zaftig, wild, Venus vibration”* in a studio. The naked vocals of High Time, the pedal steel climax on Dire Wolf, the jostling swing of guitar and banjo on Cumberland Blues, the jams sneaked into Easy Wind and New Speedway Boogie. Have no fear and shed no tear, dear, you hear Weir, so very clear, without peer—and he gives a master class on how the rhythm guitar part can create and complement the defining emotional homunculus of the song. And I think I even heard someone fart during High Time . . . 

I still contend that the studio versions of all Workingman’s Side 1 are definitive [Uncle John’s Band, High Time, Dire Wolf, New Speedway Boogie]I’ve never heard live versions of any of these songs that have brought me comparable satisfaction. Not that Side 2 [Cumberland Blues, Black Peter, Easy Wind, Casey Jones] doesn’t have some cuts that rival stellar live performances, but kickass versions of songs from Side 2 proliferate in that planet-sized fungus, that sprawling metropolis of tape known as the Dead Vault.

People write about Workingman’s as if the Dead had something to prove. something they had to pull off in the studio. Personally, I had no doubts. Based on the genius of Anthem of the Sun and Aoxomoxoa and their deep musicality, I knew they could put together pretty much anything they wanted to in the studio, though I catch the drift of that opinion, and I was as caught by surprise as anyone when Workingman’s came out.

So Dead live, sure, that’s the folk wisdom, but they did some interesting and always-worth-listening-to music in the studio that comprises a major part of the Grateful Dead’s identity.

Funny thing about Uncle John’s Band, though. Always a fly in the ointment. In another recent example, I just fell in love with the 50th anniversary remaster of The Band, except they messed up on King Harvest (Has Surely Come), in my opinion. So we collectors must, as per usual, hang on to the earlier editions of an album for one reason or another. Flies. Ointment. Oh, there’s some kind of lesson there. Or not!

The live show (2/21/71) on Discs 2 and 3. Great sound, recorded by Bob and Betty. It’s from the same run as a particular favorite of mine, Three from the Vault, which was performed two nights later at the same hall, the Capitol Theater in Port Chester, New York.

It’s 1971, Mickey Hart has JUST left (not fired, didn’t quit. left.) for his 44-month sabbatical. A muscular, barroom version of the band emerges. And they’re introducing a truckload of new tunes that were all to become staples: Me and Bobby McGee, Me and My Uncle, Playing in the Band, Bird Song, Bertha, Greatest Story Ever Told, and more. Pigpen does a version of Easy Wind where you could say he just completely massacred the song, or you could say that he deliberately reinvented it, moving choruses and verses and order and lyrics around like the anatomy on a Picasso Moon. Personally, I love it. On Sugar Magnolia, Garcia is playing effects on his guitar he self-describes as “Insect Fear.”** The Main Ten, an experimental tune that eventually became Playing in the Band, started out with lots of Insect Fear. As was frequently their wont, they lock in for the second set. Beat It On Down the Line sticks to its wonderful roots, and is followed by a Wharf Rat that is out of this world.

This live version of the Dead is captured during the runup to performances found on the second eponymous, or Skullfuck album, which came out later in ’71. It’s among my four or five favorite Warner Brothers/GD Records/Arista albums. So I’m very much looking forward to American Beauty AND Skullfuck 50th releases, due this year and next.

For us audiophiles, it’s a little tricky when so much of what I’m saying focuses on sound fidelity…I’m on an interplanetary campaign to get folks to listen to MUSIC, not what comes out of their computer speakers.

But all that whining aside…I love you and let me say this: Click me to hear YouTube’s Music Channel Play the 2020 Mastering of Workingman’s Dead.

And don’t let me stop you from enjoying the heck out of this, you’ll dig it and at least get a sampling of the songs. It’s a wonderful album and well worth the effort it takes to hear it again on a real sound system.


*I’m making fun of the words applied to Bob Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde album…that thin, wild, mercury sound

** Such experimentation is to be found on Mickey Hart’s first solo album, Rolling Thunder, which features Grateful Dead, Zakir Hussein, Stephen Stills, John Cipollina, Grace Slick, Tower of Power, and many others jamming along with Mickey’s vision for the Dead.

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Magical Mystery Tour Is The Beatles Best Album Fri, 15 May 2020 19:34:01 +0000 The Beatles were such incredible tunesmiths that it would be specious to assert that they ever put out a bad album, British or US versions notwithstanding.  But Magical Mystery Tour in fact has more of what was great about the Beatles in its grooves than any of their other releases.  It is the only album that so completely reveals the entire range of their abilities: the masterful pop single, thematic work, sophisticated and innovative song structure, and poetry.  No other Beatles album can match it in all of these areas.

Magical Mystery Tour, coming on the heels of Sgt. Peppers may have seemed (and even been) a bit ‘patched together’ but time has erased that perception.  Side One is the soundtrack to the surreal and boundary-smashing television film of the same title.  I don’t care that it commercially flopped as a film—we’ll get to that—the music is exquisite.  Overall, the side contains all of the pop loveliness that Paul McCartney can ooze, but placed in the crazed, playful context of John Lennon’s world.  The opening title song is a pop masterpiece.  Everything is in place and great: the mix, the use of the piano as a power chord instrument, Paul in the mix giving dimension to John’s lead, strong background vocals, rolling wheels special effects, hooks, amazing horn parts, and everything we love about the collective voice of the Beatles.  Never released as a single in the US, it reached #2 in the UK and stayed on the charts for nine weeks.

The Fool On The Hill is as good as any of Paul’s signature ballad hits, right after Yesterday and Eleanor Rigby—just not released as a single, and it has the added feature of the staccato accordion, used to great effect, minus the preciousness Paul would come to affect soon enough.

Flying is movie music.  Cool.  George uses a campy surf guitar reverb tone not heard in any other Beatles song.  Blue Jay Way is a dog; you might enjoy it if you’re stoned.  It fits the mood of the album, with string parts reminiscent of I Am The Walrus, but George deserved whatever ridicule he received at the merciless hands of John and Paul for this one.  Sorry.  Yet even this song can be seen as emblematic of the Beatles chance-taking and transitions, in this case to Harrison’s stunning contributions to the White Album (Long, Long, Long, Savoy Truffle, Piggies and While My Guitar Gently Weeps).

I like Your Mother Should Know as much as any of Paul’s other cute songs; a remake of When I’m Sixty-Four with Paul’s music hall sensibilities.  Notice Ringo’s very cool sustained cymbals between the first two verses.

Do I need to convince you that I Am The Walrus is the Beatles greatest song ever?  John’s most obscure yet evocative lyrics.  Signature rock swagger in a gorgeous pop setting, with wailing backgrounds, rock ‘cellos, psychedelic interlude going out of rhythm and leading perfectly into the bridge, music concréte set in the background.  The best of the art rockers, from Roxy Music to Radiohead still wish they could write and perform songs this good.  Look, you weren’t going to like Revolution #9.  This is the Revolution #9 that worked beyond John’s wildest dreams.  In fact, this was his wildest dream.  And A Day in The Life, masterpiece that it is, didn’t transport the pop listener as far into the Ether of Music that Walrus does.  That’s an accomplishment.

And there is psychedelic ‘cello dripping all over every tune like hairy walrus syrup.  In fact this most abundant use of ‘cello on a Beatle’s album gives it an (unintentional?) unity, a theme if you will, just as acoustic guitar and muted drums dominated Rubber Soul.  ‘Cello is prominent on no less than half of the ten songs on the album.

If people want to criticize this as the ultimate ‘over-artiness’ of the Beatles…let them.  Where else do Beatles so conspicuously quote other tunes (Greensleeves and She Loves You in Strawberry Fields Forever, and that Hail to the Queen in All You Need Is Love.

And I’ll raise the ‘art’ stakes further.

The film Magical Mystery Tour is as close as we get to a Beatles ‘dark side,’ and wondrously so.  John and company didn’t need to match the Rolling Stones’ ‘bad boy’ image or resort to the morbid.  Why?  Because they were so much more creative.  The film shows a glorious connection to the insane, to parody and satire, and the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band are in the film (the house band at the striptease joint George and John visit) to emphasize it.  Fellini would have been proud to have conceived the dream sequence where John as a waiter is lifting shovelfuls of spaghetti and meatballs into Ringo’s obese aunt’s crying face.  And so on.  It’s only fitting that the Beatles’ most successful journey into the dream world would be a semi-conscious, hazy moment between Sgt. Peppers and the White Album.  The public wasn’t ready for it then, but we are so lucky today that John, George, Paul and Ringo (and yes, Big George Martin as the jacket proclaims) had the guts to put it out then.

Still not convinced?  On the greatest hits collection, The Beatles/1967-1970, Magical Mystery Tour accounts for fully a fourth of the 28 songs selected, more than any other Beatles album.  Think the folks at Apple know what I’m talking about?

Okay, let’s give Side Two a listen.  Well, Side Two alone had more singles (four) reach the American Top Twenty than any other Beatles album, and three of them—Penny Lane, All You Need Is Love, and Hello Goodbye—made it to Number One.

And that fourth one, Strawberry Fields Forever (only made it to number eight), is another contender for their best song ever.  Let’s get on with our lives and forget the “I buried Paul” reference buried in the mix (yawn) already; as music, it’s an incredible coda with backwards tape loops and the one-note iconic George Harrison tailing phrase that eighteen other bands have ripped off.  The song is one of the few dreamy psychedelic relics from the Sixties that will never sound dated.  And the inspired ‘video’ that accompanied its release, with the Fab Four going dark on us again, playing an old piano draped with cobwebs outside under a sprawling old oak-tops 99.9% of the drek MTV was to start broadcasting fifteen years later.

Hello Goodbye integrates Paul’s sweet tendencies one of the last times with a collective effort known as the Beatles.  It’s no doubt Paul’s songwriting, but the sound really belongs to the group.  George, John, and Ringo (hey, no Ringo songs on this album) are all there, and the mix is GREAT, superior to any pop manufactured today.

Parting shot.  I can never resist, and never quite master, the time signature changes in All You Need Is Love, but it goes in and out of seven, and has a nice music hall/tavern singalong feel.  It’s a precursor to Hey Jude, but goes a little more wacky on us as it fades, with sax solo, She Loves You reprise…the works.

So to prove a point, and taking apart the film ‘soundtrack’, dropping a couple of tunes, and reordering the best, Magical Mystery Tour can be reassembled in a way that makes it more obviously the best album the Beatles ever recorded…benefitting from everything they had learned to date, a penultimate collaboration with George Martin, a loaded gun cocked and set to explode on the subsequent White Album.  Try this sequence:

Flying > Hello Goodbye > All You Need Is Love > Fool on the Hill > Strawberry Fields Forever > Baby You’re a Rich Man > Penny Lane > Magical Mystery Tour > I Am the Walrus.

With one side an experimental soundtrack, and the other the mere assemblage of the current singles, Magical Mystery Tour is The Beatles accidental masterpiece.  While the band struggled with a coherent sense of what they were trying to do with the film, and were plagued with production problems, they admirably did exactly what we expect, hope for, and appreciate most about our greatest artists . . . they took chances.  This time, the chances that their muse led them to didn’t coincide with the expectations of the fans and the critics.  Mozart had the same problem.

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ONE WORLD: TOGETHER AT HOME – – – APRIL 18, 2020 Mon, 20 Apr 2020 00:25:09 +0000  


As was said during the day’s One World: Together at Home program, the world must act as one now.

May the abdication of national leadership in the United States mark the ascendancy of a truly great international power that compels intelligent governance, something we’ve never had worldwide.

The One World: Together at Home program inspired me. I found hope where there had been little. The program made an artful presentation of the pernicious and reverberating and consequential impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. And I mean artful in the best sense of the word, they presented the issue and the human drama in a clear way that was accessible to a broad spectrum of folks, and did not stray far from its central purpose of thanking the workers working the hardest to protect us all and to beat COVID-19. Subsumed under that main message were underlying realities: that the health care professionals also must be the communicators to loved ones when we cannot be in the room with them; that people of color are suffering disproportionate infection and death; that the World Health Organization, WHO, is a vital resource and key to defeating COVID-19; and that we all play a part, even if that part means staying at home. Those organically connected realities shared the stage with some truly wonderful artists, there to give us hope, encouragement, and more facts.

Artists’ primary responsibility is to have an open, compassionate heart and an open, enlightened mind, and to show up for work prepared to share them through the prism that is their art, reflecting our world. On this the artists delivered, with emotional performances that both felt the pain and reached for its healing. They summoned and lit up the best of the human race.

That belief in humanity fuels a strong partnership between cultural leaders, musicians, artists, journalists, and efforts to organize an international public health infrastructure. Such an influential partnership holds promise.[1] Could there be the silver lining of a new global awareness, where understanding this pandemic means making the connections and responding to the ever more urgent need to ameliorate racial discrimination in the form of disproportionate suffering; income inequality that creates inexcusable crises for the working class; and the vulnerabilities of homelessness and toxic poverty? Throughout the world? This awareness needs to be the driving force of every nation’s government. On Saturday, we heard from some leaders who bring that awareness to their missions. That’s hopeful.

In the United States, we’ve yet to implement appropriate taxation—in particular the taxation of the very wealthy. It’s 70 years since we’ve come close, during the Eisenhower administration. I’ve always believed that that was the best way good governments could create a more just world, end poverty and all its ill effects, not to mention sustain infrastructure, education, environmental protection, health care, and so forth. I still believe that.

But in this time of crisis, if philanthropy has to be the kindling of that liberating fire, so be it. If the US Chief Executive is going to unilaterally withdraw funds or delay payments to the World Health Organization and it has to be made up via 21stcentury telethons, so be it. If to take care of their citizens, the governors of the 50 United States have to behave as if they lead nation states, so be it. If the volunteer organizations of the world have to be the ones to lay the cooperative groundwork for an international public health system, one that would be state-of-the-art in preventing a future pandemic, one that would have the tools to immediately squelch a future outbreak—if they have to achieve that without the support of an isolationist bully in the White House, so be it…[at least until November 2020].

And while we’re at it, the 50th anniversary of Earth Day is April 22, 2020. It’s nothing to be proud of that we’ve known we need to do a better job of stewarding the earth this long, and we’re failing more than we’re succeeding. But wouldn’t it be nice . . .

[1] I couldn’t figure out why the channel I was watching went to a National Geographic special that made a big point about how Rambo and Knight Rider were powerful US exports that they contend were key to bringing down the Soviet Union. Whether it was deliberate or serendipity, I’m conjecturing that a pop culture message of peace and healing could be just as influential as that of a murderous soldier of fortune.

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Superior Dead in the Studio Fri, 06 Dec 2019 17:46:45 +0000
The Warlocks, on their way to becoming Grateful Dead.

The rock impresario Bill Graham famously said of the Grateful Dead They’re not the best at what they do, they’re the only ones that do what they do. And There is nothing like a Grateful Dead concert. True that, on both counts, and the many shows I went to, in particular between 1968 and 1973, attest to the communal, telepathic, joyous and inspirational qualities of the gatherings. The musically spectacular shows made formative and indelible impressions on my teenage soul, and the Dead’s witnesses are legion.

The live shows were all about immediacy and the drama of connection, dancing and taking a trip. You knew in your bones there was nothing like it. The archetypal vibrations, resonances and reverberations of those shows, whose essence persisted even into the 1990s (and some claim continue to this day) would cause some to eschew Grateful Dead studio albums, save the epiphanies of Workingman’s Dead and American Beauty. Obviously, St. Stephen, Scarlet Begonias > Fire on the Mountain, China Cat Sunflower, Sugar Magnolia, and Dark Star are all examples of studio cuts surpassed by innumerable live performances. That’s how this thing worked and who they were. Live Grateful Dead’s the thing.

Club Front, San Rafael, where the Dead sometimes rehearsed.

But not so fast there, pardner. I’ve not listened to the thousands of hours of live Dead shows on record, but anyone who makes that claim is either a liar or in serious need of professional help.* Yet I’ve heard enough to boldly guess that around twenty Grateful Dead songs have studio versions that are definitive, appearing on no less than nine of their albums. Either because they couldn’t pull off the harmonies live, or the live arrangement was clumsy by comparison, or due to some other elusive butterfly, I’ve always felt that, despite what I’m sure are a number of live performances that launched well, the studio versions of the following songs were more powerful, they better captured the song’s essence. I’ve left out those songs from albums that never got much (if any) live performance, including just the ones they still played a lot, either because they were good launching pads for jams, or the Dead somehow thought they could pull them off live, or they just enjoyed playing them, knowing full well that the quintessence had in fact bloomed in the studio.

Before the Deadhead mob comes after me, raining skulls and roses onto my delicate sensibilities and vulnerable list, remember that this is only about twenty tunes . . . that means that there are somewhere north of 100 Dead tunes whose ‘definitive’ performances are to be found   in the Main Thing, the live tapes…and missing those, the attics of our lives.


[from the album Grateful Dead]

Golden Road (to Unlimited Devotion)

Cold, Rain and Snow

Cream Puff War



Dupree’s Diamond Blues

Doin’ That Rag

Cosmic Charlie


[Workingman’s Dead]**

Uncle John’s Band

High Time

Dire Wolf

New Speedway Boogie




To Lay Me Down

The Wheel


[American Beauty]

Box of Rain



I’ll Take a Melody


[Wake of the Flood]

Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo (or is the September 3, 1977 show in Englishtown, New Jersey the definitive one? I’m checking it out!)


[From the Mars Hotel]

Unbroken Chain


[In the Dark]

Touch of Grey


[Built to Last]

Foolish Heart

Built to Last

Picasso Moon



*Unless you are Dick ”Mr. Dick’s Picks” Latvala or Dave “Mr. Dave’s Picks” Lemieux. And they get paid!

**This happens to be all of Side One.

***I would have included Bird Song on this list, but FINALLY, there is a delectable version from P.N.E. Coliseum in Vancouver, BC from June 22, 1973, just released in 2018.

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Bring ‘em in with the Ear Candy Pop…then Throw ‘em the Red Meat Blues Fri, 06 Sep 2019 00:02:31 +0000 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. Mon, 15 Jul 2019 19:05:43 +0000 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

Plant you now and dig you later!

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Dead & Company . . . We’re Still Interstellar! Tue, 11 Jun 2019 18:51:57 +0000

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! Fri, 17 May 2019 15:42:33 +0000

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 . . . Wed, 12 Dec 2018 15:51:13 +0000 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!!!! Sat, 15 Jul 2017 06:49:27 +0000

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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