Thursday, July 27, 2006
Wednesday, July 26, 2006
Not blogging, but listening:
Irma Thomas After the Rain New album, post-Hurricane Katrina. Unfortunately the copy I have skips horribly so when I get around to cleaning it I'll have a better listen. Sounds great though.
Etta James a Best of and Gospel Soul collection. Etta is in Hail! Hail! Rock and Roll and I'm glad I got reminded of her.
Kelly Willis got two older ones: Fading Fast a EP with Jay Farrar and other Son Volt types, also Sixteen Horsepower's David Eugene Edwards and first album Well Travelled Love.
Evangeline Made: A Tribute to Cajun Music Sugar Hill compilation. Tres cool. I can't judge David Johansen or Rodney Crowell's French pronunciation but it sure sounds purdy.
Friday, July 21, 2006
I am counting down until August 19 and the Sydney show.
Thursday, July 13, 2006
Postmodern Sounds In Country and Western Music
Dwight Yoakam tour. I don't think I'm happy about the Capitol. I've never been there but I'm thinking if they have The Lion King, it might not be my ideal venue for honky tonk. Here is Tamworth, Newcastle show details. Update: All dates and info here.
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
The Stones resume their delayed Euro tour in Milan:
Lead singer Mick Jagger congratulated the crowd on Italy's weekend victory in the soccer World Cup, and two of the winning squad -- Marco Materazzi and Alessandro Del Piero -- were invited on to the stage at the end of the two-hour show.
Referring to Richards' accident and the infamous head-butting incident involving Materazzi and French player Zinedine Zidane in the World Cup final, Jagger, speaking in Italian, joked:
"Materazzi and Richards have something in common tonight -- they both recently had head-related problems."
Sunday, July 09, 2006
Saturday, July 08, 2006
Ain't Looking Closely Tift Merritt
A Church, A Courtroom, And Then Goodbye Patsy Cline
Live Free or Die Hayes Carll
I Drink Mary Gauthier
I Cried All the Way to the Altar Patsy Cline
Paradise Johnny Cash
Worth Fighting For Kris Kristofferson
The Last Thing on My Mind Gram Parsons
Don't Open That Door Loretta Lynn
Black Books Nils Lofgren
Friday, July 07, 2006
Thursday, July 06, 2006
Right: A man with a plan.
Taylor Hackford's 1987 doco Hail! Hail! Rock 'n' Roll has been released in a four DVD box set and I'm here to tell you all about it. Available only as a US import in Oz, it's a wee bit pricey (I got mine from Red Eye in York St) but chock full of extras so you won't be complaining. A more economic 2 disc set is also out there, which omits the last two discs. If you've already seen it, I'm sure you'll want to see it again and hear more of the, uh, eventful filming process. If you haven't, like me, it's a treat.
Over the fold, some pictures and a run down of all four discs.
Disc One and Disc Two
The actual movie (remastered in lah-dee-dah widescreen, DTS and 5.1. Bully for you people who have more than two inch speaks to listen to it through) with intro by Taylor Hackford, rehearsal footage and "The Reluctant Movie Star", a making of.
The idea is simple and sweet: celebrate Chuck Berry, who many believe had never received his due as one of the most important forces behind this new art form, rock and roll. Keith wanted to give him a hot band to play with, for the first time in years. Hackford wanted to take Chuck around the East St Louis haunts of his youth, talk to his family and the many musicians influenced by him, and then film a celebratory concert for his 60th birthday. This is all accomplished in the film itself, with only hints at the behind-the-scenes drama. It stands alone as a superior music film. A rather unsubtle thread running through it is Chuck's "neurosis" about money. Every question put to him seems to have money as the answer. In a way this attitude is admirable given the way these guys were ripped off up and down the country but it's rather amusingly obsessive in this case. On the other hand, Chuck is pretty modest and generous with priase for other musicians. He is quite deliciously Lex Luthor-ish when he talks about taking over Johnny Johnson's band back at the Cosmopolitan Club in East St Louis in 1953. You know how Johnny Depp based pirate Jack Sparrow on Keef? New Lex Luthor Kevin Spacey could do worse than watch this, and learn.
Contemporaries and acolytes are interviewed: Bo Diddley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, the Everly brothers, Roy Orbison -- see Disc Three and Four below for more on them. One thing, throughout the discs they keep referring to Chuck as the first singer-songwriter. I don't know what chronology this is based on or with what qualifications but, say, Hank Williams was dead two years before Maybelline was even released. Just to name one. Maybe they mean rock or r&b singer-songwriter? Or the first to have popular chart success? If so, they don't qualify it like that. Enlighten me, readers.
A real treat is the reunion of Berry with his pianist "Bullet Hand" Johnnie Johnson, who was very much responsible for the whole Berry sound (in 2005 he unsuccessfully sued Chuck for co-writer credits on alot of his hits.) The producers found Johnson driving a bus in St Louis and he has clearly lost none of his touch. On the second disc rehearsal, the band jams long and righteously and you can choose one of three different angles to watch it. Of course you flick straight to the Chuck Berry-Eric Clapton-Keith Richards jam.
"Hmmm. I'm sure I've seen that riff somewhere before ... "
But equally watch Johnson and Chuck Leavell on piano and organ -- don't get much better.
The sensible piano section.
Back to the movie. Bruce Spring
Chuck, says Bruce, turned up seconds before show time, demanded a bag of cash to go on stage, and went on with barely a word to the panicky band who then had to wing the music. Travelling alone without his own band keeps it cheap for Chuck but is a self-inflicting hit to his legacy. No direct comparison is drawn with Bruce's story and the shenanigans behind Hail! Hail! but we are invited to make the connection. Indeed, in the making of Hackford says that was his intent.
The concert itself is beautifully done. Alot of Chuck's vocals had to be later redubbed because he'd blown his voice, I knew this but still couldn't spot where they'd done it. The guests are great, Julian Lennon is rather forgettable but Chuck wanted him for historical reasons. In the picture on the box he looks like a cross between k.d lang and Pee Wee Herman and I could not for the life of me work out who it was, since his name is nowhere mentioned. Not going to shift many units, Jude, I guess.
Most of the drama of filming was left out by Hackford out of geniune respect and because that was not the film he was making. The booklet notes,
what Hackford once held back out of respect for Chuck, he's now releasing for the same reason, trusting that as Chuck approaches eighty, he's earned the right to be seen, and we're ready to see him, with all the warts of his cranky, contrary character in sharpest focus.
Basically, they were on a tight schedule (only a week or so) and budget and Chuck made their lives hell. Not turning up, wouldn't move unless given a bag of cash -- literally, a bag. Filled with cash -- changing his schedule at no notice, hitting on everything in a skirt. Just generally being a jerk. In fact, to keep up with Chuck's constant financial demands, Hackford waived his own director's fee. Extremely disturbing is the story of visiting a prison where Chuck did some time, which resulted in some of the women in the crew and his entourage being assaulted by a mob of inmates. Those involved feel Berry orchestrated the event on purpose.
Bearing the brunt of the money and personal issues was producer Stephanie Bennett. Keith says in the movie that despite Chuck's faults and "giving him more headaches than Mick Jagger", he can't help but like him. Bennett's pursed lips suggest she feels no such ambivalance. In the film and especially the extras there are enough glimpses though of charm, pride and vulnerability to see temper the view. A complex portrait indeed.
Note: if you want the big stars, there are no extra interviews with Keith or Eric Clapton, "just" the rehearsal footage.
Disc Three and Four: "Chuckisms" Chuck quotes and "Burnt Scrapbook", a chat/interview between Chuck and Robbie Robertson ("musical consultant" on the main film but not in it.) The stand out is Chuck reciting a couple of poems (including this one), which he apparently learnt in jail. Rather glorious. Chuck is pretty engaging and Robbie does a reasonable job.
Also on Disc Three, "Witnesses to History #1" with the full interviews with Bo Diddley and Little Richard, who has his own endearing kind of crazy going on. Disc Four is "Witnesses to History #2" with Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis, Willie Dixon, the Everly Brothers, Sam Phillips and Ahmet Ertegun. Phillips and Ertegun are the only ones not in the main film at all. Look, they are all brilliant, very entertaining and invaluable documents. You'll need to see them all and that's that.So, if you've perservered this far you're probably already sold on the idea of this set. I can't imagine anyone being disappointed, except that seven hours of goodness is barely enough.
Tuesday, July 04, 2006
Monday, July 03, 2006
Longer, killing time and filling up space on the blog version: I've always said (always= long before he became a ubiquitous byword for "hip") that Johnny Cash was a folk singer, not a country singer. Now, I admit partially I've adopted that argument because of certain peoples' knee-jerk aversion to any music called country. He was a country singer. But think of other major country music figures of the 60s. Think of their output and think of Cash's, in that period. To me, the difference is one of kind, not just degree. That's not to deny he was a country music giant, he was. But that doesn't quite cover it all.
Cash took country -- unmistakenly and proudly Southern, sentimental, conservative, redolent of history and tradition and met it's black sheep brother folk head on. Folk: progressive, traditional (not the same as conservative) contrary, stories of the soil, always room for protest. I don't believe in a golden age of purity which remained unsullied by commercial considerations. Without the impulse to create a better material life, the Carter family would never have trucked it down to Bristol and if Hank Williams didn't make money for a lot of folks he'd just be another semi-overlooked obscurity in the vaults now. We can bitch about the Nashville assembly line, forgetting our favourite "traditional" artists were created by that very same system and Sam Phillips had his eye on the prize as much as anyone on Music Row 2006. Having said that, no label exec would have advised Johnny Cash to record in 1964 Bitter Tears, an album of militant Native American rights songs. Nineteen Sixty Four -- just as the folk boom started to spread gingerly beyond Greenwich Village. That was all his own doing. He had the clout to drag Columbia along and the guts to stand up to radio about it. You won't see that in Walk The Line but I hope some of those turned on by the film will discover it. Even considering his more mainstream offerings of train songs, the wild west, pioneers and love ballads, it's not really tears-in-your-beer stuff. Hearing Cash cover a pedal steel country classic like "He Stopped Loving her Today" (included in the Unearthed box set) is as novel in a way as him doing a Nine Inch Nails song.
So while everyone is calling Personal File an antecedant to the American Recordings series, and it's certainly being marketed that way, it's really a continuation of his regular '60s output. In 1994, Rick Rubin masterfully put all the elements together, but they were elements already existing in the life and work of Cash. The mix of songs, here heavy on spirituals, are the same as earlier albums, as are the spoken word introductions. He does this often on other official material, the theme albums in particular. It's 2 CDs, really beautifully packaged with liner notes by Greil Marcus. The Maestro of the Obtuse keeps it pretty fact-filled and straight-forward. The songs are all solo, acoustic and were recorded at the Cash house in Hendersonville (the one on the lake in the movie) with engineer Charlie Bragg on hand. Most of the songs are from 1973, with others from the 70s and early 80s. Interestingly to me, he does the Cindy Walker song "Jim, I Wore a Tie Today" which later turned up on the first Highwaymen album. Many will know and love the John Prine song "Paradise" which Cash sometimes did live. This is a slow version with a slightly odd tempo, he might have been experimenting. Another standout is the J.R Cash orginal "I Wanted So" which shows off the fact his voice was never better than in this period. At 50 songs you can afford to skip over a few of the gospel numbers if they get a bit samey (I'm not keen on "If Jesus Loved a Woman" about Mary Magdalene, but maybe the Da Vinci Code hooha has put me off that topic for life) and still find plenty to return to.
UPDATE: My friend Tom is way ahead of me.
Saturday, July 01, 2006
Mike Nesmith and Frank Zappa.
And Tim Buckley on the Monkees.
And .... The Monkees (post Peter) on The Johnny Cash Show. The last four minutes of the second one are the same as the first one.
Ringo Starr Pizza hut ad with the Monkees.
Mickey gets funky with Julie Driscoll.