Monday, September 28, 2015

Keith Richards Under the Influence

Crosseyed Heart.pngKeith Richards is many things to many different people. The public mainly knows him for the legendary reputation of being the 'bad boy' mumbling substance abuser that inspired Johnny Depp's pirate. But if you know a bit about rock 'n' roll, you know that he is simply the best band leader of the genre. Like Count Basie as a supreme band leader, Richards crafted a rhythm of sound in the Rolling Stones that is unmatched in creativity and longevity. The best beat in rock 'n' roll is the Rolling Stones and Keith is the instrument through which Muddy Waters and Chuck Berry flow together.

Last night, I watched the new documentary film by Morgan Neville, Keith Richards Under the Influence on Netflix. Mr. Neville uses the backdrop of the the making of Keith Richards' new album, Crosseyed Heart (available @ Amazon) with photographs and video of Richards' live and musical influences, starting with his mother and grandfather. Keith talks about the meeting on the train, where Mick Jagger and Keith reconnect as former classmates with Mick carrying a Muddy Waters and Chuck Berry album under his arm. That story and many others make Neville's film a must see that you will enjoy. In a recent blog, I featured another Neville film, 20 Feet from Stardom. My favorite part of that film is Merry Clayton's experience who was brought into a midnight recording session to sing on Gimme Shelter in 1969. Gimme Shelter is one of the best rock 'n' songs ever where many musical elements all came together. Keith is rarely the front man, but always the architect. In Under the Influence, you'll see how he teams with Steve Jordan his drummer and collaborator to build the rhythm from the ground up. In the film, you will also see how Keith and Stones' drummer Charlie Watts create the structure for Street Fighting Man. I love this stuff, hope you like my playlist of somethings old and new this week.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Mark Knopfler

Tracker Cover.jpgTonight, I see Mark Knopfler at Humphreys in San Diego with my good friend Mark Hunter. Humphreys is an outdoor venue by the San Diego Bay and famous for the free-loading kayackers who paddle up in the marina to take in the concert. It's wonderful to see a show there in the summer months because it's very comfortable at night with shorts and t-shirts and the comedians and musicians seem to love the place. The only drag are the small plastic chairs all tied together and the people are literally packed in like sardines on a flat surface. When you sit down, you pray for under 6 foot people in front of you, and no more that a 36 inch waist size next to you. I've been there enough to have both tall and wide and shorter and lean or combinations of both. When you get shorter and lean, you think the concert gods have blessed you for the evening. Maybe the kayackers are on to something...

Anyway, Mr. Knopfler is most famous for being the front man of the British band Dire Straits which by the way is one of the best rock band names ever. Beyond the name and the band's string of hits in the late 70's and 80's, Mark Knopfler is simply one of the best guitarists on the planet. His finger picking style made him famous with his first monster hit Sultan's of Swing  (and with the distinction of being overplayed so much, it made my blog - GREAT Songs Ruined by Radio). However, most know him for the even bigger hit, Money for Nothing which propelled both the band and MTV's popularity in the 80's.

As usual, I have put together a playlist of YouTube video cuts that you may not be as familiar with including songs on Knopfler's current 2015 album, Tracker (available @ Amazon). Mark is also famous for being such a great collaborator with musicians such as Chet Akins and Emmy Lou Harris and I've included several in this playlist. He has also produced Bob Dylan and Randy Newman, has 9 soundtrack albums and 8 solo albums. Enjoy the prolific and gifted Mark Knopfler as I will live tonight!

Monday, September 14, 2015

The Backups Come to the Front of the Rock 'N' Roll Class

As Paul Harvey used to say, "and now for the rest of the story." Here are four documentary films about the business of rock 'n' roll and the backup session players and singers who helped craft the hits we know and love. I recommend you watch all four and you'll better appreciate the people who helped create the arrangements, melody, beat and harmony for many classic recordings without getting much credit for the quality of their work.

The Wrecking Crew - The Wrecking Crew was a group of studio musicians in Los Angeles in the 1960s who played on hits for the Beach Boys, Frank Sinatra, Nancy Sinatra, Sonny and Cher, Jan & Dean, The Monkees, Gary Lewis and the Playboys, Mamas and Papas, Tijuana Brass, Ricky Nelson, Johnny Rivers and were Phil Spector's Wall of Sound. The amount of work that they were involved in was tremendous. Watch on Netflix

Standing in the Shadows of MOTOWN -
In 1959, Berry Gordy gathered the best musicians from Detroit's thriving jazz and blues scene to begin cutting songs for his new record company. Over a fourteen year period, they were the heartbeat on "My Girl," "Bernadette," I Was Made to Love Her," and every other hit from Motown's Detroit era. By the end of their phenomenal run, this unheralded group of musicians had played on more number ones hits than the Beach Boys, the Rolling Stones, Elvis and the Beatles combined. They called themselves the Funk Brothers.
Currently, this documentary only appears available to rent on Amazon for $2.99 here

Muscle Shoals - Located alongside the Tennessee River, Muscle Shoals, Alabama has helped create some of the most important and resonant songs of all time. Overcoming crushing poverty and staggering tragedies, Rick Hall brought black and white together to create music for the generations. He is responsible for creating the “Muscle Shoals sound” and The Swampers, the house band at FAME Studios that eventually left to start its own successful studio known as Muscle Shoals Sound. Watch on Netflix

20 Feet From Stardom - Millions know their voices, but no one knows their names. In his compelling new film TWENTY FEET FROM STARDOM, award-winning director Morgan Neville shines a spotlight on the untold true story of the backup singers behind some of the greatest musical legends of the 21st century. Triumphant and heartbreaking in equal measure, the film is both a tribute to the unsung voices who brought shape and style to popular music and a reflection on the conflicts, sacrifices and rewards of a career spent harmonizing with others. Watch on Netflix