Showing posts with label 50 Years of Music. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 50 Years of Music. Show all posts

Monday, March 08, 2021

Fifty Years of Music • Live at Massey Hall 1971

Neil Young's Live at Massey Hall 1971 is my favorite live album of all-time.
@ Amazon
It was recorded January 19, 1971 and circulated for years as a bootleg before Neil officially released it March 13, 2007. Now I'm a couple months late in getting this post out, but it's timely because Mr. Young has a wonderful surprise for his fans and a birthday present for me coming up on March 26th.

On that date, he is going to release Young Shakespeare, a live concert album recorded just three days after Massey Hall on January 22, 1971 at the Shakespeare Theater in Stratford, Connecticut.

What makes Young Shakespeare special unlike the Massey Hall performance is that the Shakespeare Theater concert was filmed (although from what I've seen so far on YouTube, it looks like a ten year old was behind the camera). 

I'm planning on presenting the Young Shakespeare concert in my March 29th post as my readers and I can just take in this new release in our continuing journey through the past together. Being only three days apart we can compare to see if Young Shakespeare rivals Live at Massey Hall 1971. Here is what Neil has said on the subject.

Coming March 26th
“[Producer] John Hanlon and I both feel Shakespeare is superior to our beloved Massey Hall,” Young wrote last year on the Neil Young Archives. “A more calm performance, without the celebratory atmosphere of Massey Hall, captured live on 16mm film. Young Shakespeare is a very special event. To my fans, I say this is the best ever. Young Shakespeare is the performance of that era. Personal and emotional, for me, it defines that time.” Rolling Stone, Andy Greene, 2/12/21

Okay Neil we trust you all the way, but for the moment we're going to take in your famous Massey Hall performance and a little shout out to your best bud and producer, David Briggs.

According to Young, "This is the album that should have come out between After the Gold Rush and Harvest...David Briggs, my producer, was adamant that this should be the record, but I was very excited about the takes we got on Harvest, and wanted Harvest out. David disagreed. As I listen to this today, I can see why." Wikipedia

Enjoy my friends, this one's very special. 
stay well and mask-up.

Monday, February 15, 2021

Fifty Years of Music • February, 1971

Last week, I focused on the 50th anniversary of Carole King's, phenomenal album Tapestry. This week, I finish up February, 1971 with fifty songs mainly from twelve albums. Every month, I take a musical journey in the past with my '50 Years of Music' theme and I usually discover one or more albums that I paid little attention to at the time, but now think are fantastic albums. This month I found two, Crazy Horses's self-titled album, Crazy Horse, and Donovan's children double-album, HMS Donovan
Danny Whitten, Jack Nitzsche, Billy Talbot, Ralph Mollina
Crazy Horse is best known for being Neil Young's backup band. Crazy Horse originally started in 1963 as Danny and the Memories, a doo-wop group with Danny Whitten as the lead singer. The group, with its two life-long bandmates Billy Talbot on bass and Ralph Molina on drums morphed into a San Francisco band called, 'The Psyrcle' and then moved down to LA as the 'The Rockets' (a folk-rock band) in 1968. In 1969, Neil Young began to rehearse with The Rockets and liked them so much he used the band in his 1969 solo album, Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere. It is during this time that Young himself renamed The Rockets, 'Crazy Horse' as they are given credit on the album cover, "Neil Young with Crazy Horse." In 1970, Young used Whitten, Talbot, and Mollina, including Jack Nitzsche (on piano), and Nils Lofgrin (guitars, vocals) on his solo smash hit, After The Goldrush. On After The Goldrush, Crazy Horse is not given a band credit, but it did lead to the band getting their own record deal and the release of the album Crazy Horse in 1971. The album would include Lofgrin and Nitzsche with both contributing songs to the album. Jack Nitzsche was also the album's Producer. 

Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere and After The Gold Rush are two of my favorite albums of all-time. Why I wouldn't have dived into the first Crazy Horse album in 1971 is beyond me? The raw energy of Young's early solo albums has a lot to do with Crazy Horse's 'three chords and the truth' basic rock 'n' roll playing style that jumped right out at me 50 years later.


To answer my own question above, I came up with two main reasons. One, the album sold poorly; and two, I believe one reason the album sold poorly was because the album cover art sucks. Did the design and photograph literally have to be- a crazy horse?

I started thinking about it. In 1971, every rock 'n' roll fan was very much into the vinyl album art as most devoured the front, inside and back jacket art and liner notes on albums. I think the first album Crazy Horse cover art just scared most teens off, it puts out a very aggressive negative image, that says, "Don't touch this." I do remember seeing the album in a record shop album bin sometime in college and said to  myself, "WTF!"
What if they had simply gone with some cool graphic of Chief Crazy Horse right from the get go, like when they (probably Neil's people) started using the Crazy Horse logo shown here to the right. All I'm saying is Crazy Horse could have used some promotional artistic help after recording a very fine first album... presentation, presentation, presentation.

Sadly during this time, Danny Whitten had become a heroin addict and quickly descended into the hell that it brings. By early 1972, Talbot and Mollina had to fire their leader and main songwriter Whitten from Crazy Horse because he simply could not function to be an active member of the band and work on their second album.

In April of 1972, after receiving a call from Young to play rhythm guitar on the upcoming tour behind Young's Harvest album, Whitten showed up for rehearsals at Young's home outside San Francisco. While the rest of the group hammered out arrangements, Whitten lagged behind, figuring out the rhythm parts, though never in sync with the rest of the group. Young, who had more at stake after the success of After The Gold Rush and Harvest, fired him from the band on November 18, 1972. Young gave Whitten $50 and a plane ticket back to Los Angeles. Later that night Whitten died from ingesting a combination of diazepam, which he was taking for severe knee arthritis, and alcohol, which he was using to try to get over his heroin addictionWikipedia

Back in February of 1972, Neil Young had released the song, Needle and the Damage Done from the Harvest album, a heartfelt lament that was written directly about his friends Danny Whitten and also Bruce Berry, a roadie for Crazy Horse and CSN&Y. Whitten had in fact turned Berry on to heroin and he would also later die of an overdose in 1973.

The story of Crazy Horse continues in its many iterations, including Whitten's replacement on guitar in 1975 with Frank "Poncho" Sampedro who would become one of Neil Young's greatest compadres over the years working with and without Crazy Horse. Poncho retired from the band in 2014 and is a neighbor of Neil's in Hawaii. Since 2018, the current lineup of Crazy Horse has Nils Lofgrin on guitars who plays with them on their reunion gigs with Neil, and has been a regular member of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band since 1984. 

Long live Crazy Horse! And, rest in peace Danny Whitten, as I can hear from your five songs on this first Crazy Horse album, you were on your way and Neil Young still misses you.


The second album that caught my attention 50 years later was Donovan's HMS Donavan. It's a double album of children's songs but I looked at it as more than just that, as it connects Donovan with his Scottish roots. I was most impressed with his guitar work as I had always just thought of him as 'a strummer over a picker.' Here you get to hear Donovan's skilled finger picking on many tunes from the album. If you think of it, Donovan is the perfect children's musician with his cosmic quality to songwriting and singing that's so completely unique and makes him a beloved person around the world.

Donovan also knew something about album art.


Enjoy my friends! Stay well and mask-up, it's beginning to get better.



Resources

Monday, September 14, 2020

50 Years of Music • After The Gold Rush

Inside jacket

Album cover
September 19, 1970 is the 50 year anniversary of After the Gold Rush by Neil Young and is often ranked as one of the best albums of all-time. In my recent blog - List Your FAV FIVE Albums, I ranked it #2.

1. The White Album, The Beatles
2. After the Gold Rush, Neil Young
3. Who's Next, The Who
4. Late For The Sky, Jackson Browne
5. Buffalo Springfield Again, Buffalo Springfield

Album back cover
In that FAV FIVE Albums blog, I didn't give a back story for any of my above selections and thought I'd share a couple of thoughts here about After the Gold Rush

In September, 2015 I wrote a blog, The songs playing in our heads this week where I said this, "Next up and in my head this past week, a couple of songs from Neil Young's 1970, After the Gold Rush. I absolutely wore this vinyl record out on my bedroom record player. It is a classic with Tell Me Why and Only Love Can Break Your Heart as two more favorites of mine since I was a sophomore in high school. I remember once writing my first girl friend a letter (whom I had broken up with as a freshman) and included the lyrics to Tell Me Why. She wrote back and said she didn't understand what the hell I was trying to say to her. Well, being a 15 year old kid, I probably didn't know what I was trying to say either. So who better for me to quote than the brilliant and often abstract Neil Young."

The part above where I say I wore the album out in my bedroom is actually the part that I was reflecting on this past week. I'm sure you have heard Brian Wilson's In My Room,

There's a world where I can go and tell my secrets to
In my room, in my room
In this world I lock out all my worries and my fears
In my room, in my room

Do my dreaming and my scheming
Lie awake and pray
Do my crying and my sighing
Laugh at yesterday

Now it's dark and I'm alone
But I won't be afraid
In my room, in my room
In my room, in my room
In my room, in my room

In My Room has always touched me deeply. I think as a young person when you're still living at home, your bedroom is your retreat, the place where you can sit still, think, and try to make sense of your world.



As a fifteen-sixteen year old, listening to After The Gold Rush was my go to 'in my room' album to listen to by myself. Most of the songs on After The Gold Rush would simply thrust me into a state of introspection that as I look back, was self-therapy.

Several weeks ago, I asked and got back many of my original vinyl albums from my youth from my ex-wife Pam, who happened to have them. She also gave me our old turntable that I connected to my current bedroom stereo system. Thank you Pam! It's kind of cool after all these years to have my old vinyl record collection back in my room.

Last Friday, I pulled out After the Gold Rush from the collection and listened to it while lying on my bed. It was very relaxing. My back-to-the-future therapy.

So my suggestion, make some time this week to listen to After The Gold Rush in a quiet space, by yourself.

Stay well my friends.


Monday, August 31, 2020

50 Years of Music • August, 1970

This week's playlist is dominated by three albums.

The first is Eric Clapton's solo debut, Eric Clapton listened by me many times in 1970 and over the years thanks to pal Ron Zieman's initial purchase of the album.

This week's listen to that album reminded me of a blog I wrote last year as I've grown to appreciate Delaney & Bonnie and Friends (1967-1972) who contributed greatly to Eric Clapton.

In my July 1969, 50 Years of Music blog, I wrote- "The great musicians who passed through this band in the late 60's and early 70's is truly astonishing and a huge influence on why Eric Clapton quit Blind Faith to move towards Bonnie & Delaney's sound, not to mention co-opt much of their band when he formed Derek and the Dominoes in 1970." 

Bonnie and Delaney Bramlett, 1970
In my opinion, Bonnie and Delaney Bramlett simply have not been given the recognition they deserve for developing Clapton's sound in the early 70's. Delaney arranged and produced and Bonnie co-wrote many of the songs on Eric Clapton. You will also hear their influence that Leon Russell brought to Joe Cocker's Mad Dogs and Englishmen in this week's playlist, and bump that back to Russell's time spent as a band member in Delaney & Bonnie and Friends in 1969 as the genesis of Cocker's sound. It is that similar large band and vocals ensemble that Clapton would carry to Derek and the Dominoes and George Harrison leading to All Things Must Pass as Delaney Bramlett also introduced Harrison to slide guitar.

Eric Clapton was Eric's first solo album but was very much a collaborative project with the Bramlett's. As time marches on, I believe most people have never heard of Delaney & Bonnie and Friends, or simply, "Bonnie and Delaney" as we used to call them back in the day. Bonnie and Delaney got me thinking about 'influence' this past week and that most influential people are in fact forgotten, but their influence lives on in others work.

The second album is Spirit in the Dark by Aretha Franklin, an album I had never listened to until last week.

In fifty years, I can look back to my youth without musical judgement in the sense of my small town cultural exposure at fifteen versus my cumulative cultural experiences now into my sixty-fifth year. Stevie Wonder's August, 1970 Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours was a monster hit on pop AM radio that opened that R&B door a little wider for me, but there was not much 'Retha on my local radio dial back then to turn my head in her direction.
(Hey Nineteen that's 'Retha Franklin, she don't remember the Queen of Soul –Steely Dan)

What I can appreciate all these years later in Aretha's Spirit in the Dark is her complete mastery as a writer, singer and kick ass piano player. This was her seventeenth studio album and she also knew a thing or two about attracting a crowd of very talented people around her. The record includes three of the top producers in recording history with Tom Dowd, Arif Mardin and Jerry Wexler. The supporting band members include, Duane Allman and the famous Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section.

The third album is Stage Fright by The Band and in this listen, I have a greater appreciation in how they used three different singers that could lead a song or provide backup vocals for each other. I've always loved Rick Danko's voice as I use the The Last Waltz video clip of the title song Stage Fright to feature the band. In my blog last week, The Band was on several reader's top five bands of all-time list.

For me, Stage Fright just keeps getting better as it stands the test of time as any of their albums. In fact as I was listening to this album this week it made me think about the many artists and bands in the mid-1970's through 80's that lost their rock 'n' roll way. Radio creatures like country pop or that stupid soft jazz tenor saxophone phase finally gave way in the 90's to older and newer bands reclaiming a more authentic 'Americana sound' like well, The Band.

Thanks to Paul and Duskin Hobbs
for this book recommendation
In 2020 everybody loves The Band and if you feel the same way, I highly recommend reading, This Wheel's on Fire: Levon Helm and the Story of the Band. I'm only a quarter way in and I'm completely hooked with Levon Helm's folksy writing style and the stories he tells that are just so spellbinding. I keep saying to myself as I'm reading, "This book would be a fantastic movie!"

By the way, If you have never seen the 1980 movie, Coal Miner's Daughter it is a good one to catch. In fact, the first half of that movie where Levon Helm plays Loretta Lynn's father is outstanding! He is right there with Sissy Spacek and Tommy Lee Jones and if you read Levon's book above, you'll see from his childhood how he poured that right into his performance in that movie.

I hope you will also enjoy this eclectic mix from The Moody Blues, Canned Heat, The Beach Boys, The CarpentersLittle Richard, Roberta Flack, The Mothers of Invention, and Judy Collins.  This weeks 50 song playlist ends with a few select video clips from the now famous Isle of Wight Festival, in August of 1970.

The Isle of Wight Festival is a British music festival which takes place annually in Newport on the Isle of Wight, England. It was originally a counterculture event held from 1968 to 1970.

This event was held between 26 and 30 August 1970 at Afton Down. Attendance has been estimated by the Guinness Book of Records to have been 600,000 or even 700,000, due to an announcement by British Rail at that time concerning the amount of sold ferry tickets, although promoter Ray Foulk has said he believes it to have been only half of that. It was widely reported on, due to its line-up and extremely high attendance. Acts included Jimi Hendrix, Miles Davis, Jethro Tull, Ten Years After, Chicago, The Doors, Lighthouse, The Who (whose set produced a live album), Emerson, Lake & Palmer, The Moody Blues, Joan Baez, Free, Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, Kris Kristofferson, Donovan, John Sebastian, Terry Reid, Taste, and Shawn Phillips
Wikipedia


Monday, May 25, 2020

50 Years of Music • April - May, 1970

50 Years of Music Series • 1970
January - March | April - May

Howard McIntosh Sr. (top row 3rd from right) - Santa Maria High School Varsity Baseball Team 1924 or 1925
April and May of 1970 reminds me of freshmen high school baseball. I wasn't the greatest player but was fast enough to often beat out an infield hit. On the defensive side I played first base. I loved playing first base simply for the reason that the ball usually came to my glove from a variety of infield hits, almost every inning. As a freshmen, I followed the crowd and played football and baseball. In hindsight, I wish I had focused on cross-country, track, and tennis.

But, that's not why I started this blog. The picture above, hangs in my bedroom/bathroom area and I look at this picture almost everyday. If you look at my grandfather's teammates, they are wearing the uniform of the day which was probably made of wool. Now my outstanding memory at 15 of playing baseball for the Santa Maria Saints was not any special play I made, it was the very old hand-me-down uniforms they gave us to wear. I swear to God, they gave us these wool baseball uniforms that could have been just a few years removed from my grandfather's playing days. My long-term memory on this one is specifically tactile, it was the constant goddamned itching of my uniform on warm spring days! 

Now my outstanding musical memory of 9th grade was Let It Be

In 1964, I saw The Beatles first appearance on  the Ed Sullivan Show on a Sunday night after church. We were in our living room with our good friends, the Reyburn family. So my brother Steve, sister Stephanie, and the three Reyburn children (Steve, Cheryl, and Brenda) and I are were all huddled around the TV with our parents sitting behind us. As the Beatles are performing, my dad (Buddy) and Mr. (Lee) Reyburn are making fun of The Beatles and we are telling them to, "SHUSH!"

Now fast forward to the summer of 1970, and I'm on a backpacking trip in the Sierra's with Lee and son Steve, my dad, and my brother Steve, all jammed in our family Vista Cruiser station wagon. We had a fantastic week hiking and fishing, and make it back to our parked car near the old China Peak Resort. We all pile into the car exhausted, and my dad drives home. At some point on the trip back home, my dad turns on the radio and after a while the song Let It Be comes on. We all sit silently and listen to the entire song. Lee Reyburn turns around from his front seat to us kids in the back, looks at me directly and says, "That is a beautiful song and I give The Beatles a lot of credit for writing such a song." Lee Reyburn was a real nice man and I liked him very much, and on that day, I connected with him for the rest of my life. Rest in peace, Buddy and Lee.

Now the playlist this week is chock-full of wonderful albums experienced at the time, and more discovered and appreciated later.

On this Memorial Day, there are several songs in the playlist that cover aspects of soldiers and the Vietnam war. As a 15 year old, I experienced the Vietnam War through the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite. In the summer of 1970, CBS aired a documentary in prime time called, The World of Charlie Company. I was glued to the TV watching an embedded film crew follow the 100+ soldiers of C (Charlie) Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division in 1970 during the Vietnam War.

The unit routinely patrols the harsh, heat-filled Vietnamese jungles in War zone C near the Cambodian border west of Saigon looking for enemy contact and supplies. The soldiers are worn down on every patrol by the exhausting conditions of heat, dense foliage and biting insects. The troops express diverse opinions about fighting the war. One soldier who opposes the war says he hasn't fired his weapon, a mortar, since arriving in South Vietnam. Others talk about killing the enemy as routine. "Killing gooks don't mean nothing," says one. The medic, a pacifist, says, "Killing for peace just don't make sense." The troops talk about their lives back in the United States that they commonly refer to as "back in the world."
Wikipedia

This documentary rocked my little world! I realized I was just three to four years younger than many of the boys fighting in the jungle for their lives everyday. God bless those boys! (I have included 3 video clips of Charlie Company at the end of my playlist. The first clip, was filmed on the morning of my 15th birthday.)

Okay, I'll finish this one on a happy note. I started dating my girl friend, Mary Kit in the spring of 1973. After coming back from a first date movie, the original Bloom in Love, we sat together on a red ottoman in her family room and listened to the 1970 Mona Bone Jakon album by Cat Stevens. Our first, 'our song' was Lady D'Arbanville. The red ottoman now resides in our living room.

Enjoy this playlist, and stay well my friends!



References

Note 1 - On the McCartney album, since I did a blog on the subject a few weeks back, I decided to just add the songs I didn't feature in A 'What if' Album: Apple Scruffs • The Beatles.

Note 2 - On May 11, 1970 the triple album, Woodstock: Music from the Original Soundtrack and More was released. I chose not to feature it here, as I've written about Woodstock previously and usually don't feature live or compilation albums. However, in this playlist I do sneak in several songs from The Who's Live at Leeds.