Thursday, February 25, 2010
So to celebrate the life of The Quiet Beatle, here's the first song from his All Things Must Pass LP from 1970, He wrote it with Bob Dylan. It's called I'd Have You Anytime. It's one of his most beautiful songs. The chorus All I have is yours/All you see is mine/And I'm glad to hold you in my arms I'd have you anytime... make me think of how much I miss my wife whenever I'm away. So listen and enjoy!
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
This item is a repost from my "Tony's Rants" blog. I'm slowly moving the musical content from that blog over to this one, so if you've seen this one before, my apologies.
Guitarist Ry Cooder has done it all. He started off playing with bluesman Taj Mahal in the Rising Suns and almost replaced Brian Jones in the Rolling Stones. Many of his best albums are movie scores, including the folk-culture clash of 1985's Alamo Bay and the purple-prairie atmospheres of 1989's Paris, Texas. My favorite is the score he did for the western The Long Riders. A lot of his movie music can be found on the double CD Music by Ry Cooder. Having explored North American music — blues, country, rockabilly, R&B, gospel, minstrelsy, Hawaiian, folk, Tex-Mex, Cuban — over four-plus decades, and with numerous awards and accolades under his belt for boundary-crossing collaborations with global legends like the late Ali Farka Toure, Manuel Galbán and Cuba’s Buena Vista Social Club, Cooder is an authority on how music has been able to transcend diverse cultures.
Add to his legacy his “California Trilogy.” In this day of the music business trying to get you to buy music on the Internet one song at a time, Ry Cooder has done three (!) concept albums over the last four years. The first part of the trilogy, Chávez Ravine, is a tribute to the long-gone Los Angeles Latino enclave in the late 1940/early 1950s. This is the story of a hillside Chicano community whose poor inhabitants were paid or forced to leave their community in a failed property development in the '50s. This community was eventually bulldozed to make way for Dodger Stadium. Sung in both English and Spanish, there are short tales of head-busting GIs, boxing matches, UFOs, red scares, cool cats, and J. Edgar Hoover.
Part Two of the trilogy is My Name Is Buddy. This is the story of workers who left the “dust bowl” in the 1930s for what was thought to be the “Promised Land” – California. The story is seen through the eyes of three fictional characters; Lefty, a left-wing mouse who's looking for a socialist utopia; blind Tom Toad, who has lost his religious faith, but is 'looking for a way out of darkness'; and Buddy himself, who 'being a cat, is looking for his next meal.' During their journey to California, they encounter the Klan, unions, big boss union busters, company cops, hobos, strikes, voter fraud and trains. J. Edgar Hoover makes another appearance in the form of a pig (get it?) that used to be on the farm where Buddy the Cat lived. During his travels, Buddy encounters Kash Buk, a country musician who almost went on tour with Ray Price but decided not to. Buddy sits in with Kash’s band to sing a song called Three Chords and the Truth. There’s never a dull moment with Buddy, Lefty and Tom Toad.
The third and final part of the California trilogy was released this week. Its title: I, Flathead: The Songs of Kash Buk and the Klowns. Not only is Kash Buk a country musician, he also races souped-up cars on salt flats [hence the title]. In this part of Ry Cooder’s tale set in the 1950s, Kash Buk [the same Kash Buk with whom Buddy the Cat sang] encounters circus freaks, meat packers, drag racers, and an alien named Shakey who cruises the desert in his flying saucer when he isn’t making chewing gum, glue, or making cars go faster. Kash Buk pays homage to Johnny Cash, laments how he’s written 5,000 country songs that no one has recorded, and sings of dancing the “Pink-O Boogie.”
As one can surmise, the creator of this trilogy has a more-than-slightly left of center tilt in his politics. That doesn’t detract from this work being fine entertainment that’s done with tongue planted firmly in cheek. It's all just a little bit weird, but this trilogy appeals to my warped sense of humor.
On March 9th, Ry Cooder will release his next project. It's called San Patricio. It is a collaboration with The Chieftains [billed as The Chieftains featuring Ry Cooder] that tells the nearly forgotten story of the brave San Patricio battalion - a downtrodden group of Irish immigrant conscripts who deserted the U.S. Army in 1846 to fight on the Mexican side against the invading Yankees in the Mexican-American War (1846-1848). Also included will be Los Tigres Del Norte, Los Cenzontles , Moya Brennan, Linda Ronstadt, Banda de Gaita de Batallón, Mariachi Santa Fe de Jesus (Chuy) Guzman. This meshing of the Irish and Mexican musical forms should be plenty interesting. I am looking forward to it. It will be mine!
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
I've got a fairly large CD library. In my collection, one of the artists that is a big part of my collection is Neil Young. My wife Carol and I found out early in our relationship that we each had a mutual liking of Neil. I have almost everything he's put out [almost]. There's lots of gold in those CDs as well as quite a bit of trash. Maybe that's why he's so endearing - he's willing to follow his muse, whether it results in good or bad. The good far outweighs the bad. Here is my Top 25 picks of what I think is the best of Neil Young. Others have their own favorites that do not match mine. Without further adieu, not in any particular order...
- Revolution Blues – from the 1974 On the Beach LP. Inspired by Charles Manson, whom NY met during his
days. Well, I hear that Topanga Canyon is full of famous stars/But I hate them worse than lepers and I'll kill them in their cars. This song always bothered Crosby, who played rhythm guitar on the record, along with Rick Danko and Levon Helm from The Band. The first time I heard it was at a solo acoustic show in Laurel Canyon in 1983. It was great then, still great now. Denver
- Powderfinger – from the 1978 Rust Never Sleeps LP. Reprised [no pun intended] on 1979’s Live Rust. An excellent story-telling song performed with Crazy Horse about some backwoods family doing something illegal and getting caught by the Feds (moonshining perhaps?). I heard this one at the same
show that I heard Revolution Blues. I always thought the lyrics “then I saw black and my face splash in the sky” were the best ones in the song - “wow – a dead guy is telling this story…" Denver
- Cortez the Killer – from the 1975 Zuma LP. Another song performed with Crazy Horse that just so happens to immediately follow Powderfinger on Live Rust. I was immediately hooked with the words He came dancing across the water with his galleons and guns/Looking for a
New Worldand a palace in the sun…References to Montezuma, beautiful women, cocoa leaves and pearls paint a vivid picture. Guitar solos abound!
- Like a Hurricane – from the 1977 American Stars ‘N Bars LP. Yet another Crazy Horse song [see a pattern?]. I first heard this one as a freshman in college in 1981 in
. A guy from La Junta who lived down the hall from me would always play this one real loud before all of us had to go take a math exam. This is the song that got me hooked on Neil Young. Many thanks to Phil Gerard, the guy who got me hooked. Boulder, Colorado
- The Old Laughing Lady – the original version of this song is from NY’s 1968 debut LP. It’s a long slow meditative production piece. I prefer the version he did on 1993’s Unplugged – just him and a twelve-string guitar. This one opened the 1983
– a 1970 single with CSNY. NY said the 1970 Kent State shootings that inspired this song was probably the most important lesson taught at an institution of higher learning. But what was the lesson? Ohio
- Eldorado – from the 1989 Freedom CD. This one takes place in
Latin America. It starts fairly quietly with a strumming acoustic guitar with an electric playing some fairly-restrained fills. This arrangement goes on for most of the song. One hears about a drug deal going down [“the briefcase snaps goodbye…”], the mission church, the villas, beautiful women dressed in diamonds and sables, a mariachi band playing next to a garbage heap. The final verse has a bullfighter dressed in gold lame, killing the bull for the excited crowd, then suddenly the loudest Neil Young guitar power chords you’ll ever hear. If that doesn’t wake you up out of a trance, nothing will. Priceless!
- When God Made Me – from the 2005 Prairie Wind CD. This one is one of NY’s most thought-provoking songs. This one reminds me of Bob Dylan’s Blowin’ in the Wind. He asks ten questions about God –
- When You Dance I Can Really Love – from the 1970 After the Gold Rush LP. This one is a three-minute quickie with Crazy Horse and Jack Nitzsche on piano.
- Cinnamon Girl – from the 1969 Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere LP. Another three-minute quickie with Crazy Horse. What Neil Young list would be complete without this one? This song probably started many a garage band.
- Down By The River - from the 1969 Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere LP. A minimalistic 10-minute guitar workout with Danny Whitten. I can identify with the guy who found out his girlfriend cheated on him one time too many. I think I’d shoot her too.
- War of Man – from the 1992 Harvest Moon CD. I’m not really sure what this one is about. An animal’s eye view of the planet, as suggested by David Downing [author of Dreamer of Pictures]? That explanation is as good as any I guess. I like the arrangement – the acoustic guitars, fretless bass, drums, soaring female vocals. This one is all about atmosphere.
- This Note’s For You – from the 1988 This Note’s For You CD. Remember a time when MTV used to play music videos from guys who played instruments? This song with his “big power swing band” rejects all kinds of corporate sponsorship that was just becoming prevalent in the music business. NY takes the piss on Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, Pepsi, Coke, Budweiser, Jovan perfume, etc. This annoyed the MTV suits, who banned the video. NY got the last laugh because this video won the MTV Video of the Year the following year. Very humorous.
- Rockin’ in the Free World - from the 1989 Freedom CD. Jimmy McDonough, in his Neil Young biography Shakey, tells the origins of this song. Frank Sampedro, the other guitarist in Crazy Horse, saw a newspaper article on Ayatollah Khomeini’s funeral and remarked “Whatever we do, we shouldn't go near the
Mideast. It's probably better we just keep on rockin' in the free world." NY asked if Frank was using that in a song, Frank said no, so NY said he would instead. Two versions of the song appear on Freedom: a live acoustic version recorded at at the beginning of the CD, and the electric version at the end. This song came out right around the time of the fall of the Berlin Wall, so many people thought it was a celebration of capitalism over communism. It isn’t. The lyrics criticize Bush 41 [“we got a thousand points of light for the homeless man/ we got a kinder, gentler machine gun hand…”], drug-addicted mothers, pollution [“Styrofoam boxes for the ozone layer…”]. An intense song. Check out YouTube for his performance of this song on Saturday Night Live if you don’t believe me. Jones Beach, NY
- My My, Hey Hey [Out of the Blue]/Hey Hey, My My [Into the Black] – from the 1978 Rust Never Sleeps LP. Like Rockin’ in the Free World, this song begins and ends Rust Never Sleeps – an acoustic beginning, an electric ending. Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols was very much on NY’s mind, and he’s lamenting what he thought was his own self-perceived irrelevance to the music scene. Little did he know he created a classic. From the first few notes, you know exactly who it is.
- Love and Only Love from the 1990 Ragged Glory CD. This CD came out shortly before I deployed to
for Desert Shield. I heard all the songs on the CD over and over, and this is the one that stuck. Over ten minutes, it’s a very loud guitar workout with searing feedback. But what else does one expect with a CD with Crazy Horse? Saudi Arabia
- Pocahontas – from the 1978 Rust Never Sleeps LP. Another acoustic piece inspired by the person who portrayed an Indian who refused Marlon Brando’s Oscar for The Godfather. I heard an electric version of this with Crazy Horse in 1996 – it sounded like shit. The acoustic version is so much better. Pocahontas, Marlon Brando and me. Did he sleep with Pocahontas to see how she felt? Was Marlon Brando sitting by the fire talking about
, the Astrodome and the first TV? Pretty surreal stuff. Right up my alley… Hollywood
- No Wonder - from the 2005 Prairie Wind CD. The star on this acoustic gem is Ben Keith and his pedal steel. Spooner
Oldham’s Hammond B-3 only adds to the atmosphere. NY evokes 9/11, name-checks Chris Rock and Willie Nelson. Sometimes I think this is some kind of lamentation of mortality, but then again NY did this CD right after he was told he had a brain aneurysm that had to get fixed soon.
- Peace and Love – from the 1995 Mirror Ball CD. NY recorded this CD with Pearl Jam over a couple of weekends in
. The very nimble Pearl Jam could play rings around the lumbering Crazy Horse, and often does on this CD. Blistering. Seattle
- Act of Love - from the 1995 Mirror Ball CD. A song about abortion. The first time I heard this song when NY was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In fact, NY debuted the song there. Who else but Neil Young would do that at that event? NY played this song with Crazy Horse but recorded it live with Pearl Jam for Mirror Ball. Another blistering workout [see Peace and Love].
- Birds - from the 1970 After the Gold Rush LP. I heard Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers once refer to the “most beautiful Neil Young song.” I think this one is it. There are three recorded versions of this song, but this one is the best. It’s just NY playing piano with Danny Whitten harmonizing.
- Old Man – from the 1972 Harvest LP. NY’s song about the caretaker of his ranch. James Taylor’s banjo and Ben Keith’s pedal steel add just the right color.
- The Needle and the Damage Done - from the 1972 Harvest LP. Recorded live at UCLA’s Bryce Hall, this is probably the best anti-drug song I’ve ever heard. NY said in the liner notes of Decade that he wasn’t one to preach, but hard drugs took a lot of good people. Foreshadowing of Tonight’s the Night. Speaking of which…
- Tonight’s the Night, Part 1 – from the 1975 Tonight’s the Night LP. This one was recorded before, but released after On the Beach. NY said that the success he received as a result from Harvest pulled him toward the middle of the road, so he headed for the ditch, where he met a lot of more-interesting people. This whole record was inspired by the drug-related deaths of Crazy Horse guitarist Danny Whitten and CSNY roadie Bruce Berry. NY, the remains of Crazy Horse, Jack Nitzsche and Nils Lofgren all got together had a drunken bash, recorded for posterity to commemorate their dead friends.
- Soldier – from the 1972 Journey Through the Past LP. NY solo with piano and a roaring fire from a sawdust mill. NY sings he doesn’t believe in Jesus because “you can’t deliver right away” to wishes and prayers. He sings of the soldier whose “eyes shine, they shine like the sun.” Is this a reaction to what this soldier saw in
Well, there you have it. Feel free to disagree, which I'm sure you will. Thanks for reading.
Saturday, February 20, 2010
I have a hobby that drives my wife Carol absolutely nuts. I like to make mix CDs. I’m a sucker for Greatest Hits albums, but they almost invariably leave out a favorite song or two. So with the power of technology, I can make my own “greatest hit” CDs for my car or at work, especially work since I can’t take my iPod there.
One such mix CD is of The Byrds. Their first hit was in 1965 with a Bob Dylan song called Mr. Tambourine
1. Eight Miles High – from 1966’s Fifth Dimension LP. The Byrds recorded this song, about The Byrds’ trip to
2. Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is a Season) – from 1965’s Turn! Turn! Turn! LP. This is an old Pete Seeger folk tune adapted from the Book of Ecclesiastes.
3. 5D [Fifth Dimension] - from 1966’s Fifth Dimension LP. Roger McGuinn, who wrote the song, was a science fiction geek. He thought the universe was “height, width, depth, time, and something else.” His point is that the universe is infinite, that the Fifth Dimension is the threshold of scientific knowledge. Whatever. Too much to think about in a 2 ½ minute song. I just think it’s a good tune.
4. Mr. Spaceman - from 1966’s Fifth Dimension LP. Roger McGuinn’s expression of hope to communicate with friendly aliens. Sometimes NASA uses this song to wake up the Shuttle astronauts.
5. So You Want To Be a Rock 'N' Roll Star – from 1967’s Younger Than Yesterday LP. Co-written with Roger McGuinn, this is one of five songs from the pen of bassist Chris Hillman. Some rock critics think this is a song about the Byrds’ cynicism about manufactured pop groups like The Monkees. What these same critics failed to realize was The Byrds were the same kind of group when they came together in 1964. Trumpeter Hugh Masekela males a guest appearance. Later covered by Patti Smith and by Tom Petty on his Pack Up the Plantation live LP.
6. Have You Seen Her Face - from 1967’s Younger Than Yesterday LP. Another Chris Hillman song.
7. Time Between - from 1967’s Younger Than Yesterday LP. From Chris Hillman, this country-sounding song features the guitar playing of Clarence White, who would become a full member of The Byrds in later years.
8. Everybody's Been Burned - from 1967’s Younger Than Yesterday LP. This song was written by David Crosby. It sounds a lot like his song Guinnevere from the
9. My Back Pages - from 1967’s Younger Than Yesterday LP. Another song from the Bob Dylan catalog. This song has been seen by many as Bob Dylan’s kiss-off the the folk “protest song” community with which he was becoming disillusioned. This was the last Byrds song to reach Billboard’s Top 40. A great tune.
10. Lady Friend - from 1967’s Younger Than Yesterday LP. Originally a single, but later included as a bonus track on the remastered Younger Than Yesterday. Another song from David Crosby. Chiming guitars, complex vocal harmonies, and brass. It didn’t chart very well as a single, but I like it anyway.
11. Goin’ Back – from 1968’s The Notorious Byrd Brothers LP. This song is from Carole King and Gerry Goffin.
12. Natural Harmony - from 1968’s The Notorious Byrd Brothers LP. Chris Hillman once said he wrote this while taking an LSD trip. I believe it. It’s sufficiently trippy.
13. Draft Morning - from 1968’s The Notorious Byrd Brothers LP. A song started by
14. Wasn’t Born to Follow - from 1968’s The Notorious Byrd Brothers LP. Another King/Goffin tune. This one has more of a country influence, given there is a pedal steel guitar trading lead with Clarence White’s Telecaster.
15. Change Is Now - from 1968’s The Notorious Byrd Brothers LP. A McGuinn-Hillman song that Roger McGuinn describes as “another one of those guru-spiritual-mystic songs that nobody understood.” Significant for being the only Byrds song to feature both David Crosby and Clarence White.
16. Old John Robertson - from 1968’s The Notorious Byrd Brothers LP. Written by McGuinn and Hillman, this was the flip side to the Lady Friend single. Another country-type song, it’s about a retired movie director who lived in Chris Hillman’s native
17. Tribal Gathering – from 1968’s The Notorious Byrd Brothers LP. This is a jazzy song played in 5/4 time by David Crosby. The song was inspired by a hippie gathering in
18. Triad – the proverbial straw that broke the camels back. Among other things, this is the song that got David Crosby fired from The Byrds. This is a song about a ménage à trois. Another very fine lead vocal from
19. You Ain’t Going Nowhere – from 1968’s Sweetheart of the Rodeo LP. Enter Gram Parsons. With
20. This Wheel’s On Fire – from 1969’s Dr. Byrds & Mr. Hyde LP. Exit Gram Parsons and Chris Hillman, enter Clarence White. As the title suggests, the record has a split personality between country rock material and hard-edged psychedelia. This Bob Dylan/Rick Danko song falls in the latter category. This song sounds like the apocalypse is coming, and the ending is complete with an atomic bomb explosion and searing feedback. Cool stuff this one.
22. Drug Store Truck Drivin' Man - from 1969’s Dr. Byrds & Mr. Hyde LP. Before Gram Parsons left The Byrds, he wrote this song with Roger McGuinn. Played in country 3/4 time, the subject of their ire is Ralph Emery, who didn’t treat The Byrds very well on his radio show when The Byrds were trying to plug their Sweetheart of the Rodeo album in
23. Lover of the Bayou [Live] – from 1970’s [Untitled] LP. Roger McGuinn and Broadway impresario Jacques Levy had an idea to take Henrik Ibsen’s Peer Gynt story and transpose it from
25. It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding) – the other Dylan song from 1970’s [Untitled] LP. The Dylan songs and Lover of the Bayou ably demonstrate The Byrds’ newfound prowess as a live band.
27. Farther Along – from 1971’s Farther Along LP. One of the few Byrds songs sung by Clarence White. Two years after the release of Farther Along, Clarence White was killed by a drunk driver in
These are all the songs I could cram into a single 80 minute CD. If I could put one more song on it, it would be Gene Clark’s I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better from The Byrds’ 1965 Mr. Tambourine Man LP.