Friday, October 29, 2010

Buffalo Springfield Again

For those who don’t know much about Neil Young’s personal story, he is the father of two children who have cerebral palsy. His wife Pegi, Jim Forderer, two parents who could not find a school to suit the needs of their special-needs children, and Dr. Marilyn Buzolich, a speech and language pathologist, proposed a San Francisco Bay Area school dedicated to providing an environment where children with complex communication needs could learn, grow and thrive and develop skills they’d need to be successful adults and have a good quality of life. The Bridge School [] opened its doors in 1987. Its major source of funding comes from the Bridge School Benefit show, organized by Neil and Pegi Young and held on an October weekend every year at the Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, California. Past performers over the last 24 years include Bob Dylan, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Pearl Jam, the Dave Matthews Band, and The Who, just to name a few. This year’s shows were extra special because they saw the return of the Buffalo Springfield, 42 years after they last performed.

To put in perspective on how much time has elapsed since the last time these guys performed together before a paying audience, Lyndon Johnson was still president, Bobby Kennedy was still alive. Martin Luther King Jr had been assassinated only a month before. This country was still in the quagmire that was Vietnam. Barack Obama was seven years old and living in Indonesia. Ronald Reagan was governor of California. The Beatles had not yet recorded the White Album. The world had not yet heard about Charles Manson. Yes, it’s been a long time coming…

Bassist Bruce Palmer and drummer Dewey Martin have both since died (2004 and 2009, respectively). The surviving members – Stephen Stills, Richie Furay, and Neil Young – reunited last weekend to perform at the Bridge School Benefit. Rick “The Bass Player” Rosas from Neil Young’s road band and longtime CSN collaborator and drummer Joe Vitale filled in for Palmer and Martin. As is customary for the Bridge School Benefits, Buffalo Springfield performed acoustically. Hearing these old guys play their old songs stripped down to the bare essentials worked very well for them [my opinion anyway]. I went out to YouTube and found the best clips I could from the shows. You can judge for yourself the quality of the performance. All I know is they made ME smile. I have only one question – what took you guys so long? Now if the surviving Byrds and Stephen Stills’Manassas can get together, that would be as special as last weekend’s Buffalo Springfield reunion. Many thanks to Pocolova, Maxsdad49, ZUrlocker, and MrTripps99 for shooting these clips and sharing them with everybody.

A dream setlist if there ever was one:
On the Way Home
Rock and Roll Woman
A Child’s Claim to Fame
Do I Have To Come Out and Say It
Go and Say Goodbye
I Am a Child
Kind Woman
For What It’s Worth
Nowadays Clancy Can’t Even Sing
Mr. Soul

“On the Way Home”

“Rock and Roll Woman” and “A Child’s Claim To Fame”

“Do I Have To Come Right Out and Say It”

“Go and Say Goodbye”

“I Am a Child” and “Kind Woman”


“For What It’s Worth”

“Nowadays Clancy Can't Even Sing”


“Mr. Soul”

Friday, October 22, 2010

Richard III

Richard III started out as a play written by William Shakespeare that depicted the rise to power and short reign of Richard III. There have been several movies based on this play, three of which I’ve seen. The first, Tower of London (1939) starred Basil Rathbone as Richard, Boris Karloff as his executioner Mord, and Vincent Price as Richard’s older brother Clarence. The second, Tower of London (1962), was Roger Corman’s remake of the 1939 movie with Vincent Price as Richard. Both of these movies were made as horror movies. The third Richard III-inspired movie, oddly enough titled Richard III, has Sir Ian McKellen playing Richard. This movie was done as the tragedy that Shakespeare wrote in the 16th century. It is an adaptation by Sir Ian McKellen of the Royal Nation Theatre production of which he had been starring. Sir Laurence Olivier also adapted Richard III as a tragedy in the 1950s. Unlike the earlier movies, all of which had been set in the 15th century. Sir Ian McKellen’s film set the story in 1930s Britain in what appears to be a fascist country. According to Sir Ian:

We were creating our own world, our own history of the 1930s and our invention of what might have happened if Britain had been involved in a civil war sixty years ago. We decided we wanted to find eccentric places and turn them into elements of the story. We decided Victorian Gothic was a nice way of placing King Edward's court in a traditional context. When Richard takes over,he moves his headquarters away from the palace into accommodation derivative of Speer's Berlin or Mussolini's Rome. 'We drew on elements we liked about the look of the 1930s as they really were and used them as keys. The costumes, for example, were very specific to 1936. We're using 30s furniture and props and architecture that has survived from the 30s.
Those “eccentric places” referred to by Sir Ian are landmarks of contemporary England. Through the use of special effects, the Battersea Power Station [think of the cover of Pink Floyd’s Animals] is transported to the coast of Kent and becomes Richard’s bombed-out headquarters, the Bankside Power Station becomes the Tower of London where Richard’s nephews and his older brother Clarence are imprisoned [and later murdered], the Brighton Pavilion is relocated close to Dover and becomes King Edward’s country retreat.

For those unfamiliar with the Richard III, it is the story of one man’s ambition to claim England’s throne and the ruthlessness he uses to eliminate all the family members who stand in the way between him and the throne. The film starts with England embroiled in a civil war. The ruling king, from the House of Lancaster, was under attack from the House of York [historically, this was the War of the Roses]. The House of York was aiming to place the eldest son, Edward, on the throne. The “rebel” army, led by Edward’s younger brother Richard of Gloucester, is advancing on the king’s headquarters at Tewkesbury. As the film begins we see a close-up of a teletype message at the king’s headquarters which says “Richard Gloucester is at hand. He holds his course toward Tewkesbury” [Tewkesbury was one of the decisive battles in the War of the Roses]. The king [Henry VI] and his son [Prince Edward] look very worried, the king goes to bed, and the son goes to another room to have dinner. While Price Edward is eating, a tank bursts into his room, troops wearing gas masks swarm in, and someone shoots and kills the Price Edward. Then that same person who killed the prince found the king praying at his bedside. He approached the king, then shot and killed him too. The soldier then takes off his mask to reveal him to be Richard Gloucester.

The scene then shifts to the new king’s palace, where the House of York is celebrating its victory over the House of Lancaster. All of the players, with the exception of Richard, are attired in formal dress. Richard, who is the Commander-in-Chief of the army, is dressed in full dress uniform. It is a not-so-subtle way of distinguishing him from the rest of the family. During this celebration we get to see many of the characters of the film: Richard [Sir Ian McKellen] King Edward [John Wood], his American-born Queen Elizabeth [Annette Bening], the Duke of Clarence [Sir Nigel Hawthorne], the Prime Minister Lord Hastings [Jim Carter], the Earl of Richmond [Dominic West], his uncle Lord Stanley [Edward Hardwicke], Queen Elizabeth’s brother Earl Rivers [Robert Downey Jr.], the Duchess of York, mother to Edward, Clarence and Richard [Dame Maggie Smith], the Duke of Buckingham [Jim Broadbent], and Princess Elizabeth [Kate Steavenson-Payne]. Most of the characters are paired up with another character, engaged in some conversation, while Richard is alone, mingling among the crowd of well-wishers and quietly observing the festivities. Sir William Catesby, the King’s private secretary, leans over to whisper something to the King. Both men look in Clarence’s direction. Then, inexplicably, Clarence is arrested and taken away to the Tower. Once the big band that is providing the evening’s music finishes a song, Richard then approaches a microphone to begin a soliloquiy:

Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of York!
And all the clouds that loured upon our house
In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.
Now are our brows bound with victorious wreaths;
Our bruised arms hung up for monuments;
Our stern alarums changed to merry meetings,
Our dreadful marches to delightful measures.
Grim-visaged war has smoothed his wrinkled front:
And now, instead of mounting barbed steeds,
To fight the souls of fearful adversaries

After Richard has finished toasting his brother the King, he heads for a bathroom, where he continues his soiloquiy. Both Shakespeare and Sir Ian [who wrote the screenplay with Richard Loncraine, who also directed] depict Richard Gloucester as a hunchback with a withered arm. They suggest that these deformities are the source of Richard’s evil. While he is no longer addressing the gathering celebrating victory, Richard turns to the camera and speaks directly to the audience [which is called ‘breaking through the fourth wall’], which to me makes us complicit in everything he has done or is about to do.

But I, that am not shaped for sportive tricks,
Nor made to court an amorous looking-glass,
I, that am rudely stamped -
Deformed, unfinished, sent before my time
Into this breathing world, scarce half made up,
And that so lamely and unfashionable
That dogs bark at me, as I halt by them:

Why, I, in this weak piping time of peace,
Have no delight to pass away the time,
Unless to spy my shadow in the sun,
And descant on my own deformity.

Why, I can smile; and murder while I smile;
And wet my cheeks with artificial tears
And frame my face to all occasions!
And, therefore, since I cannot prove a lover,
I am determined to prove a villain
And hate the idle pleasures of these days.
Plots have I laid...

Then Richard reveals his first act: "To set my brothers, Clarence and the King, In deadly hate, the one against the other." That’s out first clue that Catesby is really working for Richard.

Richard then spies Clarence being led away to a boat for transport to the Tower. He asks Clarence what is going on and why he’s under guard. Clarence doesn’t have a clue and says as much. Richard promises Clarence to intercede with their brother the King to make sure that Clarence’s imprisonment is a short one. Clarence believes him, but Richard has no intention of getting Clarence out of his current predicament. Once Clarence is led away, Richard moves onto his next task: to woo Lady Anne.

Lady Anne [Kristin Scott Thomas] is Prince Edward’s widow. She finds him in a morgue at a public hospital. She begins to speak:

O, cursed be the hand that made these holes;
Cursed the heart that had the heart to do it;
Cursed the blood that let this blood from hence!
If ever he have child, abortive be it.
If ever he have wife, let her be made
More miserable by the life of him,
Than I am made by my young husband's death

Little did she know she was cursing herself. Through the door to the morgue steps Richard. She starts to cuss out Richard for the deed he has done in killing her husband. He protests that he did it out of love for her. She spit in his face. He expresses remorse for killing her husband, and in so doing picks up a scalpel, places it in her hand tells her to kill him. She can’t bring herself to do it, so he picks up the blade as if to kill himself. She tells him to put down the blade. When he asks if there is any hope that they would be together, she says all men I hope live so… So he takes the family signet ring off his own finger with his teeth and then places the saliva-covered ring on her ring finger. With that gesture she is no longer angry with Richard, but now fascinated by him. He walks out of the morgue, knowing that Lady Anne is now his.

Meanwhile back at the palace, King Edward signs a pardon for his brother Clarence. The pardon countermands the order he signed earlier [at Richard’s behest] to execute Clarence. The King is not a well man. He has a persistent cough and needs an oxygen tank to breathe. He gets around with the aid of a wheelchair. Unbeknownst to the King, Catesby delivers Clarence’s pardon to Richard, who burns it. Clarence’s fate is sealed. Richard turns to the camera and says:

"Clarence still breathes. Edward still lives and reigns. When they are gone, then shall I count my gains."

While Queen Elizabeth has breakfast with her brother Earl Rivers, she tells him the King’s doctors fear for his health. She also tells Rivers the King has appointed Richard as Lord Protector of the King’s young sons because they are underage. She also reminds Rivers that Richard has no love for her or her brother the Earl.

Richard then makes his way to the army barracks where he recruits assassins to kill his brother Clarence. The two men accept the job and go to the Tower. They find Clarence in a bathtub. They tell him why they’re there. After some brief conversation one of the assassins cuts Clarence’s throat and then pushes his head underwater. Clarence dies, unbeknownst to the king. The king then has a get-together at his country retreat where he implores everybody [Buckingham, Rivers, Richard, Elizabeth, Catesby] to kiss and make-up so as to have on big happy family. When Richard informs the King that Clarence was dead, he goes into respiratory arrest and dies. Shortly thereafter, Rivers is impaled and dies after having sex with a Pam Am stewardess.

Richard, as Lord Protector, then meets the Prince of Wales at the train station and advises the presumptive king that he would be safer if he and his younger brother went to the Tower. The Price of Wales takes Richard’s advice and goes to the Tower. Richard has gotten the boys away from their mother, Queen Elizabeth. Lord Stanley and the Earl of Richmond see what is going on, and Richmond flees to France.

There is then a meeting to determine when the young prince will be crowned king. They [Lord Hastings, Lord Stanley, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Catesby, Buckingham] gather at Richard’s headquarters. Hastings presumes to speak for Richard the Lord Protector, but then Richard walks in, making apologies for sleeping late. Richard sits at the table and laments the state of his arm, that it was damaged by witchcraft perpetrated by Queen Elizabeth. Hastings questions whether Elizabeth could have done such a thing. Angry, Richard labels Hastings a traitor and says “Off with his head. Now, by Saint Paul, I swear I will not dine, until I see the same. The rest who love me, rise and follow me.” Everyone else gets up and leaves, leaving Hastings with James Tyrell, one of Richard’s bodyguards and Clarence’s assassin. Tyrell says to Hastings “The Duke would be at dinner. He longs to see your head.” Hastings is hanged shortly thereafter.

With the promise of an Earldom, Richard enjoins the Duke of Buckingham to start a campaign of lies to insinuate the marriage between his late brother the King and Queen Elizabeth was not a legal one, which would make the young princes who stand between Richard and the throne illegitimate and thus ineligible to succeed King Edward. The Lord Mayor of London and the Archbishop of Canterbury beg Richard to take the throne, which he “reluctantly” accepts right before he goes to a meeting that has the look and feel of a Nazi Party rally.

Once Richard is crowned King, he orders Buckingham to kill the two princes in the Tower. Buckingham hesitates. He’s not too keen on murdering children. Richard notes Buckingham’s hesitance and is annoyed. Buckingham demands from Richard the Earldom which Richard promised to him. Richard refuses, saying he wasn’t in a giving mood that day. Buckingham, thus rebuffed, heads to France to join Richmond. Richard then asks Tyrell to do the deed. He kills the princes. Meanwhile, Richard hatches a plot to kill his own wife Anne [who has become a drug addict], and then marry his niece, the Queen’s daughter Princess Elizabeth [who fancies Richmond] in order to secure his claim to the throne. He also wants to deny Richmond’s claim. Richmond came from the Lancaster branch of the Plantegenet family. In due course, Anna dies. We see her lifeless body lying on her bed, eyes wide open, a spider crawling across her face.

As the body count rises, Richard loses more and more allies. Even his own mother the Duchess of York turns on him. Lord Stanley then defects to Richmond's side. Richard threatens to kill Stanley's young son, but Stanley calls his bluff and defects anyway [the boy survived the movie]. With only one card left to play, Richard sees Queen Elizabeth to try to arrange a marriage between him and Elizabeth [his niece, her daughter]. She doesn't like the idea but plays along. When they finish talking, Elizabeth and Richmond get married in a hurry.

Richmond's forces invade England and attack almost immediately. The Duke of Buckingham was captured and killed, but Richard's forces, though numerically superior, are caught off-guard and defeated at the Battle of Bosworth Field. The fighting takes place around the Battersea Power Station. Richmond chases Richard. During the chase Richard's jeep gets stuck and he bellows Shakespeare's famous line "A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!" Richmond quickly catches up with Richard. Richmond wants to capture Richard alive, but Richard has other ideas. He says to Richmond "Let us to't pell-mell; if not to heaven, then hand-in-hand to hell!" and then throws himself to his death in an inferno. While he's falling you here Al Jolson singing "I'm Sitting On The Top Of The World."

My wife always wants a movie to end like this - a bomb drops and everybody dies. This movie comes close. Everybody didn't die at the end of the movie, but most of the players died along the way to the ending. By my count, these folks from the "victory celebration" scene died - King Edward, his brother Clarence, the king's two sons, the Queen's brother Earl Prince, Lord Hastings the Prime Minister, Richard's wife Anna, the Duke of Buckingham, and finally Richard himself. Machiavelli would be proud. I always found Shakespeare's tragedies to be more interesting than his comedies. That Sir Ian had the brainwave to set the story in more-modern times was a masterstroke. Ordinarily whenever I see a movie that has a lot of good big-name actors, that's the kiss of death because the movie in question needs a lot of star power to make up for a lousy story. Not so this movie. This one is brilliant! Even if you have no use for Shakespeare, this is a good one to watch, again and again.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Gimme Some Truth: The Solo Music of Dr Winston O'Boogie

Who is Dr Winston O'Boogie? It was John Lennon's favorite pseudonym. If you should ever pick up Elton John's Greatest Hits Volume II, it has Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds, which in my humble opinion is the best Beatles cover version ever done. Even John Lennon prefers Elton John's version. Why do I bring up Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds? Because if you look in the credits it says "featuring the reggae guitars of Dr Winston O'Boogie." But I digress...

On October 5th, Capitol Records re-released John Lennon’s eight albums [all remastered, again…] to commemorate what would have been John’s 70th birthday. Capitol also put together [under Yoko Ono’s watchful eye] two compilations – the single disc Power to the People and the 4-disc Gimme Some Truth. Power to the People has the usual suspects on it, same as you’d find on Shaved Fish, Lennon Legend, or Working Class Hero: The Definitive Lennon. Gimme Some Truth is much more comprehensive – 72 songs divided into four themes: Working Class Hero [socio-political songs], Borrowed Time [songs about life], Woman [love songs], and Roots [rock and roll roots and influences].

Having looked over the track listing, I see that Gimme Some Truth has all of John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, most of Imagine, most of Walls and Bridges, the only good song from Sometime in New York City [New York City] and six of the seven Lennon songs from Double Fantasy. However, there’s also a lot from the Rock ‘N” Roll [his collection of “moldie oldies”] - too much, if you ask me. But again I digress. I’ve been reading customer reviews of Gimme Some Truth and one reviewer’s comments stuck out. He opined that only a fragment of John Lennon’s music was represented on Gimme Some Truth and that it should contain one CD of music he created with the Beatles. I think he's right. Would there have been a John Lennon solo career were it not for the Beatles? He didn’t say what he would pick, but I took up the challenge. Here’s what I came up with that I could fit on one 79:57 CD.

The Weird and Innovative Songs I'm Only Sleeping/Rain/Tomorrow Never Knows /A Day in the Life/I Am the Walrus/Hey Bulldog/Come Together/Across the Universe

Borrowed TimeHelp!/Norwegian Wood [This Bird Has Flown]/In My Life/Girl/Nowhere Man/She Said She Said/Strawberry Fields Forever/I Want You [She’s So Heavy]/The Ballad of John and Yoko/Yer Blues

Working Class HeroRevolution/All You Need Is Love

Beatlemania A Hard Day’s Night/I Feel Fine/Ticket To Ride

I know, there some major titles missing, like Please Please Me, I Want to Hold Your Hand, Eight Days a Week, and Twist and Shout, just to name a few. Space on a CD is a premium. I deliberately avoided the love songs because there are so many of them. Plus, I like my list better. A good number of them were not "hits" per se. That was Paul McCartney's forte. I always preferred album tracks anyway.

Gimme Some Truth, and for that matter the entire Lennon solo catalog, boasts it uses the original mixes that John approved. This is an improvement over the remasters that came out between 2000 and 2005. I've heard the new remastered remixes and they're right, to a degree. The most noticeable difference is the album Imagine. The early remasters have a brightness to them that bring out all the high frequencies, especially the slide guitars of George Harrison, who played on five songs on Imagine. The highs sound great, but that comes at a cost - there's no bottom end. You can't hear the bass. Imagine from 2001 sounds like a well-recorded demo. The new mixes restore the balance between the highs and the lows and they sound much more like what you were used to if you bought the albums on vinyl back in the day. Walls and Bridges remixes from 2005 sound better than what is out now, but just a little. The old remixes sound like they have a bit more sparkle. But both versions (2005 and 2010) sound all right. Don't part with your 2005 mixes.

At any rate, if you don't want to stick a crowbar in your wallet and buy all the Lennon CDs, Gimme Some Truth is the way to go. With a couple of minor exceptions, this collection has all you need to know about John Lennon's solo career.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Stones In Exile

About three months ago the Rolling Stones re-released their Exile on Main St, originally released in 1972. To coincide with the release of the album, the Rolling Stones also released a documentary about the making of the album, Stones in Exile. I saw bits and pieces of the film on Jimmy Fallon’s late night show, but not all of it. I liked what I saw. I’m a sucker for these kind of things, so when I saw it for sale on DVD, I jumped at the chance and got a copy for less than $15 at Best Buy. Included in this film are clips from the 1972 Robert Frank documentary of the Stones [Cocksucker Blues] and many still photographs of the band taken by French photographer Dominique Tarlé. While the film clips and stills are shown, you hear the Stones themselves [including ex-Stones Bill Wyman and Mick Taylor] provide the narration for the film. Also providing their commentary are such people as Jimmy Miller [Exile’s producer], Andy Johns [Exile’s recording engineer], Bobby Keys [longtime Stones sax player], and Anita Pallenberg, Keith Richards’ longtime paramour.

The very beginning of the film sees Mick Jagger and Charlie Watts visiting Olympic Studios in London. After reminiscing about recordings that took place in this studio [some of which were included on Exile on Main Street], the narrative about the Rolling Stones of the early 1970s begins. At that time the Stones were managed by Allen Klein, the same guy whose tenure as the Beatles’ business manager contributed to that group’s demise. The Stones realized that Allen Klein had been ripping them off for years and so they desperately wanted to get out of their contract with him. Mick Jagger and Bill Wyman picked up the story:

Mick: "We’d been working hard, we were a very successful band, we’d sold a lot of records but we weren’t getting paid ‘cause the record contracts were giving us such a low royalty. We found out that we had a management company guy who claimed that he owned everything we were doing in the past and always would in the future. Touring, records, publishing, songs, everything, he said he owned it. So we had to get rid of him and try to get out of this ridiculous Byzantine mess that you’ve created for yourself."

Bill Wyman: "We were supposed to live this life, limousines, you had to have, and this, that and the other. The money just flew, so you were always in debt. None of us had paid tax. We thought we had. We thought that had been dealt with, and it hadn’t. Tax, under the Labour government of Wilson was 93%. If you earned a million quid, which we didn’t, you’d end up with 70 grand. So it was impossible to earn enough money to pay back the Inland Revenue and stay here, in England."

Faced with the predicament of not having enough money pay their back taxes, the entire band became tax exiles [hence the name of the album] and relocated to France in the spring of 1971. There were some severe misgivings within the band about taking such a step. When asked by a reporter if he wanted to leave England, Charlie Watts gave him a very short and emphatic answer: “No!” Bill Wyman wasn’t keen on leaving England either. Bill missed his English creature comforts, Charlie couldn't speak any French. Mick Jagger thought the band might be finished since they would have to leave England, but he saw no alternative because he didn't have the money to pay the taxman.

The perils of recording Exile on Main St:

Keith: "We looked around for studios, but especially in the South of France in the early…in 1971, there were no good rooms to work in, and the equipment was shabby, and nobody felt comfortable in anywhere we looked at."

Jimmy Miller: "We tried various cinemas and public halls that one might rent, and we just never found a suitable site. And in the end, we chose convenience, I suppose, over sound, and went for the basement in Keith’s house."

Keith: "We said “we have this truck, our own mobile studio. Why don’t we just forget about them and just bring in the truck and work around the problems? At least this way, we don’t have to ask our interpreter every time we want to turn it off or on.”"

Jimmy Miller: "The basement of Keith’s house was in fact a lot of separate rooms that made up a basement. In the end, the separation was so poor that we would have to have the piano in one room, an acoustic guitar in the kitchen, because it had tile so it had a nice ring. There was another room for the horns. And there was one, probably, main studio where the drums were and Keith’s amp, and Bill would stand in there but his amp would be out in the hall."

Andy Johns: "The place was absolutely atrocious and was very, very difficult to deal with. It was so humid and the guitars would go in and out of tune all the time. And Mick kept complaining about the sound and…The gear wasn’t working properly, the lights would go off, and there were fires, and it was just insane."

Jimmy Miller: "It wasn’t the best conditions at all. It was difficult for all of us. The wires would go out the door and down the hall into a mobile truck. Every time I wanted to communicate I would have to run around to all the different rooms and give the message."

Charlie Watts: “A lot of Exile was done how Keith works, which is: play it 20 times, marinate, play it another 20. Keith’s very like a jazz player in lots of ways. I mean, he knows what he likes, but he’s very loose. Keith’s a very Bohemian and eccentric – in the best terms – person. He really is.”

Bill: “We started off just jamming. Really casual. Hung together. It always ended up great. That was the great thing about it.”

Bobby Keys: “It was about as unrehearsed as a hiccup. It just was…It wasn’t exactly spontaneous combustion. This was a whole different approach to music and recording from what I’d been used to. Usually you know the name of the song you’re playing.”

Charlie: “The one that’s great on that is Ventilator Blues. You always rehearse it and it’s a great riff, but we never do it as good as that, something is not right. Either Keith would play it a bit different, which is not the same, or I’ll get it wrong. That’s because Bobby said “why don’t you do this?” I said “I can’t play that.” He said “yeah, it’s this.” And stood next to me, clapping. I just followed his time.”

Bobby Keys: “Where I ever had the balls to try to tell Charlie Watts where two and four was, is beyond me. I have often thought to myself “Son, what were you smoking, or what were you drinking?” God bless his heart and patience he listened to me. There you go, you hear it right here, I taught Charlie Watts how to play the drums.”

Andy Johns confirmed what I had always suspected about the Rolling Stones. The Stones’ greatness comes from the interaction and the synergy of Keith Richards and Charlie Watts. If those two were in sync, then all was right with the universe.

Andy Johns: “What would really happen is this – they would play very poorly for two or three days on whatever song, and then if Keith got up and started looking at Charlie, then you knew that something was about to go down. Then Bill would get up and put his bass at that sort-of 84 degree angle, and you went “ah, here it comes. They’re going to go for it now.” Then it would turn into this wonderful, God-given music.”

Living in "exile" in the South of France:

Saxman Bobby Keys thought there could be a lot worse things than living in a great location with lots of pretty girls, lots of booze and drugs, making music whenever you wanted all the while being in his mid-twenties. Anita Pallenberg saw relocating to the South of France as a chance to finally settle down with a family after living the life of a gypsy on the road with the Stones.

Charlie: “Everybody had a great time, but it was very stressful if you know what I mean. You were having a good time, but ready to go back home. The only one who wasn’t like that was Keith, who was being supplied in his mansion, with the band working downstairs. Must have been heaven for him.”

But after awhile, things got a bit out of control. Bill Wyman described how somebody broke into the house while they were all watching TV, stole a bunch of instruments, and nobody noticed. Anita Pallenberg lamented how she and Keith got heavily into drugs, and the paranoia that came with it. She couldn't keep track of all the people who came and went. After a few months Keith and Anita wore out their welcome with the French authorities and had to leave. There was one HUGE revelation from Keith. He related how and why he turned to heroin.

Keith: “I did it, basically, to hide. Hide from fame and being this other person, because all I wanted to do was play music and bring my family up. With a hit of smack I could walk through anything, and not give a damn.”

Amazing…and here I thought the whole point of the exercise of getting a band together was money, fame, girls, etc. I’m reminded of what Johnny Rotten once said many years ago: “If you don’t like being a pop star, then stop being one.”

After the time in France, the Stones relocated again, this time to Los Angeles to finish the record. Mick said they’d always finished their records in LA. They’d recorded a lot in France, but the songs were unfinished. Some of the songs had some fragmentary lyrics, some had no lyrics at all. The lead vocals and the harmony vocals still had to be done. Some songs needed overdubs (steel guitar, piano, upright bass, etc). Then it was time to mix the record. Mick would do his mixes, Keith would do his mixes. Then they’d argue over which mixes were best. Bill Wyman said this process went on ad nauseum. Charlie said it took so long to finish the record because Mick doesn’t like to finish anything.

Exile on Main St. as seen by those who created it:

Mick: “It is a different kind of record. It’s a very sprawling, gutsy piece of work. Criticism of Exile, it didn’t have a direction. But that’s also something very laudable about it, that it exhibits all these styles, and even multiple styles, in one song. Does it have tons of hit singles on it? No, this isn’t that kind of record.”

Mick Taylor: “Over the years it’s acquired a kind of magical glow. Probably because of the way it was recorded, the rawness of it, the edginess of it.”

Bill: “I loved the tracks, obviously, but I don’t think that we had hardly any good reviews on that album. By anybody. They were all boo-hooing it saying it was a load of crap, and it wasn’t like the Stones. And they all did amazing U-turns in the next few years, saying it was one of the greatest albums we’d ever done.”

Keith has the last word about the whole thing: “I just wanted to make music and see how sounds are made. How do you transmit that feeling and it actually comes back out and touches people? It’s been the mystery of my life and I’m still following it.”

What do I think of this film? I loved hearing all the details about finding a place to record, what the recording process was like, and what distractions there were that the Stones put up with in order to make the record. The whole thing sounded like it was straight out of some wacked-out Fellini movie. If you’re a music junkie like me, it’s a compelling story. I thought the film could have used more clips from Franks’ film, but the way the filmmakers took the many still photographs taken by Dominique Tarlé and mixed them with the interviews of the participants was very effective. That kind of storytelling usually holds my interest. I first saw that kind of documentary when Ken Burns did his magnificent film about the American Civil War. That’s a lot like what Stones in Exile is like. If I have one criticism of the film, it’s the use of interviews of people who have nothing to do with the Rolling Stones. People like Sheryl Crow, Benicio del Toro, Jack White, Will.I.Am, Don Was, and Caleb Followill from Kings of Leon. Why do I care what they think of Exile on Main Street? These interview segments added nothing to the finished product. But all things considered, a good product for which Stones fans like me can part with their money.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Great Live Albums

I love live albums. Since I don’t go to concerts anymore, for me they are the next best thing to being there, especially if there is a DVD tie-in. Live albums fall into three areas – 1. The stop-gap between studio albums to keep a musical act in the public eye; 2. The contractual obligation, like a greatest hits album, that allows an act to complete a recording contract with one label before moving on to a better deal with another label; 3. The document of a band’s prowess as a live act that can’t be captured in a studio. Here are some live albums that fall into the third category that I think are required listening.

Deep Purple – Made in Japan (1973) – recorded over a three night span of shows in Osaka and Tokyo. This live document featured the best-known and most successful Deep Purple line-up of Ritchie Blackmore, Ian Gillan, Roger Glover, Jon Lord, and Ian Paice. The original album included only seven songs, but the 1998 remastered version also included the encore songs Speed King, Black Night, and Lucille. Made in Japan has the definitive version of Highway Star, on which both Jon Lord and Ritchie Blackmore are simply spectacular. The rest of the band isn’t too shabby either. It also features a superb Smoke on the Water that’s better than the Machine Head original, a lengthy Lazy and an even longer Space Truckin’, both from Machine Head. In order to provide an on-stage foil for guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, Jon Lord fed his Hammond organ through a Marshall stack, providing the Hammond with a more metallic sound. Instead of sounding like a mellow instrument that one would hear in jazz or blues, by feeding the Hammond through a Marshall stack Jon Lord turned a piece of furniture into a fire-breathing, smoke-belching beast. On both Lazy and Space Truckin’, Jon Lord uncaged the beast. I saw Deep Purple on their 1985 Perfect Strangers tour. They were as great that night as they were on Made in Japan. What a shame they couldn't get along and keep it together.

The Allman Brothers Band - At Fillmore East (1971) – Produced by Tom Dowd, this was recorded over four shows in March 1971. I’ve written about this album at length in a previous blog, therefore I won’t repeat myself. I’ll just say the deluxe edition of At Fillmore East is the best live album I’ve heard from anybody. The track listing:

Statesboro Blues/Trouble No More/Don’t Keep Me Wonderin’/Done Somebody Wrong/Stormy Monday/One Way Out/In Memory of Elizabeth Reed/You Don’t Love Me/Midnight Rider/Hot ‘Lanta/Whipping Post/Mountain Jam/Drunken Hearted Boy [featuring Elvin Bishop]

Peter Frampton – Frampton Comes Alive! (1976) – if you grew up in the 1970s, you heard this album a lot – I know I did. My friend Mike owned a copy [I’m sure he still has it], and everyday he put his stereo speakers in his upstairs bedroom window and blasted Frampton Comes Alive! for the whole neighborhood to hear. We heard it so much that I think we all knew every nuance of Do You Feel Like We Do, all 13 minutes of it. There are many reasons why Frampton Comes Alive! is the best selling live album of all time: 1) Good songs; 2) Great guitar playing; 3) It’s an excellent recording – it just sounds good. The deluxe version sounds even better. Frampton’s most recent releases, Fingerprints and Thank You Mr. Churchill, are proof that the success of Frampton Comes Alive! was not some pretty-boy fluke. The man can play!

Jeff Beck – Performing This Week: Live at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club (2007) – Several years ago I saw Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Festival on TV. One of EC’s guests was Jeff Beck and his band. After having heard Beck’s set I was hoping that sometime in the near future he would record a live album. For once my musical wish was granted. This album is an excellent overview of Jeff Beck’s career since leaving The Yardbirds in 1966. This set includes Beck’s Bolero, an outstanding Cause We’ve Ended as Lovers [from 1975’s Blow By Blow], some great live versions from songs off of 1976’s Wired, including Led Boots and Goodbye Pork-Pie Hat. To top it off, included is Beck’s take on The Beatles’ A Day in the Life. Beck doesn’t sing – he lets his guitar be his voice. In his hands, a Fender Stratocaster can laugh, cry, sing, moan, wail – it can express any emotion a human voice can express. Joe Satriani and Steve Vai have nothing on this guy.

Stevie Ray Vaughan – Live at Carnegie Hall (1997) – Recorded October 4, 1984, the day after SRV turned 30, released posthumously. Joining SRV and Double Trouble on this occasion were SRV’s big brother Jimmie Vaughan (from the Fabulous Thunderbirds), Dr John, and the Roomful of Blues horn section. The band and the guests turned Carnegie Hall into a Texas roadhouse that night. There was lots of great blues played on this night. The track listing:

Scuttle Buttin’/Testify/Love Struck Baby/Honey Bee/Cold Shot/Letter to My Girlfriend/Dirty Pool/Pride and Joy/The Things That I Used to Do/C.O.D [sung by Angela Strelhi]/Iced Over/Lenny/Rude Mood

The Sky Is Crying and Voodoo Child [Slight Return] from the same show are on the SRV box set. Live at Carnegie Hall is SRV’s best live album and is an essential part of his discography.

Johnny Cash – At Folsom Prison (1968), At San Quentin (1969) – two recordings from two different California prisons, same result – electrifying! It’s pretty chilling when you hear a bunch of cons cheering wildly when The Man in Black sings I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die [Folsom Prison Blues]. The reaction from the cons is the same when they hear My name is Sue/How do you do/Now you’re gonna die! [A Boy Named Sue] and I can’t forget the day I shot that bad bitch down [Cocaine Blues]. The Man in Black definitely connected with captive audiences that were starved for entertainment, and herein lies the greatness of these two live albums.

Bob Dylan - The Bootleg Series Vol. 4: Bob Dylan Live 1966, The "Royal Albert Hall" Concert (1998) – don’t let the title fool you. Yes, this started out as a bootleg, and it was originally thought to be from the Royal Albert Hall. A bootleg of this show, incorrectly labeled as being from the Royal Albert Hall, has been making the rounds for over thirty years. Contrary to legend, this concert was recorded in Manchester. To put the show in its proper context, the year before recording it Bob Dylan had shocked his folk audience by “going electric” at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965. This move in a more commercial direction so angered the folk faithful that they bought tickets for Dylan shows for the expressed purpose of booing him. The first half of the show was Dylan alone and acoustic. The audience sat silently and hung on his every word. The second half of the show was an electric set with a full band, The Hawks [who later became The Band]. Considering this was recorded in 1966, the audio fidelity is pretty good. The performance from Dylan and The Hawks was intense. Between songs during the electric set there were catcalls from the crowd. Finally, between Ballad of a Thin Man and Like a Rolling Stone you can hear the famous cry of “Judas!” After hearing that, Dylan turned to the band and you can hear him tell them to “play it fucking loud!” The Hawks obliged, and when Like a Rolling Stone was finished, there’s nothing but stunned silence. How's that for greatness?

UFO – Strangers in the Night (1979) – this one is like a “greatest hits live” recording taken from shows recorded in Chicago and Louisville. All the best UFO songs are here. The band, with German guitarist Michael Schenker, is in peak form. Here you will find the best version of Lights Out. Also included is a mind-blowing 10-minute version of Rock Bottom. UFO did several studio albums with Michael Schenker, all of them very good. But this live album is the best album they ever did or ever will do.

Neil Young – Live Rust (1979) – recorded with Crazy Horse at the Cow Palace in San Francisco, this is the album that got me hooked on Neil Young. Here you will find definitive versions of Powderfinger, Cortez the Killer, Like a Hurricane, and very good renditions of Cinnamon Girl, Tonight’s the Night, and Hey Hey, My My (Out of the Blue). The recording starts off with the early song Sugar Mountain, includes I Am a Child from Buffalo Springfield, and then reviews NY’s career as both a solo acoustic performer and as an electric guitarist with Crazy Horse. This is a well-done recording of an excellent performance.

Gov’t Mule – Mulennium (2010) – Gov’t Mule has a tradition of ringing in every New Year with a show. For Mule fans a NYE show is the musical highlight of the year. Mule NYE shows tend to go on all night (4-hours plus), feature many guests, and they play anything and everything they can think of. The show recorded on 12/31/99 [never intended for release] was no different. The show started out with six Mule originals, and then right after midnight they launched right into King Crimson’s 21st Century Schizoid Man, followed by The Who’s We’re Not Gonna Take It and Led Zeppelin’s Dazed and Confused. The second CD features a six-song set with blues legend Little Milton. After the blues set, Black Crowes guitarist Audley Freed joined the Mule onstage for Alice Cooper’s Is It My Body, Jimi Hendrix’s Power of Soul, the best cover I’ve ever heard of the Beatles’ Helter Skelter, the Black Crowes’ Sometimes Salvation, Humble Pie’s 30 Days in the Hole, and the Allman Brothers’ End of the Line (which Warren Haynes wrote with Gregg Allman and Allen Woody). Guitarist Johnny Mosier and pedal steel player Mark Van Allen (both from the Blueground Undergrass) join the Mule for the encore of Tony Joe White’s Out of the Rain, Bob Dylan’s I Shall Be Released, and finally Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Simple Man. They had recorded and released two other live albums, Live at the Roseland Ballroom (1995) and Live…With a Little Help From Our Friends (2001). Both of those shows are very good, but Mulennium is better. It’s also the last NYE show to be recorded before Allen Woody’s death in August 2000. This set is a “must have.”

Motörhead – No Sleep ‘Til Hammersmith (1981) – despite the title, this album was recorded at shows in Leeds and Newcastle. Motörhead’s sound is unique – Lemmy Kilmister plays the bass like it’s a rhythm guitar. He’s the only guy I’ve ever seen to play chords on a bass. He uses open string drones and power chords. On his amps, the volume is set at the 3 o’clock position, the bass and treble on his amps are turned all the way down while the mid-range is all the way up, while the tone and volume knobs on his Rickenbacker are all the way up. His Rickenbacker basses [4001 and 4003] are outfitted with Gibson Thunderbird pickups at the bridge position. Lemmy has a very distinctive, gruff voice, as if he gargles with gasoline and Jack Daniels and smokes four packs of Marlboros a day. Lemmy once said that if Motörhead was to move in next to your house, your lawn would die. If I wanted to kill my grass, this album would probably do the trick. The track list:

Ace of Spades/Stay Clean/Metropolis/The Hammer/Iron Horse-Born to Lose/No Class/Overkill/(We Are) The Road Crew/Capricorn/Bomber/Motörhead – The songs Bite The Bullet-The Chase is Better Than the Catch/Fire, Fire/Shoot You in the Back/The Hammer, recorded at the same shows, appear on The Best of Motörhead collection as well as a deluxe version of No Sleep ‘Til Hammersmith.

No Sleep ‘Til Hammersmith is a high-energy album, and very loud too. The production is fairly raw – no feedback is edited out. Lemmy wouldn’t have it any other way. The band played at such a breakneck pace that it would put punk bands to shame. If you want a good review of early Motörhead, this is a good place to start. All of the early classics are here. My favorites: (We Are) The Road Crew, Overkill, Capricorn.

That's my list. Do you have a list of great live albums?

Friday, October 1, 2010

Shadow of the Vampire

The setting is Weimar-era Germany. Shadow of the Vampire is a fictional look at the making of the movie Nosferatu. Instead of this being the “true story” of the making of Nosferatu, this gem of a movie turns out to be a vampire movie about a vampire movie. John Malkovich is F.W. Murnau, the director of Nosferatu. Willem Dafoe is Max Schreck, the actor who portrayed the vampire Count Orlock in Nosferatu.

Malkovich portrays Murnau as the sort of director who will do anything, make any deal so that his vampire movie is as authentic as possible. When he was denied the rights to film Dracula by Bram Stoker’s estate, he plagiarized the book, renamed the characters and the story settings, and filmed it anyway. When asked by the movie’s producer about the particulars of the actor who was to play the vampire, Murnau was evasive. Instead of filming his movie on a soundstage in Berlin, he wanted to film on location in Czechoslovakia. After the movie company relocated to the location for further shooting, Murnau was asked about the “extras.” He nodded his head at the locals sitting at a table in the hotel restaurant and told his actors and crew “you’re looking at them.” When one of the actors protested that the extras can’t act, Murnau said “they don’t need to act, they need to be.”

Gustav von Wangenheim [Eddie Izzard] told the crew about the actor who would portray Count Orlock, Max Schreck. He’s a character actor who is from the Reinhardt stage company. He’s a method actor who submerges himself in the parts he plays. Once in character, Schreck stays in character in full make-up. In one scene, Gustav’s character walked into Count Orlock’s castle. Schreck appeared out of the darkness and scared Gustav half to death. He’s got long pointy ears, has a pointy face, a deathlike pallor, and long boney fingers at the end of which are very long fingernails. He’s very creepy looking, his behavior unsettling, very convincing as a vampire. It was the first time Gustav and Schreck met. Murnau loved Gustav’s scared-shitless reaction to Schreck. Not only was Gustav scared of Schreck, but the cameraman [who quickly fell ill] wass as well. The producer suspected…Schreck wasn’t part of the Reinhardt company, he said to himself. He asked Murnau where he really found Schreck. Murnau confessed he found Schreck locally.

After one of the movie takes, Gustav discovered Schreck biting Wolf the cameraman’s throat. As filming progressed, Wolf got sicker and had to be sent back to Germany and replaced. Murnau later confronted Schreck/Orlock after Wolf fell ill. He asked “How dare you destroy my photographer! Why him you monster? Why not the script girl?” Schreck/Orlock said “The script girl…I’ll eat her later.” It’s revealed that Murnau and Schreck/Orlock made a deal – finish the picture, and when it’s done, Schreck/Orlock could have Greta, the leading lady. All Murnau wanted was for Schreck/Orlock to leave his actors and crew alone until filming was completed. So Schreck wasn’t a character actor – he was a real vampire!

One night while the head writer and the producer were getting drunk on schnapps, they encountered Schreck/Orlock. They invited Schreck/Orlock to join them. They began to ask him questions. How long has he been a vampire? Where was he born? Was he born at all? Schreck/Orlock couldn’t remember because it happened a long time ago. How did he become a vampire? It was a woman, he said. What did he think of the technical merits of Bram Stoker’s book Dracula? He went into great detail what he thought of the book. Then he snatched a bat out of the air and drank its blood. The writer and the producer were extremely impressed – what a great actor Max Schreck was! What dedication! If only they knew…

When it came time to film Orlock’s death scene, Schreck could barely contain himself. He wanted Greta very badly. The scene was to be filmed in an old bunker. Greta was in the death scene, and when she saw that Schreck had no reflection in a mirror, she freaked out. Murnau shot her full of drugs so that she could work. Schreck couldn’t wait to have Greta any longer, so he bit her neck started drinking her dry. The new cameraman shot Schreck several times, only to have Schreck shake off the gunshots and break the cameraman’s neck. Then he choked the producer to death. While all this was happening Murnau kept filming. After everyone but Murnau died at Schreck’s hand, the rest of the crew broke into the bunker and let the sunlight in, killing Schreck. Murnau had his realistic vampire movie at last, but in the end it was done at the cost of his own sanity.

The making of the movie Nosferatu didn’t happen the way it was depicted in this movie, but the story is an entertaining one. This isn’t your typical vampire movie. Willem Dafoe was outstanding as Max Schreck. He had me convinced he was a real vampire. John Malkovich was equally good as the ego-driven director. Eddie Izzard proved himself to be more than a comedic talent. The acting was top-notch, the writing equally good. The attention to detail about movie-making in the silent-film era was “spot on.” I recommend this movie highly.

Bob Dylan: "Love And Theft"

Love And Theft,” Bob Dylan’s 31st studio album, was released on September 11, 2001. Dylan reportedly took the album’s title from Eric Lott’s book Love & Theft: Blackface Minstrelsy and the American Working Class, hence the album title in quotation marks. Depending on my mood, sometimes this is my favorite Dylan album. Other times, it could be Blood on the Tracks [1975] or Oh Mercy [1989], or even Highway 61 Revisited [1965]. But most times, if I want to hear Dylan I reach for “Love And Theft.” His previous album, Time Out of Mind, won the Grammy® for Album of the Year. It was heralded as his return to form after years of sub-par albums [like Knocked Out Loaded, Down in the Groove, and Empire Burlesque]. Time Out of Mind was produced by Dylan and Daniel Lanois, the Canadian producer and musician who has turned out many great works with U2 [The Unforgettable Fire, The Joshua Tree, Achtung Baby], Peter Gabriel [So, Us], Willie Nelson [Teatro], and Emmylou Harris [Wrecking Ball]. The two men also worked together on the aforementioned Oh Mercy. Lanois’ productions [at least the works of which I own a copy] have been described as ‘ambient,’ ‘atmospheric,’ ‘wrapped in gauze,’ ‘smoky,’ ‘spooky,’ containing lots of echo and reverb. One might think I write this because I think it’s a bad thing – it isn’t. For productions like Oh Mercy and Time Out of Mind, this style works, but it’s more of a Daniel Lanois trademark than what one would associate with Bob Dylan.

In retrospect Things Have Changed, the song that won Dylan an Academy Award® for Best Original Song for a motion picture, provided a hint of the direction Dylan was going to take after Time Out of Mind. On Things Have Changed and later “Love And Theft” Dylan took over the production duties himself under the pseudonym Jack Frost. Gone are the ambience and atmospherics of the Lanois productions. With “Love And Theft” we get Dylan without any frills. He took his road band into the studio this time. These guys [including Larry Campbell and Charlie Sexton on guitar, Tony Garnier on bass, David Kemper on drums] had been touring with Dylan on his “Never Ending Tour” for years, so they instinctively knew what he wanted. What he got was a combination of jazz [Po’ Boy], swing [Summer Days], hard roadhouse blues [Lonesome Day Blues], country [High Water (for Charley Patton)], rockabilly [Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum], ballads [Sugar Baby] and some of the hardest rock one has heard from Dylan in a long time [Honest With Me]. With all of these quintessentially American forms thrown into the mix, critics would label this music Americana. It’s not the first time critics have used this word [music from The Band comes to mind], but since critics need a label for whatever they review, Americana was the only one that fit for them.

Not only is the band playing well on “Love And Theft,” Dylan’s voice changed. He no longer sings in a nasally whine. He sings in lower registers these days. Imagine if one gargles with broken glass and gasoline and smoked four packs of cigarettes a day, and you get the idea of his now-gravelly rasp. Such is the product of years of non-stop touring. As he would later sing on Together Through Life [2009], “it’s all good.” My favorites are High Water (for Charley Patton), Lonesome Day Blues, Honest With Me, Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum, and Cry a While. I won’t analyze Dylan’s lyrics – there are smarter people than me who can do that particular thing a whole lot better, so I will let them. I think the thing that I like besides the musicianship is Dylan’s words on “Love And Theft” – some are pretty damn funny, others are fairly pointed.  Given Dylan's gift with words, I never would have imagined he would write something as low-brow as "Don Pasqualli makin’ a two A.M. booty call."  Women don't come off very well in these tunes.  In Cry a While he lists all the deeds he's done for a certain girl only to be treated with only a smile.  It's almost as if it's an update for Don't Think Twice [It's All Right].

Well, you bet on a horse and it ran on the wrong way
I always said you’d be sorry and today could be the day
I might need a good lawyer, could be your funeral, my trial
Well, I cried for you, now it’s your turn, you can cry awhile

The refrain from Sugar Baby could easily have come from the put-downs in Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat and Like a Rolling Stone.

Sugar Baby get on down the line
You ain’t got no brains, no how
You went years without me
You might as well keep going now

Love And Theft” has all that one could ask for in a Bob Dylan album – music played well by a superb band, vocals that are listenable, lyrics that are sharp and smart, and sometimes funny. Dylan hasn't rocked out this much since Highway 61 Revisited.  He's got a great band, and like a smart producer he lets them play.  Since Dylan took over production of his own albums he’s been on a winning streak. After “Love And Theft” he’s put out two more albums of new material, Modern Times [2006] and Together Through Life [2009]. He’s also put out four more albums in his bootleg series, the latest of which is Volume 8: Tell Tale Signs