Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Who - Quadrophenia


It was in the winter of 1973.  Pete Townshend had just finished playing the Rainbow Concert with Eric Clapton when he had a flashback to when he was 19 years old in 1964.  The Who had played what he called an amazing gig in Brighton.  He and one of his friends from school missed the train back to London so they decided to hang out under the Brighton seaside pier.  There he saw a few kids dressed in parkas with the tide coming in to cover their feet.  While under that pier he was coming down from taking Purple Hearts, one of the more fashionable ‘uppers’ of the period.  Nine years later he had that same feeling of being lost, hopeless and depressed.  While in this mood he grabbed a notebook and started to write a story about a boy named Jimmy.  Jimmy was a Mod, who had normal teenage needs, passing through the normal things of childhood, but he had a problem – he was bipolar.  But Jimmy wasn’t just a schizophrenic – he was “quadrophenic.”  He had four different personalities, each of which represented one of the four members of The Who.  The word “quadrophenic” was not just a description of Jimmy’s mental state; it was also a play on the word “quadrophonic.”  PT wanted Quadrophenia to be in quadrophonic sound, but it never happened [it came out in stereo].

Dubbed “Quadrophenia,” this Who album began like no other.  The opening “song” was ambient noise – waves crashing against the shore.  I Am the Sea puts you in a place – on the beach at Brighton.  While the waves are crashing against the shore, you can barely hear the words “I am the sea” in a whisper.  You can hear little bits of each member’s “theme” – the Helpless Dancer [Roger Daltrey’s theme], the Bell Boy [Keith Moon’s theme], Is It Me [John Entwistle’s romantic theme], and Love Reign O’er Me [Pete Townshend’s spiritual theme].  It’s not an overture – there are just little pieces of the four themes that are like memories.  Before you know it, you’re into the first proper song from Quadrophenia.

The Real Me - Unlike Who albums of the past where John Entwistle’s bass sound was more understated, his sound [beginning with this song] is loud and in your face.  While PT is thrashing about his power chords, The Ox is whizzing away like a lead guitarist.  And get this – it was a first take!  The Ox was just practicing and engineer Ron Nevison got on tape what The Ox was playing – he was only warming up.  This is The Who at their power chord-driven best.  In addition to the bass, The Ox overdubbed many horn parts [trumpets, French horns].  Unlike Tommy, the story of whom began with the title character’s birth, this story begins during the teenage years of the main character, Jimmy.  Here, Jimmy is confused and searches for answers about himself from his doctor, his shrink, his local preacher, and his mother to find out why he’s “crazy.” His mom tells him “I know how it feels son, ‘cause it runs in the family…  Right away we know that everything is not quite right in Jimmy’s world because he is mentally ill.  He asks “can you see the real me?”  Before anybody can answer the question, the song segues into the next piece.

Quadrophenia – This song is more of a proper overture for this “rock opera.”  Like I Am the Sea before it, Quadrophenia contains elements of each of the four themes.  PT used synthesizers quite a bit during the making of Who’s Next, but on this album, and beginning with this track you can hear extensive keyboard and synthesizer work from PT.  They are the main lead instruments of the song, which was quite a departure from The Who’s guitar-driven sound.  There’s still plenty of guitar here, with PT playing actual single, lead guitar lines instead of his usual power chord thrashing.

Cut My Hair – Here is where we learn about Jimmy’s struggles to ‘fit in.’ We learn of Jimmy’s struggle to be a Mod  – he’s got to ‘move with the fashions or be outcast.’   He asks why do I have to move with a crowd of kids that hardly notice I'm around, I work myself to death just to fit in.  His parents find drugs in his room, and he fears [correctly] that he’ll be thrown out of the house soon.  We also hear a new story on the BBC about riots between Mods and Rockers down in the seaside community of Brighton. 

The Punk and the Godfather – This one is a great Who song, with lots of power chords, melodic and very loud bass, powerful vocals and relentless drumming.  This song is about Jimmy going to a concert to see his idols, The Who.  This is the case of “don’t ever meet your idols because you’ll surely be disappointed.’  The Who from the early to mid-1960s looked like what PT called a “girly Mod band” that Jimmy saw and thought “that’s me!”  After the show he got to meet the band.  Instead of this band of Mods that he’s idolized, The Who turn out to be a group of four guys, each of whom is a deeply eccentric and complex character.  Jimmy idols have let him down.

I’m One – Here we get the idea that Jimmy doesn’t think much about himself, but at least he’s “one.”  PT sings the lead, and there’s great acoustic and electric lead work here.  The Ox and Keith Moon are firing on all cylinders.

Every year is the same
And I feel it again,
I'm a loser - no chance to win.
Leaves start falling,
Come down is calling,
Loneliness starts sinking in.

I got a Gibson
Without a case
But I can't get that even tanned look on my face.
Ill-fitting clothes
I blend in the crowd,
Fingers so clumsy
Voice too loud.

 
Dirty Jobs – Jimmy is disenchanted with his former idols The Who, so he got a job working in a garbage dump.  He’s also been a bus driver who took miners to and from the pits.  He realized that he had to watch what he says around his co-workers, lest they beat the hell out of him because of his left-wing ideas.  Of all the songs on Quadrophenia, this is the one I can do without and not miss it.

Helpless Dancer – Jimmy looks at the world around him and doesn’t like what he sees.
 
When a man is running from his boss
Who holds a gun that fires cost
And people die from being old
Or left alone because they're cold
And bombs are dropped on fighting cats
And children's dreams are run with rats
If you complain you disappear
Just like the lesbians and queers


No one can love without the grace
Of some unseen and distant face
And you get beaten up by blacks
Who though they worked still got the sack
And when your soul tells you to hide
Your very right to die's denied
And in the battle on the streets
You fight computers and receipts
And when a man is trying to change
It only causes further pain
You realize that all along
Something in us going wrong...

You stop dancing.

At the end there is a snippet of the beginning of The Who’s The Kids Are Alright.

Is It In My Head – PT asserted this song is about Jimmy’s self-doubt.  Perhaps there’s a bit of paranoia here as well…

I feel I'm being followed,
My head is empty
Yet every word I say turns out a sentence.
Statements to a stranger
Just asking for directions
Turn from being help to being questions.

This one alternates between being an acoustic, finger-picked ballad and an electric rocker – Daltrey sings the ballad parts, PT sings the rocker parts.

I’ve Had Enough – Jimmy has had enough of trying to fit in.  Here, against the backdrop of a banjo-driven theme, Jimmy swears off everything in his life until this point.  It is at this point that Jimmy crashes and totals his scooter.

I've had enough of living,
I've had enough of dying,
I've had enough of smiling,
I've had enough of crying,
I've taken all the high roads,
I've squandered and I've saved,
I've had enough of childhood,
I've had enough of grades.
 
I've had enough of dancehalls,
I've had enough of pills,
I've had enough of streetfights,
I've seen my share of kills,
I'm finished with the fashions,
And acting like I'm tough,
I'm bored with hate and passion,
I've had enough of trying to love.

5:15 – After Jimmy has been let down by everybody and everything, he wants to revisit the one thing that made him feel good – a trip to Brighton.  And not only is he riding the 5:15, he’s loaded on uppers [“out of my brain on the 5:15…”].  PT said the riff, which is mimicked by The Ox’s horn section, originated from a soundcheck.  PT did not make a demo of this song as he had done for most of the other.  5:15 was written in the studio.  There’s another nod to The Who’s past [M-m-my generation].

Sea And Sand – The one place where Jimmy feels safe is at the beach, close to the sea.  The beach is the place where he can get away from the unpleasantness that is his life.  This song alternates between ballad and rocker, just like Is It In My Head.  The ending quotes from The High Numbers' single "I'm The Face" [another Who song reference].

Drowned – PT described the song as being ‘about the spiritual journey.’  When the character Jimmy sings about getting back to the ocean, getting back to the sea, he is singing about getting back to God.  When Roger sings let me get back to the ocean/let me get back to the sea, it’s as if Jimmy wants to drown himself in order to become one with God [I wanna drown…in cold water].  This is a nugget PT gleaned from Meher Baba.  The Ox reprises his horn parts from 5:15.

Bell Boy – This is the only song where the Ace Face character sings.  The bell boy’s vocals are courtesy of Keith Moon, who doesn’t really sing, but does talk his way through his parts in his best Cockney accent.  Here is Jimmy, trying to relive his glory days with the Mods in Brighton, only to find out that his hero, this person that he idolized the Ace Face works as a bell boy [a ‘nobody’] in one of the local hotels.  But this isn’t just any hotel – it’s the same hotel he followed the Ace Face to trash while he was last in Brighton.  Jimmy can’t catch a break – his parents kicked him out of the house, his musical heroes in The Who let him down because they weren’t real Mods as he thought, the girl he loves wants nothing to do with him, his prized scooter is trashed, and his hero is a mere bell boy who kisses ass for tips.  Jimmy’s world is crashing down all around him.

Doctor Jimmy – The dark side of Jimmy’s character comes to the fore [Doctor Jimmy], but sometimes the better angels of his nature peek out [Mr. Jim].  It’s a Jekyll and Hyde thing…

Doctor Jimmy: 

Laugh and say I'm green
I've seen things you'll never see.
Talk behind my back
But I'm off the beaten track.
I'll take on anyone
Ain't scared of a bloody nose,
Drink till I drop down
With one eye on my clothes.

What is it? I'll take it.
Who is she? I'll rape it.
Got a bet there? I'll meet it.
Getting High? You can't beat it.

Doctor Jimmy and Mister Jim
When I'm pilled you don't notice him,
He only comes out when I drink my gin.

You say she's a virgin.
I'm gonna be the first in.
Her fellah's gonna kill me?
Oh fucking will he.
I'm seeing double
But don't miss me if you can.
There's gonna be trouble
When she choses her man.

Mr Jim:

Is it me? For a moment
The stars are falling.
The heat is rising
The past is calling.
 
The Rock – In the story, Jimmy feels as if all is lost, so he steals a boat and rides out to this rock out in the middle of the sea.  What he does once he gets there is unknown to the listener.  Is he going to kill himself?  We don’t know.  What do you call and overture that appears at the end of an opera?  I don’t know, but The Rock fits that description.  The Rock is another instrumental, which is almost a carbon copy of the instrumental Quadrophenia.  Of note, when listening to this song through headphones, the drums sound fantastic.  When this album came out originally in 1973, the mix wasn’t all that good – neither was that for the first CD release.  Jon Astley remastered The Who catalog in the 1990s, and the sound here is miles above what was originally released.

Love Reign O’er Me – This may be Pete’s Theme, but it’s Roger’s song.  When one hears the demo of this song on PT’s Scoop collection, PT’s vocal is a plea for love.  But Roger turns this plea into a demand, such is the impassioned intensity of his vocal performance.  PT described the song as being about Jimmy himself – it’s not about Mods, drugs, the Ace Face, The Who.  It’s about Jimmy who, up until now, had been looking outside himself for the solution to his problems.  Instead of that, he now has to look within at himself for the answers he seeks.  This is more of the same searching for spirituality as heard in Drowned.  At the end of the song, Jimmy’s fate is uncertain.  PT leaves it up to the listener to decide whether Jimmy killed himself, or if he returned from the rock to society to try to get on with life.  Of note, at the end of the song one hears Keith Moon smashing many percussion instruments all at once.  It’s as if he’s trashing yet another hotel room.

Quadrophenia is my second-favorite Who album [right behind Who’s Next].  All of the players were at the top of their game.  This was the last great Who album.  Those that followed were just mere collections of songs that aren’t tied together by any kind of concept or storyline [The Who By Numbers (1975), Who Are You (1978), Face Dances (1981), and It’s Hard (1982)].  These albums each had moments of greatness, but not at a consistent level for an entire album like Quadrophenia.  It wasn’t until 2006 that The Who [with only Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend as the last men standing] created another concept work with Endless Wire.  Quadrophenia was a definite peak for The Who, never to be reached again.  Quadrophenia is The Who's last masterpiece.

The Movie 
In 1979, The Who decided to do with Quadrophenia what they did with Tommy – make a film.  Only this time, this would be a proper movie, not a musical.  While the musical Tommy was just plain weird, Quadrophenia felt real.

The music from the Quadrophenia album is used differently in this movie than in Tommy.  In Tommy the movie, the cast sang the album themselves.  In the Quadrophenia film, the music is used in the background, sometimes with the instrumental passages as incidental music, in other places to set the narrative and keep the story moving.  But there is other music in the film as well.  There’s music from Booker T. & The MGs [Green Onions], The Ronettes [Be My Baby], The Kingsmen [Louie Louie], The Chiffons [He’s So Fine], James Brown [Night Train], The Cascades [Rhythm of the Rain], Cross Section [Hi-Heeled Sneakers] and a number called Zoot Suit from The High Numbers [before they became The Who].

The movie begins with Jimmy walking toward the camera, away from the sea and the setting sun.   Why is he walking and not riding in/on some kind of transportation, and what is he walking away from?  Those questions don’t get answered until the very end of the film.  One could say that the movie begins at the end of the story.  Everything that comes after this opening scene is a flashback.  This first scene while I Am the Sea is playing in the background.  After Jimmy walks past the camera, I Am the Sea segues directly into The Real Me.  The film goes back to another time, where Jimmy is riding his scooter through the streets of London while being harassed by bikers, referred to in this movie as “Rockers.” 

Jimmy lives at home with his parents and his sister.  The only time you see her is when he comes home from a party and she’s in her room, dressed only in her underwear, trying to get a tan under a sunlamp.  His room is decorated with pictures of naked girls and The Who.  He also has a few newspaper clipping posted, the newest of which is about a riot between Mods and Rockers [Music:  Cut My Hair].

Jimmy has a job as a mail runner for an advertising agency.  It’s his “dirty job.”  It pays for his clothes, his drugs, and for parts for his scooter.  A fringe benefit is that he sometimes steals some of the photographs [usually of scantily-clad women] he’s supposed to deliver.  When he’s not delivering the mail, he’s playing cards in the projection room for the small theater the ad execs use to preview commercials.

The makers of the film used Quadrophenia [the album] as a guide, but they didn’t follow the song order as did the makers of Tommy.  They used most of the songs, but didn’t write the story yin the order the songs appeared on the album.  Some songs were ignored altogether.

Quadrophenia songs [or snippets of songs] used in the film [in order]:

I Am the Sea / The Real Me / Cut My Hair / I’m One / Quadrophenia / Bell Boy / Quadrophenia / Is It In My Head / The Punk and the Godfather / 5:15 / Love Reign O’er Me / Bell Boy / I’ve Had Enough / Helpless Dancer-Doctor Jimmy [end credits]

Songs Not In the Film:

Dirty Jobs
Sea and Sand
Drowned
The Rock
 
Spirituality – PT has often stated there’s an element of spirituality in the music of Quadrophenia, most especially Drowned and Love Reign O’er Me.  The subject of spirituality of any kind is not even brought up in the movie.  I guess to include it in the movie would muddle the story line.

What was it to be a “Mod”?  They liked their tailor-made suits, they liked their Italian scooters [Vespa and Lambretta – and the more mirrors, the better].  In the movie, they wear green parkas so as not to get there fancy suits dirty when they ride.  Their music:  Ska, R&B, soul.  They consumed copious amounts of amphetamines [“uppers”], and danced all night in clubs because they were so hopped up on uppers.  Here’s how PT put it in song:

My jacket's gonna be cut and slim and checked
Maybe a touch of seersucker with an open neck.
I ride a GS scooter with my hair cut neat
I wear my war time coat in the wind and sleet.

Quadrophenia is full of “crazy” moments by Jimmy.  It seems as if the slightest things set him off.  His father thinks he’s schizophrenic, that he gets that from his mother’s side of the family.

Crazy Act #1:  Jimmy and his friends crashed a party.  There he found Steph, a pretty blonde girl on whom he has a crush.  While he was at this party [and after Steph left with another guy], he went through every room in the house, including the bathroom.  And in every room including the bathroom, somebody was having sex.  Everybody was having sex in this house except Jimmy.  So what did he do?  He went outside, got on his scooter, and took his frustrations out on the flower bed.

Crazy Act #2:  Shortly after leaving the party, Jimmy went down to a canal.  While he was there, he noticed a couple making out under a bridge.  What did he do?  He fired up his scooter and raced toward the couple while screaming his head off. [Music: I’m One]

Crazy Act #3:  On their way to a dance hall, the scooter of one of Jimmy’s friends [Spider] breaks down.  While he’s trying to fix it, a bunch of Rockers appear on the scene and beat the crap out of him.  When he gets to the dance hall, Spider tells the rest what happened.  Incensed, Jimmy leads them to go find the Rockers who did it and “kill them.”  They find two guys on motorcycles, catch up to one of them, and they all start to beat the crap out of the guy.  The guy happened to be a boyhood friend of Jimmy’s who just got home from serving in the army, Kevin.  Once Jimmy sees it’s Kevin, he yells at his friends to stop beating him, but they didn’t.  He hopped on his scooter and rode away [Incidental music:  Quadrophenia].

Crazy Act #4:  Jimmy and friends went to buy some “Blues” from a dealer.  When they found out the guy sold them paraffin instead, they trashed the dealer’s car – “let’s do the bastard’s motor! [Incidental music:  Bell Boy].

Crazy Act #5:  After Jimmy and his friends trash the dope dealer’s car, they break into a drug store [or in British-speak, “the chemist”], and steal the drugs they’ve been looking for.  It’s a comedy of errors, but they get their drugs anyway.  But after their little caper, Jimmy found Steph at a café, where he gave her some of his drugs.  He takes her home, and they kiss.  Steph wants it kept a secret because she’s going to Brighton with another guy.

Crazy Act #6:  Now that they loaded up with Blues, Jimmy went with his friends to Brighton for the Bank Holiday.  There he found Steph there in a nightclub.  Jimmy and his friends saw the Ace Face, a very cool Mod to whom Jimmy looks up.  So while Steph danced with the Ace Face, Jimmy danced on the edge of a balcony, and after a few minutes did a dive into the crowd on the dance floor below.  Luckily for him his friends caught him, but he was soon thrown out of the club.  Jimmy slept on the beach that night.  It looked pretty funny.  It was even funnier at 2x speed. J  In the morning, Jimmy is still walking on the beach [Incidental music: Quadrophenia].

Crazy Act #7:  This was more of group insanity.  The day after his swan dive at the nightclub, Jimmy and all the Mods are wondering about Brighton, proclaiming “We are the Mods!” when suddenly a group of Rockers show up.  One of these Rockers forced one of Jimmy’s friends [Chalky] of the road to Brighton the day before, and when his friend sees him, all the Mods run after these Rockers and attack them.  Not satisfied with merely attacking the Rockers, the Mods run amok, trashing a hotel, various storefronts, and a restaurant or two.  Then the mayhem spreads to the beach, where Rockers and Mods beat the shit out of each other.  While the Mods-Rockers riot was mentioned very briefing on the album at the end of Cut My Hair, the movie devoted eleven minutes to it.

Jimmy and Steph briefly escaped down an alley to get away from all the madness.  First they started to make out, and then they had a quickie.  When they finished they went back to the street, only for Jimmy, the Ace Face, and other Mods to get arrested.  While Jimmy is being hauled off to jail, his friend Dave squires Steph away [Incidental music:  Is It In My Head].

Crazy Act #8:  Things soon went to hell for Jimmy in rapid succession.  After Jimmy got home from Brighton, his mother met him at the door with a newspaper article about the Brighton riot and a bag full of Blues.  Shortly thereafter, she threw him out, telling him he’s no son of hers.  In the next scene, he’s confronted by his boss about his extended absence during the Bank Holiday weekend.  When the boss told Jimmy that others would give their ‘eye teeth’ for Jimmy’s job, Jimmy told him to stick the job up his ass and he quit. 

Crazy Act #9:  Later that same evening, he saw Steph with his friend Dave.  Jimmy freaked out, punched Dave, and left his Mod friends behind, telling them they’re all ‘wankers.’  Jimmy then went back to the house where his mother tossed him out, only to be met by his very angry father, who chased him away.   He ended up spending the night in the tool shed to get out of the pouring rain [Incidental music:  The Punk and the Godfather].

After his parents went off to work, he went into the house, gathered some of his things, and tore all the pictures of the naked girls off his wall.  Later that morning he met with Steph.  He told her “I ain’t mad, you know,” to which she replied “what is wrong with you then?”  He told her he felt like everything is going ‘backwards.’  She asks if it isn’t he who is the one ‘going backwards.’  He replied “I can’t think straight, that’s all.  Nothing seems right, apart from Brighton.”  An argument ensued, at the end of which Steph told Jimmy to fuck off and leave her alone.  As he left, he got into a wreck with a Salvation Army van, which trashed his scooter.  So within the space of about ten minutes of film, Jimmy has no place to live, no job, no girlfriend, no friends, and now no scooter.  So he collected himself, dressed in his last good suit, took his uppers and his parka and bought a ticket for the 5:15 train to Brighton.  Brighton was the scene where he thought everything went right for him, so he wanted to revisit the ‘glory days’ [Music: 5:15].

Crazy Act #10:  As he wandered through the streets of Brighton, he found the alley where he and Steph had sex during the Mod-Rocker riot [Love Reign O’er Me is the background music].  Then he walked toward the hotel he helped trash the last time he was in Brighton.  Outside, he saw the Ace Face’s GS scooter.  Then he sees the Ace Face himself, dressed as a bell boy [cue Bell Boy].  Jimmy then stole Ace’s scooter and rode out of town [Music:  Bell Boy]. Where did he go?  It turns out he headed for Beachy Head.  As he rode along the cliff, one hears I’ve Had Enough and the litany of things that Jimmy doesn’t need anymore.  As the song climaxed, the scooter [without Jimmy on board] flew over the cliff and smashed to bits on the rocks below.  This is what Jimmy was walking away from at the very beginning of the film.  He didn’t commit suicide [but he did think about it].  He just walked away from Beachy Head, away from the sea and the sunset, and towards another day in the life.  Cue the credits – music:  the last line from Helpless Dance and the beginning of Doctor Jimmy.

Not only do I enjoy the album, but I thought it adapted well to film.  Although the story was very English, it wasn’t lost on me.  Having the actors act instead of singing their parts was a big plus.  Although the folks who made the picture didn’t use all of the elements of the story as laid out in the album, the story worked just the same.  Also, the ending wasn’t quite so ambiguous as it was on the album.  Jimmy lived and walked away to face another day.  He says goodbye to being a Mod, and perhaps he grew up a little.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Allman Brothers Band - At the Beacon Without Gregg

“How you guys doin’? Thanks for being here. Uh…Gregg has bronchitis and is not gonna be able to be with us tonight and we’re gonna do a show with our friends here this evening like we have in the past. Thank you guys for being here, we hope you have a great time.” With those words by Warren Haynes, the Allman Brothers Band kicked off the first of two nights [March 21/22, 2014] at the Beacon Theatre in New York without Gregg Allman.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. In January 2014, Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks announced in a joint press release that 2014 would be their last year as part of the Allman Brothers Band. Both guitarists said they would stay with the band and honor all touring commitments through the years. When this year’s Beacon shows were announced, they were talked about in fan circles as being “the last run.” Derek Trucks said he wished the band would end on a high note in a “blaze of glory.” The first two nights of the run were great. Before the Beacon run began, Butch Trucks promised the band would play songs they hadn’t done in awhile, and they delivered. On the first night [March 7th], the band broke out the Dickey Betts-written instrumental True Gravity from the Seven Turns album for the first time since Dickey’s departure in 2000. They also played a new song from Warren called Dusk Till Dawn. On the second night [March 8th], they played Get On With Your Life [from Shades of Two Worlds], which they hadn’t played since 1992. The second set opened with a one-two punch from Eat a Peach – a full band version of Little Martha, out of which they ran into Blue Sky with Warren on the vocals. The biggest surprise of the night was the return of the Dickey Betts-written Seven Turns with Oteil Burbridge on lead vocals. Warren sang another new song which he wrote with Phil Lesh, Spots of Time. The band also played a soulful version of the Beatles song Rain, with Gregg singing lead. It was a quite unique setlist. After the second show, a strange thing happened. Butch Trucks got sick and missed the third show [March 11th]. It was the first Allman Brothers Band show he has missed…ever. His nephew [and Derek’s brother] Duane Trucks filled in for him.

Unlike Beacon runs in the past, there was a minimum of guest stars present during the run. The Juke Horns joined the Brothers for four nights - March 11th, 12th, 18th, and the 19th. Robert Randolph appeared with the Brothers on March 18th [they played One Way Out]. On March 19th, Lamar Williams Jr [son of the late ABB bassist Lamar Williams] appeared and took a verse on Midnight Rider. Other than those days, the Brothers had the Beacon stage to themselves. By all accounts, the band was fulfilling their promise to give it their all for their fans. They played songs they hadn’t played in a long time, they played songs from The Band and Van Morrison, and the guitarists were on fire. Then Gregg got sick.

What is a band to do without one of their namesakes? Call a lot of friends, of course. This is exactly what they did. Warren handled a lot of the vocals, but others [Jimmy Hall, Susan Tedeschi, Devon Allman, Junior Mack] pitched in to give Warren’s voice a break. Luckily the Allman Brothers are renowned for their epic jams, and they also had plenty of instrumentals to play.

March 21, 2014 Setlist
Mountain Jam1 / Statesboro Blues1 / Worried Down With the Blues / Every Hungry Woman / Seven Turns1 / Stand Back1 / Good Morning Little School Girl23 / Jessica / Little Martha-Blue Sky / One Way Out45 / Who’s Been Talking26 / Franklin’s Tower2 / Turn On Your Love Light7 / Franklin’s Tower-reprise / The Sky Is Crying7 / Hoochie Coochie Man / In Memory of Elizabeth Reed26 / JaMaBuBu / In Memory of Elizabeth Reed-reprise / Preachin’ Blues / Mountain Jam-reprise2

1w/ Susan Tedeschi – Vocals
2w/ Bill Evans – Saxophone
3w/ Cyril Neville – Percussion
4w/ Devon Allman – Guitar & Vocals
5w/ Bernie Marsden – Guitar
6w/ Kofi Burbridge – Flute
7w/ Susan Tedeschi – Guitar & Vocals
Kofi Burbridge and Rob Barraco took over keys and organ duties

March 22, 2014 Setlist
Done Somebody Wrong1 / Come And Go Blues / End of the Line / Dusk Till Dawn23 / Can’t Lose What You Never Had1 / True Gravity / All My Friends14 / She Caught The Katy5 / Revival56 / You Don’t Love Me5 / Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More7 / Black Hearted Woman / Feel So Bad4 / Dreams2 / Les Brers in A Minor / JaMaBuBu / Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad1368 / Les Brers in A Minor-reprise / Southbound13678

1 w/ Jimmy Hall – Harp
2 w/ Kofi Burbridge – Flute
3 w/ Jay Collins – Saxophone
4 w/ Susan Tedeschi – Guitar & Vocals
5 w/ Jimmy Hall – Harp & Vocals
6 w/ Susan Tedeschi – Vocals
7 w/ Junior Mack – Guitar & Vocals
8 w/ Jimmy Vivino – Guitar
Kofi Burbridge and Rob Barraco took over keys and organ duties

Favorite performances:

Can’t Lose What You Never Had [March 22nd] – Singer: Jimmy Hall. The Brothers don’t pull this Muddy Waters tune very often. They play it every now and then, and Jimmy Hall is a perfect fit. I saw him play with Gregg Allman twice – a great singer. He’s a pretty fair harp player as well.

Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More [March 22nd] – Singer: Junior Mack. This nugget from Eat a Peach one is a setlist regular. The last time I saw Gregg Allman in Pensacola, Jaimoe's Jasssz Band opened for him. Junior Mack is their singer, and a fine one at that.

Black Hearted Woman [March 22nd] – Singer: Warren Haynes. I’ve heard many live versions of this song from Idlewild South. This version is by far the most intense. Warren played like his life depended on it.

Little Martha-Blue Sky [March 21st] – Singer: Warren Haynes. Like the Eat a Peach original this is done mostly by the two guitarists, then the rhythm section joins for the last 30 seconds of Little Martha before the segue into Blue Sky. It’s always a pleasure to hear this tune from Dickey Betts.

Stand Back [March 21st] – Singer: Susan Tedeschi. Another Eat a Peach original – is this a trend? I’m not a member of the Church of Susan, but she’s just fine on this tune from Gregg Allman and Berry Oakley. Bass solo from Oteil Burbridge.

Come And Go Blues [March 22nd] – Singer: Warren Haynes. This Gregg Allman tune from Brothers And Sisters is another setlist regular. Warren has said on many occasions this is his favorite ABB song. Another Warren/Derek epic this one…

When Gregg went down with bronchitis, the Brothers still had six dates to play on this year’s Beacon run. The band played two of them, but Gregg was slow to recover from his illness, so the remaining four dates were postponed. It’s hard to have an Allman Brothers show without an Allman brother, so the band opted to reschedule in order to give the fans their money’s worth. The remaining four dates have been rescheduled for October this year. They added two more dates for October in addition to the original four, the last of which is October 28th, the day before the anniversary of Duane’s death. Coincidence? Perhaps – but maybe this is the band’s way of putting a stamp of finality to their existence. Be that as it may, but the “blaze of glory” will have to wait until October

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Peter Frampton - Hummingbird in a Box

Mention the name “Peter Frampton,” one imagines long hair, loud, distorted guitars that talk, and Do You Feel Like We Do. But Peter Frampton has always been about more than just loud guitars. There has always been the acoustic, more melodic side of his music. His desire to make such music, as opposed to the loud boogie rock of Humble Pie, is what prompted him to leave that seminal band in 1971 in the first place. His brand of quiet melodicism serves him well on his latest “album,” Hummingbird in a Box. I say “album” in quotations because it’s more like an EP that a full-length album [28 minutes and change].

Just what is Hummingbird in a Box? The cover and the title give the clues. The subtitle is “Songs for a Ballet.” The cover has a ballet slipper-clad leg superimposed over a Les Paul guitar. So how does a rock star come to create music for a ballet? A few years ago, when Frampton still lived in Cincinnati [he calls Nashville home now], he was approached by the director of the Cincinnati Ballet to work on a new collaboration. The ballet company had previously done some work with some of his existing music. Would he like to write some new music for the ballet? The show would work this way – there would be three parts – the beginning and ending parts would be performed to recorded music, while the middle section would have Frampton and his band performing onstage along with the dancers.

For this, Frampton created seven different pieces of music, the totality of them lasting about 28 minutes. Frampton plays most of the instruments himself, except for the drums and percussion. Of the seven numbers, only one is an instrumental [The One in 901, the only “loud” song]. The remainder are mostly acoustic pieces with the electric guitar used as coloring. Instead of using screaming Les Pauls, the electrics sound quiet, cleaner. The opener The Promenade's Retreat sounds initially like something Mark Knopfler would create. The title track sounds like one of Paul McCartney’s acoustic numbers from The White Album. Frampton told the Huffingtom Post the title track refers to a Chinese box that belonged to Mr. Frampton's grandfather, who traveled overseas in the navy. When opened in the right way, the box produced a hidden drawer inside which was a beautiful stuffed hummingbird. On Shadow of My Mind, the guitar tones remind one of Hank Marvin and the Shadows. The jazzy Norman Wisdom shows Frampton’s Django Reinhardt influence. All of the pieces give off a sparse, laid-back vibe. This isn’t your older brother’s Peter Frampton album.

For those who are looking for another loud guitar record from Peter Frampton, look elsewhere because this album is not for you. Some might be disappointed and find the album to be “boring.” But I like it. It’s something completely different. What you get is another side of Peter Frampton’s talent. In my feeble mind, there’s no downside to that.