Tag Archives: Grateful Dead

Kick Out the Jams

 

 

Found this video recently, and in my mind its shows everything that is awesome and strange about The MC5. To say the least, they were definitely a band that existed in their own world in the late 60s. With the exception of fellow Detroit-ians, The Stooges no one was playing music as aggressive as this.

A friend of mine once suggested that the world wasn’t ready for The MC5. If you look closely at the faces of the some people in the crowd there’s a sense of shock there. It’s also amusing to see how the band looks – they still look like hippies but are playing something that is more akin to the Sex Pistols than say, Creedence Clearwater Revival or the Grateful Dead.  Singer Rob Tyner also looks like a pissed off Art Garfunkel with his huge afro.

You can see the beginnings of punk in this video – as the band pushes itself to its limit and test their audience. Of course that musical revolution wouldn’t happen for another five or six years.

Check out the video, and kick out the jams, motherfucker.

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My Morning Jacket: The Band That Jams For Those Who Don’t Like Jambands

As a general rule, I don’t particularly like jam-bands.  I’m sure that I might be missing out on some classic music (The Grateful Dead, The Allman Brothers), but I usually find the endless sonic detours into nowhere rather boring.  The extended jams seem to suggest (to me anyway) that they want the audience to know how well they play, not how good their songs are.

A friend of mine in college (a huge fan of all types of jam-bands) first told me about My Morning Jacket, my junior year in college, which was around the fall of 2002 or the spring of 2003.  “Augh, you know I don’t like jam-bands,” I told him with a bit of smugness.  I had already had enough of listening to the Dead at the numerous parties which were always held in his room.  One more band like that, would be one too many for me.   A few years later, another mutual friend told me to check out My Morning Jacket’s Okonokos live CD.  This friend was also a huge fan of jam-bands, but he also had a pretty broad taste, I didn’t dismiss his suggestion right away.  That being said, I never acted upon it.

I finally came around in 2006, when My Morning Jacket opened for Pearl Jam (who ranks among my best concerts list).  It quickly became apparent that My Morning Jacket might rival Pearl Jam.   Sure, their jams were extended – but they were loud.  But the biggest impact was Jim James’ magnificent voice.  There was a subtle tenderness for the slower songs, and cry from the tops of the mountains for the louder songs.  It seemed to cut through the band was playing.

After that show, I went out and bought (what was at the time) their latest album, Z, which remains one of my favorite albums of the past 10 years.  Its the soundtrack to summer twilight – hot and sweaty, and orange/reddish in color.  It rocks, but it’s also laid-back and relaxed.  You also hear each individual member of the band.  Jim James (sorry I can’t refer to him as Yim Yames) might be the frontman, but he never overshadows the music.

James may lead his band into adventurous territory, but his emphasis has always been on songwriting – which is  why his side projects have included Monsters of Folk with Connor Oberst and an EP tribute to George Harrison.  Though they might be considered a “jam-band” by nature and rock out like the best 1970s bands, My Morning Jacket have a down-home feel that takes more cues from The Band, than The Grateful Dead.  “I’m Amazed” (one of the best rock singles in the past few years) sounds like a Basement Tape out-take.

When My Morning Jacket do jam, the extended instrumental feels as if they written into the song, to give the song the extra punch and emotional power. Sometimes they contain loud and slow passages (“Dondante”), other times it’s cathartic (“Gideon”) or just a logical step (“Off the Record”).  The Okonokos CD showcases a band at the height of their power – one who is not afraid to take chances taking their audience for a ride, but also one who knows when to bring it in as well.

I’ve only listened to their latest CD Circuital once, but so far its seems like James and company have made another masterpiece – 2008’s “Evil Urges” was a little too bizarre and scattershot though it did have some great moments – once again making a claim for America’s best band.

“Gideon”

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The Top 10 Post “Blood on the Tracks” Bob Dylan Albums: 8. “Together Through Life”

Together Through Life ranks as one of Dylan’s most fun albums.  Gone are the dark observations of Modern Times, and the travelogues of Americana on “Love an Theft”.  There are no major statements, it’s just the sound of Dylan and his band tearing through pre-rock and roll blues like only they can do.

Together Through Life is only the second time that Dylan has co-written songs with a collaborator – in this case Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter.  As such, Dylan seems a little livelier on this album than he has in the past few records.  He’s clearly having fun – there’s audible laughs throughout and a cry of, “woo!” near the end of ‘It’s All Good'”.  It’s an album where Dylan seems comfortable being Bob Dylan an old man.  There’s no ruminations on mortality or a world gone wrong.  Instead, Together Through Life is an album almost solely devoted to one of Dylan’s other favorite past-times: women.

Throughout the album he’s scornful (“Forgetful Heart”), hilarious (“My Wife’s Hometown”), and even lustful (“Shake Shake Mama” – which at least musically is one of his best rockers in years).  The music on Together Through Life is given a kick by the addition of an accordion, which dominates many of the songs.  “Beyond Here Lies Nothing” comes off as something as  a straight forward blues number with a Hispanic twinge.  While bluesy stomp of “My Wife’s Hometown” borrows its music from Willie Dixon’s “I Just Want to Make Love to You”, Dylan’s version just wants to tell you “that hell’s [his] wife’s hometown”.

The closest that Dylan gets to a major statement on the album is the sarcastic closer, “It’s All Good”.  Even from the beginning Dylan has always found a way to take cliched phrases and turn them on their head, and hasn’t done it this good since the 1960s.  Dylan sees a world with politicians telling lies, wives leaving their husbands, and buildings. Where the young Dylan might have offered a solution (or at least made us think we could change the world), the Dylan at almost 70 sarcastically declares, “You know what they say man.  It’s all good.”

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