Tag Archives: Jimi Hendrix

Is The Live Album Dead?

I love live albums. There’s something about hearing the roar of the crowd from the speakers, an the artist reacting to it. A good live album is a good indicator of an artist. They either push themselves to the limit, or fall or their feet. The best live albums not only capture the energy of magic of the live experience, but can also change your perception of artist.

Sam Cooke’s Live at the Harlem Square Club shows Cooke racing through classics such as “Twisting the Night Away” and “Chain Gang” with an energy and reckless abandon that is not apparent on his studio work. The Who’s Live at Leeds is a tour e force of hard rock. Jimi Hendrix’ Band of Gypseys finds Hendrix exploring jazz elements, and perhaps the finest performance of an electric guitar with “Machine Gun”.  Peter Frampton has spent his entire career trying to live up to the success of the massive Frampton Comes Alive!  Nirvana’s Unplugged showed that the band that changed the world with their punk anthems could turn it down and still retain their power.

These are albums that add to the story of legends.

Unfortunately, most of the live albums that have had any impact were released years ago. Live albums are no considered to be part of an artist catalog, but rather an asterisk. They still exist but they are almost always tacked onto another set, whether its the infamous Live DVD or a re-issue of an older album. Seldom do you see a newer band release a single live album as its own entity. And those artist that release live albums exclusively – like Pearl Jam and Dave Matthew Band – seemingly release every single show they’ve ever recorded.

U2 – a band who I love – is one of the worst offenders in this area. The band remains one of the best live acts around, but they haven’t released a “proper” live album since 1983 instead opting for a live video for every single tour. And the  “live bonus CD” while nice, too often seems like an afterthought and a cash-grab for re-issues. Thankfully, Elvis Costello reversed this trend by releasing proper Live Albums of live tracks he had been sticking on re-issues for years.

Itunes also shares some of the blame for the decline of the live album as well. If you ever log onto iTunes the front page is loaded with artists who record exclusive “Live EPs” for the digital store. While I can appreciate it as a fan of live music, I also can’t help the feeling that these bands are contractually obligated with iTunes to play these shows and then have them released.

The good news for fans is that more live music is probably being released than ever before. But if artists see their live show as their bread and butter as albums sales decline, perhaps they should give its release the same reverence.

 

 

 

 

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Songs About America: “Old Old Woodstock” – Van Morrison

For decades Woodstock, New York has been something of  a safe haven for many musicians.  Famous residents have included Jimi Hendrix, Theonius Monk, and David Bowie, Bob Dylan, and The Band. It’s a secluded area, yet only a two-hour drive to the city.

Away from the busy lifestyle the city breeds, creativity was reaching new heights. The sounds coming out of Woodstock reflected the easy-going lifestyle.  Bob Dylan and The Band’s home-recordings were loose and fun. The Band became equally inspired, and their debut became one of the cornerstones of what would later be called Alt-Country. New life was breathed into American music through this small town and the nature surrounding it.

For these musicians, work and domesticity were one and the same in Woodstock. No one knew this better than Van Morrison who retreated there in the early 1970s.

He was recently married, and enjoying his new bride and young daughter.  The songs he wrote during his time reflected a happiness not normally found in Morrison’s works. It was a time of joy and inspiration.

Like his contemporaries in this upstate hamlet, Morrison looked to the past for musical inspiration. His mix of soul and Irish mysticism has been dubbed “Celtic Soul.”  His lyrics may state closer to his Irish roots, but his voice was more like a white Sam Cooke.  At Woodstock, Morrison adopted country and folk to his already wide ranges of influences.  His original idea was to record an album full of country and western songs that was eventually scrapped.

As a result, Tupelo Honey ends up being one of Morrison’s most relaxed affairs. Gone are the sonic Impressionistic styles of Astral Weeks.  Gone are the grand statements like “Into the Mystic” found on Moondance. Instead, Tupelo Honey is the soundtrack to happiness in the simple life, with touches of country, jazz and soul.

“Old Old Woodstock” is the song that best exemplifies the sounds of upstate New York and Morrison’s carefree attitude with its gentle piano and jazzy rhythms. It starts off slow and unassuming – just like Woodstock itself.  Yet the song pulls you in with its cymbal washes and light snare by Connie Kay. “Feel the breeze blowing through your coat,” Morrison croons.  His voice opens up like trail leading into the forest.

It’s Morrison’s voice that truly makes the song.  His voice is powerful, but restrained.  It’s full of joy, but never lazy.  He whispers through the verses, slowly building in the chorus when he announces that he will “give my child a squeeze”.   His voice is full of love and simplicity.  Nothing else matters in that moment, except this embrace, and the natural surrounding.  He’s found a new beginning both creatively and personally. “Going down to old, old Woodstock,” Morrison sings in the chorus.  “Feel the cool night breeze.”  The musical past of America is conjured up as the bridge opens up to a lengthy jazz-inspired piano break.   Halfway through Morrison lets out an exuberant shout.  His “Hey!” is off the cuff, but is commanding.  If you haven’t listened earlier, you should.  “Listen,” He sings at the beginning of the next verse, which is a repeat of the first verse reinforcing his love for his child.

“Old Old Woodstock” can easily be overlooked as a small ditty.  But like Woodstock itself, the song captures a lifestyle at ease.  Work isn’t a chore when inspiration is right outside your doorstep.

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Quick Update

Sorry I haven’t finished my final three posts on The Best Post Blood on The Tracks albums.  It’s been a busy few days.  Hopefully, I should finish them sometime this weekend.

 

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A Week Full of Hendrix: Hendrix Covers

Not much writing on this post, but check out Hendrix putting his stamp on quite a few classics.  (Note: I’m not including “All Along the Watchtower here – while great, it’s too obvious.)

“Hey Joe/Sunshine of Your Love”:

“Like a Rolling Stone”:

“Wild Thing”:

“Catfish Blues”:

“Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”:

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A Week Full of Hendrix: “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)”

Like most people, my initial thought the first time I heard this song was: “what the hell is this?”   It’s there’s a song that captures everything that Jimi Hendrix did – it’s perfectly achieved on this wah-wah soaked masterpiece. 

A friend of mine remarked that even 40 years later, “Voodoo Child” is among the heaviest things anyone’s ever put to record.  What sets “Voodoo Child” apart though, is how Hendrix is able to play the blues to logical extreme, be heavy and funky all in the same song.  There’s also a few occasions in the song where he does all three at the same time. 

“Voodoo Child” is the song that is guitar heroism at its apex.  No other human being has played better than this.  A little over a year before he recorded “Voodoo Child” Hendrix famously lit his guitar on fire during his performance at Monterary Pop.  “Voodoo Child” is creating the impossible with this song, and burning it down as he goes. 

The song itself also deals with destruction and creation.  “Well I stand up next to a mountain,” Hendrix begins.  “And I chop it down with the edge of my hand.”  But there’s beauty after the mess: “I pick up all the pieces and make an island.  Maybe even raise a little sand.”   He’s sorry for taking up sweet time, but don’t worry he’ll give it back to us, “one of these days.” 

Near the end of the song, Hendrix offers a sort of goodbye: “If I don’t meet you no more in this world, I’ll meet ya in the next one.”  It’s unclear whether he meant that sincerely, or as a threat to watch out for what he was up to next – Hendrix was said to be moving in a different musical direction around the time of his death.  Either way, he wasn’t going to wait around.  “Don’t be late!” He implores. 

Check out “Voodoo Child (Slight Return”):

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A Week Full of Hendrix: “Bold as Love”

If “The Wind Cries Mary” was Jimi Hendrix at his most naked both lyrically and sonically, “Bold is Love” is where songwriter Hendrix meets guitar-God Hendrix. 

Musically, the song is like an audio version of “The Wizard of Oz”.  The first half of the song begins with a blues-based riff – reminiscent of the black and white picture of Dorothy in Kansas.   When Hendrix explodes with extended guitar-solo that kicks off the second half of the song, gray shifts to full-on color, like Dorothy landing in Oz.  He even mentions a rainbow in the song.  It’s hard to know where he was thinking of the “Wizard of Oz” when he recorded this “Bold as Love”.  But Hendrix was probably all too aware that he was taking the listener to a place never heard before – “over the rainbow”. 

Even the song’s lyrics are full of color – “metallic purple armor”; “Queen Jealousy in her green gown”.  Hendrix sees the world in front of him as a canvas, and he uses his guitar to create a psychedelic sonic painting.  Every note is a beautiful, yet furious brush stroke. 

It is worth noting Hendrix’s use of the word “bold” in the song.  Obviously, bold could mean courageous.  But I tend to think he’s referring to bold as a type-face since a bold-face is meant to accentuate, and emphasis words or letters in typography.  Everything about this song is bold.  It’s meant to stand out from everything else, and be larger than life.  When Hendrix yells out, “yeah yeah yeah!” – he’s emphasizing everything that he’s already sung with each individual, “yeah”. 

Check out “Bold is Love”:

On a side note, when I searched  for  “Bold as Love” on Youtube, John Mayer came up first.  Seriously?

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Favorite Cover Songs

A while back, I bemoaned certain songs which should be banned from further covers.  Now I’ve decided to list my favorite covers.  I’m only counting studio versions.  (In no particular order other than what comes to mind first.)

Jimi Hendrix – All Along the Watchtower (Bob Dylan)

The Waterboys – Sweet Thing (Van Morrison)

Johnny Cash – Hurt (Nine Inch Nails)

The Pogues – Dirty Old Town (Ewan MacColl)

Van Morrison  – It’s All Over Now Baby Blue -(Dylan)

Patti Smith – Gloria (Them)

Eddie Vedder – Hard Sun (Indio)

The Clash – I Fought The Law (Bobby Fueller)

The Beatles – Twist and Shout (Phil Medley/Isley Brothers)

The Rolling Stones – Just My Imagination (The Temptations)

Elvis Costello – I Can’t Stand Up (For Falling Down) – Sam & Dave

Ray Charles – Eleanor Rigby (The Beatles)

What are your thoughts?  Any really good ones I missed?


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