Staff Picks: Music

Portable Hi-Resolution Audio? Really?

Taking your music with you these days is a given. Mp3 players (iThings) and streaming media (Hoopla, Pandora, etc.) make your music available pretty much anywhere. But the downside of all that portability and convenience is that those are all lossy formats… in other words, they sound “good enough” to make them listenable, but clearly not what you would expect in terms of quality from an old school analog or high resolution digital recording when brought to life through a decent home or car audio system. But unless you want drag your turntable along with you to the beach (not recommended) or park a computer with a decent sound card in your car’s trunk, we’re forced to let “good enough” be just that… good enough. That is until now.

Frustrated with an industry built on a tradeoff between maximum convenience and minimum quality, veteran music-maker Neil Young is spearheading an effort to make true, lossless high resolution audio available in a conveniently portable format. Allied with some of the leading technical minds in the sound recording industry, PonoMusic is being launched to offer high resolution digital music available in a convenient iPod-like format. But according to the Pono website, “PonoMusic is more than just a high-resolution music store and player; it is a grassroots movement to keep the heart of music beating. PonoMusic aims to preserve the feeling, spirit, and emotion that the artists put in their original studio recordings.”

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So, high quality audio can now accompany you anywhere you go… yes, even the beach. But is there really a difference? For the sake of comparison, most mp3 files have a bit rate of 160kbps to 256kbps, 320k if you’re lucky. Mp3 of course is a “lossy” format… some of the sound is actually removed in an effort to make the files smaller and more portable… think of a photograph in a newspaper… it looks “ok” at arm’s length, but up close you’ll see that it’s actually a bunch of dots and not really all that clear. Pono, on the other hand, is designed to play high resolution FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec) files - we’re talkin’ full resolution 192kHz/24 bit files that will “fill in” those holes with upwards of 30 times more information than a standard MP3; about four times more than a standard audio CD. The result is said to be nothing short of amazing. And you’ll feed your Pono player through a familiar looking online music store not at all unlike iTunes. And yes, your existing mp3 files (and other formats) will work, too, so there’s nothing to lose and plenty to gain.

So after a couple of years’ worth of prototypes, development, and grass roots promotion, Pono (Hawaiian for “righteous”) is preparing to launch later this year with the help of a Kickstarter project. The project hoped to raise $800,000 in capital in 35 days – a lofty goal, perhaps, but enough to put the program on the street and (hopefully) create a buzz among music lovers. Well… the Kickstarter project so far is working… uh… rather well… to say the least. Pono met its initial goal in a mere 12 hours, and as of this writing, the project I hovering just under $4 million… with 28 days still to go!

Here are some pretty remarkable celebrity endorsements of the new system. If you’re a music fan like me, you’ll probably be salivating after you hear these. And if you’re serious about it, log on to the Pono Kickstarter site and ante up… you could land some pretty righteous swag for your efforts.

Book

PonoMusic
pono-logo-160
http://www.ponomusic.com/
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Roy Harper: Man & Myth

I was so very pleased to find a copy of Roy Harper’s latest, Man & Myth, among the new releases in the library’s Music collection. Roy has been a favorite of mine since the 1970s and his work is always full of heartfelt imagination and creative surprise.

Who is Roy Harper? I saw a review once that described him as “the consummate stoned folk poet,” but that was a long time ago. More accurately, Roy is an introspective English singer songwriter, who for decades has lurked in the midst of the British music scene (sort of an Irish Neil Young in a way), swapping licks with his friends (many of whom just happen to be among the biggest names in the business), while himself seemingly happy to remain a folk hero in the shadows of relative obscurity, especially on this side of “the pond.”

So about these friends… Roy has worked for years with his good friend Jimmy Page (who gave “Hats Off” to Roy on the third Led Zeppelin album), and countless others who have assisted him along the way (and vice versa); his longtime friend David Gilmour (Pink Floyd’s “Have a Cigar” was sung by Roy), Pete Townshend (who plays on Man & Myth), the late Ronnie Lane and Keith Moon (both of whom appeared with Roy at a special Valentine’s Day concert, gosh, 40 years ago today), and others.

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Roy’s music is not easy listening by any stretch of the imagination. His songs often require work; they make you think, which at times perhaps makes him another candidate for that “artists’ artist” category. Still, the vast majority of Harper’s work is quite approachable and indeed very beautiful. In 2013, Roy received a prestigious BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards Lifetime Achievement Award for having made “an enormous and lasting contribution to folk music over a sustained number of years.”

And about the album… Man & Myth, Roy’s 22nd studio album and his first in 13 years (not taking into account a dozen or so live recordings and several compilations), finds him in familiar territory, reflecting on life, love, loss and living (Roy is 72 now). “I thought I had retired...,” he stated in a press interview, “...I was inspired to write again around 2009, by many of the younger generation finding me and asking, who are you?” Uncut called the songs on Man & Myth “poignant contemplations on time and its passing, friendship, love, betrayal, memory.” Another reviewer wrote, “...this isn’t a ‘return to form’. It’s business as brilliant [as] usual.”

Man & Myth has been included on several “Best Of 2013” lists, including MOJO and UNCUT (and my own, of course), and the album has earned several top reviews by the European music press. Four tracks on the album were recorded (interestingly enough) in Laurel Canyon near Los Angeles (Roy seldom appears stateside), and the others were done back on home turf in County Cork, Ireland. The latter tracks are among my favorites, especially “Heaven Is Here” > “Exile,” a 23 minute epic exploration based in Greek mythology.

“January Man”

Here’s a sample from Man & Myth...

 

New to Roy? If you like acoustic stuff, I highly recommend that you track down a copy of Stormcock, his 1971 acoustic opus with Jimmy Page (billed as “S. Flavius Mercurius”), which is still viewed as one of his best efforts. Or if a full band is more to your liking, try The Unknown Soldier (1980)—perhaps Roy’s most “commercial” effort to date, and Once (1990), both of which feature David Gilmour and Kate Bush.

“Girl from the North Country”

Here’s Roy Harper performing a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Girl from the North Country” recorded by BBC4 on September 26th, 2005, at the “Talkin’ Bob Dylan Blues: A Bob Dylan Tribute Concert” in London.

 

And if you’re still with me, here’s a treat… some recently discovered footage of Roy performing live in the studio about 1969 or 1970…. (there are five tracks in all). Enjoy!

 

Music

Roy Harper: Man & Myth
11032118
Keith_1

Bargains in the Basement: Sonic Alchemy

The very first sentence in this book… “For everyone who ever picked up the back of an album cover, spied a producer’s name, and wondered what the hell he did, this book is for you.” …was alone enough to capture my attention and cement its purchase. In his 2004 book, Sonic Alchemy, author and publisher David N. Howard (no relation that I know of) takes his readers on a tour of the most influential and pioneering record producers and sound recording engineers of our time.

Subtitled Visionary Music Producers and their Maverick Recordings, Howard explores the styles and techniques of such legendary producers as George Martin (The Beatles), Phil Spector (60s “Wall of Sound”), and Brian Wilson (Beach Boys), and then moves on to the many others who helped shape the sound of the world we live in.

He examines the influence of reggae and dub legends like Lee “Scratch” Perry (Bob Marley, The Clash) and King Tubby (Dennis Brown, Augustus Pablo), the ambient wizardry of Brian Eno (Talking Heads, David Bowie), the “classic rock” sound of Jimmy Miller (Rolling Stones, Traffic) and Glyn Johns (Eric Clapton, Eagles, The Who), the postpunk Manchesterian vision of Martin Hannet (Durutti Column, Joy Division), and he documents the pioneering techniques employed by Flood (Nine Inch Nails, U2), Chris Thomas (Pink Floyd, The Pretenders, Sex Pistols), Dr. Dre (Eminem, Public Enemy), Arthur Baker (New Order), and well over a dozen others.

For a sound geek like me, this was a terrific find. Thank you, Friends.


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Bargains in the Basement is an occasional series highlighting noteworthy items unearthed in the lower level of Central Library. What a treasure we have (quite literally) in the Friends Bookstore. When you can grab high quality books, music, and movies for little more than pocket change, life is good. And all the proceeds go to help support the library. So shop often; you never know what you’ll find. And stay tuned… I’ll let you know what I find!

Book

Sonic Alchemy
0634055607
/friends/bookstore/
Keith_2

Bargains in the Basement: Winter Blues

More buried treasure from the Friends Bookstore! This time some sweet blues to warm the cold winter away. Buddy Guy’s Icon is an 11-song collection focused on his early years with Chess (1960-67), including early versions of “Stone Crazy,” “I Got My Eyes on You,” “When My Left Eye Jumps,” “Watch Yourself,” and “My Time After Awhile.” Good good stuff.

On the more current side of things, I was really excited to find two great pieces by Keb’ Mo’ – his eleventh and latest release, The Reflection (2011), and The Door, his fifth album, released in 2000. The Reflection has a slick and smooth funky soulful feel, with lots of help from jazz greats Dave Koz and Marcus Miller. Not my favorite Keb’ release, but it’s still well worth owning. The Door, on the other hand, IS one of my favorites. It has a much more acoustic and rootsy feel, with help from Greg Phillinganes, Reggie McGride, and (much to my surprise) violinist Scarlet Rivera (of Rolling Thunder fame). A fine Friends find, indeed.


friends-logo-50.jpg

Bargains in the Basement is an occasional series highlighting noteworthy items unearthed in the lower level of Central Library. What a treasure we have (quite literally) in the Friends Bookstore. When you can grab high quality books, music, and movies for little more than pocket change, life is good. And all the proceeds go to help support the library. So shop often; you never know what you’ll find. And stay tuned… I’ll let you know what I find!

Book

The Door by Keb' Mo'
keb-mo-door-160
/friends/bookstore/
Keith_2

The Influence of Lou Reed

Brian Eno once said that there are two kinds of artists; those who influence the general public, and artists who influence other artists. It’s hard to imagine what the landscape of popular music would look like today without the influence of Lou Reed. Lou’s roots with the Velvet Underground helped pave the way for a multitude of others, and his career as a solo artist pushed the boundaries further still.

But even if you’re not a fan of Lou’s work, chances are that one of your favorite artists is. Imagine... had there been no Lou Reed or Velvet Underground, there would likely be no Patti Smith or David Bowie or Iggy Pop. There would have been no Talking Heads, no R.E.M., no Joy Division, no Sex Pistols, or no Television. No Roxy Music or Cars or Dream Syndicate or [insert most any other contemporary artist here]. From the dark streetwise tales of Heroin and Sweet Jane to the stratospheric drone of Metal Machine Music to the full-scale crunch of his collaboration with Metallica (at the age of sixty nine, no less), Lou never failed to push the limits, and the respect he earned among his contemporaries (and fans) is nothing short of astounding.

Thanks to Lou, our world is a much more interesting place. He will be deeply missed.

Book

Lou Reed
I-geek-art-160
http://kzpl.ent.sirsi.net/client/KPL/search/results?qu=Lou+Reed&te=&lm=ALLLIBS
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Record Store Day 2013

Don’t forget that Saturday, April 20, is Record Store Day. Independent record shops (like independent booksellers) could be dying breed; don’t let that happen. Stop by your favorite music store on Saturday and buy a few things; let them know you care. Some stores will have exclusive first releases and limited editions not available anywhere else. Who knows, you might find something you didn’t even know you wanted. (Of course, not all stores will carry all releases and some releases will sell out.) So tell your Facebook friends, tell your analog friends, tell anyone who will listen.

“The official film of Record Store Day 2013”

Here’s a trailer from The Last Shop Standing: The Rise, Fall, and Rebirth of the Independent Record Shop, a critically acclaimed documentary directed by Pip Piper, and based on the book by Graham Jones.

 

 

Book

Record Store Day
rsd-logo-160
http://www.recordstoreday.com
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Kevin Ayers & Peter Banks (R.I.P.)

Last week, I wrote about the passing of Alvin Lee, arguably one of the world’s great guitarists. They always say these things happen in threes.

Just a few weeks beforehand, February 18 to be exact, we lost Kevin Ayers. Ayers was a key player in Britain’s Canterbury scene during the late 1960s. He was a founding member of the band Soft Machine, and an active solo artist. Ayers’ list of early collaborators reads like a Who’s Who of influential artists; from Brian Eno, Nico and  John Cale (June 1, 1974), to Floydian madman Syd Barrett, Elton John, Robert Wyatt, Mike Oldfield, and others. His first solo album, Joy of a Toy, was released on EMI’s new Harvest label in 1969, right beside early (now classic) releases by Deep Purple and Pink Floyd. His sixteenth and last studio album, The Unfairground, was released in 2007 to much acclaim. Ayers was 68.

This week, one more member of “British Rock Royalty” joined his departed contemporaries. Peter Banks was a founding member and the original guitarist in the prog band Yes. He was featured on the band’s first two recordings, Yes and Time and a Word, before being replaced by Steve Howe in 1970. He achieved a certain degree of success with the UK band Flash during the mid-1970s. An occasional series of solo albums followed during the 1990s. Banks passed away in London on March 8 at the age of 65.

Some great early footage of Yes with Peter Banks (and later with Steve Howe) follows...

  

Music

The Unfairground by Kevin Ayers
10200141
http://kzpl.ent.sirsi.net/client/KPL/search/results?qu=The+unfairground&qf=AUTHOR%09Author%09Ayers%2C+Kevin.%09Ayers%2C+Kevin.&lm=ALLLIBS&rt=TITLE%7C%7C%7CTitle%7C%7C%7Cfalse
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Alvin Lee has Gone Home

The music world bid farewell to another guitar great on Wednesday with the passing of Alvin Lee. During the late 1960s and 1970s, the British born Lee fronted the band Ten Years After, and set the world on fire at the Woodstock Festival in August 1969 with “I’m Going Home.” Lee was known for his lightning fast guitar work and sensitive interpretations of blues standards and his own compositions. Lee recorded nearly 30 studio and live albums during his career—to this day, Ten Years After Recorded Live remains one of my own “desert island” selections… most notably for its incendiary cover of Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Help Me.” His latest album, Still on the Road to Freedom, was released last year. Lee was 68.

Book

Alvin Lee
alvin-lee-160
http://alvinlee.com/
Keith_1

Bargains from the Basement: Dead Bees on a Cake

“If you go out searching for jewels and treasures elsewhere, you're liable to miss the acres of riches that lie beneath your feet.”—Bryan Cohen

Today’s buried treasure from the Friends Bookstore is a tasty musical offering by David Sylvian, Dead Bees on a Cake, released in 1999. If you’re not already familiar with Sylvian’s work, give his material a listen. Who to compare him to? His voice draws an obvious similarity to Bryan Ferry, but musically, Sylvian is more muted and much more diverse; closer say to a Peter Gabriel or a Daniel Lanois—dark, mysterious at times, but rich and deeply moving.

Sylvian is an excellent songwriter who typically surrounds himself with contemporary musical heavyweights. Bees, however, follows a series of more upbeat “prog-ish” collaborations with Robert Fripp, so a musical departure seems somewhat inevitable. Bees has a slightly more jazzy, worldbeat feel than its predecessors—very much in the same vein as the later period recordings by Talk Talk. Guest musicians, though few this time, include jazz guitarist Bill Frisell, composer and pianist Ryuichi Sakamoto, and a brief appearance by Steve Tibbetts. Sylvian’s discography calls this release “openly celebratory in nature… documenting an eventful and transformative period in his life.”

Thanks once again, Friends – a good find, indeed!


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Consider this little series my own version of “Flea Market Finds,” an ongoing report of the latest bargains unearthed in the lower level of Central Library. What a treasure we have (quite literally) in the Friends Bookstore. When you can grab high quality books, music, and movies for little more than pocket change, life is good. And all the proceeds go to a great cause, too. So shop often; you never know what you’ll find. And stay tuned… I’ll let you know what I find!

Book

Dead Bees on a Cake by David Sylvian
dead-bees-on-a-cake-160
/friends/bookstore/
Keith_1

Landfill Harmonic: Orchestra Recycled

Just when it seems that we need some good news the most, this will warm your heart. Yesterday, NPR blogger Anastasia Tsioulcas caught my attention with a post about the Landfill Harmonic: An Orchestra Built from Trash. Through the efforts of a music instructor and a local craftsman, a group of hardworking kids in Paraguay have formed an orchestra using instruments made with materials gathered from beneath their very feet – literally.

The village of Cateura is a slum built on top of a landfill, where many of the locals make their living by collecting and reselling garbage. In a town where “a violin costs more than a house,” a group of students have formed an orchestra and are learning to play music. Orchestra director Favio Chavez works with a local craftsman who fashions violins, violas, flutes, trumpets and guitars out of discarded trash; oil drums, tin cans, spoons, bottle caps, you name it. Now this might sound like the makings of a bad circus band (no offense against circus music) but the result is nothing short of breathtaking.

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The group is currently documenting their work in a yet-to-be released film; a short trailer for it was posted a month ago on YouTube and has already collected nearly half-a-million views. The film opens with a quote from Chavez, saying “The world sends us garbage. We send back music.” In addition to the video, the group has set up a Facebook page to help spread the word about the orchestra.

In a world where we generate a ton of solid waste per capita every fifteen months (and that’s just in America) while school budgets get slashed beyond recognition, it’s refreshing to see what can be accomplished if the will is there.

Here’s an extended version of their story. It’s fascinating, watch it…

Book

Landfill Harmonic Orchestra
landfill-harmonic-160
http://www.facebook.com/landfillharmonicmovie
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Bargains from the Basement: Ragtime

When They All Played Ragtime: The True Story of an American Music was first published in 1950, it quickly became heralded as “the bible of ragtime” for its (then) insightful examination of an overlooked and all-but-forgotten American art form. While the book’s inevitable flaws have been the subject of controversy for decades since, authors Rudi Blesh and Harriet Janis succeeded in creating a groundbreaking initial study of the origins of ragtime music. The scholarly work of writers like Edward A. Berlin and others have since attempted to correct many of the inaccuracies and set straight the resulting misconceptions, yet They All Played… remains a vital resource for information about what Blesh calls “the first genuinely American music [and] in reality a milestone in musical history.” Thanks to the Friends, I was able to add a nice clean copy of the updated and expanded 1966 third edition to my own reference library.


friends-logo-50.jpg

Consider this little series my own version of “Flea Market Finds,” an ongoing report of the latest bargains unearthed in the lower level of Central Library. What a treasure we have (quite literally) in the Friends Bookstore. When you can grab high quality books, music, and movies for little more than pocket change, life is good. And all the proceeds go to a great cause, too. So shop often; you never know what you’ll find. And stay tuned… I’ll let you know what I find!

Book

They All Played Ragtime
they-all-played-ragtime-160
/friends/bookstore/
Keith_1

Bargains from the Basement: Margaritaville

The cover of Jimmy Buffett’s Meet Me in Margaritaville says it’s “the ultimate collection.” I’m not sure if that’s true or not (he’s already had a “greatest hits” collection, a boxed set, and a slew of live albums), but it’s a decent representation of his work nonetheless, including nearly a full disc’s worth of new (2003) recordings – what he calls “a new coat of paint on some old favorites.” It’s cold and snowing outside (I’m pretending it’s not). Still, the Friends Bookstore was packed to the rafters with happy (and thrifty) “Black Friday” shoppers who were wisely taking advantage of the annual gift book sale. So I guess that makes Meet Me... a worthwhile collection for days just like this, when a good book and a trip to Margaritaville is in order. Thanks, Friends.


friends-logo-50.jpg

Consider this little series my own version of “Flea Market Finds,” an ongoing report of the latest bargains unearthed in the lower level of Central Library. What a treasure we have (quite literally) in the Friends Bookstore. When you can grab high quality books, music, and movies for little more than pocket change, life is good. And all the proceeds go to a great cause, too. So shop often; you never know what you’ll find. And stay tuned… I’ll let you know what I find!

Book

Meet Me in Margaritaville
jimmy-buffett-margaritaville-cover-160
/friends/bookstore/
Keith_1

Bargains from the Basement: Part 6

While the evolution of popular music is (and has been) a continual process, several distinct time periods stand out as important milestones; the ragtime era and the advent of early jazz, for example. Gunther Schuller’s monumental studies of the development of jazz are regarded as masterworks. The first volume, Early Jazz, was first published in 1968 and was heralded by The New York Times as “definitive.... A remarkable book by any standard... unparalleled in the literature of jazz.”

My Friends Find this week was volume two of Schuller’s remarkable journey, The Swing Era: The Development of Jazz 1930-1945, an era that I admittedly know relatively little about (though I’m most anxious to learn). Written two decades after the first volume, The Swing Era explores the lives and musical significance of the many great bandleaders of the time; Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, Count Basie, and the great soloists; Art Tatum, Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young. This was a fantastic find that I can’t wait to read. 


friends-logo-50.jpg

Consider this little series my own version of “Flea Market Finds,” an ongoing report of the latest bargains unearthed in the lower level of Central Library. What a treasure we have (quite literally) in the Friends Bookstore. When you can grab high quality books, music, and movies for little more than pocket change, life is good. And all the proceeds go to a great cause, too. So shop often; you never know what you’ll find. And stay tuned… I’ll let you know what I find!

Book

Winter Wonderland
9780195071405
/friends/bookstore/
Keith_1

Bargains from the Basement: Part 5

I have this weird passion for obscure, offbeat Christmas recordings. Bing Crosby and Paul McCartney are all well and good, but how about Jimi Hendrix playing “Little Drummer Boy?” Well, at least you’re on the right track. Or how about Robert Fripp doing “Silent Night” ala Frippertronics (yes, I mean the old school red flexi disc)? You’re getting there. Or… how about The Residents’ original “Santa Dog” single?? Now, that’s what I’m talkin’ about. The weirder, the better.

But truth be known, the lighter new agey type of ambient instrumental holiday stuff… you know, solo guitar, solo piano, acoustic ensembles… is one of my many guilty pleasures (don’t tell anybody, ok?). I have lots, but there’s always room for more. So that’s where this week’s Friends Finds come in. Of just that sort, I managed to grab a fresh copy of Ottmar Liebert’s Poet & Angels (1990) on Higher Octave. And what would the acoustic holidays be without the stuff on Windham Hill(?), so I snagged a couple of seasonal samplers that I didn’t have… A Winter Solstice Reunion (1998) with all the label regulars… Will Ackerman, Darol Anger, Liz Story, etc.; and Winter Wonderland (1999), a more mainstream but still likeable compilation with David Arkenstone, Alex de Grassi, Tuck & Patti, and others. At a buck apiece, I couldn’t go wrong.

And just to satisfy my need for “the road less traveled,” I also grabbed a copy of the Roches’ We Three Kings (1994) on Rykodisc. (Actually, it’s not weird at all… the Roche sisters are amazing.) And the best part is, there are plenty more where those came from (in fact, there’s a whole cart full!). So stock up, the holidays are coming!


friends-logo-50.jpg

Consider this little series my own version of “Flea Market Finds,” an ongoing report of the latest bargains unearthed in the lower level of Central Library. What a treasure we have (quite literally) in the Friends Bookstore. When you can grab high quality books, music, and movies for little more than pocket change, life is good. And all the proceeds go to a great cause, too. So shop often; you never know what you’ll find. And stay tuned… I’ll let you know what I find!

Book

Winter Wonderland
winter-wonderland-cover-160
/friends/bookstore/
Keith_1

Bargains from the Basement: Week 4

This week’s Friends Find was yet another tasty pair of audio CDs… this time from Little Feat. One of my biggest regrets (a nicer way of saying screw-up) was that I never saw Little Feat while Lowell George was alive. I had my chance when they played in Grand Rapids in 1978, but (for whatever reason) I missed that opportunity. Sad. Nonetheless, Feat have amassed an impressive body of recorded work—both with Lowell during the 1970s and during the band’s current “era” beginning in the 1990s—so there’s plenty of good listening available to help make up for my awful misfortune (feel sorry for me yet? …didn’t think so… ah, but such is life).

Anyway, the first find is Ripe Tomatos, a two disc compilation culled from rare live recordings made at both ends of Feat’s journey. Recently unearthed recordings from way back in ’71 and ’72, sweet acoustic performances two decades later, and more— two-and-a-half hours of ripe tomato-y bliss. The second set, Chinese Work Songs, was Feat’s first studio recording of the new millennium—thirty years after the first Little Feat record. (The liner notes tell us, “…it wasn’t made in china, it was recorded at a few places, but china ain’t one of them…”) Compositions penned by Robbie Robertson (The Band), Billy Payne, Paul Barrère, Trey Anastasio (Phish), Bob Dylan, and others are given the treatment as only this band can. Both sets are worthy and welcome additions to the li'l ol’ collection. Feats (and Friends) don’t fail me now.


friends-logo-50.jpg

Consider this little series my own version of “Flea Market Finds,” an ongoing report of the latest bargains unearthed in the lower level of Central Library. What a treasure we have (quite literally) in the Friends Bookstore. When you can grab high quality books, music, and movies for little more than pocket change, life is good. And all the proceeds go to a great cause, too. So shop often; you never know what you’ll find. And stay tuned… I’ll let you know what I find!

Book

Little Feat
little-feat-covers-160
/friends/bookstore/
Keith_1

Bargains from the Basement: Week 3

Some recording artists are perfectly at home in the studio, while others are best known for their work on the concert stage. The Dave Matthews Band it seems is both. This week’s fortunate Friends Find is another sweet pair… two double live sets from the Dave Matthews Band, both recorded during the band’s 2010 summer tour. Live in New York City finds the band at Citi Field in Flushing, NY, on July 17th, while the other documents the final show of the tour two months later on September 18th at Chicago’s historic Wrigley Field. Both are superbly recorded and the performances are exceptional. 5 hours of great music for six bucks… how could I go wrong? It’s good to have Friends!


friends-logo-50.jpg

Consider this little series my own version of “Flea Market Finds,” an ongoing report of the latest bargains unearthed in the lower level of Central Library. What a treasure we have (quite literally) in the Friends Bookstore. When you can grab high quality books, music, and movies for little more than pocket change, life is good. And all the proceeds go to a great cause, too. So shop often; you never know what you’ll find. And stay tuned… I’ll let you know what I find!

Book

Dave Matthews Band
dmb-live-160
/friends/bookstore/
Keith_1

Bargains from the Basement: Week 2

Buddy Guy and Junior Wells toured and recorded together for decades, but this week’s edition of Friends Finds consists of two separate recordings by these blues legends. Recorded in 2001 at the age of 65, Buddy Guy’s Sweet Tea is fresh and raw, arguably one of the most immediate recording he’s made thus far. (Now 76, he’s still at it.) Its uncluttered North Mississippi sound places Guy’s guitar right up front where it belongs. Guy himself says, “That’s the way music was before it got too much tech and too many people.” Amen.

On the other hand, if we rewind back some three-and-a-half decades before Sweet Tea, we find the late Junior Wells and his band introducing their blend of blues and R&B to enthusiastic (and for the first time, predominantly white) audiences. Recorded just months after his debut, Hoodoo Man Blues, and released in 2010, Live in Boston 1966 is as authentic a piece of Chicago blues history as you’ll find. At a mere buck apiece, I snapped up both of these gems without hesitation.


friends-logo-50.jpg

Consider this little series the KPL equivalent of “Flea Market Finds,” an ongoing report of the latest bargains unearthed in the lower level of Central Library. What a treasure we have (quite literally) in the Friends Bookstore. When you can grab high quality books, music, and movies for little more than pocket change, life is good. And all the proceeds go to a great cause, too. So shop often; you never know what you’ll find. And stay tuned… I’ll let you know what I find!

Book

Buddy Guy and Junior Wells
guy-wells-covers-160
/friends/bookstore/
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Bargains from the Basement: Week 1

Richie Furay’s 2006 release, The Heartbeat of Love, was this week’s worthwhile find at the Friends Bookstore. Ten tunes written by Richie and Scott Sellen, plus two old Poco standbys, performed with help from a bunch of familiar friends; Timothy B. Schmidt, Neil Young, Kenny Loggins, Paul Cotton, Sam Bush, Stephen Stills, and others. No new musical territory here; just a worthwhile batch of nicely executed Southern California country rock tunes. If you ever spin the likes of Poco, Buffalo Springfield, Eagles, or Loggins & Messina, this would fit right in. And it even came packaged in a nifty hardbound mini-book – definitely a worthwhile find!


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Consider this little series the KPL equivalent of “Flea Market Finds,” an ongoing report of the latest bargains unearthed in the lower level of Central Library. What a treasure we have (quite literally) in the Friends Bookstore. When you can grab high quality books, music, and movies for little more than pocket change, life is good. And all the proceeds go to a great cause, too. So shop often; you never know what you’ll find. And stay tuned… I’ll let you know what I find!

Book

Heartbeat of Love
heartbeat-of-love-cover-160
http://www.richiefuray.com/album/heartbeat-of-love/
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Dymaxion Mothership has Landed

This is an ambitious aural excursion that you really owe it to yourself to experience. But be warned, this isn’t your typical singer-songwriter verse-chorus-verse stuff. Bill Caskey’s Dymaxion Mothership takes the listener on a complex journey across a lush audio landscape that ranges from contemplative voice and piano to full-on multi-instrumental madness. Some parts are complex and challenging, while other bits are… well… as Buddy Guy once put it, “so funky you can smell it.” Tempo changes are around every corner and the production is superb. Bill’s lyrics are chock full of quirky wit and introspective wordsmanship, creatively weaving imaginative tales of love and life; dreams, a small town in the summertime, and dogs chasing dragonflies. The overall result is a carefully crafted musical journey that’s anything but ordinary.

“My doggie like to chase dem dinosaurs
She plays for sport even though she never scores
Barn swallows hunting bugs in the springtime
She jumps up and tries to utilize her hang time
Barn swallows slip and glide
Doggie tongue hangin’ out the side…”

Musical similarities? Sure, some of the obvious influences creep in here and there… “Hey Alligator” has an undeniable Steeler’s Wheel feel about it (remember those guys?), “Biggest Heart” could have been on Wally De Backer’s (Gotye) last album, and echoes of old school Steely Dan linger throughout… but the final outcome is all of these things… and yet none of them actually. Dymaxion Mothership is an intensely rich and remarkably satisfying original musical experience. Climb aboard the Mothership… it’s an outing you don’t want to miss.

In case you didn’t know (shame on you!), The Relations (including Bill Caskey) put on a July concert at Central Library featuring material from Dymaxion Mothership. The concert is now up in its entirety on KPL’s YouTube channel and our Concert Archives page.

Book

Dymaxion Mothership
dymaxion-mothership-160

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Old Ideas

Fans of Canadian singer-songwriter and poet Leonard Cohen are anxiously awaiting the release of Leonard’s new release, Old Ideas, his 12th studio album and his first since 2004. With a career that spans more than four decades and fresh from almost three years of relentless touring, Cohen (now 77) presents a new body of work that is as introspective and intensely sweet as anything he’s done to date. Somewhat reminiscent of recordings by the late John Campbell, the album’s dark bluesy feel and Cohen’s deep-throated growl puts this release in a class with recent works by Tom Waits and Bob Dylan—dark, sure, but reassuringly soothing and warm.

Old Ideas is scheduled for release on January 31st, so reserve your copy now. Can’t wait to hear it? NPR lets you listen to Old Ideas in its entirety right now! Go give it a listen. Sometimes, Old Ideas are some of the best ideas.

Music

Old Ideas
CMJ867123C
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Hubert Sumlin 1931–2011

The music world lost another blues guitar legend this week with the passing of Hubert Sumlin. Born in Greenwood, Mississippi in 1931, Sumlin played and recorded with some of the best, and gained great acclaim as the guitarist behind the mighty Howlin’ Wolf during the 1950s and ‘60s. Guitarist Bob Margolin writes in his biography of Sumlin, “Listen to ‘Built For Comfort,’ ‘Shake For Me,’ ‘300 Pounds of Joy,’ ‘Louise,’ ‘Goin’ Down Slow,’ ‘Killing Floor,’ and ‘Wang Dang Doodle.’ How did this grinning genius come up with these original, emotional, Hell-to-Heaven guitar parts? Fortunately, we don’t need to know to enjoy them.”

In 2008, Hubert was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame by The Blues Foundation, and was the winner of The Blues Music Award for Best Tradition Artist of the Year.

My good buddy Bill LaValley was backstage with Hubert before a show here at the State Theater a few years ago and fondly remembers him... Hubert wasn’t feeling well at all that evening, he could hardly walk. But according to Bill, when it came time to take the stage, it was as if a dark cloak had been lifted. Sumlin stood up and headed for the stage with a spring in his step and the blues in his heart. He played that night (and always) as if his life depended on it.

Hubert so loved his music and contributed much—he’s another who will be sorely missed.

Here’s a great clip of “Little Hubert” tearin’ it up with Sunnyland Slim in 1964. That’s Willie Dixon on bass and Clifton James on drums. Sonny Boy Williamson introduces them... 

music

I Know You
hubert-sumlin-i-know-you
http://www.catalog.kpl.gov/uhtbin/cgisirsi/x/0/0/5?searchdata1=hubert+sumlin{AU}+AND+i+know+you{TI}&library=BRANCHES&language=ANY&format=ANY&item_type=ANY&location=ANY&match_on=KEYWORD&item_1cat=ANY&item_2cat=ANY&sort_by=-PBYR
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The Dead of Summer

“Once in a while you get shown the light, in the strangest of places if you look at it right.” —Robert Hunter, ca. 1974 

Advertisements in Rolling Stone for the double live “Steal Your Face” album proclaimed, “There is nothing like a Grateful Dead concert.” I also remember reading an article in one of the hi-fi magazines at the time about the Grateful Dead’s famous “wall of sound” state-of-the-art concert sound system. While I might have been a bit too young to have seen the Grateful Dead during the hippie heyday of the late 1960s, I made it a goal to attend at least one of their shows during my lifetime. That goal was realized a few years later in 1979.

In the years that followed, I was fortunate enough to see the original band four times, a somewhat modest record when compared to some, I realize. (I know people who saw them play hundreds of times!) Indeed, there was always something special about seeing the Grateful Dead play live, especially out-of-doors during the summer. The sets were leisurely, and unlike most typical rock concerts, each event carried with it a unique “festival” atmosphere.

Sadly, those days are gone. Since Jerry Garcia’s passing in 1995, remaining band members have made several respectable attempts to carry on in various incarnations. While these projects are fresh and interesting, the era of the original band has clearly passed.

Yet, there are times when the music of the Grateful Dead is still the perfect complement to a warm summer afternoon with a cold beverage, and thankfully the legacy of those spectacular live shows lives on through an impressive collection of recordings. Even though the band only released a dozen studio albums during the course of its thirty year career, listeners are blessed with a plethora of live recordings—nine “traditional” live albums, more than a dozen concert films and videos, plus more than a hundred official archive releases (not to mention the many thousands of amateur recordings from the famous band-approved taper’s sections.)

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KPL provides a generous cross section of the Grateful Dead story; in print, on film, and on record. Several books in the collection document the life and times of the band and its various members. Of particular note are Searching for the Sound : My Life with the Grateful Dead by bassist Phil Lesh, A Long Strange Trip: The Inside History of the Grateful Dead by Dennis McNally, and Jerilyn Lee Brandelius’ Grateful Dead Family Album. Films include The Grateful Dead Movie (a film version of 1974 “Steal Your Face” tour), and a pair of View from the Vault releases, documenting the band’s 1990 appearances at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh and Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, California. For listeners, the collection includes decent retrospectives like Flashback with the Grateful DeadThe Very Best of the Grateful Dead, and Skeletons from the Closet.  You’ll even find an archival release of a concert at the famous Fillmore East in 1969. “What a long strange trip it’s been.”

Book

The Grateful Dead
grateful-dead-1980-007-160
http://www.catalog.kpl.gov/uhtbin/cgisirsi/x/0/0/5?searchdata1=grateful+dead&library=BRANCHES&language=ANY&format=ANY&item_type=ANY&location=ANY&match_on=KEYWORD&item_1cat=ANY&item_2cat=ANY&sort_by=-PBYR
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The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

If you lived in Kalamazoo during the 1970s and listened to WIDR (WMU campus radio) you undoubtedly heard a lot of Gil Scott-Heron – like others I’m sure, that was my first exposure to this highly influential musician and poet. Scott-Heron is often described as “the godfather of rap” for his sharply pointed spoken word infused jazz and soul. In his 1970 single “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” his deep soulful voice—accompanied only by a steady drum beat—brought life the hot-button issue of racial inequality; not as a radical street preacher but as an articulate street-smart professor (he held a master’s degree in creative writing). His words were riveting and immediate. “The revolution will not be brought to you by Xerox in four parts without commercial interruptions. The revolution will not give you sex appeal. The revolution will not make you look five pounds thinner, because the revolution will not be televised, Brother.”

He collaborated with many of the jazz heavyweights of his time – Brian Jackson, Ron Carter, Hubert Laws to name a few and his influence is acknowledged by a generation of artists, from Kanye West and Public Enemy to Eminem. His work touched on a variety of social and political issues, including addiction (“The Bottle” - 1974), slavery (“Rivers of My Fathers” - 1973) and racial oppression (“Johannesburg” - 1976). In 1979, he joined other high profile artists in Musicians United for Safe Energy (MUSE) and contributed “We Almost Lost Detroit,” a poignant reminder of a close-by nuclear near-disaster in 1972.

In 2010, Scott-Heron released his fifteenth studio album, I’m New Here, to great critical acclaim. A track called “Where Did The Night Go” is highlighted here. Gil Scott-Heron passed away last Friday in New York after a brief illness. He was 62.

Book

Gil Scott-Heron
gil-scott-heron-160
http://www.catalog.kpl.gov/uhtbin/cgisirsi/x/0/0/5?searchdata1=gil+scott-heron&library=BRANCHES&language=ANY&format=ANY&item_type=ANY&location=ANY&match_on=KEYWORD&item_1cat=ANY&item_2cat=ANY&sort_by=-PBYR
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Stick With Mono

Born Robert Allen Zimmerman on 24 May 1941, today marks Bob Dylan’s 70th birthday. Celebrate the occasion right along with Bob by lending a fresh ear to the Best of the Original Mono Recordings, a single disc sampler from the recently released 9 CD set featuring Dylan’s first eight albums. Recorded between 1962 and 1967, these recordings are “universally regarded as some of the most important works in the history of recorded music, painstakingly reproduced from their first generation monaural mixes.” (www.bobdylan.com – Sorry, I couldn’t have said it any better myself.)

During the 1960s and before, monaural (mono) was the most common format for recorded sound, though many of us today might not have ever heard these records that way. The subsequent “stereo” versions often suffered from unrealistic separation—voice center, harmonica on the far left, guitar far right, etc.—and for technical reasons, simply flipping the switch from stereo to mono only makes matters worse. (I say “stereo” because early stereo was often faked for novelty effect rather than sonic clarity.) Now presented for the first time on CD in their proper format, these songs can all be heard as the producers—and probably Bob—originally intended. And in many cases, the differences are not subtle.

So, Scotty, “what is the antidote to stereo? Well, it’s been right in your home all along. Good old American mono.” Happy birthday, Bob!

Music

The Original Mono Recordings
CMM610424C
http://www.catalog.kpl.gov/uhtbin/cgisirsi/x/0/0/5?searchdata1=bob+dylan{AU}+AND+original+mono+recordings{TI}&library=BRANCHES&language=ANY&format=MUSIC&item_type=ANY&location=ANY&match_on=KEYWORD&item_1cat=ANY&item_2cat=ANY&sort_by=-PBYR
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Emmylou drives a Hard Bargain

The latest release from Emmylou Harris (her 21st studio album) is a collection of heartfelt tales of love and tragedy; stories about lost friends, family and deep-seated faith. Recorded in the home studio of her producer Jay Joyce, the production is lush and spacious, and her signature voice shines as always. The sound very much recalls the atmospheric feel of her work with Daniel Lanois, which is amazing considering that only three musicians play on the record; Harris, Joyce (guitars and keyboards), and drummer/keyboardist Giles Reeves.

Ms. Harris penned eleven of the thirteen songs herself (unusual since she’s only ever recorded a handful her own songs), but she includes a couple of tasty covers here, too... “Cross Yourself” is written by Joyce and the title tune is by Canadian singer/songwriter Ron Sexsmith. Emmylou says that she finds songwriting difficult, but honestly, she should do more of it—her writing is articulate and her songs are genuine.

Standouts for me include the album opener, “The Road,” a fond remembrance of her early years with Gram Parsons. (If you’re quick, you can still grab a free download of this song on Emmylou’s website.) “Darlin’ Kate” is a tribute to her close friend Kate McGarrigle, who recently died of cancer. “My Name is Emmett Till” recalls the story of a 14-year-old African-American boy who was brutally murdered in 1950s, and considers “all that might have come” had he been allowed to live. “The Ship on His Arm” explores the life and love that her parents perhaps shared during the Second World War, while “Goodnight Old World” (written with longtime Steve Winwood collaborator Will Jennings) hopes for a better world for newer generations (Harris recently became a grandmother).

Like a glass of Pinot and a nap in the sun, Emmylou’s voice soothes the soul—melancholy never felt so good. Yet after 40 years as a professional musician, 25 albums and a dozen Grammys, she still drives a Hard Bargain.

Music

Emmylou Harris: Hard Bargain
WEM978186C
http://www.catalog.kpl.gov/uhtbin/cgisirsi/x/0/0/5?searchdata1=emmylou+harris+AND+hard+bargain{TI}&library=BRANCHES&language=ANY&format=ANY&item_type=ANY&location=ANY&match_on=KEYWORD&item_1cat=ANY&item_2cat=ANY&sort_by=-PBYR
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Bob Dylan In Concert: Brandeis University 1963

As a collector and (ahem) connoisseur of “underground” Bob Dylan recordings since the 1970s, I was of course thrilled with the official (and thankfully ongoing) release of The Bootleg Series. Now nine volumes and counting, these releases represent the hidden side of Dylan’s work – especially during the early years. Akin to browsing through an artist’s sketchbook, these recordings give us a fresh glimpse at Dylan’s writing and recording process and a chance to hear otherwise lost performances.

As an addendum to this historic series, Columbia has just released the stand-alone version of Bob Dylan In Concert - Brandeis University 1963, a previously unreleased and seemingly un-bootlegged early live set.

On May 10, 1963 – 48 years ago today – Bob Dylan performed at the Brandeis First Annual Folk Festival in Waltham, Massachusetts, just two weeks before the release of his second album, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. A seven inch reel-to-reel tape recording of Dylan’s performance that day sat tucked away on a shelf in Rolling Stone magazine co-founder Ralph J. Gleason’s home for more than four decades.

Recently discovered, these recordings represent a glimpse of how Dylan sounded while he was still touring the small clubs and coffee houses on the brink of fame. Michael Gray, author of The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia, calls this “the last live performance we have of Bob Dylan before he becomes a star... way back when Kennedy was President and the Beatles hadn’t yet reached America.”

So how does it sound? In a word… amazing. Bob… his guitar… his harmonica… and seven audible slices of 1963. The version of “Masters of War” is alone worth the effort.

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Book

Bob Dylan in Concert
dylan-brandeis-university-1963
http://www.catalog.kpl.gov/uhtbin/cgisirsi/x/0/0/5?searchdata1=Brandeis+University+1963+AND+Dylan{AU}&library=BRANCHES&language=ANY&format=MUSIC&item_type=ANY&location=ANY&match_on=KEYWORD&item_1cat=ANY&item_2cat=ANY&sort_by=-PBYR
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Mogwai

If you’re a fan of extended atmospheric guitar work with a slightly intense edge, you might want to dive into the seventh and latest studio album from the Scottish band MogwaiHardcore Will Never Die, But You Will. Mogwai first came to my ears through an NPR live webcast soon after the band formed in 2006, and I’ve since become quite fond of them. Their sound is unique but familiar, combining elements of post-punk Radiohead, Sonic Youth and even Flipper with gorgeous atmospheric textures of old school prog rock ala Pink Floyd. The result is what the band calls “serious guitar music.” But don’t let that scare you, Mogwai creates some truly beautiful and accessible (mostly instrumental) music. The band will take part in the iTunes Festival in London this summer and return to the US for a (rescheduled) tour in the fall.

Music

Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will
WEM089523C
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Phoebe Snow 1952-2011

It’s amazing how some artists are able to reveal their true selves on stage, while others simply go through the motions.

Back about 1978 or so, Phoebe Snow performed at WMU’s East Ballroom (today’s Bernhard Center) in what appeared to be another case of a big time star giving an obligatory concert in a smallish market. She was singing, but that was about it. It was clear that she just wasn’t feeling it.

Phoebe’s career was still riding high at that point... she had a HUGE hit with Poetry Man in 1974 and a cover story in Rolling Stone magazine a year later. I assumed that she could probably care less about Kalamazoo… get in, get through it, and get back to the real world on the East Coast.

After plodding through a couple of songs, Phoebe stopped and apologized to the audience for her lack of enthusiasm. It seems her best friend was in the hospital back East at that very moment having a baby. Phoebe admitted that her body was on stage in Kalamazoo but her mind was clearly with her friend far away. Well, at least she was being honest. The show continued.

During the middle of the very next song, a stage hand came out and whispered something in her ear. Phoebe stopped the song immediately and jumped and screamed, “It’s a girl!”

With that, the veil was lifted and a very different Ms. Snow took the stage. Expressive, exuberant, entertaining; the mundane became magnificent! I had yet to see (and have seldom since seen) a performer so genuinely reveal her true “self” to an audience.

I will always remember that show… and appreciate how Phoebe allowed a small audience in Kalamazoo to be part of a very special moment in her life. And that, I guess, created a very special moment in ours.

Phoebe Snow passed away Tuesday in Edison, New Jersey, due to complications caused by a brain hemorrhage she suffered a year ago. She was 60.

Book

Phoebe Snow
phoebe-snow-160
http://www.phoebesnow.com/
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Pinetop Perkins

Boogie-woogie piano legend Pinetop Perkins, one of the last of the pre-war bluesmen, passed away on Monday. Born Joe Willie Perkins in Belzoni, Mississippi, on 7 July 1913, Perkins became known as “Pinetop” after his famous 1953 Sun Records recording of Clarence “Pinetop” Smith’s “Pinetop’s Boogie Woogie.”

Perkins was perhaps best known for his work as a member of Muddy Waters’ legendary band between 1969 and 1981. He released his first album under his own name as a leader in 1992—followed by some 14 more during the years since—and he toured almost constantly. Perkins performed with Willie “Big Eyes” Smith at the State Theater a year ago and just last month, Perkins and Smith won the Best Traditional Blues Album Grammy award for their recording Joined at the Hip. Pinetop won the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005.

“He was one of the last great Mississippi Bluesmen,” said fellow blues legend BB King in a statement on Perkins’ website. “He had such a distinctive voice, and he sure could play the piano. He will be missed not only by me, but by lovers of music all over the world.” Said Perkins, “I just wanna make people happy and make a dollar or two. It’s all I know to do.” Pinetop Perkins was 97.

Book

Joe Willie “Pinetop” Perkins, photo by Steve Azzato 
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http://www.pinetopperkinsfoundation.org/
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Archaeology - Digging Local Music

Kalamazoo’s local music scene these days is diverse and richly vibrant. One look at the Gazette’s Ticket supplement and you’ll find everything from talented local amateurs to nationally known superstars performing in dozens of different venues across the area, even Kalamazoo Public Library!

But has Kalamazoo always had this kind of passion for music? You might be surprised!

If you’re like me, you wonder what popular entertainment sounded like in Kalamazoo a century or even a century-and-a-half ago. What instruments were being played? What music was being played? Who was playing it, and where?

Admittedly, there isn’t a CD called “Early Kalamazoo Music” (yet!), but All About Kalamazoo History, KPL’s aptly titled collection of Local History essays, has a wealth of information on that very topic. Check the newly created Music category, and you’ll find articles about everything from Kalamazoo’s very first band (formed in 1837 shortly after Kalamazoo—then Bronson Village—was established) right through the Ragtime Era at the end of the nineteenth century and into the Jazz Age of the early 1920s. There’s information about Kalamazoo’s leading music organizations, the early dance bands, the musical leaders, and some of the local performers who “made it big.” Learn about the early efforts to establish the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra, and discover the various local businesses that grew up around the music industry. There’s even an article about “That Gal from Kalamazoo.”

So dig in, you’ll never know what you might find.

Book

Kalamazoo Ragtime Music
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/local-history/music/
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Fear Is A Man’s Best Friend

When I was putting together my previous post(s) about Patti Smith, I ran across a video of John Cale doing Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. Cohen’s writing was stark and hauntingly beautiful; certainly well worth checking out. But watching the video reminded me of how truly interesting John Cale is.

A former member of the legendary Velvet Underground and a producer for the likes of Patti SmithThe Stooges, and a bazillion others, Cale’s solo work runs the full spectrum of style and emotion; from lovely dark ballads (I Keep A Close Watch) to neo-classical ambience (Words For The Dying) to full on anger-induced rage (Leaving It Up to You).

KPL stocks Artificial Intelligence, commonly regarded as one of Cale’s worst solo efforts and admittedly not none of my own favorites. If you really want a concise discovery of Cale’s earlier solo work, scrounge around for a copy of his 1977 Guts compilation. Nary a single loser among the nine tracks and the cast of characters is impressive; Brian Eno, Phil Manzanera, Richard Thompson, Chris Spedding, Phil Collins (yep, back when Phil was a drummer), and a host of others. Close Watch - An Introduction To John Cale is an updated and re-mastered version with some of the same tracks. Island Years (1996) is even better; a two-disc set that pulls together 36 essential tracks, including everything from Guts. (This has since been re-released as a budget disc called Gold.)

A personal favorite of mine is Honi Soit from 1981. You won’t find any tracks from it on the compilations (it’s a different record company), but no matter. Everything here is as powerful and immediate as it was when it was released nearly 30 years ago (ack!).

If you want to read more about John Cale, check out What’s Welsh for Zen: the Autobiography of John Cale. The book is a dozen years old now but an interesting read with loads of great photos and drawings. And Hans Werksman’s Fear Is A Man’s Best Friend website is an essential resource if you’re hooked.

Here’s Cale in a lighter moment… Hallelujah.

Book

What's Welsh for Zen : the autobiography of John Cale
1582340684
http://www.catalog.kpl.gov/uhtbin/cgisirsi/x/0/0/5?searchdata1=1582340684
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Horses, Legacy Edition

Patti Smith has been one of my faves since a roommate back in the 70s once forced me (kicking and screaming) to listen to Radio Ethiopia, for which I’m now eternally grateful. Raw, immediate, surreal… yet truly real. Soon after, I discovered her first album – Horses – and I was hooked.

Patti actually created much of the groundwork for New York’s CBGB’s scene of the 70s, inspiring bands like Television, The Ramones, and Talking Heads. “Like her hero Jim Morrison she wrote absurd verses more fit for a diary than a rock ‘n’ roll record, but could also follow them with lines that genuinely terrified.” (Chris Dahlen, Pitchfork) Lovingly dubbed “Poet Laureate of Punk” by NPR, Patti layered her cutting poetry with a killer band to create a blend that continues to inspire fans and artists alike.

As I was rummaging through the library’s collection the other day, I was happy to find a copy of the Legacy Edition of Horses, the 2005 reissue of her seminal 1975 album that was named by Rolling Stone as one of the top 50 rock albums of all time. Expanded to two full discs, the 30th anniversary edition includes the original album as produced by John Cale, that’s been newly remastered by Greg Calbi with amazing results. The set includes a bonus track, Patti’s gutsy remake of My Generation (originally released as a B-side) and… a bonus live performance of Horses, recorded in its entirety at London’s Meltdown Festival in 2005. “These things, these relics, are alive in the fists of memory. We search for them in close-up as we search for our own hands in a dream.” (Patti Smith)

Just for fun, here’s an amazingly clean video from 1976 – the title track from Horses, leading into another classic remake, a cover of Hendrix’ Hey Joe from the BBC’s Old Grey Whistle Test. As the commercial says… “priceless.” Enjoy.

Movie

Patti Smith “Horses”
CMJ119823C
http://www.catalog.kpl.gov/uhtbin/cgisirsi/x/0/0/5?searchdata1=horses{TI}+AND+patti+smith{AU}&library=BRANCHES&language=ANY&format=MUSIC&item_type=ANY&location=ANY&match_on=KEYWORD&item_1cat=ANY&item_2cat=ANY&sort_by=-PBYR
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Tubular Bells

The current season for “spooky” stuff brings to mind a time honored classic – Mike Oldfield’s Tubular BellsOldfield was an unknown English teenager in 1973 when the haunting opening sequence from his highly acclaimed debut gained worldwide attention as the backdrop for Friedkin’s film version of William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist.

Since that time, Oldfield has revisited the Bells structure and themes for a host of sequels and alternate interpretations, including an orchestral version, various remixes, reissues, live and demo recordings. (Six different packages were released this summer alone!) The piece has also received several inspired (re)interpretations by others, including a 2008 recording for piano ensemble, and a wonderful version by the California Guitar Trio.

While trolling the murky depths of the internet this weekend, I ran across an interesting video of Oldfield performing the first segment of Tubular Bells for the BBC-TV on November 30, 1973, along with a rather stellar cast of accomplices...

  • Mike Oldfield (bass, guitar)
  • Mick Taylor (Rolling Stones) (guitar)
  • Steve Hillage (Gong) (guitar)
  • Pierre Moerlen (Gong) (percussion)
  • Fred Frith (Henry Cow) (bass, guitar)
  • John Greaves (Henry Cow) (keyboards, bass)
  • Tim Hodgkinson (Henry Cow) (keyboards)
  • Geoff Leigh (Henry Cow) (flute)
  • Mike Ratledge (Soft Machine) (keyboards)
  • Karl Jenkins (Soft Machine) (oboe)
  • Ted Speight (Kilburn & The High Roads) (guitar, bass)
  • John Field (Jade Warrior) (flute)
  • Terry Oldfield (Mike’s brother) (flute)
  • Tom Newman (voice)

(The full version of the video can be found on Oldfield’s Elements DVD.)

As it turns out, this was only the second first public performance of Bells – the first having occurred on 25 June 1973 in London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall, just a month after the album’s release. The reclusive Oldfield was so shaken by the public reaction to his initial concert that he avoided the live stage for several years. What’s truly “scary,” however, is that some 26 albums and three-and-a-half decades later, this stunning debut still holds up.

Music

Mike Oldfield - Tubular Bells
tubular-bells-II-100
http://www.catalog.kpl.gov/uhtbin/cgisirsi/x/0/0/5?searchdata1=tubular+bells{TI}&library=BRANCHES&language=ANY&format=ANY&item_type=ANY&location=ANY&match_on=KEYWORD&item_1cat=ANY&item_2cat=ANY&sort_by=-PBYR
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Once in a Blue Moon

Be sure to catch the Blue Moon Blues Band in an intimate “unplugged” performance on Wednesday, October 21st, at Central Library, as part of KPL’s ongoing Live Music series.

We have it on very good authority that this should be quite a unique and memorable event, including a rare opportunity to hear some of Mr. Carambula’s smokin’ acoustic(!) guitar work, and some brand new music they’ve never played in public before!

Blue Moon’s library appearance will also be one of the band’s final public performances - after nine years and four CDs, they’re moving on to new and different opportunities, so stay tuned! Don’t you dare miss this chance to see one of the final (and perhaps finest) performances by one of Kalamazoo’s most revered musical institutions.

Here’s Blue Moon, recorded live at Clydes Side Door in Battle Creek on March 21, 2009.

Book

Blue Moon Blues Band
blue-moon-band-pic-609-160
http://www.kpl.gov/events/blue-moon-blues-band.aspx
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CSN Demos

For some strange reason, I’ve always enjoyed hearing demos and working versions of familiar tracks by fave musicians. Like peering into an artist’s sketchbook, these “bare-bones” run-throughs (warts and all) often give us a sneak peek into the creative process. Dylan’s “Bootleg Series” is a prime example.

Crosby, Stills & Nash “Demos” is a newly released collection of working versions by David CrosbyStephen Stills and Graham Nash, both individually and collectively (though Neil Young sits in on one track), produced by Graham Nash and long-time friend Joel Bernstein. Though by no means as interesting as say Neil Young’s “Archives” series or the aforementioned Dylan example, “Demos” does offer up a dozen tracks that have never been officially released.

I must admit that I’ve never really been a fan of the production work on the first CSN(Y) studio releases (CSN (1969) and Déjà Vu (1970)). Though vital for their era, several of the tracks (“Marrakesh Express” and “Déjà Vu,” for instance) have always seemed a bit flat and lifeless in their fully produced standard versions. “Demos” now gives us a chance to hear a few of those songs in their original form without added instrumentation and late 60s studio “sweetening” (or “flattening,” as it were).

Pleasant surprises here are the 1968 demo of “My Love Is A Gentle Thing” by Stills and a pre-Nash version of “Long Time Gone” by Crosby and Stills from June 1968. Not drastically different arrangements (as is sometimes the case with such early versions), but intimate and sometimes inspired run-throughs of some of their most significant work in relatively unaltered form.  No real revelations here, but some interesting and pleasing listening.

Here’s “Marrakesh Express” from BBC television in 1970... 

Music

Crosby, Stills & Nash “Demos"
WEM986438C
http://www.catalog.kpl.gov/uhtbin/cgisirsi/x/0/0/5?searchdata1=Demos%7BTI%7D+AND+Crosby,%20Stills%20&%20Nash%20%7BAU%7D
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Les Paul (1915 – 2009)

To say that music lost another of its heroes today seems a shallow understatement. But a visit to the Gibson guitar company’s website says it best, where a page-wide banner proclaims, “In loving memory of Les Paul, the world’s most influential, innovative guitar player and inventor.” Les Paul passed away on August 13th at the age of 94.

Les Paul had strong connection with Kalamazoo - or at least with one of Kalamazoo’s more famous manufacturers, the Gibson guitar company. Together, Les Paul and Gibson profoundly altered the face of popular music.

Born in Waukesha, Wisconsin, in 1915, Les was already a professional performer by the age of 13. His guitar playing technique became second-to-none, but it’s said that a music critic changed the course of his life by suggesting to Les that his guitar should be louder.

During the 1930s, Paul worked up an electric prototype (affectionately called the “Log,” actually a pine board with homemade electric pickups!) and in 1941, presented it to the Gibson company in Kalamazoo. This first attempt was a miserable failure—Gibson laughed at him—but he never looked back. “I took the Log to Gibson and I spent 10 years trying to convince them that this was the way to go,” said Paul. By 1950, Gibson’s management sensed growing competition and according to Paul, said, “Go find the kid with the broomstick and the pickups on it!”

Eventually, Les Paul formed a partnership with Gibson that not only affected his own career, but dramatically changed the face of the entire music industry. Alongside the Fender Stratocaster, Gibson’s Les Paul model is perhaps the most widely known, highly acclaimed and best loved electric guitar ever made. Period.

“The men up at Kalamazoo are working overtime to fill all the orders…” 
Kalamazoo Gazette, 1951

But Les Paul’s talent for invention wasn’t limited to the guitar alone. During his career, Paul pioneered such cutting edge technology as multi-track recording and overdubbing, plus commonly used sound effects like reverb and echo.

After cutting his teeth on the radio in the 1930s, Paul’s performance career skyrocketed during the 40s and 50s with partner Mary Ford. He produced his own television show in the 1950s, and did more recording during the 60s. In 1976, he released the highly acclaimed Chester and Lester, a country and jazz fusion album with Chet Atkins. Though his hands were nearly crippled by arthritis, Paul performed actively right up until the end.

A 2007 film, Chasing Sound, celebrates Les Paul’s 90th birthday by documenting some of his final performances and highlighting his incredible contributions. 

According to Gibson, Les Paul is the only individual to share membership into the Grammy Hall of Fame, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the National Inventors Hall of Fame, and the National Broadcasters Hall of Fame. He was also an honorary member of the Audio Engineering Society.

“He put the tools in our hands,” says Keith Richards. According to B.B. King, “...he’s the Boss!”

Book

Les Paul (Associated Press photo)
les-paul-2004-160
http://www.mlive.com/news/kalamazoo/index.ssf/2009/08/guitar_legend_les_paul_dies_at.html
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Woodstock: Three Days of Peace and Music

Forty years ago this summer, American popular culture was changed forever. The Woodstock Music and Arts Fair in Behtel, New York, gathered a who’s who of 1969’s most popular entertainers before crowds estimated at half-a-million. Nothing before or since has matched.

Some festival performers went on to become famous stars who to this day remain definitive of the era; The Who, Richie Havens, Arlo Guthrie, Crosby Stills Nash & Young, Jefferson Airplane, Santana, Jimi Hendrix.

Others are all but forgotten, except by purists and collectors; Sweetwater, Quill, Bert Sommer, Incredible String Band.

And there are still others who, although certainly well known, we sometimes forget to associate with the festival because their performances were (for various reasons) omitted from most commercially released festival recordings until recently; Janis Joplin, Grateful Dead, Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Band.

Some didn’t even make it to the festival (Iron Butterfly was stuck at the airport), while others just didn’t care to do it; The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Bob Dylan, Jethro Tull. Regardless, the festival remains a cornerstone of popular entertainment and a snapshot of life as it was at the end of a tumultuous decade.

Arlo Guthrie remembers (something about) Woodstock, and his “big Checker cab.”

If you’re interested in knowing more about the “ins and outs and whats and whys” of the Woodstock Festival, or perhaps you’re simply feeling nostalgic, the library has loads of material to guide you on your journey.

In Print

The Road to Woodstock by Michael Lang

(from the publisher) On the ground with the talent, the townspeople, and his handpicked crew, Woodstock organizer Lang had a unique and panoramic perspective of the festival which became legendary. Enhanced by interviews with others who were central to the making of the festival, this book tells the story from inspiration to celebration, capturing all the magic, mayhem, and mud in between.

Back to the Garden: The Story of Woodstock by Pete Fornatale (Hardcover, 336 pages)

(from the publisher) Back to the Garden celebrates the music and the spirit of Woodstock through original interviews with some of the era's biggest musical stars, as well as those who participated in the festival.

Woodstock: Three Days that Rocked the World by Mike Evans

(from the publisher) With interviews and quotes from those who were there, along with photographs and graphic memorabilia, "Woodstock" is the ultimate celebration of a landmark in modern cultural history.

Young men with Unlimited Capital: The Story of Woodstock by Joel Rosenman.

(from the publisher) It started with this ad, placed by Joel Rosenman and John Roberts as a way to find interesting work after college. It led Rosenman and Roberts to stage a gathering that changed the face of popular culture: the Woodstock Music and Art Fair in August 1969. Woodstock is rightly remembered as the pivotal event that united a generation, but the behind-the-scenes story is less utopian--and absolutely fascinating.

Woodstock: An Inside Look at the Movie that Shook Up the World and Defined a Generation by Dale Bell

(from the publisher) This unique book is a collection of remembrances and perceptions from the filmmakers, performers and festival producers who created the Academy Award-winning film that defined a generation. 100 photos.

On Film

Woodstock: 3 Days of Peace & Music Director's Cut (40th Anniversary Two-Disc Special Edition DVD) Coming soon!

(from the publisher) Michael Wadleigh's Woodstock - Three Days of Peace & Music finds the best rock stars of the 1960s performing at the historic Woodstock Music and Art Fair, the most celebrated rock concert of all time. Shot over the course of three days in August 1969, the film conveys the unique spirit of the once-in-a-lifetime, communal event, and in turn, captures the mood of an entire era. Amazingly volatile, electrifying performances are included by such timeless artists as Richie Havens; Joan Baez; The Who; Sha Na Na; Joe Cocker; Country Joe and The Fish; Arlo Guthrie; Crosby, Stills and Nash; Ten Years After; Santana; Sly and the Family Stone; Jimi Hendrix; Canned Heat; John Sebastian; Jefferson Airplane; and Janis Joplin. In addition to the music, the film's historical relevance is what makes it such an important time capsule, thrillingly eternalizing the legendary event for generations to come. This digitally remastered, widescreen director's cut of the Academy Award-winning documentary features 40 minutes of footage not included in the original film, and was released in celebration of the 25th anniversary of the legendary music festival.

Woodstock - The original 1970 film on 2 videocassettes (184 min.).

Select documentary footage of the 1969 Woodstock rock music festival.

Woodstock : the lost performances – 1 videocassette (69 min.)

(from the catalog record) When the 20th anniversary of the festival neared, archivists set out to find what remained of the 120 miles of film exposed on the project. What they found is cause for an all-new celebration - more great Woodstock performances, some by artists not seen in the original release.

Jimi Hendrix: Live at Woodstock 2 DVDs

(from the catalog record) This presentation features all of the existing film footage from Jimi's unforgettable August 1969 Woodstock concert newly re-edited and presented uninterrupted and in its original performance sequence.

Book

Woodstock Festival
woodstock-poster-160
http://www.catalog.kpl.gov/uhtbin/cgisirsi/x/0/0/5?searchdata1=woodstock{TI}&library=BRANCHES&language=ANY&format=ANY&item_type=ANY&location=ANY&match_on=KEYWORD&item_1cat=ANY&item_2cat=ANY&sort_by=-PBYR

 

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Willy Deville and Mike Seeger

The music world lost two of its favorite veterans last weekend.

Willy Deville

Willy Deville was a singer and songwriter, whose 35-year career produced a significant body of work that was revered by a legion of faithful fans, especially in Europe. His band, Mink Deville, was a mainstay at New York’s legendary club, CBGB. In 1980, critic Robert Palmer wrote this of Deville in the New York Times; “He embodies (New York’s) tangle of cultural contradictions while making music that's both idiomatic, in the broadest sense, and utterly original.” Deville passed away on August 6th. He was 58.

Mike Seeger

A half-brother of folk legend Pete Seeger and brother of renowned folk artist Peggy Seeger, Mike Seeger was himself an inspiring songwriter, performer and folklorist. Co-founder of the New Lost City Ramblers, Seeger received six Grammy nominations, and influenced a generation of faithful followers, including Bob Dylan. Seeger passed away on August 7th at the age of 75.

Book

Mike Seeger - Southern Banjo Sounds
mike-seeger-southern-banjo-160
http://www.catalog.kpl.gov/uhtbin/cgisirsi/x/0/0/5?searchdata1=seeger{AU}+AND+mike{AU}+AND+Southern+banjo+sounds+{TI}&library=BRANCHES&language=ANY&format=ANY&item_type=ANY&location=ANY&match_on=KEYWORD&item_1cat=ANY&item_2cat=ANY&sort_by=-PBYR
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Recorded Treasures by the Boxful

Brian Eno once commented that some musicians make music for the general public, while others create works that, though perhaps not as commercially successful, influence other artists. Jazz guitar legend Django Reinhardt satisfies both categories – his recordings are a fascinating and fun listen, while his influence spans generations of musicians worldwide.

Django Reinhardt, Stephane Grappelli and the Quintet of the Hot Club of France

Throughout the 1930’s Django Reinhardt, with violinist Stephane Grappelli and fellow members of the Quintet of the Hot Club of France, forever altered the landscape of popular jazz. The son of French gypsies, Reinhardt drew upon the early recordings of Louis ArmstrongJoe Venuti and others to become one of the most influential guitarists in recorded music history. From B.B. King to Bob Wills, Joe Pass to Jerry Garcia, Chet Atkins to Jimi Hendrix, countless musicians have credited Reinhardt’s lightning fast yet fluid and articulate style as an influence and inspiration.

Swing/HMV sessions 1936-1948

A standout in the KPL collection is The complete Django Reinhardt and Quintet of the Hot Club of France Swing/HMV sessions 1936-1948, an extraordinary 6 CD collection from Mosaic. 118 recordings plus (typically) exhaustive liner notes showcase Django's solo work, duets with Grappelli, and with the quintet. Not to be missed.  

Mosaic Records

django-reinhardt-contents-240.jpgMosaic Records was founded in the 1980’s Michael Cuscuna and Charlie Lourie with the goal of creating lasting, archival quality documents of important recorded works, rather than simple rehashed collections aimed at the commercial market. Exhaustively researched and painstakingly assembled, Mosaic sets are prized by serious collectors and music aficionados for their recorded content and flawless packaging. Many are limited to just a few thousand copies.

In addition to the Django set, KPL (quite impressively) holds several other Mosaic gems (many of which have since gone out of print) -

Don’t miss these and other terrific box sets along the lower shelves in KPL’s ever-expanding music section.

Book

The complete Django Reinhardt and Quintet of the Hot Club of France Swing/HMV sessions 1936-1948
django-reinhardt-cover-160
http://www.catalog.kpl.gov/uhtbin/cgisirsi/x/0/0/5?searchdata1=The+complete+Django+Reinhardt+and+Quintet+of+the+Hot+Club+of+France+Swing%2fHMV+sessions+1936-1948&library=BRANCHES&language=ANY&format=ANY&item_type=ANY&location=ANY&match_on=KEYWORD&item_1cat=ANY&item_2cat=ANY&sort_by=-PBYR
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Kalamazoo Blues Festival

I got the blues... and that’s a good thing! The 16th Annual Kalamazoo Blues Festival kicks off today at the Arcadia Creek Festival Place. As in past years, the setup will feature two side-by-side stages of top-name entertainment, plus educational workshops, children’s activities, and great food.

Thursday – Duffield/CaronMike Espy & Yakety YakTarbox RamblersFruteland JacksonCoco Robicheaux & Dave Easley 

Friday – BluesTime BandLeft Paul Trio6 Hands DownStacy MitchhartReba RussellJimmy ThackeryOut of Favor Boys 

Saturday – Garage Band 101, Fatt LappNomad WillyThirsty PerchBlue Heaven, Left Turn Blues Band, Chris Canas BandCrossroads The ResurrectionDelta MoonLarry McCraySista MonicaSmokin’ Joe KubekBlue Moon 

Admission is $5 Thursday, $10 Friday, and $12 Saturday (do the math… that’s only about-a-buck-a-band. Beat that!)

Of course, ALL the acts on this year’s bill should be fantastic, but real standouts for me will be Tarbox Ramblers (a great performance at last year’s Wheatland Festival), Jimmy Thackery (a true guitar hero!), Larry McCray, and Smokin’ Joe Kubek.

To top things off, this year’s festival will be bookended by some longstanding local friends. Duffield/Caron will open the fest on Thursday, featuring longtime KPL friends Tom Duffield and Lorraine Caron. Loraine, a regular on WMUK, appeared at KPL earlier this spring with Mark Sahlgren and is our celebrity pronouncer at the Great Grown-Up Spelling Bee. Capping off the festival on Saturday night will be our good friends, the Blue Moon Blues Band, featuring their new front man, Bryan Michael Fischer. They’ll rock your sox off at the festival, but can also catch Blue Moon in a more intimate setting at KPL in October as part of our ongoing live music series. Willie Dixon once told me... “you’re in between the blues, now, boy…” Indeed!

The guitar in the photo? It’s a “Kalamazoo,” a budget brand (1933-42) once made locally by Gibson. Be sure to check the KPL catalog for new musichidden treasuresblueslocal artists, and lots more music

Book

16th Annual Kalamazoo Blues Festival
kalamazoo-guitar-160
http://www.kvba.org/fest09/index.html
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Clannad (The Essence of Family)

Members of the Irish band Clannad have been making music individually and collectively since the mid-1970’s. Deeply rooted in traditional Irish and Celtic folk tradition, Clannad (Gaelic for “the family from Dore”) have expanded over the years to define the contemporary Irish genre. Purists will recall the aural simplicity of their early albums, which were very much in the vein of such contemporaries as Pentangle and Planxty. Their scope (and popularity) expanded greatly over the years, however, to include elements of worldbeat, jazz, adult contemporary, new age, pop, and progressive rock. U2 fans were introduced to Clannad during the mid-80’s when the haunting “Theme from Harry’s Game” was used as a concert pre-show opener. The same tune was later featured the film Patriot Games. The current popularity of Irish mega-shows like “Riverdance” (and Flatley’s spinnoff “Lord of the Dance”), Celtic Woman, and others owe much to Clannad’s groundbreaking work.

From the KPL collection, their Grammy Award winning Landmarks (1997) is typical of the latter-day Clannad style, combining elements of Irish folk with contemporary jazz and pop themes – think Sting meets Dire Straits somewhere in County Kerry. After nearly a decade of independent projects, the original members of Clannad reunited for a brief UK tour in 2008 and are reportedly working on a new album.

brennan-whisper-100.jpgApart from the collective Clannad, individual members have achieved a significant degree of success on their own. Lead singer Moya Brennan (Máire Ní Bhraonáin) has achieved a great deal of acclaim as a contemporary vocalist. Máire’s style very much mirrors the band,  but further emphasizes her lush vocal harmonies. From the KPL catalog, Whisper to the Wild Water is a terrific place to start.

enya-watermark-100.jpgAnd in case Máire Brennan's voice and cover image seem somehow familiar, rest assured, there’s good reason. Though she left Clannad early on to pursue a solo career, Máire’s sister Enya (Eithne Ní Bhraonáin) should be no stranger to anyone who is a fan of contemporary Celtic music. KPL holds the majority of Enya’s solo works, including Paint the Sky with Stars, a compilation released in 1997. Call me old school, but for me, Watermark (1988) still remains the essential (quintessential?) Enya recording.

Bain sult as. (Enjoy!)

Book

"Landmarks" by Clannad
clannad-landmark-cover-160
http://www.catalog.kpl.gov/uhtbin/cgisirsi/x/0/0/5?searchdata1=clannad{AU}+AND+landmarks{TI}&library=BRANCHES&language=ANY&format=MUSIC&item_type=ANY&location=ANY&match_on=KEYWORD&item_1cat=ANY&item_2cat=ANY&sort_by=-PBYR
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Cream at Royal Albert Hall

The mere mention of a “reunion concert” makes me cringe. Far too often, we find ourselves subjected to lackluster performances by well-past-their-prime performers who go through the motions for all the wrong reasons – ego, nostalgia, and yep… lots o’ money. Others seem to prefer the Townshend/Daltrey school of perpetual goodbyes and make virtual careers out of “farewell” performances – equally or perhaps even more disappointing.

Happily, Cream’s brief reunion in 2005 departs sharply from both of these stereotypes. Recorded at London’s famed Royal Albert Hall (nearly four decades after the band’s “farewell concert” in the same noble venue), the enthusiastic, if not star studded audiences are treated to compelling run-throughs of all the expected rock radio anthems – “Badge,” “Sunshine of Your Love,” “White Room,” the live standards – “Sweet Wine,” “Spoonful,” “Sleepy Time Time,” plus a few pleasant surprises – “We're Going Wrong,” “Stormy Monday,” and a delightful version of “Pressed Rat and Warthog.” Like watching three veteran scholars rather than mere relics of some bye-gone era, BruceBaker and Clapton mesh like the finely skilled craftsmen they are.

But what makes this set particularly enjoyable is director Martyn Atkins’ no-frills approach to the visuals. The filming is superb as one might expect, yet the clean and unpretentious production leaves it feeling uncluttered and genuine. Interview segments add interest and context, but are quite thankfully kept separate from the performance footage, which gives the film the spontaneous feel of a historical document, rather than a contrived montage of multiple overlays and retakes so typical of “superstar” concert films. Nice!

So, just for fun, here is “White Room” from Royal Albert Hall, 26 November 1968…

   

And the same track from the same venue in on 3 May 2005…

Alas, after just four shows in London and three in New York, “pressed rat and warthog have closed down their shop. They didnt want to; twas all they had got.”

Music

Cream, Royal Albert Hall, London 05
WEA9704212D
http://www.catalog.kpl.gov/uhtbin/cgisirsi/x/0/0/5?searchdata1=cream+royal+albert+hall&library=BRANCHES&language=ANY&format=VM&item_type=ANY&location=ANY&match_on=KEYWORD&item_1cat=ANY&item_2cat=ANY&sort_by=-PBYR
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Jelly Roll Morton

Sometimes you listen for fun, other times you listen to learn. The Library of Congress recordings of Jelly Roll Morton offers a little bit of both – actually a LOT of both. Jelly Roll Morton: The Complete Library of Congress Recordings by Alan Lomax is an amazing eight disk set, which presents for the first time, the complete recordings (including the spoken word segments) fully restored, speed corrected and remastered, along with a series of interviews and performances from 1949 conducted again by Alan Lomax, exploring the roots of jazz with Morton’s contemporaries. Rounder has long been acclaimed for presenting traditional American music with great attention to detail, and this is certiainly no exception. With 128 tracks in all, the set includes lavish liner notes, photos, letters, notes and more in both printed and digital form.

Recorded in 1938, these recordings offer more than nine hours of music and conversation with one of the self-proclaimed inventors of “jazz, stomps and swing.” Aside from great spontaneous performances of early jazz, ragtime classics, and a little dose of “them dirty blues” (hence the parental advisory), Morton tells the stories behind many of these tunes, and describes the people who inspired them. In what is perhaps one of the first true oral histories, it’s a fascinating first-hand account of the evolution of popular music, told (and played) by someone who not only witnessed it, but actually lived and breathed it. The following dialog is typical and opens the set…

”When I was down on the Gulf Coast in nineteen-four, I missed going to the St. Louis Exposition to get in the piano contest, which was won by Alfred Wilson of New Orleans. I was very much disgusted because I thought I should have gone. I thought Tony Jackson was gonna be there, and of course that kind of frightened me. But I knew I could have taken Alfred Wilson. So then I decided that I would, uh, travel about different little spots. Of course I was down in Biloxi, Mississippi, during the time. I used to often freq— frequent the Flat Top, which was nothing but a old honky-tonk, where nothing but the blues were played. There was fellows around played the blues like Brocky Johnny, Skinny Head Pete, Old Florida Sam, and Tricky Sam, and that bunch.” (excerpt from The Story of “I’m Alabama Bound”)

How fortunate we are to have documents such as this, which allow us to explore the roots of contemporary music and culture. It’s a fascinating set and well worth the time.

Music

Jelly Roll Morton: The Complete Library of Congress Recordings by Alan Lomax
UMM189720C
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Big Blue Ball

Big Blue Ball began in the early 1990s as a collaborative project between Peter Gabriel and Karl Wallinger (World Party, Waterboys). The project draws from three separate recording sessions (1991, 1992, 1995) at Peter’s Real World Studios, a two hundred year old watermill in Wiltshire, UK, which has been converted to a state of the art recording studio. 75 artists from 20 countries participated in the famed Recording Weeks at Real World, with the idea of bringing artists together from a wide variety of cultures to find common ground through collaborative writing and performing. These sessions, all painstakingly recorded though without a clear project in mind, were essentially swept under the rug as other projects took priority. The tapes finally saw the light of day during a studio “house cleaning” project and were at last released just last year on Real World Records (distributed domestically by Ryko).

According to Peter, “The Big Blue Ball was a working name for a project that would pull in elements from all around the world. The title came from listening to an astronaut describe his experience of looking back at the earth. All other divisions seemed ridiculous and arbitrary, because there’s the planet, the whole thing — and that idea seemed to make a lot of sense for this project.” In an interview for NPR last year, Peter went on to add, “...there were musicians from all over the world — songwriters, poets, all thrown together — and all sorts of connections happened.”

Akin to scope and spirit of WOMAD, the result is a diverse musical landscape with a uniquely lush blend of styles – vocals (America, UK, Congo), percussion (Japan, Senegal), strings (Egypt), flutes (China), you name it — musicians from Ireland to Budapest, Alabama to Tanzania, writing and performing simply for the sheer joy of it. Funny, isn’t it? How despite our differences, we all seem to speak the same language after all? If you’re a fan of complexly layered rhythms and interestingly diverse instrumentation, you won’t be disappointed.

And if simply listening isn't enough, you're invited to add your own spin to one of the tracks from Big Blue Ball, "Exit Through You," via Real World Remixed. Simply visit the Real World Remixed site, download the specially prepared multi-track samples, add your own vocals, backing tracks, instrumentation, whatever, then upload your version back to the Remixed site for all the world to hear and comment on. What a small, flat, wonderful and exciting world it is.

Music

Big Blue Ball
RYK014929C
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Miles from India

Searching through the music section at Central Library is akin to a treasure hunt – no matter how many times you’ve visited, there always seems to be something new and exciting lurking in the shadows just waiting to be discovered. Such is the case with Miles from India, a double set from last year that features the music of (and inspired by) Miles Davis performed by a cross-section of Miles’ alumni in collaboration with some of the top musicians from India. The result is (as the cover states) “a cross-cultural celebration of the music of Miles Davis.”

Miles was greatly moved by music from other cultures. Non-Western influences permeated his music at every stage of his career. Miles constantly seemed to pull new ideas and sounds from around the globe and blend them into something unique and new. From his earliest recordings with ‘Bird’ in the 40’s, through seminal sessions over the following four decades, Miles took his music to the world, then brought it back to us in ways we had never heard before (or since, for that matter). Miles in Tokyo, Miles in Berlin, in Warsaw, in Paris, in SwedenFilles de KilimanjaroAghartaNefertitiSketches of Spain, On the Corner

Miles from India is a remarkable effort. Recorded November 2006-July 2007 and nominated for a Grammy in 2008, the sessions gather more than a dozen members of Miles’ bands, including Gary Bartz, Ron CarterChick Corea, Michael Henderson, Dave LiebmanJohn McLaughlinMarcus MillerWallace RoneyMike SternLenny White (you get the idea…).  Add to this an all-star lineup of key players of traditional and contemporary music from India and mix thoroughly at the skillful hands of Grammy Award winning producer Bob Belden (with executive producer Yusuf Gandhi) and you get more than two hours of surprisingly essential world fusion. (There’s a good article on PRI about the project, including an interview with Gandhi.)

And the really nice thing about this set... it comes off feeling authentic and real, not like some sort of cheap imitation. In my opinion, Miles would have loved this record, and that alone should say enough.

Here’s a clip of the album's opening track, “Spanish Key,” right from Bob Belden himself. Recorded last summer in LA (at a concert produced by Yusuf Gandhi and Bob Belden), it features some hauntingly Miles-drenched trumpet by Wallace Roney

   

Music

Miles from India
KOM180821C
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Pat Metheny on a Day Trip

Day Trip, along with its companion live EP, Tokyo Day Trip, finds guitarist Pat Metheny returning to a trio format with a new lineup, bassist Christian McBride and drummer Antonio Sanchez.  McBride, Rolling Stone’s “Hot Jazz Artist” in 1992, has worked with a who’s who of jazz greats - Freddie HubbardRay BrownPat Martino, and George Duke, to name but a few. Antonio Sanchez is no slouch either, having performed with the likes of Chick CoreaMichael BreckerJoshua RedmanJohn PatitucciDavid SanchezPaquito D'RiveraCharlie Haden, and Toots Thielmans. Sanchez is also part of Metheny’s newer quartet, along with Gary Burton and Steve Swallow.

I ran onto both of these titles in Kev’s Decibel Decisions list - a pleasing discovery, indeed. Day Trip is strait forward traditional trio work, recorded in New York on a single day in October, 2005. Smooth and innovative... polished, but creatively edgy. The session runs Metheny’s usual gamut of styles, from acoustic ballads to prog-laced electric fusion. Standouts for me are “The Red One” and Calvin’s Keys,” but there’s not a throwaway in the bunch - a very satisfying journey.

And… if the studio session leaves you wishing for more, there’s a live companion EP, actually recorded at the end of 2004 in Tokyo prior to the studio session. Like its counterpart, there are a couple of lovely acoustic ballads, some straight-forward fusion (imagine Metheny meets Crimson in Thrak-land) and some inspired material more reminiscent of his PMG work. Again, well worth the time.

Music

Day Trip
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Fork in the Road

If you’re looking for yet another sequel to Harvest or Comes a Time, forget it, this certainly isn’t it. But that's not a bad thing by any means. Much like Living with War (and even reminiscent at times of Tonight’s the Night and On the Beach), Neil Young's latest, Fork in the Road, is raw and immediate - straight forward, guitar driven songs about his car, driving, greed, and hope for a better world. Archetypal Neil - probably not for everyone... but isn’t that what makes Neil Young “Neil Young?” You can go along for the ride and always find something unexpected and provokingly beautiful. Or, skip the latest journey and continue waiting by the roadside for the Neil Young Archives (now scheduled for June release). He doesn’t mind either way.

LinkVolt automobileBut “Just singing a song won’t change the world,” he tells us. Indeed, there’s a much different sort of project being worked on in the garage. At the heart of Fork in the Road is Neil’s renovated 1959 Lincoln Continental convertible, LincVolt, a quirky (you expect otherwise?) hybrid. According the LincVolt site, the goal was to create a full-size zero emissions automobile using established technologies in new ways. The result is 2½ tons of vintage iron that’s being designed to run on clean power. The car has even been entered in the Automotive X Prize competition and will race along with more than 100 others from California to Washington D.C. in 2010.

So, are you up for a drive? In a newly produced online film, Get Around, Neil offers the opportunity to pre“view” the entire album for free on his website. Watch along as Neil takes listeners on a 43 minute cross-country drive in LincVolt while singing along with the all of the songs from the album. Then check out the CD from our ever-expanding Music Department and enjoy the ride.

Here’s Neil “Just Singing a Song” from MSN... Fill 'er up!

Music

Fork in the Road
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The Times They Are A-Changin'

My first Bob Dylan concert was October 27, 1978 - thirty years ago last week, as a matter of fact (ulp… has it really been that long??!). That was Dylan’s first visit to Kalamazoo and at the time I remember saying, “He’s probably past his prime…” (I was rather fond of the "Hard Rain" period then), “…but who knows when we'll get another chance to see this living legend in our area again?” As it turns out, he was not by any means past his prime and has (quite thankfully) returned several times since... State TheaterVan Andel ArenaFifth Third Ballpark, and elsewhere.

Dylan never ceases to amaze me. Not only for his ability to create a seemingly infinite stream of relevant new material, but along with each live show come unique new interpretations of his own ageless classics and forgotten gems – and perhaps even a unique cover version here and there. Not to mention the profound influence the man continues to have on his contemporaries (Pearl Jam's version of “Masters of War” or Ben Harper’s take on “All Along the Watchtower” immediately come to mind). As a result, I was very happy to see that Kevin has added several new Dylan titles to the collection. There’s some terrific stuff here – old and new. Dig in and enjoy.
   
So, here we are some three decades later. This weekend, Dylan returns to Wing's Stadium, Kalamazoo's long-time hockey arena and venerable old concert canister. Past his prime? Certainly not. Dylan continues to intrigue and influence several generations of listeners and performers. Worth going to see? You betcha. Reviews of the tour so far indicate there’s much to look forward to. Besides, who knows when we'll get another chance to see this living legend in our area again?

Book

Bob Dylan titles in the KPL catalog
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http://www.catalog.kpl.gov/uhtbin/cgisirsi/x/0/0/5?searchdata1=bob+dylan{AU}&library=BRANCHES&language=ANY&format=ANY&item_type=ANY&location=ANY&match_on=KEYWORD&item_1cat=ANY&item_2cat=ANY&sort_by=-PBYR
 
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