Sunday, July 04, 2010

This Week In Purple: Cause and Effect

Back in February Prince released a new tune called "Cause and Effect" to Minnesota Public Radio, who in turn streamed it on their website. The song is kind of a mish-mash. Lyrically, it's a bit of an incoherent mess - which is really what I've come to expect from Lil' Purple. Musically, it's a bit of throwing everything against the wall and seeing what sticks. It's a song that is kind of hard for me to have a strong feeling about. It's kind of blah, but not really offensive on too deep of a level. I keep feeling like it's something I should listen to more in order to formulate more of an opinion on, but then I wind up listening to something else. Maybe that says enough about the song. Anyhow, as we are on the verge of a new Prince release I figured maybe "Cause and Effect" needed to be revisited. The song is embedded below; have a listen and tell me what you think about it.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Richard Thompson new album preview!

Richard Thompson's new album, Dream Attic, is due at the end of August, and the ol' Spider sure is excited about it. The album is set to feature all new material recorded live during a West Coast tour in February of this year. Following that will be a full band tour of the states (as opposed to his frequent acoustic tours). Looks like there will be a special edition of the album available online which will feature an additional disc of demos for the new material. Hot diggity!

Richard is offering a preview of the new album in exchange for your email address. In addition to the preview track, your email address is said to be how one will be notified about just how to receive the special edition version of Dream Attic.

The preview track is entitled "Big Sun Falling In The River". Have at it, if you dare to be so bold...

Is this thing on?

Has it really been more than two years since my last post? Yowza. Thanks to those who check out this site from time to time and who send me messages to say hello. It's fun to hear from music lovers around the world and to have a chance to take part in the larger conversation that is life.

I have begun a few posts over the last year - concert reviews mostly - which for one reason or another I never completed or decided not to post. Laziness? Perhaps.

I'd like to delve further into music sharing through this site. I have a number of shows that I recorded over the last few years which I would love to get out there. Shudder To Think, Living Colour, Nels Cline, Scott Amendola Band, Big Star, Dinosaur jr, Meat Puppets, Them Crooked Vultures - to name a few. Which would you vote for?

There's also been a Prince release or two that we haven't talked about, and we all know Lil' Purple needs some checking in on from time to time. Word on the skreet is that there's a new Purple release coming very soon. Hmmm...

Here's a glimpse into this week's listening stack:

The Nels Cline Singers - Initiate
- The Spirit of Radio (Greatest Hits 1974-1987)
Richard & Linda Thompson - Concert, November 1975
Louis C.K. -
Chewed Up
The Rolling Stones -
Live in Ft. Collins, CO 11/7/69 (bootleg)

I'll try to be back before 2012.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Forgotten Influences

Thinking about influences, speaking as a musician, is a funny thing. When asked, I'm likely to name four or five musicians/bands (Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Prince, Nels Cline, Jeff Beck, etc) in a neat, concise summary. The questioner then usually nods his/her head, as if that list has somehow told them something about me. Surely it has told them something, and that something will have to do because the whole story could really never be told. Influences are ever present, and every song and/or record I've ever heard has influenced me in some way - right down to those thoughts that are as simple as "Well, that record is horrible!"

The point is that it's hard to summarize something like one's influences. Looking at my own little list it's clear that I've combined my early inspirations (Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Prince) with a few guitar cats whom I currently try to emulate (Nels Cline, Jeff Beck). There's a lot of stuff that came in between then and now, however. There are lots of cracks, and lots of things that have fallen in between those cracks, pushing and expanding over time, etc etc. Forgotten influences, so to speak. Then time will come along and remind you of a particular influence and the reminder can be striking.

The recent death of Jeff Healey served as a particular reminder for me. Jeff's debut record See The Light was released in 1988, when the old Spider was a mere lad of the age 14. Guitar players working a variation of the old minor pentatonic had my attention at the time, and blues/blues-based rock 'n' roll was my lifeblood. I couldn't yet process the higher mechanics of jazz players, but I could already dissect just who was doing what with the ol' minor pentatonic. And boy was Jeff Healey doing something with it!

Jeff's playing was aggressive and inventive. He had speed without speed being the point, and he was able to find that one hot note to grab and squeeze squeals of mercy from. I think his approach to rhythm playing was particularly enlightening for me, as he would fret only fragments of chords at times rather than the entire chord. This is something that I do right up to the present, and that may be a bit of Jeff's influence shining through.

Another artist I was discovering about that time was John Hiatt, so discovering a few of Hiatt's tunes on See The Light was an additional thrill. My band learned Jeff's arrangement of Hiatt's "Confidence Man" and began playing it in our sets during the summer of 1989. Shortly afterwards we added two more tunes from See The Light to our set, "Blue Jean Blues" and "Don't Let Your Chance Go By." I had only heard ZZ Top's original version of "Blue Jean Blues" a few times on classic rock radio at that point. "Don't Let Your Chance Go By" was a Jeff Healey original, and was probably my favorite to play.

Jeff's next two albums were attempts at re-capturing the magic of See The Light but they missed the mark. The production was too glossy, the covers obvious reaches for another "Angel Eyes" type of hit, and the "rawness" was missing. When the fourth album was a straight up all-covers album I took a pass. By this time it was 1995 and I was listening to fewer players from the minor pentatonic playing field. I had heard Nels Cline and Tom Verlaine by that point, and when it did come to blues influenced rock I leaned closer to the Black Crowes and that year's Amorica release, which featured original material with raw production values. Every now and then I would be in a record store and I would pick up Jeff's cover album and think I should buy it, but somehow it never happened.

After that I sort of stopped paying attention to Jeff. I heard at some point he had a radio show where he played his famous collection of 78s, and I heard at another point about him playing in a jazz band. But I never heard of his recent battles with cancer, and his death this year took me quite by surprise. It got me to thinking about how influential he had been on me at one stage in life, and how now, nearly twenty years later(!), he was barely on my field of vision.

So, here's to you Jeff. Thanks for the influence and the great music. I might've forgotten your name on the verbal list through the years, but I guarantee you it's been there in my fingers the entire time.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

The "Hot Damn!" Video of the Week

Check out this ultra-rare and new-to-my-eyes video of the Yardbirds live in France in 1966. This is the only live footage I've ever seen of the band from the brief period during which both Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page were members. You don't really get great shots of either of them, but Page is playing bass and Beck is on lead - both on the righthand side of the stage (stage-left, for all the turkeys out there). Shortly after this period of the band's history Page would switch over to second guitar and the dueling guitars of Page and Beck would place the group briefly on the cutting age. Then Beck quit, and the Yardbirds became a sort of Zeppelin prototype... but that's a story for another day. For now, check out the Yardbirds performing "Train Kept A-Rollin'" live in France circa 1966. Dig the suits!

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Today in "Should we have talked about this?"

I'm sure there are many topics we should've been discussing during the first half of this year, when the ol' Spider was MIA. One of them surely must be the new Wilco record, right? After all, the Spider is a Wilco fan and a Nels Cline fan, so how can I not have anything to say on the matter?

Well, as a Wilco fan I've noticed that each new album the band releases seems to divide the fanbase as it's subjected to extreme levels of scrutiny, and Sky Blue Sky is no different. So, in the "for it" vs "against it" column let's just skip all the scrutiny and put me down as "for it." The record seems to work as both an extension of A Ghost Is Born and as a return to the directness of A.M.. I like it.

The record also works for me as a Nels Cline fan. Nels gets a songwriting credit on "You Are My Face" and drops an absolutely destructive solo into "Side With The Seeds" (Tweedy's best lyric on the disc?). Nels has always displayed chameleon-like abilities in his playing as he's sidemoused with Mike Watt and The Geraldine Fibbers, so there's no surprise that he fits right in here with Wilco. Nels always tailors his playing to suit the artist, the song, and the situation in a way that his presence seems completely natural and his playing seems a logical extension of where that artist was heading anyways. Yet he still manages to always retain his signature sound!

Remember my giddiness upon hearing "Impossible Germany" last year on the Lollapalooza bootleg? Completely justified. Another great Nels solo leads into some great three guitar interplay with Jeff Tweedy and Pat Sansone, and highlights the argument that this line-up is Wilco's best yet.

Push come to shove I might would say you could drop "Please Be Patient With Me" and "Leave Me Like You Found Me" in the name of album flow and album brevity. I like a good 43-45 minute album, and these two tracks subtracted would get us about there. Coincidentally these are the two tracks that hearken back to A.M. most obviously - read into that what you may.

Another thing I'll throw out there is that Sky Blue Sky does not sound like a record that would take three years to come up with (A Ghost Is Born was released in 2004) and it certainly doesn't sound like a record that Wilco needs to support with another three-year long tour. Tour in the Fall and Spring, then back in the studio next summer - OK boys?

P.S. The "bonus" version that comes with a DVD is worth the extra bucks. The DVD contains eight tracks from the record performed live in the Chicago loft where Sky Blue Sky was recorded, interspersed with a Jeff Tweedy interview. I can dig it, baby.

P.S.S. The controversial "Shake It Off"? I dig that one, personally.

So, what are your thoughts?

Monday, July 30, 2007

A Vintage Video Moment

Ten years ago my summer was pretty heavily dominated by two records, one of which was Butch by The Geraldine Fibbers. I had no TV at the time though, so I missed this little gem (though I wonder how much play this video ever got in the first place). Anywho, for your enjoyment is a song called "California Tuffy." Keep an eye out for Nels...

Friday, July 27, 2007

F**K the Fans! An Open Letter to Henry Rollins (and a Salute to John Densmore)

When I read the transcript of a recent Henry Rollins Teeing Off rant posted on the ol' interweb, well, let's just say I felt compelled to respond. My response though was a little long winded - at least too long winded for a typical blog comment section! Which brings me here, to the outpost of my musically inclined thoughts, and to you, my people. Reading through Hank's post here, as well as a few of the reader responses, would probably be helpful in making sense of all this. And with that, I present to you my open letter to Henry Rollins:

""Selling out" IS applicable when you're willing to make money off of your fans' positive connections with the music. The use of music in commercials is not saying, "We have arrived!" It's saying, "You know those nice, warm, fuzzy feelings that record gives you? How about transferring that to our product?" I would much rather associate the new Wilco record, for example, to a recent road trip I made - during which I played it for my wife for the first time as we experienced new sights and scenes - than to associate it with one of the several VW commercials the band has licensed the record to be used in. What's ultimately being sold is not the property of the artists - what's being sold is the associations and the emotional connections one has to a song. If you think differently, think again. If you still think differently, talk to someone in advertising - where the psychologies of just this sort of practice are thoroughly researched beforehand.

Another point to consider is these commercials serving as an introduction to an artists' music. I grew up despising the Beach Boys because in the early '80s there was an orange soda commercial that utilized "Good Vibrations." That was my introduction to the group, and the song, and the commercial annoyed me. It took me years and years to wipe that association out of my mind and be able to appreciate "Good Vibrations" for the breakthrough recording that it is - and to do so without thinking of orange soda. How many years will it take for some kid today to realize that Led Zeppelin is much, much more than that band on the Cadillac commercial? Or that Wilco is more than a band that endorses VWs? Which car company will some future teenager associate with "Rise Above" or which soda will introduce somebody to "What I See"? I guess for you Hank the appropriate song from that album should be "Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie."

One responder above me said, "Selling out means altering your art for the pure purpose of being more attractive to the public and thus inherently more profitable," as an explanation for how this sort of thing is not really "selling out", it's "success". Well, guess what? Putting a song into a commercial IS altering the art, by altering the associations one has to the song, and the purpose is for both the artist and the product to ultimately be "inherently more profitable." Wilco's official statement on their VW commercials had to do with finding a new way to spread their music - spreading the music by the way means finding new fans, IE selling more records, IE becoming "inherently more profitable," IE a sellout - by your own definition.

So, call me holier than thou if you like, but I'm not calling for any boycotts or telling anyone how to live - I'm merely trying to bring some reality to this whole discussion. I mean, if the attitude is, "Gimme the paycheck - f**k the fans, their associations to the music, or what they think," then what really was the whole point of punk, Hank? I thought it was a reaction to the perceived bloatedness and greed of the '70s stadium scene - an attempt to create something more meaningful and immediate that one could relate to. An attempt to bring the music to the fans, an attempt for the fans to make the music, an attempt to break the so-called barriers between the artist and the fan... But, I guess if you didn't make a profit doing so, well then, now's the time! Everything's A-OK! What fans? You mean potential customers, right?!

Really this post just makes me think that Hank got offered a commercial and is trying to justify accepting it. At least you're honest in your rationale Hank, it's all about the benjamins - f**k the fans."

So, that's how I feel about that. Which brings us to John Densmore, a personal hero of mine when it comes to this issue. Densmore has been a continual dissenting voice when it comes to licensing the music of The Doors to any sort of advertising campaign. Mr. Densmore, you're doing the right thing, for the right reasons. And we here at Spider Wisdom salute you!

What better tribute is there than music? After all, the music is the point.

The Soft Parade/Tell All The People (Madison Square Garden, NYC, 1/24/69)

Because The Soft Parade is my favorite Doors album, I'm beginning with an ultra-rare live performance of that album's title track. The Doors began 1969 boldly, opening their first show of the year with three songs in a row from an album that would not be released for another six months. The audience recording misses the first song of the evening ("Touch Me") and begins about a minute into "The Soft Parade", a song performed very few times live by The Doors. For your listening pleasure I've taken the first minute or so of the more famous PBS recording of "The Soft Parade" from April 1969 and spliced it onto the beginning in order to present a complete portrait of this rarity. The band proceeds directly into "Tell All The People" for a sweet little pairing worth sharing here. Tell all the people, indeed.

Wishful Sinful (PBS Studios, 4/28/49)

Another gem from the underrated The Soft Parade. The Doors came hard in this performance for PBS, their first since the now infamous "Miami Incident." In my youth I spent a good number of years in South Florida, and when I was about 16 years old I had a friend who had been at the infamous Doors Miami concert of 3/1/69. In his version of the tale Jim really unleashed the beast. Was my friend a part of the supposed mass halucination purported by Jim? Or did my friend really see Jim yank it out and dance across the stage? Either way, it makes a good story. The Lizard King keeps it firmly in his trousers for this subdued number, have no fear.

Little Red Rooster (1970-06-06 P.N.E. Coliseum, Vancouver) *with Albert King on guitar

Who Do You Love (1970-06-06 P.N.E. Coliseum, Vancouver) *with Albert King on guitar

A nice pair of tracks featuring as special guest the great Albert King. I think the other tracks he joined in for at this show have been released officially. By this point in their career The Doors had practically become a blues band, so it's only fitting that they would have Albert join them. If he was your opening act, wouldn't you do the same?

Wild Child (Minneappolis Concert Hall, 11/10/68) *with Tony Glover on Harmonica

Another early preview of the following year's The Soft Parade album, this time with friend Tony Glover sitting in on harmonica. Maybe The Doors were a blues band the whole time?

Get Out Of My Life, Woman (1967-03-07 The Matrix, San Francisco)
The volume's a little lower on this track, so you may have to crank it a bit compared to the others, but I couldn't resist throwing it into the lot. After all, you're my people! I want you to have a chance at the goodies, however rough the sound quality. I've always considered this Allen Toussaint tune to be a "goody", and here's a nice little cover version which The Doors performed in their early days. Crank it up and enjoy!