Townes Van Zandt: Live at the Old Quarter, Houston, Texas (1977)
Adam: Legend (by which I mean Wikipedia) has it that the Old Quarter could “Comfortably accommodate 60 patrons” and that “More than 100 jammed into the room” for this week of shows in July, 1973. Now, being the middle of July in Houston, it was tremendously hot. Early on the album, Townes mentions something about the air conditioning being off, and how it’s really hot. Thus, this album is best experienced on a sweltering summer night with no air conditioning. In addition to the music (which I’ll discuss in a minute) the ambiance on this recording is second-to-none. During quiet moments in the performance, we often hear beer bottles clinking together, and at one point a telephone rings. These ambient noises do not detract whatsoever from the performance; they aren’t that loud. In my opinion, the extraneous noise adds to the performances, in part because it allows one to understand how quiet those hundred hot, thirsty people had to be to allow those faint sounds to be audible on the recording. Continue reading
The Kinks – Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround: Part One (1970)
Adam: The Kinks’ early career closely resembled that of most of the other British Invasion bands. They were singing blues-based songs about girls (e.g. “You Really Got Me,” “All Day and all of the Night”). In the late 1960’s, as the themes that rock music addressed became ever darker, the Kinks went the opposite way with the Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society, which focused on nostalgia for simpler times. By the time The Kinks released Lola in November 1970, The Beatles were history, the Rolling Stones were a few months away from releasing Sticky Fingers, and most other British Invasion bands had faded into obscurity. Continue reading
Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band: Trout Mask Replica (1969)
Adam: What can we say about Trout Mask Replica?
Jordy: Probably too much. Continue reading
Nirvana: In Utero (1993)
Adam: I was 12 years old and my family was on vacation in Florida when I saw the news reports on TV in our hotel saying that the singer from a band I was vaguely familiar with had killed himself. I was just beginning to be interested in rock music in 1994, and after Kurt Cobain’s suicide, I wasn’t allowed to own any Nirvana albums. I had to get my Nirvana fix from the radio and from a mixtape a friend gave me later that year which included half of Bleach and half of In Utero. I used to listen to it through headphones on the school bus and in the back seat of our minivan. I listened to it a lot in the winter of 1994-95, and for a long time after that, listening to In Utero reminded me of winter. I still haven’t heard the other half of Bleach, but I bought In Utero a few years later and I listen to it every now and then. My inspiration for writing this post was the recent media attention surrounding the DVD/CD release of Nirvana’s set at the 1992 Reading festival. I bought the DVD, and it is great because it documents what a Nirvana concert was like when the band was at the peak of its popularity. Continue reading
Filed under 1990s, Grunge, Rock
Bob Dylan: Live 1966 – The “Royal Albert Hall” Concert
Jordy: It has always been difficult for me to listen to the man-and-his-guitar format. Rock, in the end, is how a small group of musicians produces a singular, simultaneous sound. Dylan’s acoustic set on the “Royal Albert Hall” Concert is the former yearning to be the latter. Each of the songs he performs in it was originally recorded with an ensemble (“Mr. Tambourine Man” and “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” are the closest to their original studio releases, lacking only the electric guitar and electric bass counterpoints, respectively). The stripped-down acoustic versions from this bootleg sound raw and that’s not a compliment. Furthermore, Dylan is in a fog throughout the set, allowing his strumming, vocals, and harmonica to wander arbitrarily.
Adam: The Dylan we hear on the acoustic half of this show is unique. We know he’s burned out and quite possibly high on amphetamines. He sounds detached from the music, and he sings in a slightly lower register than we are used to. I think the unique sound of his voice here, coupled with the sparse instrumentation and the hushed reverence of the crowd (it’s easy to forget there is a crowd at all except when we hear applause between songs) makes the set feel intimate and romantic. I think the best example of what I’m trying to say is in “Visions of Johanna.” Listen to Dylan’s phrasing here: “The country music sta-tion-plays-soft” and “Just Louieeeeese and her lover soooooo entwiiieeeeened/and these visions of Johanna that connnnnnn-quer my mieeeennnd.” It obvious he wants no one but Johanna. Paradoxically, given the detachment present in the performance, I think that this version is more expressive and romantic than the studio version.
Warren Zevon doesn’t get the credit he deserves for being a great songwriter. He was well-respected among other musicians, and his songs are often covered by the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, and others. As a teenager, Zevon briefly studied modern classical music with Igor Stravinsky, and in the 1970s, he was the touring keyboradist with the Everly Brothers as well as with Don and Phil Everly on their respective individual tours. He was also an occasional stand-in for Paul Shaffer on both late-night iterations of David Letterman’s show.
“Carmelita” from Preludes: Rare and Unreleased Recordings (2007)
“Carmelita” is a junkie’s lament and one of Zevon’s most famous songs, after “Werewolves of London.” The song first came to my attention recently after hearing a cover by GG Allin, of all people. The version I’ve posted is an acoustic demo, but after comparing it to the original release I felt this version was more affecting.
“Searching For A Heart” from Learning to Flinch (1993)
I very much like songs that are able to distill the complexities of love into such simple words, and yet still convey emotional depth, and “Searching for a Heart” succeeds admirably in that regard.
“I Was in the House When the House Burned Down” from Life’ll Kill Ya (2000)
This is just a great song that showcases some of Zevon’s darkly comic style.
Posted by Adam