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 →
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” 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.
Old-school SWR visitors might remember that I am batshit-crazy about jazz giant Charles Mingus. Some of his best work was done in the early-to-mid-1960s with alto sax/bass clarinet/flute whiz kid Eric Dolphy.
This is easily one of my favorite jazz recordings ever. The musical conversation between Mingus and Dolphy toward the end is both funny and moving, and Ted Curson’s trumpet solo kills. Drummer Dannie Richmond, as always, gives Mingus a unique rhythmic drive and texture. There’s another recording of this on the faux-live album Charles Mingus Present Charles Mingus, featuring the same lineup and much more Dolphy-Mingus interaction, but to me it doesn’t hold the same fire. Listen to it yourself:
Charles Mingus – “What Love” from Charles Mingus Presents Charles Mingus (1960)
Mingus loosely based the chord changes of “What Love?” on the jazz standard “What Is This Thing Called Love?” Take a listen and see if you can hear the resemblance:
Clifford Brown & Max Roach – “What Is This Thing Called Love?” from Basin Street (1956)
Clifford Brown – trumpet
Sonny Rollins – tenor sax
Richie Powell – piano
George Morrow – bass
Max Roach – drums
Featuring Ray Manzarek on the Fender Rhodes. Since the Doors did not have a bass player, Manzarek normally played the basslines with his left hand on a Rhodes Bass Piano while playing melodies on a Vox Continental organ, but here he goes with the full-blown Rhodes and turns out a great solo.
Check out this video for a look at Manzarek’s usual setup, a blistering organ solo, and Jim Morrison’s likely drug-fueled stage antics.
I caught Elvis Costello at Wolf Trap in Vienna, VA Thursday night. I haven’t heard much of his new bluegrassish album but he and the band sounded pretty good. To be honest, I have trouble dealing with great rockers outside (particularly, after) their prime, be it EC, Dylan, or otherwise. It just seems weird.
In keeping with his appropriated American identity, he played a lot of stuff from King of America (Indoor Fireworks, Brilliant Mistake, American Without Tears) and even one from Almost Blue (Merle Haggard’s “Tonight the Bottle Let Me Down”):
He also covered the Dead’s “Friend of the Devil” which seemed to draw more applause and singing-along than “Blame it on Cain” or “The Angels Wanna Wear My Red Shoes.” They also did a nice work-up of the Velvet Underground’s “Femme Fatale.”
Other highlights included a couple tunes from his incomplete concept opera about the life of Hans Christian Andersen.
I know I tend to go on and on about Neil Young on this blog, but you need to see this clip (now 20 years old) of the man and Crazy Horse (with some ersatz drummer) on SNL. It is unbelievable. Keep in mind that he was in his mid forties when this performance was recorded.