Two of my favorite things in this world are good music and good beer. Somehow they've always gone hand-in-hand with me, so I thought I'd spend a little bit of time explaining what I like in both. The making of each to me is an art form and both are necessary to a good outlook on life and general happiness. They both seem better while you're sharing them with others, and each enhances the other.

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Beatles Let It Be - the second Glyn Johns mix

I'm sure you are all aware of the story behind the Beatles' Let It Be album, how they kept recording and recording and then finally hired Phil Spector to go through the mess and come up with a good sounding record. Spector was legendary for overproducing music. His work was sometimes referred to as the Phil Spector wall of sound.

Anyway, Glyn Johns, a legendary producer in his own right, did a lot of the work beforehand and had actually produced Let It Be to be released prior to Abbey Road. The Beatles didn't care for it and then had Spector come in. Johns naturally preferred his version which he claimed was closer to how nature intended it to sound.

Here's the original Let It Be. Happy holidays.

And as a bonus, the trippiest version of Revolution you'll ever hear:

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Pink Floyd - 40 years ago today

On November 21st, 1970, forty years ago today, Pink Floyd played the first night of a two night stand at Montreux Casino. This show began at a very late hour and Roger Waters said during the show that it was "Too late for mind expanding." The show ended up so late that they felt it was best to conclude the set with some slow blues.

The two shows are my favorite Pink Floyd shows of that era. They showed glimpses of many works that were to be released later on. This is the first night of those two nights. This is a very good recording that you should enjoy.I hope to share the second night's entertainment with you soon.

FYI: The numbering of these tracks indicate the disk and track number of each piece.

(In case you're wondering this is a full year before the fire at the casino that Deep Purple wrote a song about entitled Smoke on the Water.)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Leon Russell - Sideman and showman

Photo by Evan Semon,
I really like the fact that Elton John decided to pluck Leon Russell out of relative obscurity and do an album and tour of duets together. Leon's always been one of my favorite session guys, and I always liked his solo work. He's one of the most overlooked sidemen in the second half of the last century. When Joe Cocker's band broke up days before a big tour, Cocker called Russell who got together a very good band and with very few rehearsals pulled off one of the most memorable tours of Joe Cocker's career. This was documented nicely in the film entitled Mad Dogs and Englishmen and also made a fine album as well. Leon is also a very good songwriter, with many of his songs covered by others, probably most notably George Benson performing This Masquerade.

Leon's feet are failing him these days and needs a cane to walk from his chair onstage to the piano, but his vocal range and playing ability haven't suffered as much. If your not familiar with Leon Russell, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of Delta Lady or Leon Russell and the Shelter People.

Like I said before, Leon is legendary for all his work as as a sideman. Here's a recording of Leon at his home studio. Sitting in are for sure Eric Clapton, and probably Leon's then wife Mary Russell, Carl Radle, along with Jim Gordon or maybe Jamie Oldaker on drums. Those are all guesses outside of Clapton.


Friday, November 5, 2010

Drink! Drink! Drink! - The Student Prince

It's Friday evening and its a great time for a beer! I mentioned this song in an earlier post and it's great background for the first beer of your weekend. Enjoy!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Robert Plant and the Band of Joy - The Roundhouse, London, October 29, 2010

1st Band of Joy, with Plant (middle) and Bonham (front)
Musically, Robert Plant has been around the block. He and drummer John Bonham were picked out of a band called Band of Joy by a certain guitarist to play in a band that I'm sure a few of you may have heard of.

That band broke up after reaching cult status, and afterward Plant performed in the Honeydrippers, reunited with Jimmy Page in a group curiously named Page and Plant, recorded and toured with the Strange Sensations for a half dozen years or so, and then at the request of  renowned record producer T-Bone Burnett, recorded an album called Raising Sand with country music singer/violinist Alison Krausse of Union Station and did a world tour in support of the album, which won multiple Grammy Awards. Raising Sand was a mixture of blues, folk, country, and R&B and seemingly was a relevation to Plant.

Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones, two of the remaining members of that cult band, planned a reunion album and tour but were unable to convince Plant to join them. The Led Zeppelin reunion now appears to be all but a broken dream to many.

Plant on the other hand, seems to have awakened in a huge way to other forms of music. I saw him about 13 months ago in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park during Hardly Strictly Bluegrass. Plant walked on stage unannounced during Buddy Miller's set and perform two or three songs. Plant recently recorded a new album of music with a group called he decided to call Band of Joy. It's not like he's trying to forget that other band he's identified with, he's still performing songs first done by them, but with a twist. Plant is simply returning to the his roots, his new roots.

Here's a great sounding show recorded way back earlier this week at the Roundhouse in London. Check out Robert Plant and the Band of Joy.

Like always, either stream it or download it for later by clicking on the Divshare logo.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Gregory Isaacs - RIP to the Cool Ruler - UPDATE

Gregory Isaacs died today at the age of 59. He was known throughout the reggae world as the foremost proponent of "lovers rock". He was the favorite performer of many women reggae fans. He had the smoothest style of anyone in the genre I can think of. Listen to him once and you know why he was called the Cool Ruler.

The first time I ever saw Gregory was in a movie called Rockers. He played a character called Jah Tooth and he sang Slave Master in the film. Of all the reggae stars in that movie - Sly Dunbar, Robbie Shakespeare, Burning Spear, Jacob Miller - Gregory came off the best.

I have a very good soundboard of a recent show but I'll get that posted in the next day or so. Here's Gregory Isaacs performing Night Nurse at Reggae Sunsplash, 1983. 


I said I'd post a show so if you never heard him sing before, here's your chance. Here's a show from 2008 that he did in Baltimore that was recorded digitally off the soundboard. Sounds great.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

U2 - the Pro bono ethic

U2 began its life as an Irish rock band in 1976. Paul Hewson (Bono),  Adam Clayton, Larry Mullins, Jr., and David Evans (The Edge) got together, taught themselves how to play their instruments, practiced, and about 5 years later managed to become good enough to secure a contract with Island records. In another 5 years they'd become one of the top bands in the world.

It is impossible to write about U2 and Bono without mentioning their social activism. In 1984 they played Band Aid for Ethiopian famine relief, in 1985 they played at Live Aid which was a bigger venue for Ethiopia and in 1985 played at the Conspiracy of Hope for Amnesty International and Self Aid for unemployment in Ireland. They've since raised money for Greenpeace, raised awareness for the Bosnian war, worked in the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The band's activism is better documented  here and here and here. Paul Hewson was given the nickname Bono, short for bono vox, or good voice. Now it could be taken from pro bono, for the public good.

There are many people who think that Bono and U2 as being international meddlers, self-important people who use their celebrity to bring attention to an issue solely because of publicity it generates for themselves. I believe that's the furthest thing from the truth. There should be more people like U2. And there are, and I'll shed some light on them from time to time.

U2 first and foremost is still a rock and roll band. Here's an absolutely great concert from their Joshua Tree tour, which was documented in the film Rattle and Hum. I can think of more than a couple of times that a band was recorded on consecutive night for a project and then only one of the nights recording were used. The last post on Clapton included a dynamite sounding show from the first night that wasn't used. This U2 show was recorded along with another show at McNichols Arena in Denver to be used for Rattle and Hum. The other show was used, this one wasn't. Lucky us! The following is that complete show from November 7, 1987.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Eric Clapton - Nothing But The Blues

I mentioned Eric Clapton on an earlier post, about how he battled alcohol and drugs for years. He managed to overcome both and had been living a sober life for many years. It was in 1993 when he began work to found the Crossroads Centre in Antigua. The facility is dedicated toward teaching ways to be abstinent towards drugs and alcohol and other addictive tendencies and changing the lifestyle that leads to that kind of behavior. Clapton's auctioned off his collection of guitars and has mounted a series of benefit concerts call the Crossroads Guitar Festival. He further augments funding through the sale of DVDs and other merchandise.

Clapton always manages to select and have perform some of the greatest guitarists alive. He said that his criteria for selecting the artists are simply to pick the performers he himself really wants to see. Being asked by one of the world's best received guitarists is too much for most people to say no to.

One year after beginning work on the Crossroads Centre, Martin Scorsese shot an Eric Clapton concert at the Fillmore in San Francisco. The music consisted of nothing but blues music, because that's what Clapton always felt most comfortable playing. Scorsese grew up loving blues as well, so he felt it was a natural collaboration. The documentary was made for PBS and was never released elsewhere. There were two nights of music, and Scorsese used the first to make sure everything was mic'd and mixed perfectly. He never used that first night's recording in the finished documentary. This is that first night with a couple of additional rehearsal tracks as well:

Janis Joplin - Kozmic Blues and great beer

I was in Anchor Brewing a few years ago for work when I spotted some photographs hanging on the wall in the tasting room. They showed Janis Joplin and the rest of Big Brother and the Holding Company drinking beer during their own brewery tour. They all were smiling as they held their beer. I'm usually smiling too when I'm holding one of their beers. I'm particularly fond of Old Foghorn, their barley wine.

Janis was known for her drinking, but it wasn't beer that she developed a reputation for drinking, it was Jack Daniels. Unfortunately for her, it was her taste for other forms of intoxicants along with an over fondness of  whiskey that led to her early demise.  She was always pretty much a loner in life. She was an outcast at her high school in Port Arthur and eventually began attending the University of Texas, where she was voted the "Ugliest Man on Campus". It was little wonder she ditched school and Texas and hitched to the Bay area and wound up singing in coffee shops and other locations around town before she would up fronting Big Brother and had a beer at the Anchor brewery. That loneliness was probably a big reason for her drinking too much.

After she left Big Brother, she formed a new band she called the Kozmic Blues Band, which had more of an R&B flavor. By then she was deeply into heroin and had a $200 dollar a day habit. They did a tour of Europe in the spring of 1969 and among the stops was Amsterdam.

Janis Joplin managed to get off drugs, at least for a time but she was still a very heavy drinker. The last thing she ever recorded was a version of "Happy Trails" which she sent to John Lennon for his birthday. She was dead by the time the recording was delivered to Lennon. Joplin was 27 years old when she died.

Friday, October 22, 2010

ZZ Top - Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers

I have a great recording of a ZZ Top show I want to share with you in a minute, but first I've got to tell you when I started thinking about what I was going to write, I realized I didn't know a whole lot about the band. I started listening to them beginning with their second album entitled Rio Grande Mud. I'd thought that was their first until I saw ZZ Top's First Album in the record bins.

While I was doing some reading about them, I was pretty amazed by the history of the band, how they met each other, who they started out warming up for, and was surprised to see that Jimi Hendrix said on the Tonight Show that Billy Gibbons was going to be the next hot guitarist after himself.

I also ran into a video interview of Billy Gibbons that you'll find next that tells the story of ZZ Top much better than I am able to. I'll stop about here so you can watch the interview and afterward, listen to the show.

Musician Billy Gibbons from Texas Monthly Talks on Vimeo.

And now the concert. I left the short beer commercial in, because hey, it's beer!

Led Zeppelin - After the 2007 reunion

After Led Zeppelin broke up following John Bonham's death on September 25, 1980 due to alcohol related causes, the remaining members went their own way for a few years. The Live Aid benefit concerts in 1985 enticed Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, and John Paul Jones to reunite and the show was a total failure. There were problems with Page's guitar, the monitors weren't working and Plant's voice was extremely hoarse. They tried again for Atlantic Record's 40 year anniversary concert in 1988 but the feed from Jones' keyboards was lost and the performance suffered because of a shouting match between Page and Plant just before they got on about whether or not to play "Stairway to Heaven".  Led Zeppelin pretty much died that day.

Page and Plant finally made nice in 1994 and did a show called Unledded for MTV, (a television station that actually played music at the time). It got great reviews and the two decided to tour to support the CD release of the show. Jones was not informed of the others getting together. At the press conference that was called to announce a Page/Plant tour, Page was asked where Jones was. Page replied that he was outside, parking the car. The next year, in 1995 Led Zeppelin was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. When Jones took his turn to accept the trophy he turned to the other two and said "Thank you, my friends, for finally remembering my phone number". It could've been an outtake from Spinal Tap.

Ahmet Ertegun, the founder of Atlantic Records passed away shortly after going to a Rolling Stones show in 2006. He was held in such high regard by everyone in the industry that the three surviving members of Led Zeppelin tried once more to bury the hatchet and have a reunion show at Ertegun's memorial concert on April 17 of 2007. This time the show went extremely well, with Page and Jones expressing interest in another tour with perhaps some new material.

However, immediately after the show while the Gallagher brother from Oasis banging on Plant's door calling him the "real F@(king thing",  Plant stormed out and went to a pub down the street where he proceeded to drink four beers and half a bottle of vodka.

Here's a show from Zeppelin's happier days, recorded off the soundboard at a show in Dallas on March 5, 1975.

Stevie Ray Vaughan - Legendary lost first album

A lot of people know that Stevie Ray Vaughan got his first big break from David Bowie when Bowie hired him to play on his Let's Dance album that was released in 1983. That is true. I'm not sure where Bowie had first heard of SRV, it might have been somewhere in Texas, but it might also have been at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1982. Stevie Ray appeared there as a result of Jerry Wexler watching his show at a club in Austin, Tx and Wexler pulled some strings to get him and his band in.

Stevie Ray and Double Trouble were nearly booed off the stage that night because they were booked to play on an acoustic night of music, but soon had the crowd cheering. Jackson Browne was impressed and offered his studio to them. They managed to record an entire album there in a few days, and the rest, as they say, is history. The public loved their first album called Texas Flood and it quickly went double platinum.

Except for the fact that Stevie Ray and Double Trouble had already recorded their first album in Nashville five years prior, in 1978. That album had Lou Ann Barton on vocals. Lou Ann was asked to leave the band because of her history of getting drunk and screaming at waitresses and throwing glasses. Now, it might be because the band wanted to disassociate themselves from her or maybe they really didn't like the way the album turned out, but they ended up paying some cash to have its release halted.

The story goes that the album was discovered in a cupboard in Austin by somebody. Whatever really happened, it was bootlegged quickly and now you can listen to it. Here's those studio sessions from 1978:

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Faces - Redefining sloppy, in a good way

In an earlier post I wrote a little about the effects that beer or other forms of alcohol can have on a band and the music the band plays. A little can help and a little more can go a long way. One band that always sounded to me at least to be on the edge of drinking too much was Faces. I'm not certain if they really did have a few before performing or not, but it sure sounded that way to my ears. The Faces were always kind of a guilty pleasure to me. A lot of my friends didn't seem to care for them at all, and I didn't care that much for their singer Rod Stewart, but he sure fit that band well.

I see that Faces just got back together, sans Stewart. Mick Hucknall, formerly of Simply Red took over on vocals and filled in just fine. The review in the Evening Standard says they messed up the lyrics and screwed up the ends of songs but they sounded great.

Just like they did it in their good old days.

The Faces featuring a youthful Ron Wood and a plaid-to-be-alive Rod Stewart

Here's a Faces show from the BBC back in 1971. Enjoy.

And now, a word from our sponsor...

Los Lobos - Fighting the boredom of touring

I once had a job as an electrical field engineer. I'd travel from city to city installing newspaper printing presses. The hours were long and you'd spend months away from home. I'd have to work with people that I hardly knew, or had just met on the job. I'd spend many hours at work with these strangers with not a lot to talk about. Many days after work a co-worker nicknamed Skeeter or Pork Chop would ask if you wanted to go someplace to have a beer, and sometimes I'd say yes and wind up at Bud's Country Lounge or some other smelly dive drinking a Pabst and wishing I wasn't there. Most times I'd say no thanks and find myself talking to the hotel bartender, who nearly always was my best friend in town. I'd usually have more in common with him than Skeeter. I know why musicians drink too much while on tour. It's boring as hell out there. Most days seem just like the other. You can only watch so much television. If I made more money I'd have tossed the tv out the window too. I'm glad that job didn't last too long.

Eric Clapton used to get so drunk that he would have to lay on his back while performing onstage.  I  remember stories about more than a couple of musician who during a set would go offstage or behind an amplifier and get sick. Not what you'd call inspiring performances. Too much beer and other libations can spoil a show for everyone present.

Sometimes a band will have a drink or two in the dressing room just to steady any nerves they may have before taking the stage and it really can work wonders. Sometimes a band will enjoy themselves a bit too much and the alcohol winds up affecting their performance, but not to the extent that they have to perform from a supine position. Here's an example of such a show. Los Lobos at the Jam on the River music festival in Philadelphia on May 24th of 1998. This is an enjoyable show and the drinks started to become apparent midway or so into the show. Enjoy.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Mix Tapes at old Drakes Brewing

I mentioned a craft brewery in an earlier post that I used to live nearby called Drakes. For many years they held tastings on Friday's after work and I made many a good friend during those years. The tastings had all the ambiance of a tailgate party at a sporting event because we usually hung around outside in the parking lot, walking around with a pint glass in out hands and chatting with others.

Drakes would let us snake an extension cord into their place so we could plug in a boom box and have some music. For a while we'd play mix tapes/cds so we wouldn't have to hear an entire album of a single artist and bore others. Mixes was easier than shuffling cds, and so it was just that for a time. Just about all my mixes began with a tune from the operetta called The Student Prince and performed by Mario Lanza. This was typically played as the first beers were poured those Fridays.

The mix tapes that I made I hung onto for the most part and I still listen to one if I can't decide on what to play. Here's one I played at Drake's on February 2, 2007:

After a couple we'd start to really enjoy the music

Monday, October 18, 2010

Miles Davis - 40 years ago, more or less

Miles Davis was the most influential jazz musician ever. He was born to a well-off family in downstate Illinois and began taking trumpet lessons when he was 13. While living in East St. Louis his family gave him his first taste of jazz by taking him to see Billy Eckstine who had Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker on tour with him. After he graduated high school in 1946 he went to New York City to attend the Juilliard School of Music. Shortly afterwards he dropped out so he could concentrate on gigging in Harlem with other musicians like Coleman Hawkins, Thelonious Monk and Charlie Parker.

The rest is pretty much history. Davis went through several stages in his playing, and in doing so influenced everyone who heard him. Bebop, cool jazz, his Blue period, hard bop were all different stages in his development and the development of others. He had several signature bands that changed jazz by taking advantage of each member's unique talents. By the time the late 60s rolled around, Davis was very aware of contemporary rock and roll and the effect it had on live audiences. He was amazed at the reaction performers like Jimi Hendrix had on their fans. It was while he was at a Sly and the Family Stone show when he decided he wanted to electrify his band so he could also have his audience go nuts. In 1969, Davis formed a new band and then worked on a new album which turned out to be called Bitches Brew. This was his breakthrough work as far as young people of the time were concerned.

Here's a  63 minute fragment of a show that the Miles Davis Septet performed at the Fillmore in San Francisco on October 15, 1970. Performers were:

Miles Davis (tpt)
Gary Bartz (ss, as)
Keith Jarrett (el-p, org)
Michael Henderson (el-b)
Jack DeJohnette (d)
Airto Moreira (perc)
Jumma Santos [James Riley] (perc)

You can either stream this on your computer or click on the Divshare link to download the MP3s for your player. (Unfortunately, the second piece has a voiceover by radio station KPFA)

Bitches Brew was such an influence on people that it's carried over even now. The great craft brewery Dogfish Head came out with a beer recently called Bitches Brew. It borrows the artwork from the album as its label. It features ingredients that were used long ago in African brewing like gesho (a hop-like plant grown in Ethiopia) and honey. The bottle I had poured very thick, with a one of the darkest heads I've ever seen. It's aroma was smokey chocolate and the taste was complex, with molasses, coffee and smoke. A very good beer. I believe its classified an imperial stout, but its like some kind of chocolate milk stout. Now I want another.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Denogginizer From Drake's Brewing Company

First off, I've got to admit a couple of things. I am a hop-head, that being I like my beer heavily hopped. I've also got to admit I'm biased toward a brewery that was nearby to an old apartment of mine in San Leandro, CA, where I used to live. I cut my craft beer teeth at Drake's Brewing Company in the mid 90's and since then have enjoyed the majority of the beers I've had of theirs. One of my favorite beers is a double IPA called Denogginizer.

It pours into a pint with a dark amber color and has a dense beige head which laces down the glass nicely. The aroma tells of citrus and pine and the hops are balanced nicely by a strong malt. All in all it is one of the most delicious beers I've ever had.

If you like it like me, you'll want to drink a few, but watch it. Like most Imperial IPAs, it's strong, nearly 10% abv. It's being sold in the 22 oz. bombers, but Drake's is having a hard time filling the demand for this flagship beer of theirs. I understand they have stepped up production so keep an eye out for that distinctive label.

Bonnie Raitt and friends - 38 years ago today

On October 17th of 1972, Bonnie Raitt came to Ultrasonic Studios in Hempstead, NY to perform before a small crowd and the microphones of  FM station WLIR. She brought along Freebo, who usually played bass and sometimes tuba with her. She also brought along Lowell George from Little Feat and John Hammond.

This was recorded before Bonnie developed that whisky quality to her voice that was the result of years of singing, drinking and smoking. She was hitting all the right notes that night and she was musically savvy enough even in those days to keep up with the heavy hitters who were sitting in with her. She grew up knowing music - her father, John Raitt, was a major Broadway musical star and her mother was a pianist. I'm sure she learned a lot about music from them both.

Bonnie admits to being pretty stoned during this show and it probably helped to contribute to the atmosphere and conversation you can hear on the recording. They sadly don't do radio like this anymore.

Listen to it stream or click on the "Divshare" logo and it will open in a new window and allow you to download it.

Hardly Strictly Emmylou

The Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival was just here a couple of weeks ago and I missed it this year. Unavoidable. This has rapidly turned into one of the top festivals in the country, attracting a very diverse array of talent. The festival also allows you to bring in your own refreshments, meaning you can listen to world class music with your favorite beer.

The performer who always performs there is a lady named Emmylou Harris. She's always there because I think she's the favorite of Warren Hellman, the man who puts the festival on each and every year with money from his own pocket and makes it free to all. I'm glad he likes her music because I like it too.

Emmylou has always been on of my favorite country performers, and a lot of performers admire her as well. She's performed with just about everyone from the country music field as well as Mark Knopfler, Dave Matthews, The Band, Elvis Costello, Neil Young, and many others. She performs not only her own compositions but also those of Gram Parsons, Townes Van Zandt, Lucinda Williams and others.

This show isn't from the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass fest, not is it from a recent show. This is from 1995, recorded at the Shepherd's Bush Empire stage in London. Emmylou is backed on this by the Daniel Lanois Band. Lanois is probably better known these days as one of the top record producers in the business, having produced recordings by Bob Dylan, U2, Brian Eno and of course Emmylou Harris.

Listen to it streaming or download it for your MP3 player by clicking on the "Divshare" logo. It will open in a new window and allow downloads.