28 February 2006

Sir Pauly's PBS Special

If you get a chance to see Paul McCartney's PBS Special Great Performances taped at London's Abbey Road studios you really shouldn't miss it.

As you probably already know, Pauly is a very talented bloke and it was thoroughly enjoyable watching him perform in this intimate setting. He runs through several cuts from his latest release Chaos and Creation in the Backyard, in addition to a couple of old Beatles and Wings tunes, my favorite of these being English Tea and I’ve Got a Feeling.

Paul demonstrated how the engineer assists in producing the final sound of a record as well as a display of a four-track recorder. Familiar riffs from Strawberry Fields Forever were played on a Mellotron, a forerunner to today’s synthesizer and he plunked some notes on the stand up bass used by Elvis Presley’s bass player. Paul played several guitars, including his famous Hofner fiddle bass, piano and drums. His gift of genius is obvious as a solitary performing musician.

The program runs through most of March and I hope to catch it at least once more. Look for it. You won’t regret it.

23 February 2006

Buddy Guy

My Love and I went to see Buddy Guy last night. My Love told me that this would be one of the best performers I will ever see. And darn it if he wasn’t absolutely correct, perhaps even a little modest in his assertion.

Early in the day My Love told me we should leave the house no later than 7 pm for the 8 o’clock show that was roughly less than 30 minutes from home. So I bought the fast food dinner on the way home, promptly ate, showered and was ready to go by 6:30. At 6:40 Lover decides to pop in the video he has of Buddy performing in Chicago some years ago. After several minutes of re-winding, we leisurely enjoy about three numbers from this video. During a break, at about four minutes to seven I decide I should take advantage of our home facilities to avoid having to wait in line at the public restrooms of the venue. Between the time I entered and departed the bathroom, my Lover’s mood had changed from relaxed to a frenetic, goal-driven man with a focused sole-purpose. GET THEE TO THE SHOW. He buckled me into the passenger seat and off we went in a flash.

We arrived safely at the venue in 18 minutes flat. He parked while I gathered together the few belongings I wanted to keep track of during the show. We promptly found our way to our seats with 20 minutes to spare before the opening act. I spent that time adjusting my binoculars and just watching the human zoo.

The opening act was forgettable, with the only notable fact being that one of the three guitar players was the grandson of the late RL Burnside. Charlie Musselwhite and his wife were seated four rows in front of us and seemed to only be there for this opening act, which hailed from Clarksdale MS, Charlie’s “other” home town, because I did not see Charlie return to his seat for the headliner, although he very well could have been in the house.

At nine o’clock, Buddy’s band took to the stage and Buddy was introduced to the enthusiastic crowd. They broke in to the first number, the classic blues standard Goin’ Down, right on into a blistering Hoochie Coochie Man. Buddy spoke a few words about how happy he was to be there and how good he was feeling and then played Little Red Rooster, using his guitar like a magic wand wavering between subtlety and explosiveness. Next they did one of Buddy’s own, Feel’s Like Rain. They followed this with Sonny Boy Williamson’s Good Morning Little School Girl, very sweet, going off on a little tangent of Mary Had a Little Lamb. The band was tight and never missed a beat of Buddy’s eclecticism. He tried to tell us that he never rehearses because he never knows what he’s gonna do. But I find that really hard to believe based on the deft performance.

Buddy talked a bit about how he grew up and the first time he saw a light, having lived without electricity, how his family drank water from the creek, how his grandmother smoked a pipe and chewed tobacco and still lived to be a hundred.

Then they played Drowning on Dry Land. During this and the next three numbers Buddy stepped off the stage and ventured right down into the crowd, pausing in the aisle to play directly in front of a wheelchair-bound person. He slowly rambled up the aisle and into the lobby, all the time playing his guitar and occasionally singing. The audience is loving this interplay and heads were turning all directions to see where he’s gonna go next and next thing you know the people in the balcony of the Luther Burbank Center are on their feet and clapping for him as he strolls from one end to the other interacting with the crowd. Next he re-enters the main floor through the opposite doors and walks back toward the stage down the other aisle. During this time he and the band moved through Rock Me Baby and Big Leg Woman.

Back on stage Buddy next played one from his newest CD called What Kind of Woman Is This?

Buddy talked about one of his previous trips to the West Coast (Berkeley in ’69) when he first played his next song Fever. Then he continued to noodle around while talking about those guys from England who picked up on American Blues and made it their own, specifically Eric Clapton and Cream, before playing a haunting, sublime version of Strange Brew. Then he said “There used to be a guy called Hooker who played like this” and he broke into a funkified version my favorite John Lee Hooker song Boom Boom. He said “That was how John Lee Hooker played and this is how BUDDY GUY plays:” and he launched into his own Damn Right, I’ve Got the Blues, playing with ferocity and intensity, rubbing the guitar strings all up on his self. Then he closes the show with a number by “this other guy” (Jimi Hendrix) as he wah-wahed his way into Voodoo Child, even doing the classic Hendrix trick of playing the guitar with his teeth. He was perfect!

After the show, he sat in the lobby and patiently signed autographs and greeted his fans. My Love had brought a photograph which he had taken of Buddy 15 years ago in San Luis Obispo which Buddy signed for him.

Last night Buddy Guy owned Sonoma County, hell, he owned the world as far as I was concerned. It was a performance I shall never forget. Buddy Guy is one of the last living links to the greats of American Blues and last night he represented. He was a touchstone for such luminaries as Albert King, B.B. King, Don Nix, Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon and Bill Broonzy. We were treated to 90 minutes of pure and quintessential electric blues by a true virtuoso.

09 February 2006

48th Annual Grammy Awards

The Grammy Awards are just about the only award show I watch every year. I love music. Music plays a big part in my inner life and I try to keep up with what’s good and what’s new. There were few real highlights to last night’s performances. Although, Alicia Keys and Stevie Wonder singing Higher Ground acapela and Paul McCartney’s rendition of the BeaTles Helter Skelter did get the pulse accelerating in a good way.

I am not a fan of Madonna, but I will say she looks to be in good shape for her age (48). Coldplay simply leaves me cold. Ordinary People by John Legend was pleasant. I’ve had occasion to hear Mariah Carey on the car radio quite a few times and found her latest to be tolerable, not awful. But I must say that watching the performance of some of these women (Mariah, Christina Aguillara, Joss Stone) is akin to watching vocal gymnastics. What is it with all of the exaggerated vocalizations and spastic hand movements? Ladies, two words: control and restraint. They could all take a lesson from the lovely blues-diva, Ms. Raitt, and her soulful, unaffected yet expressive way of singing. It is like some guitar players who think that throwing the most number of notes in a guitar solo proves one to be a great guitar player. It does not. Most times, phrasing and holding back proves it better.

The tribute to Sly Stone was horrendous. The only group that even nailed it was Maroon 5 and Ciara doing Everyday People. All the rest just made me uncomfortable and Sly himself did not look well at all.

JayZ and Linkin Park was made interesting to me only once Paul McCartney joined them onstage for Yesterday. I’m not one to listen to much rap and Yesterday is probably my least favorite BeaTle Paul song but it was…interesting.

Speaking of rap…what the *hell* is with the censors letting “Can’t get no ‘hos” (read: WHORES) slip by and yet the Rolling Stones get silenced at the Super Bowl for say “cum” and “cocks”. Makes no sense to me, do the censors tailor what can and can’t be sung based on the perceived audience of a given performance? I just don’t get it.

As for the awards themselves, they fall into four categories 1) Good call 2) What the hell were they thinking 3) Probably the best choice considering the alternatives and 4) Ok, but my sentimental favorite would have been…

Record Of The Year: Boulevard Of Broken Dreams
by Green Day
3) Probably the best choice considering the alternatives

Album Of The Year:
How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb
by U2
4) Ok, but my sentimental favorite would have been Chaos And Creation In The Backyard
by Paul McCartney.

Song Of The Year:
Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own
by U2, songwriters (U2)
1) Good call

Best New Artist: John Legend
1) Good call

Best Female Pop Vocal Performance:
Since U Been Gone by Kelly Clarkson
2) What the hell were they thinking and 4) Ok, but my sentimental favorite would have been I Will Not Be Broken by Bonnie Raitt

Best Male Pop Vocal Performance:
From The Bottom Of My Heart by Stevie Wonder
1) Good call and 4) Ok, but my sentimental favorite would have been Fine Line by Paul McCartney (Deserving of at least honourable mention. I mean this was McCartney’s BEST album in YEARS; I have played it over and over again. I still want Stevie’s new album though.)

Best Pop Instrumental Performance:
Caravan by Les Paul
1) Good call (*Please get well soon, Les*)

Best Pop Vocal Album:
Breakaway by Kelly Clarkson
2) What the hell were they thinking and 4) Ok, but my sentimental favorite would have been Chaos And Creation In The Backyard by Paul McCartney (see above).

Best Solo Rock Vocal Performance:
Devils & Dust by Bruce Springsteen, Track from: Devils & Dust
1) Good call but I am interested in hearing the other nominees:
Revolution by Eric Clapton, Track from: Back Home, Shine It All Around by Robert Plant, Track from: Mighty ReArranger and The Painter by Neil Young

Best Rock Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal:
Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own by U2
1) Good call

Best Rock Instrumental Performance:
69 Freedom Special by Les Paul & Friends
1) Good call

Best Rock Song:
City Of Blinding Lights by U2
1) Good call but I am interested in hearing more of the other nominee: Devils & Dust by Bruce Springsteen

Best Rock Album:
How To Dismantle An Atomic Bombby U2
4) Ok, but my sentimental favorite would have been A Bigger Bang by The Rolling Stones

Best Alternative Music Album:
Get Behind Me Satan by The White Stripes
1) Good call

Best Female R&B Vocal Performance:
We Belong Together by Mariah Carey
4) Ok, but my sentimental favorite would have been Unbreakable by Alicia Keys

Best Male R&B Vocal Performance:
Ordinary People by John Legend
1) Good call

Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance:
A House Is Not A Home by Aretha Franklin, Track from: So Amazing - An All Star Tribute To Luther Vandross
1) Good call

Best R&B Album:
Get Lifted by John Legend
1) Good call and 4) Ok, but my sentimental favorite would have been Unplugged by Alicia Keys or A Time To Love by Stevie Wonder

Best Contemporary R&B Album:
The Emancipation Of Mimi by Mariah Carey
1) Good call

Best Country Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal:
Restless by Alison Krauss And Union Station
Best Country Instrumental Performance:
Unionhouse Branch by Alison Krauss And Union Station
Best Country Album:
Lonely Runs Both Ways by Alison Krauss And Union Station
All 1) Good calls (especially since I don’t listen to much country but I do like Allison Kraus

Best Jazz Vocal Album:
Good Night, And Good Luck by Dianne Reeves
1) A very good call

Best Traditional Blues Album:
80 by B.B. King & Friends
1) Good call

Best Contemporary Blues Album:
Cost Of Living by Delbert McClinton
4) Ok, but my sentimental favorite would have been Bring 'Em In by Buddy Guy or Twentyby Robert Cray Band

Best Contemporary World Music Album:
Eletrac├║stico by Gilberto Gil
4) Ok, but my sentimental favorite would have been Rise by Anoushka Shankar

Best Musical Album For Children:
Songs From The Neighborhood - The Music Of Mister Rogers
1) Good call

Best Spoken Word Album:
Dreams From My Father (Senator Barack Obama) as read by Senator Barack Obama
1) Good call and 4) Ok, but my sentimental favorite would have been Chronicles - Volume One (Bob Dylan)
as read by Sean Penn

Best Musical Show Album:
Monty Python's Spamalot
1) Good call

Best Long Form Music Video:
No Direction Home (Bob Dylan) Martin Scorsese, video director;
1) Good call and 4) Ok, but another sentimental favorite would have been Brian Wilson Presents Smile by Brian Wilson (quite deserving of an honourable mention).

If I did not address a given category I did not feel I had an opinion for it or was unqualified to respond.

Final Thoughts: I guess I will have to go out and buy How To Dismantle an Atomic Bomb just to see what the fuss is all about, just as I went out and bought Joshua Tree after it won the Grammy in 1987.

PS: Can someone please, once and for all, tell me the difference between “Album of the Year” and “Record of the Year”? Thank you.

03 February 2006

Friday Wrap-Up

Every once in a great while the horrorscope actually seems to fit the reality. Take, for example, today's from dailyhoroscope@astrology.com:

Here is my horoscope for Friday, February 3:

"It's time to clean house -- mentally, that is. Get ready to roll up your sleeves and start organizing concepts, ideas and perceptions that are cluttering up your head. Once you do, your life will have much more order."

Hell yeah....I feel done in by TMI (too much information) syndrome. I have way too many bookmarks saved. Sites that seemed so freakin' relevant when I was there but that I really have no recollection as to how or why I got there or when or if I ever need return. Gertrude Stein (Happy Birthday!) said "Everybody gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense." How did she know this? The internet had not even been conceived in her lifetime. I have way too many printed articles and notes-to-self to do anyone a damn bit of good. I'm drowning in clutter. Ideas evaporate before they have time to germinate. I have got to find a better way. I need to prioritze.

And for a double-whammy, the Love of My Life's horrorscope was on target as well:

For Taurus,

"Take care of yourself like the valuable resource that you are. While it's tempting to make like the Energizer bunny and just keep going and going and going, you need time to rest, relax and rejuvenate."

Poor baby has been sick for over a week now. I have had to play Big Nurse Ratchet in order to get him to take care of himself. Discovered on Tuesday that he's got a kidney infection. White blood cell count was so high he had to receive immediate intravenous antibiotics. Fevers raging over 102.

Monday we watched the Beatles Let It Be rooftop concert in honor of the anniversary of the monumental occasion.

Wednesday I was listening to CSN Cathedral in honor of Graham Nash's birthday. That is my favorite song by Graham. When I met him he was as nice as could be. He told me his sister's name is Sharon. Can we say "crush"? What a sweetheart!

Wednesday was also GroundHog Day/Candelmas/Imbolc. The LOML and I celebrated by spending a quiet evening in front of our gas fireplace. My son also noted some geese flying north. Can Spring really be far behind? In keeping with the seasons' promise I share these photos. The first montage is from here. The others are from the wonderful website linked here. I don't have more specific credits (sorry) and I'm not even sure what the protocol is for such blog-y things. If I had a digital camera I would post my own photographs. Am I to assume that every photo on a blog is the proprietary creative work of the blogger? Me thinks not. So please just enjoy. Have a great weekend. I'll be watching the Stooper Bowl but I have no favorite since neither of my teams made it (say Chargers, say Redskins - wait till next year), so I'll root for the offense and marvel at the over-priced commercials and dance to the Stones.

Friends and family in the news

My friend Kip sent me this link to let me know that he is running for local political office.

My Uncle Ellis sent me this link to let me know my cousin Ben was in their local paper.