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Thursday, November 17, 2011

A Canadian Band I'd Sure Pay To Hear - That You've Never Heard Of

Ach! We've been long away. And the music's just piling up...

A few years ago, my friend Mike said I should check out this Canuck band, Blackie & The Rodeo Kings. He played me some tracks of theirs and it wasn't just the beer talking. They were good.

I kinda remembered about them when I got home and dl-ed a couple of tunes of theirs from Napster. But you know how it is. They got lost in the shuffle, so to speak.

I re-discovered them a year or two ago on YouTube and featured one of their tunes on my original blog. Lately, I've found a few new-ish ones and I want to give the guys their due: Blackie & The Rodeo Kings might just be the best that Canuck music has to offer right now. And Canuck music has a TON to offer. Too bad they only seem to play about twice a year.

The first video I'm going to post here requires patience on your part. Sorry! The sound is poor for 1:45. Hang in. At that point, you'll start to hear, in crystal-clear tones, their first near-hit, Stoned. If you really listen, you'll hear the birth of an interesting, and darn-near unique sound. (Spare me the hate mail, all you unique-can't-be-modified people.)

As always, turn up your speakers and please, do up your seat belts.

The three frontmen are Tom Wilson (guitar and vocals) Stephen Fearing (ditto) and Colin Linden (lead guitarist/vocals/producer). Each adds an elixir to the brew that adds up to magic.

I had a hard time choosing which vid to show next. I decided on a solo Stephen Fearing job. Partly because it brought up the name of Willie P. Bennett and partly because it's such a nice song and Fearing does a great job. (And shows he's no slouch in the pickin' department.)

Bennett's songs inspired the band, right down to choosing their name. (I'll s'plain in a minute.)

Until then, enjoy Fearing's take on Willie's song. (And wouldn't Nick Cage HAVE to play him in a bio-pic?)

For their final tune, I've chosen a wonderful song via CBC Radio. Featuring another terrific Canuck talent, Serena Ryder, Black Sheep is a standout - pure and simple.

And c'mon, fess up: When Shearing starts to sing his part, don't you hear echoes of Marty Robbins? I sure as heck did. I got shivers.

Now, you devoted folks, all five of you, know that I always stop at three videos. I don't like to tax your patience more than that. I know how precious time is. I hear a clock ticking in every pause.

But what the heck. As a bonus, I'm adding a track by Willie P. Bennet. This is the song from which Blackie & The Rodeo Kings took their name. Those of you who stick around will hear Canada's prairies in Bennett's song. And echoes of Jimmie Rodgers and Boxcar Willie -- 20th century troubadours. But he's as Canadian as Gordon Lightfoot is not Bob Dylan. And he blows a lovely, mournful harp. Godbless him. Mr. Bennett passed in 2008.

Thank you for your time. I hope you enjoyed.

Thanks Mikey.

And thanks to highorhurtin, verbverb, skumm60 and cbcradio3 for posting the vids.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Three Great Covers

Sometimes, the movie IS better than the book. And sometimes, the cover is better than the original. I present three of my favourites as evidence.

Everybody of a certain age was there in 1969. And if they weren't in body - they were in spirit. I know I was.

It was Woodstock, baby - arguably the most defining moment of the hippie subculture. A generation was turning left en masse - tuning in and dropping out - and The Man was horrified. If peace, love and dope was the message, music was the messenger. And Woodstock broadcast it to the world.

Of the many memorable performances, Joe Cocker's rendition of the Beatles' With A Little Help From My Friends stands out. His passion rendered him spastic. The words weren't sung. They were torn from his belly and squeezed through his soul.

Never seen it? Only seen it 47 times?

You're all in luck.

Turn up your speakers folks and please, as always, do up those seat belts. (No extra charge for the french subtitles. They disappear for most of it.)

The next song, in my opinion, ranks as one of the most astounding vocal performances in popular music. Spyder Turner's mimicry of other singers during his cover of Ben E. King's Stand By Me is uncanny. But this is no novelty record. This is a vocal tour de force by an amazing talent. I still get chills at the end when he sings: "But my name is Spyder Turner and I'll get on my knees and say 'Darlin' - don't go!...'"

Although the video consists of a series of static images, they're interesting in that they show pics of all the performers Turner imitates. The sound is good and I deliberately wanted to find the original 45 rpm.

The final clip was a real treat to find and made my week. One of my favourite tunes performed superbly in a live setting. Not any ordinary live setting, nosir. We're talking about a clip from the Ed Sullivan Show.

Vanilla Fudge recorded a cover of the Supremes' You Keep Me Hanging On that just might be the most radical departure from an original, ever. It's psychedelic. It's soul. It's blues. It's amazing drumming by Carmine Appice. It's weird.

And this performance is absolutely wonderful. (You'll thank me for reminding you about the seatbelt.)

Enjoy. (Apologies to early clickers, I'd originally posted the wrong Cocker clip.)

Thanks to GGLEC78, Classic63 and JustU95 for the vids.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Girl Groups (Part One)

I was about 11 or 12 years old when it suddenly seemed the radio was chockful of girl groups. And I ain't talking about the Andrews Sisters. (Not that there's anything....)

Nosir. These gals sang toe-tapping, finger-snapping, dare-they-show-it-on-tv, hip-shaking songs. They sang with gusto, in sweet harmony. They sang soulfully. They rocked.

I loved them all.

To this Canadian boy, the girl groups were exotic, beautiful and sexy. They brought sass and a new dimension of sensuality to the early days of rock n' roll. They sang sweetly of true love. But by shaking their bootays while doing so, there was no mistaking their true love for the hand-holding of Frankie and Annette.

One can't discuss the girl groups without mentioning Phil Spector. Spector produced many of them and was primarily responsible for their room-filling, booming sound (dubbed Spector's Wall of Sound). The man, by all accounts, is batshit crazy, a possible/probable murderer and a complete putz.

But he was a musical genius, responsible for some absolutely stunning, unforgettable songs.

Let's open with the one that woke my virgin ears to the wonders of the girl groups. Here, reminding us that you can pack a lot of great song into two minutes: The Crystals with Da Do Ron Ron.

(As always folks, please turn up your speakers and do up your seatbelts. And if you're anywhere near my age, I think you'll get some nostalgiac enjoyment out of seeing the hairstyles and clothing that were popular back then.)

Martha & The Vandellas brought an element of R&B into their tunes. Here's another great old clip (praise YouTube) of their much-covered hit, Dancing In The Streets featuring the crystal-clear, powerful pipes of the great Martha Reeves. Yeah, they're lip-syncing. I don't care. It's still great.

I confessed above that I loved all of the girl groups. And that's true. But I loved one of them more than the others. And that would be The Ronettes.

And I loved the Ronettes mostly because of Darlene Love, who fronted the band. (I first gushed about her last Christmas.)

Ms Love is a wonder and I hope she keeps belting them out for at least a couple more decades. In the following clip (introduced by Chuck Berry) you'll see and hear a young Darlene Love, bursting with talent. And this one ain't lip-synched!

I hope you enjoyed.

Thanks to doowop50s, drakep and DestinationDooWop for posting the videos.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Cry guitar, cry....

A year ago, I didn't know who Gary Moore was. I knew who Garry Moore was - a tv game show host in the 50s and 60s - but not Gary.

I heard about Gary Moore when I read about his death this past February. The small headline said something like: Blues Guitarist Dead Of Suspected Heart Attack. I went on to read about Moore being found dead in a Spanish hotel room while on holiday. Turns out, he played guitar for Irish rockers Thin Lizzy, a band I enjoyed from the 70s.

Intrigued because I love the blues and hadn't heard of him, I visited your friend and mine, YouTube. There, I learned something else about him: He might be the best blues guitarist these ears have ever heard.

What a revelation! He could give sustaining lessons to Carlos Santana, and Steve Vai would approve of his quicks. I'm going to open with Moore sharing the stage with B.B. King. Soooooo many of these Superstar Jam Sessions fall flat. This one doesn't. It takes a minute for the music to start because Moore has to tune up. Once it does, you'll be sorry it has to stop because the licks these guys exchange provide an aural orgasm. (That was for you, Cay. And q. And anyone else who enjoys a naughty pun now and again.)

Crank up those speakers boys and girls.

(I don't know if those occasional, annoying pop-up blurbs I see on the YouTube site will translate to here. If they do, you can close them if you hover your mouse over them to reveal the hidden x.)

Next up is the first clip of Moore I listened to. Like the nearly 10 million others who have tuned in, I became an instant fan. He plays notes with an astounding power and purity and his voice ain't chopped liver. The man could do it all on stage. Here's his Still Got The Blues.

Last, but hardly least, is a live, 1987 performance of Empty Rooms. The YouTube uploader refers to it as Moore's greatest guitar solo ever. I don't know. I haven't heard all of them. But it is four minutes of absolute genius and serves as a wonderful epitaph for yet another rare talent, gone too soon.

Cry guitar, cry....

Thanks to jukeiko, UndeadKuntiz and webmastergarymoorenl for uploading the clips.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Ray, Dave & Their Kinky Crew

I think it's safe to say the British Invasion of the 60s revitalized rock n' roll and kick-started it into becoming a world-wide musical force.

One band near the forefront of that invasion demanded to be heard from the first note of its first hit single. They out-louded the Rolling Stones and out-rocked just about everybody.

"They," of course, were the Kinks, fronted by the Davies brothers - songwriter extraordinaire and lead singer Ray, along with Dave, he of the slashing lead guitar.

Here's how the boys introduced themselves to the music scene in 1964.

There are easily a dozen songs I'd love to include and it's excruciating trimming them down to the usual three. But I certainly can't leave out the next one. It is arguably the most socially and culturally important song of its generation and inarguably the most audacious -- probably ever.

Ray turned his lyrical genius to the heretofore forbidden topic of man love. (And/or transvestite love. And/or transgendered love.) And he did so with typical puckish humour, exhibiting the Brit love of naughty double entendres.

But wait! That's not all!

He also managed to make it one helluva kick-ass rock n' roll tune. One that's remained ensconced in my all-time top 10 for over 40 years.

Ladies and gentlemen, from a 1979 concert in Rhode Island, the brilliant Lola.

As I mentioned a while back in my Stevie Winwood post, I love it when an artist I admired way back in the long-ago and far-away is still making music. Last year, at the wonderful, annual Glastonbury Festival, Ray Davies appeared with a few friends and performed Victoria, one of my fave (and underrated) Kinks songs. I hope you enjoy.

Thanks to lovehides13, RenaiSpirits and SkipALightFandango for posting the clips.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Cool Guy, Cool Tunes, Coolest Name Ever

It was one of the great albums of the 70s and is comfortably ensconced in my all-time Top 10. It was impossible to categorize because it rocked, it swayed, it boogied, it crooned, it jazzed and I think it even salsa-d a little.

"It" was Silk Degrees by Boz Scaggs.

Say it with me: Boz...Scaggs. Every guy reading this wishes his name was half as cool. If he wasn't a musician, he'd have to be an old-time baseball player - maybe Mordecai "Three Fingers" Brown's catcher.

I've selected three tunes from that album, all written by Scaggs. I suspect all three will be familiar to old-timers. And I hope some young ears become attuned to a fine, underrated musician.

Let's open with a live version of Lido Shuffle, performed under less than ideal conditions (looks pretty darn cold) at Japan's Expo in 1985.

If I had a buck for every time this next song was played as the newlywed's first dance at weddings - I'd have a lotta bucks. It's a beautiful song, made famous when Rita Coolidge covered it. But I like Boz's take on it better. He flat-out nails it in this next clip.

The biggest kick I get out of this gig is finding out that musicians I loved way back when are still out there, playing their stuff in front of live audiences. It's a treat to see a 60-year-old Boz, still stylin', still way-cool, from a performance a few years back.

Thanks to HOJIRON, SK3776 and darylhsu for the vids.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Who Is This British White Boy With The Soulful Voice?

I think I was 15 or 16, at a friend's party, when I first heard this amazing voice come on the radio. It soared and dipped and wailed. I really couldn't make out the words but it didn't matter -- the raw emotion and energy it expressed kept me listening, rapt. I soon found out it belonged to a singer in a band called the Spencer Davis Group, a guy only a couple of years older than me named Stevie Winwood.

Now, thanks to the wonders of the internet, we can enjoy a live performance by an 18-year-old Stevie from a Scandinavian TV show, belting out the vocals and hammering the Hammond to the song he co-wrote -- and one of the seminal songs of the 60s.

Somewhere around 1968, Winwood hooked up with Dave Mason, Jim Capaldi and Chris Wood. Together they formed Traffic, one of the most influential and beloved bands of the psychedelic 60s. Mason (who I featured a few posts ago) and Winwood, like many towering talents, found they couldn't coexist forever. But they stayed together long enough to make a lasting musical mark.

There are dozens of great Traffic songs. I'm going to go with one of my early favourites, co-written by Winwood and Capaldi and expressed via Stevie's wistful, mournful lament - the haunting, No Face No Name No Number.

In his spare time while still with Traffic, and later, after they'd officially disbanded, Winwood became part of one of the early supergroups. With Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker and Rick Grech, they formed Blind Faith.

Winwood later went on to a distinguished solo career but will likely be remembered best for his contributions to three of the greatest rock n' roll groups of all time. I'm happy to report that he's still got chops. For dessert, let's check out Stevie and Eric getting together again in 2007 for a fine version of Can't Find My Way Home.

Thanks to dac10012 and trichoone for posting the videos.