September 5, 2009
Review of July 22nd, 29th and August 12th (Fleetwood Mac, Chicken Shack, Savoy Brown, Ten Years After and Foghat)
When the band was about to put out their self-named first album, the Blue Horizon record label demanded they call it Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac to take advantage of his recent superstar status. Due to its cover photo, the album was often referred to as the garbage can album (or as the Brit's would call it a dust bin) and was followed by the UK release Mr. Wonderful, most of which was put out stateside as English Rose. Possibly to make up for the fact that they were so often a three-piece band at Spencer's whim, another guitar player was added to the group in Danny Kirwin, who complemented Green by being an additional songwriter and taking part of the vocal burden off his shoulders. Kirwin's impact showed up well on their third release, Then Play On, and it was their intention to then put out a live album. To this goal, they set up recording equipment at a three night gig in a Boston nightclub, but the album was scrapped when Green unexpectedly left the band. Years later parts of the recordings came out, but eventually three individual CDs were released for each of the nights, two entitled Live at the Boston Tea Party while the other one is just Live in Boston. It is possible they are available in a box set, but however you purchase them will be well worth the investment. I also have two box sets of their studio output: one is a 3CD set that I believe captures all of the stuff up to Then Play On and the other is a much more complete 6CD set, but the problem with it is that they leave the chatter before and after the music which is only cool once or twice, not to mention some of that stuff isn't suitable for airplay. The 6CD set also includes the entire Blues Jam in Chicago sessions where the guys sit in with Willie Dixon, Walter Horton, Honeyboy Edwards and Otis Spann (who later had the band back him on his album The Biggest Thing Since Collosus), and especially interesting was sax man J.T. Brown joining Spencer on tunes he had originally done with Elmore James all recorded at the legendary Chess studios.
I only got to see the band once but, unbeknownst to me, it was after Green had departed. I had been jamming on bass with some guys at Guitar Player magazine and they asked me to go up to the Fillmore and get an interview with McVie. I went backstage and made an appointment to meet with him the morning after the shows were over. As my future ex-wife and I were heading up 101, we had a tire blow out and when we got to the motel a little late found out they had already checked out ..... three hours before our due time! Needless to say, he is not my favorite musician but their music has stood the test of time better than any of the genre. Spencer left the band soon after, but did you know the band still survived for decades and actually had some hit songs, although no longer in a Blues vein?
By the time I saw them, Christine Perfect (actually McVie since her wedding to John) was in Fleetwood Mac, possibly as a replacement for Green. Her piano and vocal stylings had previously been one of the highlights along with singer / guitar player Stan Webb in the four piece Blues band Chicken Shack. They fronted a rhythm section of drummer Dave Bidwell and bassist Andy Silvester. I had picked up one of their albums at a Flea Market for probably fifty cents but rarely if ever listened to it, so when I found a 3CD set of their first four albums for about $15 I snatched it up. Miss Perfect played on the first two albums but was replaced by keyboardist Paul Raymond when she opted to spend more time with her new husband in his band. Obviously I knew little about them before the show but they proved to be a good, strong addition to my Brit Blues collection that was getting stale with few recent infusions.
I do recall one early morning getting a cab dispatch to pick up at a party around Camden and 17 and finding out that the three or four guys I was transporting to a hotel way out on Lawrence past 237 were members of a band that was on tour and playing at the Keystone in Palo Alto. Of course we talked about music and somehow I found out that one of them claimed to be Paul Raymond. Now, I can be gullible sometimes, but the real Paul Raymond has a unique, somewhat youthful face that I had seen on at least three Savoy Brown albums plus the one Shack album I had, so when he got out of the cab (I couldn't really see him before because he was seated directly behind me), it became obvious that he was .... yeah, the real guy. Of course, or else why would I be mentioning this? When I read the liner notes for the Chicken Shack CD, I assumed it must have been UFO that he was with at the time. Anyway, it was some band I'd never heard of. The only other "celebrity" I have given a ride was when I got a call from JJ's because they knew I would treat Junior Walker and a couple of his All Stars properly.
One of the earliest impressions I can recall about Savoy Brown was the cover of their second English album. Savoy Brown established a tradition of extreme lineup changes, and that happened from the beginning. At this point they were known as the Savoy Brown Blues Band. The first album, Shakedown, was actually not released in the U.S. so I bought it and their follow-up album, Getting to the Point, as imports. The second English album had different cover art than its American counterpart and showed a rendering of a face (I always assumed it to be Kim Simmonds) with glasses and the reflection in each of the lenses was of a black man. It bothered me because the original album's lineup included two black players and now that the band was all white, here was this depiction of two black men on the new cover. I couldn't imagine any person so respectful of the Black music could be racist, but still it crossed my mind almost any time I saw that cover. Actually, I was born in Canada and I think there would be many similarities with the U.K. like the fact that there was no history of racial oppression as was the foundation of the United States, therefore no fear of retribution thus never leading to widespread and brutal bigotry.
Anyway, let's get back to the band. The show began with the Getting to the Point album, which had the rhythm section of Roger Earle on drums and Rivers Jobe on bass backing up guitarist Lonesome Dave Peverett and vocalist Chris Youlden. Kim Simmonds was the only constant through the entire history of the band and pianist Bob Hall was a carryover as a part-time player from the Shakedown album. Tone Stevens replaced Jobe on bass at the end of 1968 and this lineup lasted the next albums (now going simply as Savoy Brown) Blue Matter, A Step Further and finally Raw Sienna, all represented in this show. I wound up their portion of the show with songs from Looking In with the same crew with the exceptions of Youlden and Hall. But the whole purpose of this show was to follow four of the players from Chicken Shack, but we didn't quite get to it on this show so more was to come two weeks later. The next album was Street Corner Talking with a whole new cast of characters including Chicken Shack's drummer Dave Bidwell, bassist Andy Silvester and keyboardist Paul Raymond joining Simmonds and new lead vocalist Dave Walker. The band went unchanged (and it was probably my favorite incarnation) on Hellbound Train and the only change on Lion's Share was bassist Andy Pyle replacing Silvester.
I had the opportunity to see Ten Years After twice before their performance at Woodstock and they were an exciting band surpassed only by the Jeff Beck Group when they had Rod Stewart or the two times I saw Cream and, of course, the Sunday night show back on June 18th, 1967 at the Monterey Pop Festival. In order to keep me happy there must a moving bass line and Leo Lyons provided that as few others could. Lots of people at that time considered Alvin Lee to be a cheap, revved up imitation of Eric Clapton, but if you had the chance to catch the band live you had to be impressed. Drummer Ric Lee (no relation) and keyboardist Chick Churchill were also strong musicians. Anyway, they seemed like a natural fit to complement Savoy Brown on the show. Their self-titled first album was a mediocre assortment of mostly Blues tunes but there follow-up release was an excellent live set titled Undead (did you catch that? If it's not dead it must be live) that showcased much of the sonic excitement I was to later experience in person. The next one was titled Stonedhenge and it was kind of a concept album: each side had five cuts and, spaced between the regular song stuff, cuts two and four on each side gave four short selections to allow the four musicians to individually strut their stuff on solos. This album kinda took a while to win my affection because it somewhat got away from the Blues, but their fourth album Sssh... put them right back in a driving groove. I really think that although I had to acclimate to these new albums, each one was progressively better than the previous. Except maybe the Undead album because it was such a dynamite example of their early live shows. And then we got to see Alvin and the boys performing I'm Going Home in the movie Woodstock and all of a sudden they were stars, even though the version from Undead was just as good but lacked the Jerry Lee Lewis, etc., segments. Then they had to make records for the masses and you'd be hard pressed to find one or two decent songs per album, including Cricklewood Green which was recorded before the movie came out. The 7-26 show featured a few selections from the premier album and Stonedhenge in its entirety and we came back the next show with Undead and Sssh... in their complete original versions. The CDs that I have include no outtakes, which is too bad because their label Deram released Alvin Lee and Company, a conglomeration of songs that had not appeared on album before, when their contract ran out. While it really wasn't worth buying, it would have been nice to incorporate them into the albums they were recorded for.
We also did some Foghat so I'll add comments about them when I have time.
September 4, 2009
I often say that it was John Mayall and Paul Butterfield that turned me on to the real Chicago Blues by checking out the back of the albums and seeking out the guys who wrote the songs but, really, it was groups like the Spencer Davis Group, the Yardbirds, the Rolling Stones and especially the Animals that earlier made me realize their tunes that I liked most were usually Blues-oriented. The first Animals set I played consisted of four songs by Ray Charles followed by three of John Lee Hooker's tunes. Their version of Boom Boom was probably what caused me to buy a couple of Hooker's Vee Jay albums, among the earliest of my "authentic" Blues collection. Their breakout on the world music stage was a traditional folk Blues song The House of the Rising Sun, but it also brought about their first defection. As I understand the story, the entire band (drummer John Steel, bassist Chas Chandler, guitarist Hilton Valentine, keyboardist Alan Price and lead singer Eric Burdon) had taken part in the arrangement but only Price's name made it on the credits and when the song hit big and the royalties came gushing in he opted not to share with his bandmates so instead took the money and ran, forming the Alan Price Set, who had another hit with a remake of Screaming Jay Hawkins' I Put a Spell on You. In the meantime, he had been with the group long enough for them to put out three excellent albums in the U.S. (The Animals, The Animals on Tour and Animal Tracks) before the group was put under the direction of producer Mickey Most, who had previous success with mush music including Herman's Hermits. With replacement keyboardman Dave Roweberry, they were still able to put out some good stuff but without the homages to their earlier heroes like Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley, whose material started out the shows last set. Since it was also the last show for me at our Santa Clara studio, I had to make the last tune We Gotta Get Out of This Place. (We cut over to our new San Jose studio at three o'clock the next Monday afternoon.) Other influences on the group as evidenced by their inclusion in their repertoire included Jimmy Reed, Fats Domino, Little Richard, one Bob Dylan tune and even my favorite post-Price tune Gin House Blues was written by Fletcher Henderson. This band is not to be confused with Eric Burdon and the Animals. They just kinda went to hell in my opinion when the lead singer made a wholesale change in personnel and then had to put his name in front of the new band of the same name. Again, I fit an almost full 80-minute disc of Animals music on the air with lots of good stuff left over, particularly stuff that I don't have on CD and therefore is full of scratches. Doing the math? Two almost 80 minute CDs in a three hour show. I guess that means I only yack it up about 20-25 minutes on a show. Not bad.
So. Man or animal? I'll let you decide. Please send your comments.
I will be adding playlists in a seperate blog when I learn more about the way this thing works. I do enough typing as it is so I would like to just copy them from elsewhere on my computer. If there is someone adept at this type of thing, I'd appreciate some tips.
I would also like to recommend a book I have never even seen, but I do have another one by the same author. Greg Russo's Yardbirds: The Ultimate Rave-up not only gives a full narrative history with more information than you could possibly want to know, but also a set of appendices in the back which list individually recording sessions and releases by each of the musicians (including before and after they were Yardbirds) and even a list of concert dates. Also some photos and relevant websites. I have the third edition which was published in 2001 and has a list price on the back of $24. So obviously, there must be a tie-in: his other writings include Mannerisms: The Five Phases of Manfred Mann along with one each about Frank Zappa and Jethro Tull which all list for under $25 and a Zombies Collectors' Guide is set at under $15. All prices I quoted are from my 2001 edition, but for more info you can go to http://www.crossfirepublications.com/. If you are as big a fan of Manfred Mann as I am of the Yardbirds, you should find the money well spent.
One final note: this show aired the day that Teddy Kennedy passed away. If I thought really hard, I might be able to come up with someone who came close to affecting the lives of all Americans of my generation, but that would be too much work for me. Senator Kennedy, so sorry to see you go.
September 30th. A fifth Wednesday! Didn't we just have one in July? I've been making a habit of getting away from the Blues these four times a year, so now that I've seen the calendar I'd better figure something out. Suggestions? I'm thinking maybe some L.A. bands like the Doors and Love, maybe Buffalo Springfield. Or some "Blue Eyed Soul" from the Righteous Brothers and the Rascals, but I'd like to hear from you.
I'll also soon be turning you on to a great CD I just picked up by Johnny Winter, the one that put him on my Blues map. It was called Second Winter (on vinyl, it was the only time I've seen an album use three sides) because it was his second release on Columbia although he had also released The Progressive Blues Experiment on Imperial. These albums plus the first Columbia release will be the basis of about half the show as early Canned Heat makes a logical complement to give you some of the best western white Blues of the late sixties, which is my nostalgia era. And you can't get much whiter than Johnny Winter. Expect to hear some scratches because the vinyl has been in my collection since the sixties!
Another project I'm working on is a show comprised entirely of Michael Bloomfield, from the Paul Butterfield Blues Band to the Electric Flag, to Muddy Waters' Fathers and Sons album to James Cotton, more Chicago blues with Charlie Musselwhite and Barry Goldberg, from Bob Dylan to Johnny Hammond, from his work with Al Kooper to performances with Nick Gravenites. I have all the materials I need in my collection except Janis Joplin's Kosmic Blues album; perhaps someone out there could loan it to me or at least let me know which tracks he played on. A great guitarist who made the move from Chicago to the Bay Area who played behind so diverse a bunch of artists that the show should stay fresh throughout.
If you saw the movie Play Misty for Me, you might have noticed a band playing in the background as Clint Eastwood was moving through the 1970 Monterey Jazz Festival. That was Johnny Otis' Blues Revue and he put out a double album of the performance that included some of the marquee R&B artists from a couple of decades earlier like shouter Big Joe Turner, saxophonist Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson, drummer Roy Milton, pianist Ivory Joe Hunter and singer Little Esther Phillips as well as guitarist Pee Wee Crayton and trumpeter Gene Connors with newcomers Delmar "Mighty Mouth" Evans, Margie Evans and Johnny's slide guitar playing son Shuggie Otis. I'll dig up some of the earlier recordings by this large group of headliners and take up two shows.
I'd also like to mention a book that I picked up maybe three years ago. It's the Blues-Rock Explosion by Old Goat Publishing and it provides excellent background for that decade when I fell in love with the Blues, including about ten pages per entry with Korner, Winter, Canned Heat and Bloomfield included in about 270 pages covering about 30 groups of the era. Although they are all white (with the exception of Taj Mahal), it gives you knowledge that is hard to find elsewhere. My copy is from the first edition (copyright 2001) with a list price on the back of $30.
KEY TO THE HIGHWAY: A liberal view of the roads travelled by the Blues. While it will include detours into Jazz, R&B, Rock 'n' Roll and the British influence, the main emphasis will be on full band electric urban Blues. This uptempo journey will be mapped out by Don. Heard occasionally on KKUP 91.5 fm.
It also mentioned broadcasting live music, but after a couple of attempts I deemed it too difficult to achieve a sound quality to meet my expectations. This statement was probably issued around May 1st of 1989 when I started doing fill-in until a suitable time slot became available. I bring this up primarily because I have gotten to feel guilty when I stray from the Blues, but an entirely Blues content was never intended. I have always given the Blues a rather wide berth; after all, Chuck Berry didn't say "Roll over Beethoven, dig this Rock 'n' Roll." It has been my pleasure to share the joys of the music I love for more than twenty years and I'll be happy if I can put in another twenty. I have made many friends through the years and would feel a void in my life without its pleasures.
I don't know how this blog will evolve, but initially I would like it to inform you of upcoming shows and gradually add playlists from past shows. I also understand I can learn how to add links to relevant items, perhaps video clips or articles about an artist I might be highlighting. I hope it will also give you the opportunity to comment on the show with suggestions and criticisms, but if there was something you really enjoyed I wouldn't mind hearing that either. So let's get on this new road and see where it takes us. And thanks for your interest.
-- Don Coyle