Oct 26, 2012

Muddy Waters - Feel Like Going Home (1948)

Muddy Waters - Feel Like Going Home (1948)

Long before the Chess Studio days in Chicago, Muddy Waters was first recorded on the front porch of this cabin located on Stovall Farms just outside of Clarksdale, Mississippi by folklorist Alan Lomax in 1941. When Muddy, a sharecropper and bootlegger of booze, got wind that a white man from out of town was asking for him, he figured he was going to get laid up on bootlegging charges and avoided Lomax as long as he could.

When Lomax finally found Muddy and showed him the recording equipment in the trunk of his car, Muddy made the first recordings of his life and was soon on the train to Chicago to change music history and open the door for just about everybody. So many people took that same train from the South to Chicago in search of work and to escape the neverending cycle of sharecropping but Muddy was the one who took that old sound and modernized it almost overnight, becoming a hero for people like Chuck Berry, Bob Dylan, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.

Here's a picture of Muddy (on the right with Buddha expression) and his musical partner and friend Son Sims at the time of the first Alan Lomax recording in front of this same cabin (which is now uprooted from it's original location and in a museum to preserve it).

Here's one of the 1941 recordings which would later be retitled and re-recorded in Chicago as I Can't Be Satisfied, becoming one of his best loved songs

Muddy Waters - I Be's Troubled (1941)

Twenty years later, Muddy was tearing off fast blues numbers like this one but still keeping that Delta feeling through everything he did until he passed on in 1983 at 70 years old, still playing shows as late as 1982.

Muddy Waters - Tiger In Your Tank (1960)

Oct 25, 2012

The Franklin Brothers – So Real (1959)

Almost nothing is known about this record... well, if the public means “the internet” then we know very little. Somewhere out there is someone who knows the story about the Franklin Brothers and this great little rock and roll song which was a Colonial Records release in ’59 with a B-side called My Little Girl. But I can’t impart much more information other than Colonial Records was operated out of Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

There’s something about those dual vocals which makes this stand out. “Brother” bands were usually known for country music, and there weren’t too many playing rock and roll (although I’d be willing to bet the Franklin Brothers started out playing country – they can’t disguise it). The Everly Brothers would end up being the most popular exception but this rare Franklin Brothers song was a nice find for me and only exists on a handful of compilations, many of them no longer in print.

All of which puts me in the mood for the Everly’s anyways and their song Claudette. She sounds like she was a hell of a girl. Roy Orbison originally wrote this song about his wife, whose name was Claudette Frady. She was all of 16 years old when she married old Roy in 1957 who was 21 at the time. The Everly’s made a deal with Roy for the song and put it on the B-Side of All I Have To Do Is Dream in ’58 and watched that record become the biggest hit of their whole career.

The Everly Brothers – Claudette (1958)

Roy Orbison - Claudette (1958)

Stones Back With Surprise Gig In Paris

The lads started warming up for some shows later this year with a last-minute gig at the Trabendo club in Paris. No video or audio has surfaced yet but some pics have and they show Keith looking clear eyed and happier than a pig in shit.

F**k, it's great to have the Stones back. As Keith would say, "It's great to be here... hell, it's great to be anywhere".

Here's the set list and a few more pics from today (courtesy of Getty Images by way of Rocks Off).

Route 66

It’s Only Rock and Roll


When The Whip Comes Down

Champagne and Reefer

Doom and Gloom

Miss You

Tumbling Dice

Start Me Up

Midnight Rambler

Jumping Jack Flash

Brown Sugar

Notice they started with Chuck Berry's old version of Route 66, a song the Stones did as far back as 1964 (and probably earlier).

Here's a great live version from '64 at the Camden Theatre in London and a few other tracks afterwards (the audio takes a few seconds to kick in on this video).

Rolling Stones - Route 66 (1964)

Other random and strange Stones news is a box of old photographs taken on the Stones 1965 tour of the States was found at a California flea market recently and are now on display in L.A. at the Dilettante Gallery. The photographer is unknown. The majority of them were taken poolside in Clearwater, Florida right in the middle of the tour. About two weeks before this they played the YMCA in my hometown of Ottawa and my father-in-law was at the show. They wouldn't play Ottawa again until 2005 on the Bigger Bang tour and I remember Mick talking about their '65 Ottawa show that night on stage. Then later on Keith apologized for taking so long to get back. They made up for it that night and I staggered home. That was almost ten years ago now.

Here's their latest, Doom and Gloom, which has grown on me to the point where I'm thinking it's a modern Stones classic.

Oct 24, 2012

Bobby Freeman - Betty Lou Got A New Pair Of Shoes (1958)

Everybody knows Bobby Freeman for the great 1958 song "Do You Want To Dance" which was the biggest hit of his career. He followed it up with this single the same year but it didn't crack the Top 20 and almost overnight his career started to falter. He'd be back in 1964 with the hit track "C'mon and Swim" (written by a young Sly Stone) but again Bobby couldn't string together two big songs in a row.

But don't let that fool you into thinking Freeman wasn't putting out good stuff. If I'd been alive and buying records in 1958, this song would have never left my turntable. Freeman is still going strong at 72 years of age on the West Coast.

Neil Young did a very faithful cover of this in 1983. Both versions are essential rock and roll.

Neil Young - Betty Lou Got A New Pair Of Shoes (1983)

Kiss - Hell Or Hallelujah (2012)

I've always been a sucker for Kiss, since I was 6 years old and saw the cover of Destroyer. I first saw them sometime around 89/90 on their non-makeup Hot In The Shade tour here in Ottawa at the Civic Centre and as recently as two years ago with the makeup on (but with Eric Singer and Tommy Thayer in the Peter Criss and Ace Frehley personas) Both shows were incredible, as I'm sure they were in '76 or '84.

I didn't have any expectations for their new LP Monster to be as good as it is. I mostly liked their comeback album from a few years ago, Sonic Boom but figured that was all they had left as far as a studio band goes. Kiss was always meant to be heard live anyways.

But then they dropped this and I can't really stop listening to it. Insane riff and a really heavy production makes this a sort of instant Kiss classic. The rest of the album is equally as heavy and has more hooks than Sonic Boom did (and that record had quite a few). Kiss usually does their good records in sets of three followed by shallow periods, so they might even have another one down the line here. Good or bad, I'll be buying it anyways. I'm just glad I like this one for something other than nostalgia this time.

Oct 23, 2012

Ronnie Hawkins - Horace (1959)

"Mr. Dynamo" himself, the adopted Canadian wildman, the Arkansas hillbilly, the only man Elvis was afraid of, the slayer of cancer, the lothario of Yonge Street, The Hawk, Rompin' Ronnie Hawkins.

There's not much you can do but introduce Ronnie like a boxer or some kind of gold-caped wrestling star.

Here's one of his wilder numbers with an obscenely young Levon Helm on the drums. The rest of what we now know as The Band weren't a part of The Hawks yet. This recording features Jimmy Ray "Luke" Paulman on guitar, a spot later to be filled by a young half-Mohawk Indian, half-Jewish Toronto boy named Robbie Robertson.

Zero Boys - Vicious Circle (1982)

I hadn't heard this in a long time when I stumbled across it the other day and I had forgotten how good a record this is. From just one of hundreds of local hardcore scenes in the early 80's, the Zero Boys came out of Indianapolis with that clean, fast sound that existed for such a short time in that era. This is 40 seconds of near perfection if you like this kind of thing. I was raised on it so it's never too far from my Ipod. Maybe I'll get some more up here soon.

Oct 19, 2012

Keith Richards - Yap Yap (1992)

It can't be easy coming off both loose and tight in the same song - listen to that muted riff Keith runs through the whole four and a half minutes - yet it's full of typical Keith swagger and a lazy backbeat by Steve Jordan. Richards never forces a single lyrical line. He even starts the song with a throwaway laugh but cuts every possible guitar flourish in half, which lets you know that smile is a little tighter than he's letting on. He's chewing on a bullet here.

Everything in this track is about what he doesn't play. You finish every chord in your head but the actual recording is full of empty spaces. It almost spooks you when you listen for it.

Keith has only put out two solo records in his life, both bookended around the Stones Steel Wheels LP and tour. He always resisted the idea, even when Mick tried his hand at being Michael Jackson. When you hear songs like this, you wonder what might have been if Keith wasn't so loyal to the Stones machine and put out a few more of these.

Here's another great one from the Main Offender LP. Same thing applies. He lets the guitar rock more here, but he's still playing with empty spaces better than anyone since Chuck Berry or Scotty Moore.

Keith Richards - Eileen (1992)

The Louvin Brothers - I Wish It Had Been A Dream (1960)

The Louvin Brothers are probably best known for bringing the fire and brimstone of God and morality to their recordings with titles like Satan Is Real, There’s A Higher Power and Are You Afraid To Die?... all done in that close, high-wire harmony between brothers Ira and Charlie that brings to mind the Everly Brothers and some of the country duos like The Stanley Brothers or the Carter Family.

Yet at the same time, the Louvins were capable of almost surrealistic, emotional songs that hung on intricate dual phrasing and just plain mournful lyrics that could drive even a Salt Lake City man to drink.

I Wish It Had Been A Dream is one of those songs. It’s hard to even describe how affecting the whole thing is if you hear it at the right time of night. The title alone is evocative enough to carry it for the sparse two and a half minutes it takes to unwind.

But even here, the Louvin’s can’t escape the guilt of God. The line “We were alone last night, pretending wrong is right” is more conflicted and complicated than it looks on paper by the sheer sadness of the way they sing it. Then it’s later followed with “But it’s easier to awake from a dream and cry than to walk away and say goodbye”.

They don’t write ‘em like that anymore folks.

Here's another great one by Ira and Charlie:

The Louvin Brothers - The Kneeling Drunkard's Plea (1959)

Link Wray – Black River Swamp (1971)

Hearing a couple of those early 70’s Link Wray LP’s (Self-Titled, and Fatback – both recorded in ’71) really turned my head around for a while. I only knew Wray as the black leather and pomade wildman who wrote all those great guitar instrumentals like Rumble and Big City After Dark in the 50’s and 60’s. I was so dumbfounded at first that I dreamt this might be Van Morrison singing with Wray just playing guitar.

These two records were a huge departure for Wray at the time. Right away you notice on the cover of his self-titled record he’s not hiding his Shawnee Indian heritage. He recorded these series of albums in a chicken shack behind his house in Accokeek, Maryland, which he called Wray’s Shack Three Track. It’s clearly influenced by The Band and the whole “back to the roots” country rock vibe of the late 60’s, early 70’s but few did it this good or more convincingly. You didn’t hear about The Eagles recording in a chicken coop. Not even the Flying Burrito Brothers (but I’m sure Gram would have enjoyed it ).

His vocals really bring Van Morrison to mind right away but Wray’s voice breaks a little more often which seems more sincere or endearing than Van at times – but that’s not meant to disparage Van at all – I’m a big fan as well. Then again, maybe it’s just thinking of Wray singing his heart out in a chicken shack out back that makes you think he’s got the feeling pretty strong here.

But we can’t write about Wray without playing some of the wildman stuff, and especially the song that made him a legend in the first place. There’s a great scene in the recent documentary It Might Get Loud where Jimmy Page is talking about Link Wray and the song Rumble in complete detail, the way it made him want to play guitar and the effect it had on his life. Then we see the silver-haired but still lean Page playing air guitar in his living room to Wray like he was still a teenager. Quite the sight to see.

Link Wray – Rumble (1958)

Jimmy Page listening to Rumble in It Might Get Loud (2008)

Oct 17, 2012

Neil Young - Four Strong Winds (1978)

I feel strange saying it but I've grown to love Neil's version of this great song over Ian Tyson's, the man who wrote and turned it into a sort of alternate Canadian anthem.

Maybe it has something to do with the way Young has talked about this song over the years, claiming it was the most beautiful song he'd ever heard when he stumbled across it on a jukebox one night and kept dropping quarters into it, trying to burn the song into his brain. When you see footage of him singing this (most recently in Jonathan Demme's 2006 concert film Neil Young: Heart Of Gold which was filmed live in the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville), Young seems possessed by the song, barely opening his eyes until the fade runs out of his strings. He's played it many times since but it didn't make a studio album until the Comes A Time LP in '78.

To me, this is the definitive version of the song although I can understand how most would prefer the original Ian & Sylvia recording. It's hard to explain why I feel that way, but it reminds me of how Townes Van Zandt wrote Pancho and Lefty but it always felt warmer in the hands of Willie Nelson and others.

You be the judge. Both versions are essential.

Ian & Sylvia - Four Strong Winds (1964)

Four Strong Winds has been covered so many times that it's hard to pick another that really stands up to Tyson and Young's recordings, but Johnny Cash did a version late in his life during the American sessions with Rick Rubin and it might be the one that ultimately pulls your heart out of your chest. To hear Cash sing "But the good times have all gone, and I'm bound for moving on" is very tough, especially when no one had heard this version until after Cash had already died.

Johnny Cash - Four Strong Winds (2003)

Oct 16, 2012

Ernie K-Doe - Te-Ta-Te-Ta-Ta (1961)

Ernie K-Doe will always be known for the hit "Mother-In-Law", and for good reason. It's one of the funniest songs you'll hear ("...Sent from down below, Mother-In-Law"). Outside of the big Fats Domino hits, Mother-In-Law was the biggest song to come out of New Orleans in those years (it was written and produced by Allen Toussaint, who worked closely with Ernie during that time).

Too bad Te-Ta-Te-Ta-Ta didn't really hit in the same way (not even close) but it's just as easy to listen to and never really leaves your head once it's in there.

There was so much great music coming from New Orleans at this time that this track just sort of blends in, maybe because it's so laid back that you can picture the band with their feet up, and cards on the table in the middle of the room, but it's one of Doe's best.

The photo above, with Toussaint on piano and Doe singing, is taken from the Mother-In-Law Lounge, a club that Doe opened up in New Orleans in 1994. Check out their home page here. According to Wikipedia, the club was "completely underwater" during Hurricane Katrina in 2005 but they got it back up and running. Too bad Ernie isn't around anymore, as he passed away in 2001.

While we're at it, here's the big hit...

Ernie K-Doe - Mother-In-Law (1961)

O.V. Wright - I've Been Searching (1973)

You hear that rhythm section and you immediately think of all those classic Al Green records. That's because this was produced by Willie Mitchell who produced and orchestrated all those great early Green records with the Hi Rythm Section, named after Mitchell's label Hi Records. That incredible drummer is named Howard Grimes and he's on all those Al Green songs with that same hypnotist trick of a beat.

And we haven't even talked about O.V. Wright yet, who had that distinctive marble-mouthed but still silky tone to his voice. He died real early but remains a legend in Memphis and for all those folks who like this kind of sound. This LP, Memphis Unlimited, is about as good as it gets outside of Al Green at this time.

Below is another one of Wright's songs from a later album called Bottom Line, something I posted here a long time ago but it's worth bringing up again. This was the first song I heard from Wright and I think it's the best thing he ever did.

Sounds like there's a little trouble in the house but O.V. goes right to the old lady to settle it. Hard not to smile a little listening to this one.

O.V. Wright - Let's Straighten It Out (1978)

Oct 11, 2012

Rolling Stones - Doom and Gloom (2012)

New Stones single. Maybe a little brittle sounding, a tad overproduced, but through the static is actually a pretty good Stones song that grows on you. It has the feel of the Undercover LP in 1983, a record that I really like. Just wish we could hear Keith a little better through that strange compression/distortion on the guitar tracks.

Let's hope the lads get together once in a while and give us some singles like this a few times a year when they finally give up touring.

Oct 8, 2012

Blue Sky Boys - Down On The Banks Of The Ohio (1936)


Here's the scariest song I can think of. People like their murder ballads to be folksy and tidied up like Long Black Veil, but this cut by the Blue Sky Boys will drain the warmth from your veins. The flag is by artist Jasper Johns.

"Come my love, let's take a walk.
Just a little way away.
While we walk along we'll talk,
Talk about our wedding day.

Only say that you'll be mine,
And in our home we'll happy be.
Down beside where the waters flow.
Down on the banks of the Ohio.

I drew my knife across her throat,
And to my breast she gently pressed.
"Oh please, oh please, don't murder me,
For I'm unprepared to die you see."

I taken her by her lily white hand.
I let her down and I bade her stand.
There I plunged her in to drown,
And watched her as she floated down.

Returning home 'tween twelve and one.
Thinking of the deed done.
I murdered a girl I love you see,
Because she would not marry me.

Only say that you'll be mine,
And in our home we'll happy be.
Down beside where the waters flow.
Down on the banks of the Ohio.

Next day as I returning home,
I met the sheriff standing in the door.
He said young man come with me and go,
Down to the banks of the Ohio.

Only say that you'll be mine,
And in our home we'll happy be.
Down beside where the waters flow.
Down on the banks of the Ohio."

Oct 5, 2012

The Stanley Brothers - Nobody's Business (1959)

The masters of the form. Ralph Stanley is still alive today and living in southern Virginia like he always has. Carter Stanley died early, back in 1966 but the recordings they made still sound like all hell's breaking loose.

When you sit back and listen to their records, you almost get spooked because it sounds so wild but somehow harnessed and in complete control - near perfection, if that means anything. To me it sounds like it's from another world, but the South would be to a Canuck like myself. No music has grown on me more in the past five years than old bluegrass and in particular The Stanley Brothers.

Here's another one. It seems like it was always written when you hear it. People try but they can never touch this version.

The Stanley Brothers - Somebody Touched Me (1961)

Bob Dylan did a duet with Ralph Stanley in 1997 on a song called "Lonesome River" and called it one of the biggest honours of his life. Dylan played Somebody Touched Me a handful of times on tour. Here's a version from 2000 in Portsmouth, England which he opened the show with. Not bad, Bobby. Not bad.

Bob Dylan - Somebody Touched Me (2000)

Rosemary Clooney - Come On-A My House (1951)

George's Aunt Rosemary can be quite convincing when she wants to be. What young man could resist words like "Come on-a my house, I'm a give you candy... I'm gonna give you everything."

This was Rosemary's first big hit written by maybe the two unlikeliest people - author and playwright William Saroyan and a guy named David Seville, creator of Alvin and the Chipmunks. Feels like a strange dream doesn't it? But it's true.

Oct 3, 2012

Gene Ski & The Troubadours - Six Foot Down (1966)

The only thing giving away the mid-60's date is the distortion. This isn't exactly a Sun Records recording from the late 50's but Gene's strange echoed hillbilly singing is like some long reach back in time, even for '66. But you have to remember that Bob Dylan's Blonde On Blonde was released that year. The Stones were well established. The Beatles were peaking. And here's Gene Ski born in 1944 in Green Bay, Wisconsin to a Polish family, curving back through time to a place before Elvis. It's in the way he hollers and bends those lines... and the lines themselves. His voice has an Eddie Cochran feel but also something more Appalachian. You could believe Robert Johnson singing those lyrics, or Bill Monroe or Dock Boggs. Not some kid named Gene Ski in 1966. But he makes you believe it and this song gets in my head and won't get loose.

"Yeah, well when I die I hope they bury me deep.
I hope they make it simple 'n' make it cheap.
O'well'a when I die I hope it's six foot down,
and they cover me over with heavy ground."

Notice it's not "six feet down" but "six foot down". Makes all the difference if you ask me.

Oct 1, 2012

Cissy Houston w/ Herbie Mann - Cajun Moon (1976)

I wouldn't call myself the world's biggest Herbie Mann fanatic. Jazz flute doesn't really get me going the way Coleman Hawkins or Lester Young can, but what do I know about it anyways? Mann has sold millions of records around the world. This track features the vocals of Cissy Houston and it's a killer. Cissy was the featured singer on Mann's 1976 LP Surprises and Cajun Moon feels like it could have kicked off a Pam Grier film or have been covered by The Band. It's one of those songs you can't really get a hold of because it's so laid back. It just seems to slip through the 3 minutes under a cloak. Even the Mann flute solo can't manage to crimp Cissy's flow. And Cissy Houston is Whitney's mom, in case you were wondering.

JJ Cale wrote and released Cajun Moon in 1974 on his Okie LP.

JJ Cale - Cajun Moon w/ I Got The Same Old Blues (1974)