Bill Withers: Just As I Am & Live at Carnegie Hall

The obsession of the moment, mister Bill Withers. Known for his great “Ain’t no sunshine”, I’ve become a fan recently because of “Moanin and Groanin”, both from the same debut album Just As I Am.

I got the discography but so far I haven’t made it past Just As I Am and a bit of his Live at Carnegie Hall, where I’ve discovered the awesome “World Keeps Going Around”.

Live at Carnegie has this jam and a few others, maybe half of the debut album and some other songs I didn’t really get to listen to but I know they are on other albums. There’s a documentary out about him, titled after his second album, Still Bill. The man is still alive, not sure how well he is at his 75 years but I can’t find any information about recent or future concert so I’m assuming he’s not performing anymore. But hey, Rodriguez came back from the dead so one can only hope, though I’m not sure how well his voice might sound.  Here’s the second successful single from JAIA:


The Concert

When it comes to music, I am a man of faith: I believe there is a God and there’s a devil, I believe in souls and immortality and in fatalism. Philosophically, I am a hardcore determinist (again, only with regards to music). That’s probably why I prefer soul and blues to classical compositions or to impressive technically hard worked perfectionism that you sometimes see/hear in classic heavy rock. Music is my escape from the overly rational and reason-orientated life that I try to encourage and live.

That been said…

I HAVE IT! The concerts of concerts, the concert of the best and the best of the concerts, the concert for which the concept of a concert was invented, the reason why, whenever it happened, the word “concert” was first pronounced. If everything was created for a reason, then the word “concert” was made for the ultimate purpose to refer to this event: 1968 at Steve Paul’s The Scene, N.Y.C., Jimi Hendrix jams for God knows how long and plays probably the most astonishing tunes possible. Joined on scene by a very drunk/high and unintelligible (except for when he swears) Jim Morrison, Hendrix does what he knows best: reinvents blues songs in a personal way that cannot be matched. I am incapable of describing how brilliant I think Hendrix was and this concert sounds. And now I finally have it, on vinyl. Not the best quality, not the clearest sound, not the perfect recording. But the perfect concert.

This recording stems from 1968 in the Scene Club, owened incidentally by Steve Paul, Johnny Winter’s manager. Jimi was a frequent visitor here because he loved the atmosphere and also loved to jam and as he always had a tape machine on hand, that night was captured forever, giving an insight to Jimi’s blues side, which he always reverted to when playing without any commercial pressures.

Tony Brown, Back Cover of TNK,  Sept. 1980

 The record does not include the whole concert, or at least it doesn’t seem like it. The bits included are probably what was intelligible enough to put on a disc. The record on its own has a crazy story: the tapes were recorded by Jimi, went from hand to hand, copies where made and conflicts arose. Wikipedia has Bleeding Heart as the official release title and  “Sunshine of Your Love”, “Sky High”, “Live at the Scene Club”, “Red House”, “New York Sessions” and “Tomorrow Never Knows” as unofficial titles. I have the German edition of “Tomorrow Never Knows”, with a cover in very shit condition, but, hell, who cares? the disc is fine. The A-Side is taken up by three songs: a relaxed, yet “faster” version of Red HouseWoke Up This Morning and Found Myself Dead/Wake Up This Morning and You Find Yourself Dead, and the awesome cover of Bleeding Heart (which should still be playing in the background while you are reading this).

 I heard Jim threw his arms around Jimi’s legs in a sodden embrace and then somehow blundered in a table with drinks on it….a table where Janis was sitting.

A commentator at this YT video

(if it ain’t true, it should be)

But it’s the B-Side that will blow your mind away. Well, that’s if you can ignore Morrison’s delirium and swearing, to enjoy it requires an effort that comes possible only with the consumption of illegal substances. The guitar riffs and solo that Jimi does throughout the first three songs (Morrison’s Lament, Tomorrow Never Knows and Uranus Rocks) have a power of their own. If the Piper’s incantation had a secret formula, Jimi found it and build this jam around it. In comparison, Page’s solo from Stairway is a decent opening act.

Outside Woman Blues is a more spacey, futuristic kinda continuation of the first three songs of B-Side. The closing song – a final effort – is one of Hendrix’s favourite tunes to cover: Cream’s Sunshine of Your Love.

The identity of the other musicians is highly disputed. Johnny Winter (of whom I am embarrassed to say I know little) has been credited with rhythm guitar on the record, but he denied being at the club when this concert happened, saying he never met Morrison in person. Randy Hobbs is supposedly on bass (though some say Noel Redding was present and played) and a Randy Zehringer on drums.

The Club itself has an impressive story: Andy Warhol and his gang used to hang out there, The Doors played for three weeks in a row, Pink Floyd, Fleetwood Mac, The Velvet Underground and Pink Floyd are some of the names that also played and Linda soon-to-be McCartney was a usual. Unfortunately, the 301 West 46th Street club was shut voluntarily by the owner in 1970. Wikipedia has it that “the closure was prompted by Steve Paul’s refusal to pay protection money to the New York Mafia. This resulted in fights being started at the club, placing its liquor license in jeopardy”.

 I end my own lament with the “important note” on the back cover of the “Tomorrow Never Knows” record:

The music contained herein has been left as it was that night at the Scene club, – rough, but with the raw dynamism of Jimi’s guitar to the fore. Extolling the licks of his mentors – the Delta Blues and Alberts’ King and Collins. Also present is Jim Morrison, cavorting about the stage exceedingly drunk and happy, much to the bemusement of everyone! Jimi’s playing  is pure fingerwork, no foot pedals or devices used and we have a rare glimpse of a much lamented figure, playing not for a commercially orientated audience, but for his own enjoyment.

 As always, I hope you’ll enjoy this recommendation 🙂

Jake Holmes – The Above Ground Sound

I don’t think I had the opportunity on this blog to say how much I like Led Zeppelin. Or how I consider Jimmy Page to be an absolute musical genius. Well there, I’ve said it. What I like the most about them is their ability to take some songs and do this crazy jam, most of the time for more than six minutes, and come out with something that sounds insanely good. Take Rock and Roll. Or How many more times. Or, what was for a long time my favourite song – Dazed and Confused.

The problem with Mr Page is that he felt so proud of the results of those jams, that he forgot who made the songs initially. So Led Zeppelin got sued a lot. And accused of plagiarism even more. But somehow, they’ve managed to keep on rockin’. With Dazed and Confused the story is a bit weird.

Jake Holmes is a folk man and jingle writer whose first album The Above Ground Sound includes Dazed and Confused. When Led Zeppelin I came out, Mr Holmes wrote a letter to Mr Page, saying it is not nice what he did. I mean, he probably liked the version, but he didn’t like the fact that he got no credits. The Led Zeppelin man didn’t reply, Mr Holmes didn’t insist. Until a few years ago, when he finally sued. I don’t understand why he waited so long, but he did.

Anyway, the album The Above Ground Sound has been growing on me for a while now. Penny’s is a soft simple and relaxing folk tune, that reminded me of the kind of stuff I used to listen to from a Romanian folk man, Mr Andries.

As usual, wikipedia has more on Jake Holmes and his work. I want more from him now, because he seems to have kept the good work going. Here’s one last song from The Above Ground Sound, Did you know.

Soul from Suits – Charles Bradley: No time for Dreaming

If I’ve talked with you in the past three days, then most certainly I’ve mentioned my new obsession: Suits. One of the reasons I consider this show awesome is Harvey’s record collection. This wonderful website (as many others) has a list with songs from the show, and if I got it right, there is only one record played throughout the entire first season: Charles Bradley & The Menahan Street Band – No time for Dreaming.

Now, I am no expert in soul, but Mr. Charles Bradley must be one of the best male soul artists in the last 20 years, at least. Surprisingly, No time for Dreaming came out in 2007 and is his first and only record. All the songs used in the show are great, and I thought they were made by original soul artists, Motown or Stax. Heartaches and Pain is featured in the season one’s finale, a tune which I think you could easily find on any of Otis Redding’s albums.

The record company behind Mr. Bradley is Daptone Records, a Brooklyn based ‘House of Soul’, with a declared mission to revive and celebrate the funk and soul of the 60s and 70s(says Wikipedia). And I have to say they are doing a goddamn good job, with acts like this one or Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings (of whom I will write at one point). If the first song was not enough to convince you to listen to the rest of No time for Dreaming, here’s the shocker of the album: a cover version of Nirvana’s Stay Away. Yes, a song written by Kurt Cobain, one with very aggressive and loud drums and guitar and with an ending verse that claims God is gay. Charles Bradley & The Menahan Street Band take it and turn it into a modern soul track, replacing the anger with soul screaming sounds and the aggressiveness with funky wah-wah guitar effects. Enjoy.

What a day for a daydream!

I am on a spree! The first week of my musical adventure can be considered a success, since I’ve managed to get my hands on four of Lennon’s Jukebox singles and several other collectables. The first single I’m going to talk about is not the first I’ve acquired but the one with, in my opinion, the best B side. I’ve heard Daydream before, most probably in a commercial or something like that, but I never thought of searching who is playing it.

The Lovin’ Spoonful are a band I can’t tell you much about, but I’m pretty sure in a few weeks I’ll grow a tiny obsession on their music. Night Owl Blues, the B side of the single, is an absolute killer. A classic blues bass line, a harmonica that gives you the thrills, all topped with the perfect guitar solo. I’ve heard just two songs from The Lovin’ Spoonful (and how different they are!) and they’ve managed, as many others, to make me regret I can’t go back and live in the 60s.