If you are a long time reader of this blog you know that I’m a huge fan of everything Canadian. I’ve spent a lot of time in Canada, I love the Canadian people, I love the natural beauty of the country, and most importantly….I love Canadian music. To celebrate that love I have a an amazing Special Performance for you today……Randy Bachman and Neil Young performing two different versions of Prairie Town, one electric and one acoustic and both absolutely great. As a bonus I’ve included a short video from 1987 of a celebration of the music of Winnipeg, Canada that features both Randy, Neil, and Burton Cummings. Enjoy……
This is the fourth in my series of posts about Tribute Songs. Today’s song, JM, by Strand Of Oaks (Timothy Showalter) hit me like a punch in the gut when I first heard it last week. Let’s listen and then I will provide you with more details about the song and who it’s a tribute for…..
JM will be featured on the Strand of Oaks album Heal that is scheduled to be released on June 24. The JM in the song is Jason Molina and I have to confess that he was not on music radar when he died last year. When I heard Timothy Showalter’s awesome tribute to his hero I knew that I had to learn more about Jason and his music.
I’ve spent the last week or so listening to the the catalog of music that Jason left behind when he died and I’m blown away. Be looking for a post about Jason in the near future. In the meantime, you won’t go wrong checking out Jason’s music for yourself. FYI – Jason recorded under his own name, under Magnolia Electric Company, and under Songs: Ohia.
Did anyone else notice the similarity of JM to Cortez the Killer by Neil Young? Here’s a great live performance of Cortez so you can see what I mean.
When I started this blog two and a half years ago I envisioned that it would be a journey where I mostly walked alone. I’m happy to say that this was not the case! I’ve had visitors from over 148 countries around the world as part of over 50,000 views of the 700 posts that I have made so far. I’ve met, and become friends with, people around the world! I would like to single out Gerard from the Netherlands who has been a supporter of this blog almost from day one and who has encouraged me to continue to post via his frequent comments. Unbelievable!
The map shown above shows the countries that the blog has been visited from….the darker the color for a country the more visits I’ve had from it. In case you are interested, the countries that HAVE NOT visited this blog include:
Central African Republic
I can’t tell you how much I appreciate everyone around the world that has visited this blog. Thanks to each of you for walking with me on a least a portion of this musical journey through time. Please listen to “Walk With Me” by Neil Young as an expression of my thanks to you!
I feel your love
I feel your strong love
I feel the patience
Of unconditional love
I feel the strength
I feel your faith in me
I’ll never let you down
No matter what you do
If you just walk with me
And let me walk with you
I’m on this journey
I don’t wanna walk alone
Walk with me
Walk with me
Walk with me
Walk with me
Walk with me
Shine me a light
Walk with me
Walk with me
I lost some people
I was traveling with
I missed a soul
And the old friendship
When you have a song catalog with the size and quality of Neil Young’s you have little reason to cover another writer’s songs……and yet at last year’s Farm Aid benefit concert Neil chose do exactly that. The only possible rationale for this act is that Neil has a deep and abiding respect for the song’s writer who was none other than Gordon Lightfoot. Let’s listen to Neil’s cover version of Early Morning Rain………
As it turns out, this was not a one time event….it was the start of a trend. Neil has been performing If You Could Read My Mind, another Gordon Lightfoot classic, during his acoustic tour this year and has included that song on a soon to be released album titled A Letter Home. Deep and abiding respect indeed…….
Let’s listen to the original recording of the song by Gordon that was released on his first album in 1966….
Now for the really amazing fact…..this song has also been recorded by a few other musicians you might have heard of……..
(For a great story about the Abandoned Luncheonette cover checkout this blog post)
Some people will tell you that the 70s were a vast wasteland for music. To those people I say….”You don’t know what the hell you are talking about!” Take a look at the unbelievable collection of albums that were released in the last three months of 1973 and I dare you to find another three months in any year that produced the same level of music quality and diversity. I’m proud to say that I have these albums in my collection.
So get ready….I have well over an hour of music below celebrating the best albums released at the end of 1973. Enjoy…….
October 1973 Album Releases
Selling England By The Pound – Genesis
This is probably my favorite Genesis album of all time. It was back during the days when the band was fronted by Peter Gabriel (i.e. it was the “real” Genesis). I know what I like and here it is……
Time Fades Away – Neil Young
This is the rarest Neil album of all time to the best of my knowledge. I am lucky enough to have the vinyl album…I say that because Neil has never released this one as a CD. Here’s one of my favorite songs from Neil which is one of his most autobiographical numbers. It’s also a great New Years Resolution if you are still looking for one……Don’t Be Denied……
Quadrophenia – The Who
I’m quite sure that I’ve talked about this before…..Quadrophenia is my favorite album by the Who and this is my favorite song from that album…….
For Everyman – Jackson Browne
I think Jackson Browne may be the most talented singer/songwriter of my generation. I’m currently working on a major blog post that provides a critical analysis of a set of Jackson’s songs including the title song from this album. Since I will be talking about Everyman in that post, I have chose to feature These Days my second favorite song from this album……
Laid Back – Greg Allman
Wrapping up the October albums is Greg Allman’s first solo album which is a classic by anyone’s standards. I love Greg’s voice and he is a terrific songwriter as well. Here is Multicolored Lady from Greg’s album.
November 1973 Album Releases
Abandoned Luncheonette – Hall and Oates
Before Hall and Oates produced their string of “Pop” hits they produced that absolute masterpiece. It is without a doubt my favorite for their albums and the title song from the album is stunning. Give it a listen and you will see what i mean…..
Piano Man – Billy Joel
What can you say about Billy Joel that hasn’t already been said? This is the album and the title song that started it all for him………
Mind Games – John Lennon
This was John’s fourth solo album. He started working on the title song during the Get Back sessions by his first band that you might remember as The Beatles :-). Let’s listen……
Keep on playing those mind games together
Raising the spirit of peace and love
I want you to make love, not war I know you’ve heard it before
Fergusile Park – Stealers Wheel
Stealers Wheel was a great but very much under appreciated group. Fergusile Park was the group’s second album and by the time the album was released it was down to the duo of Joe Egan and Gerry Rafferty each of whom was a great songwriter so I’ve chose to highlight a song from each of them from this album. First up is Star that was written by Joe Egan…..
Next up is Who Cares that was written by Gerry Rafferty. When I listened to this song back in 1973 I knew that Gerry was going to have a very long career. Unfortunately we lost Gerry way to soon back in 2011!
Stealers Wheel didn’t last long after this album. Gerry’s went on to have a great solo career while Joe’s career kind of faded away. Sometimes talent just isn’t enough…..the music business is tough.
Montrose – Montrose
Montrose was a powerhouse that featured Ronnie Montrose on guitar and Sammy Hagar on vocals. They rocked on their debut album which you can see for yourself by listening to the first song, Rock the Nation (written by Ronnie)……
December 1973 Album Releases
Band On The Run – Paul McCartney and Wings
Not to be outdone by John’s release of Mind Games, Paul released this Wings masterpiece the very next month. The title song, with its three independent parts beautifully woven together, is an absolute classic……
Tales From Topographical Oceans – Yes
One double album featuring four sides of music each of which is made up of a single song. Yes it has to be Tales from Topographical Oceans. My favorite of the four songs….The Remembering…..see what you think……..
Ozark Mountain Daredevils – The Ozark Mountain Daredevils
The Ozark Mountain Daredevils were a very much under appreciated band. Their first, self titled, album featured one hit (If You Wanna Get To Heaven) but a lot of other great music as well. Today let’s listen to Colorado Song. I think you will like it……
Ridin The Storm Out – REO Speedwagon
The REO Speedwagon of the early 70’s rocked. While they would go on to have significant “pop” success in the 80s, I have always preferred their early stuff from the 70s. The title song from this album is my favorite…….
Wild Tales – Graham Nash
Graham’s second solo album was a great piece of work. Let’s listen to the final song from the album, Another Sleep Song……
I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned it in this blog but I love Formula One and Indycar open wheel auto racing. My two racing heroes, Aryton Senna and Michael Andretti, actually tell you a lot about me and how I approach life and work.
Michael drove the wheels off of race cars, sometimes literally, because as a driver he only knew one speed……full throttle. He still holds the record for leading the most laps of the Indy 500 without ever winning the race. If he would have taken better care of his cars, he might have won multiple Indy 500s but my, my, my he was wicked fast (until his cars blew up). Watch the following clip from the 1992 Indy 500 and you’ll l see what I mean. (The start of the race is about 17 minutes into the clip.) Michael qualified 6th (on the outside of the second row) and if you watch closely you will see him go from the outside to the inside and around the leader by the first turn. Absolutely amazing. I was there to see it in person and it was a performance I’ll never forget…….
Michael ended up leading 160 laps of that race but his car broke 10 laps before the end. Like I said….wicked fast as long as his car was running.
Aryton Senna was arguably the greatest race car driver of all time. He was, is, and always will be a hero for me. The man was incredible in a race car and an absolute magician in the rain. Watch this clip from the 1993 Formula One race at Donnington Park. In wet conditions that were absolutely atrocious you can observe Senna go from fifth to first within a few corners into the race. This first lap performance may be the best single race lap of all time.
Senna won the race and had lapped all but the second place car by the end of it. It was a stunning performance but only one of many similar performance in his career.
You are probably asking yourself what’s the link between me and these racing legends? The answer is that in life I only know one speed….full throttle. I firmly believe that if something is worth doing it’s worth throwing yourself into 110%. I work hard, harder than just about anyone that I know. Not bragging, it’s just a fact. My equipment (in this case it’s my body and not a race car) might wear out before the natural end of my race but by God I’m running full throttle until that happens.
Two of my musical heroes produced songs that helped shape my approach to life. To close out this post let me share those songs with you.
First up, Born to Run, by Bruce Springsteen. The message of this song is pretty self evident so let’s listen to it without any further explanation.
Next up, My My Hey Hey (both the Out of the Blue and the Into the Black versions), by Neil Young. The two versions of this song are absolutely brilliant and capture the way I feel about life in a couple of key lines:
It’s better to burn out than to fade away
It’s better to burn out that to rust
It’s better to burn out cause rust never sleeps
I firmly believe that if I move fast enough the rust will never catch me……burning out, well that’s probably something that can’t be avoided. Let’s listen to both versions…..
A couple of weeks ago I posted about the worst cover song of all time, America as recorded by Yes. Before anyone gets the idea that I think that a cover song has to be a note for note rendition to be good, I offer up today’s bonus edition of Two’Fer Tuesday which features three great cover versions of All Along The Watchtower each of which is unique. First up is Bob Dylan’s original version of the song.
The first, and probably most well known cover of the song, is from Jimi Hendrix. An amazing performance by an amazing artist. In my opinion this version is better than the original.
Next up is a great version by a very much under rated Dave Mason. While very much guitar driven like Jimi’s version, I think this one has a different feel to it.
My final version of the song is a 1o + minute version by Neil Young. Old Black was screaming on this rendition and I absolutely love it.
Send me a comment and let me know which version you prefer!
This is a great BBC documentary that makes a nice companion piece for our Southern California series from last year. Here is what the BBC website has to say about it….
Documentary looking at the music and mythology of a golden era in Californian culture, and telling the story of how Los Angeles changed from a kooky backwater in the early 1960s to become the artistic and industrial hub of the American music industry by the end of the 1970s.
Alongside extensive and never before seen archive footage, the programme features comprehensive first-hand accounts of the key figures including musicians (David Crosby, Graham Nash, J. D. Souther, Bernie Leadon and Bonnie Raitt, music industry bosses (David Geffen, Jac Holzman, Ron Stone and Peter Asher) and legendary LA scenesters including Henry Diltz, Pamela Des Barres and Ned Doheny.
The film explores how the socially-conscious folk rock of young hippies with acoustic guitars was transformed into the coked-out stadium excess of the late 1970s and the biggest selling album of all time.
I think you will like this one! Let me know what you think………
Today is your lucky day…..I have a Neil Young Three’fer for you instead of our normal Two’fer.
Last week I was listening to my copy of Neil’s 1976 retrospective, Decade, and reading the liner notes for the first time in many years. His liner note for Heart of Gold from the Harvest album (his only #1 hit single) caught my attention….
This song put me in the middle of the road. Travelling there soon became a bore so I headed for the ditch. A rougher ride but I saw more interesting people there.
The end result of Neil heading for the ditch was three albums that are now referred to as the Ditch Trilogy…..
Time Fades Away
On The Beach
Tonights the Night
These albums are about as far away from the middle of the road sound of Harvest album as you can get. Some people hate them but they are among my favorites. They are raw, powerful, and serve as a living reminder of Neil’s absolute artistic integrity. Let’s listen to a song from each of these albums.
Don’t Be Denied (Time Fades Away)
Revolution Blues (On The Beach)
Borrowed Tune (Tonights The Night)
So, if you have wondered why I have dragged this blog back into the on-going political fray about Sequestration…..let’s just say I headed for the ditch 🙂
Protest Music has always been part of American music and it still is today. It is not something that you hear about on a daily basis but it is always there lurking in the background.
In some ways, it is somewhat like the “room of requirement” from Harry Potter in that was always there when it was really needed. Think about the song Ohio from Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young. Neil Young wrote the song immediately after David Crosby showed him Life Magazine photos of the National Guard gunning down students at Kent State during an antiwar protest. The band recorded the song that night and it was released in a a matter of a couple of weeks. There was a need and the perfect song was there. Let’s listen…..
I can still remember hearing the song on the radio the first time. Of course I had already heard of what happened at Kent State. I couldn’t believe that our government had shot down innocent college student but I felt powerless and alone. Ohio captured every emotion I felt but was unable to convey and, most importantly, after hearing the song I knew I was not alone in having those feelings….I was part of a group. It was perfect.
In other cases protest music is already written and is just waiting for the right moment. In this way it is like a lot of modern technological innovations that get invented before there is an application for them. Let me give you an example from a recent article that i read in Wired Magazine.
Don Stookey knew he had botched the experiment. One day in 1952, the Corning Glass Works chemist placed a sample of photosensitive glass inside a furnace and set the temperature to 600 degrees Celsius. At some point during the run, a faulty controller let the temperature climb to 900 degrees C. Expecting a melted blob of glass and a ruined furnace, Stookey opened the door to discover that, weirdly, his lithium silicate had transformed into a milky white plate. When he tried to remove it, the sample slipped from the tongs and crashed to the floor. Instead of shattering, it bounced.
The future National Inventors Hall of Fame inductee didn’t know it, but he had just invented the first synthetic glass-ceramic, a material Corning would later dub Pyroceram. Lighter than aluminum, harder than high-carbon steel, and many times stronger than regular soda-lime glass, Pyroceram eventually found its way into everything from missile nose cones to chemistry labs. It could also be used in microwave ovens, and in 1959 Pyroceram debuted as a line of space-age serving dishes: Corningware.
The material was a boon to Corning’s fortunes, and soon the company launched Project Muscle, a massive R&D effort to explore other ways of strengthening glass. A breakthrough came when company scientists tweaked a recently developed method of reinforcing glass that involved dousing it in a bath of hot potassium salt. They discovered that adding aluminum oxide to a given glass composition before the dip would result in remarkable strength and durability. Scientists were soon hurling fortified tumblers off their nine-story facility and bombarding the glass, known internally as 0317, with frozen chickens. It could be bent and twisted to an extraordinary degree before fracturing, and it could withstand 100,000 pounds of pressure per square inch. (Normal glass can weather about 7,000.) In 1962 Corning began marketing the glass as Chemcor and thought it could work for products like phone booths, prison windows, and eyeglasses.
Yet while there was plenty of initial interest, sales were slow. Some companies did place small orders for products like safety eyeglasses. But these were recalled for fear of the potentially explosive way the glass could break. Chemcor seemed like it would make a good car windshield too, and while it did show up in a handful of Javelins, made by American Motors, most manufacturers weren’t convinced that paying more for the new muscle glass was worth it—especially when the laminated stuff they’d been using since the ’30s seemed to work fine.
Corning had invented an expensive upgrade nobody wanted. It didn’t help that crash tests found tat “head deceleration was significantly higher” on the windshields—the Chemcor might remain intact, but human skulls would not.
After pitches to Ford Motors and other automakers failed, Project Muscle was shut down and Chemcor was shelved in 1971. It was a solution that would have to wait for the right problem to arise.
The right problem for Chemcor ended up being one posed by Steve Job from Apple Computers in 2007. He needed Corning to produce millions of square feet of ultrathin, ultrastrong glass that didn’t yet exist for a new device that Apple was working on called the iPhone. The work that corning had done on Chemcor allowed them to produce what is now know as Gorilla Glass, a product that is now featured on more than 750 products and 33 brands worldwide. Chemcor had finally found its problem.
Some protest music is like Chemcor. As an example, Charles Albert Tindley wrote a song called “I’ll Overcome Someday” in the early 1900s. Here is a 1930 performance of the song by Caldwell Bracy at the King Edward Hotel in Jackson, Mississippi.
The song was brought to the Highlander Folk School (a school that trained union organizers, in the 1930s by tobacco workers from Charleston, South Carolina. Songwriters including Pete Seeger and Guy Carawan, heard it at the school and altered Tindley’s refrain “I’ll Overcome Someday” to “We Shall Overcome” and the resulting song became the theme song of the US Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. I’ll Overcome Someday had found it’s problem. (Thanks to Wikipedia for providing source material about We Shall Overcome) Here is Bruce Springsteen’s version of We Shall Overcome that he recorded as part of his tribute to Pete Seeger. Let’s listen…..
The next installment of the American Protest Music series will start to investigate the some of our earliest examples of Protest Music. Stay tuned…….