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Charlie Haden (1937 – 2014)

Tough weekend for my musical heroes….

I was just digesting the news of Tommy Ramone, the last remaining member of The Ramones, passing away at his home in Queens on Friday and I heard that Charlie Haden passed away on the same day.  I heard about Charlie’s death when Bob Brainen dedicated his WFMU show to him on Saturday morning.

In the same stratosphere of Mingus and Jaco, Haden was widely regarded as one of greatest jazz bassists of the modern era.  I’ve been a fan for years and count his 2001 release Nocturne as one my All-Time Top Ten Jazz Albums.  It won the Grammy that year for Best Latin Jazz Album and remains in my regular rotation.

Charlie Haden

Born in Shenandoah, Iowa Haden was mostly known for his work with free-jazz pioneer saxophonist Ornette Coleman, pianist Keith Jarrett, and his Liberation Music Orchestra, a group he co-led with pianist Carla Bley.

Here’s a wonderful story Charlie related to bassist Flea back in 2007…
Flea: The most incredible thing about the upright bass—the few times I’ve played one—is the way you can feel the whole thing vibrate when you have it up against your body. It’s like your body is resonating with the instrument. It’s a very fulfilling feeling.

Haden: It is! That’s why I stand so close to the instrument when I play. I put my head next to it. One night in 1959 I was playing at the Five Spot with Ornette, Don Cherry, and Billy Higgins, and I always play with my eyes closed—but I opened my eyes, and there was some guy onstage with his ear next to my ƒ-hole. And I was like, “Who is this guy?” And Ornette was like, “That’s Leonard Bernstein!” And I was like, “Okay . . . .”

Although he grew up on a farm, his family was very musical and performed regularly on the radio as a country and folk music group known as The Haden Family Band.  Charlie made his professional debut as a singer at the age of two!  He was a vocalist until he contracted a form of polio that affected his throat and face muscles.  He was no longer able to sing and turned to the double bass.

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Turning down a scholarship to Oberlin College (they didn’t have a jazz program) he headed west and after attending the Westlake School in LA, he started playing jazz professionally with Paul Bley.  He eventually landed with Ornette just after OC’s milestone The Shape of Things to Come.  Haden’s country and folk influences were the perfect match for Coleman’s Texas blues and microtonal jazz elements that were blossoming in the free jazz movement.

Spirituality (from Wikipedia…)

While he did not orient himself with a specific religious orientation, Haden was interested in spirituality, especially in association with music. His teaching method relied heavily on spirituality. He believed that in order to establish an individual musical voice, one must first establish a spiritual posture. This physical and mental position will allow the individual to find their own unique musical voice and bring it to their instrument. He also encourages his students to enter a meditative state when they play, one in which they focus solely on the present moment: “there’s no yesterday or tomorrow, there’s only right now,” he claims.  In order to find this state, and ultimately to find one’s spiritual self, Haden urged that one must have humility and respect for beauty; they must be thankful for the ability to make music, and to give back to the world with the music they create. He claimed that music taught him this process of exchange, so he teaches it to his students in return.  Music, Haden believed, also teaches incredibly valuable lessons about life: “I learned at a very young age that music teaches you about life. When you’re in the midst of improvisation, there is no yesterday and no tomorrow — there is just the moment that you are in. In that beautiful moment, you experience your true insignificance to the rest of the universe. It is then, and only then, that you can experience your true significance.”

Enjoy….

Pink_Floyd_-_all_members Pink Floyd – January 1968 – from the only known photo shoot of the band together at the time.   Left to right: Mason, Barrett, Gilmour (seated), Waters, and Wright The news earlier this week that Pink Floyd would release an album of new material recorded during The Division Bell sessions back in 1993 was big news for Floyd fans who have been complaining (bitterly) that the 20th anniversary re-release of The Division Bell  contained no new material or even outtakes. It made me realize that although I covered the late Syd Barrett’s birthday back in January and the 40th Anniversary of the release of Dark Side of the Moon, I haven’t really done them justice for not only a body of work that is, to this day, largely unsurpassed by others but also the extent to which they played a role in my own musical development. pink-bbb In a sort of twist on the old “youth is wasted on the young” adage, progressive rock is also.  The music that bands like Pink Floyd, Procol Harum and King Crimson were creating back then was evolved and quite complex.  No “three-chords and the truth” to quote Dylan here.  No short 4/4 finely crafted pop tunes out of these guys.  They had clearly moved beyond the blues-based ministrations of The Beatles and The Stones.  With influences ranging from classical music to German modern music, and jazz, bands like Floyd were called “art rock” for a reason.  Progressive?  Indeed. gilmore 1963 – 1967 / Formation From Wikipedia…

Roger Waters met drummer Nick Mason while they were both studying architecture at the London Polytechnic at Regent Street.  They first played music together in a group formed by Keith Noble and Clive Metcalfe with Noble’s sister Sheilagh. Keyboardist Richard Wright, a fellow architecture student, joined later that year and the group became a sextet named Sigma 6, the first band to include Waters, who was at this time playing lead guitar; Wright, who at first played rhythm guitar since there was rarely an available keyboard; and Mason on drums.  The band started performing during private functions, while rehearsing in a tearoom in the basement of the Regent Street Polytechnic. They performed songs by the Searchers and material written by their manager and songwriter, fellow student Ken Chapman.

Sigma 6 went through a number of other transitory names, including the Meggadeaths, the Abdabs and the Screaming Abdabs, Leonard’s Lodgers, and the Spectrum Five before settling on the Tea Set…  In 1964, as Metcalfe and Noble left to form their own band, guitarist Syd Barrett joined Klose and Waters.  Barrett, two years younger, had moved to London in 1962 to study at the Camberwell College of Art.  Waters and Barrett were childhood friends.

In late 1965, they became the resident band at the Countdown Club, near Kensington High Street in London, where from late night until early morning they played three sets of ninety minutes each. During this period, spurred by the group’s need to extend their sets in order to minimise song repetition, came the band’s “realisation that songs could be extended with lengthy solos”, wrote Mason

The group first referred to themselves as the Pink Floyd Sound in late 1965. Barrett created the name on the spur of the moment when he discovered that another band, also called the Tea Set, were to perform at one of their gigs.  The name is derived from the given names of two blues musicians whose Piedmont blues records Barrett had in his collection, Pink Anderson and Floyd Council. They developed their repertoire and played more around the London scene, eventually securing a record deal with EMI in early 1967.   Their first recordings were the tracks “Arnold Layne” and “Candy and a Currant Bun” as its B-side, both of which they recorded on 1/29/1967.  EMI released “Arnold Layne” (it was avoided by some radio stations as it spoke of cross-dressing) but it received attention.  This was followed by the second single “See Emily Play”, on 6/16/1967. It fared slightly better than “Arnold Layne”.  It was around this time that Syd Barrett started to come apart at the seams largely due to LSD use. PinkFloyd-album-piperatthegatesofdawn_300 The band released their debut album, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, on 8/5/1967.  The title refers to the god Pan in from the book “The Wind in the Willows”.  it was the only Pink Floyd album that Barrett was to lead.  His erratic behavior grew worse and the band was forced to cancel some notable gigs that had been lined up to support the album. A change was in the air…. My other Pink Floyd posts…. http://timbrosnan.wordpress.com/2014/07/08/news-flash-new-pink-floyd-album-due-out-in-october/ http://timbrosnan.wordpress.com/2013/04/03/40th-anniversary-of-a-masterpiece-the-dark-side-of-the-moon-pink-floyd/ http://timbrosnan.wordpress.com/2014/01/06/syd-barrett-1646-7706/ All tracks from Piper At the Gates of Dawn:

  1. “Astronomy Domine”
  2. “Lucifer Sam”
  3. “Interstellar Overdrive’

Enjoy…. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FEJ4WzLAiwU http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wbIMx2MYNXk http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4o2sA0vpA-4

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From “Brain Damage” – The Pink Floyd news resource.

Tweeted on Polly Samson’s Twitter feed is the rather unexpected but incredibly welcome news of a new Pink Floyd album. She revealed that it is called “The Endless River” and is based on sessions recorded in 1994 – which were for The Division Bell.

She also notes that it “is Rick Wright’s swansong and very beautiful”. The singer Durga McBroom-Hudson also expands on this, by stating the recent picture of David Gilmour in the studio with her (Durga), along with Sarah Brown and Louise Clare Marshall was not in actual fact from the recording sessions of David’s new work, but from the sessions working on completing The Endless River (although this is not confirmed).

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There were a number of comments from people concerning the lack of any outtakes in The Division Bell 20th anniversary boxset (particularly as the existence of some instrumental recordings – commonly known as The Big Spliff – has been known for many years and has moved into the stuff of legend and the odd dodgy download). Clearly, it seems, plans had been afoot for a standalone release for some time, which should please those who are only after these recordings so they don’t have to buy a full box set just for this CD. Needless to say, this should prove incredibly popular and we expect demand to be very high.

More details, including ordering details and more, to come as soon as we have them.

UPDATE, 6th July: In today’s The Sun on Sunday UK newspaper, under the tagline of ‘Pigs Fly Again’, is a report on the new album. Whilst none of their information is confirmed, and seems to come from an unnamed “source close to the project”, there are some interesting updates. Included in the report they note that David and Nick have been working on this in the studio over the past six months, and that the material (sitting in a vault in London’s Abbey Road Studios) has “been a joy for [them] to rediscover”. They also make the point that Roger Waters is not involved in the project – a question we’ve had from a number of you. A spokesman for the band also stresses that there will be no accompanying live tour, although these last two points won’t come as a surprise to many of you.

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I had  a few albums which didn’t make it into the top ten that do deserve honorable mention.  “Honorable Mention”.  If Holden Caufield was here he might say “Now there’s a category for phonies if there ever was one.  I’m not lyin’.  What’s so honorable about losing?”   Holden aside for a moment there have been a few releases over the years that got a lot of play from me (and still do).

In no particular order….

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Blood on the Tracks – Bob Dylan.  Dylan’s masterpiece.  No other Dylan album come even close for me.  From the opening chord of “Tangled Up in Blue”, to the pensive “Shelter from the Storm”,  the angry lash of “Idiot Wind”, the long ballad of “Lily, Rosemary, and the Jack of Hearts” (at a whopping 8:51) through to the closer “Buckets of Rain” every song is a gem.

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Abraxas – Santana.  Another gem, I had trouble not putting something of Carlos’ on some list.   A huge figure in my listening development, I had a strong affection fo his debut album (lion’s head cover) but chose Abraxas on the basis of “Black Magic Woman” and “Sampa Pa Ti” alone.

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Bayou Country – Creedence Clearwater Revival.  The very first album I ever bought with my own money (I had received The Monkees as a birthday gift).  It might have been interesting if the album had a note inside informing me that I had just picked up the first item in a life-long obsession of record collecting but no-o-o-o-o.  8-)

I always liked this album and to be truthful it is probably tied with CCR’s Cosmo’s Factory and the Willy and the Poor Boys albums.  In many ways this was my introduction to electric blues well before I discovered Buddy, B.B. or even Eric.  With cover tunes like Ledbetter’s “Cotton Fields” and the traditional blues structure of “Midnight Special”, I didn’t realize it then but like the cotton farmer in Ledbetter’s tune, the blues seed was planted and it clearly took root!

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Ratcity in Blue – Good Rats.   OK, so this one’s an outlier. Aside from the probably not being able to find it in your local record store (it would have to be a really great store) some of you may not be aficionados of one of my favorite bands from my youth.   With legendary live shows (complete with tossing rubber rats at the audience) amd searing guitar solos backed by kick-ass rhythm, the “Rats” were a Long Island staple.  I’ve included “Advertisement in the Voice”.   Give it a listen and you’ll be a fan too.

 

Enjoy….

 

 

 

 

exciters

Digging through some old music files I unearthed this gem that reached #4 on the pop charts in late 1962.

From Jamaica, Queens, The Exciters formed in high school in 1961 as a girl group named The Masterettes – a sister group to The Masters – and soon added a male member to make it a quartet.  At the height of their popularity the group consisted of lead singer Brenda Reid, her husband Herb Rooney, Carolyn Johnson and Lillian Walker.

Tell Him” was their first hit record.  Arranged by George “Teacho” Wiltshire and produced by music legends Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, for United Artists, the song brought them recognition.

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The song had previously been recorded unsuccessfully, as “Tell Her”, by Gil Hamilton later known as Johnny Thunder.

According to Jason Ankeny at Allmusic, the Exciters’ version of “Tell Him”

“…boasted an intensity that signified a sea change in the presentation and perception of femininity in popular music, paving the way for such tough, sexy acts as the Shangri-Las and the Ronettes.”

The song was written by Bert Berns.  (Note that the 45rpm label above credits Bert Russell the song – his legal name was Bertrand Russell Berns.)  No shortage of talent – Bert also wrote “Twist and Shout”, “Piece of My Heart” and “Hang on Sloopy”.

Dusty Springfield was on a stop-over in New York City en route to Nashville to make a country music album with The Springfields in 1962, when she heard the Exciters’ “Tell Him” playing while taking a late-night walk by the Colony Record Store on Broadway. The song helped Springfield decide to embark on a solo career with a Pop/Soul direction.

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Dusty later recalled:

“The Exciters sort of got you by the throat…out of the blue comes blasting at you “I know something about love”, and that’s it. That’s what I wanna do.”

The only real mystery here is why the video below was filmed at a zoo!?

Enjoy…..

 

TopTen

See my previous post for albums 6 thru 10.  You can find it here…

http://timbrosnan.wordpress.com/2014/06/28/my-all-time-top-ten-list-part-one-10-6/

The continuation of my All-Time Top Ten List with albums 5 thru Numero Uno.  As noted, it’s tough picking the number one but I wouldn’t place too much credence in the placement of anything in the top 4 or 5.  In looking at my list you might be inclined to think, “How’d he get to that?” but I realized while selecting these that it isn’t just the music here.  These albums are also associated with various times in my life (mostly my formative teen years).  They have conscious and subconscious connections to old girlfriends, new love, hanging with friends listening to music, going to concerts, being in a band, but mostly the place of “refuge” that teen agers seek when school and parents seem to close in.  Thank God for headphones!

 

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5)  American Beauty – The Grateful Dead

I have a large collection of Grateful Dead albums, nearly all of them, supplemented by hundreds of concert recordings from across their long career.  Add in solo works by Jerry, Bobby, and even Billy and they start to add up.  But when it comes to wanting to hear classic Dead – as in the “good ol’ Grateful Dead” – I invariably turn to American Beauty.

As for my very first listen, I can remember being at an off-site retreat during high school and some wise person had brought this along.  From tunes like Lesh’s “Box of Rain” to the classic boogie of “Truckin'”, this album has it all and for me – it still does.

 

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4)  Disraeli Gears – Cream

I think this may be the album that finally drove my parents over the edge. I listened to this non-stop for what seems like what must have been months and although I probably played Cream Live – Vol. 2 even more, DG makes the list on the sheer force of “Sunshine of Your Love”, “Strange Brew”, and “Tales of Brave Ulysses”.

 

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3)  Led Zeppelin (IV) – Led Zeppelin

This selection may seem like a no-brainer but I actually had trouble deciding between LZ’s first four releases.  They’re all good and I almost chose #2 on the strength of “Whole Lotta Love” but in the end “Stairway to Heaven”, “Black Dog”, and “Misty Mountain Hop” made this the choice for me.

Released in late 1971, the album is actually unnamed (but the 4th release), and was an instant commercial and critical success.

 

AllmanBrothersBandAtFillmoreEast

2)  At Fillmore East – The Allman Brothers Band

I wavered on putting the Brothers in first place ahead of the Stones for awhile but my instincts  told me that although both albums remain in regular rotation through my iPod and CD player, I had to go with classic British rock here.

I like the straight up classic blues here especially the opener “Statesboro Blues” and “Stormy Monday” and have a little less atraction for the longer jams of “Whipping Post” and “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed”.  Released in July 1971 (clearly a great year for me musically), it was the ABB’s first live record.  It was their artistic breakthrough release and in addition to going platinum, it even deemed to be added to The Library of Congress.

 

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1)  Sticky Fingers – The Rolling Stones

With the Andy Warhol zipper cover open, this album opens with the iconic double hit of the “C” chord intro to “Brown Sugar”, proceeds straight into “Sway” and slows it up with “Wild Horses”.  Onto “Bitch” and “Sister Morphine” it just doesn’t get any better for me.

Around the time I was getting into the Stones I vaguely recall being obsessed by their live release Get Yer Ya-Yas Out”. Sticky Fingers broke that spell and I still consider it their crowning achievement.  The band is in fine form, at the top of their collective powers, but I’d say they were carried by Mick Taylor’s guitar playing throughout.

Enjoy…

TopTen

Like most of you, I have a prodigious music collection.  Piles and piles of CD’s, albums, 45’s, even 78’s are only outnumbered by the ever-growing external hard drive of mp3’s.    So when I’m asked to choose my Top Ten albums of all-time, or to create my Desert Island Disc List, I have trouble.  I find myself protesting (to myself!) that the list needs to be the top 25 or 50 or 100.  The fact that my hard drive is currently holding north of  40,000 songs doesn’t help me select ten albums in the slightest.  The notion that I can carry the history of what I consider  “essential” music around in my pocket is just too mind boggling to comprehend at times.  What would Edison think?  Or Beethoven for that matter?

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But there comes a time when you need to make choices.  Dante said something about the darkest parts of hell being reserved for those who stay neutral in a time of crisis.  Crisis?  What crisis?  I can’t find my copy of Led Zeppelin IV!

One slight cop-out here.  This is just the rock list.  I could publish a list for folk, classical and jazz with barely a thought, opera would be a bit tougher, but the list would eventually arrive.

One other point,  while these are my top ten the toughest part was the places within the list.  Not a huge difference between 10 and 9 to me or 1 and 2 for that matter.   In my opinion, it’s ALL  insanely good and it ALL belongs in your record collection – and to be perfectly honest I’m guessing most of this already is.

So onto part one of  my Top Ten List of All-Time…

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10) After the Gold Rush – Neil Young

Released in August 1970, …Gold Rush was Neil’s third studio release.  Although it didn’t receive much respect from the critics at the time, it has since gone on to be considered Neil’s masterpiece.  The singles “Only Love Can Break Your Heart” and “When You Dance I Can Really Love” propelled it onto the charts.  And while I’m waxing on Neil,  I’ve always considered Neil to be true heart of CSN&Y.  While Stephen, David, and Graham were singing about “Our House” being a very very fine house, Neil actually had the balls to write about kids being shot to death at Kent State.  Good for him.

For you New Yorkers, the album cover was photographed on the street behind the NYU law school in the Village.  Look closely and you’ll see the face of an old lady who was walking past Neil at the time.

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9)  The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle – Bruce Springsteen

I’ve been a Bruce fan since high school.  My first Bruce concert was him opening for Anne “Snowbird” Murray at the Schaefer Music Festival in Central Park.   I can remember Anne looking back at her band wondering why the crowd was booing her talents.  How was she to know we were all just yelling “Bru-u-u-u-u-ce!”?  Poor Annie.  8-)

The Wild & Innocent album has long been my favorite Bruce album. Released in September 1973, in the days just before the band was named “The E Street Band”, the band cooks with such Bruce classics as “Rosalita” and “4th of July, Asbury Park”. But my favorite track by a wide margin is “Kitty’s Back“.  A great version here but if you want to hear what the band can really do also check out the jazz version they pull off at The Hammersmith in London disk.  Beyond great…

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8)  The Royal Scam – Steely Dan

Released in 1976, this was the Dan’s fifth release.  It features more virtuosic guitar work than the previous releases and combines the talents of some serious players like Denny Dias, Larry Carlton, Elliott Randall and Dean Parks.

For you rock trivia buffs, the album cover was originally created for Van Morrison’s unreleased 1975 album, Mechanical Bliss. Don and Walt claim it to be “the most hideous album cover of the seventies, bar none”.

I couldn’t pick one favorite track from this album – they’re all good and it deserves to be listened to in its entirety.

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7)  Performance Rockin’ the Fillmore – Humble Pie

I’ve posted about this album somewhere in the past.  It remains among my favorite live albums of all-time and displays not only the sheer force of Pie with Steve Marriott as frontman but also the guitar work of Peter Frampton.  Check out the cover version of Ray Charles’ “I Don’t Need No Doctor”.  These guys strip the song down to its most basic structure and then rebuild it and open with a powerful E chord that hits you square on as the song barrels on to a jazzy interlude.  30+ years later, John Mayer re-works ‘Doctor in his own style but, for my money, he doesn’t come close to this.

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6)  Are You Experienced? – Jimi Hendrix

Still considered one of the greatest debut albums in the history of rock music, Jimi Hendrix, Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell broke through with an album that defined an era of psychedelic music.  Interestingly, the biggest hits “Purple Haze”, “Hey Joe”, and “The Wind Cries Mary” were not included on the original UK release but only on the US version (they have since been included on all CD reissues on both sides of the Atlantic).

I remember buying this album in E.J. Korvettes in high school.  Although it had been released in 1967 it took me a few years to catch up to Jimi but, unfortunately by the time I did, Jimi had checked out of the Samarkand Hotel in Notting Hill for good.

Enjoy… and look for Part Two (5 – 1) soon