Archive for the ‘Guitar’ category

Rock Music I Listen To At 69 – July 28, 2020

July 28, 2020

Now that I’m retired, I play more music and actually listen to it.

We have a 5-CD player that shuffles the CDs and the tracks. I dig through my collection and find five albums that I think I’ll want to hear for awhile.

Then I sit back and listen to the random gifts from the player, and ruminate on why I like them.

This time we have:

1) “Fight the Good Fight” by The Interrupters
2) “Cross Talk — The Best of Moby Grape”
3) “Raceway” by The Cash Brothers
4) “Just Won’t Burn” by Susan Tedeschi
5) “Sinematic” by Robbie Robertson

1) Fight the Good Fight

The Interrupters, from Los Angeles, are a recent discovery for me although they are deservedly wildly popular.  This is their latest album, from 2018.

the-interrupters-fight-the-good-fightThey remind me so much of the English Beat, that British “two-tone” band, in particular their debut album “I Just Can’t Stop It,” from 1980.

And like that band of 40 years ago (what!? can it be?), The Interrupters’ ska or punk or ska-punk rock just makes you want to stand up and move around.

Comprised of the lead singer, who calls herself Aimee Interrupter, and three brothers, they are high-energy performers who really seem to have fun.  The beat, the guitars, the voices — they are what make me love rock as a genre of music.  For me, it’s gospel music without the God talk.

Some highlights are Title Holder, Kerosene, and Got Each Other, the latter with added great voices from the band Rancid.

2) Cross Talk — The Best of Moby Grape

A quiz — who has heard of Moby Grape? Especially those born from say 1970 on?  Just about no-one, I would guess.  Even if you had come of age, in the late 1960s, as I did, you might also find that band unfamiliar.  They weren’t well-known to me, although they were contemporaries, for instance, of Jefferson Airplane.  (Skip Spence was Jefferson Airplane’s drummer on their first album.  He switched to guitar for Moby Grape.)

FireShot Capture 157 - Moby Grape - can't be so bad - YouTube - course the whole San Francisco scene at that time was improbably rich with other bands like the Grateful Dead, Big Brother and the Holding Company with Janis Joplin, Hot Tuna, Quicksilver Messenger Service, The New Riders of the Purple Sage, and Sly & The Family Stone, to mention only a very few.

The five members of the band came together in 1966 in San Francisco, and their three guitar attack (with bass and drums), along with good singing from all, got them noticed.

Unfortunately they suffered from poor, almost malicious management from the very start.  That must have been a big part why they didn’t make it as big as some of their contemporaries.  And also their record company just over-hyped them, at one point releasing five singles at once….

As another example of that, on the band’s second album, their song Just Like Gene Autry: A Foxtrot required that the listener rush to their record player, switch the speed to 78 rpm and be on hand afterward to switch it back to 33.

I love that name:  Moby Grape. Inspiration from the punch line of the question, “What’s big and purple and lives in the ocean?”

This compilation from 2003 has 24 tracks covering the band’s career.  Among the standouts for me are 8:05, Omaha, Can’t Be So Bad, I Am Not Willing, and Hoochie.

3) Raceway

I don’t know too much about the The Cash Brothers.  Getting this CD (1999), their debut, was probably a recommendation from a music magazine.  I’m glad I did.  There’s something genuine in the voices that’s rare.

a2459294770_5I would classify what they do on this album as country-rock, and the country feels more real than usual.  This Canadian “band” consists of two brothers, strangely enough, Peter and Andrew.

Wikipedia has some difficulty nailing down exactly the right genre for them, sliding around from “alternative country/folk rock” to “alt-country/alt-folk music.”  They are somewhere in there.

Their vocal harmonies raise the power of the songwriting, and the playing.

“Raceway” was re-issued in 2001 as “How Was Tomorrow.”

Tracks I especially like are Take A Little Time Out of Your Day, Nebraska, and Show Me The Reason.

4) Just Won’t Burn

This solo album from Susan Tedeschi dates from well before she formed the blues-rock Tedeschi Trucks Band with husband and master guitarist Derek Trucks.  (Trucks is the nephew of Butch Trucks, drummer for the Allman Bros. Band, and was officially a member of the Allman’s during the later part of that band’s long run.)

Susan_Tedeschi_-_Just_Won't_BurnOn this 1998 CD, Tedeschi brings an authentic blues tone to what she does.  Sometimes she even has that Janis Joplin, blues-belter voice, such as on the track, “It Hurt So Bad.”  She plays guitar well too.

It’s the rocking tracks that make me want to hop around with the beat though.  There’s “Rock Me Right,” “Mama He Treats Your Daughter Mean,” and “Friar’s Point.”

She also does a soulful cover of John Prine’s “Angel from Montgomery.”

This CD is a pleasure to return to.

5) Sinematic

I picked up this 2019 CD by Robbie Robertson after watching on TV the documentary about The Band he put together called Once Were Brothers.  I wrote here years ago about what The Band meant to me and especially The Last Waltz movie.

109cf567a1dff017fed6156eb363b2f8Robertson’s view of The Band has a decided perspective, which not all, including members of the band, might agree with.  Robertson is a generous man in many ways, but he also views what went on as revolving around himself, primarily.  This is complicated because his playing and songwriting did contribute so much to The Band’s success.

The eventual estrangement, especially, with Levon Helm is a touchy subject about two men who supported and cared for each other like brothers at the beginning.  Helm came to feel that he didn’t receive enough credit, including financial, for the songwriting and arranging, and they were never able to resolve the hard feelings.  But in the end Robertson did make it to Helm’s deathbed to say goodbye.

This CD includes the track “Once Were Brothers” which recapitulates Robertson’s sadness about what was once.  I find it moving.

There are other fine tracks.  “Hardwired” is about the human condition: “Marching for peace while they’re looking for a fight.”  “Hardwired for love — hardwired for war.”

His native heritage comes through in “Walk In Beauty Way.”  “Wandering Souls” is a shimmering guitar instrumental.  “Remembrance” is another instrumental song of deep feeling (from the soundtrack of the movie The Irishman).

This is not a hard-rocking album, but a meditative one by a renowned artist of his generation, now 77, trying to tell what it was like in the only way he can.


Notes:  This post follows upon a couple others in the same format about my love of rock music, at a slightly advanced age:

Rock Music I Listen To… Dec. 29, 2019
Rock Music I Listen To… Oct. 20, 2019

Rock Music I Listen To At 68 – Oct. 20, 2019

October 20, 2019

Now that I’m retired, I play more music and actually listen to it.

We have a 5-CD player that shuffles the CDs and the tracks.  I dig through my collection and find five that I think I’ll want to listen to for awhile.

Then I sit back and listen to the random gifts from the player, and think why I like them.

(This may be an occasional, if I feel like it, series of blog posts.)

This time we have:

1) “Southern Accents” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
2) “House of Ill Fame” by The Trews
3) “Action Pact” by Sloan
4) “The Singles Collection” by The Kinks
5) “The Very Best of the Electric Light Orchestra”

1) Southern Accents

This is a CD that I hadn’t heard much about, and just got recently.  Recorded 1985.

From the first track Rebels on through It Ain’t Nothing to Me to The Best of Everything, to me it’s the sound of a band creating and playing music for themselves, most of all.  That is, there is no second-guessing about what they’re playing.

Southern AccentsIn It Ain’t Nothing to Me I think we find Tom Petty’s operational philosophy.  It’s about “spare me the bullshit.”

He’s not impressed, dazzled, enthused, thrilled, chilled or chuffed by what you say.  “Might mean something to you. It ain’t nothing to me.”  It’s the sound of a necessary self-defence, making his way in the music business.

I like the Best of Everything, the last song of lost love, about a girl he knew so well and whatever happened to her:

“Yeah and it’s over before you know it / it all goes by so fast.”

The best known song on the album of course is Don’t Come Around Here No More.

2) House of Ill Fame

TrewsThis was the first album by the Trews, recorded in 2003.  They were so ambitious, so fired-up, this Canadian rock band.  Some might call them hard rock, I just hear them as an incredibly talented rock quartet.

Not Ready to Go is a favorite.  Nothing too deep in the lyrics, just going-for-it rock ‘n’ roll.  More often than not I’ll start boppin’ around when it comes on.

Likewise with When You Leave and Black Halo, catchy tunes with a lot of energy behind them make me glad the band is still around.  They’ve just released a new album, “Civilianaires.”  I’ve listened to some tracks on YouTube.  More sedate, and mature probably, after 15-16 years.

3) Action Pact

To me, Sloan is the Canadian rock band.  Based in eastern Canada, we don’t hear them as much on the west coast as we should.  They are as tuneful, hard-rocking, melodic and often thoughtful as the Beatles, the Kinks or even Cheap Trick.  One reviewer in 2004 wrote,  “Sloan has written better songs than anything The Rolling Stones have put out in 20 years.”

SloanThe band was only formed in 1991, and to date they’ve put out 12 albums.  With the same personnel!

According to Wikipedia, this 2003 album was a serious effort by the band to break into the US market, which apparently it didn’t do, although it was well-received in Canada.  The band is well-known for vowing to keep Canada as their home base.

Usually all four members share at least some of the writing. On this album the primary drummer’s input was lacking, and some reviewers claim this hurt it.  Others cite the album’s “incredibly tight vocals” and “arena-rocking songs.”

Not necessarily my favorite Sloan album, it’s a pleasure to listen to (as are all the other Sloan albums I’ve accumulated).  The tracks Gimme That, The Rest of My Life, and False Alarm stand out for me.

4) The Singles Collection

The Kinks have to be one of the most versatile sounding bands in rock history.  They moved from covering Little Richard classics and getting Motown influence from Earl Van Dyke’s band, to gritty singles like You Really Got Me to melodic pop songs like Set Me Free.

KinksMy favorites though tend to be the satirical songs like Dedicated Follower of Fashion and A Well Respected Man.  The songs in this collection date from 1964 to 1970.  They of course went on to more success after that period.

They had so many good songs, but my favorite, strangely enough, is Victoria.  When I first heard it, I was attending the University of Victoria, here in British Columbia.  The song is all about Queen Victoria, I guess, but the wonderful rhythm, singing and driving down tree-lined streets in my old red MGA convertible conflated it into the memorable tune it is for me.

The 1960s and 1970s really do seem like a different era and the Kinks exemplify that in many ways.

5) The Very Best of Electric Light Orchestra

Jeff Lynne is an underrated (in some quarters) musical genius, and the Electric Light Orchestra has been his vehicle.  Formed in 1970, Lynne became the band leader in 1972, and he and ELO are still making music until the present day.  However, ELO did disband for a time in the eighties.

ELOUntil you listen to a collection like this (on Playlist from the Epic/Legacy label in 2008), you don’t fully realize how many hits ELO have had.  (And add to that Lynne’s participation in the Travelling Wilburys, his solo albums, and all his producing credits.)

Many of the songs on this CD are nostalgic reminders of the seventies and eighties.  There are often classically influenced strings present, and rock ‘n’ roll rings out in every song.  There is often a sense of elegance and musical creativity.  Some of my favorites are Do Ya, Can’t Get It Out of My Head, Mr. Blue Sky, Hold On Tight, and of course Roll Over Beethoven.

If I ever go to an elderly sock hop, this would be the music I’d like to hear….

I always feel better after listening to ELO.


Making Some Music With Guitar

March 28, 2019

This follows on the same path of trying to learn electric guitar as chronicled in previous posts like The Aging Learning Guitarist Keeps On, The Impatience of Learning Guitar, and On the Need to Make Music.

I can now link to a YouTube playlist of guitar music I’ve recorded.  (All due to the guy who I take lessons from and who puts the tracks together – Eddy Bugnut, music producer extraordinaire, at Bugnut Records: Mixing – Production – Songwriting.)

There are eight music videos there now.  I’m not quite sure what to make of them.  A great opportunity to show off to friends and relatives, I guess, as well as to hapless blog readers.  I like them, which is better than the opposite.

The one I’m happiest about right now is Take the High Road.  I’m flabbergasted that it rocks. It actually rocks. That I played it is totally amazing to me.  (Well, with the aid of some skillful editing here and there.)

I’m really interested in hearing how one of the next — Watching the Watchtower — turns out.  (It was finished, and I think it’s good, for somebody of my musical immaturity.)  That’s the title we’ve put on a shortened version of Jimi Hendrix’s All Along the Watchtower.  Sacrilege, I know.  It’s shortened because I couldn’t quite manage some of the more difficult speedy finger-twisting lead parts.  It’s different enough from the original to have a related name.  Anyway, it still is powerful to me what we’ve done, how Eddy’s put it together.  He’s making the rhythm guitar sound so good, along with the sound in general.

Besides that, another video is an actual original tune, if you can imagine, and a couple more videos of cover tunes too.  It’s fun to participate in helping them come together.

OK, enough fun.  Time to get back to work on the writing….


On the Need to Make Music

August 21, 2018

Since I’m retired (whatever that means), I have more time to excavate long-ago crannies of my life.

I was reflecting on when one transitions from boy to teenager.  “One” being me, of course, as the overwhelmingly predominant source of my material.

This was in northern Canada (although the Bulkley Valley in north central British Columbia is not that far north really).

Young and impressionable, after listening to the inspiring music of the late 1960s from afar through a few records and more importantly, night-time rock radio, I longed to create the same emotions I felt.  I wanted to rock, to move people, to express truth.

I hungered to play music, to play guitar, to stir people.  There was nothing I wanted more, in the way of the young.  My failure to accomplish anything in that realm, through a combination of lack of musicality, of lack of instruction, and without proper equipment, had a rippling effect through my life that even at this remove I can glimpse. (I fear that it was mostly lack of musicality.)

I wonder if there isn’t something similar for every young person, an object or area of immense emotional sustenance if only it could be brought fully into one’s life.  In my case, I think it was rock music and guitar.  For some other young one, it might be racing motorcycles, or painting landscapes, or being a comedian.  I think there must be some such for every one, although it might only be foggily felt, or deemed too mundane or too special to receive encouragement.  There are artesian wells of yearning in the young that the adult world often tries to cap.  Or the yearning is allowed to exhaust itself through indifference.

In some ways my failure at music helped make me remote, painful, standoffish, insecure, and melancholic. Although as a teenager, this probably was the normal state of affairs!

RamblersPhoto1I was the nerd who sat and listened, the only audience in the noon-time classroom, while the school sock-hop band – voice, guitar, drums and bass – practised Secret Agent Man and Wipeout for a dance.  I couldn’t play, but at least I could listen….

The poor old school band was surprised at receiving such attention at their practice times.  There was something obsessive about it, I admit.  I always clapped after they finished playing.  They were unsure how to acknowledge their audience of one.

It is true that passion does not necessarily signify talent.  I am a good example of that.  But now in the latter half of my sixties, I learn to once more play guitar and appreciate the modest musical abilities I do have.

I am lucky enough to have some rewarding recording experiences thanks to a music teacher and producer.  It means a lot to me, and makes me want to do more.

The fountain is bubbling in my heart again, like a boy.


Note: Image is of the band, The Ramblers, from the site GarageHangover.

Rock CDs (and a DVD) I Just Had to Buy

July 26, 2018

Now that I’m retired, music I love is taking up more of my time.  I’m trying to play more, and learn more, in my lower intermediate rock guitar student way.  I’m listening more, especially to bands I neglected in the past (or think the wider culture has neglected).

And I just finished reading This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of A Human Obsession, by Daniel Levitin.  One of the saving graces of human beings as a species is music, in all its forms.  The book describes how humans are hard-wired for music.  We should be grateful for that.

I’ve got shelves of CDs already, and I really don’t need to add to them, but I couldn’t resist buying a few recently.

From Amazon, which has become a major resource, I picked up the first new CD in 20 years from the New Riders of the Purple Sage.  It has songs with lyrics by Robert Hunter, famous for his contributions to the Grateful Dead.  I’ve never had a CD of theirs or even listened (to my knowledge) to the New Riders, although I know they’ve been around for a long time, but the Robert Hunter connection made me want to check them out.

Another from Amazon is Janis Joplin Live at Winterland ’68 with Big Brother and the Holding Co.  This was fairly early in Joplin’s short career, and the band, Big Brother, also shows what it is capable of as one of the original psychedelic outfits.  I love Janis in live performance, the rawness and sheer over-the-top passion – I’m thinking now of the Festival Express DVD where she bowls everyone over with her astonishing performances.

And my third CD from the ubiquitous retailer is the Zombies’ Still Got That Hunger. The Zombies, an English band, are famous for their songs from the 60s like Time of the Season and She’s Not There.  Pretty long in the tooth, these guys, but I want to hear what they sound like now with new material in this CD from 2015.

The Disappearing CD

It’s harder and harder of course to find CDs at any local storefronts in the Greater Vancouver area.  And CDs themselves are apparently slowly on the way out, given the tendency to buy single tunes online or obtain through file-sharing.

But in the little fishing village becoming gentrified that is Steveston (a hamlet within Richmond, BC, home to the Vancouver Airport), there is a small bricks-and-mortar shop called Beatmerchant, where CDs are still sold.

The owner, Frankie Neilson, actually knows a lot about most of the music I love.   He worked in the music industry in the UK with Polydor in the 1970s.  He relocated to Vancouver in the 1990s after spending some time in Toronto.  He started his physical store in 2005.

Wishbone Ash Argus

So from Frankie this week I bought Argus by Wishbone Ash.  I have it on an LP but since I almost never get around to hand-cranking my old Kenwood turntable and listening to any of the old long-plays, I decided to get the CD.  (You probably don’t know about Kenwood’s series of hand-cranked turntables which required considerable strength just to get going, like a Model T….  OK, just kidding.)

Argus was Wishbone Ash’s biggest album and rose to #3 in Britain in 1972.  They were a band playing progressive rock I guess you could say, with folk and classical influences.

Also from Beatmerchant is the 2 CD compilation The Essential Paul Revere & The Raiders. You never hear them now even on so-called classic rock stations, but Paul Revere & The Raiders were big when I was growing up during high school and into the early 1970s.  My brothers and I listened to them a lot on our battery-powered Phillips phonograph (since we didn’t have electricity for many years – not kidding).

Some of their early hits include Kicks and Good Thing.   They were Columbia Records top-selling rock band of 1967.  Later, they shortened their name to The Raiders and had hits with Indian Reservation and Birds of a Feather.

They often liked to wear Revolutionary War costumes….

And finally, Beatmerchant had a DVD I didn’t know existed: Stephen Stills & Manassas – The Lost Broadcasts. Manassas was a band that Stephen Stills formed with some other heavy weights of the time such as Chris Hillman and Al Perkins.  Their primary release was a self-titled 2-disc LP in 1972 (mentioned in this post).  The group only lasted a couple of years, but I’ve been a fan ever since.

This DVD apparently shows the band performing a number of songs on German television.  The YouTube video of It Doesn’t Matter gives you an idea of the band.

So the next step is for me to listen to all this good stuff!