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Showing posts from December, 2008

New post up at the Times, different blog

I was asked by my editor to reflect on alcohol and New Years' and what it all means to me, so I did just that, as did a couple other people, too. Proof: Alcohol and American Life (New York Times Online) Happy New Year to you all. ***** Addendum, several hours later. The reaction to the blog post in the Times has been pretty universally sour. Most people read Proof for great drinking stories and happy boozing. This entry was not one of those. I can't remember my happy drunks, honestly, so it was not something I could write about. (I bet some of my readers can remember some of my drunken nights better than I can.) I was asked to consider thoughts on the holiday positive, negative, celebratory and fearful, and the piece I submitted was sent with those considerations in mind. I would never want to discourage anyone who wants to drink and can drink successfully from having a good time, especially on New Years' Eve, a traditional night for such adventure. All I was s

One day I bought these both at Roses in 1969

Roses was the department store at the Knollwood St. end of Thruway Shopping Center, my childhood hang. I paid probably $2.49 for each album. They both killed me. Antithetical style. Albert's long slow phrases. Johnny's hyperactivity. Albert's got his Flying V . Johnny is playing a Fender Mustang , I think. Albert's got Booker T and the MG's backing him up. Johnny has his longtime bassist and drummer, just as jacked as him. I wanted to sound like both of them, fast like Johnny and soulful like Albert, but probably came nowhere close at twelve to either. What I heard them play, I liked and tried to emulate but never really sit down and learn note-for-note. I was of a mind that you couldn't do that with the blues, that it had to be emotion-driven immediacy. That attitude cost me a lot of shitty sounding solos in off-the-cuff situations. Still does, sometimes, but I'm a better planner after forty years. Today, I'd say bank on the Albert and

The Butterfield Blues Band - The Resurrection of Pigboy Crabshaw

This album is the first Paul Butterfield record after Mike Bloomfield left to start the Electric Flag. The mighty Elvin Bishop steps forward on lead guitar, there's a horn section that features a young David Sanborn and the whole affair is a slight step sideways from the experimental nature of East West 's title tune. But it's great, and it's the album that got me interested in trying to write horn charts for my prepubescent blues band. I can't actually read notes the way one should be able to. I have tried since Pigboy Crabshaw to use staff paper for something other than artwork , but I have a long-standing mental block that has yet to fall. Maybe, had I had piano lessons as a kid, I would find notation comprehensible, but I didn't and it isn't. Never stopped me from trying, though. Simple straight blues tunes like "Drivin' Wheel" with their simple horn arrangements were my initial projects. Someone clued me in to the fact that writ

Super Session - Al Kooper, Mike Bloomfield, Steve Stills

This album has pretty much been the Big One I've returned to over the years. From the Mike Bloomfield lick that starts "Albert's Shuffle" to the mellow, jazzy and maybe slighly out-of-place "Harvey's Tune", Super Session is my favorite white-guys-playing-the-blues album of all time. The story is that Bloomfield was in the process of departing from the Electric Flag, the horn band he founded, before they recorded their second album, and Al Kooper had been deemed less suitable as lead singer for the band he founded, Blood, Sweat and Tears, than as keyboardist and composer. They both played on Moby Grape 's Grape Jam album and an idea formed. Kooper called Bloomfield, with whom he'd first played on the 1965 Bob Dylan sessions that yielded "Like a Rolling Stone" and Flag bassist Harvey Brooks , and in one nine-hour session (also featuring Barry Goldberg on piano and Eddie Hoh on drums) came the first side of Super Session . Bl

Bare Wires - John Mayall's Bluesbreakers

While we're on the subject of my early immersion in the blues, Bare Wires is the first album I bought with my own money. I'm not sure where I heard about John Mayall . I don't think it was from listening to the Subterranean Circus on WCFL out of Chicago on my AM radio. It may have been something I read in Hit Parader magazine. Whatever prompted me to do it, I bought the album in 1968 when I was twelve and immediately loved it, especially "Killing Time" and a lot of the "Bare Wires Suite". The guitar work of Mick Taylor was a lot of what drew me in. I hadn't gotten to hear his predecessors Peter Green or Eric Clapton in the Mayall band, so I had no comparisons I could draw. Mick just sounded so sweet, and his tone was gorgeous, very complementary to the original tunes Mayall wrote. I was an inveterate listener and contest-entrant at WTOB , Winston-Salem's Good Guy radio station. Once, I won my choice of a free album there, so I trot

Projections - The Blues Project

My late brother Curtis gave me this record in 1967 when I was eleven. Maybe he didn't like it very much, but he fobbed it off on his impressionable baby brother who absorbed it completely in his post-Beatle awareness of all things hip in music. He'd given me the head's up on the Beatles appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964 and had fed me a Left Banke album he thought I'd appreciate, which I did. The Blues Project record, though, was different from the pop stuff. I didn't know from blues at that point, so this was my first foray (unless you count hearing Tom Rush sing "Who Do You Love" on AM radio about the same time). First thing that drew me in was the spidery, shiny screech of Danny Kalb's lead guitar, especially on "I Can't Keep From Crying" which sounded as much like Blues Magoos as the blues to me. Al Kooper's ondioline was making an early appearance in that song too, as it would later on "Her Holy Modal Ma

Holiday gift giving suggestion

Know some kids who need nice shirts? Especially the little ones that you don't want to dress in faux football uniforms or princess dresses? Be sure and check out Smart Wife's website Nice Shirt, Kid and order some of her sweet onesies and shirts. They make great presents. The children look like they have excellent taste in musical instruments. That's the fifteen-month-old, lunging toward the popular acoustic guitar long-sleeve onesie. Banjos, electric basses, Plush Amplifiers , they're all there. (And it beats one more talking toy, doesn't it? I mean, if you step on a shirt in the kids' room in the middle of the dark night, it doesn't shout "TO INFINITY...AND BEYOND!" I was closing up the living room the other night and, so help me God, every one of the five-year-old's Madagascar 2 Happy Meals toys went off in a howling chorus of celebrity voices that just about sent me through the ceiling. I have a brother-in-law who has been know