Midsummer's coming! Time for the season of outdoor delights and endless nights, and guests coming and going through all the strangest Doors in the Green Man.
Have you heard the Endless Jam? No, not the Neverending Session; we're almost certain those guys are alive -- they eat and drink and fall asleep under the tables in the Pub, and I'm pretty sure one of the pipers knocked up that little blonde sous-chef last winter. The Endless Jam is different. Very different.
You know that old joke, about how they must have a hell of a band in Heaven? Well, I don't know about Heaven, but we sure have one in the Great Hall. Started showing up in the '50s. they say. Right after the Big Bopper kicked the jam jar, 'Chantilly Lace' started booming through the Great Hall, like thunder through chocolate pudding. 'Peggy Sue', and 'La Bamba' were right behind it, so it was pretty obvious who was haunting the Great Hall. Before long, folks started to glimpse them, too: JP Richardson, Buddy Holly, Richie Valens -- especially Holly, with those grave eyes behind the heavy glasses that somehow made him look cool instead of geeky.
They showed up in droves in the '60s. Stars, session men, back up singers, all the pretty girls (and boys) who ever went for take-away with a band. Hard times, man, but the world's loss was our gain. On the subject of strange Doors, you can often find Morrison in there, lazily working on a poem -- he tends to write them in green flames n the air, but then no one really believes that guy was human, anyway. Cobain likes to look over his shoulder and take notes. Hendrix sways and burns like a mad candle flame; he's been sitting in on some really funky duets, too, since Warren Zevon showed up.
Yes, of course The King is here! Can't guarantee he's dead -- people see him so many other places -- but he sure shows up in the Great Hall. In good shape, too. Lately he's been favouring hymns and spirituals, jamming with Janice Joplin and Mama Cass -- what a sound! Elvis is dark honey and Janice is burning whiskey, and Cass is the sweet cream that turns it all into confection. Keep your chicken soup; this is brose for the ears, I tell you.
Lennon's taken over an alcove by the fireplace, where sometimes he declaims hilarious nonsense and sometimes he plays guitar to break the gates of Hell. When those lazy eyes open wide it's like a lightning strike; he stands like a martial angel with a guitar instead of a flaming sword, holding back Death. The last few years, a dark shadow occasionally wanders into stand at his left, supplying the melody -- George may be free of the Wheel of Life, but he still comes back to make music. Keith Moon's drumming for them right now; sitting in for the duration, one assumes.
We're knee deep in ghosts around here, but very few of them play classic rock and roll. Except the Jam, of course -- and they just keep getting better all the time. The real rockers just don't lie down and sleep, you know? Neither does anyone else in the Great Hall: it's the place to go when you need that beat in your bones, that sound that takes over your blood and reshapes your lungs into a dragon's -- gasping in the breath of gods and breathing out living fire.
Come Midsummer's they'll leave the Hall and take over the Courtyard - and then, from dusk to dusk, the air will burn and shiver with the wildest free concert of all time. Be there or be square. As we used to say
There's a party going on.
Gonna last the Summer long.
Camille Alexa enjoys a night out at the Mission Theater in Portland, Oregon, in the company of Celto-punk musician, Casey Neill. It sounds like the audience were treated to a lively night; 'Here is music so genuine, delivered with such talent and confidence, its lure is undeniable. In the crowd, hair is tossed, arms are raised ... fists are pumping the air in celebratory audience participation.' Take a read of Camille's review to find out what caused such a reaction!
Most Green Man reviewers have fairly hearty appetites when it comes to music, both live and recorded, and Camille's no exception: 'After several years' absence from the world music scene, Sara Tavares returns to deliver a hip, sensuous and incredibly smooth new release, Balancê. This is music so palatable, it's difficult not to compare it to chocolate, to fruit smoothies, to rum cocktails. But I'm going to try -- for all our sakes -- to dispense with the food analogies. Suffice it to say, this CD is delectable.' Read her tasty review thisaway!
A jam band of an unusual ilk pleased John Benninghouse: 'Keller Williams is a darling of the jamband scene, having graduated from solo acoustic guitar to a fuller arsenal including electronic loops, which led to lengthy excursions on stage. Here he confines himself to a mini-12 string guitar and partners with Larry and Jenny Keel on acoustic guitar and upright bass, respectively. The Keels are of a slightly more traditional mindset, so the resulting music here is purely acoustic. The album's title is perhaps a bit misleading as this really isn't bluegrass since there's no mandolin or fiddle and just a hint of banjo. That the music doesn't exactly fit any kind of traditional mold is not a problem, however.' His review of their grass recording is over 'ere.
Nâra's Om caused John to lament just a bit: 'I live in a state that saw a great influx of northern European immigrants in the 19th century. Today there are millions of people here who can trace their ancestry to Northern Europe, yet the concept of Nordic folk music is almost completely foreign to most of them. This is a real shame, because the genre produces some great music that is not only wonderful in and of itself, but also makes for a challenging listen to American ears.'
John wraps up his reviewing this edition with a look at some tasty post-USSR music: 'Since 1999, the folks at the UPE Recording Company have been tapping the rich and varied vein of the folk music of one corner of the Baltic region with their Latvian Folk Music Collection. The series is a real grab bag, with certain volumes focusing on a particular instrument while others concentrate on a single style. On any given album you can find a mix of the strictly traditional sitting comfortably next to more contemporary interpretations. Riga Dimd marks the 14th volume in the series and is a musical tribute to Latvia's capital, Riga.'
Despite her initially enthusiastic anticipation, Donna Bird doesn't give that fond a report of her trip to the 1976 Montreux Jazz Festival, courtesy of Weather Report's DVD, Live At Montreux, 1976. 'Watching the band on a TV screen in my living room is, alas, considerably less exciting. Oh, the audio is quite fine and the band live sounds very much as I remember the band sounding on studio recordings ... I observed jerky camera movements, rough edits, cameramen walking across each others' visual ranges, very close-in close-ups of faces and fingers and equipment, dizzyingly rapid panning, intentional blurring of images (at least I think it was intentional) and the terribly overused fast zooms.' Donna's review is here if you want to join in her disappointment!
Do pay attention to Scott Gianelli as he tells a tale: 'The Nordic Roots Festival, held every autumn at the Cedar Cultural Center in Minneapolis, has featured many renowned acts in the new Nordic folk genre. The Swedish band Hoven Droven, who combine the Swedish fiddling tradition with punk and heavy metal, have always been a fan favorite at the Festival. Now I wouldn't say that Hoven Droven have made an album of the same caliber of the genre's best, like Hedningarna's Tra, Gjallarhorn's Sjofn, or a number of Värttinä's CDs. I wouldn't even call them the best live act, at least strictly in terms of the quality of their musical performances; that distinction belongs to Väsen. But they do throw the best parties. The most memorable of these party/concerts at the Festival took place on October 1, 2005. Hoven Droven were in outstanding form that night, but more significant from my perspective in the audience was the way the band and the crowd fed off each other. The Festival audience likes a good, high-energy show in general. Hoven Droven gave us more than we asked for that night, but we responded in kind. At the band's request, we put all of our seats off to the side about halfway through the show, and the rest of the show just became a frenzied orgy of spinning, screaming, and, well, jumping. NorthSide presciently had the recording equipment running that evening, so the music was preserved and has now been released as a double CD titled Jumping At The Cedar.'
A box set by Fairport Convention, Live At The BBC, should have make any FC fan jump with joy, right? Well, Michael Hunter slightly disagrees as there are several quibbles, some serious, he has with this particular box set, overall he says in his Excellence in Writing Award winning review that 'I must admit a lot of these songs came my way several years ago in the form of traded cassettes. Each time a package arrived, there would be a sense of anticipation as to what delights would be uncovered. Time passes, cassettes die out and a genuine box set is now released to cater to that demand. I can understand a lot of people having that same sense of discovery with Live At The BBC and, especially if they don't already own a goodly proportion of the tracks elsewhere, the cost could be easily justified. It is by no means perfect or even complete, and the issue of true BBC sessions is disconcerting, but there is still a lot to be enjoyed here on purely face value, as great music.'
David Kidney opines that Will Hodgkinson's 'Guitar Man is filled with gems of equal insight. How does it all end up? Well, the Walden is crushed in a serious mattress accident, he shops for a new guitar, a Seagull (which happens to be a Canadian-made guitar which I recommend to anyone who asks!) He eventually "goes electric," forms a band and . . . you got it! They play. How does it all work out? What are the vital tips that the pros pass on? Where does Davy Graham figure in all this? You have to read the book. I highly recommend it!'
Acoustic En Vivo really pleased David even if it showing up at Green Man puzzled him: 'I'm a bit surprised that Green Man Review received this disc to review at all! After all, it's a mail-order-only disc. You can order it from Los Lobos Web site. And if you can't read Spanish, you should at least be able to guess that it's acoustic, and live. Much of it is also en Espanola and shows off the band's commitment to the Mexican folk music of their past. They began life as a sort of Mexican punk-folk band, and have grown to become as much a herald of American music as The Band. This means that their commitment to releasing these Mexican CDs every once in a while takes on special significance.'
Editors note -- We get thousands of recordings in the form of CDs and DVDs every year so I am not surprised at what shows up! This particular CD came from a publicist who thought we might find it worth reviewing and indeed we did.
David was another Green Man staffer to enjoy a night out this month as he caught up with Canadian singer-songwriter, Ron Sexsmith. 'There was something for all Sexsmith fans. A retrospective of his career. The big songs, the intimate songs, and a couple of obscurities ... He's probably getting tired of the Paul McCartney and Elvis Costello comments, but Sexsmith is Canada's answer to these songwriters. He may be the finest tunesmith the Great White North has ever had. I'm glad we have the good fortune and privilege to see him in intimate settings like the Westside Concert Theatre.' David gives us more detail of the evening in his review.
Another addition to the popular Live At Montreux DVD series is Santana, captured in 2004 and reviewed for Green Man by David. 'The video is crisp and the music clear. And the performances are sterling. Add on an interview with Carlos Santana, and a handful of bonus tracks (2 John Lennon songs, and another Marley) and one cannot complain about quantity or quality. All in all, 183 minutes of gorgeous music.' So, that sounds like a 'thumbs-up' from our very own Mr. Kidney -- read his full review to find out why!
David also looked at two recordings from the venerable ECM label, John Abercrombie's The Third Quartet and Paul Motian's Time and Time Again . Read his review 'ere of those two Jazz recordings to see if they tickled his fancy!
More books of a music nature are reviewed by David 'ere: 'We have reviewed other books in the fascinating series which is called 33 1/3. It's an incredible conceit. Give an author carte blanche to write about a favourite album, in any way [s]he wants. Recall Allan Moore's didactic treatise on Jethro Tull's Aqualung, or John Niven's factional novella concerning the creation of the Band's Music From Big Pink. And there are some forty other titles available, with just as varied approaches. Today we'll look at two new titles, the artists as different as night is from day, the authors' styles equally polar. Kevin Courrier (who wrote well-regarded biographies of Randy Newman and Frank Zappa tackles Captain Beefheart & the Magic Band's Trout Mask Replica while Seattle musician and writer Sean Nelson seeks to explain Joni Mitchell's Court and Spark.'
Zina Lee says 'Eliot Grasso is widely considered one of the best uilleann pipers playing today; Dave Cory is one of the hottest of the rock'n'roll tenor banjo hotshots. North by Northwest isn't going to tarnish the lustre of their reputations. "Dave and I recorded together on a project in early 2006, and he said, 'Hey, we should do something together,'" said Grasso. "So we sat down in a Seattle's Best coffee shop, played through some tunes, and decided it could work. We decided to make the album about tunes that we've learned, played, or written since we've moved to the Pacific Northwest." (Both had moved to the Pacific Northwest about two or three years ago.) Grasso and Cory wanted to capture the sound and flavor of two musicians simply sitting down and sharing a few tunes, keeping production and fancy arrangements to a minimum.' Read her Excellence in Writing Award winning review thisaway!
Spike has returned from his trip to London and after he convinced the Border Authorities that he was mostly harmless (ok, he lied -- Spike's never that way), he offered up a review (well, a running commentary) on The Sandinista Project: a tribute to the Clash: 'How the #$%^ 'as ev'rybody been keepin'? It's great ta see ya'll. I know I've been keepin' a low profile, because me therapy 'an me biography's been keepin' me busy, but I wuz stoppin' by to see me ol' pal Dave the uvver day, an' he wuz playin' this new CD by one of my fave groups... Various Artists! I luv those guys! No kiddin' I think they're fab! Since I been away seems like Dave's been takin' a bit of a breather hisownself! An' listenin' to flippin' Leonard Cohen! But this double set, which you can sample a bit of it 'ere or read about over 'ere, is miles away from any ol' introspective crooner could be.' Errr... Go read his review to see what he thought of this idea!
Johannes Brahms in the form of Piano Concerto No. 1 in D Minor, Op. 15, Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat Major, Op. 83, Two Rhapsodies, Op. 79, Three Intermezzos, Op. 117, and Four Pieces for Piano, Op. 119 gets a look-over from Robert Tilendis: ' If there is one characteristic of the works of Johannes Brahms that can be called definitive, it is scale. I don't mean length or number of performers -- in those areas he was far outstripped by Berlioz, Wagner, Mahler and Busoni, to name a few. I'm really referring to conceptual size as reflected in the architecture of each work. I've remarked before that even in his works for solo piano and his chamber music, one has the sense of a full symphony orchestra hovering in the background, just waiting to get into the act. In turn, the symphonic works, including the two piano concertos, give the impression of being much larger than they are.' Read his review 'ere!
What a love lead-off riff Gary Whitehouse does 'ere: 'Mary Battiata has been a journalist reporting from war zones. Now she writes and sings songs from the war zone of the heart, where it seems like nobody wins. Except you, if you like music that combines the unflinching honesty of singer-songwriter folk, the beat of low-fi rock and literate lyrics. Gladly Would We Anchor is Mary's second full-length fronting the band Little Pink, based in the Washington, D.C. area.' Now read his love review over 'ere!
Ex-Fairporter and Guitar God has a new recording out which really pleased Gary: 'Sweet Warrior is Richard Thompson's best set of songs this millennium. I like it best, anyway, of his studio releases since 1999's Mock Tudor... Now, with Thompson songs it's a little tricky to predict which ones are going to be long-lasting numbers that you'll want to hear again and again, in concert and on the stereo. For one thing, his eclectic styles and subject matters hold varying appeal for his fans, and one man's hit is another man's dog. And you can never tell when one of those songs of his that seemed a bit of drivel to you last year is going to suddenly seem eerily relevant the next time you hear it. That said, I'm comfortable predicting that a good percentage of the songs on Sweet Warrior will earn their place in his fans' hearts and on RT's setlists for beyond the current year's tour.' Read his superb review 'ere.
Gary found a cool singer-songwriter: 'Laura Veirs' music doesn't seem to fit with most of the other music that I like. I point this out so that my regular reader (surely there's one, at least) will be warned. I tend to lean toward Americana-type music -- country, alt-country, roots rock -- and roots music from other cultures. Laura isn't having much of that, but I like what she does, anyway. The one comparison I might make is Andrew Bird, but I've been with him since the beginning, when he was playing an updated version of hot jazz and swing with a host of other rootsy influences.' Read his review of Saltbreakers, Veirs' sixth full-length recording, thisaway.
Take a trip into the archives of Frank Zappa on this Classic Albums DVD release that takes a look at Zappa's albums Over-Nite Sensation and Apostrophe (') from 1973 and 1974, respectively. Gary does the honours for us here; 'Zappa must have recorded just about every minute he spent in the studio, and he filmed or made home movies of concerts, rehearsals, life backstage and on the tour bus. So there was a lot to work with in the making of this program. There's film and audiotape of the studio work that went into these albums, and film clips lifted from period performances.' Gary concludes that with this DVD you 'get an intriguing glimpse of Zappa at work during a key period, and some impressive performances, both archival and contemporary.' Gary expands on this in his review.
A most appropriate book gets reviewed, Crystal Zevon's I'll Sleep When I'm Dead: The Dirty Life and Times of Warren Zevon, as Gary takes a look at a unique approach to doing a bio: ' It's done as an 'oral history' bio, drawing on interviews she conducted with more than 80 people, plus Warren's own diaries. At first I was skeptical about the format, and wondered why Ms. Zevon didn't synthesize all those interviews into a more coherent, traditional biography format. And indeed, in some places it has its drawbacks. It tends to chop up the narrative flow. And instead of getting one writer's consistent viewpoint, we get a multiplicity of them, sometimes contradictory; and some of the voices are more cogent than others. And there were times, especially in Zevon's diary excerpts, that names or incidents were mentioned with no antecedents or explanatory notes.' Read his well-deserved Excellence in Writing Award winning review 'ere!
Mike Wilson gets the last word this edition with his review of Logbok (Log Book) which he says 'is a refreshing and assured sounding collection from this gifted Scandinavian ensemble. The core trio that make up Færd are violinist Peter Uhrbrand, Eskil Romme on accordion and saxophones -- both from Denmark -- and the Swedish guitar and bouzouki player, Jens Ulvsand. The guys are joined here by the Danish/Norwegian singer, Julie Hjetland, who contributes her haunting vocals on a couple of tracks. Færd's sound is forthright and unpretentious, and whilst rooted in the Scandinavian tradition, their sound incorporates many other traditional influences. In fact, this would appear to be the whole ethos behind Logbok -- it is intended as a record of their travels and the influences they've picked up along the way.'
You want to be a hero
With the axe about to fall,
You'd buy it for the love and for the glory,
For it all.
You want to dress in black
And lose your heart beyond recall,
Hunt a dream through rain and thunder,
On your honor,
For it all...
Lyrics from 'For It All,' Excerpted from Emma Bull's War for the Oaks which was recorded by the legendary Cats Laughing on their Another Way to Travel recording which you can purchase from Emma Bull and Will Shetterly over 'ere. Her forthcoming novel is Territory: A Unique Retelling of An American Legend.
Oh, did I mention Cats Laughing is mentioned in Emma Bull's Bone Dance -- A Fantasy for Technophiles and in her B-Town novel, Finder?