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Preview: The Soul Shack

The Soul Shack

The Soul Shack is a music and life style Blog on all things Soulful. MP3 files are posted here strictly for the purpose of music criticism and therefore fall under the "fair use" guidelines of U.S. copyright law

Updated: 2015-09-17T07:13:30.114+02:00


Them Changes


I've been doing the Soul Shack for a while now. But as I suspected and announced the blog covered much more than just Soul music. One artist in particular got a bit more attention relatively speaking. I'm a huge Bruce Springsteen fan as many of the regular reader may have noticed by now. So more than just once in every great while a post on the Boss crept into the Shack. Time to give them a place of their own I figured.

Recently I started collecting 45s of songs covered by Springsteen. One of the main attractions to Springsteen for me is how his work covers much of R&R's rich history. In covers alone the man has done over a thousand songs ranging from Buddy Holly to Pearl Jam. In recent years he's been digging even further into the roots of American music. So I've decided to start Boss Tracks where I'll review every new find and where I'll continue the Bosscast I've been doing for the past few months.

I hope to meet you there!

The Bruce Springsteen Bosscast, April 2008; Boogie Chillun


The Bosscast has moved to the all new Boss Tracks. I'll meet all you saints and sinners there for a regular dose of the Boss!

Let's Spend The Night Together


Sometimes you come across a Soul record that makes you frown. Much like R&R, Soul music often delivers best on the very edge of good taste. Some of Soul's greatest records are very dubious in that respect indeed. Are the records of Barry White still good taste, despite their candle lit pornographic aura, sure enough they are! But its a fine line. And sometimes the finest talents in Soul trip over that line. One of those rather embarrassing yet strangely entertaining examples is Joe Simon's cover of "Let's Spend The Night Together". The track is buried on Joe Simon's 1976 album "Today". The record that would definitely take Joe Simon into the Disco age. Before that Joe Simon had been one of the great Southern Soul singers. His version of "Chocking Kind" is still the definitive rendition of that song, no matter how many Joss Stones you throw at that sucker. His Gamble & Huff produced albums are bonified Soul classics out of period where Disco still meant putting a bow tie on the Funk. But shortly after those Philly productions things started to go downhill for the like of Joe Simon, maybe even Soul in general. Philly Soul evolved into Disco, a lawyer designed genre that according to George Clinton of Funkadelic fame was trying to fax it in. Countrified Soul shouters like Simon simply couldn't adapt.Popular myth has it that Punk destroyed Rock. I think that premises is false. Punk revived some of R&R's core values. If there's anything that "destroyed" Rock, as far as it was ever really tore down, it was Disco, F.M. Radio and mega multi million sales. F.M. Radio, which was at first a vessel for R&R, soon became predictable and overly formatted. As multi million dollar enterprises they seem to have one objective, not to offend and push as much meaningless drivel as they could. Disco suited the job just perfectly. It had none of the grits and gravy either R&R or Southern Soul had. Hell even Motown would soon prove to be too raw for the new radio formats. For the longest while F.M. wouldn't get more risky than the Eagles or Bony M. Acts like the Stones and Joe Simon suffered. But where the Stones cleverly adapted with discofied Rock as "Miss You", Simon was left stumbling through the studio with Bob Clearmountain at the production wheel. Though Clearmountain has a good reputation for producing and mixing good and solid R&R albums in a period when they were a dying breed, even he couldn't help a Soul shouter like Simon find his groove. "Today" is marred by the same problems may of the Soul albums seem to have in that era, a sense of detachment. Not quite Soul, not quite Disco and not quite the Quiet Storm that would soon come yet. On "Stay" we hear an artists clinging on to Country Soul while trying to make Disco, trying to remain true to himself while trying to blend into a crowd where he suddenly looks like the ugly duckling.The result of that strain is unfortunately an uncomfortable piece of cheese. Maybe if F.M. radio and the record business would have had the guts to invest in tail end sales as well artists like Joe Simon would have survived into the next decade. The backlash at Disco might not have been so great and might not have taken down Soul in its demise. Maybe it would have given Joe Simon enough breathing space to produce truly great records. In theory his version of "Let's Spend The Night Together" should have kicked David Bowie's ass. Unfortunately the practice of the second half of the seventies was different. Over the course of just a few years the music industry, Soul and R&R turned into an embarrassing mess. Sometimes it seems Soul never truly recovered. "Let's Spend The Night Together" - Joe Simon[...]

Platter's That Matter; WAR!


Producer Norman Whitfield is of such notoriety that one could argue that he is an artist in his own right. Although his songs were sung by others, although Gladys Knight, the Temptations and Edwin Starr scored his hits for him, his sound was so recognizable, so distinct, that you're able to pick a Whitfield production out of the thousands. The Edwin Starr single "WAR" might be his biggest triumph. Recorded and released in 1970 it is still the biggest selling protest song of all time, one of the few to hit that much coveted #1 spot on the Billboard charts. Though not the first song to deal with the war in Vietnam, few songs dealt with it so poignantly and blunt as "WAR". It is one of the few occasions where a song spawned a popular phrase; "War, what is it good for" is engraved in our collective conscious and lives a life of its own outside of the smash 45.Whitfield had been Motown long before the labels main money makers Holland-Dozier-Holland would leave the fold over contractual disputes. Almost single handedly Whitfield would fill the gap that the golden trio left and change the face of Motown. Although Whitfield started with material that fit the label's clean teen image like a glove he would exploit the lessened grip Berry Gordy had on Motown's musical division to the max. Together with Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye Norman would give Motown a decidedly more edgy image while Gordy was busy producing movies. The Temptations would be Whitfield's main showcase. As such they were the first to record the classic single that is subject of this post. The song was part of Norman's ground breaking "Psychedelic Shack" album. The title song of that album was filled with implicit references to the hippie movement and conscious expanding drugs. Yet when Norman discussed releasing War with the Temps, the explicit nature of that song proved to be a bridge to far for the group. Being too outspoken in America, with its strong patriotic (almost nationalistic) environment, could costs recording artists their career. The Temps had just broken into the exclusive club circuit and weren't about to put all that on the line. Gordy with his eyes fixed on the green might have had some to do with the Temps decision to decline as well. Next to the Supremes, the Temps were Motown's flagship. He wasn't about to compromise them.The single was then given to Edwin Starr. Although Star had scored a few hits, he wasn't quite the money machine the Temps were. Putting his career on the line wasn't as big a gamble, Starr had more to win than to loose. Starr would later recall in an interview "It was a message record, an opinion record, and stepped beyond being sheer entertainment. It could become a smash record, and that was fine, but if it went the other way, it could kill the career of whoever the artist was." The gamble paid of. With Edwin's mighty pipes and his ruff and gruff delivery "WAR" struck a very powerful chord at the time. By 1970 the Vietnam war had escalated and the draft was looming over many young men's lives. As a conflict it was unclear what America was doing there in the first place. Though the song's lyrics may seem a little hokey and to straight forward at times lines like "war, has shattered, Many a young mans dreams, Made him disabled, bitter and mean, Life is much to short and precious, To spend fighting wars these days, War can't give life, It can only take it away" hit home hard."WAR" is one of those songs that stood the test of times even though its production is undeniably a product of the seventies. Norman was highly influenced by Funkadelic and Sly Stone, a product of his times. Yet when Springsteen revived the song in 2003 (Springsteen had a hit with it in the mid-eighties) after the invasion in Iraq during his Rising tour, the song sounded like it was written to comment on that colossal blunder. Still 5 years in the Iraq war has yet to find its own anthems. The war has striking parallels to the war in Vietnam. America again got itself in a s[...]

Persepolis; The Real Iran.


The biggest brow raiser to the Oscar ceremonies a few weeks back was the passing by of "Persepolis" in favor of Disney's light and breezy film "Ratatouille". It is not very often that an animated film comes a long that tackles complex issues in an accessible way. Of course the nomination alone was an enormous support to the movie. It is questionable if the film would have gotten the distribution and attention it has now if it weren't for that nomination. Even though the Oscars are hardly any indication on the merit of a film, a nomination and especially a win is still a very important promotional tool. The nomination is probably what got the movie out of the festival and art house circuit into a heavier rotation or is at the very least what got the art houses to fill up. "Persepolis" is based on the graphic novel of the same name by Marjane Satrapi. As a work of art it is most easily compared to "Maus" by Art Spiegelman. The book is highly autobiographically in nature and, like "Maus", gives us a window into the human aspect of oppression.In a day and age where the debate surrounding the Arab world mainly focuses on extremism politicians and the general public risks loosing side of that aspect. President Bush's one liners on terrorism and his "axis of evil" have caused a dehumanization of the Arab world, maybe even the entire Muslim world. In the current debate there seems to be very little room for the many human differences between individual Muslims. Especially with the debate surrounding the perceived terrorist and nuclear thread of Iran we tend to loose sight of such aspects. The media focuses mainly on the insanity of the Mullahs and the president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. In the complex dynamics surrounding the terrorist debate and the fundamentalist threat the perception of Muslims sometimes tends to take the nature of a caricature not unlike those used in Nazi Germany to portrait the Jew. Ironically it is a comic book that is now helping to give us a more realistic perspective."Persepolis" is a cultural and historical lesson, a coming of age story, a comedy and a tragedy all in one. It is against the backdrop of oppression, first by the USA supported Shah and later by the religious fanatics, that Marjane grew up. Though the film gives an insight in the terror of oppression and its mechanisms the film doesn't dwell on that. Through the terror we follow Marjane trying grow up, we get her child like perspective on Iran but we get to see a delightful charming little girl growing into a beautiful woman as well, going through most of the stages of growing up every girl goes through. As a little girl Marjane has imaginative conversations with God, who picked her to become the next profit, we see her rocking out on Iron Maiden as a teen ager, pumping herself up on "The Eye Of The Tiger" as a young adolescent. Especially funny and frightening at the same time is the scene were Marjane hits the street with her "Punk is not ded" jacket sporting a Michael Jackson button. Apparently in Iran, with its ban on music, both have an equally rebellious nature. It is that nature that get Marjane into trouble, openly opposing her religious teacher as a 13 year old, causing her parents to send her to Europe where she is faced with bigotry and the challenge of trying to fit in as a girl growing up.Though the film and the comic are done in black and white the way it deals with the themes is hardly that. Marjane herself has called her film a color production using gray tones. Her approach to the characters is much the same. In the book there's the Mullah who approves her application for art school despite her unorthodox view on religion, she stays with the ignorant but heartily welcoming parent of a friend in Austria, in the film she shows herself using the terror of the state to her advantage when she's in a rough spot (endangering an innocent by stander) and neighbors who are suddenly religious over night. As the characters pass thr[...]

The Dirty Dozen Is What's Going On!


Take a tuba, a fat drum beat, add a scorching guitar and you've got the foundation of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band as seen in Amsterdam last Thursday. Flesh it all out with a raving horn section and you've got a combination that is guaranteed to make you sweat. The Dirty Dozen are one of those bands that is keeping the Jazz scene vibrant. Leaning heavy into the traditional music of their native city New Orleans, the Dirty Dozen keep pushing the envelope. There's a reason why they worked with everybody from Dizzy Gillespie to Elvis Costello, from the Guru to Bettye LaVette. Few other bands today are able to expand on the great Jazz traditions of New Orleans quite like them. Few bands can tackle a classic masterpiece like Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On" and get away with it. The Dirty Dozen did and pulled it off. Not just that they made an entirely original wok out of Marvin's album. So my expectations were high for the Dozen's first appearance in Amsterdam. The half filled venue made it apparent that true talent often goes unrecognized in today's music business. Unimaginative programming on the radio and MTV leave stellar bands in the realm of connoisseurs. Jazz has a high (f)art aura to it that is off putting to a lot of people. A shame, because it denies them the raving party Jazz can be.If there is one thing that the Dirty Dozen seem to understand is that Jazz has a strong tradition of being party music. "It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing" is a lesson some Jazz combos seem to have lost sight of. While experimental forms of Jazz are not without their own merits, they are hardly ever fun and cooking quite in the original sense of the word. Most Jazz clubs or performances today attract people who quietly sit and listen, stroking their chin in contemplation while secretly fighting sleep and boredom. The Dirty Dozen may not be as subtle live as on record but they do bring the Funk. The Dozen live drop bomb after bomb. Drummer Terence Higgins has a high Hip Hop sensibility, pushing and pulling with an approach that is both sloppy, loose and incredibly tight. You can't help but throw your hands in the air, wave em like you just don't care. The horn section adds a booty shaking grease that makes it impossible to sit down. If the Dirty Dozen don't get you off your ass it is advised to check your vital signs. You might be dead.The material the Dozen picked to play was aimed at getting the audience into a sweaty Funk. After they were done my arm pits reminded me of the true meaning of the word. With the chops of the Dirty Dozen a classic like "When The Saint Come Marching In" sounds as fresh and funky as "Fire On The Bayou" or "Feet Can't Fail Me Now". Although the band was struggling with the acoustics of the venue some, they paid their dues and then some. The Dirty Dozen is the kind of band that doesn't play for you, they party with you. They are there for their own pleasure as well as yours. Though very accomplished musicians they never loose themselves in pointless solos for musicians sake. Still their music is adventurous and incredibly original. With the Dirty Dozen the music of New Orleans is as vital, challenging and cooking as it was a hundred years back."What's Going On (live)"The Dirty Dozen "Live At Paradiso" is available through the Dime. src="<1=_blank&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr" style="width: 120px; height: 240px;" marginwidth="0" marginheight="0" frameborder="0" scrolling="no"> src="<1=_blank&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr" style="width: 120px; height: 240px;" marginwidth="0" marginheight="0" frameborder="0" scrolling="no"> src="[...]

Take A Good Look At What You Missed All These Years


A squealing farfisa, barely in time hand claps, raggedy harmonies, the Fleshtones are back!!!! "The who?!?" you might ask yourself. I feel for you. Asking that very question is admitting your life has been devoid of the purest brand of R&R up till now. The Fleshtones have been giving it up for years. They played CBGB's when Kurt Cobain was still crapping his pants. They blew the Ramones and Blondie off stage when the word Punk had yet to be invented. The Fleshtones were still R&R by the time the Stones traded their sex & drugs for spring water and health spas. They outlived many of Punk Rock's heroes and there seems to be no stopping them yet. Though years of scrambled together tours and albums, through years of high spirits and the lowest of lows, through thousands of sweat drenched R&R dives and dozens of guaranteed hitless albums, the Fleshtones have been the uncrowned kings of R&R. So you'd better take a good look at what you missed all those years.The Fleshtones have come a long way since they spawned from Brooklyn's seediest of basements. Their brand of Garage took them all over the world touring in obscurity. For some strange reason they became super stars in Paris. But then again the French are strange. But in any other country in the world they've been R&R's biggest promise for the last thirty odd years. Some bands would change their formula when confronted with the amounts of set backs the Fleshtones had to deal with. But they are not your ordinary band. They will simply keep doing what they do best, just as long as it takes for you to get it stupid! The minute the needle hits the first groove on the record, you'll know the boys haven't changed their game, though they might have perfected it a little further. Make no mistake, the raggedy mess you'll hear on "Take A Good Look" is the Fleshtones at their slickest. This album finds the band playing tighter than they ever have, finds them crashing into their songs with the greatest conviction, with a production that is on par with their finest work. In other words, they are still trying to keep up with their R&B heroes and failing gloriously. Taking you down with howling harmonica solos, blazing sax honking, rollicking piano strides, scotching guitar riffs, worn down vocals and just a little more sweat for comfort. This is what R&R is supposed to be, what it needs to be. R&R isn't pleasant, no matter what your FM radio is trying to tell you, R&R is the jumbled mess that is the Fleshtones.It is rare to find a band so consistent as the Fleshtones. You can pick up almost any record of theirs and get exactly what you expected. The best dose of pure R&R that will have you bopping through the room. The Watusi, the Penguin, the Funky Chicken, the Tighten Up, you'll find yourself doing all those crazy dances even if you never knew how. "Shiney Hiney" is a piece of R&R poetry that would make the Ramones proud, "Going Back To School" with its throbbing base will have the Stones hiding in shame, "New York City" is the great classic Gary 'US' Bonds never wrote, "Jet Set Fleshtones" makes the Faces look like they don't know Pub-Rock. In a better world the latter would rocket up to the top of the charts. The rudimentary farfisa licks, the vicious guitar riffing, the clunky tambourine, are catchier than they should be. Look out! They are indeed the Jet Set Fleshtones, everybody move on up and take a real good look at what you denied yourself all those years. Take a good look, because the Fleshtones are breaking through, dragging you into their world howling and screaming. Pick up the record and get cool online extras from their record company Yep Roc records, see them in a town near you, let them sink in through a blue wale haze. Don't try to fight it, the Fleshtones will make it feel good to feel!!!"The Jet Set Fleshtones" src="[...]

Fela Kuti; Music As A Force


Music is often a cultural and political force as much as it is entertainment. It is a means to get views of a counter movement across to a mass audience. Music has derived that power from its Folk roots all over the world, when music was the primary a source of communication for the poor. Before there was recorded music that made musicians into stars, musicians were simply carriers of the messages, story tellers. No one knew who originally wrote the songs they were singing, in a time before publishing this was not important. When music came into the recording/publishing age this political aspect became more personalized, associated with the artist. It also started to become diluted in favor of commercial interests. Rarely there was an artist so political in the recording age as Fela Kuti. Rarely there was an artists who refused to compromise as much as this African force. Rarely there was an artist so close to the Folk roots of music while pushing the boundaries of music at the same time. Fela Kuti revolutionized in music as much as he did in thought and politics. Even though is ideas were often unrealistic and far fetched he played the confrontational game like no other. During his career he was living proof that Music can be a life changing and political force.The Nigerian Kuti, produced album length singles that literally seemed to start revolutions. His Afro Beat was an explosive mix of African Rhythms and James Brown Funk, cooking and sweating in a way that might have even made the God Father jealous. Although in his biography James Brown denies being aware of African music before seeing Fela play in Nigeria, it is clear that his JB's picked up on that beat. After visiting Africa, James Brown's Funk seemed to grow more ferocious, getting into locked into the beat even tighter. Fela Kuti's Afro Beat seemed to suit the radicalizing atmosphere of Funk in the seventies like a glove. Nothing quite took the message home the way Fela's relentless and hypnotic Rhythms did. Fela's records often start with a beat, slowly building rhythm on rhythm. Punching horn lines start to spar with each other, the pulsing rhythm getting thicker and thicker. It would not be uncommon for you to be in a sweat drenched dance, minutes into the song before the vocals would even start. But when it did Fela's voice commanded immediate attention. Maybe that's why Fela was feared as much by the various regimes in Nigeria he lived through. The powers that be must have realized Fela got people to listen. Fela told the story the politicians of Nigeria refused to tell, blinded by their power. Fela tapped into the realities of the average Nigerian during shows that would stretch on for hours while explaining where their poverty came from. Although Fela aimed at the powers that be, in songs like "Colonial Mentality" he addressed the apathy of the common African as well. Kuti's music was designed to move more than your feet, he wanted elevate the political conscious of his audience as well, get them to confront their rulers.Name dropping vice president Moshood Abiola, former ITT employee (an American manufacturer with large defense contracts), in his single "International Thief Thief" got Fela arrested in the late seventies for the first time, but it wouldn't be the last. Fela's politics didn't stop there. Kuti was highly influenced by the Black Power movement and Malcolm X in his political thinking. A glance at Kuti's political career makes it apparent that Kuti took Malcolm's "By all means necessary" quite literally. Kuti claimed independence for his large estate in 1974, declaring the Kalakutu Republic, building a large fence around his estate. In '77 his "republic" was overthrown by the Nigerian government in an attack by a 1.000 soldiers. The attack left Fela's skull fractured. This however didn't stop Kuti, he formed his own political party in 1979 and tried [...]

Buddy Miles; Tracing R&B History


Buddy Miles's death was reported today in the NY Times and with him an important part of R&B history is closed for good. To trace Buddy's career is almost like tracing the history of R&B. Like all great R&B performers of the sixties and seventies, Miles had a solid foundation that was steeped in Doo Wop. Miles built his skill backing numerous acts on the chitlin circuit and in the studio, on vocals. Something often overlooked. Miles is mentioned in various biographies as the one who lend his pipes to the likes of the Inkspots and the Delfonics. Sweet harmonizing groups, where the instrumentation was an after thought. In Doo Wop the singers were both bass, drums, percussion and melody. Later in his career Miles would become best known for his drumming of course. But I think his harmonic schooling that laid the foundation for his entire career. While touring with the Wislon Picket revue, Buddy was discovered by Mike Bloomfield, who included him in his Electric Flag. A rather odd outfit playing Big Band Blues with a pinch of Jazz and Fusion. After recording a sound track for a psychedelic film, "The Trip" and one decent album "Long Time Comin'" the band quickly fell apart. Buddy picked up after that by forming the Buddy Miles Express which had its first album produced by one Jimi Hendrix.Most people will know Buddy best for his work with Jimi Hendrix. The pair had met on the chitlin circuit years before Hendrix started his successful career with the Experience from England. Their best known work together is the stellar live album "Band Of Gypsys" recorded on New Year's eve 1969 at the Filmore. By that time the Experience was falling apart and Hendrix started using Miles on some key tracks for his "First Rays Of The New Rising Sun" project. The inclusion of Miles in the band has been subject to a lot of speculation. From the black community Hendrix was as much criticized as he was influential. Hendrix made his mark on Funk through his influence on Eddie Hazel and Ernie Isley but was often seen as too white because of his association to the Experience and his popularity amongst mostly white audiences. Especially in the quickly radicalizing atmosphere after Martin Luther King's death. Some have seen the inclusion of Buddy Miles in his Band of Gypsys as a move to broaden his audience by showing color. This is however much debatable. Author's on Hendrix often point out that he refused to align himself along racial lines and if he did he was prone to stress his native American heritage. Funnily enough Buddy's studio work with Hendrix wasn't even all that funky. The most notable recordings were the loose rockers, "Room Full Of Mirrors" and "Ezy Rider". Mitch Mitchell was still on drums on the decidedly more funky tracks like "Dolly Dagger".Though Buddy's work with Hendrix and his own work with the Buddy Miles express was moving away from traditional R&B to something that was closer to Rock or Fusion, there has always been that undeniable Doo Wop influence. Unlike many Fusion artists Miles never lost his sense of harmony, of coherence. Even though his work was marked by a remarkable creative freedom, with alternating success, Miles understood the importance of melody. Where other Fusion drummers would sometimes loose themselves in rhythmic masturbation, Miles always kept his eye on the tune. Buddy pushed and stretched the principles he was taught while performing with the Delfonics but he never really abandoned them. Miles was at the same time a relentless straight forward Funk drummer as he was a free spirit. This might explain his broad appreciation. After his work with Hendrix, Buddy became a much welcomed sparring partner for many musicians ranging from Clapton to Santana, from Umar Bin Hassan (from the Last Poets) to Nils Lofgren. Though Miles was never as prominently visible as Hendrix was he b[...]

The Bosscast March; Magic Returns To Hartford


Welcome to the second Bosscast. With the tour starting again today in Hartford we'll celebrate Magic in a themed pod cast dedicated to the roots of Magic. So get your ticket and your suitcase.....I'd like to ask your attention for one track specifically, "Hobo's Lullaby". The track from the "Give Us Your Poor Album" deserves a further look. It was part of a charity project I feel strongly about. All proceeds from that CD will be going to an organization to help fight poverty in the US. The entire album is worth every dollar you'll spend on it and then some. Check them out at their site and support them how you can.All live recordings used in this show can be found on the BTX mp3 Index. Thanks again to all the people who made that one possible.01. Radio Nowhere, Bruce Springsteen from Magic02. 867-5309 (Jenny), Tommy Tutone from 867-5309/Jenny03. Rosalita, Bruce Springsteen from 2003-08-31 Giant House Party In Jersey04. Man On The Moon, Bruce Springsteen & R.E.M. from 2004-10-02 Cleveland Ohio05. At My Most Beautiful, R.E.M. In Time: The Best of R.E.M. 1988-200306. Sloop John B, the Beach Boys from Sounds Of Summer07. You're Own Worst Enemy, Bruce Springsteen from Magic08. Hobo's Lullaby, Bruce Springsteen & Pete Seeger from Give US Your Poor09. Long Walk Home, Bruce Springsteen & The Sessions Band from 2006-11-11 Wembley Session First Night10. My Home Town, Bruce Springsteen from 2007-09-28 Today Show NBC11. Promised Land, Bruce Springsteen from 2007-12-17 Paris12. People Get Ready, The Impressions from The Definitive Impressions13. 4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy), Ben E King from One Step Up/Two Steps Back14. Girls In Their Summer Clothes, Bruce Springsteen from 2007-12-17 ParisBosscast feed. The pod cast unfortunately will not be available through Itunes as I hoped. But with the help of this feed you should be able to get the future installments.[...]

No Country For Old Men; A Return To Form


After a series of disappointing movies the Coen brothers have finally returned to form with "No Country For Old Men". Recent years had "demoted" the Coen brothers back to the art house under the category interesting directors. Problem was of course that you can start your career that way, but once you established your name it is kind of awkward. "The Man Who Wasn't There" was still an amusing film, but "The Lady Killers" was simply embarrassing for men with the talents of the Coen brothers. After that I might have missed a film or two. But the buzz around their adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's book I decided to pay the theater a visit to see if the flick was worth all the hype. I've never really seen what the fuss about Cormac's books is. His last novel "The Road" struck me as filled with one dimensional characters, addressing themes that hadn't been urgent since the Cold War. Granted "No Country For Old Men" was a bit better but McCarthy's books are inhibited by characters of who's motivations remain unclear. His novels always seem a bit too close to black and white notions of good and evil to me. I enjoy the sparsity of McCarthy's writing and his ability to set the seen in as little as possible words, but I always found his characters to be lacking a certain amount of depth. McCarthy never was the writer John Fante and Charles Bukowski were, who were able to combine bare bone writing with a strong sense of what moved the characters that inhibited their novels. McCarthy's works are of a different genre than those two of course, but I feel he could pick up a thing or two from those two authors.But as the Coen brother's recent flick testifies, McCarthy's novels might prove to be excellent movie scripts. Movies work very different from novels. In movies the director has the non-verbal expression he can work with to give the viewer more of a sense of what moves the character. A movie director doesn't need to use words, he can let the images do the talking. Voice overs in films are often very unnecessary things that are best used very sparsely. The Coen brothers do just that. Although the movie opens with a voice over from sheriff Tommy Lee Jones reflecting on the times his father and grand father held office, simpler times when they didn't need to carry guns. Neither does Jones for the major part of the movie, that is until he ventures into the city. Tommy Lee Jones resorting to his gun seems a key moment in the film. The whole movie seems to radiate a world in which innocence and simplicity is lost. Something that seems to be a main theme in McCarthy's book. His view on the world strikes me as very bleak, a sense masterfully translated to the big screen by the Coens. McCarthy's books generally seem to portray the world coming to an end, portray that we've lost our moral, they're apocalyptic even if the scenery isn't. McCarthy seems to rehash this theme every novel, which basically isn't more than a cynical form of nostalgia. The Coen brother use their trademark dark humor to take the edge of that message. Throwing you of balance all the while. There is something very uncomfortable about finding yourself bursting out in laughter during scenes of extreme violence, you almost feel like an accomplice.For a thriller "No Country" follows a slow and dragging pace in which the outbursts of extreme violence achieve maximum impact. Other than most high action thrillers that Hollywood churns out these days, "No Country" excels in restraint. You won't find fast action car chases or major shoot outs in this movie. Yet the film keeps you on the edge of your seat. "No County" is filled with unexpected twists in plot. Those changes are often so brutal that the film manages to evoke a level of suspense I haven't seen in movies for a long time. The plot seems a cliché at[...]

Drive By Truckers: Not A Pretty Sight


The Drive By Truckers were an integral part of Southern music before even releasing their first album. Patterson Hood, one of the Trucker's founding members is the son of base player David Hood from Muscle Shoals fame. As such his father was present on many of Southern Soul's most shining moments recorded at the Fame studios. Patterson continued that family tradition by backing and producing Soul diva Bettye LaVette on her last album, "The Scene Of The Crime". Spooner Oldham, also from Muscle Shoals fame, was asked to play keyboards on that project and a few others sat in. At first glance the whole project seemed a little odd. The Drive By Truckers themselves were better known for their Lynyrd Skynyrd type southern Rock, never really an act quickly associated with Southern Soul. But from an historic perspective the project made perfect sense. Southern Soul like Southern Rock is deeply seeped in Country. Down South Soul and Country would often be bouncing of each other and session players would as easily be found on a Aretha Franklin album as they would be on a Linda Ronstadt recording. Singers would take a song from one genre and record it in the other. All great Southern Soul artists have been known to record Country songs and visa verse. Even though the South was a highly segregated society, ironically the music scene was one of the most integrated their ever was. So of course the Truckers were cut and tailored for the Bettye Sessions.On their new album "Brighter Than Creation's Dark" Spooner Oldham is present again. Although Spooner Oldham is best known for his work on classic Soul records from Arteha Franklin and Percy Sledge or his writing with Dan Penn on songs as "I'm Your Puppet" and "Sweet Inspiration", he sounds like a fish in the water on this new Truckers album. No big surprise here as well though. After the Southern Soul scene collapsed when Martin Luther King was assassinated and Stax went bankrupt, Oldham was most commonly found backing the likes of J.J. Cale, Bob Dylan or Neil Young. Artists to which the Drive By Truckers are more than a little indebted. "Brighter Than Creation's Dark" is again the kind of album you'd wish Neil Young would still make with his Crazy Horse. Crank up the volume on your stereo and you'd swear that's vintage Gray Horse you hear blasting out of your speakers, especially on "That Man I Shot", a gripping portrait of a soldier in Iraq. Though the Truckers are lacking in originality that is not necessarily a bad thing. They're filling a gap left by the great Southern Rockers like Young and Creedence Clearwater Revival or rather stepping into a long tradition. Though R&R has always had this progressive image, much of it proved to be highly conservative. To me acts that try to built on the foundations of other always sounded better than bands that take great strain and pain to be absolutely original. As such the Truckers not only fall into the tradition of mentioned acts but are proving to be as lasting as Pearl Jam, Steve Earle and Lucinda Williams. All acts who rely heavily on R&R's past and solid songwriting.Surprisingly that is where this album truly excels. Despite the departure of Trucker tune smith Jason Isbell, the band once again manages to present a collection of vivid portraits. The main theme to the album seems to be the struggles of every day people. Each new lyric transports you to a new life. Its almost like your passing from town to town. The theme the Truckers picked on this album has already led reviewers to compare them to the likes of Bruce Springsteen. No mean feat and I'm prone to agree. The songwriting on "Brighter Than Creation's Dark" has those same cinematic qualities Springsteen's best work possesses. The main difference between Springsteen and the Truck[...]

Here My Dear; Divorce Devine


Marvin Gaye's last great album turn 30 this year an Universal celebrates with a two disc expanded edition. The story of "Here My Dear" is probably one of the most fascinating ones in the history of Soul. As is well know Marvin married into the Motown family when he tied the knot with Berry Gordy's sister Anna. When that marriage turned sour and the couple filed for divorce they settled out of court. Instead of Marvin paying Anna the sum of a million dollars he'd pay her the advance for his next album and the royalties that the album would reap. Gaye had little choice, he was broke. He snorted a fortune in coke and the IRS was after him. What Gaye intended to be a trite Pop album became his last masterpiece.Anna was Gaye's muse though out his career. It was with Anna in mind that Gaye wrote Pop Soul gems as "Stubborn Kind Of Fellow" or "Pride And Joy". When Gaye sang them he simply closed his eyes and thought of Anna to get the feeling across. It was Anna that made his songs come to life, that gave them a heart and soul. Put like that their romance sounds idyllic, a match made in heaven. But nothing in Gaye's life was ever easy. His childhood was troubled to say the least. His father was a cross dressing abusive preacher who scarred Marvin for life. His mother he placed on a pedestal, she was his Madonna. In the excellent David Ritz book "Divided Soul" Marvin basically confessed that he married his mother when he gave Gordy, 17 years his senior, his vows. Marvin was in his twenties at the time, coming to terms with both success and the failures of his youth, looking for a consoling mother figure. Though Marvin masked his uncertainties with his suave Casanova crooner image he suffered from terribly insecurities. Anna was his comfort, his ego boost. Gaye needed her to dominate her as much as he resented that. The relationship was uneven from the get go, destined to fail.The catalyst for the separation would be the 16 year old Janis Hunter ironically as old as the age difference between the two. Gaye first laid eyes on her while recording "Let's Get It On". He would later claim that it was this sweet sixteen that enabled him to sing the silky balled "If I Should Die Tonight" like he meant it. Janis would become his obsession. Though she may have been the catalyst the seeds for the divorce from Gordy were sown far before that, maybe on the onset of their relationship even. The closing piece on Marvin's second masterpiece was the biting "Just To Keep You Satisfied". Interestingly enough co-written with Anna. It was as if the couple was telling each other their relationship was bound to crash years before it actually did. The songs was filled with vicious indictments, a testimony of a relationship that was suffocating instead of liberating. Theirs was an ambivalent relationship at best. The song was one of Marvin's greatest artistically triumphs. After that his career would gradually slide into a slump. Although often a heralded album "I Want You" was a mere shade of the brilliance that was "Let's Get It On". Though not without its own merits, the near pornographic and coke infested suite never even nearly scratches the divinity of its predecessor.It was never Gaye's intention to break that slump with "Here My Dear", but Anne proved his muse for better or for worse. As Gaye confessed to Ritz the record became his deep passion, it became an obsession, one of his many. The couple hadn't spared each other in court, their divorce had turned into the mud fight of the ugliest kind. At one point Anna even denied Marvin access to his children. That's how sour their union had turned. Neither could seem to stop that train and resolve things in a civil matter. "I knew I'd explode if I didn't get all that junk out of [...]

Fidel Castro; Hasta La Victoria Siempre?


I'm not about to make this blog political in any sense, but when it comes to the news of Fidel Castro resigning I just have to respond. The revolution of Cuba and the subsequent isolation of the island has been much better documented by the papers and the historians over the years. There's nothing that a simple blogger like me could possibly add. Yet Castro is one of those political and historical figures that fascinates me immensely. There's no doubt that Cuba is a dictatorship, that Castro takes human rights and freedom of press lightly. One visit to Amnesty's Internet site tells you enough and one must wonder if the argument that Batista's reign (the dictator Castro toppled) was worse still stands ground. But it is undeniable that Castro has an enormous amount of charisma. So much in fact that the left intellectuals of the West were so much infatuated with him that they failed to see his flaws. And maybe sometimes still do. Not to long ago Michael Moore took Cuba as an example for America's failings. Even though Cuba's health care system is impressive, especially for Caribbean standards, trying to make Cuba as a standard was an odd choice to say the least. Maybe Moore intended it as a means to instill shame in American leaders, I don't know. Maybe Moore just fell for Fidel the Rock star as well. Because if Fidel Castro is one thing its just that.R&R in a sense is the little man rebelling, the average Joe getting himself heard. Amidst American dominance their was that little island that defied them, led by a staunch cigar smoking militant with an almost character defining beard. Castro is an iconic image paralleled by the likes of those other great images of the sixties such Martin Luther King, Kennedy and Bob Dylan. That is not to say that Castro is cut from quite the same kind of wood, but he is one of those people who's image transcend his person. Castro's image is more than that dictator he is on Cuba. He's that image of David and Goliath in his defiance of the US. Together with Che, Castro's image is the patron saint of any revolutionary. The image of Castro is the promise that a people can stand up to its dictators and overcome. The ideal image of Castro is bigger than life, better than the revolution ever was. In truth Castro is a textbook case of broken promises, yet he radiates the opposite.I traveled Cuba some five years back and tried to make some effort to get a sense of the people there. Quite easy since I was traveling alone, something that's impossible in Cuba. At every opportunity the locals tried to catch my attention despite the fact that mingling with the tourists is forbidden for the locals. Every body seemed to have something to sell. For a communist country the level of entrepreneurship I encountered was striking. Everything seemed for sale, from coffee to cigars, from guided tours to women. You name it and it is offered on the streets of Cuba. Though every Cuban has a home, there are no shanty towns, food on the table and clothes on their back, it struck me that a society where the main income for women seemed to be prostitution is sick to the core. Everywhere you turned you seemed to see bloated aging Americans with stunningly beautiful young women on their arms, oblivious to the struggles of the country. Yet I must admit that it was hard not to be tempted when at every bar two or three beautiful women were trying to get your attention. Some were just hustling for drinks, others were offering more. I went for the first option since it was a pleasant way to get to know more of that thrilling and exciting country.What struck me in my conversations with local Cubans was how well loved Castro was with the elderly. They remembered Batista's iron [...]

The King Of Pop; Surviving On Nostalgia


Let's forget for a moment his nose is falling off, pretend there were never any pedophilia cases, no Never Land, no dangling babies of a balcony. Let's forget all that for one moment. Let's forget I do not even have to mention his name and people will know who I'm talking about just from those examples. Let's forget all that and go back 25 years. Mention "Thriller", "Billy Jean" or "Beat It" to anyone and they're just as likely to know you're talking about the King of Pop. 25 years ago Michael Jackson earned that title with the ground breaking album "Thriller". Strange and shocking as his reported personal live may be, I feel that an artist is best judged by the merit of his music. With the re-release of that land mark album that really is the question at hand. Flip open any paper or magazine recently and you'd think we're back in the time of Jackson mania. A time where "Thriller" sold a hundred million plus records. Figures that still make other super stars from the eighties like Prince, Madonna and George Michael look like dwarfs. Jackson outsold them all with the album that spawned 7 top ten singles. Still "Thriller" proved a mill stone around Jackson's neck. Where the others mentioned went on to have lasting and satisfying careers, the King of Pop could only (and did) go down hill. No Jackson album after that quite satisfied as much while his private life started to overshadow his art increasingly. Google Michael Jackson these days and you'll find nothing but picture intent on ridicule and a seemingly undying fascination with the King falling from his throne.Question at here is though, was "Thriller" all that good, or was it a product of its hype or rather hysteria. When the album hit the market I was in primary school. Like all my class mates we were in thrall of Jackson. There was a time when almost every kid's room was plastered with posters with his diamond gloved image. "Thriller" is the textbook case of mass media's influence on public taste. Michael wasn't to be escaped. You know what they say, "If you can't beat them, join them". That mechanism seems a large part of his success looking back on the phenomenon now. But tempting as it is to break the album down, to discard it as a piece of Pop fluff doesn't quite cover it. Maybe its nostalgia but listening to "Thriller" now, I'm surprised how much of its freshness it has sustained. The sound of the album is undeniably eighties, but that really isn't much of a sin if you ask me. Even the Beatles sound locked in the sixties listening to them now. That has never stopped people from thinking their shit is chocolate. Even today there are simply moments where you can't deny the album's Pop brilliance. Drop the needle and the album opens with the contagiously funky "Wanna Be Starting Something". Though stripped from any grease and nastiness, you can't have but move to its infectious beat. "Billy Jean" and "Beat It" still achieve similar reactions as well. Tracks like that are simply brilliantly produced Pop, no denying as much as you might want to. Their influence on the current day music scene cannot be underestimated. For good or for bad, it was Jackson that launched the teen star think. Artists like Justin Timberlake owe their careers to the man.But I am afraid that the brilliance of "Thriller" stops there. Listening to the title track today and I can't help but feel that it's hockey. Worse even is the teeth shattering sugar cane sweetness of "The Girl Is Mine" with Paul McCartney. Those tracks simply haven't outlived the hysteria. With the dust settled down some 25 years on there simply isn't a whole lot there. Though Jackson didn't over emphasize his trade mark "Shamoan!" and "Hi Hi!!" ye[...]

Searching For The Snake


Year ago I owned a cassette which featured a song called "The Snake". It was one of those compilations somebody gave me with all kinds of obscure nuggets. When I moved about 5 years ago I chucked all my cassettes out in an ill conceived cleaning mood. My tape deck had broken down and cassettes were slipping into obscurity. Mp3 downloading and CD burning were taking over. Call me sentimental, but looking back on it now I miss tapes. But even more so I miss taping. There was a time when nothing was better than crawl back into your stereo corner with a 90 minute cassette, a bottle of wine and stacks of singles to create the ultimate compilation tape. Making a tape was hard work. It wasn't the five minute process that creating a CD is. No mouse clicks and dragging to make your work easy. Avoiding sound gaps when working with vinyl is not easy, let me tell you. The sequencing on a tape needed to tell a story as much as the individual songs on the tape. That story varied with whom you intended the tape for. Tapes could be your ultimate sunny day collection, it could be a musical biography to your favorite artist to convince a buddy he had to hear this!!! It could be the necessary lubricant in wooing a special lady as well of course. Tapes were labors of love with sometimes as much work going into the label as the taping as well. Armed with a flash light to see how much space there was left on the tape, cassettes were built brick by brick. At one point I got to be so trained that I could tell by the space left on the tape if it would fit a 2.30 or a 2.40 minute song at the end. The most frustrating moment of course was when the play back revealed that the carefully laid bricks made the house collapse. But just as many times though it would be something you would wear down in your Walkman till it got stuck in the wheels. So what ever prompted me to chuck the tape with "The Snake" is still beyond me.Today I was in my favorite record store in Amsterdam. Backbeat, one of those thrilling dark and dusty places. Backbeat is run by Dick. The kind of guy who has an encyclopedic knowledge of Soul and played bass with Arthur Conley no less. Here I finally picked up a copy of "The Snake" again. This time I struck the Jack Pot. Two years back I found a CD by Oscar Brown Jr. which also featured "The Snake". One of those finds that make your heart skip a beat. Once home I had to fight a rather silly sense of disappointments when I found out that this wasn't "The Snake" that I had on that tape I had so foolishly thrown out. But here on this fine new Kent release there it was. Not Oscar Brown but Al Wilson was "The Snake" I was looking for. That the rest of the album is simply brilliant as well is just a bonus to boot. Apparently "The Snake" that slithered away from my life came from Al Wilson's album "Searching For The Dolphins". At first listen you'd think its just yet another fine Southern Soul album featuring one of the finest versions of "By The Time I Get To Phoenix" I've ever heard. But step by step, groove by groove, note for note, this albums opens up its secrets to you. Al Wilson's brilliant album (yes truly brilliant) is where Percy Sledge and Frank Sinatra meet. Wilson has a meticulous delivery that nears Frank's perfect sense of timing, his voice has a rare flexibility to adapt itself to the material yet it maintains a certain grit. At times "Searching For The Dolphins" is as reminiscent of the Four Tops as it is of the Byrds. The Sergeant Pepper Beatles, the great country singers and crooners of the fifties all seem to clash here with that Southern Soul sound. Instead of the album falling apart into an incoherent mess it all ble[...]

Juno; The Way Comedies Should Be Done


"Juno" should be the textbook case on how comedies should be done. The film is nothing like your typical American comedy. Somehow comedies from Hollywood seems to get made in either a ridiculous "Dumb and Dumber" style slapstick mode or turn out to be overly sentimental pieces of drivel like "You've Got Mail". What is it in Hollywood that keeps assaulting the intelligence of their audience by making films about two guys pretending to be gay in order to get a green card or trying to awe us with little pigtailed blond girls who help their single dad trying to figure out which one of his three hot dates he's supposed to marry. Part is of course audiences who'll gladly pay to get their intelligence insulted, but there also seems to be an unwillingness to take risks with less "glamorous" scripts. "Juno" is one of those few rare occasions where one of those risks slips through the cracks. What ordinarily would have been an art house film was rather heavily promoted, at least over here, and wound up in those large multi screen movie theaters in front of pop corn chomping and soda slurping audiences. The main strength of "Juno" is the every day sense of the script. In short the film is about a sixteen year old girl who decides she likes Bleeker, a dorky kid from school she somehow finds very cool. Juno makes love to Bleeker in an old scruffy chair, becomes pregnant and tries to find a way to deal with it by giving it up to adoption. Though a premise like this could have been turned into another pie in the face teen comedy, Juno remains a remarkable sober piece of comedy. Al the more remarkable considering director Jason Reitman is the son of "Twins" and Kindergarten Cop" director Ivan Reitman. After debuting with the sarcastic "Thank You For Not Smoking" Jason manages to steer "Juno" in to movie gem haven.Reitman and screenwriter Diablo Cody apparently realize something very important about comedy. Namely that "everyday" tragedies or events can be funny enough. Humor feeds on the power of recognition. It is often our own stupidity that makes us laugh, no matter how tragic the results of those stupidities. Of course "Juno" deals with a very serious subject matter, the problem of teen pregnancies. But because the film doesn't moralize it allows us to gain some sense of understanding of how these pregnancies come about and laugh heartily at its difficult implications. Humor as a way to deal with life's sometimes harsh realities. Ellen Page plays Juno as a normal teenage girl. A bit of the odd ball in the class. You know the kind, pretty but not in an obvious kind of way. The type of girl that has a hamburger phone in her room because its totally cool and is into Iggy Pop and Patti Smith. Bands people twice her age are even to young for to have seen them in their prime, yet Juno can honestly claim that "you've had to be there to understand what I'm talking about". Her boyfriend Bleeker is played in an evenly common way by Michael Cera. According to Juno he is cool and he doesn't even have to try. Like all teenagers they think they are as adult as they ever going get yet totally clueless how to deal with this "thing of me". Juno is as playful and innocent as you'd expect a kid in kindergarten to be, yet has that distinct teen smartness or rather, a coyness over her. Juno is still completely oblivious to others around her.It is that coyness that keeps the movie light and breezy, that makes you laugh out loud at matters that have serious implications. In a sense "Juno" reminded me of Ghost World" with the veneer of sarcasm and nihilism removed. "Juno" is having a pretty normal happy youth with all the norma[...]

Science Of Sleep; Gondry's Paper-Mâché Reality


Michel Gondry is probably most well known for the videos he directed and his first full movie, "The Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind". A film that showed to the world that Jim Carrey could actually act. Something we'd suspected since "Man On The Moon", but couldn't really be sure of because he played the part of Andy Kaufman. A comedian with the same overblown stylistics as Carrey himself. "Eternal Sunshine" and its unsuspected huge success, artistically and at the box office, made Gondry as hot in movies as he was in music videos where he started his career. Through is own band Oui Oui and his subsequent collaboration with Björk on "Human Behaviour" celebrities of all sorts had been flocking to be touched by his eccentric talent. In the days where videos made an artist Gondry seemed to be able to make old washed up rocker like the Stones seem like hot new product and gave Kyle Minoque a new sense of hipness where there should be none. Although Gondry worked with artists who already had a buzz going because of their talent, he managed to get Beck and The White Stripes over to the video consumer, who were sloughed behind their televisions.Making movies is a whole different deal than making movies. But Gondry seems to be catching on awfully quick. If he needed help on the first, by the time he got to science of sleep he could do it on its "own". For that film Gondry wrote both the script and directed. The movies theme makes it apparent why there was such a chemistry between "Eternal Sunshine" screen writer Charlie Kaufman and himself. "The Science Of Sleep" explores the same questions and themes Kaufman likes to ponder on. "Science" is a wonderfully acted and shot visualization of how dreams work. Just as in Kaufman's scripts and in dreams, you are constantly wondering when the fantasy stops and reality kicks in. Like Kaufman's scripts it is an exploration of how our minds can sometimes trick us, work against us.At the outset the script seems a classic boy meets girl movie. Stephane (Gael Garcia Bernal)moves back in with his mother after his father died, right across the apartment of beautiful yet deceptively plain looking Stephanie (Charlotte Gainsbourg). But the movie soon starts to shift. Stephane has difficulty separating dreams from reality. In his dreams he imagines himself a brilliant inventor, a stellar artist and a TV professor on the matter of dreams. In life Stephane is stuck in a boring job and finds himself unable to connect to the people around him, including Stephanie, but in his dreams he creates entire new worlds which he rules like a king. In Gondry's script Stephane'd dreams bleed into the real world, keeping the viewer off balance and constantly wondering what is real or not. His dreams are crowded with gorgeous stop-animations created from cellophane, paper-mâché, card board boxes and cotton. The problem with Stephane is they don't stay there. His dreams follow him into his day time reality, altering it, animating his surroundings. "Science Of Sleep" does a brilliant job of both making dreams tangible and offering an insight in their functions and dysfunctions. At first Stephane's dreams seem to offer him comfort when he is able to talk with his deceased father through them, they seem to lift up his spirits when they threaten to get crushed in his dull nine to five job making equally dull calenders and they give him the sense of self confidence he needs to ask Stephanie out. But a little while further in the film you are wondering if his wild fantasies and his lush dream world aren't the very thing that keeps him in that dull 9 to 5 job a[...]

Platters That Matter: Have Love Will Travel


Richard Berry made his fortune with his sole hit record "Louie, Louie". Not the most sophisticated piece of music ever written but somehow it became R&R's anthem, maybe because of its simplicity. I don't think a song was ever covered as much as that three chord monster. Almost to this day playing "Louie, Louie" stands for the exam an aspiring Rock and Roller needs to pass. My favorite Berry song though is "Have Love Will Travel" performed by him and his pharaous. Though it never became as big as "Louie, Louie" the song is another testimony that R&R doesn't always need to be complicated to be effective. R&R doesn't always need to be intelligent, nor does it need to have that many layers. Part of the beauty of R&R is that just about anybody can tap into it.The great paradox of "Have Love Will Travel" is that despite its seemingly inane content its a delightful piece of musical sophistication. It opens with the bass of the song, a voice simply going "Bow Pop Pop Bow" through out the song, over a dragging shuffle beat. Nothing complex here. But if it hadn't been so perfectly timed it would never have been a song that would have gained such an lasting attraction. Though not nearly as much "Louie, Louie", this gem had the knack of surfacing from time to time over the years. Mostly performed by artists with a strong sense of R&R history or looking for material that matches their limited three chord capacities. "Have Love Will Travel" tends to be recorded by R&R buffs who know that Berry was the uncredited lead singer of "Riot in Cell Block #9" from the Robins or who know that the song was inspired by the Western series "Have Gun Will Travel". Those who know he started out in Doo Wop group the Flairs. Still these are artists and bands of a wide variety from the Sonics to Bruce Springsteen, from Tom Petty ( who reworked the song) to the Black Keys and not forgetting Jim Belushi and Dan Aykroyd of course who briefly gave the song a second life in their Blues Brothers project. The artists who reworked "Have Love Will Travel" were sometimes overly familiar, other times wildly obscure themselves, does anybody remember the Olympic Sideburns or failed Turkmenistan glam-rockers Crazyhead?Even though compilations with obscure Berry material will from time to time appear on the market, "Louie, Louie" and "Have Love Will Travel" will always be his only songs that matter. Both have become such a part of the R&R conscious that Berry himself is nearly inconsequential. Although he wrote the songs, he doesn't own them. They are songs that nobody really owns. These two Richard Berry classics are testimonies of R&R's democratic powers. Write a R&R song and you risk it being taken away from you, risk it becoming bigger than you, adopted as anthems or soundtracks to a life. R&R has a universal appeal. "Have Love Will Travel" even crossed the mighty oceans and ended up in Moscow (for now) in the hand of the delirious Cave Stompers. Not bad for something that lasts three minutes and takes as many chords."Have Love Will Travel" - Richard Berry"Have Love Will Travel" - The Sonics src="<1=_blank&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr" style="width:120px;height:240px;" scrolling="no" marginwidth="0" marginheight="0" frameborder="0"> src="<1=_blank&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr" style="width:120px;height:240px;" scrolling="no" marginwidth="0" marginhe[...]

The Bruce Springsteen Bosscast, Februari 2008; R&R Shoes


The Bruce Springsteen Bosscast FebruariWelcome to the first Bosscast brought to you through the Soul Shack. In a series of what I hope to be monthly broadcasts I will be exploring the music of New Jersey's native son. I'm starting this series with an exploration of the Boss and R&R. Every single original track was once played by Bruce Springsteen live or features him in some part.If there's any song you like to hear on the podcast, or a theme you'd like to see tackled you can contact me through recordings used in this show should all be available through the BTX MP3 Index.01. Wear My Ring (Around Your Neck), Bruce Springsteen, Hammersmith Odeon 1975-11-2402. Follow That Dream, Elvis Presley from Elvis Movies03. Summertimes Blues, Bruce Springsteen, the Agora 1978-08-0904. Johnny Bye Bye, Chuck Berry from Anthology05. Bye Bye Johnny, Bruce Springsteen from Tracks (4CD)06. Follow That Dream, Bruce Springsteen, 1984-09-18 Philadelphia07. Hang Up My R&R Shoes, Chuck Willis from Stroll On: The Chuck Willis Collection08. Mountain of Love, Harold Dorman from Mountain of Love09. Devil With The Blue Dress On, Shorty Long from The Essential Collection10. Oh Boy, Bruce Springsteen, 1978-04-18 Civic Center Charleston11. Not Fade Away, Buddy Holly from The Buddy Holly Collection12. Mona (I Need You Baby), Bo Diddley from The Chess Box13. Ain't Got You/She's The One, Bruce Springsteen 1988-05-03 Shoreline14. The Big Payback, Bruce Springsteen from The Essential Bruce Springsteen15. Open All Night, Bruce Springsteen, 2005-07-06 Milan Forum16. Stand On It, Bruce Springsteen, 2000-06-15 NY17. Pink Cadillac, Jerry Lee Lewis (featuring Bruce Springsteen)from Last Man Standing - The Duets18. Only The Lonely, Roy Orbison & Friends from Roy Orbison: Black & White Night [HD DVD]19. Be My Baby, The Ronettes from Back to Mono (1958-1969)20. Walking in the Rain, Bruce Springsteen, 1976-11-04 Streak Of Light Through The TunnelRSS feed[...]

The Ten That Made Springsteen; 8. Creedence Clear Water Revival; Who'll Stop The Rain


Creedence Clear Water Revival, or CCR for short, is undoubtedly one of the key influences on the development of Springsteen's music. Although CCR hardly has the stature of the Stones or the Who these days, in their hey day they were almost as big as those two acts. CCR couldn't have escaped Bruce in the early days of his career. After the Castilles Springsteen made a sudden shift from the Garage to the Power Trio of Earth. Judging from their music and set lists the band was highly influenced by Cream, Jimi Hendrix and the Doors. Suddenly Bruce was sporting long wavy hair and a Gibson les Paul, looking more like a carbon copy of Jimi Page than of the Beatles like he had in the Castiles. For a short period Springsteen indulged himself in long spun out jams. Necessarily maybe for him to get more versatile on the guitar, but hardly interesting music or something that had his distinct own voice. With Steel Mill (first called Child) Springsteen started moving back to more straight forward R&R. Although the music was still lengthy, Steel Mill would incorporate much more down home R&R in their sets and approach. Though Steel Mill is often credited with being influenced by the Stones or the Who, their approach to R&R was very much akin to CCR. Maybe Steel Mill's shift to a more R&R approach could be credited to Steven van Zandt, who played bass at one point, but the band certainly started to go from long jams to a more structured sound. Most notably on early Springsteen fan favorites like "Going Back To Georgia". With songs like "Dancing In The Street" making it into the sets Springsteen was moving back to his Garage roots again in an approach that reminds me of CCR's "I Heard It Through The Grapevine" (Download an early Steel Mill show here) .I've always seen CCR and Springsteen as similar artists. Like Springsteen, CCR seemed to be a summary of the R&R that came before. With their classic albums CCR tapped into early R&R as much as Springsteen did with "Born To Run". The bands had similar backgrounds. CCR was born out of Garage bands the Velvets and the Golliwogs. Although the latter recorded some memorable singles, John Fogerty and his brother Tom failed to make a dent in the charts until they transformed their approach to a more personal and distinct sound. Creedence tellingly first hit big with their rendition of Dale Hawkin's classic "Suzie Q" (featuring the immortal James Burton on guitar) but were soon off to making it big with their own material. They stayed so close to R&R's roots sometimes that they had to settle out of court with Little Richard when their "Traveling Band" bore more than a little resemblance to his "Good Golly, Miss Molly". CCR's hit sometimes were so close to the R&R standards of its golden age that they became standards themselves. Their "Proud Mary" is often mistakenly credited to Ike & Tina Turner and got covered by greats Solomon Burke. Although Creedence is best remembered for their swamp blues like approach to music, their influences didn't stop their. CCR are has always been infused with a heavy dose of Country harking back at Hank Williams and the like. I suspect that Springsteen's later infatuation was smoothened by listening to acts like Creedence. When CCR fell apart Fogerty went solo with mixed results. "Rocking All Over The World" (covered by Springsteen two times) brought him some succes in '75, but by the time he released his '85 comeback album Fogerty was surpassed in popularity by the very artists he (partly) i[...]

Buddy Holly Will Not Fade Away


Today in 1959 it was the day Buddy Holly died in a tragic plane incident, taking Richie Valens with him. In my mind Buddy Holly is possibly even more important than Elvis in the development of R&R. Although Elvis was the undisputed King that also made him untouchable, Elvis was iconic from day one. Nobody could dream of touching him, save for Jerry Lee Lewis for a while maybe, until Buddy Holly came along. With his nerdy glasses and his very wholesome looks Buddy was closer to where America's teenagers were than the highly sexual Elvis or the rough and tumble Jerry Lee. Buddy looked like he could have been that kid next door, like he could have been the boy from class. Though Elvis brought Black R&B to white teen agers, Buddy Holly (by accident) brought R&R back to the Black crowds when he was accidentally booked in the Apollo theater in Harlem. His appearance there might have been instrumental in making R&R acceptable to the black audiences leading to the temporarily abandonment of the R&B billboard charts when R&R and R&B started to cross over both ways for a while.Like many of these tragic events the crash was caused by many unlucky circumstances. In the weeks before Buddy had been touring with a bus. Getting tired of the hectic schedule he decided to switch to a plane. Holly's base player at the time, Waylon Jennings, jokingly told him he hoped the plane would crash when he found out there wouldn't be any room for him on the ride. Jennings got stuck in the freezing bus while Buddy got to go on a comfortable plane ride. The plane would crash minutes after take off, leaving Jennings wrecked with guilt for years. Though Don McLean called the tragic crash "the day that music died" in a throwback to Buddy's hit "That'll Be The Day" this hardly seems to be the case. Buddy Holly proved to be highly influential on the development of R&R. Partly I wager because of his somewhat common looks combined with his highly sophisticated brand of R&R. Buddy Holly was a mean guitar player and an imaginative songwriter who managed to capture the teen experiences like few other R&R artists have. His songs have been covered by a large range of artists. Most notably of course the Rolling Stones, who scored one of their break through hits with Holly's "Not Fade Away". Which was Buddy's take on the Bo Diddley beat. The song was subsequently a a regular in the live shows of Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen and even Bob Dylan, who would later claim that his renaissance album "Time Out Of Mind" was highly influenced by Buddy. Springsteen also did a mean version of "Oh Boy" in the seventies.Not just Buddy's music became important. His clean cut nerdy image has become somewhat of an icon as well over the years. Somehow when we think of the fifties we tend to think more of images that look like Buddy Holly than we'd think of Elvis. Somehow Buddy's clean cut image is synonymous with the fifties when everything just seemed cleaner and simpler. Though far from the case, Buddy does represent that idealized version of the fifties. It is that style pattern that artists like Elvis Costello would tap in to to built his image and that Weezer would wink at in their song and video "Buddy Holly". As wholesome as American pie, Buddy Holly today really does belong to that fantasy world of "Happy Days". In the movie Pulp Fiction Buddy Holly, or a waiter that is supposed to look like him, is played by Steve Buscemi in a scene set in a nostalgia restaurant. In series[...]

The Blind Boys In New Orleans


Since 2001's "Spirit Of The Century" the Blind Boys Of Alabama have made one of the industries most unlikely comebacks. Where most Gospel groups seem to have slipped into obscurity, the Blind Boy Of Alabama have reached an increasingly broad audience and played for a diversity of crowds. Formed in the early forties The "Five" Blind Boys Of Alabama are an institution. Though it may be one of the music business longest running groups, few of the original members are still part of the current line up. In fact 79 year old Clarence Fountain and Jimmy Carter are the only original founding members still part of the group. But even Clarence seems to be dropping now as diabetes related health problems do not allow him to tour anymore. The current "Down In New Orleans" is the first album since the groups founding day that doesn't feature Fountain on vocals. Though the original members might be quietly slipping from the scene, as an institution the Blind Boys Of Alabama are still going strong. Traditions in Gospel music are handed down by the seniors in the group preparing the Benjamins to keep that Gospel train rolling.Though Down In New Orleans sounds like a traditional album, it by no means is. In a sense the ancient institute that is the Blind Boys Of Alabama have been one of the most progressive Gospel acts in recent year. Traditionally the world of Gospel and R&B have strictly segregated world. There was a time when Blues was considered the Devil's music. Not for Jimmy Carter though. "No indeed! I'm a big fan of Blues music" Carter confesses in the liner notes. This has allowed the Blind Boys to seek alliances with artists who mainly work in the secular field. In 2004 that attitude resulted in a fine collaboration with Ben Harper on his "There Will Be A Light" and a subsequent as impressive tour. With Ben Harper the Blind Boys fused various strands of Blues with their brand of Gospel. A natural continuation of what they had been doing since the mentioned comeback album, on which secular songs and Gospel would compliment each other. Of course the secular material the group picks has a highly spiritual undertone. "We believe in songs with a positive message" Carter acknowledges in the notes, allowing them to branch out while not really crossing over into Pop like Sam Cooke or Bobby Womack did back in the day. But as above video testified Gospel and R&B might have had a little bit more in common anyway. The two styles have been jumping of each other since day one, with store front preacher using R&B theatrics to spice up their sermons and Gospels and Blues singers adding that Gospel fervor to fire up their tunes.That relation between R&B and Gospel and the Blind Boys' open mindedness to it has brought them to New Orleans for a collaboration with some of the cities finest. From the greasy Funk of the opening track "Free At Last" it is clear we've got another gem at hand. The album is less traditional as it seems on first glance, this wasn't an easy ride for the Blind Boys. "New Orleans musicians use a different rhythm" Carter explains, "Push and pull". It took the Boys some getting used to he admitted. Yet with its syncopation and the use of call and response in the rhythmic foundation, New Orleans' music proves to be especially suited to bring that Gospel message home.The absolute high point of the album to me is "If I Could Help Somebody" with Allen Toussaint's lush and rollicking piano as solo companion to Carter's voice.[...]

Steve Earle Live At The Paradiso Won't Lay His Hammer Down


Last night was the first time I saw Steve Earle live. I haven't been paying too much attention to Steve's work, a mistake I need to correct. An artist like Steve will probably be placed in the sub genre Alternative Country, a term I always felt didn't do justice to the artists involved. Most artists that are swept in that category do country more justice than most of the drivel coming out of Nashville these days. Steve Earle is no exception. Like the great Country singers Steve manages to convey a broad impression of life, much broader than tends to happen in other genres. The greats in the genre always manged to go for the personal to the political or spiritual, or rather make the personal political and spiritual. Steve Earle seems to be one of those artists. His songs reflect personal trials and triumphs of both himself and others captured in often beautiful cinematic writing. Steve will as easily sing about a telephone conversation with his song, a kiss from his beautiful wife Allison Moorer or his regrets from past relationships, as he will sing about the tragic mistakes of the Bush administration and the experiences of others in these current hard economical and social times.After a short opening set by Steve's wife Allison, Earle was to give a solo acoustic show. We were going to get Steve Earle naked, just him and his guitars and assorted other sting instrument. All the excess was cut away from most of the performance. Artists like Steve don't need a band anyway. As far as I could judge from this performance, a band is just unnecessary lubricant for his songs. On more than one occasion Steve managed to transport you out of the Paradiso into the lives of the people he sang about. If Steve was traveling the Rocky Mountains, so were you, when he sang about a young man going off to war, you could feel his uncertainty. Steve's songs manage to evoke sympathy for people you might ordinarily not give much thought to. When he sings about a man being send to the electric chair you get a strong sense of his point of view and the implications of the death penalty. "Could you take a long walk with me knowing that Hell was waiting there. Would you throw that switch sir with a strong and steady hand" are powerful lines, which in one broad stroke gives you an insight in the moral dilemmas surrounding the death penalty.How hard a solo performance is was demonstrated by Allison when she opened up. Though Moorer has an amazingly powerful voice, she didn't capture me with her songs. It wasn't until she did a powerful rendition of Sam Cooke's "Change Is Gonna Come" that you got a sense of how strong she could be as an artist if she'd managed to get more out of her guitar and material. The songs she picked no where near had the same strong imagery as "Change" or her husbands songs and tended to blend into each other. With "Change" something wonderful happened, this blond bombshell took it from its civil rights roots to a more personal prayer. As is often with white performers doing this song it meant that Sam's most confrontational lyric was cut from the song. Singing "I go to the movie and I go downtown, somebody keep telling me don't hang around" wouldn't have made sense for Allison, though it did for Sam who reached out to the segregated South at the time.Unlike his wife, Steve does have the capability to add extra colors and textures to his songs with a simple acoustic guitar. Although the banjo, mandolin and Dobr[...]

12 Angry Men; An Ongoing Discussion


When I saw "Twelve Angry Men" in the theater today again it struck me how timeless this movie is. A classic in every sense of the word. Although not a drop of blood is spilled in the movie it is a gripping thriller that works on many levels. Even though the film doesn't accurately depict a jury and its working, it worked at the time and still does as very compelling social commentary on many levels while at the same time it is filled with psychological suspense. The plot and the setting was simple, a jury of twelve men needs to decide whether they find the accused guilty of murder. If they do, the judge stresses at the beginning of the film, the capital sentence is mandatory. The 18 year old boy on trial will be send to his death. On a hot and damp summer day twelve men, all with their personal backgrounds and hang ups, are confined in a locked small room. The case seems clear cut yet one man has doubts and votes not guilty. Juror #8 (Henry Fonda) isn't so sure he feels sympathy for the kid and thinks his lawyer did a poor job in his defense, he is filled with questions he wants an answer to. This leads into an exhausting dialog with the eleven other jurors who were initially hoping to be done quickly in the suffocating heat of their small quarters. Director Sidney Lumet filmed the movie on the small budget, even for 1957, of $350.000 dollars, with the lion share of the scenes in one room, yet managed to instill it with a suspense that leaves you on the edge of your seat.In the US of 1957 the capital punishment was still common ground, it's ramifications much less discussed as they are today. "12 Angry Men" does an excellent job of explaining why the death penalty should have no place in any legal system. With states like Texas still executing convicts thats is one of the reasons why this movie still bears a strong social relevance. The boy on trial in the movie is of poor backgrounds, born and raised in the ghetto of the city. In a clever casting move by Lumet, it is unclear whether this boy is from Latin, Polish or Italian descent. But it does become clear that his social economical background plays and important part in the film. Besides the explicit bigotry from juror #10, there seems to be an initial carelessness about this boys life, juror #7 has more important things on his mind, his baseball game and #12, who works in the advertising business, is caught up in his commercial slogans. The jury at first shows the same disregard as the boy's lawyer who bungled the case and failed to instill the jury with the reasonable doubt that was obviously there as would become clear at the end of the movie. "12 Angry Men" serves as a classic dramatized example of how class justice works. Although the innocence of the accused is never proved in the film, the risk is implied that the legal system can send an innocent to the chair. This so it seems is the main theme of the movie.But there's more than meets the eye. Timeless as the movie may be it is obviously set in the fifties. Clothing styles and ashtrays around the room with nearly every juror smoking place the movie firmly in that time frame. Yet when juror #10 falls into another of his bigot "us" and "them" rants there is a frightening actuality to the film. His narrow world view is exactly what troubles discussion concerning the underprivileged today. In a key scene to the movie when juror #10 is ranting, the rest of the jurors sta[...]