The Other Great Classical Guitarist . . . : Julian Bream (1933 – 2020)

Last month, classical guitar legend Julian Bream passed away at the age of 87. Chances are that unless you’re a serious guitar geek (such as yours truly) you have never heard of him. Of the small amount of people who can actually name any classical guitarists, that would be Andre Segovia. However, it could be argued that Bream, even more than Segovia, established the guitar’s position as a serious solo instrument in classical music. Instead of the Romantic period style phrasing that Segovia used, Bream developed a more modern style of phrasing. Bream’s playing was both virtuosic and expressive, with an eye for details, and with strong use of contrasting timbres. He also expanded the classical guitar repertoire by showing that the instrument was just as suited to German, French and English works as pieces that emphasized the guitar’s Spanish and Latin American roots, as well as more contemporary music that the more conservative Segovia avoided.

The first video is from a recital in 1978 featuring works by Bach, Villa-Lobos, Albeniz and Britten that took place in a chapel at Old Wardour Castle in England.

Julian Bream Concert 1978

The video below is a BBC documentary (year unknown) that shows Bream to be a pretty laid back guy. Dig the car he’s seen driving at the beginning of the video.

Julian Bream at the BBC

R.I.P. Julian Bream

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Posted in Classical, Music Appreciation and Analysis

Wire, Wood & Steel – An New Acoustic Music Project

I had previously announced the start of a new music project that would focus on acoustic music called Wire, Wood & Steel (see https://roymusicusa.com/2020/05/11/what-i-did-on-my-permanent-vacation-new-music-project/) starting with a video of myself playing an original song on the dobro.  I’ve now added two more videos and created a YouTube playlist (see https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLogHrynqXOvQSNc5Je3Etu_VlTaNHFo6x ). I hope to begin recording an album under the Wire, Wood & Steel moniker before the end of the year. In the meantime here are two new original tunes performed on the dobro. Hope you like them.

Wire, Wood & Steel – New York City Country Blues

 

Wire, Wood & Steel – Dobro Song # 3

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Posted in Country/Bluegrass, Improvisation, Jam Band, Music Appreciation and Analysis

Quail’s Eggs . . . : “Crazy” – The new single from the band Quail

I written previously about the band Quail (see https://roymusicusa.com/2019/12/15/im-verklempt-blue-sky-by-quail/) when they released their first single, Blue Sky. They recently put out their second single, Crazy and I can’t help be impressed by the talent on display. Written by bassist Anna Young and lead vocalist Madison Carrol, it’s a great “kiss off” song that starts as piano based pop and morphs into horn riffing soul. Don’t take my word for it, just listen.

Quail – Crazy (Official Audio)

 

Below is a beautiful cover of Yebba’s Evergreen that features some wonderful vocal harmonies. Close your eyes and be moved.

Evergreen – Yebba (Quail Cover)

 

This final video is something a little different. It was featured as part of the New Music Ensemble program of the LaGuardia High School of Music & Art here in NYC (also known as the “Fame” school) of which both Anna Young and her brother Nicky were part of. Needless to say, this year’s program was different from those in the past. Written by Nicky, arranged by Anna (who also did the video editing for both Evergreen and the video below), it’s a haunting neo soul tune that captures the weird existential dread that was/is Covid-19 NYC. It’s also a great tune that “earworms” it’s way into your head.

LaGuardia High School of Music & Art New Music Ensemble 2020 – No Such Thing As Saturday

As I’ve said in my prior post on Quail, I’ve known Nicky and Anna literally their entire lives. I’ve seen them grow up into amazing musicians and more importantly, amazing people.

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Posted in Music Appreciation and Analysis

“Don’t Ask Me What I Think Of You”. . : Peter Green (1946 – 2020)

I always said that one of the advantages of being a bassist is that you can get to the opportunity to play and learn from some good guitarists (if you’re lucky). A great guitarist who I played with a great deal in the nineties, Frank Capeck (see https://roymusicusa.com/2020/01/27/a-blast-from-my-past-cpy-at-the-lone-star-roadhouse/) turned me on to the greatness that was Peter Green.

Born Peter Allen Greenbaum, Peter Green was never as well known to American audiences as the other great English blues guitarists of his time (the usual suspects: Clapton, Beck, Page,  etc.) but in England and to many musicians, he was right up there at the top of the list. B.B. King proclaimed that Peter Green “has the sweetest tone I ever heard. He was the only one who gave me the cold sweats.”

In the short span of four years (1966 – 1970) Peter Green replaced Eric Clapton in John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers for A Hard Road, and then formed the original blues band version of Fleetwood Mac. During his time in Fleetwood Mac, Green recorded three albums and a string of singles that including the original version of the Santana hit ,“Black Magic Woman” (written by Green), the Santos & Johnny inspired instrumental “Albatross,” and the awesome “Oh Well Pt. 1 & 2,”.  During his time with Fleetwood Mac, you can see Green’s evolution from hard-core blues to a music capable of both deep introspection (“Man of the World”) and psychedelic experimentalism (“The Green Manalishi”).

In 1970, while going through a time of emotional crisis complicated by LSD use, Green quit the band, who by then were a staple of the British pop charts. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Green (who was eventually diagnosed with schizophrenia) unraveled, going through extended periods of mental illness and destitution, Eventually in the nineties, Green recovered sufficiently that he began performing again under such labels as the Peter Green Splinter Group or Peter Green and Friends.

Green was at his best when playing a slow minor blues and it doesn’t better than this performance of “I’ve Got A Mind To Give Up Living” from New Orleans, 1970.

I’ve Got A Mind To Give Up Living/ All Over Again (The Warehouse, New Orleans, LA  01/31/70) –

 

Not many people realize that Santana’s take on Black Magic Woman was a cover of the Fleetwood Mac tune. I hear a lot of Peter Green in Carlos Santana’s playing. As an interesting side note, both Fleetwood Mac and Santana were inaugurated into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in the same year with Green being included as a founding member of Fleetwood Mac Rather than perform with Fleetwood Mac, Green played “Black Magic Women” with Santana.

FLEETWOOD MAC – Black Magic Woman

Early Fleetwood Mac sported a formidable triple guitar) lineup. Along with Danny Kirwan and Jeremy Spencer, they kicked some serious butt. As exhibit A, I submit the following: after the short opening instrumental, “World In Harmony”, they tear into “Oh Well”. As the announcer warned in the beginning, those with weak hearts should leave.

Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac – World In Harmony & Oh Well

Given his subsequent mental health issues, Green;s performance of “Jumpin’ At Shadows” is downright eerie.

Jumpin’ At Shadows {live 1970} ~ Fleetwood Mac {Peter Green}

Finally some guitar geek stuff about Green’s Les Paul guitar (now owned by Kirk Hammett of Metallica) as well as a breakdown of Green riffs.

Peter Green Guitar Riffs and Tone | Reverb Learn to Play

R.I.P. Peter Green

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Posted in Blues, Classic Rock, Music Appreciation and Analysis

“Once Upon A Time” . . . : Ennio Morricone (1928 – 2020)

OK, memory lane time . . .

I remember it was summer. I must of been around eight years old. We would be at a bungalow colony in the Catskill Mountains in upstate New York. I was reading the latest Spider-Man comic. My father had recently bought a “fancy” transistor radio (AM, FM and Short Wave!!) and it was playing in the background. Then this song came on that was different from the Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett that was usually played. There was no singer but there was this cool whistling and harmonica. I immediately has a picture in my head of Spider-Man swinging thru the buildings of NYC. I learned much later that the tune I heard was the theme from the movie ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and it was composed by the Italian film composer, Ennio Morricone who passed away earlier this month.

The film genre known as Spaghetti Westerns was pretty much created by Sergio Leone’s mid sixties trilogy of film classics: ‘A Fistful of Dollars’, ‘For a Few Dollars More,’ ‘The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly’). As Leone defined the film genre with those three films, Ennio Morricone pretty much created the template for it’s accompanying music.

Before Leone, Hollywood Westerns à la John Ford featured orchestral arrangements of Western standards. Leone’s budget did not allow for such things. Morricone used gunshots, cracking whips, whistle, voices, jew’s harp, trumpets, and the new Fender electric guitar giving the soundtrack a cool and gritty feel.

Below are two of my favorite Morricone tunes, the aforementioned theme for ‘The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly’ and the other is from a favorite film ‘Two Mules For Sister Sara’ (with Shirley McClain and Clint Eastwood from 1970, definitely a fun watch worth checking out).

 

The Good the Bad and the Ugly • Main Theme • Ennio Morricone

 

2 Mules For Sister Sara – Theme by Ennio Morricone –

 

The video below (courtesy of Reverb) is for the music nerds/guitar geeks (my peeps). It offers a cool insightful analysis of the Spaghetti Western musical style with examples from both ‘A Fistful of Dollars’ and ‘For a Few Dollars More’.

 

Why is Spaghetti Western Music So Cool?

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Posted in Music Appreciation and Analysis

“Oh, Say Can You See” . . . : Jimi Hendrix and The National Anthem

When does a musical performance become much more than just a musical performance? When does such a thing become iconic? Hendrix’s rendition of the National Anthem at Woodstock is certainly on most lists of iconic rock guitar performances. What’s interesting is that it was seen by only a small fraction of the Woodstock audience, the majority having left by that point. It’s lasting cultural impact must be credited to the fact that it was captured on film for posterity.

The more things change . . .

Then as now, the world seemed crazy. Hendrix was not known for political statements but he made a big one without saying a word. Then, as now, people placed a lot of importance on symbols that were suppose to define your identity, both as an individual and as part of a greater community. Any version of the National Anthem that did not conform to “acceptable standards” was considered a venerable act of treason. During the 1968 World Series, Jose Feliciano’s version of the anthem generated significant backlash for what we today would consider a pleasant folk rendition of the tune. Given that benchmark, Hendrix’s version would just blow their fuckin minds . . .

Of course, the moment that truly makes this version memorable occurs at the phrase “the rocket’s red glare”. It is then that Hendrix goes off on a tangent, using his guitar to generate a cacophony of sounds, mimicking the chaotic sounds of war, before returning to the melody. When words fail, there is music . .


Jose Feliciano performs the National Anthem – 1968 World Series Game 5

 

Jimi Hendrix – The Star-Spangled Banner

 

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Posted in Classic Rock, Music Appreciation and Analysis

“It’s Not Unusual” . . . : This Is Tom Jones T.V. Show

Continuing the T.V. nostalgia theme from the previous post, I remember sometimes watching Tom Jones on television. This was a little before my awareness of rock music kicked in so I really wasn’t that into it. In hindsight that was a pity because looking back now, the show has some really kick ass musical guests and some very impressive collaborations between Tom Jones and said guests.

The show itself was in many ways a typical T.V. variety show of it’s era (running from 1969 to 1971) and certainly seemed ‘uncool’ to rock music sensibilities but the list of rock music guests he has on is impressive. Additionally, when Jones sings with these guests, you can’t help but get your mind a little bit blown. Not only is the idea of Tom Jones singing with Janis Joplin or CSNY mind blowing but he more than hold his own in such company.

 

Little Richard & Tom Jones – Rip It Up – This is Tom Jones TV Show 1970

 

Tom Jones & Wilson Pickett Medley – This is Tom Jones TV Show 1970

 

Tom Jones & Joe Cocker – Delta Lady – This is Tom Jones TV Show 1970

 

One of the things that I love about these performances is the expression on the faces of people like Wilson Pickett and Janis Joplin. You can tell that they are truly having a great time. In particular, check out the look on David Crosby’s face during an incredible performance of “Long Time Gone”. This was recorded just a few weeks after Woodstock and while supposedly Neil Young was asking what were they doing on this “square” T.V. show, you can see his expression turn from disdain to “wow”.


Tom Jones & Janis Joplin – Raise Your Hand (1969)

 

Tom Jones Crosby,Stills,Nash and Young Long Time Gone 1969

 

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Posted in Classic Rock, Music Appreciation and Analysis

“The World Sucks, Come Watch T.V.” . . . . : In Concert And The Midnight Special

Nobody exists on purpose
Nobody belongs anywhere
Everybody’s gonna die
Come watch T.V.
– Rick and Morty

I am a pessimist by nature. Over the course of the last several years that pessimism has morphed into a Rick Sanchez like cosmic nihilism. But when nothing matters it’s gets scary easy to just say “fuck it, fuck them all”. But with recent events, I’m trying to consider an alternative framework to view the universe. I’m still processing this all . . .

I remember when in the early 1970’s, television began to put on shows dedicated to rock music. They were on late Friday nights, after their respective networks late night talk shows. This is pre-internet, pre-cable television. I was too young to be out that late so I was glued to the television when these shows came on.

The best of the lot in my opinion was In Concert, which was shown on ABC. The format was straight forward: bands were taped “in concert”. It’s premier episode was the broadcast of a concert taped at Hofstra University in Long Island, NY on September 21, 1972 that featured Alice Cooper, Bo Diddley, Curtis Mayfield and Seals & Crofts. I recall that there was some “controversy” over Alice Cooper and his horror show theatrics prior to the show’s airing. In fact when the episode did actually air, the broadcast was terminated early in Cincinnati, Ohio. Apparently the station manager of the ABC affiliate station was watching the Alice Cooper segment and was so disgusted by it that he called the station’s master control room and ordered the station to take it off the air with a rerun of Rawhide quickly put in it’s place.

ALICE COOPER GROUP – I’m Eighteen ( ABC In Concert ’72)


ALICE COOPER GROUP / School’s Out (ABC In Concert ’72)

 

The second episode, broadcast on December 8, 1972 featured The Allman Brothers Band. This was the last performance of bassist Berry Oakley, who died following a motorcycle accident a month before the broadcast.


The Allman Brothers Band – Full Concert – 11/02/72 – Hofstra University (OFFICIAL)

 

The Midnight Special was a much slicker “Hollywood” production. Instead of filming a band live on stage, here bands performed in a television studio in front of an audience. To their credit, the bands did actually perform live which was uncommon for the time since most television appearances during the era showed performers lip-synching to prerecorded music. As the compilation videos below show, they had some really good bands on the show. A partial list of some of the bands: Doobie Brothers, T-Rex, David Bowie, Blondie, Steely Dan, Aretha Franklin, Fleetwood Mac.

The Midnight Special 1973 –


The Midnight Special Million Sellers – 

 

This all is but a temporary diversion from the dumpster fire that is our world right now but maybe we all just need a little nostalgic respite before we all go out to fight the good fight.

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Posted in Classic Rock, Music Appreciation and Analysis

“When The Living Was Easy” . . . : Gershwin’s Summertime

Normally (yeah, what’s that now . . ) the end of May would be the start of summer with thoughts of vacation plans, beaches, outdoor concerts (yeah, about that . . .)

The song Summertime was written by George Gershwin in 1034 for his opera Porgy and Bess with lyrics credited to Ira Gershwin and DuBoise Heyward, the author of the novel Porgy on which the opera was based. Although Gershwin said that he did not use any previously written spirituals in his opera, musicologists and other music wonks have argued that it was based on a African American spiritual. Others have argued that it was inspired by a Ukrainian Yiddish lullaby. Most just split it down the middle.

Whatever the origins, Summertime has become possibly the most popular song written by an a American composer with over 25,000 recordings of the song. It’s one of the first jazz standards most of us learn. It’s harmony is flexible enough that you can jam over it with your trusty blues licks or you can add enough chord substitutions to make it a virtual harmonic ski trail (double back diamond, of course).

Below are some of my particular favorite versions of the tune.

Sidney Bechet (on soprano sax) was one of the first important soloists in jazz (he recorded before Louis Armstrong by several months), I love how he interacts with the guitarist.

Sidney Bechet – Summertime (1939)

 

Ella Fitzgerald with the Tee Carson trio. Live in Germany in 1968. So soulful.

Ella Fitzgerald – Summertime (1968)

 

Miles Davis with Gil Evan’s orchestral arrangements. Classic.

Summertime – Miles Davis (1966)

 

Ella Fitzgerald sang Summertime with a quiet solfulness. Janis brought intensity. Also dig he pseudo baroque instrumental intro.

Janis Joplin – Summertime

 

The Reverend Al Green. Gershwin meets Memphis.

Al Green – Summertime

 

Two of my favorite young guitarists, Billy Strings and Marcus King in a intimate guitar duet. Billy Strings channeling Doc Watson.

Summertime – Billy Strings & Marcus King

 

To better summer and better days.

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Posted in Classic Rock, Country/Bluegrass, Jazz, Music Appreciation and Analysis, Uncategorized

“What I Did On My Permanent Vacation” . . : New Music Project

Like many at the start of their self isolation, I thought this would be a good opportunity to be productive. There were projects that were on my ‘to do’ list: organize papers, clean closets . . .

Yeah, that hasn’t happened. I must say however that I did get one thing accomplished; I started learning the dobro.

I have previously written about th dobro (see https://roymusicusa.com/2019/10/31/that-high-lonesome-sound-a-very-quick-intro-to-the-dobro/). I’ve always loved the sound of the instrument and earlier this year (before the world as we know it ended) I decided to give myself a present by getting myself one. I was able to find a cheap dobro online (if you’re interested, here is the link to amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Ktone-Acoustic-Electric-Resonator-Natural/dp/B00DVWAOGO). In addition to being cheap enough to be willing to take a chance on, it was also an electric acoustic model which would make recording easier by allowing to just plug it into an audio interface rather than miking it. Just to be clear, it’s not the greatest dobro. There were some quality control issues: a rattle that required me to disassemble the faceplate to correct the problem and a tuning peg issue that I’ve found a work around for but will require more attention once I can get to a guitar store. That being said, it’s good enough for me to learn on and it’s been a blast. Because I have experience playing slide guitar and fingerpicking, I’m not starting from absolute zero but the tuning is different and hell, it’s played lap style, so it’s not without some transitional effort.

So anyway, I’m starting a new music project called Wire, Wood & Steel which will feature new acoustic based music. I hope to start recording soon (another of those projects . . ) and put out short videos. The first one is of an original tune in honor of our front line workers called 7 O’clock Song.

Wire Wood & Steel : 7 O’clock Song –

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Posted in Country/Bluegrass, Music Appreciation and Analysis
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