Friday, October 14, 2016

Six Deep Cuts I Would Cry If I Heard At Desert Trip Weekend 2

So, so stoked to be heading out to Desert Trip this morning to see six of my favorite legends perform together for the first time.

In honor of the event, I thought I'd take a break from our 2015/1967 countdown, and post one deep cut from each artist, not played in Weekend 1 (and in truth, likely not to be played Weekend 2 either), that will literally bring tears to my eyes should the artists choose to perform them Weekend 2.

1. Bob Dylan - Bob Dylan's 115th Dream

Quite possibly the silliest and most playful song in the entire Dylan catalog, this surreal tale of trying to bust Captain Arab from jail after discovering a fully-settled/contemporary America that closed the revolutionary Dylan-goes-electric side one of Bringing It All Back Home possesses some of the funniest and punkiest couplets Bob ever wrote (some favs amongst many brilliant turns of phrase in the song. "They asked me for some collateral/And I pulled down my pants." and "I said you know they refused Jesus, too/He said you're not him."). Cannot express how excited I would be to hear this one live.

2. The Rolling Stones - Stray Cat Blues

A dicey choice even this raunchiest of acts is wary to play in today's election/cultural environment, but this Beggar's Banquet tale of a sexual predator luring reckless fifteen-year-olds into his loft with its horrifying refrain of "Bet your mama don't know you bite like that" has always been, in my opinion, the most  unnerving song in the entire Stone's catalog, as well as one of the the genuinely elite non-Hot Rocks-rockers from their classic Beggars thru Exile period (along with Live With Me, Monkey Man, Bitch, Rocks Off and Can't You Hear Me Knocking).

3. Neil Young - Love And Only Love

An easy choice here.

Unlike the other, prodigy level talents that will grace the stage this weekend, Neil's strength has always come (not unlike Lou Reed) from how much he's able to convey through such limited natural chops (as friends and I often say, he's the best bad guitarist the rock world has ever produced), and this ten-minute garage-rager from 89's Ragged Glory captures that tension found in the desire to communicate artistic passion through instrumental limitation better than any other song in his entire fifty-year canon.

Here's a fairly recent live performance of the song.

4. Paul McCartney - Mother Nature's Son

After Blackbird, this spartan, delicate whisp of a track from The White Album is one the most unusual and contemprary feeling acoustic ballads The Beatle's ever recorded. Just listen to In Rainbows or A Moon Shaped Pool and tell me Radiohead hasn't drawn inspiration from this song over the years.

5. The Who - The Ox

I'm as big a Who's Next fan as the next guy, but I've always found the sheer energy on the band's debut album, 1964's The Who Sing My Generation, extraordinary, and no song brings that energy into focus more than this positively possessed, years-ahead-of-their-time firestorm of an instrumental.

6. Roger Waters - Sheep

A very personal reason here, and probably one Water's himself would be troubled by, but this song - my favorite from 1977s Animals and the only track not played from that album Weekend 1 - was a critical component of my college fraternity's hazing rituals back in the late 80s. As I will be attending Desert Trip with some of my closest college friends and fellow fraternity brothers, hearing this song on the polo fields would summon up all sorts of extra meaning.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The 2015/1967 Countdown - 10/11/2016 Update

Yesterday, we listened to an all-time soul standard from 1967.

Today, we take a look at a UK retro-soul act, Jungle, that's giving soul music a genuinely fresh twist.

Another standout at the 2015 Coachella fest whom we originally profiled, like fellow countrymen Royal Blood, in our 2014 mix collection, Jungle is a calculatedly mysterious band (for a while known  just by their first initials and only showing dancers, not band members, in their videos) whose sonic anchor in unusual, digitally sampled atmospherics and four-part group vocals generates a hazy, loose soul vibe that warmly recalls classic early 70s soul while nonetheless sounding completely unique to this era.

Time, from their excellent 2014 self-titled debut, was without question the standout single-song performance of their Coachella set, and is hence the band's representative track on our 2015 Coachella Starters mix.

Here's a fan captured video from that show.

Monday, October 10, 2016

The 2015/1967 Countdown - 10/10/2016 Update

Today, we return to our 1967's Super Soulsters' Deep Cuts Review mix, and listen to one of the most successful R&B B-sides of all time.

Few female R&B/Blues singers had a longer/more critically revered career or a more turbulent life  than California's Etta James.

A performer since her California teen days in the 1950s, she landed with Chess Records in 1960 and scored a number of hits at the start of the decade, but by 1967, a longtime heroin addiction, several failed relationships, and a habit of fighting with producers had her career in a serious tailspin and drove her into isolation.

When she finally re-emerged ready to work, Chess heads felt a temporary change of scenery would be best for all parties, and had her head down to Alabama to record with Muscle Shoals' producer Rick Hall instead.

The collaboration would prove quite fruitful, adding a layer of grit and muscle to James up-to-that-point smoother sound, and would generate one of the greatest two-sided singles of all time - the 1967 pairing of the rocking Tell Mama (featured on Nancy's Favorites) with the searing blues ballad I'd Rather Go Blind, which James had originally written with her friend Ellington Jordan while visiting him in prison. Both songs were huge successes, and I'd Rather Go Blind has gone on to become one of the most-covered R&B ballads of all-time.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

The 2015/1967 Countdown - 10/09/2016 Update

Today we return to our 2015 Dream Weavers mix, and share a few thoughts on a popular indie act that had a rather prolific 2015.

Beach House - the well-regarded though in my opinion often more sleepy-than-interesting dream-pop duo out of Baltimore, Maryland - released two full-length LPs in 2015 just two months apart, and both first release Depression Cherry and second release Thank Your Lucky Stars (recorded at same time as Depression Cherry in but incorporating songs written from a different time period) portrayed the band trying to simplify things after the increasingly complex production of prior albums Teen Dream and Bloom, but did so in distinctly different ways.

Depression Cherry was a straight-on retreat, not in sound but complexity only, to the simpler and less interesting orchestrations of their so-so sophomore effort Devotion.  It possesses a couple decent songs, particularly opener Levitation and Sparks, but for the most part didn't impress me.

Thank You Lucky Stars, however, was very interesting...showing the band trying to branch out for the first time from its very narrowly defined core-aesthetic...and it's a much better album than Depression Cherry because of this.  From the synth-pop of All You Yeahs, to the Velvet Underground-ish One Thing, to Elegy To The Void's phenomenal, Loveless-styled closing guitar solo (our representative track for the band's 2015 efforts on our Dream Weavers mix), I really enjoyed this album.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

The 2015/1967 Countdown - 10/08/2016 Update

Today, we return once again to our 1967's Super Spectacular Singles Superstars mix and listen to a major hit from one of the most talented and underappreciated Los Angeles bands of the era, The Association.

Though the Association would score two monster hits in 1967 - the stunning, God Only Knows-calibre ballad Never My Love (#20 on Billboard's year-end Hot 100), featured on Nancy's Favorites, and the iconic pop song Windy (#4 on the year-end Hot 100), presented here - the AM success of these songs, coupled with that of earlier hits like Along Comes Mary and Cherish, would ultimately sew the seeds of the band's undoing.

An extremely talented and ambitious folk-rock sextet with a super-tight live attack, several prodigy-level multi-instrumentalists, and quite possibly the most sophisticated vocal harmonies of the era outside of The Beach Boys or The Byrds, the band was nonetheless never able to prove to the general listening public that they were more than just label manufactured, AM-staple soft-rockers, and as listening tastes quickly hardened in the late '60s, the band was quickly abandoned.

By 1969, just two years removed from their peak chart success and a blazing live stint opening the historic Monterey Pop Festival, the band was deemed a nostalgia act by the industry and would never effectively recover despite attempts to harden their sound.  A sad finish for a band that, had things gone smoother for them, had the potential to reach almost the same critical stratosphere as other LA 1960s legends like The Beach Boys, The Buffalo Springfield, The Byrds, and Love.

Here's a live performance of Windy at Chicagoland's Ravina from 1967.

Friday, October 7, 2016

The 2015/1967 Countdown - 10/07/2016 Update

Today, we return to our 2015 Coachella Starters mix, and take a listen to an unexpected 2014 indie hit that turned an off-the-cuff side project into one of the must-see artists of the 2015 Coachella festival.

When they first started collaborating, the sly, sexy, late-night electro-pop presented in Sylvan Esso's 2014 self-titled debut couldn't have been more of a departure for the Durham, North Carolina duo of Appalachian indie-folk singer/Mountain Man member Amelia Meath and electronic producer/Megafaun bassist Nick Sandborn, but the album's relaxed vibes and clever lyrics took hold with the public.

Their debut now stands as the most successful endeavor of either artist's career, due in no large part to the runaway indie success of this single here, the coy, Tommy James-referencing Coffee.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

The 2015/1967 Countdown - 10/06/2016 Update

Today, we return to our 1967's Super Soulsters' Deep Cuts Review mix, and listen to There Is, which was an absolute career-changer for one of the most enduring vocal groups of the last half-century, The Dells.

By 1966, the future Hall of Famers and Harvey, Illinois-born Dells had already been scoring modest hits on the R&B charts and touring for thirteen years.  After a '66 tour serving as Ray Charles' backing vocalists ended and their label at that moment, Vee-Jay, went bankrupt, they returned to Chess Records for a third time, this time under sub-label Cadet, and were introduced to producer/songwriter Bobby Miller and arranger Charles Stepney.

The pairing would prove near miraculous.

There Is, the lead single (a Miller song the group initially hated) from their late 1967 album of the same name, became their first ever top-20 hit on the pop charts.

There Is the album would spawn three other major charters as well, including the six-and-a-half-minute Stay In My Corner, and catapult The Dells into the top echelon of the R&B world, where they remained, delivering hit after hit, until they left Cadet and moved to Mercury in 1975 and their career began to cool.

The band did remain active though well into the 2000s, scoring another hit in 1980 and then again in 1991 with A Heart Is A House For Love from the soundtrack to director Robert Townsend's The Five Heartbeats (a film loosely based on the career of The Dells and for which they served as primary musical consultants), making the The Dells one of only two recording acts in history to land songs on the singles charts in five different decades.