Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Go-Go's At Theatre at Westbury, Westbury, NY 6/7/11

So I've been what you could call a "minor fan" of The Go-Go's for about twenty or so years. I liked selected songs by them as a small child (namely "Surfing And Spying" and "We Got The Beat"). And as an adult I purchased all of their cd's, vinyl singles and albums. In the past they have toured with several favorite bands of mine (namely Redd Kross and Too Much Joy). But I had never seen them play live until this past week at the Theatre at Westbury, in Westbury, Long Island, NY. The formerly-known-as-The Westbury Music Fair is a wonderful venue with wonderful acoustics. The stage also rotates, although the venue was not set-up as such for this particular concert.

The opening band was the LA-based The Dollyrots. They are refreshingly unpretentious and down to earth while simultaneously armed with your standard rock poses. They are a pop/punk trio and are fronted by the gorgeous bassist/vocalist Kelly Ogden. Highlights of their set included their single "California Beach Boy" as well as covers of Melanie's 70's chestnut "Brand New Key", an accapella rendition of "As Long As We've Got Each Other" (aka The Growing Pains theme song) and Joan Jett & The Blackheart's "Bad Reputation". The band is currently signed to Joan Jett's Blackheart Records. The band is rounded out by Luis Cabezas on guitar (whose rhythm guitar parts were somewhat reminiscent of Joan Jett) and the exceptionally tasteful drumming of Chris Black. A fine opening band, overall.

The Go-Go's 'Ladies Gone Wild Tour' is ostensibly to celebrate the 30th anniversary of their debut album, Beauty And The Beat. It was recently reissued as 2CD & 2LP sets with previously unreleased concert recordings and a remastered original album on pink vinyl. It was also touted to be their farewell tour, but Belinda Carlisle has since said that they will, indeed continue to perform after this tour ends.

The band were wonderful and were in better form than I aticipated. Drummer Gina Schock is a workhorse and bassist Kathy Valentine - who looked fantastic - was obviously enjoying playing the songs, again. Pixie-like rhythm guitarist Jane Wiedlin danced laps around the stage while lead guitarist/sometime keytboardist Charlotte Caffey, the grounding force, was excellent as always. Onetime-punkrock cheerleader Belinda Carlisle was also in fine form, leisurely hitting her notes as always.

The band was obviously well-rehearsed and sounded fantastic. They performed everything you'd expect to hear (except maybe the mid 80's hit "Turn To You") and perhaps didn't expect to hear (the Sparks/Jane Wiedlin single "Cool Places" and Belinda's Go-Goesque solo single "Mad About You"). The only songs from Beauty And The Beat they didn't perform were "You Can't Walk in Your Sleep (If You Can't Sleep)" and the fine album closer "Can't Stop the World". Nor did they delve into anything non-singles from the truly underrated Vacation album, nor anything from the long out of print Talk Show album.

The set list was:

How Much More
Get Up And Go
Mad About You (Belinda Carlisle)
Lust To Love
Mother's Little Helper (The Rolling Stones)
Fading Fast
Cool Places (Sparks/Jane Wiedlin)
This Town
The Whole World Lost It's Head
Our Lips Are Sealed
Skidmarks On My Heart
We Got The Beat

First Encore:
Surfing And Spying/Beatnik Beach
Head Over Heals

Second Encore:
Fun With Ropes.

They were selling the vinyl reissue (which I personally passed up as would've been my fourth copy) and ton of cool gear including a blue shirt with the Beauty And The Beat album cover and dates on back. I'm really glad I saw the band as they were unexpectedly very good.

Big Special Thank You to Michael McIsaac.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Eight Days a Week: Inside the Beatles' Final World Tour by Robert Whitaker and Marcus Hearn

Robert Whitaker had a privelaged amount of intimate access to The Beatles. He's the photographer responsible for the infamous Yesterday and Today "butcher cover". As well as the black and white photo on the back of Revolver and the back-cover color photo for the UK compilation A Collection of Beatles Oldies (But Goldies!) . Whitaker accompanied the band and documented their final tour which spanned Germany, Japan and North America.

Eight Days a Week: Inside the Beatles' Final World Tour contains many previously unpublished photographs and is an intimate view of John, Paul, George and Ringo on the road with their entourage of Neil Aspinall, Mal Evans and Brian Esptein. It also clearly illustrates just how restricted the band were as they were confined to their hotel rooms. It's a very nice document of the band with their guard down as they were just about to come off the road for good.

This is a highly-recommended coffee-table book for any Beatles fan.

256 Pages, Metro Books (2008)

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Beach Boys Smile Album To Finally Be Released As "The Smile Sessions"


Never-Before-Released Original 1966-’67 Album Sessions Compiled for 2CD and Digital Packages and Deluxe, Limited Edition Box Set

Hollywood, California - March 14, 2011 – Between the summer of 1966 and early 1967, The Beach Boys recorded, in several sessions, a bounty of songs and drafts for an album, SMiLE, that was intended to follow the band’s 1966 masterpiece, Pet Sounds. The sessions were ultimately shelved, and The Beach Boys’ SMiLE has never been released. With the full participation of original Beach Boys Al Jardine, Mike Love, and Brian Wilson, Capitol/EMI has collected and compiled the definitive collection, ‘The SMiLE Sessions,’ for worldwide release this year in multiple physical and digital configurations.

The SMiLE Sessions presents an in-depth overview of The Beach Boys' recording sessions for the enigmatic album, which has achieved legendary, mythical status for music fans around the world. The SMiLE Sessions will be released in 2CD and digital album packages and a deluxe, limited edition box set.

Co-produced by Mark Linett and Alan Boyd, all of The SMiLE Sessions’ physical and digital configurations will include an assembled album of core tracks, while the box set delves much deeper into the sessions, adding early song drafts, alternate takes, instrumental and vocals-only mixes, and studio chatter. The SMiLE Sessions invites the listener into the studio to experience the album's creation, with producer, singer and bassist Brian Wilson's vision leading the way as he guides his fellow Beach Boys, singer Mike Love, drummer Dennis Wilson, lead guitarist Carl Wilson, rhythm guitarist Al Jardine, and newest member Bruce Johnston (who'd replaced Brian Wilson in the touring group during 1965), through the legendary sessions.

"I'm thrilled that The Beach Boys' original studio sessions
for SMiLE will be released for the first time, after all these years,” says Brian Wilson. “I'm looking forward to this collection of the original recordings and having fans hear the beautiful angelic voices of the boys in a proper studio release.”

“One of my favorite songs from the SMiLE sessions is ‘Wonderful’,” says Mike Love. “The song truly lives up to its title, as do many of the tracks on SMiLE. Cousin Brian was at his creative peak during those sessions. I’m unaware of anything that comes close in pop music.”

“I recently played some of my personal acetates from the SMiLE sessions and they held up really well,” says Al Jardine. “We would come home from touring and go straight into the studio to record. Brian couldn't wait to show us his latest ideas. We were recording SMiLE and Pet Sounds material simultaneously, so the tracks and vocals all have the same great quality. Most of the vocals were done at Columbia Studios in Hollywood, across the street from Western Studios, where most of the tracking was done.”

“For me, it's always been about the way Brian Wilson brilliantly composed and 'voiced' his amazing chord progressions and melodies,” says Bruce Johnston. “SMiLE really made me smile!”

“Personally, I loved it,” the late Carl Wilson said in 1994 of the SMiLE sessions (from the Don Was-directed documentary, Brian Wilson: I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times).

“In my opinion it makes Pet Sounds stink - that's how good it is,” the late Dennis Wilson told a journalist in 1966 of the planned SMiLE album.

What Brian Wilson brought to the table, in his effort to maintain The Beach Boys' position among the top rock 'n' roll bands of the day, was beyond what anyone could have expected. Beginning with “Good Vibrations,” then into SMiLE, Wilson had begun to construct songs in a modular form, crafting individual sections that would later be edited together to form a coherent whole. In several intense bursts of creative energy, Wilson, drawing on the talents of the finest studio musicians in Los Angeles and utilizing the best studio facilities available on any given day, laid down dozens and dozens of musical fragments, all designed to fit together in any number of possible combinations. No one had done this in pop music, and Wilson had just created “Good Vibrations,” The Beach Boys’ best-selling record in a long string of hits, by using this method. His next endeavor would be an album-length version of this unique and luxurious songwriting parlance: SMiLE.

In 1965, Brian Wilson had met an up-and-coming session keyboard player and songwriter, Van Dyke Parks. Noticing Parks' conversational eloquence, Wilsonfelt that he could help to volley The Beach Boys’ songwriting into the wave of broader-messaged and socially-conscious rock 'n' roll that would come to define the '60s. They were soon collaborating on keynote songs for SMiLE, including “Heroes and Villains,” the band’s follow-up single to “Good Vibrations.” Wilson and Parks would also co-write “Surf's Up,” “Vegetables,” “Cabin Essence,” “Do You Like Worms,” “Wonderful,” “Wind Chimes,” and other bits and pieces of theSMiLE tapestry. Parks also introduced Beat-Pop artist Frank Holmes to create album
sleeve art and a booklet interpreting the album’s James Joyce-mode lyrics.

The reason SMiLE did not see a release in early 1967 had more to do with back room business that obscured the creative side of the program than anything else. In late 1966, The Beach Boys formed Brother Records, initially to produce outside artists. Soon, however, The Beach Boys would become embroiled in a court action with Capitol Records with the goal to become the top-selling artists on their self-owned, independent label. The group withheld “Heroes and Villains” and announced they would instead release “Vegetables” – recorded with the band’s own money in April of '67 – on Brother Records. By July of 1967, Capitol Records and The Beach Boys had come to terms, with Capitol agreeing to distribute the band’s Brother Records, and it was agreed that SMiLE was no longer to be the band’s next album.

The SMiLE Sessions’ global release date, complete track lists, and artwork will be unveiled soon.

“Surf's up, aboard a tidal wave, come about hard and join the young and often spring you gave. I heard the word, wonderful thing... a children's song... ”

- from “Surf's Up” (Brian Wilson/Van Dyke Parks)

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Adventure Club Sessions (KDGE, 1993)

This has my money for best North-American Radio Station Compilation. Ever.

These are acoustic recordings from the studios of KDGE-FM "The Edge" in Dallas, TX. Recorded from 1989-1993, all one needs to do is consider the high-quality of artists to decide if it's the best compilation of it's kind. Here's the track listing:

1. Ocean Colour Scene - Alibis
2. Frank Black - Old Black Dawning
3. Jellyfish - The King Is Half-Undressed
4. The Catherine Wheel - Don't Want To Know If You're Lonely
(a cover of the Hüsker Dü single)
5. James - Lose Control
6. The Cranberries - Linger
7. The House Of Love - Crush Me
8. Blur - Miss America
9. The Lilac Time - Too Sooner Late Than Better
10. His Name Is Alive - Baby Fish Mouth
11. Frazier Chorus - Cloud Eight
12. Frank Black - Czar
13. James - Maria's Party
14. The Trash Can Sinatras - The Safecracker
15. The Posies - Will You Ever Ease Your Mind
16. XTC - Blue Beret
17. The Lilac Time - Raspberry Beret/Kiss Me medley
18. The Lemonheads - It's About Time
19. Suede - My Insatiable One

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Clash: Westway To The World

Frustratingly short snippets and selective subject matter taint overall credibility.

The Clash may have been one of the most interesting, important and best rock bands to have ever existed. And this documentary does in fact support that theory. However, the selectiveness of the subjects discussed leaves much to be desired. Hindsight, as they say, is 20/20 - and in the case of the people responsible for this documentary - it's also very revisionist.

There is absolutely no mention of the post-Mick Jones Clash that existed from 1983-1986. Four years of a bands history is an awful lot of time to simply not feel like mentioning. Sure the album this band produced - 1985's Cut The Crap - may not have been on par with say London Calling but few albums are. To completely fail to not mention it makes me wonder why the filmmakers would simply choose to re-write history as if it never existed. All this does is support the fact that documentaries edit history any way they want. The unmentioned band (Simonon/Stummer/Pete Howard/Vince White/Nick Sheppard) toured the US in 1984 and also did a busking tour of England in 1985. By not mentioning them at all does no favors for any new young fan who actually wants to know about The Clash's actual history and not just what was graciously selected and edited for them.

Then there is the issue of obtaining great rare footage only to have mere seconds of it peppered throughout the documentary! This seems to be the biggest complaint from everyone I know who has seen Westway To The World. To not add any of this footage (i.e. The Clash playing both songs on SNL/Their appearance on Friday's/Tom Snyder/US festive footage/etc) is simply a snub to the band and its fans. All this does is leave bootleggers with even more viable footage to sell (and none of this made it way to the Special Features portion of the DVD either).

Having said all that it Westway To The World is a welcome documentary. The Clash did have an MTV Rockumentary in 1991 with some great interview footage (arguably superior to the interviews here) and great footage of the band circa-1979 that could've been used here but were not. There is however, the bonus material of all the existing footage for The Clash On Broadway. Footage of which the reason why so little exists is because Topper took out an injunction so that film never be released. Since it was never finished (because of the injunction) most of it was thrown away or deteriorated since it would never see the light of day anyway. Gee thanks Topper - now we really see you in a positive light!

The Clash and director Don Letts won a Grammy for 'Best Long Form Music Video' for this feature documentary.