Sunday, February 22, 2015

"A Man For All Seasons: Jeff Beck in the 1960s" DVD

I love me some early Jeff Beck -- Yardbirds, and the first incarnation of the Jeff Beck Group with Rod Stewart and Ron Wood, of which I own more bootlegs than any other band besides the '64 Mingus touring unit and the '69 Velvets. (I'm an even bigger fan of the '71 lineup with Bob Tench and Cozy Powell, but there isn't as much stuff available on them.) I even picked up the thread again a couple of years back with the Live At Ronnie Scott's DVD and Emotion and Commotion album, which managed to erase from my consciousness the latest Nels Cline opus I'd been digging that year.

So when I saw this DVD advertised, I had to jump. It's from Sexy Intellectual, the UK outfit that specializes in unauthorized docos about '60s rockers, which tend to rely on journos and scribes as much as actual participants (and never principles) for their talking heads. While this might sound like an uninviting proposition, A Man For All Seasons (not to be confused with the '66 Paul Scofield/Robert Shaw vehicle) does an exemplary job of covering its subject, from his influences (electric guitar pioneer Les Paul, Gene Vincent's original guitarist Cliff Gallup, Chicago blues fireball Buddy Guy) to his role in evolving the Yardbirds from most blueswailing ravers-up to an experimental pop group, the trials 'n' tribs of touring America that ultimately freaked Jeff right out of the band, and the subsequent schizophrenic start of his solo career, split between Mickie Most's pop singles and his proto-hard rock/heavy metal blues band.

The participation of surviving Yardbirds Jim McCarty and Chris Dreja (still on the boards, 50 years down the road) and especially Yardbird managers Giorgio Gomelsky and Simon Napier-Bell (immortalized in Nik Cohn's Rock From the Beginning as "a great outrageous cosmic talker") make this a better telling of the Yardbirds tale than the oft-reissued '92 doco. In fact, Napier-Bell's story of how the Yardbirds wound up appearing in Michelangelo Antonioni's film Blow Up is worth the price of admission all by itself. The JBG gets shorter shrift, partially because there isn't as much archival footage of them ('68 Grande Ballroom and the "Plynth" studio session you can see on Youtube). And Pamela Des Barres' account of the JBG's participation in the GTOs' Permanent Damage LP is curiously relegated to a special feature.

The scribes that provide commentary and analysis are a mixed bag, but all credible and insightful: Beck biographer Martin Power (with whose work I'm unfamiliar, having only read Annette Carson's JB bio), Uncut editor Nigel Williamson (with whom I'm also unfamiliar, but who looks as though he might have actual memory of those '60s daze), Melody Maker's Chris Welch, and the ever on-point Charles Shaar Murray, whose remarks are as incisive as his analysis of Hendrix in Crosstown Traffic and tempered with a muso's knowledge of his subject matter. Particularly interesting was CSM's observation that in the Yardbirds, Jeff's guitar often sounded like he was making fun of the songs (according to CSM, Beck said he was). Murray also penned the liners to the 2005 remastered CD version of Truth, which is now my favorite way to hear that classic '68 album.

If you've read this far, you're probably a fan, and there are much worse ways for you to spend 129 minutes of your time than viewing this DVD. So there.

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Papa Wemba - "Foridoles"

Friday, February 06, 2015

Van Morrison, "Cypress Avenue," 1970

As chronicled by St. Lester. A life changer when I saw it on PBS when it was new.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Live Bob Seger System, 1970

From Barry Richards' Turn-On TV show in DC. You just can't beat the System.

ADDENDUM: Sadly, it appears the vids have been taken down from YT. Pity; they were pure excitement, and testimony to the power of the early Seger. Somebody -- Bob? His management? -- seems to disdain this period in his career. I still maintain that they're leaving money on the table by not reissuing his pre-"Beautiful Loser" catalog, from Cameo-Parkway singles like "East Side Story" and "Heavy Music" to LPs like Mongrel and especially Back In '72. Quick, before the boomers that remember 'em pass on!

Friday, January 30, 2015

Mark Blake's "Pretend You're In A War: The Who and the Sixties"

Just what the world needs: Another book about the 'orrible 'oo.

But, as the man that brought me here and my buddy Phil Overeem have both pointed out, the Who are the one band I truly love -- my first teenage enthusiasm, which was age-appropriate for a kid growing up in the Long Island wilds in the '70s. And reading made me a Whofan: first an excerpt from Lillian Roxon's Rock Encyclopedia that ran in some Scholastic rag I got at school around the Tommy time, then Nik Cohn in Rock From the Beginning and his NYT pre-release hype for Live At Leeds, then John Mendelssohn and his advocacy for the Who (and the Small Faces, and the Move) in Rolling Stone (when he wasn't hyping his own band).

Mark Blake, a former Q and Mojo scribe who's also written well-regarded books about Pink Floyd and Queen, isn't as compelling a writer as Roxon, Cohn, or Mendelssohn, but he has a journalist's spare style and lots of primary source materal (he interviewed Townshend, Daltrey, Entwistle, and ex-Who manager Chris Stamp, as well as a plethora of participants/eyewitnesses to the saga), and he synthesizes a lot of previously-pubbed material (including Townshend's Who I Am, as well as Blake's acknowledged cornerstone references -- Richard Barnes' Maximum R&B, Dave Marsh's Before I Get Old, Tony Fletcher's Keith Moon bio Dear Boy, and Andy Neill and Matt Kent's beautifully designed doorstop Anyway Anyhow Anywhere).

Best of all, this is the least Townshend-centric account of Who history you'll find, reminding the reader that this was originally Daltrey's band and containing POV from a well-balanced selection of observers. The author also chooses to end his narrative around the time I came in (e.g., with Live At Leeds), but he has his cake and eats it, with an afterword focusing on the Who's impending 50th anniversary tour.

Put this tome together with Richie Unterberger's Won't Get Fooled Again: The Who from Lifehouse to Quadrophenia and you have a pretty complete, well-researched account of the Who when they were still interesting. And you don't need to be reminded of "Eminence Front."

Monday, January 26, 2015

Pat Metheny shreds

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Queen of England's drum solo