Archive for the ‘Soul’ Category

With friends like these, who needs amplifiers?

December 12, 2007

motel-shot.jpg

Delaney & Bonnie and Friends: Motel Shot

We know a number of musicians, and pretty much all of them share the view of bassist Mike Prokopf, that bands are paid to haul equipment and they play for free.

It’s a common complaint among musicians, especially when they’re on the road. You spend so much time hauling equipment, driving hundreds of miles from one gig to the next, hanging out in cheap motel rooms waiting to play or winding down after, and so little time actually making music.

That’s the concept behind this brilliant gem of an album. First released on vinyl in 1971 and rereleased on CD at least four different times [yes, it’s that good], Motel Shot is the kind of music a band plays after the gig, when they’re back at the motel and not ready to sleep or stop playing. All the instruments are acoustic—can’t make too much noise and everything’s packed away anyway. The drummer just beats on an emptied suitcase for the same reasons. An old upright piano has been found somewhere, maybe in the motel lounge. And everyone is playing for the sheer joy of making music.

Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett were a husband and wife duo in the 60s and 70s, labeled a “blue-eyed soul” duo, but playing music that ranged from soul to blues, rock and gospel, with a little jam band thrown in for good measure. They’ve been cited as a great influence on Eric Clapton, George Harrison and others, and though her husband got top billing, Bonnie is one of the most soulful singers you’ll ever hear. The friends on this particular Delaney & Bonnie and Friends outing include Gram Parsons, Leon Russell, Dave Mason and Duane Allman.

The dozen tracks on Motel Shot range from a tent revivalesque, stirring Will the Circle Be Unbroken to an over-the-top Rock of Ages, Robert Johnson’s delta classic Come on in My Kitchen and the improbable hit single from the original album, Never Ending Song of Love.

It also includes a stellar showcase for Bonnie’s talent, Don’t Deceive Me [Please Don’t Go]. The YouTube video below will give you a little taste of the band’s sound and Bonnie’s incredible gift. The song isn’t on Motel Shot, but you’ll still get a sense of the amazing music awaiting you on this album, if you’re lucky enough to find it.

Advertisements

Music to go

November 21, 2007

What music gets you going when you’re driving? Makes you tend to push the speed limit on the open road? Makes you dance in your seat at stoplights? Maybe even makes you, God forbid, sing along? Join the discussion in the comments below.

rocky_creek_bridge.jpg

We always overpack for road trips, especially when it comes to music. And since we were flying to San Francisco before actually hitting the road, that meant cramming stacks of CDs—jazz [of course—including West Coast Jazz icon Stan Getz], classical, opera, rock, blues… And this mix CD.

I used to obsess over mix tapes for parties we’d throw, recording, erasing, rerecording until I got them just right. This CD was much more haphazard than that, thrown together last minute from our iTunes library, a spectacularly eclectic collection of music styles, tastes and sources, including music burned from our equally catholic vinyl collection.

A touch of the obsession remains, though. I bought one tune the night before we left that had to go on the disk. Had to.

So here it is, tune by tune, the first disk we popped into the rental car sound system as we left San Francisco. And it worked. When it started playing through a second time, we just let it.

1. On The Road Again, Canned Heat. This was the tune I had to buy, perhaps the ultimate road anthem by the ’60s California blues/rock band, with its harmonica-driven boogie over a drone borrowed from Eastern music for a perfect mystical touch. Not to be confused with the very different Willie Nelson hit. This YouTube video will give you a taste of their music—and of some of the dreadful psychedelic camera effects of the time.

2. Don’t Dream It’s Over, Crowded House. I don’t even remember how this ’80s tune found its way back into our consciousness this year, but its dreamy quality makes it a perfect track to follow Canned Heat.

3. Gimme Shelter, The Rolling Stones. Probably my favorite Stones song—nice and dark and dangerous, as much of the best rock & roll is.

4. Mystery Girl, Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Sexy punk from this New York band fronted by the alternately tough and girly Karen Oh.

5. Right About Now, The Mooney Suzuki. More New York music from this reliably fun garage punk band—almost as much energy as they deliver live.

6. Rehab, Amy Winehouse. Yeah, I know—I’ll bet she wishes any of her other songs had been her breakout hit. But even if her personal life is a trainwreck, there’s no denying the power of her voice. The song is also a great example of how Brits are keeping 60s-style American soul music alive, long after our own country has turned its back on it.

7. Bang The Drum All Day, Todd Rundgren. The only decent thing Rundgren ever recorded, but it is soooo good. Whenever it comes on, we always crank the volume.

8. I Only Have Eyes For You, The Flamingos. Okay, this is the one unabashedly, uncomplicatedly romantic tune on the whole disk. We love it.

9. When The Levee Breaks, Led Zeppelin. Another gift from the Brits: They gave us back blues music, yet another uniquely American art form we’d walked away from.

10. Bela Lugosi’s Dead, Bauhaus. Call them goth, glam, post-punk or whatever, this dark epic [almost 10 minutes long] would be an impressive debut for any band.

11. Breakdown, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers. One critic called Petty’s debut album “tuneful jangle balanced by a tough garage swagger.” This song is what that sounds like.

12. Let’s Work Together, Canned Heat. When I was buying On The Road Again, I saw this one. I couldn’t resist.

13. Ex-Lion Tamer, Wire. I’m always a sucker for Brit punk, and these guys do it right, fast and loud. This is a track from their 1977 album Pink Flag—it blasts through 22 songs in less than 37 minutes.

14. Ecstasy, Rusted Root. More trippy hippie music, perfect for a California road trip, by way of… Pittsburgh?

15. Chains, The Cookies. Any good mix CD can always be made a little better with some ’60s girl group music.

16. Bye Bye Blackbird, Joe Cocker. Leave it to Mr. Cocker to turn a bouncy 1920s pop tune into a soulful, melancholy love song. Beautiful.

17. Sweet Dreams, Roy Buchanan. A wonderfully haunting solo guitar version of the Patsy Cline standard. We first came across it playing over the closing credits of the Scorsese film The Departed.

 

Okay, your turn. What are your favorite tunes to go? Music only, please. No talk radio, not even [and perhaps especially not] NPR.