Thursday, May 31, 2012


Sessions for Bob Weir's solo debut became just another excuse to jam with his bandmates from the Grateful Dead.  Warner Brothers Records offered solo record deals to members of the band as their contract was expiring to entice them to stay.  Jerry Garcia released his solo album in January of 1972; which is when sessions began for 'Ace'.  It was recorded at Wally Heider's Studio in San Francisco by Bob Matthews and Betty Cantor with everyone from the Grateful Dead taking part except for Ron "Pigpen" McKernan and Mickey Hart.    Weir recalls:  "That was a Grateful Dead record, as far as I'm concerned. And I don't do that material with my side groups...It was all me singing, all my songwriting. I started by using a couple of different musicians, and it just settled in to being a Grateful Dead record right quick."

Included in the studio action were Bob Weir on lead vocals, electric and acoustic guitars; Jerry Garcia on lead guitar, pedal steel guitar, and backup vocals; Phil Lesh on bass guitar, and backup vocals;  Bill Kreutzmann on Drums and Percussion; Keith Godchaux on piano and organ; Donna Jean Godchaux on harmony and "chick" vocals; Dave Torbert on bass guitar; with Snooky Flowers, Luis Gasca, and the Space Rangers playing horns; and Ed Bogus doing string arrangements.  

Weir admits:  "I pretty much knew in the back of my mind what would happen. I go and get the time booked and start putting the material together. Everybody gets wind of the fact that I got the time booked and I may be going into the studio. So one by one they start coming around. Lesh and Garcia, 'Hey man, I hear you got some time booked...Need a bass player? A guitarist?'...Of course I ended up with the Grateful Dead on the record, which I figured up front...And we had a great time making the record."  Production credits were given to "everybody involved".  Most of the songs on 'Ace' became concert staples for the Grateful Dead.  Weir says:  "That was when I really first kicked into gear and started writing."

"Greatest Story Ever Told" was composed by Weir, Mickey Hart, and Ian Hunter.   This is the only song on the album that has Dave Torbert.  It also appeared on Hart's solo album as  "The Pump Song".

"Black-Throated Wind" was written by Weir and John Parry Barlow

"Cassidy" (Weir, Barlow) "I wrote it shortly after Neil checked out down in Mexico. The song came to me—I was living at a ranch in the middle of Marin County in California. There were a number of us. We were living sort of communally there at the time. One of the ladies here was busy birthing a baby. I went out into the living room. There were a lot of folks sort of helping in that. It was a bit much for me so I went in the living room, picked up my guitar, and just started playing. This tune came. She named the kid Cassidy. Meanwhile, when this tune was coming through, you know, coming through the sky or wherever they come from, I was still thinking, I was still sort of meditating on Neil and his effect on my life and stuff like that. The song was sort of—the music was sort of about the new Cassidy and it was also sort of about the old Cassady. Barlow and I sat down and we hashed that out, we talked that down a bit, and then the lyrics came out."

full album:

Side one
 "Greatest Story Ever Told" (Mickey Hart, Robert Hunter, and Bob Weir) -- 0:00 
"Black-Throated Wind" (John Perry Barlow and Weir) -- 3:39 
"Walk in the Sunshine" (Barlow and Weir) -- 9:21 
"Playing in the Band" (Hart, Hunter, and Weir) -- 12:23

Side two 
"Looks Like Rain" (Barlow and Weir) -- 20:01 
"Mexicali Blues" (Barlow and Weir) -- 26:09 
"One More Saturday Night" (Weir) -- 29:32 
"Cassidy" (Barlow and Weir) -- 33:59

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

sir duke

Stevie Wonder spoke a language we all understand with this triumphant horn-driven tribute to Duke Ellington. Wonder wrote 'Sir Duke' after the death of his idol Duke Ellington in 1974. He says: "I knew the title from the beginning but wanted it to be about the musicians who did something for us. So soon they are forgotten. I wanted to show my appreciation." He also pays tribute to Count Basie, Glenn Miller, Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald. The recording features Wonder on keyboards, Michael Sembello on lead guitar, Ben Bridges on rhythm guitar, Nathan Watts on bass, Raymond Pounds on drums, Hank Redd on alto saxophone, Trevor Laurence on tenor saxophone, and Raymond Maldonado and Steve Madaio on trumpet.

Sembello recalls: “We would show up to the studio at one or two o’clock in the morning. And like I said before, Steve is tireless. When he gets in the zone, he stays in the zone. Steve would show up and we would have everything set up ready to play. He would literally be writing another song while we would be tracking one song. We had two engineers in the studio at all times. We would be tracking a song and Steve would yell, ‘Hold on! Wait a minute! Roll the tape!’ He would start singing something that was coming to him and due to the fact that we were musicians and had great ears we started playing alongside him. All of a sudden a new song started to form and this is how the song ‘Sir Duke’ came about. There are probably hundreds or even thousands of songs in the vault from Steve that have just come from the top of his head that he has never finished. He could have material playing a hundred years from now. He was the conductor of the universe. We were a musical force due to him. It was very magical. We wanted to get better as musicians. We didn’t care about getting Grammy’s. We wanted to be the best we could be.”

Watts remembers: “On ‘Sir Duke’ Steve was humming the melody of it one day and he didn’t have the words to the song yet. By the time all of us were in the studio, the band was ready to do the song. I think we finished the song in two takes because we rehearsed the song enough to have it so Stevie didn’t have to worry about it. There was one thing he might have changed later after the recording, but what you hear on the album is what we cut in the studio. Wonderlove was an incredible band back then and incredible influence on him as well. He had some of the baddest players around in that band. I had only been playing the guitar for two years, but I had a quick ear to pick up stuff and that made the difference. I must have had a little talent, I guess that’s why he kept me."

'Sir Duke' was the third of five singles from his double-album magnum opus 'Songs in the Key of Life' and his second consecutive number one on both the pop and R&B charts after 'I Wish'. It was also the last of nine consecutive top three R&B hits, seven of them number ones. 'Sir Duke' also went to number two in the UK.

Music is a world within itself
With a language we all understand
With an equal opportunity
For all to sing, dance and clap their hands
But just because a record has a groove
Don't make it in the groove
But you can tell right away at letter A
When the people start to move

They can feel it all over
They can feel it all over people
They can feel it all over
They can feel it all over people

Music knows it is and always will
Be one of the things that life just won't quit
But here are some of music's pioneers
That time will not allow us to forget
For there's Basie, Miller, Satchmo
And the king of all Sir Duke
And with a voice like Ella's ringing out
There's no way the band can lose

You can feel it all over
You can feel it all over people
You can feel it all over
You can feel it all over people

You can feel it all over
You can feel it all over people
You can feel it all over
You can feel it all over people

You can feel it all over
You can feel it all over people
You can feel it all over
You can feel it all over people

You can feel it all over
You can feel it all over people
You can feel it all over
I can feel it all over-all over now people

Can't you feel it all over
Come on let's feel it all over people
You can feel it all over
Everybody-all over people

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

moby grape

Moby Grape made a big splash with the delicious psychedelic country rock jams of their eponymous debut. The band had formed in San Francisco with drummer turned guitarist Skip Spence from the Jefferson Airplane, lead guitarist Jerry Miller and drummer Don Stevenson from Seattle band the Frantics, guitarist Peter Lewis from the Cornells, bassist Bob Mosley from San Diego band the Misfits. Manager Matthew Katz encouraged a spirit of conflict that led to each member of the band writing and singing. After a bidding war, the band was signed by Columbia Records. 'Moby Grape' was recorded with producer David Rubinson at CBS studios in Hollywood and the sound is built around concise crosstalk between the trio of guitarists, all of whom play lead at one time or another. In a risky marketing move, Columbia released five singles simultaneously, which saturated the market and ended up sabotaging their potential success. 'Moby Grape' peaked at number twenty-four on the album chart. The music runs the gamut from rock and roll boogie to country twang to soaring melodic balladry; and every song is a classic with melodies and counter-melodies intertwining beautifully. What's big and purple and lives in the ocean? This whale of a record.

"Hey Grandma" was co-written by Jerry Miller and Don Stevenson. It only went to number one hundred and twenty-seven on the singles chart.

"8:05" was co-composed by Miller and Stevenson.

"Omaha" was composed by Skip Spence. It peaked at number eighty-eight. 

"Someday" was co-composed by Miller, Stevenson, and Spence.

"Sitting by the Window" was composed by Lewis.

'Moby Grape'
full album:

Side one
1. "Hey Grandma"   Jerry Miller, Don Stevenson 2:43
2. "Mr. Blues"   Bob Mosley 1:58
3. "Fall on You"   Peter Lewis 1:53
4. "8:05"   Miller, Stevenson 2:17
5. "Come in the Morning"   Mosley 2:20
6. "Omaha"   Skip Spence 2:19
7. "Naked, If I Want To"   Miller 0:55
Side two
1. "Someday"   Miller, Stevenson, Spence 2:41
2. "Ain't No Use"   Miller, Stevenson 1:37
3. "Sitting by the Window"   Lewis 2:44
4. "Changes"   Miller, Stevenson 3:21
5. "Lazy Me"   Mosley 1:45
6. "Indifference"   Spence 4:14

Monday, May 28, 2012


Roxy Music sailed confidently off into the sunset with the
smooth and seductive soundscapes of their swansong.  'Avalon' was recorded at Compass Point Studios in Nassau, Bahamas with Rhett Davies co-producing with the band.  The result is a lush, synthesizer-driven pop music with Andy Mackay's saxophone and Phil Manzanera's guitar create sophisticated and cinematic moods that go down easy.  Bryan Ferry's lyrics evoke Arthurian romance and a sense of finality.    The album also included Neil Hubbard on guitar, Alan Spenner on bass, Andy Newmark on drums, and  Jimmy Maelen on percussion; with session work from Neil Jason on bass,  Paul Carrack on piano, Rick Marotta on drums, Kermit Moore on cello, Fonzi Thornton and Yanick Etienne on vocals.  

Shortly after its release, Ferry married Lucy Helmore, the model pictured on the cover of 'Avalon'.  Roxy Music broke up after an extensive tour for the album.  Ferry explains:  "Splitting up Roxy just seemed like the right thing, the creative thing to do.  I did a couple of weird things around that time. I think it comes under the heading 'artistic indulgence'.  Maybe I was wrong...I got fed up with it all.  And I got married, of course. I'd never wanted a family, I'd always seen myself as a career person, but I suppose it all made me feel very different. I didn't want to be part of a group any more, so I started my own group, a family group. And that happens all the time - look at the Beatles. Generally, groups split up because they start getting their own lives as individuals."  

'Avalon' went to number one in Australia and the UK, and even sold platinum in the US, although it only peaked at number fifty-three on the US album chart.

"More Than This" hit number one hundred and three in the US, twenty-four in the Netherlands, twelve in New Zealand, and peaked at number six in Australia and the UK.  

"I could feel at the time
There was no way of knowing
Fallen leaves in the night
Who can say where theyƂ´re blowing
As free as the wind
And hopefully learning
Why the sea on the tide
Has no way of turning"

"Avalon" went to number thirty-seven in New Zealand, twenty-two in Australia, thirteen in the UK, and peaked at number three in the Netherlands.

"When the samba takes you out of nowhere
And the background's fading out of focus
Yes the picture's changing every moment
And your destination, you don't know it"

The single of "Take a Chance With Me" with a remix of "The Main Thing" on the flipside hit number one hundred and four in the US, thirty-two in Canada, twenty-six in the UK, and peaked at number eighteen in the Netherlands.  

"Heaven knows, I believe

Won't you take a chance with me
Sometimes I get so blue
People say I'm just a fool
All the world, even you
Should learn to love the way I do"

 full album:

All tracks written by Bryan Ferry, except where noted.

Side one
1. "More than This" 4:30
2. "The Space Between" 4:30
3. "Avalon" 4:16
4. "India" 1:44
5. "While My Heart Is Still Beating" Ferry, Andy Mackay  3:26
Side two
6. "The Main Thing" 3:54
7. "Take a Chance with Me" Ferry, Phil Manzanera 4:42
8. "To Turn You On" 4:16
9. "True to Life" 4:25
10. "Tara"   Ferry, Andy Mackay   1:43

Sunday, May 27, 2012

after school session

It took two years for Chuck Berry to finally release his first album of archetypal rock and roll. Many of the songs on 'After School Session' had been recorded and released as singles well before the album came out. It was only the second long player released by the small independent Chess label. Leonard and Phil Chess produced the material during only six seminal sessions at their Chicago studios. Berry's distinctive guitar style was already fully formed and these originals provided a template for the future of rock and roll music. The sessions also included Johnnie Johnson and Otis Spann on piano; Willie Dixon on bass; Jimmy Rogers on guitar; Jerome Green on maracas; L. C. Davis on tenor saxophone; and Fred Below, Jasper Thomas, and Ebby Hardy on drums.

'School Days' AKA 'School Day (Ring! Ring! Goes the Bell)' was one of the last songs recorded for the album in January of 1957. It went to number three on the pop chart and number one on the R&B chart.

Berry even raps in 'Too Much Monkey Business' which was recorded in April of 1956. It went to number four on the R&B chart that same year.

The bluesy 'Wee Wee Hours' went to number ten on the R&B chart. It was the b-side to the R&B number one single (and pop number five) 'Maybellene' and both were recorded in May of 1955 and released in July of that year. 

'No Money Down' was recorded in December of 1955. It went to number eight on the R&B chart.

'You Can't Catch Me' was featured in the film 'Rock, Rock, Rock' and inspired John Lennon in his composition of 'Come Together'. 

'After School Session' 
full album:

All songs written and composed by Chuck Berry. 

Side One
1. "School Days"   2:43
2. "Deep Feeling"   2:21
3. "Too Much Monkey Business"   2:56
4. "Wee Wee Hours"   3:05
5. "Roly Poly (aka Rolli Polli)"   2:51
6. "No Money Down"   2:59
Side Two
1. "Brown Eyed Handsome Man"   2:19
2. "Berry Pickin'"   2:33
3. "Together (We Will Always Be)"   2:39
4. "Havana Moon"   3:09
5. "Downbound Train"   2:51
6. "Drifting Heart"   2:50
Bonus Tracks
1. "You Can't Catch Me"   2:44
2. "Thirty Days (To Come Back Home)"   2:25
3. "Maybellene"   2:19

Saturday, May 26, 2012

absolutely free

Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention raised the stakes of their eclectic freak rock while they raised eyebrows and ire with the post-modern pastiche and sophomoric social satire of this series of underground oratorios. The band of Jimmy Carl Black on drums and vocals; Ray Collins on vocals and tambourine; Don Ellis on trumpet; Roy Estrada on bass and vocals; John Rotella on percussion; Pamela Zarubica on vocals; had expanded with the addition of saxophone player Bunk Gardner on woodwinds; Don Preston on keyboards; guitarist Jim Fielder on guitar and piano; and Billy Mundi on drums for the sessions at the Sunset-Highland Studios of TTG with Zappa co-producing with Tom Wilson. 

 Zappa recalled: "When it came time for us to do our second album, 'Absolutely Free', MGM proclaimed that we couldn't spend more than eleven thousand dollars on it. The recording schedules were ridiculous, making it impossible to perfect anything on the album. It was typical of the kind of bullshit we had to put up with until I got my own studio. Gail and I moved to New York in 1967 to play in the Garrick Theater on Bleecker Street. The first place we stayed, before we could find an apartment, was the Hotel Van Rensselaer on Eleventh Street. We were living on a small room on one of the upper floors. I was working on the album cover illustration for 'Absolutely Free' at a desk by the window. I remember the place being so dirty I couldn't keep the soot off the artwork."

Melding diverse genres such as acid rock, avante-garde, Broadway, doo-wop, experimental, garage rock, jazz, orchestral, psychedelic, R&B, and vaudeville; 'Absolutely Free' also references classical works by Stravinsky ('The Firebird', 'Petrouchka', 'The Rite of Spring', and 'A Soldier's Tale') and Holst ('Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity') as well as 'Louie, Louie' and Bob Dylan. The album is composed of two side-length suites of interconnected songs that lambaste both the establishment and the counter-culture movement. Zappa explained: "This is a new type of lyric that I'm getting into. These are also social-political things. This is straight bizarre lyric, based on-I made research tapes of behavior of some seventeen-year-old kids in Ontario, California, and this is based on those tapes... 'Call Any Vegetable', for example, was written two weeks after we finished 'Freak Out!', when we were in Hawaii, and it took a year to learn how to play it. 'Son of Suzy Creameheese' took a year to learn how to play. Can you tell why? The time, the time-it's fantastic. It's four bars of 4/ 4, one bar 8/8, one bar of 9/8- O K? And then it goes 8/8, 9/8, 8/8, 9/8, 8/8, 9/8, then it goes 8/8, 4/8, 5/8, 6/8, and back into 4/4 again. To get it together now, we just toss it off and it becomes a flop."

'Absolutely Free' went to number forty-one on the US album chart without any singles. Zappa saw it as a victory over the suits: "That's where I have one basic human drive on my side that they can't defeat-greed. You see, they're so greedy, and the powers that be are not necessarily the government, but you're talking about big industry and the military and all, and that's greed-motivated activity. Industry wants to make money and I'm getting into a phase now where I'm being used by industry to move products. A lot of the industries now are aware of the fact that they're in a vicious cycle: in order to sell their goods to the youth market, which accounts for the major market of most of American products, that same market that buys most of the records, you have a weird situation where in effect record companies especially are helping to disseminate the information which will cause the kids to wake up and move and eventually destroy what they stand for, and they can't help it."

'Absolutely Free'
full album:

Absolutely Free (1st In A Series Of Underground Oratorios)
1. Plastic People 0:00
2. The Duke Of Prunes 3:42
3. Amnesia Vivace 5:55
4. The Duke Regains His Chops 6:56
5. Call Any Vegetable 8:49
6. Invocation & Ritual Dance Of The Young Pumpkin 11:05
7. Soft-Sell Conclusion 18:05
Bonus Tracks:
8. Big Leg Emma 19:45
9. Why Don'tcha Do Me Right? 22:17

The M.O.I. American Pageant (2nd In A Series Of Underground Oratorios)
10. America Drinks 24:54
11. Status Back Baby 26:47
12. Uncle Bernie's Farm 29:41
13. Son Of Suzy Creamcheese 31:52
14. Brown Shoes Don't Make It 33:26
15. America Drinks And Goes Home 40:56

Friday, May 25, 2012

kiss me, kiss me, kiss me

The Cure found mainstream success with this generous sampler of post punk angst and pop confections. 'Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me' was the first album of new material after the band released their retrospective singles collection(s) 'Standing on a Beach' / 'Staring at the Sea', which had exposed their music to a new audience. Front man Robert Smith calls the sessions with co-producer David Allen "the most enjoyable period of time I've had in the past ten years. It was in Provence, in the South of France, in an old country mansion with its own vineyard. We recorded it in complete isolation; we didn't allow anyone to hear anything until we'd finished it - no one at all, not even our families. It was a very incestuous, very secretive kind of thing, because we were having so much fun that we didn't want anyone to come and break the spell. It was a very unreal situation - ten weeks of being completely cut off from the world, with no outside stimulus at all. We had no television, we had no transport to get to the nearest town which was five miles away, and all the food was sent in a van in the morning. About halfway through, all the girls came down to join us. I asked (his girlfriend) Mary to sit in the studio when I was singing some of the songs, and it was very strange actually singing to her, which I'd never done before. The only other time she'd been in the studio was on 'Pornography' - she sat in a chair and stared at me when I was singing 'Siamese Twins,' I think. It's strange, I find it very difficult to sing to people when they're very close. I've always found it much easier to sing in a theater than in a club. So it was very weird to have Mary sitting there watching me. And the rest of the group came in and stared at me when I was singing 'Shiver And Shake,' to make me feel uncomfortable so I could sing with an edge. We tried lots of funny things like that."

The entire band was involved in the composition of the album. Smith says: "They'd been really lazy on 'The Head On The Door', and I told them that on the next record we made, I would expect them to come in with ideas, otherwise I would humiliate them in public or something. I insisted that they bring cassettes of their own stuff, and we sat down and listened to the tapes and gave them marks, and the ones that got the highest marks were the ones we used. Very much like the Eurovision Song Contest, really."

When they had created enough material for a double-album, their label was hesitant. Smith recalls: "Yeah, we heard mutterings of commercial suicide and all the rest of it. They wanted to use an American mix engineer, like Bob Clearmountain, who would have made it sound more acceptable to an American ear, or what they imagine is an American ear. But we've always heard that kind of thing from our American record companies - this is our fourth - and we've never paid attention to any of it. Everything we've ever done has been very selfishly motivated, and obviously it works for enough other people to make it possible for us to continue. We never imagined we'd do a double album until we'd actually come to a logical finish in the studio. We actually finished thirty-five tracks, and we had animated disagreement about choosing eighteen for the album. Cutting it down further would have made it either too pop or too weighted towards the longer, more atmospheric pieces - neither of which would have given the album a real balance. Or we could have released it as two single albums, but I prefer the idea of putting it all out now and moving on to the next thing."

'Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me' is a reflection of all of the music the band had put out up to that point.  Smith explains:  "I reimmersed myself in certain moods and certain styles that we'd been involved with, that I didn't think I'd carried through as far as I could. I sort of made mental notes of those, and we used some of them on the new record. So in some way, the new record is almost a resume of everything we've done over the years. Half of it's looking forward, and half of it's trying to sum up what the group's done in the past."

'Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me' went too thirty-five in the US, thirteen in Sweden, nine in Australia, six in the UK, four in Austria and Germany, three in Sweden, and peaked at number two in France.

The pop classic 'Just Like Heaven' only went to eighty-nine in Australia, forty in the US, thirty-three in France, thirty-one in New Zealand, twenty-nine in the UK, and fifteen in Ireland.

 'Why Can't I Be You?' hit fifty-four in the US, twenty-nine in France and Germany, twenty-one in the UK, sixteen in Australia and New Zealand, and twelve in Ireland.

'Hot Hot Hot!!!'  made it to sixty-eight in the US, forty-five in the UK, and eighteen in Ireland.

 'Catch' only charted in a few countries, going to seventy-seven in Australia, fifty-nine in Germany, twenty-seven in the UK, and sixteen in Ireland.

'Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me'

full album:

All lyrics written by Robert Smith; 
all music composed by The Cure (Smith, Simon Gallup, Porl Thompson, Lol Tolhurst, and Boris Williams).

Side A
1. "The Kiss" 6:17
2. "Catch" 2:42
3. "Torture" 4:13
4. "If Only Tonight We Could Sleep" 4:50

Side B
1. "Why Can't I Be You?" 3:11
2. "How Beautiful You Are" 5:10
3. "The Snakepit" 6:56
4. "Hey You!!!" 2:22

Side C
1. "Just Like Heaven" 3:30
2. "All I Want" 5:18
3. "Hot Hot Hot!!!" 3:32
4. "One More Time" 4:29
5. "Like Cockatoos" 3:38

Side D
1. "Icing Sugar" 3:48
2. "The Perfect Girl" 2:34
3. "A Thousand Hours" 3:21
4. "Shiver and Shake" 3:26
5. "Fight" 4:27


Side one
01."Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me" - 3:41
02."Catch" - 2:40 
03."Torture" - 3:04
04."If Only Tonight We Could Sleep" - 3:12
05."Snow in Summer" - 3:22
06."A Chain of Flowers" - 3:48
Side two
07."Why Can't I Be You?" - 3:11 
08."A Japanese Dream" - 3:10
09."To the Sky" - 3:46 
10."How Beautiful You Are" - 3:12
11."The Snakepit" - 3:43
12."Hey You!!!" - 2:47
Side three
13."Just Like Heaven" - 3:28 
14."All I Want" - 3:17
15."Breathe" - 3:13
16."Hot Hot Hot!!!" - 3:06 
17."One More Time" - 3:34 
18."Like Cockatoos" - 3:10 
Side four
19."Icing Sugar" - 2:50
20."The Perfect Girl" - 3:34 
21."A Thousand Hours" - 3:21 
22."Sugar Girl" - 3:15
23."Shiver and Shake" - 3:08 
24."Fight Fight Fight" - 3:40