Nine days until March madness begins. Each year since 1992-- skipping '93, and moving to Radio City in '95-- the Allman Brothers Band has played an extended residency at New York's beautiful Beacon Theater. And each time I've been to at least 2 of the shows; in recent years somewhat more.
I've seen a lot of artists at the Beacon over the years, and in the past I've been critical of the acoustics there. But the Allmans sound man, Slim Judd, has gotten the place down cold, and they sound so good in there it is indescribable. This year, They'll be doing 14 shows. There were 10 last year and I went to them all (including the climactic Big House Benefit); this year I hope I can see my way clear to miss a couple.
I had been writing reviews of Allman Brothers gigs online since '96, and in 2003 it paid off (although in truth, it was always its own reward.) One day during the Beacon run I got an email from Kirk West, the band's tour mystic (hey, that's his title), asking me to call him and providing his number in town. He was very kind, very flattering about my reviews, and he asked if I'd write about the run for the band's magazine, Hittin' the Note (the subsequent piece ran in this issue.) He said there wouldn't be a lot of money, but there would be fun.
He was right on both scores; and way more than enough fun. Since then I've been to maybe 60 Allman Brothers concerts. They'll comp me in the summer on the shed tour when they hit Jones Beach, and I can always get a ticket and a back stage pass from the band for any (and all) Beacon shows. I usually buy tix through conventional channels, then rely on them to fill in my gaps. Some nights I just get a pass, which means I can watch from the stage but don't have a seat. Less thrilling than it sounds after the first few times, because the acoustics aren't near what they are in the house; but just a pass is the way to see the show for free. (Kirk calls it "one in the back," meaning the back door.) $90 a pop, 14 shows-- well, you can see the benefit of an occasional one in the back. Tough to tell the missus I've spent a grand to see the Allmans (although, bless her heart, it gives me pleasure, so she'd be OK with it. To a point.)
The best thing by far to come out of all this-- besides my writing articles and doing interviews for the magazine-- was also in 2003, when the band asked me to write the liner notes for their live DVD. It went platimum. Yup, that's right; you're reading the blog of a platinum artist.
You might think the Allman Brothers are an oldies act, or else an act that is no longer relevant because they've lost original members. Indeed they manage to be something else entirely; a band that, through a mix of new blood and old, through classic repertoire and new compositions, is as fresh today as at any time in their history. This has always been a band about guitars, and two of the stone cold best guitarists around today are in this band: Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks. I have come to think of the current line-up-- which came together for the 2001 Beacon gigs, when Warren Haynes sat in on a trial basis-- as their second classic line-up, after the original ('69-'71) one.
At those 2001 Beacon gigs Haynes was shouldering too much of the burden in the wake of Dickey Betts's departure, as bandleader, soloist, and vocalist. And he and Trucks were running into each other on slide; it wasn't clear who should play slide when. But after about a year, a funny thing began to happen. Suddenly you no longer heard one guy playing the Duane parts, and one guy playing the Dickey parts. Suddenly, there was a Warren part, and a Derek part. Even on the old songs. And once that happened, things got very good very fast.
I assure you, after this line-up has passed into history, the fact that these two players performed side by side in the same band will be the stuff of legend, on a par with the Clapton/Page/Beck Yardbirds trilogy.
This is by no means intended to diminish the contributions of Oteil Burbridge on bass, the "Jabuma trio" (Butch Trucks, Jaimoe, and Marc Quinones on drums and percussion), and original member Gregg Allman of keyboards and vocals. But I hear this music, generally, through the lens of guitars.
I'll blog little during March, devoting my creative energies to reporting on the shows. I'll put links here as the reviews are writ, so you all can follow along.
Each time I see this line-up live, I feel privileged to have had a chance to hear these players in this combination. If you're in town, do try and go. Every night, it will be something special.
Oh-- and do eat a peach for peace.
Labels: The tunes
Yeah, me neither. But I get sort of a taste of it from this post at Annie's Day, about our fabulous dinner last night. We had this extravagant, trendy 9-course meal thing which she can explain better than I can; to me it was all tiny food in giant bowls.
If you read to the end, either you're obsessed with trendy Japanese cuisine, or else you're stalking one of us. Maybe more inviting-- check out this photo gallery, one photo of each of 9 sumptuous, tiny little courses.
She took tremendous liberties with the dialogue; I was really far wittier. Eh, tabloids. Whadaya gonna do?
Honestly, I don't understand what all the fuss is about Gay marriage. Some of the Literalists seem to think the bible speaks out against it. But then, you wonder why these same people don't engage in stoning or owning slaves. As I've writ in this space on more than one occasion, don't take the bible so literally; it is impossible to convey nuance in Aramaic. Its like writing in Klingon.
But when you ponder the morality of same sex wedlock, remember: If God didn't mean for gay people to wed, He wouldn't have made so many of them. Or invented taffeta.
Things look bad in Babylon. You have the Shi'a destroying the holy Sunni moaque, one of My favorite mosques by the way. The Americans seem to be hypicrotical about "democracy," insisting that the Shi'a allow the Sunnis and Kurds to participate in the governing of Babylon. But apparently, its OK in the US if the Democrats play no role in the American government. I realize its not quite the same thing, but actually, it is. Majority rule means losers weepers. In the Muslim world-- especially in Babylon, where three different peoples who don't belong together were knitted into a single country after your first great 20th century war, by the Europeans-- this inevitably has consequences.
I'll do what I can to keep things from going very badly there. But I'll only do so much, because I've never been much on determinism; I'm a big free will Guy. The rest is on you all.
For the record, and in order: no, I still hold out hope, and of course not.
It all started when I read my Bestest Pal's blog (sadly, she's given up blogging; apparently she thinks her husband, two adorable kids, and actual real life are more worthy of her time than the lot of us out here are. Harrumph.) I noticed that when I clicked on a specific post, the Google ads eerily matched the post's content. So I'd click on her "The heirloom tomatoes are here" post, and sure enough, the ads were about tomato products. Uncanny! A little scary! And oddly compelling!
So it became sort of a game, and I had to have ads on my blog so I could see what Google came up with to go with my posts. And sure enough, concert ticket ads on the music posts, "Meet Democratic Singles" ads on the political stuff. And the ads on God's posts are a hoot and a holler.
Also, my profession is advertising and marketing, and I feel an obligation to the biz to have ads here. And too, the more I see what Google serves up in the Adsense space on the blog, the more I learn about how online advertising works. And the more I feel like, in some small way, I'm a part of the exciting, fast paced world of Internet Marketing!
But mostly, I want to meet Democratic singles.
"Gallup finds only 9 percent of Internet users saying they frequently read blogs, with 11 percent reading them occasionally. Thirteen percent of Internet users rarely bother, and 66 percent never read blogs. Those numbers, essentially unchanged from a year earlier, put blog-reading dead last among Gallup's measures of 13 common Internet activities. "
So what do you all think? Has blogging peaked? Do Americans really want to read my silly ruminations-- or yours?
On the other hand, the good people of Gallup, New Mexico have a blog of their own...
I posted this review of Little Brother's new record at Amazon; be a pal and toss me a favorable vote there.
Derek Trucks is one of the two or three most distinct and recognizable instrumental voices in popular music today. He's like Carlos Santana, in that he can toss in a 2-note lick and instantly you know its him.
This record is truly a "band" record. That might disappoint some, who were hoping to hear the songs as vehicles for Derek's extended shredding. Instead, the song is king, and Trucks uses his Jedi guitar is the service of the song.
Using Santana as a reference point, that makes this record more like Supernatural than Borboletta. Its easy to listen to, easy for the casual fan to get his or her ear around. "Revolution," for example, is as close to a radio-friendly single as Trucks has ever come. Yet the record is steeped in spirituality, in the healing power of music, and ulitimately the distinctions between the song and the jam seem to melt away into the sea of musical redemption.
The percussive work of Count M'Butu, enmeshed with drummer Yonrico Scott, gives the whole record a unified feel, a sort of World Music, African shimmy that ties together the middle-eastern-flavored numbers (the extended set piece, "Sahib Teri Bandi/Maki Madni"), the straight blues ("Crow Jane"), the R'n'B ("I Wish I Knew"), and the rockers ("Revolution.") The music hops genres, but the essential underpinning-- what the Aborigines thought of as "the labarynth of invisible pathways which meander all over Australia"-- is the deep network of "Songlines" that tie all the music together and lead to the heart. Trucks and company weave a magical web that revels in the interconnectedness of all things by embracing different musical forms and faces, connected at the root by these ancient, mystical songlines.
"Volunteer Slavery" serves as an incantation, a welcome into the record, flipping over into "I'll Find My Way;" here, vocalist Mike Mattison makes his entrance and establishes himself as a player to be reckoned with; Derek lays down his first significant solo about 4 minutes into the record, and its a quick hit-and-run. "Crow Jane," a jaunty 8-bar blues (a la "Key to the Highway"), starts as a bluesy call-and response between Derek's guitar and Mattison's vocals before the band kicks in.
"Sahib Teri Bandi/Maki Madni" is a segueing of two concert staples, 10 minutes of middle eastern vibe where Kofi Burbridge's flute steps to the fore to add color and texture. Derek takes several extended jaunts, and this is probably the piece on the album that most evokes the feel of the band's live performances.
"Chevrolet" is another blues, the rich percolation still present undrneath; "Sailing On" is a sweet melody that will bring a smile to your face; Mattison sings the hell out of it, Derek lays on the fire and ice. "Revolution" wants to be a million-selling duet with Santana; "I'd Rather Be Blind, Crippled and Crazy" is a percolating, funk of a shuffle, with bassist Todd Smalle laying down the groove, Derek's dobro slapping out twang over the top.
On "All I Do," the album begins its home stretch. "All I Do" is funked-up blue-eyed soul with a touch of church, and some of Derek's most inventive, jazzy playing on the record. "Mahjoun" is an instrumental track that harkens back to the opener, while charting a course for the two closing numbers, further on up the songline. "I Wish I Knew" is a soulful, joyous rave-up, almost gospel; Derek spatters a rainbow of joy across the sky on the outro.
The entrance of the closing "This Sky" is almost sacred, riding in the pocket where blues, jazz, soul, funk, and gospel flow together to become music of the heart. Derek's sublime play-out at the end puts the record to bed, Burbridge's flute providing a serene cushion, Mattison singing "Fly, fly away" in wistful tones as Derek's guitar does just that, gently ascending to the heavens. At this point, you might be tempted to hit "play" again.
Labels: The tunes
Its been quite a stretch in Godland lately. You know, I love a monotheistic people as much as the next deity, but really, even I’m sick of the Muslims. Yo, Ahmed—lighten up! Its just a frickin’ cartoon!
Consider that a sura.
OK then.. We’ve gotten scads of comments and letters, so We thought We’d answer a couple. ScW provides an earnest conservative Christian (although not “religious right”) response to Our posting that Jesus was a liberal. Read his whole note here; this excerpt sums it up:
But all that government is, is the sum total of the will of the people. If there is mercy and righteousness in the hearts and minds of the people, then expecting so little from government is really setting the bar low. You can do better. You should do better.
“I believe the government’s responsibility and the church's responsibility are
different. The government provides a framework to protect us from those that
would seek to harm us and to provide a platform for people to freely live out
Thou shalt do better.
It seems odd that conservatives, who expect so little from government, are so quick to surrender unto government the responsibility for safety and freedom. One wonders if conservatives ever go to the Department of Motor Vehicles on a busy day. Or if they watched any CNN the month of Katrina.
We appreciate ScW’s thoughtful and thougt-provoking correspondence, and hope he writes again. But really, he couldn’t have expected to win a debate with God…
Brandon Corfman writes:
You're right - I can't imagine anyone more selfless than Jesus. I believe he
said "'go learn what this means, I desire mercy, not sacrifice' for I have
not come to call the righteous, but sinners."
Thanks Brandon. We agree. Take 2 venial sins, on the house.
For those of you praying about new the Sony Play Station, the answer is, June.
Jill is a great singer-songwriter, witty, clever, accessible, and funny. She plays a heck of a guitar as well (specifically, this one.) And she is just as sweet as pie in person. We love her here at APW. We would help her move. We would help her paint her apartment. We would pick her up at the airport (if we drove.)
Check it out here, visit often, and tell Jill APW sent you.
Labels: The tunes
Indeed, this shooting snafu is so redolent of comedy on its own that, as Annie rightly notes, there is no point in the professional joke-meisters milking it. That is why John Stewart and the Daily Show have been, hands down, the funniest ones on this topic. For two nights in a row, they have mined the comedy not by making jokes, but rather by basking in the inherent humor. Last night Stewart showed a clip of a reporter asking Scott McClellan, “When did the president know Cheney was the shooter?” and then, instead of a wise crack, Stewart just took out a tea set and enjoyed a quiet moment, letting the humor in the question ferment on its own. Like Miles Davis, who let the spaces between the notes be as much a part of the music as the notes themselves, Stewart was almost Zen-like in letting less be more. He even opened the show by noting that with Harry Wittington having suffered a heart attack, the story had to be downgraded from “hilarious” to, “Still funny, but, mmm, maybe a little sad.”
But don’t take my word for it. Yesterday’s show isn’t up yet, but go here and scroll down to the thumbnails in the middle of the page representing video segments. Then click on “#2 With a Bullet,” and watch the clip from Monday’s show.
Labels: The politics
Labels: The politics
Since Jill moved to Los Angeles, we don’t get as many shows here in her former adopted home town as we used to. Joe’s Pub, a classy little downtown room, has become her new Manhattan home base, and on Thursday January 26, the second of two shows, many of the usual faces are scattered throughout the crowd.
The stage is set up for a full band, a pleasant surprise for a Jill gig; I personally had never seen her with a band before. Others in the room report that the night before, Cyndi Lauper’s band had sat in; we expect to get them again. Jill hits the stage solo at 7:30, nods hellos around the room, and strums her way into “Jet Pack.” I’m sitting at a table for one at the foot of the stage, and it seems as if Jill makes eye contact with me as I applaud the song; a momentary distraction that causes her to lose the line. She curses, asks me for a prompt, which I provide, and she tells the crowd, “This is why I don’t do blow anymore.” Right out of a wistful “Jet Pack,” Jill assays “Cinnamon Park,” declaring that tonight she was playing the hits, and noting that only at Joe’s would this song be received as a hit. Jill does the song alone, stepping onto the effects pedal to raunch up the freak-out section in the middle, which decays into a “Name That Tune” take on 70s classic rock and ends in an instrumental “Dust in the Wind.” Then back to the acoustic sound for the song; towards the end she notes that sometimes I play a horn part on the tune, and then invites me to stand up in the audience and play the air trumpet to take her into the outro. As usual, I kill.
Next she plays a new song, clearly about a musician, with the refrain “The most miserable person in the world;” apparently a musical idol who disappointed when Jill met her. Whoever this person is, she seems to be even worse than the “Bitter” girl. Next up, with a laptop-holder still onstage (it was Chelsea, the tall girl with the green hair, who as it happens is my friend Ira’s cousin), Jill answers a request to play “Ready for the Rapture,” her song based on an email dialogue with ex-gay ministries chief Steven Bennett. “I thought I was done with that song,” she noted. Jill notes that the guy’s website, for converting gays, is in fact the world’s gayest site; you be the judge.Next up was a sensitive and melancholy take on “Strawberry Gloss;” then “Underdog Victorious,” her rock anthem for acoustic guitar, with a feedback-drenched outro. (For those keeping score, each of the 4 familiar tunes she’s played are from the most recent record, Underdog Victorious.)
Here’s when things get interesting. Most of Cyndi Lauper’s band joins Jill onstage: Steve Gaboury on keyboards, Bill Wittman on bass, Sammy Merendino on drums, and Allison Cornell on violin (or maybe it was a viola?) and vocals. Jill picks up her electric (well, to be truthful, Jill asks me to hand it to her); and she leads the band into the title track from her latest, an anthemic “Underdog Victorious,” her 70s arena anthem usually performed solo acoustic. We hold lighters aloft and sway as Jill soaks the outro in feedback. Next a brisk and staccato “When My Ship Comes In,” jangle-driven, Jill rocking out with bursts of electric guitar. Jill totally smokes like a guitar hero on the break; Allison drives the song home on violin (or, prehaps, viola).
Next Jill and Allison duet on “Mexican Wrestler,” evocative of the duet of the song with Cyndi Lauper posted on her website. Allison’s violin parts are sparse and color the song’s sad message perfectly, dripping with tone in the tiny room; when she wraps her voice around Jill’s, it sends chills up your spine. Her violin takes a lead spot on the bridge, and her and Jill’s powerful, nuanced vocals on the climactic part of the song are spot-on.
Next is “Somewhere in New Mexico,” also featuring lovely harmonies. Then Jill and some of the band do a new song, with a line like, “There’s nothing I can do.” Jill brings her mother Elaine out, and they duet on the Nelly song “Its Getting Hot in Herre” (Elaine: “Gonna take my clothes off.”) Apparently Mama is an original gangsta.
Steve on piano and Alison join Jill for “Resistance Song,” which is another surprise for them; with the tentative piano part and the violin, the song sounds vaguely Hungarian, which is good. Jill observes the similarity between “Too Hot in Herre” and “Resistance Song,” which is true, at least if you play the former on an acoustic guitar. The trio stays on for a closing “Bitter” (Jill: “Keep up; the key and time signature changes every four bars.”) with Steve doing some lovely, exploratory improvisation on the bridge and Jill following him out on a limb, before heading back to the song to bring the set home.
The house is begging for an encore, and if we can’t get more cowbell, at least we want more Elaine. Everyone comes back out; “Big Shoes,” full band, is next, riding on top of a lumbering, thunderous bass groove. Elaine sings her answer rap in the middle and helps out on the backing vocals. Out of the song Jill segues on the fly into “All the Young Dudes,” calling out “Open E!” to the band as she steers into the song, knowing that they’ll be there with her. Arena rock with a two-drink minimum; just the way I like it.A great show, one of the 2 or 3 very best Jill performances I’ve been to, and a tip of the hat to the band, especially Allison.
Labels: The tunes
Of course, what Dubya doesn’t want to stare down is the fact that His America is simply downright inhospitable to science. In Dubya’s America, evolution is “just a theory.” In Dubya’s America, using stem cells to develop cures to terrible diseases is immoral. In Dubya’s America, aborting a pregnancy is not an option for a woman. In Dubya’s America, global warming is a creation of the liberal media.
In short, we will continue to lag behind the rest of the civilized world in the sciences-- and the gap will only get worse-- until we have, as John “I need your help to lose with dignity” Kerry so aptly put it, a president who believes in science.
Pandering and buffoonery, it turns out, actually have consequences.
Labels: The politics
Last week I teased a mention of December 21, 2012. An interesting date, because on that date, according to the Mayan Long Calendar, the world-- or this iteration of it, at any rate-- comes to an end. The Mayans are long gone, yet they were persnickety enough to pinpoint the precise date, far in the future (for them), on which the world would end.
I don't know if you believe in coincidences, but trust Me, there are no coincidences. So when you ponder that the ancient Egyptians also posited an end date for the world as they knew it, and that their date turns out to be December 21, 2012-- well, like I say, there are no coincidences.
To most of you Westerners, it is the Egyptians that should be of interest. Because there is a direct lineage that may be traced from their civilization and stellar cult religion, through Abraham and the Jews (Abraham was not from Ur, as it says in the bible; he was an Egyptian, the Davidic line, through the Essenes and Christ, who spent his youth in Egypt studying the mysteries of the Ancient Egyptian/Jewish religious history. So there's a line from the Egyptians to Abraham and the Jews to Christ and his brother James the Just (or Jimmy J, as we used to call him)... and then Paul shows up and the whole thing goes to hell in a handbasket. Paul and James parted ways, and eventually Paul saw JImmy J put to death. But the truth and wisdom went with the J-man, not Paul, and everything in Paul's wake has been hopelessly muddled.
I can't tell you exactly what happens on 12/21/2012-- that would be like insider trading-- but I can tell you two things. One, this is the "End of times" your lunatics are all hopped up about; and two, after this time, there is most certainly a Next Time. It will not be a better time or a worse time; but it will be a profoundly different time.
Much of your vaunted "New Age" philosophy is an attempt by the collective inner spirit of mankind to reconnect with the ancient wisdom. Of course looking for crystals in Sedona won't help, but you know what, its as good a start as any. Even that faux Kabbalah that your hipsters and scenesters are so besotted with; the true wisdom is indeed encoded into Kabbalah, but the stuff she does is not Kabbalah, its just New Age wrapped in a Jewish tortilla. (The former is pronounced "ka-ba-LA;" the latter, "ki-BAAA-luh.")
The true teachings of Christ are the ancient ways. But they have been lost. Find them. Find them before it is too late. And don't look in the bible for them-- at least not in the gospels. But find them, I beseech thee, by 2012.
You have all the clues you need.
Damn. Not only is he sure where Lafayette is, but he knows how to get there from here, the best way possible. You’d think that would be par for the course. But you’d be very wrong.
So we move out along 79th Street, turn onto East End, and seamlessly merge onto the FDR Drive. It’s a little after nine, so the traffic on the Drive is moving (unlike, say, the traffic on Lexington), so we cruise briskly downtown along the water. He signals into the 25th Street exit, and we peel off the Drive and onto the access road… then a tentative move right... and in an instant, we are angling in toward an intersection... 25th Street is on our right, the access road is on our left… and suddenly… we’re… just… hanging there. On both streets, but on neither... It is a Gretzky moment, a Larry Bird moment. We have slipped out of time, things are unfolding around us in slow motion, we have all the time in the world. Just a little bit further into the intersection, and my cabbie cranes his neck down 25th Street. Jammed. At the last possible second he moves his hands to the wheel, nudges it to the left, guides the vehicle gently back onto the access road... even though... we'd never really left it. We slide down the road along the Drive to 14th Street.
When we get to 14th Street, he speaks. “Always got to look,” he says, shaking his head as we make the turn. “If I’d taken 25th Street, we’d still be there.”
“I know it,” I say. But then I don't want to seem like a know-it-all, so I lean forward. “Look man, I’ll tell you what. I take this ride a lot... and I’ve made every mistake there is.”
He thinks about that as I sit back in my seat. “Exactly,” he says.
A block later we’re off 14th Street, cruising down to Ninth Street on Avenue A. Avenue A! Ballsy, but retro. Avenue A to Ninth, then across. We come to a stop at the near right corner of Lafayette. As I exit, I repeat for a second time: “You, sir, are the finest cabbie in New York!” He smiles and nods, says thanks, and as I dash across the street to Starbucks I see him rolling into a yellow light, then making the right onto Lafayette, following his cabbie nose back uptown, then slowing for a fair halfway up the block.
In a coda of sorts, I bop into Starbucks at Cooper Union. Hit the shorter line off to the side (why do Americans see a long line and immediately think, “I’d best get on that!”?) Barista is slinging drinks like a mofo; I’m still two people away from the register when he asks me what I want. I look him dead in the eye. “Iced quad vente skim latte.” That’s a big-ass iced coffee drink with 4 shots of espresso. Usually they come back at me like Scotty on Star Trek; “Cap’n, she won’ TAKE 4 shots!!” Not this guy. Nuh-uh. He says it back to me exactly, nods once, and I hand the kid at the register my Starbucks card (thus avoiding that awkward moment involving a hand full of money, a tip jar, and a sad puppy-eyed kid in a green apron.) Kid cheerfully swipes the card, gives it back. I turn automatically to the left, and the barista has my drink waiting.