Archive | March, 2010

Ray Charles’ “Genius + Soul = Jazz” Just Got Better

30 Mar

Ray Charles LP “Genius + Soul = Jazz” has been a mainstay in my personal wax collection for quite some time now. You might say it’s the missing link between the Count Basie Orchestra and Booker T. and the MGs. The recording features a face-melting horn section and a greasy down home feel that hints towards a Memphis vibe that had not yet been created.  Brother Ray’s groovy take on The Clovers’ “One Mint Julep” is alone worth the price of admission. The original CD release upped the anty by including the “My Kind of Jazz” LP, which carried on in a similar winning vein.

Now Concord Records new 2-CD expanded edition captures an amazing total of 37 tracks — and there’s not a clunker in the bunch!  The additional tracks come from the “Jazz Number II” and “My Kind of Jazz Part 3” collections. Those final 17 songs (including bonus track “Misty”) spotlight Charles’ work as  a producer and the Basie influence is agan very evident. The arrangements swing and the shear power of the brass will blow you away. I didn’t think this CD collection could get any better, but it obviously has.  Buy it now and swing along with Ray.       

Ray Charles was best known for his work in the idioms of R&B, rock ‘n’ roll and even successful forays into country. But he also recorded influential jazz albums, including the groundbreaking Genius + Soul = Jazz originally released in 1961, and continuing into the ’70s with My Kind of Jazz, Jazz Number II and My Kind of Jazz Part 3. Concord Records will release a deluxe edition two-CD set featuring digitally remastered versions of all four albums including encyclopedic liner notes by Will Friedwald, jazz writer for The Wall Street Journal and author of several books on music and popular culture, along with original liner notes by Dick Katz and Quincy Jones.

Genius + Soul = Jazz was recorded at the Van Gelder Studios in Englewood Cliffs, NJ, in late 1960. The producer was Creed Taylor; arrangers, Quincy Jones and Ralph Burns. Ray Charles played the organ with three vocals (“I’ve Got News for You,” “I’m Gonna Move to the Outskirts of Town” and “One Mint Julep”) and band members included members of the Count Basie Orchestra: Thad Jones, Joe Newman, Billy Mitchell, Frank Wess, Freddie Green, and Sonny Payne among others. Issued originally on ABC Records’ legendary Impulse jazz label, the record ascended to the #4 spot on Billboard’s pop album chart, and spawned the very first singles on Impulse, heretofore an album label. “I’ve Got News for You,” rose to #8 R&B and #66 on the Hot 100. In addition, Charles’ version of “One Mint Julep” charted #1 R&B and #8 pop, and his rendition of the blues standard “I’m Gonna Move to the Outskirts of Town” reached #25 R&B and #84 pop.

As annotator Friedwald states, “Genius + Soul = Jazz . . . was a bold and innovative album, but, at the same time, a direct step forward from his earlier work.” Although Basie himself does not appear on the album, the Count was a major model as Charles assembled a full-scale, working orchestra. Basie also influenced his use of organ in a jazz context, and Charles was happy to record at the Van Gelder studio, where Jimmy Smith had recorded his classic Blue Note albums. Truly, as Dick Katz wrote in his original January 1961 liner notes, “The combination here of rare talent plus uncommon craftsmanship has produced a record that showcases the timeless quality and innate taste that is uniquely that of Ray Charles.”

Some nine years later, Charles recorded another jazz album, My Kind of Jazz. With sessions in Los Angeles this time, Charles surrounded himself with such players as Bobby Bryant and Blue Mitchell, trumpet; Glen Childress, trombone; Andy Ennis, Albert McQueen and Clifford Scott, saxophone; and Ben Martin, guitar. The album contained Charles’ own “Booty-Butt” (which was issued as a single on his own Tangerine label), Lee Morgan’s “Sidewinder,” and Horace Silver’s “Señor Blues.”

In his original liner notes to My Kind of Jazz, Quincy Jones wrote, “This album is the essence of what Ray used to tell us when we were kids: Be true to the soul of the material you’re dealing with.”

Jazz Number II was recorded roughly two years later at Charles’ Tangerine/RPM Studios and issued on Tangerine Records. Charles enlisted an impressive cast of arrangers: Alf Clausen, Teddy Edwards, Jimmy Heath and Roger Neumann. The tracks included Ray Charles and Roger Neumann’s “Our Suite,” Teddy Edwards’ “Brazilian Skies” and “Going Home,” Thad Jones’ “Kids Are Pretty People” and Jimmy Heath’s “Togetherness.”

Finally, My Kind of Jazz Part 3, which concludes the Genius + Soul = Jazz deluxe package, was recorded in Los Angeles circa 1975, featured the Ray Charles Orchestra including Clifford Solomon, alto sax; Glen Childress, trombone; Johnny Coles, trumpet; Leroy Cooper, baritone sax; and James Clay, tenor sax. Included are compositions by Duke Ellington, Horace Silver, Jimmy Heath and Benny Golson. Issued on Charles’ own Crossover Records, the album reached #55 on the R&B chart in 1976.

The reissue of Genius + Soul = Jazz continues Concord Music Group’s long-term reissuing of the Ray Charles catalog in cooperation with the Ray Charles Foundation. Among the other albums repackaged in the past year are Genius Hits the Road, Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, Message From the People, plus the career compilation titled Genius.

STAX Number Ones is a Good Place to Start

29 Mar

For those seeking a quick intro to classic Southern Soul, I suggest looking no further than the new Stax Number Ones CD. The new disc from Concord Music contains many of the most recognizable tracks laid down in the historic Memphis studio. There are a couple welcome surprises in the form of two somewhat obscure Johnnie Taylor hits:  “I Believe in You (You Believe in Me)” and “Jody’s Got Your Girl and Gone.” Pick up this CD and you’ll soon find yourself on the hunt for the countless other smashes conjured up at 926 East McLemore Avenue.   

Stax Records is where Southern soul became a global force in music. The label, which recently celebrated its 50th anniversary, gave rise to a number of stars – many hailing from its Southeast Memphis neighborhood. During the ’60s and into the ’70s, Stax studio was a wellspring of hit records that topped both the R&B and pop charts. On March 30, 2010, Stax Records – now operating within Concord Music Group – will release Stax Number Ones, an compilation of 15 chart-topping hits by Stax’ best-known artists.

Included in Stax Number Ones are Booker T. & the MGs’ “Green Onions,” Sam & Dave’s “Hold On! I’m Comin'” and “Soul Man,” Eddie Floyd’s “Knock on Wood,” Otis Redding’s “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay,” Johnnie Taylor’s Who’s Making Love,” “I Believe in You (You Believe in Me)” and “Jody’s Got Your Girl and Gone,” Rufus Thomas’ “(Do The) Push & Pull [Part 1],” Jean Knight’s “Mr. Big Stuff,” Isaac Hayes’ “Theme from Shaft,” the Dramatics’ “In the Rain,” the Staple Singers’ “I’ll Take You There” and “If You’re Ready (Come Go With Me)” and Shirley Brown’s “Woman to Woman.”

Stax Records, a division of Concord Music Group, has placed more than 175 hit songs on Billboard’s Hot 100 pop charts as well as a staggering 250 hits on the R&B charts. Stax Number Ones represents all 15 songs that hit #1 on either chart from the label’s golden era. It is a perfect sampling of classic Stax. 

http://www.concordmusicgroup.com/albums/Stax-Number-Ones/

Southern Soul BBQ Goes Up in Flames

29 Mar

Heartbreaking news from the Georgia Lowcountry …

Here’s hoping they rise from the ashes soon!

Sweet Home Dairy Farm – Elberta, AL

29 Mar

The dirt road to Sweet Home Dairy Farm

Knew we were gettin’ close when we saw this sign

When you see this mailbox you have arrived!

Lots of great cheesy choices @ Sweet Home Farms 

A tempting selection of local cheeses – we chose Gouda

I am a sucker for old trucks & rustic locales

“How much do you want for the truck?”

This cute little house is for the birds — literally!

They’re what’s for dinner — and they know it!

Picked up some massive fresh strawberries on the way home

Sweet Home Farm is a working family dairy established in Baldwin County, Alabama in 1985. Their herd of Guernsey cows has access to fresh pasture grasses nearly year-round, supplemented with regionally grown grain. Using a variety of sustainable agriculture practices permits them to control quality every step of the way as the cows transform grass into milk, and they convert that milk into cheese. They use no herbicides, pesticides or growth hormones on the farm. Sweet Home handcrafts a wide variety of cheeses, all made from fresh cows’ milk, enzymes and salt, and aged for a minimum of 60 days. Farmstead cheese reflects the particular soil, climate and herbage of each season. They celebrate these seasonal variations in the cheese and recognize them as the hallmark of unique regionally-produced food.

http://vimeo.com/5699851  – Video Feature from Oxford American

http://www.southerncheese.com/Pages/sweethome.html

Elberta German Sausage Festival – 2010

29 Mar

Fire Department Volunteers keep the grill flare ups at bay

It takes a lot of charcoal to cook all that sausage!

“Where there’s smoke, there’s sausage.”

Gettin’ down — Elberta style!

Boiled Peanut stand – hey, this IS the Deep South!

Me with 1966 El Camino – “Chariot of the Gods”

Nice of them to do the math for us. No volume discounts, folks!

Fully cooked sausage links – ready to serve!

“Sauerkraut, check! Spicy Mustard, check!”

The Apple Dumpling stand was a popular hangout

“Gimme one, please!”

A warm Apple Dumpling with Vanilla ice cream

Old time grist mill in operation on festival grounds

Bags of freshly ground cornmeal for sale to public

We picked up some local honey to combat pesky pollen allergies

http://sausagefest.elbertafire.com/

Healthy Snack Options from Two Moms

26 Mar

We recently received a shipment of sample snack products from Two Moms in the Raw of Lafayette, Colorado. I am pleased to report that these organic products are quite healthy and satisfying. Wholesome raw ingredients and no preservatives — now that’s what I’m talking about!

Co-owner Shari Leidich explains how it all got started …

In 2004, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. After exploring all options, I found a natural approach to healing worked best for me. Food in its natural state without all the additives and pesticides is what the body needs to heal and feel good. As I continue on my personal journey to wellness I feel better each day and I know my diet has a lot to do with it. While exploring the raw lifestyle, I couldn’t find a tasty, satisfying treat to have on the run. After lots of experiments in the kitchen with other moms, I came up with these delicious Granolas and fantastic Sea Crackers.  Pretty soon all of my friends and family were ordering more than I could afford to give away.  As a result, I decided to start charging….and here we are today. From these wonderful beginnings we have benefited greatly and look forward to the future and sharing our Raw and Organic treats with you…the ones that we have already available and the many more we have yet to come up with.

The delicious Blueberry and Apple Granola chunks contains Millet, Buckwheat, Coconut, Flaxseed, Sunflower Seeds, Seasame Seeds, Pecans, Almonds, Pepitas, Apples, Agave, Cinnamon, Sea Salt and Blueberries. It does look a bit like bird seed, but the taste will win you over. This product is not tooth-snapping hard and is bursting with flavors of fruit, cinnamon and coconut. We sampled their Cranberry Granola and found it equally flavorful.

Our care package from Two Moms also included generous packages of Garden Herb and Tomato Basil “Sea Crackers.” These gluten free munchies are made with organic Flaxseed, Kombu (Edible Kelp), Sundried Tomatoes, Basil, Sea Salt and Spices.  I preferred the Tomato Basil variety, especially when getting the occasional nugget of tart sundried tomato.  

When it comes to healthy yet tasty snacking, Mother knows best!

http://2momsintheraw.com/

COLLECTORS’ CHOICE UNVEILS LIVE LABEL

26 Mar

COLLECTORS’ CHOICE MUSIC LIVE LABEL TO MINE THE BEST RARE AND UNISSUED LIVE PERFORMANCES

CD series launches with Johnny Winter, Hot Tuna, and Poco

LOS ANGELES, Calif. — Collectors’ Choice Music, the label that’s come to be known for compelling and often unexpected CD reissues, has announced the launch of Collectors’ Choice Music Live, a new label devoted to releasing great live performances, most of which have never previously been commercially available.

The series will launch April 20 with the release of four CDs: Johnny Winter And’s Live at the Fillmore East 10/3/70; Poco’s Live at Columbia Studios, Hollywood 9/30/71; and Hot Tuna’s Live at the New Orleans House, Berkeley, CA September 1969.

According to Collectors’ Choice Music GM Gordon Anderson, “After some 15 years of reissuing albums and compiling artists, we’re convinced that some of the biggest remaining veins of gold in the vaults are the live shows that a lot of labels recorded of their artists in their prime, particularly those who made their reputation with improvisational prowess and/or ever-changing set lists. These first releases on our new Collectors’ Choice Music Live label certainly fit that description.”

Johnny Winter And — Live at the Fillmore East 10/3/70: To commemorate the release of his Johnny Winter And album, Texas blues guitarist/singer Johnny Winter played some shows at New York’s Fillmore East, some of which were compiled on 1971’s Live Johnny Winter And, a classic live album of the era to which this release makes a nice bookend. He had just formed a new band consisting of former member of the McCoys (“Hang on Sloopy”) including Rick Derringer on guitar, bassist Randy Jo Hobbs, and drummer Randy Zehringer. Although the McCoys were none too familiar with Winter’s work, they proved quick studies and entered the studio to make the album Johnny Winter And within three weeks. The New York Times reviewed the Fillmore show, citing “a considerable improvement over Winter’s previous band. Winter and [Derringer] played solos back at each other, simultaneously and in alternation.” The live album contains the Winter hit “Rock and Roll Hoochie Coo” and his take on Bob Dylan’s “Highway 61” alongside blues classics “Rollin’ and Tumblin’,” “It’s My Own Fault” and “Good Morning Little Schoolgirl.”

PocoLive at Columbia Studios, Hollywood, 9/30/71: In the fall of ’71, Poco was arguably the most popular of the first generation country-rock bands. By then, their album Deliverin’ had cracked the Top 30 and Poco thanked its label, Epic Records, with a private showcase at the CBS Records’ Hollywood studio. “We just set up as we would have for a small club,” recalls frontman Richie Furay, whose bandmates included guitarist/singer Paul Cotton (from the Illinois Speed Press), bassist Tim Schmidt (later of the Eagles), pedal steel player Rusty Young and drummer/vocalist George Grantham. By this time, Poco was evolving from country-rock towards an edgier rock sound. Says Furay, “Though we were innovators of the L.A. ‘country-rock’ sound, we weren’t going top be pigeonholed into being a one-sound band.” The 14 songs they performed for label employees that day were a solid cross-section of tunes that had appeared on its first four albums including the medley “Hard Luck Child/Child’s Claim to Fame/Pickin’ Up the Pieces,” plus “I Guess You Made It,” “A Man Like Me,” “Ol’ Forgiver,” “Heart That Music,” “Hurry Up,” “You Are the One” and more — an hour of music in all.

Hot Tuna: Live at the New Orleans House, Berkeley, CA September 1969: Hot Tuna was, of course, the blues band-within-a-band side project of Jefferson Airplane’s Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady that outlasted the parent band and continues to this day. Interestingly, the duo’s first commercial album, which made it to #30 on the Billboard pop album chart, was recorded live at Berkeley’s New Orleans House, but a lot more material was taped than was released. Much of it is issued for the first time on this 68-minute CD, which consists entirely of previously unreleased recordings. Explaining why they recorded their debut album was recorded live, Kaukoken says, “We tend to go places . . . and you lose a bit of that when you work in the studio. And it was cheaper too!” Of the 13 songs on this CD, six — “Death Don’t Have No Mercy,” “Winin’ Boy Blues,” “Uncle Sam Blues,” “I Know You Rider,” “Don’t You Leave Me Here” and “How Long Blues” — were included on the first Hot Tuna album, though the versions here are selected from different performances than the ones used on that LP. Other songs include Blind Boy Fuller’s “Keep On Truckin’,” Rev. Gary Davis’ “Keep Our Lamps Trimmed and Burning” and “Candy Man,” and Blind Blake’s “That’ll Never Happen No More.”


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Tommy James Finally Getting His Due

26 Mar

As a kid, I was always a big Tommy James fan. Even then I didn’t quite understand why James didn’t receive the same level of recognition that his musical peers were enjoying. His body of work is undeniably impressive. Hanky Panky, Crystal Blue Persuasion, Mony Mony, I Think We’re Alone Now, Mirage, Crimson and Clover — must I continue?

Thankfully, Collector’s Choice has re-issued many of Tommy’s recordings in a sweeping retrospective. The music captured here documents James versatility … running the gamut from bubblegum to country rock. My personal favorite of these original Roulette LPs is “I Think We’re Alone Now,” which includes the great title hit, “Mirage,” and “Baby, Baby I Can’t Take It No More.” Yes, there is some of the typical filler found here, but the gems still shimmer and there are surprises galore to be discovered anew.   

If you’re a fan of classic 60’s radio hits, bubblegum, and “sunshine pop,” it’s time to dig just a little bit deeper to fully appreciate the immense musical talents of the influential Tommy James.

LOS ANGELES, Calif.Goldmine magazine called Tommy James “the most productive rock ’n’ roll singles artist of his era” in its review of the critically hailed 40 Years: The Complete Singles Collection (1966-2006) 2-CD set, released in 2008 by Collectors’ Choice Music. Mojo added, “James should be ranked among the most undervalued workmen in the American rock quarry.” Add to the fact that James has just released his autobiography with a title that tells it all — Me, the Mob, and the Music: One Helluva Ride with Tommy James & The Shondells (which Rolling Stone gave 3 ½ out of four stars)— and it’s evident the time is ideal to reflect on a career filled with what the Austin Chronicle called “definitive U.S. pop.”

On April 20, 2010, Collectors’ Choice Music, which released the 40 Years retrospective, will begin to reissue the individual Roulette Records albums by Tommy James & the Shondells and Tommy James solo. The first batch contains I Think We’re Alone Now, Gettin’ Together and Travelin’ by the band, and James’ own My Head, My Bed and My Red Guitar from 1972, recorded in Nashville with many of the city’s notable players.

Ed Osborne once again annotated the reissues, featuring extensive interview material from the Niles, Michigan native who is very candid about working with Roulette owner and convicted mobster Morris Levy. The band had a remarkable run on the charts with singles like “Hanky Panky,” “Say I Am (What I Am),” “It’s Only Love,” “I Think We’re Alone Now,” “Mirage,” “I Like the Way,” “Gettin’ Together,” “Out of the Blue,” “Get Out Now,” “Mony Mony,” “Somebody Cares,” “Do Something to Me,” “Crimson & Clover,” “Sweet Cherry Wine,” “Crystal Blue Persuasion,” “Ball of Fire,” “She” and “Gotta Get Back to You” among others.

Tommy James & the ShondellsI Think We’re Alone Now: This 1967 album marked the group’s move from a singles band to a more album-oriented outfit, with new producers (Ritchie Cordell and Bo Gentry), a new arranger (Jimmy “Wiz” Wisner, who’s worked with artists ranging from Barbra Streisand to Iggy Pop) and a new studio (New York’s Allegro Sound). Unlike its predecessors — Hanky Panky and It’s Only Love, which consisted of the smash hits plus songs culled from Morris Levy’s publishing catalogs — this album benefitted from better song selection and the better technology of Allegro Sound. The centerpiece was the single “I Think We’re Alone Now,” brought to James as a ballad by Cordell and Gentry, but converted to a mid-tempo rocker by James and Wisner utilizing an “eighth note pegging” technique. Recorded on Christmas Eve 1966, it was on the radio by January. The hit was followed up by “Mirage,” with cellos intermingling with guitars, and “I Like the Way,” punctuated with a horn riff. Also included on this release are covers of the Rivieras’ “California Sun” and the Isley Brothers’ “Shout.”

Tommy James & the ShondellsGettin’ Together: This album, released in later 1967, cemented the creative process that began on I Think We’re Alone Now. The title track had been earmarked for Gene Pitney to record, but James heard it, knew it was a hit, and “pitched a fit” to Morris Levy, who eventually granted permission for James to record it. Cordell and Gentry sped up the vocal track and the song raced up the charts. Although utilizing the same producers and studio, the album was a progression over its predecessor. “I Want to Be Around You,” “So Deep with You,” “Real Girl” and “World Down on Your Knees” are examples of late ’60s “sunshine pop,” comparable to the Mamas & Papas, the 5th Dimension or the Association. Cordell and Gentry remain the key song sources, but by now the band would write as a band. Today, James counts Gettin’ Together as one of his favorite albums: “What really made me happy with the guys in the studio is that they were like actors in a play . . . Everybody had a great sense of proportion . . . [and] everybody would contribute something. I still enjoy listening to it today.”

The new James book (seen above) is getting good reviews

Tommy James & the ShondellsTravelin’: Travelin’ followed the Shondells’ 1969 releases Crimson & Clover and Cellophane Symphony. It was created entirely by the band, from songwriting to playing to producing and arranging. The final album under the Tommy James & the Shondells name, this 1970 release is also considered by many fans to be their best. It’s their edgiest effort, recorded with very few technical effects (“gritty and grainy, just like dust in your mouth and sand in your boots,” says James). The grit theme was even carried over into the artwork in which renowned American West painter Ron lesser, a protégé of Norman Rockwell, painted a portrait of the guys in a stagecoach being chased by Morris Levy. Apart from the Shondells, James’ main writing partner was Michigan confrere Bob King. From this association came highlights “Gotta Get back,” “Moses & Me,” “Red Rover” and “Talkin’ & Signifyin’.” James says, “If we had stayed together as a group, it would have been very, very interesting [to hear] the music we would have come up with.”

Tommy James — My Head, My Bed & My Red Guitar: James’ second solo album was a total departure from his earlier work. Recorded in Nashville, it featured the Music City’s “A team.” By this time, the Byrds and Bob Dylan had embraced country music. But for someone with a pop track record, recording the Nashville way was an uncommonly bold move. Produced by James with Bob King and Pete Drake, musicians included Scotty Moore (also the engineer) and D.J. Fontana from Elvis Presley’s band, Drake on pedal steel, King on bass, Hargus “Pig” Robbins on keyboards, Buddy Spicher on fiddle and Charlie McCoy on harmonica. “I was real keen on the idea of putting myself in different situations [where] I’ve got to sink or swim,” says James. “These players were unbelievable . . . I was impressed by their musical ability and lack of ego.” Interestingly, Rolling Stone finally acknowledged James’ work with this album. “[They] gave us the best write-up I ever had on any project,” he says. During the session, Scotty Moore received a phone call from Presley, who said he’d drive to Nashville to take James and Moore out for steak. The visit never materialized. But James did end up with a credible country debut.

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Hoodoo Gurus Unveil Rockin’ 9th Recording

21 Mar

Wake up all you aging rockers! We are totally psyched out of our minds to see this one finally come to fruition. I have already tracked the CD three times and I’m happy to report that there is not a weak track on the entire disc. Standouts include  the blistering “Crackin’ Up,” a horn-laden “Only in America,” the jangly “Evening Shade,” and closer “The Stars Look Down.” Gurus vocalist Dave Faulkner even channels his own inner Billy Idol swagger with the shouter, “Why So Sad?” To cite the one and only Huey Lewis … “The Heart of Rock n’ Roll is Still Beating!”  

“PURITY OF ESSENCE” COMING MAY 11TH

“Crackin Up” came to frontman Dave Faulkner as a dream

 
SYDNEY, Australia – The Hoodoo Gurus, known for high energy, hook-laden rock ‘n’ roll, have completed their ninth album, Purity of Essence, which will be released May 11, 2010 on their own label in the United States via Virtual Label/ADA. Formed in 1981, the band is described by AllMusic.com as “(channeling) their inspiration from the vast entirety of the American pop cultural landscape, drawing on such disparate sources as B-movies, bad sitcoms, and junk food in tandem with the usual suspects like garage rock, power pop, and surf to create a distinctly kitschy and catchy sound. . . .and if you don’t like the Hoodoo Gurus, I suspect you don’t like rock & roll very much.”

A jam session at a Sydney rehearsal studio earlier this year produced eight songs and set the template for their ninth studio record. All four band members were pole-axed by the lightning bolt moments that brought singer and songwriter Dave Faulkner’s songs to life from his demos.

Even the songwriter himself says there must have been some rock ‘n’ roll magic at work when “Crackin’ Up,” the album’s first single, arrived almost fully formed in a dream.

“It’s only ever happened before once in my life where I have actually dreamed a song. I woke up and had the melody, all the chords and the title, walked out of my room and told the friends who were staying with me not to talk to me while I found my little cassette recorder and put the song down,” Faulkner says.

The serendipity continued when the frontman brought the song to the band.

“During that day, there were so many songs and sounds coming out that we’d never done before,” he observes. “They had the classic Gurus feel but it was different even though we weren’t pushing ourselves to do something different. But on this particular magic day, it all happened. It was the most memorable day in the rehearsal room that the band has ever had.”

The resulting inspiration resulted in more good songs than they could reasonably fit onto one CD. But, as Faulkner says, “Dammit, let’s just put ’em all on. The good news is that there is such a diversity of styles – from punk ˆ la the Ramones to dare-I-say pretty songs and some guilty pleasures – that it doesn’t get repetitive.”

Speaking of the Ramones, the Gurus reunited with old friend Ed Stasium (and former Ramones producer) to mix Purity of Essence. The album was co-produced by the band with Charles Fisher, producer of two classic Hoodoo Gurus albums, Mars Needs Guitars and Blue Cave. The album was mastered by Greg Calbi at Sterling Sound with the exception of “Crackin’ Up”, which was mastered by Don Bartley. The album cover is a large-scale painting by Doug Bartlett.

Immediately upon completing the album, the Hoodoo Gurus set upon shooting a number of videos and “webisodes”, including a “mockumentary” about the making of the album. These videos may be seen on YouTube, and the “Crackin’ Up” video may be seen here.

For two and a half decades the Hoodoo Gurus have consistently been one of the most inventive, lyrically smart and exciting rock ‘n’ roll bands Australia has ever produced. And they’ve done it with style, panache and a wicked sense of humor. Already a seasoned live outfit from endless Australian touring, the Gurus found themselves in 1983 signed to A&M Records in the U.S.; their first release, Stoneage Romeos, hit #1 on the American college radio charts. On the strength of this they embarked on the first of countless tours of the U.S. and many other countries.

In fact the Gurus have toured internationally dozens of times, including repeated sell-outs at 10,000 capacity venues in Brazil. The band was consistently cited as one of the highlights at the 2007 SXSW Music Festival in Austin. The SXSW performances were part of an extended run of North America and Canadian dates that were greatly anticipated by a new generation of fans who thought they’d never have the opportunity to see the much-mythologized Australian band perform live.

The Hoodoo Gurus remain as relevant and impassioned about their distinctive brand of rock ‘n’ roll as at any time in their twenty-five year career.

Let the essence flow!

OTIS TAYLOR RELEASES NEW TELARC CD

18 Mar

Was pretty excited to see this one hit my mailbox today. Otis Taylor is a country blues master whose brilliant song “Ten Million Slaves” was featured in the Johnny Depp flick, “Public Enemies.” This upcoming release is a fine blend of country, blues, spirituals and rock that recalls everyone from John Lee Hooker, Junior Kimbrough, and Alvin Youngblood Hart to the North Mississippi All Stars, Sonny Landreth, and Dire Straits. I am especially fond of the track, “Put Your Hands on Your Stomach.”

Taylor is aided throughout by the bluesy guitar licks of Gary Moore and some spare but haunting horns. This CD is a sleeper that should find a comfortable place in my music collection. I urge you to give it a listen if you too consider yourself a fan of the hypnotic blues genre.   

OTIS TAYLOR RELEASES NEW TELARC CD

New album, Clovis People, set for release on May 11, 2010

BOULDER, Colo. — Otis Taylor digs the past. Whether it’s the songs he wrote a decade ago, or ancient civilizations that lived more than 10,000 years ago, he’s drawn to stories from another time, and he’s compelled to retell them in a way that’s relevant in the modern day. On Clovis People, set for release May 11, 2010, on Telarc International, a division of Concord Music Group, Taylor writes his own history.

It’s the ideal project for the architect of a sparse and hypnotic style that has come to be known as “trance blues.” Taylor has spent his career crafting songs that are wide open to interpretation — thematically as well as structurally. “I give people a starting point, and then they can take it where they want to take it,” he explains. “That’s true for the people playing my music as well as the people listening to it. That’s how art should be. A person looking at a painting should be able to interpret it in whatever way he wants. The more words you put into a song, the less freedom the listener has to decide what it means.”

A TERRIFIC TRACK FROM A PREVIOUS OTIS TAYLOR RELEASE

The album title is inspired by a recent scientific discovery very close to Taylor’s home in Boulder, Colorado. Barely 100 yards from the edge of his property, archeologists dug up a cache of tools and other implements belonging to a civilization known as the Clovis people, who walked the earth briefly about 13,000 years ago and then mysteriously disappeared.

“That’s amazing to me,” says Taylor. “There have only been four or five sites like this found all over the country. That means these people probably walked on my property. My music only goes back about ten years, but there’s something about reaching back to an earlier time and revisiting the stories of the past from a new perspective that I find compelling.”

Helping to shape that new perspective is a crew of players who lend a variety of shades and voices to the mix. Among them is guitarist Gary Moore, a guest musician on two of Taylor’s previous recordings (Definition of a Circle in 2007 and Pentatonic Wars and Love Songs in 2009), who moves in and out of the tracks with a hard riff here, a subtle accent there, and just the right atmospherics wherever he appears. Also on hand for nine of the twelve tracks is pedal steel guitarist Chuck Campbell — a member of the Campbell Brothers, the African-American gospel group that has developed a sound commonly known as “sacred steel.” In addition, Clovis People features cornetist Ron Miles and bassist Cassie Taylor (Otis’ 22-year-old daughter).

The set gets under way with the haunting “Rain So Hard,” a bluesy number that employs an intriguing mix of pedal steel, cornet and theremin as the backdrop to Taylor’s unsettling lyrics about a hard rain turning to snow and falling on a scene of betrayal and deceit.

“Little Willy” and “Lee and Arnez” are two previously unreleased songs. The former is a fictional tale of a school shooting — a song Taylor wrote in 1990s, but then shelved in the aftermath of the Columbine shooting of 1999. “Lee and Arnez” tells the story of a couple that Taylor remembers from the neighborhood where he grew up. “They were my parents’ best friends, and they had a boxer dog that I really loved,” says Taylor. “This would have been the 1950s, which were still a difficult time for black people, but I have great memories of this couple and their beautiful dog.”

“It’s Done Happened Again” is built on an urgent rhythm that plays like a frantic heartbeat. “The song is about that moment when someone who got his heart broken hears about someone else who got his heart broken,” says Taylor. “It’s that moment when pain and empathy converge, and you say, ‘Oh yeah, I know where he’s coming from.’”

“Harry Turn the Music Up” recalls Taylor’s memories of the Denver Folklore Center, a place he frequented when he was a boy in the early ’60s. “The song follows a groove that’s deep in the pocket, and it’s really powerful,” says Taylor. “The Denver Folklore Center was a place where nobody cared if you were black or white, skinny or fat. It was a place where everyone was accepted.”

“Babies Don’t Lie” rides on a single chord and speaks to the profound vulnerability of innocents. But somewhere underneath the simple and recurring lyrical line is the question of how and when dark forces take hold and turn some innocents into monsters.

“Think I Won’t” is a showdown-flavored track that captures the moment when a mother confronts a drug dealer in a schoolyard. “There are some badass moms out there,” says Taylor. “Sometimes people don’t realize how tough black women can be. It’s a matriarchal culture, and there are some moms who’ll kick your ass in a half-second if you threaten their children.”

Indeed, some instincts are eternal, whether the frame of reference is 2010, 1950 or some time before recorded history. Clovis People is in some respects a vehicle for Taylor — an archeologist of a different kind — to re-examine some of the truths he’s uncovered in his own era and preserve them for listeners in some future time.

“I went back to my musical past with these songs — all the way back to my first album,” says Taylor. “I like finding different ways to retell the old stories. They continue to mean something — to me, to the people who hear them, to the musicians who play with me — many years after I first told them.”

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