Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Is this a breakthrough or is this a breakthrough?

ITunes will extend the Beatles catalog's reach to a sizable new audience of online shoppers, who for the first time will be able to click, purchase and download "She Loves You," "Ticket To Ride," and other cherished titles. Troubled EMI parent Terra Firma will appreciate the new revenue stream. Read Louis Hau on Reuters on why this is a breakthrough.

40 Beatles #1 Hit Songs

I began my 80th anniversary week with a series of mystic unfoldings.  As I go about listing them out, let me start by writing about the first.  The Beatles are on itunes.  The millions of legal mp3 downloads that people buy of eminem and rihanna or josh groban or even more serious music is testimony to the death of the revenue loss myth.

Enjoy your legit Beatles on your iThings.

Abbey Road (Remastered)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Thanksgiving tracklistings and reading

They say every blogpost tries to get you to buy something or click something. Here is one that doesnt. But it does ask you why we celebrate.  This page is easy to print and write chords, tabs, or notes on.

Thanksgiving is upon us, and how similarly we celebrate this festive season the world over is clear in the dhaks of the Bengali pujas, the turkey and the pumpkin patch, the lights of diwali, the carolers with their guitars slung over their shoulders and hoods up, the anniversary fervor of the gakkai members, the widely accepted birth of christ, the year end, and the new year crackers.

O holy night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of Our dear Saviour's birth.
Long lay the world In sin and error pining,
'Til He appear'd And the soul felt its worth.

A thrill of hope The weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks A new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! O, hear the angels' voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born;
O night divine, O night, O night Divine.

Of course it sounds entirely different when you hear Celine Dion , Jackie Evancho, Josh Groban, Pavarotti, or Bocello or even Michael McManus. Which is your favorite? The one from Glee? Leave a comment, and then read on for the rest of the Cantique de Noel.

For those of you more fond of listening, but totally not this song, google celine dione i drove all night acapella video! Link from youtube below.  Don't buy it, let it remain rare.

Led by the light of Faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts By His cradle we stand.
So led by light of A star sweetly gleaming,
Here come the wise men From Orient land.

The King of Kings Lay thus in lowly manger;
In all our trials Born to be our friend.
He knows our need, To our weakness is no stranger,
Behold your King! Before Him lowly bend!
Behold your King, Before Him lowly bend!

Truly He taught us To love one another;
His law is love And His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break For the slave is our brother;
And in His name All oppression shall cease.

Sweet hymns of joy In grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us Praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! O praise His Name forever,
His power and glory Evermore proclaim.
His power and glory Evermore proclaim.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Dizzy Gillespie is 93

Dizzy Gillespie: The Best Of Odyssey - 1945-1952
John Birks Gillespie (aka Dizzy cuz of his foolery) played the trumpet and was one of the key figures in the birth of "bebop" jazz.

Along with Teddy Hill and Lionel Hampton, he went on to lead his own band just as did Charlie Parker, Thelonius Monk and Miles Davis.  

A practitioner of Bahai faith, his contribution to contemporary musical expression as an instrument of social change goes far beyond genres and timelines.

My one track for the desert island, Sonny Side Up.

Google celebrates with this doodle.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Paul McCartney and the Wings: Band on the Run, Deluxe edition 2010

Band on the Run was among my favorite albums as a teen.  The Beatles were done.  John, Paul and George were doing their own things.  My friends and I were listening to Jethro Tull, Return to Forever, Pink Floyd and John McLaughlin.  Venus and Mars, Ram, and BOTR were the three big releases from Paul and Linda in those times, better known as the Wings.  Later, as a grown man, the 25th anniversary edition reminded me of how precious that album was to me.  
Band on the Run
On its cover, along with Paul, Linda and Denny Laine, were other “convicts” including Christopher Lee and James Coburn, caught in the beam of a searchlight, the inspiration for the poster of the animated film, Madagascar years later.  The Apple label with its two sides (inside and outside of apple) mesmerized me as did the storytelling of the songs.  

The Helen Wheels track, which showed up on the album only on the anniversary reissue, but was there on the US and International release, and the first US issues did not list it in the tracks, leading it to be called the hidden track.  The 25th anniversary issue contained a lot of subtext and comments, and is of value only to completionists and students  (I consider myself both) of music of our times.  I felt it was a lot of time and attention to be demanded from a casual listener.  Well, you do save time not having to turn the disc over, though.

The charm of the post Beatles music is how the four went on to live their lives, creative and otherwise, and the tweets that they left behind in their songs.  Harrison had chosen a clear path, as had John and Yoko, and Ringo was happy behind his kit and out of the spotlight.  Paul with his above average bass playing skills, set new benchmarks for popular socially aware song and songwriting.  The who did it better game between the two namesakes of the phenomenon called Lennon-McCartney would last but a few years, as they continued to create their iconic oeuvre.

BOTR, Jet, Bluebird, Mrs Vandebilt, Let me roll it, Mamunia, No Words, Helen Wheels, Picasso’s last words, and 1985, and the 1974 B Side of Helen Wheels in the later reissue, Country Dreamer.  A similar tight act many years later was Tug of War.  BOTR easily remains a critical landmark album, in spite of not containing much of either his best or most popular songs.
Tug of WarVenus and Mars
Mom, Dad, and we recently learned what it meant, even if for a while, to be the band on the run.  Hence it is a wonderful time to wait for the 3 CD 1 DVD combo Deluxe edition releasing on November 2, 2010.  You can get it from amazon by clicking here 

you will also want to read
review of paul mccartney’s chaos and creation in the backyard
tribute to john lennon on his 70th birthday
Band On The Run [Deluxe Edition - 3CD+1DVD Combo] 

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Vitoria Suite: Paco de Lucia Wynton Marsalis

Vitoria Suite

Released earlier this year in Europe to wide acclaim, Vitoria Suite releases today as a 2-CD + DVD set in the United States on EmArcy/Universal.

Vitoria Suite is a 12-part work, the structure inspired by the 12 measures of the blues.

Composer Wynton Marsalis uses the impulse of the blues as a foundation to jointly explore the jazz and blues of North America and the indigenous Basque music and flamenco of Spain.  Paco de Lucia brings his magic to the journey.

Support Jazz at the Lincoln Center. That would be nice.

Get this from Amazon.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Happy Birthday, John Lennon!

There is no better way to capture the essence of this prophet of peace, who went from abandonment to the heights of acceptance, from violence and aggression to giving peace a chance, and who lost his life to a jealous fan’s bullet, than to let him speak for himself.  

Imagine there's no Heaven, It's easy if you try, No hell below us, Above us only sky
Imagine all the people, Living for today

Imagine there's no country, It isn't hard to do, Nothing to kill or die for, And no religion too
Imagine all the people, Living life in peace

You may say that I'm a dreamer, But I'm not the only one.  I hope someday you'll join us, and the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions, I wonder if you can, No need for greed or hunger, A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people, Sharing all the world

You may say that I'm a dreamer, But I'm not the only one.  I hope someday you'll join us, and the world will be as one

Read my full post on Lennon's 70th birthday.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Diamonds and Rust: Joan Baez

The commentary is classic and worth a read. One of the LPs I owned and loved.  I am in the process of writing this piece, and would appreciate comments on her recent outings.

Diamonds & RustDiamonds & Rust - MFSL Original Master RecordingDiamonds & Rust [Vinyl]

It took me over a couple of months to be able to come back to starting writing about Joan, as Jan 9 draws closer, and I think of her more and more, more and more of the time.

The pain of lyrics like those of D&R, Jesse Come Home, and In the Quiet Morning (not from the D&R release though) is something that one can totally identify with.  For me, D&R was more of discovering love songs by a folk and protest icon.  My personal adventures, both before and after, have caused her songs of love and longing to be very deeply imprinted on my life.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Janis Joplin, a Blue deeper

John Lennon received Janis Joplin’s gift for his 30th birthday after she died on October 4, 1970.  Along with Mercedes Benz, her recording of Happy Trails to send to Lennon for his birthday about a week away, was the last song she would sing.  Forever plagued with a poor self image and filled with distrust and doubt, Janis died without knowing that her songs would live on, to be discovered and re-discovered, to be revered and imitated, for generations to come.  

Pearl (Exp)Essential Janis Joplin

My first exposure to the music of Janis was as a kid at Trincas in Kolkata on nights they’d allow kids in, while Pam Crain sang Move Over and Summertime, and then as a teenager listening to Anjum Katyal at Calcuta School of Music with Nondon Bagchi and friends singing Cry, Cry Baby.  I was curious to hear what these gut wrenching renditions sounded like in the original.  Woodstock on a Sunday morning at Metro was the first time I saw and heard her.  It was part of a much more overwhelming experience but it remained etched in my mind, and my friends and I set out looking for the music of Janis Joplin.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

John Lennon and the 70s

John Lennon turns 70 this October.  Two people that never died for me are John Lennon and Prasad Guha.  Like Elvis’ ghost, they pop up at every turn of my life, in my hours of darkness and in my cloudy nights, and show me the way.  Among the posters from my teen den at Regent Estate that I regret not having with me today is the B&W Lennon 1940-1980 commemorative one.  The other is a collage of portraits of Hendrix, Joplin and Jim Morrison against a starlit purple sky.  Lennon was a visionary with a quest, to bring to all of mankind the simple truth that we are one, and that life was too precious to be wasted on mundane pursuits of personal gain, power and prestige.
Lennon Legend: The Very Best Of John LennonAcousticDouble Fantasy
John is better known for being a part of The Beatles.  It is foolish of anyone to claim the ability to successfully capture the what, why and how of the Beatles phenomenon, since apart from their profound influence on modern music, much of modern thinking has been irrevocably altered by the impact they created, and it is a herculean task to comprehensively assess their import.  I am not talking about the Woodstock or protest music type of influence, but that of changing the way song itself is perceived.  And instrumental in this was Lennon.  One needs to listen to the early years to appreciate their songwriting, melodic structures, arrangements, and harmonics that brought out the the best of their young spirited voices, voices and spirits that stayed young for a long time, well, maybe seven or eight years.  Their mastery of form became more apparent with time, and to date, Sgt. Peppers (the first and the best concept album ever) and two years later Abbey Road, remain unparalleled in their tightness, and set the standards for all bands to follow, from Pink Floyd to Nazia Hassan and Biddu, from Clapton to Amy Winehouse, and from Queen to Oasis.   Almost all the Beatles songs are written by Lennon and Paul McCartney.  It is universally acknowledged that the wordsmith among the two was Lennon.  The work that Lennon did after The Beatles is testimony to his brilliance as a writer.  Imagine was a song that became the anthem of the peace movement of the 70s.  Give peace a chance, Dear Yoko, Mother, God,  and Mind Games are the first songs that come to mind when considering his solo songwriting career.  

In order to understand what shaped the mind of the man who wrote, Yes is the answer/And you know that for sure/Yes is surrender/You got to let it, you got to let it go, while also writing songs like Imagine, it is important to look at how his life played out.  He had to choose between his mother and father at the age of five, and till he was 25 he had no contact with his father, and was brought up by his aunt, Mimi and his longing for his mother, Julia, who was a flitting presence in his growing years, is captured in the haunting lyrics of his song of the same name, Julia.  The lyrics of Mother (Mama dont go/ Daddy come home) compete with his seminal works like Strawberry Fields Forever and Norwegian Wood in communicating his anguish over his tortured childhood. Describing his childhood, he says, “I did my best to disrupt every friend's home ... partly, maybe, it was out of envy that I didn't have this so-called home.”  At college, he was recognized more as a troublemaker than as a creative artist (he studied at the Liverpool College of Art).  From this difficult and modest background, he and his friends went on to become The Beatles, a worldwide megagroup with fan following and commercial success, the likes of which were unheard for musicians at the time.  With this came the insanity that follows mass adulation and rapid stardom, an insanity that seemed to be the answer that he had sought all his youth.  Drugs, spirituality, sex, arrogance, politics, persecution, and defiance all came together like a jigsaw puzzle.  His struggle with relationships and his challenge in processing his childhood are evidenced in his relationship with Julian Lennon, his first born, with whom he was unable to share a meaningful parental relationship, the pain of which can be found in the two songs Good Night (written for Julian) and the ending of Beautiful Boy (for Sean Lennon, his son with Yoko) where he reproduces the Ringo Starr whispered lines of the earlier song.

The entry of Yoko Ono and the arrival of the breaking point in the tensions between the Fab Four made his forays into avant garde and the dissolution of the magic that was The Beatles inevitable.  A lot has been written and said about Yoko Ono and her role in the breakup of the Beatles, but it is useful to see it in perspective.  The band had reached its creative zenith, and like Pink Floyd, not only were they bickering and mismanaging themselves, but also writing substandard and inconsequential songs.  (Do look up Brian Epstein and his role not only in their success and failures but also as an anchor for their unfettered creativity, a politically correct term for madness.)  Their vision was becoming increasingly clouded, arrogant and irrational.  Additionally, and this is my personal view, Lennon was in need of venturing into avenues that the Beatles could not offer him.  Although all four of them shared the vision of being agents of change and subscribed to trying to make the world a better place, his philosophical search was one that could not be found in the realm of rock and roll music alone.  It was essential for him to break free, and mystically that is precisely what happened, and even though at the time it seemed born more out of bitterness and rivalry, it freed all of them up to pursue their unique destinies without diluting the immensity of what they had achieved as a foursome.

His post Beatles years continued to see him churning out material that showcased not only his creativity but also his universal humanism and genuine concern for the future of civilization.  He wrote Imagine two years after The Beatles disbanded.  It is one of those songs that will never fade away and will only lose its relevance after we as a people fulfill our vow to establish peace on this planet.  Still bearing the messianic halo from the Beatles years, he began to turn his life into a creative statement, setting benchmarks for popular artists to use their medium as social commentary.  Technically too, he set new standards in the realms of avant garde and underground music with his collaborations.

There is no better way to capture the essence of this prophet of peace, who went from abandonment to the heights of acceptance, from violence and aggression to giving peace a chance, and who lost his life to a jealous fan’s bullet, than to let him speak for himself.  

Imagine there's no Heaven, It's easy if you try, No hell below us, Above us only sky
Imagine all the people, Living for today

Imagine there's no country, It isn't hard to do, Nothing to kill or die for, And no religion too
Imagine all the people, Living life in peace

You may say that I'm a dreamer, But I'm not the only one.  I hope someday you'll join us, and the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions, I wonder if you can, No need for greed or hunger, A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people, Sharing all the world

You may say that I'm a dreamer, But I'm not the only one.  I hope someday you'll join us, and the world will be as one

If you liked this post, you may also want to read 
what I wrote about Bob Dylan.

Friday, September 17, 2010

West Coast Seattle Boy:The Jimi Hendrix Anthology (Sony Legacy)

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as well as the best of my bloggers' network, by joining the
This year, his 40th death anniversary, has been a rewarding year for students and lovers of Jimi Hendrix. 
Jimi Hendrix Poster Paint Splash 24X36 Rock Pp32166
Jimi Hendrix~ Jimi Hendrix Poster~ Rare Poster!!~ Approx 24" X 36"
Jimi Hendrix Poster Print, 24x36

On my changer now, engineered by George Marino, Purple Haze, and up next, The Wind Cries Mary.  Jimi Hendrix died when I was 5 years old, yet his music changed the world I grew up into so totally that it is hard to imagine that Clapton or the Dire Straits or even Lady Gaga could have ever happened without him, okay maybe Lady Gaga but not the gods of guitar as they did turn out.  Even my son, who just turned four, knows that Jimi Hendrix is important and makes music with a guitar.  Here is a video of him at age three explaining to me who Jimi Hendrix is.  

Jimi Hendrix was a guitarist who grew up in the 50s in Seattle listening to the black (and) blues masters B. B. King, Chuck Berry and the like, much like the Beatles across the ocean.  He finished school and served in the army till 1961, when he was discharged and started playing as a backup artist under the name Jimmy James.  Not a lot of people know that he fronted a band called Jimmy James and the Blue Flames, up until the point when he headed to England and teamed up with Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchel and formed what we now know as the Jimi Hendrix Experience.  This was in 1966, years after the Beatles and Elvis had caused the world to rethink their idea of popular music, and rock, rock & roll, and rhythm and blues became mainstream music.

What happened over the next decade is history.  From revolutionizing the concept of using distortion of the electric output from the guitar as an art form, to rockstar histrionics like settling the guitar on fire, playing the guitar with his teeth or behind his back, from using his hip movements as an integral part of his performing a song to phrasing around the augmented 9th  dominant chord, effectively allowing him to switch between minor and major scales for the same dominant 7th, Hendrix laid the foundations for guitar work.  His use of distortion and heavy driven riffs were the precursor of what evolved into hard rock and heavy metal.  The version of Sunshine of Your Love on Valleys of Neptune verges on being a headbangers’ delight.  His influence on contemporary guitar might be unknown to the new generation of guitarists themselves but is undeniable.  The words fuzz and wah wah have long disappeared from the lexicon of modern guitar players, but were concepts/techniques  that he popularized, along with Roger Mayer, his sound engineer, who innovated to give him new vistas to explore in the realm of tonality, thus becoming one of the pioneers of charting the evolution of the “electric” guitar from that of an electric signal from an acoustic instrument to a tonal source that could be moulded, manipulated, mauled and managed to create textures appropriate to the mood of the composition.  
Are You ExperiencedAxis: Bold As LoveElectric Ladyland 

The magic of hearing Are you Experienced for the first time is one that can not be described, especially if you are a young guitarist discovering the blues, and the intricacies of the electric sound.  This was followed by the discoveries that lay in Axis: Bold as Love and Electric Ladyland.  These are the only three studio albums that the Experience cut.  Even though they were introduced as the Jimi Hendrix Experience when they performed at Woodstock in 1969, Noel Redding had been replaced by Billy Cox on the bass, and Hendrix himself can be heard on the recording correcting the announcer and calling themselves Gypsy Sun and Rainbows, later to be called A Band of Gypsys.  The historic set included the amazing guitar rendition of The Star Spangled Banner, one of the most beautiful guitar pieces (another being Amazing Grace on the bass by Victor Wooten) ever.
Victor Wooten: Groove WorkshopWhat Did He SayYin Yang 

The Band of Gypsys went on to record a live album and do a lot of touring, and it was not till 1970 that the Experience name was used again, though Noel Redding was still not part of it.  The period of 1967-1970 saw Hendrix getting messed up with his drug use, disagreements with his business partners and his bandmates, and financial struggles.  His thinking and creativity, both warped by his indulgence in ganja, heroin, speed, acid, prescription meds like sleeping pills and painkillers, and alcohol, went into a downward spiral, with grandiose and irrational plans, and stereotypical repetitive compositions.  He died on September 18, 1970, choking on his own vomit after an overdose of sleeping pills and alcohol.  

Like the genii of Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Brian Jones, and Kurt Cobain, irresponsible abuse of drugs claimed another brilliant victim at the early age of 27 in Jimi Hendrix.
Janis Joplin - Poster (Live On Stage) (Size: 24'' x 36'')
The Doors - Music Poster (Jim Morrison - American Poet) (Size: 24" x 36") Kurt Cobain (Smoking) Music Poster Print - 36x24

While it is natural to eulogize and worship the body of work that Hendrix left behind, it is also pertinent and prudent to reflect on the senseless waste of creative talent and life and to filter our adulation with caution that not everything that a role model embodies needs to be emulated.  I grew up at a time when to play guitar like Jimi did was my goal, and he did it stoned, so getting stoned was the goal for budding young blues guitarists of our times, but nobody told anybody then that not only was drugs the greatest ambition killer but it also killed human beings in every way imaginable.  Nobody talked about his washed out non performances concerts, the physical violence, the arrests and the humiliation that his lifestyle, his personality and his drug use entailed.  Many of my friends and I myself have been blessed not to have died from our stupidity and our love for the “jimi thing,” in whatever ways that we didn’t die, but the millions of lives that have been snuffed out by drugs is testimony to how close we were to losing our lives, our sanity and our purpose in life.

The Hendrix legacy, whether it be the music and the bands, or copyright and authorized versions, or his personal life struggle, has had to go through turbulent tests.  In 1994, Paul Allen (the Microsoft Paul Allen, yes), and other wellwishers of the Hendrix legacy came together to form the Experience Hendrix label, and then the Jimi Hendrix Museum which has now evolved into the mammoth Experience Music Project.

This year, the 40th death anniversary of Hendrix, (thanks Brian Ibbot of Coverville for setting the tone for September 18) we saw the release of Valleys of Neptune, the first genuine Experience studio release since Electric Ladyland, though his prolific output left behind a host of unreleased material which keep surfacing as bootlegs, compilations and re-engineerings.  You can read my review of Valleys of Neptune by clicking here.  Sony Legacy’s West Coast Seattle Boy:  The Jimi Hendrix Anthology in a 4CD/1DVD Box Set also holds great promise as it contains previously unreleased alternate versions (both studio and live) of tracks from every period of his career.  It also contains the 90 minute documentary by Bob Smeaton on DVD, Jimi Hendrix: Voodoo Child.  (You can pre-order it now by clicking here.)

If you liked this post, you may want to read about the life of Robert Johnson by visiting a more recent post on this blog

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