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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

'I Been Down So Long' - Louisiana Red




Iverson Minter, known as Louisiana Red, was a prolific bluesman. He began recording for Chess Records in 1949, but then joined the Army. After his discharge, he played with John Lee Hooker in Detroit in the late '50s, and he recorded and performed heavily in the 1960s and 1970's. He moved Germany 1981 and stayed there until his death in 2012. 

In 1983 he won a W.C. Handy Award for Best Traditional Blues Male Artist. 

His style is mostly acoustic Delta blues, but the song below shows off his Chicago style


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Pink Floyd Sang The Blues Too

This is not Seamus, but Nobs, from The Live in Pompeii concert. 

The Beatles did it. Cyndi Lauper did it. Shit, even Steven Seagal did it. So, why can't Pink Floyd?

The Floyd, known for their psychedelic rock experiments, got a dog, named Seamus, into the studio and recorded a 12-bar blues with Seamus howling in the background like a sick dog. The slide guitar playing by David Gilmour and the bluesy piano of Richard Wright keep things bluesy. Roger Waters is on bass. The song appears on the 1971 album, Meddle.

Just another example of the cross-genre usage of the blues!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Closer Look: 'I Can't Be Satisfied' - Muddy Waters



In two separate sessions back in 1941 and 1942, an aspiring young Muddy Waters recorded a few songs with famed folk historian Alan Lomax in a plantation in Stovall, Mississippi. These recordings were eventually released in 1993. 

He didn't hear back from him, as he hoped, and a year later traveled up north to Chicago in pursuit of his dream of being a successful musician. 

It  wasn't until 1948 however, when Muddy released 'I Can't Be Satisfied' on the Aristocrat label (later changed to Chess Records) and finally with it, came his eternal fame.

You see, while it's a simple 12-bar blues, with only an upright bass accompaniment by Ernest "Big" Crawford who banged the fingerboard to create a shuffling rhythm, Muddy played stripped down, raw Mississippi Delta blues. The twist was it was on an electric guitar.




It squealed and had an overdriven sound that was still in it's infancy back in that time, and soon enough the label couldn't release enough records to meet the demand.

The song was played in the typical Delta blues style, using open G tuning (D-B-G-D-G-D high to low), which facilitates easier slide playing and open chording. What he did was basically electrify the sound of the Delta blues, which was heard by those who left their homes in the South and it clicked immediately.

The words also reflect the travelling blues lifestyle such as:

"Well I'm goin' away to leave 
Won't be back no more 
Goin' back down south, child Don't you want to go? 

As well as the violent nature of the blues:

"Well I feel like snappin'
a Pistol in your face
I'mma let some graveyard
Lord be her resting place"


with the repeating chorus being:

"Woman I'm troubled, I be all worried in mind 
Well baby I just can't be satisfied
 And I just can't keep from cryin'"


On his Grammy winning 1977 comeback album Hard Again, released with help of the late Johnny Winter, a newly recorded version was included, 29 years later:





Since then, Muddy Waters was known as the 'King of the Electric Chicago Blues', for sparking the new sound that led to the new decade of dominance in the 1950's.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Blues Legend Johnny Winter Passes Away at Age 70




This is a truly sad day for the blues; the blues and guitar legend Johnny Winter has passed away at the age of 70. No cause of death has been announced, but Johnny was in a frail state of health for a while.

Johnny Winter was a pioneer in the world of guitar playing and the blues; his unique guitar sound and skills along side his gritty voice led him to stardom in the mid-60's, performing at Woodstock in 1969 and has released 20 albums, including the seminal 'Johnny Winter' and 'Second Winter'.


He was instrumental in the huge comeback of bluesman Muddy Waters, releasing four albums (one of them live) on Blue Sky Records and he was featured on all four, three of them winning Grammy awards.


He was inducted into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame and in 2003, and is ranked 63rd in Rolling Stone Magazine's list of the "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time". 


It is a truly sad day and it will have a huge impact on the world of music. 

Here are a few videos of Johnny in action; Rest in Peace and May the Blues Be With You.




Tuesday, July 15, 2014

BBC2 Launches Poll for the Top 100 Greatest Guitar Riffs

Obviously you know which one I'd choose!

When you hear a song, usually, especially in blues and rock, there's a recurring 'riff', or a repeated musical phrase that 'defines' the song. The best examples I can give is 'Smoke on the Water' or 'Enter Sandman'. Those songs among thousands of others are built upon a riff.

Now that you are familiar with what a riff is, go to BBC2 can check out the poll they are launching to determine the Top 100 Greatest Guitar Riffs.

Of course them being assholes, the vote is not available to anyone outside the UK, but at least we can see the results.

The page has 100 songs you can listen to and choose from. The polls will last until 25 July.

I can see the following blues songs on the list:

- Mannish Boy - Muddy Waters
- Bo Diddley - Bo Diddley
- Boom Boom - John Lee Hooker
- Johnny B Goode - Chuck Berry

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Blues With Soul: 'Trouble Blues' - Charles Brown




Charles Brown was a blues ballad singer and pianist, and was a key transitional figure between 1940's cool jazz-influenced R&B and rock 'n' roll.

He performed almost non-stop from the 40's up until his death in 1999; his music was also featured many times in the Billboard R&B charts. He is a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Some of his most famous tunes are 'Driftin' Blues', 'Black Night', 'Get Yourself Another Fool', and the one highlighted for today, 'Trouble Blues'. This song is a variation on the standard 'Someday Baby Blues' which was interpreted by many bluesmen, including Muddy Waters who called his version 'Trouble No More':


Thursday, July 10, 2014

Blues & Jazz Unite: Muddy Waters and Dizzy Gillespie



Blues and Jazz are blood brothers; you can't talk about one without discussing the other. The saying goes "The Blues is the Preacher and Jazz is the Teacher".

So it's pretty obvious that one day they should share the stage... indeed, Miles Davis and John Lee Hooker recorded the soundtrack for the Hotspot film. 

Another giant meeting was with Muddy Waters and Dizzy Gillespie, where the latter shared the stage with Muddy and his blues band for a few numbers, and was later released as an album. To hear the signature trumpet sound of Dizzy over a Chicago style 12-bar blues is dazzling!

Unfortunately there are no Youtube links to share... and for copyright reasons I can't post MP3 links. 

Suffice it to say that these cross genre collaborations are always fun to hear and watch. 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

It's Official: Pink Floyd To Release New Album in October

Well this came out of left field; after a rumor and a few days of a massive internet  meltdown, Pink Floyd have officially confirmed they are working on a new album, entitled "The Endless River", which contains material from their final album The Division Bell from 1994. Several songs by the late keyboardist Richard Wright will be reworked. Roger Waters will not be present, but Nick Mason will.

Gilmour, Mason, and Wright. Roger Waters technically isn't in the band anymore.

The announcement comes on their official webpage, which unfortunately has very little information:

"Pink Floyd can confirm that they are releasing a new album, The Endless River, in October 2014. It is an album of mainly ambient and instrumental music based on the 1993/4 Division Bell sessions which feature David Gilmour, Nick Mason and Richard Wright. The album is produced by David Gilmour with Phil Manzanera, Youth and recording engineer Andy Jackson. Work is still in progress, but more details to come at the end of the summer."

 The story first broke when David Gilmour's wife Polly Samson posted this on her Twitter account:


Later, vocalist Durga McBroom-Hudson, who previously worked with the band, mentioned a recording session for the album on Facebook: 

"Remember this photo? It wasn't what you THOUGHT it was. From Polly Samson on Twitter: "Btw Pink Floyd album out in October is called "The Endless River". Based on 1994 sessions is Rick Wright's swansong and very beautiful."

YES. THERE IS A NEW PINK FLOYD ALBUM COMING OUT. AND I'M ON IT. And there was much rejoicing. "

I was in a Pink Floyd tribute band back in Lebanon and was an avid Floyd fan (still am, just not like before). This news is lovely to hear, yet also there is some skepticism; instead of working on new material as a band, who have sort of reconciled after a bitter feud, they decided to use material that was not deemed fit for release.

While I no longer enjoy Roger Waters recent musical output and very political stances, having his great mind working with the soulful touch of David Gilmour again would make any fan cry.

Perhaps they feuded again, or it's just a matter of material that Waters wasn't included in at the time. And technically, I don't think Roger Waters is officially in Pink Floyd after his split.

Of course I will buy the album; talk is that it will be ambient and mostly instrumental. Richard Wright has written some beautiful pieces for the band including "Great Gig in The Sky" and "Us and Them" from their best-selling legendary album Dark Side of the Moon.



Sunday, July 6, 2014

The Blues, Sex Pistols, Benny Goodman, & The Fight Against Tyranny

With all the hoopla surrounding the very quick rise of ISIL (Islamic State if Iraq & Levant, or now just IS - Islamic State), and all the bandwagon-ing, I thought I'd share a musical perspective to all of this.

Let it be known that I am a supporter of liberty; oppression and tyranny have no place in my book, be it a political system or religion. The iron fist/heel rule of power is an outdated concept that only shows the worst part of humanity.

While everyone is freaking out (not that I blame them), keep in mind that all the regional and international powers all have some interest in such a group existing, as it causes harm to one of the rival governments in some way.

Let's take a quick step back in history; below are three case studies (out of hundreds) about how music has stood up against the tyrannic laws and leaders:


1. THE BLUES




When you think of the blues, you think about misfortune, betrayal and regret. You lose your job, you get the blues. Your loved one falls out of love with you, you get the blues. Your dog dies, you get the blues. While blues lyrics often deal with personal adversity, the music itself goes far beyond self-pity.

The blues has deep roots in American history, particularly African-American history. The blues originated on Southern plantations in the 19th Century. Its inventors were slaves, ex-slaves and the descendants of slaves - African-American sharecroppers who sang as they toiled in the cotton and vegetable fields. It's generally accepted that the music evolved from African spirituals, African chants, work songs and field hollers.

The blues was instrumental in what lead to the civil rights movement, that allowed African-Americans equal rights as everyone else in the land of the free, by sparking social consciousness with the message of the music that spread out from the South and found it's way to the entire world.


2. BENNY GOODMAN (and Jazz in General)

Live in Moscow 1962

The USSR was a failed communist experiment that lead to the death of millions of innocent people at the hands of the state for ideological reasons.

A major factor that lead to the dissolution of the USSR was Western culture, such as jazz and jeans.

Millions of Russians and Soviets would tune in to Western radio stations and broadcasts and heard the music and about life under democracy. One day the Communist Party agreed to have Benny Goodman, the King of Swing, to perform in the USSR.

Here's a short video below from an original news story from that time,  a great flashback of the Cold War era:




It took many years, but eventually the Berlin Wall fell in 1990 and it was all over from then on.


3. THE SEX PISTOLS



I mean... anyone who sings a song about the bloody queen is enough to be on this list, especially when the singles cover is like the one above!



It was unheard of to have this type of rebellion against the system; in 1977 The Sex Pistols exploded the charts and the UK with this song, and there were rumors that the UK government had manipulated the sales charts to show the song at number 2, when in fact the actual numbers show it at number 1. 

This lead to a huge punk rock anti-establishment movement, with bands like The Clash performing songs like 'London Calling':





So now to the Arab scenario, if we are to stop an advancing terror, history tells us that such tyranny is never won by brute force, but by ideals of justice, equality, and liberty. 


Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Double Birthday! Willie Dixon and James Cotton


Today we have a double birthday celebrating two of the greatest bluesmen, Willie Dixon and James Cotton!

Willie Dixon was born in 1915 and James Cotton in 1935; Dixon is no longer with us, but Cotton is still here and still playing the blues, most recently nominated for best Blues album at the Grammys (read my rant here).

Dixon was the fore-front singer-songwriter and poet of the blues, writing several key hits and classics for other bluesmen such as 'Hoochie Cootchie Man' for Muddy Waters, 'Spoonful' for Howlin' Wolf, and others. He also was a formidable bass player.

Cotton is one of the best and most influential blues harp players (see more players here) of early Chicago blues, first by being in Muddy Waters' band and performed on many of his classics, but also as a solid solo artist and has won a Grammy award for Best Traditional Blues Album.

Two pillars, two birthdays! Here's a rare video with Dixon and Cotton on stage with the rest of the legends, Muddy Waters, Sunnyland Slim, Otis Spann, Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee and Mable Hillery.