James Ray | I Got My Mind Set On You

8 02 2011

Yes, that title should sound familiar to you. That’s because George Harrison had a huge hit with this tune in 1987. “I Got My Mind Set On You” was featured on his otherwise lackluster release Cloud Nine. Considering the popularity of the Harrison version it’s remarkable that so few people are aware that it’s actually a cover. The song was written by Rudy Clark and recorded by James Ray in 1962. No doubt, it’s a great song through and through. Whether you like the Harrison rendition or the original it’s a classic.

Interestingly enough, of George’s three #1 hit singles in the US, this was the only one that was not self-penned and the only one without religious overtones. Also, not only was this the last US #1 hit for ol’ Georgie boy, but it was also the last from any of the other ex-Beatles. To hear Harrison’s version click HERE. As you might expect, I’m partial to Ray’s original…

As enjoyable as that 1987 attempt was, I was floored when I first heard James Ray’s original. It’s just so raw and authentic, especially when compared to Harrison’s version. For me, this was the way the song was intended. The arrangement is so natural feeling that I almost can’t imagine it any other way. How Ray never had his own hit with song remains a mystery to me.





RIP Gerry Rafferty

5 01 2011

Gerry Rafferty died early this week at age 63. Gerry was the frontman of 70’s era rock group Stealers Wheel. Gerry is most famous for his hit “Stuck In The Middle”, a tune that is often confused as a Bob Dylan song and rightfully so as it was written to mimic his lyrical style. The song was released in 1973 on their self-titled album. It instantly became a hit, rising to #6 on the charts and has since been further popularized due to it’s use in the cult-classic Quentin Tarantino film Reservoir Dogs. Here’s a 70-style music video for the song… I love it because its so dated.





Roger Waters | The Wall [Live 2010]

13 12 2010

This past week I saw Pink Floyd frontman, Roger Waters at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. In case you hadn’t already heard, Roger has redesigned his old live production of The Wall since it debuted  30 years ago. If that original 1980 tour was spectacle, this updated version is a spectacular. I mean that in the truest sense of the word. Not only has Waters brought it up to date in terms of message and context, but in technology as well. Yes, the concept is similar at the core (build a HUGE wall and knock it down) but this show is produced incredibly well. I have seen 100’s of live performances, and I think this may be the most thrilling of them. Some feat when you consider I’m talking about everything: big venues, small venues and everything in between; rock, jazz, blues, and all the rest; music, theater and even sporting events. Regardless of the magnitude, style, or even medium, this left me completely floored.

When they begin the performance the wall is only partly built, with the band playing just behind it in full view. As the night progresses, the wall is built up brick by brick. As ths goes on, you start to see less and less of the band until they are only viewable through a few missing bricks. And then, like that, they are gone. They continue to play out view and all the while there are amazing projections on the wall, both providing context for the music and creating atmospherics to set the mood. There are even puppets, pyrotechnics and other cool props, all of which just add to the ambiance. The whole experience is really amazing throughout and totally engaging like I’ve never seen before.

By intermission the wall is fully built, with the band still playing from behind it’s cover. As the second set opens they continue the routine, until there is a moment where Roger appears from an odd compartment that unfolds from the wall’s exterior. It’s a “hotel room”, where he sits in an armchair and sings “Nobody’s Home”. True theater and a really cool addition to the performance. Soon after, the band is moved to the front of the wall to “perform” some other more theatrical bits. Then, it’s just Roger out front, with the rest of the band in their positions hidden behind. For various solos and singing parts other members of the band appear 35 feet in the air at the very top of the wall. The guitar solo on “Comfortably Numb” is a great moment where they do this. Finally, there is this huge crescendo that is really effectively created using the projections and the mood rather than merely the tempo. At the climax, the wall is toppled to the ground, revealing the band behind.  At which point the band comes out to the forestage bearing only acoustic instruments and play “Outside the Wall”. After a few thanks and some introductions, each member marches of stage one by one until Roger says his final farewell.

The whole thing is mind blowing and unfortunately my account, these photos and any videos will never do it justice. Whether you’re a fan of the music or not, this is a show you MUST see. There are still tour dates available into 2011. I recommend hitting stubhub to see if you can catch it. Quality live footage from the show is rather difficult to find but there are some nice promotional videos that were designed to tease you on the experience. Check out these few. The first 2 provide a solid picture of the show with actual HD footage, there are even a few fan interviews and testimonials too. The third provides some great insight into Roger’s feelings on the music, the show and it’s design. That one, I think, is particularly good.

Now, I purposely avoided all of this stuff online as I wanted to go in totally blind, which is definitely why it was so impactful. However, if you are not going to be able to see it live, you have to check these out to know what the hell this thing is all about.

If you’re going to go ahead and spoil this by sneaking a peek, you might as well watch this footage shot from the audience of “The Trial” into “Outside the Wall”. This piece in particular, gave me goosebumps. It’s the whole thing. The dénouement, if you will. The footage is amateur but you absolutely get a sense of what it’s like. Check it out…





The Beatles Catalog Available on iTunes

16 11 2010

FINALLY! What does it take to get one of music’s biggest bands available on the iTunes store? Apparently, all you need is love… and A LOT of lawyers. After years of tension and disputes Apple Corp. has finally allowed Apple Inc. to offer The Beatles’ complete catalog of work online. I get it. I do. But after all that concern over Apple Inc. branching out from computer technology to music distribution and possible conflicts of interest, the whole argument seems futile and moot. After all, we know Paul is down with it, as his music is already on iTunes . He even filmed a commercial for them. How long did it really take for the folks at Apple Corp. to realize that iTunes is clearly one of, if not, the biggest digital music distribution channel? I guess after all those years, today is the day of epiphany. Finally. Check out The Beatles on iTunes HERE.

So, at this point you probably already own every album in various mediums and have even digitized it yourself, but for those that have not… this your chance. You can cherry pick your favorite songs or grab the whole album(s). Or, you can just bite the bullet get the entire box set ($149).  Like any major product roll out, this comes with a lot of fanfare. One of the promotion items they are touting is the complete 1964 Washington D.C. performance in HD (well, as hi-def as I’ve seen). This video exists in snippets all over the internet, some of which has been featured here, but this is the complete unedited release. CHECK IT OUT HERE. There are also some other cool videos that you can browse through while on the band’s artist page in the store.

There are a few ads that the ‘Apples’ collaborated on for this launch. They are pretty straightforward and simple but, if you’re a fan, you will enjoy them nevertheless. You can see all 5 ads below:





Talking Heads | Psycho Killer

10 11 2010

This tune is an all-time great. Not only are the song and lyrics amazing, but the various versions that exist make it legendary. As I said, the song as it appears in it’s original studio form is great but this acoustic guitar/drum machine version from The Talking Head’s 1984 concert film-meets-performance art piece, Stop Making Sense, is truly amazing. David Byrne, walks out on to an empty stage. Empty. As in, they haven’t even set up the backdrop or any of the band’s gear yet.  He drops a boombox at his feet and presses play to cue the drum track. Within seconds, Byrne begins to play those classic chords and then he rips into the verse. As he continues, the stage crew begins to build the set around him for the rest of the show. There is even an 80’s style drum break that comes at the end. Couple that with his moves and you got a real winner.  Check it out below.

And if you haven’t seen the whole film, make sure you seek it out immediately. It may very well be the best “concert” film of EVER!





Paul McCartney | Teddy Boy

9 11 2010

Today is one of my best bud’s b-days.  Yes, I am talking about you, Teddy boy.  There is a good chance that you are not be familiar with the McCartney tune “Teddy Boy.”  The song was first released on Paul’s first solo album McCartney in 1970 after The Beatles broke up.  However, it was recorded a year earlier during The Beatles’ infamous “Get Back” sessions but never officially released.  A composite version that blends multiple takes did surface eventually on the band’s Anthology III album. I really like Paul’s solo version best but this one is a lot of fun too. Check it out. As simple as this video is, I love it. As a Beatles fan, it’s so cool to get the virtual tour of Apple Studios circa 1969.





Neil Young | Cowgirl in the Sand

13 10 2010

“Cowgirl in the Sand” is a great song from one of my favorite Neil Young albums, Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere (1969). It was Neil’s second solo album and his first with backing band Crazy Horse. This album has 3 of his most popular songs on it, all of which were written when he was sick with a 103° fever. Pretty remarkable stuff. “Cowgirl” was one of those tunes, along with “Cinnamon Girl” and “Down By The River”. As much as I like the studio version of this song, it tends to sound a little like another one of his great ones, “Southern Man”, at certain parts. But, this live acoustic version really makes it feel like it’s own song, and a fantastic one at that. It’s quintessential Neil Young. Although difficult to tell for sure, I believe this performance is from his solo acoustic show at Massey Hall in 1971. That concert captures Neil at his finest. Check out “Cowgirl in the Sand” and I will be sure to post more songs from that performance in the future.

References:

More info on Neil Young

More info on Crazy Horse

More info on Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere

Studio (electric) version of “Cowgirl in the Sand”








%d bloggers like this: