The Band | Ophelia

17 06 2010

Every time I hear the guitar solo in “Ophelia”, which is pretty often as I’m a huge  fan, I can’t help but comment on how good it is. It’s from their 7th album, the 1975 release Northern Lights – Southern Cross, which is far from their best work but this tune is a clear standout.  The Band’s lead guitarist and primary songwriter, Robbie Robertson, barely makes the “100 Greatest Guitarist” list but this solo may be one of the best studio rock solos ever recorded. It’s just so tastefully done, truly the epitome of short & sweet.  The melodic ideas are great and he mixes in some fantastic chord comping to further develop them. The whole piece utilizes just enough tension and release to make it compelling throughout. There is really never a dull moment. Below is the studio version of this track. The solo appears at 1 min 37 sec but don’t miss the intro he does right before that as it really sets up the whole thing, giving it great momentum.

Now this is not “Ophelia” related but I thought I had to include it if I was going to talk about The Band. It’s a really cool little video I found of them playing “King Harvest” in Robbie’s Woodstock, NY studio circa 1970. At the end there is an additional piece tacked on too. It’s a live video of them playing “Long Black Veil” from the documentary about the train tour they did with The Grateful Dead and Janis Joplin, called Festival Express. The latter portion is good, of course, but the real gem is “King Harvest”. A great song and a very cool presentation. Check it out…


The Band’s Official Site

More info on The Band

More info on Robbie Robertson

More info on Northern Lights – Southern Cross

More info on “King Harvest (Has Surely Come)”

More info on “Long Black Veil”

More info on Festival Express

The Beatles | The Word

24 05 2010

“The Word” is one of my favorite Beatles songs, which makes sense given it’s from my favorite album Rubber Soul. This 1965 release is a real turning point for The Beatles. Although there was always growth from one album to the next, I always thought Rubber Soul took the biggest leap. It represents not just a shift in sound but a new take on lyricism, whereby Lennon and McCartney began approaching their songs in a much more abstract fashion. Many of the lyrics from this period are more open to interpretation than prior attempts. “The Word” may seem like a rather straight ahead tune about love but, in actuality, the message is far more subtle than any love song they had written in their early years. Messaging aside, “The Word” is a simple yet powerful song that features an up tempo, syncopated rhythm accentuated by sharp guitar chords on the 2 and the “and” between the 3rd & 4th beat. The effect is a pushing and dragging feel that creates a great groove. That, along with a sweet 3 part harmony and John’s screaming lead on the chorus and it stands out as one of the bands catchiest “in your face” tunes. Rubber Soul is filled with great material that’s similarly listener friendly while pushing the boundaries of form and expression… “Wait” is a fine example of this quality. As a collection of material, they constantly walk the line between experimental and simple pop sensibility and with great success. Despite The Beatles enormous catalog of great music, Rubber Soul and “The Word” will forever stand as some of their best work.

I recently found this funny video of a post-Beatles Paul. It’s from an interview where he plays a seemingly harmless word association game. By the answers he gives to such mundane triggers as “The Beatles” and “Linda”, one would guess the word is not LOVE but actually it’s more physical cousin, SEX. I especially like how unapologetic he is about the whole thing and how can you blame him. I mean, he’s Paul McCartney. I don’t think the guy has ever had trouble in that department, so…

Mercy, Mercy, Mercy

19 04 2010

If you’ve never heard this song before it’s a damn shame… perhaps even a tragedy. This is an absolute classic from Cannonball Adderley’s 1966 album Mercy, Mercy Mercy! Live at the Club. The title track was composed by his sideman, keyboardist Joe Zawinul, who would later go on to form the jazz fusion supergroup Weather Report with Wayne Shorter. Not only is this a great song and album but there is an interesting story behind it’s release. With one listen you can here the “live” feeling of the recording with a heartfelt introduction from the leader himself and numerous whoops and hollers as the band really digs in. The liner notes on the gatefold state that it was recorded LIVE at a Chicago venue called “The Club”.  What has been revealed since, is that this elaborate story is all fiction. The album was actually recorded in the Capitol Records studio in LA. You see, The Club was originally called Club DeLisa when it opened in 1938. It then closed in the late 50’s and was reopened the same year this album was released with it’s new name. Cannonball was a nice enough guy and offered to help out the club’s owner by giving them some free publicity, hence the fake story. Despite being sold under false pretenses, this audience is 100% real. Cannonball invited a bunch of friends and family into the studio to make it sound and feel live. In order to ensure that everyone was having a good time and it was authentic to the club scene, there was even an open bar. I’m sure it was smokey as hell in there too. Although not common, this type of thing is really not that odd considering that during this period of post-bop meets soul jazz all tracks were recorded as a single take in order to preserve the organic interplay between the musicians. This time, they just created a party around them. It’s actually quite brilliant. Musicians feed off that live energy so why not bring it into the studio. I mean, you can’t bottle the stuff so you’ve got to do something, right?

If you like that tune, you will most certainly enjoy this one as well. It’s called “Walk Tall” and is from another of Cannonball’s “live” albums: Country Preacher: Live at Operation Breadbasket… CLICK HERE TO PLAY THE SONG

Reference Links:

More info on this song: “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy”

More info on this album: Mercy, Mercy Mercy! Live at The Club

Click here to read the original liner notes on this LP

More info on Julian “Cannonball” Adderley

Buy this album on Amazon

The Beatles | I’ve Just Seen A Face

6 04 2010

I just love this Beatles tune “I’ve Just Seen A Face”. It’s originally from the 1965 album Help! but was also added to the Capitol Records version of Rubber Soul for it’s American release.  Although credited as Lennon/McCartney it is actually a McCartney song. Paul is especially fond of it as evidenced by the fact that not only does he still play it live today, it was also just one of 5 Beatles songs he played during his Wings Over America Tour in 1975. Notable because at this point he was really shying away from all things Beatles. It’s one of the few songs in the entire Beatles catalog that is a country tune. Given the tempo, it could almost even be categorized as Bluegrass except that there is no banjo or fiddle. The instrumentation is a bit unique. There is no bass, just guitars with a snare drum and tambourine. If you are not too familiar, you have to check it out. It’s one of Lady GG’s favorite songs from the Fab Four and I can’t blame her… just have a listen.

Apparently a lot of musicians like this song as there are numerous covers. I found just a few that I thought I would share. I really like David Lee Roth’s and Eddie Vedder’s versions. Lady GG is obsessed with the Jim Sturgess version:

David Lee Roth’s tasteful cover… not the usual Diamond Dave, it’s actually VERY good

Eddie Vedder doing it a cappella at a Pearl Jam concert

Paul & Wings on the Wings Over America Tour circa 1975

Jim Sturgess’s version from the film Across The Universe

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