The Band | The Last Waltz

7 09 2010

The Last Waltz is probably the first of the hand full of spectacular concert films, many even regard it as the “greatest of all time”. Directed by Martin Scorsese back in 1976, it’s an epic film that commemorates the final days of The Band’s touring career by capturing their last live performance, which included a tremendous lineup of distinguished guests from the music community. Many of whom were closely connected The Bands history, like Ronnie Hawkins and Bob Dylan. As well as many others who are just old friends or occasional collaborators, like Van Morrison and Neil Young. Then there are even a few out that make hardly any sense at all, namely: Neil Diamond. That one I always found odd but I recently read it was because Robbie Robertson wanted to make sure the “Tin Pan Alley”  songwriters were represented and hence invited Neil. Apparently, it was weird to the rest of the band to as they have since admitted to objecting to Robbie’s decision… but went along with it anyway. Of all the songs that evening and of all the guest performances, there are a few that will forever stick out.  My all-time favorite (although it’s a tough call) would have to be Van’s appearance, doing the classic “Caravan”. This tune is awesome. Not surprising when you consider the talent. Van, as usual, knocks it out of the park, showcasing that Van The Man charisma and charm. If you’ve never seen it, it’s a must…

I’m also a big fan of Neil Young’s “Helpless”. Neil is fantastic, as crazy as ever. One of the coolest parts is that Joni Mitchell is lying in the shadows off stage singing backup. I always thought that was so weird but, I later read they wanted her eventual appearance to have more impact so they asked her to lay back early in the set. This song is so great, but accompanied by this band it’s larger than life.

There are too many good performances to start listing them all. One that thing that’s hard to comprehend based on the film is the magnitude of the evening. It was not just a concert. It was a major happening. Just consider the major players: Bill Graham, Martin Scorsese, Bob Dylan, The Band, and so on. From the word go, this thing was going to be an evening that would never be forgotten. It lasted all night long, literally. They served dinner early at 5pm, then partook in some ballroom dancing (presumably where the Waltz comes from in the title), the dancing was followed by a live poetry reading and then this very loooooong cocnert began. By the time they got to the encore, a cool version of Marvin Gaye’s “Baby Don’t Do It”, it was almost 3am. Like I said, the entire evening is full of great performances, but some of the best are from the original lineup of players that were being honored that night, The Band. Here are a few great examples:

This is the Rick Danko sung beauty “Stagefright”. I love this tune and Danko, the bass player, is fantastic on all accounts. One of the things I love most about this band is that everybody sings and they all have very distinct voices that alone sound great but in concert with each other become something much greater than the sum of it’s parts.

Of course the classics are always enjoyable. This version of “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” is accompanied by a huge horn section arranged by none-other-than Allen Toussaint. Drummer, Levon Helm, sings with every once of breath the man has in him. As usual, he’s superb.

There is another “classic” that was shot on an MGM soundstage after the event. Scorsese decided to include this version instead of the live one from that night. I see why. It’s an amazing performance. The Staple Singers are great but more remarkable is the production. The sound quality and the video are noticeably better than the rest of the film’s footage. In the beginning of this clip, keyboardist/multi-instrumentalist Richard Manuel just finishes telling the story of how The Band got it’s name. If you’ve never heard the story, you got to check it out. It’s simple but Manuel tells it so well.

As I said before, this was a long evening presented in multiple parts. On of which was focused on the blues. I felt I had to include this footage of Eric Clapton guesting on “Further On Up The Road”. The song is nothing too spectacular but there is this moment that I love. At  about 30 seconds, Clapton takes the solo but about half a chorus in his guitar strap comes off and he yells “hold on”. Like true professionals, Robbie Robertson jumps right in and picks up where Eric left off. Robbie even tries to mimic Clapton’s style a bit. It’s pretty cool and I, frankly, I would regret not mentioning it.

I could go on and on about this memorable night, but I need to end somewhere. I figure this is a fitting end as it kind of sums up what The Band was retreating with their transition from live act to becoming simply a “studio band”. This is Dylan’s performance of “Baby Let Me Follow You Down”. For those that don’t know, The Band used to be Dylan’s backing band (a great one at that). Given the significance of the evening and their relationship, they invited him to do a 4 song reunion set. But, this is where it gets interesting. Bob was reluctant to participate because he had his own film coming out and didn’t want to detract from that release. He agreed nevertheless but negotiations took place all the way up to his appearance on stage… obviously a very sensitive topic of for old Bobby boy. Reportedly, Robertson assured Dylan that the concert film’s release would be delayed until after his film, and with that Dylan relented and agreed to be filmed. As the promoter, Bill Graham was also involved in the talks. As the story goes, “Somebody working with Bob said ‘We’re not filming this.’ And Bill just said, ‘Get out of here, or I’ll kill you’,” Robertson is quoted in the liner notes of the 2002 album re-issue as saying, “It all worked out.” According to Scorsese, Dylan made the stipulation that only two of his songs could be filmed: “Baby Let Me Follow You Down” and “Forever Young”. He added, “When Dylan got on stage, the sound was so loud, I didn’t know what to shoot,” Scorsese later recalled. “Bill Graham was next to me shouting, ‘Shoot him! Shoot him! He comes from the same streets as you. Don’t let him push you around.’ Fortunately, we got our cues right and we shot the two songs that were used in the film.” …and yet it all seems so friendly and simple when you watch the movie.


More info on The Band

More info on The Last Waltz

More info on Martin Scorsese

More info on Bill Graham

More info on Bob Dylan

More info on Eric Clapton

More info on Neil Young

More info on Van Morrison

More info on Joni Mitchell

More info on The Staple Singers

More info on “The Weight”

More info on “Caravan”

More info on “Helpless”

More info on “Further On Up The Road”

More info on “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”


1 04 2010

As most of you know, I use YouTube almost exclusively to host the content on The Green Gorilla. I find it to be a great way to, both, host my own exclusive content as well as borrow some great stuff that’s already floating around the web. I’m sure you have heard something about the recent controversy between YouTube and Viacom regarding copyright issues and who’s responsibility it is to police such things. As someone who is walking that fine line regularly, I am particularly concerned about what happens in this case. Either way I have a back up plan and am prepared to host all my content privately but I like the interactivity that is available on platforms like YouTube and I would hate to see it reduced to something of far less value for us, the consumers. That being said, I stumbled across a interesting, funny and obviously biased article about this issue that I thought I would share:

March 18th, 2010 | YouTube – Broadcast Yourself

Since I’m on the topic of YouTube, I have a few other bits of info to share…

First, if you are a Green Gorilla fan you need to check out my YouTube channel as I’m now using it as a source archive for all my video content. Some of the videos I created myself because the music just wasn’t available to stream online yet, while others are “favorited” from other users channels. Regardless, as avid GG appreciators you can always visit my channel to listen to or watch any of this content. The link will always be available in my side bar or click here: The Green Gorilla YouTube Channel

Second, it appears that YouTube has changed their look around and is adding some new features. One of which allows you to download MP4 videos directly to your computer. I recommend you give it a try to see how it works. I just tried it and it’s great! Look for the download icon at the lower right hand corner of the video and select the format you want (not available in embedded content, you need to go to the actual page).

Third (and finally), as an April Fools joke YouTube has created a new viewing option called TEXTp. It creates a text version of the video that is streaming. They have a whole fake back story that says it’s a initiative to save the company money on bandwidth costs but it’s just prank for the April 1st occasion. The new format is actually pretty cool looking but does not work when embedding so I can’t show you here. You should give it a try when you get a chance. Here is the article that has the joke introduction as well as how to access the alt format: March 31st, 2010 | TEXTp

Who What In The Where Now?!?!

2 02 2010

As a follow up to the Grammy Awards, I wanted to try to clarify some of the confusion about 3 of the top 4 awards: Album of the Year, Record of the Year, Song of the Year. It seems like every year this comes up and even though I curiously look into it each time, I just can never remember the difference because it’s so damn convoluted. That being said, try to stay with me through the explanation…

Album of the Year:

This one is the most straight forward as it is given for the (duh) best album of the year. Which means, it is awarded for the full content of the album. Although it was originally presented to the artist alone, the award is now presented to the artist, the producer, the engineer and/or mixer and the mastering engineer.

Record of the Year:

This is, to me, the most confusing. It is awarded for a single or for one track from an album. Like Album of the Year, this award goes to the performing artist, the producer, recording engineer, and/or mixer for that song. In this sense, “record” means a recording of one song (or Single), not the composition or an album of songs. It is not a rule, but usually the nominees and winners of this song represent the most successful ($$) songs of the year. Now you see why I was so discouraged to find out Kings of Leon’s “Use Somebody” won this year.

Song of the Year:

Last but not least, the Song of the Year is really a songwriter or composer credit and not actually presented to the artist or performer. Although there was a glorious period where the songwriter was usually the artist too, it seems we are returning back to the “good ol’ days” where songwriters write and performers perform. Which is funny because as much as that is frowned upon and believed to be disingenuous it’s actually how it had been done for decades going back to the Tin Pan Alley days and beyond. I guess I see it from both sides. On one hand, I think a song is usually best captured by the original songwriter as they know the true intentions and feeling from which it was created. However, there are tons of songwriters out there that should just not be performing artists. They write great songs but just don’t have the pitch or the chops to pull it off. Also, this way there are more jobs in the industry to go around. Something all musicians can certainly relate to and perhaps even the masses given the jobless situation these days.

I hope that helps to sort it all out for you. I think with a few simple name tweaks they could make it much simpler for all of us. For more comprehensive info on these awards visit the links below.

Album of the Year

Record of the Year

Song of the Year

Underwhelmed As Usual

1 02 2010

I caught the tail end of the Grammys, just in time to see John Legend and Carlos Santana trading bad puns. They were introducing the Album of the Year.  It was the usual suspects Beyonce, Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift and then one oddball. I was really surprised to see people  actually care about Dave Matthews again. I’m no fan of the others but I understand how these things work so I have to ask, “How does this guy get nominated in 2010?” And then I remembered, it’s the Grammy Awards and it’s pretty much all a bunch of BS anyway. For instance, I checked some of the other awards from earlier in the night and found that MGMT was up for multiple categories. One of which was Best New Artist. That seems weird considering they haven’t released any new music in almost 3 years. Don’t get me wrong, I really liked that first album but it’s hardly new. Further proof it’s all meaningless: Bon Jovi was nominated with “We’re Not Born To Follow”, alongside Hall & Oates with “Sara Smile”. And, to really clinch it Kings of Leon actually won Record of the Year with “Use Somebody”. If you’ve ever heard this song you know how terribly wrong that is.  Although I have no idea who this is, it seems to be a big deal that Drake had won 2 Grammys before even releasing his debut album… something about that is slightly twisted. Jamie Foxx also won, which means he’s one trophy closer to EGOT status. I imagine he is one of these guys chasing that dream. On the more positive side, I was glad to see there were some quality nominations. Booker T. Jones, Marcus Miller, Willie Nelson, Prince… to name but a few. See all the winners (and losers) here.

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