Randy Watson & Sexual Chocolate

21 09 2010

This clip from the 1988 Eddie Murphy comedy Coming To America cracks me up every single time. The whole movie is hilarious but this is by far the best moment. It seems that the all the really good scenes  in this movie have Eddie and co-star Arsenio Hall playing multiple characters. This was actually the first of many movies where Murphy would take on multiple parts. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a must.  His soul-singer extraordinaire Randy Watson is amazing. Caution: You may find yourself watching this over and over again.

Reverend Brown’s introduction is the funniest part. So without further ado, here he is… Jackson Heights own… Randy Watson! PS– The song is Whitney Houston’s “The Greatest Love Of All”. A little side note about this song: it was actually performed by George Benson first but made famous by Houston. Enjoy the whole clip…

References:

More info on Coming to America

Coming To America on IMDB

More info on Eddie Murphy

More info on Arsenio Hall

More info on John Landis

More info on Whitney Houston

More info on “The Greatest Love Of All”

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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.

References:

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”





Cinespia | Easy Rider

8 07 2010

Last weekend we went to see Easy Rider at Cinespia. This is one of the coolest things we have done since coming to LA. Every weekend in the summer they project films, usually old cult classics, at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. As creepy as that might sound, it is actually pretty amazing. You come in while the sun is still up and setup. People bring full picnics complete with food and wine… or beer, etc.  It’s pretty much an organized free for all. As you might imagine there was a lot of smoke in the air for this particular showing and, if I had to guess, some occasional psychedelics depending on which blanket you passed by. Needless to say, the crowd at Easy Rider included quite a few hippies amongst the usual enclave of LA hipsters and some regular folks.

If you haven’t seen this movie, it really is a classic. Beyond the counter-culture subtext, it’s a story of the road. Thinking about it now, there isn’t much dialogue. Although, the bit that is present is quite good. This story is mostly told through images with the help of sound, GREAT sound. On the whole, it feels a tad dated but that is part of the appeal and, of course, the cast is really great. It includes Dennis Hopper, Peter Fonda, Jack Nicholson and an odd appearance by, none-other-than, Phil Spector. Fonda is particularly great in this one. I kept telling Lady GG how great he was all throughout, I really couldn’t help myself. Nicholson is, well, Jack: great as ever. The end of the movie is a little… should I say, rough. I won’t ruin it but, you should definitely be cognizant as a viewer. You certainly won’t see it coming, nor will you forget it.

Anyway, at the time of it’s release Dennis Hopper was applauded not just for his acting, writing and directing in this feature but the soundtrack as well. Back in 1969 it was considered groundbreaking, which featured music from The Band, Jimi Hendrix, Steppenwolf and Bob Dylan. Dylan actually was reluctant to contribute so he had Roger McGuinn of The Byrds record his songs. In fact, for “Ballad of Easy Rider”, he only wrote the first verse and said, “give this to McGuinn, he’ll know what to do with it”.

The soundtrack was released along side the film in ’69 and rose to #6 on the album charts. There was a deluxe version released in 2004 that included an additional disc of music that appeared in the film but didn’t make the list on the first printing. I guess that’s one of the biggest shortcomings for vinyl, it would have taken 4 discs to accommodate the complete track listing… which you can find HERE.

When I think of Easy Rider, these next few tunes always come to mind… they’re still classics today. It really shows you, that Dennis Hopper was one clever dude, perhaps even genius. It’s too bad he’s gone but at least his work will always live on forever.

*I just discovered that the embedding has been dsabled on a few of these videos. Typically, I would find other versions but in this case I recommend you follow the links back to YouTube. Just click the play button, then use the link in the window to view it on YouTube… Sorry, but it’s worth it.

References:

More info on Easy Rider

More info on Cinespia

More info on Dennis Hopper

More info on Peter Fonda

More info on Jack Nicholson

More info on Phil Spector

More info on “Ballad of Easy Rider”

More info on “The Pusher”

More info on “The Weight”

More info on “If 6 Was 9”

More info on Roger McGuinn

More info on The Byrds

More info on Jimi Hendrix

More info on Steppenwolf





Voodoo Child | The Hendrix Hoax

26 04 2010

Back in the mid to late 90’s a cunning but disturbed musician perpetrated a wild hoax that  involved music legend Jimi Hendrix. This man’s name was Billy Yeager, a struggling artist from Hollywood, FL who, despite a bit of talent and a ton of effort, could never make it in the music industry.  Yeager was a multi-instrumentalist who was primarily a guitarist. He constantly wrote music and gigged around town. He even had numerous interactions and minor friendships with some big time players like Bruce Hornsby, Jaco Pastorius, Tommy Bolin and Pat Metheny but even that wasn’t enough for him to finally get that big break. After receiving countless rejection letters from labels his frustration got the best of him and he came up with this elaborate fraud that has now made him famous… well, somewhat. Yeager created this story that Jimi Hendrix had a long lost son named Jimmy Story. Story was supposedly the result of one of Hendrix’s drug induced romps with a South Florida girl named Sunshine Story while touring in Miami. Yeager took on this persona of Jimmy Story by spending almost a year falsifying documents and creating fake music and photos to help corroborate the news he was going to break to the world. With that, the Hendrix hoax was in motion. It’s an amazing tale of a desperate man doing desperate things. Take a look at the video below to see how he “became” Jimmy Story.

I love how he says it was the Dustin Hoffman movie Tootsie that really inspired him… simply amazing. I just want to know who actually believed this guy. C’mon! Are they serious?

As if that is not enough, what is really wild about this is actually the Billy Yeager story behind it. What is only touched upon here is that Yeager had been documenting his life on film for 20+ years. Whether he knew it or not, he was collecting footage that would eventually become a mild hit in the independent film world called Jimmy’s Story. The film is about Yeager striving for success and falling short only to devise and execute a silly scam that fooled the world. I have yet to see the film but in the bits and pieces I have sampled, it looks like a sad tale of man desperately grasping for fame.


Billy Yeager is a shameless self-promoter so you can get a good glimpse of who this whacko really is by visiting his site. It’s like an online scrap book of all the odd things he’s ever done in music, cinema and life. Not only does it explain how he accomplished the hoax, it also depicts how weird and unusual the man behind it really is and what he is capable of with full artistic license. Yikes!

If you are curious and have some time, go ahead and poke around at www.billyyeager.com. I recommend you at least visit the “Music” and “Film” sections as they are very enlightening.  Oh, and there is this little piece on Yeager’s principles that is an absolute must: CLICK HERE TO READ “HUMILITY”.





AIR

8 04 2010

AIR is the French duo consisting of Nicolas Godin and Jean-Benoît Dunckel. They play downtempo electro pop that is really laid-back and despite being mostly electronic it’s very organic sounding with real appeal to the analog snob. One thing that I particularly like about them is that they have both instrumental and vocals tunes, with the instrumentals usually being the standouts… well, in my mind. However, there are numerous exceptions to that. Some of the vocal stuff is really good like “The Vagabond” which features Beck on lead vocals. The duo is a very interesting format with a unique dynamic and these guys are no exception. Nicolas plays guitars, including bass and provides vocals too. While Jean-Benoît plays all the keyboard instruments and contributes vocals. Another thing I really like about these guys is that they are quite fond of music from the 70’s and are also very particular about using only vintage gear. Because they are just a duo, essentially everything they do is  an overdubbed studio project. It’s a lot like Walter Becker and Donald Fagan with Steely Dan. It’s that same principal but with a new electric groove and modern attitude. Their first release was a very cool little EP called Premiers Symptoms in 1997. Then the following year they released a full length album called Moon Safari that was phenomenal. They have made six other albums since then, all with a few excellent songs among them but the first two releases remain to be their best work. In addition to their own albums, they have done music for films. Director Sofia Coppola must really like them because not only did she ask them to do all the music for The Virgin Suicides, she used a song from one of their albums in Lost In Translation.

I really like this simple video for the opening track of Moon Safari, called “La Femme D’Argent”. This is probably the best song on this album and perhaps one of the best from their entire catalog.The album version is like 7 minutes long but this version is slightly abbreviated.

Below is an official video produced for a live performance. The song is “Talisman” also off Moon Safari.   Despite being just a duo, they bring around a small band for live gigs. The performances are extremely well replicated versions of the album material with some extra (but not overdone) improvisation and perhaps some fresh dynamics.

This next song is the tune used in Lost In Translation. It’s originally from their 2004 release Talkie Walkie. The song is called “Alone In Kyoto”. This is a great live video that is also of very high quality. It’s cool to see how they recreate songs like this live.

More info on AIR

AIR’s Official Site

All their music on Amazon

More on Steely Dan

A few more AIR songs to check out:

The Vagabond (featuring Beck)

Alpha Beta Gaga

Playground Love

Kelly Watch the Stars

Radian

J’ai Dormi Sous L’eau

Le Soleil Est Près De Moi








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