Feelin’ Good

27 04 2010

This tune is simply a classic. Written by Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse for the 1964 musical The Roar of the Greasepaint—the Smell of the Crowd it has been covered and/or sampled by countless artist. The most notable version though has got to be Nina Simone’s from her 1965 album I Put Spell On You. Below is a student produced music video for that epic song.

There are so many others that I cannot include them all here but there is a list of just a few below. Each artist’s name is actually a link to their unique version. Have a listen and see how each puts their own personal touch on this timeless hit. There are quite a few cool versions here. My favorites are probably Coltrane, Traffic and Jean DuShon, with My Brightest Diamond and Joe Bonamassa coming in close second… but the others are excellent as well. Too close for me to make the call. Go ahead and judge for yourself:

John Coltrane

Gilbert Price

Traffic

Sammy Davis Jr

Bobby Darin

Freda Payne

Joe Sample & Randy Crawford

Jean DuShon

Joe Bonamassa

George Micheal

My Brightest Diamond

Muse

*For a complete list of artists and some more info about “Feelin’ Good” click HERE.





The Cream of Clapton

4 02 2010

If I see this T Mobile commercial with Eric Clapton one more time I think I will lose it. Besides the fact that the song is lame and the product makes zero sense (I mean, I love guitars but not a phone that slightly resembles a guitar), it just reminds me of the fact that Clapton has been on a slow decline for decades. Some will disagree given the 18 Grammys and three (3!) inductions into the Hall of Fame but I think I can prove it… Just look at this guy’s bio.

He had a normal rise into the business with his first big gig being with the Yardbirds in 1963. That’s the same band that “broke” both Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page (although Page had an impressive career as a session player before joining the group). The Yardbirds can even be considered the early Led Zeppelin as they slowly morphed into the line up of Page, Plant, Jones & Bonham before changing the name for legal reasons. That is actually an entire post in and of itself so, back to Clapton… It was in those early days with the Yardbirds that he got his ironic nickname “Slowhand”. The story says that whenever he broke a string on stage he would change it himself right there while the audience waited. As they grew impatient, they would start a slow clap or a “slow hand”. The name stuck given Clapton was anything but slow as he ripped through blues riffs each night on stage. Clapton then left the Yardbirds in protest once they began to move away from the Blues-based Rock he loved. That was 1965 and unfortunately for him, it was just before their first big hit, “For Your Love”

He then went on to join John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers, which is where he met bassist/vocalist Jack Bruce. John’s band eventually became known as a training ground for many young players. Some of his sidemen later went to form big time bands like Fleetwood Mac, Canned Heat and, of course, Cream. Clapton left the band after just a few months and only one album, taking Bruce with him to form (the) Cream. You can really hear his sound coming out on the track below…

In my opinion, Cream is the beginning of the high point of his career. This band is one of the first supergroups of the time. Many would argue that the band was primarily fueled by Jack Bruce as he took most of the singing parts and developed a large part of their material. As evidenced by this video, that is a pretty accurate assessment but what it also shows is Clapton’s really strong playing in the new “power trio” format, a style that requires some real presence in order to fill out the otherwise stripped down sound. Cream rose to insane popularity in just a year, selling millions of records and doing extensive tours in both the US and Europe. It really established Clapton as one of the greatest guitarists of the era and perhaps all time. With all those egos and some rampant drug use, the band broke up by late 1968.

In 1969, Clapton joined what would be another supergroup with a short lifespan, Blind Faith. The band was made up of Traffic‘s Steve Winwood, Family‘s Ric Grech and ex-Cream member, Ginger Baker. Winwood and Clapton started jamming in the latter’s basement and the rest is history. Clapton brought in Baker and then Grech joined shortly thereafter. The sound was very much a blend of the Cream and Traffic’s sound. Perhaps, a bit more Traffic with Winwood’s vocals and keyboards playing a large role. They made one self-titled album and then disbanded within the year. Baker tried to keep it rolling with the other 2 members but then Winwood and Grech left to re-form Traffic. Clapton briefly went on to be a member of the Plastic Ono Band and then Delaney & Bonnie and Friends which afforded him the ability to get out of the limelight for a few years.

Live footage of Clapton with Delaney & Bonnie.

In 1970, Clapton took Delaney & Bonnie’s rhythm section and formed Derek & The Dominos. A number of his hits came from this band, many of which stem from the love triangle between him, good friend George Harrison and George’s wife, Pattie Boyd. The most notable of these is “Layla” (the original, not to be confused with that wimpy acoustic version done later in his career). This period is incredibly rich for Clapton and proves to be some of his best “solo” work.

That was really the beginning of the end. Clapton had some real issues in the early 70’s. He had a serious heroin addiction and numerous troubles in his personal life as a result. As he got over such things, his life turned around. He eventually married Pattie Boyd and reignited his career. He produced a slew of hits throughout the 80’s but none ever rivaled the power and magnitude of those Cream and Derek tunes. Throughout that time he was still a little shaky battling alcoholism but he managed to keep it together for the most part. Later he did a bunch of live performances and benefit concerts but had not done much in the way of songwriting for a few years. Shortly thereafter, came the dreadful white suit years. That was a particularly shameful time where his look was terrible and the music was not much better. In the mid 90’s he had experienced some terrible personal tragedy with the loss of his 4 year old son, Conor, which was then followed by the Unplugged album. I think there are most certainly 2 camps on this one: the Likes and the Don’t Likes. I, personally, am not a fan. Although it’s charming work, it’s too light and reserved for a guy who had commanded so much at an earlier age. Up to present he has looked back to his roots a bit, remaking some old Blues classics but it’s nothing too compelling.

Now back to the point at hand… the commercial or should I say commercials. So there is the T Mobile one I can’t stand. Then there is a 1988 Beer commercial using “After Midnight” and finally a 1989 Honda commercial. All are pretty bad, though amusing for all the wrong reasons. The latter 2 are posted below but all 3 beg the question: Better to burn out or to fade away?

Here are a few links that tell the full Eric Clapton story. It is really so detailed that I cannot possibly cover it in the one (looooong) post)… also read his Autobiography for the real nitty gritty. Something to note, there is a REALLY good interview with Eric from the Cream Farewell Concert in 1968 that I can’t find anywhere. If anyone has it, please post it in a comment.

1967 Interview

George Harrison Interview

Japanese interview with both George & Eric: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

Solo from While My Guitar Gently Weeps and Interview about Concert for Bangladesh

***Interview on the Today Show

Wiki Bio

Official Site

The dreaded WHITE SUIT!

Slowhand.net

Lame smooth jazz version of Layla… with Marcus Miller.





Rain, Rain… Go Away

25 01 2010

It poured all morning in NYC. Total deluge. I went out to walk the pup and came back completely soaked regardless of how “prepared” I was. It made me think of some of my favorite rain tunes. Sorry, Doors fans there is NO “Riders on the Storm”. It’s just seems a little tired.

First, there’s Led Zeppelin’s “The Rain Song”. I really like the richness of the studio version. It includes all of Jimmy Page’s guitar parts and both John Paul Jones’ bass and Mello-Tron work. But if you want it LIVE (albeit a little stripped down)… here it is. It’s not the Song Remains the Same footage (here) as I thought it was a little too campy with all the extra medieval Robert Plant sequences. I just can’t take that stuff seriously.

Next, is Traffic’s “Rainmaker”. It seems like nobody knows this one but I like it… a lot. I used to work in an industry where rain would equal a day off.  This was my anthem as I used to play it  to summon the rain gods when I wanted to go home early.

Finally, this is blues great Freddie King’s version of “Ain’t No Sunshine”. It’s a Bill Withers tune and for the record: nobody does it like Bill. His is definitely the best one but I am reserving it for another post about the man. That said, I will add one nice anecdote: When Withers first came to the recording session for Ain’t No Sunshine, he didn’t even realize he was coming to work. He thought he was just the songwriter on the gig. You know… hang out, watch the artist, give notes. Then he gets there and they want him to sing and play guitar. What humility! The guy ends up producing a hit that has spanned decades and been covered a crazy amount of times. Just wait for the Bill Withers post, it’s got some great stuff in it.

*alright, alright… I caved: Riders on the Storm








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