Thursday, June 29, 2023


 Theoretically, the Blind Faith super group should have worked, as they brought a demonstrated array of talents to the fold around instrumental chops, vocal strength and in songwriting especially. Though commonly felt by many to be a failure at the time of release, the lone Blind Faith studio release yielded an impressive number of all time gems--” Can't Find My Way Home”, “Presence of the Lord”, 'Well All Right”. Even lesser material such as the structurally awkward “Had to Cry Today” and Ginger Baker's everybody-gets-a-solo excursion “Dow What You Like” provide sufficient joy. The Baker tune especially is worthwhile for Clapton's guitar solo, which to my ears has him revealing, maybe, a bit of influence from Mike Bloomfield's solo on “East West”. The reason for abandoning this project would seem to be the expected issues of drugs, egos, and most likely that their hearts just weren't into it. A shame, they could have been one of the best.


John Lennon had a grudge against bandmate Paul McCartney , so he wrote a song about it , laying everything out except Sir McCartney's name. As an issue of disrespect, it's in a class by itself, but the howler of this whole enterprise centers around the most quoted lyric, “…the only thing you did was yesterday..." The longer view of the Beatles reveals PM's contributions to the creative surges was, in fact, profound, at which point it makes me consider the idea that McCartney would likely have been a pop star of some sort without Lennon. Lennon, always a raw dog who improved vastly as a tune smith , singer, and lyricist due to his association with McCartney, would likely have had a rougher go of it.

Sunday, June 18, 2023



Old guitar riffs do not die as long as I live, as they are the soundtrack of many routines and daily walks up the stairs to work, treks to the stores, adventures in scattered beach area parking lots, the journey to the forbidden and familiar knowledge behind a girlfriend’s front door. Or the entrance to a doctor’s office, for that matter. I had often joked that each of us requires a “signature riff”, a power chord mini-anthem ourselves that we have on constant mental standby as we go about our routine tasks and past times; I often imagine the open assault of “Mississippi Queen” commanding a room’s attention once I enter if only to perform the mundane obligation of paying a gas bill. The theme song changes, to be sure–there is no channel changing that’s faster or more assured than what goes on in the car radio dial of the mind–and there are those days when what I carry in my imagined soundtrack in my imagined movie are the genteel whispers of Paul Simon’s three-hankie whining, the grating, rusted scraping of early Velvet Underground, the guitar amnesia of Larry Coryell. It varies according to mood and what lies on the to-do list that day. (Not that I have a to-do list.)



Everyone hates the fact that summer is brief and fall comes upon us much too quickly. In 1966,The Happenings had something to say about that common complaint.' See You in September” is actually rather cheery, with a narrator who says he will pass this way again and enjoy another summer vacation with whomever he's talking to. The best bud, a girlfriend, or boyfriend, straight, gay or cordial, the specifics don't matter in this slight recitation because the background the lyrics set up is the wishful thinking optimism of an earlier time when some pop music was innocent intentionally and meant to shield a listener for three minutes or less against the cultural convulsions that were about to dominate the 60s.

Unlike the Happenings, who took the end of summer as a matter of life and fully expected to have the same kind of fun in the summer still ahead of them. Fully optimistic and even cheerful with the farewells to the friend they will see again. The Doors, on the other hand, were grim, gloomy, moody, sullen and maybe a hint sexy for the 14-17 year olds so eager to see through the veil and get some truth. The end of summer was…the end. A recurring theme with these gentlemen. The Doors also rued the end of summer and the drowsily droned baritone, fashioned by Jim Morrison, wrote a song that made it seem as if this were the end of the world. Many have opined that this was a tune about the loss of youth and innocence and the eventual entrance into adulthood. Perhaps it is on some level, but the level is shallow and I say hooey. The end of summer meant a return to school, or that many teens would have to get jobs or move back in with their parents. Morrison was really decorating a banal displeasure with growing up with a sound that made it seem romantically apocalyptic.

The intensely odd and self-concerned Arthur Lee of Love had seasonal matters on his mind as well in 1967. “Bummer in the Summer”, from their release Forever Changes, is a track both punkish and arty, nearly progressive in sound. It all works as Lee announces his discontinuous frustrations. A summer fling that didn't quite work out. An odd and dynamic merging of Dylanesque talk singing and revved up chords that resemble Them's “Gloria,” this suggests the rap and hip hop styles that came years after it. If not rap, then “Walk this Way” from Aerosmith at least. The middle section with the piano pounding out chords that suggest a jazz inclination is among the many unexpected wonders on this brilliant record.

Friday, June 16, 2023


I consider this a public service in posting this admittedly grainy YouTube feature of duets by two jazz masters who are beyond compare. It's a concert video of the late jazz guitar master Larry Coryell and the amazing Polish jazz-fusion violinist, originally released on VHS I believe that hasn't been released as a stand-alone disc. I pray someone will secure the rights and make it available. Coryell was a member of the original Super Guitar Trio with John McLaughlin and Paco de Lucia, and though his playing was frequently brilliant, he was often hobbled with flubs and miscues; it became obvious that LC's dependence on drugs and hooch lessened his skills, and he was replaced by the ever able Al diMeola. Coryell got clean and sober in 1981 and this effort, recorded in 1982, shows the difference. It's a remarkable performance, thanks in major portions to Urbaniak, whose skills as an improviser are second to none; his unhitched combining of styles ranging from Grapelli through Ponty and his mastery of idiom, technique and tonal nuance gives LC the colorful contrast. Urbaniak's improvisations are swift and melodic and, as with Coryell, seem without end in the configurations his long lines of notes form. Urbaniak as well, demonstrates he has a bass player's instincts and backs Coryell's ultra-virtuoso fantasias. Coryell at this time seems like a man with something to prove. Here the guitarist amply proves his point.


Released in 1969, the Rolling Stones' Let It Bleed is the centerpiece of my round up of  favorite albums. It's a grand crescendo of the styles, personas, and attitudes they had been developing in the years before this, easily displaying less a fusion of acoustic folk and blues traditions than an early Americanish “blend” of the plugged in and unplugged traditions. It's fair to say that every element of sound we hear sounds as if it's always been there, perfectly formed, waiting to be discovered. Jagger is in peak form --there seems little in the way of traditional and more contemporary styles at the time he couldn't make his own--and his lyrics were never better, subtler, wittier, more British eccentric oddball. In an interview, some time ago in Rolling Stone, Norman Mailer found fine writing in the lyrics of "Live With Me" when the interviewer played him this record, praising the baroque and telling detail, the scene shifting line to line, the quick outlines of an upper-class family's secret insanity fully exposed. He compared the song favorably with Evelyn Waugh's short stories. The remark that reveals another strand for Stones scholars to research, the bands' effortless merging of American blues with very British absurdity.  The one track that doesn't work is "You Can't Always Get What You Want", intended seemingly as a grand , showstopping statement with just bit of philosophy delivered in the chorus. Overwrought, drawn out, very slow, anticlimactic, Jagger's singing uncharacteristically falls flat here--he sounds winded --and the surreal nonsequitors he usually excels at suffers in a determination to be “poetic”. Aside from the awkward presentation of this Big Statement, the idea of what was supposed to be the album's grand slam  finale is based on a tired aphorism reminds us that even the sainted Rolling Stones can chase a bad idea as diligently as they can a good one.