50 Years On – Jimi and Yusuf

It was 50 years ago Friday that Jimi Hendrix died in London, a bit shy of his 28th birthday.  Jimi’s rapid rise from obscurity to stardom spanned little more than a year.  He had moved to New York in 1966 where Chas Chandler, bass player for The Animals looking for new artists to produce, saw Hendrix playing in a club with his band Jimmy James and the Blue Flames.  Chandler brought Hendrix to London in September of that year. Chas was especially taken with Hendrix’s cover of “Hey Joe”, and in December 1966 the song was released as the first single by The Jimi Hendrix Experience, reaching #6 on the UK charts.  While Jimi’s fame in Europe was exploding in early 1967, his reputation had not reached the States, that is until he played the Monterey Pop Festival in June of 1967.  Here is a clip of The Jimi Hendrix Experience playing “Hey Joe” at Monterey.

The Experience’s set at Monterey is one of the most mesmerizing rock and roll performances ever given. I highly recommend tracking down the documentary by D. A. Pennebaker and Chris Hedges that includes the entire set. Here’s the trailer to whet your musical appetite.

A couple of months after Jimi’s death, Yusuf Islam, then known as Cat Stevens, released his breakthrough album Tea for the Tillerman. This past Friday Yusuf released Tea for the Tillerman 2, on which he gives some of the original tracks fresh treatments for their 50th anniversaries. Thanks for the tip, Helga!

One of the most interesting updates is “On the Road to Find Out”. It is not one of his better known songs, so the arrangement and video allow you to approach it as a brand new piece of music. Check out the Tillerman 2 version and a live performance of the original from 1971.

Across the Pond – Little Brother Eli and The Dø

Three years ago I happened across the newly formed British band Little Brother Eli (2013 post) while checking out the music blog Read and Hear.   The band released an EP that year and has now released a full-length effort “Cold Tales”.  The new album features solid rock and roll, as well as some eclectic tracks with deep, bluesy feels.  Check out “This Girl” in the rock and roll vein, and the title track to hear the band’s more eclectic side.

Somewhere over the Atlantic I spent a couple of hours sampling the musical offerings of AirFrance’s in-flight entertainment system. Found some crazy things on there (did you know that Hugh Laurie – the “House” guy – sings old blues tunes?)  Also came across an engaging song by the French duo “The Dø”. “At Last” is from their first album “A Mouthful” released in 2008. Their most recent release “Shake Shook Shaken” has swapped the guitar for synthesizers and a decidedly more electric sound, as you’ll see on “Anita No!”

Red Hot Chili Peppers Are Back, And An Unreleased Track Surfaces

In mid-June the Red Hot Chili Peppers will release “The Getaway”, their first new album in almost five years.  Breaking a 25-year, 6-album string with uber-producer Rick Rubin, “The Getaway” is produced by uber-producer Danger Mouse.  “Dark Necessities” is the album’s first single, and it features Flea playing piano as well as bass (remember that Flea’s first instrument was the trumpet).

Dave Navarro played guitar for the band for five years in the mid-90’s, a tenure that by all reports featured a clash of musical sensibilities between Dave and the other band members.  Recently an unreleased track from that era surfaced, “Circle of the Noose”, which reveals Dave’s straight rock influence and little of the funk that had been the band’s hallmark. Give a listen to this piece of newly recovered history, and also to the Number 1 single “My Friends” from the only album Navarro recorded with the band, “One Hot Minute”.  Dave’s guitar work on “My Friends” is really special.

A Shredder Lost Before His Time – RIP Prince

We’ve recently had to face the shock of Rock and Roll royalty of the 60’s and 70’s, now in their 60’s and 70’s, leaving us in increasing numbers. David Bowie, Maurice White, Glen Frey, Keith Emerson and Paul Kantner – to name a few – have all received their homages and retrospectives in the first few months of this year.  Prince was of a slightly more recent vintage, though, and losing him at age 57 was an especially rude shock.

I can’t add anything to what’s been written in the past few days about his amazing talent and career, but I can share a few favorite videos recalling that when it came to playing guitar, “Baby there ain’t nobody better”.

First, his guitar solo on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame tribute to George Harrison in 2004. The solo starts at about 3:30 and is worth the wait.

This next video tends to get pulled off YouTube quickly, so enjoy it while you can. It’s a performance Prince gave at a press conference in the run-up to his 2007 Superbowl halftime show. May be the purest rock guitar playing I’d ever seen from him, and I’d never seen anyone else play with his arm around a girl (5:30)!  Darn he made it look easy.

Finally, from an MTV Unplugged set, his acoustic playing was a rarely seen treat.

Covers of Classic Bands – The Turtles and Spirit Get Revived

Back in October an all-star lineup including Beck, Jakob Dylan, Fiona Apple, Cat Power and others staged “Echo In The Canyon” in Los Angeles, paying tribute to bands and songs from the early days of Southern California rock and roll.  The concert was timed as a 50th Anniversary celebration of the release of The Byrds’ debut album, “Mr. Tambourine Man”.  

A studio album is due out sometime in 2016, and the first track available is “You Showed Me” performed by Jakob Dylan and Cat Power.  The original was The Turtles’ last big U.S. hit in 1969 and was written by Roger McGuinn and Gene Clark of The Byrds.  Listen to the cover then enjoy a studio performance of the original – complete with vintage 60’s hairdos.

Hollywood Vampires is a super-group of classic rockers built around Alice Cooper and Joe Perry, with Johnny Depp thrown in for good measure.  The band’s name harks back to a drinking club formed by Cooper in the 70’s, with members that included a fair bit of rock and roll royalty.

“I Got A Line On You” covers the incredible band Spirit. Headed by guitarist/vocalist Randy California, Spirit also included Randy’s stepfather, Ed Cassidy. Cassidy was a well known jazz drummer, who just before joining his stepson played in Rising Sons with Taj Mahal and a 17-year-old Ry Cooder. Check out the Hollywood Vampires’ take and the original, and if you want to hear a bit more by Spirit, refer to this earlier post.