October 1969: The Beatles’ Abbey Road Hits #1 on the UK Chart

41 Years ago this week, Abbey Road hit number 1 on the UK charts, and although released prior to the Let it Be album, it would be, technically, the Beatles last studio recordings released.  What is really amazing about the album is that, though the band wasn’t really functioning as a band at that point, they put many of their differences behind them, and in a number of ways, used to the album to make light of those differences. 

The album cover itself fueled speculation that there was truth to the “Paul is dead” rumor that gained some traction around the time the album was released.  Perhaps this is a topic for another post, but briefly, John Lennon’s white suit was said to symbolize a clergyman; Ringo Starr’s black suit, an undertaker; George Harrison’s blue jeans and denim shirt, a grave-digger; and the fact that Paul McCartney is walking out of step with the band and has no shoes all ‘proved’ the rumor to be true.  However you take the album cover, it is an iconic image in the world of pop and rock music.

In the UK, the album debuted at number 1 and spent 11 consecutive weeks there, and then was bumped for 1 week by The Rolling Stones’ Let it Bleed album before returning to number 1 for 6 more weeks.  In all it spent nearly 2 years in the UK top 75 and then reached number 30 when the album was released on CD in 1987.

The album is essentially divided into 2 sections–side A being a selection of singles, and side B being comprised of shorter incomplete compositions woven together into a longer musical suite.  Although most of the album was recorded in only about a month’s worth of time, it remains timeless in its appeal.

Various publications throughout the years have placed it on their ‘top’ lists in various slots, it is generally viewed as one of the top 20 albums of all time (I would put it in the top 10).  Like many albums or concerts I’ve recomended to folks over the years, this is one of those pieces of music that deserves your time, and deserves to be listened to in one sitting.  If you don’t own the album, get it–it’s one of those albums that is extremely approachable for those of you who might be less familiar with The Beatles–it is most definitely an album you’ll cherish.

Proving once again that we do more than just show you the best deals in the Phoenix real estate market; we show you how to get the most out of living in Arizona, and try to help you get the most out of what you are listening to.

Grateful Dead Live at Madison Square Garden on 1987-09-19 – A Review

Courtesy Steve Zipser and Setlist.com

My business partner told me this morning that Mickey Hart had been a good friend of Walter Cronkite, and that Cronkite had been something of a closet Head.  The way they met, or as well as I could piece it together, is pretty interesting.  Apparently, Stephen Stills was to do the music for a sailing documentary that Cronkite was going to be narrating.  The long and the short of it was that Stills ended-up flaking-out and Mickey along  with Jerry Garcia, Carlos Santana and some others put together a soundtrack for the documentary, and that’s how the two met and eventually became friends.

The articles that I read placed that meeting some time in ’87 or shortly thereafter, so I’m not completely clear on the date, but Mickey invited Cronkite to a show at MSG and Cronkite reluctantly accepted.  His comment to Mickey was that he was looking for reasons to leave during the show, but couldn’t find one.  He was hooked.

In any event, I thought it might be appropriate to try and track down the show, but with little success.  Oh, I have access to the show, I just don’t know which it is…  Not having any luck finding the date I was looking for, and for the purposes of just simply listening to the music rather than getting lost in research, I chose this show from Saturday night in a 5 night run – hey, I’m a sucker for Maggie’s Farm (don’t worry, I’ve included a link for the show below, but read first).  I’ve long had the  show from the night before which features a smoking La Bamba, but I had overlooked this little gem.

The recording quality of this soundboard is particularly good, and as is the case with most MSG shows, the mood is electrifying, and the band is on and having some fun.  Also of note is the fact that this one was being broacast on television for the FarmAid Benefit, hence the particular importance of Maggie’s Farm appearance in this show.

From the very start the music is very tight and, though the lyrics get flubbed quite a bit, the setlist is good, and one thing I always like to hear is interaction between the band and the audience.  In the first set, we hear, “we want Phil. we want Phil.”  Phil makes reference to how well restrained the crowd had been in the nights before, and rewards the crowd with Box of Rain – one I always like to see in a setlist.

The Crazy Fingers > UJB > Playin’ is very good, but particulary the transition into Playin’ – it is right on the money.  Drums and Space are enjoyable, and this comes from a guy who used to wear out his fast forward button as he zipped through Drums and Space every chance he heard it – boy was I happy when I could just advance to the next track on a CD.

The post Drums and Space sequence is really nice with Miracle into a Maggie’s Farm that lives up to expectations.  This was the first time they had done this one on their own after having played it 3x while touring with Dylan a couple of months before.  It is un-rehearsed, spontaneous, and very hot.  Not all of the lyric assignments had been as worked out as they would be in later years, but the unknown often comes together and yields wonderful results.

Lovelight is short and sweet but hot, and is a good capper for the 2nd set.  The encore is a sweet Black Muddy River – one that always makes my eyes feel like they are about to well-up.  This one is well-played and by the book, but everyone sounds good, and Brent’s tinkling on the keys through the second part of the chorus makes the hair stand up on my arms.

Overall, this show more than satisfies, and is a good example of how the band could rise to the occasion when it needed to.  It’s a stellar show, and one I think you ought to listen to.  Let me know what you think.  Enjoy the show:

http://www.archive.org/details/gd87-09-19.sbd.mccarthy.396.sbeok.shnf

Proving once again that we do more than just show you the best deals in the Phoenix real estate market; we show you how to get the most out of living in Arizona, and try to help you get the most out of what you are listening to.

Album Spotlight of the Week: The Steps

 The Steps

I’ve been listening to this album now for about the last 2 months and simply haven’t had an opportunity to review it, so here goes…finally.

We were asked to take a listen to this one by Ryan Cano, owner of The Loyalty Firm, and since it’s hard for us to turn down free music, how could we resist? …especially when he keeps sending us music like this (thanks Ryan, and keep it coming).

The Steps self-titled debut album sounds like less of a debut and more of an encore.  The songs definitely have a pop-friendly sound without sacrificing either substance or form.  They seem to work from a fairly standard song structure, but overlay some interesting chord changes and progressions that help twist this structure into something that makes them difficult to classify.  There is an edge to their music that is genuine rather than manufactured, and in an age where it has become increasingly difficult to tell whether a band REALLY looks or sounds the way they do, or if they’ve been told they should look and sound that way by some focus group, it is nice to see and hear the real thing.

Rather than just run through the album song by song, I’ll just say that there is plenty here for everyone.  There are lots of different sounds and influences that have been twisted and turned into something that is both current and relevant, and ultimately, something that I would recommend listening to.  It is easy to tell that their touring in Japan and the U.K. have helped to hone them into a very tight bunch in the studio, and that’s important to me –  anyone can sound great in the studio, but if you haven’t been tested on the road, you are just a one-dimensional studio band.  The recording quality, something I’m especially critical of, is also crisp and well-produced with plenty of punch, and it sounds great in the car. 

Enough talk, if you are interested in listening to the album go to The Steps MySpace page, or you can buy it on iTunes.  Give ’em a listen, or go check them out live – when you are on their page, check out their tour schedule.  They sound great in the studio, but I can tell you that I for one will go see them live the next time they’re in town.

Proving once again that we are the guys who talk about more than just Phoenix real estate; we talk about the things we enjoy and the things we have a passion for, and we hope that, at the very least, you can see that.  We invite you to comment or to suggest other topics about which we have perhaps not yet spoken.  Thanks again for listening

Album Spotlight of the Week: Loaded

1970’s “Loaded” by The Velvet Underground represents some firsts and some lasts as it pertains to the band, but the things that give it permanence, those things that I talk about all of the time when it comes to an album, are the things that I would like to focus on. 

“Loaded” was Lou Reed’s last album with VU, and it was the most commercially viable album they had produced and, in fact, by the time it hit the record stores, Reed had already left the band.  It is likely that the circumstances that lead to Reed’s departure may be what make this an album so charged with emotion.

This album works because, rather than being linear and tangentral in its approach, it moves easily between styles and moods and creates such a well-rounded and satisfying album experience.  This one listens like a good story reads with a definite beginning and end and complete with some twists and turns in the middle.

I also appreciate Reed’s approach to the actual writing of the songs as well, and know from my own studies how much his work resembles and mirrors that of the 20th century Modernist poets such as e. e. cummings and William Carlos Williams among others.  Their approach to poetry was to cast-off the old Victorian abstract concepts such as love and replace them with concrete images, often in their less-than-ideal forms.  Their argument was that abstract concepts come loaded with un-conveyable notions that only the writer is privy to and that, by providing concrete or  “crunchy” images, it would allow the reader to have his or her own experience without trying to relive someone else’s or to attempt to see it through their eyes.  For a good, textbook example of 20th century Modernist Imagism, read Ezra Pound’s “In a Station of the Metro”, or my personal favorite, William Carlos Williams’ “The Red Wheelbarrow”.

How do go from the 20th century Moderns to Lou Reed and, more importantly “Loaded”?  Well, Reed similarly was working to break out of the conventional pop-music mold to create something concrete, raw and different, but for me, the real acheivement was that he was able to accomplish what he wanted while still working to create something approachable – It is the difference between being on the cutting edge and going over it altogether.

It is this simple, raw set of recordings that has influenced many musicians through the years and arguably sewed the seeds of punk music in the 70’s and 80’s and the alternative scene that developed afterward.  It represented a departure from contemporary recordings and showed a clear shift not only in its approach to the music but to the subject itself.

“Loaded” is many things, but it is certainly not a recording that you listen to once and put back on the shelf – it is a recording that has much to offer and one that gets better every time you listen to it.  If you don’t have it, get it, and keep it in the rotation.  Enjoy.

Proving once again that we do more than just show you the best deals in the Phoenix real estate market; we show you how to get the most out of living in Arizona, and try to help you get the most out of what you are listening to.

Album Spotlight of the Week: Wild Streaks and Windy Days

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Sometimes there are things that you are asked to do that, initially you think are a great idea, and then you realize that you’ve bitten off more than you can chew.  The task of reviewing Wild Streaks and Windy Days by The Boxing Lesson was one of those such situations.  I’ve resolved myself to go through with this, but in order for it to work you’ll have to understand that I’ll be reviewing this album as a listener – a fan of music – and not as a critic.

Where do I start?  Well, very generally, Wild Streaks and Windy Days is not an album that can be reviewed in one or two listens, and that means something to me.  There is a complexity to this album that is derived through the intricate layering of the music, and though there is so much going on, there is a spaciousness to the music.  I’ve often said that, for me, good music is much like a room and the instruments should be like the furniture in the room – able to stand-up on their own and able to be appreciated singularly; this album passes that important test.

The Boxing Lesson has also achieved something that many bands fail miserably at, and that is to provide an approachable album.  What they DON’T do here is make an album that trades essential musical qualities for artistic expression.  I think that over the last decade or so, the word ‘pop’ as it relates to music has developed a bad connotation because so much of what pop music has come to mean involves a sound that is artificial in either its sentiment or its production.  WS&WD is authentic, well-arranged, and technically well-crafted and it certainly doesn’t sound like it’s been put together by judges on a reality show.

One of the other ways this album works is that it is able to juxtapose light and dark, slow and fast, major and minor in a way that even the classical Greeks understood created a universal tension and release – a complicating action followed by a resolution that manages to cast aside the meaninglessness of the last decade of pop music and replace it with something that is both difficult and rewarding.

For me, highlights include the frenetic Brighter and its segue into the haunting undulation of Lower.  Hanging With The Wrong Crowd rocks and the energy feels more like a live setting – something that I’m much more accustomed to.  The introspective Muerta and Scoundrel combination are followed by the driving Freedom which picks you back up again and tells you that there is more in store.  Wild Streaks and Windy Days (the song) stretches out and pulls all of the elements together and resolves this album nicely.

The Boxing Lesson scores high marks here with Wild Streaks and Windy Days and though I might not understand all of it, I can’t help but marvel at the beauty and the texture of these musical tapestries that they create.  There’s a mystery to the music that keeps the listener on his or her toes and keeps you from thinking you’ve got it all figured out.  I’ll continue to listen to this one on my own and would suggest that you go out and listen to it too.

If you are interested in learning about The Boxing Lesson and finding out when they might be in your town, visit their MySpace page at http://www.myspace.com/theboxinglesson or you can check them out on Wikipedia.  If you are interested in purchasing the music you can go to ITunes, Amazon mp3, or CDBaby

Proving once again that we do more than just show you the best deals in the Phoenix real estate market; we show you how to get the most out of living in Arizona, and try to help you get the most out of what you are listening to.  If you have heard the music, please comment and let us know what you think.  Enjoy

Album Spotlight of the Week: Talking Book

Talking Book is one of those albums that makes you enjoy it even more every time you listen to it.  The album is extremely hard to pin down in terms of its sound because it captures such a wide arc of different influences.  It is at times hard driving and funky with a song like “Superstition” but is also soft and subtle when it comes to a song like “You Are the Sunshine of My Life”.  I think that though the albums “Innervisions” and “Songs in the Key of Life” get their due credit, “Talking Book” often gets passed-over, or is only referenced for the value of its two best-known single tracks, but I think the entire album is worthy of much praise.

Though most of the instrumentation (and production) was performed by Stevie Wonder, he was joined by a number of great artists who help make this album one that you might not own, but should.  I myself hadn’t listened to it for a while, but I’m listening to it as I write, and I find myself asking why I have neglected it as long as I have.  Go out and get it, or if you have it, dust it off and get listening.

I could talk about it all day, but rather than listen to me, listen to the whole album here.  Enjoy.

Spotlight Album of the Week: Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs

I think that if you call yourself a fan of rock ‘n’ roll, you had better have a copy of Derek and the Dominos’ Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs.  Although I’m, first and foremost, a fan of live music, this studio album is one that seems to capture that live feeling in the studio.

There are plenty of resources out there to fill you in on the ‘whats’, ‘whos’, and ‘whens’ of this album, but what words fail to do for this album are explain what kind of unbridled musical passion will be unleashed on your ears once you start this one spinning and crank it up.  This one is a sonic powerhouse that picks you up and lets you back down at all the right points, and leaves everything out on the field so to speak.

Again, you can read all about this album, but I’ll say that the keys to this album are that Eric Clapton’s love of his friend George Harrison’s wife put him in an  emotional state that readied him for the creation of the material, and the mutual admiration that he and Duane Allman had for each other focused and elevated this album into a technical masterpiece. 

Somehow the album acheives this all without sounding over-produced which I think is the genius of Tom Dowd, and probably one of the reasons, as a live music fan, I really love this album and consider it one of my favorites.  The tones in this album are full, rich and true, and I can’t help but feel that I am listening to a late-night jam session when I listen to this one.  This is one of those ‘you are stranded on a deserted island and you can only have one album’ albums, so check it out and let me know what you think.