Dancing With Mr. D...VD

Musicasaurus.com excavates the best concerts on DVD…

A new review will be posted every two weeks, on Sunday evening.....All of the DVDs reviewed here are (or were!) commercially available for purchase.  We will list a few highlights from each of the DVDs, having mined them for the moments that make endorphins flow, pleasure centers pop, and smiles break wide.

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Posted 11/15/20.....

(Next post: Sunday, November 29, 2020)

“It was just far enough down the road for Traffic to have its second wind.  People had not heard that music performed live for twenty years and they felt that it was a good time to hear it again.” – Steve Winwood commenting on Traffic’s 1994 reunion tour of the United States (from the liner notes of this featured DVD)

TRAFFIC...The Last Great Traffic Jam...filmed in 1994; released in 2005 (Epic / Sony BMG Music Entertainment)

The British band Traffic had originally formed in 1967, influenced by the Beatles but also brandishing a couple of key instruments that set them apart from others in the rock field—a heavy emphasis on organ, and on saxophone & flute.

The original line-up of Traffic in the year of its formation: Nineteen-year-old multi-instrumentalist Stevie Winwood (already a success in his previous outing with The Spencer Davis Group), drummer / percussionist / singer Jim Capaldi, guitarist / singer Dave Mason, and reeds player Chris Wood.

After releasing ten albums from 1967 through 1974—including the band’s critical & commercial highpoint The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys (1971)—the band broke up to pursue individual interests.

Departures: Dave Mason came and went in the earliest stages of the band, and was not on 1970’s John Barleycorn Must Die, but reappeared on the subsequent live album Welcome To the Canteen (1971).  By the time Low Spark arrived later in 1971, Mason was gone for good.

Deaths:

* 1983 – Chris Wood

* 2005 – Jim Capaldi (not long after this 1994 reunion tour wrapped up).

The Personnel on The Last Great Traffic Jam: Steve Winwood, Jim Capaldi, Randall Bramblett (keyboards/sax/flute), Rosco Gee (bass), Walfredo Reyes Jr. (percussion), and Mike McEvoy (guitar/keyboards).

Musicasaurus.com’s Recommended Tracks:

* “40,000 Headmen”.....The performance is pure relaxed, flowing Traffic and the editors weave in some road scenes near the climax which leavens the concert performance footage with 1960’s-style psychedelics...Nice flute work by tour musician Randall Bramblett.

* “John Barleycorn”.....This is Winwood and Capaldi, front and center, in a compelling performance of this traditional English folk song, again with some camera work / footage that hews to the Spirit of the Sixties...This tune was originally brought to the duo’s attention by band mate Chris Wood when working to complete this eventually same-titled 1970 album.

* “The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys”.....A faithful rendition of the classic song that sums up the appeal of the band—stretching rock’s boundaries into folk and jazz, and stretching out in their execution of it.

* “Dear Mr. Fantasy”.....Jerry Garcia joins the band (at Chicago’s Soldiers Field) on this track. The Dead had captivatingly covered this song through the years at their own shows.

The Rest of the DVD includes: “Pearly Queen”..... “Medicated Goo”..... “Glad”..... “Light Up Or Leave Me Alone”..... “Gimme Some Lovin’ ” (the old Spencer Davis Group hit) ..... and more.

 

 

 

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Posted 11/1/20.....

The Bridge School Concerts / 25thAnniversary Edition.....released on DVD in 2011 (Reprise Video)

As the DVD says, "The Bridge School is a non-profit organization whose mission is to ensure that individuals with severe speech and physical impairments achieve full participation in their communities through the use of augmentative & alternative means of communication (AAC) and assistive technology (AT) applications, and through the development, implementation and dissemination of innovative life-long educational strategies.”

The initial concert that Neil Young and his wife at the time Pegi first put together to benefit the Bridge School was in 1986, and except for the following year, the event took place annually every October at the Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, California through the year 2016.

The Bridge School Concerts / 25thAnniversary Edition consists of 3 DVD’s

* Disc # 1 and # 2 are select artists’ performances spanning the 25 years of the event (between 1986-2010).  Most every artist performs acoustically, and in most cases this only enhances the power of the performance as there’s a unique energy in this approach and a resulting ratcheted-up focus on the lyrics and the message.

* Disc # 3—The Bridge School Documentaries—has “Backstage at the Bridge School Benefit Concert,” “The Bridge School Story,” and also an interviews section that has Bridge School students conducting one-on-one interviews with artists (including Sheryl Crow, Eddie Vedder, Elvis Costello, Norah Jones, and others).

Musicasaurus.com’s Recommended Tracks:

“Blue Ridge Mountains” – Fleet Foxes (October 24, 2009).....Great crystalline harmonies (a little CSN-like) abound in this song that’s perfectly suited for an all-acoustic treatment; a nice blend of mandolin, acoustic guitars, percussion and piano.

“Fire And Rain” – James Taylor (October 27, 2002).....This is just James, his acoustic guitar, and a cello player providing all the right accents for the melodious tenor of Taylor.

 “At The Hop” – Devendra Banhart (October 22, 2006).....Five acoustic musicians (including Banhart) are all in a row on stools onstage, peeling off a loose, pokey little number that would be perfect for a campfire sing-a-long. Four of the musicians (including Banhart) look all crunchy, of course; the fifth looks like their dad, but it’s really British folk legend Bert Jansch sittin’ in.

“Country Feedback” – R.E.M. (October 18, 1998).....Michael Stipe and company have a special guest on stage with them, a rockin’ and swayin’ and stage prowlin’ Neil Young, plinking on his acoustic guitar, sporting a fedora, and wearing a bushy, mountain-man gray beard.  Neil elevates this already-very-fine performance by R.E.M.

“The Way It Will Be” – Gillian Welch (October 21, 2006).....Just two interweaving voices, two acoustic guitars, and one great song...Welch and her musical partner David Rawlings spin Appalachian/Americana magic with this one.

“Heroes” – David Bowie (October 20, 1996).....Armed with an acoustic guitar, a red-headed Bowie and a supporting bassist and guitarist sit on stools and unspool this classic title tune from Bowie’s 1977 album.

Honorable Mentions:

“Rebel Yell” - Billy Idol (October 20, 2001):  Idol almost pulls this off; it’s infectious because he’s so obviously pleased to be there, and even though the tune’s delivered all acoustic, it kinda rocks.

“Surfin’ USA” – Brian Wilson (October 31, 1999):  Maybe more fun-fun-fun to look at rather than listen to, because Wilson—who looks just a little “tentative” on stage—is surrounded by a delighted bunch of supporting stars including Eddie Vedder, Roger Daltrey, Neil Young, Sheryl Crow, Emmylou Harris and Lucinda Williams.

 

 

 

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Posted 10/18/20.....

I stumbled upon an interesting DVD recently, and had known nothing about it beforehand.  It’s a unique mix of a concert and a history lesson—uh, remember the Alamo?

On the evening of May 2, 2005, an outfit called WOW Music Group produced and filmed a concert at the Alamo and there are full song performances on the resulting DVD from Gipsy Kings, Lyle Lovett, Los Lobos and…Arc Angels!  The latter is a supergroup—and maybe only rock snobs call them that—composed of killer guitarists Doyle Bramhall II (who’s played with Clapton) and Charlie Sexton (who’s played with Dylan), plus the rhythm section from Steve Ray Vaughan’s Double Trouble, drummer Chris Layton and bassist Tommy Shannon.  Back in 1992 Arc Angels released their self-titled debut album, and it is still one of musicasaurus.com’s favorite classic rock indulgences because of its rock ‘n’ roll heart and searing blues hues.  The DVD might be worth it for the Angels alone, but the other performances are really fairly riveting as well.

Here’s an explanatory snippet or two from a July 9, 2007 press release about the project and the event, from Cary Floyd of the WOW Music Group:

“The Remember The Alamo concert was designed to pay tribute to the Alamo and the City of San Antonio through an entertaining, made-for-history musical event. The concert film, via performances by some of the world’s best-known artists and light-hearted comedic entertainment by Paul Rodriguez, retells the story of the 13-day battle that took place in 1836, thus solidifying the Alamo shrine as an historical wonder of early American culture.

“The 90-plus minute concert film includes a documentary about the Alamo and an historical tour of the shrine led by Alamo Director David Stewart and Paul Rodriguez.”

Also interesting as hell:  The WOW Music Group were labeling this project as one of more to come.  They had created the concept of a Wonders of the World Music Series which was intended to marry together on film “distinguished musical artists with the world’s most storied historical sites”—and they may have since pulled another one off at the Great Wall of China, with more planned for the Grand Canyon, the Eiffel Tower and other key historic hotspots.  Cool idea, but I have no update on their progress…

Enjoy!

 
 
 

 

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Posted 10/4/20.....

Windham Hill is a record label—often labeled New Age—founded in 1976 by acoustic guitarist Will Ackerman.  By the time the compact disc began to penetrate home sound systems in the early 1980s, the label had expanded beyond its original folk emphasis into world and electronic music as well.  The Windham Hill “sound” became a brand of sorts; the production was superior, the album art classy, and the artist roster impressive.

Windham Hill In Concert...featuring the music of Will Ackerman, Scott Cossu, Michael Hedges and Shadowfax...released in 1986 (Windham Hill Productions, Inc. / Pioneer Entertainment)

  • The artists’ performances were captured live in the studio in July 1986 at S.I.R. Sound Stage in Hollywood, California, with additional footage from Red Rocks Amphitheatre near Denver, Colorado 
  • If your initial responses to the tag “New Age” are a nose in the air and an attitude that this is elevator music, you need to check out this DVD if only to witness the performance of Michael Hedges...
  • Musicasaurus.com’s Overwhelmingly Recommended Track:
    • “Aerial Boundaries”
      • Michael Hedges was 33 years old when this DVD was released.  He was a classically trained guitarist and composer who frequented Baltimore in the very late 1970s and early 1980s, playing clubs and restaurants—and developing his own unique style to playing a steel-string acoustic guitar.
      • In his best recorded works, it seems he’s totally in tune with the music of the spheres, weaving into his own stamped style a very complex set of tunings, strums, and percussive guitar-body slaps.
      • On this track, he comes off visually like a serene yet laser-focused fellow from the corner of Haight & Ashbury, wielding his guitar and coaxing out breathtaking sounds while his pigtails wave and the incense stick on the neck of his guitar spins off a trail of tiny smoke.
      • The song itself is an acoustic marvel.  It is hard to fathom the depths (or heights) from which Hedges pulls these sounds together, and also whether he’s channeling or just that damn accomplished (in a Malcolm Gladwell “10,000 hours” sense of the word).  Regardless...“Aerial Boundaries” as performed here is a force of energy from a harmonic paradise beyond our ken.
      • Michael Hedges died at the age of 43 in late 1997, after a solo car crash about 100 miles northwest of San Francisco.
  • The Rest of the DVD:  Includes...
    • “Silent Anticipations”, “Woman of the World”, “Because It’s There”, and “Follow Through”—all from Michael Hedges.
    • “The Impending Death of the Virgin Spirit”, “Visiting”, and “The Bricklayer’s Beautiful Daughter”—all from guitarist Will Ackerman.
    • “Vashon Poem” from pianist Scott Cossu.
    • “The Orangutan Gang”, “What Goes Around”, “New Electric India”, and “Streetnoise”—all from world-music fusion ensemble Shadowfax.

 

 

 

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UPDATE, SEPTEMBER 28, 2020:  THE MUSICASAURUS.COM CAMPAIGN (ENTITLED "TUNES FOR TABLES") THAT WAS CONDUCTED SEPTEMBER 21-27, 2020 TO RAISE MUCH NEEDED FUNDS FOR THE GREATER PITTSBURGH COMMUNITY FOOD BANK RESULTED IN A GRAND TOTAL OF $9,102.75 BEING RAISED!  ....  THANK YOU TO ALL WHO DONATED!

   

 
Thanks to Stacy Innerst (www.stacyinnerst.com) for the design and creation of the Musicasaurus.com logo and the Tunes for Tables logo.
 
And...The "Tunes For Tables" fundraising campaign was created and conducted in memory of Margot Gloninger Jones (1952-2007).  With family and friends alike, she was a true knitter of the bonds that hold us together.

 

 

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Posted 9/6/20.....

Peter Gabriel’s Secret World Live…..This concert DVD is a product of Geffen Records / Real World productions; filmed in Modena, Italy on tour in 1994.

  • This is my personal favorite, from the standpoint of artistry in design, production and execution.  With his unique artistic vision, Peter Gabriel created and mounted “one for the time capsule”—the perfect synthesis of musicians playing as one, a brilliant stage set, and seamless and savvy editing that captures all of the emotion inherent in the live music experience.
  • Though an artist of vision in his own right (in writing, recording, video and performance), Peter Gabriel collaborated with Quebec City’s playwright/actor/film director/stage director Robert Lepage in the creation of the Secret World Live tour.  (Lepage is one of Canada’s most honored theatre artists; among his other triumphs:  Cirque du Soleil’s Las Vegas show entitled Ka, and Quebec City’s The Image Mill, the latter constituting the largest outdoor architectural projection ever made in the world.)

The Secret World Live band:

  • Drums – Manu Katche
  • Bass, vocals – Tony Levin
  • Guitar vocals – David Rhodes
  • Keyboards, vocals – Jean Claude Naimro
  • Violin, vocals – Shankar (not Ravi, in case that name gave you pause)
  • Vocals – Paula Cole
  • Vocals, keyboards – Peter Gabriel

Musicasaurus.com’s recommended tracks:

  • The opener, “Come Talk To Me”.....Start the DVD from the very beginning to get a true sense of the wizardry at work.  Peter and Paula are locked into a powerful musical and philosophical exchange.
  • “Steam” and “Sledgehammer”.....Some of Peter’s more recognizable songs (from the MTV glory days).  Here, you can bask in the band’s prowess and thus easily overlook the masterful editing—but don’t!
  • “Secret World”.....A track that unfolds quietly at first; an artist’s inner journey masterfully expressed that builds to an unleashing near the end—and the exiting of the band, one by one, before encore.
  • “Don’t Give Up”.....Another beautifully expressive piece that is once again Peter and Paula (the latter taking the voice part originally recorded by Kate Bush for the studio album track).
  • The best track:  “Shaking The Tree” (written by Peter Gabriel and Senegal’s Youssou N’Dour).....One could even approach this song knowing very little about Peter Gabriel’s work, and come away indelibly changed in terms of discovering a heavenly convergence of song and performance, sound and vision.  It doesn’t make you wish you were there; you ARE there.  The joy is inescapable.  It’s everything that we hope for in a live musical performance.

 

 

 

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Posted 8/23/20.....

THE BEST OF THE JOHNNY CASH TV SHOW 1969-1971

This two-DVD set captures for posterity sixty-six musical performances that aired on The Johnny Cash TV Show from the summer of 1969 through March of 1971.  The show was produced in Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium which was, back then, the home of the Grand Ole Opry.  Johnny’s show was the first major network series produced at this venue, and as the DVD’s informational brochure points out, the Ryman today is a “refurbished, restored landmark.  The ’69 version, cramped and creaky, was untouched by modern heating and cooling.”

  • Johnny handpicked his guests, some of which were appearing for the very first time on network television.  The DVD set contains great performances by Johnny solo, with wife June Carter Cash, and with a myriad of musical legends and major talents ascending...
  • Musicasaurus.com’s recommendations:
    • Bob Dylan (in a rare TV appearance) performing two tracks from Nashville Skyline:  “I Threw It All Away” (performed solo) and “Girl From The North Country” (performed with Johnny).  The latter is a relaxed classic—Dylan and Cash evidence their real connection and mutual affection.
    • Derek and the Dominos (guitarist & singer Eric Clapton, keyboardist Bobby Whitlock, bassist Carl Radle and drummer Jim Gordon).....Alas, no “honorary 5th band member” appearance here by Duane Allman, though of course he contributes mightily to the one (and only) Derek and the Dominos album Layla.  On Johnny’s show, in an episode that aired in January of 1971, Derek and the Dominos perform “It’s Too Late” from Layla, and then Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins come out to join the band in a slap-down, scorching version of Perkins’ 1956 rockabilly classic “Matchbox.”  You can see Clapton, sandwiched by his mentors, beaming with delight; it’s almost as if the thought swirl “I am not worthy” is runnin’ ‘round his head during this heady, 3-guitar workout.
    • Neil Young, 26 years old, in a passionate solo performance of “The Needle and The Damage Done.”
    • Louis Armstrong, world-renowned jazz singer & trumpeter, performing with Johnny on a Jimmie Rodgers tune from the 1930’s, “Blue Yodel # 9.”  Satchmo (Armstrong’s nickname) had played on the original Jimmie Rodgers recording of this song; eight months after this Johnny Cash Show episode aired in October 1970, Armstrong passed away.
    • Mother Maybelle Carter, Johnny’s mother-in-law and original member of the Carter Family, performing “Wildwood Flower” with the Carter Sisters, and then solo—on autoharp—on the traditional instrumental “Black Mountain Rag.”  Notably, Mother Maybelle helped to influence the overall shift of the guitar from rhythm to more of a lead instrument, through her own developed style of thumbing melody lines on the bass strings while her fingers strummed to fill out the rhythm.
    • Jerry Lee Lewis, 35 years old and at his piano bench-kickin’ best, in a 1970 performance of “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On.”  The performance is Suggestive with a capital “S”; just ten years or so after the famous scandal involving his third wife—his 13-year-old cousin—Jerry certainly wasn’t married to the concept of propriety.  Hey, it’s only rock ‘n roll (and we like it).
    • June Carter Cash with Homer & Jethro singing their 1949 parody of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.”  Okay, I can’t really recommend this, but you might Hee and Haw over it.
    • Truly Honorable Mentions:  Linda Ronstadt dueting with Johnny on “I Will Never Marry”.....George Jones.....Pete Seeger.....Waylon Jennings.....Tammy Wynette singing “Stand By Your Man”.....Roy Clark pickin’ up a storm on the lightnin’-fast “In The Summertime / 12th Street Rag”.....Chet Atkins.....Ray Charles doing “Ring of Fire”.....Roy Orbison performing “Crying” (solo) and “Pretty Woman” (with Johnny).....and a small dose of classic cheese:  Glen Campbell layin’ it ON, locked into sincerity overdrive on the song “Wichita Lineman.”

 

 

 

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Posted 8/9/20.....

MUSIC SCENE:  THE BEST OF 1969-1970, Volume 2.....(DVD released in 2001)

  • Someone here has raided the catacombs of Old Television Shows That Tried to Lure In Hip Viewers, But Ended Up Breaking Their Hip Quotients...
  • This DVD contains four episodes of Music Scene from its ill-fated ABC-TV limited run; debuting on the television fall schedule in 1969, the show gasped for breath and sustainability through the early parts of 1970, but lost its battle for survival reportedly due to lack of corporate advertising support.
  • The show was hosted by 1960s comedian David Steinberg who just doesn’t weather well, as They say...
  • The performances range from lip-synched presentations to live performances, and the sound production on the DVD is...well...very television-like.  Expect not to be overwhelmed with the audio efforts here.
  • Musicasaurus.com’s One Truly Recommended Track:  There’s a gem buried deep in the “bonus performances” section, and that’s a 1969 performance by British bluesman John Mayall.  Here he has his ensemble in tow from a classic live album he released that same year.  Entitled The Turning Point, this album is an amazing blend of acoustic blues featuring harmonica by Mayall, acoustic guitar by Jon Mark, and sax & flute work by Johnny Almond.  The song performed on Music Scene is entitled “The Laws Must Change”, and it resonates (“resin-ates?”) once again today because of the current drive to legalize marijuana in more state legislatures.
  • Other Artists featured on the disc: James Brown, Dusty Springfield, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Neil Diamond, Gordon Lightfoot, Lee Michaels, The Everly Brothers, Zager & Evans, Pete Seeger, Johnny Cash, Three Dog Night, The Cowsills, Moms Mabley, Bobby Sherman, Janis Joplin and Judy Collins---all proving that The Sixties were a bit of a landmine, so be careful as you excavate for worthwhile artifacts. 

 

 

 

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Posted 7/26/19.....

Bryan Adams - Unplugged - recorded September 26, 1997 at the Hammerstein Ballroom in NYC - part of MTV’s Unplugged series - released on DVD in 2002

  • Musicasaurus.com was never wild about Adams (really always likin’ Ryan rather than Bryan) but this DVD caught my attention, as sometimes “unplugged” situations reveal more nuances and artistic divergences compared to the standard “live” concert approaches of electrified + amplified.
  • Adams is aided here by some fluid backing from his band, and a couple of nontraditional touches including Irish pipes and some masterful Juilliard string players under the direction of conductor Michael Kamen.
  • When surfing through the song selection menu, opt for the unknown especially if an Adams’ radio hit has irked you in the past (whether that’s from the song’s construction, or the fact that it has been played to death)
  • Musicasaurus.com’s recommended tracks:  
    • “Fits Ya Good” - the original studio version of this song is on Adams’ second album You Want It, You Got It (from 1981)...Here in the acoustic band setting, it is a beautifully moody, insinuating piece featuring Adam’s heartfelt, husky tone.
    • “18 Til I Die” - the song first popped up on Adams’ seventh album which was named for that tune, and released in 1996...In performance here, the song is an earnest plea to exhaust yourself in pursuit of living Life to the fullest, and it is augmented by a Juilliard string quartet, one of whom (a female violinist) has a very brief but outright sizzling solo turn...Quite good stuff.
    • There are more treats here, but the above two selections almost make the purchase worthwhile on their shoulders alone.

 

 

 

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Posted 7/12/20.....

Musicasaurus.com was trolling for new concert DVD purchases when Celebration at Big Sur popped up on my computer screen--lo and behold, finally, here was a DVD of the September 13 & 14, 1969 folk festival at Big Sur, California.  I had heard about this particular “gathering of the tribes” and that it had occurred just one month after the newly minted Woodstock generation was born on Max Yasgur’s farm in Bethel, New York.  But I hadn’t been aware that the film of this festival had finally seen a DVD release in 2011, forty-two years after the event...

Big Sur is a pretty, pristine location where the Santa Lucia Mountains meet the Pacific Ocean on California’s central coast, and from 1964 through 1971, the Big Sur Folk Festival was held there on the grounds of the Esalen Institute.  The institute is a non-profit organization that espouses humanistic alternative education via teachings and workshop settings, and it promotes spiritual growth, psychology, environmental stewardship, mediation, organic food--you know, all of the things that the late-‘60s hippies should have embraced, without the detours to the brown acid and the EZ widers.

The 1969 Celebration at Big Sur is a great snapshot of Sixties Youth and Change:

  • Featured artists included Joan Baez (a Big Sur festival regular who coaxed more pop & rock acts onto the bill as the ‘60s progressed), CSNY, Joni Mitchell, John Sebastian of The Lovin’ Spoonful, gospel act Dorothy Combs Morrison and the Combs Sisters, singer-activist (and Joan Baez’s sister) Mimi Farina, and more...
  • This DVD includes one of the earliest filmed appearances of Joni Mitchell and also of Neil Young (the latter appearing here with CS&N).  Neil had also played with CSN at Woodstock, but reportedly had refused to be filmed as part of that festival appearance
  • Musicasaurus.com’s Favorite Couple of Tracks:
    • “4 + 20”.....A solo acoustic number by Stephen Stills, and it lives up to expectations for anyone who treasured that 2-minute song from CSNY’s 1970 album Déjà vu.
    • “Get Together”.....A song originally written by Jesse Colin Young and performed by his band The Youngbloods, here it is exquisitely covered in a loose and free-spirited rendition by Joni Mitchell, backed up in harmonious fashion by David Crosby, Graham Nash, Stephen Stills and John Sebastian...The sound quality is a bit lacking, but the enthusiasm of the players (and the decent harmonies) nudge this past a mere nostalgia trip.

 

 

 

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Posted 6/28/20.....

Tom Dowd & The Language of Music...released in 2004.

Musicasaurus.com is still missing Gregg Allman, who passed away just a little over three years ago.  Although one can take some solace in knowing he’s with up there above the blue sky with his brother Duane, it’s still no consolation that down here on Mother Earth we’re without that blues-soaked growl and that whirr of the Hammond B-3…

Thinking of Allman prompted me to look into my DVD collection for a specific documentary that was released by Palm Pictures, an independent film and music company started up in 1998 by Island Records company founder Chris Blackwell.  Tom Dowd & The Language of Music is a 90-minute documentary released on DVD in 2004, after premiering the year before at the Sundance Film Festival and being showcased later that same year at the Toronto International Film Festival.

The first time I ever encountered the name Tom Dowd was from the liner notes of the Allmans Brothers’ second album Idlewild South (1970).  Dowd produced this record as well as the band’s subsequent release At Fillmore East, which to this day still spine-tingles listeners with its live-on-stage capture of a young, hungry band—all of ‘em just in their twenties—at the absolute peak of their powers.

I will let you uncover other revelations as you immerse yourself in this film, but here a few tantalizing bits to send you on your way to full discovery:

  • Before his recording career, the tech-savvy-for-the-times Dowd was a physics whiz who late in his teens worked on the Manhattan Project—the under-the-cloak development of the atomic bomb.
  • Dowd is renowned as an innovator in the field of multi-track tape recording.  While working at Atlantic Records (starting there in the 1950s), he convinced the label to move away from acetate disc recording to using tape instead—and thus he made some of the very first commercial stereo recordings, having designed and then built Atlantic’s first stereo and eight-track consoles.
  • He also happened to be the one who brought Duane Allman and Eric Clapton together for the latter’s landmark double album Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs (released under the band name Derek and the Dominos).
  • Along his path of producing and engineering, Dowd was the man behind John Coltrane’s “Giant Steps,” Ray Charles’ “What’d I Say,” Aretha Franklin’s “Respect,” Bobby Darin’s “Mack The Knife” and many more.

ENJOY!

 

 

 

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Posted 6/14/20.....

Classic Albums:  The Band (The Band) - Isis Productions / Distributed by Eagle Rock Entertainment.

  • Classic Albums is an ongoing series of documentaries (most of them 50 minutes in length) that dissect one particular landmark album of an artist or group, specifically in terms of production and recording.
  • Series episodes have been aired on television channels here and abroad (including the BBC, and VH1 and VH1 Classic), beginning with Dire Straits’ Brothers In Arms in May of 1989.  The series is also available on DVD.
  • Classic Albums:  The Band pores over the production process of this group’s second album, the eponymous release that came out in 1969.  This is the album that contained “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”, “Up On Cripple Creek”, “Rag Mama Rag”, “Across The Great Divide”, and more.
  • Musicasaurus.com’s favorite moments:  
    • Any of the interviews with Levon Helm, whose smile is wider than the barn door of his Midnight Ramble sessions at his Levon Helm Studios in Woodstock, New York (incidentally, the rambles may still be continuing to this day, even without Levon; for more information, go to http://www.levonhelm.com/midnight_ramble.htm)
    • Rick Danko, Robbie Robertson and Garth Hudson are also interviewed about the creation of the album and its various songs.  The interviews were done around 1997, eleven years after the passing of Band keyboardist/occasional drummer Richard Manuel, whose heavenly heart & soul are propped up, I’m sure, by the endearing comments of his Band mates.
    • The album’s producer John Simon also weighs in, as does Eric Clapton and George Harrison (the latter two in terms of how important this particular record and group were to them at the time of this classic album’s release).
  • This is likely one of the better “behind the scenes” accounts of any band at a pivotal crossroads, and in this case, the viewer is easily led to reflect upon what a rich slice of Americana music was born back then in ’69.  The Band is a mature rock record with music mightily influenced by country, R & B, blues, folk, gospel and more, full of historical themes and incredible imagery—five distinct musical talents and storytellers, weaving as one.

 

 

 

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Posted 5/31/20.....

Here’s a brief look at an early 1970s “master and commander” who was steeped in tradition and yet wooed & wowed the youth market during that era of unparalleled musical experimentation brewing in San Francisco...

Commander Cody - Blues-Rock Legends Vol. I (part of the Rockpalast series of concert DVDs recorded for German television, starting in 1974) - This particular performance was recorded on July 1, 1980.

  • George Frayne, alias Commander Cody, helmed a unit called Commander Cody and his Lost Planet Airmen (1967-1976), and their recordings and live shows were a mix of heritage covers (tributes to earlier styles of music) and novelty hits.
  • Lost In The Ozone (1971) was the group’s recording debut, and with songs like “Seeds and Stems (Again),” the band immediately appealed to a growing legion of youths hungering for wildly different musical experiences.  The band--based in San Francisco after a career start in Ann Arbor, Michigan--mixed Western swing, jump blues, boogie-woogie and rock ‘n’ roll into a unique and spirited blend, and their concerts were marathon-length events.
  • Musicasaurus.com’s recommended track:  
    • “Hot Rod Lincoln”, the band’s cover of a 1955 ode to these souped-up, big engine roadsters.  Before the song speeds down its own musical highway, Commander Cody rattles off the famous spoken-word intro: "My Pappy said, ‘Son, you're going to drive me to drinkin' if you don't stop drivin' that hot rod Lincoln.’"
  • Also on the DVD: 
    • “It Should Have Been Me” (originally performed by Ray Charles in 1954).
    • “Beat Me Daddy 8 To The Bar” (first recorded by the Will Bradley Orchestra in 1940).
    • “Rocket 88” (some say that this was the first real rock ‘n’ roll song; it was written and first performed by Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats in 1951).
    • “Riot In Cell Block No. 9” (written by legendary songwriters Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller in 1954, this was first a hit by an R & B group called The Robins--and later covered by groups including the Grateful Dead, the Beach Boys, and Johnny Winter).

 

 

 

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Posted 5/17/20.....

Here’s a mixed bag of concert DVDs--one is from a North Carolina band whose style is a mash-up of influences.....the second is by a classic rock lygynd--er, legend.....and the last one features Finnish and Swedish jazz fusion guitarists.  If one doesn’t fulfill, you know another probably will...

The three DVDs:

  

  1. The Avett Brothers - Live, Volume 3 - recorded on August 8, 2009 at Bojangles’ Coliseum in Charlotte, NC
    • The band:  Two brothers front this North Carolina band that incorporates a wide number of influences into their music--folk, bluegrass, country, pop, alternative, and more.
    • Musicasaurus.com’s recommended track:  A tossup between “I and Love and You” (reminiscent--a little, at least--of The Band) and “Head Full of Doubt / Road Full of Promise”.
  2. Lynyrd Skynyrd - A double feature DVD including Freebird: The Movie and Tribute Tour 
    • FreeBird: The Movie is part documentary and part concert film, originally released in 1996.  Most of the live footage emanates from a festival performance in England in 1976, after Skynyrd had added guitarist Steve Gaines to the band.
    • Tribute Tour is a documentary about Skynyrd post-plane crash, and their decision ten years after that band-ending calamity to do a Tribute Tour--a reemergence that led to resurgence).
    • Musicasaurus.com’s recommended track from Freebird: The Movie:  Hands down, it has to be “That Smell”.  The band is crisp, tight and focused, and the guitar work by Steve Gaines and Gary Rossington is enough to make even non-smokers grab a lighter.  The song’s performance was shot in black & white which is neither a distraction or a detraction, but it also (unfortunately) has less-than-stellar sound reproduction.  Still, it’s a powerhouse performance.
  3. Jukka Tolonen and Coste Apetrea - Scandinavian Guitars - recorded February 19, 1982 at Holbaek Power Plant
    • The artists:  Jukka Tolonen is a Finnish jazz-rock guitarist of great renown in his native country, and he’s been on that music scene since the early 1970s.  While pulling together musicians for his five-man band in 1977, Tolonen welcomed in the Swedish fusion guitarist Coste Apetrea, and in 1982 the two paired up for a special acoustic evening concert which was videotaped for future sale.
    • Musicasaurus.com’s recommended track:  There are only four tracks on this 35-minute DVD, and all of them swing in this lovely acoustic-only, all-instrumental setting.  While one handles rhythm flourishes the other is tearing off fleet-fingered leads, and the style is a melting pot of influences including classical, jazz, Gypsy, and more.  Not for all tastes, but quite intriguing due to the level of artistry on display.

 

 

 

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Posted 5/3/20.....

SHORT TAKES.....A couple of concert DVDs and recommended tracks...

  

1. GUSTER.....from Guster On Ice / Live From Portland Maine.....released in 2004.

  • The original three members of Guster formed as freshmen at Tufts University in Boston in 1991.....This is a band that very capably blends folk & pop elements in quite catchy, intelligent tunes that are far from the usual radio pablum.  Fourth member and multi-instrumentalist Joe Pisapia joined the band in 2003, which is when this live CD/DVD set was recorded.
  • Guster’s signature sound (on a number of their releases and tours) featured guitars, keyboards, bongos and other hand percussion—no drum set in sight.  Through relentless college circuit touring throughout the 1990s, the band built up a loyal following (in evidence on this DVD, with occasional shots of rapt, rabid audience members mouthing the words to all of the songs).
  • Musicasaurus.com’s recommended tracks:  “Fa Fa”.....“Happier” (with standout contrapuntal lead vocals from Ryan Miller and Adam Gardner).....and “Demons”.

2. R.E.M......from Perfect Square.....released in 2003.

  • R.E.M formed in 1980 in Athens, Georgia and their DIY approach in their early years—relentless touring; cryptic, mumbled vocals from Michael Stipe; and their solid support of college radio and other up-and-coming bands—was the perfect prescription for “from the ground up” credibility and audience building.
  • Their 1995 tour in support of their album Monster was a huge success, as they had taken a number of years off the road before that time, though were pumping out albums in the interim.  I remember from my amphitheatre days in Pittsburgh that their June 10, 1995 Star Lake concert was a sellout, aided by a very smart move on their part—putting the concert on sale in January of that year, to avoid the usual March-April-May pile-up of many other amphitheatre shows’ on-sale dates.  That logjam of on-sales only served to cannibalize the entertainment dollars in the market, and led to more than one concert limping out of the gate.
  • Musicasaurus.com’s recommended tracks:  “What’s The Frequency, Kenneth?”.....“The Great Beyond”.....“Orange Crush”.....“Losing My Religion”.....“It’s The End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)”.

 

 

 

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Posted 4/19/20.....

  

Musicasaurus.com’s Recommended Tracks from Three DVDs recently unearthed from the archives…

1. The Jeff Beck Group’s “Situation”.....From the DVD The Jeff Beck Group / Got The Feeling...This is Beck circa ’71-’72, when his group featured Bobby Tench on vocals (even though the DVD cover clearly shows Rod Stewart, who by this time had left the band).  This unit produced two albums from this era, Rough And Ready and The Jeff Beck Group....Though the sound quality is flat--i.e., this television appearance predates any real audio advances in this area--the performance is blistering with Beck on guitar, Max Middleton on keyboards, and Cozy Powell on drums.

2. X’s “The New World”.....From the DVD X: Live in Los Angeles...This concert by this American punk-and-folk rock band was recorded in their hometown of L.A. in 2004 as a celebration of the twenty-fifth anniversary of their debut album Los Angeles.  The stand-out song of the moment is “The New World” which originally came from their 1983 album--the band’s fourth--More Fun In The New World, produced by ex-Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek.

3. Counting Crows’ “Anna Begins”.....From the DVD August And Everything After / Live At Town Hall...This 2011 DVD is the first official “live in concert” video release by the group, and it captures an innovative and accomplished rock band in its musical prime, aided immeasurably by the walking, stalking, ruminating, words-tumbling-forth style of lead singer Adam Duritz.  The performance consists of all songs, front-to-back, from their first album August And Everything After released in 1993...“Anna Begins” beautifully unfolds; it is like Theatre of the Mind--more precisely, a revealing and most melodious excursion into Duritz’s mind.

 

 

 

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Posted 4/5/20.....

America:  A Tribute To Heroes (aired on television and the internet on September 21, 2001, and released on DVD & CD on December 4th of that year)

  • Low-key, somber, and impactful...This is the benefit concert that aired ten days after 9/11 on over 35 major network & cable systems simultaneously across the USA.
  • Structured as a telethon, the program featured musical performances with celebrity spoken-word interludes; over $200 million was raised during the broadcast for the United Way’s September 11th Telethon Fund.
  • The musical performance settings:  Studios in Los Angeles, New York City and London.  No applause, no pomp & circumstance; just candles and shadows as a backdrop to the messaging and the music.
  • It may be sacrilegious to say that some of the performances were only modestly moving, if at all, but that’s a matter of personal taste, of course; all were well intentioned and from the heart but with the passage of time, only some key performances still resonate powerfully...
  • Musicasaurus.com’s Recommended Tracks:
    • Bruce Springsteen’s “My City Of Ruin”.....Springsteen opened the show with this song that hadn’t yet appeared in recorded form.  Originally written about Asbury Park, the song would ultimately appear on the artist’s album The Rising, released in 2002.  Here, it’s a powerful, inspiring treatment with Springsteen on acoustic guitar & harmonica, backed only by seven singers (including Patti Scialfa and Steven Van Zandt) who by the end are all linking hands as the chorus hits its peak with the repeated refrain “C’mon, rise up”...
    • Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers’ “I Won’t Back Down”.....In hindsight, it’s unusual to see Petty and his longtime band members not fully rocking out with their trademark intensity, but the group here adeptly balances pure power with reverence and even some slight restraint.  The occasion also beautifully lays an elevated spin on Petty’s words about standing ground and not backing down.  There are lovely guitar accents by the amazing Mike Campbell, and the song ends with a subtle, nonverbal salute by Petty with the last chord struck--he arcs his guitar upward in a final note of determination and a silent plea for perseverance.
    • Neil Young’s “Imagine”.....Majestic in every way...First of all, how damn appropriate that Neil Young, a truly trailblazing & idiosyncratic musical legend (and socially conscious force in the world, via Farm Aid) would do this particular song.  It’s beautifully rendered, with Young at the piano and no-syrup strings in the background that heighten the simple & sweet aspirations of the tune.  Young also has two “moments” during the song, and who the hell knows what was rolling around his head, but I’d like to conjecture here: 1) The first moment comes when he sings the line “No religion, too” and turns quite suddenly to look directly into the camera, but just for a second--was this a deep-set editorial comment?  Perhaps...And 2) The second moment comes at the very end of the song, after the closing lines “I hope someday you’ll join us / And the world will live as one”.  Young closes his eyes and his head rolls back for just a few seconds, eyes still closed, before he looks straight ahead again and then down--maybe it was a reflective nod to Lennon, or a prayer-like missive to The Great Beyond.
  • Honorable Mentions:  Dave Matthews’s solo-acoustic “Everyday” and Eddie Vedder’s “Long Road.”

 

 

 

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Posted 3/22/20.....

Stevie Wonder’s Live At Last (released in 2008)

  • Finally...47 years after his first song was released--the regional Detroit single "I Call It Pretty Music, But the Old People Call It the Blues"--Stevie Wonder was finally captured in full live performance for a DVD.
  • The DVD is a mix of two evenings’ performances at the O2 Arena in London on September 30 and October 1, 2008.
  • Musicasaurus.com’s Most Recommended Track: “All I Do”, a song from 1980 originally on Wonder’s 19th album Hotter Than July, is replicated here in a stunning version of sleek musicianship and that wonder of a voice.
  • Also Kinda Cool: Though the song is abbreviated as part of a medley, “Isn’t She Lovely” is especially heartwarming.  Wonder’s daughter Aisha Morris—one of the tour’s back-up singers—was 32 years old at the time of this filming, and she had made quite the initial splash in the music business some 31 years before:  In 1976 Wonder had captured her beautiful baby squeals during a tub time washing, and then planted them in the original recording of this tune that ended up on his Songs In The Key Of Life album. 
  • Other Songs On The DVD:  “Master Blaster (Jammin’)”.....“Higher Ground”.....“Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing”.....“Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours”.....“Superstition”.....“Living For The City”.....“Sir Duke”.....“My Cherie Amour” and more.

 

 

 

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Posted 3/8/20.....

Bryan Adams / Unplugged - recorded September 26, 1997 at the Hammerstein Ballroom in NYC (part of MTV’s Unplugged series) - released on DVD in 2002

  • Musicasaurus.com was never wild about Adams (really always likin’ Ryan rather than Bryan) but this DVD caught my attention, as sometimes “unplugged” situations reveal more nuances and artistic divergences compared to the standard “live” concert approaches of electrified + amplified.
  • Adams is aided here by some fluid backing from his band, and a couple of nontraditional touches including Irish pipes and some masterful Juilliard string players under the direction of conductor Michael Kamen.
  • When surfing through the song selection menu, opt for the unknown especially if an Adams’ radio hit has irked you in the past (whether that’s from the song’s construction, or the fact that it has been played to death)
  • Musicasaurus.com’s recommended tracks: 
    • “Fits Ya Good” - the original studio version of this song is on Adams’ second album You Want It, You Got It (from 1981)...Here in the acoustic band setting, it is a beautifully moody, insinuating piece featuring Adam’s heartfelt, husky tone...
    • “18 Til I Die” - the song first popped up on Adams’ seventh album which was named for that tune, and released in 1996...In performance here, the song is an earnest plea to exhaust yourself in pursuit of living Life to the fullest, and it is augmented by a Juilliard string quartet, one of whom (a female violinist) has a very brief but outright sizzling solo turn...Quite good stuff.

There are more treats here, but the above two selections almost make the purchase worthwhile on their shoulders alone.

 

 

 

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Posted 2/23/20.....

Steely Dan:  Aja (released in 2006)

  • This DVD is the story behind Steely Dan’s recording of their classic album Aja, and is part of a series of such exhumations released to select television entities (such as VH1) and to DVD under the series umbrella “Classic Albums”.  Other artists/albums that have had this treatment include Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland, Paul Simon’s Graceland, U2’s The Joshua Tree, The Who’s Who’s Next, and more...
  • Steely Dan started their recording career in 1972, though the dynamic duo behind the group--Donald Fagen & Walter Becker--met at Bard College in 1967 and discovered immediately a need to be joined at their hipness.
  • In 1977 they were already five albums deep into their quest to create cerebral yet stirring rock-meets-jazz, and they reached the pinnacle with the release of their sixth album Aja.
  • We fans of Dan lapped this album up to make it the band’s best-selling effort to date, and all of us marveled over its crystal-clear sound and flawlessly layered songs.  With the advent of the compact disc in the early 1980s Aja was much in demand once again, as this new CD technology seemed tailor-made to showcase this band’s musically sophisticated career milestone.
  • Warning: If you are NOT a fan of Dan, then beware--this DVD could be the slightest bit dry.  However, for the faithful, it is an incisive look at the meticulousness (nay, obsession) of Fagen & Becker to get down on master tape what they were hearing in their whizzing, whirring noggins.
  • Some of the best scenes are the low-key duo in the studio, sitting before the mixing board and placidly playing with the “slide knobs”, letting us hear the individual and in-tandem aural nuts & bolts that went into the final layered beast.
  • Key recording studio personnel such as producer Gary Katz and engineer Roger Nichols, and contributing musicians such as guitarists Larry Carlton and Dean Parks, and vocalist Michael McDonald, are interviewed as well.
  • That’s it for now...I’m going to drink my big Black Cow and get out of here.

 

 

 

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Posted 2/9/20.....

Abstract Logix Live!  The New Universe Music Festival (released in 2001)

  • Musicasaurus.com was surfing through Amazon and spied this DVD, and spurred on by the name “John McLaughlin”, plopped this live music festival DVD into the shopping cart...
  • McLaughlin was, eons ago, critically acclaimed and worshipped by the jazz-rock fusion cognoscenti as part of the band he founded in 1971, Mahavishnu Orchestra.  This early-‘70s pioneering unit also featured Billy Cobham (drums), Jan Hammer (keyboards), and Jerry Goodman (violin).
  • Abstract Logix is a Cary, North Carolina-based record label that deals with and dishes out progressive, usually mind-blowing music by artists that have jetted way past the mainstream to live in the fusion jet stream...
  • The record label formed in 2003, and seven years later originated & produced a two-day fusion fest consisting of Abstract Logix recording artists including John McLaughlin.  The Abstract Logix website advertised the 11/20/10 and 11/21/10 Raleigh, NC festival this way:  “The lineup for the New Universe Music Festival is a music lovers’ dream, boasting a roster of artists who handily defy genre categorization in favor if unbridled expression – all of whom seamlessly mingle compositional ingenuity and improvisational grace and fervor.”
  • So, this is not music for the meek (even if they do inherit the Earth).  It is by and large a very challenging viewing, but watchers are rewarded with performances that stretch and strive for new heights of creative expansion.
  • The festival’s line-up / the DVD performers:  John McLaughlin & The 4th Dimension featuring Zakir Hussain, The Jimmy Herring Band, Wayne Krantz, Lenny White’s Anomaly featuring Jimmy Herring, Ranjit Barot, Alex Machacek, and Human Element.
  • Musicasaurus.com’s Recommended Track:  “Within You, Without You”, performed by the Jimmy Herring Band.
    • Herring has toured and/or recorded with a number of prominent rock/jam/fusion outfits including Aquarium Rescue Unit (as a founding member), the Allman Brothers Band, the Derek Trucks Band, The Dead, Phil Lesh and Friends, and Widespread Panic.
  • This Beatles’ tune in the hands of Herring features much derring-do.  It’s an 8-minute-plus instrumental, starting out true to the spirit of the original then shredding conceptions as it shifts into a soaring, cosmic warp-speed workout before returning to the thematic opening.  Herring is backed here by three others, on drums, bass and keyboard, but he’s the architect and the fleet-fingered driver of the piece.

 

 

 

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Posted 1/26/20.....

Two concert DVDs that have at least a track each that are worth the price of admission to your music DVD collection:

Electric Light Orchestra:  Zoom Tour Live (released in 2001)

  • Perhaps call this one “Electric Even-Lighter Orchestra”, because the personnel consists of only two original band members from this 1970s classic rock hit machine--group founder Jeff Lynne and keyboardist Richard Tandy.
  • The concert was recorded in 2001 at CBS Television City in Los Angeles, as a sneak preview program for PBS in advance of the band’s planned Zoom tour.  Once the tour went on sale, however, ticket sales stiffed and the tour was cancelled.  The program ended up as a VHS and DVD release instead.  (It was quite a different story, FYI, in August of 2019 when Jeff Lynne's ELO performed at Pittsburgh's PPG Paints Arena and this hockey arena-turned-concert venue for the evening was almost filled--and local area critics were fairly ecstatic.  Beaver County's The Times' Scott Tady reported that "the 12-member ensemble, including two support vocalists, two cellists and a violin player, didn’t show any signs of tour fatigue, delivering a musically accomplished, crowd-pleasing show."  And the Post-Gazette's Scott Mervis said in his post-show review "If they were doing the exact same show again tonight, I would drop everything to be there.")
  • The audio and editing on this disc of the 2001 performance are first-rate.  The full ELO sound is here, and Lynne’s voice is strong and commanding.
  • Musicasaurus.com’s Recommended Tracks:  “Strange Magic” and “Telephone Line” are especially captivating.

Calexico:  Live from Austin, Texas (released in 2009)

  • This DVD is part of the on-going Live From Austin, Texas concert series featuring recorded performances that originally aired on PBS through the Austin City Limits television show.
  • Calexico is a Tucson-based indie band who traffic in Tex Mex, Latin, and sounds of the Southwest.  The performance recorded herein was the band’s actual Austin City Limits debut on September 13, 2006.
  • A preface to musicasaurus.com’s recommended track:  Back in September 2005, Calexico had teamed up with one-man-indie-band Sam Beam (stage name, Iron & Wine), and these two collaborators issued a joint EP (i.e., an Extended Play record, which is just short of an actual album) entitled In The Reins.  On this Live From Austin, Texas DVD, Iron & Wine (Sam plus his sister Sarah) join Calexico on stage for the lead-off track from their co-conspired EP.  The song is called “He Lay In The Reins”, and it’s a sweeping and majestic track, a tantalizing mix of alternative + folk + Tex Mex.

 

 

 

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Posted 1/12/20.....

FILLMORE:  THE LAST DAYS.....(DVD released in 2009)

  • This single-disc DVD is a music documentary about the final shows at promoter Bill Graham’s famous Fillmore West venue in San Francisco.
  • The performances were recorded from June 30 through July 4, 1971 and showcase the acts that Graham put on stage through the years at this storied venue.
  • The film was released in 1972.  It ain’t no Last Waltz in terms of production values, but as a testament to the thriving music scene of the late 1960s and early 1970s, it’s a keeper.
  • The split-screen shots, a la Woodstock, add to the smile-inducing flashback effect of watching this now forty-seven year-old film.
  • Musicasaurus.com’s recommended tracks:
    • “You Got Me Hummin’ ” by Cold Blood - The pint-sized lead singer for this rock and funk powerhouse of a band is Lydia Pense, and she growls and yowls a lot like her contemporary, Janis Joplin (who reportedly recommended the band to Graham for eventual booking).  Cold Blood also features a sizzlin’ horn section, but it is Pense’s performance that raises temperatures, and almost the roof.
    •  “Uncle Sam’s Blues” by Hot Tuna - Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady anchor this blues-based outfit, and here violinist Papa John Creach gives the performance a saucy swing quotient as well.
    • “Fresh Air” by Quicksilver Messenger Service - This guitar-driven outfit says “happy trails” to the Fillmore by playing one of their signature tunes from their fourth album Just For Love, a more rock song-oriented record than the preceding Quicksilver releases that trafficked in more expansive music tinged with psychedelia, blues and jazz.
    • “White Bird” by It’s A Beautiful Day - An interesting curio...The performance is so-so, and it’s truncated and interrupted by some of Graham’s musings about the Flower Power generation, but it may be the only decent footage of this genre-blending San Francisco band that never quite ascended to widespread reverence and success like their San Francisco peers.
    • “Incident At Neshabur” and “In A Silent Way” - Santana - A percolating, percussion-driven jam that ebbs and flows, “Incident At Neshabur” is a song from the band’s classic 1970 album Abraxas.  This is followed by a jazz-rock spin on Miles Davis’ classic composition “In A Silent Way”, and in a way, it foretells the future directions of Carlos Santana in various side projects and exploits to come...
  • Other Artists featured on the disc:  Lamb, Jefferson Airplane, Jerry Garcia with The New Riders Of The Purple Sage, Grateful Dead, and The Elvin Bishop Group.

 

 

 

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Posted 12/29/19.....

A COUPLE OF CONCERT DVD RELEASES BY FEMALE ARTISTS.....Here are two compelling women singer/songwriters in live performance...and musicasaurus' favorite track from each of their DVDs.

JEWEL.....from Live At Humphrey’s By The Bay.....released in 2002.

  • Originally from Alaska, Jewel started singing at an early age and went through stretches of “living out of a van” in California in order to break into the music business.  Once she signed with Atlantic Records, it took a year or more for her debut album—1995’s Pieces of You—to truly dent the public consciousness to a large degree. 
  • On this 2002 DVD, Jewel—road tested and dues certainly paid—gives a captivating performance that exudes confidence and poise, and her vocal skills are flat-out amazing.
  • Standout track:  “Who Will Save Your Soul” (a song that originally appeared on Jewel’s debut record, and the first to “break wide” with the public).....Almost 7 minutes in length, this is an odyssey of build-and-release, full of sensuality.  Jewel eases in and out, and dips and soars, through the vocal registers; near the end of the song there is a moment of one longheld note that induces astonishment and triggers an almost jaw-dropping reaction (happened to me, at least).  Heavy praise, I know—but it is one of those “concert moments” that we live for...

TORI AMOS.....from Welcome to Sunny Florida.....released in 2003.

  • Tori Amos, who started on piano at the age of four, has carved out a niche as a unique and talented artist who’s won over alternative fans as well as ‘70s singer-songwriter aficionados.  Vocally a bit similar to Kate Bush, she has reestablished the piano as a rock ‘n’ roll instrument (if ever it was in doubt).
  • This concert was filmed at the then-named Sound Advice Amphitheatre in West Palm Beach, Florida.  It is Tori on keyboards (Wurlitzer and Rhodes) with just two other musicians: Jon Evans on bass and Matt Chamberlain on drums.
  • Standout track:  “Cornflake Girl” (a song originally on 1994’s Under The Pink album).....The song takes a few minutes to actually commence.  After a couple of minutes of Amos talking to the audience, the song kicks off with a sinewy drum beat, bass, and then that piano...This is a superior performance captured in great “live” sound, and this three-piece unit rocks.  Amos has great command of her key instruments—her voice and her fingers.  The piano solos in this funky, rhythmic six-minute spectacle are intense, as Amos stands up from the piano bench and ignites the ivories.  Intoxicating...Seek it out...Enjoy!

 

 

 

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Posted 12/15/19.....

(Next posting:  Sunday evening, December 29, 2019)

A MusiCares Tribute to Neil Young.....(DVD released in 2011)

A friend alerted me to this DVD release that features 17 performances of Neil Young material and the artist line-up is eclectic and all over the map—true to the spirit of Mr. Young himself.  The roster includes Dave Matthews, Keith Urban, John Fogerty, Ozomatli, CSN, Lady Antebellum, Wilco, Ben Harper, Dierks Bentley, Elvis Costello, Josh Groban, and many others.

The MusiCares organization was first established in 1989 by the Recording Academy to benefit ailing and/or financially distressed musicians, and in 2010 boasted the largest number of clients served in its history—more than 2,200 members of the music industry had received needed funds via a grand total of more than $2.5 million in direct financial assistance.

Each year, the organization honors an individual in the business who, as the DVD liner notes say, “has made important contributions to the world of music and has demonstrated extraordinary humanitarian and philanthropic efforts.”

On the evening of January 29, 2010, Neil Young was feted at the MusiCares gala event in Los Angeles...One overarching comment here: Young is an amazing talent, and though I enjoyed the performances on this disc from his peer admirers, there’s simply nothing like taking journeys through the past with the man himself.

Musicasaurus.com’s recommended tracks:

1. “The Needle & The Damage Done”by Dave Matthews- It’s Dave unadorned, just solo acoustic (befitting the song).

2. “Ohio” by Ben Harper - Kind of a reinvention here by Harper...He has a slide guitar on his lap and he’s “zoned” into a passionate rendering with just three female vocalists as accompanists.   

3. “Helpless” by Elton John & Leon Russell - Perhaps the best of the lot...Elton and Leon are in fine form, facing each other, fingers flying over their ivories.  Guesting on the choruses are Sheryl Crow and Neko Case.

Musicasaurus.com’s honorable mentions, in several categories:

1. Quirky, Maybe Even Cool:  “Harvest Moon” by Josh Groban - Groban is playing piano, and the back-up musicians are perfectly in synch with all the right, light touches, but...but...it’s just a bit too much like a TV variety showkind of performance.  Groban does have the pipes, though.

2. Nice Try, but No Cigar:  “Rockin’ In The Free World” by Keith Urban and John Fogerty - Not that this is bad or embarrassing, there’s just not a real lift-off—and when you’ve seen Neil Young do this, or even Pearl Jam, it’s at a whole different level.

3. Best Dressed (couldn’t leave out this award; it’s L.A.):  Norah Jones, sleek and stunning in a black dress, sings “Tell Me Why” and it’s a near-perfect cover with that voice…Jones is accompanied by Sasha Dobson, a bandmate from one of her musical collaborations called Puss n Boots. 

 

 

 

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Posted 12/1/19.....

Steve Hunter – Tone Poems Live...(DVD released in September 2014)

 

 

 

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Posted 11/17/19.....

Jethro Tull – Nothing Is Easy: Live at the Isle of Wight 1970... (released in 2004 by Eagle Vision).

 

 

 

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Posted 11/3/19.....

Julia Fordham – That’s Live... (released in 2005 by Vanguard Records).

 

 

 

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Posted 10/20/19.....

Legends Live At Montreux 1997 – Eric Clapton, Steve Gadd, Marcus Miller, Joe Sample and David Sanborn... (released in 2005 by Eagle Rock Entertainment).

 

 

 

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Posted 10/6/19.....

APPALACHIAN JOURNEY LIVE IN CONCERT – Yo-Yo Ma, Edgar Meyer, Mark O’Connor...Sony Classical (2000).

 

 

 

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Posted 9/22/19.....

LIVE FROM ABBEY ROAD – Best of Season One...Fremantle Media Enterprises (2007).

 

 

 

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Posted 9/8/19.....

One of television's music incubators, starting in 1975...

Saturday Night Live / 25 Years of Music / Performances and Sketches......released on DVD in 2003 (Warner Reprise Video)

 

 

 

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Posted 8/25/18.....

Here’s a Double Shot of Required Viewings...And a Standout Track from each:

1.) LEON RUSSELL AND THE NEW GRASS REVIVAL (self-titled release)

2.) SUZANNE VEGA / LIVE AT MONTREUX 2004

 

 

 

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Posted 8/11/19.....

Amnesty International Presents RELEASED!  The Human Rights Concerts 1986-1998 - A 2008 MVD Entertainment Group release

 

 

 

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Posted 7/28/19.....

I’ve got a one-track mind when it comes to certain DVDs.....so here ‘tis from the Coors, My Morning Jacket, and Ray Charles. 

THE CORRS / UNPLUGGED

MY MORNING JACKET / OKONOKOS

RAY CHARLES / O-GENIO: LIVE IN BRAZIL, 1963

 

 

 

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Posted 7/14/19.....

SOUNDBREAKING / Stories from the Cutting Edge of Recorded Music (2016 PBS television series)

Here’s a gem if you missed it during its premier broadcast on PBS in the Spring of 2016, or through occasional rebroadcasts.  It’s available now on DVD in a four-disc set containing all eight episodes, and one doesn’t have to be a music insider to appreciate this march toward creative freedom and innovation in the world of music production.

Interest level is maintained throughout because of the masterful editing and the “sound" content—landmark recordings dissected gleefully by hands-on producers like George Martin (the “fifth Beatle” at all Abbey Road recording sessions) and Rick Rubin (who benevolently nurtured disparate artists from the Beastie Boys and Public Enemy to Neil Diamond and late-career Johnny Cash)…a multitude of artist interviews including Eric Clapton, Paul McCartney, Devo, Ben Harper, Roger Waters, Dr. Dre, Brian Eno, Nile Rodgers, The Black Keys and Annie Lennox…and a fascinating look, of course, at the initial springboard of recording technology in the 1960s and the innovations that followed, fueled by tech, trends and artistic creativity. 

It’s all here…rock, rap, MTV, disco, Dylan-gone-electric, EDM, sampling, streaming, and what’s bubbling up (hold onto the handrails).

A great collection, vetted by musicasaurus.com and his non-music industry couch mate Mary Ellen, who was used as the “control” in this viewing experiment and whose enthusiasm jumped the baseline into something close to awe…

Enjoy.

 

 

 

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Posted 6/30/19.....

Here’s a way for you to pick up a great DVD and support PBS at the same time:  Go to this website—https://shop.pbs.org/the-best-of-bluegrass-underground-vol-2-dvd/product/BLUN602—and lay your $$ down.  You’ll be getting a real find from the underground—the DVD of The Best of Bluegrass Underground, Volume 2. 

This compilation, from a taping 333 feet below the surface in Tennessee’s 32-mile long Cumberland Caverns, holds performances household names in the Bluegrass realm, and some a bit more recognizable.  The concert area proper is called the Volcano Room amphitheater and the acoustics are marvelous.

The Volume 2 Best Of DVD features a fairly wide-ranging bunch of artists, old and new, including Leon Russell, Lucinda Williams, Old Crow Medicine Show, North Mississippi Allstars, Jason Isbell, Del McCoury Band, The Civil Wars, David Grisman FolkJazz Trio, and more.

The highlight of the line-up is a performance by Andrew Bird entitled “Danse Caribe” (originally from the 2012 album Break It Yourself).  A four-piece acoustic band (inclusive of Byrd) is poised and pitch perfect on the instrumentation as well as on voice.  Eyes closed, lead singer Byrd absolutely swings with the flow of the four-piece's perfectly nailed notes.  https://youtu.be/zDYvk3OP1wY

 

 

 

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Posted 6/16/19.....

Johnny Winter  - Live Through The ‘70s - A 2008 MVD Entertainment Group release…

This DVD has gathered up both live-in-concert and television performances (1970-1979) from Texas blues guitarist Johnny Winter, and it features stops in Denmark, Germany and London in addition to native soil appearances in Chicago and Waterbury, Connecticut...

Recommended tracks:

  1. “Frankenstein” - from a 1970 performance...Albino blues brothers Johnny AND Edgar play on this instrumental that Edgar later on parlayed into a monstrous hit (he first released it in studio form two years later, via his 1972 album They Only Come Out At Night.)  The setting is a small stage in a low-ceilinged, firetrap-lookin’ teen club in Denmark, Copenhagen and the jam includes not one but two drum solos (one by Edgar, who jumped over from keyboards to drum kit perhaps to prove his “multi-instrumentalist” tag was warranted).  Admittedly, the song as performed here is not entirely captivating; it’s just worth a peek because of the look and feel of a young and hungry blues-rock band bangin’ it out in a club setting.
  2. “Be Careful With A Fool” - This is more like it.  From that same 1970 Denmark club session, Johnny stretches out on a B.B. King composition and plays heartfelt blues-rock riffs punctuated by his own guttural growls that seem to goad his flying fingers.  This is the Winter of my content--the more straight-ahead blues before he blossomed into an arena headliner a few years down the road, sometimes wearing (as he did on a ’73 Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert appearance), a top hat, cape and platform shoes.

Also on the disc:  Winter with bandmates Randy Jo Hobbs (bass) and Richard Hughes (drums) in performances circa ’73 and ’74, the time period that—on vinyl—Winter was also pushing out albums like Still Alive And Well and Saints & Sinners, both featuring guitarist Rick Derringer as well.  Still Alive And Well—a release so named because it marked Winter’s personal emergence from a heroin habit—is especially a treat.  Village Voice music critic Robert Christgau says of that record:  Winter will never be an especially personable singer, but I like what's he's putting out on this monkey-off-my-comeback: two late-Stones covers, plenty of slide, and a good helping of nasty.

 

 

 

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Posted 6/3/19.....

Glastonbury - A Julien Temple film - A musical documentary (BBC Films / HanWay Films / TH!NKFilm) released as a two-DVD set in June 2007.

 

 

 

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Posted 10/3/16...

 

Just a few weeks back, while filling the shopping cart on Amazon.com, I decided to put my near-future satisfactions in the hands of the Police...So I bought the following two concert DVDs, curious about what a gap of 24 years might look and sound like in terms of two different tours, that many years apart:

When the shipment arrived, musicasaurus.com did a quick experiment right out of the box (or boxes, technically).  I took one song, and not any of the hits which have nestled sometimes too well into our consciousness; to seek some measure of objectivity, I chose a track from the band’s first studio album Outlandos d’Amour from 1978--“Hole In My Life”.

It’s been a favorite album track of mine through the years, all punky and propulsive.  How would the songs compare?  In this corner:  The Police during their initial 9-year ascension to global superstardom.  In the other corner:  The Police reunited after 21 years apart--and was it for Love?  Or was it for Money?  Was it for Love of Money?

Comparing the Two Performances of "Hole In My Life" (performed live, 24 years apart):

The Crowd:

The On-Stage Look:

Production Values:

 

 

 

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Posted 5/5/19.....

LIVE AID—July 13, 1985.....Various artists; staged simultaneously at Wembley Stadium in London and JFK Stadium in Philadelphia.....DVD released in November 2004.

 

 

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Posted 4/21/19.....

TELLURIDE BLUEGRASS FESTIVAL / 30 YEARS…..DVD released in June 2005.

 

 

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Posted 4/7/19.....

THE OLD GREY WHISTLE TEST, VOLUME THREE..... The UK’s legendary live music show (DVD released in 2006).

This is the third volume in the 1971-1987 British television series that largely captured English and American artists in a high-quality, in-studio performance setting.

Musicasaurus.com’s Recommended Tracks in this Volume Three:

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