Rock & Roll RePast: Vanilla Fudge “You Keep Me Hangin’ On”

Posted: June 28th, 2016 | Filed under: Culture, Music, Ruminations | 7 Comments »

rock3imagesCorrected 6/30 7:50 am

Once, when asked by a local rag to name his favorite guitar players, Wink O’Bannon, a guy who knows his way around that ax, put Neil Young on the list.

Because, he offered, “Every solo Young plays sounds like the first one.”

Which I think of when I hear Mark Stein’s simplistic organ intro to his group Vanilla Fudge’s cover of “You Keep Me Hangin’ On’,” a hit out of Motown for The Supremes.

He keeps hitting and holding a high F Sharp (Maybe it’s G Minor, I’m not that astute.) as punctuation for the group’s bombastic version of the tune.

It’s like he keeps saying to himself, “This sounds so cool.” And, in the back of his mind, “Besides I’m not facile enough to play anything more complicated.”

It’s a garage band thing. It’s a white boy thing. And I’m thinking of VF and this unique, resonant cover because . . .

. . . in my most recent version of Snapshot Chronicles — You can read it here — I referenced a viable definition of “rock & roll” by Memphis provocateur Robert Gordon.

Which is essentially that it’s “white boys playing black music.”

Not all inclusive obviously, but clever, reasonably astute and cuts to the heart of the matter, even if more than a bit narrow as such complicated definitions go.

And it got me thinking, which is dangerous enough an exercise, but every once in awhile serves a legitimate purpose. Like now, when I tried to conjure up a good example for you that would fit Gordon’s definition.

Vanilla Fudge came soon enough to mind. Read the rest of this entry »


The Snapshot Chronicles: 6/27/16

Posted: June 27th, 2016 | Filed under: Cinema, Culture, Music, Personalities, Ruminations, Snapshot Chronicles | 4 Comments »

chron“Step On Up” Billy Joe Shaver (Sirius XM Outlaw Country). If Muddy Waters was the most masculine of the electric blues singers — and you know, really, he sang “I’m a Man,” and felt compelled to spell it out, in case his point wasn’t indelible enough — swamp blues master Slim Harpo was the most sensual.

Don’t move your hands/ Don’t move your lips/ Just shake your hips/ And do the hip shake thang

And if author/rock & roll historian Robert Gordon, an inveterate Memphian, came as close to a legit definition of that genre as anybody, when he declared “Rock and roll is white rednecks trying to play black music,” then a sure enough classic example blew through the box in my car the other day.

On the Outlaw Country channel no less. It’s all mixed together now, folks.

Corsicana, Texas’s Billy Joe Shaver was singin’ — no “g” at the end of that verb — “Step On Up.”

The lead is a boogie shuffle — thanks John Lee Hooker — with its back strokes on the guitar. Then a little six string vibrato tag that oozes from the swamp primordial. All Slim. All bayou slinky.

Redneck white boy playing black music. Bingo, RG. Rock & roll.

As an exclamation point, the lyrics assure the listener Billy Joe knows Muddy too.

Step on up here baby/ I’ll show you what’s it about/ You know I’m packin’ something/ Something you can’t live without

“Thunder Road” (2016 Sundance Festival Short Film Tour). The finale of this fascinating eight film potpourri, the pick of the litter of thousands submitted this year for Robert Redford’s annual fete in Utah, was written, directed and stars a guy named Jim Cummings.

Remember the name. Read the rest of this entry »


The Snapshot Chronicles: 6/20/16

Posted: June 20th, 2016 | Filed under: Culture, Music, Ruminations | 1 Comment »

chron

Fox News Interview with Dalai Lama. Listen I deplore Fox News as much as the next Leftie, but when they get it right, you gotta give ’em credit.

Bret Baier recently interviewed the Lama, the flowing robes, grace, bald, and asked him the single most burning, and theretofore unanswered pop culture question of import.

He asked the Twelfth Son of the Lama if he’d ever seen “Caddyshack?”

Turns out the Lama’s not quite the big hitter Carl Spackler (Bill Murray) claimed to have caddied for. He advised Baier, he plays badminton, not golf.

Gunga galunga…gunga — gunga galunga.

Marshall Chapman (Facebook 6/14). Vandy grad Chapman’s always been pretty damn hip. No less an authority than Waylon Jennings said in the 70s, “Marshall’s a good ole boy. She can come on the bus.” She showed up and played Tim Krekel’s wake at Vernon Lanes. And did a great cameo as lounge singer in “Mississippi Grind.”

Then she recently passed on this great suggestion on Facebook,

“This just in – don’t know who wrote it:
“How about we treat every young man who wants to buy a gun like every woman who wants to get an abortion — mandatory 48-hour waiting period, parental permission, a note from his doctor proving he understands what he’s about to do, a video he has to watch about the effects of gun violence, and an ultrasound wand up the ass (for good measure). Let’s close down all but one gun shop in every state and make him travel hundreds of miles, take time off from work, and stay overnight in a strange town to get a gun. Make him walk through a gauntlet of people holding photos of loved ones who were shot to death, people who call him murderer and beg him not to buy a gun.”

“Junko Partner” Big Chief Monk Boudreaux and Anders Osborne. (Sirius XM, The Loft) Big Chief of the Golden Eagles Mardi Gras Indians Monk Boudreaux was sitting in a tent at JazzFest a few years back, carefully stitching beads to his costume for the next year’s parade. I had a question I needed to ask he who would know, about lyrics from the classic tune “Iko Iko.” Read the rest of this entry »


JazzFest ’16: Daze Between

Posted: April 27th, 2016 | Filed under: Culture, Music, Ruminations | Tags: | 1 Comment »

jz1imagesThe Fest rests on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, before picking up again for a long Thursday through Sunday second hootenany.

The period is cannily and most aptly dubbed the Daze Between.

While there are many turista who keep decent hours — lots from Australia and China, it seems — there are also a great number of bleary eyed folks, who when visiting this partiest of the party towns welcome their days/daze here at noon and beyond.

You know, there are evening shows that start at 2:00 in the morning. Rule, not the unusual exception.

 * * * * *

Which is why I’m grateful for the shows, with starting times suitable for old farts.

Like Monday’s 7:00 PM first notes by Aurora Nealand & the Royal Roses at Maison on Frenchman Street.

The Bechet-inspired clarinetist/ vocalist is an amazing talent. Read the rest of this entry »


JazzFest Sunday: The Tradition Carried On

Posted: April 25th, 2016 | Filed under: Culture, Music | Tags: | 1 Comment »

jz1imagesThere’s a hole in the festival this year.

Allen Toussaint is gone.

Of all the incredible, important, influential artists from this town, the ones so infused with the spirit force of New Orleans music that it permeates most all their output, Toussaint was the most notable.

I sadly note that, in a year when a lot of artists are acknowledging the passing of Prince or other beloved musicians — the subdudes memorialized an influence, Papa Dooky Edwards — I haven’t yet heard a mention of Toussaint’s passing.

(Of course, since I can only be at one stage at a time, it doesn’t mean, there weren’t shout outs. And there’s a whole set of tribute for him on the final Sunday.)

So, it was a relief, and a great pleasure, to hear Henry Butler & Jambalaya’s set at Congo Square.

It was seriously New Orleans-centric. Read the rest of this entry »


JazzFest 1st Saturday: Alpha, Darcy & Van

Posted: April 24th, 2016 | Filed under: Culture, Music | Tags: | 2 Comments »

jz1imagesFor reasons too complicated and sordid to go into here, JazzFest got big about a decade ago.

Really big.

Instead of an essentially indigenous festival, featuring the music of New Orleans and Louisiana, plus national acts with ties to its focus, it went nationwide pop.

In the old days, there would be no My Morning Jacket or Pearl Jam or Red Hot Chili Peppers, as this year, or Eagles or Counting Crows or Elton John or Bon Jovi as in recent years.

The byproduct of that shift, nay, the product itself, has been bigger crowds and more “success.” Meaning the Jazz & Heritage Foundation, which owns the Fest, gets more money that ever.

Many of the actual byproducts haven’t been so positive.

The crowds can be so huge, unengaged and without focus that it impedes the ability for listeners to laser in on acts they wish to savor on the big stages. There’s more sound bleed between stages, which in some instances is not a good thing at all.

As when Pearl Jam starts, and the DeJohnette, Coltrane, Garrison set at the Jazz Tent gets Eddie Vettered. Everybody does not need to hurt.

Other than the humongous crowds, which, like yesterday, are starting to get to me, my personal biggest peeve is that the sound at some of the stages isn’t as good as it used to universally be. Until five years or so ago, I would always mention, when talking Fest to people, how righteous the sound always is.

No more. Read the rest of this entry »


JazzFest Day I: Boffo Beginning

Posted: April 23rd, 2016 | Filed under: Culture, Music | Tags: | No Comments »

jz1imagesThere have been days before down here when I left the Fest grounds totally sated, when I didn’t need to hear another note to head into the evening with a full heart and serene soul. When I didn’t even need to hear the last offerings from the headliners for completion.

It happened in ’88 on my first return to JazzFest after an eight year hiatus. I ran from stage to stage like a junker at his pusherman’s place, attempting to ingest every last lyric, every piano solo. During the day and all through the night.

It was like I was obsessed. No, there was no “like” to it, I was obsessed.

The Neville Brothers Band, then at the top of their considerable game, the kings of New Orleans, ended one of the days on a big stage. As they did then, brother Aaron sang a few of his tunes mid set with only older brother Art backing him on keys.

He shredded “Arianne,” a tune with inconsequential, almost silly lyrics, but doo wop beauty that was Aaron’s forte. It cut like a laser. My body chilled, then absolute serenity.

I’d heard enough, even though their set wasn’t over. Read the rest of this entry »


Meg, OZ & A Neville to the Rescue

Posted: April 20th, 2016 | Filed under: Culture, Music | Tags: | No Comments »

jz1imagesSo, yeah, I dunno why I chose to drive to New Orleans from Louisville.

Stoopid I guess.

Save a little $$$ on air fare and a car rental. Geesh, what am I thinking,  what am I gonna do, take it with me?

Of course, I (and several miles of other vehicles) come to a dead stop on I-65 south of Nashville for an hour while they clear up a wreck. Along then route, there’s about 485 “Road Work Next 16 miles” flashing signs. Fortunately only about a tenth of them are telling the truth, but it was enough to try a man’s soul.

Meg Grffin, one of the DJs on Sirius XM helped ease some of the angst. She’s a big fan of this little music festival, commencing here on Friday. So, on “The Loft,” she ques up Professor Longhair and Jon Cleary, declaring this is “for all of you heading to JazzFest.”

But the joyous reality starts to sink in, when I can finally hear 90.7 WWOZ, and the DJ there is playing a bunch of artists who will be in the Blues Tent, and generally carrying on about, you know, JazzFest.

(Perspective on OZ, New Orleans’ public music station and its importance to the city’s heritage. There was a character in David Simon’s “Treme” on HBO, an honest cop, who has to leave New Orleans because it’s not safe when he attempts to right some departmental wrongs. Has to move to Indy no less. Talk about culture shock.

Anyway, he laments the move. He loves the town. As he’s driving away, he’s got OZ on the box in his car. About thirty miles up the I-10, the station fades, and the look on his face tells the tale of his sorrow.)

Anyhow, so, I’m calming down a bit, when . . .

. . . I get to where I’m staying, a groovy spanking new boutique hotel on Camp Street, overlooking the Hale Boggs Federal Courthouse. My original room was smaller than my closet at home. But funky cool hip

Operative word: “was.” Thanks to Michael at the desk I got an upgrade. Still funky. Still no closet. (That’s not a typo.) But bigger than a closet. Still cool. And still hip.

And I elicit a smile from Michael, when he asks if I need any tips about New Orleans or the Quarter, and I respond, “This is my 29th JazzFest.”

“I guess you know the drill then,” says he. Read the rest of this entry »


Springtime, New Orleans, JazzFest & FOMS

Posted: April 18th, 2016 | Filed under: Culture, Music | Tags: | 2 Comments »

jazzfest2New Orleans JazzFest starts this coming Friday. As I have for the last decade or so, I intend to blog daily about the city, the music, and the food.

So the lyrics I’m about to quote were going to be at the top, like some real literary essay deal or something.

They’re from Pete Seeger.

No, actually that’s not true, they are Ecclesiastical, from King James’ take on the ancients’ wisdom, and Seeger turned them into a folk song. About taking things as they are, when they are and accepting the vagaries of all there is. But savoring that which is of the moment.

There’s talk about different seasons and different purposes.

To everything there is a season (Turn, Turn, Turn)/ And a time for every purpose under heaven.

Which speak to me especially now that the honeysuckle is blooming, the dogwoods too, you know, springtime.

And in Printemps, a not so young man’s fancy turns to New Orleans and that which I have dubbed the “gravitational pull of my year,” a descriptor I stole from a wise and observant writer, somebody whose name I can’t recall.

New Orleans JazzFest. Read the rest of this entry »


Film Review Podcast: “Vinyl”

Posted: March 3rd, 2016 | Filed under: Film Reviews Podcast, Music, TV | No Comments »

vinimagesOkay, so, yeah the title of this post is kind of deceptive.

“Vinyl” is not a film.

What “Vinyl” is is a Martin Scorcese/ Mick Jagger-produced HBO series about the wild and wacky days of the music business in the 70s.

Bobby Cannavale is featured as the principal of a record company, trying to change its image, while mired in the excesses of the time.

There’s lots of the staples of the culture of the day.

Sex.

Drugs.

Rock & Roll.

For more details about this not really a guilty pleasure of mine, listen below:

Audio MP3

Rock & Roll RePast: Jeff Buckley “Mama, You’ve Been On My Mind

Posted: December 15th, 2015 | Filed under: Culture, Music, Ruminations | 1 Comment »

rock3imagesSo, yeah, OK, it’s a kind of single guy scenario.

One that plays out now and again through the decades. Different facts, similar essence.

It looks more or less like this . . .

. . . you’re at a holiday time house warming cocktail gathering. Sparkly attired hostess. Finger sandwiches. Crudité. Artichoke dip. Bottles of wine on the counter, bag of ice in the sink.

You find yourself in a corner of the kitchen chit chatting with an old acquaintance you haven’t talked with in awhile. Restaurant trends. College hoops. Van Morrison. Have you seen whatisname lately, what’s he up to?

Then, across the way, your attention is drawn to an attracting glow, the glint of light shining off her silvery hair. By the table of food, someone you’ve never seen before, with a smile, warm and knowing.

Excuse me, I’m going to see what’s to eat?

You slide over, gently slip into her conversation. Read the rest of this entry »


Allen Toussaint “Tipitina & Me”: Rock & Roll Repast

Posted: November 16th, 2015 | Filed under: Culture, Music, Personalities | Tags: | 3 Comments »

rock3imagesThis is the fifth in a series of rock & roll essays.

First the man, then the song.

The man was regal.

Allen Toussaint walked about — no let’s be accurate — Allen Toussaint carried himself, always, with aplomb. Chin up. Erect. Attuned to his surroundings, especially the sounds, in harmony with the melody of his whereabouts.

There’s an evocative moment in this BBC documentary, when, while walking the streets of NYC, he stops to tap a steel pole he intuits to be hollow. Just to listen how sonorous it may be. Then hearing the horn of a passing cab, observes it as a minor 3d of the pole’s ring.

He was a master at the piano, a master producer in the studio, a master songwriter, and far more important to the pantheon of contemporary music than his modest reputation outside of music’s insiders would indicate. If you aren’t aware, here’s a primer, his obituary in the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

He was impeccable, whether walking the promenade, or driving around in his Rolls Royce. Dapper. Bespoke. He was Saville Row, even if dressed on stage in a deep red blazer adorned with iridescent gold lamé fronds, an electric turquoise shirt, cravat of course with perfect Windsor, and his ever present stage affection for comfort, slip on sandals. Read the rest of this entry »