With the calendar about to turn to August, I think it’s time to pull together some music to talk about. I’ve neglected that topic of late because of the problems acquiring it in a timely fashion (see The Free Thinker No. 20 for the whole miserable story). But I have nothing in the pipeline at the moment, and nothing on the horizon. The top is down, the pedal’s on the floor, and it’s a good time to crank up the music and get the hell outta town for a while.
When the Free Thinker piece appeared, I mentioned that I was awaiting the release and subsequent arrival of both Dream Syndicate’s The Days of Wine and Roses reissue, and Legacy’s Miles Davis At Newport 1955-75 box set, the fourth in their series of bootleg sets from the Miles Davis archive. Both arrived on time, I’m happy to say.
Omnivore Records has taken an interest in reissuing some key titles from the 1980’s that have been AWOL for quite some time, and one of the bands to get their attention is Dream Syndicate - deservedly so. Dream Syndicate emerged from the Paisley Underground movement in Los Angeles that gave us bands like Green On Red, Rain Parade, The Bangles, Opal, The Long Ryders, The Three O’Clock, True West, Wednesday Week and several more. The catalogs of many of those bands have been out of print for too long now, and Omnivore is trying to rectify that problem. The Days of Wine and Roses is maybe the landmark record of that entire movement. The Bangles went on to experience far more commercial success, but it was this record by Dream Syndicate that got the attention of music critics, and helped to shine the spotlight on the movement and the rest of the bands orbiting this most accomplished bunch of musicians. Steve Wynn, Karl Precoda, Kendra Smith and Dennis Duck brought together the glorious jangle of bands like the Byrds, and fused it with psychedelia. There was both an edge, and an ethereal quality to what they did, and it best defines that Paisley Underground movement. It was as if they had one foot firmly planted in the late 1960’s, and the other somewhere beyond the 1980’s. I bought the original LP on Ruby Records not long after it was released because of the critical buzz, but I’d never picked it up on CD. There was an anniversary edition issued a few years ago, but I missed it. This new edition on Omnivore sounds great and offers some previously unreleased rehearsal material that provides some insight into the band’s working method, and offers a lot of guitar explorations as well – something the band was noted for in a live setting. While the bonus material isn’t what I would call essential, it does color the Dream Syndicate with a broader brush stroke, and will certainly be of most value to long time fans. For the uninitiated, however, the original record is reason enough for the package to exist in the first place. As I said, it’s a landmark record of its time, and belongs in any serious collection of post-modern rock.
Changing gears for a moment, Legacy’s fourth in a series of bootleg releases from its vast Miles Davis archive gets my vote as the best entry yet in what has been a very impressive reissue project. At Newport 1955-75 spans three decades, a number of different bands, and three separate styles of music – all of which is clearly definable as the work of the genius Miles Davis. You can chart the evolution of the trumpeter’s approach to his music, his evolution as a band leader, and his ability to navigate vastly different approaches to what is all, at the end of the day, jazz in its highest form.
The set begins with a performance with a group of All-Stars (including the showcase ‘Round Midnight) that won Miles a contract in 1955 with Columbia at a time when he needed a change of scene, and some good luck. From there we hear Miles’ band in 1958 (the Kind of Blue lineup before that record was made), followed by the classic 60’s quintet (Hancock, Shorter, Carter, Williams) in two stunning performances from 1966 and ’67. From there we get an appearance of the core members of the Bitches Brew era in July of ’69 (Shorter, DeJohnette, Holland). That’s followed by a raving electronic set from ’73 with one of the trumpeter’s most notable electric lineups (two electric guitars courtesy Reggie Lucas, and Pete Cosey, and Dave Liebman’s soprano driven by Michael Henderson’s bass, and percussion from Al Foster, and Mtume). Disc three closes with a single performance from the ’75 aggregation with Sam Morrison’s tenor in place of Liebman’s soprano. The sound quality on this one is the roughest in the set, but worth having in spite of that.
And all of that still doesn’t prepare you for the mind melting performance that is disc 4, an October ’71 electric set in Switzerland with Gary Bartz on saxes, Keith Jarrett on keyboards, Michael Henderson on bass, Leon Chancler on drums, and Don Alias, and Mtume on percussion. The fourth disc is worth the price of the entire set as far as I’m concerned, but there really isn’t a weak moment in the entire box. It works as several hours of great listening, but also as a map of two decades worth of the trumpeter’s innovative genius in moving jazz forward. Great booklet, a free poster included, and a nice package all around. But to be honest, for music this incredible, they could’ve packaged it in a brown paper bag, and I’d have bought it. If you’re a true Miles aficionado, you already own this. If Kind of Blue is all you have, and you’ve been wondering where to go next, begin here. It will give you some idea of what you’re letting yourself in for if you plan to start collecting Miles Davis recordings.
The “Rolling” in the title of this piece refers, of course, to The Rolling Stones (with a nod and a wink to Bob Dylan for the rest of the pun). This has been a great year for the band. They are two years into their second half-century, and they’re showing no signs of slowing down. They finished a tour of Australia, and came to America for what was dubbed The Zip Code Tour earning their best reviews in years. They’ve ramped up their From The Vault series of archive releases, they’re presenting a retrospective exhibit of memorabilia in London at the moment, Keith Richards has announced his first solo record in more than twenty years, and followed that announcement by promising a new Stones studio album for 2016. Oh, and Mick just turned 72 (though he looks 52, and sounds 32.) I’m always on a Stones kick, but this year I’m having a hard time keeping up with it all (a good problem to have, for a change).
Earlier this year I decided to pick up the Sweet Summer Sun/Hyde Park Live CD/DVD from 2013. I had downloaded the music when it was first released because I’d read there would be no CD. So when I saw I’d been misinformed, and I found the entire set for 10 bucks in a discount catalog, I jumped. I said at the time, and I’ll repeat it again – this is one of the best Stones live sets you can buy. I think it’s the best of many live albums recorded and released since 1980. The DVD is great fun to watch, and I think it’s one of the many reasons why you’re not hearing as many jokes these days about the band’s collective age. You cannot hear them today, and believe for a second that they’re finished and can’t bring it anymore. It defies logic, tempts fate, and spits in the face of time, but it is what it is and there’s no denying it.
I also picked up the expanded edition of Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out that was re-issued a couple of years ago. I passed on the original set because it was pricey, but when I discovered they’d re-issued it in a smaller package for less than 25 bucks, I knew I had to get it. There are some extras from the band’s set as well as the sets of both opening acts on that ’69 tour, B.B. King, and Ike & Tina Turner. You also get those bonus tracks as part of a short film on the DVD.
Before we leave 1969, this past week saw the release, finally, of the band’s original performance in Hyde Park on July 5, 1969. It’s a documentary film that chronicles one of the landmark moments of their career. The set was both a tribute to the late Brian Jones who’d passed away two days prior, and the first appearance ever of new guitarist Mick Taylor. The film oozes with hippie vibes, and the band is ragged and rough (to be kind), but it’s history, and with no extras, budget priced (10 bucks).
I’d love to be able to provide a detailed review of the Sticky Fingers Deluxe Edition that was issued in spring, but I can’t because the version of it I ordered was never released. I couldn’t afford the deluxe set with all the trimmings, and I had no interest in buying the 2 CD version with a single bonus disc of extras. So I chose to order the four-disc edition that included a DVD, and additional bonus material. When the set didn’t arrived I contacted the website a couple of times, and as of this writing, that version is in limbo. I was told possibly August, but who knows? In the meantime, some unknown person (thank you, whoever you are) uploaded the audio portions of the set to YouTube, so I’ve been able to hear all of the additional archive material – outtakes, and alternates from the studio sessions along with a performance at London’s Roundhouse in ‘71, and the Complete Live At Leeds set from 1971. It’s all fantastic, and worth owning if they ever decide to make it available to those of us on a budget.
In the meantime, I consoled myself with the extraordinary CD/DVD set Live At The Marquee Club – also from 1971. Every Stones fan should have this one. It was in 1971 when they transitioned to becoming The World’s Greatest Rock ‘N’ Roll Band, but ’71 was just about the last time you could see and hear them in such an intimate setting. They would go on to invent the modern rock concert tour in ’72, and forever leave behind their club days (save for the El Mocambo set that appeared on the ’77 Love You Live LP). I would guess that this series of releases just about exhausts the period from 1969-1971. I have no idea what else is on the drawing board besides that next studio record. If I had a wish list it would include deluxe editions of both Goat’s Head Soup and It’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll, and it would be nice to have the complete set from the El Mocambo club. It’s available on bootleg, so I know it exists. I would also love to have a set of recordings from the Black & Blue sessions featuring some of those rehearsals and tracks featuring the other guitarists who auditioned for Mick Taylor’s spot before the band settled on Ronnie Wood. If such a set is possible, I’d also like them to include the flatbed truck recording of Brown Sugar they played live on a New York City street one afternoon to promote the ’75 Tour of The Americas.
As for the early stuff, I don’t believe the band controls its 60’s recordings so we’ll have to hope Abkco has more surprises in store for us along the lines of the ’65 Irish Tour documentary Charlie Is My Darling. All of the Ed Sullivan Show appearances have already been collected and released, so I’m not certain how much else is available. But whatever comes, I’ll take. After listening to them for 50 years, I can’t always get what I want, but I often do get what I need.
I have a couple more things to mention that I picked up this summer that might interest some of you. Omnivore Records also issued a previously unreleased live recording of The Knack from a Los Angeles club in 1978 (Having A Rave-Up! Live In Los Angeles 1978) that came prior to the release of their debut album Get The Knack, and features not only songs from that record, but some that would turn up on their second LP as well. The sound quality is decent, and the performance quite good. It’s a cool snapshot of a great period in West Coast rock history.
There was also yet another live release from the Deep Purple series of bootleg archive recordings. This one comes from Long Beach, California (Long Beach 1971) when the band was opening on tour for Rod Stewart and The Faces. What’s unique about this set is that because they were an opening act, they had only an hour for their set and they chose to do just four numbers. They’re all extended workouts, and if you know Deep Purple, you know they were at their best when they could stretch out and jam live. The sound quality is definitely bootleg and not really a selling point, but it’s passable, and given a recording of this importance, not really a consideration. Purple fans most definitely will want this one.
As I mentioned earlier, I have nothing in the pipeline, and my work schedule for the next several weeks will likely prohibit much activity in this space. But I’m using my Facebook page primarily for music, and there is fresh content on it everyday. The posts are public, and I often mention things that might not otherwise find a place in the blog. You can find it at https://www.facebook.com/tim.frueh
In the meantime, keep your ear to the ground (but if you hear an engine roar, for god’s sake get your ass to the side of the road - I’d hate to run over you on the road to nowhere).