Monday, March 02, 2009

March YES, Symphonic Stones, Alizon Lissance

The Definitive Buddy Guy opens with an insightful "Sit and Cry (and sing the blues)", vintage recording opening up this Shout Factory release which is a good one-disc, but certainly only an overview and not "the definitive".

This version of the Blind Faith CD, most likely the initial issue from Polydor/RSO in the digital format, has two bonus tracks that are worth seeking out. Recorded at Morgan Studios, October 7, 1969. Both the 8 song CD with the bonus tracks and 6 song traditional version have the same catalog #825-094-2. There are additional vinyl album covers as well to seek out (a la the Jimi Hendrix Band Of Gypsies "Puppet" cover) It is extremely rare now, a budget version was issued rather quickly, replacing the bonus disc. Perhaps because the two extra tracks, "Exchange & Mart" and "Spending All My Days", just don't sound like the polished Blind Faith that we know and love, that producer Jimmy Miller labored over. Clapton's guitar is unique, sounding more like he's joining The Seeds, and the band drops the beat about thirty-eight seconds in. But, come on, it's rare Blind Faith and it is fun! The entire song is just over three minutes while the instrumental, "Exchange & Mart", comes in at 4:18 and has the essence of BF, though it still is dramatically different...different enough. As for other Blind Faith rarities "Sleeping In The Ground" (not on this single disc) appeared on Eric Clapton's Crossroads box, and then showed up on Blind Faith "Deluxe Edition" with a previously unreleased mix as well as a slow blues version. This stuff is fun and, no, I haven't listened closely to Disc 2 of the Deluxe to see if the powers that be pulled "Exchange And Mart" out of the long jams. These 2 tracks have charm and make this pretty special. Jimmy Miller left Island Records for The Rolling Stones. But when Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood spent months jamming without a finished project Chris Blackwell invited Jimmy Miller to dinner and asked him to produce Blind Faith. According to Jimmy it took 3 days and 3 nights of non-stop work, but the masterpiece that emerged is rock and roll legend. Expert Review by Joe Viglione

Stephen Stills elegant "Spanish Suite", the 13th track on Man Alive, the first studio album from Stills in 14 years, is indicative of the fine music within, a true milestone of a recording that will, no doubt, get lost in the depths of Stephen's vast catalog. If you factor in that 1991's "Stills Alone" was just that - a pure solo effort - and that James Chrispell of called (paraphrasing him now) 1984's Right By You disc a CD whose title reviewed the disc (didn't another critic say that about Neil Young's Time Fades Away, that if you replace the word "time" with Neil Young the title reviewed the disc - Neil Young Fades Away?) - well this could be called Stephen Still's Positive Revenge because track by track it is a keeper, a very strong selection of music production, vocal prowess and superb and catchy melodies and chord changes. It is vintage stills from "Ain't It Always" (which sounds like Paint It Away...or you could sing "Young Fades Away" to the melody) to the heartfelt "Piece Of Me", there are lots of things to like about Stills working with Herbie Hancock, Neil Young and Graham Nash. In fact, "Piece Of Me" would've fit nicely on the Rusty Kershaw album Young played on, the many facets to this complicated artist all come together on this long-awaited outing. Hopefully Stills will stay in the studio and give us more...along with those rare Jimi Hendrix sessions he has in his vault. "You'll judge nobody ever out of anger" he sings on "Wounded World" which is "full of love lies". Great stuff.

This dreamy recording - Symphonic Live - is vintage Yes. Now that might seem like a redundant statement, but truth be told, in a world where artists are morphing into variations of what they once were, this sublime presentation adds to the legend in a way that "Symphonic Tributes", say - The Symphonic Stones, could never be. The ethereal atmosphere is expected and on "Standing On Sacred Ground" it works to fine effect. "Don't Go" has superb drama, but the Symphony aspect still takes the hard rock edge off the group. Where Procul Harum drove the orchestra to their pounding heights, the backing here builds a pleasant foundation to give Yes a superb platform. Very listenable and extremely effective. Joe Viglione 8:58 PM 3-2-09 Lou Reed's birthday

Marianne Faithfull doing Melanie Safka doing Marianne Faithfull is what you get when Mick Jagger's ex-girlfriend performs on a majestic version of "Ruby Tuesday" backed up by the London Symphony Orchestra. It's a reunion of sorts for Jagger and Faithfull, as the lead singer of the Rolling Stones follows his ex with a similar version of "Angie," with deeper textures than the original pop hit. This elaborate package comes in a cardboard sleeve with six pages of photos and liner notes, and is a worthwhile addition to the Rolling Stones' catalog of music. Sure there are "symphonic" albums of music by Creed, the Beatles, Depeche Mode, heck, even Symphonic Star Trek, but this package, all in black with silver ink, of course, is something special. "Angie" is downright eerie. Perhaps the late Michael Hutchence wasn't the best choice to open up the voices, beginning with his rendition of "Under My Thumb," but at least he's not awful. It's tough to make such diverse compositions as "She's a Rainbow," "Gimme Shelter," and "Jumpin' Jack Flash" melt into each other with little definition, but they do that here, fading into background Muzak without a cutting voice like Faithfull to pronounce the mood. Faithfull walks away the star of the show on this project produced by Chris Kimsey, a triumphant survivor who witnessed some of this music's emergence the first time around. In that light, having the operatic Maire Brennan vocal on "As Tears Go By" comes off as a twisted joke.
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Alizon Lissance
The title track of this intriguing dozen songs from Boston veteran Alizon Lissance tosses some splashy Bonnie Raitt influenced pop/rock bordering on country into a full array of musical styles (there's a video version embedded on the disc for your computer). Lissance asks the question "Maybe you can be my dream come true" on this album she composed and co-produced. It's a Who's Who of Boston veterans including her former bandmates from Girls Night Out, vocalist Didi Stewart and guitarist Wendy Sobel along with Myanna on tenor sax. That's 4/7ths of that famous group. Add the redoubtable Ed Spargo on bass, Steven Paul Perry from Luna/Berlin Airlift, the great Ducky Carlisle engineering, the thrice great Richard "Rosy" Rosenblatt on the engineering boards as well, and this would've gotten substantial play on 93.7's Boston Music Showcase if this writer were still producing that program on Curt Gowdy's old WCGY. Track 11 "It'll Be Alright" is a slow and stirring tour-de-force (hey, blame my computer for the tracks jumping around), but 11 segues very nicely with track #1, and that's the sign of a true pro, Myanna's sax wailing through this terrific piece. Imagine Ian Hunter covering the drama here? After many spins of this disc, "It'll Be Alright" is emerging as my favorite track. "Only Time Will Tell" is a pensive, moody number that Etta James could have a ball with. You can hear traces of mega songwriters Karla Bonoff and Harriet Schock in the background, but it is pure Lissance, her personality in control as she paints with different time signatures and vocal expressions. As hinted at in this review, Alizon runs the gamut, "Broken In Two" talks about affairs of the heart - a theme that Girls Night Out explored, but here Lissance is identifying the feelings through an uptempo country romp with boogie woogie piano and harmonica. "Icy Blue Heart" is a jazzy, bluesy cabaret-moment-in-a-spy-movie adventure with prompt piano stabs that tug at the ex-lover, a soothing vocal from Alizon, and a lovely organ/piano Spooky Tooth/Traffic feel creating a nifty undercurrent. Good sounding, well performed, and with classy graphics, it's nice to see all her friends coming out to play with Alizon and the truly inspiring result that is "So What About You." Expert review by Joe Viglione 3-4-09


The New Christy Minstrels under the Direction of Randy Sparks


May Top 40 Mare Winningham, Planet of the Apes, Andy Mendelson

  Happy Birthday Mare! Years ago Mare Winningham and her husband saw me at the Paradise Theater in Boston, a club I booked for many years....