Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Concert Memories

I've been privileged in my life to see many great musicians live in concert. I couldn't list them all if I tried but I wanted to touch on a sampling of the best ones in a particularly good era for Classic Rock shows-the mid to late 1990's!

John Fogerty-Harborlights Pavilion Boston, MA 7/20/1997

John Fogerty had toured only twice in the twenty years leading up to these shows on the "Blue Moon Swamp" tour and had not played any CCR songs regularly live since the band disbanded. This show with the Fairfield Four was a romp through Fogerty's best stuff-CCR and solo that was everything a rock-n-roll show should be and more. Fogerty was positively energized. I got to re-live this music and have a new moment with my wife to be on Fogerty's Premonition tour at Great Woods in Mansfield, MA in 1998.

Fleetwood Mac Great Woods Mansfield, MA 9/20/1997
1997 was an amazing concert year thanks in no small part to the re-emergence of John Fogerty and the reunion of the heyday line-up of Fleetwood Mac. I took a coworker named Leanne Savino to the show and we had an amazing time. The band was phenomenal-sounding fresh and energized as this was an early stop on the tour. Stevie in particular was very energetic and Lindsey was on fire. We were the first audience to hear "Oh Daddy" live instead of "Eyes of The World" on this tour.

Stevie Nicks-Great Woods Mansfield, MA 6/12/1998
This was Stevie's tour to support her newly released "Enchanted" box set and lots of live rarities were played. This is the only time I have ever heard "After The Glitter Fades," "Rose Garden," "Sleeping Angel" and "Garbo" live at a Stevie show. I was accompanied by my beautiful soon-to-be wife and this was the time of our lives.

Bob Seger and The Silver Bullet Band Worcester Centrum 9/17/1996
Bob Seger waited nine years between albums and tours while he focused on his wife and beautful young son Cole Seger. His triumphant return to Boston area audiences was nothing short of a hard rocking all-out celebration. Seger rocked harder than I've ever heard him with a crack edition of the Silver Bullet band that included John Mellencamp's drummer Kenny Aronoff and Little Feat keyboardist Bill Payne. I went with my kid brother and a female friend named Meg who had an in for tickets since she worked for Classic Rock WZLX-FM in Boston. This was an early tour stop and no prisoners were taken.

Aerosmith Great Woods Mansfield, MA 7/11/1997
This was a phenomenal show by one of Boston's finest hometown bands. My kid brother and I went because we are huge fans and this show was an absolute revelation. I got to see Aerosmith again with my wife at the first show they performed after the 9/11 transportation ban was lifted...but that's another post for another time.

The Moody Blues with The World Festival Orchestra 7/17/1996
The Moody Blues played Great Woods with the orchestra 3 times in a four year period and at two of three shows I was there in the audience with my girlfriend Nicole Kaiser. This show in particular was special because it was the "Time Traveler" box set tour and lots of rarities were dusted off for a longer than usual set. I am a huge fan of Justin Hayward's introspective songwriting and brilliant pithy guitar work. The Moodies did not disappoint including such live rarities as "Legend of a Mind which was especially fitting given the recent death of Timothy Leary.

Music Review-Black Crowes "Before The Frost...After The Freeze"

The Black Crowes disappeared from the music scene for seven years prior to releasing last year's "Warpaint." Now they seemed poised to make up for lost time. The Robinson brothers have release a double album of new material recorded live at Levon Helm's Woodstock, NY facility. There's even a new marketing strategy-all customers who buy "Before The Frost" will receive a password to download the digital version of the companion album..."Until The Freeze." This is an unexpected modern turn of events from a band so firmly rooted in the past glory of British Blues.

The sound of applause on several tracks reminds you that this is a live recording in a way the excellent playing does not. The opener "Good Morning Captain"immediately puts you in familiar territory with the Crowes enthusiastically riding a ragged roadhouse blues groove punctuated by slide guitar. The fun factor is still present, but with a profound lyrical depth. "I Ain't Hiding" is reminiscent of the Rolling Stones circa "Some Girls" with a gritty disco vibe that channels 'Miss You." "Appaloosa" is a rustic romp that woulda made Levon Helm proud. This record shows off the complex interplay you'd expect from such a seasoned group of performers without the weariness that so often creeps into the performances of established groups. This band performs with a high energy and enthusiasm that is infectious. These old road dogs sound enthusiastically alive and comfortable in their own skin-and that is a darn good thing.

"Before The Frost...After The Freeze" 4 out of 5 stars

Friday, September 4, 2009

Review-The Blue Ridge Rangers Rides Again

As a musician, when I talk about my musical influences none loom larger than John Fogerty. Creedence's blending of rock, rockabilly and country into a swampy Louisiana inspired gumbo was the first sound to electrify my soul and convince me that I should play guitar. After Creedence folded, Fogerty's first release was "The Blue Ridge Rangers" a collection of country and gospel songs on which John played all the instruments. Despite being a project begun as a contractual obligation stopgap, the original Blue Ridge Rangers album has a homespun charm and undeniably enthusiastic performances. It is clear that country and rockabilly are never too far from the mind of this singer.

Fast Forward to 2009. Last Tuesday "The Blue Ridge Rangers Rides Again" was released on Verve records. This time John has enlisted top drawer studio players to play with in the studio but otherwise follows the formula of the original by simply picking favorite songs and reworking them with his inimitable sound. I had mixed feelings about John doing an album of covers at this point since he is one of America's greatest songwriters-and his last release 'Revival' proved he had lost none of his songwriting mojo. With all of this in my mind, I clicked 'buy' on Amazon.com and purchased.

First up is a reworking of John Prine's 1971 classic 'Paradise' done in a neo-bluegrass style. Fogerty's voice is so ebullient and his enthusiasm so palpable that it almost belies the sadness of this tale of appalachian environmental disaster. The tone for the rest of the album is set...it is obvious that John is having a ball revisiting some of his favorites. The classic 'Never Ending Song of Love,' 'I Don't Care (As Long as you Love Me) 'Heaven's Just A Sin Away' and 'Fallin, Fallin' Fallin' are pure country bliss with Fogerty's trademark vocals.

'Garden Party' sung with Don Henley and Timothy B. Schmit is an apt choice with its tale of being true to yourself. It is also notable that Fogerty was a huge fan of the classic rockabilly music Ricky Nelson and James Burton made together. Like Rick Nelson, Fogerty also found himself haunted by the shadows of his past work at one point in his career. He has since made peace with the past and embraced it fully.

'Haunted House' is reworked as a rockabilly rave up with Fogerty's voice crackling over a twangy guitar. Pat Boone's 1961 murder ballad "Moody River" is a left field surprise that actually delighted me. I've never been a Pat Boone fan...but this particular song in its new arrangement is undeniably great.

I'm sure Fogerty's detractors will take great pride in questioning his dobro sweetened version of John Denver's 'Back Home Again' but I'm gonna stick my neck out and admit that I like John Denver's original...and this new version. Anyone who has spent a significant amount of time traveling for a living understands the sentiment.

John did revisit one of his originals, "Change in the Weather" from the much maligned and poorly received 'Eye of the Zombie' album. Re-imagining this song in a different arrangement to underscore the prevailing feeling of the last eight years was a daring move on Fogerty's part...though I don't necessarily believe he has improved on the original.

I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed this collection of songs. I think the sheer joy and enthusiasm that this group of musicians displayed on this album is the reason. John's voice is in fine form and he sounds positively inspired. I'm eagerly anticipating an album of new material soon...but I will be listening to this regularly until then.

The Blue Ridge Rangers Rides Again-Four out of Five Stars

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]