Paul McCartney, Monkberry Moon Delight

Posted in Paul McCartney on May 19th, 2012 by Willie

If you glance over the music trade papers (or internets) as I do on occasion, you might have noticed on the periphery that Paul McCartney is planning a re-release of his incredibly great solo album Ram.  Now Ram is quite simply one of my favorite albums of all time.  It’s easily my favorite solo McCartney album by a mile, and rotates in and out of the #1 spot for my own personal best solo Beatle album list.  At the time of its release,  Ram was unjustly criticized by rock critics for a bunch of complicated reasons.  One of them was that many of the tunes are credited to both Paul and Linda McCartney, a fact many cynical rock people had trouble swallowing.  John Lennon himself took offense to the album as two songs on there, “Too Many People,” and “Dear Boy,” had biting little obscure inside jokes, or digs at John and Yoko.  I’ll cover those songs and their natures later this week though.  Anyway, the point is, everybody was caught up in the bullshit of Ram, and not the music.  Now, objectively, the music on Ram is basically as good as anything you’d find on the “White Album.”  If you loved what McCartney was doing in 1968, you’ll love what he was doing in 1971.  It’s the only way I can describe it, Ram is Paul McCartney’s “White Album” songwriting stylizations part II.  Its Paul at his psychedelic best.  Just take a listen to “Monkberry Moon Delight,” in many ways Paul’s response to “I am the Walrus.”  It’s a frenzied piano stomping masterpiece of jibberish.  You can almost see Paul frothing at the mouth, mashing the keys the so hard that it detunes the piano.  It’s a cult classic, and if you never heard it, you’re in for quite the treat, so check out the song below, and watch the fantastic assortment of Paul and Linda home movies that go along with it.  Ram on….

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The Beatles, Here Comes the Sun, Lost Guitar Solo

Posted in George Harrison, The Beatles, Youtube Favs on February 4th, 2012 by Willie

Well, this is miraculous.  Here we have a simple video of famed Beatle producer George Martin, his son Giles, and George Harrison’s son Dhani, all playing around with the master track for “Here Comes the Sun.”  Off Abbey Road, “Here Comes the Sun” is probably George’s second greatest song behind “Something,” also from the same record.  That is a matter of opinion, but the undisputed fact is that from 1968-1971, George was operating at an incredible peak of creative intensity, with his work on Abbey Road serving as a precursor for his immense solo masterpiece album All Things Must Pass.  Anyway, in the video, Dhani is fiddling with the dials when he comes across a lost electric guitar solo George recorded years ago.  It is a gorgeous piece of hard electric rock that gives edge to one of George’s sweetest songs.  While the part sounds great, especially to Beatle fans who have memorized every note of their music, it’s not hard to see why it didn’t make the final cut, as the electric flourish takes away from the gentle majesty of the final mix. It’s a shame the Beatles couldn’t tour in their later era because they probably would have added extra solos and changes to their songs that would have spun off countless beautiful variations.  Still, the undisturbed perfection of what remains what makes discovering anything lost so poignant and moving.  Enjoy this clip and pass it to your friends, especially George fans, its magical.

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George Harrison, Trailer for Martin Scorsese's Living in the Material World Documentary

Posted in George Harrison, The Beatles, Youtube Favs on August 23rd, 2011 by Willie

I normally don’t update twice in one day, but news such as this demands action on my part.  I am a massive George Harrison fan, and when I heard a few years ago that Martin Scorsese was putting together a three and a half hour George Harrison documentary, I started counting down the days.  At last, the film is finished, and will get its premiere on HBO on October 5th and 6th in two parts.  To casual fans of rock and roll, George Harrison is known as the “Quiet Beatle,” but hard core Beatle fans know he was anything but.  In many ways, George was the most radical Beatle, refusing to conform to any traditional system of life living.  He was a rule breaker and a seeker, blazing new frontiers in his own quest to figure out why the world was so miserable, and what he could do about it.  Lastly, he was a beautiful musician, criminally overshadowed by his Beatle friends, who unfairly excluded him from the tight partnership thing that Lennon and McCartney formed in the early Beatle days.  Paul McCartney even admitted that there was nothing stopping him and John from excluding George, other than feeling superior to him via their dominant personalities and older ages.  Also, it is really hard to blame Paul and John because when they were young boys making these decisions, it was impossible for them to know what impact such choices would hold in music history.  Its a silly footnote in rock history, but one made all the more remarkable as George blossomed his own unique musical genius with little help from his friends.  (Zing!)  Anyway, I’m the sure the documentary will cover these issues with greater complexity, so I’ll leave my own historical commentary to a minimum for now.  Enjoy the trailer, and don’t forget you can vote for me to be CBS’s top NY blogger!  Already voted?  Well, don’t let it stop you because you can vote once every day!  Just click these orange words, it only takes a second!

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John Lennon Was Wrong About Bob Dylan's New Morning LP

Posted in Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Record Reviews on July 7th, 2011 by Willie

Here is an exchange between John Lennon and Jann S. Wenner of Rolling Stone Magazine on Bob Dylan’s 1970 release New Morning, ”

WENNER:
What do you think of Dylan’s album?
LENNON:
I thought it wasn’t much. Because I expect more–maybe I expect too much from people – but I expect more. I haven’t been a Dylan follower since he stopped rocking. I liked “Rolling Stone” and a few things he did then; I like a few things he did in the early days. The rest of it is just like Lennon-McCartney or something. It’s no different, its a myth. WENNER:

You don’t think then it’s a legitimate New Morning?
LENNON:
No, It might be a new morning for him because he stopped singing on the top of his voice. It’s all right, but it’s not him, it doesn’t mean a fucking thing. I’d sooner have “I Hear You Knocking” by Dave Edmonds, it’s the top of England now.

Pretty damning stuff from John Beatle, but I understand.  John was in a revolutionary mood at the time, firmly believing that rock records should be altering people’s consciousnesses and  toppling governments.  It’s ironic because ten years later he’d release a similar record to Bob’s New Morning in the form of Double Fantasy.  Like John’s last release, New Morning was a record about escaping into the pleasures of domesticated life, taking it easy, and appreciating the little things.  New Morning was mostly written on Bob’s piano, the instrument he would retreat to when he wanted to ruminate on less socially and psychologically intense themes that would come out on his acoustic guitar.  I love this record.  When you play it, it just hums along with a sweeping peaceful energy.  John’s right about one thing, in this record, Bob left his high pitched country singing style behind in favor of his traditional folk rocking croon.  There is almost a Jim Morrison lounge like imitation going on here as Bob enthusiastically moans his way through a bunch of gospel tinged bluesy numbers.  The clearest example of this is “The Man in Me,” a boozy and rollicking celebration of romantic devotion.  This song was famously featured in the Coen Brothers fabulously funny classic film, “The Big Lebowski.”  The Coen’s apparently picked it because at the time the song was relatively obscure, and its the sort of song that only middle aged hippies like the Dude, (and my dad for that matter) would have on their mix tapes.

On the more playful side you get a cut like “Went to See the Gypsy,” a song where Bob seems to be mocking the hype surrounding some famous Las Vegas fortune teller.  It’s not about meeting Elvis Presley, as some have suggested. The straightforward storytelling on this track is very reminiscent of the minimalistic style Bob mastered on John Wesley Harding.  It’s a slow building song that just gets under you skin with repeat playings.  It’s a feeling the record gives you spades.

“Day of the Locusts,” my favorite song on the album, is a lot like “Went to See the Gypsy” in its clear cut storytelling style, but way more epic.  It’s a song inspired by Bob’s experience in receiving an honorary diploma from Princeton University and how the “singing” cicada’s spooked him.  Folk rocker David Crosby, who was with Bob at the time tells the story best, “Sara (Dylan’s wife) was trying to get Bob to go to Princeton University, where he was being presented with an honorary doctorate. Bob did not want to go.  I said, ‘C’mon, Bob it’s an honor!’  Sara and I both worked on him for a long time.  Finally, he agreed.  I had a car outside, a big limousine.  That was the first thing he didn’t like.  We smoked another joint on the way and I noticed Dylan getting really quite paranoid about it.  When we arrived at Princeton, they took us to a little room and Bob was asked to wear a cap and gown.  He refused outright.  They said, ‘We won’t give you the degree if you don’t wear this.’  Dylan said, ‘Fine. I didn’t ask for it in the first place.’…Finally we convinced him to wear the cap and gown.”  Priceless.

The last song I want to highlight is “If Not For You,” a song featured on my youtube countdown.  This track continues the steady mature romanticism that defines the record.  George Harrison famously covered the song with a lavish arrangement for his All Things Must Pass solo record, but I kinda prefer the low key presentation Dylan came up with.  Here is George and Bob taking a stab at it in the more mellow vein.

In conclusion, it’s probably a very good idea to listen to this whole record if you haven’t gotten into it ever, despite what John Lennon says.  Part of me suspects John was just projecting a hyper competitive spirit at the time.  As a newly emerging solo artist, Lennon was trying to grab some credibility real estate in the field of solo stars, and if that meant knocking Dylan a bit to make room, that was probably all the rationalization he needed.  In that same interview, he also did manage to knock the Stones, McCartney, Harrison, and all other rock artists in general outside of Jerry Lee Lewis and Fats Domino, leaving very little room for anyone but himself to revel in glory.  Leaving John’s caustic criticisms aside, this is just the perfect Bob Dylan album to have on your playlist this summer.  It’s a hiking record, a beach record, a meadow strolling record, a real peaceful outdoorsy sonic adventure if I ever heard one.  You’d do yourself a big favor to download it, or buy it used somewhere.  Until tomorrow, cheers everybody.
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George Harrison, Bob Dylan, If Not For You

Posted in Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Youtube Favs on April 16th, 2011 by Willie

The hits keep rolling, and for part 37 of my youtube countdown I present this incredible and rare video of George Harrison and Bob Dylan playing Bob’s “If Not For You.”  Holy shit, where to begin.  First of all, this was a rehearsal for George’s “Concert for Bangladesh” show, the first rock charity show ever.  George was Bob Dylan’s biggest fan, worshiping all his music, his whole life.  At this point in Dylan’s life, he was in exile in Woodstock not wanting to make any public appearances, but somehow George convinced to appear at his Madison Square Garden mega show to play a set.  Bob was nervous as fuck, having panic attacks and throwing up back stage before the actual show.  George wasn’t sure if Bob would have the nerve to do it, but he did, and it inspired Dylan to get out there on the road again.  This video speaks for itself.  Two icons of musical genius expression, playing one of Bob’s most gentle songs from his New Morning album, (George covered the song on his All Things Must Pass record just the year before.)  Just a fantastic moment in music history.  Enjoy.

 

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