Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Disc 2: 1965-1966 Hang On to Your Ego
1.       “Sloop John B” (Traditional arr. Brian Wilson)
2.       “Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow” (Carl White/Al Frazier/Sonny Harris/Turner Wilson Jr.)
3.       “The Little Girl I Once Knew” (Brian Wilson)
4.       “Three Blind Mice” (Brian Wilson)
5.       “You Still Believe in Me” (Brian Wilson/Tony Asher)
6.       “Let’s Go Away for Awhile” (Brian Wilson)
7.       “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” (Brian Wilson/Tony Asher/Mike Love)
8.       “Don’t Talk (Put Your Head on My Shoulder)” (Brian Wilson/Tony Asher)
9.       “I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times” (Brian Wilson/Tony Asher)
10.   “God Only Knows” (Brian Wilson/Tony Asher)
11.   “Good Vibrations” (Brian Wilson/Mike Love)
12.   “Heroes and Villains” (Brian Wilson/Van Dyke Parks)
13.   “Wonderful” (Brian Wilson/Van Dyke Parks)
14.   “Cabinessence” (Brian Wilson/Van Dyke Parks)
15.   “Our Prayer” (Brian Wilson)
16.    “Do You Like Worms” (Brian Wilson/Van Dyke Parks)
17.   “Good Vibrations (Live)” (Brian Wilson/Mike Love)
18.   “Surf’s Up” (Brian Wilson/Van Dyke Parks)

Al Jardine was a big folk music fan. And he’d been lobbying Brian Wilson for months to record a cover of the Kingston Trio’s “Sloop John B,” itself derived from a traditional West Indies folk song. With the dual successes of the Summer Days (and Summer Nights!!) album and the “California Girls” single, Brian had assured the Beach Boys’ position in the increasingly competitive and experimental pop world. But it was imperative that he remain at the vanguard, if he was going to be able to compete with the Beatles, whose fame had shown no signs of waning. On top of that, there were new bands such as the Rolling Stones, the Byrds and the Who, also competing for rock and roll supremacy.
It was at this moment that Brian decided to take the decisive step that had been gradually brewing in the Beach Boys’ music, moving away from rock and roll music and into a new, ethereal place that was entirely his own creation. And when he assembled his session regulars to cut the instrumental track for “Sloop John B,” (1) he emerged with his most sublimely complex arrangement yet, with arpeggiated chiming guitars mathematically interlocking with the highly active bass line, freed from root notes and dancing all over the place in a style that would soon prove very influential on Paul McCartney. Satisfied with his arrangement, he sat on it for a few months while the Beach Boys toured and Brian contemplated beating Phil Spector at his own orchestral pop game. 

Uncle Smooch

So Burke and Jake are averse to posting on this blog so far.
they have divergent but ultimately similar ways of skirting the issue.
Burke's response: "I'm always a year behind the times. I'll get blogs. I just don't understand 'em. What do you do with 'em?"
Jake's response: "I think blogs are self-indulgent."

With that, I present to you the self-indulgence of Burke and Jake!
(it's very humorous)


Sunday, May 2, 2010

Robbie Robertson, Basement Tapes and the Velvet Underground

Two guitarists styles who have influenced my sound are the superbly understated Curtis Mayfield soul of Robbie Robertson and the Bo Diddley, hypnotic drone/ manic Ornette Coleman free jazz of Lou Reed(I should probably credit Sterling Morrison most of the time). So you can imagine how excited I was when I heard the complete Basement Tapes with Dylan & the Band and found a few songs that, to my ears sounded like the Velvets gone folk and fronted by Dylan.
Around the same time I borrowed the book Million Dollar Bash by Sid Griffin, a song by song account of the basement tapes, from Jake –I still haven’t given it back, and found that Griffin had made similar connections to the Velvets. That book is one of the best, well-researched, detailed inquiries into the Basement Tapes sessions. The best part of his analysis was a sentence about the story of Robbie Robertson walking out of a 1965 Velvet Underground concert after 5 minutes. So in a lovely ironic turn here is Robbie with Dylan on these 1967 tracks which overload the VU levels (hahaha word play):

Sorry I don’t know how to upload music on here so I am linking to youtube clips.

“I can’t Come in with a Broken Heart”(1) is the song where Sid Griffin points out the Velvet Underground comparison and relates it to the Velvets “I can’t Stand it” pointing out the irony. It certainly has the overloaded piano clunking reminiscent of “Waiting for The Man,” the tambourine has got that cool Maureen Tucker vibe just smacking round, and the guitar has got the sort of riffing similar to the Velvet’s 80’s albums VU and Another View. It’s that messy Velvet Underground Pop-Slop all the way.

“I can’t Come in with a Broken Heart” (2) is from what I can make out of the lyrics actually based on the traditional “come all ye fair and tender ladies” (check out this Maybelle Carter Version). I guess mislabeling is the price you pay for Bootlegs. Anyways, according to Griffin this is some “rudimentary mandolin” by Richard Manuel, the droning guitar sound is Dylan, and those meandering guitar licks are Robertson. All in all, it sounds like a folksy Velvet Underground drone that overdrives the tapes.

“Come all ye fair and tender ladies” (3) looks like another mislabel. It’s probably just another random instrumental with a typical blues guitar riff but in my opinion is like a slowed down version of “run, run, run” off the first Velvets album. I always laugh when Dylan says at the end "this guitar ain't made to do this type of thing you know."

“The Hills of Mexico” (4) wasn’t a comparison I stumbled upon by myself, it’s straight out of Griffins book. It’s hard to see the connection at first, in fact I thought of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds at first which is unwarranted as their records came out twenty years later and thus should be compared in reverse. Sid Griffin points out that this is what Velvet Underground folk music would sound like “if the early Velvet Underground were told by Tom Wilson to forget Warhol and the drugs and to try playing this old cowboy ballad instead.” Like I said it’s hard to see at first but compare this to “Venus in Furs” and “All Tomorrow’s Parties” and you can start to see it.
The Tom Wilson reference is of interest to crazy geeks like me because besides producing the first two Velvet Underground albums (the first one it was more like post-production as Warhol was the “producer”), he produced Dylan’s “The Times They are A’Changin,” “Another Side of Bob Dylan,” and “Bringing It All Back Home.” If you wanna hear what a real folksy Velvet Underground would sound like check out this pre-Warhol “Waiting for The Man” demo with Cale harmonizing and Reed doing his best nasal cowboy, ahem Bob Dylan, imitation.

Check out the Blog Misha4Music, for more on the remastered Genuine Basement Tapes "Tree with Roots".