Saturday, March 10, 2012

Goodbye: Goodbye Dreaming Fields

Martin Newell (with Andy Partridge): Goodbye Dreaming Fields


If, as I did, you discovered Martin Newell and his song Goodbye Dreaming Fields after the fact, you might be tempted to dismiss it, musically, as an XTC knockoff. Indeed, Andy Partridge was the producer, played many of the instruments, and can even be heard on background vocals. But, the XTC albums that sound most like this, Oranges and Lemons and Nonesuch, came out after this one. So, it would be more correct to say that Martin Newell’s influence on XTC is clear. As for the lyrics, Newell is a very different kind of writer than Partridge. Newell is in no hurry, letting his words and images accumulate to great affect. Here, he presents a series of characters who are trying to come to grips with the departure of their youth. The characters have a distinctly English feel to them. Newell was not aiming for universality, but rather was describing what he knew best. The song has a jangly pop feel, paired with a bittersweet lyric to great effect.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Goodbye: Goodbye Pork Pie Hat

Jeff Beck: Goodbye Pork Pie Hat

Charlie/Charles Mingus' Goodbye Pork Pie Hat is a song that I have listened to again and again since way back when, including such versions as Joni Mitchell's, from her Mingus album (see below). Unintentionally, it seems to segue well with Ramone666's immediately previous post.

Among those things I consider myself lucky to have been there for is a Jeff Beck concert in Philly (must have been the Main Line in '72, but it was so long ago ...). Amazing guitar. Beck's "Wired" is probably my favorite of his works (from whence his original version  and the purchase link above comes). It dates to the same era as a similarly guitar-predominant work that I also hold dear and for some reason associate with this same era: Robin Trower's "Bridge of Sighs". Both include that same "sigh" - the lingering, well-timed pause of the guitar note before the guitarist moves on to the next. That wait is part of their personal/professional interpretation of a song: the timing that makes it their own.

Pork Pie Hat is so loosely structured that it really takes someone so confident and experienced as Jeff Beck or Joni Mitchell to bring it off. This live version of Pork Pie Hat appears to include Jaco Pastorius (not sure, really) ... I would have wished to give you the "Wired" version, but the belt on my turntable has - alas - finally given out and my only copy on hand is this live version from somewhere or other. The purchase link *is* to the Wired version, however.

Goodbye: Everytime We Say Goodbye

Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye was composed by Cole Porter for a musical called Seven Lively Arts. Slowly but surely it became a jazz standard, losing the apostrophe in the title along the way. It was taken on by many a talented musician over the years, but Trane's melancholy interpretation has to my knowledge never been surpassed. Incidentally, this (1961) was the first time he played the soprano sax on an album, an instrument none other than Miles Davis had bought for him when they were touring Europe together.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Goodbye: Goodbye California

Dick Feller: Goodbye California

[purchase (vinyl only, out-of-print)]

If music fans remember Dick Feller at all, it's most likely for a series of mid-charting country novelty records he released in the 1970s -- most notably "Making the Best of a Bad Situation," "The Credit Card Song" and "Uncle Hiram's Homemade Beer." While those are fine, fun songs, it's a shame they obscure Feller's talents as a skilled songwriter and accomplished acoustic guitarist.

Dick Feller landed in Nashville in the late 1960s. He bounced around as a writer and backing musician. Johnny Cash, who had a habit of mining songwriting talent, signed Feller to House of Cash. The Man in Black enthused to Rolling Stone magazine, "There's a new writer named Dick Feller. Just watch for him. He's going to be great someday." Somehow Cash got away with singing Feller's "When Uncle Bill Quit Dope" on network TV in 1970. He also recorded Feller's "Orphan of the Road" and "Any Old Wind That Blows." After the association with Cash ended, Feller signed with Jerry Reed's Vector Music. Reed recorded many of Feller's songs, and scored hits with "Lord Mr. Ford" and "East Bound and Down." Others covered Feller's music as well; one of John Denver's last hits was Feller's "Some Days Are Diamonds, Some Days Are Stones." Feller eventually moved away from country music, writing commercial jingles and collaborating with humorist Lewis Grizzard.

Unfortunately, Feller wasn't a particularly prolific recording artist. He released just three albums of original material, the last in 1975. All are stellar and decades out of print. In the past 35 years, he's put out only an obscure live album and a self-produced set, made up mostly of re-recordings. "Goodbye California" is taken from his first album, Dick Feller Wrote. It boasts the musical cadence and vocabulary that typify Feller's compositions, as well as some hot guitar picking.

Goodbye: Goodbye

Patty Griffin: Goodbye


First time I heard Patty Griffin’s “Goodbye,” it felt like she was channeling emotions and thoughts I had during times of loss and grief -- except her thoughts were more organized and her words more articulate. I've had too many opportunities to revisit Griffin's lyrics in recent years, including this week, as we had to say goodbye to our treasured family pet, who died in our arms, after more than 16 years of companionship and love.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Goodbye: Goodbye

The Postmarks: Goodbye

Nothing complex here, and that’s precisely the point. An intricate progression would infer a deep issue worth mulling over. Instead, The Postmarks bless us with a plucky, punctual melody that says this is it, don’t wreck yourself thinking about it.

Goodbye, I’ll be gone when you open your eyes, Tim Yehezkely begins singing as the first notes on 2007’s eponymous album are played. I’m skipping town like a stone thrown across the water.

Echoing the jangly, indie, retro-pop sounds of overseas counterparts like The Clientele and Belle and Sebastian, The Postmarks weave an ultra-catchy song that could only sound more French influenced if it contained an accordion. Only half a dozen notes ring out from the trumpet, a call-and-response line repeated a number of times throughout the song, and the vibraphone, strings, guitar, and bass all play more in sync than in juxtaposition, giving the tune a liquid, calm feel.

The lyrics match these instrumental parts just as flawlessly, as Yehezkely explaining simply that she is moving on, but offering no hints (nor suggestion of relevance) as to any reasons. The lyrics here are so nondescript regarding the characters within that the listener is left unaware even of their relationships. Are they lovers? roommates? friends? Does it matter? No, because this song isn’t about the past; it’s about the future and moving on. For whatever reason, the narrator has already decided to move on, and that’s where the song begins. Her only message is a reminder to her subject: you need to move on too; don’t stress out over this relationship. Don’t leave a key underneath the mat for me, ‘cause I won’t be coming back around here.

Goodbye: Last Goodbye

Jeff Buckley: Last Goodbye [purchase

I almost didn't post this song.  Don't get me wrong: it was the first thing that came into my head when the esteemed Darius announced this week's theme, but I actually began to second-guess myself out of concern that the choice was just that little bit too obvious.  As I've said before, though, sometimes the obvious choice is only obvious because it's just so correct.

Anyway, everyone knows the story by now, so rather than repeat it I'll just let the song do the talking.  And it's a strange record, make no mistake.  For one, it has neither a chorus nor anything approaching the structure of a four-minute rock or pop record.  For another, the song's protagonist does and says nothing to excuse or explain his bad behaviour - all the regret and self-flagellation is signaled through the emotion in that voice.  That a man who died so young's arguably most famous song is called Last Goodbye is, of course, almost too bitter an irony, but as hard as it is to separate the singer's story from that told by his music, it's always worth doing.  Buckley, this song and Grace, the album on which it features, deserve better than to be regarded as just another morbid rock 'n' roll ghost story.  

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Goodbye: Goodbye

Mary Hopkin : Goodbye


The first two official Apple Records releases were The Beatles' "Hey Jude" and a single, based on a Ukranian folk song that Paul McCartney had found. The singer would be a shy, pretty 17-year old Welsh girl by the name of Mary Hopkin. "Hey Jude" spent three weeks atop the NME singles list before it was dethroned by Mary's "Those Were The Days" which stayed on top for five weeks. In 1969 McCartney wrote a new song just for Mary: "Goodbye". The song reached Number 2 on the UK charts, held back from the top spot by The Beatles' "Get Back".

Eventually McCartney's interest in his songbird waned, especially after she bristled at his suggestion she sing "Que Sera, Sera". But the next day she dutifully showed up at the studio where Ringo was waiting at the drums. Fast forward 40 years and Paul McCartney is the most famous rock star on the planet. As for shy Mary Hopkin, she has firmly said "goodbye" to all that. She's back in South Wales where her website warns interviewers "Mary prefers to talk about new releases and not 'those' days."

Goodbye: Goodbye, So Long

The late sixties and early seventies may have been the heyday of the Ike & Tina Turner Revue, but the years leading up to River Deep - Mountain High and Proud Mary (to name but a few unforgettables) are just as interesting for lovers of sweet soul music. The collection of songs pictured above, which the dynamite duo recorded for the Bihari brothers' Kent label in the mid-sixties, makes a great starting-off point for further exploration. You only need to check out their gritty '65 single Goodbye, So Long to see what I'm on about. "Things ain't what they used to be - you can't do a thing for me..." Go Ikettes, go!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Goodbye: Goodbye Bessie Mae

Lonnie Youngblood: Goodbye Bessie Mae

In the mid 60s, Lonnie Youngblood had his own band under various names, including Lonnie Youngblood and the Bloodhounds and Lonnie Youngblood and the Red Jackets. It appears that Dartmouth College was on to him as a "great" since he was called back more than once (there is a story that his repeat appearances there are a part of the legend of the Animal House film). At about this time, he also sat in with Sam and Dave, Ben E. King and James Brown among others. If you've ever heard of him, you are most likely to have run across him on account of the guitarist he hired to play and record with him in New York in 1966 (apparently at about $25 per session) , a musician calling himself Jimmy James (or perhaps Maurice James, but still known as "Jimmy"). A few months after these sessions, this guitarist moved to London and started the Jimi Hendrix Experience.

My selection this week  comes across as a rather standard blues recording produced in a small studio in NYC. The historical notes about this recording are somewhat uncertain - various claims are made about who did what, but it does seem clear that Lonnie Youngblood did the vocals (and probably some of the sax) and Jimi Hendrix did the guitar parts. It sounds like a rather standard blues song in the mid 60s style, but I urge you to listen carefully to the intro guitar and the short guitar solo (at about 1:20) that - to me - certify that this is indeed Hendrix working his way toward the style we acknowledge as his.

Again, because the historical record is a bit fuzzy, in addition to the vocals that are credited to Lonnie Youngblood, I want to assume that at least some of the backing brass is Lonnie Youngbloood - being that his instrument was the saxophone. However, there is little doubt in my mind that the short guitar riffs you hear at the beginning, in the solo and throughout are %100 Hendrix.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Goodbye: Time For Goodbye

Rick Jamison: Time for Goodbye


When California-based bluegrass musician Rick Jamison released his 2005 killer solo debut album “The Magic Hour,” it was nice to hear that his original bluegrass wasn’t constrained by traditional stylings of that genre. Rather, Jamison incorporates melodies, tempos and chord progressions that work well with his folksy and amiable voice. He tells tales, expresses emotions, and perhaps most importantly paints pictures with his lyrics and melodies. It’s an approach that characterizes quite a bit of West Coast bluegrass music. Is it because musicians out here simply don’t feel compelled or obliged to limit offerings to the styles of Kentucky’s Bill Monroe or Virginia’s Stanley Brothers? Regardless of the reason for its lack of inhibition, it’s nice to hear II, VII and various minor chords along with the I, IV, and V that more typically characterize traditional bluegrass.

Jamison is a senior writer and editor with a Silicon Valley software company. Who says a technical writer doesn’t also know how to work the lyrics in a song to convey emotional messages and feelings? With his band Copper Canyon, Jamison released an album per year during 2003-2004 (“Open Spaces” and “Tales from the Canyon”), and the reason that he's so prolific may be best captured in his sentiments of "Time Marches On." Seizing the moment to plug his material, Rick expresses, "Once this day is done it's gone forever, to join a thousand years of yesterdays, memories are the keepsakes and the treasures." Thus, an hour's worth of originals on "The Magic Hour" is a musical gift to us

In a more serious and emotive vein, Jamison's love songs ("The Best In Me" and "Time For Goodbye") may actually convey the best of his songcrafting artistry from a man who also is a renown painter. Sung by Erik Thomas as a duet with Megan Lynch, “Time For Goodbye” asks the inevitable questions "Is it time to start all over? Is it time to say goodbye?" Mandolinist Erik Thomas, a founding member of the group Due West, has played with an eclectic bunch including Mickey Gilley, Elvin Bishop, David Grisman, Rob Ickes and Tony Trischka. Raised in Redding, Ca., fiddler Megan Lynch has won many national and state fiddle contests. Now based in Nashville, her personalized fiddling can be heard with 3 Fox Drive, Blue Moon Rising, Chris Jones, Chris Stuart, Copper Canyon and others. Rick Jamison plays guitar and sings most lead vocals on his solo album from 2005. Besides Thomas and Lynch, he also assembled other crackerjack collaborators with California connections -- Dave Richardson (banjo), Rob Ickes (Dobro), and Cindy Browne (bass).

Don’t assume that all of Jamison’s material is serious love-gone-wrong fare. The musical tone painter also has a witty side as his "Bugged & Bothered" speaks to various insect infestations (ants in my pantry, bedbugs in the bed, a moth that ate my sweater, and gnats around my head) that lead to infatuation for another. A more traditional bluegrass band might want to consider covering his songs like "A Bank Too Far" and "Not Tonight" that keep the lyrics straightforward, honest and conversational.

While some of Jamison’s songs have more appeal than others, a true bluegrass fan can't bemoan his album’s title cut that exclaims "The music makes us smile and clap our hands, In the company of other bluegrass fans, The music carries all of us away, In the magic hour that ends a perfect day." Rick Jamison’s songs are every bit as vivid and impressionistic as his oil on canvas (Where the Mountains Meet the Sky) that graces the inside of his CD’s jacket.

Guest post by Joe Ross

Goodbye: Adios A La Pasada (Goodbye to the Past)

Bruford: Adios a la Pasada (Goodbye to the Past)

I started playing drums in fourth grade, and the next year, because our sixth grade bass drummer broke his leg, and I was big enough to carry it in a parade, our music teacher asked me to play bass drum. Which I did, almost exclusively through high school, to the detriment of my snare drumming. Bottom line, through lack of practice, and probably talent, I was a mediocre drummer. In college, I joined the marching band, because it looked like fun, and wasn’t really a serious musical organization. As a result of the general lack of quality of my fellow percussionists, I ended up playing more snare drum than ever, and actually improved by the time I graduated. Despite my lack of talent, I have always appreciated good drumming, and as I mentioned in my King Crimson post, Bill Bruford is my favorite. His precision and inventiveness amaze me.

Although I was aware that he was in Yes, I’d have to say that my first “ah ha” moment about Bruford was his playing on the live version of “Cinema Show” by Genesis on Seconds Out, where he was hired to allow Phil Collins to take over the singing duties from Peter Gabriel. Although I consider Collins to be an extraordinary rock drummer, Bruford’s playing on that one track took my breath away.

When I heard his first solo album, Feels Good to Me, I was enthralled. It was clearly a “fusion” album, somewhere between rock and jazz, not like the prog-rock of the old King Crimson, or Yes, or Genesis. Fusion gets a bad name, with some arguing that it consists of the worst of both jazz and rock, and others complaining that it was simply instrumental noodling and musical masturbation, with a focus on technique to the exclusion of all else. Like most generalities there is some truth in that. But there are some brilliant and exciting examples of fusion—including albums by Miles Davis, Soft Machine, Return to Forever, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Weather Report, Pat Metheny Group, Frank Zappa, Brand X and Jean-Luc Ponty, to name a few—and Bill Bruford.

The four primary musicians on Feels Good to Me are among the best and most interesting players on their instruments, even if they aren’t the most famous—Bruford on drums and percussion (and, apparently clarinet), Alan Holdsworth on guitar, Dave Stewart (from National Health, not The Eurythmics) on keyboards, and the criminally underappreciated Jeff Berlin on bass. Their playing on this album is extraordinary, the songwriting is exciting and the arrangements are exhilarating. Bruford was clearly willing to take chances on this album.

So, let’s talk about this track. Yes, there are vocals, which is unusual for fusion music. The singer is Annette Peacock, whose Allmusic entry says that her “work as a vocalist, pianist, and composer is austere, cryptic, laconic, minimalistic, and relentlessly individual.” Her unusual vocals are the most controversial part of the song—some reviewers love them, others hate them, but few are indifferent. Frankly, I always found them a bit annoying, especially when you add the spaciness of the lyrics to the mix—for example:

What it is, is this
Is what it is
You and I exist
Therefore we are becoming
Here we are in this precisely now

Whatever that means. As a result, when I chose a song to play on the radio from this album, I rarely (never?) chose this one. But listening again to the song today in preparation for writing this, I have to say, it works. And it is evidence that Bruford was not just taking the easy way out on his first solo album.

Hello=> Goodbye: Say Hello Wave Goodbye

David Gray: Say Hello Wave Goodbye

[purchase studio version]

It’s not hard to figure out from the title what this one is about. Say Hello Wave Goodbye is a breakup song, with David Gray’s narrator trying to reach a state of resignation, but succumbing to heartbreak instead. The song runs over eight minutes in this live version, as it did in the studio version as well. Gray sets down a pattern on guitar at the beginning, and he is joined by drums and bass, but the musical pattern does not change much in the whole song. Mostly, the musical drama comes from dynamic shifts, getting louder and softer. That wouldn’t be enough to hold the listener’s interest for a song this long, but Gray’s vocal is the song’s secret weapon. His cracking voice threatens to break and fall apart, but it never quite happens. Gray is fully emotionally committed in this song, but he never oversings either, making the whole thing emotionally powerful and completely believable.