Saturday, July 18, 2015

Rainbow: She's a Rainbow

purchase [She's a Rainbow] from Amazon MP3s

Back in the late 60s, my musical tastes were as eclectic as they are now. My LP collection as of 1970 consisted of Jimi Hendrix Are You Experienced, something from Smokey Robinson, Sergeant Pepper's, Between the Buttons and Aftermath. Oh yes ... Switched on Bach and Tom Lehrer. Die-hard Stones? No. Ever-loving? Yes.

Their Satanic Majesties Request, from whence this songs comes,  has been labeled (at least for its cover ) a riff on Sergeant Pepper's - the seating, the dress, the "air".

To me, the song comes from a time when both the Beatles and the Stones were searching. Mysticism, drugs, religion (including the satanic) .

But - for the Stones - it is also a time when they began a transition. Let It Bleed, Sticky Fingers and Exile on Main Street are of a different realm - to me, influenced by whatever came out of their satanic request.

Jimi, Smokey, the Beatles .. gone. The Stones? >> ZipCode Tour 2015

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Colors of the Rainbow: Tangled Up In Blue (Indigo Girls Version)

Indigo Girls: Tangled Up In Blue

I’m going to keep this short, but you are going to get three colors for the price of one.

Considering the theme, it seemed like writing about the Indigo Girls made sense. Not only do they have a Color of the Rainbow in their name, they were LGBT activists before that was easy or popular. Their commercial and critical success in light of their openness about their sexuality in the late 1980s and 1990s helped to open doors and change attitudes. Back in 1994, I joined a law firm as an associate which had been started by three guys who I had worked with or known at a big Wall Street firm. I remember that during my first week on the job, I had to leave relatively early, because my wife and I had tickets to see the Indigo Girls at Radio City Music Hall, a couple of blocks from my office. And I remember getting shit from some of the partners because I was going to see a couple of lesbians perform. I should have realized what I was in for, but I missed that sign. It was a great show, and since then we have seen them perform a few times, all of which have been wonderful.

I’ve written in detail about the Indigo Girls here, and I’m not going to repeat myself, but there is a bunch of good stuff there about the band, and some pretty rare covers, so check it out.

In scrolling through my list of Indigo Girls songs, their cover of Dylan’s “Tangled Up In Blue” jumped out at me, since it also references a color. It is a live version, recorded at a show in 1992 in San Francisco, from the band’s excellent 1200 Curfews album, most of which was actually recorded on the 1994-95 tour, although nothing from the Radio City show made the cut. I hadn’t listened to it for years, and when I let it rip, I realized that it was quite good. One of the highlights of the track is the violin part, and when I looked up who played it, I was pleased to find that it was Scarlet Rivera, adding to the colorful theme.

Rivera, I discovered, also played on some Dylan albums and toured with him, as a member of the Rolling Thunder Revue in 1975 and 1976. It is hard to tell, because the sound quality is poor, but Rivera may well be playing on this rocking version of the song, performed by Dylan and the band at a show in Ft. Collins, Colorado on May 23, 1976.

Bob Dylan and the Rolling Thunder Revue: Tangled Up In Blue

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Colors of the Rainbow: Scarlet Begonias/ Fire on the Mountain

Grateful Dead: Scarlet Begonias/ Fire on the Mountain (Capitol Theater 4-27-77)

[purchase Dick's Picks Vol. 29: 5/19/77 (Fox Theater, Atlanta, GA) & 5/21/77 (Lakeland Civic Center Arena, Lakeland, FL]

Grateful Dead with Trey Anastasio: Scarlet Begonias/ Fire on the Mountain (Soldier Field 7-3-15)

[preorder 11-20-2015 release]

This week‘s theme was inspired, of course, by last week‘s historic Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage. I rejoice in that decision, and I hope no one thinks I am making light of it with this post. But in the music world, there was another event last week that I would like to celebrate. The Fare Thee Well tour celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the Grateful Dead. The grand finale was three nights of shows at Chicago’s Soldier Field. This was also the site of the last Grateful Dead shows twenty years ago. At that time, it was reasonable to assume that the Grateful Dead were done, since leader Jerry Garcia had died. Garcia was a wonderful guitar player and songwriter. But more important to the band was his personality. Garcia‘s voice was not always on pitch, but there was always a great warmth to the man that came through whenever he sang. Garcia welcomed you in to his musical world, and once you were there, the whole band dazzled you with their musical acrobatics.

How then was it possible for there to be Grateful Dead shows last week? The surviving members of the band brought in Trey Anastasio of Phish to sing some of Garcia‘s parts, and to play lead guitar. Because this is jam band music, Anastasio interprets the music in his own way, but also sounds like he has been with the band his whole life. In a way, he has. Phish is the leading jam band of these times, and all jam bands owe a debt to the Grateful Dead for setting the standards of the form, and showing what is possible. Further, I found a cover of Scarlet Begonias/ Fire on the Mountain by Phish while gathering material for this post. So my second video shows Anastasio with a stupid grin on his face for most of the video‘s eighteen minutes; the man is clearly living a fantasy for as long as this strange trip lasts.

I will leave to the hard-core Dead Heads among our readers the question of when the Dead began playing this medley of Scarlet Begonias and Fire on the Mountain. But I would argue that 1977 was the year for some of the band’s best performances of it. After that year, Scarlet/ Fire became a staple of their shows. The purchase link is to a version from May of that year, and some Dead Heads commenting on Amazon regard this as the Dead‘s definitive performance of the song. Sadly, I could not find a decent quality video of this performance that presented the whole thing one video, instead of splitting it into two. So I went with a performance from a month earlier. By the same token, I could not find a readily available CD of the performance I chose. This April performance has some of the painful vocals of Donna Godchaux. With the Dead, she often had pitch problems, and sometimes belted out her parts when a softer approach would have served the material better, and both of those problems show up here as well. Despite that, this is still a fine example of the Grateful Dead at an artistic peak. By contrast, the new Scarlet/ Fire lacks Garcia‘s warmth, but Donna‘s miscues are gone as well. The excitement of the band‘s playing is still as present as ever.

A final note: especially if you are not a jam band fan, this post contains a lot of music! The first video is 21 minutes long, with an additional 18 minutes for the second one. So let me offer a small break. The first video has a point at about the 16 minute mark where the music almost but not completely stops. Despite that, this marks, not a continuation of a medley, but the start of a new song, Good Lovin‘. So you can stop at that 16 minute mark if you want to.