I was never a Jackson Brown groupie, but liked many of his songs and live concerts. He was usually on with a fine performance and surrounded himself with really good musicians, particularly the polyester man, David Lindley. I’ve been listening to this recording a lot lately. I think it’s one of his very best.
Love Is Strange: En Vivo Con Tino is the fourth live album by Jackson Browne, and 16th official studio or live album. A 2-CD live set released in 2010, the album documents a March 2006 tour of Spain that Browne and David Lindley took part in with Spanish percussionist Tino di Geraldo. The seven shows of the tour in Spain were followed by four in the United Kingdom. The album preserves performances by guest Spanish musicians flutist Carlos Núñez, vocalists Kiko Veneno and Luz Casal, and banduria player Javier Mas. Some songs have introductions spoken by Browne in Spanish.
In the liner notes to the album, Browne wrote that the 2006 tour of Spain was the idea of Paco Pérez Bryan, who suggested Browne bring Lindley, who has toured off and on with Browne for almost 40 years and has recorded off and on with him since 1973’s For Everyman.
In his review for Allmusic Thom Jurek wrote that the album “could have been an experiment that failed miserably, drenched in nostalgia and excess; instead, it succeeds grandly because of a sparse, tasteful approach with excellent arrangements and genuinely inspired performances.” He also wrote: “beautifully recorded, this set shows what Browne is capable of when he has musical foils who will not allow him to simply rest on his laurels.”
Rolling Stone rated the album three and a half out of five stars. Music critic Will Hermes said the album is “an album to please fans who didn’t follow Jackson Browne on his Eighties detour into fight-the-power songs.” Commenting on the performances, he wrote: “Browne’s voice has barely aged, and Lindley’s liquid slide is exquisite; versions often rival the originals.”
For Uncut Magazine, Bud Scoppa, who reviewed Browne’s debut album in 1972 for Rolling Stone, noted that “several of the songs Browne chose to revisit are from records on which Lindley didn’t appear, enabling the onetime partners to see what they could bring to the more recent material in tandem. The resulting performances are less renderings than transformations.” Browne, “with a crucial assist from Lindley, … fluidly unifies his entire body of work.
Now we’re putting the spotlight on Sun Ra, the experimental pianist, organist and bandleader whose idiosyncratic blend of jazz imagined life on other planets. Born Herman Poole Blount in Birmingham, Ala., he wore ornate robes and Egyptian headgear, and composed progressive music meant to commune with Saturn, a place he said he felt a connection with after an out-of-body experience in college. “My whole body was changed into something else,” Sun Ra once said. “I could see through myself.” He said aliens spoke to him: “They would teach me some things that when it looked like the world was going into complete chaos, when there was no hope for nothing, then I could speak, but not until then. I would speak, and the world would listen.” In turn, Sun Ra’s music centered on space travel as a form of Black liberation. He believed Black people would never find freedom on Earth, and that real emancipation resided in the cosmos. Over the course of his career, Sun Ra recorded more than 200 albums with his band — called the Arkestra — before his death in 1993 at 79.
Sun Ra’s music can be challenging — both artistically and through the intimidating size of his discography. So while this isn’t a comprehensive list (what could be?), the songs chosen here by a range of musicians, writers and critics represent a cross-section of swing, fusion and free jazz. Enjoy listening to the excerpts or the full playlist at the bottom of the article, and be sure to leave your own Sun Ra favorites in the comments.
The pirate radio stations of the 1960s are part of British pop folklore, but America had its equivalents broadcasting from the border with Mexico. And its most celebrated star DJ was the near-mythical Wolfman Jack. Every DJ has their “radio persona” – a larger than life personality created to reach across the ether and plant itself in the imagination of the listening faithful.
Immortalised in George Lucas’ breakthrough movie American Graffiti, the Wolfman derived from an era when radio’s disembodied voice could be almost mesmeric.
His influence on radio today can still be heard… you just need to know what to listen for. Of course, Wolfman Jack wasn’t born with that name. He was born Bob Smith and he grew up in the tough New York neighbourhood of Brooklyn. Neglected by his parents he sought succour and inspiration from the voices he heard on the radio at night beaming up from the Mexican border.
When you heard him you knew you’d unlocked the door to a really secret world. In his 20s he landed a number of DJ jobs on local radio stations where he experimented with a variety of bizarre and eccentric DJ personas.
Finally in the late 1950s, determined to take on border radio – the American-equivalent of Britain’s off-shore pirate radio stations – he made his way down to Mexico to the great “border station” XERF and bought himself a show.
Amongst Bob Smith’s heros were disc jockey Alan Freed, aka Moondog, and blues singer Howlin’ Wolf, whose names formed the inspiration for his own alias, Wolfman, a name which debuted as early as the first show.
“There was nothing as exotic, as mysterious and as forbidden as when I first stumbled across Wolfman Jack broadcasting from the border,” says Nic Patowski, a teenager when he first tuned into station XERF. “He was unlike anything I’d ever heard before.
“You had no idea who he was or what he was but you knew whatever he was doing it was probably wrong. When you heard him you knew you’d unlocked the door to a really secret world.”
“When I first heard him… I was thinking of old recordings of the blues singer Howlin’ Wolf. He had this incredible confidence.”
I began this reminiscence writing about a year of concerts and festivals, that renewed togetherness and back-outsideness that feels at once routine and rogue after the hiatus, but quickly realized that what’s most important to me about jazz right now is what is happening off- stage and backstage, in-between shows and attitudes, when we catch ourselves wondering what we’re saying as if trapped in a dreamscape that only the right question posed at the right time can interrupt or interpret. Some of the best jazz songs ask such questions. Mingus’s version of “What Is This Thing Called Love?” for example, which makes sure to never define what it seeks to define, embodies it instead, revels in the unknowns as its very tempo and temperament. Or Tony Williams’s “Where” – interrogating that dream to rid it of aimlessness, where are you going / where have you come from / if anyone asks you / I hope you can say.
Jazz is an elegiac form as much as a collective one, such that its tones often vacillate between ache and celebration, ecstatic love and dead-end romance, self-discovery and self-delusion — ballad and blues. Jazz ensembles and compositions are safe havens for codes that don’t exist outside of them and subject to the exile that comes with protecting the freedom of expression that mainstream culture aims to replace with the ready-made. Sometimes those codes woven into the music are so exclusive that their makers exist in obscurity, or in a network of rumors among themselves, their families, friends and most avid fans, never entering the minds of those outside of it. Some jazz musicians spend their whole lives within this network, perhaps never venturing away because it fulfills them enough, because the pivot to some kind of celebrity musicianship is no more glamorous than being loved and appreciated by one’s own community. A little utopian caveat about the myths animating the jazz underground, and backstage and post-stage and festival.
I’ve spent this year mining those territories with direct questions, conducting oral histories of jazz families whose legacies are often left to apocryphal lore and imagination. I began with the Coltrane family, interviewing Michelle Coltrane, daughter of Alice and John, Surya Botofasina, their nephew, and several of the singers who grew up on the ashram Alice Coltrane lived on in Malibu, Calif. I interviewed Keki Mingus, daughter of Charles Mingus, who told me she hadn’t been asked about her father by the jazz establishment in many years. His centennial this year was in danger of passing without Keki’s account, sourced from a close and loving relationship with him and his life and music, which seemed almost intentional and in the service of more sensational narratives about Mingus’s life and temperament. Next, I interviewed pianist Jamael Dean and his grandfather Donald Dean, a drummer born in 1935 who has played with everyone from Cecil Taylor to Donny Hathaway, to, I found out in the interview, my own father. And I was interviewed by singer Melanie Charles and Yunie Mojica, two women who are at once performing and creating a community of musicians and thinkers off stage.
Most recently, I spoke with Jasper Marsalis about his upbringing, his music and painting, what it’s like to be Wynton’s son and what it’s like to be himself expanding that tradition in new forms. What each interview has taught me, and in a different way each time, is that jazz music is the energetic extension of an oral tradition that separates Black art from the rest of western art, in that it values knowing things by heart, remembering, and retelling in person, or riffing on a closed-notion, over paper documents and final says. Jazz musicians and their families become talking books and written biographies and articles must be supplemented with oral histories which whisper secrets that can never be translated here, if they hope to evolve into accuracy, which is never a fixed point in the history of this music. The stories morph and change as the songs do each time they are played.
The danger of not exploring the ways this music is traded and handed down across generations, becomes collective improvisation as a way of life and not just a way of sounding more lifelike in song, is that the keepers of these stories are not as immortal in the flesh as their sound is in spirit dimensions. In February of this year an LA-based, Chicago-born jazz musician, Derf Recklaw, died after a gig in Los Angeles. Ask me how: He was found waiting for a city bus with his instruments and his phone in his hand. He had performed a show hours earlier.
He was a longtime family friend and would recount vivid, ever-changing stories of his life in and out of the music of which we have little record. Those stories may vanish because no one asked the right questions, because we neglect musicians whose charisma transcends the limits of a two-hour concert or album.
For me, this has been a year of looking at the parts of the lives of jazz musicians that cannot be recorded or even recounted in music alone, but that earn you true access to the music, its elegies and its glories. We are responsible for looking to improvisers and composers for more than entertainment and dazzle or distraction. When we do, we find a void neither stage nor its opposite, made up of tedious procedures, some grandeur and delight, and all the withheld questions that threaten to displace everyone involved: How did you get home from shows? Is the one haunting me most. Have we made it home?
This 1933 performance of “Dinah” is a perfect example of how free and radical Louis Armstrong was. He grounds the time at the bridge, flies over the A sections, and sings exactly the way he plays: Every choice he makes is undeniable, feels casual, and is extremely attractive. There is so much life and happiness in his singing and his sound. There’s wisdom and playfulness at the same time. He gives us the lyrics and then takes them away as he sees fit; it’s almost like an erasure poem. It’s a party.
A unique feature of the destabilizing, horrifying Great Interruption of the past year and a half (and counting) is that it has nudged so many of us into a period of protracted introspection and reassessment. Superficially, we’ve discovered the wonders of sourdough starter and urban gardening, but beneath the surface something more significant has been going on. Especially during those long, pre-vaccine months of sheltering in place, it became somewhere between interesting and necessary to recalibrate, to inventory what we value, to look at who and what we surround ourselves with, and why.
Part of this process for me has involved a careful survey of what is literally on my shelves, which includes an ungainly collection of music housed on old media: vinyl, CDs and cassettes. I’ve deliberately reached for albums with which I have distant, uncertain relationships, producing new revelations. Foolishly, I’d dismissed Randy Newman as a Hollywood lightweight, but a return to the sharp, subversive danger of his 1974 album “Good Old Boys,” and the more recent “Dark Matter” from 2017, reminded me of his particular genius. The magnificent gospel compilation set “Goodbye, Babylon” from 2003 bathed me again in its heavenly glow every time I put it on, making me wonder why I’d ever consigned it to mothballs. Similarly, both Sun Ra and the Shaggs found their way back from the nether regions of my stacks and into regular rotation once again, each now making more sense than ever. And it had been too long since I’d spent time with Scott Joplin’s opera “Treemonisha”; the relevance of its poignant, resilient finale,“A Real Slow Drag,” gave me goosebumps.
And then came Cat Stevens. I’d first heard Stevens’s music as a teenager in the mid-’80s, when friends and I watched “Harold and Maude,” Hal Ashby’s paean to nonconformity. The film, which turned 50 this year, prominently features Stevens’s songs, including one that could be called its theme: “If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out.” I decided that I did. The very next day I acquired a cheap guitar and began teaching myself how to play. Stevens’s songs eventually led me to Bob Dylan; Dylan led me to early-20th-century blues, jazz and country music; and by my early 20s I was living in New Orleans, fronting my first band. A few years later, after I moved to Brooklyn, a series of chance encounters led to a high-profile engagement for my quartet. Critics wrote nice things about us, we began making records, and for the past couple of decades I’ve been blessed with a music career, albeit a nontraditional one. Operating under the mainstream radar, I’ve headlined on stages ranging from the fancy (Lincoln Center) to the less so (dank basements in rural Romania). If my path has never followed conventional patterns, just consider its source; in a real sense, I owe it all to Cat Stevens.
Stevens’s road has been anything but a straight line. His career began in the late ’60s as a teenage pop star in Britain, before a bout with tuberculosis nearly killed him. During his convalescence his songwriting morphed, and he emerged as the acoustic-guitar-wielding, long-haired Pan most people still conjure in their minds when they hear his name. He achieved superstardom with evergreen standards like “Morning Has Broken,” “Moonshadow” and “Peace Train,” and toured the world as a major headliner. Then, in 1978, Stevens suddenly renounced his music career, changed his name to Yusuf Islam, auctioned off his instruments and rededicated his life to being a family man and a devout Muslim.
But he didn’t entirely disappear. His new religious beliefs led him in a number of directions. On the one hand, he donated time and money to education and charity — and, while his interpretation of the religion he’d embraced suggested that playing musical instruments was forbidden, he lent his well-known voice to spoken word and children’s albums that remain big sellers in the Muslim world. On the other hand, he became embroiled in the controversy surrounding Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s fatwa against the writer Salman Rushdie, leading many to dissociate themselves from his music.
Eventually, though, Stevens picked upa guitar and began writing songs again. In 2006, he returned to pop music under the name Yusuf, releasing the first of some tentative-sounding new recordings, but by 2014 he’d come around to accepting his musical past once again — at least halfway. Billing himself as Yusuf/Cat Stevens (the name he currently uses; on Twitter, his bio says “Yusuf Islam the Artist also known as Cat Stevens”), he made an album with producer Rick Rubin, appeared at his Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction, and embarked on his first American tour since the ’70s. In concert, he began revisiting a broad sampling of his early work with a commitment and passion many of his fans never expected to see — myself included.
Now, he is reissuing his Cat Stevens catalogue. Last year, he released golden-anniversary box sets of what are arguably his artistic high-water marks, the albums “Mona Bone Jakon” and “Tea for the Tillerman,” originally released within seven months of each other in 1970. This fall, 1971’s “Teaser and the Firecat” will get its own deluxe reissue, and there are plans afoot to follow it up with anniversary editions of each of Stevens’s 1970s albums, sequentially (1978’s “Back to Earth” is the only one to be reissued out of order, in 2019). He’s also just completed a draft of his autobiography. For devotees of Stevens’s classic material, it can feel as though he’s making amends for having walked away from his music all those years ago.
But is that really fair? Or true? Meditating on this during the pandemic made me think about what responsibility, if any, artists have to their audience. If we agree that art has the power to reveal us to ourselves, to help us make sense of the world and our place in it, do we then have the right to expect artists to be faithful stewards of that relationship? There may be no musician who prompts this question as directly as Yusuf/Cat Stevens. And since Stevens now appears to be in legacy-tending mode, it seems appropriate to wonder what exactly that legacy is — for me, for him, for us.Yusuf/Cat Stevens with, from left, daughter Asmaa, his granddaughter, and wife Fauzia in 2007, when he received an honorary degree for his humanitarian work at Britain’s University of Exeter. (Anthony Devlin/PA Images/Getty Images)
In December, during the darkest winter many of us have ever lived through, I began digging through the new box sets of “Mona Bone” and “Tillerman.”Listening to those records again, and having recently turned 50 myself, a creeping realization began to take shape: that more than just being professionally indebted to Stevens, I might actually not even be the person I am today had I not been exposed to his music. But not just any of it. This music. These albums, from which the bulk of the “Harold and Maude”soundtrack had been culled.
I suspect that this has to do with the crucial developmental juncture I was at when I first encountered them, at that time in life when just existing can feel like one big, adolescent hurt. The world stops making sense; the relationships we have with our families, friends and ourselves are constantly being dashed against the rocks. It’s a time when many of us first grasp for the anchor of music and hold on for dear life.
More than anything, Stevens’s pair of 1970 albums are about searching for authenticity in a culture that does not assign great value to it. (For my high school yearbook quote, I’d chosen a lyric from a later song, “Drywood,” that went: “Throw down your mask and be real.” Old friends still tease me about it.) If the lyrics have a rebellious streak, it isn’t one with a political ax to grind, but a personal one. The questions Stevens asks are the result of objectively noting the decisions we’re prompted to make as individuals, and as a society.
On songs like “I Think I See the Light,” “Miles From Nowhere” and “On the Road to Find Out,” Stevens is trying to sort through what is real and what is not. On “Where Do the Children Play?” his Socratic questioning of the status quo continues to be relevant:
Well you’ve cracked the sky, scrapers fill the air
But will you keep on building higher
’Til there’s no more room up there?
Will you make us laugh, will you make us cry?
Will you tell us when to live, will you tell us when to die?
The recordings of these songs are full of feeling, full of seeking and longing. They express a kind of hopeful loneliness, what Victor Hugo called “the happiness of being sad.” Embedded in them too is that sense that initially resonated so deeply with me: the promise of eventual and ecstatic release. This was the sensibility that, in my case, fueled spontaneous road trips in search of new experience, and epic bouts of music-making that eclipsed basic needs like food and rest. Stevens’s songs supported these ways of thinking and being, encouraging me to live as fully and freely as possible.
NEW YORK — Christine McVie, the British-born Fleetwood Mac vocalist, songwriter and keyboard player whose cool, soulful contralto helped define such classics as “You Make Loving Fun,” “Everywhere” and “Don’t Stop,” died Wednesday at age 79.
Her death was announced on the band’s social media accounts. No cause of death or other details were immediately provided, but a family statement said she “passed away peacefully at hospital this morning” with family around her after a “short illness.”
“She was truly one-of-a-kind, special and talented beyond measure,” the band’s statement reads in part.
McVie was a steady presence and personality in a band known for its frequent lineup changes and volatile personalities — notably fellow singer-songwriters Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham.
Fleetwood Mac started out as a London blues band in the 1960s, and evolved into one of the defining makers of 1970s California pop-rock, with the combined talents of McVie, Nicks and Buckingham anchored by the rhythm section of founder Mick Fleetwood on drums and John McVie on bass.
During its peak commercial years, from 1975-80, the band sold tens of millions of records and was an ongoing source of fascination for fans as it transformed personal battles into melodic, compelling songs. McVie herself had been married to John McVie, and their breakup — along with the split of Nicks and Buckingham — was famously documented on the 1977 release “Rumours,” among the bestselling albums of all time.
Fleetwood Mac was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998. The group’s many other hit singles included Nicks’ “Dreams,” Buckingham’s “Go Your Own Way” and McVie’s “Little Lies.” One of McVie’s most beloved works, the thoughtful ballad “Songbird,” was a showcase for her in concert and covered by Willie Nelson, among others.
McVie, born Christine Perfect in Bouth, Lancashire, had been playing piano since childhood, but set aside her classical training once she heard early rock records by Fats Domino and others.
While studying at the Moseley School of Art, she befriended various members of Britain’s emerging blues scene and, in her 20s, joined the band Chicken Shack as a singer and piano player. Among the rival bands she admired was Fleetwood Mac, which then featured the talents of blues guitarist Peter Green along with the rhythm section of Fleetwood and McVie. By 1970, she had joined the group and married John McVie.
Few bands succeeded so well as Fleetwood Mac, against such long odds. Green was among the many performers who left the group, and at various times Fleetwood Mac seemed on the verge of ending, or fading away. More recently, Buckingham was kicked out, replaced on tour by Mike Campbell and Neil Finn.
McVie herself left for years, only to return for good in 2014.
After years of sometimes brilliant, often intriguing and always entertaining community theater in Telluride and Ouray, I’d become rather insular. I’d developed an unsubstantiated opinion that our small mountain towns offered the best chance of quality theater in the region.
Added to that there’s both tourist towns’ liberal distaste for Delta/Montrose‘s Trump/Boebert boosterism, particularly after a Delta jury thumbed their nose at Telluride citizens’ protecting their community gateway by arbitrarily doubling the cost of saving/condemning the Valley Floor to $50 million — twice what it had been appraised at.
For me and others, opinion had become more like a full-fledged bias. Artistic as well as political. In all my 43 years on the Western Slope, I’d never gone to see a single play in Montrose.
Kind of embarrassing actually for a former newspaper theater critic, son of a California community theater star, and one-time usher at the Schubert Theater in New Haven.
Then, last month I heard a Colorado Public Radio interview with castmembers and organizers of the all-volunteer Magic Circle Players of Montrose. Started in 1959, MCP is a repertoire theater company that has been putting on plays for 63 years. On the air, one of their spokespeople made the claim that MCP shows were the best community theater on the Western Slope. It sounded like hubris. I resolved to go see for myself.
Plus, the current show that was just winding up its run was Amadeus. I had missed the original play. And the movie. It’s been on my to-do list forever. Since that hadn’t happened. I enlisted a friend from Hotchkiss to join me. We attended the finale performance of the late Brit playwright and screenwriter Peter Shaffer’s best known work, which had been awarded five Tonys for the stage play (1980) and eight Oscars for the movie (1984).
A period piece set in 18th Century Vienna, the play is a nuanced struggle between sloppy brilliant Good and clever mediocre Evil, the composer Saltieri we’ve never heard of and the composer Mozart we all love. I figured I’d go and see if MCP could pull off the conceit of this recent classic and make it believable and engaging –- especially as I was very interested in the story and I had not seen previous interpretations.
Well, to be honest, it was not only believable and engaging, it was terrific! I was blown away. In no small part because of really extraordinary lead actors.
M.A. Smith was our Virgil on this Dantean descent into the hell of fame, jealousy, intrigue and betrayal, superbly re-creating Antonio Salieri for us. His foil — the babbling, immature and outre boy genius Wolfgang Mozart, excellently played by Everett Gregory — made us laugh, cringe and listen in awe to bits of his musical classics. Both gave dazzling performances.
Unfortunately, community theater is well-known for tolerating weak links in its productions. Hard to get professional quality acting out of volunteer thespians. But that’s just what Director Kathy Murdoch flat out did.
Gary Hokit owned the charmingly stuffy (and dare I say witless — “There it is!” — or at least out-matched) Joseph II, Emperor of Austria. Janel Culver did a marvelous turn as Constanze Weber, Mozart’s wife. One could call each name on the playbill list and laud their very convincing performances, all in character, all audibly enunciating, all well-acted.
Add to that a chorus that doubled as audiences, servants, crowds and crew, moving the delightfully minimalist set pieces in and out and making visible costume changes on stage in a marvelous choreography of inobtrusive staging.
In the second act I got to move from the back row to the front row. Up close I marveled at how well everything in the production worked.
The ornate backdrop doubled cleverly as a screen where royal chambers and other relevant scenes were projected from the rear, giving an effective illusion of set changes. The costumes were lavish, well-made and appropriate. The tech, the lighting, the sound.
Perhaps my one quibble might have been seeing upfront Gregory’s discrete headset microphone visibly scotch-taped to his cheek. But hardly significant.
Just about everything about MCP’s production was so well done that this one teensy faux pax was easily offset by the effective voicing the headsets provided the primary castmembers.
A standing ovation from the large crowd in the 225 seat MCP theater validated the excellence of the evening.
Magic Circle Players, bravo!
I’m definitely planning to go back to see more MCP shows. Particularly any in which Smith or Gregory star, or where Murdoch directs.
Next up in early December is MCP’s Readers Theater offering: Miracle on 34th St. –- a script reading in the guise of a live radio play.
Simon & Schuster sold 900 signed copies of the singer’s new essay collection, but superfans and internet sleuths noticed something wasn’t right with the autograph. Now the publisher is issuing refunds.
Henry Bernstein has seen Bob Dylan 27 times in concert and owns three items autographed by him: a copy of “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan” album, a photograph of the singer and a “John Wesley Harding” songbook. His favorite song is “Tangled Up in Blue.”
So when Simon & Schuster, Dylan’s publisher, advertised limited-edition, hand-signed copies of the musician’s new collection of essays for $600 each, Bernstein was among 900 fans who went for one. Last week, he received his copy of “The Philosophy of Modern Song,” Dylan’s first collection of writings since he won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2016, with a letter of authenticity signed by Jonathan Karp, the publisher’s chief executive.
There was only one problem.
Karp’s signature “looked more legit than Bob’s,” Bernstein said.
Bernstein was one of hundreds of fans who sleuthed their way around social media, reaching the conclusion that the supposedly hand-signed books had not, in fact, been signed by Dylan.