Monday, January 22, 2007
Denny Doherty (1940-2007) distinguished himself in the Mamas & the Papas by being the least distinguished guy in the group. He wasn’t the Rotund One (that would be Mama Cass), the California Kitten (Michelle Phillips) or the Tall Dude Who Wears That Furry Hat (Papa John Phillips). His musical contributions, however, are much easier to discern. Chief among these were his soaring lead vocals on the pop perennials California Dreamin’ and Monday, Monday.
This band of Village folk scene refugees were far more than a two-hit wonder, mind you. With their unforgettable look, magical harmonies, and impeccably produced songs of sunshine-drenched melancholy, the Mamas & the Papas are perhaps the grooviest group of all time. There is no one even remotely like them, except perhaps Rumours-era Fleetwood Mac, who also turned intra-band sexual politics into art. And classics like 12:30 (Young Girls Are Coming to the Canyon), Straight Shooter and Words of Love sound as fresh now as they did in the Summer of Love. Pick up one of their many anthologies today. R.I.P., Double-D.
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
Happy 59th Birthday to Mick Taylor, the greatest fill-in in rock history. The Anti-Hagar, if you will. Like Eric “Slowhand” Clapton (who briefly considered joining the Stones), Taylor was a whiz-kid alumnus of John Mayall’s Blues Breakers when he got the call from the Glimmer Twins. He made his debut at the Brian Jones Memorial Concert in Hyde Park in 1969.
Immediately, Mick #2 brought a new level of virtuosity to the Stones that allowed them to take flight in ways heretofore unimagined. With Taylor on lead, the Stones continued their run of flawless albums that began with Beggar’s Banquet (Brian Jones’ last record) and ended with Exile on Main St. Even the Beatles & Dylan never stayed that unerringly hot for so long.
For examples of his sizzling style of play, give a listen to “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking” from Sticky Fingers and “All Down the Line” from Exile. And above all, watch and listen to his slide solo on the Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out version of "Love in Vain." (also seen in Gimme Shelter). It's enough to make one believe in a higher power. After leaving the Stones in '75 (allegedly to make a solo album that never materialized), he went on to pop up here and there, most notably with Bob Dylan on his Infidels album and tour in 1984. Woody may look more like a Rolling Stone, but he’s no Mick Taylor.
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
Rock Turtleneck continues to fly its sequined cape at half mast in tribute to the late great James Brown, who left the earth with the same sense of showmanship with which he rocked it. The bottomless soul, unerring exactitude and breathless innovation of JB’s countless grooves will live on long after we’re gone. If they haven’t been already, his grooves should be projected into space so that other life forms might be able to Get On the Good Foot (or whatever appendage one uses to Do the Mashed Potatoes.)
While the man released dozens of albums and compilations, getting all the James Brown you need can be accomplished in less time than it takes to say “I Don’t Want Nobody To Give Me Nothing (Open Up the Door I’ll Get It Myself).”
Simply pick up the greatest box set of all time — Star Time. Herein are 71 of the mightiest funk bombs ever manufactured. Funky genius drips from every digital groove, from his earliest soul to his later world-groove African rhythms. 15 years after its initial release, it still manages to make the music of most mortals sound wooden and leaden.
The Hardest Working Man In Show Business. The Godfather of Soul. Soul Brother #1. Mr. Dynamite. Both Master of and Slave to the Funk. Starter and stopper of riots. Al Sharpton's Pompadour Partner. Ambassador of Black Power. Supporter of Richard Nixon. Mister “Please Please Please” himself. Brother Rapp. Host of James Brown's Celebrity Hot Tub. James Brown was many things, had many names and laid down many grooves. The world in 2007 is a lot less funky without him. TCB, JB.
Monday, January 08, 2007
According to Billboard, everyone’s favorite reggae-rock trio The Police are planning a reunion tour for 2007. For those of us straddling the fence between the baby boom and Generation X, this is big news indeed. For 64 year-old Andy Summer’s retirement fund, it’s positively epic.
While reunion tours in general tend to be money-grubbing exercises in pathetic nostalgia, a Police tour actually sounds promising. That’s because, in addition to being a pop band with great songs, they were also a musician’s band, equal parts poppiness and choppiness.
Because this legendary trio hangs on Rock Turtleneck’s every word, here is my advice for the band as they embark on their tour.
1. No Sting solo tunes. Leave the lute at home, Gordo.
2. Play “Mother.” Sting threw Andy Summers a bone and let this oedipal opus onto Synchronicity. While it's a funny piece of satire with nice Arabian style music, it may be the most despised song ever to appear on a blockbuster album. All the more reason to play it. What better way to show this tour is being done for art’s sake than to play your most reviled tune?
3. Dig deep. The Police only had five studio albums but their catalog is littered with gems that are rarely heard on radio but are beloved by fans. “Demolition Man,” “Masoko Tanga,” “Canary in a Coalmine,” “On Any Other Day,” “I Burn For You” and “Murder By Numbers,” to name a few would be at least as welcome as “Roxanne.” (To get it all and then some, check out their Message in a Box.)
4. Play a few warm up club shows. Given the anticipation for this tour, it's safe to assume it will be of the arena variety. Arena tours offer the worst of both worlds: reduced intimacy and sound quality at a grossly marked-up price. A series of club shows around the country would allow at least a few people to see them up close rather than do the 80s Dance to “King of Pain.”
5. Play. Many of the best moments in the Police catalog are glorified jam sessions: “Voices Inside My Head,” “One World (Not Three),” “ Regatta de Blanc.” The crisp snap of Stewart Copeland’s snare and polyrhythmic ping of his ride cymbal, Andy Summers’ Harrison-esque sense of restraint and Sting’s hummable bass parts made The Police one of the best air-guitar bands of all time. So while thousands will go to hear “Every Breath You Take” and “De Doo Doo Doo,” at least half of the audience will be there to see them dig in and TCB.
Thursday, January 04, 2007
A belated Happy Birthday to Keith Richards, who turned 63 on December 18. In celebration of Keef’s day, here are the Glimmer Twins doing a stunning sit-down version of "Prodigal Son." This outtake from the Criterion DVD of Gimme Shelter was recorded at Madison Square Garden in 1969. Keith ends the song one verse early, but when you are the prototypical wasted rock eccentric, this is your perogative. This performance is reminder of the Stones' unique ability to completely inhabit the blues, not merely try it on for size like so many other white rockers. Let us also note that the time is right for the Stones to crack open their vaults ala Neil Young & Dylan and release, among other things, an expanded full-concert version of their amazing live album Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out. Cheers, mate.