Thursday, September 27, 2007
"Gotta get up near the teacher if you can
If you wanna learn anything."
-Bob Dylan, "Floater (Too Much To Ask)"
Bob Dylan’s duets with Jack White while in residency at Nashville’s famed Ryman Auditorium last week had the feeling of a passing of the torch.
As you may have heard, The Bard of Hibbing did two shows at the home of the Grand Ole Opry Sept 19 & 20 which garnered some extraordinary press. Adding fuel to the fire was the presence of Jack White, who took the mike each night for a deep-catalog Dylan classic. On the first night, ‘twas a barn-burning, first-time-ever version of “Meet Me in the Morning." Dylan didn't sing a note. He handed Jack the keys and rasped, “You drive.”
As the audio clip below demonstrates, White completely makes the tune his own without losing the blues-soaked spirit of the Blood on the Tracks original. The excitement in the room is absolutely thrilling. The next night, they did two tracks that have long been part of the White Stripes repertoire: “One More Cup of Coffee” and “Outlaw Blues” which also received its first-ever live outing at a Dylan show.
White said to the crowd, “I have three fathers: my biological father, God, and Bob Dylan.”
Dylan seems to have a genuine affection for Mr. White and his music. The mutual admiration goes back to at least 2004, when Dylan invited White onstage in his hometown of Detroit. Tellingly, they played a song not by Dylan but by the White Stripes: “Ball and a Biscuit,” a very Meet-Me-in-the-Morning-ish blues from Elephant. An audio clip of this is below as well.
Dylan has shared the spotlight with many contemporary stars. For example, he brought out Sheryl Crow for an encore of “Highway 61 Revisited” in 1997. But is it even possible to imagine them doing “All I Wanna Do Is Have Some Fun”?
Let’s hope the thrilling apprenticeship between Bob & Jack continues. Dylan is supposedly heading into the studio soon with producer/Zen master/Columbia Records honcho Rick Rubin. Perhaps Mr. White could tag along.
MP3: Bob Dylan & Jack White, "Meet Me in the Morning" Nashville, 9/19/07 (Many thanks to Dr. Mooney)
MP3: Bob Dylan & Jack White, "Ball & Biscuit," Detroit, 3/17/04
YouTube: Bob Dylan & Jack White, One More Cup of Coffee, Nashville, 9/20/07
Monday, September 24, 2007
As a Rock Turtleneck reader, you or a loved one probably entered the lottery for tickets to the Led Zeppelin reunion concert at the 02 Arena in London on November 26. Over a million people have registered for one of 20,000 or so tickets. The band is doing the one-off gig as part of a tribute to legendary Atlantic Records founder/Turkish dandy Ahmet Ertegun.
The demand for tickets is testament not only to the power and majesty of the mighty Led Zeppelin, but also to the dearth of quality rocking in music today. The only current band who even attempts to rock with the force of Zeppelin is the White Stripes. But while Jack and Meg certainly have the right attitude, and are well versed in many of the same musical sources as Page & Co., they simply don’t have the man/woman-power to get the job done. And Jack White’s side project the Raconteurs, is more Beatlesque than Zeppelinian. Who else is there? Metallica? The closest they've ever come to the blues is when Lars Ulrich found out how much money he was losing from illegal downloads.
Back to Zeppelin. Unlike some other genius rockers like Bob Dylan and Neil Young, Zeppelin has precious little in the vaults. They released pretty much everything they wrote. Even the rarity below, a gentle yet rocking instrumental called “Jennings Farm Blues,” was later worked into the acoustic toe-tapper “Bron-yr-Aur Stomp” for Led Zeppelin III. "Jennings Farm Blues" has been a Rock Turtleneck favorite for many years, since it was unearthed by staff Zeppelinologist “Super” Dave Walsh. Enjoy -- see you in London.
Let us also take this moment to raise a pint - and one pint only - to the memory of John Henry Bonham, who went to that great pub in the sky on this day in 1980. Cheers, Bonzo.
Led Zeppelin: Jennings Farm Blues (1970 Studio Outtake)
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
The new Spoon album Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga begs the question “How many Ga’s are too many?” Did bassist Rob Pope suggest four Ga’s only to be told to have some balls? Did keyboardist Eric Harvey go too far when he suggested six Ga’s?
That notwithstanding, these four gentlemen from the red-state oasis of Austin, TX have fantastic pop-rock instincts. Their sixth album is a splendid listening experience top to bottom that defies the shuffle-play world we live in today.
Spoon seems to be enjoying a slow, steady R.E.M.-like ascension to the top of the indie-pop heap. Despite a title borrowed from baby talk, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga is mature, fully formed, toilet trained and fiercely independent.
The opener, “Don’t Make Me A Target” has chunky, reverb-heavy guitar and some very interesting chord changes. Speaking of R.E.M., "Target" has a certain New Adventures in Hi-Fi road-weary passion that is definitely Rock With A Capital R.
Next is “The Ghost of You Lingers,” a hypnotic piece of studio rock with a piano part that sounds like it was generated rather than played. In this sense, it recalls the solo work of Brian Eno, not to be confused with Spoon drummer Jim Eno. It was a nice idea to get the weirdest song out of the way early.
“You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb,” is an infectious slice of blue-eyed soul that brings to mind Elvis Costello’s great Get Happy LP or the Jam’s great single “Town Called Malice.”
The sly “My Little Japanese Cigarette Case,” meanwhile, belongs on a mix CD of odes to household curios, alongside Leonard Cohen’s “Famous Blue Raincoat,” the English Beat’s “Mirror in the Bathroom,” Jenny Lewis’s "Rabbit Fur Coat" and Bob Dylan’s "Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat." (Feel free to post any other suggestions.)
One of the most endearing things about Spoon is their love of handclaps. It’s a lost art in this age of sampling and ProTools. This radically organic percussion instrument, which can also be used to grasp objects and form sign language, helps push “Don’t Make Me A Target” to a satisfying climax. They are even more effective on “Finer Feelings,” which also employs maracas to give the track an always-welcome Rubber Soul vibe.
Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga has 10 songs, or two tracks per Ga. It gets in, takes care of business, and gets out. Goo Goo Ga Joob.
Saturday, September 08, 2007
This week the world lost one of the great larger-than-life men of the universe: Luciano Pavarotti. The awe-inspiring tenor towered over his field as Babe Ruth, Einstein, Edison, Brando and Colonel Sanders did theirs. He was perhaps best known to the masses as one of the Three Tenors, but let's face it: like Tony Orlando's Dawn, the other two tenors were just hobos hitchin' a ride on the genius train.
While Rock Turtleneck's ignorance of opera is exceeded only by its disdain for polka, Pavarotti's gifts were such that no knowledge of the genre was required to experience joy. If Pavarotti's entree into Schubert's "Ave Maria" below doesn't stir something deep inside then you, dear reader, are the dead one. RIP & TCB, LP.
Luciano Pavarotti, "Ave Maria"
While researching this Rock Turtleneck obiturary, we came across a surreal duet with fellow deaparted legend James Brown on the Godfather's epic "It's A Man's World." JB may have been "Soul Brother #1," but #2 was right on his tail, and his name was Pavarotti.
James Brown & Lucianno Pavarotti, "It's A Man's World"
Bono was a fan of Pavarotti, too. This is perhaps the Maestro's ultimate legacy, since as we all know, the world revolves around Bono. Consider "Miss Sarajevo," a falsely modest yet nonetheless stirring duet U2 recorded in the mid-90s under the Eno-umbrella Passengers.
Passengers, "Miss Sarajevo"
Since even Bono would cede the spotlight to Pavarotti as he leaves this mortal coil, let us close with a majestic 1998 rendition of Puccini's "Nessun Dorma." That's Italian for "no one will sleep." Hey now.
Pavarotti, "Nessun Dorma"