Thursday, 21 March 2019

Bob Dylan - Rolling Thunder Live (1975)

  

Recorded at various locations on the first half of 1975's "Rolling Thunder" tour.

This is my preferred live recording from the "Rolling Thunder" tour. Although it is not one complete concert, neither does it replicate a set list it does sort of play as if it were a concert. The recordings are from a fair few different venues and are from the widely accepted superior first half of the tour. The venues are all indoors, and consequently the sound is much better than the muffled outdoor venue sound to be found on "Hard Rain", the other live recording from this tour, from the second half.

The sound is pretty good on here throughout and Dylan and the band are on fine form overall, with an early tour freshness and vitality about them.

Highlights are a slightly reggae-ish "It Ain't Me Babe"; a rocking, guitar-driven "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall"; a bassy, shuffling "The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll"; (good to hear those older tracks given a run out); and the "Desire" tracks, which are all done excellently, augmented by Scarlet Rivera's unique violin. Check out her contributions to "Oh Sister" and "Hurricane""Simple Twist Of Fate" is performed in the original, acoustic "Blood On The Tracks" style, which is nice to hear. "Love Minus Zero/No Limit" is done beautifully, also faithful to the original. The same applies to "Tangled Up In Blue". Dylan is often the great re-interpreter of his material, and while some of the songs on here are given new makeovers, I like the fact that some of them are played straight. "It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry" is played with a verve and vitality as if it were a new track, as opposed to being recorded ten years previously. There is a lot of energy and enthusiasm on this album.

TRACK LISTING

1. Tonight I'll Be Staying Here With You
2. It Ain't Me Babe
3. A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall
4. The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll
5. Romance In Durango
6. Isis
7. Mr. Tambourine Man
8. Simple Twist Of Fate
9. Blowin' In The Wind
10. Mama, You Been On My Mind
11. I Shall Be Released
12. It's All Over Now, Baby Blue
13. Love Minus Zero/No Limit
14. Tangled Up In Blue
15. The Water Is Wide
16. It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry
17. Oh Sister
18. Hurricane
19. One More Cup Of Coffee
20. Sara
21. Just Like A Woman
22. Knockin' On Heaven's Door

B+

Bob Dylan - Hard Rain (1976)


  

Recorded live in 1976

It is what it is, "Hard Rain". Maybe messy. Maybe magnificent. Maybe messily magnificent. Despite its remastering for the "Complete Works" box set, there are still a few problems with the somewhat muddy sound, for me. On the other hand, there is definitely an ad hoc energy about it. Personally, I prefer the "Rolling Thunder Bootleg Series" from the same period, by far. This does catch an artist and a band just "going for it" in a slightly shambolic but enthusiastic manner though. It is raw and edgy and, as many have commented in the years since it was released, Dylan was going through a bit of an angry, relationship breakdown period and this undoubtedly affected his gritted teeth, committed performance. Of course, it is a vitally important album, chronologically, in Dylan's career. More so than its musical worth, probably.

It is worth noting that the tracks are taken from two concerts - Fort Collins Colorado and Fort Worth, Texas (the performances from the latter are asterisked below). So, there is not the continuity of a single show. This adds to the disorganised feel of the album. Another observation is that Dylan wore a biblical style head-dress for the Fort Collins show of the sort worn by children in nativity plays. His appearance was, intentional or not, very Messiah-like.



TRACK LISTING

1. Maggie's Farm
2. One Too Many Mornings
3. Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again*
4. Oh Sister*
5. Lady Lady Lay*
6. Shelter From The Storm
7. You're A Big Girl Now
8. I Threw It All Away*
9. Idiot Wind

"Maggie's Farm" is rocking and ramshackle, full of unrestrained vitality. "One Too Many Mornings" is enhanced by some excellent violin from Scarlet Rivera. "Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again" is done vibrantly, with a catchy bass line from Rob Stoner. Dylan is on fine form, vocally, on this too, doing the wordy song justice, thankfully.

"Oh Sister" again features that lovely violin and a strong delivery from Dylan. "Lady Lady Lay" is a bit muffled, sound-wise, with a bit of background hiss. Maybe it was chucking it down at the time. "Shelter From The Storm" is given a slightly reggae-ish makeover on its verses and it positively bristles with an almost punky anger as Dylan spits and bellows out the lyrics. It is a radical re-working of the reflective number we all know from "Blood On The Tracks". It is quite visceral in places.

"You're A Big Girl Now" has a fetching guitar backing and Dylan's delivery is suitably respectful of the sombre, plaintive original. Nice piano on it too. One of the album's best interpretations. "I Threw It All Away" is the only live performance of it that I have. Unfortunately it is a slightly grating, at times, delivery of one of "Nashville Skyline"'s best songs. Dylan's voice is jarring, as is the unnecessarily clashing guitar sound. Then, of course, there is "Idiot Wind". For many, this is the definitive performance of the song. As far as I know it is the only official live cut of the track. It is certainly the only one I have. It is a snarling, incredibly wired rendition of the song, and by far the best track on the album. Not only is an irked Dylan "up for it" but the band are too. When he sings "I can't feel you anymore..." he sounds close to tears. All his raging glory, indeed.

Overall, despite its cultural importance, for me it is nowhere near his best live work. For a lot of people it is, though, and that is fair enough. I can sort of see why, but I can never get past the less-than-perfect sound.

C+

Wednesday, 20 March 2019

Joe Bonamassa - Blues Of Desperation (2016)

  

Released March 2016

This is, for me, far more of a rock album from the fast-becoming legendary blues rock man Joe Bonamassa. At times it has a real heavy rock thump to it, huge pounding drums and lots of industrial strength riffs. He has done many far more bluesier albums than this but it is loud, punchy and enjoyable. It certainly blows the cobwebs away and makes your speakers shake.

TRACK LISTING

1. This Train
2. Mountain Climbing
3. Drive
4. No Good Place For The Lonely
5. Blues Of Desperation
6. The Valley Runs Low
7. You Left Me Nothin' But The Bill And The Blues
8. Distant Lonesome Train
9. How Deep This River Runs
10. Livin' Easy
11. What I've Known For A Very Long Time

"This Train" is a storming opener, full of powerful rock drums, woo-woo backing vocals and chunky guitar. Bonamassa's vocal is gruff and totally in command throughout the track. "Mountain Climbing"  is a riffy, almost heavy rock number. "Drive" sees the full-on attack calm down briefly, with its melodic, laid-back and rhythmic Chris Rea-style intro. Joe's vocal is quieter and soulful. There is a great atmosphere on this one. "No Good Place For The Lonely" is a solid, mid-pace rock ballad. It features an extended, killer guitar solo.

The title track is a mysterious one, with some swampy wah-wah guitar and big Led Zeppelin-influenced choruses. "The Valley Runs Low" is a Don Henley-ish West Coast-sounding catchy number. It has a real soulful feel to it. "You Left Me Nothin' But The Bill And The Blues" is the first real, upbeat genuinely bluesy rocker on the album so far. Bonamassa's guitar on here is intoxicating and his vocal is superb too. As for the guitar solo in the middle. Glorious.

"Distant Lonesome Train" is once more massively punchy, but it also has an organ-driven seventies rock feel to it and a great rolling drum sound. "How Deep This River Runs" is a muscular rock ballad  again augmented by stunning guitar and drums. "Livin' Easy" is a surprise - a jaunty, jazzy number completely different to anything else on the album, with everything toned down and keyboards and saxophone to the fore. "What I've Known For A Very Long Time" is a horn-driven piece of bluesy rock to finish on. As I said earlier, though, this is more of a rock album than a blues rock one, or indeed a blues one. It is a powerful listen though.

B-

Willy De Ville - Live At The Metropol, Berlin (2002)

  

Recorded live in Berlin

I have several Willy De Ville live recordings and they are all truly excellent. To the end De Ville had real charisma and a voice that makes your heart skip a beat. This is a good set list made up mainly of his solo recordings and not so many older Mink De Ville numbers (there are six). Four of the tracks are from the almost impossible to get hold of album, "Horse Of A Different Colour". The sound quality is impressive too. The band is a basic one - two guitars, bass, drums and backing vocals, no saxophone or piano, which does subtract a little from the traditional De Ville sound, but they seem to get by effectively enough, delivering a full, powerful sound.

TRACK LISTING

1. Loup Garou
2. One Night Of Sin
3. Broken Heart
4. Runnin' Through The Jungle
5. Bamboo Road
6. Lay Me Down Easy
7. Carmelita
8. Steady Drivin' Man
9. Across The Borderline
10. 18 Hammers
11. Cadillac Walk
12. Can't Do Without It
13. Bad Boy
14. Who's Gonna Shoe Your Pretty Little Foot?
15. Heart And Soul
16. Goin' Over The Hill
17. Just Your Friends
18. Spanish Stroll
19. All By Myself
20. Hey Joe

Highlights are a rare appearance for old Mink De Ville favourites "Can't Do Without It" and "Just Your Friends" and a beautiful cover of Warren Zevon's "Carmelita". "Who's Gonna Shoe Your Pretty Little Foot?" is a surprising cover of a Woody Guthrie song. Jimi Hendrix's "Hey Joe" is done in catchy Mexican mariachi style.

There is some not so regularly-performed material on here that makes this a live album well worth owning if you are a De Ville aficionado. His voice may be a little older and gruffer but it has lost none of its atmospheric quality, its yesterday, today, tomorrow soul.

B

Tuesday, 19 March 2019

Willy De Ville - Live In Montreux (1994)

  

Recorded live in Montreux, Switzerland, 1994

This is a sensationally good live recording, featuring an "on fire" Willy De Ville and his top notch band. They play a healthy mix of Mink De Ville favourites and solo Willy De Ville numbers. The sound quality is simply superb - big, booming and bassy. I have several Mink/Willy De Ville live albums and they are all wonderful. I was lucky enough to catch him live four times between 1979 and 1983 in his Mink De Ville era. Although this recording is from twelve years or so later it still brings back great memories.

Just check out the sumptuous version of "Mixed-Up, Shook-Up Girl", or the rich, deep bass on "Slow Drain" or the bluesy grind of "Cadillac Walk" - De Ville heaven. That voice just sends shivers down my spine. His mariachi-influenced take on Jimi Hendrix's "Hey Joe" is both inventive and adventurous. He also covers Ben E. King's "Stand By Me" impressively, always did so, for many years. I say on every De Ville review I do how much I miss him. I can't help it. There is seriously not a duff delivery or duff track in this mighty performance. Highly recommended. Love it.

TRACK LISTING

1. Slow Drain
2. Steady Drivin' Man
3. Cadillac Walk
4. Mixed Up Shook Up Girl
5. All In The Name Of Love
6. Angel Eyes
7. Heaven Stood Still
8. Even While I Sleep
9. Demasiado Corazon
10. Spanish Stroll
11. Hey Joe
12. New Orleans
13. Stand By Me
14. Dust My Broom

B+

Taj Mahal - The Best Of Taj Mahal


  

Born Henry Fredericks, Taj Mahal's blues rock career had its peak in the late sixties/early seventies. His blues is played very much in a solid rock style - big and powerful, with classic rock drum backing, harmonica and Mahal's knife through butter blues guitar. This is an excellent compilation of some of his best recordings from that period. The sound quality is very impressive throughout. There is a wonderful, refreshing purity to the blues on here. If you love proper blues rock, you will love this. Taj Mahal liked to rock 'n' roll too, plus he enjoyed a bit of country stuff. There is all sorts included on this fine album.

TRACK LISTING

1. Statesboro Blues
2. Leaving Trunk
3. Corinna Corinna
4. Going Up To The Country, Paint My Mailbox Blue
5. She Caught The Katy And Left Me A Mule To Ride
6. Take A Giant Step
7. Six Days On The Road
8. Farther On Down The Road
9. Fishin' Blues
10. Ain't Gwine To Whistle Dixie (Any Mo')
11. You're Going To Need Somebody On Your Bond
12. Cakewalk Into Town
13. Oh Susanna
14. Frankie And Albert
15. Chevrolet
16. Johnny Too Bad
17. Sweet Mama Janisse

"Statesboro Blues" is an absolutely barnstorming slab of rousing blues rock, jammed full of searing guitar and a great vocal. "Leaving Trunk" is a huge, muscular piece of chugging rock. So powerful. What a bass line on it too. The recognisable "Corinna Corinna" has been covered by many artists, notably Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones and Albert King. King also covered the shuffling, funky "She Caught The Katy And Left Me A Mule To Ride". The "katy" was the Kansas to Texas railroad.

"Going Up To The Country, Paint My Mailbox Blue" is another track that is just so strong, such pure blues rock. Beautiful. "Take A Giant Step" has Mahal going soulful in his vocal and a bit country in the backing. It is quite upbeat and different to the stomping blues rock of what we have heard so far, showing Mahal's versatility. This also applies to the country-ish rock 'n' roll of the incredibly catchy "Six Days On The Road". This one really rocks.

"Farther On Down The Road" is deliciously soulful, with a Stax-esque, Memphis soul feeling about its groove. Mahal had an excellent soul voice. "Fishin' Blues" is the album's first conventional, rural-sounding vocal and acoustic guitar blues. "Ain't Gwine To Whistle Dixie (No Mo')" is a live recording of an instrumental featuring flute and a soulful brass backing. A saxophone solo also crops up to add to the difference in sound to this one. The rocking blues returns with the lively "You're Going To Need Somebody On Your Bond". "Cakewalk Into Town" is a jaunty, fun blues backed by what sounds like a tuba. "Oh Susanna" is given a funky, vaguely reggae-ish makeover.

"Frankie And Albert" is a folky blues also covered by Bob Dylan on "Good As I Been To You". "Chevrolet" is a funky number, while "Johnny Too Bad" is a cover of The Slickers' reggae early seventies reggae hit. It begins with a gentle acoustic guitar before an authentic thumping reggae groove kicks in and we get maybe the first example of blues reggae. I love this. "Sweet Mama Janisse" is a fine traditional blues to finish off this highly recommended, fantastic-sounding compilation. A most enjoyable, invigorating listen.

B

Willy De Ville - Crow Jane Alley (2004)


  

Released September 2004

This was Willy De Ville's first studio album for a while, and it is a comparatively unsung one. It is a reasonable album, although I have to say I prefer "Backstreets Of Desire" and "Loup Garou" from the previous decade. It is not a huge matter but the sound quality is slightly better on those two and the same applies to the songs, just a bit. There is something about those two albums, for me, that this one doesn't quite have. The cover is a strange one, showing De Ville in native Mexican/Central American(?) get-up.

TRACK LISTING

1. Chieva
2. Right There, Right Then
3. Downside Of Town
4. My Forever Came Today
5. Crow Jane Alley
6. Muddy Waters Rose Out Of The Mississippi Mud
7. Come A Little Bit Closer
8. Slave To Love
9. (Don't Have A) Change Of Heart
10. Trouble Comin' Every Day In A World Gone Wrong

"Chieva" kicks off with some New Orleans brass and Spanish guitar before a shuffling, jazzy beat comes in. De Ville's voice is older now and, although still bearing that trademark nasal tone, is a bit croakier and gruffer. The lyrics deal with De Ville's heroin addiction which would ultimately, I'm sure, play a part in his premature passing. "Right There, Right Then" has a Byrds/Searchers-inspired guitar riff and a typical De Ville yearning vocal. This is the sort of track you just expect from Willy. Here could do this sort of thing in his sleep. I can never get too much of these type of songs. "Downside Of Town" is backed by castanets, accordion and Spanish guitar and has a heartfelt vocal. More classic De Ville fare.

"My Forever Came Today" is a slow burning, accordion-backed track in the same style of the two before it. "Crow Jane Alley", however, is a shuffling, bluesy slow, New Orleans-influenced number, full of atmosphere. "Muddy Waters Rose Out Of The Mississippi Mud" is one of those deep, swampy blues that De Ville does so well. "Come A Little Bit Closer" is a cover of a sixties hit for a group called Jay & The Americans (I was not familiar with them or the song). However, it sounds just like it could be a De Ville original, with its Latin syncopation, "La Bamba" hints and mariachi backing. It is a great choice for a cover. Another inspired choice for a cover is up next - Bryan Ferry's "Slave To Love". Ferry's deliver and songs are so unique to him so you would imagine this may not work, but it does, suiting De Ville's voice perfectly.

The album concludes in full New Orleans funeral mode for "(Don't Have A) Change Of Heart" and the bluesy slow stomp of "Trouble Comin' Every Day In A World Gone Wrong". Willy rails against modern life over a retrospective classic swamp blues rock beat. Don't get me wrong, there are hidden gems on this album. I still prefer the others I mentioned, but this is worth a listen too.

B-