Yearly Archives: 2019

Rhiannon Giddens Triumphs in City Winery Chicago Debut

2019 Shaun Murphy 2

Rhiannon Giddens and Francesco Turrisi brought their extensive tour for the new album there is no Other to City Winery Chicago on Oct. 26 for the first of two sold out nights. Backed by bassist Jason Sypher and billed as the Rhiannon Giddens Trio, they curated an engaging musical journey across centuries and cultures from Africa and the Mediterranean to the Americas.

The ensemble opened the intimate concert with the haunting “10,000 Voices,” “Inside Me Is Heaven,” and an upbeat instrumental piece that highlighted Giddens’ violin skills. She responded to the audience’s vigorous applause with a warm “Thank you. Hey, y’all” that reflected her North Carolina roots.

Giddens and Turrisi are both classically trained, multi-instrumentalists who are deeply immersed in the history, traditional music, and instruments of their respective cultural backgrounds. They first explored the nexus between American minstrel banjos and traditional Mediterranean hand drums while scoring Lucy Negro Redux for the Nashville Ballet. To perform “Following the North Star” from that effort, Giddens switched to her 1858 replica banjo and Turrisi traded the accordion for a hand drum from his collection.

After covering Ola Belle Reed’s “I’m Gonna Write Me a Letter,” Giddens explained how her instrument’s sound and style fit within the banjo’s complex history.  She eloquently described the banjo’s transformation from its African origins to modern country music with the same passion evident in her contributions to Ken Burns’ Country Music docuseries.

Turrisi shared his cultural connections to the Mediterranean while introducing “Pizzica di San Vito” from the new album, There Is No Other. He played the Sicilian tamburello while Giddens sang in a Neapolitan dialect and played banjo on their unique cross-cultural version of the traditional Tarantella trance dance from Puglia, Italy.

Throughout the 90-minute show, Giddens told stories about what motivates and inspires her creativity. After revealing that she considers music an essential balm during troubled times, Giddens sang the hopeful “He Will See You Through,” accompanied by Turrisi on piano and Sypher on bass, to close the set. Minutes later, the Rhiannon Giddens Trio responded to a resounding standing ovation with a charged medley of Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s “The Lonesome Road” and the gospel call-and-response number “Up Above My Head.”

A recent performance on NPR’s “Tiny Desk” concert series highlights the songs, stories, and sounds that Giddens and Turrisi will soon take to Europe. Follow Giddens online for details about the tour, related activities, and more.

Setlist:

Ten Thousand Voices

Inside Me Is Heaven

Following the North Star

Gonna Write Me a Letter (Ola Belle Reed cover)

Briggs’ Forró

At the Purchaser’s Option

Wayfaring Stranger (traditional cover)

Pizzica di San Vito (traditional cover)

There is No Other

Black Swan (Gian Carlo Menotti cover with Nina Simone bass line)

Underneath the Harlem Moon (Ethel Waters version)

Beth Cohen’s Set

I’m on My Way

Molly Brannigan (with tambourine solo introduction)

He Will See You Through

Encore:

The Lonesome Road/ Up Above My Head

(Sister Rosetta Tharpe cover)

https://www.rhiannongiddens.com/

https://www.npr.org/2019/09/16/760629694/rhiannon-giddens-tiny-desk-concert

https://www.facebook.com/RhiannonGiddensMusic/



World Premiere Video: Mike Osborn “Family Crest”

2019 Beth Hart wide

Mike Osborn’s new album, Unbroken, speaks of family, love, and personal struggle as he circles back to what matters: his inner peace.

Osborn was born in Illinois and moved out west to California when he was a young boy, did the teenage angst stuff, got married, had kids, and got hurt on the job. That injury gave him some time to sit and practice his guitar and songwriting to pass the time away. Mike got excited once again with his music that he began to pursue it full time.

After several years, he embarked on a lengthy hiatus to raise four children as a single father. He re-emerged first on the cover band circuit, fronting a full-fledged Stevie Ray Vaughan tribute act, before joining the house band of a local San Jose blues club and eventually going on to perform his original music, as a solo act. It was during this time that Osborn honed his skills as a live performer and got the confidence needed to continue. Audiences took notice, and he became a favorite in the local community.

Two well received albums later brings us to October 25, 2019, when Unbroken, his third release hit the streets via his own label, Je Gagne Records. On this record, Osborn defines his continuous journey of self-realization and inner peace. He’s been looking back to figure out where he is going, and with that, he’s careful of each step along the way. The album was produced by Randy Ray Mitchell at Akadack Studios in Van Nuys, CA with musicians Johnny Griparic on bass and Tom Fillman on drums help flesh out the songs.

When you talk to Mike Osborn, who has deep Norwegian roots that go all back to the Viking community, his face lights up because they are about family, honor, and local community which are his core values. He has traced his roots almost 1300 years ago to what is now present-day Edinburgh, Scotland and that’s how the song “Family Crest” was written.

“The song is about the life of my ancient ancestors juxtaposed against my life today as a professional musician,” Mike told us. “The video, I feel, does a great job of showing day to day life today verses then and how the sands of time keep going and, even though many things change, many things also stay the same. It’s my story, but the principles that I try to illustrate here would apply to anyone since everyone has a history. Just change a few details and it’s your story too.”

We’re excited to bring you the world premiere of “Family Crest” from Mike Osborn’s album, Unbroken.

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Mike Osborn



Lee Ranaldo, Rosalia Collaborator Team for New Album ‘Names of North End Women’

Lee Ranaldo had an epiphany about his new album while wandering through a neighborhood in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Each street on his journey was named after a woman — just their first names — and as he walked by Lydia, Kate, Dagmar, Harriett and Juno, Ranaldo wrote those names down. He was fascinated by the fact that the names seemed to come from nowhere, with no explanation as to why each street bore that title.

“Somehow it became an impetus for the lyrics in terms of the people that drift in and out of one’s life, some significant, some fleeting,” he said in a statement. “I had this idea of using given names as a device that could inform some of the lyrics. It doesn’t play through all the lyrics, but quite a few employ this idea.”

The result is Names of North End Women, a joint album with Rosalía collaborator Raül Refree out February 21st via Mute. The video for the title track — an edit of Austrian avant-garde filmmaker Peter Tscherkassky’s 1999 film Outer Space — is out Wednesday. Refree previously worked with Ranaldo on his solo album, Electric Trim.

Although both are revered guitarists, the duo opted for a more experimental feel on Names of North End Women, using marimba, vibraphone, samplers, a vintage two-inch Studer tape recorder and a modified cassette machine to weave new tunes. “This record began as playing with samplers and cassette players,” Refree said, “as experimental music, musique concrete, poly-rhythms.”

Ranaldo dug poems out his archives for the lyrics, and repurposed bits and bobs written by author Jonathan Lethem, who also contributed to Electric Trim. The full tracklist is below:

Names of North End Women Tracklist

  1. Alice, Etc.
  2. Words out of the Haze
  3. New Brain Trajectory
  4. Humps
  5. Names of North End Women
  6. Light Years Out
  7. The Art of Losing
  8. At The Forks


MerleFest 2020 Makes Initial Lineup Announcement

MerleFest, presented by Window World, is proud to announce the initial lineup for MerleFest 2020, which will be held April 23-26. The annual homecoming of musicians and music fans returns to the campus of Wilkes Community College in Wilkesboro, North Carolina, in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

“For over 30 years, one of the major factors that has built and sustained MerleFest has been the quality of the artists and performances that our guests see over the 4-day festival,” says Ted Hagaman, Festival Director. “People truly feel that the festival is a great value and that is why music fans and families return year after year. We feel that the 2020 lineup again reflects the diversity and quality of performers, and we look forward to another successful festival in April.”

The complete lineup for MerleFest 2020 will be announced over the next few months. 

Today’s lineup announcement includes Willie Nelson & Family, Alison Krauss, The Jerry Douglas Band, Sam Bush, Jim Lauderdale, Kruger Brothers, The Waybacks, Scythian, Donna The Buffalo, Peter Rowan and the Free Mexican Airforce, Tommy Emmanuel, Shinyribs, Charley Crockett, Darrell Scott, The Steel Wheels, Robbie Fulks, Amythyst Kiah, Cordovas, Alison Brown, Andy May, “B” Townes, Banknotes, Bill & The Belles, Bryan Sutton, Carol Rifkin, Charles Welch, Chatham Rabbits, Che Apalache, The Cleverlys, Creole Stomp with Dennis Stroughmatt, David Holt, Fireside Collective, Flattop, Happy Traum, Hogslop String Band, InterACTive Theatre of Jef, Irish Mythen, Iron Horse Bluegrass, Jack Lawrence, Jeff Little Trio, Jody Carroll, Joe Smothers, Ken Crouse, Laura Boosinger, The Local Boys, Los Texmaniacs, Mark Bumgarner, Mary Flower, Mitch Greenhill, Pete & Joan Wernick, Piedmont Bluz, Presley Barker, Rev. Robert Jones, Roy Book Binder, Sierra Ferrell, String Madness, T. Michael Coleman, Tony Williamson, Wayne Henderson, The Moore Brothers, The Williams Brothers, and Wyld Fern. 

Tickets for next year’s festival go on sale November 12, 2019, and may be purchased at www.MerleFest.org or by calling 1-800-343-7857. MerleFest offers a three-tiered pricing structure and encourages fans to take advantage of the extended early bird discount.

Early Bird Tier 1 tickets may be purchased from November 12 to February 16, 2020; Early Bird Tier 2 tickets from February 17 to April 22. Remaining tickets will be sold at the gate during the festival.

New for MerleFest 2020 is “The Patio at MerleFest.” This ticket-upgrade includes comfortable seating in a covered area with great views of the Watson and Cabin stages, access to the friends and family seating area (formerly named VIP), a deluxe air-conditioned mobile bathroom unit, snacks and beverages, and live video displays from the Watson and Cabin stages. Fans wanting to gain access to this exciting new addition to MerleFest should act quickly, as seating is limited.

?MerleFest would also like to remind potential participants that the entry period for 2020’s Chris Austin Songwriting Contest is still open. Now in its 28th year, CASC is an extraordinary opportunity for songwriters to have their original songs heard and judged by a panel of Nashville music industry professionals, under the direction of volunteer contest chairperson, Grammy-winning singer/songwriter Jim Lauderdale.

Aspiring songwriters may submit entries to the contest using the online entry form at MerleFest.org or by mailing entries to MerleFest/CASC, P.O. Box 120, Wilkesboro, NC, 28697. All entries received during October and November will receive an early-entry discount price of $25 per entry, while submissions received in December and January will require a $30 fee per entry. All lyrics must be written in English and no instrumental entries will be accepted.

The deadline to enter is February 1, 2020.



20 Essential Krautrock Songs

This week, Stereogum are media partners at Berlin’s intimate psych-rock festival Synästhesie. To celebrate, we’re looking back on a pivotal, deeply influential genre from Germany.

For a corner of popular music that revolutionized multiple genres at once from the late 1960s onward, it really bears noting first and foremost that “krautrock” is a pretty lousy term. It’s kind of unserious, and even if it’s been used in affection — avant-music advocate and legendary DJ John Peel is one of the people credited with popularizing it, and psych-culture musician/historian Julian Cope cemented it as a historical canon with his 1995 book Krautrocksampler — the people who actually made the music itself tended to dislike it.

They weren’t just chafing at a glibly semi-ironic usage of a derogatory term: It was at the idea of being pigeonholed by a tastemaker press in another nation entirely, one whose cultural relationship with Germany was inextricably tied into the conflict-wracked first half of a century that the country’s citizens were trying to move past during the second half. Even if you could be generous and theorize that the “kraut” in this case is a nod-and-wink reference to a certain other kind of pungent leafy green that goes good with this kind of music, it still places a future-minded art in a grotesque, horrifying past that the musicians themselves grew up aching to transcend.

And that’s the idea that the term “krautrock” eventually grew to embody. This was a music that came from a particular postwar German leftist/student/experimental art scene — the kind who saw the most national cultural musical kinship in the great 20th century avant-garde composer Karlheinz Stockhausen, one that went through the same Summer Of Love paces as most of the West in 1967 before being catalyzed by the waves of student protest that followed a year later.

And with the idea of a global youth struggle against imperialism and capitalism came the idea of a global sound, one that a combination of educated music-theory exploration and psychedelic-scene adventurousness led to an international itinerary. Stockhausen at home, Ornette Coleman and Sun Ra and the Velvet Underground in the States, Pink Floyd in the UK, countless ethnomusicological trips across the Mediterranean … and when the terra firma wasn’t enough, they stared off into the sky and puzzled out how to make regional music for outer space.

From 1969 onwards — the release year of the first broadly acknowledged krautrock records — countless bands out of Germany pushed psychedelic music further into experimentation when the more mainstream American and British bands were receding back into straightforward blues-rock, country, or folk influences. And their biggest divergence from their mostly-British prog rock contemporaries was the foregrounding of free-flowing improvisation and rhythmic steadiness over compositional complexity, whether it meant minimalist yet evocative ambient drones or ruthlessly steady (and danceable) 4/4 rhythms. Prog largely aimed for the head, but krautrock worked on both the intellectual and the visceral levels, whether it shook the body or stirred the heart.

Maybe that’s why it cast a longer shadow than so many of their art-rock contemporaries — that sense of noise and adventure and disregard for commercialism translated well enough to early punk and indie sensibilities that it added an additional dimension that DIY three-chord bands could aspire to. The non-German bands that sounded like they could hang with the krautrock scene started to emerge only sporadically through the genre’s heyday, UK space-rockers Hawkwind and the pan-European-formed Swiss/Belgian/Italian/German group Brainticket among them. But art-rock tastemaker Brian Eno and his role in Bowie’s Berlin Trilogy would open up the door for krautrock’s influence to spread, and by the end of the ’70s, groups like Nurse With Wound, the Fall, Joy Division, Public Image Ltd., and Siouxsie And The Banshees would run with it to crucial new places. (Not to mention what happened when a trio of Detroit-area Kraftwerk fans — Juan Atkins, Derrick May, and Kevin Saunderson — decided to make some electronic music of their own.)

So consider this list of 20 of this movement’s essential songs the surface of an ocean with a ton of life beneath, life that gets stranger and more ineffable the deeper you go. And call it krautrock if you must — those who know it well recognize that a derogatory-sounding name has become one of underground music’s greatest marks of quality.

Can – “Father Cannot Yell” (from Monster Movie, 1969)

1968 apparently wasn’t ready for Can: When they shopped a session they cut that year, Prepared To Meet Thy Pnoom (eventually released in 1981 as Delay 1968), it was rejected by every label they gave it to. That their “more commercial compromise” of a debut turned out to be Monster Movie — an album with an entire side two dedicated to “Yoo Doo Right,” a six-hour improv edited down into a 20 ½-minute railway-cadence psilocybin trip — was a fitting bit of cosmic backtalk.

But listeners could feel that spark before they even flipped the LP over: “Father Cannot Yell,” the opener of side one, is a more succinct but no less intense version of that relentless propulsion, provided by the all-time-great rhythm section of drummer Jaki Liebezeit and bassist Holger Czukay, the Jabo Starks and Bootsy Collins of avant-garde psych. “Father Cannot Yell” also provides a rare chance to hear short-term singer Malcolm Mooney as the group’s frontman force of nature, intoning inverse-Oedipal panic like a lost bridge between the Last Poets and Mark E. Smith. All that’s left to take in is the shimmering friction of Irmin Schmidt’s keyboards and the untethered places Michael Karoli’s spark-shooting guitar takes the melody from there.

Amon Düül II – “Archangels Thunderbird” (from Yeti, 1970)

Amon Düül originally formed as a commune of radical leftist artists based in Munich, taking on the name of an Egyptian god a la Sun Ra (though the “Düül” part was less immediately definable) and working to invent a new German identity as a clean break from everything, especially war, that had come before it. But their refusal to be influenced by mainstream British and American rock and pop — with the occasional exception for the more avant-friendly likes of Frank Zappa and Jimi Hendrix — wasn’t enough to prevent a rift from forming in the group, and soon the more ambitious members of the band broke off from their drum-circle origins to form a band called Amon Düül II.

By the time their second album Yeti emerged in 1970, they’d channeled all their experience with psych into an improvisational, versatile fluidity that proved less mannered than their UK prog contemporaries. “Archangels Thunderbird” is a stunner, featuring a groove that triangulates early metal, deep funk, and progressive exploration — all pierced through by Renate Knaup, one of the few female vocalists to get a foothold in the scene, whose wailing delivery of the lyrics’ cryptic doomsaying (“In shock corridors/ People are standing/ With their eyes in their hands”) unites Fluxus-style absurdity and existential horror.

Embryo – “You Don’t Know What’s Happening” (from Opal, 1970)

Krautrock’s stylistic breadth meant that even a contentious genre name wasn’t nearly enough to make bands in the scene easy to pigeonhole. Munich group Embryo, led by soul-jazz organist turned worldbeat eclecticist Christian Burchard, were happy to make sure of that. As much a jazz-rock band in the ballpark of Mahavishnu Orchestra or Soft Machine as they were a collection of cosmic space-rockers, their long history of international-sound exploration started with the fusion-adjacent psych of debut LP Opal. “You Don’t Know What’s Happening” is a highlight of an album bursting with freeform structure-rattling freakouts and post-genre deconstructions, with every piece of the melody and percussion allowed to roam while still hitting straight on the rhythm.

Guru Guru – “Girl Call” (from UFO, 1970)

A band that leavened its spacey, jam-heavy tendencies with an unholy guitar squall worthy of Paranoid or Fun House, Guru Guru’s first album hit the same year as those epochal Sabbath and Stooges LPs and damn near outdid them in pure chaos and noise. (When a song called “Der LSD-Marsch” is one of the more conventional songs on a record, for the love of gott, buy that record.) A purely instrumental affair that let Ax Genrich’s guitar do all the eloquently harrowing talking, it’s head music that rattles the body, and “Girl Call” embodies their early knack to balance faux-calm tension and a release that’s somewhere between cathartically joyful and disorientingly awestruck.

Kraftwerk – “K2 (Ruckzuck)” (from K4: Bremen Radio, 1971)

Autobahn cemented them as pioneers in electronic pop, but that was Kraftwerk’s fourth LP — one that came five years after the earliest collaborative efforts between Florian Schneider and Ralf Hütter in the band Organisation. Meanwhile, the first three Kraftwerk albums are halfway memory-holed, with the initial two “traffic cone” records and 1973’s transitional-phase Ralf & Florian typically considered run-ups to their proto-synth-pop brilliance. But the group’s early years are still worth exploring, and there’s nothing ordinary about the oft-bootlegged June 25, 1971 set they cut for Bremen Radio — featuring a primordial version of the band that Hütter sat out, only to feature guitarist Michael Rother and drummer Klaus Dinger as fateful fill-ins. (Those two would move on to new(!) things later that year; more on that shortly.)

“Ruckzuck” was the standout track on the first Kraftwerk album, but Schneider’s iconic ascent-descent flute intro — resembling a prototype of the opening melody of “Trans-Europe Express” — is a feint towards familiarity. What they do to the song is remarkable: They mutate its tempo, stretch its eight minutes to nearly 20, and give Rother plenty of space to play one of the most expressive guitars ever heard out of Germany — soaring one moment, stabbing the next — while Dinger plays an entire album’s worth of pulse-rocketing fills. They were one of the decade’s greatest supergroups, and they didn’t even know it yet.

Eiliff – “Gammeloni” (from Eiliff, 1971)

While Embryo eventually expanded outward from fusion influences to more international hybrids, there were other German groups of the ’70s that stuck a bit closer to the jazz-rock category. Over their brief two-album career, Eiliff combined proggy elaboration and powerhouse drumming, and debut-album cut “Gammeloni” is one of their most breathtaking revelations. Detlev Landmann is an absolute monster behind the kit, with free jazz skronk via Herbert J. Kalveram on sax and Houschäng Nejadépour’s lacerating guitar adding some unhinged energy to a thunderous ensemble performance.

Ibliss – “Margah” (from Supernova, 1972)

Exploring the outer reaches of music and tying that exploration into the search for a postwar German identity could lead to some remarkable places, even if only briefly. Ibliss was a one-off group with a rhythmic tandem — drummer Andreas Hohmann and percussionist Basil Hammoudi — previously associated with Kraftwerk and Organisation, respectively. Hohmann and Hammoudi combined their rhythmic interests into a drum-heavy attack heavy on Middle Eastern and Afro-Latin patterns, with “Margah” the purest expression of their percussive jam-session vibe: Even when the bass and guitar come in, every note feels in service to the relentless forward motion of a restless groove.

Ash Ra Tempel – “Suche and Liebe” (from Schwingungen, 1972)

For all this playlist’s emphasis on percussively intense and/or lock-groove hypnotic pieces, krautrock’s best bands could capture more meditative, contemplative feelings with just as much nuance and openness. Manuel Göttsching’s ear for ambient beauty and intricate guitar playing made him one of the era’s more prescient artists — he’s been credited with sparking inspiration in ambient, new age, and techno artists throughout the decades — and as the founder of Ash Ra Tempel, he integrated those pioneering ideas into music that could split the difference between pre-Dark Side Of The Moon Pink Floyd and post-Roxy Music Brian Eno before the latter even happened.

Schwingungen, Ash Ra Tempel’s 1972 sophomore effort, features a bracing mixture of psych-blues noodling and slow-wave melodic builds that culminates in the side-long majesty of “Suche And Liebe.” From the gently wafting vibraphone reverb to the hazy swirl of the interplay between Göttsching’s guitar and the wordless vocals of the mysterious, pseudonymous “John L.” during the song’s floating-but-churning coda, it’s no wonder that music like this gave krautrock a less derogatory-sounding name: “kosmische,” meaning cosmic.

Faust – “Jennifer” (from Faust IV, 1973)

In their own weird way, Faust became one of the biggest public faces of krautrock for two reasons. One, and most notoriously, was their fateful role in the early history of Virgin Records, which sold 60,000 copies of their not-particularly-accessible cut-and-paste chaos suite The Faust Tapes for half a quid in the UK in 1973 — an LP for the price of a single. The other was the fact that their follow-up, released that same year, opened with an instrumental the band actually titled “Krautrock,” a semi-ironic invocation of that much-derided genre name that felt like one of Germany’s most fearless bands laying claim to the very idea of it.

Faust IV turned out to be a far easier way into the band’s sound than its 48p loss-leader predecessor, and some diehards considered it too easy. But songs like the frolic-turned-inferno “Jennifer” — a more conventionally structured but still eerily beautiful masterpiece that culminates in the unholiest squall of guitar noise, a pop hit in a more adventurous world than this one — ensured that it would be the album Faust would be most revered for. Even if it was also the album that, thanks to those very commercial aspirations, eventually broke them up.

Agitation Free – “Laila, Part 2? (from 2nd, 1973)

Formed in 1967 and comparable to early Pink Floyd in their propensity for experimental mixed-media light shows, Agitation Free might have been fated to be eclipsed by other bands right from the start. They wound up having to add the “Free” to their name when it turned out there was another band named Agitation, and they lost far more than their name by the time they released their 1972 debut Malesch: they’d shed members to more well-known and longer-lived groups Guru Guru (Ax Genrich), Tangerine Dream (Christopher Franke), and Ash Ra Tempel (the aforementioned John L.).

No matter: the desert-blasted Eastern/Mediterranean sound of Malesch made it a space-rock gem. And when it seemed like that particular well of inspiration ran dry — concurrent with guitarist Jörg Schwenke leaving the band owing to drug problems — the introduction of new lead guitarist Stefan Diez recast the band circa 2nd as a bluesier, jammier outfit that sounded like the a trippier cousin of their contemporaries in Southern rock. “Laila, Part 2? isn’t any relation to Duane Allman’s finest moment with Derek And The Dominos, but its transmutation of blues-rock swing into something this gracefully intense rivals anything on Eat A Peach.

Walter Wegmüller – “Der Wagen” (from Tarot, 1973)

Walter Wegmüller is far more obscure a figure than befitting of someone who used to hang out with H.R. Giger and Timothy Leary while also helming an actual bona fide krautrock supergroup. The Swiss painter and tarot enthusiast, already in tight with Ash Ra Tempel, introduced synthesizer experimentalist Klaus Schulze, members of heavy psych rockers Wallenstein, and acid-folkies Witthüser & Westrupp into a conglomerate band that could tackle Wegmüller’s sprawling ambition.

That ambition: to create an album of 22 songs, one for each card in the tarot deck. Hey, any excuse to get these guys to all jam with each other, especially when the disparate flavors of kosmische ambition — Göttsching-driven guitar mutations, the thunderous percussion of Wallenstein’s drummer Harald Grosskopf, Schulze’s circuit-warping electronics — coalesce into something as driving as “Der Wagen.” (That translates to “The Chariot,” the card that represents focus, drive, and decisive force — which you probably could’ve guessed just from the roiling rhythm.)

Popol Vuh – “Einsjäger & Siebenjäger” (from Einsjäger & Siebenjäger, 1974)

Much like Agitation Free, Ibliss, and Ash Ra Tempel, Popol Vuh contributed to the kosmische movement by finding a sonic and cultural identity in other regions of the world, from the pre-Columbian Americas that inspired their Mayan-derived name to the deep-rooted, ancient sounds of Africa and Central Asia. This lent them well to a longtime working relationship with filmmaker Werner Herzog, whose Popol Vuh-scored films Aguirre, The Wrath Of God, Fitzcarraldo, and Cobra Verde were existentialist dissections of the effects of European colonialism on the rest of the world.

But it also gave them a freedom that transcended the notion of globe-hopping “world music” tropes and erased the line between intricate composition and organic improvisation. And it often led to moments of remarkable beauty. The sidelong title track to 1974’s Einsjäger & Siebenjäger is the sound of three artists — percussionist/pianist Florian Fricke, guitarist Daniel Fichelscher, and singer Djong Yun — using psychedelia as a base to find a new, ruminative, spiritually hypnotic route through music that was more about emotional thrust than genre-bound iconoclasm. Sometimes light and billowy can be more intense than the heaviest hard rock.

Klaus Schulze – “Ways Of Changes” (from Blackdance, 1974)

It takes a certain kind of visionary idiosyncrasy and auteurism to be a member of both Tangerine Dream and Ash Ra Tempel for only one album apiece (1970’s Electronic Meditation and 1971’s Ash Ra Tempel, respectively) before deciding to strike out on one’s own. Imagine being a part of either of those bands and feeling limited somehow. But Klaus Schulze’s solo career not only freed him up to experiment more deeply, it freed up the potential of synthesized music itself.

After his solo debut Irrlicht pushed the limits of what could be done with musique concrète-style floods of tone and reverb using pre-synth instrumentation, 1973’s Cyborg found intense, tactile depth in the kind of whirring electronic drones that had all the nuance of string orchestras and all the atmosphere of the unknown corners of outer space. That makes 1974’s Blackdance something of an outlier compared to Cyborg or his equally astonishing 1976 progressive electronic stunner Moondawn. Where the Berlin School of electronic music Schulze helped establish generally eschewed drums as a rule, he takes the plunge of adding a slowly cresting wall of percussion — including congas, tablas, and what sounds like a primitive drum machine somewhere down in the mix — to add another layer of momentum to the sweeping pulse of his ambient melodicism.

Cluster – “Hollywood” (from Zuckerzeit, 1974)

Kraftwerk get the lion’s share of the credit for pushing Germany’s wave of synthesized music into more pop-friendly and rock-palatable territory. But Dieter Moebius and Hans-Joachim Roedelius’s band Cluster — previously known as Kluster when experimental electronics great Conrad Schnitzler was part of the group — was enough of a crucial bridge between the avant-garde and the rock worlds that they’d go on to cut two albums’ worth of music with Brian Eno during the late ’70s.

Zuckerzeit was the album that put them on that path, with each member working independently on their own solo-composed tracks to piece together an album’s worth of minimalist but catchy electronic bizarro-pop. “Hollywood” is Roedelius’s finest hour on the album — “hour” in this case meaning a hair under five minutes, an eyeblink in kosmische terms but more than enough time to build a slowly layering epic of ascending, time-dislodging warp-chords that would seep into countless subsequent art-rock landmarks from Another Green World to Kid A.

Tangerine Dream – “Phaedra” (from Phaedra, 1974)

The prevalence of side-long epics in the kosmische wing of krautrock might prove daunting to the entry-level listener, even ones curious enough to delve into the roots of ambient music. But Tangerine Dream were the kind of group that made the evocative as central as the experimental; not for nothing were they recruited by the likes of William Friedkin (Sorcerer), Michael Mann (Thief), and Kathryn Bigelow (Near Dark) to score their films.

Phaedra is notable for its technical innovations, granted, as the usage of early digital sequencers proved to be a deeply influential move that would reverberate through every strain of electronic music to follow from Euro-disco to techno. But the title cut is also a testament to the places this sort of music can actually take both musicians and listeners. With the gradually detuning oscillators causing their sporadically-cooperative Moog synthesizer to warp the very structure of the song’s rhythmic, trancelike electronic bassline, the band compensated by building around that limitation with improvised flourishes that created and then escalated an ineffable feeling of suspense that spectacularly dissolved into one of the prettiest Mellotron symphonies you’ll ever hear.

Neu! – “Hero” (from Neu! ’75, 1975)

If krautrock’s biggest strength was how it took familiar rock & roll structures into endlessly variable new forms, whether minimalist or complex, then nobody met that potential quite like Neu!. Michael Rother and Klaus Dinger’s first recording as the group, 1972’s Neu!, laid down the groundwork — Rother’s guitar technique more reliant on wavering tones than hooky riffs, while Dinger’s android-steady 4/4 motorik drumming sounded like the world’s most organic drum machine, Meanwhile, 1973’s Neu! 2 made up for a budget shortfall by devoting the second side of an already-remarkable album to a number of variations of the “Neuschnee / Super” single that, stopgap as it was, also used its sense of pop-art pranksterism to ensure their place in the roots of the remix alongside King Tubby and Tom Moulton.

Neu! ’75, their third and last album (or at least their last legit one, 1995’s aborted-session piece-together Neu! 4 notwithstanding), became one of those cases of pressure creating a diamond. As Rother and Dinger scuffled over whether to gravitate towards the ambient or the hard-driving respectively, their ability to split the difference across the LP between side one’s relative calm and side two’s high energy resulted in their greatest song. “Hero” introduces 1977 two years early, not so much anticipating as inaugurating the future via both Dinger’s proto-Lydon howl-drone vocals and Rother’s gleaming power chords, the kind that would welcome Bowie to Berlin. The lyrics may be enigmatic — a breakup allusion one moment (“Your honey went to Norway, hero, hero/ And your only friend is music”), a diatribe against their label the next (“Fuck the company/ Your only friend is money”) — but the message is clear: Keep going. Klaus and Michael’s old pals in Kraftwerk might have just garnered a hit with “Autobahn,” but Neu! wrote the song that made you feel like doing 150 MPH on it, riding through the night.

Harmonia – “Monza (Rauf Und Runter)” (from Deluxe, 1975)

The funny thing about krautrock is that it seems like eventually everybody of note winds up playing with everyone else. Playing Six Degrees Of Neu! would likely connect every major German experimental musician of the ’70s within maybe three degrees, and Harmonia was one of the most fulfilling supergroups to come from the scene. With Cluster’s Moebius and Roedelius joining up with Rother, their brief existence during their initial run — only two albums, with a later archival release titled Tracks And Traces assembled from some 1976 sessions with Brian Eno — belied a sound that stands as high as any in the proto-punk/art rock pantheon.

“Monza (Rauf Und Runter)” is also a funny sort of twist on the background of Neu! 75: “Hero” was Dinger’s idea, but Rother clearly seems to have found something to love in it, as he uses the motorik beat — this time, supplied by Guru Guru’s Mani Neumeier — to follow Cluster’s synthesized ambience into piston-churning, riff-stretching ascension. It’s seven minutes that feels like three, a time-shifting exercise in turning repetition into freedom.

La Düsseldorf – “Geld” (from Viva, 1978)

As for the other major partner in Neu!’s musical legacy, Klaus Dinger emerged with a new band in 1976 that David Bowie would proclaim a few years later as “the soundtrack of the eighties” in Melody Maker. That band was La Düsseldorf, comprised of Dinger, his brother Thomas, and keyboardist friend Hans Lampe — a reflection of the side two personnel of Neu! 75 with the additional twist that Thomas sat in on percussion while Klaus took on the role of guitarist.

By 1978’s Viva, they’d become a scenester favorite that moved units on the basis of an album that sounded so expansive you could mistake it for a best-of. Where “White Overalls” was the two-minute punk nod, “Rheinita” the ambient-motorik piece, and “Cha Cha 2000? the sidelong art-rock symphony, “Geld” was the giddy triangulation of all three: a crunchy, distortion-blasted yet oddly pretty anthem that made the slogan “make love, not war” sound cool at a time when hippies were at their least respected.

Wolfgang Riechmann – “Wunderbar” (from Wunderbar, 1978)

The story of Wolfgang Riechmann is a tragic one, albeit one lesser known outside Düsseldorf-scene enthusiasts. An early acquaintance of Michael Rother and Kraftwerk’s Wolfgang Flür, then a frontman for the Kraut/prog group Streetmark, Riechmann recorded a single solo album, Wunderbar, that he never lived to see on record store shelves; he was stabbed by two drunken men in a bar on August 20, 1978, just weeks before Wunderbar was released, and died four days later. It’s not hard to wonder what if, especially as Wunderbar felt like a real culmination of a decade’s worth of musical ideas.

As the older forms of krautrock began to recede in the wake of punk and synth-pop, Riechmann united the ambient electronic “Berlin School” and the Düsseldorf-based influence of Neu! and Kraftwerk to create an eerie take on ambient that played up a winking sense of cold, synthetic, yet melodically stirring pop art. The title track’s the closest he comes to new wave on an album that otherwise sounds like an eclectic travelogue of ’70s German kosmische music, but its proto-schaffel beat points to a future that he was cruelly robbed of.

Mœbius & Plank – “Rastakraut Pasta” (from Rastakraut Pasta, 1980)

Circling back to the problem of nomenclature: If krautrock is too derogatory and kosmische too narrow, why not call it plankrock? Sure, it doesn’t roll off the tongue, exactly, but if there’s one thing that unites nearly every single one of the artists on this list, it’s that they recorded with producer/engineer Konrad “Conny” Plank, who became as inseparable from the scene his studio helped built as the likes of Phil Spector, Lee “Scratch” Perry, and Steve Albini.

Before dying of cancer in 1987, he’d put his mark on hundreds of records from the earliest Kraftwerk LPs to Eno’s Before And After Science to old-school rap icons Whodini (!), with the complete Neu! discography, a bunch of Guru Guru albums, and even the likes of Eiliff and Ibliss during the interim. On the rare occasion when he’d head to the other side of the console, like his 1980 LP with Cluster’s Dieter Moebius, he could channel his manifold experiences producing Germany’s art-rock greats into some enjoyably off-kilter jams. The title cut to Rastakraut Pasta has a remarkable goofball profundity to it, a self-conscious distortion of the reggae and dub stylings so popular among the post-punk vanguard that grooves on rubber legs.

Listen to a playlist of all the songs above (that are available on Spotify) here.



Bob Margolin ‘This Guitar and Tonight’

2019 Shaun Murphy 2

Bob Margolin is best known for his electric guitar work with Muddy Waters, but on This Guitar and Tonight, he pivots to country blues, sounding much more like Waters’ circa Folk Singer (which featured Buddy Guy’s stinging acoustic guitar) than the electrified Waters so many of us are used to.

Waters once told Margolin he preferred acoustic blues to electric, which inspired Bob to unplug here. And Margolin bravely scales it all back to just his voice and guitar. There’s nothing else, save some Bob Corritore harmonica on one track and some Jimmy Vivino guitar on another. It makes for a stark album that in many ways is more a tribute to country blues players like Lightnin’ Hopkins and Robert Johnson, than Waters. The vibe is a lot like Tony Joe White’s 2018 Bad Mouthin’, which was similarly stripped down.

Margolin uses a low-key energy to frame the songs. His guitar sits quietly in the mix, making the album feel almost like a field recording. Similarly to the country blues masters, he’s constantly switching between lead lines and rhythm, even using a slide for both tasks. The challenge of this kind of music has always been making it seem like a whole band is playing when it’s really just one person. Margolin always has something going on beneath his vocals, but isn’t necessarily playing a straight rhythm the whole time. It’s not downbeat-driven blues rock, nor is it the type of blues that sounds like electric blues played with acoustic instruments. The style provides plenty of space for his voice.

Margolin takes a similar approach with his singing. There’s some talking blues. There are some howls. There’s some traditional singing. He obviously went back to the source material and is taking his cues from that.

Given the idea behind the album, it feels a little unfair to spotlight one of the two tracks that isn’t Margolin all alone, but “Blues Lover,” his Corritore collaboration, has an upbeat, infectious energy. Corritore’s waves of harmonica feel like they’re radiating out of the past, but they
partner perfectly with Margolin’s simple guitar playing and a vocal delivery that sounds like Bing Crosby injected with a shot of Mississippi mud.

Bob Corritore and Bob Margolin Photo: Marilyn Stringer

“Dancer’s Boogie” also stands out, with its Django Reinhardt-inspired jazz lines crossed with a ragged blues stomp. Margolin’s voice cries out over it all with a primal urgency. In many ways, it’s the most modern track on the album, composed of parts of older genres in a way that doesn’t feel new, but that I’ve never heard before. It’s a fun track.

It would be easy for Margolin to make the standard blues record that he’s been doing so well for so long. It would also be easy for him to get a bunch of big-name guests on the album to sell more units. So it’s admirable that Margolin’s making an album that speaks to his respect for Waters, rather than something more commercial. This Guitar and Tonight derives its power from Margolin’s appreciation for the blues and that’s always something to applaud.

Artist: Bob Margolin

Title: This Guitar and Tonight

Label: VizzTone Label Group

Release Date: October 25, 2019

Running Time: 41:31

Bob Margolin



Classic Rock Performers Who Have Had A Lasting Influence On Music

Classic Rock Performers Who Have Had A Lasting Influence On Music

Classic rock is a fundamental part of American history. Many of today’s leading bands can trace their styles back to the influence of certain musicians. While every song made available to the world has had an impact on the music industry, there are certain performers who will eternally stand at the forefront of music.

From folk rock to psychedelic rock, there have been many groundbreaking sounds and voices. Here are the top ten most influential classic rock bands in history.

Elvis Presley

While Elvis is not traditionally viewed in the classic rock genre, it is impossible to ignore his influence on the world of Rock-n-Roll. As the first to expose mainstream America to something other than traditional family music, he faced a tremendous amount of opposition from the mainstream.

Despite the extreme racism exhibited during the 1950’s, Elvis never hesitated to give appropriate credit to his inspirations. Mainly African-American performers influenced Elvis’ sound and style. Southern radio disc jockeys originally refused to play Elvis’ singles, because they sounded “too Negro” for white stations to air.

It was not just Elvis’ sound, but also his performance, that drew controversy. The movement of his hips in a suggestive manner sparked an entire decade of debate.

Despite the firestorm of criticism that surrounded Elvis’ reign, his continuing popularity has ensured that Elvis’ crown as the King of Rock and Roll would remain valid for decades, even decades after his death.

The Beatles

As the best selling musical act of all-time, it is hard to deny the influence of the Beatles, not only on the musical culture of America, but also on every aspect of human life. The Beatles included John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Ringo Star, and George Harrison.

Their innovative style defined the music of the 1960’s — twice. They began their career in England, and when they came to America, they were already a huge success in the United States. In their early years, they had defined pop music for a new generation.

As the hippy days of the late 1960’s began to take hold of America’s young people, the Beatles redefined their music again, with another new style of music lauded by the masses. Their very loud stance on drug use and war made them a controversial group, but their popularity never wavered. Although the Beatles retained the loyalty and admiration of their late 1960’s audiences until the group broke up, the touring days of the Beatles ended in 1966 when John Lennon proclaimed, “The Beatles were more popular than Jesus Christ.”

Bob Dylan

Dylan has one of the most easily recognizable voices in the world. Raspy and full of passion, Bob Dylan’s sound is distinctive. His songs are amazing and defined a generation obsessed with the themes of social unrest, an anti-war stance, and encouragement for the civil rights movement.

A traditional folk singer, Dylan’s works transcended all genres and appealed to countless young Americans. His sincere lyrics spoke to many and made it possible to empathize with his many causes.

Jimi Hendrix

As the undisputed master of the electric guitar, Jimi Hendrix is a classic rock foundation. The self-taught guitar player refused to be limited by many of the conventional views of guitar players.

Prior to Jimi Hendrix’s development as a guitar player, the electric guitar was considered to merely be a louder version of the acoustic guitar. Hendrix embraced the uniqueness of the electric guitar and showed his appreciation for it to the rest of the world.

Pink Floyd

Easily considered the greatest band of all time, Pink Floyd’s unique style and showmanship defined psychedelic rock. Their concept albums were thematic masterpieces that appealed to countless audiences. The Dark Side Of The Moon, Animals, and The Wall each still stand out today as great Rock masterpieces.

The Who

Also known for their thematic records, The Who pioneered the idea of rock opera. Most famous for their collaborative efforts with every major musical figure of their time, Tommy The Rock Opera ensured the longevity of the band into the future.

Their success and fame were not limited to their unique approach to concept albums. Their musical skills are still highly regarded in both mainstream circles and in the entertainment industry. Their music is currently being used as the theme song for at least three of the most popular show on TV on the air today.

The Rolling Stones

The Rolling Stones have easily maintained their position as one of the longest lasting bands in recording history. Like most popular rock bands of the age, they were an England-based band that was more than happy to take on America.

Their grungy unkempt image became so popular; many artists are still attempting to master it. Their unique sound and high quality lyrics have kept them at the top of the charts for almost 40 years.

Cream

Cream, featuring guitarist Eric Clapton, was one of the most technically advanced music groups of their time. Their instrumental techniques became legendary and paved the way for other bands to focus on developing their instrument techniques, in addition to their lyrics.

The Doors

The Doors have always been one of the most controversial bands that had ever existed. Jim Morrison’s wild behavior set the tone for the countless musical bad boys that would follow in his footsteps.

The poetic lyrics of The Doors, as well as their outrageous behavior, made them a crowd favorite.

Led Zeppelin

The road to heavy metal was paved by Led Zeppelin. Their first album was pivotal in its inclusion of distorted amplification techniques. Over the years, their experimentation included mixing acoustic and electric sounds, with the addition of synthesized melodies. The success of Led Zeppelin helped establish a strong base for the development of metal music.

Few people of their generation or the current generation realize that like Elvis, Led Zeppelin took most of their inspiration from African-American performers. As a lifelong fan of Led Zeppelin, it is was oddly fascinating to listen to some of the not-so-famous African-American rhythm-and-blues performers of the 1930’s, and to be able to hear the Led Zeppelin songs we have loved for years in a whole new way.

Final Thoughts

Clearly, these ten bands had a significant impact on the evolution of Rock-n-Roll music through the generations, but it is more difficult to put them into an ordered list of important groups. Let’s just agree that most of us love all ten bands on this list.



Keb’ Mo’ – Moonlight Mistletoe & You

2019 Shaun Murphy 2

I remember my grandparents always playing some sorta holiday cheer. Whether it was Frank Sinatra or Nate King Cole, we always had some good Christmas music on during the holidays. If we were decorating the tree, baking cookies, cooking dinner, or just spending time with loved ones there was always something good to listen to.

By the time Christmas hits Im usually burned out and sick of the radio playing the traditional holiday stuff. But this year Kevin Moore, AKA Keb’ Mo’, 4-time Grammy Winner, has released a new Christmas album on October 18, 2019 via Concord Records. Moonlight, Mistletoe & You was produced by Moore himself, it’s a keeper.

Keb’ Mo’ just has that gifted voice, mixed with his jazzy/blues style makes this a must
have. Singing about peace and love, this album gets stronger as it goes, ending with a great tune “One More Year With You.” this one will surely set the mood with your loved one. You can’t miss with any of these tracks, “Moonlight, Mistletoe, And You” to “Santa Claus Blues.” There is something for everyone.

This is not just another boring Christmas album, this is one you can play over and over again. Pour yourself a glass a wine and relax, you will not be disappointed. I tip my hat to you on this one Mr. Moore, well done. I am definitely adding this to my collection.

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Artist: Keb’ Mo’

Title: Moonlight, Mistletoe & You

Label: Concord Records

Release Date: October 18, 2019

Running Time: 35:24

Track List:

1. Please Come Home for Christmas
2. Moonlight, Mistletoe, And You
3. Better Everyday
4. Santa Claus Santa Claus
5. Christmas is Annoying
6. Merry Merry Christmas
7. I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm
8. Santa Claus Blues
9. When the Children Sing
10. One More Year With You

Keb’ Mo’

*Feature image © Rick Scuteri



Gibson launches Alvin Lee’s ‘69 Festival’ Replica ES-335 Big Red Guitar

2019 Shaun Murphy 2

The art of the luthier reaches its zenith with this beautifully constructed custom guitar from the master craftsmen at Gibson whose passion, perfection and precision are evident in their prized instrument. To make an identical replica of what a 60-year-old ES-335 looked like at Woodstock in 1969 is an achievement of pure genius. The aging cherry wood adds to the distressed appearance, the scratches are consistent with years of hard playing and the guitar is authentic in every detail including the famous sticker motifs. Gibson has made 50 limited edition signature replicas of this fabled ’69 Festival’ axe. The famous Nashville guitar company had previously nominated Lee as the greatest musician ever to play that particular model, deservedly ahead of Chuck Berry and BB King. This commemorative Big Red guitar is an important legacy considering the outpourings of grief and universal respect for the legendary musician who passed away in 2013 at the peak of his creativity. 

In the mid to late 1960s Alvin Lee, as vocalist and guitarist in the UK provincial band Ten Years After, was already gaining the moniker of “Captain Speed Fingers.” While his talents and reputation had not made much impact across the pond all that would change on the final evening of the 1969 Woodstock Festival in New York. Ten Years After were at the forefront of the British blues-rock explosion, and they closed their phenomenal set with the titanic rock and roll epic “I’m Going Home.” At the center of the maelstrom was this guitar virtuoso Alvin Lee whose spellbinding fretwork of unprecedented velocity mesmerized the 500,000 festival crowd. Woodstock and the subsequent soundtrack and film recordings focusing on Lee’s scintillating solo accelerated his status to that of icon. He would become a worthy member of the pantheon of guitar gods, among Clapton, Hendrix and Gallagher. It is now 50 years since the festival which captured the spirit and sound of the hippie era and changed the world, so it is perfect timing for “the guitar that ate Woodstock” and its owner to be celebrated by Gibson. 

Loraine Burgon was Alvin’s girlfriend at the time of his Woodstock experience and she remembers vividly what it meant to him and Big Red in this unique account:

Alvin’s pent-up energy from waiting so many hours to start playing after the storm resulted in an intense and extraordinary set from the word go. Initially there were some technical issues with the tuning because of all the atmospheric damp. This only served to increase the band’s energy, drive and bite. Alvin sang from the depth of his being and played like a force of nature; watching him as I had for many years, he seemed further transformed at Woodstock. Big Red was a part of his body over which he had complete mastery, moving from slow, drawn-out feedback to mind-blowing speed and dexterity. Sometimes head-to-head with Leo’s pounding bass, the two of them caught up together in pushing the music as far as they could. Tracks such as “I Can’t Keep from Crying,” written by Al Kooper, had developed over the previous three years from five to twenty minutes. Alvin’s solo travelled from fast, tight complex patterns to a climax that included de-tuning and gradually re-tuning the low E string in rhythmical steps to the highest end of the top E string. Shredding, bending the strings, working with his hands and Big Red, through the Marshall set-up produced sonic extremes. Alvin never used foot pedals, or effects boxes on stage, Big Red went straight into his Marshall amp and the rest was technique. Their closing track “I’m Going Home” was a song Alvin had written for me some years earlier in Scandinavia, when there was no money for me to travel with him. It’s the track that was featured in the Woodstock film documentary, and a chance for me to dance and sweat out any remaining energy. In the middle of it there is a medley of rock and roll classics that took Alvin and bass player Leo right back to their teens in The Jaybirds in Nottingham. One final intense, sweaty workout triumphantly ended a completely magical set. The audience had danced, screamed, shouted and sung along. Woodstock was not the only festival they played that summer, but it was the biggest stoned, hip audience, the most extreme, extraordinary event. There were no logos on tee shirts at Woodstock and the message everywhere, painted on signs, flags and faces was Peace and Love. 

Alvin once declared his famous Gibson ES-335 to be “the best investment I ever made: I bought it for £45 in Nottingham and it even had a fitted case.” Although the guitar has been referred to as a 1958 or 1959 model, it’s impossible to know the year of its make. The neck was replaced in the early 1970s after Lee broke the original at the Marquee in London, England, after accidentally ramming it into the club’s low ceiling. Perhaps the guitar’s most distinguishing features are the stickers on its body, some of which have been in place since Woodstock. “They just got thrown on, actually,” Lee explained. “But when I broke the neck at the Marquee, I sent it back to Gibson for repair, and when it was returned they had lacquered over all the stickers so they couldn’t come off.” Alvin treated Big Red with respect, changing strings before each performance and maintaining it to a meticulous standard.

It does not end there, however, as the next stage in this remarkable history of Big Red has yet to be determined. It has been kept in a vault for many years since Alvin was offered half a million pounds for it. His family has recently decided to sell the guitar on which Lee’s nimble fingers had weaved his magic and it is being sold by www.rockstarsguitars.com. Its place in rock and blues history is unique as Lee’s undisputed favorite main guitar on stage and in the recording studio. Having defined a generation and stolen the show at the biggest festival in the world, Big Red is heading to a new home.  Given that the Woodstock guitar played by Jimi Hendrix fetched $2 million at auction, what is the value of this original Gibson E-335 modified and customized by Alvin over four decades? The answer to that question is eagerly awaited.

For readers interested in the technical specifications, the Festival model features a three-ply maple/poplar/maple body with an aged sixties cherry finish, a solid mahogany neck with an authentic medium C-Shape profile and an Indian rosewood fret board with a hide glue fit. Pickups-wise, it has uncovered Alnico III Custombuckers in the neck and bridge, plus a Seymour Duncan SSL-1 in the middle position. Elsewhere, there’s a No-Wire ABR-1 bridge, Bigsby B-7 tailpiece and Kluson Single Line, Single Ring Tulip tuners.

Here is Joe Bonamassa playing Big Red:

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Guitar Greats

Guitar Greats

No two guitar aficionados will be able to agree on the list of guitar greats, but like so many lists, it can be fun to try to make. What each considers greatness will vary too – is it technical ability or some hard-to-define quality like ‘soul’?
The blues guitarist Robert Johnson features on many lists. He has the added attraction of a shadowy legend all his own. The story goes that he was a pretty average, even bad guitarist, but in just one year he became phenomenal… Where had this new talent come from? Nobody wanted to believe it was just practice and hard work, so the tale started that Johnson had made a pact with the Devil.
The deal had been done, so the story goes, at a crossroads somewhere in the Deep South. Johnson himself immortalized the meetings, probably ironically, in songs like Crossroad Blues and Me And The Devil Blues. These were some of the few tracks he was able to record before his death in 1938 at the tender age of 27. To this day no one knows if he was stabbed or poisoned or if the devil himself came to claim what he was owed.
A tragically young death isn’t essential to become a guitar great, but another man who makes most lists also died aged only 28. Jimi Hendrix took guitar playing to an entire new level of showmanship. But sometimes people remember the antics – playing solos behind his back or with his teeth, setting his guitar on fire (an idea which owes a lot to Jerry Lee Lewis) – and forget how fantastic he was as a musician.
Hendrix was an all-round musician, equally adept at blues, rock and jazz. Believe it or not, he only had a bassist and drummer in his live concerts. He was a great exponent of playing guitar and very innovative as well. Being left handed, he re strung his guitar upside down.
All legends have lots of controversies associated with them and Hendrix was no exception. He has been blamed for covering other bands songs in concert and on record. Once he did the Beatles ‘Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club It is believed that he could play a song after listening to it for just once. He is also credit to have pleased the stubborn Miles Davis with his music.
Guitar players rule the roost in many forms of music. People do not view them only as rock or blues man. That is why Django Rheinhardt, John Williams and Paco de Lucia are considered universally great. No doubt complete agreement on guitar legends cannot be achieved.



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