50 Year Trip: Live At Red Rocks By John Fogerty

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50 Year Trip: Live At Red Rocks

John Fogerty

BMG 2019

Review by David Bowling

 

There was a time when John Fogerty refused to perform Creedence Clearwater music. That changed with the passage of time and his latest album, 50 Year Trip: Live At Red Rocks is a live, in concert celebration of his 50 year musical journey and is filled with primarily the best of Creedence Clearwater, plus a few solo songs.

If there is ever a criticism of John Fogerty, be it in the studio or live in concert, it is he is too perfect. His live performances tend to mirror his studio tracks, note for note and vocal for vocal. He follows that formula on this album as he travels through a 19 song set that contains some of the best rock and pop music of the past 50 years. But it could have been a lot more.

John Fogerty and Creedence Clearwater have always been all about the music. From “Born On The Bayou” and “Green River” to the concert ending “Fortunate Son,” “Bad Moon Rising,” and “Proud Mary,” the music just flows from one song to the next. Add in such songs as “Looking Out My Back Door,” “Down On The Corner,” “Who’ll Stop The Rain,” and “Centerfield” and you have the perfect John Fogerty/Creedence concert.

The CD does not present the whole concert. What is missing are a number of 1960’s covers including The Beatles “With A Little Help From My Friends,” The Who’s “My Generation,” John Lennon’s “Give Peace A Chance,” And Sly & The Family Stone’s “Dance To The Music” and “Everyday People.” The inclusion of this material would have made the CD a lot more interesting and ultimately better. There is a film of the concert being released that contains the entire performance.

50 Year Trip: Live At Red Rocks is a basic John Fogerty primer. It is what it is and a good place to enjoy his music. The negative part of the release is what was excluded and that makes all the difference.

Rating: ***

 

 

Mad Lad: A Live Tribute To Chuck Berry By Ronnie Wood & His Wild Five

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Mad Lad: A Live Tribute To Chuck Berry

Ronnie Wood & His Wild Five

BMG 2019

Review by David Bowling

 

Ronnie Wood has been a member of The Rolling Stones for 44 years and prior to that, a part of Faces and The Jeff Beck Group. The first two made him a double inductee into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.

His solo career has been a little more haphazard, albums appearing when he has some extra time on his hands. His new release is Mad Lad: A Live Tribute To Chuck Berry. The instrumental backing is basic; Ben Walters (keyboards), Dion Egtved (bass), Dexter Hercules (drums), Antti Snellman & Tom Waters (saxophones on 5 tracks), and singer Ismelda May.

The album was recorded live at the Tivoli Theater, Dorset, which is probably the way the music of Chuck Berry should be heard. Ronnie Wood is one the great living rock guitarists and the lack of a second .guitar on stage puts him front and center.

The album is a combination of Berry’s well-known hits, some of his lesser known blues songs, an original “Tribute To Chuck Berry,” and a cover of “Worried Man Blues,” which Berry used to play on stage.

It all adds up to primarily a Ronnie Wood guitar album, which uses the music of Chuck Berry as a starting point. The straight blues tunes, “Blue Feeling,” and “Worried Life Blues” present a different Wood. Here he is outside his rock and roll comfort zone and shows why he is a suburb musician, no matter what the style. Add in “Mad Lad,” which is a basic Ronnie Wood primer and you have the makings of an excellent guitar album.

While the better known songs, “Back In The USA,” “Little Queenie,” and “Johnny B Goode” feature competent vocals by Wood; it is his subtle guitar runs that drive the performances. When Ismelda May shares the lead vocals on “Wee Wee Hours,” the vocals are front and center.

Sometimes the best albums are created simply and this is especially true with live releases. Mad Lad: A Tribute To Chuck Berry” finds a re-invigorated Ronnie Wood doing what he does best.

Rating: ****

Petra By The Building

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Petra

The Building

Concord Records 2019

Review by David Bowling

 

The Building: real name Anthony Lamarca, is a guitarist/multi-instrumentalist/songwriter/performer who has just issued his latest album titled Petra.

The music of The Building or Lamarca is not for the faint of heart. Recorded during treatment for cancer, it is a raw, simple, rough, and very serious and it chronicles his personal journey through life. It is also natural and extremely personal as he transforms his experiences to words and music.

Larmarca composed all the songs and plays just about all the instruments, the exception being the cello parts by Megan Lamarca.

In a way the album feels like therapy at a support group, which may be close to the truth. The lyrics may be difficult to absorb at times but ultimately this is an album of redemption and worth a listen or two.

Rating: ***1/2

Woodstock By The Band

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Woodstock

The Band

Leftfield Media 2019

Review by David Bowling

 

The 50th anniversary of Woodstock is now close to two months in the rear view mirror. A number of bands and artists have released previously unavailable music from the festival. Next month will bring the complete festival to CD with the issue of a 38 disc set, containing every note played; one disc for each artist. It will be one of the more pricier releases in music history, so if your budget won’t support the big one, there are a number of single disc releases containing complete individual performances.

The Band is one of the artists whose Woodstock performance has been a safely guarded secret. No songs appeared on the original album or in the film. Now their 11 song set is available for the first time, which contains some good and bad news.

The Band was one album into their solo career and were establishing their identity apart from being Bob Dylan’s backing band. As such, their set is very different from what it would become in a couple of years. Songs from Music From Big Pink, some Dylan tunes, and a few favorites all blend together in to a satisfying experience.

Six tunes from Big Pink form the heart of the performance. The set opening “Chest Fever,” “Tears Of Rage,” “Long Black Veil,” “This Wheels On Fire,” “The Weight,” and the oft forgotten “We Can Talk” are all simple and gritty performances, plus being performed outdoors give them a different feel.

Early in their career, before they had enough original material, they filled in with songs such as “Don’t Ya Tell Henry” and “Ain’t No More Cane On The Brazos,” which shows their early roots as a folk/Americana band.

The bad news is the sound. It tends to run from poor to good, but is worse and less consistent than most of the other music that has been released from the festival. The fine print also says “from a live recording,” which puts this music in a possible gray area. It will be interesting to compare the music contained here with what is to come in the future.

Woodstock by The Band finally presents their complete performance for the first time and that is reason enough to appreciate this release, despite its faults. Whether it remains the definitive release of this material remains to be seen.

Rating: ***

The Westerner By The Zack Walther Band

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The Westerner

Zack Walther Band

Ass Clown Label 2019

Review by David Bowling

 

Zack Walther has built a career for himself based on his voice and crafting well conceived and produced songs. His music crosses musical boundaries, incorporating blues, Americana, country, and rock into his albums. His various styles have produced a lot of good music but their eccentric nature may have held him back commercially.

His new release, The Westerner, is a more focused release as he channels western lore in creating an album of Americana music.

The Zack Walther Band is a basic three person unit with Walther on guitar and vocals, plus drummer/bassist Matt Briggs and keyboardist Mike Atkins. They use guest musicians here and there to fill in around the edges.

Despite being multi-talented; guitarist, songwriter, producer; it is his voice that carries the sound. Their approach is energetic and the fact that this is only their second studio album as opposed to three live releases, tells the story of their approach to their career.

The Westerner is a unified statement for the Zack Walther Band. It will hopefully expand their commercial appeal as it is a very positive career step.

Live At Woodstock By Creedence Clearwater Revival

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Live At Woodstock

Creedence Clearwater Revival

Craft Recordings 2019

Review by David Bowling

 

John Fogerty disliked, or more appropriately hated, Creedence Clearwater Revival’s performance at Woodstock. No songs were included on the famous Woodstock album or in the subsequent movie. A few songs have surfaced during the last half century, but for the most part they have remained unreleased; until now.

Live At Woodstock presents the entire Creedence Clearwater Revival performance at the famous festival. I can only think of two other officially released live Creedence concerts; Live In Europe and The Concert and Live At Woodstock is superior to both. It is the complete concert and has a very live feel and unless some other concert material is found and released; this is their definitive concert statement.

Creedence was three albums into their career at the time, so this concert contains a lot of material that was later eliminated from their live shows as their future hits mounted up.

The concert concluded with “Keep On Chooglin'” and “Susie Q.” The two songs stretch out to 22 minutes of music. As their career progressed they became known for re-creating their studio releases. Here, there is a lot of improvisation and the band stretches and explores territory that they rarely visited.

“Bad Moon Rising” and “Proud Mary” are competent performances but an extended “Commotion” is a gritty affair, while “Bootleg” has a rare high energy from John Fogerty and band. Add in “Ninety Nine And A Half Won’t Do” and a cover of “The Night Time Is The Right Time” add up to both an interesting and well performed concert.

The sound may not be up to 21st century standards but for 1969 is very good. The two Fogerty brothers guitars are both distinct and layered on top of the rhythm foundation. The sound may lapse at times, but overall the album provides an enjoyable listening experience.

In addition to being live, this is a different Creedence Clearwater album. Many of their well know songs are missing but this is more than made up for by their exploration of material that resides deeper in their catalogue. Live At Woodstock is an excellent Creedence Clearwater album; just from a different perspective.

Rating: ****

 

Sings John Fogerty/Change In The Weather By Janiva Magness

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Sings John Fogerty/Change In The Weather

Janiva Magness

Blue Elan Records 2019

Review by David Bowling

 

Janiva Magness has built her reputation as an excellent rock and blues vocalist who mainly sings her own material. So it was a bit of a surprise to find that her new album is one of all cover songs. She did not travel far and wide to collect her material but rather picked 12 compositions by John Fogerty.

The songs of Sings John Fogerty/Change In The Weather were chosen wisely. The well-known hit songs intertwine with lesser known material. The songs chosen also take on new depth and meanings due to a female being the lead singer.

Magness has always been an interpreter of songs, whether the words are hers or that of someone else. “Lodi” is a song that just makes you smile. Her version is smoother that Creedence’s version. Sam Morrow’s added vocals are a nice touch. “Bad Moon Rising” is a little less ominous than the original as here it is just a very good rock & roll song. “Have You Ever Seen The Rain” is a poignant take that is very modern despite its age. “Fortunate Son” is still a searing protest song, this time with a woman as the lead.

“Someday Never Comes” has tempo changes, intense vocals, and a message of generational failure. “A Hundred And Ten In The Shade” proves once again that simple is best and in this case beautiful. “Blue Boy” is a joyous romp, while “Lookin’ Out My Back Door” is an album ending, live in the studio, jam session.

Sings John Fogerty/Change In The Weather is an imaginative and ultimately good stop in Janiva Magness’s musical journey. She has issued an album of music worth hearing.

Rating: ****

 

…Took A While By The Mike Duke Project

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…Took A While

The Mike Duke Project

Little Village Foundation 2019

Review by David Bowling

 

Sometimes it is the journey that matters. Forty years is a long time to prepare for the release of a debut album.

Mike Duke has been the house band leader of the Rancho Nicasio, a San Francisco Road House, for almost 20 years and earlier was a member of Delbert McClinton’s backing band. His biggest claim to fame and fortune, so far, was as a songwriter. He penned several hits songs for Huey Lewis back in the 1980’s including “Hope You Love Me Like You Say You Do” and “Doin’ It All For My Baby.”

“…Took A While” is an album of bits and pieces spread out over the years. It includes demos, including those he sent Huey Lewis, four new tracks, and a piano piece recorded live at Rancho Nicasio.

The heart of the album are the new tunes. They have a southern rock tint and Elvin Bishop sits in on “I Can’t Let You Go.” They also benefit from being finished songs, where his piano and soulful voice is surrounded by a full band.

1977’s “Coming ‘Round Again” has a backing band and brass section, while “That’s What She Does For Me” is just Duke on keyboards with a drum machine in support.

Mike Dukes has leaned his lessons well and proves that he can produce listenable rock. Hopefully an album of all new tunes will follow.

Rating: ***

Real Love By Tad Robinson

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Real Street

Tad Robinson

Severn Records

Review by David Bowling

 

Two American music traditions meet in the person and music of Tad Robinson. His voice is a wonderful soul instrument and his harmonica work is pure blues. His new release is titled Real Love.

The album takes on a southern feel as Robinson traveled to Memphis, Tennessee, to record and used one of the best backing bands in the business, The H-Rhythm Section lead by Guitarist Joe Restivo, and featuring a brass section.

Robinson co-wrote six of the ten tracks. His laid back vocals are placed on top of the bands solid foundations and his harmonica fills in the gaps. His music is gritty and joyful at the same time.

Two pure pop songs are transformed into soul and blues hybrids. Bread’s “Make It With You” and Roy Orbison’s “You Got It” are transformed far from their original form and intent. There also provide welcome counterpoints to his original blues tunes.

Tad Robinson has carved out a nice niche for himself in American music. His light and soulful touch produces music that is both relaxing and challenging. Real Street is blues from a different perspective and well worth a listen.

Rating: ***

 

Woody Guthrie: All Star Tribute Concert (DVD) 1970 By Various Artists

Woody Guthrie: All Star Tribute Concert 1970 (DVD)

Various Artists

MVD Visuals 2019

Review by David Bowling

 

Woody Guthrie was an iconic American musician and folk singer who died at the age of 55 in 1967 of Huntington’s disease. His legacy continues to influence musicians down to the present day’

Two memorial tribute concerts were held following his death. The more famous of the two took place in New York City, which featured the reunion of Bob Dylan and the Band. The second, reviewed here, occurred over two and a half years later at the Hollywood Bowl. It was a more traditional folk music concert, featuring such singers as his son Arlo, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Odetta, Richie Havens, Country Joe McDonald, Pete Seeger, and Joan Baez.

Woody Guthrie: All Star Tribute Concert 1970 is a visual presentation of the 1970 Hollywood Bowl concert. The music has been released several times but now three new performances make an appearance, plus rehearsal footage, and interviews with Arlo Guthrie and Jack Elliott.

This is a historical recording that will mostly appeal to fans of traditional folk music. Many of Guthrie’s songs are still well known and here they are presented simply, both solo and in various configurations.

The concert took place almost a half-century ago and what is quickly apparent is how young the participants look. Several have passed away and the rest are now in their 70’s to late 80’s, but in 1970, they were all in the primes of their careers.

Two of the newly found performances define Guthrie’s music. Elliott’s take on “1913 Massacre” and Joan Baez’s version of “Pastures Of Plenty” cover both sides of his approach. Guthrie experienced The Great Depression and the events of World War II during his lifetime and they profoundly influenced his lyrics, but he never lost track of the American Dream as his “This Land Is Your Land” demonstrates. This song and “Bound For Glory” are performed by the entire cast and show the power of Guthrie’s words.

“One Hundred Miles” (Richie Havens), “Pretty Boy Floyd” (Country Joe McDonald), “Oklahoma Hills” (Arlo Guthrie), and the poignant “So Long It’s Been Good To Know Yuh” ( Joan Baez and Pete Seeger) all fill in parts of Guthrie’s life and music.

Woody Guthrie: All Star Tribute Concert 1970 chronicles an event frozen in time, which presents eternal American music. The film may not be completely up to modern day standards but the music more than makes up for any technological failures. All in all, it is a fine introduction to the music of Woody Guthrie by some of the cream of the 1960’s folk revival.

Rating: ***1/2