Friday, July 28, 2006

FDF Volume 1 Issue 22: Johnny Cash - At San Quentin

Album - At San Quentin
Artist - Johnny Cash
Key Players - Johnny Cash - vocal/guitar, June Carter Cash - vocal, Marshall Grant - bass, WS Holland - drums, Carl Perkins -elec guitar, Bob Wootton - guitar, Statler Brothers and Carter Family on vocals.
Produced By - Bob Johnson (reissue by Bob Irwin)

Released - June 4, 1969

Overview - Recorded 2 days before Cash turned 37 this was a "follow up" to the At Folsom Prison, his best selling record to that point. This album was even more popular and spent 4 weeks at the top of the Billboard charts. Until his most recent posthumous release this was his last #1 record. Cash and his band cut thru some of his Sun Records classics thru his "current" tracks at the time. Cash penned "San Quentin" for the event and the inmates went so crazy for it he played the song twice in a row. Bob Wootton had replaced guitarist Luther Perkins who had died in a fire a year before and seemed to fit right in place, Cash did mention Perkins not being there during the show. The full version of the show (and in order) on the re-issue really puts you in the audience. Johnny wanted to bring the music to the masses, and he sure did succeed.

FDF Comments (aka the songs) - When the album was first released it was not the complete show. Luckily the complete version is now available. With 18 tracks and some of the best stage banter Cash and Co were in top notch form. By the 4th song Cash mentions the TV cameras etc but says he is here to do what "I want to do and what you want me to do" The band launches into a great toe tapping version of "I walk the Line", they will do the song again in a closing medley with June Carter adding a real nice touch. June makes her first appearance on "Darlin' Companion" and the inmates act as you'd expect..a LOT of whistles and cat calls. Being the consummate professionals the band just soldiers on. The tandem of vocals between Johnny and June don't waiver one bit, this is a classic live concert moment. "I don't know where I'm Bound" Johnny introduces as a song that was written and handed to him the day before by an inmate at San Quentin. Johnny loved the words and put his own twist on it. The song is of hard times and the warts and all version delivered by Cash is beyond haunting. Very few of the songs continue right in to the next, Cash is just a wonderful storyteller you don't mind. When he does "San Quentin" you can hear the wardens blood vessels pop..these inmates were in heaven. As soon as they are done, they do it again and the inmates are equally as excited. Johnny sings his praises of Bob Dylan and performs the song "Wanted Man" that he wrote with Dylan. One of the most famous and beloved Cash songs "A Boy Named Sue" (written by a playboy writer Shel Silverstein) gets an over the top round of applause. The inmates loved the fact a boy could be named Sue. Johnny also does the classic "Folsom Prison Blues" to the inmates delight. "Ring of Fire" continues the rockabilly roof raising set. The Carter family adds some terrific high harmonies to the song. "Daddy Sang Bass" starts with Johnny telling the story about how they'd all gather together as kids and sing along. June adds a magical touch and the whole band gets in on the vocal duties. Far and away one of the most "hair stand up on the back of your neck" kind of songs of the record. The collection wraps up with a quick medley of Folsom->Walk the Line->Ring of Fire->The Rebel-Johnny Yuma. At this point the inmates are whipped in to a frenzy, yet they keep their composure to shower the band with the applause they so deserve.

Where are they Now?
-June Carter Cash passed away in May of 2003.

-Johnny followed just four months later.

-Marshall Grant was with Cash when the backing band was known as the "Tennessee Two". He managed the Statler Brothers until 2004 until his retirement.

-WS Holland continues to perform as The Tennessee Three with original lead guitarist Bob Wootton and recorded the band's first album since Cash's death in 2006 titled, "The Sound Must Go On".

-Carl Perkins passed away in January of 1998.

-The Statler Brothers retired from performing in 2002.

Quick Note - One of the most famous pictures of Johnny was this one:

Rumor had it that someone asked Johnny to pose for a picture for the Warden. In the liner notes of Columbia records release Johnny said that it had to do with all the TV cameras being there and him not able to see the audience. Although the "pose for the warden" sounds so very rock and roll, Cash said himself what it was all about.

FDF Personal Comments (the live experience) - This reviewer never saw Johnny Cash live. A slow stream of live dvds are being released and this particular show was filmed and there are "bootleg" versions of it out there if you hunt. One should expect for it to get cleaned up and released proper sooner than later. I do have a friend that saw him on one of the last tours he ever did. He treasures the concert t-shirt to this very day.

FDF Overall Take - Cash its at his peak at this time. His command of the stage and the audience are unparalleled. There is some of the funniest stage banter "should I drink this water?" to "What are you drinking in those tall purple cups?" bring you right into the crowded room of very enthusiastic inmates. If you are looking to expand (or start) your Johnny Cash collection this is really the first stop on the train.

Friday, July 21, 2006

FDF Volume 1 Issue 21:-Rage Against the Machine - Self Titled

Album - Rage Against the Machine
Artist - Rage Against the Machine
Key Players Tom Morello - guitar, Tim Commerford - bass, Brad Wilk -drums, Zack de la Rocha - vocals.
Produced by - Rage Against the Machine and GGGarth.

Release Date: November 10, 1992

Overview - Tom Morello was in band called Lock Up when he saw de la Rocha rapping and asked him to join a new band. Brad had tried out for Toms old band and Tim was a friend of Zacks. The band was then formed. The band took their name from an unreleased album by Zacks former band Inside Out. The band toiled around some and was eventually signed to Epic Records. The band went with Epic since they were given the most control with their work. The debut was released in late 1992. The band, known for its intense live shows played now famous sets on Saturday Night Live (cut to one song after they tired to hang a US Flag Upside down in protest of host and presidential hopeful Steve Forbes), Woodstock 1999 in which Tim set the US Flag on fire. Playing outside the Democratic National Convention and on Wall Street in 2000 and a show in which they never really sang or played but in which they stood nude with duct tape over their mouths and the letters PRMC painted on each of their chests. Rage Against the Machine are considered to be the pioneers of the hard rock/rap genre. The band continued to release studio and live albums until their demise in October of 2000 when de la Rocha released the statement stating that the bands decision making process had failed and it was no longer meeting the aspirations of the four members.

FDF Comments (aka the songs) - The 10 tracks that make up this debut are technically sound. The band even wrote in the liner notes that no samples, keyboards or synthesizers were used in the recording. Tom Morello made a name for himself right away with some very technical guitar work. "Bombtrack" opens the records with a chugging repetitive bass line from Tim. Wilk gives a few whaps to the floor tom and we get the first of a few thousand "UUUUUHS" from de la Rocha. "Killing in the Name" a RATM staple wastes no time in getting in your face. After a few cowbell raps from Wilk the band falls in to a heavy 4x4 time. What is surprising is that radio (at least around Boston) still attempts to play this song. The final line of the song (repeated shouting almost ad nasuem) Is "Fuck you I won't do what you tell me". Rumor has it comedian Bill Hicks ended his final show with this song playing and just running around the stage flipping people off..ahhh classic Hicks. "Take the Power Back" has a punchy bass intro, Morello does some swooping loops over top, de la Rocha shouts "Bring that Shit in" and the band does.
"Know Your Enemy" contains all the elements of the perfect RATM song. The melodic bass line, the hard driving drums and the staccato guitar work with a lot of crazy slides by Morello. Maynard James Keenan of Tool sings backup on the track but its not even back up in so much as he takes over vocal duties completely at the end of the song. This song also contains a line of lyrics I always felt was synonymous with the band "cause i'll rip the mike, rip the stage, rip the system I was born to rage against 'em. The album ends with perhaps their finest live song as well as a top 5 album closer in "Freedom". The pinnacle of the song comes towards the end when the line is whispered "Your Anger is a Gift" and de la Rocha screams and sings "awwwwwwww bring that shit in". The band explodes around him and the bands beats the tar our of their gear to hammer their point home. One hell of a rock and roll the feedback fades out the record ends. Granted this is not a record I'd play for my mom but if I was ever involved in a tri-state high speed chase I hope this is blasting on the stereo.

Where are they now?
Tom Morello, Tim Commerford, and Brad Wilk are now in Audioslave with former Soundgarden lead singer Chris Cornell. de la Rocha released a radio single in 2004 called "We Want it All" and has been "working on a solo record".

FDF Personal Comments (aka the live experience)- I saw them twice. The first was July 17, 1993 during Lollapalooza. Tool was on the same bill..the headliner, Alice in Chains. The second time was August 21, 1997. That show was memorable on a few levels. The first, it was the first "big show" i had been to that concert t-shirts were $10.00. The other (well the night was full of memories) was the fact the show was cancelled, back on, cancelled, back on about 6 times. The night before Zack had broken his foot in New York. They cancelled Boston but then decided to go for it. Well they decided, from what I gather to "go for it" but were leaving NYC at something like 6pm. Atari Teenage Riot played, then the Wu Tang Clan. That was one of the most horrible experiences I have ever dealt with. I read a few weeks later that the Wu Tang Clan would have had a 35 minute set, due to the situation they played for about 1hr and 45 minutes. There were 7 guys on stage SCREEEEEEEEEEAMING. Put up my hands, show my Wu Wings, do this, give me a hell yeah. It was BRUTAL. Now all the while rumors are going around that Rage is going to still cancel. I am tempted to leave. How can they have the place full (18,000)+ and then at 1030pm say "nope". Also this venue has a strict curfew of 11pm. Something like 1000.00 a minute over curfew. They had to have worked some magic because the PA announcer finally came on and said RATM was coming and they'd play a full set. Ho-lee crap. I never ever saw a stage get turned over so fast (that is geek speak for the next band setting up). I'd say it was 10 minutes..tops. About 10:55 pm Rage hit the stage. Even with Zack in an orthopedic boot he still gave it his all. To this day one of the greatest shows I have ever seen.

FDF Overall Take - Considered to be the pioneers of the hard rock/rap genre they did have their imitators but never their duplicators. The language and the subject matter are very heavy on this record but the payoff is a hard rocking masterpiece.

Friday, July 14, 2006

FDF Volume 1 Issue 20:-The Cure - Disintegration

Album - disintegration
Artist - The Cure
Key Players - Simon Gallup - Bass/Keyboards. Robert Smith - lead vocals/guitar/keyboard, Porl Thompson - Guitar, Laurence "Lol" Tolhurst - "other instruments", Boris Williams - drums.
Produced by - Robert Smith and David M. Allen

Released - May 2, 1989

Overview - This is the eighth studio album from the Cure. Recorded specifically for cd in 1989. Once, and still dark and brooding band that formed in the late 1970's found their first mainstream and Billboard chart success with this record. It peaked at #12 of the Billboard chart. This album, considered by many, to be their best, is actually part two of a Robert Smith penned trilogy. The first being the Pornography album and the third Bloodflowers. All three were played live in their entirety in Berlin and released on DVD in 2003. The band was mostly Smith and Tolhurst for many many years with dozens of people coming in at various roles. Porl left here and there but currently appears to be a member. Before the release of disintegration Tolhurst left the band permanently. Rumors had it that he did not even play on the album and was thus listed as "other instruments". At the time this was rumored to be the bands final tour. The "last show" at Wembly arena, announced as "probably our last" clocked in at over 3hrs and 30 minutes. Tolhurst a few years later sued for royalty as well as naming rights on "the cure" but lost.

FDF Comments (aka the Songs). Virtually every song on the cd clocks in at over 6 minutes. The songs are so long that 2 songs were omitted from the vinyl release. Vinyl started to lose its hold on sales around this time. "Pictures of You", now forever associated with a Hewlett Packard printer has such a haunting guitar and an equally as cool video shot in the snow. It just all seemed to sum it up. "Love Song", one of the albums biggest hits, has all the elements of Cure song. Its got the keyboard intro, the basic back beat, swinging bassline and punchy guitar. Its easy to see why this song was so accepted to new Cure fans. Down to the cymbals that go "splash" when you hit them its also one of the shorter songs on the album. Further in the cd is "Lullaby" which pairs so perfect with the next track "Fascination Street". The two songs really could be pressed in to one long song. Smith whispers the opening lines and almost shivers when he sings "The spiderman is having me for dinner tonight". It all ends abruptly and goes into "Fascination Street". I remember this song being on the radio and the DJs all but fondling themselves as they had well over two minutes of intro music to talk over. For me personally this is a top five Cure song. Its a comfortable length yet just interesting enough to hold you. The midi guitar solo towards the end also has just the right amount of that 80's cheesy sound we got all but too used to.

Where are they now? Even with the ever revolving door of players the band is still around. They performed a five song set at the 2005 Live 8 Concert and are
slated to release a new album in late 2006 or early 2007. The band has released a b'sides collect and 3 of the mid 80's Cure albums will get the deluxe repacakaging treatment (Head on the Door, Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me and The Top) come August of 2006.

FDF Personal comments (aka the live experience) - I saw the Cure live only one time, and it was on this tour. Septemeber 22, 1989. What stands out in my mind so vividly was the fact that Hurricane Gloria was either about to arrive or had just left. The wind driven rain and the jackasss in front of me that would chant "Glor-ee-ah Glor-ee-ah" every time the wind blew. As good as the band sounded live it was a horribly dull show. The band stood like statues. At the time it was thought to be "the end" so it was even more important to be there, but like many bands, a final show, rarely is as planned.

FDF Overall take -Although my favorite cure record to this day remains Head on the Door this really is the record that defines this band. Its still dark and mysterious and the band never compromised their sound. I don't think it was selling out, it was more people paying attention.

Friday, July 07, 2006

FDF Volume 1 Issue 19:-R.E.M - Out of Time

Album - Out of Time
Artist - R.E.M.
Key Players - Michael Stipe - vocals, Bill Berry - drums, Mike Mills -bass, organ, piano etc., Peter Buck - guitar and mandolin
Produced By - Scott Litt and R.E.M.

Released - March 12, 1991

Overview - This is R.E.M's 7th album and their second major label release. R.E.M. who had formed in 1980 in Athens Georgia had grown in popularity with each release. Pretty much from 1982 to 1988 they released an album a year. Starting with the Document (Its the end of the world as we know it) thru Green, Out of Time and Automatic for the People the band just grew and grew. Looking back this record can be seen by many diehards as somewhat of a bummer (meaning overly commercial) since songs like Shiny Happy People and Losing My Religion had massive radio airplay. That didn't matter to the band much as this was their highest selling record to this point. Over the last few years and with the loss of long time drummer Bill Berry the band has not held such an aura over itself here in the US that it once did. The recent records seem to be more dark and introverted vs. the "happier/fun loving" times of R.E.M.

FDF Comments (aka the Songs). Opening with the catchy Radio Song featuring rapper KRS-1 starts off a slight diss on radio (both then and now) with the line "Hey..can't find nothing on the radio". An R.E.M classic follows in Losing My Religion. It helped win the band legions of new fans, as well as a grammy, and it probably sold its fair share of mandolins. The title refers to a saying common in the American South and means to be at the end of your tether. Also, it has no chorus. Peter Buck said regarding the use on this record/song that he had pretty much mastered the guitar but had yet to tackle something so new as the mandolin. From the dark of "Low" to the Mike Mills sung Near Wild Heaven the band shows both sides of coin this record. While Low has a slow melancholy organ Near Wild Heaven has some of the jangle pop guitar that R.E.M fans had latched on to in the first place. Its an interesting flow as they go a little dark and mellow again in the Endgame and then..then it happens. Love it or hate it Shiny Happy People is a very catchy song. The band did seem to have some backlash over the candy coated song and has actually only performed the song live one time, on an episode of Saturday Night Live. Belong is one of those great stand out tracks on the record in this writers opinion. A spoken word vocal track with a lot of "ohhhs and ahhs" add to its wonderfully haunting song. You can't sing along until the chorus really, but it was always a song that was never ever skipped. The high harmonies from Mike Mills are to die for. Half a World Away has gruff intro but the final payoff is a wonderful song. "Texarkana" is the second song on the record in which Mike Mills sang lead. It had a little bit of commercial radio success. As a bass player I dig the intro riff. "Country Feedback" is one of the most requested songs for the band to do live. On the last tour the band solicited fans to "request" songs for the tour. Feedback was #1. The album wraps up with the most hidden of hidden gems in my eyes. The Stipe/Kate Pierson (B-52's) sing along "Me In Honey". Pierson was also the female voice on Shiny Happy People. Stipe shreds his vocals on the chorus' to keep up with Pierson. If this song ever comes on I try my best to sing the Stipe lead..and it works for a bit but he really really shines.

Where are they Now? - R.E.M are still making records. The US Fan base has seemed to wain in the last few years but the band, when they tour, will still play, and sell out 15,000 seat venues. Bill Berry retired from the band citing exhaustion, but has played a song here and there with the band the last few years.

FDF Personal Comments (aka the Live Experience) - Make it a half dozen for me personally. I have seen R.E.M live 6 times. The earliest was April 9, 1989. In 1989 I was able to see the band three times. There was a huge gap in shows as the next was not until 1995. The biggest reason was the band did not tour for Out of Time, or the follow up "Automatic for the People". The last time I saw them was October 5, 2003. I had a chance to see them more recently but the night of the show, at the last minute I lost the desire to drive some 100 miles to see them. The band puts on a fantastic live show and even the most casual of fans will be sure to hear 2-3 songs they have heard before. A strong selling point to a live R.E.M show is they don't often to live cover songs, so you are getting a 25 song set of R.E.M. material.

FDF Overall take - Out of Time is one of the most accessible releases by the band. Long time fans were turned off by Shiny Happy People but it was really the record that launched them internationally. If you have no R.E.M. this is a terrific place to start.