Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Jeff Buckley: Twelve Years After His Death His Musical Legacy Lives On

Jeff Buckley 1966-1997

Jeff Buckley was the son of American folk rock artist Tim Buckley, although he never really knew his father. Tim Buckley divorced Jeff's mother Mary Guibert and remarried, adopting his new wife's other child and hardly seeing Jeff in the following years to come. After Tim Buckley died of a heroin overdose at the age of 28 in 1975 Jeff was primarily raised by his mother Mary. Despite hardly knowing his father Tim who was a great folk artist in the 1960s, Jeff still had music in his bloodline and grew up in Los Angeles idolizing bands like Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, and Kiss. Buckley also developed a personal taste for progressive rock bands like Yes and Genesis, and after graduating from high school moved to Hollywood to attend the Musicians Institute. This only lasted a year as Jeff would wind up spending the next six years working in a hotel and playing guitar for various struggling bands.Jeff Buckley's big break didn't come until he moved from Los Angeles to New York and played a tribute concert for his father Tim. The concert was held in Brooklyn on April 26, 1991. Jeff Buckley denied the notion that he was using this opportunity to launch his career although he made a stronger impression than he ever had live at this concert. Buckley later explained his reasoning for playing the concert to Rolling Stone "It wasn't my work, it wasn't my life. But it bothered me that I hadn't been to his funeral, that I'd never been able to tell him anything. I used that show to pay my last respects." The Tim Buckley Tribute concert proved to be Jeff's first step into the music industry that had somehow eluded him for years.

Buckley began playing several clubs in the lower Manhattan and also writing some of his best songs like 'Grace', and "Mojo Pin," that would be released on his first album.
Buckley began performing at a small Irish cafe called The Sin-e in 1992 and made that his main venue, covering a diverse range of artists from Led Zeppelin, to Robert Johnson, and even folkies like Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan. Soon record label executives were lining up outside The Sin-e in limousines on nights Jeff Buckley was playing, hoping they could sign him to a record contract. Eventually Buckley signed with Columbia and began recording his debut album. In the meantime a four song live Jeff Buckley EP was released titled Live At Sin-E, which featured a great cover of Van Morrison's "The Way Young Lovers Do."

Jeff Buckley recruited a good backing band and producer Andy Wallace, (who had produced Nirvana's groundbreaking multi-platinum
Nevermind album), and moved to Woodstock, New York to record Grace, his first studio album. Grace really allowed Jeff Buckley to evoke how well his vocals had developed over the years as he proved he was able to hit several high octaves most singers could only dream of hitting in songs like "Grace" and "So Real." There was so much emotion, love, pain, and vivid memories drenched in songs like "Lover You Should Have Come Over," and "Mojo Pin." Buckley wrote some of his best lyrics in "Lover You Should Have Come Over,"

"When i'm broken down and hungry for your love with no way to feed it. Where are you tonight, child you know how much i need it. Too young to hold on and too old to just break free and run.
Sometimes a man gets carried away, when he feels like he should be having his fun. And much too blind to see the damage he's done. Sometimes a man must awake to find that really, he has no-one."

The song breaks down in a final mournful Buckley chant, "It's never over, my kingdom for a kiss upon her shoulder. It's never over, all my riches for her smiles when i slept so soft against her. It's never over, all my blood for the sweetness of her laughter. It's never over, she's the tear that hangs inside my soul forever."

As writes on their review of the album
,"Grace is an audacious debut album, filled with sweeping choruses, bombastic arrangements, searching lyrics, and above all, the richly textured voice of Buckley himself, which resembled a cross between Robert Plant, Van Morrison, and his father Tim". Some songs especially towards the latter half of the album like "Dream Brother" and "Eternal Life" sounded like Led Zeppelin but others like "Lilac Wine" sounded like folk music mixed with lounge jazz.

Perhaps the best song on
Grace was the title track itself. The song opens with a great Buckley guitar intro with Jeff singing dreamily "There's the moon asking me to stay long enough for the clouds to fly me away. Well it's my time coming, I'm not afraid to die." As the song builds to a crescendo Buckley wails louder than any other point on the album during the chorus, "And the rain is falling and I believe my time has come. It reminds me of the pain I might leave behind. Wait in the fire." With his voice hitting so many incredible octaves, you don't know where it's going next. "Grace" is one of those songs you can listen to driving late at night on the highway in the pouring rain and it will bring you into another world.

The big single on
Grace was "Last Goodbye," a song Buckley probably wrote about his break up with his girlfriend Rebbecca Moore. The video for the song became a huge hit as did "So Real" which followed soon afterwards. Another song written about Rebbecca Moore, "Forget Her" was one of the best songs Jeff Buckley ever wrote, but for reasons left unknown, when it came down to do the final mix for Grace, Jeff insisted the song be left off the album. It may have been the song was just too personal to him to have other people listen to it, but in terms of quality it would have been right up there with the top songs off of Grace. The chorus features some of Buckley's most heartfelt lyrics, "Don't fool yourself, she was heartache from the moment that you met her. My heart is frozen still as I try to find the will to forget her, somehow.She's somewhere out there now."

The slower covers off
Grace were also big highlights on the album. Buckley's cover of Nina Simone's "Lilac Wine," makes you feel tipsy just listening to Jeff's amazing voice harmonizing "Lilac wine is sweet and heady, like my love. Lilac wine, I feel unsteady, like my love." "Hallelujah," the best Leonard Cohen cover ever recorded by an artist, was also featured on Grace. The song wasn't immediately noticed when the album was released as it was overshadowed by some of the other great songs but over time it has come to be renowned as possibly the best song on Grace. In fact in 2008 over eleven years after Jeff Buckley's death the song reached number one on I Tunes which made it the first number one Billboard single for Buckley.

Grace started out selling slow because the songs on the album didn't generate all that much airplay despite extremely positive reviews. The album eventually did go Gold in the U.S. in 2002 but that was already five years after Buckley's passing. Grace was most popular is Australia where it sold six million copies and also had a good review in The Sydney Morning Herald. The article stated, "Grace is a romantic masterpiece and a pivotal, defining work." Even some musicians that Buckley idolized were throwing big compliments at him, as Led Zeppelin's guitarist Jimmy Page claimed Grace was his favorite album of the 1990s. David Bowie said it would be one of the ten albums he would bring to a deserted island, while Bob Dylan proclaimed "Jeff Buckley is one of the greatest songwriters of the decade," during an interview with The Village Voice. Eventually Grace was ranked at #303 on Rolling Stone's Top 500 Albums Of All Time list.

Buckley during the recordings of Grace

Buckley spent the next year and half touring multiple countries in support of his album. The first half of the tour was in the U.S. and called The Peyote Radio Theater Tour. Next Buckley would also prove successful going on the road in other countries like the U.K., France, Australia, Japan, and Canada. While in France Buckley played what he would consider one of his finest concerts at the Paris Olympia, which would be made available in 2001 as a live album titled
Live a L' Olympia. When Buckley toured both Sydney and Melbourne in Australia he called this half of the tour Mystery White Boy and had most of his shows recorded for yet another live album.

After the long tour finally ended Buckley began writing songs for his much anticipated second album which he planned to call
Sketches For My Sweetheart The Drunk. Buckley began working with producer Tom Verlaine in Manhattan but not much materialized in the sessions. Buckley wrote a few new solid songs, "The Sky Is A Landfill," "Everybody Here Wants You,"and "Yard Of Blonde Girls," which he debuted live at a concert in New York City. Soon though it was clear Buckley was dissatisfied with some of the recordings he had made as he moved to Memphis, Tennessee, and fired Verlaine as his producer, while re-hiring Andy Wallace who had produced Grace. He had scheduled his band to do more recordings on May 29, 1997 in Memphis and had his band fly in from New York. The night his band flew in to Memphis Jeff Buckley decided to go swimming in the Wolf River Harbor, (which is a channel of the Mississippi River), with all his clothing on including a pair of heavy boots, and singing Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love." One of Buckley's roadies Keith Fotti was on the shore while Buckley was swimming and reports that Buckley just disappeared under water. A Police search was issued that night but Buckley remained missing. On June 4, a tourist spotted his body washed ashore, Jeff was dead at age 30, just two years older than his father Tim had been when he died. It was a tragic end to such a promising musical talent as one can only imagine how many more classic Jeff Buckley albums could have been released in the last twelve years since his passing. The autopsy taken to clarify the cause of Buckley's death proved he had taken no drugs on the night he drowned. A statement was eventually released from the Jeff Buckley estate saying, "Jeff Buckley's death was not "mysterious," related to drugs, alcohol, or suicide. We have a police report, a medical examiner's report, and an eye witness to prove that it was an accidental drowning, and that Mr. Buckley was in a good frame of mind prior to the accident."

Whatever truly happened to Jeff Buckley that night nobody will ever really know. It's hard to believe anybody in their right frame of mind would go swimming in the Mississippi river with boots on and fully clothed without thinking they are risking their lives. Jeff will always be remembered for the beautiful music he wrote and the wonderful harmonies he sang. Since his death
Sketches For My Sweetheart The Drunk has been released and is a double album. Songs like "Opened Once" and "Nightmares By The Sea" provide a haunting ending to Buckley's songwriting career that was cut so tragically short. While it is not as strong an album as Grace, one must remember it still wasn't finished at the time of Buckley's death and if given more time it could have catapulted him even further into the realm of super-stardom. Jeff may not have liked more of the fame though that would have surely come to him as he preferred playing in small cafes like The Sin-e much more than big venues.

Jeff Buckley posing with his acoustic guitar

" Just like the ocean, always in love with the moon. It's overflowing now, inside you. We fly right over the minds of so many in pain. We are the smile of light that brings them rain. In the half light where we both stand. In the half light, you saw me as I am. I am a railroad track abandoned with the sunset. Forgetting I ever happened. That I ever happened."
-Jeff Buckley "Opened Once"

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

My Top 20 Albums of All Time

Alright my friend Nick Eskow has started a chain of coming up with your Top 20 Albums and then explaining why and what they mean to you, make you think of in a place or time and most importantly how they make you feel. If this interests any of you please come up with your own top 20 albums list and send it to me.

1.Cream-Disraeli Gears-Reminds me of senior year of high school when I was first discovering psychedelic rock and was inspired by Eric Clapton's luminescent guitar along with Jack Bruce's surreal lyrics about building castles high up in the clouds. Songs like "Strange Brew," Tales Of Brave Ullysses and "Swlbar" are still classics in my mind that we never hear much anymore. Whoever saw Cream at Madison Square Garden a few years back I am envious of you!

2.Led Zeppelin IV-This album was the soundtrack to countless snowboarding trips and represents the magic of being out there blazing down trails with the music cranked. You really get a feel for songs like "Black Dog" and "Rock N' Roll," then you can listen to the quieter songs like "Battle Of Evermore" and "Stairway To Heaven" on the chairlift ride up. This whole album represents that magic you feel being out in a forest or a mountain surrounded by nature and beauty.

3.Pink Floyd-Dark Side Of The Moon-This is hands down the best Pink Floyd album out there. It's when the band really hit a creative peak as a cohesive unit in the post Syd Barrett era. After this album Roger Waters really took over and while The Wall is still great it's not as orbital as Dark Side. Lets face it you don't hear songs like "Time" or "The Great Gig In The Sky'" everyday. I love all the commentary by the Abbey Road studio doorman that you hear if you listen very closely on headphones. This album captures of the essence of great sound.

4.Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young-Deja Vu-CSNY got that much better when they added Neil Young as his songs like "Helpless" and "Country Girl." Stephen Stills was also such a huge talent writing the opener "Carry On," which always brings me back to sophomore year at K dorm playing the whole record countless times on my turntable. David Crosby's "Almost Cut My Hair' is one of his best songs he has ever written. These guys really represent the woodstock era of the 60s music scene and really made folk rock more popular than anybody would have ever conceived it could be.

5.Beatles-Abbey Road-A lot of people like the early Beatles Hard Days Night era which I don't understand. The Beatles perfected their craft as the 60s wore on and cut their best album with Abbey Road. George Harrison was finally being allowed to compose some of his best music with songs like "Something" about his wife Patti Boyd, and "Here Comes The Sun" that he wrote while hanging out with Clapton in his garden. I think another reason I'll always love this album is because my cousin Eddie gave me a tape of it when I was about ten and it was really the first Beatles I ever heard so it would really influence my younger years a lot.

6.Beach Boys-Pet Sounds-Another band that really dates back to my back pages is The Beach Boys. I started listening to them through Eddie around the same time that I got into The Beatles. I've always liked Pet Sounds the best because that's just Brian Wilson hitting his genius before he had that huge nervous breakdown. "Caroline No," "God Only Knows," and "Wouldn't It Be Nice" have always been some of my favorite songs of all time. These aren't songs about surfing anymore Brian had developed into a serious songwriter, and I think if "Good Vibrations" had made it on this record it could have been even better.

7. The Byrds-The Notorious Byrd Brothers- I've only gotten into The Byrds in recent years but I'm starting to dive into them more and more as time persists and the more I listen the better they continue to sound. This is another band that had a ton of internal talent with Roger McGuinn, David Crosby, Gene Clark, and Chris Hillman all capable of writing outstanding compositions. Their covers are sometimes their best though especially Pete Seegar's "Turn! Turn! Turn!, Carlole Kings "Goin' Back," and of course Bob Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man"

8.Rolling Stones-Sticky Fingers-I love The Stones as they progressed and carried on despite the loss of Brian Jones. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards really took a firm hold of the band and wrote their best material. "Wild Horses" is their most beautiful song ever and "Brown Sugar" might be their most rocking. Their are countless other songs that sound nothing like The Stones were doing on prior albums like "Dead Flowers" and "Sister Morphine" as well as the sax driven "Can’t You Hear Me Knocking."

9.The Doors-The Doors-I remember buying my first Doors album in 10th grade not long after seeing Oliver Stone's movie on the band. I was amazed how much they could go into these long solos like on "Light My Fire" where organist Ray Manzarek and guitarist Robbie Krieger go back to back. Also "The End" was a tune I would always play in my Dad's basement back in DC for some reason and I would hook up my microphone I had bought to an amp and try to sing over it. Jim Morrison was a true poet just listen to "The Crystal Ship" and "End Of The Night' and it's obvious enough

10.Tom Waits-Rain Dogs-This was the soundtrack of my six months working at Rasputin Records. I listened to it practically every day at work as I was just starting to discover him last year and either this album or Bone Machine was usually on at some point during the day. His songs on Rain Dogs are all really short but somehow he gets to the point really fast on songs like""Jockey Full of Bourbon," and Anywhere I Lay My Head," and god that voice is so powerful and amazing when he spouts off crazy lines like, "Let me fall out of the window with confetti in my hair. Deal out jacks or better by a blanket by the stairs. Tell you all my secrets but I lie about my past. Send me off to bed forevermore." -Tango Til They're Sore

11.The Band-The Band-The Band are the best band to ever come out of Canada and they don't even sound Canadian! Levon Helm was actually from Arkansas and he did sing the great anthem on this album about the Civil War "The Night They Drove Ol' Dixie Down." As much as I love Helm I'll always be a bigger Richard Manuel fan with his beautiful high voice on ephereal songs like "Whispering Pines" that take you into another world. Rick Danko also wrote some killer songs off The Band. This album will always make me think of summer 2006 hanging out with Joel, Colby and Tim at their place on Parker and Grant many a late night and singing along to "Up On Cripple Creek", "Rocking Chair" and "When You Awake."

11.Jimi Hendrix Experience-Electric Ladyland-This was the third and final album by The Experience and it took them out even further then either Are You Experienced or Axis: Bold As Love into the realm of Hendrix’s exceptional guitar wailing. The songs became longer and more improvised like the fifteen minute jam “Voodoo Chile” between Hendrix and guest musician Steve Winwood on organ. There is no doubt Hendrix was striving for perfection with his explorations of the guitar on this record as he would do over forty takes for some of the key songs on this album like the Dylan cover of “All Along The Watchtower” and “Voodoo Child (Slight Return).” This album reminds me of Sophmore year of college listening to songs like “Rainy Day Dream Away” on the turntable on days when it was too wet to go outside and do anything

12.Neil Young-Harvest-It’s hard to pick a favorite Neil Young album because there are so many great ones from After The Goldrush to Tonight's The Night all the way up to Rust Never Sleeps. Still if I had to go with just one on a deserted island it would have to be Harvest. I think Harvest was the first Neil album I heard after getting his Decade album which is all his hits. Harvest has so many peaks from Young’s only number one hit “Heart Of Gold,” to the banjo driven “Old Man,” which will always make me think of my Dad because as different as we are we are still very similar in a lot of ways. The steel guitar on some of these songs is also incredible as are the backing vocals by Linda Ronstadt and James Taylor.

13.Grateful Dead-American Beauty-As much as people like to believe The Grateful Dead were only a good live band, this album will prove they also rocked in the studio. After years of sub par studio efforts The Dead finally perfected their songwriting craft in 1970 when they came out with their two best studio recordings, American Beauty and Workingman’s Dead. Beauty was slightly better as every song on the album was unique in a different way. I got into The Grateful Dead around the same time I was getting into jam bands like The Allman Brothers, and Phish during my senior year of high school. I remember hearing “Box Of Rain” a song Phil Lesh wrote for his dying father for the first time and it really touched me. “Look out of any window, any morning, any evening, any day.” There are countless other down home stoner country classics on this album from “Friend Of The Devil” to “Brokedown Palace,” to what would become one of The Dead’s live anthems “Truckin'.”

14.Yes-Fragile-The first time I heard Fragile was freshmen year at Evergreen and it was my first exposure to Yes. I remember driving around cool places like The Grand Tetons with Dan or Lake Tahoe area with Eli blasting this record. Lets face it this band was talented with a keyboardist like Rick Wakemen and guitarist Steve Howe just rocking out for over ten minutes at a time on songs like “Heart of The Sunrise.” I remember getting my brother Joe into “Roundabout” when I brought a copy of Fragile home from college. I still love Yes and songs like “Long Distance Runaround” and “South Side of the Sky” are still my favorites. This band really opened my mind up to listening to more progressive rock as I’ve gone on to love bands like King Crimson and Emerson, Lake, and Palmer

15.Derek & The Dominoes-Layla & Other Asssorted Love Songs- Eric Clapton was in so many brilliant bands from The Yardbirds, to John Mayall Blues Breakers, to Cream, to Blind Faith, and then he joined one of his best bands ever Derek and The Dominoes where he finally embraced being a frontman. This is the best double album ever to be released! Clapton recrutied most of the members of Delaney & Bonnie like drumer Jim Gordon and keyboardist Bobby Whitlock, while also recording with Allman Brothers late guitarist Duane Allman. This album is always great to put on when something goes wrong in a relationship. You can really feel Clapton’s mournful lyrics in “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out.” Most of the songs ont this record were written to seduce George Harrison’s wife at the time, Patti Boyd. The title track “Layla,” “Have You Ever Loved A Woman,” and “I Am Yours” would be some of the best material Clapton woud ever write. Also The Dominoes cover of Hendrix’s “Little Wing” amazing and much longer then the original version.

16.Nirvana-In Utero-Before I even got into classic rock I was into grunge. Nirvana-Nevermind was actually one of the first tapes I got when I was in sixth grade but it wasn’t until In Utero that I truly fell in love with Nirvana’s music. I really love the slow songs that sound a little Beatlesque, “Heart Shaped Box,” “Pennyroyal Tea,” and “All Apologies.” You can really feel the scalding pain in Kurt Cobain’s voice in songs like “Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge On Seattle” where he wails “I miss the comfort in being sad.” “Rape Me” was also a great testement to how he felt the press was treating him and his wife Courtney Love as they really had no respect for him.

17.Pearl jam-Ten-This is another grunge album that rocked my early years. I would always listen to Ten on tape right before going to bed in middle school so songs like “Even Flow,” “Black” and “Jeremy” will always be a part of my collective unconscious. I’ve seen Pearl Jam live more than any other band and will continue going to their shows as long as they’re around. Eddie Vedder is one of the best vocalist still around and Mike McCready is a guitar wizard with his beautifully long solos in songs like “Alive”

18.Pink Floyd-Wish You Were Here- This was the follow up to Dark Side of The Moon and it was dedicated to Syd Barrett who was the bands first guitarist and lead singer but left the band after Piper At The Gates of Dawn because he was taking way too much acid. All the lyrics in each song is about Barrett as they paint a poignant picture of him. “Remember when you were young, you shone like the sun. Now there’s a look in your eyes like black holes in the sky. Shine on you crazy diamond.” –“Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Part 1) My brother and I usually end up jamming out to “Wish You Were Here,” he’ll play accoustic guitar and I’ll just sing, “How I wish, how I wish you were here, we’re just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl, year after year. Running over the same old ground but have we found the same old fears. Wish you were here.”

19.Nick Drake-Pink Moon-I got into Nick Drake the last year or so but he has already become one of my favorite folk rock artists. He was so talented that it only took him a couple of nights to record Pink Moon and then he died shortly afterwards of an overdose of his antidepressant medication. Some say if the songs were as dark as the lyrics on Pink Moon it might be unlistenable but Drake’s lyrics are soothing in songs like “Place To Be,” and “Know.” My favorite track on the album is “Things Behind The Sun.”

20.Elliot Smith-From A Basement On The Hill- With all the great albums Elliot put out it was hard to pick one favorite but if I had to it would be his last album From A Basement On The Hill. As much as I love his independent shit with Kill Rock Stars as well as his well produced music with Dreamworks I think this album is a bit in between and finds the perfect balance. He was definitely trying to be more raw then he was with XO and Figure 8 which are both great albums respectively but Elliot just kept pushing his musical boundaries into another realm. Songs like “Fond Farewell To A Friend,” “Kings Crossing,” and “Lets Get Lost,” show Smith at the peak of his songwriting capabilities. Elliot should have written so many more good albums it’s really a tragedy what happened to him.

Note: Sorry if this list leaves off a lot of important bands. I know I had to cut out a few artists I really wanted to include like David Bowie-Ziggy Stardust, Jeff Buckley-Grace, George Harrison-All Things Must Pass, The Beatles-White Album, Blind Melon-Soup, Guns N’ Roses-Appetite For Destruction, Velvet Undrerground & Nico, and Van Morrison- Moondance. I could really come up with a Top 100 if I had more time.

Pink Floyd back in the 60s when Syd Barrett still graced the band.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Obituraries for Billy Powell, Delaney Bramlett and Ron Asheton

Lynyrd Skynyrd in their 1970s heyday before the plane crash happened. Billy Powell who just passed away is second man on the left holding a beer can.

The start of 2009 has not been a happy one for some classic rock fans as it has witnessed the death's of three very talented musicians; Ron Asheton the lead guitarist for The Stooges, Delaney Bramlett who formed Delaney and Bonnie, and, and Lynyrd Skynyrd keyboardist Billy Powell. It's hard to beleive that in less than two months all three of these great musicians could pass away. When you think of 2008 you think of the sad passings of original Pink Floyd keyboardist Richard Wright who died of cancer, and drummer Mitch Mitchell, who was the only original member left of The Jimi Hendrix Experience trio. Mitchell died of heart failure late last year in a hotel in Portland while he was on tour still playing the Hendrix classics he had mastered so many years ago. Now three more musicians have left this world and I will explain their importance to the world of music.

Ron Asheton 1948-2009

Ron Asheton was found dead of a heart attack in his Ann Arbor home. He helped lead The Stooges; possibly one of the most innovating bands from 1967 through 1974. The Stooges were one of the first bands to use elements in their music that would eventually come to defined later on as punk rock, alternative rock and even heavy metal. While the band was never that popular in their existence, it has been a cult following because of their musical impact similar to that of The Velvet Underground which has kept music fans interested in them after all these years. The Stooges formed in Ann Arbor Michigan and built up a following playing live in Ann Arbor, and then on to bigger venues with bands like The MC5 in Detroit. Their live performances were known to be wild and primitive with Iggy Pop the groups vocalist often cutting himself onstage or even flashing his genitalia.

The Stooges first record was much different then there next two in the sense that it was less punk rock psychedelic as it was the late 60s and they were obviously influenced by the times in songs like the ten minute plus "We Will Fall." There were signs of The Stooges heading towards a punk direction though with Asheton playing a great intro guitar lick in the second and best song on the album "I Wanna Be Your Dog." Iggy Pop talked about his late bandmate recently in Rolling Stone saying, "I saw those hands and thought, that guy can do it. His sound was the tone of the universe, the stars at night. It was a highly ambient tone. He was listening as much as he was playing." Ron Asheton's main influence on guitar was Jimi Hendrix as he was known to jam out to "Stone Free" and "Highway Chile" both off the first Jimi Hendrix Experience album Are You Experienced.

Asheton helped create the masterful sound on The Stooges second and best album Funhouse. The album was much more loud and chaotic than The Stooges self titled dubut. Songs like "T.V. Eye" and "Loose" were not noticed much by the public at the time but would go on to become punk rock anthems in decades to come. The Stooges were simply ahead of their time as not enough people appereciated them in 1970 when Fun House was released. There were also great experimental songs on Fun House like the title track which ran for nearly eight minutes and had great saxaphone solos going on. Also the out of control "1970" anthem is unforgettable where Iggy Pop yells "Out of my mind, Saturday night. 1970 rollin' in sight. Radio burnin' up above. Beautiful baby feed my love. All night I blow away. I feel alright."

It would be another three years until The Stooges would even record another album as every member in the band other than Ron Asheton sank deep into heroin addiction. Iggy Pop would often not even be able to stand on stage when the group performed live. Luckily David Bowie came to the rescue after The Stooges were released from Elektra records following their first two poor selling albums. Bowie was in the height of his Ziggy Stardust fame and wound up producing Raw Power the final classic Stooges album. While Raw Power didn't end up gaining much comercial interest at the time it might be the most influential Stooges album on our current genteration. Musicians over the years have given their tribute to songs off the Raw Power album. Red Hot Chili Peppers covered the song "Search To Destroy" and Guns N' Roses wound up covering "Raw Power" on their covers album The Spaghetti Incident? The biggest travesty of all is that The Stooges have yet to be inducted into the Rock N' Roll hall of fame despite six separate nominations over the years, including one in 2009. The only person to be inducted this year who had been around as long as The Stooges and had as much as an impact is Jeff Beck who has already been inducted once into the Hall as a member of The Yardbirds. You could also say Metallica deserves to be inducted this year as they were one of the only bright lights coming out of a horrible music scene in the 1980s.

Ron Asheton will be remembered fondly by the two surving membes of The Stooges Iggy Pop and Ron's brother Scott Asheton. The three had recently gotten back together in 2003 at The Coachella Festival in California and were popular than ever. Iggy describes this period of Stooges history in Rolling Stone by saying, "Ron had a lot of pride in the group. And in the end he made peopele happy. All those numbers we played when we got back together in 2003 sent people into another dimension. When we hit the openings of "I Wanna Be Your Dog" it was like a genie coming out of a bottle. Ron waited a long time for that. In these last six years he became a full fledged rock powerhouse. His dream came true."

The Stooges in 1970

Delaney Bramlett 1939-2009

Delaney Bramlett who played with the influential band Delaney and Bonnie died at the age of 69, suffering complications from gaul bladder surgery. Bramlett had battled alcoholism in the past but had been clean since 1987 when he entered a detox program. Bramlett was a musician from Pontotoc, Mississippi who made his fame touring with his wife Bonnie Lynn O" Farrell forming the group Delaney and Bonnie. They toured with Blind Faith in 1967 and guitarist Eric Clapton was so impressed with their band he spent more time backstage jamming with the members of Delaney and Bonnie then he did with his own band members. This of course angered Blind Faith's organist and vocalist Steve Winwood and Blind Faith immediately disbanded following the tour. Clapton would then form Derek and the Domioes with three other members from Delaney and Bonnie drummer Jim Gordon bassist Carl Radle and keyboardist Bobby Whitlock. Meanwhile Delaney found himself jamming with some great musicians like George Harrison, Dave Mason, and Leon Russell on "Poor Elijah." George Harrison gave Delaney Bramlett the solid Rosewood slide guitar that he had played in the Let It Be movie as thanks that Delaney had taught him how to play slide. Delaney also worked with original Allman Brothers Band slide guitarist Duane Allman who would also wind up playing on that timeless Derek and The Dominoes album Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs. Bramlett is one of the peopel who first told Eric Clapton he had to sing while he was producing his 1970 self titled debut ablum. Clapton has said,"Delaney told me I had a gift from god and that if I didn't sing God would take it away. All I was doing was really copying Delaney." As Bonnie Bramlett recently told Rolling Stone, "Delaney just opened the doors, and he didn't wait for you to step through them. To work with him you had to be on your toes. Delaney was the real deal."

Eric Clapton, Bonnie Bramlett, Delaney Bramlett and George Harrison

Billy Powell 1952-2009

Billy Powell called 911 a little after midnight on January 28th from his house in Orange Park Florida, saying he was having trouble breathing and had severe chest pains. By the time Police had arrived Powell had already died of a heart failure. He was due to see a doctor the following day for a heart check up as he had been experiencing heart problems for some time now. This now leaves guitarist Gary Rossington as the lone survivor of the original Lynyrd Skynyrd band that formed in Jacksonville, Florida back in 1972. Billy Powell had survived the October 17, 1977 plane crash that had killed Skynyrd vocalsit Ronnie Van Zant and lead guitarist Steve Gaines. Skynyrd had broken up after the plane crash but then reformed in the 1990s to tour with Ronnie's brother Johnny Van Zant as lead vocalist.

Billy Powell will probably be most remembered for his graceful keyboard intoduction to Lynyrd Skynyrd's most popular song "Free Bird," He also contributed to other classics like "Tuesday's Gone" "Whiskey Rock -Roller," and "Whats Your Name?" Before joining the band Powell was a roadie for Skynyrd but was invited in as keyboardist right before the bands debut album Pronounced Leh-Nerd Skin-Nerd. He added a whole new dimension to Lynyrd Skynryds three guitar booggie with Allen Collinss, Gary Rossington, and Steve Gaines. Skynyrd used an excellent blend of whiskey soaked rock, southern country harmony and blues. They didn't rely on the jazzy improvisations of their southern rock predesesors The Allman Brothers Band, they were more hard living, and hard playing. Unfortunately the talent Lynyrd Skynryd had was overshadowed by a redneck image they created by hanging confederate flags. Ronnie Van Zant also famously retorted back at Neil Young's "Southern Man" by writing, "Hope Neil Young can remember a southern man don't need him around anyhow in "Sweet Home Alabama," but who knows what he truly felt about Young as he would often wear a Neil Young-Tonights The Night t-shirt on stage. Whie Lynyrd Skynyrd did eventually decide to continue without Ronnie Van Zant it is unclear now if they will continue without Powell. Johnny Van Zant recently told Rolling Stone, "He took it to another level. I had goose bumps playing "Free Bird" with him every night. I don't think we can ever find anybody to replace him."

Lynyrd Skynyd on the back of their Nuthin Fancy album. Billy Powell gives the camera the finger.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Byrds Remembered as Folk Rock Greats

The Byrds are possibly one of the most forgotten about bands of the past in today's music scene. This band, that started playing shows on the Sunset Strip of Los Angeles at places like the Whiskey in 1965, don't get nearly enough credit for the way they evolutionized folk rock. They began mainly covering folk artists, such as Bob Dylan's song "Mr. Tambourine Man" on their first record, and Pete Seeger's "Turn! Turn! Turn!" on their second. While these songs may have propelled The Byrds to the pinnacle of their commercial popularity, the band would only continue to grow more creative as the 1960s continued. As The Byrds toured to support their first two albums, they would play a tape in the car, which had John Coltrane on one side and Ravi Shankar on the other. It was the only music they listened to on the whole tour and it definitely had a huge influence on their third album Fifth Dimension released in mid 1966. The big single off Fifth Dimension, "Eight Miles High," was released a few months before the album actually came out. It was really the first time all five members of The Byrds had contributed to writing a song together. Unfortunately, it also marked the end of The Byrds’ main songwriter, vocalist, and tambourine player Gene Clark's time in the band. Ironically, Gene Clark decided to quit because he had a fear of flying. The departure of Clark meant that the other band members, vocalist and twelve-string guitarist Roger McGuinn, vocalist and rhythm guitarist David Crosby, bassist Chris Hillman, and drummer Micheal Clarke, all had to step up and take charge of writing the rest of Fifth Dimension. Meanwhile "Eight Miles High" was having a tough time getting played on some radio stations because their djs believed it had references to drug use, specifically the use of marijuana and LSD. For this reason the song only rose to #14 on the charts, and somehow The Byrds never managed to have another top 20 hit.

"Eight Miles High" wasn't really about drugs as Roger McGuinn states in Ritchie Unterberger's book Eight Miles High, Folk Rock's Flight from Haight Ashbury to Woodstock. "It tells a story like a folk song. It's the story of The Byrds going to England in 1965, of experiencing culture shock. 'Rain gray town, known for it's sound' is London. 'Eight miles high and when you touch down you'll find that it's stranger than you've known' that's the airplane ride to England," says McGuinn in the book. The Byrds also faced the harsh British press who were critical of the band, although at the time they were being called America's answer to The Beatles. If you think about it, The Byrds had come a long way as musicians their first two years intact. Not only had they improved their playing, but now the press couldn't criticize them for just being a Bob Dylan or Pete Seegar cover band. As Unterberger writes, "Now The Byrds were in a league of their own. They would continue to take folk rock into the stratosphere throughout 1966 and 1967. Fifth Dimension marked the first album by early folk rockers to break away from folk rock into folk rock psychedelia. And where they flew many would follow."

The Byrds onstage in the early days playing "Mr. Tambourine Man."
(left to right) David Crosby on guitar and vocals, Chris Hillman on bass,
Gene Clark on vocals and tambourine, Micheal Clarke on drums, and
Roger McGuinn on guitar and vocals.

After Gene Clark's departure, Roger McGuinn became the band’s leader but shared much of the songwriting with David Crosby. You can immediately hear The Byrds expanding their sound on the brilliant Fifth Dimension album. The second song "Wild Mountain Thyme," has some of the best harmonizing the band ever did together with amazing orchestration backing it. There is no doubt The Byrds’ folk harmonizing songs can be compared to bands like Simon and Garfunkel, The Beach Boys, and the super-group Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. One thing to remember, though, is that none of the other bands mentioned ever came close to diving into the deep range of folk rock/psychedelia as The Byrds on Fifth Dimension. Their lyrics were also a huge factor in bringing forth their music. The song "What's Happening ?!?!," David Crosby’s first song with The Byrds, has a sense of emotional confusion. Inside the liner notes to Fifth Dimension Crosby talks about the song, "It's a very strange song. It asks questions of what's going on here and who does it all belong to and why it is all going on. I just ask the questions because I really don't know the answers."

The most haunting song on the album is "I Come and Stand at Every Door." The lyrics come from a poem by Nazim Hikmet, written in the voice of a seven year old who has been killed by the U.S. atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima during World War II. As Richie Unterberger points out, "I Come and Stand at Every Door," was taken even further from its origins by The Byrds' hypnotic electric chime-drone arrangement." The lyrics, along with McGuinn's stark voice, paint a dark picture, "I come and stand at every door but no one hears my silent prayer. I knock and yet remain unseen, for I am dead, for I am dead. I'm only seven although I died in Hiroshima long ago. I'm seven now as I was then when children die they do not grow." The song ends with the child pleading for peace, "All that I ask is that for peace, you fight today, you fight today, so that the children of this world may live and grow and laugh and play."

As Fifth Dimension continues it gets much more bluesy and electric with songs like the the band’s first instrumental recording "Captain Soul," which has some great harmonica playing. The strange "2-4-2 Fox Trot (The Lear Jet Song) " has all sorts of psychedelicized sounds to it, including airplane pilots talking on a radio with the Byrds chanting over it: "Go ride the lear jet baby.” One song that didn't make it onto the original album but deserved to be there was titled "Why." The song had been a B Side to the "Eight Miles High" single, and while The Byrds decided to include the latter song on the Fifth Dimension a few months later, "Why" somehow didn't make the cut. With McGuinn playing his classic twelve-string Rickenbacker in a brilliant solo, "Why" has a classic Indian raga feel to it. It’s clear just how much Ravi Shankar was beginning to influence the band members , especially McGuinn and Crosby.

Another David Crosby cut that failed to make the original release of the Fifth Dimension LP, but is now included on the Bonus Tracks of the CD version, is "Pychodrama City," which shows how Crosby was stepping up to fill Gene Clark's shoes as a songwriter for the band.

The cover to The Byrds Fifth Dimension LP

Despite the amazing the brilliance of Fifth Dimension, The Byrds’ career was actually beginning to unravel. It wasn't just that their songs weren't topping the charts as they had with their first two albums, but also their live performances were getting worse. Somehow the superior material they were recording in the studio couldn't translate into their live shows, and the press began to notice their decline. As bassist Chris Hillman says in Unterberger's Eight Miles High book, "It's funny, we went from being better live in the early days to better in the studio later on, and became too lackadaisical onstage."

The Byrds didn't even make the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival movie because their performance was so bad; David Crosby spent most of his time onstage endorsing LSD and talking about the conspiracy in President John F. Kennedy's assassination.

Also, personal turmoil within the band was starting to tear the group apart. David Crosby's ego was starting to take over, and he and McGuinn often disagreed about recording songs. "He was becoming insufferable," Roger McGuinn confessed to the magazine Goldmire thirty-five years later. “He really didn't like us anymore. He was angry with all the rest of The Byrds. He would say things like, ‘You guys aren't good enough musicians to be playing with me.’" In the same Goldmire article, Crosby admitted, "I don't think I was easy to get along with or work with then. I think I was young, and egotistical, and wanting more space for myself. I wanted to do more writing and have more music credits. It's very unfortunate. It was one of the best musical chemistries ever." Also the entire band started to gang up against drummer Michael Clarke as they regarded him the least talented in the group and often taunted him if he didn't get his takes right. This can be heard on the bonus tracks of their fifth album, The Notorious Byrd Brothers. Somehow, despite all the bickering within the band, they actually managed to put out two more classic albums with most of the original lineup intact.

Their follow up to Fifth Dimension was Younger Than Yesterday, released in 1967. It ranked 124 in Rolling Stone’s top 500 albums of all time. Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman wrote "So You Want To Be A Rock N' Roll Star," about their decline in mainstream music popularity. The Byrds also added another mind-blowing Bob Dylan cover, "My Back Pages," as well as recording "Have You Seen Her Face," which were both fantastic group efforts for The Byrds. Everything is there, the guitars, the percussion, the bass, the harmonies, everything. Unterberger makes a great point when he states, "’My Back Pages,’" ironically considering its lyric about turning a back on the past, was a retreat to the device that had brought them the stardom they mocked in ‘So You Want To Be A Rock N' Roll Star.’" The lyrics in the chorous of "My Back Pages": "I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now," also connected to the title of the album Younger Than Yesterday .

left to right: David Crosby, Chris Hillman and Roger McGuinn of The Byrds onstage in the 1960s.

The next Byrds album released in 1968, The Notorious Byrd Brothers, is regarded by many to be their best work, which is hard to believe considering what went on in the studio during these recordings. David Crosby ended up writing three of his best songs ever for the album. "Draft Morning" was about the Vietnam War, with classic lines about what it was like to be a soldier, "Take my time this morning, no hurry, to learn to kill and take the will from unknown faces." He also wrote "Tribal Gathering," about the Gathering of the Tribes Festival in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, and another song, "Dolphins Smile," which was the first showing of his fascination for the sea, which would come out in many more of his songs written with Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young like "Wooden Ships". Crosby also wrote a song The Byrds considered too controversial to put on the album called "Triad." It’s about a man trying to convince a woman to join him and another woman in a relationship of three people, with a chorus singing, "I really don't see, why can't we go on as three?" Because of The Byrds refusal to put "Triad" on The Notorious Byrd Brothers, Crosby refused to even take part in the recording of possibly the best cover The Byrds ever did, "Goin Back," which was originally written by Carole King and Gerry Goffin. "Goin Back" as Rolling Stone writer David Fricke points out, "conveys a sense of irresistible longing for a golden age of childhood purity. Thematically, the song recalled the title of their last album Younger Than Yesterday, which had touched on similar notions of wisdom in innocence." Because of Crosby's lack of participation, (supposedly he sat on the couch in the studio during the whole recording of "Goin Back"), coupled with his disagreeable manner, McGuinn and the rest of The Byrds decided to fire him in the middle of the recording sessions. Michael Clarke was the next Byrd to fly the nest, as he was tired of being told what to play and how to sound by the rest of the band. Drummer Jim Gordon who worked with Delaney and Bonnie as well as Derek and the Dominoes replaced Clarke as drummer for the remainder of the recordings. Yet Clarke's picture was shown on the cover of the album while Crosby's was blurted out with a horse, showing the other members anger towards him. Although it would be Crosby who would have the last laugh, as he would eventually form Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, which would surpass The Byrds in fame as the 1960s drew to a close; indeed the band became the biggest supergroup in folk rock history.

The Byrds also did another extraordinary King/Goffin cover titled "Wasn't Born To Follow," which ended up on the cult 1960s motorcycle/road movie Easy Rider soundtrack. As David Fricke points out, "It was used in one of the memorable sequences to express the rider's sense of liberation from straight society." "Wasn't Born To Follow" had a great psychedelic breakdown in the middle with some of the best harmonizing The Byrds ever did, and it shouldn't surprise people that they were the main band on the Easy Rider soundtrack, along with Steppenwolf, representing the counterculture movement of the 1960s. You would think that the firing of Crosby and the departure of Clarke would cause The Notorious Byrd Brothers to suffer now that The Byrds were down to just a two-piece band with Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman, but somehow they managed. For one, Hillman stepped up to become a great songwriter with songs like "Artificial Energy," which unlike "Eight Miles High" was actually a song about drugs, but this time nobody batted an eye. Hillman also wrote the majestically beautiful "Natural Harmony," which Ritchie Unterberger calls, "a blend of rustic past and electronic future." McGuinn was also a key factor in making The Notorious Byrd Brothers the best album in The Byrds’ catalog, as he was the most stable force within the group, and unlike Crosby was always was very professional to work with in the studio. McGuinn and Hillman would compose some of their best material together as a duo on the album with songs like "Get To You," "Change Is Now," and "Old John Robertson,” introducing a more country sound that complemented their folk rock, and signified the direction they would be headed in their sixth album Sweetheart At The Rodeo. Perhaps McGuinn's strongest contribution to The Notorious Byrd Brothers was the final song on the album "Space Odyssey," which was based on an Arthur Clarke short story that Stanley Kubrick would also base his movie 2001: A Space Odyssey on. Unterberger writes about "Space Odyssey: "It was The Byrds furthest reaching electronic voyage. No other Byrds track reached at once so far back to the past and so far into the future. McGuinn had notions of taking that concept even further with The Byrds next album. But "Space Odyssey" was as far as he got due in part to the fashion in which Hillman and newcomer, guitarist/vocalist Gram Parsons, would become co-captains of the group's ship in 1968." Parsons would lead The Byrds even further into a country rock direction on Sweetheart At The Rodeo, which also proved to be very influential in the evolution of folk rock into country, which Bob Dylan also explored in his Nashville Skyline album. Although Parsons was only a member of The Byrds for a short time there is no doubt he would deeply influence the future direction McGuinn would lead the band. Parsons would be fired from The Byrds tour by McGuiin and Hillman as he refused to perform at a concert in South Africa, which would end his brief stint in the band.

Overall, there was nothing in folk rock like The Byrds from the years 1965-1968. Despite their brief stint at a creative peak, The Byrds accomplished more in four years than most bands can accomplish in decades of work. They just had so many creative forces in the band. First they had Gene Clark writing tons of great material; they also had the ability to make any Bob Dylan or Pete Seeger song sound different and original. Once Roger McGuinn and David Crosby’s songwriting abilities fully blossomed the band had the power to compose music along the lines of Lennon and McCartney. Yes, they were America's answer to The Beatles! Later, even Hillman would prove to be a great writer and would go off to form The Flying Burrito Brothers with Gram Parsons and Micheal Clarke, leaving McGuinn as the lone original member left in The Byrds’ nest While McGuinn's work with The Byrds minus the original members isn't as great to listen to, there are still songs like "Chestnut Mare" off The Byrds 1971 Untitled album that still stand out. If you want to embrace a musical journey that leads you to the depths of these creative geniuses, nothing should be left unheard.

Note: The site for Richie Unterberger, the author I quote in this article, is really worth checking out. He has also written a prequel to the Eight Miles High book called Turn! Turn! Turn! which covers The Byrds earlier folk-rock material in great detail.

Roger McGuinn playing live in concert with The Byrds

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Dark Oz and The Moody Lyons Rock the Retox Lounge

Dark Oz: Lady Layne and Brain Scarecrow take the stage.

Arriving at the Retox Lounge last Thursday, January 29, I was struck with some deja' vu. I had been here once before a little over a year ago to see my friend Ryan play a show with his band. The basement where musicians perform has a very distinct look with the design of airline windows and flight seats, as well as a large Jimi Hendrix poster.

The opening band that night was Dark Oz, who I hadn't even planned to film, but once I heard this two-piece band there was no way I could pass. Dark Oz, consists of two members, vocalist/guitarist/harmonica/mandolin player Brain Scarecrow and Lady Layne who plays the tambourine, xylophonics, and keyboards. Dark Oz list their main influences as Led Zeppelin and Jefferson Airplane on their myspace page, but you would never guess that with their slow, accoustic guitar driven sound. Their music is very laid back, and maybe you can hear a trace of Led Zeppelin III with a song like "Scarecrow" when the harmonica comes in with a bit of folk rock/bluesy feel to it. The way the band describes their music as a phychic explosion, I can see in their music with songs like "Crystal Ship," or even the more electric "Stripper Song". Comparing them to Jefferson Airplane though, seems a bit far out especially after the Airplane's first album when they almost completely abandoned their folk roots to become an all out psychedelic/acid rock band.

Dark Oz opened their set with the spacy accoustic guitar jam of "Crystal Ship," with the xylophone bringing in a in a high pitch of clarity. The lyrics to this song were so beautiful to listen to especially in quiet but distinct voice Brain Scarecrow uses. The song begins "Stars are falling, voices calling you. Time for leaving there must be something that you never knew." The lyrics get even better as the song goes into the chorus as Brain sings, "I was on a crystal ship that crashed into the mist. She was waiting on the shore where the sand the waves kissed." The lyrics continue to get more psychedelic as the song goes on, "Blanket memories that hold on tightly can you break free. When you're looking out the window can you even sometimes see emerald towers in the early hours of the afternoon. Blue moon rising, your sign is coming soon." This might be the best song Dark Oz has in their catalog right now, bringing fourth a bridge between human memory and illusion, and is probably the direction they want their music to head in as they progress in the future. The yellow brick road the band is on will only continue to grow beyond the reaches of the Golden Gate Bridge as Dark Oz have already been added to i tunes and have started to gain a nice following. As the i tunes review of Dark Oz states on their myspace page, "The songs are as diverse as the megaflora in this strange land, ranging from poppies to lollipops, talking trees to mushroom houses. Brain Scarecrow, your multi-instrumental visionary songwriter guide on this amazing journey, leads you through a dream of technicolor textures that is playful one minute and alarmingly surreal the next."

"How do the vocals sound, did you guys here 'em'?" asked Brain after "Crystal Ship." The crowd cheered. With that, Brain, who was in stage costume with a Scarecrow outfit including yellow scarecrow straw hair, launched into a song that is not on their CD Blowin Breeze Through Talkin Trees and according to him,"we never play live." The song has a similar feel to "Crystal Ship," but with a slightly more rocking feel to it. Still the lyrics are so innovative, and remind me of nothing coming out right now "I started dreaming beside that flower field. Seasons stole my heart and my desperation was revealed. I started sleeping beneath that blanket sun that burned straight through my eyelids and I knew my time was done. I've been out walking where the brick road meets the sand. Washed up and broken like shells from foreign lands." If this song had made it onto Blowin Breeze Through Talkin Trees it would easily be in the top three of best songs to listen to.

Brain Scarecrow dressed up as a pirate at a previous show

Matt Harman of The Moody Lyons in the zone with his electric guitar

The Moody Lyons played a heavy and heartfilled long set that featured all their best known songs, including some newer ones that nobody had heard perfomed live before. Before the set even started everyone was singing a drunken happy birthday to Eric Olson who just turned 21. The lights were dimmed and then Matt Harman whacked the opening chords of "Broke Busted and Disgusted," which had a New York Dolls sound to it. The band played hard despite feedback, getting the crowd into it as Aaron shoved the mic into the crowds face during the chorus. The song ended with Harman and Matthew Kelly battling back and fourth with heavy guitar and drum playing showcasing their skills.

The excitement of the show reached one of its peak levels when The Moody Lyons transititoned their melodic love song "She's So Fine," into their Ramones meets The Stooges inspired "Sometimes I Just Want To Sit." The whole crowd began chanting along to Harmon's vocals and the band slashed through some of their heaviest and most punk rock material. Harmon looking like a true rock star with a striped black and white shirt, shoulder-length hair, goatee, and big sunglasses, headbanging along as he sang about "tales from the crypt on Halloween". This may have been the highlight song fof The Moody Lyons all night as their sound was its most pure and there was hardly any of the guitar feedback that plagued their PA system. Kelly bashed out a killer drum solo seconds before the song came to a dramatic close.

The Moody Lyons best song and the one I was looking forward to most "Lyons Lament" came a few songs later. Harmon introduced the song by saying, "Sometimes a lion has to lament and by lament we mean masturbating or taking shit or working some hard ass job that nobody else wants to do but us." Robert Serviss added, "This song is about a lion, it's about a lion that's past his prime. This song goes out to all you lions out there because you got to fucking roar." With that Eric Olson launched into his beautiful keyboard introduction, which led into Harmon's most psychedelic sounding guitar soloing. The lyrics did not sound as loud as they do on the Ep but that didn't matter as the soloing by Matt Harmon was phenomenally on key, while the rest of the band absolutely pounded their instruments. Matthew Kelly led another strong breakdown with his drums and soon Olson's keys could be heard above the rhythm section as he traded solos with Harmon. Soon were both were soloing at the same time building into a crescendo of somber reflection that the song portrays.

Many may have thought this to be a suitable closer to The Moody Lyons set but the band wasn't quite ready to end things at The Retox. The Lyons launched into a series of covers by The Meters, J.J Jackson, and The Yardbirds. The most compelling of all was the cover of rock's first psychedelic sounding British Invasion band The Yardbirds "For Your Love." The song which is included on the Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas soundtrack was actually the original reason Eric Clapton quit The Yardbirds because he thought they were getting too commercial. Clapton must have been crazy, as this is definitley one of the best songs written by a British band in the 1960s. The excitement reached another high during "For Your Love," as a random fan of the Lyons jumped onstage and occompanied Harmon, and rhythm guitarist Aaron chanting lines like "For your love, I'll give you everything and more and that's for sure. For your love, I'll bring you diamond rings and things right to your door. To thrill you with delight I''ll bring you diamonds bright. Lovely things that will excite to make you dream of me at night. For your love I would give the stars above." After the song was over the rude owner of the Retox shouted "Where is the funk dude?" which silenced the crowd who were actually quite happy hearing the Moody Lyons interpretation of "For Your Love.". After the show was over the owner continued to belligerently harass the band about their sound as I tried to interview them for this article. He not only gave unconstructive critcism but also prevented me from producing a solid interview. Overall though if the owner was angry at the sound of the band he only had himself to blame as he was also handling their pa equipment. I thought it was a solid performance and was glad The Lyons could expand their set to their liking and not be forced to play only a few numbers as they had in the past.

The Moody Lyons will be sharing the bill again with Dark Oz at The Rockit Room in San Francisco on February 12.

Dark Oz also has two more shows scheduled for this month on February 14 and February 28 both at Java Beach in San Francisco.

Lady Layne of Dark Oz

Eric Olson, keyboardist of The Moody Lyons

Moody Lyons Setlist
1.Broke Busted and Disgusted
2.Lyons Theme Song
3.Cold As Hell
4.She's So Fine
5.Sometimes I Want To Sit
6.Cissy Strut
7.Paint The White House Black
8.Lyons Lament
9.Six Foot Strut (cover originally written by The Meters)
10.It's Alright (cover originally written by J.J. Jackson)
11.For Your Love (originally written by The Yardbirds)