Burning Wood

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Unpredictable Todd Rundgren, Live At B.B. King's: 11/3/14

The point of these live "unpredictable" shows is that Todd Rundgren and the band, and presumably those in attendance "have no idea what's coming next," except that he does, and so do many of the fans in attendance. Okay, I guess that's not completely true.

After opening the show with a cover of Cheap Trick's "Hello There," the band fell right into "Hello It's Me." I didn't know that would happen. But for the next 100 minutes, it was business as usual. This is not necessarily a bad thing.

At the completion of "Hello It's Me," a terrific solid version with Todd's voice as strong as ever...always a concern for me...he offered this, "We are playing the show in reverse order. You're all free to leave now. We've played the hit." Particularly snarky last night, even for Todd, Rundgren and his band, Kasim Sulton, Jesse Gress and Prairie Prince, were as good as I needed them to be. Again, Rundgren's voice was a powerhouse, sounding as good as ever, and once that has been established, I can breathe more easily and just enjoy the show.

As for the show itself...is it "unpredictable" that "Love Of The Common Man" was played or is it "ironic" to play "Love Of The Common Man" at an "unpredictable" show? Either way, as much as I love this song, it needs to be retired, as does the bossa nova version of "I Saw The Light." On the other hand, full band versions of "Cliche" and "It Wouldn't Have Made Any Difference" are a rare treat, especially when they are as solid as they were last night. Some rocking Utopia staples also made the set, but I won't spoil too much of the set, for the few who might be reading and planning on attending.

But here's what made me angry.

When I saw the first "unpredictable" shows in 2011 or 2012, it was a thrill to hear some oddball covers, like Clarence Carter's "Patches" or "96 Tears," by ? & The Mysterians. They were played straight, or at least as straight as Todd can be. Last night, it wasn't one or two covers, it was seven! And all of them were novelties. Johnny Preston's "Running Bear," "Muskrat Love" and the horrific "In The Year 2525." (My friend went nuts for "In The Year 2525." I was happy to see her enjoying herself. Me, not so much.) But it wasn't that the performances of these songs were bad. On the other hand, they were as solid as anything else in the set. But I get the impression that Rundgren was taking the piss out of both the songs and the audience. Does he really like "Muskrat Love?" From the way he broke down the lyrics and pointed out that the songwriter "picked the wrong rodent to write about," I think not.

I became angrier with each cover, thinking about those precious minutes that could have been devoted to some of the man's great, rarely played tunes.

That being said, there was enough bookending the comedy (?) to make the show worth the time. So if you're a long time fan, or a fan who has strayed, I suggest not missing these shows, if only to witness the man singing like it was 1973 all over again.

Monday, January 28, 2013

At Long Last, Love. (In Mono, Of Course)

For a long time it was the initial pressing of "Runt," Todd Rundgren's debut which inadvertently left the pressing plant in small numbers with 3 additional tracks. There was only one way to know if you had stumbled across this vinyl gem, and it wasn't by just looking at the cover or the label. You needed to remove the LP from its sleeve and count the bands on each side to notice that it didn't match the amount of songs listed. I found one in 1979 at my long lamented home away from home, Zig Zag Records on Avenue U and East 23rd Street in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn. $18, I believe, which was a good deal of money to spend on a record back then.

Then it was a mono copy of Pink Floyd's "Piper At The Gates Of Dawn." After that, it was a mono copy of Simon & Garfunkel's "Bookends," which has a story attached to it that is so unbelievable and disheartening, it'd be worth sharing if the acquisition of said record hadn't put those ill feelings to bed...for the time being. (Maybe I can be coerced for a future post.) Most recently, it was the elusive and super rare U.K. mono pressing of the Stones' "Let It Bleed" and the mono U.K. pressing of "The Who Sell Out." Both originally came with posters. These days, I could only afford one poster. So if you see the one pictured, give me a shout.

As an obsessive/lunatic/collector, there will always be something. This week, it's the mono pressing of The Zombies' "Odessey & Oracle." This one won't be easy, but it's worth the hunt. The catch is a different animal altogether.

All these years of buying and selling and listening and I have never owned a Beatles' Butcher Cover, probably the most famous collectible of all. I can't even recall holding someone else's copy. Someday, maybe.

Is there one thing...an LP...a 45...a recording...that you obsess over?

What's the story?

Is it finallly in your possession? Was it worth it?  Are you still on the hunt?

I'd love to hear these stories and see if any are as bizarre and unpleasant as some of the craziness I've experienced, simply for that jewel. (In mono, of course.)

Monday, January 21, 2013

"We'll Fix It In The Mix."

So I have this thing about Tony Visconti producing David Bowie. As much as I love Bowie's last few albums, my feeling is that I would have loved them more had the production had a little less of everything, especially 2003's "Reality," which features some of Bowie's best material but is so in your face sonically, you barely have time to breathe. Drums, guitars, effects, reverb...all...too...MUCH!

Same with 2002's "Heathen," which I have gone on record saying is in my Top 5 Bowie records of all-time. Brilliant, but busy. Check out the demo of The Pixies cover "Cactus" from that record before Visconti got a hold of it. Subtle difference, but there is a difference and to my ears, it feels better, almost "Low" era.

The new Aaron Neville record is released tomorrow. It's a collection of the old rock and roll and doo-wop tunes Neville was raised on. This could have easily ended up a glossy mishap. Instead, thanks to the co-production of Don Was and Keith Richards, it is not. It's a killer. The producers nailed it.

Is there one record where the production has plagued you for years? It could be a record you almost love or one you wanted to love, but just can't because of the sound.

Monday, January 14, 2013

The 2013 Grammy Awards, Or What I'd Like To Call....




Please finish the blog title sentence.

It seems futile to attempt any rational discussion about the Grammy Awards. But I think that as passion-filled music lovers, it must also be difficult for us to ignore.


The ceremony is about a month away, and I will watch. I always do. It's irresponsible of me, I know. Like a guy with an ulcer who continues to put hot sauce on his eggs.


I'll kickstart this conversation. Take a look at the four categories and nominees below. As usual, I am dumbfounded. Not necessarily in a "this music stinks" way. More in a "are academy members listening to anything other than pop music" way.  And by the way, Best New Artist nominee Fun has been around since 2008. Not so new.


I was a member for 8 years and voted. The opportunity exists for members to vote for almost all of those artists you always feel deserve to win over those that actually do.  Musicians you love and respect are included on the preliminary ballots. It's not as if there isn't a fighting chance. So how is it that never happens? How is it "Call Me Maybe" gets nominated for Best Song over anything off of the last John Hiatt record? This is more of a scam than the RRHOF.


There is no ultimate goal here. I am just offering you a space to vent.





Record Of The Year

  • Lonely Boy - The Black Keys
  • Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You) - Kelly Clarkson
  • We Are Young - Fun. featuring Janelle Monáe
  • Somebody That I Used to Know - Gotye Featuring Kimbra
  • Thinkin Bout You - Frank Ocean
  • We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together - Taylor Swift

Album Of The Year

  • El Camino - The Black Keys
  • Some Nights - Fun.
  • Babel - Mumford & Sons
  • Channel Orange - Frank Ocean
  • Blunderbuss - Jack White

Song Of The Year

  • The A Team - Ed Sheeran, songwriter (Ed Sheeran)
  • Adorn - Miguel Pimentel, songwriter (Miguel)
  • Call Me Maybe - Tavish Crowe, Carly Rae Jepsen & Josh Ramsay, songwriters (Carly Rae Jepsen)
  • Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You) - Jörgen Elofsson, David Gamson, Greg Kurstin & Ali Tamposi, songwriters (Kelly Clarkson)
  • We Are Young - Jack Antonoff, Jeff Bhasker, Andrew Dost & Nate Ruess, songwriters (Fun. featuring Janelle Monáe)

Best New Artist

  • Alabama Shakes
  • Fun.
  • Hunter Hayes
  • The Lumineers
  • Frank Ocean

Monday, January 7, 2013

Tracy's Face

One of my very favorite scenes in just about any movie comes at the end of Woody Allen's "Manhattan."  I'm sure you've seen it, but take a look anyway.

Prior to that scene, I had never heard "Potato Head Blues." So for that alone, I am grateful.

I don't know what it is about lists that we all find so fascinating. Top Tens. Best This. Worst That. They are obviously fun to compile. (And probably less fun to read.) But this list, Woody Allen's reasons why life is worth living is particularly wonderful, especially in the context of the film. It's just the right length, though I wouldn't have minded hearing a few more

I'm going to limit my choices to music and film, but if you'd like to share something else, you are welcome to. God knows I could do this all day and I just might continue to add as the week goes on.

Maybe we can all discover something.

The scene in "Rear Window" when Raymond Burr catches on to Grace Kelly, specifically what occurs below from 2:46 - 2:53.

Buddy Rich's drum solo in the "West Side Story" medley from Sinatra's "Concert For The Americas."

Todd Rundgren's "The Verb To Love."

The coda from "Layla."

Every second of Peter Lorre's screen time in "Casablanca."

(Sorry, couldn't find a clip.)

There...I've started it.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Musical Hopes & Fantasies For 2013

Billy Gibbons pre-ZZ Top psych band the Moving Sidewalks will be performing a handful of live dates next year. This excites me and it's something that I know I discussed over drinks about ten years ago. "You know, I'd love to see a Moving Sidewalks reunion." "Yeah, that'll never happen," one friend was quick to point out. And neither will a reunion of all four Young Rascals, right?

If I had my druthers:

A new David Bowie record will be released and it will not be produced by Tony Visconti.

Live music will become age appropriate. When Wilco comes to town, they play a seated venue with a proper start time and not some outdoor GA cornfield on a rainy day with a $60 rain or shine ducat. When Ty Segall performs, he can jam as many 20 year olds into a tiny club and hit the stage at 11:45 on a Tuesday, if he feels like it. And while we're at it, if Bruce Springsteen can keep his ticket prices under a $100, so can every one else. And while we're at it, I love you John Hiatt and Joan Osborne, but you guys are not $85 a ticket acts. Sorry guys.

The trend of artists performing full albums in concert will continue, but not at the expense of abandoning the rest of the back catalogue. Mix it up for the fans. Think about the fans. Learn your songs for the fans. 

The cost of new vinyl will drop to something a tad less odious than $26 a record.

Jazz artists will start swingin' again.  If I wanted to hear a piano trio cover Nirvana and Radiohead, I'd...well...nothing. I don't.

Todd Rundgren and Daryl Hall will turn their two brilliant episodes of "Live From Daryl House" into a record and tour.

Music journalists and critics will pull back on the hype reins just a bit and start telling like it is. Maybe a few less new Dylans and new Beatles in 2013 will help the jaded and the cranky appreciate the new guys a bit more.

Andy Partridge, Colin Moulding, and Dave Gregory will shake hands and release one more new record as XTC.

The following artists will release stripped-down-back-to-basics records:
Rolling Stones

So what are your musical wishes for 2013?

Monday, December 17, 2012

Burn Out, Fade Away, Or Be The Rolling Stones

This is something I posted as a comment on Burning Wood's "12-12-12 Recap":

When does it end? At what point do Rolling Stones fans, of which I am one, just admit that what they are playing...the music they are making... the sounds...just ain't cutting it?

I'm not looking to start an unnecessary firestorm with Stones diehards. I'm simply looking for an understanding as to why the handful of 50th Anniversary shows that have taken place thus far, with below standard and predictable set lists, with ticket prices close to $1000, with Mick Jagger's voice sounding more and more like Ian McKellen and with Keith Richards so obviously struggling with his axe, haven't frustrated more people. I love this band. I've defended this band right through 1989's "Steel Wheels," and even sang high-praise over their last tour. But something is just not right with these last few shows, and few but me, seem to see and hear it.

So is it me?

I went on to say this-

What is this loyalty? Is it just about longevity and nothing else? They don't even play for the fans anymore. Look at this current set list. I don't care how old they are, how long they've been around, how cool Keef is or how amazing "Sticky Fingers" is, this band is done. It's ok. Just say it.

I do understand loyalty. So in retrospect, that shouldn't have been a point of discussion. Yet, I know people who were trashing The Who and their live performances as far back as 2002, when only Keith Moon was missing from the mix. Pete & Roger were all but laughed at for their Super Bowl performance. Why? Where was the loyalty there? What makes Mick & Keith immune to the critical bashing taken by other dinosaur acts? The Stones certainly aren't any more relevant. If anything, Jagger's attempts to stay relevant usually amount to some crappy new music with some hip producer, or the signing on of "relevant" artists like Lady Gaga and Christina Aguilera for guest spots, and yet the Stones roll on, sounding older and older, and raping the fans in every way possible.

One last thing I wrote in that comment--

Beatles fans never had any qualms at all trashing Paul McCartney's solo work, sometimes even before listening and this was when Macca was half the age of the Stones and putting out records that were at least as good as any of the Stones records since 1981. 

While we're at it, what about Bob Dylan? The guy gets abused at every turn. Again, I'm not looking for a discussion about who is better. The Beatles, McCartney, The Who, Dylan or the Stones.  I just want to know, are we truly enjoying the Rolling Stones these days, or are we watching them the way we'd watch our crazy Uncle Ed warble through "I'll Be Seeing You" at his 90th birthday party, with respect and pathos, while secretly wishing we could just have some cake and go home.