The Second Disc

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Archive for March 10th, 2014

Review: Bob Dylan, “The 30th Anniversary Concert Celebration: Deluxe Edition”

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Bob Dylan - 30th ConcertBob Dylan’s 30th Anniversary Concert Celebration, held on October 16, 1992 at New York’s Madison Square Garden to mark Dylan’s Columbia Records debut, could have been a valedictory.  The 51-year old honoree and participant was nearly at the halfway point of a self-imposed sabbatical from writing and recording original songs; it would last seven years, from 1990 to 1997.  He had not had an album reach the Top 20 of the Billboard 200 since 1983’s Infidels and hadn’t cracked the Top 5 since 1979’s Slow Train Coming.   When Good as I Been to You, a collection of traditional tunes and standards, arrived in stores just a couple of weeks after the concert, it was the artist’s first solo acoustic album since 1964.  Was the artist who once challenged convention with alarming regularity now succumbing to it, resting on his laurels while his famous friends saluted him?  One could have been forgiven for coming to that conclusion.  But the concert dubbed by participant Neil Young as “Bobfest” proved conclusively that the Bob Dylan songbook was as enshrined in the cultural consciousness as any of the classic songs Dylan had taken to recording of late.  His songs still had the power to shock, to entertain, to incisively observe upon the world and the human condition.  Columbia Records issued the concert as a 2-CD set and on VHS; now, both the audio and video components have received, shall we say, a 22nd anniversary update and upgrade from Legacy Recordings.  With Dylan more venerated than ever, on the heels of a remarkable “comeback” that began in 1997 and hasn’t abated since, the timing couldn’t be better.

It’s striking in equal measure to note how many of the artists featured on Concert Celebration are still going strong, like Dylan, and how many have moved onto the next world.  Of the former, Stevie Wonder, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Eric Clapton, Neil Young, Roger McGuinn and Tom Petty all now possess “living legend” status.   There’s an overwhelmingly bittersweet quality, however, savoring the performances by Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash, George Harrison, Richie Havens, Levon Helm and Rick Danko, Tommy Makem and Bobby, Liam and Paddy Clancy, Howie Epstein of The Heartbreakers and Donald “Duck” Dunn.

Underscoring the adaptable nature of Dylan’s singular songs, the genres of rock, folk, country and even R&B all earned a spot at the Garden that evening.  Naturally for any such concert retrospective, a number of artists reprised past triumphs with an older and wiser sensibility to mark their own shared history with Dylan: Stevie Wonder with his 1966 hit version of “Blowin’ in the Wind,” Johnny and June Carter Cash with their 1965 Top 5 Country romp through “It Ain’t Me Babe” (enlivened by Mickey Raphael’s harmonica), Roger McGuinn and his 12-string Rickenbacker (plus Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers!) with The Byrds’ chart-topping “Mr. Tambourine Man,” folk hero Richie Havens with “Just Like a Woman,” a staple of his repertoire since the 1960s.  The O’Jays liked Dylan’s “Emotionally Yours” so much that they named a 1991 album after the song and recorded it twice on that LP – once in an R&B Version and once in a Gospel Version.  The latter raised the rafters at the Garden, thanks to the chorus featuring, among others, Cissy Houston and the pre-fame Sheryl Crow.  Sans Robbie Robertson, Levon Helm, Rick Danko and Garth Hudson of The Band invested “When I Paint My Masterpiece” with appropriate, ironic optimism.

Other headliners also had one foot in the past, honoring the original performances of the songs via their faithful renditions.  John Mellencamp even enlisted Al Kooper to revisit his famous organ part on a rip-roaring, concert-opening “Like a Rolling Stone.”  Rosanne Cash, Shawn Colvin and Mary-Chapin Carpenter revived the folk-rock spirit of The Byrds on “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere.”  Eddie Vedder, on vocals, and Mike McCready, on guitar, tackled the acoustic “Masters of War” (“Even Jesus would never forgive what you do”) and did full justice to its lacerating, unforgiving lyrics (“I’ll stand on your grave ‘til I’m sure that you’re dead”).

Click on the jump to keep reading! Read the rest of this entry »

Love Is What They Came Here For: BBR Expands Leon Haywood, Carl Carlton Albums

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Leon Haywood - NaturallyThere was a lot more to Leon Haywood than his 1975 hit “I Want’a Do Something Freaky to You.”  Texas native Haywood played keyboards for Sam Cooke, masqueraded in studio bands The Packers and The Romeos and scored his first solo pop hit with 1967’s “It’s Got to Be Mellow.”  When he began incorporating funk and disco sounds into his brand of soul, however, Haywood found his niche.    Big Break has recently celebrated the Haywood ouevre with expanded editions of his 1980 platter Naturally and the 1981 self-titled album by Carl Carlton (“Everlasting Love”) which Haywood produced.

The first track of Naturally, “Don’t Push It Don’t Stop It,” paid homage to the central horn riff from Blood Sweat and Tears’ “Spinning Wheel,” weaving it into a mélange of funk and R&B with light electronic textures.  The track – like most of the album itself – pointed in the sleek direction soul music would take as the decade progressed, with tight, danceable grooves bridging the gap between disco and eighties R&B.  Producer Haywood was joined by Rick Jones (bass), James Gadson (drums), David T. Walker (guitar), Tony Coleman and future superstar James Ingram (keyboards) and Maxine and Julia Waters (backing vocals).  Coleman and Haywood arranged most of the album, ceding a couple of charts to Gene Page and Tom Tom 84.

After the jump: more on Leon Haywood’s Naturally, plus a look at Carl Carlton’s 1981 comeback! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

March 10, 2014 at 08:56