News for August 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 9/1/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Tried And True” by Ween

I recently discovered a two-CD download of “Caesar” demos for Ween’s eighth album, “Quebec,” that was released by Mickey Melchiondo (aka Dean Ween) on his facebook page a few years ago. “Caesar” was the original title for “Quebec,” and the demos were recorded while drummer Claude Coleman was recuperating after his near fatal car accident in 2002. Many of the demos feature just Micky and Aaron Freeman (aka Gene Ween) without backing musicians just like at the beginning of their career. While the demos include alternates of most of the 16 tracks that made the final cut of “Quebec,” there are an additional 13 songs that will be new to most Ween fans. Whether in demo form or in their final studio incarnation, songs like “Transdermal Celebration,” “Captain,” “Zoloft,” “Chocolate Town,” “So Many People In The Neighborhood” and this one, are amongst Ween’s finest songs. Now that Ween have decided to call it quits, let’s hope that there are more unreleased recordings in store for fans in the future.

Edited: August 31st, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 8/31/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Reincarnation Of A Lovebird” by Charles Mingus

You can almost see the flight of the bird in question during the introduction of this masterwork by bassist Charles Mingus. However, this bird is actually Charlie Parker, with whom Mingus performed on many occasions and to whom this song is dedicated. In Mingus’ own words: “I wouldn’t say I set out to write a piece on Bird. I knew it was a mournful thing when I was writing it. Suddenly I realize it was Bird. [...] It’s mainly about my misunderstanding of Bird […] In one way, the work isn’t like him. It’s built on long lines and most of his pieces were short lines. But it’s my feeling about Bird. I felt like crying when I wrote it.” Mingus was a master at orchestral Jazz in the same category as Duke Ellington, but where Ellington was always tasteful and pleasing; Mingus’ MO was more challenging and deeply emotional, with a penchant for the jagged and gnarly alongside the tuneful and lovely. This had as much to do with his upbringing as with his composition style. And with Dannie Richmond on drums to complete the rhythm section, Mingus could certainly swing, as evidenced on this classic from the 1957 album “The Clown.” The lineup on this track includes Shafi Hadi (aka Curtis Porter) on alto and tenor saxophone, Jimmy Knepper on trombone, Wade Legge on piano and Dannie Richmond on drums.

Edited: August 30th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 8/30/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Cat’s Squirrel” by Cream

“All right, all right, all right, all right, all right, all right…all right, all right, all right, all right.” – That pretty much sums up the lyrical content of this scorcher from Cream’s 1966 debut album, “Fresh Cream.” And for my money, the band’s studio recordings are far more preferable than their live workouts featuring endless jamming extended to maddening proportions. While some were spray painting the buildings of England with proclamations that Eric Clapton was God, the real star of the show was bassist Jack Bruce. Not only was Bruce the songwriter behind some of the group’s biggest hits, but it was his voice that defined the group’s sound. And as for Clapton, he’s been literally coasting on the stellar guitar work he laid down with this group for over 40 years.

Edited: August 29th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 8/29/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Theme From An Imaginary Western” by Mountain

Every so often, you hear a song that you haven’t heard in a long time, and it blows you away as if you were hearing it for the very first time. I had this experience last night at our weekly “Vinyl Night” gathering at the Firkin bar Libertyville, IL where one of the gang brought the 1970 debut album by Mountain called “Climbing!.” Now, I’ve had this album since I was a kid and I’ve heard it countless times, so many times in fact that it’s been years since I’ve even considered playing it again. But last night, the song revealed the perfection at its core: impassioned vocals, terrific power ballad melody and superb guitar work by “The Great Fatsby” himself, Leslie West. As a result, I am listening to and enjoying the albums “Climbing!” and “Nantucket Sleighride” today, as I write this entry. Mountain was known as the “American Cream” because they were so heavily inspired by the British power trio, and their bassist, Felix Pappalardi, was the producer for the Cream albums “Disraeli Gears,” “Wheels Of Fire” and “Goodbye Cream.” The Cream connection goes even deeper on this track, since it was co-penned by Cream bassist and vocalist Jack Bruce. Mountain formed in 1969 inLong Island,NY, and after four concerts, they found themselves on the bill at theWoodstockfestival where they made a big impression. When this album came out, the band consisted of Leslie West on guitar, Felix Pappalardi on bass, Steve Knight on organ and Corky Laing on drums. After several albums, Pappalardi left the band due to hearing problems, although he would rejoin the band on several of their many reunions. Pappalardi died in 1983 after suffering a gunshot wound accidently inflicted upon him by his wife. Gail Pappalardi was charged with criminally negligent homicide and served 16 months of a four year jail sentence. The last version of Mountain featured West and Laing and recorded and toured in 2008.

Edited: August 28th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 8/28/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Thing Called Love” by John Hiatt / “The Galway Girl” – Steve Earle & The Dukes – I received an unplanned invite to see a double bill of Steve Earle and John Hiatt at the Ravinia Festival in Highland Park, Illinois the other night. I have seen both artists quite a few times before, but it had been at least 6 years since I last saw Earle and probably 15 years since I’ve seen Hiatt, so I readily accepted the invitation and was treated to a terrific show by two great songwriters and performers. Earle did an hour set that included his classics “Galway Girl,” “Copperhead Road,” “Guitar Town,” “The Revolution Starts Now” and selections from his latest album including set opener “Waiting On The Sky,” “Molly-O” and “My Old Friend The Blues.” Earle led a solid combo that included long-time bass player Kelly Looney, Will Rigby on drums, Chris Masterson on guitar and Eleanor Whitmore on fiddle and keyboards. Although Earle has been touring over the last few years with is wife Alison Moorer, she was not part of the band on this date. John Hiatt also played an hour set that included fan favorites “Slow Turning,” “Tennessee Plates,” “Drive South,” “Real Fine Love” and this song which was the highlight of the set. Hiatt went on to tell the crowd that he would be presenting a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Americana Music Association next month, to Bonnie Raitt who had a big hit with this song. Hiatt also debuted new songs “The Blues Can’t Even Find Me” and “It All Comes Back Someday” from his upcoming September release “Mystic Pinball.” For the first encore, Hiatt was joined by Steve Earle for a duet on Woody Guthrie’s “I Ain’t Got No Home,” then Earle left the stage and Hiatt and the Goners brought it all home with “Riding With The King” and “Have A Little Faith In Me.”


Edited: August 27th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 8/27/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Ode To Charlie Parker” by Eric Dolphy

Leave it to Eric Dolphy to record this Jaki Bayard tribute to Bird and not play a lick of saxophone on it. I believe that’s Dolphy soaring effortlessly on the flute here, although the “Iron Man” record credits Prince Lasha on flute. I say that because the soloing here sounds unmistakably like Dolphy and there is also an earlier recording of this track from the “Far Cry” album where Dolphy is credited on flute sounding very similar. This version was recorded in 1963 and was originally released on the “Iron Man” album featuring Woody Shaw Jr. on trumpet, Bobby Hutcherson on vibes, Huey Simmons on alto sax, J.C. Moses on drums, Clifford Jordon on soprano sax and Eddie Kahn on bass. The earlier version, recorded in 1960 (which I could not find to post), featured the all-star lineup of composer Jaki Bayard on piano, Booker Little on trumpet, Ron Carter on bass and Roy Haynes on drums. Any opportunity to hear Dolphy fly on the flute is a welcome opportunity in my book!

Edited: August 26th, 2012

Encore Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 8/26/12

Encore Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Tiger Rag” by The Mills Brothers

This is a performance clip from the “Big Broadcast Of 1932″ showing the Mills Brothers in action. Yes, it is true…they really were brothers…and the only instrument used on this track was a guitar…all other instruments were played by the human voice. What started out as a novelty act that mixed the Gospel Jubilee style of singing with Dixieland Jazz in the early 1930s utilizing only voice and one guitar, morphed into one of the longest vocal group careers of all time lasting until 1999 when the last Mills Brother died. (Originally posted 2/27/11)

Edited: August 26th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 8/25/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Mutt Romney Blues” by Ry Cooder

Ry Cooder has made a novelty record! “Election Special” features nine very topical songs centered on the upcoming presidential election. These are songs about the issues…songs that make us think…like “Mutt Romney’s Blues” about poor Mitt’s dog who took a ride on the top of his car in a luggage rack on a Romney family vacation. Now that’s an issue we can all sing our teeth into! While I believe ol’ Ry’s heart is in the right place and politically I don’t disagree with his views, most of the songs on this record come off like bad jingoistic political advertisements. Musically, the record is a two-man affair featuring Cooder’s tasty guitar playing throughout assisted by his son, Joachim on drums, but with the exception of the song “Brother Is Gone,” this record has left me cold. Oh, and as for the video…it’s a rogue video made by a fan.

Edited: August 24th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 8/24/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Me And The Wind” by XTC

They were a band with two very distinct songwriters…Colin Moulding wrote some of their biggest early hits (“Making Plans For Nigel,” “Life Begins At The Hop”) that were typified by stop-start rhythms, big drums and infectious melodies, while Andy Partridge was the guy who was responsible for some of their prettiest, most pastoral recordings (“Summer’s Cauldron,” “Dear God,” “Love On A Farmboy’s Wages”). XTC’s sixth album, “Mummer,” where this song hails from, was the first album the band released after giving up touring for good. Andy Partridge began experiencing stage fright due to extreme anxiety attacks, and after the first date on their US tour behind “English Settlement,” he could no longer perform, forcing the band to cancel the rest of their performances. This was indeed a shame, since I saw them in 1980 on the “Black Sea” tour and they were a force to be reckoned with on stage. “Mummer” was also the last album with original drummer Terry Chambers, who left during its recording due to the band’s decision not to tour anymore. Fortunately, the anxiety attacks didn’t diminish Andy Partridge’s songwriting prowess as exemplified by this song.

Edited: August 23rd, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 8/23/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Montauk” by Rufus Wainwright

The self-described “Gay Messiah” got back into the game this year with his most seventies-esque album called “Out Of The Game.” Under the tutelage of producer Mark Ronson (Amy Winehouse), Wainwright delivered a record sonically more in line with classic Steely Dan than the baroque, rococo sound of his last few releases. Wainwright has said he was trying to recapture the feel and sound of his first two pop-oriented records, and while the record is sonically smoother than his recent work, it is not the danceable confection he had promised leading up to its release. But underneath the glossy production is another set of classic songs including this love letter to his infant daughter, Viva. The two dads are Rufus Wainwright and his partner Jorn Weisbrodt, and Viva’s mother is Lorca Cohen who is the daughter of Leonard Cohen. Montauk is a town in Long Island where the Wainwrights have a house. This is a live version of the song performed on Studio Q.

Edited: August 22nd, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 8/22/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Sailor” by Rod Stewart

Rod Stewart’s 1974 album,“Smiler,” was unfairly panned and ridiculed by rock fans and critics alike upon its release. While it’s true that “Smiler” was Stewart’s last album for Mercury Records before jumping ship to Warner Bros., I just don’t buy the criticism that he had run out of gas and was basically treading water by handing in a subpar record that Allmusic calls “an utter waste of time.” Not only does the record feature a selection of fine originals including this chugger written by Stewart and Faces cohort Ron Wood, but it also includes previously unrecorded songs penned by the likes of Elton John & Bernie Taupin (“Let Me Be Your Car”) and Paul and Linda McCartney (“Mine For Me”). There’s also a clutch of patented covers including a Sam Cooke medley of “Bring It On Home To Me” and “You Send Me,” Chuck Berry’s “Sweet Little Rock ‘n’ Roller” and Bob Dylan’s “Girl From The North Country.” Was it as good as “Every Picture Tells A Story?” No…but few albums in Stewart’s catalog are. Critics complained that the song selection was safe and predictable, but I’d take this group of songs over “Do You Think I’m Sexy” and “Hot Legs” any day…at least he still maintained some credibility.

Edited: August 21st, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 8/21/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “2012 (You Must Be Upgraded)” by Flaming Lips with Ke$ha and Biz Markie

This one comes from the Record Store Day release “Flaming Lips And Heady Fwends.” The limited edition double album was released on two “hand-thrown” colored discs, and each one is uniquely colored. The album was also released in two versions defined by a version of this song. The more desirable version features a “Cybermen” sample from the BBC TV series “Dr. Who,” the other more common version has Henry Rollins approximating the sample with his own voice. Like many Flaming Lips records, “Heady Fwends” is a mixed bag of truly inspired psychedelic confections and really awful in-jokes. Other “Heady Fwends” who make appearances on the collection are Yoko Ono & The Plastic Ono Band, Chris Martin, Jim James of My Morning Jacket, Bon Iver, Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, Eryka Badu, Nick Cave and many others.

Edited: August 20th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 8/20/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Psalm” by Roxy Music

By the time of Roxy Music’s third album, “Stranded” in 1973, Brian Eno had left the fold and gone were the atmospheric synthesizer rushes as well as the overall experimental progressive nature of the band. It was replaced with a more straightforward, art-rocking glam-tastic sound with Bryan Ferry at its center. Eno’s replacement was Eddie Jobson, an accomplished keyboard player who had been a member of prog group Curved Air and would go on to perform with the likes of UK, Yes, Jethro Tull and Frank Zappa to name a few. He also freed Ferry from his keyboard duties allowing him to focus on lead vocals as epitomized by this epic-length track recorded at The Royal College Of Art in London in June of 1972. “Stranded” was also the first Roxy album where Phil Manzanera and Andrew Mackay began contributing their own songs to the band, resulting in the band’s first bona-fide classic album. The cover model on “Stranded” was Marilyn Cole, who was a Playmate of the Year and Ferry’s girlfriend of the time.

Edited: August 19th, 2012


Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Silver Train” by The Rolling Stones

“Goats Head Soup” is one of the most maligned albums in the Rolling Stones’ catalog, and I’ve never really understood why. Certainly, its proximity as the follow up to the mighty “Exile On Main Street” has something to do with it, however “Exile” was not well received upon its release either. But while “Exile” has risen to the top of the Stones’ pops in critical acclaim, “Goats Head” still remains the black sheep of the family. I do believe my age has much to do with my affection for this album, since it was the first Stones album I purchased as a new release. Most folks older than I generally dismiss the record as pretty awful, however any album that includes this songs, “Dancing With Mr. D,” “Star Star,” “100 Years Ago,” “Coming Down Again,” “Heartbreaker,” “Winter” and “Angie” can’t be all bad. This song was also used as the B-side to the aforementioned single “Angie” and was originally worked up as a demo during the “Sticky Fingers” sessions in 1970. I have also provided the demo version here for your listening pleasure. I’m not sure where this clip comes from, but it looks like it was prepared for “The Midnight Special” TV show.

Edited: August 18th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 8/18/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Evil Ways from Woodstock” by Santana

This weekend we are celebrating the 43rd anniversary of “An Aquarian Exposition: 3 Days of Peace & Music” which took place August 15-18th 1969 on Max Yasgur’s farm. While most people are familiar with Santana’s blazing performance of “Soul Sacrifice” that appeared in the movie and single handedly established the group to the American public, most people have never seen anything else from the group’s afternoon set on 8/16/69. At the time, not only were the band unknown out of their native San Francisco, but so was this Tito Puente standard, since it would be many months before Santana would release its studio version as a single and take it to the upper echelon of the charts. It’s amazing to watch Carlos Santana catch fire in front of the biggest audience he had ever played at that point…especially since he has said that he was tripping his face off on acid. Santana’s appearance was part of a barter deal made by manager Bill Graham – if Woodstock wanted Graham’s premium acts Jefferson Airplane and Grateful Dead, they would have to take Santana and give them a good slot in the festival. Obviously, Graham already knew what the Woodstock Nation was soon to find out…that they were to be treated to a career-making performance for the ages!

Edited: August 17th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 8/17/12 (written on 8/16/12)

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “I Just Can’t Help Believing” by Elvis Presley

Everybody has a favorite version of Elvis: the hip-swivellin’ 1950s hep-cat, the swarmy good ‘ol boy of his many second rate films, the leather-clad comeback kid of 1968, the sequined-suited star of Vegas, and, sadly, the fat bloated disaster of the late ‘70s before he met his maker 35 years ago today. My particular favorite is the post-comeback Vegas Elvis of 1970 as heard and seen in the film “That’s The Way It Is.” The film was shot at The International Hotel in Vegas in August 1970 and it highlighted the fabulous entertainer Elvis could be when he took himself somewhat seriously. Here we have his cover of the Barry Man-Cynthia Weil classic “I Just Can’t Help Believing” which was currently a big hit for B.J. Thomas at the time of this recording. Elvis’ was touring with his finest band featuring the ever dependable James Burton on guitar, John Wilkinson on rhythm guitar, Glen D. Hardin on keyboards, Jerry Scheff on bass, Ron Tutt on drums, Charlie Hodge on guitar and vocals, plus Millie Kirkham, The Imperials and Sweet Inspirations on vocals. If you’ve never seen the film, what are you waiting for? If you have, now’s a good time to see it again!

Edited: August 16th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 8/16/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “The Advent Of Panurge” by Gentle Giant

If the ranking of groups within the pantheon of progressive rock were based solely on musical inventiveness and chops, Gentle Giant would stand taller than Yes, Genesis, King Crimson and all of the rest. Case in point is the lead-off track from their 1972 magnum opus, “Octopus.” Its madrigal-inspired vocals and progressive jazz leanings typify in one track what made the Giant loom so large. By the time of this recording, Gentle Giant consisted of the brothers Schulman: Derek on vocals and alto sax, Phil on assorted horns, and Ray on bass, violin and guitar, plus Gary Green on lead guitar, Kerry Minnear on keyboards and brand new super outstanding drummer and xylophone player John Weathers. Much of the Giant’s material was inspired by the books they were reading and the inspiration for this one comes from the books of “Gargantua and Pantagruel” by François Rabelais. But one doesn’t have to read the writings (I sure didn’t) in order to appreciate the intricacies within. By 1980 and the advent of Punk and New Wave, the purveyors of prog walked the earth like dinosaurs on the verge of extinction, so Gentle Giant packed it in. Derek Schulman went on to become a top A&R guy for Mercury Records and was responsible for signing Bon Jovi to the label…but let’s not hold that against him…

Edited: August 15th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 8/15/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – Selections from “Popshopping Volume 1” by Various Artists

“Popshopping” is a compilation of German TV commercial production music from the 1960s and 1970s. Compilation producers Sir D’Oeuvre and Senor 45 collected these tracks from flexi discs and dusty TV production tape vaults. Many may consider this music nothing more than a bunch of blaring, dated commercials, to others (including me), this is highly stylized and inventive music created by some of Germany’s finest composers including Christian Bruhn, Max Meir-Maltez, Klaus Wuestoff, Gert Wilden and Johnny Teupen. This selection includes Christian Bruhn’s music for Ford Capri, Ford Taurus and “Komm In Fahrt” for Hansa-Pils commercials (all 1973), Klaus Wuesthoff’s “Swing A Little, Kim A Little” (1967), Klaus Doldinger’s “Wild Freshness” (1970) and Max Meir-Maltez’s music for Moulinex (1972). All of the tracks collected here are exceedingly groovy, as is the companion compilation to this one, “Popshopping Volume 2!”

Edited: August 14th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 8/14/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “For Mods Only” by Chico Hamilton

Sixties jazz tunes don’t come any more “Austin Powers” than this raver by Chico Hamilton from 1966. Hamilton spent the years working up to this recording gigging and recording with the likes of Eric Dolphy, Jim Hall, Gabor Szabo, Charles Mingus, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Nat Cole, Billie Holiday, Gerry Mulligan and numerous others. In 1966 he joined forces with Archie Shepp on piano, Arnie Lawrence on saxophone, Richard Davis on bass and (introducing) Larry Coryell on guitar for this swingin’ stunner from the Impulse album called “The Dealer.” Hamilton continued to record throughout the 70s, 80s, 90s, 00’s and went into the studio on the advent of his 90th birthday to cut 28 new tracks, released in 2011 on the “Euphoric EP” and the “Revelation” CD.

Edited: August 13th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 8/13/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “I Just Started Hating Some People Today” by Beck

While it’s been four years since Beck released his last album, “Modern Guilt,” he has hardly been idle. In 2009 Beck started a website experiment called “Record Club” where he and other musicians would get together and cover an entire album in one day. The first one was “The Velvet Underground & Nico,” the second was “Songs Of Leonard Cohen” and the third and final one was Skip Spence’s “Oar.” Guests on these ventures included members of Sonic Youth, Wilco, MGMT, Devendra Banhart and Feist. While it was a cool novelty to hear these unreleased cover albums up on the web, fans had not heard a peep of new Beck-penned and performed material in quite some time. In fact, the only other high profile projects we had were production duties for Thurston Moore’s latest solo record “Demolished Thoughts” and Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks’ superb “Mirror Traffic” album. So it was with great anticipation when word came out that Beck would cut a single with Jack White at Third Man Records. This past May, the resultant two songs from the sessions were released as a single with this song as the A-side and a song called “Blue Randy” on the flip. While both songs are good, they are hardly a major statement from an artist so highly regarded for innovation. So here we are on the precipice of even more current happenings from the Beck camp when last week it was announced that Beck was ready to release a new 20-song album this December called “Song Reader.” Oh, but there is a catch…Beck is choosing to release the album only in sheet music form complete with full color art. So it will be in the hands of the fans to perform the songs before we get to hear the material for real.

Edited: August 12th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 8/12/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Summer’s Almost Over” by Loudon Wainwright III

Tonight we had a going away party for my daughter who will be embarking on her first year of college in another week. What I’ve been told is that the child who leaves for college never really comes back home. What comes back in their place is a more self-assured facsimile of what left, with an all-important year of independence under their belt. Not only am I conflicted with her going away on her own, but it also brings about the feeling of ennui I get at the end of summer in general. That feeling is perfectly captured in this song by Loundon Wainwright III from his 1976 album called “T Shirt.” I remember that when this album came out, our country was in the throes of Bicentennial fever captured by the lead-off track from the album called “Bicentennial.” By the time the Bicentennial buzz wore off, it was time to go back to school and it was this song that always put my emotions into perspective for me.

Edited: August 11th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 8/11/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “A Night In Tunisia” by Yusef Lateef

Don’t let the stoner intro fool you, stick with this one and it will pay major awards! The former William Emanuel Huddleston converted to Islam in 1950 and Yusef Lateef was born. Like his contemporary, Eric Dolphy, Lateef played saxophone, flute, bassoon and oboe and like Dolphy, both shared an interest in Eastern music. Lateef had an appetite of pushing boundaries and surrounded himself with sidemen that were able to share in his vision. This track was recorded on October 10, 1957 and features Wilburn Harden on flugelhorn, Hugh Lawson on piano, Ernie Farrow on bass and Oliver Jackson on drums. It was originally released on the Savoy album “Prayer To The East.”

Edited: August 10th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 8/10/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Bicycle” by Unknown Mortal Orchestra

Every year after the Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago, I come home with a list of artists that I hadn’t heard before who were great to listen to on stage. After further investigation some of them have released great records that had fallen under my radar, others, not so much. Some of the acts I first heard at Pitchfork include Fleet Foxes, Dodos, tUnE-yArDs and Battles, all of whom I’m still listening to today. This year’s finds included New York City band Cults and Portland Oregon based (by way of New Zealand), Unknown Mortal Orchestra. UMO is the brain child of Ruban Nielson, formally of the band Mint Chicks, who counts artists as diverse as Captain Beefheart and Sly Stone as major influences. Their sound is an amalgam of gauzy sounding neo-psychedelic acts like MGMT, Ween, Apples In Stereo and Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti. Their self-titled debut album casually ingratiated itself with me over several plays until I found I couldn’t live without hearing it incessantly. The otherworldly building featured on the album cover is a monument in Yugoslavia built in the 1960s called Spomeniks.

Edited: August 9th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 8/9/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Life On Mars” by Barbra Streisand

Here’s one for fans of NASA and its latest Curiosity mission on Mars. I love the photos that are coming out of the red planet so far and can’t wait to see more. Now, on to this cover of one of David Bowie’s prettiest melodies and greatest songs…Like most people, I think Barbra Streisand has a great voice…like buttuh! Where my opinion differs is when it comes to her interpretive “talents.” In this area I think she is appalling, over emoting and wringing every ounce of subtlety from every song she takes on until the listener comes up begging for mercy. Yet, every so often Streisand gets it right as in the case of this 1974 cover of David Bowie’s “Life On Mars.” While she doesn’t come close to bettering the original (who could?), here Streisand brings just the right amount of panache to the song to carry it off. This one comes from Streisand’s “Butterfly” album which has one of my all-time favorite album covers.

Edited: August 8th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 8/8/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “The Maze” by Herbie Hancock

While most people gravitated to Hancock’s recording of “Watermelon Man” on his 1962 debut album called “Takin’ Off,” there were many other tracks that were equally powerful on the platter. Together, the lineup of Dexter Gordon on saxophone, Freddie Hubbard on trumpet, Butch Warren on bass and Billy Higgins on drums, created one of the greatest jazz albums of the 1960s defining the cool sound of hard bop. I like “The Odd Couple” feel that many of the early Hancock tracks have as if they could have been the basis for the theme to that classic TV show. Here’s what Hancock had to say about this tune in the liner notes to the album: “The tune seems to go along the bent paths of a maze, to which the final solution is never reached – notice that the performance does not have a real tonic ending.” Indeed, it is a track that can take you places without ever leaving your comfy chair.

Edited: August 7th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 8/7/12 (written 8/6/12 – Charlie’s Birthday!)

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “The Bells” by Phil Ochs

Today happens to be my son Charlie’s 15th birthday and I am proud to say that one of his all-time favorite records is Phil Ochs’ first album “All The News That’s Fit To Sing” from 1964. Sure, he heard it from me first after watching the excellent Phil Ochs documentary “There But For Fortune” last year, but in this day of quick cut video games and non-stop Comedy Central, it amazes me that a kid his age would be such a fan of the seemingly prehistoric form of music known as folk, as well as a serious folkie like Ochs. What amazes me more is that he doesn’t really like Dylan that much because he says, “Dylan can’t sing.” This is one of his favorite Ochs songs, which my 18 year old daughter so astutely pointed out is a retelling of Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “The Bells.” Geez…my kids are so smart…smarter than me, in fact. Happy Birthday Charlie, this one’s for you!

Edited: August 6th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 8/6/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Missing Pieces” by Jack White – Lollapalooza Recap – Day 3

The question on many people’s lips this day was which band would he bring with him…the girls, or the guys? The “he” in question was headliner Jack White who has been touring with two separate bands, one consisting solely of women and one of men. And the answer to the question was plainly…YES! Right out of the gate, Jack White exploded onto the stage full throttle with “Sixteen Saltines” backed by the guy band. The first half of his set backed by the guy band was somewhat sluggish with fits and starts of adrenaline, but it was the second half starting with “Love Interruption” backed by the women where White began to sound more and more like, dare I say, classic Led Zeppelin. The ladies were a more consistent outfit and they brought out the best in White. When it was encore time, White broke into his Raconteurs songbook for a rollicking “Steady As She Goes” and then dipped into White Stripes territory with “Seven Nation Army” ending what was a fine closing set at Lollapalooza. Ahh, but there was so much more good music today to match the splendid weather…the set by At The Drive In was a more than welcome reunion that had lead singer Omar Rodríguez-López breaking into humorous dialog between songs that pummeled the audience into submission. Their set was less “proggy” than Omar and Cedric Bixler-Zavala’s current band The Mars Volta. One of the big surprises today came from Santa Cruz band Devil Makes Three, an acoustic three-piece whose folk-plunk blend of country, bluegrass, rockabilly and cow punk started the day off with a blast of down home wood and strings. New Jersey’s Gaslight Anthem gave us their own special brew of “Bruce juice,” although at this point they’ve really outgrown the comparisons and have come into their own with a set that was long on well performed solid songs. Swedish outfit Miike Snow had people up and dancing throughout their set of tuneful ‘80s oriented electro-pop rounding out a solid day of music. Like any music festival worth its salt, some choices had to be made and although it would have been great to catch the set by Florence + The Machine, it wasn’t meant to be this time ‘round. Kudus to S3 Security who managed to keep the crowd safe and under control like they do every year not only at Lollapalooza, but at Pitchfork as well. Lolla ’12 – OUT!

Edited: August 5th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 8/5/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Take Me Back” by Aloe Blacc – Lollapalooza Recap Day 2

The sad truth about day two of Lollapalooza was the storm that evacuated the festival and closed it down for several crucial hours during the afternoon cancelling sets by Alabama Shakes and truncating sets by tUnE-yArDs and many others. Before the rain came, the day showed some promise including a terrific set by Aloe Blacc whose “Good Things” album has been a staple of my CD player for well over a year now. He debut some songs from his much anticipated second album and was a true showman with a great set of pipes and a horn soaked band to back him up. Otherwise, we saw parts of sets by rapper Chancellor Warhol and rock group Bear In Heaven whose pop tunes mixed with dance beats sounded pretty good. Then the evacuation came…then the rain came…and then we spent a few hours in the lobby of The Art Institute Of Chicago waiting for the festival to reopen. At that point, a judgment call needed to be made. I had originally planned this day to be a shorter day than the rest since the headliners of Red Hot Chili Peppers, Santigold (both of whom I’ve seen before) and Avicci didn’t really hold much sway. I kind of figured that the afternoon bands I had counted on seeing weren’t going to play afterall (partially true), so I decided to bag the rest of the festival for the day and come home. The festival did reopen at 6:00…so tomorrow’s another day…and Jack White is headlining…

Edited: August 4th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 8/4/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “War Pigs” by Black Sabbath – Lollapalooza Recap – Day 1

The Black Sabbath that headlined the first day of Lollapalooza wasn’t your grandparent’s Black Sabbath…well, actually ¾ of it was…and they had all of the power and command of the stage like it was 1971 all over again. Sabbath blew all of the other acts I saw out of the water today, and it was an unexpected pleasure to see these veterans do their thing especially Tony Iommi on guitar. Tonight’s lineup featured Ozzy Obourne, Tony Iommi , Geezer Butler on bass and the replacement drummer for Bill Ward who could not reach a suitable financial agreement to come aboard for this tour, Tommy Clufetos. The set consisted strictly of early Sabbath tracks like “Fairies Wear Boots,” “Sweet Leaf,” “Paranoid,” “Black Sabbath,” “Snowblind,” “Children Of The Grave” and this scorcher that was accompanied by some pretty gruesome war imagery on the screens behind them. Curiously, none of the Lollapalooza posters or t-shirts listed Black Sabbath on them…it’s as if they weren’t there at all, however, if you were in the vicinity of the “Bud Light” stage tonight, you couldn’t…and shouldn’t have missed them. Other top-notch acts today included the reformed Afghan Whigs featuring Greg Dulli on lead vocals, Texas psychedelic band “The Black Angels” and the somewhat experimental rock of “thenewno2” (aka The New Number Two) with Dhani Harrison (son of George) on guitar and vocals. We headed out over to “Perry’s Stage” for a spell to hear some choice EDM (electronic dance music), and it is at Perry’s Stage, named for Perry Farrell founder of Lollapalooza and Jane’s Addiction, where the most interesting music scene unfolds all day long with non-stop DJ sets and alluring light shows even during the middle of the afternoon. Onward to day two!

Edited: August 4th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 8/3/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Sweet Leaf” by Black Sabbath

OK, so I am a little more than intrigued about the prospect of seeing Black Sabbath at Lollapalooza tomorrow night. I was never a huge fan of the group, but I always loved this track and the Butthole Surfer’s song based on it called “Sweat Loaf.” Originally, it was to be the original lineup of Ozzy Osbourne, Geezer Butler, Tommy Iommi and Bill Ward as heard on this track from the “Masters Of Reality” album that were to appear on tour this summer and at Lollapalooza. But, right out of the gate infighting between the band and management over contracts resulted in Ward dropping out of the tour before it ever started. Nevertheless, I’ve never seen Ozzy…or Iommi…or Butler, so now’s the time to see the mighty Sabbath before it’s too late. In the heartbreaking world of “Sophie’s Choices” within festival schedule, I guess I’m just going to have to miss the set by The Black Keys who are playing at the same time as Sabbath.

Edited: August 2nd, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 8/2/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Just Like Me” by Paul Revere & The Raiders

Silly costumes aside, Paul Revere & The Raiders were responsible for some of the most infectious garage rock singles of the late 1960s and early ‘70s. They recorded “Louie Louie” in the same studio as the Kingsmen classic at around the same time, and were the first to record “(I’m Not Your) Stepping Stone” before The Monkees took it to the charts. They also promoted themselves on TV dressed in full Revolutionary War regalia to help sustain their popularity with appearances on Dick Clark’s Where The Action Is, Happening ’68, Happening, The Ed Sullivan Show and even an episode of Batman. In fact it was those silly costumes and wacky TV antics that somewhat obscured the great records they committed to wax and took to the upper regions of the charts including indelible singles like “Kicks,” “Him Or Me, What’s It Gonna Be,” “Hungry,” “Good Thing,” their sole number one hit which was actually a Mark Lindsay solo single “Indian Reservation (The Lament of the Cherokee Reservation Indian)” and this one from 1965.

Edited: August 1st, 2012