Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues from Tour 66

The next song from my archives is Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues from Dylan's World Tour 66. Recorded in Liverpool on May 14, 1966, it was the b-side of the single release of I Want You.

For most Dylan fans, this song was the first hint of the power and the magic of the music from the 66 Tour. Released long before any bootleg, it is a recording filled with the sound of Bob and the band that shocked the audiences across the world in 1966. From all accounts, these shows were so loud that many in the audience were freaked out.

Well before I knew anything about this tour, I was blown away by the sound of Bob playing this song live. Once I got this 45, I played it to death. Listen to the desperation in Bob's voice and the playing of the band as he barks out the famous line in the last verse: I started out on Burgundy, but soon hit the harder stuffffffffff:

Always one of my favorites from Highway 61 Revisited, this song features Dylan's surreal lyrics at their best. The story of Dylan's characters in Juarez, Mexico is told backed by the excellent playing of the band. This version reveals the power and weariness of that tour.

This particular track was taken from the essential box set of the tour called Genuine Live 66. If you like the music from this part of Bob's amazing career, you should own a copy. It is often available on eBay under the Bob Dylan listings.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Songs from my archives: My Babe by Little Walter

This post is the start of a weekly series on songs from my archives. I plan to feature music and artists you may not be familiar with. I hope you like what you hear.

The first song is classic Chicago blues from the great Little Walter. My Babe was written by Willie Dixon for Walter in 1955. Recorded with Robert Lockwood, Jr (guitar), Willie Dixon (bass), and Fred Bellow (drums), it features Walter's killer harp and vocals. This version went to number 1 on the R and B charts in March 0f 1955. It was later covered by Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, The Animals, and many others.

Little Walter is considered by blues fans to be one of the best players ever to pick up a harmonica. His unique style and tone came from playing through a microphone and amplifier. He was one of the first to distort his sound in this way. Besides his own records, he can be heard on many of the Chess records of that era.

If you like what you hear, there are several Little Walter collections available. The Best of Little Walter and Little Walter: The Chess 50th Anniversary Collection are on iTunes or Amazon.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Guitar Whispering: Robert Earl Keen

I really enjoyed this article from The New Yorker about Robert Earl Keen. It is well written and really captures Robert's personality and sly wit. I am happy that the new album, The Rose Hotel, has been very well received by critics and fans. It is nice to see Robert getting the kind of recognition he deserves.

Robert has been busy the last two months. After attending the Malta bird hunt and reverse wine tasting with notables such as Tequila Bob and Perry S., he went out on tour with Todd Snider and Bruce Robison. The tour was a departure for Robert. He left the band at home to play solo with these two great songwriters. It was REK unplugged, if you will.

Although I didn't see the show myself, I have gotten several reports. Tony from Freer said the show in Wilmington was excellent. He did wonder why there wasn't a 4th stool on the stage. Wait for the show in Hebbronville, Bump. Scott F*g*n was in the audience at Town Hall in New York with some friends. He said: "The show was good."

After that show, Robert and the band were on Imus in the Morning. They played three songs including The Man Behind the Drums. The music sounded great and Imus was quite enthusiastic.

If you don't own The Rose Hotel, you need to pick it up. It is available on iTunes and from Amazon.

Bob Dylan at Bonnaroo 2004

I have been flying around a lot in the last few weeks. This has given me a chance to listen to my iPod rather than my satellite radio. I rediscovered this classic bootleg from Bob's performance at the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival on July 11, 2004. I got these tracks a while back from BobCat Numero Uno, who is the king of the bootlegs. Thanks for the loan.

The show had a great set list and the recording has good sound for a bootleg. Larry Campbell was still in the band. He does a great job on guitar, particularly the pedal steel on Pancho and Lefty

Bob did two great covers as part of his set. First up was Merle Haggard's Sing Me Back Home, which has always been one of my favorite Haggard songs. Next, Bob took on the classic Townes Van Zandt song that Merle and Willie made famous: Pancho and Lefty.

There has always been a connection in my mind between Bob and Merle. This may be because they are two of the best songwriters touring today or it may be because I have seen Merle open for Bob on two occasions (see my post from Feb 2, 2009). Have a listen to these two tunes:

I was also blown away by this song from the 1997 Grammy winning album Time Out of Mind. This is my favorite song from the album and one that Bob doesn't play live very often. I have never been lucky enough to hear it live. Have a listen:

Much has been made of Bob's reduced singing capabilities. On this song, he sounds better than usual. Of course, I am a fan regardless of his singing. It is just good to have him still out there on the Never Ending Tour.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Phillies Baseball, Dock Ellis and LSD

Although the Yankees have been raining on our parade the last few nights, this lifelong Phillies fan is still very excited about the World Series. It is great to have the Phillies back in the Series after winning it all last year.

All Philadelphia sports fans can be described as long suffering and I can testify to that pain. At the tender age of 12 years old in 1964, I was in 6th grade when the Gene Mauch coached team blew a 6 1/2 game lead with 12 games to go and lost NL pennant on the last day of the season. You talk about painful. At the time, I thought my young life was over.

I still can remember listening on my AM radio to the game that began the slump of all slumps. We were playing the Cincinnati Reds when Chico Ruiz stole home in a 1-0 loss. It was the beginning of the end.

Years later after the Phillies had won the World Series 1980, I ran into Mike Schmidt at a golf event. In front of my good friend George Smith, I launched into a long story to Mike about how the '64 collapse had scared my childhood, but he and the 1980 team had made it up to me. Mike looked a little surprised by all this and afterward all F**ty could say to me was: "What the hell was that all about?"

Until I head the song about Dock Ellis on the latest Todd Snider album, I had forgotten about Dock's amazing feat. On June 12, 1970, thinking that he had the night off, Dock Ellis arrived at the ballpark under the influence of LSD. Much to his surprise, he was actually the starting pitcher. He then proceeded to throw a no-hitter against the San Diego Padres.

As Dock later recounted the night, he wrote:

"I can only remember bits and pieces of the game. I was psyched. I had a feeling of euphoria. I started having a crazy idea in the fourth inning that Richard Nixon was the home plate umpire, and once I thought I was pitching a baseball to Jimi Hendrix, who to me was holding a guitar and swinging it over the plate."

Have a listen to this great song by Todd Snider:
America's Favorite Pastime