THEJESUSANDMARYCHAIN!

In a parallel rock ‘n’ roll universe somewhere, Phil Spector bursts into a recording studio brandishing a chainsaw, demands the knob-twiddling lackey on duty go to the nearest hardware store to snag twelve more, and eventually proceeds to replace his wall of guitars with a wall of switched-on chainsaws. Keeping the pop song, the singer, and a minimum of drums, he chops up the resulting sound into fourteen tracks, calls the band the Jesus and Mary Chain, and calls the album Psychocandy.

JAMC-Psychocandy (en.wikipedia.org)

Well that scenario never actually happened, but the band and the album did. In late 1985, Scottish brothers William and Jim Reid and their band the Jesus and Mary Chain let loose a storm of songs, many indebted to the 1960s Spector style and all buried up to their sonic necks in feedback and distortion. The gorgeous single “Just Like Honey” opens the album – in fine “Be My Baby” style – with the drum intro from that very song. The rest of Psychocandy set the tone for the burgeoning “shoegaze” genre that would pour out of the U.K. in the early ’90s.

JAMC_1 (ohmyrockness.com)

The band released five more albums and several compilations up until 1998, when – after numerous personnel changes, side projects, and, uh, disagreements, they called it quits. Then in the 2000s – like so many other old-but-suddenly-rejuvenated bands – the Jesus and Mary Chain reappeared, played a few festivals, put out a few greatest-hits box sets, and finally produced a new album, their first in nearly twenty years. Released in March 2017, Damage and Joy is their best in a long time, featuring piles of that wonderful JAMC catchiness/edginess, and showcased recently at the NYC stop of their current tour.

JAMC-Damage and Joy (en.wikipedia.org)

On November 17, 2017, the brothers Reid, along with current drummer Brian Young (formerly of NYC band Fountains of Wayne), bassist Mark Crozer (whose band Mark Crozer and The Rels opened the evening with an enjoyable set of Brit-rock), and guitarist Scott Von Ryper, pummeled an adoring audience at the PlayStation Theater with a blinding, colorful, strobe-driven light show and their trademark distortion-bathed pop-rock creations. In keeping with their earlier-days penchant for playing with their backs to the audience (often resulting in violence on the part of frustrated fans), the band members came off as unidentifiable, haze-engulfed silhouettes against the stage lights, which were trained more on the crowd than on the stage. Only singer Jim Reid appeared to have an actual face. Also in the background, the band’s name in ALLCAPSNOSPACES.

JAMC_4 (twitter.com)    JAMC_3 (njarts.net)
Jim Reid                                                                                        William Reid

Kicking off with Damage and Joy’s intense opener “Amputation,” the band propelled through greats like “Head On”* from 1989’s Automatic, “April Skies” from 1987’s Darklands, “Far Gone and Out” from 1992’s Honey’s Dead, plenty more from Damage and Joy like “Always Sad” (special guest vocalist Bernadette Denning), “Black and Blues” (special guest vocalist Skye Ferreira on the record but unfortunately not at the concert), and the scintillating “All Things Pass”* (no relation to George Harrison). Winding it all up, the frenzied 1992 single “Reverence.” A six-song encore including classics like “Just Like Honey,” “Cracking Up” from their 1998 album Munki, and the crowd-pleaser single “Sidewalking” sent the audience out into the night, ringing in their ears, spots before their eyes, and amazing songs reverberating in their reeling heads.

JAMC_5 (howweare.net; © Angela Datre)                                         l-r: Scott Von Ryper, Mark Crozer, Brian Young


images courtesy en.wikipedia.org, twitter.com, njarts.net, howweare.net/© Angela Datre

YouTube videos courtesy RHINO, The Jesus and Mary Chain Official, njarts.net/SHARKYS NIGHT, njarts.net/Michael Kirik, pojk_tant

* live videos from the Stone Pony in Asbury Park, 11/16/17 but pretty close to the NYC performances

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Brazil, Bossa Nova and Bill Evans

eliane-elias_Eliane-on-Piano (whatshouldwedo.com)

On November 4, 2017, Grammy-winning Brazilian pianist/vocalist Eliane Elias walks out onto Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Rose Hall stage wearing a striking sequined gown, all smiles and sexiness, settles onto her piano bench and – with Marc Johnson on bass and Joe Labarbera on drums – slinks into a gorgeous tribute to pianist Bill Evans. No singing just yet, only free-flowing jazz including a “finished” rendition of a work that Evans had begun just before his death in 1980, “Here’s Something for You,” beginning with film footage of Mr. Evans’ evolution of the piece and seamlessly segueing into Ms. Elias’ own performance.

eliane-elias-dance-of-time-cover (allmusic.com)  eliane-elias-plays-bill-evans-cover (amazon.com)  eliane-elias-made-in-brazil-cover (amazon.com)

After intermission the real party starts as Ms. Elias – now clad in a skintight, shoulderless black dress, crimson arm-warmers, and matching red pumps – starts the fire with the classic Ary Barroso composition “Brazil (Aquarela do Brasil)” (which I first came to know through the Ritchie Family’s disco version in 1975), followed by selections from her award-winning album Made in Brazil and her latest, Dance of Time. An exquisite Chet Baker number, “Embraceable You,” then up-and-jumping again with more Ary Barroso.

jobim-songbook-cd-cover (discogs.com)

Finally, a musical voyage through Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Desafinado,” the song that, as Eliane explains, brought bossa nova from Brazil to the States in 1959. And to me in 1995, via one of my first ever CD purchases, The Antonio Carlos Jobim Songbook, with its cool, colorful cover and jazz artists’ interpretations of numbers like – besides “Desafinado” – “Só Danço Samba,” “Wave,” “Agua de Beber,” and “Chega de Saudade.” Oh and the original hit that nuzzled its way out of radios tuned to the local “easy listening” station in 1964, “The Girl from Ipanema.” This evening Eliane Elias certainly embodies the smooth seduction of the vocalist on that one, Astrud Gilberto.

eliane_elias_marc_johnson (theiridium.com)

Joining Eliane on the second-set journey are guitarist Rubens de la Corte, drummer Rafael Barata, and, once again, bassist Marc Johnson – who treats the audience to an emotional and otherworldly moment when he switches from fingers to bow on his instrument. Mr. Johnson also played with Bill Evans from 1978 to 1980 – and is the husband of Ms. Elias.

Encore! But of course, as another extended Elias working of a Jobim standard, “Só Danço Samba,” pours forth and concludes one of the most beautiful Jazz at Lincoln Center shows ever. Viva Brazil!

brazil (monipag.com)

images courtesy whatshouldwedo.com, allmusic.com, amazon.com, discogs.com, theiridium.com, monipag.com

YouTube videos courtesy bluenotefrance, Concord Music, steve3ri, Urief Urief, Serdar Yasar, Jan Hammer, ru.vocal

A taste of fresh Beef

Beefheart-psychedelic (wprbhistory.org)

During my early rock ’n’ roll life the name Captain Beefheart pops up here and there, on posters in record departments, on track lists of sampler albums put out by the Warner/Reprise label. I probably hear a song or two on the radio without much care or concern. But it takes a few months living in a charmingly rundown tenement in the Little Italy section of the Bronx with my bandmate, Alter Boys vocalist/lyricist John C, to realize that Captain Beefheart (real name Don Van Vliet, or just “Beef” to John and me) is one of the greatest vocalists/lyricists/song stylists to ever grace God’s Golfball (a favorite Beefheart phrase for the Earth).

Beefheart-twocb-cover (garylucas.com)

Now, thirty-something years later (and nearly seven years since Van Vliet’s passing), a collection of his songs has emerged on Knitting Factory Records, piloted by one-time/some-time Beefheart guitarist Gary Lucas and featuring vocals by Beefheart fan Nona Hendryx of Labelle fame. Due out November 10, The World of Captain Beefheart is a long-overdue and stunning tribute. Lucas was a member of the Magic Band (Beefheart’s moniker for his constantly-changing army of backup musicians) on their last two albums, Doc at the Radar Station (1980) and Ice Cream for Crow (1982). He’s also led a free-jazz, Van Vliet-repertoire outfit called Fast ‘N Bulbous, named after a ridiculous recurring phrase on the album Trout Mask Replica. Diehard Beefheart fans will recognize his name – and all the song titles here. But to the person who’s never experienced the music of the Captain (or who just never cared much – like I’m sure would include me if I hadn’t crossed paths with John C back in the 1980s), it should prove a nice introduction to the Beefheart library – via the more accessible avenue of Hendryx’s deep soul singing (on par with Van Vliet’s own bluesy-tenor register) and the slightly more straightforwardly-pop production. But the heart – or the beef – is there every step of the way.

Beefheart-the-magic-band (blurtonline.com)                                                   The Magic Band in 1969

1972’s Clear Spot leads the pack here with four songs, including the first two, “Sun Zoom Spark” and “My Head Is My Only House Unless It Rains.” Up next are a couple from Beefheart’s first album, Safe as Milk, released in 1967 – with the down-home blues of “Sure ‘Nuff ‘n Yes I Do” and the decidedly-un-Beef-like ballad “I’m Glad” lending themselves perfectly to Nona’s soulful vocals. The early-70s works Lick My Decals Off, Baby and The Spotlight Kid are represented with one track each (“The Smithsonian Institute Blues (or the Big Dig)” and “When It Blows Its Stacks”), and 1978’s Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller) provides the instrumental “Suction Prints” as well as the funky closer, “Tropical Hot Dog Night.” Of course no Beefheart collection would be complete without something from 1969’s epic Trout Mask Replica. Here we get two – both from that album’s third side – “Sugar ‘n Spikes” and “When Big Joan Sets Up” (“Big Joan”’s problem being her “hands are too small” – hmm, sounds like someone else we know). And tempering the characteristic Beefheart musical anarchy are “Her Eyes Are A Blue Million Miles” and “Too Much Time,” both from Clear Spot and showcasing the Captain’s poppier side. “Too Much Time,” in particular, is another one that seems tailor-made for Ms. Hendryx.

Beefheart-Safe_as_Milk (en.wikipedia.org)    Beefheart-Trout_Mask_Replica (en.wikipedia.org)    Beefheart-Clear_Spot (en.wikipedia.org)

Joining Lucas and Hendryx on this disc are Fast ‘N Bulbous members Jesse Krakow on bass and Richard Dworkin on drums, as well as keyboardist Jordan Shapiro of Gods and Monsters, another Gary Lucas project.

Mr. Van Vliet’s clever, surreal poetry, Howlin’ Wolf-style singing, and blues-rooted avant-garde, often cacophonous music occupy a somewhat dark and unexplored corner in rock ‘n’ roll. Nona Hendryx and Gary Lucas lead us bravely into that corner, wax-encrusted candelabra in hand (hey, it was Halloween last week), with The World of Captain Beefheart. And catch ‘em live in NYC at City Winery January 22!

Beefheart-shadows (bobdylanencyclopedia.blogspot.com)

 

images courtesy wpbrhistory.org, garylucas.com, blurtonline.com, en.wikipedia.org, bobdylanencyclopedia.blogspot.com