Friday, August 23, 2019

Jeff Buckley - Grace

In memory of Jeff Buckley (November 17, 1966–May 29, 1997) on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the release of his Columbia Records album Grace on August 23, 1994.

"Hallelujah" (Official Video)


"Lover, You Should've Come Over"
Recorded live at the Middle East Club in Cambridge, Massachusetts, 
February 19, 1994



Grace






Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Now Reading: The Vinyl Detective: Written in Dead Wax by Andrew Cartmel

Vinyl Detective 1This is the first mystery I've read in a very long time, and especially one that kept me reading, page after page, wanting to learn what happens next.

The Vinyl Detective: Written in Dead Wax by Andrew Cartmel (Titan Books, 2016) is the first volume in an ongoing series that currently numbers four -- and I already have book number 2 on order.

Recently, I seem to be selecting books to read that have received a starred review in Kirkus. Those familiar with Kirkus know that even being reviewed by this publication is indeed rare; receiving a starred review nearly requires cosmic intervention.

For those not of the vinyl record persuasion, the "dead wax" of the title refers to the area on a record between the end of the last track and the label. Typically "matrix" information is provided in this runout area, sometimes stamped, sometimes etched, occasionally both: alphanumeric information that pertains to that pressing of the record. Often the only way to tell a first pressing of an album from a reissue is by the matrix runout information.

I was relating some of the story to my wife and I couldn't remember the protagonist's name -- the Vinyl Detective of the title -- so I picked up the book and leafed through what I had read at that point, and realized that his name is never given! Even when he meets up with friends or talks to friends on the phone, no one addresses him by name. He picks up a nickname or two along the way, but we never learn his real name. That I found quite intriguing. I'll have to see if Cartmel's "no name" quirk continues into the next volume.

As to the story: years ago, our protagonist, a rather unassuming record-collecting geek, had handed out business cards at record stores, pubs, and dj gigs. The business card simply read "Vinyl Detective" below his name and address. So much time had passed that he actually forgot about those business cards. Now, years later, one of those cards results in a knock at his door -- and an offer to hire him to track down an extremely rare jazz album from the 1950s, of which only a few hundred were pressed at the time.

This album, as it turns out, is one of fourteen different titles that the record label produced during the course of only one year, before the owner of the label committed suicide and the label ceased production.

Of course, beatings, murders, and mayhem ensue -- this is a mystery, as I said. But, as the subtitle suggests, the secret to the mystery is written in the dead wax -- and to learn that secret, our Vinyl Detective must actually track down all fourteen of those albums.

"An irresistible blend of murder, mystery and music... our protagonist seeks to find the rarest of records – and incidentally solve a murder, right a great historical injustice and, if he's very lucky, avoid dying in the process."
—Ben Aaronovitch, bestselling author of Rivers of London

"Crime fiction as it should be, played loud through a valve amp and Quad speakers. No digital writing here, it's warm and rich. Every delicate pop and crackle adding character and flavour. Witty, charming and filled with exciting solos. Quite simply: groovy."
—Guy Adams, critically acclaimed author of The Clown Service

"The Vinyl Detective is one of the sharpest and most original characters I've seen for a long time."
—David Quantick, Emmy Award-winning producer of VEEP

I haven't had this much fun reading a mystery novel in a long time.

You can find The Vinyl Detective at your book store of choice or via Amazon.com.



Sunday, August 11, 2019

The Final Excerpt: Chapter 22: The Universal Tone by Carlos Santana

Santana - The Universal ToneI have to hope I'm not dulling the senses with all these excerpts from Carlos Santana's autobiography, The Universal Tone: Bringing My Story To Light.

Chapter 22 deals with the making of the album Supernatural. Unfortunately the pages are too numerous to excerpt, so if you've read -- and enjoyed -- the excerpts I've posted so far, then please do snag the book for yourself. You won't be disappointed....

At this point in Santana's career, he and the band were still under contract to Island Records, with two albums remaining on that contract. Carlos met with Chris Blackwell, of Island Records, for lunch and simply asked him to release him from his contract. Carlos felt something special was brewing, and Island Records was not the label to be with. Much to Carlos's surprise, Chris agreed, and with no strings attached. (Chris could have made Carlos pay for the remaining two albums, he could have asked that Carlos's next label buy out the contract, etc. but he didn't -- he simply let Carlos go.)

This allowed Carlos and Santana to team up again with Clive Davis, now with Arista Records. Clive was formerly the head of CBS (Columbia Records) in 1968, and he was instrumental in the production of the first Santana album. Clive put together the entire Supernatural album, bringing together all the singers and musicians who performed with Santana on that album. Clive Davis wanted to put Santana back on the radio!

Excerpt from Chapter 22:
It's really hard to describe how it feels when something [Supernatural] hits that big, all around the world, and you're in the middle of it. It's like being that cork floating on a big ocean wave—how much am I controlling, and how much is controlling me? Every day the ego games have to be checked, and you have to find your balance again.
In February of 2000, Clive told me that Supernatural had been nominated for ten Grammy Awards. Deborah started calling me a new name even before we got to the show. "So, Mr. Grammy, how many do you think you'll win?" The kids were like, "Yeah, Dad, how many?" I was feeling that I'd be lucky and happy with one. That's why, when I won the first one during the event that takes place in the afternoon, I thanked everyone I could— Clive, Deborah, my father and mother and the kids. When I won the next one, I was thanking my siblings and the musicians and songwriters. By the time of the evening event, which was on TV, I felt like one of those dogs playing fetch with a Frisbee, and it became something to laugh about: winners in other categories, such as classical music and country, started thanking me for not doing an album in their genres.
The whole thing was a blur, really. The two things that I was most proud of were playing "Smooth" onstage, with Rob Thomas singing and Rodney Holmes [the drummer] bringing everything he had. I hit that first note, and everyone in the whole place jumped to their feet. My other favorite moment was when Lauryn Hill and my old friend Bob Dylan presented the Album of the Year award—that was the eighth and last Grammy that Supernatural won. They opened the envelope, and all Bob did was point to me—no words. I got up to accept it, and suddenly it was clear what I had to say.
"Music is the vehicle for the magic of healing, and the music of Supernatural was assigned and designed to bring unity and harmony." I thanked the two personal pillars who first came to mind: John Coltrane and John Lee Hooker.




The Universal Tone: Bringing My Story to Light is available from your bookstore of choice as well as Amazon.com.


Friday, August 9, 2019

Chapter 20 Excerpt: The Universal Tone by Carlos Santana

Santana - The Universal ToneIf you haven't been keeping up on my blog post excerpts from Carlos Santana's autobiography, The Universal Tone: Bringing My Story To Light, then here's a few significant points about the book:

The book was published in 2014 by Little, Brown and Company. NPR (National Public Radio) named The Universal Tone one of its Best Books of 2014. It received a starred review in Kirkus (and anyone who knows Kirkus, knows that it's nearly impossible to even get reviewed by Kirkus!). And the book went on to win the American Book Award in 2015.


So, why aren't you reading this book already?

From Chapter 20:
In a funny way, my life has always been local—everything that happens comes from where I am. John Lee Hooker was living in the [San Francisco] Bay Area at this time. He was the Dalai Lama of boogie. Shoot, he should have been the pope of boogie as far as I'm concerned. We got to know each other. A lot of times we'd be playing, and he'd say, "Carlos, let's take it to the street," and I'd say, "No, John, let's take it to the back alley," and he'd say, "Why stop there? Let's go to the swamp." I miss him so much.
A John Lee boogie pulls people in as strongly as gravity holds them to this planet. He is the sound of deepness in the blues—his influence permeates everything. You can hear him in Jimi Hendrix's "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)" or in Canned Heat's boogies. That's nothing but John Lee Hooker. When you hear the Doors, that's a combination of John Lee and John Coltrane. That's what they do; that's the music they love.
...
In '89 John Lee was local to the Bay Area. He was living not far from me, in San Carlos, which is near Palo Alto. We met a few times and talked, and at some point he actually invited me to his house for his birthday, which was the first time I really hung out with him. I brought a beautiful guitar to give him.
When I walked in, I saw that everyone was watching the Dodgers on TV, because that's John Lee's favorite team. He was eating fried chicken and Junior Mints. No kidding—Junior Mints. He had two women on the left and two on the right, and they were putting the mints into his hands, which were softer than an old sofa. I stepped up and said, "Hi, John. Happy birthday, man. I brought you this guitar, and I wrote a song for you."
"Oh, yeah?"
"It sounds like the Doors doing blues, but I took it back from them and I'm returning it to you and I'm calling it 'The Healer.'
John Lee chuckled. He had a slight stutter that was very endearing. "L-L-Let me hear it."
I started playing, and I made it up right on the spot—I knew how he did the blues, how he played and sang. "Blues a healer all over the world..." He took the song, and when he recorded it, he added to it in his own way. I said, "Okay, we've got to go to the studio with this, but I just want you to come at one or two tomorrow afternoon, because I don't want you to be there all day, man. I just want you to come in and just lay it. I'm going to work with the engineer—get the microphones ready, get the band to the right tempo. You just show up."
"Okay, C-C-Carlos."
When John Lee showed up we were ready. I got the band warmed up—Chepito, Ndugu, CT, and Armando—no bass, because Alphonso didn't make that gig. John Lee and Armando were checking each other out like two dogs slowly circling each other—they were the two senior guys there, and you could really tell that Armando needed to know who this new older guy was. He was looking at him slowly, all the way from his feet up to his hat. Just sizing him up. John Lee knew it, but he just sat there, tuning his guitar, chuckling to himself.
Armando threw down the first card. "Hey, man, you ever heard of the Rhumboogie?" He was talking about one of the old, old clubs on the black music circuit in Chicago, opened by the boxer Joe Louis back before I was even born. John Lee said, "Yeah, m-m-man. I heard of the Rhumboogie." Armando had his hands on his waist like, "I got you now." He said, "Well, I played there with Slim Gaillard."
"Yeah? I opened up there for D-D-Duke Ellington."
I saw what was going on and stepped in. "Armando, this is Mr. John Lee Hooker. Mr. Hooker, Mr. Armando Peraza."
We did "The Healer" in one take, and the engineer said, "Want to try it again?"
John Lee shook his head. "What for?"
I thought about it and said, "Would you mind going back in the booth, and when I point at you, would you be so gracious as to give us your signature—those mmm, mmm's?" John Lee chuckled again. "Yeah, I can do that." I said okay. That was the only thing he overdubbed that day—"Mmm, mmm, mmm."
"The Healer" helped bring John Lee back for his last ten years. He had a bestselling album and a music video—everything he deserved. We started to hang out more and play together. I would see him in concert, too. He had a keyboard player for many years—Deacon Jones—who used to get up onstage and say, "Hey! You people in the front—you might need to get back a little bit, because the grease up here is hot. John Lee's about to come out!" I have so many stories like that as well as stories about John Lee calling me—sometimes during the day, but, like Miles [Davis] did, mostly late at night.
I remember John Lee opening for Santana in Concord, California, and we had finished our sound check and he'd been waiting for me on the side of the stage. We were done, and he started talking to me while we walked away. The soundman came running up. "Mr. Hooker, we need you to do a sound check, too."
"I don't need no sound check."
"But we have to find out how you sound."
John Lee kept walking. "I already know what I sound like." End of discussion.


"The Healer," John Lee Hooker, featuring Carlos Santana:




Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Chapter 19 Excerpt from: The Universal Tone by Carlos Santana

Santana - The Universal ToneI've been gracing this blog with excerpts from Carlos Santana's autobiography, The Universal Tone: Bringing My Story To Light, published in 2015 by Little, Brown and Company. There is so much rich material in this book that I'm actually having difficulty deciding what to post since I don't want the publisher (or Carlos himself) chastising me for quoting too much material! But if you enjoy the music of Santana, if you enjoy autobiographies, if you enjoy reading about a person's spiritual journey, then this is the book for you.

From Chapter 19:
In 1987, when Sal [Salvador, Carlos's son] was just four, I was jamming in the studio with CT [Chester Thompson, keyboard player] when one of those magic moments happened. But the engineers were still messing with calibrating something, and we wanted to record what we were doing right then. "Hit RECORD right now! Get this on tape, man — I don't care how you do it" So we got it on a two-track reel-to-reel — one track for CT, one for me. Just as I played the last note and it faded, the tape ran out — flub, flub, flub. Years later I found out that one of Stevie Ray Vaughan's blues was recorded exactly the same way — suddenly, on the spot, on a two-track reel-to-reel. And just as he played the last lick, the same thing happened — the tape ran out. The really weird thing? It was the same engineer both times — Jim Gaines.
I have to say a word about Jim and the other engineers Santana has been blessed to have in the studio and sometimes on the road. Fred Catero, Glen Kolotkin, Dave Rubinson, Jim Reitzel — they've all been instrumental in our success through the years, and I feel they all need to be honored. Jim Gaines worked with so many great artists, from Tower of Power to Steve Miller to Stevie Ray Vaughan, before he came to us. He brought a really earthy quality to the sound and did what he did without any ego — he was a pleasure to work with. He was with Santana just as things were going from analog to digital, so he helped with that transition and was as great with the computer as he was with the knobs. Recording technology was up to thirty-six tracks at that time, before Pro Tools came around, but he was really patient and knew what to say and when to say it in a very gentle way that would help make the music a lot more flowing.
After that jam with CT in '87, Jim gave me a cassette of it, and I left it in the car. The next day Deborah [Carlos's wife at that time] went shopping in that car, and when she came back she asked me, "Why don't you play like that?" There was that question again, the one she asked after the Amnesty International concert — sometimes she'd say that and I'd have to think, "What does she mean?" Before I said anything she was already asking me the name of the song on the cassette.
"What song?"
"You know, that song you played with CT. I heard it and couldn't drive. I had to pull over."
I decided to call it "Blues for Salvador," not only for Sal but also because San Salvador was going through some hard times then, with an earthquake and a civil war. That song inspired my last solo album as Carlos Santana. I love it because it has Tony Williams on it, and more of Buddy Miles's singing, and that band — CT, Alphonso, Graham, Raul, Armando, and the rest. I dedicated the album to Deborah, and the song "Bella," for Stella [Carlos's oldest daughter], is on there, too.
"Blues for Salvador" won a Grammy as the year's best rock instrumental performance — the first Santana Grammy, but not the last.

Please feel free to scroll back through my blog posts for previous excerpts....