Archive for August, 2012

There is a local musician here in Columbus named Willie Phoenix that I swear is the second coming of Jimi Hendrix.  I’m sure that statement is blasphemy to true Hendrix fans, but Hendrix died six years before I was born and Willie is the best I have ever seen.  That’s right: the absolute best guitar player I have ever seen.  Willie is somewhat of a local legend.  Apparently he had a shot on a major label at one point, but despite his amazing talent, it didn’t work out for him.  Like Hendrix, he plays a right handed guitar upside down and backwards, and every time I have seen him live, he has killed it.  And he also helped my favorite local band, Watershed, by producing their demo back when they were a struggling college band in the early nineties.

I don’t mean for this entire blog to be about Willie Phoenix and not Jimi Hendrix…I guess I’m just lucky to have a musician in my city that can even come close to evoking the greatness that was Jimi Hendrix in the late sixties.  You see, I am actually not that “experienced” when it comes to the music of Jimi Hendrix.  I’m sure other people from my generation can relate to the fact that my first conscious memory of a Hendrix song was watching Garth schwing across a diner to “Foxey Lady” in Wayne’s World.  A couple years after that infamous scene, I was in Record Den (Record Den is a store in Mentor.  It used to be in the Great Lakes Mall and now it is on Mentor Avenue.  It was our hub for Pearl Jam and Nirvana bootlegs back in the day. I stopped in there two weeks ago, and it is still an awesome store. There also used to be one in the Millcreek Mall in Erie, PA, but I don’t know if it still there.), and Lightning 101 convinced me to buy a bootleg called “The Jimi Hendrix Anthology”.  I still have it…the song selection is pretty good, but like most bootlegs, the sound quality is pretty lacking.  Other than “May This Be Love” appearing somewhat randomly alongside several early 90’s Seattle bands on the Singles soundtrack (best. soundtrack. ever.), that pretty much sums up my Jimi Hendrix “experience” until now.

So listening to this album, I was struck by how expressively Hendrix played guitar.  Hearing other people talk about Hendrix, I had always just assumed he was simply regarded as a guitar virtuoso.  And while his playing certainly shows signs of virtuosity, it was the expressive qualities of his playing that really drew me into the songs.  The eternal debate in music circles has always been over which is more important: virtuosity or expressiveness, and I have always leaned heavily towards the side of expression.  In fact, many of the great guitar “gods” like Yngwie Malmsteen or Eddie Van Halen have never really done much for me, and I have always perferred guitarists like Slash or Eric Clapton that play very lyrically.  But Hendrix manages to mix both experimental technique with some very moving lyrical passages, which I guess is probably one of the reasons that so many people consider him to be the greatest of all time.

I picked this album up for $8.95 on Amazon.  The seller emailed me to tell me that the CD was meticulously cared for and was from his personal collection.  So if you are out there reading this Newpromo, be assured your CD found a safe home 🙂

Other lists: “Purple Haze” is #17, “Foxey Lady” is “153, “Hey Joe” is #201, and “The Wind Cries Mary” is #379 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.  Hendrix is listed as #6 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 Greatest Artists, and oh yeah, he is #1 on the list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists.

My favorite track: “May This Be Love”

Honorable mention: “The Wind Cries Mary” (although the bonus tracks are pretty great too, especially “Red House”)

Quote: “Is it tomorrow, or just the end of time?”


“Am I the only one who remembers that summer?” — Layne Staley

Ah, the summer of 1995!  Despite my best efforts to find gainful employment outside the fast food industry, I was again a slave of the Evil Empire (who knew landscaping was so hard?).  And of course, that meant many long afternoons and even longer nights at the Great Ranch in Trumbull Township.  About this time, Lightning 101 had agreed to paint a mural of the cover of “Abbey Road” on the side of the Whiskey Saint’s barn.  I remember several summer afternoons spent playing hacky sack (badly) on the lawn with Lord Bacchus and Black Cloud (Black Cloud deservedly took a few hacks to the sack) while Lightning painted.  Actually, it was during one of those summer afternoons that the Whiskey Saint talked me into buying a car stereo for the Blue Lagoon, my beloved (and later despised, then beloved again) Pontiac Grand Am.  His advice (“Some purchases you will never regret”) led me to have my infamous talking CD player (“Hello–CD–play”) installed at the Sun Electronics in Mentor.  That CD player (sadly stolen in 1999 while I was eating at the Spaghetti Warehouse in Columbus), combined with my AC Delco 6X9 rear speakers, cranked some serious sound throughout northeast Ohio that summer 🙂

Anyhow, I’ve always loved “Abbey Road” ever since that summer.  My favorite Beatles album, it just has a certain vibe to it that brings back so many great memories.  Every time summer rolls around (the best time of year for a teacher), I find myself sitting outside on my back patio, sipping a tasty beverage and listening to “Abbey Road”.  It never fails to put me in a good mood.  Like most Beatles albums, the first side runs the stylistic gamut from ballads (“Something”) to whimsy (“Octopus’s Garden”) to twisted whimsy (“Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”) to blues rock (“Oh! Darling”) to heavy blues rock (“I Want You”).  Throw in the funk groove of “Come Together” and you have quite the musical smorgasbord.  But to me, it is the medley on Side B that really takes the album to a whole new level.  At times sentimental (Paulie’s songs) and at other times scathing (Lennon’s contributions), to me the medley is sixteen minutes of musical bliss.  And the 3-part vocal harmonies throughout rival (and possibly exceed) those of the Beach Boys.

Somehow I can’t remember exactly how I came to be in possession of “Abbey Road”.  There are no clues on the case like a price sticker or a label, so I think I bought the CD new.  Actually, it appears to be new, despite surviving several moves and many years of play, and if I did buy it new, its likely I bought it at Media Play.  Now defunct, Media Play had several stores in Columbus, and in college I used to frequent the one on Sawmill Road (post-college, the one on Hamilton Road became a frequent stop on my way to church choir).  Much like any major chain book or record store, you never wanted to buy anything at Media Play for full price because their prices were way higher than the local shops and the discount stores.  But when Media Play had a sale, you could get brand new CDs (and later DVDs) for as cheap as $5.  So yeah, my guess is I got it at Media Play, but I might be completely wrong on that.

Lightning's Mural

Lightning’s Mural

Other lists: “Come Together” is #204 and “Something” is #278 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.  The following songs appear on the RS list of the 100 Greatest Beatles Songs: #6 “Something”, #9 “Come Together”, #23 “Abbey Road Medley”, #28 “Here Comes the Sun”, #58 “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)”, #67 “Oh! Darling”, and #77 “Because”.

My favourite track(s): “Abbey Road Medley”

Honourable mention: “Oh! Darling”

Quote: “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make”

There is a saying, often attributed to either Brian Eno or Peter Buck, that “the first Velvet Underground album only sold 10,000 copies, but everyone who bought it formed a band”.  After listening to this album for the first time a few weeks ago, I can now see how it influenced so many bands that came after in many different genres (is this the first alternative rock album?).  To me, it sounds like a very New York version of the Doors (“The End” would fit right in on this album), and it is very raw and edgy.  At times, like on “Venus in Furs”, the instruments go completely out of tune, but the band keeps playing through it like a bar band would at two in the morning.

My only issue with this album is Nico.  Far be it for me to disagree with the brilliance of Andy Warhol (who forced the band to add her in for this record), but she sounds like a German baritone with emphysema, which is not exactly the sound I expect from a “chanteuse” as she is billed in the credits.  At least she only sings three songs, and the band fired her and Andy Warhol shortly after this album was released.  Oh, and btw, good job Andy of putting your name on the cover instead of the name of your band.

I couldn’t find this album used anywhere, so I bought it new on Amazon for $5.67.  Before listening to it, the only song I knew from it was “Heroin”, as that had been featured in the Oliver Stone movie “The Doors” back while I was in high school.  Despite my disdain for Nico, Lou Reed is pretty amazing on this album, and the band does artistic justice to all of his lyrics.

Other lists: “I’m Waiting for the Man” is #161 and “Heroin” is #455 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.  The Velvet Underground is #19 on the list of the 100 Greatest Artists.  Lou Reed is #62 on the list of the 100 Greatest Singers (Nico appears to have been left off the list) and #81 on the list of the 100 Greatest Singers.

My favorite track: “Venus in Furs”

Honorable mention: “Heroin”

Quote: “I don’t know just where I’m going, but I’m gonna try for the kingdom, if I can.”

I am certainly not qualified to be a critic of jazz music.  I played saxophone in my high school jazz band for two years, but it definitely was not one of my musical strengths.  I could play the written notes just fine, but I was never very good at improvisation, which is an absolutely critical part of jazz music.  To improvise well in jazz music, you need to be able to spell chords quickly, you need to be able to anticipate the chord changes, and oh yeah, you need to be able to feel the solo with all of your heart and soul.  It is that last piece that makes jazz music so expressive, but without the first two pieces, you will never be able to get to that point.

Anyway, even though I don’t have a pedigree in jazz music, I can still appreciate how talented the musicians are that made this album.  Every song was almost entirely improvised, and most were done in one take.  Miles Davis had a few simple sketches of the rhythmic and modal structure of the songs which he showed to the other musicians when they arrived in the studio.  Personally, I am in awe of the level of musicianship that is required to do something like that and have it turn out this good!  Another thing that strikes me about this album is that there is very little harmony: it is almost all melody and rhythm.  And the rhythm section never interferes with the beauty of the melodies created by the musicians all taking turns soloing.

I passed on this when I saw it at Used Kids for $7 because it wasn’t the edition I wanted (a quirk of the recording equipment makes the first three songs sound sharp on earlier editions), but I jumped on it when I saw the edition I wanted at The Exchange in Willoughby for $6 (and then a couple days later I saw it for $3 at the Buybacks on Hamiton Road…oh well).  For the record, The Exchange is my favorite used music store in the Cleveland area.  They always have tons of music in stock, and although it tends to be a little less eclectic than Used Kids, their prices are usually comparable.

Other lists: The songs on this album make no other appearance on any Rolling Stone lists.  Surprisingly, Miles Davis does not either, even though he is widely regarded as one of the all time greatest jazz musicians, as is John Coltrane, who plays tenor sax on this album.  I guess Rolling Stone is more comfortable sticking to rock and R&B music 😛

My favorite track: “Flamenco Sketches”

Honorable mention: “Blue in Green”