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December 20thwill see the release of a 6 CD box set of Frank Zappa‚Äôs ‚ÄėHot Rats‚Äô to mark the ¬†50th anniversary of the release of perhaps Zappa‚Äôs best known album.
The Hot Rats Sessions, compiles every composition recorded during the July 1969 studio sessions, including an ‚Äúabundance of rare and unedited mixes, work mixes, relevant Vault nuggets and complete basic tracks mixed from the original multi-track master tapes,‚ÄĚ according to a release.
The first four discs include the studio sessions, showcasing the creative process behind¬†Hot Rats tracks like ‚ÄúPeaches En Regalia,‚ÄĚ ‚ÄúIt Must Be A Camel‚ÄĚ and the Captain Beefheart-featuring ‚ÄúWillie The Pimp,‚ÄĚ plus non-LP songs like ‚ÄúTransition‚ÄĚ and ‚ÄúNatasha.‚ÄĚ
The Hot Rats Sessions¬†also comes with a 28-page book featuring never-before-seen photographs from both the recording sessions and the¬†Hot Rats¬†album cover shoot; an alternate image from the cover shoot appears on the reissue.¬†The Simpsons‚Äė Matt Groening also contributes a written tribute to¬†Hot Rats, an album he says ‚Äúspun me around like a propeller beanie,¬†and melted my brain.‚ÄĚ
Additionally, the original¬†Hot Rats¬†album will also be available as a single-LP reissue pressed on translucent hot pink 180-gram vinyl on December 20th, one day before what would have been Zappa‚Äôs 79th birthday.
¬†The Hot Rats Sessions¬†Track List
1. Piano Music (Section 1)
2. Piano Music (Section 3)
3. Peaches En Regalia (Prototype)
4. Peaches En Regalia (Section 1, In Session)
5. Peaches En Regalia (Section 1, Master Take)
6. Peaches Jam ‚Äď Part 1
7. Peaches Jam ‚Äď Part 2
8. Peaches En Regalia (Section 3, In Session)
9. Peaches En Regalia (Section 3, Master Take)
10. Arabesque (In Session)
11. Arabesque (Master Take)
12. Dame Margret‚Äôs Son To Be A Bride (In Session)
1. It Must Be A Camel (Part 1, In Session)
2. It Must Be a Camel (Part 1, Master Take)
3. It Must Be a Camel (Intercut, In Session)
4. It Must Be a Camel (Intercut, Master Take)
5. Natasha (In Session)
6. Natasha (Master Take)
7. Bognor Regis (Unedited Master)
8. Willie The Pimp (In Session)
9. Willie The Pimp (Unedited Master Take)
10. Willie The Pimp (Guitar OD 1)
11. Willie The Pimp (Guitar OD 2)
1. Transition (Section 1, In Session)
2. Transition (Section 1, Master Take)
3. Transition (Section 2, Intercut, In Session)
4. Transition (Section 2, Intercut, Master Take)
5. Transition (Section 3, Intercut, In Session)
6. Transition (Section 3, Intercut, Master Take)
7. Lil‚Äô Clanton Shuffle (Unedited Master)
8. Directly From My Heart To You (Unedited Master)
9. Another Waltz (Unedited Master)
1. Dame Margret‚Äôs Son To Be A Bride (Remake)
2. Son Of Mr. Green Genes (Take 1)
3. Son Of Mr. Green Genes (Master Take)
4. Big Legs (Unedited Master Take)
5. It Must Be a Camel (Percussion Tracks)
6. Arabesque (Guitar OD Mix)
7. Transition (Full Version)
8. Piano Music (Section 3, OD Version)
1. Peaches En Regalia (1987 Digital Re-Mix)
2. Willie The Pimp (1987 Digital Re-Mix)
3. Son Of Mr. Green Genes (1987 Digital Re-Mix)
4. Little Umbrellas (1987 Digital Re-Mix)
5. The Gumbo Variations (1987 Digital Re-Mix)
6. It Must Be A Camel (1987 Digital Re-Mix)
7. The Origin Of Hot Rats
8. Hot Rats Vintage Promotion Ad #1
9. Peaches En Regalia (1969 Mono Single Master)
10. Hot Rats Vintage Promotion Ad #2
11. Little Umbrellas (1969 Mono Single Master)
12. Lil‚Äô Clanton Shuffle (1972 Whitney Studios Mix)
1. Little Umbrellas (Cucamonga Version)
2. Little Umbrellas (1969 Mix Outtake)
3. It Must Be A Camel (1969 Mix Outtake)
4. Son Of Mr. Green Genes (1969 Mix Outtake)
5. More Of The Story Of Willie The Pimp
6. Willie The Pimp (Vocal Tracks)
7. Willie The Pimp (1969 Quick Mix)
8. Dame Margret‚Äôs Son To Be A Bride (1969 Quick Mix)
9. Hot Rats Vintage Promotion Ad #3
10. Bognor Regis (1970 Record Plant Mix)
11. Peaches En Regalia (1969 Rhythm Track Mix)
12. Son Of Mr. Green Genes (1969 Rhythm Track Mix)
13. Little Umbrellas (1969 Rhythm Track Mix)
14. Arabesque (Guitar Tracks)
15. Hot Rats Vintage Promotion Ad #4
2-CD (Digisleeve) with 52-page booklet, 53 Tracks. Total playing time approx. c. 148 minutes.
‚ÄĘ A taster of the blues from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on two compact discs.
‚ÄĘ Like New Orleans, Memphis or St. Louis alongside the Mississippi river, Baton Rouge was a blues hotbed.
From the first commercial recordings made in 1954, the story goes back to 1971.
‚ÄĘ For the first time the story of the blues from Baton Rouge is told in all its facets.
‚ÄĘ Blues expert Martin Hawkins tells the story of local blues singers and players that got onto records.
‚ÄĘ The story goes beyond the Excello sound and the music of Lightnin‚Äô Slim, Slim Harpo, and also features folk music by Willie B. Thomas, Robert Pete Williams and others.
‚ÄĘ A detailed introduction to the topic and artist biographies for each individual performer can be found in the extensive 52-page illustrated booklet.
‚ÄĘ The recordings have been carefully remastered for this edition.
‚ÄĘ Limited edition of 1,000 copies worldwide!
These two CDs contain a more or less chronological taster of the blues from Baton Rouge, one of the several cities alongside the mighty Mississippi that has been thought of or thinks of itself as a blues town. Like New Orleans, Memphis, St. Louis and some smaller places, Baton Rouge‚Äôs local blues players made a big contribution to the recorded legacy of the blues.
We really don‚Äôt know what the blue sound of Baton Rouge was before about 1954, when its first bluesman was recorded, and by the 1970s the blues as current, recorded, black music was dying out, melding with R&B and the sounds of soul. Those newer sounds were still a part of black culture and, increasingly, of white culture locally and internationally, but a different muse, a different music, a different story.
We concentrate on the period between 1954 and 1971, featuring here, together for the first time, those Baton Rouge singers and players who got onto records, one way or another. Some were aspiring professionals aiming for the stars, or at least for a local juke box spin, while others were local ‚Äėfolk‚Äô performers plucked from their everyday life to sing for the man with the remote tape machine and a microphone. The blues from Baton Rouge has tended to be seen as synonymous either with the sound of Excello Records, the label that issued the music of Lightnin‚Äô Slim, Slim Harpo and others, or, as the revived, endangered, folk music of the likes of Willie B. Thomas or Robert Pete Williams. Baton Rouge was home to all these men, and many others, during the post-war heyday of the recorded blues.
The first blues singer and guitarist to be recorded was Otis Hicks, Lightning Slim (later spelled Lightnin‚Äô Slim). The man who put Lightning onto records was J. D. Miller, a white songwriter, entrepreneur, and recording engineer based in Crowley, Louisiana. Miller had worked out a deal with Excello Records in Nashville, Tennessee, whereby Miller would make master recordings for Excello to release through their better distribution networks. Lightning Slim introduced James Moore to Miller. Moore became known as Slim Harpo. He was much more of a stylist than Lightning Slim or Lazy Lester, but in the end the man whose music became most identified with the Excello label and with Baton Rouge blues, the ‚Äėswamp-blues.‚Äô
Other men who found their way to Miller included Lazy Lester, Schoolboy Cleve, Lonesome Sundown, Jimmy Dotson, Tabby Thomas, Jimmy Anderson, Silas Hogan, Moses ‚ÄėWhispering‚Äô Smith, and Arthur ‚ÄėGuitar‚Äô Kelley.
In a parallel universe, northern college audiences and folk festival attendees were able to listen to blues players from Baton Rouge on LP discs that were far removed from the jukebox fare of Excello. They were recorded between 1958 and 1961 by Harry Oster and released on his Folk Lyric label.
So sit back and enjoy a chunk of blues history from the deep south of the USA on the Mississippi River, as told by UK blues expert and historian, Martin Hawkins.
The official video for Catfish Blues by Jimmy ‘Duck’ Holmes, from his upcoming Easy Eye Sound release ‘Cypress Grove’, out October 18th
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Eleven years ago this month, a fire ripped through a part of Universal Studios Hollywood.
At the time, the company said that the blaze had destroyed the theme park‚Äôs ‘King Kong attraction and a video vault that contained only copies of old works.
But, according to an article published on Tuesday by The New York Times Magazine, the fire also tore through an archive housing treasured audio recordings, amounting to what the piece described as ‚Äúthe biggest disaster in the history of the music business.‚ÄĚ
The fire started in the early hours of June 1st, 2008.
Overnight, maintenance workers had used blowtorches to repair the roof of a building on the set of New England Street, a group of colonial-style buildings used in scenes for movies and television shows. The workers followed protocol and waited for the shingles they worked on to cool, but the fire broke out soon after they left, just before 5 a.m.
The flames eventually reached Building 6197, known as the video vault, which housed videotapes, film reels and, crucially, a library of master sound recordings owned by Universal Music Group.
Almost all of the master recordings stored in the vault were destroyed in the fire, including those produced by some of the most famous musicians since the 1940s.
In a confidential report in 2009, Universal Music Group estimated the loss at about 500,000 song titles.
The lost works most likely included masters in the Decca Records collection by Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Al Jolson, Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald and Judy Garland. The fire probably also claimed some of Chuck Berry‚Äôs greatest recordings, produced for Chess Records, as well as the masters of some of Aretha Franklin‚Äôs first appearances on record.
Almost of all of Buddy Holly‚Äôs masters were lost, as were most of John Coltrane‚Äôs masters in the Impulse Records collection. The fire also claimed numerous hit singles, likely including Bill Haley and His Comets‚Äô ‚ÄúRock Around the Clock,‚ÄĚ Etta James‚Äôs ‚ÄúAt Last‚ÄĚ and the Kingsmen‚Äôs ‚ÄúLouie Louie.‚ÄĚ
What are master recordings, and why do they matter?
A master recording is the one-of-a-kind original recording of a piece of music. It‚Äôs the source from which other vinyl records, CDs, MP3s and all other recordings are made.
According to the article, documents show that the vault contained masters dating back decades, including multitrack recordings on which individual instruments remained isolated from one another. There were also session masters, including recordings that had never been commercially released. The recordings within the vault came from to some of the most important record labels of all time.
Audiophiles and audio professionals view such recordings with special regard.
‚ÄúA master is the truest capture of a piece of recorded music,‚ÄĚ Adam Block, the former president of Legacy Recordings, Sony Music Entertainment‚Äôs catalog arm, told the magazine. ‚ÄúSonically, masters can be stunning in their capturing of an event in time. Every copy thereafter is a sonic step away.‚ÄĚ
Why are we only finding about this now?
At the time, the fire made news around the world, and the vault featured heavily in that coverage. But most articles focused only on the video recordings in the archive and, even then, news outlets largely characterized the disaster as a crisis averted.
Jody Rosen, the writer of the article, described the successful effort to play down the scope of the loss as a ‚Äútriumph of crisis management‚ÄĚ that involved officials working for Universal Music Group on both coasts. Those efforts were undoubtedly aimed at minimizing public embarrassment, but some suggest the company was also particularly worried about a backlash from artists and artist estates whose master recordings had been destroyed.
The real extent of the loss was laid out in litigation and company documents obtained by Mr. Rosen, a contributing writer for the magazine.
Mr. Rosen described the loss as historic, and even Universal Music Group itself ‚ÄĒ privately ‚ÄĒ viewed what happened in bleak terms: ‚ÄúLost in the fire was, undoubtedly, a huge musical heritage,‚ÄĚ reads one 2009 internal assessment.
Record companies have had a troubled history with such recordings and have been known to trash them in bulk. Decades ago, employees of CBS Records reportedly took power saws to multitrack masters to sell the reels as scrap metal. In the 1970s, RCA destroyed masters by Elvis Presley in a broader purge.
Because of that history, industry professionals have long questioned how committed the major music labels are to preserving what they see as priceless artifacts.
Today, most commercial recordings from the past century and beyond are controlled by only three giant record companies: Sony Music Entertainment, Warner Music Group and, of course, Universal Music Group.
Niraj Chokshi is a general assignment reporter based in New York. Before joining The Times in 2016, he covered state governments for The Washington Post. He has also worked at The Atlantic, National Journal and The Recorder, in San Francisco.
Gayle Dean Wardlow and Bruce Conforth: Up Jumped The Devil ‚Äď The Real Life of Robert Johnson (Chicago Review Press)
Tony Burke, Published in the¬†Morning Star, May 2019
Though he only made 40 recordings, US blues artist Robert Johnson’s legacy has endured for over eight decades and his songs are now part of the blues canon.
Those recordings ‚ÄĒ some were never issued at the time and others were alternate takes ‚ÄĒ were made in 1936 and 1937, yet even with such a modest catalogue Johnson’s influence has stretched from the late 1930s to the post-war Chicago blues era of Muddy Waters, Elmore James and Howlin’ Wolf through to the 1960s, 1970s and beyond.
The list of the great and the good who’ve interpreted Johnson’s material is pretty endless. ‘Cross Road Blues’ got a thunderous version by Cream at their 1969 farewell concert in London, while ‘Love In Vain’ was covered by the Rolling Stones on the album Let It Bleedand ‘I Believe I’ll Dust My Broom’ by Ike & Tina Turner.
Other interpreters have included Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac (‘Hell Hound On My Trail’), Led Zeppelin (‘Travelling Riverside Blues’) and Eric Clapton (‘I’m A Steady Rollin’ Man’), not to mention the endless performances of ‘Sweet Home Chicago’, now a staple of every touring blues artist as well as every Blues Brothers show.
The myths and stories surrounding Johnson, his prowess as a guitarist, his untimely death and the search for a final resting place following his murder at the age of 27 in 1938 are the stuff of legend. The most enduring is that he sold his soul to the devil at a crossroads in Mississippi in order to become an extraordinary guitar player and that his shyness led to him recording facing the wall.
Johnson’s eventful and ultimately tragic life has long cried out for an authentic account and that’s exactly what the book Up Jumped The Devil, published next month, provides. It’s the result of over 50 years of research by blues writer Gayle Dean Wardlow and Bruce Conforth, who has studied Johnson’s life and music since 1970.
Between them, they provide much new information in a book that not only destroys every myth that ever surrounded Johnson but also details all his recordings, travels and relationships. This is his true story.
Johnson was already a brilliant guitar player from the get-go. He didn’t need to meet the devil to become one and he was already a popular performer of his own blues and the pop songs of the day. He recorded with his face to the wall as he didn’t want other musicians in the room to see his guitar technique.
And it was a liaison with a plantation overseer’s wife which led to his fatal poisoning with mothballs dissolved in a jar of corn liquor which caused near paralysis and severe bleeding from the mouth. The perpetrator is said to have only wanted to give Johnson a “warning” ‚ÄĒ apparently this sort of poisoning could be overcome! No surprise that he was quickly buried in an unmarked pauper’s grave.
He was originally contracted to record for Vocalion Records in 1936 by producer John Hammond, who was so enthused by what he had recorded and heard he wrote in the March 1937 issue of the communist magazine New Masses that Johnson was “the greatest Negro blues singer who has cropped up in recent years”. Compared to Johnson, the blues singer Leadbelly ‚ÄĒ a favourite of the New York left ‚ÄĒ sounded “like an accomplished poseur,” according to Hammond.
Johnson’s record sales were not high, with the exception of 1936’s ‘Terraplane Blues’, referencing the model made by the Hudson car manufacturers, but even so Hammond wanted him to appear at Carnegie Hall for the Spirituals To Swing concert in December 1938, featuring Count Basie, Big Joe Turner, Albert Ammons and the Golden Gate Quartet.
He was going to be the big surprise of the show but Johnson was already dead. Hammond wrote about Johnson’s demise in “unknown circumstances” in New Masses and read the article from the stage of the concert shortly after.
In 1961 and 1970, Columbia Records issued two Johnson albums with released and unreleased tracks but the clincher was the Columbia Sony box set issued in 1988. Expected to sell no more than 10,000 copies over five years, it sold hundreds of thousands in a few weeks and racked up more than 500,000 sales in the US alone.
Since then, other CDs of his recordings have been released, from cheap budget releases to deluxe vinyl box sets costing hundreds of pounds.
In recent years, the Robert Johnson industry has cranked up. A silent film of a street performer, shot after he died, was hyped on eBay but there were no takers. US magazine Vanity Fair ran a feature on a photo bought on eBay of Johnson with Chicago bluesman and travelling companion Johnny Shines.
That story was picked up by the world’s media until it was proved that it was neither Johnson or Shines as both men were wearing “zoot” suits, not a popular style until the early 1940s.
There are in fact only three known photos of Johnson ‚ÄĒ a dapper studio portrait, a photo-booth picture which Johnson took and a photo of him with his half sister and her son.
There have been many books written about Johnson, but none have carried such weight of information and sheer detail, unearthed over the decades by Wardlow and Conforth. Not only have they roundly debunked many myths, they’ve come up with the definitive biography of one of the 20th century’s greatest and most influential musicians.
In 1980 great white blues guitar player and session player Michael Bloomfield (1943 – 1981) – ¬†ex-Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Electric Flag, Bob Dylan, Al Kooper, Taj Mahal, Janis Joplin and many others wrote a short 60 page book called ‘Me And Big Joe’ recounting his travels in the 1960s with bluesman Big Joe Williams.
The book is a humorous travelogue as Big Joe, sets of with Bloomfield as his traveling companion across the USA visiting friends and blue artists, playing gigs along the way all the while drinking and carousing, getting thrown out of joints and bars, out-staying his welcome with his ‘people’ including relatives – many of whom live in appalling conditions and poverty.
Bloomfield at first is a wary companion to the street wise and sometimes violent Big Joe but they became firm friends.
Click here to download the¬†Me and Big Joe article¬†from High Times – the text in this version is a bit different from the book – but basically they are the same. Robert Crumb did the illustrations for High Times version¬†which are not in the book. Enjoy the snoots!