12
Dec
14

Bob Dylan and The Band – Basement Tapes Complete

Dylan_BasementThe 7 Modern Wonders of the World are as follows: Itaipu Dam, The Golden Gate Bridge, The Empire State Building, CN Tower, Panama Canal, Channel “Chunnel” Tunnel, and the Netherlands North Sea Protection Works, however, I feel there is now an 8th, the release of Bob Dylan and The Band’s Complete Basement Tapes, finally in their entirety!

I have been a die hard Dylan fan for years, and the legends and myths surrounding the legendary basement sessions is well known  among Dylan fans worldwide.  Although Dylan and The Band (his backing band during his initial going “electric” and the primary musicians on the Highway 61 and Blonde on Blonde albums were known as “The Hawks”) released a snippet of these recordings in 1975 as an actual album, the 24-songs released were a mere “crumb” of the actual 130+ songs  recorded between 1967 and 1968, now available in the 6-cd set just released this past November.

I’ve only delved into 3 of the 6-disc set and so far it’s been very impressive; you hear a mature Dylan jamming with a group of musicians, often free form, making up lyrics on the fly, and sometimes just re-working some of his own songs, and those of others, such as Johnny Cash (Big River and Folsom Prison Blues) in a relaxed atmosphere of artistic freedom and exploration.  Absent are the artistic pressures of multiple takes in order to “get it right”, instead the mood is melancholy and silly at times, as heard in “See You Later Allen Ginsberg”. The majority of the recordings were made in the basement of Big Pink, a house in West Saugerties, NY that was rented by members of the band, thus the recordings allow the listener a raw and unadulterated room full of musicians doing what they love.  The music allows you, even briefly, into the world of Dylan’s writing and creative spirit, and also the talents of his peers who roll with the every changing tempo and mood that Dylan wanted at a moments notice.

Although it may sound outlandish to say, I really love every track on what I have heard thus far; it would not be an exaggeration to say so.  The Basement Tapes are a fun collection of music that allows the listener just another glimpse into the mystery of Dylan as an artist.  There has always been a shroud of mystery with Dylan; it is well known that he is a recluse, often avoiding the limelight and media a majority of his career; although it is gems like this whereas one feels that Bob is toying with his fans; giving them just one more taste of what they crave, more mystery, more unheard of tracks lying around in a moldy box awaiting to be discovered 40 years later.   And that is what the Bootleg Series has been about, about: Dylan not allowing the fan to truly know who he is, not willing to open up entirely, but yet giving hints here and there and keeping the fans enthralled.  Dylan is not quoted in any of the liner notes, and from what I believe, has not provided any interviews regarding the release of the official bootleg series; so on one hand he is exposing the essence of his inspiration and creative genius, and on the other hand hiding behind the curtain that he always has.  The release of The Basement Tapes Complete is the 11th volume of the Bootleg Series that Columbia Records has made available thus far; so who knows how much more is out there?

I recall many years ago while visiting a long forgotten record shop in Saratoga Springs, NY, right down from Café Lena (a folk mecca where a young Dylan spent a great deal of time), I came across “Great White Wonder”, a well known and well sought out bootleg album that circulated for years; this album contained a few of the songs found on the Basement Tapes, an other rarities, many bootlegs have surfaced since then as well.  Each bootleg, of which there are many, contained odds and ends of other songs from the Saugerties basement sessions, so the myth for so long has been that there clearly were more, but where, and who had them?  Often waived off by members of The Band and perhaps Dylan himself, that additional tracks existed, clearly they did.  It is my understanding that last year someone was able to obtain the collection of the remaining basement tapes (100+ songs) and put out a bootleg for the masses; upon learning about this Columbia Records (in partnership with both Dylan and remaining members of The Band) decided it was true and that the majority of unreleased tracks had been made available decided to make an official release (with even more tracks!) available finally.  My question  is why had they waited so long, and perhaps worse, allow time for someone to release the additional tracks?  These guys had 40+ years to get this stuff out there!

The fun things about this box set is that all is revealed “warts and all” of what actually happened in that basement in West Saugerties; with most bootleg recordings one would normally expect grainy poor quality but these recordings have a haunting quality of clarity. If you are a Dylan fan this is a must listen without question. If not, and are then curious about Dylan, although an exhaustive collection for the first-time Dylan listener, this is a great introduction to the dynamic range of style Dylan was capable of, and introduces one to the persona of Dylan himself.

10
Oct
14

Johanan Vigoda – Who knew?

Johanan_VigodaFirst of all I must apologize for this blog coming to an abrupt halt a few years ago; we here at Hi-Fi Central just became pre-occupied in our lives and finding time to write for the blog, well…ok, that’s a bunch of bullshit.  We just didn’t take the time to keep it going, myself included, so now that that’s been said, let’s get back into writing about all things related to music in some form or another, shall we?

Recently I was thinking back about being a kid growing up in the suburbs of Schenectady, New York and all the hippie type characters my parents would run into during the mid-1970’s.  One unique individual was this guy named Johanan Vigoda.  I don’t remember Johanan very well, but from what I do recall he was a very kind man, who was incredibly soft spoken and ate frozen peas from a satchel bag.  My father father always remembered the frozen peas when recalling his initial meeting with Johanan.  I only met  him once when I was about 7 or 8; my father was selling either a BMW RT75 or RT100, it was metallic cherry red, many fond memories of my father taking me out for night rides when I was young.

My father had put the motorcycle up for sale, but after a few weeks had taken the bike out of the listings since he didn’t have any bites of interest, and then one day at random this guy and woman come riding down the driveway on a motorcycle interested in the bike.  My father came down and chatted for a bit; somewhere during the conversation it was discovered that Johanan was an entertainment attorney living downstate; he didn’t really elaborate, nor did my parent pry.  It was just a cool feeling out process, and clearly my parents and Johanan felt comfortable with one another.  After a bit of chatting Johanan asked if he could take the bike out for a test ride to see if it was what he wanted, my father obliged and off Johanan went down the road.  A short while later, Johanan returned with what appeared to be some minor scratches and damage to the bike.  The fairing was cracked and the left mirror and turn signals were gone;  apparently due to some slick conditions on bridge up the road he dropped the bike but was luckily Johanan unhurt.

My mother recalls that Johanan was incredibly apologetic and offered my father to pay all expenses incurred from the damage, and that he would purchase the bike once repaired, just give him the bill.  The bike was fixed a week later and Johanan asked if my father could bring the bike down to his house in Woodstock, New York, my father was more than willing to deliver the bike no problem.  As Johanan promised he asked my father what the final damages were with the repair and the purchase of the motorcycle, and without hesitation or discussion paid my father what he asked.  That was the last time we saw Johanan Vigoda.

A few months later my mother was watching the Grammy’s and as they focused the camera down the aisle who was sitting there, Johanan!  My mother never forgot seeing him and recalling what a kind soul he was and clearly, not that she doubted what he said, was a legit music attorney.

It’s been years since I remembered that story and recently Google’d “Johanan Vigoda” just to see what I could find out about him.  Sadly the first thing I came across was an obituary from 2011, apparently he died after a brief battle with pancreatic cancer; although sad to see, there was some humor in his obituary since it mentioned that he was known for his “exotic diets” and eccentric behavior.

Johanan was responsible for negotiating The Beatles first record deal in the United States with Vee-Jay Records, and was Stevie Wonders lifelong attorney.  He apparently lived months at a time at the Continental Hyatt Hotel on Sunset Boulevard, a hotel made famous by the antics of Led Zeppelin in the 1970’s.  I was amazed to discover this much about him, and just adds to the “cool factor” of crossing paths with him unbeknownst to parents and myself on who he really was in the music world.

05
Jun
12

Dan Stiles – New updated concert posters for sale!

As many of our HiFi readers have known, we are huge collectors of music poster art here at HiFi Central.  One of our favorite artists is the one and only Dan Stiles out of the Pacific Northwest, Dan’s posters are creative, vibrant, and original in their design and concept.  The best thing about his posters too are that they are all hand-pulled silkscreens in a limited edition and signed…oh, and also run around $25!

One of my favorites is the poster he did for a Midlake show in 2007; it’s limited to only 90 and still available on his website for a mere $24!!!!

If you want to learn more about Dan Stiles work and perhaps purchase one of his very cool prints for a super deal, check out his website at www.danstiles.com

Tell us if you grab one!

01
Jun
12

Live Bait Vol. 7 – Free Phish Download!

Yes, it’s a been a while since Phish has provided the masses with any continuations of the amazing Live Bait series of free concert samples, however, just when we here at HiFi Central were about to give up hope….viola!  Live Bait Vol.7 was released about two weeks ago (sorry for the very late notice), and is available for free download for those who sign up or have an existing LivePhish.com account. 

There is no sales ploy or gimmick, it’s on the up and up for being totally free; all you need to do is just sign up on their website and you are eligible for the download.  It is important that you if you do intend on downloading this that you don’t lolly-gag since the Live Bait releases are for a limited time and then taken down.

You can find the prior six volumes on their website, but at this time they are no longer free, sorry.  Regardless if they charge you or not, they are gems and worth grabbing if you can.  Check out the website and free download at www.livephish.com and enjoy!

25
May
12

Chronic Future “Lines In My Face”

Another personal favorite of mine to catch the -itis. Chronic Future had one hit in the summer of 2004 with “Time and Time Again” but never sustained any type of popularity due to a terrible job of marketing, but more importantly, America’s growing taste for terrible music. I’m looking at you Beliebers.

But Chronic Future holds a special place in my heart for speaking out in an era of uncertainty in my younger life. Back in 2005 there were rumblings of a military draft to support the growing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Most bands turned completely against government, military, and the troops.

The usual wartime rumblings of abuse, babykillers, and torture circulated and they began calling these two plights my generation’s Vietnam.

So, while yes I was terrified to see if our then-president was going to make a life decision for me, I felt that the soldiers in this conflict were getting the short end of the stick. Painted in a terrible public view, all while fighting “insurgents” with no real barometer for winning this war.

So while the outlash against the establishment raged in the usual punk circles. Chronic Future took a different approach. These were our friends giving life and limb in a country exactly halfway across the world where they baked in the desert all while our national media and pop-culture turned on them.

With songs like “Time and Time Again” and “Shellshocked” they reminded me that they were more than the average punk band.

They had a unique way of saying what everyone felt. Saying what I felt but couldn’t verbalize.

It’s still difficult for me to fathom. My respect for the people that make these sacrifices so you and I can go about our day like we always do. To be so against what they have to do, but support them for doing it. It’s a conundrum that gets lost on most people who just throw their friends, their family, into a group of soulless and heartless bastards because they carry a gun into someone else’s country.

These are our friends, these are our family. These are other peoples’ friends, their family
. They sacrifice years, limbs, life. Just so you can buy your coffee at Starbucks. Just so you can go shopping at the mall without the idea of it exploding ever entering your mind.

This weekend is for them. For those that come back to us less than they were. Those that come back stronger than they were. They have made the sacrifices that make our country so great for so long. Do not forget to thank them for what they’ve done for you, even if you haven’t noticed. You haven’t noticed, because they’re doing their job.

Happy Memorial Day everyone. Thank a troop this weekend.

11
Apr
12

Fergies Pub – A gem in the heart of Philly!

Ok, so before you think Hi-Fi has “jumped the shark” and become a blog about pubs and beer read on and give us a chance.  Last month I was in my hometown of Philadelphia, PA to catch the Flyers versus Canadians game; a that allowed them to clinch a playoff spot for this current season!  I make the pilgramage to “The City of Brotherly Love” every year for my birthday, and beforehand I always plan my weekend out hour by hour, so that I make the best of my time.  One of the key things in my life is food and beer (aside of hockey and music) so with a vast array of incredible places to eat in Philly, you really need to plan ahead.

After putting in a hard day of blogging at Hi-Fi Central, I decided to explore recommended pubs in Philly – always worthwhile and a deserving reward after trekking any major city is a good microbrew…or two.  During my search I came upon a blog that recommended a place called Fergie’s Pub; Fergie’s seemed to offer a fine array of ever revolving microbrews, and also the added treat of live music!  I planned to visit it pre-Flyers game, eat some dinner, and get a good buzz on prior to my trek to the Wells Fargo Center. 

Part of the appeal of visiting Fergies Pub is that it was also located on Sansom Street, a street that my ancestors once resided on in 1870, so to walk the very street seemed very sentimental, and again, a good excuse to perhaps have a (ahem) third beer in honor of their memory.

I had been staying at the Sofitel on 17th and Sansom, so the location seemed right, but prior to departing I decided to ask the concierge what they thought of Fergies.  Instantly their eyes lit up and the looked at each other with disbelief, apparently few of the clientele of a Sofitel ask for a good seedy Irish pub when in Philly.  All three suggested that I go and said that timing (3:00 on a Saturday) was perfect since at 4:00 “The Sessions” begin; “sessions” I asked, what is that?

I was informed that at 4:00 this group of regulars comes in, parks it at a table with their pints and plays a few hours of free form Irish music; but space becomes limited very quickly.  So, I rushed down and found Fergies Pub, entered and was instantly welcomed by the waitress asking us how many and before we sat down what we would like to drink.  The beer menu offered about 15 beers on tap, and the food was excellent.  After we got settled we drank a pint and sure enough the waitresses started moving the tables around to make room for a group of people, about 4 in all, to sit down and prepare to play.  The group consisted of a guitarist, two fiddles, and an accordian player, it didn’t take long for them to get started and the music was excellent.  Much of the music was impromptu jamming and at times they would just fade out and drink their beers and then start up again by sheer impulse, clearly they knew each other rather well and their timing was spot on.   At one point a mother walked in with her daugther (I think about 9) and the little girl got out her fiddle and jumped right in not missing a cue; it was excellent!

Philadelphia, if you’ve either never been there or have visited only a few times is truly a fun city.  Last year I blogged about visiting a church on 20th and Christian streets called St. Charles Boromeo where my great-grandparents were married in 1907, just to find out the church and the mass had converted into an amalgum of both Catholic and Gospel influences, just something completely unexpected. 

Check out Fergies Pub on a saturday afternoon if you are every visiting Philly, the beer, food, and service are excellent, but the music just adds a special twist.

05
Apr
12

Get Back! Rise of The Little Beatles?

Could you imagine if the spawn of the Fab Four were to get together and form a band, hiliarious eh?  From what I have read though, life is stranger than fiction. Reports are that there has been talk between James McCartney and Sean Lennon; clearly most of it has been baseless rumors and unfounded gossipy BS (like found on this blog!) and is sheer speculation at this time, nothing more. 

I recall there was a band about a decade ago called “Bloodlines” that was comprised of Erin Davis (son of Miles Davis), Waylon Kreiger (son of Robby Kreiger), and Berry Oakley Jr. (son of Berry Oakley Sr., duh!), but the band amounted to zilch.  I think the notion of the a revival or tribute band comprised of the children of The Beatles is a fun idea, I’m not sure that I could take it seriously to spend the money.  Iv’e not been overly impressed by Sean Lennon’s past work, but his older brother Julian was as close you would get to the sound of their late father, but apparently his day has come and gone.  As for Dhanni Harrison, he looks almost exactly like his father but can he play?  And as for James McCartney, he’s apparently a musician and songwriter, but who knows what his talents.  Zak Starkey on the other hand is a well accomplished drummer who has been a member of both Oasis and toured with The Who is recent years, so he doesn’t really  need the work nor seek the validation.

I would imagine as the child of a celebrity, there is always the want to vicariously experience or attempt to achieve the level of success of your parents.  But here is the dilemma, on the one hand you’ve got a huge leg up in the industry, yet on the other hand the public will may or will constantly compare your parent  good or bad.

Anyhoo, I thought it was worth informing the readers about since is fun, but I’m more impressed with how much they look like their parents, crazy!




Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.