Music from the Motion Picture When You're Strange
After 2009's most excellent Live in NewYork multi-disc box set, one would think there's nothing new to be heard from the Doors. Surprise! Independent film maker Tom Dicillo's When You're Strange is a stroll through the mysterious, the poetic, and the raging wretched excess that is the Doors' legacy. Unlike Oliver Stone's biopic The Doors, this new movie is all Doors footage plus newsreel snippets of Vietnam and other seminal historical moments. Much of the Doors footage has never been shown to the public, which is reason enough to see the movie. Johnny Depp does the narration and his recitation of Morrison poetry are included on the soundtrack, along with Jim Morrison interview bits interspersed between the usual roundup of Doors songs. 1978's concept of Morrison poetry and post-Morrison Doors music on An American Prayer makes for an obvious comparison (though that album sounded more authentic). Maybe it's just because Johnny Depp doesn't seem right. But if you're a die-hard Doors fanatic, it's easily overlooked. One can never get enough Doors, so this album is at least interesting, even if it doesn't reveal anything new about Morrison and Co. we didn't already surmise or know.
The Jimmy Bowskill Band
Jimmy Bowskill's bio says he was discovered by Jeff Healey when Jimmy was 11 years old and his band has opened for the likes of Deep Purple, Dicky Betts, and ZZ Top. Like Shuggie Otis, Johnny Lang, and other teenage young axe-slingers, Jimmy exhibits the necessary skills to lay waste to plenty of other guitar virtuosos. It's a surprise to discover he hails from Canada because listening to his power trio on their latest album, Live, it sounds as if one foot is firmly planted in San Francisco (think psychedelic blues rock) and the other in London (think Cream). In fact, the album could have been recorded at the Fillmore West circa 1969-and that's indeed a compliment. Cream, Grand Funk, Mountain, and the Jimi Hendrix Experience are just a few bands that come to mind. Ably backed up by his band, Dan Neil on drums and Wayne Deadder on bass, Jimmy plays blistering guitar solos that are good enough to embarrass players twice his age (19 at the time of this album's release). Ultimately here's one reason to have an open-border policy with Canada, and let's hope Jimmy can do more extensive touring around the lower 48.
Last Train to Bluesville
Washington DC's The Nighthawks have been at it since 1972. If nothing else, they deserve an award for persistence, because these cats are emissaries for that famous brand of Chicago blues that's hard to find these days. It's not as rough around the edges as those Chess Records-the music has the edges sanded down so what you get is smooth, but not slick. At the very least, they belong in the Baggers hall of fame because their music makes for an awesome soundtrack for conquering rural twisties with the volume turned up. On their latest, Last Train to Bluesville, the repertoire includes songs from Muddy Waters, Sonny Boy Williamson, and Chuck Berry. That's three of the best traveling partners a biker could have. And here you thought nothing good came out of Washington DC!
Flashback Of The Month
What's Going On
By the '70s, Motown had become synonymous with three-minute songs to which all of America was singing or dancing. Up until the release of Marvin Gaye's masterpiece, What's Going On, Marvin's hits had followed the conventional Motown formula. "It Takes Two," "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," "Your Precious Love," and others were about love and relationships and mainly aimed at a teenage record-buying public.
Meanwhile, the country was struggling with issues that are both eerily and ironically similar today-war ("What's Going On"), environmental issues ("Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)")-a song so timely it could have been written for the recent oil spill, and the decaying American Dream ("Inner City Blues (Makes Me Wanna Holla)"). Although the subject matter was increasingly showing up in rock songs, it was, for the most part, ignored by R&B performers except for the occasional Impressions or James Brown single. Another key attribute of the album was that it was just that-an album-meant to be listened to from beginning to end (a reason all the songs were segued together), as opposed to individual singles.
Told from the viewpoint of a returning Vietnam Vet, What's Going On is both observation and reflection. The bass lines set the tempo against which even the strings sound energized. To Marvin's credit, the Funk Brothers, Motown's legendary session players, were allowed to stretch out and actually play. The album was like nothing that came before and became an instant classic, appealing to audiences both black and white and landing Marvin on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. As bagger tunes go, find yourself a nice stretch of road and prepare to be mesmerized by the groove. Leave your troubles in the wind.