Many readers may have heard that there are plans afoot to reinvest in our country’s infrastructure as a way of addressing the lack of jobs. Of course the bottom line for us motorcyclists is that improving road conditions increases safety and a better riding experience. If you’ve ever hit a large pothole at high speed, maybe you can relate.
Here in California, Caltrans (the folks in charge of all things highway) has a website where one can log on and report freeway conditions that require fixing. I’m here to say it actually works. I’ve used this several times in the past, and lo and behold, repairs were actually made—even if it did take several months. At least someone in government is listening.
What does this have to do with this month’s reviews? At a gathering with friends who know I write this column, one asked why in the heck I’ve never reviewed a Grateful Dead album as a reissue or even a “Flashback” feature. So here they are this month. See? At least we’re listening. And if you have a favorite band that has escaped our attention, please feel free to drop us a line or an email. We actually do listen.
Let them talk
Actors who transition from the screen to the recording studio have often been met with suspicion, indifference, and downright ridicule. Hugh Laurie’s character on the TV medical series House, speaks with a U.S. accent, walks with a cane, rides a motorcycle, and dispenses wisecracks and medical opinions at light speed. A 30-year biker in real life, on TV Laurie rides a Honda CBR Repsol Limited Edition, while he’s famously known for his Triumph Bonneville, which serves as his regular steed, and he has an English accent.
And now he’s gone and made a record—and it’s a record that will surprise many. House is occasionally shown playing records on a turntable in scenes from the show. And so his first album, Let Them Talk, is a complete old-school tribute to the music of New Orleans. The official press release quotes Laurie as saying, “New Orleans just straight hummed with music, romance, joy, despair; its rhythms got into my gawky English frame and at times made me so happy and sad …”
Well, OK. Thankfully, Laurie knows how to play several instruments—he even appeared on a Meatloaf album in 2010. More importantly, Laurie has gathered a stellar supporting cast whose collective credits include working with the likes of Greg Allman, Robert Plant, Solomon Burke, T-Bone Burnett, Alison Krause, and others. And there are guest appearances by Sir Tom Jones and, to keep it real, Irma Thomas and Dr. John. The album meanders through songs like the Louis Armstrong/Snooks Eglin classic “Saint James Infirmary,” Lean Belly’s “You Don’t Know My Mind,” and even Professor Longhair’s “Tipitina.” It all makes for a good cruise through the Bayou. Now if we could just get the man on a bagger.
Road trips vol.4 No.3
Unlike today’s corporate-controlled acts, the Dead had always invited fans to record their shows and in fact many of their very early shows were free. This begat an entire cottage industry of Grateful Dead bootleg recordings, which to this day are still traded around on the internet and many have been commercially re-released. Jerry Garcia had always stated that the Dead was more of a live performing act as opposed to a studio recording act as evidenced by the legions of Deadheads that followed them around like a massive collection of roadies. And to his point, the group’s best works have always been captured live.
By 1973 the Dead had left their longtime home at Warner Bros. Records and began to release records on their own label. Wake of the Flood was the band’s first studio album since 1970’s masterpiece American Beauty. The tracks on the three-CD set that comprises Road Trips, Vol.4, No.3 are taken from shows at the Denver Coliseum in November of 1973. Originally part of a 36-CD series entitled Dick’s Picks, we now have them broken down into more manageable and cohesive single releases and Rhino has done their usually superb packaging job. By the time of this performance, Rod “Pigpen” McKernan had passed away, but the band remained in fine form. Four songs from Wake of the Flood are included, and live, these performance take on a more fervent bent showcasing the band’s musical prowess in all their in-concert glory. It’s easy to see why the Dead was famous for cooking up extended improvisational interpolations, incorporating elements of jazz, blues, and folk into their more mainstream rock staples.