November, 2010 Archives

30
Nov

Patti Smith–Seminal Punker and National Book Award Winner

by Lefort in Books, Music

Seminal rocker, poet and artist, Patti Smith, recently received the National Book Award in Non-Fiction for “Just Kids,” her memoir of her close relationship with artist Robert Mapplethorpe and her rise in the New York City arts scene in the 70s.

A Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, Smith was one of the early progenitors of the New York City punk movement in the 70s, and “Just Kids” tracks her life from a bookish teenager in Pennsylvania to New York City in the early 70s where she befriended poet/gadabout Allen Ginsberg, dated playwright/actor Sam Shepard, and became an integral part of Andy Warhol’s scene.  With respect to her music, “Just Kids” rightly focuses on her foundational album, “Horses,” which came out in 1975 and kick-started the NYC punk scene that begat The Ramones, Richard Hell, Television, and eventually the Talking Heads.   “Just Kids” primary focus, however, is on Smith’s relationship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe (his photo became the cover of “Horses” shown below).  They were friends for years and lived and worked together as struggling/starving artists, and developed a mutual love for each other.  It’s a fascinating and highly recommended read.

We fell in love with Patti and “Horses” from the start.  Her cover of Gloria demanded your attention, but then rewarded with Birdland, Redondo Beach and a host of great songs.  The first time we ever saw her perform was on Saturday Night Live on April 17, 1976.  She was riveting and revelatory.  A national audience that had been used to Elton John, KC and the Sunshine Band, and Steve Miller was asked to check out an androgynous, atonal beat poet doll-up a rousing version of Gloria (see way below) with lines about boys loving parking meters (that’s gotta hurt) and her lack of faith in Jesus.

Our favorite Patti Smith song is Redondo Beach. We have no idea the connection to the LA beach town, but the light-sounding, reggae-fied music contrasts with the dark lyrics regarding a lovers’ quarrel that leads to death.  Smith asks over and over, “Are you gone-gone?” seemingly unable to accept the passing.  It’s a melodic, but harrowing ride.  High art.  Check it out.

Patti Smith–Redondo Beach

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Patti.Smith.-.Redondo.Beach.(Live.Conan.O'Brien) by von7up

23
Nov

We Showed Chiefly for Chief, and Exited in Awe of Dawes

by Lefort in Music

We escaped Chez Lefort Sunday night to saunter down to Soho, primarily to check out the great Santa Monica band, Chief.   Club Mercy put out the word that Chief had graciously agreed at the last minute to help out their friends, Dawes, and fill in the vacant opening slot at Soho.

We didn’t have to wait long for Chief to come on at 9pm and, despite uncooperative gear and unfortunate audience “participation,” proceeded to remind us why we hailed this Chief back in June. Lead singer, Evan Koga, was proud to let us know before their set that the band would be headlining at the Bowery Ballroom in NYC in two weeks as they swing through the East Coast on a mini-tour. That totemic achievement is well-deserved. Just back from a summertime spent playing the Euro-Festival circuit, the band has further honed its songs and talents, and delivered a great set comprised of songs off their sublime recent album, “Modern Rituals”, and a few earlier, Lefort-favored songs. Once again it was Chief’s group vocals and song-craft that drew us in.  Particular credit has to be given to Mike Moonves, the bass player, whose high harmonies mesh and lift Koga’s and Danny Fujikawa’s lead vocals (along with Michael’s valiant vocal effects and driving drum-work).   The band deserves particular credit for playing on despite an audience member unfortunately falling onto the stage mid-set (we hope she is OK) and into Danny, taking him down too.  The band briefly stopped to check on the fan and then Cal Ripkened-on to close their set strongly.  We look forward to seeing them headline in Santa Barbara in the near future, and with less distractions.

Next up was the forgettable Moondoggies, who struck us as a converted jam-band that ran up on the nose and pearled in the process.  We’d say that that conversion is still a work in process. While the band members were not untalented players and singers, they are a manager-shy of a compelling showing. Constructive criticism alert:  Someone (manager, parent, older sibling, anyone??) needs to let these guys know that until they’re headlining, they need to scale back the length of their decent, but somewhat simplistic, songs to about three minutes.  Maximum.  Enough with the unwarranted repetition fellas.  When you’re not headlining, and until you evolve more as songwriters and players, get in and get out on each song.  If not, you risk alienating an audience that is otherwise happy to give you the benefit of the doubt.  Such was the case this night.

Next up were headliners, Dawes, who came out and simply blew us away.  Lead singer, Taylor Goldsmith, has one of the best voices extant in an indie-band (0r otherwise) and plays flawless and inspired guitar.  The Band is an obvious influence on Goldsmith, whose guitar-playing oft sounds like Robbie Robertson (and Neil Young–just listen to his playing on If I Wanted Someone), and whose vocals vary between Rick Danko (which is plain in his straight ahead Danko delivery on That Western Skyline), Stephen Stills (as on If I Wanted Someone), John Fogerty (on God Rest My Soul, where he also smacks of Springsteen), and other vintage singers.  Taylor is surrounded and buoyed by three phenomenal band members.  The uber-Harpo-mopped drummer, Griffin Goldsmith (Taylor’s bro), pounds and pastes his drum-kit while laying on valiant vocal backing (singing lead on How Far We’ve Come, which has Avett Brothers vestiges).  And Griffin easily wins this or any year’s most-emotional-facial-expressions-by-a-drummer award. Alex Casnov supplies great keyboards, including Elton John flourishes (that’s a good thing in this instance), and hallmark harmonies.  And bassist Wylie Gelber is one of the better bass players we’ve seen on a small stage, with his precise and deft bottom line.

During their 90-minute set, Dawes worked their way through much of their debut record, “North Hills,” and a host of nascent songs off their impending Chris Walla-produced new record.  Make no mistake, if you want cutting-edge indie-rock, Dawes is not your band.  Instead they are steeped in 70s rock, and wear this vintage cloak incredibly well. Taylor often employs Springsteen and Southside Johnny-like theatrics (especially noted on their song Fire Away, which could be a track on Springsteen’s “The Wild, the Innocent & The E Street Shuffle” with its lyrics such as “Or if you’ve got dreams that no one’s ever let you say, then fire away“). We oft-times blanch at such dramatics, but this is “shoe-biz” and in this instance we were happy to make an exception because of the otherwise perfect delivery.  Dawes is a well-greased machine that will mow you down if you’re in the mood for well-wrought mainstream rock ‘n roll.

We would be remiss if we didn’t comment on the phenomenon that has become Dawes’ set-ending anthem, When My Time Comes. We had seen the Fall 2010 Tour trailer and related videos, but still were wondrously won over when the song came up and Taylor turned the mic to the crowd.  The crowd perfectly sang-screamed the yearning chorus repeatedly before the band kicked back in to carry it to the end.  These are the moments that recall the greatest shows we’ve seen: where the crowd rises to the occasion and levies the night to new heights.  The evolutionary musical acts  Springsteen, The Clash, U2, Radiohead,  Arcade Fire and The National have been the masters of this effect.  It is frankly moments like these that get us out on a regular basis to shows.  And at least on this one song, Dawes adds itself to this luminous lineage.

Check out their live version in the video below.  If you aren’t moved in particular at the 3:59 mark on this video, you simply have no soul.

If you require better production, then this more-staid, but well-done, version is for you:

Check ’em out next time they come to your town.   Below are some other great samples of this band live.

22
Nov

Sufjan on Fallon–Too, Too Much

by Lefort in Music

Sufjan Stevens and his band of sprites sallied down to Jimmy Fallon’s musically-prodigious show last Friday, and filled the entire Fallon stage with their elaborate tribal/mardi-gras/end-times delivery.  In case you missed it, and to check out the magnitude and pageantry of his current tour as seen by us at the Paramount Theatre last month, check below.   Stevens and his merry marauders gave a national audience a fully-realized, densely choreographed version of Too Much off of his “Age of Adz” record.

20
Nov

The Lonely Forest and Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin at Muddy Waters

by Lefort in Music

Amongst our favorite shows are those where we go in virtually blind to the evening’s bands and come out with raving, 15/15 vision after a perfect music night. With medium-to-low expectations, the actual trajectory can only be up. Such was the case on Thursday at Muddy Waters when we ventured down to catch the Club Mercy lineup, sight-unseen. Come to think of it, this happens all the time at Muddy Waters (Hosannas, Chief, Girls, Blitzen Trapper, Morning Benders, etc, etc.).  And the place was not close to full. Look people, if you want to have a high-value music evening, with music revelations aplenty, keep your eyes on the Muddy/Club Mercy juggernaut. The payoffs are frequent and phenomenal.

We unfortunately arrived too late for the evening’s openers, Dirty Mittens, but we heard great things about their set and look forward to catching them the next time they dirty-up the town.

And then we were just minding our own business with a beer and some banter when we were broadsided by the next band, The Lonely Forest. What the heck!!?? Where did THAT come from??!! Up comes this unknown band with serious talent on all fronts. Arriving by way of Anacortes and Seattle, Washington, singer/guitarist/keyboardist John Van Deusen, guitarist John Ruland, drummer Braydn Krueger, and bassist Eric Sturgeon completely lit up the Muddy. It was revelatory.

The Lonely Forest has got it all going on–great songs, great lyrics, great vocals, and great delivery (the grand slam of musical worthiness). Beyond Van Deusen’s obvious dominance, Krueger’s driving drumming and harmony vocals were a particular highlight.  Pay serious attention to this band, folks.  They are bound for parts known.  It turns out the band has been gestating in Washington since 2006, releasing great recordings all the while, but recently joining Death Cab For Cutie’s Chris Walla on his new label, Trans (an imprint of Atlantic records). We look forward to their impending new release and the future of this band. That forest just got a lot less lonely. We’re sure that in a few years will be gloating about how we saw The Lonely Forest at the Muddy as openers.

Check out the three great vantages below of their harrowing song We Will Sing in Time and some others below those three. The first two versions of that song are from the killin’ KEXP vaults–first a phenomenal full-band-rendering and the second an acoustic rendering of the song. If it wasn’t for those 300 days of rain and snow a year, we would be there for KEXP alone.  Fortunately the interweb makes that frigidity unnecessary.  The last of the three same-song videos is a vignette of the band and their hardcore fans hittin’ hard. Check out the disparate vantages of that song and others below them.

Oh yeah, and then to cap it all off there was the great Boris Yeltsin. Hailing all the way from Springfield, Missouri. Boris had a hard act to follow, but by set’s end they had the crowd bellowing their name all over the Muddy. Check out some good samples below.

17
Nov

You Make the Call–Love Vigilantes

by Lefort in Music

Having been huge fans of Joy Division, we naturally carried our ardor forward with New Order.  Torn apart by the seemingly inevitable suicide of lead singer/songwriter, Ian Curtis, the three remaining members of Joy Division added a keyboardist and renamed the band New Order. After a a great debut single (Ceremony) and a great album (“Power, Corruption & Lies”) which mixed punk, dance and synth music, the band released “Low Life” in 1985, which paid homage more to American roots music motifs, including the great opening track,  Love Vigilantes.

We loved Love Vigilantes from the second we heard it, with its melodica intro, driving acoustic guitar flourishes and melodious chorus.  Honestly, the music and vocals levitated us so much that all we could focus on was the chorus.  We frankly missed the song’s whole story.

That was the case until Iron and Wine covered Love Vigilantes recently and slowed it down, thereby emphasizing the narrative of the song.  Frankly, though, hearing the new take on the song has only increased our confusion.

On the one hand, as delivered by New Order, the song can be seen as an uplifting anthem about a soldier who comes home (one assumes from the faulty Falklands fiasco) to his deserved family and home, surprising his wife who has been given the erroneous report of his death.   On the other hand, as told by Iron and Wine, the song might depict the soldier looking down on the scene of his devastated wife and realizing he has died in the war, and that he has gone to another home not of this world.

Check out the lyrics and versions below, and let us know which version and interpretation you prefer.  We love ’em both.

“Oh, I’ve just come from the land of the sun
From a war that must be won in the name of truth
With our soldiers so brave, your freedom we will save
With our rifles and grenades and some help from God

I want to see my family
My wife and child waiting for me
I’ve got to go home
I’ve been so alone, you see

You just can’t believe the joy I did receive
When I finally got my leave and I was going home
Oh, I flew through the sky, my convictions could not lie
For my country I would die, and I will see it soon

I want to see my family
My wife and child waiting for me
I’ve got to go home
I’ve been so alone, you see

When I walked through the door, my wife she lay upon the floor
And with tears her eyes were sore—I did not know why
Then I looked into her hand and I saw the telegram
That said that I was a brave, brave man, but that I was dead

I want to see my family
My wife and child waiting for me
I’ve got to go home
I’ve been so alone, you see”

New Order–Love Vigilantes

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Iron and Wine–Love Vigilantes

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Oh, I’ve just come from the land of the sun
From a war that must be won in the name of truth
With our soldiers so brave, your freedom we will save
With our rifles and grenades and some help from God

I want to see my family
My wife and child waiting for me
I’ve got to go home
I’ve been so alone, you see

You just can’t believe he joy I did receive
When I finally got my leave and I was going home
Oh, I flew through the sky, my convictions could not lie
For my country I would die, and I will see it soon

I want to see my family
My wife and child waiting for me
I’ve got to go home
I’ve been so alone, you see

When I walked through the door, my wife she lay upon the floor
And with tears her eyes were sore—I did not know why
Then I looked into her hand and I saw the telegram
That said that I was a brave, brave man, but that I was dead

I want to see my family
My wife and child waiting for me
I’ve got to go home
I’ve been so alone, you see

16
Nov

The Real Country–No. 10

by Lefort in Music

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Real country music is not the sole domain of Americans (or even North Americans).  Ferheavensake, various facets and forerunners of American country music originated in Scotland, England and Ireland, amongst others.  It’s no wonder that many folks from the United Kingdom, Australia, various other Anglophone countries, and even non-Anglophonic countries  have taken to country music and adopted it as their own.

One such adopter is the great music omnivore, Elvis Costello.  Though we know many differ, we love Costello’s voice and  phrasing, and his way with songs of any and all music genres.  Costello has been a huge proponent and lover of real country music for decades, going so far as to record an entire album of country music covers in 1981 on his record, “Almost Blue” and subsequently recording and performing various other real-country songs.  As an aside, The New Yorker has a worthwhile profile of Costello in its November 8, 2010 issue, in which the author touts Costello’s deep and superior knowledge of American music.

And here on the song Brown and Blue from that record, Costello covers a song made famous by George Jones (more on Jones another time), a song that has all the elements of great country music:  heartbreak expressed in common-man terms (but with the occasional clever  turn-of-the-phrase, as here), with fundamental instrumentation and heartfelt delivery.  Elvis was recently divorced when he recorded this song, so it’s no wonder his vocals ring particularly true.

Listen in to Elvis Costello singing real country music below.

Elvis Costello–Brown to Blue

We like the chorus:

“I couldn’t help my tears from falling on the courtroom floor
My love, they took away my right to love you anymore
My world just seemed to stop as I stood there so close to you
You changed your name from Brown to Jones and mine from Brown to Blue”

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14
Nov

The Walkmen–Walk, Don’t Run, to Lisbon

by Lefort in Music

We were minding our business while watching Fallon’s show in mid-September when up came The Walkmen and sucked us up against the screen.  We’ve loved the band’s intensity and delivery over the years, but have appreciated the recent re-evaluation and evolution by the band that in 2008 resulted in the ravishing record, “You & Me,” and has now rendered “Lisbon.”

The Walkmen began ten years ago in Washington, D.C., moved on to New York, spread to Philadelphia and now also also occupy New Orleans.  With that geographical juggernaut and splintering, it’s not a huge surprise that the group decided to gather, write and record in Lisbon, Portugal, and then dedicate the new record to that much-loved city.

We hear in the new album a move to an even more spare, reverb-soaked sound, but with hooks and subtleties aplenty.  Best known for dark, intense songs such as The Rat and In the New Year, “Lisbon” intermittently murmurs optimism and assurance within the band’s usual tenebrous realism.

At its core, the band has always been built around singer Hamilton Leithauser’s garbled, squalling vocals, Paul Maroon’s sparkling guitar, Matt Barrick’s swarming drums and assorted keyboard coloratura.  While these are all still well-represented on “Lisbon,” we hear a more dynamic, incisive, elemental take on the sound.

Lisbon is amongst 2010’s stalwart records and deserves the replay setting on your playlist.  We highlight some of our favorites off Lisbon below.

The band performed Angela Surf City on Fallon, and for good reason.  The song defines Lisbon’s sound, though at its most aggressive.  It starts like a head-high day awaiting a big north swell, with Barrick’s spare, martial drumming before the guitar ventures in vaguely Venture-ish and then adds Leithauser’s quiet but tense vocals.  And then at the 54-second mark the chorus kicks in like a rogue wave, gargantuan and ferocious, with Barrick rattling thunderclap drums and Leithauser soaring on vocals.  The song ebbs and flows throughout, providing the most intense moments on the record.  We like the chorus and stanzas below.

“You took the high road
I couldn’t find you, up there
You kept your jaw wired closed
I never noticed before

I used to see the signs
Now I dream of the time
I was holding onto you
For a lack of anything to do

Still the whitecaps roll away
Still your name rings true
Mine is yours, yours is yours
Life goes on, life goes on all around you

Let’s go home happy again
Just take your head from your hands
Take up the cause, just once more
I never noticed before.”

The WalkmenAngela Surf City

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We also love Torch Song, with its shimmering opening guitar and forlorn, high-plains wail-of-a-vocal that eventually segues into a throwback, doo wop, torch-song motif that is alternately unsettling and comforting.  Like life.

The WalkmenTorch Song

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And below are some telling videos featuring Lisbon songs.

First up in the videos is album-opener, Juveniles. We love the lazy, jangling guitar and bass and the bouncing build of the song.  And what’s not to like about the victorious resignation of which Leithauser sings?

“Oh country air
Is good for me
No matter who’s side I’m on

Let these dead leaves
Dry in the sun
I’ll be up and gone

There’s a stranger outside
Oh Lord!
He’s a wiser man than I
Oh Lord

I am a good man
By any count
And I see better things to come

Could she be right?
When she repeats
I am the lucky one

You’re one of us
Or one of them!”

The Walkmen – Juveniles – Live at Governor’s Island from Big Ass Lens on Vimeo.

And finally, Woe is Me starts out one-upping Vampire Weekend (a simpering signpost of a band by comparison) at their own game.  The difference ultimately is the vernacular and delivery of Leithauser.  He simply kills on this song, vocals and lyrics inclusive.  There is loss, and there is next.

“There’s a girl that you should know
she was mine not so long ago
Had my number and we fell in love
She put me under and I got lost…

Woe is me
Woe is me

Hey do you want to walk with me?
By the trees and the factories.
Hey do you want to hop the fence?
In the sleepy red sunsets

Woe is me
Woe is me
Woe is me
Woe is me

Now the street light bright and pale
as we sip our ginger ale
I kiss you by the blinking signs
Don’t be heavy, let’s be light

On and on our merry way
On and on our merry way
On and on our merry way
On and on our merry way”

The Walkmen – Woe is Me – Live at Governor’s Island from Big Ass Lens on Vimeo.

Lisbon was released after The Walkmen signed to the great independent label Fat Possum. The Oxford, Mississippi-based label, traditionally home to rootsier bands, has seen recent progression, signing Band of Horses, Andrew Bird and indie surf-punk phenom Wavves.  Go buy Lisbon and check out Fat Possum’s other offerings here.

12
Nov

Honey Child–On “Pianos on State” and On Your Speakers

by Lefort in Music

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We loved the recent Pianos on State initiative that took place last week.

According to the Pianos on State Facebook page, the event was a “collaborative musical experiment coinciding with the 2010 New Noise Music Festival and Conference.  Pianos were placed at various locations up and down State St. from November 4-7th. Amateur and professional musicians were scheduled to perform and during open times anyone is welcome to sit down and play.  The event was put on to  raise awareness for the 2nd Annual Instrument Drive 4 Youth taking place on December 31, 2010 that collects new and used music instruments and equipment for disbursement through the school districts and other not-for profit organizations like Notes for Notes-a non-profit dedicated to providing youth with free access to music instruments, equipment and recording studio environments so that music may have a profoundly positive influence in their lives. Pianos on State is made possible by the collaborative efforts of the Santa Barbara Bowl, Ed Outreach at the Granada Theater, Notes for Notes, New Noise, The Santa Barbara Education Foundation and Santa Barbara Arts Commission.”

We applaud this effort and encourage you to support this initiative.  We got to observe the pianos first hand and hear pros, amateurs and family members plinking and playing the pianos up, up and down State Street.

One of the highlights of Pianos on State occurred when the band “Honey Child” lit it up as can be viewed below.  We look forward to catching them live soon.  You can check out and download their latest album “Nearer the Earth” here.  Between the video below of Pianos on State, a quick listen to their beguiling record and reviews of their shows, this looks like a band to keep a close eye on.  We wish them well.  Also included below is the band’s live guitar-barrage version of the same song, Away from Home. Don’t rule out more piano/acappella/handclap breakouts, boys.

10
Nov

In Honor of The New Conan–A Short Musical Retrospective of The Conan O’Brien Show

by Lefort in Music

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After finishing up his recent tour (see poster above), Conan’s new show is finally upon us. Say what you will about the non-musical bits of his prior show, but historically Conan has exhibited very good taste in music. He’s provided great performances by everyone from Bowie to Wilco to Neil Young to The National to the Strokes, and on and on. And he’s provided three great viewings of one of our and your (gotta be, right?) faves, Radiohead. Below is Radiohead’s 1993 performance of Creep, which is alternately glam (ya gotta love Yorke’s peroxide-blonde ‘doo) and overly theatrical. But despite these humorous distractions, even back then you could see the impending talent in spades.  Check out Thom Yorke’s vocal squall at minute 3:00 and enjoy Johnny Greenwoods’ passionate guitar thrashing.  If you can find them, the two other Radiohead performances were of Fake Plastic Trees in 1995 and House of Cards in 2008.

In addition to this hysterical historical performance by Radiohead, check out the comedic, but musically talented, Jonathan Richman perform one of our favorite Richman songs,  I Was Dancing in the Lesbian Bar.

And finally, check out Neil Young’s send-off of Conan from the Tonight Show via his great song, Long May You Run.

Neil Young – Long May You Run from the last Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien from John Matthews on Vimeo.

We assume there will be more phenomenal performances on his new show on TBS.  Bonne chance, Conan!

8
Nov

Talking Old Musicians–Leon Russell and Elton John

by Lefort in Music

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From 1970 to 1972 we spent a raft of time reconnoitering the recordings of Leon Russell and Elton John.   During that time, Russell (who prior thereto had mostly been a keyboard session man) dominated record charts with his album “Carney” and marauded the musical midway with hit singles such as Tight Rope and Masquerade.  Meanwhile, Elton (a big fun of Russell’s) was nearing the apex of his career, releasing signature albums such as “Tumbleweed Connection,” “Honky Chateau,” and “Madman Across the Water” (which included the critically and commercially applauded Levon and Tiny Dancer).

Unfortunately, both musicians would shortly thereafter falter creatively.  Russell would have a minor hit with the likable Lady Blue in 1975, and Elton had a few more good creative years that would include the release of his masterpiece, “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.”  Neither man would hit those high water marks again creatively, though Elton and lyricist Bernie Taupin would continue to intermittently pen wondrous songs.

But lo and behold, after all the intervening years between then and now, Elton has managed to get together with Leon and record a new record, entitled “The Union,” produced by T-Bone Burnett.  We suspect this record will sell handsomely in this nostalgic, boomer-engorged era.  We hope the sales will help Leon financially and reinvigorate him creatively, and result in the public seeking out both his and Elton’s earlier creative zeniths. After listening to “The Union,” however, (and recalling the admonitions of our parents: “if you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything at all”) instead of reviewing their new joint venture, we give you below some of the earlier meisterworks of these musicians.  And to be fair, way below is a cut off the new album and a video from John explaining how the new record came about.

Leon Russell–Tight Rope

In case you have managed to miss it, check out the the off-kilter miasma of the music and vocals in Tight Rope, while Russell provides his  life-lesson.

Cautionary verse:

“I’m up on the tightwire
flanked by life in the funeral pire
putting on a show
for you to see.”

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Leon Russell–Song for You

This song was a megahit for The Carpenters, but we prefer Russell’s unvarnished and unique delivery.

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Leon Russell–Shoot Out the Plantation

And just to give you a glimpse as to why Elton so highly regarded Russell as a musician, songwriter and vocalist, check out his rocker, Shoot Out at the Plantation

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Elton John–Amoreena

“Tumbleweed Connection” was Elton’s and lyricist, Bernie Taupin’s, fine homage to American music and country-fied life.   We also hear Elton’s early tip-of-the-hat to Russell’s piano playing in the intro and throughout this song.

Taupin was on his game on Tumbleweed Connection, including in this song.

“And she dreams of crystal streams
Of days gone by when we would lean
Laughing fit to burst upon each other”

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Elton John–Come Down in Time

This ballad has a perfect closing couplet:

“There are women and women and some hold you tight
While some leave you counting the stars in the night”

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Elton John–Talking Old Soldiers

Another affecting song by Elton, with a well-wrought stanza (or four) by Taupin:

“I know what they’re saying son
There goes old man Joe again
Well I may be mad at that I’ve seen enough
To make a man go out his brains
Well do they know what it’s like
To have a graveyard as a friend
`Cause that’s where they are boy, all of them
Don’t seem likely I’ll get friends like that again”

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Below is one of the better songs off the new album.  Is that Dumbledore or Gandalf on the right?

Here’s a video on the Russell/John collaboration.