Wednesday, 30 March 2011

White Mansions

White Mansions was a country rock concept album written in 1978 by thoroughly interesting bloke Paul Kennerley and performed by some of country music's finest including Waylon Jennings, Jessi Colter and with a guest spot on guitar from Eric Clapton.

The album is wonderful, but we will get to that....
Englishman Paul Kennerley was working in advertising in 1976 when he first heard country music. He had an epiphany, immersed himself in the music, quit his job and started writing songs. His first project White Mansions, was picked up by A & M, and Jennings, Colter, Clapton, Steve Cash and John Dillon were recruited along with Glyn Johns (Dylan, The Beatles, The Band, The Who, The Stones, Fairport) producing.  I am just astounded by that, and how someone can completely change their path and start their new career right at the top with some of the most respected people in the industry. Amazing. And lucky guy.

Anyway, the album topic is somewhat controversial, but it  is executed with thoughtfulness and wit.
The album is set at the outbreak of the American Civil War in the 1860's, and the situation as seen by various characters from the south, including the son of a wealthy cotton family, his partner who works in a hospital during the war, a drifter (a kind of weary impartial observer), self-professed 'white trash' poor southerners and (briefly) the slaves.
It tries to put across the point of view of many in the south, their pride and macho attitude towards the war but also the difficult decisions and changes they were facing and the fear of the economic repercussions.

Everyone involved sings and plays wonderfully, and with real intensity. The songs range from slow ballads to classic country rock, battlefield singalongs, gospel and a waltz thrown in for good measure. It's an all round good album, and great for anyone like me who prefers music with country influences to out and out country. It's also great being able to hear artists like Jessi and Waylon, whose voices I have long appreciated, in more of a country-rock environment. There is unfortunately only a small input from the wonderful gospel voices that make up 'the slaves' characters, but I guess the album theme (the situation from the point of view of the white southerners) limits their involvement.

If you can get round the slightly uncomfortable concept (which you should) and see this as what it is, which is not a glorification of slavery in the south but a wonderful historically set concept album, you will probably find something you like in it.

The beautiful 'Story To Tell'

'Oh Dixie'

'Join Around The Flag'

'Praise The Lord'

'Southern Pride'

'Last Dance'

Friday, 11 March 2011

Delaney and Bonnie

One of the most overlooked but glorious bands in rock.

As many sources will tell you, Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett were musician's musicians. That is to say that they didn't have much commercial success but they were very much admired and respected by some of the most celebrated artists out there.

Delaney found his early success playing with The Shindogs (house band of the tv show Shindig) and Bonnie sung from a young age, backing Albert King, Little Milton and Ike and Tina Turner (the first white Ikette). She moved to LA, met Delaney and they were married soon after.

They originally signed to Stax, but with their first album gaining little success, they moved to Elektra where they released their second, 'Accept No Substitute'. Once again it didn't fare too well commercially but found the band a small cult following of fans, many of whom were successful musicians themselves. After a tour supporting Blind Faith, Eric Clapton went on to join them full time, taking a reserved role in the group. They adjusted their name to Delaney, Bonnie and Friends, releasing their most successful album, 'On Tour With Eric Clapton'.

The band were the envy of other many musicians, to the detriment of Delaney and Bonnie. In 1970 Delaney's old friend Leon Russell invited bassist Carl Radle and drummer Jim Keltner to join the awesome Mad Dogs and Englishmen tour with Joe Cocker, and Eric Clapton invited Radle, Keyboardist Bobby Whitlock and drummer Jim Gordon to make up his Derek and the Dominoes group, no doubt putting various spanners in the works for the couple. By this point anyway, their relationship was strained, and when Delaney and Bonnie broke up the band finished altogether.

To me they are a perfect example of all that is great about that period of music. The combination of soul, blues, funk and rock sung with loads of passion and presented with a great group energy.

'Poor Elijah' with Eric Clapton

'Comin' Home' Great live performance! It really builds. Awesome.

'I Don't Know Why'. Gorgeous song with Clapton on lead vocals

'Good Thing' with Kenny Gradney and Sam Clayton from Little Feat

'Only You Know and I Know'

QI: In 1979 when Bonnie was touring with Stephen Stills, a drunk Elvis Costello was (according to him) trying to rile her by repeatedly making racist and offensive comments about Ray Charles. So she punched him in the face. Bravo.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Os Mutantes

Os Mutantes are fun.

Formed in 1966 in São Paolo, Brazil by the Baptista brothers and female vocalist Rita Lee, the band combined traditional Brazilian folk, and elements of the bossa nova and tropicalia genres with British style psychedelia.
Throughout the Mutantes' history there has been LSD breakdowns, break ups, members lost, members gained and members institutionalised, but they have remained one of Brazil's most highly respected and influential bands throughout. They have also been a huge influence on many American and British bands.
Kurt Cobain wrote them a letter requesting a reformation, Devendra Banhart asked to be their roadie, Beck named one of his albums after them and they played a glorious set in the sunshine at the Other Stage at last years Glastonbury Festival.

They are a bit bonkers, but in a really good way.

'A Minha Menina'

'Bat Macumba'

'El Justiciero'

'Panis at Cirences'- Sound quality not good but they look bloody fantastic.