Sunday, November 10, 2019

The Terry Kath Experience (2017)

A surprisingly good documentary, The Terry Kath Experience, received rave reviews at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2017 and is now available on AXS TV, a cable network that specializes in classic rock programming.

Michelle Kath Sinclair was only two years old when her father, Terry Kath, died accidently playing with a gun he didn't know was loaded at age thirty-two. He was the guitar player for the 70s horn band, Chicago, an outfit that was finally inducted into the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame in 2016. Sinclair never knew Kath because she was so young when he died so, in order to fill a big void in her life, she produced this informative and moving documentary.

Before we get deeper into the film some of you fine readers may need to know more about Kath because, except for musicians and many diehard fans, he is not among the more well-remembered classic rockers. Although he unjustly never makes the lists of rock's great guitarists that many music magazines and websites love to compile he was held in high esteem by such axemasters as Jimi Hendrix, Joe Walsh, Eric Clapton, and all six of his original bandmates. They agree that Kath was indispensable to their success and that he was the heart and soul of the jazz-rock septet. They even considered breaking up after his passing because everyone knew the group would never be the same and, unfortunately, they were right.

Sinclair covered a lot of ground. In addition to Chicago's surviving members she interviewed Toto's Steve Lukather, Mike Campbell of Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Jeff Lynne (ELO) and Dean DeLeo (Stone Temple Pilots). She also spoke with family members, including Terry's brother Roy, and her Mom, Camelia, Kath's widow.

Sinclair also interviewed James William Guercio, Chicago's first producer. He was the owner of the Caribou Ranch where Chicago recorded five studio albums from 1973 to 1977. For many of us it was the first time we saw the ranch and studio where the band recorded so many of their big hits.

One of the main themes running through the documentary is Sinclair's search for Kath's favorite onstage shredding device, his Fender Telecaster with pignose stickers pasted all over its body. You'll have to watch the movie to see if she finds it.

The film proves itself to be part Ken Burns because of all the informative movie clips, still photos, and talking heads collected together and, mostly because of the melodramatic search for the missing Telecaster, it's also part reality show. Sinclair did a terrific job of informing viewers of who Kath was, how much his music meant to him, his unfulfilled plans for the future, and most importantly, how highly his friends and family thought of him above and beyond his musical talents.

It's sad that Kath is gone but Sinclair puts so much love and detail into her movie that when it's over we leave it happily remembering the man who treated us to some of the finest rock music ever made. We're also glad to witness his daughter seemingly come to terms with her father's legacy.

Sinclair has succeeded in the entertainment field in multiple ways. Working under the name of DJ Lady Sinclair she is a DJ known for her party mixes. The Terry Kath Experience is her first feature length documentary and she receives credit as both a director and producer. She also has her own podcast.

The first video below features the man himself singing lead on his first composition to make it onto a Chicago LP. Side 1, track 1, of Chicago Transit Authority, the group's very first album from 1969, is "Introduction," one of Kath's best.

The second video is a live take on Kath's greatest studio solo, "25 or 6 to 4," recorded on stage in Japan in 1972.

Related Websites:
The Terry Kath Experience
Chicago the Band
Caribou Ranch Recording Studio
Chicago: An Album By Album Analysis Of The Terry Kath Era (1969 - 1977)
Terry Kath's Solo on "25 or 6 to 4"
DJ Lady Sinclair

Saturday, November 02, 2019

Madeleine Peyroux - Careless Love (2004)

Madeleine Peyroux released her sophomore album, Careless Love, a whopping eight years after her stellar debut. Why it took so long is unknown but when there is that large of a gap betweens records we should expect the follow up to be very, very good. Fortunately, it is.

Just as they did on Dreamland, Peyroux's vocals generate Billie Holiday comparisons but unlike like Lady Day, the former street busker's reach extends far beyond the realm of jazz.

Careless Love has only one self-penned tune and that allows Peyroux to record some excellent cover material. The set starts off with a bang. She uses Leonard Cohen's "Dance Me To The End Of Love" to prove how well she can interpret somebody else's work. Her reading of Bob Dylan's "You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go," originally found on his legendary Blood On The Tracks LP, is superb. She also covers Hank Williams, as well as the title cut by W. C. Handy, and an old jazz standard "The Lonesome Road."

"Don't Wait To Long," the only original entry, shows Peyroux has great taste in collaborators because her co-writer here is none other than Jesse Harris who wrote a lot of Norah Jones' first album.

Peyroux's band only plays what is necessary so they never become a distraction. They keep everything mellow, never working up a sweat, and their contributions are important to this disc's enjoyment.

If you haven't heard this very good set of songs yet please make sure that you do.

Madeleine Peyroux's official website can be found here.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

The Beach Boys - California Dreamin' (1986)

In 1986 The Beach Boys recorded a great cover version of The Mamas and The Papas' "California Dreamin," twenty years after their outstanding original made the charts and airwaves.

The Beach Boys' arrangement rocks more than the Mamas and The Papas first chartbuster and features Roger McGuinn on 12-string guitar, the instrument the former Byrd made famous in his own band. The Boys' single never became the classic the 1966 hit was but it's almost as good, proving a great song will succeed under any circumstances. Carl Wilson and Alan Jardine starred on lead vocals and the rest of the group added their always superlative harmonies.

"California Dreamin" peaked at # 8 on the Adult Contemporary chart but only reached #57 on Billboard's Hot 100 even though it was a thousand times better than the #1, Grammy nominated, "Kokomo," the hall-of-famers' last hit two years later.

The track was produced by Terry Melcher.

There are a couple of things to notice when you watch the excellent video. The sax playing preacher is one of the song's composers, Papa John Phillips, and the guitar player in the balcony is McGuinn. Ex-Mama, and former wife of Papa John, Michelle Phillips, makes an appearance too. She was co-composer of the song and was credited as Michelle Gilliam on her group's record.

The video and song are a perfect match.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Svetlana - Night At The Movies (2019)

Russian immigrant Svetlana is in love with both American cinema and music and she proves it with her second full length album, the recently released Night At The Movies. All fourteen songs are Oscar winners and all are performed in the style of classic, vocal jazz.

According to her website Svetlana is "Russian-by-birth American-by-Music" and it was the latter that sent her to New York City to start a new life and career about twenty years ago.

Just like another non-American, Michael Bublé, Svetlana has fully embraced the Great American Songbook and added the right amount of a modern sensibilities. However, she is more thoroughly schooled in jazz than the Canadian Superstar.

The new album features a tight band but it is not The Delancey Five, the quintet Svetlana is credited with on her debut set, Night At The Speakeasy (2016). However, the group she assembled for Movies can number up to thirteen depending on the track and they are not merely accompanists. The singer's vocals are more in the pocket because of this hot outfit.

There are lots of old tunes, including "Smile" from Charlie Chaplin's Modern Times, "Cheek to Cheek" from Fred Astaire's 1935 flick, Top Hat, "When You Wish Upon a Star" from Pinocchio, and the album's finale, "Somewhere over the Rainbow." The last one is well done but nobody should ever be allowed to sing this great ballad except for Judy Garland.

The rest of the songs are from films released after 1960 and one, "Remember Me," is from 2017's Coco. Wycliffe Gordon duets with Svetlana again on this record, assisting her greatly on "Cheek to Cheek" and Pharrell Williams' "Happy" from Despicable Me 2. The duo may not be Ella and Louis but their pairing is quite satisfying. One can see them working together for many years without disappointing listeners. Also helping out are two other male singers, Rob Garcia, and Jon-Erik Kellso.

The producer is Grammy nominated Matt Pierson who worked with Jane Monheit, Joshua Redman and many others.

Websites to see:
Wycliffe Gordon

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Buried Treasure: Steve Forbert - Any Old Time (Songs of Jimmie Rodgers) (2002)

I've always had respect for country music but Ken Burns' sixteen hour documentary provided me with a much greater appreciation of the genre even though I'm not yet fully indoctrinated.

While country's roots grew from the rural South the music appeals to a far more cosmopolitan audience today and its influence has become universal. Respected rock, folk, and R&B musicians often profess their love.

Country's first major star, Jimmie Rodgers, from Meridian, Mississippi, was featured heavily in the early episodes of Burns' epic documentary, and while his influence on the music is incalculable his name and work are virtually unknown today except to musicians and historians. One of these is the veteran rocker and singer-songwriter, Steve Forbert, who covered twelve of Rodger's songs in 2002.

Not coincidentally, Forbert is also from Meridian and, while you can't otherwise compare the two, both are respected songwriters. Forbert's voice is gravelly while Rodgers' is not. The current star's recording sessions are firmly rooted in the 21st century and usually employ a full band, often with electric guitars, while Rodgers had to contend with far more primitive studios and equipment. In the end Forbert sounds just like himself while lovingly resurrecting the late legend's body of work. That's a good thing because most listeners will prefer his modern versions even while acknowledging the fact that Rodgers is an excellent composer.

The CD was produced by Tim Coats and E Street's Garry Tallent and features perfectly retro cover art.

The album's highlight is its opening track, "Waiting For A Train." You can listen to it below following Rodger's original version.

See the following websites for more information.
Jimmie Rodgers
Steve Forbert
Ken Burns