Weblog of Leland Rucker
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Category — Music

Sweet Lunacy Comes to YouTube

It was ten years ago, on March 24, 2001, that Sweet Lunacy: A Brief History of Boulder Rock, was first screened at the Boulder Theatre, the opening act for the 25th reunion concert of Dusty Drapes and the Dusters.

Don Chapman and I had worked on and off for more than two years on the documentary, commissioned and funded by a grant from the Boulder Arts Commission for Boulder Municipal Channel Eight. We filmed a host of people who had been part of the music scene in Boulder from the 1950s, when Ray Imel Sr. and Rex Barker opened Tulagi, through the Astronauts, Flash Cadillac, the Dusters, Michael Woody and the Too High Band, Judy Roderick, Zephyr, Firefall, Big Head Todd and the Monsters and many others  into the 1980s, when the Fox Theatre began hosting live shows, and boiled down more than 30 hours of interviews into a one-hour documentary.

Don put the finishing touches on it that morning, and standing there watching it amongst my friends and more than a thousand people for whom it was made was one of the great hours of my life. It has been showing regularly since its release on Channel Eight.

But for ten years, that’s the only way people could see it. Because of budget and staff cuts, Channel Eight no longer makes copies of the film available. At present, it is only available if you have access to Channel 8, and it is not on a regular schedule, so it is truly accessible to only a scant few people.

Meanwhile, requests for it have remained pretty steady over the years. It was originally made for VHS (remember that?), and in a digital world many people who only have it in that format might no longer be able to access it. Others who were interviewed or played a part in the film have never seen it. I get emails inquiring about it, but beyond burning and sending a physical copy, there is no legitimate way for people outside of Boulder to see it.

The arts commission’s only charge to Don and me was to get it in front of as many people as possible, and the way to do that today is to make it available on YouTube. It needs at least the chance to go viral.

It’s now at sweetlunacyboulder, chopped into four easily digestible 15-minute segments, thanks to the lovely and talented Lauren Winton. I have added some notes so you know what’s in each segment, and I’m sure I’ll be playing with annotation and other stuff to make it more easily understood. More about Sweet Lunacy and its making here.

If you are interested in screening the film, please contact me at leland.rucker@gmail.com. But most of all, please, enjoy.

April 1, 2011   1 Comment

The Band: Roots & Branches 02-27-11

Here’s the set list for a special Roots & Branches look at one of rock’s most beloved and influential groups. Hope I can get through all these in two hours. I also direct your attention to a piece I wrote about Music From Big Pink that graciously wound up on the unofficial band website.

The house at Big Pink.

“Ain’t Got No Home” (Clarence ‘Frogman’ Henry) Clarence “Frogman” Henry The Complete Buddy Holly, Vol. 10
“The Great Pretender” The Platters Rock N’ Roll Era: 1954-1955
“Saved” LaVern Baker Atlantic Rhythm & Blues Disc 4: 1947-1974
“The Third Man Theme” The Band Moondog Matinee
“She’s Nineteen Years Old” The Hawks A Musical History
“Who Do You Love” The Band A Musical History-Selections
“He Don’t Love You” Levon Helm & The Hawks Across The Great Divide [Disc 3]
“The Stones I Throw (Will Free All Men)” Levon & The Hawks A Musical History
“I Ain’t Got No Home [Live]” Bob Dylan & The Band A Musical History
“Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat” Bob Dylan The Bootleg Series, Vol. 4: Bob Dylan Live, 1966: The Royal Albert Hall Concert [Live] [Disc 2]
“Orange Juice Blues (Blues For Breakfast)” (Outtake – Demo) The Band Music From Big Pink
“See You Later, Allen Ginsberg” Bob Dylan & The Band Genuine Basement Tapes Vol 4
“Yazoo Street Scandal (Outtake)” The Band Music From Big Pink
“We Can Talk” The Band Music From Big Pink
“To Kingdom Come” The Band Music From Big Pink
“The Weight” The Band Music From Big Pink
“Look Out Cleveland” The Band The Band
“Rag Mama Rag” The Band The Band
“The W.S. Walcott Medicine Show” The Band
Stage Fright
“Life Is A Carnival” The Band Rock Of Ages [Disc 2]
“The Last Waltz Refrain [Live]” The Band Across The Great Divide [Disc 3]
“The Shape I’m In” The Band & Friends The Complete Last Waltz
“The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”  The Complete Last Waltz
“Stage Fright” The Band & Friends The Complete Last Waltz
“Go Back To Your Woods” Robbie Robertson & Bruce Hornsby Storyville
“Ragtop” Danko Fjeld Anderson Ridin’ On The Blinds
“You Don’t Know Me” Danko, Manuel & Butterfield Lone Star Cafe, New York City NY, September 19, 1984
“Atlantic City” Levon Helm Band FestivaLink Presents Levon Helm Band MerleFest Ramble At MerleFest, NC 4/26/08 [Disc 1]
“I Shall Be Released” The Band Live At Watkins Glen
“Acadian Driftwood (Neil Young & Joni Mitchell)” The Band & Friends The Complete Last Waltz
“Theme From The Last Waltz [Live]” The Band Across The Great Divide [Disc 3]
Slippin And Slidin’ [Live]The BandAcross The Great Divide [Disc 3]

February 26, 2011   1 Comment

Morning Sound Alternative: Jan. 24, 2011

Here’s the playlist for the Morning Sound Alternative for Jan. 24, 2011 on KGNU. The only restriction for this show is that the singer is not the author of the song.

Everybody Wants To Rule The World    Patti Smith    Twelve    4:07    2007
Rebel Rebel    Seu Jorge    The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou    2:24    2004
Coffee, Coffee, Coffee    Freedy Johnston    Real: The Tom T Hall Project    3:02    1998
The Third Man Theme    The Band    Moondog Matinee    2:49    1973
It’s A Long Way To The Top    Lucinda Williams    Little Honey    4:56    2008
Angel Of The Morning    The Pretenders    Pirate Radio [Disc 3]    3:32    1994
Words (Between The Lines Of Age)    Chip Taylor    Harvest Revisted (MOJO )    5:09    2010
A Day In The Life    Jeff Beck    International Forum, Tokyo JP, February 6, 2009    5:14    2009
This Wheel’s On Fire    Neil Young and The Sadies    Garth Hudson Presents A Canadian Celebration Of The Band    3:28    2010
Lean On Me    Eric Bibb, Rory Block & Maria Muldaur    Sisters & Brothers    4:07    2004
Superstition    Old School Freight Train  Heart of Glass      3:23
Everything I Do Gonna Be Funky    Peter Wolf    Midnight Souvenirs    2:12    2010
Gonna Move    Susan Tedeschi    Wait For Me    4:26    2002
Never Gonna Give You Up    The Black Keys    The Black Keys (Brothers)    3:41    2010
Angel Dance    Robert Plant    Band of Joy    3:49    2010
Run Through the Jungle (Gunmen soundtrack)    Los Lobos    Rarities, Covers & Radio Shows    3:46
Garden Party    John Fogerty    The Blue Ridge Rangers Rides Again    3:51    2009
She Belongs To Me    Rick Nelson    Legacy (Disc 3)    3:03
Lonesome Town    Bob Dylan With Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers    Lonesome Town [Disc 2]    5:30    2002
Burn Down The Cornfield    Charlie Musselwhite    Sanctuary    3:30    2004
Louisiana 1927    Sonny Landreth        3:59
Losing You    Mavis Staples    You Are Not Alone    2:52    2010
Just One Smile    Al Kooper    Soul of a Man (Disc 1)    6:09    1994
Gone Dead Train [Movie-Soundtrack]    Randy Newman    CD 3: Odds & Ends    2:54    1970
Everybody’s Talkin’    Harry Nilsson    Greatest Hits    2:46    1968
Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood    Nina Simone    Broadway Blues Ballads    2:48    1993
Hey Gyp    The Animals    Retrospective    3:50    1966
Voodoo Child (Slight Return)    Angelique Kidjo, Buddy Guy, And Vernon Reid    Lightning In A Bottle. A Salute To The Blues Soundtrack Recording [Disc 2]    5:17    2004
I Am Waiting    Ollabelle        4:15
Walk Away Renee Linda Ronstadt & Ann Savoy    Adieu False Heart    3:26    2006
When Doves Cry    The Be Good Tanyas    Hello Love    4:02    2006
Soul Serenade    Aretha Franklin    I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You    2:39
State Trooper    Deana Carter    Badlands: A Tribute To Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska    3:46
Paint The Town Beige    Bill and Bonnie Hearne    Watching Life Through A Windshield    3:39    2000
Glad & Sorry    Golden Smog    Down By The Old Mainstream    3:34    1996
Don’t Knock    Tom Jones    Praise & Blame    2:15    2010
Perfidia (Guitar)    The Ventures        2:03    1960
Señor (Tales Of Yankee Power)    Tim O’Brien    Red On Blonde    4:03    1996
Al Vaivén De Mi Carreta    Afrocubismo    Afrocubismo    5:00    2010

January 24, 2011   No Comments

Roots and Branches: Jan. 23, 2011

Here’s the set list for the R&B Program on KGNU Jan. 23, 2011. The only only rule for inclusion today is that it be a song by one musician written about another one. Musicians on Musicians.

Nina Simone    Tom Russell    Blood And Candle Smoke    2009
The Great Hank    Robert Earl Keen    What I Really Mean    2005
When The Beatles Hit America    John Wesley Harding    Just Say Da: Vol. 4 Of Just Say Yes    1990
Wilson Pickett    Tim Krekel    Soul Season    2007
Here’s Your Mop Mr. Johnson    Keri Leigh    The Last Soul Company (Disc 6)    1999
I’m So Restless    Roger McGuinn    Fantasy Factory vol.8    1973
Got to Find Blind Lemon-Part One    Geoff Muldaur    The Secret Handshake    1998
W. Lee O’Daniel And The Light Crust Dough Boys    James Talley    Got No Bread/Tryin’ Like The Devil    1989
I Dreamed Of A Hillbilly Heaven    Tex Ritter    Collectors Series    1961
The King & I    Fred Koller    Sxsw Live Volume 5 (Disc 2)
Baby Boom Ché    John Trudell    AKA Grafitti Man    1992
Went To See The Gypsy    Bob Dylan    Genuine Bootleg Series Vol 3 [Disc 2]    1970
Blind Willie McTell    The Band    Jericho    1993
Wild As The Wind (A Tribute To Rick Danko)    Steve Forbert    Just Like There’s Nothin’ To It    2004
Gram`s Song    John Phillips    Phillips 66    2001
Alcohol And Pills    Todd Snider    East Nashville Skyline    2004
The Late Great Johnny Ace [Demo]    Paul Simon    Hearts & Bones [Bonus Tracks]    1983
Death of Muddy Waters    The Chicago Blues Reunion    Buried Alive in the Blues    2005
Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way    Robert Earl Keen    Lonesome, On’ry & Mean: A Tribute To Waylon Jennings    2003
My My, Hey Hey (Out Of The Blue)    Neil Young    A Perfect Echo: Vol. 3, Disc 1
Johnny Met June    Shelby Lynne    Suit Yourself    2005
Carl Perkins’ Cadillac    Drive-By Truckers    The Dirty South    2004
The Man Who Could Have Played Bass For Shanana    Darrell Scott    Theatre Of The Unheard    2003
House on the Lake    Rosanne Cash    Black Cadillac    2006
Link Wray    Jason Ringenberg    Empire Builders    2004
Where Is Bobbie Gentry?    Jill Sobule    California Years    2009
Flat Top Joint    The Blasters    American Music    1997

January 23, 2011   2 Comments

Paul Simon/Rev. J.M. Gates: Holiday Synergy

The Rev. James M. Gates: King of the Vinyl Ministries

Mid-1990s: Gil and Steve and I are somewhere along I-35 north of Wichita on our way to Austin when we first stumble onto the Rev. James M. Gates.

I had found the track,  a sermon recorded by the Rev. Gates, on a vinyl Riverside History of Classic Jazz, and put it on a cassette. Maybe it was the fact that we were pumped up for the SXSW confab, but we heard the entirety of twentieth-century black music in that short recording. Just the title, “I’m Going to Heaven If It Takes My Life,” which suggests that he’s willing to go to heaven even if it kills him to do it, is weighted with portent. and in that short, call-and-response sermonizing we felt we were at the nascence of gospel, soul, R&B, funk, disco and rap – recorded on Dec. 13, 1926, eighty-four years this week. It’s all there — in two minutes and forty seconds.

Sermon recordings were popular back in those days, and Gates, the longtime house pastor for an Atlanta congregation, was the best-known and most popular of those vinyl ministries. In 1926 alone, Gates recorded 96 of these sermons, on topics as varied as installment payments (he’s for them), kinky hair (it’s no disgrace, he says) and mannish women (he’s against them), besides the hellfire-and-damnation proclamations like “I’m Gong to Heaven If It Takes My Life.” The sermons are fascinating looks into a period now long gone, and they include talented congregants singing, chanting and otherwise encouraging the preacher on his journey to heaven.

Cut to 2010: I download the new Paul Simon single, “Getting Ready for Christmas Day,” a catchy, rhythmic tune that’s scheduled for Simon’s next album early next year. It’s being offered as a free download here.

It’s incredibly catchy, with some pumping, wheezing instrumentation that reminds me of the Graceland period. In between the verses are some sampled voices, especially a man talking about being “ready for Christmas Day.” And it’s the voice of our friend, the Rev. J.M. Gates, who also recorded a sermon titled “Getting’ Ready for Christmas Day.”

Anyway, without belaboring the point, Simon makes the best of both worlds. He nods to his inspiration by sampling pieces of his sermons, adds a topical verse about a U.S. soldier on his third Mideast tour and comes up with a classic.

I’m not much on holiday songs – the market has been oversaturated. But this one is simple, sweet and catchy, and it hits me much like Bob Dylan’s “Must Be Santa” did last year. And it should even make Bill O’Reilly happy that Simon doesn’t make it “ready for the holiday.”

December 14, 2010   No Comments

Records to Die For 5: Dirty South, Sacred Steel

Drive-By Truckers
The Dirty South
New West 6058 (CD). 2004. David Barbe, prod. AAD TT: 70:42

Ambitious, zealous, emotional and fueled by Jack Daniels, The Dirty South, like its song about tornadoes, careens randomly across the cultural landscape. Three distinct songwriters telling tall tales of Carl Perkins, John Henry, Buford Puser, bootleggers, World War II vets and nasty rednecks who “empty out shotgun shells and fill ’em full of black eyed peas,” set to music that ranges from hard metal to country rock. The Truckers will almost make you believe in rock ‘n’ roll again. Their emotional tribute to the Band’s Rick Danko and Richard Manuel seals the deal. (93)

Sacred Steel: Traditional Sacred African-American Steel Guitar Music in Florida
Arhoolie 450 (CD). 1997. Robert Stone, prod. AAD TT: 74:29

The original recordings of two Pentecostal sects who traded the organ for a steel guitar in their worship services put American gospel and church music through new filters. The music is familiar, but it’s different; shades of blues, Hawaiian and surf music, R&B and small-combo blues and country-western join the hymn-and-gospel mix. Glenn Lee’s catchy “Joyful Sounds” inspired the Word, a pop group featuring Robert Randolph, this music’s only real crossover. The goal is to make the steel sound like the human voice, and nothing does that better than Willie Eason’s “Franklin D. Roosevelt, A Poor Man’s Friend.” “It was sad about Roosevelt” he wails. When he lets loose, the steel guitar cries real tears. (115)

The assignment: Write about an album you would die for in 100 words.

November 29, 2010   No Comments

Records to Die For 4: Goodbye Jumbo and Aereo-Plain

Goodbye Jumbo
Chrysalis/Ensign F221654. 1990, Karl Wallinger, prod. TT: 53:36.

Listening to Goodbye Jumbo is like making your way through the detritus of an audio attic – stepping amongst old 45s, vinyl albums, eight-tracks and memorable riffs, bridges and choruses. Though every Karl Wallinger song stands on its own, there are plentiful references to icons from the Beach Boys to Prince to the Beatles, and yes, those are the “whoo-whoos” from the Rolling Stones “Sympathy from the Devil” leading out “Way Down Now” and the melodies of “Please Mr. Postman” and “Be Bop A Lula” underpinning “When the Rainbow Comes.” There is not a song here that you can’t sing along to. (102)

Rounder 0366. 1971, David Bromberg, prod., Claude J. Hill, eng.
TT: 40:10 .

The record that changed the bluegrass landscape forever. Until then, captive to RCA producers who didn’t know what to do with his literate, often hilarious songs, Hartford slipped below Warner Brothers’ radar, hooked up with David Bromberg and some of the genre’s top guns and tore the lid off traditional bluegrass. Together, they spilled out the contents, rolled them back up with some kind bud and let the tapes roll. Aereo-Plain’s combustible jumble of old-time reverence and flower-power curiosity was an unofficial muse for a new generation of players (led by Sam Bush and New Grass Revival) that has spread the framework and the influence of bluegrass far beyond its original borders. (112)

The assignment: Write reviews of two great records in 100 words. These were my choices for 2004.

November 16, 2010   No Comments

Records To Die For 3: Sailing to Philadelphia and Mr. Tambourine Man

Sailing to Philadelphia
Warner Brothers  47753-2. 2000. Chuck Ainley, Mark Knopfler prod.; Chuck Ainley, eng. TT: 60:34

Like Richard Thompson, Mark Knopfler’s talent as a guitarist is knowing that, sometimes, NOT playing is more important than cutting loose. “What It Is,” the only real anthem here, opens to the bombast of fiddles, and on many songs, the instruments and delivery are little more than a whisper. But Knopfler’s 13 vignettes – which include a prairie wedding, black gospel singers living out of their car, an itinerant professional race car driver, a rock band that sounds like Dire Straits on its first tour and the Englishmen who sailed to Philadelphia to survey the Mason-Dixon line, among others – cut to the quick, carried  by Knopfler’s always elegant, always bluesy guitar lines.(112)

Mr. Tambourine Man
Columbia 64845. 1965. Terry Melcher, Bob Irwin, prod.; Vic Anesini, eng. AAD. TT: 45.43

Sweetheart of the Rodeo gets all the hype, and this album has taken its share of abuse for having used studio musicians. But heard as the opening salvo of an American-Brit tit-for-tat with the then-indomitable Beatles, Mr. Tambourine Man still stands proud. Besides letting Lennon, McCartney and Harrison know we weren’t all a bunch of rubes over here, the Byrds, studio musicians and all, brought Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger, and Jackie DeShannon into the electric age, where they belonged, and introduced the talents of Gene Clark to the world at large. Oh, and along the way established forever the electric 12-string as part of the rock vocabulary. (108)

This is the third installment of Records to Die For, which I wrote for Stereophile magazine over the years. The assignment is to write about your favorite records in 100 words. These were my choices for 2003; number of words in parentheses.

November 9, 2010   No Comments

Records to Die For 2: Doug Sahm’s The Last Real Texas Blues Band and Bob Dylan’s Self-Portrait

The Last Texas Blues Band
Antones 10036 (CD). 1994. Clifford Antone, exec. prod.; Malcolm Harper, eng. TT: 56.30.

Confession: I had to be coerced into seeing Doug Sahm onstage the first time. I only knew Sir Douglas’ “She’s About a Mover” and “Mendocino,” and there he was playing ringmaster for the most eclectic and perhaps the finest three hours of live music I can remember, a veritable phantasmagoria of pop nuggets, polkas, soul, R&B, tejano and big- and small-band blues. Along with Juke Box Music (the soul version of this big-band collection), this is how I most like to remember Sahm, that bemused grin beneath the cowboy hat, wandering among the ghosts of Texas music, recalling T-Bone and Guitar Slim, mimicking Fats Domino and leading the band to ever higher plateaus. The definition of Texas music. (118)

Self Portrait
Sony 30050 (CD). 1970. Bob Johnston, prod. TT: 73:15.

The only real problems with Dylan’s most misunderstood and unheard album are the timing and the title. Were it released as The Bootleg Series Vol. 6 in 2002, it might not have dismayed critics and confused most of the rest of his audience. Dylan has long claimed it was his response to unauthorized, bootleg recordings, and that description fits — from the scattershot sequencing to the wildly eclectic repertoire. Given the current Dylan penchant for unpredictable covers in his live show, mixing up country ballads, folk standards and contemporary favorites and a sprinkling of his own songs seems downright rootsy. Most interesting is that except for his voice, Self-Portrait isn’t much different from his onstage act today. What goes around comes around. Self-Portrait takes us full circle. (127)

The rules are that the reviews be 100 words or less, and I went a little long on both. These originally appeared in Stereophile magazine in 2002.

November 8, 2010   No Comments

Records to Die For: Disraeli Gears; Dark Was the Night

I just my annual invite from Robert Baird, music editor at Stereophile magazine, to participate in the magazine’s year-end RTDF poll. RTDF stands for Records to Die For, and Baird’s rules are that you write reviews of two albums currently in-print, that you have fun and use no more than 100 words, which makes them similar in style to the short reviews popularized by Robert Christgau in his monthly Consumer Record Guide in the Village Voice and Creem that I grew up with. One hundred words is just a few quick sentences. (This paragraph is 123 words.) Trying to say anything coherent that quickly — especially about a record I love — is always an interesting exercise.

This is my tenth year, so I thought it would be fun to post each year’s two entries. I still stand behind each and every choice. We’ll start with the year 2001.

Disraeli Gears
Eric Clapton, guitar, vocals; Ginger Baker, drums, vocals; Jack Bruce, bass, vocals.
Polygram 531811 (CD). 1967/1998.
Felix Pappalardi, prod.; Tom Dowd, eng. TT: 33:33.

Strange brew. The rainbow has a beard. Tales of Ulysses. Whimsical wah-wah. Delirious drums. Big bass. Harmonies from some higher dimension. SWLABR. There is little doubt that Cream’s short career sowed the seeds for future musical prowess (and excess) while wedding the blues to psychedelia. But not here. Disraeli Gears is about economy, stupid. These 11 songs are notoriously lean and mean, with the longest, “Sunshine of Your Love,” clocking in at a little more than four minutes. Along with Highway 61 Revisited, this is where rock finally pulled up alongside the blues and waved back. (97)

Blind Willie Johnson
Dark Was the Night
Blind Willie Johnson, guitar, vocals; Willie B. Harris, vocals.
Time: 50:40.

With lyrics ripped from Baptist hymn-books and Scripture, a mannered steel-guitar style and a moaning, tortured voice that cried like a prophet in the wilderness, the street evangelist known as Blind Willie Johnson worked the crossroads between Saturday night and Sunday morning. This is as scary as religious music got in the 1920s, or any decade, for that matter. Original versions of “If I Had My Way,” “Dark Is the Night,” “John the Revelator” and 13 others you probably thought were written by someone else. (85)

November 7, 2010   No Comments