Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Sheltering at Home with Stellar Sights and Sounds

While we all continue to shelter in place during the COVID-19 pandemic, how about some excellent musical detours to help fill your time...

Who: Steve Goodman
Title: Live '69 (Omnivore Recordings)
You might like if you enjoy: Harry Chapin, Townes Van Zandt, John Prine
Tell me more: Thanks to specialty record labels, many of music's lost treasures have been unearthed for the world to hear. Look no further than Omnivore Recordings' new release featuring the late singer-songwriter Steve Goodman's wonderful Live '69. Recorded in November 1969 when he was only 21, Goodman's hour-plus performance at the University of Illinois featured the rising singer-songwriter/guitarist performing an eclectic setlist of covers treated to his singular style. His treatment of acoustic blues and folk material is deeply affecting, thanks in large part to his strengths as a singer and acoustic guitar master. Opening up with Willie Dixon's "You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover," he continues to delve into the blues via William Harris' "Bullfrog Blues." His power as a rising great really shows via the driving "Fast Freight," where his guitar work and dynamic vocals help propel the song in tune with the lyrical imagery of a train moving down the tracks. He equally masters Celtic stylings with the traditional "Byker Hill" and "John Barleycorn," the latter delivered via his a capella vocals sans guitar accompaniment. He also revisits classics from Bob Dylan (the driving roots nugget "Country Pie"), Merle Haggard (bolstered by Bob Hoban's harmony vocals), and Terry Fell (the spirited country-fried "Truck Drivin' Man"). Toward the end of his set, he offers up a four-song medley that weaves together diverse material (including the Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby" and Jefferson Airplane's "Somebody to Love") masterfully. Rich Warren of Chicago's WFMT-FM, who engineered the show, contributes liner notes that add depth to the title. Information: OmnivoreRecordings.com.

Who: Alex Dixon
Title: The Real McCoy (Dixon Landing Music)
You might like if you enjoy: Willie Dixon, Little Walter, Muddy Waters
Tell me more: Willie Dixon, who passed away in January 1992, is one of the most celebrated blues artists of the 20th century, particularly celebrated for his long parade of original songs covered or adapted by artists ranging from Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters and Led Zeppelin to the Doors and The Rolling Stones. His list of memorable classics includes "Hoochie Coochie Man," "I Just Want to Make Love to You," "Little Red Rooster" and "Spoonful." Fast forward to 2020 and it's clear from the authentic Chicago blues unleashed by Willie Dixon's grandson Alex Dixon across the winning The Real McCoy prove that the genre is alive and thriving in the 21st century. The hard-hitting "Nothing New Under the Sun," guitar- and harmonica-adorned take on Willie Dixon's "Spider In My Stew," joyful "Howlin' for My Darling" (another Willie Dixon classic), the guitar showcase "Groanin' the Blues" and swinging "Chi-Town Boogie" are among the infectious cuts on the 11-track album. The cast of players who surround Alex Dixon (who plays bass and piano across the disc) includes harmonica players Steve Bell and Sugar Blue, guitarists Melvin Tylor and Gino Matteo, and drummer Alvino Bennett. A big shout out to lead vocalist Lewis "Big Lew" Powell, whose rich baritone and personality bring the mix of material to life. Information: https://Vintagedixon.com/.

Who: Radiohead, Moby, Daft Punk, Rage Against the Machine, more
Title: Coachella: 20 Years in the Desert (Goldenvoice / Hamsterdam Productions)
You might like if you enjoy: Coachella
Tell me more: A must-see documentary that premiered via YouTube on April 10, the Chris Perkel-directed "Coachella: 20 Years in the Desert" revisits the history of the event via a mix of performance footage, revealing interviews and artful scenes of crowds amidst the inspired art installations at the Coachella Valley and Music Arts Festival. The focus is not only on the legendary performers, but how the experience of attending the festival has been enhanced by technological advances, the evolution of musical tastes and the move in 2012 to stage Coachellafest over two consecutive weekends. For more than 100 wonderful minutes, the viewer is thrilled by the diverse likes of art rock giants Radiohead, punk rock icons Rancid, K-pop quartet Blackpink, performer Beyonce, songstress Billie EilishRage Against the Machine and rapper Jay-Z. Other artists featured in the parade of clips include band Tame Impalamodern rockers Arcade Firehip hop's Kanye West, electronica pioneer Moby, British alt rock singer Morrissey, singer-songwriter/guitar great Prince, goth rockers Bauhaus and modern rockers Weezer. Rock, electronica, dance, hip-hop and Americana have all played a part in the legacy of the event and Coachellagoers will be thrilled by every moment of the fast-moving documentary. Information: coachella.com.

Lost Classic

Who: Fountains of Wayne
Title: No Better Place: Live in Chicago (Shout! Factory)
You might like if you enjoy: Squeeze, Fountains of Wayne
Tell me more: The untimely death of singer-songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Adam Schlesinger from complications of COVID-19 on April 1 has rightfully reignited interest in his wonderful power pop troupe Fountains of Wayne. The next best thing to catching the quartet — which was together from 1995 to 2013  in concert is enjoying the 2009 Shout! Factory-issued title "No Better Place: Live in Chicago." The concert film was the New York City-spawned outfit's first-ever DVD release and offers up energetic versions of 16 of their beloved originals including "Stacy's Mom," "Radiation Vibe," "Sink To The Bottom" and "Red Dragon Tattoo." The Joe Thomas-directed concert film was shot for broadcast in widescreen and recorded in 5.1 Surround, which wasn't always the case in 2005. As a bonus feature, a previously-unseen acoustic performance featuring five compelling tracks that was captured in a recording studio in 2007 is included. Information: amazon.com or fountainsofwayne.com.

Robert Kinsler

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