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Tedeschi Trucks Band featuring Trey Anastasio – Layla Revisited (Live at LOCKN’)

Tedeschi Trucks Band featuring Trey Anastasio – Layla Revisited (Live at LOCKN’) Fantasy Records

I am a long time fan of Derek Trucks and the Tedeschi Trucks Band (TTB). Derek and the Dominos’ Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs is the perfect album for TTB to cover. Derek Trucks is the rightful heir to Duane Allman (the secret sauce on the original album). Derek was named after this album and Susan was born on the original album’s release date. Layla Revisited is a live show by the TTB with Phish’s guitarist/vocalist Trey Anastasio and longtime TTB collaborator guitarist Doyle Bramhall II. It was recorded August 24, 2019. The performance of Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs was kept secret until the moment the band took stage – I can’t imagine how amazing an experience that must of been for the unsuspecting audience. I have chatted with a few people on the internet who were there and it was a mind blowing experience.

Layla Revisited is fantastic – do I dare say better than the original? The vocals are better, the recording, mix and mastering are better, the guitar is at least on par and TTB is a tighter band. I am not dissing the original – it is a classic, but this cover is next level. This is not a novelty or a tacky tribute band. The TTB and friends are faithful to the original, but they make the material their own like a great singer whose interpretation of a song makes it theirs, TTB and friends own Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs.

Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs is the only studio album by Derek and the Dominos and was released in November 1970 as a double album. It is best known for its titular track, “Layla” that is often regarded as Eric Clapton’s greatest musical achievement. In addition to Clapton, Duane Allman played lead and slide guitar on 11 of the 14 songs.

Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs was a commercial failure and critical disappointment when it was released, but it has grown in stature over the years and is regarded by most classic rock fans as a hall of fame recording. Personally, beyond “Bell Bottom Blues” and the titular track the rest of the album has never really resonated with me. But on the first listen of this cover version I was hooked. I now appreciate the original more – what more can you ask from a tribute album? I have re-listened to the original and now I love every song and not just the hits ( “Bell Bottom Blues” and “Layla”). Layla Revisited benefits from the fact the TTB is a cohesive and road tested “big band” (the base TTB is an 11 piece with multiple vocalists, a horn section, etc.) and Derek, Trey, Doyle and Susan are simpatico guitarists with each other. The original Layla album was a jam and TTB and Trey are the ultimate players on the jam band scene – this is the perfect group of musicians to perform this classic album. TTB has never disappointed me and Layla Revisited exceeds even my high expectations of them.

PS – the vinyl edition sounds fantastic. It is pressed on 180g vinyl and was mastered and cut by Chris Bellman (a vinyl mastering rockstar) from analog tapes. It is a reasonable price for a 3 LP audiophile release.

John Mayer – Sad Rock

John Mayer has the skills to do anything in the rock genre and yet he chooses yacht rock. The “problem” is he does it brilliantly. This is well executed soft rock: hummable songs, great arrangements, impeccably recorded, tasty guitar licks and cover art that screams of the 80s (a wink to the listener that Mayer knows exactly what he is doing). “I’m somewhere between a pop artist and a jam band—maybe closer to pop artist,” Mayer recently stated.

There is not much to say here. If you like Mayer and you are not too cool to enjoy soft rock, give this a listen. It is like having a decent craft beer on a brewery patio on a nice day – pleasant. It is not 80s Dire Straits or Steve Windwood, but it is pretty damn good. Kickback and enjoy.

PS – I love The Nice Price sticker on the album cover. Back in the day, Columbia (now Sony) used this sticker to discount slow moving product (and albums past their sell date) in its catalog – another wink at musicheads like me.

Dennis Wilson – Pacific Ocean Blue

I am a minor Beach Boys fan. I like the hits when I am hear them, but I wouldn’t deliberately play their music. I fully appreciate their genius and their influence on pop music. Despite my ambivalence about The Beach Boys, I am a fan of Dennis Wilson’s 1977 solo project Pacific Ocean Blue.

I became aware of Pacific Ocean Blue when it was reissued by Legacy Recordings as a special 30th anniversary 2-disc edition in 2008. It also included material from the Bambu sessions which was the intended follow up. Pacific Ocean Blue reissue got a lot of positive hype as a lost classic. Based on the reviews, I picked it up on CD and have enjoyed it ever since. I picked up a green vinyl version of Bambu on Record Store Day 2017.

I was recently crate digging and came across an attractively priced limited edition 180-gram blue vinyl version released on the Sundazed label (same tracks as CDs). I was not going to pass that up.

The album has a bit of a Beach Boys vibe, but it has its own vision. It has much more in common with the late 70s California singer songwriter movement than The Beach Boys. As Tom Jurek states, in his All Music review, “This album is a classic, blissed-out, coked-up slice of ’70s rock and pop that is as essential as Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours.” There is almost a Pink Floyd feel to the album. Also, there is a funkiness to Wilson’s music that doesn’t exist in The Beach Boys’ music. Wilson has a soulful gravelly voice that is more Dr. John than the Boys.

Unfortunately Dennis Wilson had many demons and died of drowning in 1983 so we are left with one great album and an unfinished album that is the Bambu sessions.

The bonus material from the Pacific Ocean Blue sessions is a nice addition and the Bambu sessions material shows Wilson still had some gas in the tank. But the original 12 songs from Pacific Ocean Blue are perfect and together they form an LP masterpiece.

Rose City Band – Earth Trip

Rose City Band – Earth Trip
(LP – Thrill Jockey #THRILL 540LP)

I discovered Rose City Band when I was captured by the eponymous debut album’s cover art that I saw in an AllMusic new release email. My reaction upon hearing it was that this was country shoegaze and I loved it. I couldn’t find anything about the album or band on the internet. Eventually, I learned it was a psychedelic journeyman Ripley Johnson solo project:

“…that refined his more polished and rock-oriented work in bands like Wooden Shjips and Moon Duo into a gauzy, cosmic take on country-folk.”

Allmusic

I enjoyed the second album Summerlong, but it did not hit me as hard as the debut. Earth Trip, takes the lo-fi beauty of the debut and elevates it to reference recording level excellence. Musically and sonically it sounds great.

If you enjoy the mellow folk side of Neil Young (Harvest and Harvest Moon), the noodling guitar and whispered vocals of JJ Cale, the jammy psychedelics of Grateful Dead or the contemporary psychedelic take of The War On Drugs, you will likely dig The Rose City Band.

Per the album’s label’s (Thrill Jockey) website:

Earth Trip was written during the period of sudden shocks and drastic lifestyle changes of 2020, quite literally “called down off the road” as he sings in elegiac album opener “Silver Roses”. Home for an extended period for the first time in years, he was able to reconnect with simple pleasures of home life: hikes in nature, bathing outside and waking with the dawn. Johnson found hope and healing in forming a more mindful relationship with the natural world, from the simple pleasures of tending a garden to sleeping out under the stars. “

Thill Jockey

Besides the overall mellow vibe, the most distinctive feature of the album is Ripley’s fluid guitar that works as effectively as Jerry Garcia (without sounding anything like him). I also love the arrangements and mix, which according to Ripley Johnson:

“I was trying to capture that feeling when you take psychedelics and they just start coming on – maybe objects start buzzing in the edges of your vision, you start seeing slight trails, maybe the characteristics of sound change subtly. But you’re not fully tripping yet. Cooper (Cooper Crain who mixed the album) got the idea right away and his mix really captures that feeling.”

Thrill Jockey

Unfortunately, the album is not available on streaming services like Spotify (although four tracks were issued as singles, so I assume it eventually will be), but it is available on Bandcamp. The other two albums are available on Spotify.

Lana Del Rey – Chemtrails over the Country Club

I am not a long time fan of Lana Del Rey, but she made my best of 2019 with Norman Fucking Rockwell. At the time I said: “I feel like I should be a fan:

  • I take female artists seriously (Joni Mitchell rivals Dylan for my favorite artist)
  • I am a big fan of current female pop stars
  • I love dreamy slow songs
  • Mazzy Star is one of my favorite bands
  • Cat Power’s The Greatest is one of my favorite albums”

I guess I can now add Jack Antonoff production (Taylor Swift among others) to the list of reasons I should like Lana Del Rey.

As best I can tell Lana is not changing or doing something different with Chemtrails over the Country Club, but perfecting her brand of melancholic, atmospheric and dreamy pop. Lana Del Rey barely sings – she whispers and purrs and it totally works.

Her lyrics are just as strong as the music. Most songs are mini novels. Per Wikipedia:

“Her music is noted for its stylized, cinematic quality and exploration of themes of sadness, tragic romance, glamor, and melancholia, containing many references to pop culture, particularly 1950s and 1960s Americana.”

Wikipedia

I like this album even more than Norman Fucking Rockwell. It seems more sonically interesting and lyrically more engaging. It also helps that it has a bit of a Joni Mitchell vibe. I suspected after listening to Norman Fucking Rockwell that Lana must be a Joni Mitchell fan. On Chemtrails over the Country Club there is no question. She name checks her and covers Joni’s “For Free” – one of my favorite Joni song’s. “For Free” features Zella Day and Weyes Blood (two singers I am not familiar with). It is a pretty straight cover.

And then there is Nikki Lane. “Breaking Up Slowly” is a country song written and performed by Lana and Nikki. I am a huge Nikki fan so this is a real treat.

If you have never listened to Lana Del Rey, this is a great place to start. If you are a long time fan, you will not be disappointed.

Ryan Adams – Big Colors

In a recent post I forgave Ryan Adams and I am back to being a fan. I have come to accept that I can like the art and not the artist. Big Colors is not typical Ryan, it sounds like him, but a different sound. Per a Ryan Adams quote I saw in Rolling Stone:

Big Colors was created as a 1980s soundtrack to a movie that never existed.Wednesdays was a study of decline and morality; Big Colors is meant to feel like a daydream. New York, where this album was written, always propels me into new, unexpected creative spaces and this album happened to me, more than I can say I happened to it.”

It does have an 80s vibe, invoking a careful curated 80s jukebox. I hear traces of Roxy Music, The Smiths & Morrissey, R.E.M. and without irony 38 Special (on “Middle Of The Line”). And there is a few hints of classic Ryan Adams. It is a remarkable juxtaposition of songs that really work together. I can definitely imagine some of these songs in a cheesy 80s movie where the soundtrack is better than the movie.

As I noted in a recent post, Adams was planning to release three albums in 2019. Those were shelved due to scandal. In December 2020 Adams released one of the three and now has released the second of the three. From what I see online he has rearranged the song placements of the three and both Wednesdays and Big Colors are not the original albums that would have been released in 2019.

The simple review is, I dig this album. I like that is not the typical Ryan Adams Americana. It is obviously him, but in some different moods. I am instantly hooked on it, whereas Wednesdays took awhile to sink in. For now I prefer Big Colors to Wednesdays, but that can change with time.

Neil Young Crazy Horse – Way Down In The Rust Bucket (Live)

When I first heard this album I posted on my Instagram account (@catchgroove): “Does the world need another 2.5 hour live recording of Neil Young and Crazy Horse? Hell yes! As usual the boys are brilliantly sloppy and there are some deep cut gems.” A few months have gone by and this album still sounds good to me.

This live album is from a warm up show for the Ragged Glory tour at The Catalyst in Santa Cruz, CA, on November 13, 1990. Neil’s timing for Ragged Glory could not have been more perfect – Neil and the Horse were prophets: Seattle grunge was about to explode. They were like John The Baptist: anticipating a messianic rock movement that would be greater than themselves. Eventually Neil would be rightfully named The Godfather of Grunge.

The band plays most of Ragged Glory and selections from their back catalog – the obvious and not so obvious, for example, three from 1975’s Zuma (obvious) and two from 1981’s Re-ac-tor (not so obvious). I never tire of hearing this stuff: it is a turgid plodding mess, but somehow beautiful. The Horse is often maligned as not being accomplished musicians, but musicianship is besides the point – the magic of great rock music is that it just emotes – Way Down In The Rust Bucket gushes emotion.

On the one hand there is nothing new here, but on the other hand that is not the point. Neil Young and Crazy Horse are just a great hang and I will take every opportunity to hang with these guys. This is a particularly great opportunity.

Daniel Lanois – Heavy Sun

I have been digging this album since it was digitally released in mid March. It was recently released on vinyl for Record Store Day (2021 Drop One). It was number one on my wish list and I got up at 5:00 AM on a Saturday morning to improve my chances. Success!

Daniel Lanois is a brilliant producer and musician. His production credits include: Bob Dylan, U2, Peter Gabriel, Brian Eno, Emmylou Harris, and Robbie Robertson (all masterpieces).

This is Lanois’ take on gospel music featuring the Hammond organ of Johnny Shepherd, sometime organist at Zion Baptist in Shreveport, Louisiana. Not surprising, Lanois does not play it straight. His take on gospel music has hints of reggae and electronica. As the kids like to say: pretty dope. I am no expert on gospel music and I am a pretty secular dude, but every time I get a taste of gospel I love it – I love Dylan’s gospel phase for example.

Per Lanois: “We want to lift people’s spirits with this music. It’s so easy to feel isolated right now, but we want everyone to feel included in what we’re doing. Our goal was to be a force for good with these songs. We wanted to remind people not to let the world steal their joy, to remind them that even during a global pandemic, it’s our responsibility to protect our spirits and find ways to keep on dancing, keep on singing, keep on teaching, keep on loving.”

The Heavy Sun quartet is Lanois (vocals, guitar, production), Rocco DeLuca (guitar, vocals), Johnny Shepherd (organ, vocals) and Jim Wilson (bass, vocals). For me the star of the show is Johnny Shepherd’s organ and Lanois’s arrangements and production. This is a really wonderful oddball masterpiece – highly recommend! This will be on this year’s top ten list for sure.

Catchgroove Hall Of Fame: Jerry Garcia Band – Jerry Garcia Band

I am not sure why I bought this album shortly after it was released August 27, 1991. I was not a Grateful Dead fan and I certainly wasn’t a Garcia fan. I did own the Dead’s In the Dark album, but that was a pretty popular album at the time – “Touch of Grey” peaked at No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100, the band’s only top forty single – the song was in regular rotation on MTV! But I did buy the Jerry Garcia Band album and I have loved it. I have never tired of it in thirty years.

What hooked me first was the covers: Dylan, Motown, Beatles, Peter Tosh, Bruce Cockburn, Allen Toussaint, etc. They sounded so good – all original interpretations. There was a subtle soulfulness to the arrangements.

Once hooked with the interpretations and arrangements, Jerry’s guitar reeled me in. I love the marimba tone in Jerry’s electric guitar. It is almost a percussion instrument. When Jerry takes a lead it is wonderfully meandering. The leads are slow burning quite storms.

Jerry sings quietly – it is easy to miss how much complexity is there. He has a rich palate and he uses it brilliantly.

Finally, the band on this album is fantastic. The backup vocals harmonize with Garcia’s voice perfectly. Melvin Seals keyboards are always complementing Garcia’s guitar. John Kahn’s bass and David Kemper’s drums provide a rock solid rhythm section. The group borders on jazz rock fusion. This album sent me down the Garcia rabbit hole – I now own a couple dozen Garcia albums and started to scratch the surface of the Dead. Highly recommend gateway drug to Garcia and the Dead universe. This is my number one pick for Record Store Day 2021 Drop Two (first release on vinyl).

The Black Keys – Delta Kream

I have been grooving to the new The Black Keys album, Delta Kream, since it came out. I liked it enough that I picked it up on wax and what a revelation the LP is: the vinyl is analog heaven. The sound of the LP is absolutely nasty – some serious endless boogie. The guitars are deep and guttural. The drums are nice and loud and the vocals add sweetens to the mix. This is the Keys at their finest.

The album celebrates the band’s roots & features songs by R.L. Burnside & Junior Kimbrough. The opening track is the blues standard “Crawling King Snake” (a hit for John Lee Hooker, but the Keys take a Junior Kimbrough approach).

It is great to hear the Keys after all their success, return to their roots. This is highly recommended on vinyl. The vinyl mix is thick and tasty – it reminds me of soft caramel.