Back To The Isle Of Wight
Boy, that must have been some festival! A year after Woodstock, Hendrix, Chicago, The Doors, Moody Blues, Miles Davis, Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, Jethro Tull, Sly & The Family Stone, Kris Kristofferson, Ten Years After, Free, Emerson Lake & Palmer, David Bromberg, Supertramp, Rory Gallagher, Tony Joe White, Procol Harum, Cactus, John Sebastian, Tiny Tim, The Who, Melanie, Donovan, Pentangle and Richie Havens performed on the largest island off the coast of England.
Eagle Rock Entertainment has now released The Doors: Live At The Isle Of Wight 1970 on a two-disc package, one CD and one DVD. The crowd was estimated at 700,000, bigger than Woodstock, and still the record for such events. Joni Mitchell was booed off the stage and left in tears. Many of the artists suffered from unruly response, bad weather and violence between ticket-holders and gate-crashers. Yet the Doors played on, despite lighting problems (half their set was in the dark), Jim Morrison’s alcohol intake and a faulty sound system.
They didn’t even take the stage until two in the morning. Morrison was unusually docile — he didn’t move a muscle the entire set — but was in great voice. “Roadhouse Blues,” “Back Door Man,” “Break On Through,” “When The Music’s Over,” “Ship Of Fools,” “Light My Fire” and “The End” sounded dramatic and totally revolutionary. As remixed, remastered and re-released, this twofer accurately encapsulates the drama, mystery and total uniqueness of these four musicians. Almost scary in execution, keyboardist Ray Manzarek was brilliant in adding his jazz effects while drummer John Densmore experimented with different fills, going out on a limb yet always returning right on time. Lead guitarist Robbie Krieger seemed especially inspired, knowing, as he must have, that the band was doomed. Indeed, within a year, they were over. But this set, 48 years later, shows a chemistry that translates into magic. There hasn’t been such a band since.
Here’s a band from the Czech Republic who rocks that rockabilly sound like the archival students they are. They’ve learned their lessons well. Gone Hepsville is a crazy-sick sextet who you won’t get to see live any time soon. Their second album, Gimme! (Rhythm Bomb Records), does not let up for one second as it’s filled with the kind of jump, wail and jive one would expect from mid-‘50s Memphis. All 13 original tracks are highlights but “Boogie And Bop,” “Brainwasher Boogie,” “Jam Or Bust” and “Legs Gone Mad” make me so jittery that I wanna break stuff.
Back to the Ghost Town
Everybody wants a Back Stage Pass. The fourth CD from the Ghost Town Blues Band out of Memphis is a rockin’ 65-minute nine-track affair that approximates their ferocious live show. Superstar producer Kevin Houston (eight Grammy noms) blows sax so solid, the top of your head might come off. The twin leads are so Southern Rock. The songs within the songs are such spectacular surprises that I’m loathe to spoil them but, suffice it to say, within the 15:59 Allman Brothers jam on “Whipping Post” or the “Come Together” Beatle cover or the ode to big-legged women (“Big Shirley”) or the rap on “I Get High,” you’ll hear snippets of Lennon/McCartney’s “Norwegian Wood,” Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” and “Rock and Roll,” Steve Winwood’s “Gimme Some Lovin” and more. The Allmans jam goes reggae before changing time signatures no less than three times during the course of the song. Between the boogie-woogie, rock ’n’ roll and jump-blues as sung by the gravel-voiced Matt Isbell (who plays a three-stringed cigar-box guitar of his own making), a cyclone of hysteria is achieved as horns, Hammond B-3 organ, piano and harmonica fight it out for supremacy. This one’s a keeper.
“Unique” is the best way to describe the captivating vocal artistry of Dolores Scozzesi, a Los Angeles vocalist of Mexican, Irish and African-American descent, who eschews genre completely. Cutting her teeth in the bistros of Paris, Scozzesi brings an open mind, a clear heart and a well-digested diaphragm to her presentation of nine gems. Despite stifling a groan at the thought of hearing yet another middle-aged female vocalist interpreting Cole Porter, I was thrilled again and again as each track met the ear.
Someone once said, “It’s all in the songs.” Actually, that was me. To go from the 1935 Louis Armstrong hit “I’m In The Mood For Love” (which I remember more from Bluto singing it to Olive Oyl in a Popeye cartoon) and George Harrison’s “Here Comes The Sun” to Randy Newman’s perv classic “You Can Leave Your Hat On” and the 1957 theme song to the forgettable movie Wild Is The Wind (famously covered by Davis Bowie in 1976) is more than just random happenstance. She tackles Ellingtonia (“In My Solitude”) and the aforementioned Cole Porter (“It’s Alright With me”)” yet has the audacity to end this satisfying project — backed by two guitars, two pianos, bass, drums and trumpet — with the 1939 Ray Noble instrumental “Harlem Nocturne” that Mel Torme wrote lyrics for in 1963. Willy DeVille used it as his intro music. Fictional detective Mike Hammer used it as the theme for his TV show. It’s a great sultry bluesy swinger that never failed to get a rise in whatever form it was presented and here, Scozzesi sings Torme’s lyrics as if she knows she’s going to die tomorrow.
A Woman I Love
Canadian Sue Foley may be The Ice Queen (Stony Plain Records) but this is a woman who has melted my heart on more than four occasions. Recorded in Texas with guitarists Jimmie Vaughan (Fab T-Birds), Billy Gibbons (ZZ Top) and Charlie Sexton (Dylan), as well as members of the bands of Tedeschi/Trucks and Gary Clark, Jr., its 12 tracks are a culmination of Foley’s exquisite career. Much like Bonnie Raitt, Foley has criss-crossed North America many times over while lesser talents reap more rewards. Raitt found her pot of gold in 1989. Here’s hoping Foley follows suit.
The swamp-rock of “Come To Me” quickly gives way to a plethora of conflicting emotions as rock’n’roll collides with blues, jazz, flamenco and soul. With horns that kick and solos that sting, Foley sounds better than ever, even improving upon Bessie Smiith’s “Send Me To The ‘Lectric Chair” before a heartfelt cover of The Carter Family’s iconic “Cannonball Blues” ends things on a traditional Americana note. Sue, wherever you are, I love you!