I was terribly saddened this morning to learn that Leon Russell died last night. He was a tremendous singer, songwriter, and musician, and one of my all-time favorite artists. He was 74, and his death comes much too soon.
Leon Russell was also Sir Elton John’s idol and biggest musical influence. In 2010, the two of them reconnected and recorded a highly-acclaimed album, The Union. See my post about that to learn more and listen to just a few of my favorite Leon Russell performances. It includes Jumpin’ Jack Flash / Young Blood from the Concert for Bangladesh, one of the finest live performances ever recorded, a ten-minute tour de force.
If you can’t make it to that show, Webb reports (via email) two other Knoxville appearances you might be interested in:
The very next day (Mon. 2/22) I will be performing live and solo/acoustic on WDVX’s Blue Plate Special program at noon. The Blue Plate Special is broadcast from the Knoxville Visitor’s Center in downtown Knoxville in front of a live audience.
THEN, I will head over to Knoxville’s WFIV for a 2pm appearance.
One of the sad aspects of growing old is that the people whose music was an important part of my youth keep dying. In the past year or so, we’ve lost too many. B.B. King and Alan Toussaint. Yes founder Chris Squire (Rick, I’m sorry I never posted that tribute you wanted). Billy Joe Royal. The Easybeats’ Stevie Wright. Three Dog Night’s Cory Wells and Jimmy Greenspoon. Just recently, David Bowie.
And today, the Eagles’ Glenn Frey. Don Henley released a wonderful tribute to his friend and bandmate:
“He was like a brother to me; we were family, and like most families, there was some dysfunction. But, the bond we forged 45 years ago was never broken, even during the 14 years that the Eagles were dissolved. We were two young men who made the pilgrimage to Los Angeles with the same dream: to make our mark in the music industry — and with perseverance, a deep love of music, our alliance with other great musicians and our manager, Irving Azoff, we built something that has lasted longer than anyone could have dreamed. But, Glenn was the one who started it all. He was the spark plug, the man with the plan. He had an encyclopedic knowledge of popular music and a work ethic that wouldn’t quit. He was funny, bullheaded, mercurial, generous, deeply talented and driven. He loved is wife and kids more than anything. We are all in a state of shock, disbelief and profound sorrow. We brought our two-year ‘History of the Eagles Tour’ to a triumphant close at the end of July and now he is gone. I’m not sure I believe in fate, but I know that crossing paths with Glenn Lewis Frey in 1970 changed my life forever, and it eventually had an impact on the lives of millions of other people all over the planet. It will be very strange going forward in a world without him in it. But, I will be grateful, every day, that he was in my life. Rest in peace, my brother. You did what you set out to do, and then some.”
A lot of people have forgotten (or are too young to know) that the Eagles began as the backup band for Linda Ronstadt.
One of the best concerts I ever saw was the Eagles playing in a great big field on a farm in East Tennessee somewhere, with a “quadrophonic” sound setup: four giant speaker towers at the four corners of the audience area. IIRC, that was in the summer of 1974, because the playlist was mostly from Desperado and On the Border (my two favorite Eagles albums). The opening act was Rufus featuring Chaka Khan, which sounds inappropriate genre-wise, but it actually worked quite well.
Goodbye, Glenn. You’ll be missed. But you’ve left us with a marvelous legacy.
Time for another weekend trip down musical memory lane. The second-best southern rock band ever (right behind the original Allman Brothers Band) was the 70s-era Marshall Tucker Band, with brothers Toy and Tommy Caldwell. Their unique blend of rock, country, jazz, and blues changed rock 'n roll forever, and it saddens me that they're largely forgotten and under-appreciated. That they haven't been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is unforgivable.
The first song on the first Marshall Tucker Band album (self-titled, 1973), "Take the Highway," showcased what made MTB special: the marvelous song writing and guitar playing of Toy Caldwell and the signature flute riffs (by Jerry Eubanks), unique and unexpected from a southern rock band, and yet so perfectly fitting.
"This Ol' Cowboy" may be my favorite MTB song. It's from their third album, Where We All Belong (1975), and it has a great foot-tapping Western swing flavor to it that always puts a smile on my face. Toy Caldwell sings lead (and wrote it, of course) and does some great guitar work. I especially like the way the guitar and flute follow each other note for note. Charlie Daniels contributed some fine fiddling, and I think that's Paul Hornsby on the piano.
The other strong contender for my favorite MTB song is "Fire on the Mountain" from their fourth album, Searchin' for a Rainbow (1975). It was written by rhythm guitarist George McCorkle — one of the few songs they recorded that wasn't by Toy Caldwell. Dickey Betts provided the guitar solo on this one.
I'll end with a hard-rocking live version (from the Carolina Dreams Tour '77 DVD) of another great MTB song, "24 Hours at a Time." I generally prefer the somewhat slower-tempo studio version, but this one's a must-see. Don't let the slightly muddy sound and photo montage at the beginning turn you off. The first two minutes of the original recording were damaged and had to be reconstructed for the DVD, but the remaining 12 minutes of this extended jam are live footage, and excellent quality considering the age. Starting at around 3:00, it features about five minutes of simply amazing guitar work by Toy Caldwell, with his brother Tommy on bass next to him, matching him lick for lick (watch their thumbs fly!). I'm worn out just from watching!
Brainz recently posted the "Ten Best Songs About Pot." I think those 20-somethings missed badly. Any list of best pot songs that doesn't include "Panama Red" by the New Riders of the Purple Sage is just not credible. Here, judge for yourself — compare this to the entries on their list:
If that doesn't make you sing along, there's something wrong with you.
I could continue, with Arlo Guthrie, Neil Young, Commander Cody, etc. But I'll stop now and ask: What are your favorite pot songs?
UPDATE: Jeez, I almost forgot the New Riders' "Lonesome L.A. Cowboy." I'm sure I'm not the only member of my generation who, more than once, belted this one out at the top of our lungs. Awesome pedal steel. Enjoy!
I’ve admired Elton John and his music since Tumbleweed Connection (1970). But this year, he did something that increased my esteem for him considerably. No, I’m not talking about performing at Rush Limbaugh’s wedding (although I did enjoy seeing the left become apoplectic at the news that Sir Elton and Rush got along famously).
No, I’m talking about the fact that Sir Elton remembered his idol and biggest musical influence, Leon Russell — who had fallen into complete obscurity — reconnected with him, and persuaded him that they should record an album together. Here’s Sir Elton telling the short version of the story (he tells the long version in a 4-page essay in the CD booklet):
I’m listening to the resulting album, The Union, as I write this, and it’s terrific. But the story is even more terrific, and I don’t mind telling you it brought a tear to my eye and some wonderful memories to my heart. It also caused me to reconnect with Leon Russell’s marvelous music from the 70s. I have all those albums on vinyl — I have tons of vinyl — but have never found the time and energy to rip them to digital form. Now I’ve bought several of them on CD.
If you’re under 40 (or maybe even 45), you may have never heard of Leon Russell. Well, allow me to introduce you to a bit of his work. “Back to the Island” is the song that made Sir Elton weep. It’s one of my favorites, too.
“A Song for You” has probably been covered by more artists than any other Leon Russell song, ranging from Ray Charles to Karen Carpenter. It’s one of the most beautiful love songs I know, and I still think the original studio recording, with its spare instrumentation and haunting air, is the best of them all.
I’ll finish with a live recording. A commenter at YouTube called this “The ten greatest minutes in rock n roll history.” It’s certainly one of the greatest live performances. From 1971’s Concert for Bangladesh, here’s “Jumpin’ Jack Flash/Young Blood.” Turn it up!
Thirty minutes of kick-ass rock 'n roll: Saving Abel entertaining the troops in Kuwait, courtesy of the new RightNetwork. Which, at a young age, already seems to have quite a bit of interesting content, including a video and column by Kelsey Grammer. And which may be available on demand on your TV (for instance, if you have Verizon FiOS, you lucky dog) — if not now, maybe soon.
Time waits for no one And blue turns to grey Soul survivor Mick Jagger Turned 65 today
Wow. According to The Sun, Mick is now entitled to a free bus pass, free dental care and vision tests, free prescriptions, and a variety of other benefits, subsidies, and tax credits. Oh, and a state pension of £90 a week. It's nice that the British take such good care of their aging rockers in their twilight years.
Time may not be on his side, but Mick's in great shape and not ready to retire:
More than 40 years ago Mick was asked if he could picture himself at the age of 60 doing what he was doing in his 20s.
He replied: "Yeah, easily. Yeah." The question now must surely be whether he can carry the party on into his 70s.
Mick was quoted last October by the BBC explaining his determination to carry on.
He said: "I'm sure the Rolling Stones will do more things and more records and more tours. We've got no plans to stop any of that, really."
I have been lucky enough to see the Stones in action more than once.
Mick's energy, enthusiasm and agility make most of this generation of rockers – who are young enough to be his grandchildren – look lethargic in comparison.
He also has enough lead in his pencil to keep a model 20 years his junior smiling.
(Yeah, that opening poetic masterpiece bit of doggerel is my very own creation. So if you want to use it, give me credit and a link.)