The First Great Rolling Stones Album In More Than Three Decades

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on December 4, 2016 by johnbuckley100

Quick, play “Look What You Done” on December’s Children (And Everybody’s), and then put on the Stones’ incredible Blue & Lonesome, where instantaneously upon hearing the first song, “Just Your Fool,” it’s clear this is the same band. Oh yeah, that’s Mick, not Brian Jones, sounding like Little Walter on the harp, and sure those quarter-century’s-duration “new guys” have replaced Bill Wyman and Stew, but it’s the same band.  Only better.

How long have we waited to say that a newly recorded Rolling Stones record is worth listening to? The new tracks released from the Exile sessions are the closest we have come since 1980 to be enthusiastic about a new Stones offering.  Thirty-six years ago! Yes, their grudging release of the 1973 Brussels concert, and the fantastic live shows from the ’71 British tour, when the “classic Stones” band was assembled (Mick Taylor, Nicky Hopkins, Bobby Keys, and Jim Price as sidemen) mercifully was included in the super duper release of Sticky Fingers.  But not since Emotional Rescue have we put on a Stones album and played it and played it and played it.  And so you know, we play the Stones constantly.  Just nothing, usually, of a vintage later that Exile.

The original Stones were the very best British blues band.  They had roots in the Chicago blues, Delta blues, as well as R&B and Chuck Berry.  Too many British blues bands, good as they might be, were just vehicles for a lead guitarist and a singer, from John Mayall to the Yardbirds to the Jeff Beck Group, or like a number of the San Francisco bands, just an excuse for high-powered noodling over a 12-bar frame.  Sure, Cream was something different, a jazz-rock fusion band contained within blues and pop music.  But while the Beatles were influenced by R&B, they really never played the blues.  The Stones, though, they had swing, Charlie Watts being a superb blues drummer, and Brian Jones was in his element playing Elmore James. They actually recorded at 2121 Michigan Avenue, they hung out at Chess Records, and took on tour with them the black bluesman they so loved.

Blue & Lonesome is one of the very finest white blues band albums ever — up there with The J Geils Band and John Hammond’s 1971 masterpiece, Source Point.  The reason we love it so is because of who the Stones sound like here, aside from themselves, of course. Listen to I Gotta Go and then a song from any of Little Walter’s albums, and you’ll hear the sound of shuffle drumming (Charlie channelling the late Fred Below) and the interplay of the guitars sounds like Robert “Junior” Lockwood and Luther Tucker.  “Commit A Crime” could be an outtake from 1971’s  The London Howlin’ Wolf Sessions (on which Charlie played drums.)  Going for a sound that invokes Walter Jacob’s and Chester Burnett’s bands (with the great Hubert Sumlin on guitar) is bliss itself.

Have to say this too.  This is Mick’s album.  He carries it with amazing musicianship on harp, and his septuagenarian voice is both strong and aged like a true bluesman.  Years ago, when Keith said the Stones could play on and on into old age like their blues idols, we really wished it were true.  But every exposure we have had to the Stones playing their old songs confirms the rightness of our adage, “I love the Stones so much, I can’t bear to listen to ’em live,” which I coined in 1989 and have militantly stuck to since.  If the Stones went out on the road to play these songs, I’d camp out to buy tickets.

Washington, D.C.’s High Heel Race Keeps Getting Bigger And Better

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on October 30, 2016 by johnbuckley100

high-heel-race-2016We first took our Leica Monochrom and Noctilux down to 17th Street to photograph D.C.’s epic High Heel Race, a drag queen extravaganza taking place each year the week of Halloween, in 2014.  At that time, we published a photo gallery with images that caused a sufficiently positive stir — one of the pics was a winner of the Exposed DC annual contest — that we went back last year and photographed the event again, publishing what we thought were even stronger images.  And so last year, when we launched our sister site, Tulip Frenzy Photography, we made prominent among its galleries one called “High Heel Racers: D.C.’s Ladies Of The Night.” There was no way, therefore, that we could miss this year’s running of the race, and as the pictures below should indicate, the event is only getting better.

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Alejandro Escovedo’s “Burn Something Beautiful”: A 2016 Highlight Of Real Rock’n’Roll

Posted in Music with tags , , , on October 30, 2016 by johnbuckley100

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Rock’n’roll is a derivative art form that as a genre of popular music has lasted an unusually long time.  The distance stretching back to when the Beatles hit our shores is longer than the period between World War I and “I Wanna Hold Your Hand.”  Yeah, World War I.

So one factor that surely influences our appreciation of artists is which antecedent sensibilities inform their work — can we hear traces of the Rolling Stones or the Velvet Underground in what they do?  Is it clear they listened to punk rock in its day?  Yes, of course, the work should be judged on its own, but since rock’n’roll iterates off a simple four-chord standard, the artist’s vantage point really matters.

We recently wrote about Tim Presley, whose bands Darker My Love and particularly, White Fence, have been important to us.  And of course when we listen to Presley, we know exactly how much this guy who grew up with the last name of rock’s first superstar enjoyed the Who and the Kinks, punk rock and David Bowie, and it adds to our appreciation of him.

The great Austin troubadour Alejandro Escovedo has always worn his influences on his sleeve: Mott the Hoople, Lou Reed, the Rolling Stones, Texas songwriters like Townes Van Zandt.  He’s finished sets with covers of songs by Mick Jagger and David Bowie.  And he himself embodies distinct periods in musical history, from his San Francisco punk band The Nuns, to an early stab at alt.country, Rank and File, to ’80s Austin power rockers True Believers.  He can write gorgeous ballads and thrilling rockers, and the protean assemblage of musicians he takes on the road or into the studio can include cello players and violinists, pedal steel and guitar virtuosi, kick-ass drummers or no drums at all.  Most important, his vantage point on rock’n’roll is historical, well informed, with a rock critic’s curatorial sensibility.  But no matter how pretty his songs, no matter how delicate the chamber-pop interplay between cello and acoustic guitar, his default preference is for rock’n’roll. He’s given us, over the past 25 years of albums and live shows, some of the greatest music we’ve ever heard.

And now comes Burn Something Beautiful and the musicians who back him up include Peter Buck on guitar, and on bass Scott McCaughey — who separately have forged the sounds of bands like R.E.M. and together have made some of Robyn Hitchcock’s best albums — not to mention having Jenny Lewis (Neko Case) and Corin Tucker (Sleater-Kinney) on back-up vox.  This is the best sounding of Alejandro’s hardest rocking albums, the songwriting is consistently great, his singing is on-key and delightful, and we have found ourselves as excited about listening to one of his records as we have been since With These Hands came out 20 years ago.

And what roots are exposed here? Well, can’t you hear Bowie’s Spiders From Mars playing “Beauty and the Buzz”?  “Johnny Volume” has a final line — “I’m just looking for a kiss” — that of course invokes the New York Dolls, and Alejandro tells the whole story of ’70s NY bands in one gorgeous song. “Shave The Cat” adds T. Rex to Escovedo’s explicit influences, which makes sense since Monster revealed the glam bands of that era as Peter Buck’s faves. Long ago, Whiskeytown invited Al to sing on Stranger’s Almanac, and on “Redemption Blues” we hear an update of that sound.  And Lou Reed’s influence?  Everywhere.

Anyone who loves Mott the Hoople or Lou Reed will love this record.  More importantly, anyone who loved R.E.M.’s Monster (made after Peter Buck had spent time with the Fleshtones, and learned a trick or two from Keith Streng about how to build a world upon barre chords), will dig this.  Most important of all: anyone who has ever thrilled to hear how Alejandro assembles a classic rock’n’roll album based upon his experiences and unique vantage point will see this one for what it is: his best album in this late hard-rocking phase of an amazing career.

 

For Street Photographers, It Just Doesn’t Get Better Than The Golden Hour At Venice Beach (Gallery Of Images)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on October 16, 2016 by johnbuckley100

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We’d always want to go there with a Leica M and golden light, and a few Saturdays ago, we finally did.  Venice Beach is everything all the great photographers who’ve gone there before us had led us to believe.  We hope the images below convey this.

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On “The Wink,” White Fence’s Tim Presley Proves A One-Man Band Can Still Have A Solo Album

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on October 16, 2016 by johnbuckley100

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Tim Presley is an artist of such power, he has twice created work garnering Tulip Frenzy’s Album Of The Year honors.  Leading Darker My Love, a genuine band with, you know, multiple musicians recording songs, um, together, his Alive As You Are was a country rock gem, as meticulously crafted as an Hermes stirrup.  In 2014, For The Recently Found Innocent not only was the best album Presley’s “band” White Fence ever produced, but we’re pretty certain that when Tulip Frenzy looks back, in 2020, on the current decade, our team o’ plucky editors will have an easy time accepting its bid as the best rec since the Aughts.  All of which might lead a casual reader to believe that things are straightforward here — that Presley is a consistently great and major artist, a commodity as predictable as the Beatles in their prime.

That this isn’t the case is both a source of frustration and begins to get at the ritualistic magic of The Wink, Presley’s solo album, which came out one month ago.  The Wink is an astonishingly great album, the product of an eccentric genius with an oddball sensibility and a reverence for the artists he admires.  The title track sounds like it was ripped from a master tape of Bowie’s The Lodger — an homage to a dead hero in which Presley took the time to reverse engineer the best songs from Bowie’s best album.  A dozen bands before now have tried capturing the spare perfection of the first Gang of Four album, but on “Clue,” Presley’s the first artist I know of who has ever truly caught the interplay between Jon King’s vocals and Andy Gill’s guitar.

But of course, the major artist that Presley channels best on his solo album is Tim Presley, for we hear throughout the 12 songs here chord progressions and melodies spanning his career, from sideman in The Fall to collaborator with Ty Segall, not to mention leader of Darker My Love, White Fence, and Drinks, his 2015 album with Cate Le Bon.

For fans of White Fence, what is immediately apparent here is that The Wink is a great sounding album — that compared to those pre-2013 albums seemingly recorded in his bedroom, this one is a studio product with, dare we say it, high fidelity.  That it’s still recorded by a one-man band, or close to it (a few guests may have sat in, here and there), means it has the angular limitations of uneven musicianship; he might sound like Gang of Four, but the bass and drums don’t really have a bottom.  Performing as White Fence, it took the miraculous Live In San Francisco, recorded in 2013 with a killer backup band, to reveal to the world just how amazing were songs like “Swagger Vets and Double Moon,” which if you heard it only on Family Perfume, Parts 1 and 2, sounded like low-fi psychedelicacy, not the fully actualized, punk-steeped gem it became with a real band.  For The Recently Found Innocent, Ty Segall stepped in offering a kick on the bass drum and, we’d suggest, Presley’s ass, getting him to step up the sonic power of his noodling and produce a real album you could listen to on a real stereo, not a home recording you needed headphones and a lot of patience to enjoy.

The Wink is a real album, and it is great.  We can’t wait to hear it performed live, with a real band.  That it still doesn’t combine high fidelity with an in-studio band doesn’t mean we’re complaining.  Tim Presley continues to defy the world, taking leave from a one-man band and putting out a solo album.

 

Joshua Tree: In God’s Country

Posted in Leica M with tags , , , , on October 9, 2016 by johnbuckley100

joshua-tree-5I don’t want to say that everything I knew about Joshua Tree National Park came from U2’s great 1987 album, or perhaps more specifically, from Anton Corbijn’s photo shoot with the band.  Yet I’d never seen an actual Joshua Tree, couldn’t tell a cholla cactus from a prickly pear, and had only once driven to the Palm Springs area.  But our son has recently gone off to college not too far away, and was drawn like a magnet to this incredible small unit of the National Park Service.  Easy to see why, once we got there.

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We brought along our Leica M-240, not the Leica SL we used all summer for landscapes out West.  It was a delight to have a small, capable camera in our hands again.  And we loved taking it off the main road, though the cholla have spines so strong they can puncture a hiking shoe.

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What follows is an assortment of images from a magical place we want to go back to, and will.  As the lyrics of the U2 song go, “Sleep comes like a drug/in God’s country.”  We look forward to camping out here.

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The Mysterious Morgan Delt Brings His Trip To DC

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on September 21, 2016 by johnbuckley100
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Mere weeks after Tulip Frenzy proclaimed Phase Zero “Psych Album Of The Year,” Morgan Delt brought a kick-ass band to the Nation’s Capital to prove the rightness of that claim.  But instead of the delicate, filagreed sound produced by Delt and — I dunno who else was in the studio with him… his cat? — for his tour he assembled a band that can raise the sonic winds, flattening whole cities with its sound.

The set at DC9 began right on time, with the gorgeous “I Don’t Want To See What’s Happening Outside” kicking off the set as it does the album.  That song folded easily into “The System Of 1000 Lies,” giving us the sense that this was going to be Delt and band running through Phase Zero the way, say, Wilco ran through Star Wars on its last tour prior to opening up the back catalogue.

But Delt soon deviated from his latest album with a foray into his even trippier, weirder eponymous debut, and what quickly became clear was that, even as he sings in a milder voice live than he does on his two albums, his band packs a punch that brings to mind Wand, with that band’s towering drummer Evan Burrows pummeling the songs along like a nuclear power plant.  Yes, we were in full Olivia Tremor Control territory, yes, we could imagine the frail, small Syd Barrett up there, not the tall and angular Delt.  But this was a powerful combo, able to extend ragas even as the pretty melodies of Delt’s songwriting insisted on being heard.

We think we’ve identified the drummer as Lionel Williams, and let us just say he is a force to be reckoned with.  But so was the whole band.

Delt is a young artist, ambitious and with buckets of talent.  We hope that Phase Zero is just an intimation of the great things to come.  We hope the next time he goes back into the studio, these guys who played with him last night are in tow.

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