Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Southern Comfort from Area Code 615

Now for something a bit different . . . I've been pretty California-centric in my selections to date on this still very young blog, but that's not my intent. Sure, most hippie-country music came from the West, but there are a few excellent exceptions that we'll explore in time. Today we're gonna check out the crack studio cabal from Nashville that recorded two albums under the name Area Code 615. The reference, as you can see from the above picture above is to the geographic locality of Nashville. These guys ruled the Nashville studio scene in the 1960s and 1970s and here we see them branching out in a rockier style.

They even played the Fillmore in San Francisco for all the longhairs, despite their cleaner-cut looks and tight instrumental playing. But don't be fooled, this stuff is heavy. The first album had a smattering of cover songs and a few originals, while the second album is more experimental and finds the studio band exploring some more R&B textures with no shortage of interesting drum parts. Who ever said country couldn't be funky too?

Area Code 615 - Southern Comfort
Area Code 615 - Ruby
Here are two great original tunes from their first album. Southern Comfort is kinda a signature tune for them with some excellent soloing and great band cohesion. Ruby just flat out ROCKS! This is like AC/DC from the South.

Area Code 615 - Hey Jude
This is the best cover they've done in my opinion and even rivals the original in terms of building emotion throughout the length of the song.

Area Code 615 - Stone Fox Chase
Area Code 615 - Devil Weed and Me (Buffalo Herd)
Here's where my Soul Spectrum and WW&W interests converge. It's country and funky. Not sure there are any other bands that can come close to this combination of sounds. But feel free to make some suggestions as I'd love to here them.

When the band played the Fillmore in San Francisco in 1970 they got Linda Ronstadt to join them on stage for a couple numbers. She returned the favor and had them back her on a few tracks from her 1970 album "Silk Purse". I picked a couple tracks from these sessions to fill out this post.

Linda Ronstadt - Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?
A countrified take on this classic Goffin/King tune and check out that phased-out pedal steel!

Linda Ronstadt - Long Long Time
Linda doing her torchy thing on this tasteful arrangement from the AC 615 boys.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Soundtrack to Laurel Canyon

I'm still kinda trying to figure out where this blog is heading, but for now I'm just letting it take me where it will posting about tunes that I've been listening to that fit the basic format here. I found this article the other day online about Laurel Canyon and a couple of books published in the past few years that cover that scene. I went and picked up Michael Walker's book "Laurel Canyon." I'm digging it so far and I can see some future Laurel Canyon related posts touching on such canyon luminaries as The Turtles, John Phillips and Chris Hillman.

Today we have three bonus tracks from the remastered version of Crosby, Stills & Nash's first album. This might as well be THE Laurel Canyon album. The story goes that Mama Cass matched the disgruntled Hollies' singer, Graham Nash, with the recently formed duo of David Crosby and Stephen Stills and the rest was hippy-dippy three-party harmony. Their first album is classic and needs to be in everyone's collection, but these bonus tracks are also pretty great and worth your attention.

Crosby, Stills & Nash - Song Without Words (demo)
This one is an early demo of a song that ended up on Crosby's first solo album.

Crosby, Stills & Nash - Everybody's Talkin' (previously unreleased)
Cool version of a classic and the only other cover, aside from Joni's "Woodstock", on the album.

Crosby, Stills & Nash - Teach Your Children (demo)
This is a demo for the song that would come out on the super-group's next album "Deja Vu"

Friday, December 5, 2008

An Unlikely Reunion . . . Byrds 1973

I've only recently come to appreciate The Byrds for all of their greatness. Like many other musical re-discoveries I came in through the back door. First it was because of Gram Parsons and his hijacking of their 1968 album "Sweetheart of the Rodeo". Then it was my discovery of Gene Clark (pictured left) who was the first Byrd to embark on a solo flight. And most recently its been because of David Crosby who's 1970 solo album "If Only I Could Remember My Name" has been blowing my mind as of late. But here I am now taking some cautious, yet curious steps deeper into Byrds territory.

I remember finding their 1973 reunion album in a Brooklyn record store for the low price of $3.99 and upon checking the album details I noticed the following details:
1. Produced by David Crosby
2. Two original Gene Clark tracks
3. Two Neil Young cover tunes

This is what had to say about it:

"Much of the original material, especially David Crosby's, sounds like cast-offs from their other projects. And what sort of a Byrds album features two Neil Young covers and not a single Bob Dylan tune? . . . But for the most part, Byrds sounds like a competent but unexciting country-rock band going through their paces, rather than the work of one of the best and most innovative American bands of the 1960s."

But I beg to differ. Yes, this is an album of the former Byrds doing their solo thing, but with the added bonus of these country-rock pioneers coming back during the sounds' hey-day to show the youngins (read: The Eagles - not the similarity in names) how it's done. You have the early seventies production and all of the advancements that each of the individuals made in their own careers, plus you get these great songs with those heavenly Byrds harmonies! Upon listening to the album I found the whole thing to be pretty darn good barring Roger McGuinn's contributions and one of Crosby's tunes (the other is a different version of "Laughing" from his solo album I mentioned earlier). But two of the great assets to the album are the Neil Young cover tunes performed by none other than Gene Clark. Not only do you get the Byrds doing Gene Clark, but these are two of my all-time favorite Neil Young tunes. Contrary to the Allmusic review I feel that covering Neil is kinda like the evolution of covering Bob Dylan and it seems like the Byrds intended it to be that way, seeing as these two songs are the only ones not written by Byrds members. Dig it.

The Byrds - Cowgirl in the Sand
The Byrds - (See the Sky) About to Rain

Monday, December 1, 2008

Still Willin'

I finally got the double-disc "Untitled/Unissued" set by The Byrds and within is their studio version of "Willin'". I haven't waded through the whole set yet, but I have been enjoying me some Byrds lately. Coming up soon are some select cuts from their 1973 reunion album.

The Byrds - Willin'
A much different take here than the Little Feat and Linda Ronstadt versions, but nonetheless classically Byrds in treatment. The vocal here is by Gene (not Gram) Parsons, who had a knack of joining the band that Gram Parsons was just exiting from (Byrds & Flying Burrito Brothers). Gene was the Byrds' drummer from 1968-1972.

This song is a great road song, but its also a classic drug song. I was trying to find the scene from the first season of "Strangers with Candy" where Jerri goes on a a narco-binge before an important test. The psychedelic trip-out scene shows them injecting an acid sugarcube with heroin and then rolling Jerri up into a giant joint as someone else "smokes" her. I couldn't find that scene, but I did find this one, which is from earlier in the episode (I think).