Thursday, June 26, 2008

Boss Tracks, Party Lights, Claudine Clark

My last post for this month, I'm leaving for Dublin tomorrow morning. I'll see you all back next week with more bootlegs and Boss Tracks. Meanwhile enjoy this melancholy teen opera floor filler.

“The musical highlights of Macon Georgia are but three, but they are stupendous; Little Richard, James Brown and Otis Redding. Then you can have ‘Party Lights’ recorded by native Maconian Claudine Clark for desert”

Mick Patrick used above Dave Marsh quote from Heart of Rock and Soul in this new Claudine Clark compilation (Ask the Girl Who Knows) I picked up, out on Ace records. Ace is a British based label that regular readers off this column are bound to enjoy. I am amazed at the rare and interesting nuggets they manage to dig up time and time again. Like this one in my hands right now, lavishly illustrated with a 15 page booklet. I first started digging on Claudine about three months ago, when her hit “Party Lights” was amongst the first batch of singles I ordered for this blog. My initial investigation didn’t amount to much though. All I could find was that Claudine scored a hit with “Party Lights” even though “Disappointed” was the designated A side. So it was the B side, a sad tale about a girl excluded from the party, watching the lights from across the street, that shot all the way up to the 5 spot on the Billboard chart. “Party Lights” was followed the ill fated “Walking in the Cemetery”. The song that finds Clark cackling like a witch could have been a Halloween novelty hit but wasn’t released until a few weeks after the season. So I appreciate the efforts of Mick, who actually managed to make his job out of this digging stuff. Which incidentally sounds like a dream career to these ears.

Through Mick we find out quite a bit more about the girl with the funny little voice. Claudine might have been born in Macon, but was raised in Philly. Her parents encouraged her to study guitar and organ, which made her pretty ambitions it appears. According to the press release in Billboard around the time of the release of "Party Lights" Claudine confessed that she was busy composing a R&R operetta. Unfortunately this opus never saw the light of day since her record label, Chancellor, went belly up. Claudine released a few singles for various record labels after that, amongst whom 20th Century Fox. Oddly enough some of them were released under the pseudonym of Sherry Pye or Joy Dawn. Though some of these 45s sound like they could have been arias from said operetta, the damn thing never emerged. Not that Clark had the mighty pipes to pull such a grand ambition of anyway. Claudine squeals her way through a lot of her singles like a little girl, she has one of those voices that never seem to mature, no matter how many years she's got under the belt or how dangerously she tries to growl. So most of her output were delicious teeny bob floor fillers in the vein of her one and only hit. Uncharacteristically for that era most of these sides were written by Clark herself. The most interesting thing about her career though is how it developed. Where most performers of the sixties went from Gospel to secular, Claudine simple married a priest one day and tried to make a career for herself in the field of Gospel and children books.

Claudine Clark

Available on Party Lights

Bruce Springsteen 1975

MP3 File

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Down The Tracks, 'Cool Days End', Survivors At The Shore

“Kids flash guitars just like switchblades, hustling for the record machine” With these two cinematic lines Springsteen once described the New Jersey R&R scene in his classic song “Jungleland” from the “Born to Run” album. With scenes as the boardwalk and Madam Marie, or artists like Little Steven van Zandt and Southside Johnny, Asbury Park has gained its place in mythical R&R lore, a place where greatness was born. I’ve always felt that in the development of great music scenes play a pivotal role. Music is never born in a vacuum, all the great artists came from a breeding ground of friendly competition. During the early days of MTV and FM radio the importance of local scenes started to wane, musicians started to lose ground to discos and clubs. With American Idols this trend has reached its peak, music is now a commodity with a very short conservation date, hardly rooted in any locality.

But for those willing to look there are still those soldiers of R&R struggling to keep the scene alive, trying to truly connect to their audience and their immediate surroundings. Walk into the Stone Pony at the Jersey Shore on a given Friday night, one of those dives Springsteen still likes to frequent, you might stumble into Cool Days End, a refreshingly straight forward band taking up their switchblades against the sign of the times, trying to prove to the world there still is a place for R&R. To people who sloughing on their couch in their fresh expensive new condos at the Jersey shore a band like Cool Days End or a club like the Pony may seem like a weed that refuses to die. To Cool Days End base player Rick Marsh the Pony is a great place to be. “It is becoming more and more difficult to find venues that cater real music”, he reflects “In this horrific American Idol mind set, people want to be spoon fed the same puke over and over, with little regard for something new. Keyboard player Bill Kace bemoans that the Jersey scene is virtually non existent. “Original band have to practically beg to play” he reflects sombrely.

Cool Days End is proof that there still are quite a few people who enjoy digging for those diamonds. The band started out as a Springsteen cover band called Glory Days, but to singer songwriter Tom Kistler’s surprise people soon started telling him they liked his original stuff better. It didn’t take the boys long ditch the Boss and started focussing on creating their own material. After base player Rick Masch gave the band their name, Cool Days End was on its way. Though the band is now still closely associated with Springsteen they’re working hard to break that stigma. Keeping them in that corner would be selling them short truth be told. Rob Mike, the band’s lead guitar player, finds his roots firmly in Jazz and Blues with hints of Classical music. Keyboard player Bill Kace already has a long career as a professional musician behind him, playing with New Wave band the Good and Disco ducks Third World, he even enjoyed his stint at the Letterman Show. Kace admits today that he technically didn’t join Cool Days End, “The band kind of adopted me after recording the album”.

Somehow the band manages to mix all those influences to a tight unit. Drummer Rob Kulessa remembers with a smile; “It’s all Rick’s fault, he was replacing our old base player and the first thing he did was sit us down and tear the music down to it’s basic elements” Rob explains that getting the band into a tight unit was relatively easy, “We’re all friends outside of the band and we’re all pulling in the same direction” Though Tom Kistler writes the songs, the band sees the arrangements as a band effort. Cool Days End is not backing up a singer songwriter but a cohesive unit. Most noticeably about Tom’s writing however is how he manages to capture everyday scenes. Cool Days End is by no means a Rock act that wallows in cynicism like a lot of young bands to day, going through their songs is more like looking at snap shots of everyday people. Tom has a song writing style that reminds me more of Merle Haggard than of Springsteen. When I confront him with that notion he laughs a little, “I grew up listening to the country greats, Hank Williams, Merle Haggard, Loretta Lynn, Ernest Tubb and such. An influence coming from his father who was a huge country fan taking him to a place named “the Colar Bar” where he got to see them live in action and sneak into the tour busses. “It’s inspiring music to me he admits, real down to earth”

Some of that Country influence seeped through their classic Rock sound when Cool Days End recorded their current album “Streets, Dreams and everything in Between”, available through CD Baby. The track “Believe in Me” was just screaming for an honest to God fiddle. Rob Kulessa approached Springsteen’s violin player Soozie Tyrell to add the part the band was hearing. “Her time in the studio was amazing to watch” he says looking back, “every thing she did was in one take, pure perfection in the space of an hour and a half”. “She blasted it out!” Tom adds. Cool Days End is currently working real hard to try and get that perfection across to a broad audience, securing deals with radio stations for airplay and striking up an alliance with Live Nation to get the band out on the road, possibly even to Europe, right across the ocean from Asbury Park. “The Jersey Shore is an unique environment for artists” Masch relates “Over the years the bar-band scene has been squeezed into a funnel with only a hand full of survivors, we are proud to be survivors”.

"Believe Me"

Get the full album through CD Baby

Monday, June 23, 2008

Boot Tracker, June 21st 2008, Hamburg, Germany

"What a show and what a setlist," A fan was quoted saying on Backstreets, "If you can call it that! It was more like a wishing well or a request-night made in heaven." Isn't that the truth! After Amsterdam I felt the shows couldn't get any better than that. After seeing the set list for Hamburg though I found myself banging my head against my wall realizing I could probably have made it to this show if I had tried. Oh well, can't have them all. The nicest thing about the Hamburg set list is the perfect balance it strikes up between fan(atic) favorites and crowd pleasers. There's what Springsteen calls his punk song, the obscure "Held Up Without a Gun", last played live in front of an audience in 1980, balanced with a crowd pleaser like "Hungry Heart". On the latter Springsteen starts out solo acoustic, followed by the band after one verse. An unique version, making it something quite a few fanatics will drool over. Unfortunately the recording of this excellent show aims at the fanatic segment. Though it is a bit better than most recordings I've heard so far from the European Stadium leg, there's too much echo to make it a bootleg that is easily enjoyed. It serves to assure yourself they can still play the hell out of those obscure songs, it is proof you can woo a stadium crowd with a gorgeous rendition of "Incident on 57th Street", but that's about it. As a souvenir of the show it will be adequate, but I imagine this is a recording that's for the archives mostly. Still it was great fun finding out why banging my head into a concrete wall was entirely justified.

Held Up (Without a Gun)

MP3 File

Download the full show in mp3 here
A small request, use mp3s for personal use only. Keep them in your iPod or on your computer but never use a mp3 based CD in a trade. The quality of mp3s deteriorate rapidly every time a CD is ripped. Using high quality music files such as FLACs is essential in keeping the trading pool healthy.

Recording: 2,5 out of 5
Show: 5- out of 5
Artwork: none

Friday, June 20, 2008

Bootracker, May 18th 2008, Amsterdam

A rectification on this review: I mention the Backstreets that was send to me. It appears I made in error in presuming that the preview featured in the review came from this tape. I was wrong in that respect. Good things are coming!

I've already discussed the show at length, so I'll only take a short time out to discuss this recording currently circulating on the Dime. Somebody was kind enough to send me a killer preview of "Backstreets" yesterday. So I was looking forward to hear the full tape. Although the recording certainly has its brilliant moments, its not all good I'm afraid. From the description on the Dime I've gathered that the taper borrowed his dad's expensive recording device, but unfortunately came too late to capture the full show. So the tape starts at a cut "Gypsy Biker" and than goes on with a jumbled "Prove it All Night". It sounds as if the taper was extra careful not to get caught with his father's recording device, maybe hiding the microphone at times. There's moments where the sound is suddenly muffled. There's a few talkers near to the taper as well who get pretty disruptive at times. As a fanatic I'm shocked at how people can talk through "Darkness on the Edge of Town", but maybe that's just me. So in short, its a messy tape with flashes of brilliance. The essential part of the show were captured quite nicely, rowdy and messy like the performance. While the tape doesn't quite catch the gist of the show, it does demonstrate why people were raving over the encores.

"Stand on It/7 Nights to Rock"

MP3 File

Download the 'full' show in mp3 here
A small request, use mp3s for personal use only. Keep them in your iPod or on your computer but never use a mp3 based CD in a trade. The quality of mp3s deteriorate rapidly every time a CD is ripped. Using high quality music files such as FLACs is essential in keeping the trading pool healthy.

Recording: 2,5 out of 5
Show: 4,5 out of 5
Artwork: none

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Boot Tracker; June 14th 2008, Cardiff Wales

It sounds like Essexboy took the two week break in the tour to figure out what went wrong with his earlier stadium recordings. While this still isn't a very good bootleg, it is much clearer than the earlier Essexboy tapes we've reviewed here. Stadium's aren't the breeding ground for good recordings anyway, so this might be one of the best ones to come out of the European summer leg of the tour. While the shows are picking up momentum, the quality of the bootlegs is dropping considerably. The swirl of sound that comes with those huge washing tubs have been noticeable on all tapes so far and this recording is no exception. So basically Cardiff is a recording for the hard core collector who wants every single show released. I suspect quite few of the visitors of the show will enjoy this one as well, but speaking from personal experience, I've thrown out plenty of recordings such as these. Some are basically too hard to listen to and don't do the actual performance justice. Even with recordings from a show where I've been I need a certain level of base quality to recapture the spirit of the evening. Many of my favorite bootlegs from tours I've followed are rarely the shows I've visited.

Download the tribute to Tim Russert in mp3 here

I might be too biased to say anything sensible about the show at moment. I'm still on a high coming back from last night's Amsterdam show. Right now it feels nothing on this tour even remotely came close to that night. Seriously though, from what I can tell, Cardiff got a stunning performance. The feel of the show is much more serious than Amsterdam, a difference spurred by a few select differences in the set list. Songs as "Atlantic City" and "Devil's Arcade" give this show a dark and brooding edge. "Jungleland" adds that overwhelming emotion that grabs you by the throat and refuses to let you go for the full ten minutes of the song. "Thunderroad" was dedicated to Tim Russert on this show. Russert passed away earlier this week and aside from Springsteen having a huge amount of respect for him, Tim was one of us, a fan/addict who chased that Magic from show to show. While Russert might not mean much to the average European, most might not even know who he was, from what I've seen he's one of those journalists that set the bar for others. The politically biased journalism, influenced by party lines is an important part of what Springsteen feels he needs to bring under our attention with this tour and album. As an anchor man Russert appeared to be the type that could be trusted with bringing objective journalism that shied away from political propaganda. In an era where commercial and political arguments continue to pressure high quality journalism Russert's passing is a loss that will be felt.

"Thunderroad" (for Tim Russert)

MP3 File

Download the full show in mp3 here
A small request, use mp3s for personal use only. Keep them in your iPod or on your computer but never use a mp3 based CD in a trade. The quality of mp3s deteriorate rapidly every time a CD is ripped. Using high quality music files such as FLACs is essential in keeping the trading pool healthy.

Read an interview with Tim Russert on Springsteen here
Recording: 2+ out of 5
Show: 4.5 out of 5
Artwork: none

Right on Track; June 18th 2008 Amsterdam, Philly Eat Your Heart Out!!!

"I'm an old man, give me my thrills" Springsteen said before bursting into "Girls in their Summer Clothes", which was also dedicated to a fresh father who missed the postponed Arnhem show because his wife was giving birth. Springsteen had something to make up for after last December when he fell ill the day of the Dutch show and gave a short and mediocre, by his standards, performance the day after. He did so in spades. Right up until the encores Amsterdam looks like a pretty standard show on paper, no big surprises from the looks of it. But the Boss and the band were on a roll. Springsteen was in a chipper and interactive mood, enjoying the hell out of the cat walk in the middle stage. He used every opportunity he could get down on his knees and emerge himself in the audience. During "Spirit in the Night" he almost looked like he was about to jump into the crowd again like he did in his early years. He may claim to be an old man, but he has the vitality of a man in his thirties, it was the audience who had more difficulty keeping up with the pace of the show.

Springsteen's brand of R&R is an odd one. Though it does follow the archetype of R&R rebellion, Springsteen has never been the type of artist that wallows in excesses of the sex and drugs part of the equation, never the artist that alienates. Springsteen rather connects. Aside than looking for a lot of physical contact during this show, Springsteen went out of lengths taking requests. Though some of them were already on the set list he made sure the dedications were personal. "The River" was performed for somebody's birthday, "Backstreets" for a ten year old, "This song was written about 25 years before you were born" he joked. The one unfulfilled request was for Little Steven though. When crashing into "Darlington County", the Boss and Miami noticed a sign in the crowd that made them stretch out the opening vamp to get it. The request, "Princess of Little Italy" from Stevie's first solo album proved a bit too much of a challenge for even the almighty E-Street Band and Springsteen's all knowing teleprompter. It wasn't played, but it did underscore that Springsteen with the E-Street Band transcends the individual artist.

The fact that this was my last show of this tour which could be the last tour for the band made this a very special night for me. Maybe that's why I was so taken by his classic songs and so overwhelmed with all the impressions from the E-Streeters. Most noticeable tonight were Steven, who manages the band and the stage as if he were still Silvio Dante. When Springsteen makes a slippery mess with his sponge its Silvio who summons a roadie to clean it up. Clarence is the elderly statesman of the band. Though aging in the most obvious ways he is commanding in his solos, nailing "Bobby Jean" tonight. Charlie, who replaces the recently deceased Danny Federici, is the Benjamin of the band With his nerd like looks complete with glasses he's the most unlikely Rock and Roller I've ever seen. Yet when he attacked the keys with his hat during "Living in the Future" he surely was captured by spirit of it. Funnily enough he isn't quite as subtle as Danny, but more raucous. Appearances can be deceiving. The tight chops Max brings, cemented by Garry solid but fluent base lines were fundamental in making "Mary's Place" one of the highlights of the evening. Springsteen turned the show into a Soul revival on that point of the likes I've only heard on Sam Cooke's "Live at the Harlem Square Club".

A high until Springsteen decided to take one final request from a seven year old. The kid had been holding up signs requesting various songs seated on top of his father's shoulders through out the evening. "Summertime Blues" was just one of four. When Springsteen went out to collect them an observant Little Steven already started playing the chords to Eddie Cochran's Rockabilly classic. As if he wanted to warn Springsteen not to let this one slide, van Zandt was determined to drag Springsteen back into his underground garage. A place the Boss hadn't really visited for years. The ploy worked, "Stand on It" and "Seven Nights to Rock" were thrown in on the spur of the moment, making these encores possibly the most memorably of the Magic tour yet. They might even have been better than anything he's played in Philadelphia.


A mystery beneficiary by the name of Seaside Barsong was kind enough to send me a sneak peak of the Amsterdam bootleg. "Backstreets" sounds more than promising. It could be proof that great recordings are possible in big washtubs after all. I've left the download function off to allow the taper to have the pleasure of releasing the full recording first. Can't wait to hear it in full!

Monday, June 16, 2008

This Train, From Small Things (Big Things One Day Come)

“Cut at the power station in NY in '79. I busted out my Gretsch "country gentleman" guitar and the band drove the hell out of it in a take or two.” Those were Bruce’s liner notes for From Small Things (Big Things One Day Come) in the booklet for The Essential Bruce Springsteen, on which his version of the song was at last released in 2003. Originally an outtake from The River, Bruce instead gave this song to Dave Edmunds at a London gig on 1981’s River Tour: "I was backstage in the hospitality area after the gig and one of his crew of road managers tapped me on the shoulder and said, 'Bruce wants to meet you.' I went back and had this great talk with him, and he played me this song and said, 'I'd like you to do this, if you like it,’” describes Edmunds. “He said he'd send me the tape, which he did." Edmunds quickly released the song, From Small Things, on his album D.E. 7th in 1982 and as a single, which reached #28 on the US Mainstream Rock singles chart and pushed the album to #56 on the Billboard Top 200. Meanwhile, like past giveaways Fire, The Fever, and Because The Night, Bruce began to play this song live almost immediately after giving it away.

The song was performed off tour 14 times in 1982 and 1983, eight of those times with Cats on a Smooth Surface (led by Bobby Bandiera), then the house band at the Stone Pony, with whom Bruce would for a time jam regularly. Two other performances were duets guesting with Edmunds himself. The song subsequently continued to get occasional off-tour play, being performed at club gigs twice in 1989 and once each in 1991 and 1993 (it was also setlisted for the 2002 Rumson School Benefit, but was not played), but, despite being rehearsed for the Tunnel Of Love Express Tour, it did not receive an E Street airing until August 11, 2003, when it was the opener of the Rising Tour’s final Philadelphia show, quite a surprise, as the song was not released until November of that year. The song reappeared a couple weeks later at Giants Stadium, where it was performed with Bobby Bandiera, with whom Bruce so often played the track in the 80s.

Having been let back out of the bag, the song continued to get semi-regular off-tour play, twice in 2003 (at the Light Of Day Benefit with Joe Grushecky and with Bandiera at one of Bruce’s Christmas Shows that year), five times in 2004 (at the Rumson School Benefit, with Grushecky at the Light Of Day Benefit, with Grushecky at the Flood Aid concert in Pittsburgh, and at both Harry’s Roadhouse holiday shows with Bandiera), twice in 2006 (at the Rumson and Ranney School benefits, each with Bandiera), and twice more in 2007 (at the Ranney School Benefit with Bandiera and with Max Weinberg at an SPCA fundraiser).

Earlier this week, the song received its Magic Tour debut and only its third E Street airing in Bruce’s first ever concert in Wales (Cardiff, specifically)—the home of Dave Edmunds. The song had been covered by numerous other artists (notably the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band), but it was Edmunds version that kept From Small Things from being lost in the flood like so many other outtakes of its time, so it is him fans of the rocker must thank for the song’s persistence in performance (and, eventually, release). It took a while, but this song was simply too good not to make a fortune in the promised land.

By Jake Romanow (ol'catfishinthelake)

Philadelphia 2003

MP3 File

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Right On Track; Japanese Paper Sleeve Reissues

Yet another new feature. Right On Track is going to be the place for me to review Springsteen's official releases and shows I've seen him do. First up, the European re-issues of the Japanese LP reproductions on CD.

The announced Japanese paper sleeves have hit the European market a weeks back for only 10 Euros a pop, about 15 dollars. "The River" and the live box are slightly more expensive, but come in very reasonable prices going for 15 and 25 euros respectively. Since I own the bulk of my Springsteen collection on worn down vinyl I figured it couldn't hurt to replace a couple on digital format. Especially since these paper sleeves are exact reproductions of the original LP. I managed to put some restraint on myself, only purchasing "The River", "Nebraska" and "Tunnel of Love". I left "Darkness on the Edge of Town" behind since I'm still hoping on a 30th anniversary release. What's taking him so long to deliver the goods anyway. I've left the live box behind as well. There still has to be something to be looking forward to buying right? The paper sleeve edition is a bit hits and misses. They are very nice looking reproductions of the original vinyls with a very solid eye for detail. Problem is of course that the original artwork needed shrinking down. This means the original liner not have become unreadable without a magnifying glass, which is not delivered in the purchase. To compensate however a lyric sheet is provided in both Japanese and English. Nice, if you want to brush up on your languages. Together with the Obi strip that's wrapped around the sleeve, these new releases are exact copies of the Japanese collector editions issued in 2005. I'm not sure why Sony chose to do this. The new releases were, to my knowledge, printed for the European market. Maybe they simply like to piss off the collectors who payed the big bucks for them three years ago by making this new cheap edition indistinct from those expensive earlier releases.

Another detail that's bothering me is the actual CD. The only part of the release that hasn't been made to look like a vinyl, they're the red Columbia discs we've grown accustomed to. It would have been nice if they would have followed the concept all the way. I must complement Sony however on the protective plastic sleeves that come with the CDs. Sliding you CD in a cardboard sleeve always leave you risking scratches. With the plastic sleeves they are nicely protected. The major plus is the sound however. I had expected them to be an upgrade over my bruised and battered LPs of course, but not as much as they actually are. The subtleties that come shining through on "Nebraska" actually have me doubting the home demo background of the album. There are clear glockenspiel and guitar overdubs that have much more finesse than you'd expect from a demo recording. Could be though that Springsteen is simply as much of a perfectionist with his demo tapes as he is with the actual masters. I compared the sound to earlier CD releases as well. If you've still got the old releases you bought when they were first digitalized than these CDs are definitely worth spending a few bucks on. Though they haven't been remastered, a higher bit rate can do wonders as well. CD technology has advanced much since the mid eighties and is paying off. It's not just "Nebraska" that sounds clearer, "The River" and "Tunnel of Love" win in depth as well. The sound is much warmer than those earlier CD releases with the added bonus that the synthesizers on "Tunnel of Love" do not sound quite as shrill as they used to. The sound improvement alone makes these release more than just an effort to get rabid fans like me to give up their hard earned money for nothing. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to run back to that record shop to treat me to the live box as well.

Get the complete set through Badlands UK.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Boss Tracks "Gotta Clean Up The World (before it cleans up you)", Funky Music Machine

In an era of digital downloads threatening the record industry record labels like Truth and Soul are a breath of fresh air. Truth and Soul is the kind of label that doesn't aim on big sales, but is there to satisfy the needs of collectors like me. In limited editions the company releases actual vinyl reproductions of obscure R&B LPs and 45s. Few of what they release will immediately ring a bell. To appreciate the value of what Truth and Soul releases takes some digging. And digging I did on this particular 45. The research for this entry took me about a month to complete, but it turned out to be quite worth while. What makes this 45 interesting, besides it featuring a young Clarence Clemons, is that it proves that brilliance is never born in a vacuum. Most of the great music acts we admire come from a scene of friendly competition. While forming their own specific sound they take what they admire from other artists while trying to beat the competition at their game. In areas where the competition is tough bands or artists are born that at one point or another will leave the competition behind. Berry Gordy realized this when he nurtured a similar competition within his Motown label. For every Marvin Gaye there's a J.J. Barnes that didn't quite make it.

One of those competitive scenes was Plainfield New Jersey. Not far from the Asbury Park scene familiar to Springsteen fans, the seeds for Parliament and Funkadelic were sown out of a barber shop run by genius to be, George Clinton. There George processed hair and his future base player Billy Nelson assisted him. "A lot of people used to hang out in that barber shop 'cause it was definitely a popular place to be" Nelson remembers years later. From the barber shop Clinton's Parliaments were born, the name inspired by a cigarette brand. Clinton peddled between Detroit and New Jersey, hoping to score a recording deal with Motown. Finally the group landed in a contract with the now obscure Revilot label which would lead them to score a hit with "(I Wanna) Testify", the worlds greatest Funk Dynasty, then a rather average Doo Wop group, was on its way! Unfortunately Revilot folded near the end of the sixties, taking ownership of the Parliaments with it. Inspired by the MC5 and their big stacks of Marshall amps, Clinton then formed the group that would go on to rock the music business. Scoring a record contract at Westbound, Funkadelic released their first self titled album in 1970.

While Clinton took many of the barbershop's most talented musicianship with him on his Mothership, there was quite some talent left behind aiming to have their own slice of the pie. While hustling for a deal Clinton had to compete with Sammy and the Del Larks on the barbershop scene. In the late to mid-seventies Sammy changed his stage name to Tyrone Ashley and formed the Funky Music Machine. As such Sammy scored a record deal with the tiny Black Top label and recorded an album's worth of material with Clarence Clemons blowing his saxophone on the sessions. Even though the group did a very successful show at the infamous Apollo theater in Harlem, the record was shelved and never saw light of day. That is until recently when Truth & Soul records acquired the master tapes which had that survived a house fire in the late seventies that destroyed most of what was recorded in the home studio of Black Top records. Aside from releasing the original LP, "Let Me Be Your Man", two 45s have been released. The "Gotta Clean Up The World" 45 is undeniably influenced by Funkadelic's earlier work, albeit somewhat smoother holding a larger commercial potential. I can't help but wonder what would have happened if the 45 had seen the light of day in '71. Combined with the reports of the Funky Music Machine being an impressive and tight live unit, they could have been serious competition to Clinton's Mothership.

That was the easy part of the research. Where it got tricky was the mention of an 18 year old Clarence Clemons being part of the sessions. As a big Springsteen fan this peaked my interest. At the time the 45 was recorded Clarence was already way past 18. So could that slim looking young man on the back of the cover indeed be Clarence. Though Clemons is quite a bit heftier today, there was a time where he was called the Big Man because of his length, not his weight. Next to the skinny and short Springsteen of the early seventies, almost everybody looked big of course. After asking around two bits of information have led me to believe that "Clean Up The World" does indeed feature the Big Man on his mighty saxophone. The first part came from the record company itself, admitting the age they mentioned in the liner notes was probably not correct but ensured me Tyrone Ashley himself was positive Clemons was part of the sessions. The second part of info came from a Springsteen historian over at the Greasy Lake, Earthslayer. He confirmed that Clemons was indeed part of the Plainfield scene around that time. While working as a counselor for the social services, Clarence jammed in bands with exotic names as Little Melvin & the invaders or Norman Seldin & the Joyful Noyze, in his spare time. Clemons did some odd studio jobs as well. Soon however, Clemons would change his base of operations to Asbury Park after meeting Springsteen at the Wonderbar in September '71. After Springsteen needed a session player for the recording sessions of "Greetings From Asbury Park", it wouldn't be long before the Big Man could quit his day job.

"Gotta Clean Up The World (before it cleans up you)", Funky Music Machine

Available through Truth and Soul records

A big thank you to all involved in this article. Rexlic over at BTX for bringing this 45 to my attention. Earthslayer over at Greasy Lake for an important part of the puzzle. Red Kelly from the "B" Side and Laurence Grogan from 16 Funky Corners for the help. Truth and Soul for providing the mp3 to use on this article. And last but not least the Big Man's management for looking into it with interest as well.

Boot Tracker; Magic Round Up

With the tour about to commence again I figured it was time for a quick round up of bootlegs I haven't discussed at length here before.

First there is the the incredible matrix recording of the San Jose show of last April 5th. The taper combined a wireless recording with his own audience tape. The results are stunning, even though the sound is a bit thin. Without a doubt one of the best sounding bootlegs so far. You can easily take this one over anything that Crystal Cat has released this tour.

Talking about Crystal Cat, they released their version of that already legendary Red Bank show Springsteen did at the Count Basie theater. Since it is a beefed up version of the recording that has already been floating around you can let it pass you buy. Crystal Cat really botched this one up. They made it into a two disc release. "Thunder Road" actually comes at the end of the first disc, destroying the concept of the show. I'm glad I got this one for free and didn't shell out my hard earned cash on a silver disc copy.

The last one of interest is the third Essexboy release of this tour, the Magic Manchester show from May 28th. Unfortunately this otherwise fine taper has obviously been struggling with the Stadium leg of the Magic tour. I appreciate the effort of this taper of recording and getting the shows out to us, but all three of his recent releases have been very tough to listen to. If you were there you might want to pick it up, but otherwise just let it pass you by. I would rate the recording on this one 1 out of 5. And that point really is for the effort. Taping involves a lot of stress, getting your gear in the venue. I can imagine this tape being the biggest disappointment for Essexboy himself.

Download the San Jose Matrix in mp3 here
Get the Crystal Cat Red Bank release in mp3 here
Finally Essexboy's Manchester night in mp3 here
A small request, use mp3s for personal use only. Keep them in your iPod or on your computer but never use a mp3 based CD in a trade. The quality of mp3s deteriorate rapidly every time a CD is ripped. Using high quality music files such as FLACs is essential in keeping the trading pool healthy.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Boss Tracks; Louie Louie, The Kingsmen

The 45 I hold in my hands today is heavy with so much R&R lore that Dave Marsh decided it needed a full book. In no way a short blog post could ever do justice to what probably is the best R&R song ever created. Though most famous and popularized by the Kingsmen, "Louie Louie" is one of the most covered Rock songs, second only to Yesterday of the Beatles. Since you cannot call that slab of schmaltz R&R in good conscious, I'm just going to give the prize to "Louie Louie". Besides the track is essential playing for any band starting out. Even though Iggy Pop claims he still hasn't mastered the song, the simple da-da-da, da-da riff that makes, makes it the ideal song for any beginning band to cover. As such "Louie Louie" probably got more plays in the Garages that spawned many of the great R&R bands than "Yesterday" could ever hope to get on all those unimaginative classic Rock radio stations.

Richard Berry & the Pharaohs

Available on "The Louie Louie Files"

Funny thing is, "Louie Louie" originally wasn't even a R&R song. Its 'author' Richard Berry stole the riff that is essentially the song from a Cha-Cha. As a Los Angeles resident Berry was surrounded by the many Latino bands that dominated the scene. In the mid fifties Berry was band hopping. At one time he was part of Rick Rillera and The Rhythm Rockers' who performed the song "El Loco Cha Cha". In turn this song was based on the Cuban song "Amarren Al Loco" ("Tie up the crazy guy") written by Rosendo Ruiz jr but made popular by RĂ©ne Touzet. These prototype Louis are so obscure I've never had the pleasure to hear them. If anybody can help me out on that front, I'll be eternally in your debt. Anyway, Berry could swear he could hear Louie Louie pulsing over the base line. After some reworking Berry turned a Cha-Cha into something that sounds like the point where Calypso and Doo Wop meet, still not quite R&R. Buried on the flip side of "You Are My Sunshine" the song sold somewhere between 40.000 and 130.000 copies (depending on the source) in 1957, not exactly a major hit. Probably why the original version is so bloody expensive these days, if you're lucky enough to find it. Strapped for cash and not suspecting the song would ever go anywhere, Berry sold the publishing and songwriting rights for a mere $750 to his label Flip records.

Not Berry's smartest move ever as ironically the flip would have made him a very wealthy man today indeed. Though largely unheard the song did make an impression on Rockin' Robin Roberts from the Fabulous Wailers, or maybe he was just looking for an easy song to play. Anyway, the Wailers covered the song and it went straight to the sell out bin. Who ever picked it up from that bin hipped Jack Ely from the Kingsmen to it, who began playing it in their set on a regular basis. The Kingsmen today are the Gods of Garage, but probably never would have been if they wouldn't have botched up the 36$ recording session of "Louie Louie" for Wand records in 1963. Ely slurs the words beyond recognition, anybody who can tell me what the hell he's singing get a no-prize! The slurred words led many to believe the Kingsmen had filled their version with obscenities. A long standing standing tradition of playing R&R records backwards was born. Whatever it was that Indiana governor Matthew Welsh heard in the lyrics he said it made his ears tingle, so it must be obscene right? Enough to get the FBI involved and conduct a full investigation. The controversy was enough for Ely to claim, quite angrily, that they "took the words from the original version by Richard Berry and recorded them faithfully". With the help of a bottle of whiskey no doubt. Legend has it the governor had the song officially band. Though that is in fact far from the truth, the controversy was enough to propel the record all the way up to the the top ten of the Billboard chart. This delightful piece of 'obscenity' has been with us ever since. As it should be, the surviving Springsteen recordings from this song are a bit of a mess themselves.

The Kingsmen

Available on Louie Louie: The Very Best of The Kingsmen

"Bruce Springsteen"

MP3 File

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Boot Tracker; September 26th 1996, Ann Arbor, MI

I reviewed an old Ev2 Ghost of Tom Joad tour bootleg earlier this week which I thought to be superb. I'm glad to announce that Ev2 repeated his trick with his new release. Though just tape is just a notch below the Austria bootleg I reviewed here earlier, with a few shifts in the sound 'color', not quality, I dare say this is again essential downloading for fans of the tour, maybe even a fine addition to your collection period. Amidst the guitar violence of Magic, a step back is very welcome indeed. I'm the kind of fan who has a hard time settling on which persona of Springsteen I enjoy most. In earlier posts I mentioned I'm a big fan of the young punk of '75, but there are days I derive as much from the reflective and brooding adult that brought us this tour. Almost as a negative to the Born to Run tour, these shows were not about the exorcism of R&R, but more about the confronting and uncomfortable side of the genre. Here Springsteen tears at the scabs, opening the wounds that scar the American dream.

The showmanship with which he does that is masterful. The Ghost of Tom Joad was the accumulation of a fifteen year obsession with all things Steinbeck and Guthrie. Springsteen tapped into the image of the latter while using the prose of the first. Slicked back hair, a goatee and just his guitar to help him carry his songs, Springsteen tried to evoke the image of him going from town to town, telling stories set to music. We were meant to think, or at least get the impression, that at the end of the show he'd simply pack his guitar in his case and hobo along on to the next town. I think this is the main reason why the shows didn't feature a piano or any other instruments. The show master tried to trick us into believing this wasn't a show at all but a genuine continuation of the Folk tradition. Springsteen even pays explicit homage to his favorite Okie in this show by playing Guthrie's "Tom Joad" in stead of his updated version of the song.

To a certain extent, the image he tried to convey was real of course. Much of the Tom Joad material tapped into the Folk tradition of bringing the stories and struggles of regular Americans. Songs like "Galveston Bay" about the Vietnamese refugees settling in Texas, or "Sinaloa Cowboys" about the two brothers caught up in drug trafficking, are real life events fictionalized. Though the protagonists in Springsteen's songs might never have actually existed in the form they take in the song, their stories are real everyday experiences of people living in America. They're not quite biographies but not quite fiction either. Next to the Nebraska songs of the mid-west, it becomes apparent how these immigrant tales are part of a larger story Springsteen has been trying to tell us, of how the American dream is not always a promise and certainly not a reality for a lot of Americans, new and old. He taps on the forces in society that prevent a group of American from even getting a fair shot at the dream. Music confronting the establishment, if that's not R&R, I don't know what is. For those in doubt, Springsteen serves up a few saucy tunes instilled with that Rockabilly fire. With "Red Headed Woman" and "Does This Bus Stop on 82nd Street" Springsteen winks at us as if to say "yes folks, I'm still in the R&R business".

In this particular show that message is cemented by two songs in particular. First there is the hard rocking "Murder Inc", undone from its guitar violence its message never sounded more biting and vicious. Second there's "Reason to Believe", here in a strikingly different arrangement that forebodes the current John Lee 'Boogie Chillun' Hooker infused Magic take on the song. In my mind "Reason to Believe" is one of Springsteen's most clever songs, open for multiple interpretations. The meaning those lines take not only differs from interpretation Springsteen gives it in a given tour, the meaning of those lines continue to shift within the song as well. They can take on the form of venomous cynicism just as easy as they can be an expression of admiration. Here it alternates between the first and biting anger with how America can drag its dreamers down in the pitfalls of society, or worse, how some people in society have become expendable in the eyes of others. Amidst all these hard confrontations the closer of the show, "Promised Land" brings some comfort. In a soft pulsing hypnotic rhythm the song feels somewhere between a prayer and a feverish dream. Although it taps into the desperation of protagonists on the Tom Joad album, it also taps into their resilience, their ability to keep believing.

"Reason to Believe"

MP3 File

Download the full show in mp3 here
A small request, use mp3s for personal use only. Keep them in your iPod or on your computer but never use a mp3 based CD in a trade. The quality of mp3s deteriorate rapidly every time a CD is ripped. Using high quality music files such as FLACs is essential in keeping the trading pool healthy.

Recording: 4,5 out of 5
Show: 5 out of 5
Artwork: 4,5 out of 5

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Boot Tracker; December 13th 2007, Cologne, Germany

As one of their recent Magic releases Crystal Cat decided to release the Cologne Magic show from last year. A very fine and interesting show to take a look at for two reasons. First, it is interesting to see how the tour has developed half a year burning down the road, second; I was there! There was a lot of complaint on how static the set lists were on that first European leg. Personally I've basically seen roughly the same show three times during that leg. Take it from me, static set lists or not, those shows were red hot. A Springsteen experience is much more than the set list. For an important part it is that realization that "it ain't no sin to be glad you're alive" that strikes me every time I hear these songs in a live setting. I can think of few things as exhilarating as a R&R show and static or not, the E-Street Band delivers the best in the business. The youthfulness and playfulness that the band displays on stage, while sometimes dealing with quite heavy handed material, has more than a little infectious effect on me, no matter how many times I've heard these songs live.

Cologne had me and my buddies up in nosebleeds, section three. What was so exhilarating is that the impact of the show hit almost as hard as two weeks before that when we had pit. Up on the way to the car we all agreed that "The Ties That Bind" was the one song we would all want to hear, so it didn't take much to get us out of our seats. Much to the discontent to the German lady behind us, who actually had the nerve to ask us to sit down at a R&R show. We granted her the pleasure of staring at our shaking buttock for the remainder of the evening. Typical of those first sets, the show offered few resting points anyway. "I'll Work For Your Love" was one of the few songs that fell flat on this ecstatic German audience. Except for the German lady behind us, it seemed that everybody was quite busy shaking their booty or howling along with "The River". Though I'm not a major fan of the song, "Dancing in the Dark" proved to be a little more than effective encore, as did "Santa Claus is Coming to Town". Over the course of the evening the legendary E-Street Band really managed to get that cold December night past its boiling point.

Maybe my personal experience at the show is why this Crystal Cat is so disappointing to me. Though it is quite effective in capturing some of the evening, the sound is a bit flat, distant evening. The instrument separation is decent, but not spectacular. On the whole the release barely makes for an above average audience recording. Though the Crystal Cat releases are easily obtained for free these days, they aim at a commercial market by selling them for a juicy price. Juicy for them that is, Crystal Cat releases, though they often come with gorgeous packaging, set you back a pretty penny. If only for that I feel we are allowed to expect a little more from them than all the generous bootleg labels, like Ev2 or Fanatic, who bring this stuff for free. With that in mind, the Crystal Cat release is sub par. Obtained for the price of a little band width however, this is a pretty decent recording.

"The Ties That Bind"

MP3 File

Download disc one and disc two in mp3
A small request, use mp3s for personal use only. Keep them in your iPod or on your computer but never use a mp3 based CD in a trade. The quality of mp3s deteriorate rapidly every time a CD is ripped. Using high quality music files such as FLACs is essential in keeping the trading pool healthy.

Recording: 3,5 out of 5
Show: 4 out of 5
Artwork: not included

Monday, June 9, 2008

This Train; Darkness on the Edge of Town

Boss Tracks is introducing a new feature in association with Backstreets' historian extraordinary, ol'catfishinthelake, Jake Romanow. Periodically Jake will be digging deep into the background of Springsteen's own material, exploring the roots of the song and the significance it holds for his career. "Darkness on the Edge of Town" is the first one and I hope he'll do many more!

“When Bruce Springsteen sings on his new album,” Pete Townshend once famously said of Darkness On The Edge Of Town, “that’s not ‘fun’, that’s fuckin’ triumph, man.” And Darkness—the song—is as great a song about triumph as any on the album, so much so that Bruce used it as the album’s name and it’s closing track. This is even more notable, perhaps, when one considers that the song was not recorded until very late in the Darkness recording sessions, in November and December of 1977. First recorded in a more rockabilly-esque arrangement, Darkness quickly developed to its album form, with its redemptive final verse: “tonight I’ll be on that hill, ‘cause I can’t stop, I’ll be on that hill with everything I got. Lives on the line where dreams are found and lost, I’ll be there on time, and I’ll pay the cost, for wanting things that can only be found, in the darkness on the edge of town”—yet the album version is almost tragic, ending with Bruce humming the melody into the fade out. The album ends on a note not just of persistence (although there is that too), but also of bitter resignation.


MP3 File

When the E Street Band first played the song live, on 1978’s Darkness Tour, it was this sense of resignation that was emphasized. A mournful organ intro was added, and instead of the album lyrics, “where no one asks any questions or looks too long in your face,” simply describing soul-searching, to “you can drive all night and never make it around”—all your attempts at triumph, to prove it all night, are probably futile. Never before or since has Darkness taken quite so fatalistic a tone—yet this tone made sense for the show. After being played early in the second set for the first few shows, the song was moved to the 4-slot, where it would remain for the rest of the tour. Played after Badlands, the ultimate anthem to perseverance, and directly following Spirit In The Night, light and bouncy, Darkness brought a sense of despair into the Darkness shows, a reminder that triumph doesn’t come easy and that if you don’t “cut it loose” the darkest part of your soul will “drag you down.”

Darkness was again an every night song on 1980-81’s River Tour, again played early in the set. But this time, it was a song of triumph more than a song of despair. The song now began with a count-in, not an organ: indeed, the entire keyboard-heavy arrangement from ’78 was ditched for a new, more optimistic arrangement, led by powerful electric guitar during the choruses and complete with reggae-like picking during the verses. The original lyrics were back, and the vocal was as triumphant as ever, culminating in a full-own howl on the final “town”, hinted at in the ‘78 arrangement but drawn out here, as it would always subsequently be with the E Streeters. It was an arrangement from this tour that was released on 1986’s Live 1975-85 box set: Bruce was no longer as desperate as he had been in 1978, just after settling the lawsuit with Mike Appel, and the performance of Darkness on the River tour, and the selection a version thence for release, reflect this.

On 1984-5’s Born In The U.S.A. Tour, Darkness was played semi-regularly, with a faster tempo and a drawn out guitar intro—and an ever-more-confident vocal from Bruce, having conquered the world and singing like he knew it. “Well other folks they gotta fight for it, and they get it anyway, anyhow,” Bruce added, perhaps in a spark of self-congratulations. A couple off-tour appearances in 1986 were followed up by four performances on 1988’s Tunnel Of Love Express Tour, but it was at 1990’s Christic Benefit concerts that Darkness would receive its most dramatic transformation yet. At the Christic concerts, Bruce played Darkness on 12-string, a powerful arrangement that brought the dismay in the song to the fore. This was a narrator disgusted by the injustice of it all, one who has had enough of people keeping their secrets, trying to rise up and leave everybody else in the dust. The narrator is wounded and has nothing left to lose—there is none of the fervor to “be there on time” present through the 80s—instead, it is something he is doing out of necessity. The hurt is palpable, and the narrator still fears that he may “let it drag” him “down.”

First Christic Night

MP3 File

For much of 1992-3’s World Tour with the infamous “other band”, Darkness was played in a new arrangement, with River-tour like guitar and a big infusion of gospel backing vocals, released on the Plugged DVD and CD, that brought the song back to its 1985 feel of empowerment. The now rich Springsteen changed the lyrics from “I lost my money and I lost my wife” to “I lost my faith when I lost my wife”—the song was no longer so much about the daily grind of Night, Factory, and Open All Night, but instead about a more spiritual crisis, more about that secret than about any physical loss. While this particular lyric would never revert, however, this turning back of the clock to a happier Darkness proved short-lived, however, and the solo 12-string arrangement occasionally returned on the final leg of the Other Band tour in 1993, but with a much less wounded vocal—instead, the song is a fuck-you to her, with the “style she’s trying to maintain”—this is the arrangement where the song started to get really angry.

Anger was certainly the defining emotion of the versions stemming from the short-lived E Street reunion in 1995, yet another new narrator who despises the secrets, the darkness, the lies that killed us, and the truth that ran us down. He finds these aspects of human nature intolerable, and goes to that spot out ‘neath Abram’s Bridge to escape them. It is this voice that was merged with the 12-string musical arrangement regularly on the Ghost Of Tom Joad solo tour (as released on the Europe-only Ghost Of Tom Joad EP and separately on the Missing single). And when the E Street Band reunited at last in 1999 for the Reunion Tour, it was the ’95 arrangement that returned with it. It was still an important enough song to the show that Bruce released it on the Live In New York City DVD (and in audio form on the Waitin’ On A Sunny Day single)—having transformed from its original tone, it remained a cornerstone of the live show.

This did not change on the next tour, 2002-3’s Rising Tour, where the song appeared regularly in the Reunion arrangement and also once in something closer to the Joad tour arrangement. In each case, Darkness had firmly established itself as an angry, indignant song, whose narrator’s triumph amounts to more of a “so there” than any true success. Meanwhile, the acoustic arrangement opened the Somerville Doubletake Benefits, Bruce explaining how his narrator “asserts his will” in the final verse of Darkness “at that last moment of survival where his will is the only promise he has and its all that he can give out”—“I’ll be.” It also reminds Bruce, he says, of the “artist’s promise”—“if I’m going there, then you’re coming with me.” The narrator’s triumph stems from desperation, and his only overcoming is within himself.

The song showed up on 2005’s Devils & Dust solo tour in both its Joad tour arrangement and in a solo piano version, but the narrator kept the same voice—after searching for 17 years, Bruce appeared to be satisfied with the character he had created for this song in 1995. The Reunion version appeared once again early in 2007-8’s Magic tour, but there was one last twist (so far) for the song to take. After E Street organist Danny Federici’s death to melanoma in April of 2008, the lyrics to this song were tweaked once more. Having sung “I lost my faith when I lost my wife” since 1992, the line was changed once again to “I lost my faith when I lost you.” All of a sudden, the song is no longer about a woman, or about simple personal crisis—the darkness on the edge of town is the place you go to deal with loss. The secret becomes death. The triumph becomes no triumph at all, just the ability to move on. “I still sing that one with gusto,” Bruce said of Darkness at the Somerville shows, and indeed, in all of its iterations, it has been a vital part of the Springsteen oeuvre since its initial release. And never has the song strayed from its most basic message: we shall—nay, we must—overcome.

Tampa Magic Tour

MP3 File

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Boss Tracks; Little Queenie, Chuck Berry

By his own accord Springsteen was first introduced to Chuck Berry's music through the Rolling Stones. The first Stones album Springsteen bought, was the legendary live album "Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out!". Recorded in 1969 at the Madison Square garden, the album featured two of Chuck's songs, the featured B-side of today and "Oh Carol". The Stones' version of "Little Queenie" is probably why the plug side of the single, "Almost Grown", stands in the shadows of the flip side these days. It was the A-Side that charted on the Billboard hot 100, peaking at #32. Both sides of the single are far from Berry's best work. Recorded in 1958 Chuck Berry piano player Johnnie Johnson later remembered that the formula was wearing thin, even claiming he was "getting tired of R&R". Comparing Springsteen's early performances in '75 of "Little Queenie" with the version the Stones did asserts Springsteen's claim that it was the British Invasion band that initially hipped him to the Godfather of R&R. Springsteen's version shares the slow and dragging quality of the Stones' performance of the song.

Chuck Berry's version of "Little Queenie" was also featured in one of Alan Freed's flimsy R&R flicks, "Go Johnny, Go!". Berry enjoyed a fruitful partnership with Freed from the earliest stages of his solo career. Freed was probably responsible for Berry's first single Maybellene breaking it big and had made Berry part of his touring packages and films ever since. Released in 1959, "Go Johnny, Go!" was built around an incredibly thin plot, loosely built around the disk jockey's own life story. Freed plays himself in this movie about an orphaned kid making it big through his R&R chops. Freed discovers him through a demo tape and the film is built around his quest to find this young rock & roll singer named Johnny Melody. With the script's and dialog's merits even thinner than Elvis Presley's late Hollywood output, it leans heavy into blistering R&R performances by Chuck Berry and the like to give it some entertainment value.

The appearance of "Little Queenie" in Freed's movie would later prove to be the last career high for both gentlemen before their fall from grace. With R&R being under constant attack of the establishment as it was claimed to induce juvenile delinquency , things were about to come crashing down. Freed would soon get caught up in the payola scandals. Ironically it was the single "Maybellene", which was instrumental for launching both their careers that would be part of Freed's troubles. Freed was credited as co-writer of the song in exchange for plugging it heavily on his radio show. This proved to be an illegal conflict of interest the major companies slyly used in their campaign against R&R. Berry himself was arrested later that year under violation of the Mann act, he was accused of trafficking a 14 year old prostitute over state lines. Though it was unclear if Berry ever knew the girl was a minor and a prostitute, it led to the five year prison sentence that crippled his recording career.

Chuck Berry

Available on Anthology

Bruce Springsteen '75

MP3 File

Here's a Chuck Berry interview from Dutch television for your enjoyment. The introduction is in Dutch, the interview is in English.

Note: you'll notice that the Chuck Berry track is not available for download. I've decided to change the policy of how I deal with officially available material. The flash player will allow you to listen to the track, which should be enough for comparison purposes. Since I aim to promote some of these fine R&R classics, hoping to encourage some of you to buy them since they are often the pension plan of many of the artists featured here, I won't be offering them for free anymore. If you like what you hear, I suggest you sponsor the artist and your local record store by picking up a copy of the suggested CD.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Boot Tracker; May 31 2008, London

The second Essexboy recording surfacing today is luckily much better. The the second London show was a tad shorter, I wouldn't want to say it was the lesser show because of it. Maybe just a tad, but Springsteen and the boys were on a very inspired streak indeed at the Emirates Stadium. So I'm very grateful for a listenable tape surfacing. That isn't to say that this recording is top notch. Though probably debit to the acoustics in the stadium, the harmonies sound disjointed. Clarence voice comes out best, which makes for some weird startling moments on the recording. The guitar sound is a bit thin and the drums and base do not nearly carry the wallop they should. But overall this is a very nice recording to listen to and more than a few rungs up on the ladder of sound compared to the surfaced recordings of the first London night.

"Radio Nowhere" moved up to the fifth spot in the show this London night after a hard rocking start, including a very fine version of "Darkness on the Edge of Town". Springsteen's voice comes out nicely on this tape and I was taken of guard with how well he still carries that song. He still spits out the key lyrics with a biting venom. The shows slows down for request time next, with Sandy gracing London with a visit. After a rather hilarious story about Danny and a massive weed plant leading into "Growing Up", its premier time! Especially "Downbound Train" makes you wish this recording was just a few notches better. A very convincing performance of what might be one of the "Born in the USA" album's finest songs. Then again, as this stadium tour proves, the album knew few weak songs, especially for a setting like the Emirates. Even Springsteen's deceptively simple rockers from that album hold up very well in those big tubs. Even "I'm on Fire", with its brooding held back sexuality stands its ground pretty well. Its not just the songs from that eighties stadium monster album however, you can see a classic epic like "Backstreets" reaching out to the farthest regions of the Emirates as well. Who needs special effects when you've got songs as that.

"I'm on Fire"

MP3 File

Download the full show in mp3 here
A small request, only burn mp3s for personal use, but never use a mp3 based CD in a trade. The Quality of mp3s deteriorate rapidly every time a CD is ripped. Using high quality music files such as FLACs is essential in keeping the trading pool healthy.

Recording: 2,5 out of 5
Show: 4,5 out of 5
Artwork: none

Boot Tracker; May 30th 2008, London revisited

When I saw the Essexboy version pop up on the Dime, my heart skipped a beat. Faith has been rewarded I thought. Essexboy has a very decent reputation when it comes to recording, so this recording was bound to be an upgrade from the first version I reviewed a few days ago. While it is an upgrade, it isn't exactly what I hoped for either. The sound on this one is fairly muddy as well and I can't say I'm all that impressed with the instrument separation either, on the whole the recording sounds distant, listening is like having seats in nosebleeds. What this bootleg does do though is capture the audience real good. The crowd is so rowdy and loud that I'm beginning to wonder if a decent recording of this show is even possible. Not that I'm complaining though. The London show was simply stellar and is really getting my juices flowing for the Amsterdam gig I've got line up later this month.

Springsteen knows how to work the stadium. The way he brings it down to the size of a small club is remarkable, seeing how there are no special effects. Just a band and some of the hardest rocking tunes R&R has ever known. The "Working on the Highway" and "Cadillac Ranch" two pack for example is very effective in getting spirits high. Some R&R bands manage to get the exitement Springsteen puts in those two in a full show. As I said earlier, this London shows was age defying. Some fans might complain that the set leaned heavy into the light weights tunes, but in my view Springsteen is one of the few artists that still manages to capture R&R's true spirit. Straight forward, simply hip shaking music that aims for the gut. Hail, hail R&R indeed! That first night in London ranks amongst the best shows of this tour and I'm keeping my fingers crossed for a recording that will really allow those who were shut out out enjoy the full glory of it. Unfortunately, this one isn't it as well.

"Cadillac Ranch"

MP3 File

Download the full show in mp3 here
A small request, only burn mp3s for personal use, but never use a mp3 based CD in a trade. The Quality of mp3s deteriorate rapidly every time a CD is ripped. Using high quality music files such as FLACs is essential in keeping the trading pool healthy.

Recording: 2 out of 5
Show: 5 out of 5
Artwork: none

Boot Tracker, May 7th 1997, Vienna, Austria

It is rare I run into a bootleg that is new to me but completely blows me away. The Ghost of Tom Joad tour is something that had been a rough 15 years in the making I guess. Ever since he started working on Nebraska he suddenly held a group of songs that weren't all that suitable for arenas, let alone stadiums. Yet his venture into solo acoustic shows came slowly. This is a man who was used to getting back by a ten piece R&R orchestra, going solo is a huge leap from that. Solo acoustic there's no hiding yourself behind that big wall of sound. I can imagine the Boss experienced quite a bit of stage fright when it came to taking that plunge. Slow steps were taken before this tour happened, going through the 1986 Mountain View benefit first. That Bridge School show was a delightful yet ramshackle acoustic performance, still backed by Danny and Nils. By the time Tunnel of Love came along the plunge became inevitable. That brilliant group of songs never really found their groove with the hard rocking E-Street band. Springsteen was clearly developing a second body of work that could benefit from a more stripped down approach.

Springsteen could have gone with the safety of a small combo, but after the uneasy Lucky Touch tour it was time for a radical different approach. Though he had briefly reunited the E-Street Band in '95, he was still looking for a validity outside of that format. So a radical step was taken, as a negative of his Rock shows he stepped out on stage alone. Something he hadn't done since brilliant two niter in 1990 for the Christic Institute benefits. Where at those shows he had thrown a piano in the mix, during the Tom Joad tour it would just be that lonely figure with his guitar and a few stories to tell. The new album, a continuation of the theme first touched on Nebraska, was the backbone of the tour. The contemplating, subdued nature of that album set the tone of the shows. The Ghost of Tom Joad didn't rely on the Rockabilly riffing some of Nebraska's songs took refuge in. This was naked story telling, nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. The songs had to carry the shows all by themselves.

As this fantastic Vienna performance testified, Springsteen succeeded remarkably well. The sound on this recording is amazing, hard to believe its an audience tape at times. There are moments where you can actually hear Springsteen's fingers sliding over the guitar, hear his gasps for air in between lines. It is almost as if he's there, performing in your living room. This was the final leg of the tour, with Springsteen clearly deep into the spirit of it all. The performances in that final leg were in my mind a bit better balanced out than the early Tom Joad shows. Old and new material is mixed better here and Springsteen captures your attention from start to finish because of it. Rousers like "Adam Raised a Cain" or "Murder inc" kick some life back into the show, balance out the reflections of the Joad material. Springsteen clearly in a chipper talkative mood here in Austria. Sharing both stories of him growing up in New Jersey and given his insights into the immigrant dilemma. As in the music, Springsteen goes for bare nakedness in the tales he spins. On no other tour you'll find him being as frank as he is here during "Freehold". By the time the main set closes with "No Surrender", nobody's doubting that his acoustic persona is as much a part of his R&R promise as the E-Street Band is. This one is an essential for you Tom Joad collection, if not an essential period!

"In Freehold"

MP3 File

Download the full show here
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Recording: 5+ out of 5
Show: 5- out of 5
Artwork: 4.5 out of 5

Read Will Percy's interview with Springsteen for DoubleTake Magazine here.

Note: this recording is part of a four disc Ev2 release containing two shows. The first show on that two parter, Berlin 1996, is not included here.