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The Rockologist - by Glen Boyd

Bob Marley's Final Uprising

December 22nd 2014 11:06
Music DVD Review: Bob Marley - 'Uprising Live!'

Perhaps the most striking thing about Eagle Rock's new Bob Marley concert DVD Uprising Live! is just how vibrant and stunningly alive he looks. Watching this 1980 performance from the rear-view perspective of history 35 years later, you'd never know that Bob Marley's body was already being ravaged by cancer, and that he would be dead less than a year later.

On Uprising Live!, Bob Marley is a house of hell-fire and raging, righteous brimstone. A whirling dervish of flying dreads and pure, primal shamanistic energy. Historical significance aside, this alone is what makes Uprising Live! such a joy to watch.

The sound and picture quality are not always perfect. If anything, the source material (taken from a 1980 broadcast of the German TV music showcase Rockpalast), will bring back instant memories of those old VHS tapes gathering dust in your garage.

But given what they had to work with, Cedella and Ziggy Marley have done an admirable job of restoring the footage. Whatever flaws there are can also be overlooked when you consider the curious lack of officially released live Bob Marley concert footage out there, and especially when the performance is as good as this.

Backed by an expanded, eight-piece version of the Wailers and his backup vocal trio the I-Threes, Marley runs through a tightly paced set that mixes the crowd pleasing hits like "I Shot The Sheriff," "Positive Vibration" and "Could You Be Loved?" with his more spiritually and politically charged material like "Natural Mystic," "War/No More Trouble" and "Revolution."

The I-Threes (Bob's wife Rita, Judy Mowatt and Marcia Griffiths) also warm the crowd up with their own short, four-song set.

But the show really hits its stride with a pair of songs from Bob Marley's classic 1977 album Exodus. For "Jamming," the expanded Wailers settle into a thick groove that owes as much to the 1970s funk of Sly and the Family Stone as it does to Marley's bread and butter reggae.

The title track "Exodus" is the real show-stopper though. Here, the rhythm section of bassist Aston Barrett and drummer Carlton Barnett provide the launchpad for an extended jam, with keyboardists Earl Lindo and Tyrone Downie, and guitarists Junior Marvin and Al Anderson stretching things out into trance-like territory. Marley delivers his own performance from something resembling an out-of-body experience, with the I-Threes completing the ritual in a conga line off the stage. It's a powerful close to the main set.

Marley returns for several encores, beginning with a stunning rendering of "Redemption Song" which starts out solo acoustic, before the rest of the Wailers eventually join in one by one. This is followed by several of Bob Marley's biggest hits including "Is This Love?," "Get Up, Stand Up" and "Lively Up Yourself."

Despite a few minor imperfections, for now Uprising Live!serves as the long overdue live document from one of music's greatest legends that his fans have so long waited for. Hopefully, it will be the first of many more to come.

*Article first published at Blogcritics Magazine.

Jeff Beck, The Boat And Live In Tokyo

December 1st 2014 10:44
Music DVD Review: Jeff Beck – ‘Live In Tokyo’

Back when I was still in high school, there was this guy I worked with on the school paper named Jerry, who for reasons I won't go entirely into here, was nicknamed "The Boat."

Jerry and I were never particularly close in school (though I always really liked the guy). But as these things so often tend to happen, we ended up traveling within the same social circle and eventually became better friends, particularly for the first few years after we graduated high school.

As I said, we weren't necessarily that close. But there was still a bond there, because we shared similar taste in music. For example, I confess that it was none other than Jerry who ended up dragging this then very skeptical, but soon to be life-long fanatic, out to his very first Bruce Springsteen concert way back in 1975. That was some 35 (and still counting) Bruce shows ago.

So, for that alone, I owe him a debt of...well, something.

Besides Springsteen, another artist "The Boat" really liked was Jeff Beck. Which may have at least partially accounted for that unfortunate nickname my group of friends saddled him with. You see, right around the time Jeff Beck released his landmark 1975 album Blow By Blow, Jerry used to wear this T-Shirt that replicated the album cover. Since Jerry was packing a few extra pounds around his mid-section, the way he rocked that shirt made it look like Beck was leaning way back into "Freeway Jam" (or whatever classic Blow By Blow track that you chose to imagine).

"The Boat" (God rest his soul) would have really liked Jeff Beck's new DVD, Live In Tokyo, from Eagle Rock.

Beck's long, legendary career has taken him down a number of musical paths - both with and without the use of several lead vocalists (including Rod Stewart), and band members ranging from Ron Wood to Jan Hammer. But in recent years, he has returned to the same, mostly instrumental jazz-rock fusion format that powered his mid-seventies peak with Blow By Blow, and he does the same here on Live In Tokyo.

There are a number of setlist similarities with this show - recorded earlier this year - and the songs heard on 2008's fabulous Live At Ronnie Scott's DVD. But don't let that scare you off. The differences - not the least of which being the fact that he is performing with a completely different band - are significant enough to make this release every bit as essential. The performance is also magnificent.

It probably goes without saying, but Beck's playing here is as flawless as ever. What really makes Live In Tokyo a treat for fans though, is watching his interaction with the great new band he has assembled.

Beck seems to have a particular knack for picking out amazing female bass players (look no further than Tal Wilkenfeld's work on the Ronnie Scott's DVD for evidence of that). But ex-Prince bassist Rhonda Smith seems to be a particularly rare find, even for Beck. Together with drummer Jonathan Joseph, she adds a filthy sounding funk foundation to covers of Billy Cobham's "Stratus" and John McLaughlin's "You Know, You Know," even while providing melodic flourishes on stand-up bass to the mid-eastern flavored "Yemin." Smith also has a nice vocal turn on the Muddy Waters blues standard "Rollin' And Tumblin'."

Second guitarist Nicolas Meier likewise shines here, whether adding a beautiful acoustic compliment to Beck's shredding on "Yemin" and a cover of Jimi Hendrix's "Little Wing," or getting into an electrifying shoot-out with the master himself on "You Never Know."

But even playing with one of the best bands he has fronted in years, there is still no mistaking that the star attraction here remains Jeff Beck himself. Some of the cooler, closeup camera shots here really highlight Beck's spellbinding technique, particularly how heavily he uses the thumb to pluck those strings. With Beck's long history of growing restless for any given period of time with the musicians he is working with - no matter how gifted they are - one just hopes he sticks with this group for a bit longer. Live In Tokyo really leaves you with the impression there is still plenty of music left to be made with these guys.

Yep. "The Boat" would have really liked this new Jeff Beck DVD, Live In Tokyo. You will too.

*First published on Blogcritics.

Music DVD Review: The Rolling Stones – ‘From The Vault – L.A. Forum (Live In 1975)’

The Rolling Stones new From The Vault collaborative concert series with Eagle Rock is off to a fine start with this show filmed in Los Angeles, during their tumultuous 1975 "Tour of the Americas." A similar document from the Stones 1981 Tattoo You tour is also out this month as part of this series.

L.A. Forum (Live In 1975) captures the Stones during a period of transition on several levels, but mostly firing on all cylinders, and living up to their self-proclaimed title of "Greatest Rock & Roll Band in the World."

New guitarist Ronnie Wood, though still officially on loan from the Faces at the time (Mick Jagger even acknowledges this during the band introductions on this DVD), all but nails the audition to become Mick Taylor's permanent replacement here. His musical chemistry with Keith Richards is undeniable, as the duo trade off sizzling solos on several Stones classics. This new combination proves to be particularly potent on lengthier than usual versions of "Midnight Rambler" and "You Can't Always Get What You Want." The latter also features a fabulous sax solo from Trevor Lawrence.

What is most notable about this show though, is how far the Rolling Stones - along with an extended lineup that includes Lawrence, percussionist Ollie E. Brown, and keyboardist Billy Preston - take the music down a deeper, much funkier, R&B infused path than on anything they had done up until this point.

On "Fingerprint File," the band lays down a thicker than pea soup funk, anchored by Bill Wyman's popping, surprisingly prominent bass lines and the crackling precision of percussionists Brown and Charlie Watts. Mick Jagger also straps on a guitar for this one, and doesn't sound half bad in the role of second rhythm guitarist to Richards. This song, as well as others like "Heartbreaker" and Preston's "Outta Space" from this show, provide a tantalizing peak into where the Stones would be headed next on the albums Black & Blue, Some Girls and Emotional Rescue.

The 1975 "Tour Of The Americas" also represents that curious period where Mick Jagger briefly flirted with an androgynous image influenced largely by the glam-rock of the day. With his thick makeup consisting of both black mascara and deep blue eye shadow, it's sometimes hard to figure out whether Jagger wants to be more like Alice Cooper, David Bowie or both. The glam theatrics add just enough dramatic menace to "Midnight Rambler" to make effective work of the lyrics though, and are also fun (if slightly ridiculous), as Jagger wrestles with a gigantic, inflatable phallus during "Star, Star."

With a setlist that mixes funkier fare like "Aint' Too Proud To Beg" and "Fingerprint File," with well worn favorites like "Honky Tonk Women," "Brown Sugar" and "Jumpin' Jack Flash," L.A. Forum (Live In 1975) makes for a nice compliment to other live concert films like Ladies And Gentlemen The Rolling Stones.

As Stones shows go, this one is a gas, gas, gas.

*Article first published at Blogcritics.

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Queen Rocked Once. Yes, "That" Queen

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