In The Land of Free, we still keep on Rockin'

Plain and Fancy

"I hope for nothing, I fear nothing, I am free"


Saturday, April 21, 2012

Levon Helm - Electric Dirt (2009 us, classic rock with folk, country, blues and jazz touches)


Rest In Peace Levon Helm (May 26, 1940 – April 19, 2012)


Electric Dirt  is the second album in the last five years (after the 2007 "Dirt Farmer" and followed by the 2011 "Ramble at the Ryman")  from American musical treasure Levon Helm.  Its predecessor, Dirt Farmer, his first solo LP in a quarter century, followed Levon’s near-miraculous recovery from throat cancer, and as such represented a new lease on life for the legendary artist, who rose to prominence as the drummer and vocalist for Levon and the Hawks, which later became The Band.

The accolades poured in after Dirt Farmer’s release in the fall of 2007. “This album is nothing less than a return to form by one of the most soulful vocalists in rock history,” raved the San Francisco Chronicle, reflecting the universal sentiment. Levon was named Artist of the Year by the Americana Music Association, and the album was awarded the 2008 Grammy for Best Traditional Folk Recording. Meanwhile, Rolling Stone hailed Helm’s Midnight Ramble, which takes place monthly at Levon Helm Studios—a.k.a. The Barn—in his longtime home of Woodstock, N.Y., as 2008’s Best Jam Session.

“I’m not surprised that Levon wanted to do another record so quickly,” says multi-instrumentalist Larry Campbell, who, along with Amy Helm, produced Dirt Farmer and who, due to Ms. Helm’s obligations as a new mother, was the sole producer of this project. “It turned out to be a promising relationship as far as he and I were concerned, and a promising situation overall. We all had the sense that Levon’s reemergence was long overdue, and it was downright thrilling to hear him singing again at the Midnight Rambles and during the sessions for the last record, after the possibility of losing that voice forever. For people my age and a little bit older, it was as if the Beatles had gotten back together. That would have been a very important voice to have lost, and to get it back again was monumental.”

The 11 tracks feature the same core crew of Midnight Ramble regulars that played on Dirt Farmer and subsequently hit the road: Helm behind the drum kit, Ollabelle’s Byron Isaacs on bass, Brian Mitchell on keyboards, Campbell on various guitars, fiddle, mandolin, dulcimer and harmony vocals. Backing vocalists Amy Helm of Ollabelle, Levon’s daughter, and Teresa Williams, Campbell’s wife, deepen the album’s “next of kin” vibe. The horn section of the Levon Helm Band appears on four tracks.

Two of the tracks were arranged by the legendary Allen Toussaint with the LHB horns and the other two tracks by trumpet-playing band member Steven Bernstein. Best known for his work with Marianne Faithfull, Lou Reed and Rufus Wainwright, Bernstein is also leader of New York avant-jazz band Sex Mob. So this is a diverse group of skilled musicians united by their feel for and devotion to Helm’s singular vision.

Electric Dirt again finds Levon steeped in tradition in his connection to the land and those who live by it, but this record goes deeper and wider, incorporating gospel, blues and soul elements in a bracing collection of originals and carefully chosen outside songs.

“We knew we couldn’t just remake Dirt Farmer; it had to be something different,” Campbell explains. “Because as great as that record was, as convincing as Levon was and as pure as his impulse was to make it, that’s just one aspect of what he’s about. I knew that we had to keep that vibe but build on it—get more expansive. We wanted to get closer to what we do in the live shows, but not depart too far from that organic thing. Given all that, it was difficult coming up with an actual concept, but as the tunes were collected, it started to present itself. We wanted to get a few tracks with the horns on them, but we didn’t want to hit everybody over the head with that aspect, so it took a lot of thought to come up with tunes and arrangements that wouldn’t alienate the audience that embraced Dirt Farmer. Which meant keeping away from overproduced, slick sounds—not that Levon could ever get close to that—but the idea was to keep it honest.”

A pair of Muddy Waters tunes, “Stuff You Gotta Watch” and “You Can’t Lose What You Ain’t Never Had,” was actually cut during the Dirt Farmer sessions, although they perfectly fit the vibe of Electric Dirt. “Initially, there was some discussion about doing a straight-ahead blues record, but that ain’t right because that’s changing what the last record was, not expanding on it. There is a blues feel to some of the performances, and the blues is a part of what Levon is as well. But the objective was to just present more of his depth as an artist.”

Electric Dirt’s numerous high points start right at the top, with a rousing rendition of the Grateful Dead’s “Tennessee Jed.” Campbell and Williams spent a good part of 2008 on the road with Dead bassist Phil Lesh, including some shows on which Helm and Lesh appeared together. “There was some real comradeship going on,” Campbell points out, “so we thought, wouldn’t it be great if we could find a Grateful Dead tune that Levon could do? ‘Tennessee Jed’ was always one of my favorite Dead songs, and I thought Levon could actually be Tennessee Jed. And it fit like a glove.”

Following a fervent take on the Staples Singers’ “Move Along Train,” which finds Levon breaking out his gospel roots, comes Helm and Campbell’s “Growing Trade,” which takes an empathetic look at the plight of a Southern small-farm owner. “My wife is from west Tennessee,” says Campbell, “and there are cotton farmers down there about to lose their places. Most of them are just church-going farmers with deep, moral convictions, but they’ve realized that the most important thing for them is to save the land which has been in their families for generations. And Levon has a deep understanding of what all that means, so he brought a wonderful perspective to the song and performance.”

The ancient-sounding mountain ballad “Golden Bird,” on which Campbell’s mournful fiddling deepens the melancholy of Helm’s vocal, was actually written by seminal Woodstock folk artist Happy Traum. Along with Carter Stanley’s “White Dove,” the song forms a bridge between the rustic intimacy of Dirt Farmer and the amped-up urgency of Electric Dirt. “Heaven’s Pearls,” penned by Byron Isaacs for Ollabelle, originally appeared on the group’s Campbell-produced 2006 album Riverside Battle Songs. “Amy had the idea that it would be a really good duet with Levon,” says Campbell. “So we started messin’ with that, and sure enough, it worked great.”

“I Wish I Knew How It Feels to Be Free,” whom Helm had been itching to tackle since hearing Nina Simone’s 1967 version, is at once rousing and deeply poignant in his horn-fueled interpretation. It ends the album on a fittingly life-embracing note.

Levon, says Campbell, “is in great spirits as he gets more and more comfortable with his resurgence. And the next one will be even bigger.” He’s laughing, but that doesn’t mean he or his legendary collaborator would settle for anything less. Campbell is speaking for himself and everyone involved when he adds, “This is very much a labor of love.”
Levon Helm Official 


Tracks
1. Tennessee Jed (Jerry Garcia, Robert Hunter) - 5:58
2. Move Along Train (Roebuck Staples) - 3:22
3. Growing Trade (Levon Helm, Larry Campbell) - 4.22
4. Golden Bird (Happy Traum) - 5:11
5. Stuff You Gotta Watch (Muddy Waters) - 3:38
6. White Dove (Carter Stanley) - 3:29
7. Kingfish (Randy Newman) - 4:24
8. You Can’t Lose What You Ain’t Never Had (Muddy Waters) - 4:01
9. When I Go Away (Larry Campbell) - 4:32
10.Heaven’s Pearls (Anthony Leone, Byron Isaacs, Fiona McBain, Amy Helm, Glenn Patscha) - 4:09
11.I Wish I Knew How it Would Feel To Be Free (Richard Carroll Lamp, Willy E. Taylor) - 3:25

Musicians
*Levon Helm - Drums, Mandolin, Vocals
*Amy Helm -  Guitar, Mandolin, Vocals
*Teresa Williams - Autoharp, Acoustic Guitar, Vocals
*Larry Campbell - Dulcimer, Fiddle, Acoustic, Electric Guitar, Horn Arrangements, Mandolin, Vocals
*Jay Collins - Tenor Sax, Vocals
*Clark Gayton - Trombone, Tuba
*Byron Isaacs - Bass, Vocals
*Howard Johnson - Tuba
*Erik Lawrence - Soprano, Baritone Sax
*Brian Mitchell - Accordion, Harmonium, Organ, Piano
*George Recile - Vocals
*Catherine Russell - Vocals
*Allen Toussaint - Horn Arrangements
*Jimmy Vivino - Electric Guitar, Organ
*Steven Bernstein - Cornet, Horn, Horn Arrangements, Trumpet

Free Text

The Kingsmen - The Best Of (1963-67 us, trailblazer garage beat, Rhino Vinyl release)



"Louie, Louie" by the Kingsmen, the undisputed garage-rock hit song of all time, was still charting nationwide that first week in February 1964 when the Beatles landed at Kennedy Airport. Although the Beatles were spearheading a major British Invasion of America's radio airwaves, the Kingsmen successfully held their own. Between 1963 and 1967, at least 11 of the Kingsmen's singles and 5 of their LPs made Billboard magazine's charts.

These discs were a non-stop series of some of the loudest, rawest, and funnest rockin' radio hits ever. The Kingsmen emerged from their Portland, Oregon garage in 1959, around the same time that the world was first being introduced to the developing Northwest Rock Sound. The Seattle/Tacoma based combos; the Waiters, the Frantics, Little Bill & the Bluenotes, and the Ventures each scored on the national charts with their debut releases. The Kingsmen originally formed as a 4-piece unit: Jack Ely, (vocals/guitars), Lynn Easton, (drums), Mike Mitchell, (guitar), Bob Nordby, (bass) They performed popular standards and their favorite raunchy Top-40 tunes at local supermarket grand openings and school sockhops.

In the fall of '62, the Kingsmen lured Don Gallucci, keyboards), away from another Portland band, Gentleman Jim & the Horsemen. Just prior to this, Ely acquired a copy of "Louie, Louie" by the Wallers, a cover of Richard Berry's 1956 underground R&B hit. This version featured the Waller's raving vocalist, Rockin' Robin Roberts, (with his patented "yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah's..."), and it raced up the charts in 1961 on KJR. Seattle's then-mighty rock 'n' roll radio station. That achievement and the disc's five digit sales figures offered simple statistical evidence of the Pacific Northwest region's undying fondness for the song. It also bolstered the local tradition for rockin' R&B combos to feature the song nightly at dances.

The Kingsmen adopted it and began employing the song as an extended showstopper finale. When a local disc jockey, Ken Chase, hired the Kingsmen to open his new teen club, The Chase, and noticed the young crowd's wild reaction to "Louie, Louie", he booked the band into a downtown Portland studio. "Louie, Louie" and an original instrumental number, "Haunted House", were cut quickly in March 1963 for thirty-eight legendary dollars.

When DJ's at station KISN in Portland began broadcasting this "Louie, Louie," Seattle record mogul Jerry Dennon took notice and signed the boys up, releasing their first single on his fledgling Jerden label. Such was the early '60's Northwest teendance scene, that many of the working combos shared a core of the same songs in their sets. So, it made perfect sense for a crosstown rival band, Paul Revere & the Raiders, to enter that very same studio, that very same week, in order to record their version of "Louie, Louie." These two bands battled it out on Portlands charts all through that summer.

The Kingsmen's chaotic version with it's manic lead guitar solo, insane cymbal crashes, generally slurred and unintelligable lyrics, as well as that famous faffed third verse, rose to about #20. The Raider's good, though comparatively tame, sax-based rendition went on to get them signed as the firci rock n' rot! group on Columbia Record's talent roster. Eastca meanwhile had been devising other schemes; he had secretly recistered himself as the legal owner of the Kingsmen's name and he nac aiso taken up the saxophone. Finally at a rehearsal in late August, he dropped his bombshell; he would now be taking over as their frontman/vocalist.

Needless to say, the guys were stunned. It was, however, a bloodless coup as both Ely and Nordby opted to quit and Gary Abbott, (drums), and Norm Sundholm, (bass), were recruited from local bands. Only weeks later, Easton was phoned by some college students in the deep south who were curious about the garbled lyrics within "Louie, Louie" and they wondered whether it was true that they could be deciphered if slowed down to 33 1/3 RPM.

The Kingsmen were initially humored by these outlandish rumors, but before long the news networks were filing reports from New Orleans, Florida, Michigan and elsewhere about an American public nearly hysterical over the possible dangers of this record. When ace Boston DJ, Arnie "Woo Woo" Ginsburg of station WMEX, received word that the Governor of Illinois was preparing to ban it, he immediately set the tune into heavy rotation on his show. He apparently reasoned that it might not appear proper if the song were to be outlawed in another area before staid ol' Boston could have its chance.

The New York based R&B label, Wand Records, jumped in, reissued the disc, and 21,000 copies were sold that first week in Boston alone. As "Louie, Louie" began to saturate every radio market a frenzy began building, the rumor mills were working overtime, and ugly record burning incidents reportedly occurred. A congressional subcommittee took an interest, the FBI payed the band a visit, and both Ely and Berry ended up being summoned by the FCC to make statements regarding the song's lyrical content. "Louie, Louie" entered the Billboard charts in November '63, charted for 16 weeks (resting in the Nation's #1 position for two solid weeks), and would go on to sell probably 10 million copies worldwide.

The Kingsmen embarked in late December on a whirlwind three week tour for the William Morris Agency. Soon after returning home, Abbott was replaced by Dick Peterson and Barry Curtis joined because Gallucci was stuck in high school and wasn't free to tour. By the spring of '64, various concert promoters were urging Ely to form his own Kingsmen because Easton's crew was experiencing a bit of trouble on the road; people had begun to question whether Easton's was the same voice as the hit record. Jack Ely and his Kingsmen began booking shows but eventually the two groups would end up facing off in court.

A settlement was reached: Ely would desist from making further bookings as the Kingsmen, but any future pressings of 'Louie Louie" would have to credit Ely as the vocalist, and Easton was bar rec from lip-syncing to Ely's original vocal on TV appearances. In March 1964, the Kingsmen's second single, a cover of Barret: Strong's 1960Top-40 smash "Money" was released, and it charted foil weeks. The Kingsmen began four years of endless concerts, roac tours, dances, and appearances on all the teen set TV shows: Shindig. Hullaballoo, Shlvaree, Shebang, Where The Action Is, and others.

They also performed the title track and the tough "Give Her Lovin'" in what was perhaps the zaniest of Annette's surf in' flicks, How To Stuff A Wild Bikini. In January '65, the Kingsmen's fifth single, "The Jolly Greer Giant," a novelty tune based on a well-known frozen vegetable company's popular animated trademark character, created yet another mild controversy. "The Jolly Green Giant," boosted by all the attending publicity, charted for 12 weeks, peaked at the Nation's #4 spot, and became the Kingsmen's second best seller.

The disc's flipside, "Long Green," became a regional standard that was covered by numerous Northwest bands and, in fact, Jimmy "Sugar Shack" Gilmer & The Fireballs created a minor national hit version of it in 1969. Don & The Gopdtimes, Gallucci's newly formed band, burst out in '65 with a scorching original, "Little Sally Tease," a song that the Kingsmen promptly covered with a fullblown studio effort. "Little Latin Lupe Lu" ('64), "Death Of An Angel" ('64), one of their contributions to the dance-craze-of-the-week fad, "The Climb" ('65), and other hits kept the Kingsmen charting regularly through November 1967.

The Kingsmen experienced further personnel changes, brought in new producers, and booked recording sessions in Hollywood. By this time, the era's psychedelic influences began to shade some of their recordings: "I Guess I Was Only Dreaming," "Just Before The Break Of Day." These final Wand label releases were, perhaps, just a little too experimental and did not meet with the same massive commercial success that the Kingsmen's previous teen R&B outings had. The Kingsmen finally abdicated their throne in 1968 and went into a self-imposed musical exile.

Meanwhile, "Louie, Louie," the song that couldn't be stopped, made a remarkable re-entry onto the Billboard charts for a couple of weeks in mid-1966 and Jack Ely & The Courtmen, now signed to a major label, released spirited rewrites such as "Louie, Louie '66," and "Love That Louie." The phenomenal impact of the Kingsmen's classic cut remains undiminished and its legend grows. In the 1978 movie Animal House, the late John Belushi gave a memorable performance leading a debauched frathouse party in a hilarious slurred sing-a-long with the Kingsmen's record. Then in 1979, the English Mod group, The Who, also paid tribute by including the Kingsmen's "Louie, Louie" in the soundtrack to their film Quadrophenia.


Tracks
1. Louie, Louie (Richard Berry) - 2:42
2. Money (That's What I Want) (Janie Bradford, Berry Gordy Jr.) - 2:16
3. Little Latin Lupe Lu (Bill Medley) - 2:21
4. Death of an Angel  (Daniel Woods, Dori Woods) - 2:30
5. The Jolly Green Giant (Lynn Easton, Don "Sugarcane" Harris, Dewey Terry) - 1:56
6. The Climb (Lynn Easton) - 2:25
7. Annie Fanny (Lynn Easton) - 2:01
8. Give Her Lovin' (Lynn Easton) - 1:44
9. Long Green (Lynn Easton) - 2:30
10.That's Cool, That's Trash (Steve Barri, P.F. Sloan) - 2:15
11.Genevieve (Huey "Piano" Smith) - 2:36
12.Killer Joe (Bob Elgin, Bill Medley, Bert Russell) - 2:15
13.Little Sally Tease (Jim Valley) - 2:55
14.Trouble (Joe Levine, Arthur Resnick) - 2:21

The Kingsmen
*Jack Ely - Vocals, Guitars
*Lynn Easton - Drums
*Mike Mitchell - Guitar
*Bob Nordby - Bass
*Don Gallucci - Keyboards
*Gary Abbott - Drums
*Norm Sundholm - Bass
*Dick Peterson - Drums
*Barry Curtis - Keyboards

1962-67  The Kingsmen - Louie Louie The Best Of (2008 Repertoire release)

Free Text
the Free Text