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PostPosted: Fri May 04, 2007 3:18 pm
by Gordon Moore
For Sale:

Gary Moore : Old New Ballad Blues Cost: Priceless


will exchange for anything with Hubert Sumlin in

:(

PostPosted: Fri May 04, 2007 3:31 pm
by howard male
Norman wrote -

This is as good as it gets


And that's good enough for me, baby!

And look, guys. Really sorry for my throwaway comments on this treasured genre. But is it any wonder that because there are, as Adam wrote, 'SO MANY terrible blues records out there!' it's easy, as a casual listener, to give up on it. Until someone like Seasick Steve comes along and gives it a fresh paint job and a new set of wheels.

In fact I'd be more than happy to have an Educate Howard Blues Night at my place. If we could agree on a night, Adam, Garth, Norman, and who ever else has some platters that matter, could do me the great favour of coming over to SE19 to change my narrow perceptions. PM me if the idea appeals.

PostPosted: Sat May 05, 2007 1:47 am
by Adam Blake
Nice idea, Howard, and very graciously put, but the trouble is that blues is such a subjective thing. For example, I don't know why I like Sonny Boy Williamson so much. He was a disgusting, drunken old letch and nearly all his songs are just straight 12 bars but there's something about his music that just moves me. He makes me laugh - "keep your hand out my pocket, I ain't got nuttin' belongin' to you" gets me every time - and his sense of rhythm is so impeccable. I love the way he calls Leonard Chess a motherfucker to his face, and tells the band to "slow it up". His disgust is so deep, his sense of personal outrage at the cruel vicissitudes of fate so palpable, and all the while he swings so hard, even at the slowest tempos. I dunno, he just gets me right where I live.

I wouldn't expect anybody else to understand that!

Likewise, Hound Dog Taylor, he can barely keep his guitar in tune. He hits it so hard you can virtually hear the strings flattening. It doesn't matter a damn. I'd rather listen to him tune up for 45 seconds than listen to Carlos Santana's finest solo. What logic is there in that?

No, blues is a deeply personal thing. You don't have to like it. It's quite alright. We can talk about Sibelius instead. Or so many other things. Anytime.
You take it easy.
Cheers
Adam

PostPosted: Sat May 05, 2007 9:58 am
by howard male
posted it twice and don't know how to get rid of the original!

PostPosted: Sat May 05, 2007 10:00 am
by howard male
Adam wrote -

For example, I don't know why I like Sonny Boy Williamson so much. He was a disgusting, drunken old letch and nearly all his songs are just straight 12 bars but there's something about his music that just moves me


Well how could you not like someone who wrote a song called 'Fattening Frogs for Snakes'? And there is a lazy jazz swing to his 12 bars (what little I've heard anyway) which you don't always get with the 12 bar form, which - in my experience - is often played in a tighter, stodgier, more rock orientated way which bores the pa... oops, sorry!

I'd be curious to know if you discovered him in your teens, Adam. Because I still have a soft spot for Lou Reed based as much on how funny I found his egotistical rants and drug-addled ramblings on the live album 'Take No Prisoners', as on the lovely 'Satellite of Love' and the like. We just love those kind of unpleasant characters during our unpleasant teenage years and subsequently retain a soft spot for them.

Secondly, you mention the 12 bar thing which has always been the biggest hurdle for me with the blues. Even though I subsequently discovered the more cyclical, repetitive riff variety of the likes of John Lee Hooker.

Whenever anyone says do you want to come and see this great blues band, I always assume they'll be 12 barring. Is this a reasonable assumption to make? Has a band ever called themselves The 12 Bar Barroom Blues Band? If they haven't, they should have. Or perhaps not.

PostPosted: Sat May 05, 2007 12:25 pm
by Adam Blake
No, I discovered Sonny Boy when I was about 27. Go figure!

PostPosted: Sat May 05, 2007 2:54 pm
by Ted
howard male wrote:
Secondly, you mention the 12 bar thing which has always been the biggest hurdle for me with the blues.

Whenever anyone says do you want to come and see this great blues band, I always assume they'll be 12 barring.


I think of the 12 bar as being a formalism like a sonnet - you have this rigid pre-set structure and you do what you can with it. How an artist stamps themselves on that basic structure is a key part of the blues. The ease with which the I/IV/V 12 bar can be learned is why there are so many awful blues records and performances. Anyone can do it. But only the good ones can do it well.

Having this rigid structure also lends itself to comparing artists. Likewise the extensive blues tradition of cover versions.

I don't go to see "blues bands" because they are usually a waste of time - an all 12-bar set does show a certain lack of imagination certainly. But actually they are a waste of time because artists with a strong enough personality to impose themselves on such an inflexible and well-used form are really really rare.

Jazz has mucked around with the basic 12 to a degree that makes it almost impossible to recognise - "Blues For Alice" by Charlie Parker is actually a 12-bar - if you're muso enough you can work out the substitutions form the original chords. I can't.


And no not all blues is a 12 bar - 8, 24, 16 and numerous others exist. I'd be interested in a list of these blues forms and their archetypes if anyone else is up for it...

TW (Heading for pseuds corner for use of "archetype" and "formalism" in one post)

PostPosted: Sat May 05, 2007 10:57 pm
by Adam Blake
One of the things I like about blues from a playing point of view is the formality of it: here's your key, here's your three primary chords, here's your 12 bars, the rest is up to you. Do you have anything to say? Or not?

But, as you point out, there are many variations to the form. Essentially, there are two kinds of blues format: songs with chord changes and songs with no chord changes.

Songs with no chord changes (or "one chord wonders") tend to be riff based. Examples being, "Smokestack Lightnin'" by Howlin' Wolf, or "Rolling Stone" by Muddy Waters (which does however have a chord change in the solo). These are horizontal or linear structures that just continuously unfold for as long as you want. "Boogie Chillun" by John Lee Hooker is another great example of a one chord wonder with a single chord change in the solo.

Songs with chord changes most often have 12 bars, but they could have eight, such as "It Hurts Me Too" by Elmore James, or "Key To The Highway" by Little Walter. There's a great tradition of New Orleans eight bar blues's such as "The Bucket's Got A Hole In it", "St. James Infirmary Blues" and Professor Longhair's "Tipitina" (which introduced Cuban rhythms into the framework for the first time - at least for the first time on record). Blues songs could also have 24 bars, or 16 or even 32. "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl" sometimes has 18, or 20.

Most interesting from the playing point of view can be the mutant hybrids. Songs which have chord changes in "illogical" places. Slim Harpo had a great knack for 13 bar verses ("Got Love If You Want It", "Ain't Never Had To Cry", "I'm A King Bee"), Lightnin' Hopkins has given many a rhythm section nightmares with his unpredictable changes ("Lightnin' change when Lightnin' want to"), as of course did John Lee Hooker. This is why many blues buffs prefer the likes of Hopkins and Hooker playing solo but I always enjoy listening to the suffering of the bass player as he wonders whether he dare try to anticipate when The Man is going to move. Generally, the trick is to follow the melody. Quite often, the instrumental choruses of these irregular songs will be straight 12 bar measures, returning to the irregular pattern when the vocal re-enters. But it's not worth betting on. A great example of the opposite is Hound Dog Taylor's "It's All Right" where the instrumental choruses are 11 and a half bars long and the vocal is 12. I thought it was a mistake the first time I heard it. It ain't. They do it perfectly each time, both on the live and studio recordings. The magic of these wonderful anomalies is they are all worked out by nods and group telepathy. Another complete mind melter is the bar of 5-4 time coming out of the shuffle on Otis Rush's "All Your Love" (or is it going into the shuffle? I can't remember.) Any trained drummer would have been thrown by that, even someone like Stan Levey or Philly Joe Jones would have raised an eyebrow, but Willie Dixon and (I think it's) Fred Below just absorb it with absurd ease and the groove rolls relentlesly forward.

Blues is full of stuff like this. It grows out of polyrhythmic thinking that us Westerners have to work real hard at developing - if we can develop it at all. In African music it's just the currency. From a musicological perspective, one of the great fascinations of the blues is in it's "African Retentions". Whole books have been written on this. I know, I used to read them. Back in my days of chasing after the blues as opposed to now when I spend my time hiding from them!

Anyway, I hope this goes some way in answering your query. It's all very interesting, but not as much fun as dancing to it...

PostPosted: Sun May 06, 2007 4:10 pm
by garth cartwright
Belated reply to Rob's query on Stevie Ray Vaughan - on a superficial level one could say, yes, SRV and Gary Moore come out of the same box (white guys playing blues inspired guitar solos) but after that there's a world of difference. I saw SRV twice in concert in the 80s - initially i went in a bit of a snob and once he started playing the hairs on my neck stood up! Man, that cat could play! And not just flashy stuff, he really knew how to bring out that deep barrelhouse blues groove. Good singer too.

I got to interview him a year or so before he died - very nice chap, we spent most of the intv gassing about our favourite blues and soul artists (he was a big O.V. Wright fan too!). All his albums are flawed but there are absolute gems on each - Tin Pan Alley, Texas Flood, Little Wing, Boot Hill etc etc. There's also a decent album of him jamming with Albert King - somehow Stevie got under the skin of the music and this is why he won such respect from Albert and Buddy Guy and co'.

Which leads us to Gary who also cut one or two "blues" albums with Albert and B.B. and a few others guesting (on their own songs i seem to remember - i hope they got a good publishing royalty) back in the late 80s when Hooker and Cray were leading the last commercial blues boom. My problem with Gary is i don't like his guitar tone (just as i don't like Carlos Santana's guitar tone) and find no subtlely in his playing or singing. I can only say i find it affected, not effecting, and rather stodgy. I never find these qualities with SEV (even tho i wish he had never cut Voodoo Chile and some of his stuff is yes pretty standard boogie).

I also rate some of Rory Gallagher's work highly - anyone else out there like Rory? His Irish Tour album just smokes in the same way that, say, Ivo Papasov's gig did last night.

At the end of the Belfour gig at the Spitz i was standing with Dave Peabody and Sofi (from fRoots) and the DJ threw Dust My Broom on and as it came ripping out of the speakers Dave leaned over to Sofi and said "Elmore! You have to listen to him!" Can't agree more - god i love Elmore James. Which brings us, H, to blues and impressionism - just as i never tire of hearing a good Elmore James cut (and Dust My Broom has been ruined by so many bad bar bands but still his cut shines) i never tire of dropping into the National Gallery and checking Degas's Women At Her Toilet: the tension in that pastel, her spine and the relentless, crackling energy captured - it's comparable to listening to Elmore. Like a good cup of coffee, a good painting and a good tune never wear out their pleasure!

PS Adam, blues is the Renaissance of Western music. Consider: Jimmie Rodgers, The Carter Family and Hank Williams all based their music on what they learned from black bluesmen so creating country music as we know it. Many a jazz player first learnt barrelhouse blues - Louis Armstrong's singing and playing: so blues inspired! Billie Holiday learned all she needed from Bessie Smith. Thomas Dorsey, who invented modern gospel composition, started out as a blues pianist/songwriter. The likes of Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Dylan and The Stones all used blues as the basis for much of their sound. I'll be intersted in anyone else's thoughts on the matter!

PostPosted: Sun May 06, 2007 5:54 pm
by Gordon Moore
I personally was astounded when after listening to Robert Johnson (and I admit I do find him difficult) a few years ago, to relisten to Led Zeppelin (from decades ago). I suggest that Plant and Jimmy Page were reincarnations of Robert, never mind renaissance. (I know this isn't new...)

Rock my world

PostPosted: Mon May 07, 2007 10:35 am
by will vine
Anyone else out there like Rory? asks Garth.
Ah ....the sweaty beer soaked days of me lost youth ! Impossible not to like surely ?

Probably the one thing I have in common with Brian May is that we both wore out our original copies of the "On The Boards" LP by Rory's first band Taste. I still play it regularly. It is a very airy and jazzy blues style, with beautifully constructed, conversationally realised, guitar soloing. The playing "makes sense". He employs, as I understand it, unusual scales for a rocker.......(over to you Adam). Technically it's probably a bad album as I think I can detect some clumsy edits, especially where he changes from guitar to alto sax (again very lyrical playing), but it's a worthwhile ride. Highly recommended.
I think later he got a bit too predictably heads down rock a boogie, but what an entertainer.

Whilst on the subject of these old blues rockers.....Stan Webb anyone ?

PostPosted: Mon May 07, 2007 7:15 pm
by Adam Blake
Yes, I too loved Rory. I cried when he died. His music neatly sidesteps all my critical faculties and I just give in to him. I never thought I'd live long enough to see him compared to Ivo Papasov, though! Nice one, Garth. As for his unusual scales... Well, bejasus, where d'ya T'INK dey come from??!

As for the bad editing of "On The Boards" - I wish more albums were edited that badly...

The point about people like Rory and Stevie Rae Vaughan (sorry I can't handle Stan Webb, I saw him a couple of years ago and he was on a sad little ego trip which his playing just isn't good enough to justify) is that they may have been about as subtle as a flying mallet but they played entirely from the heart and they didn't try to be clever. Stevie Rae also proclaimed "I may be white, but I ain't stupid" - for which he deserves whiteboy blues brownie points in perpetuum. Rory drank himself to death - falling victim to a culture of relentless boozing even older than that of the African-Americans he so unpretentiously admired. (sigh...)

On the subject of Stevie Rae, perhaps I could relate a story about his brother Jimmie. In 1979 I was 19 and I could play all the punk riffs of the day plus all the riffs on the first two Rolling Stones lp's, plus a fair fistful of Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley and Jimmy Reed, and I thought I was one hotshot teenage guitar picker. The band I was playing in - Mike Spenser's Cannibals - got a gig at the Venue in Victoria opening for this band from Texas called The Fabulous Thunderbirds. I think it was the first time they'd been to the UK but none of us knew who they were. We did our set and went down ok. I thought I'd played with more than my usual flair and zip and was feeling pretty damn pleased with myself. Then out came this band, The Fabulous Thunderbirds. I watched their guitarist Jimmie Vaughan pull more out of a Telecaster and (what was almost certainly a rented) Fender Twin than I would ever have believed possible. Somewhat chastened, I realised there was still quite a lot of work to do. Thanks Jimmie, for hipping me to that. 28 years later, the work goes on.

I said I cried when Rory died. When Stevie died I remember reading the obits and one quote has always stuck in my mind:
John Lee Hooker: "I'm a grown up man and I don't cry at nothin'. But when I heard the news, I sat on the bed and cried like a little baby."

PostPosted: Mon May 07, 2007 8:15 pm
by judith
garth cartwright wrote: PS Adam, blues is the Renaissance of Western music. Consider: Jimmie Rodgers, The Carter Family and Hank Williams all based their music on what they learned from black bluesmen so creating country music as we know it. Many a jazz player first learnt barrelhouse blues - Louis Armstrong's singing and playing: so blues inspired! Billie Holiday learned all she needed from Bessie Smith. Thomas Dorsey, who invented modern gospel composition, started out as a blues pianist/songwriter. The likes of Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Dylan and The Stones all used blues as the basis for much of their sound. I'll be intersted in anyone else's thoughts on the matter!


Hi Garth. Here're some of my thoughts...I just can't think of the Blues as the Renaissance of Western music. The Renaissance was a Western phenomenon, filled with politics, patrons and the emergence of what is referred to as "individual humanism" - education became open to other than members of royalty or the church. Works of music and art and science began to be known by the human who produced them rather than the anonymous creations they had been. Much of that which was created in the Renaisssance was drawn from the past, often from the blur of the Middle Ages, shuffled around, given a signature, became recognizable on its own - a treasure trove to the historians' and the scholars' penchant to identify and name.

On the surface, the blues appears to be an adaptation of African roots music shuffled around by people of African descent. On the surface, individual artists appeared and we recognize these individual artist by their signature sounds, so to speak. But this is a western view, our insatiable need for order as it relates to definition, to function. Consider that the naming of Blues musicians also concurs with the era - people who were nameless were allowed/required to have a name. But this is all airy conjecture on my part.

What isn't airy is the Blues. Sure, we can recognize the difference between a New Orleans clave and a Delta strummer. But what we don't recognize are the complexities of African rhythms, cross rhythms, overlapping rhythms, timelines. Complexities within a music which we, as westerners consider simple, remain intact, albeit to our ears unsounded. The instruments changed, no rebirth here. One man sits and sings, not for individual humanism but the result of inhumanism...

The Blues, to me, is a continuum of first order, primordial sound. I just can't think of it in relation to an era in Western culture.

PostPosted: Mon May 07, 2007 9:38 pm
by howard male
I'm with you on all of the above, Judith. I just didn't have the energy left to continue the debate as to whether the blues was the impressionism or renaissance of music so I'm glad you've taken up the baton. Although maybe you disagree that impressionism is any more valid as a parallel development in the visual arts?

As you say, renaissance literally means rebirth, and you need to have died (as early Greek classical culture and art did) in order to be reborn. And the blues has never died or gone anywhere.

Also the renaissance was the centre of European culture - an explosion of talent and ideas across the arts - rather than a subculture which the blues was in the beginning, and still is, in it's purest manifestation.

The other good point you make is that the renaissance was about the rise of the individual in culture - the artist was no longer an anonymous, unacknowledged craftsmen (as early blues men were) but a showman seeking patronage from the richest patrons - it would therefore be more accurate, God help us, to suggest that mainstream pop music is the renaissance of western music!

Perhaps we have misunderstood the sense in which Garth meant 'renaissance'?

PostPosted: Mon May 07, 2007 10:16 pm
by judith
howard male wrote: Perhaps we have misunderstood the sense in which Garth meant 'renaissance'?


I am certain we have. Thank you Howard for pointing that out.