Category Archives: Music

Epitome of the Style

Yes, they are both about 60 years old, and many in the audience were, like me and my brother Tor and our friends Merrill and Brett, no longer the young rock ‘n’ roll fans we once were.

But this nonetheless had to be the epitome of classic rock, Steve Winwood and Eric Clapton together, playing everything from the blues, to soul music, Traffic, Hendrix, Blind Faith, Derek & the Dominoes, and various solo numbers from each other’s back catalogues. I have heard and seen many comments to the effect of this being the best concert ever… Certainly one of the best concerts I’ve ever been to. The two masters are each great in their own right but clearly enjoyed playing together and just nailed tune after tune after tune…with a great rhythm section, no big band or backup singers this time. Like one of the reviewers said, this was a different Eric Clapton than with Cream in 2005. Much better – and it has to be Winwood, and the result of a collaboration rather than competition.

I know I am late, at least in blogosphere time, in posting this but better late than never. Same with putting the videos up on You Tube.

Actually quite a lot has been posted on You Tube from the three nights, and many comments as well. Here’s the most popular one that I posted:

Excerpt of Winwood & Clapton playing Hendrix tune “Little Wing” at MSG 2/28

This was definitely one of the highlights. “Voodoo Chile” and “Double Trouble” were two others – with Clapton absolutely nailing two of the best guitar solos of all time during the latter. The organ/guitar jam on the former was incredible, and made me wish there had been more organ solos. Winwood is so versatile though – such a great singer, piano player, and such a great guitar player, trading solos with Clapton on several songs, including “Cocaine” and “Dear Mr. Fantasy” (the encore last Thursday) and certainly holding his own. In fact not many guitar players are better than Winwood, Clapton being among a relatively small handful.

Our seats were great, about halfway up the risers toward the back of the MSG floor, on the right, with a clear view of the stage. One piece of bad luck – a very loud mouthed New Yorker and his friends sat directly in back of us. “OH MY GAWD!” “HE STILL HAS HIS SEVENTIES VOICE!” “HE IS JUST AS GOOD AS WHEN WE SAW HIM IN THE 70s MAYBE BETTER” “WOW IT’S ‘LITTLE WING’ ” etc. and on and on at the top of his lungs, as if he could onl enjoy the show by constantly talking over it. No doubt he will be bragging to all of his friends what a great show it was, despite the fact he didn’t really listen to it.

I can’t wait for the DVD. I hope they get all the songs on it, not like Crossroads where they cut out a bunch of stuff, and changed the order on some others (not that anyone who wasn’t there would notice, but still).

Afterwards we walked up to Times Square to an excellent Belgian beer bar to rehash the evening.

The weather was a bit cold and windy outside, but the memories are still warm.

Crossroads Guitar Festival 2007: Pretty Good Concert ;-)

It was long, and sometimes hot, and the ground was covered with some hard plastic tiles, but it was about as good a day of guitar music as anyone could hope for.

MSN has some clips available (although strangely not of Steve Winwood’s “Dear Mr. Fantasy”).

Official summary was very positive, of course…but there was really not much to complain about other than a few sound system glitches.

The Tribune blog reprinted the reviewer’s final with a bit more balanced view, although still full of deserved superlatives, and including something that John, Brett, and I picked up on – who was that unbelievable young bass player with Jeff Beck?

The details from the Tribune blog on the other hand highlighted B.B. King passing the torch. I would have said it was more like Eric Clapton passing the torch… to Derek Trucks. I would also quibble with his opinion that Susan Tedeshi “nearly stole the show” from Derek Trucks. (Sorry but Susan is not Derek, no matter how well she sings!)

Some good photos on the Rolling Stone site.

Additional info here, along with a couple of video clips.


The photo John took of me and Brett.


The photo I took of John.

More photos and notes on Flickr.

(If I get my video clips uploaded I’ll update the blog.)

Update, first video uploaded:

update 2: someone posted a Clapton/Derek Trucks duet.

Update 3, Aug 3

Rest of the videos finally uploaded:

John McLaughlin

Derek Trucks Band

Susan Tedeschi

Derek Trucks & Susan Tedeschi

B.B. King

Eric Clapton

Robbie Robertson

Steve Winwood

Eric Clapton & Steve Winwood

Steve Winwood & Eric Clapton

Steve Winwood – guitar solo

Buddy Guy et al

Off to Chicago

This afternoon I’m heading to Chicago for tomorrow’s Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Guitar Festival. I’m going to meet my friend Brett from New Zealand there, and we’ll be going down to Toyota Park with my friend John from Chicago.

I’m really looking forward to this – the festival has probably the best lineup of guitar players on one stage anywhere. Looks like they will be broadcasting on MSN

By sheer conicidence, my son Alex is heading out tomorrow for the Rock the Bells festival in New York, where he’ll finally have a chance to see one of his favorite bands, Rage Against the Machine.

Last year when my brother and I were at the Cream reunion in New York, Alex was at the Audioslave concert in Virginia, near his college.

Brett and I are also going to see Walter Trout at the House of Blues tonight.

And of course I need to find time to go visit the Jazz Record Mart while I’m in town – always manage to spend too much there and somehow never seem to have enough blues CDs…

Should be a great weekend!

I’m a Believer

I used to be a bit sceptical about Wikipedia degenerating into a forum for endless discussion, but now I’m a Believer and I use it all the time.
Not to mention the great entry on Robert Wyatt, whose version I really like (readers of this blog will not be surprised at that 😉 and Wyatting, of course… (can you believe that?)
ps I vote for keeping Wyatting as a separate entry

12:01 Blues Band

Jane and I went to see the 12:01 Blues Band at the Acton Jazz Cafe last Saturday night.
It was a great night out. Both cafe and band were very enjoyable.
As I mentioned before, Jane and I lived in Chicago just after college (1978-1982, can it really be that long ago?!?) One of the great things about living there then, and living where we did (in the DePaul neighborhood on the near North side), was that we could go see world class blues musicians pretty much any night of the week.
So it was great to see our neighbors from Swampscott, Mass. singing and playing the blues the other night in a nearby venue. If you get a chance, I would definitely check them out. They can all play and sing too, and they offer a great mix of traditional blues and original tunes.

Chicago Piano

A couple of weeks ago I was in Chicago for the Eclipse Board meeting. Afterward i went with one of my friends to see Barrelhouse Chuck “and friends” at Rosa’s Lounge. It was great. Rosa herself was behind the bar, and Barrelhouse’s friends included Pete Crawford, Katherine Davis, and Eiko, who took over on piano while Chuck sang a couple of songs.
Barrellhouse Chuck with Pete Crawford at Rosa’s Lounge June 28
Barrellhouse is a student of Chicago piano. He spent 9 years studying with Sunnyland Slim before he passed away, and he can play just like him. He can actually sing a little better than Sunnyland, although maybe that’s not saying much. Chuck is playing Wednesday’s through July at Rosa’s. If you’re out that way you should definitely check it out.
Here’s a picture of Chuck with my friend Tom. Tom says that the caption is wrong, though, and it was actually Christmas 1991 at Chuck’s place. Tom studied with Chuck a while back and used to fill in for Chuck sometimes when Chuck’s band took breaks. Today Tom spends more time playing the ukelele, but his real job (when he decides he wants one) is as a graphic artist. He used to paint pinball machine and other arcade game panels. Tom designed the logo for Barrelhouse, which appears on his website and lapel button.
Barrelhouse Chuck’s Logo
Rosa’s has a great atmosphere. My wife and I moved to Chicago right out of college and our first apartment was over the North Branch Saloon, which turned out to be one of about 6 blues bars within walking distance where you could see world-class blues artists almost any night of the week for cheap.
Single File, which was about four blocks away, was where we saw Sunnyland for the first time. Big Time Sarah was with him and I bought an LP from her on Sunnyland’s Airways label (since reissued) that the two of them were on. That started me on buying the music of the musicians I went to see, and keeping up the tradition I bought two CDs from Barrelhouse that night.
Chuck came over and talked with us during the break between sets. He knew Tom, of course, but he also went around and talked with everyone else.
One thing that was different though was the appearance of a tourist with a camera. You would never have seen that 25 years ago. I had decided not to get my camera out because I didn’t want to break the mood, but after the Dutch guy went right up to the stage with his Nikon with the big flash, I figured what the heck and took a few shots from my seat at the bar.
Eiko Gallwas and Katherine Davis
The Dutch Tourist with the Camera
The day before I’d gone over to the Jazz Record Mart and bought a bunch of CDs, including, by sheer coincidence, Sunnyland’s “Patriarch of the Blues” that I found in the used bin. The guy at the counter told me all the old North Side clubs had either closed down or become tourist joints where they “played the same 12 songs over and over…”
At the end of the last set Chuck asked if anyone had any requests. I mentioned “Johnson Machine Gun,” one of Sunnyland’s better known tunes, and before I could even say “if you know it” Chuck had launched into a thunderous version. The Blues is alive and well in Chicago, you just have to go a little farther West than you used to.

Music Notes

This is one I’m really looking forward to – a collaboration between Paul Simon and Brian Eno!
Here’s another one high on the anticipation list, the Blind Faith DVD coming out ( was supposed to be April 10 but now there’s no date on Amazon, although you can preorder it). In the brief interview with Ginger Baker about it that was posted a while ago (and since taken down, I’m afraid), he acknowledges how painful it is for him to play because of his arthritis, putting something of a damper on hopes for more Cream reunion shows. The interview with him on the DVD site is well worth a read too, and the “Sea of Joy” clip well worth watching…should be a great DVD.
Recently I also bought the new album by Delbert McClinton, Cost of Living. I really liked the one I bought a few years ago, Nothing Personal so I bought the new one. I’d say it’s not quite as good as Nothing Personal but definitely has some great songs. I am a bit disappointed that he chose to record a song called “Right to Be Wrong” which he must have known was already done by Joss Stone.
I also got the new John Mayer Trio CD, which is a set of live recordings from the tour. Most of the tunes are really great, including a credible cover of Hendrix’ Wait for Tomorrow.
I don’t care, I also really like Heavier Things – this was something that I played over and over on my recent West Coast trip. I had it on my iPod and some songs from it kept coming up on shuffle mode and surprising me. Really holds up well.
A couple of months ago a got the new Beatles’ biography. The first part of it is great, where it goes into a lot of detail about their youth, what it was like to play in Hamburg, and how they made it to the top. The rest of it lacks something, perhaps because I have my own memories of them once they got famous.
While in Dublin a couple of weeks ago I picked up a Pogues anthology (Ultimate Collection) for about 10 Euros (which is apparently a good price), on the strength of the recent publicity about their reunion. It’s a two CD set, one studio and one live. You can really hear Shane McGowan slurring his words on the live side, but it still sounds pretty good.

Robert Wyatt Review

Entertainment Weekly posted a review of the new Robert Wyatt album. They are right that this for Robert Wyatt fans, but if you are then it is great. They rightly call Rock Bottom his masterpiece, and I can’t believe they actually performed some of the songs live, since they seem so thoroughly studio tracks. Robert fills in for some of the studio sounds using his voice.
Taken together with the Alan Moore interview October 28 this explains a lot about why I just renewed my subscription. They cover a broad range of movies, TV, CDs, DVDs, and books, and their reviews are well done and reasonably impartial for a magazine with advertising.
Unfortunately their Web site is restricted if you are not a subscriber, but it is great if, like me, you are a subscriber, since extended Web site access is free.
This is unfortunately in contrast to the Consumer’s Union Website, where they ask you to in effect doubly subscribe, once to Consumer Reports print and again to the extended content on the Website.
As much as I’m a fan of Entertainment Weekly, I am a real Consumer Reports junkie. Because you just never know when you might have to buy something ;-)… I read every issue pretty much cover to cover, and have continuously subscribed for 15 years or so.
I know they don’t take any advertising, and you get real unbiased product evaluations (no entertainment reviews though), but it strikes me that they don’t really get this Web thing – if you subscribe to their content it should be one price for both, not one payment for online and another for print. I think they would actually encourage more subscribers that way, and gain rather than lose revenue (I imagine a concern over losing revenue must be the reason they do things this way).

Cream Reunion in New York

It was a great show. Based on the CD at least I dont think it was much different from the London shows. They may have done a bit more improvisation, but not much more. They just kept to their set list, what they had rehearsed, and gave pretty much the same show every night, with the usual variations youd expect in the solos, intensity, delivery of the songs, etc. depending on how each performer feels on the particular night.
Judging from the photos in the MSG concert program of the Royal Albert performances the stage looked very similar, so if you have the DVD (I don’t yet) you probably have a good idea what the show looked like.
They had a small, simple stage with a few white and colored spotlights and a background screen that continuously flashed psychedelic colors. Very simple, I suppose similar to what it must have looked like in the 60s, except for the two large video screens hanging from the ceiling.
They came onstage without announcement, just the house lights dimming, and of course the place erupted. Id received an email a few days ahead of time from Ticketmaster with the groundrules and stating that Cream would come onstage about 8:30 and play till about 10:30, and that was correct within about 5 minutes.
The first few songs were ok, but nothing special. They really hit their stride on N.S.U. and then they were flying. Jack and Ginger kind of got it going first, a great solo jam, and then Jack kind of walked over toward Eric, with Ginger also looking in his direction, drumming madly all the time, as if to ask whether Eric was also going get it going? Ginger and Jack were playing this unbelievable rhythm jam and it was as if they were saying to Eric hey if we can do this then you should be doing something special too. So he did, you could hear him making the effort to ratchet it up a notch, and from there they never looked back.
It was like they lifted us all up into this kind of mental warp where you don’t notice the passing time till it’s almost over. They got each other going and that got us all going. I remember concerts like that, but have not been to one for a long time.
I was telling my brother the story of how I knew to go on the website right away and get tickets, how I met this guy Brett in Melbourne when I was down there literally the week before starting Iona. I was teaching a class on Windows DNA and one of the guys in the class invited a friend of his, Brett, from New Zealand, who just happened to be over at the same time, to join us for dinner.
At one point in the evening the discussion turned to the inevitable question of who is the best rock guitarist, and Brett made the case for Clapton, based on his live improvisational work with Cream. I had seen Hendrix and Gregg Allman and I did not really give in at the time, especially having Clapton’s later solo work in mind.
Brett and I have stayed in touch, exchanging the occasional email, sometimes (or often I guess) about music, and he was watching the Web sites and sent me an email when he saw the news. So I was ready the morning of Sept. 12 and got the order in.
We were in the risers at the end of the floor farthest away from the stage. The seats on the floor took up about two thirds of the hockey rink size floor, with folding seats on risers for the rest, and the floor seats were twice as expensive. We were about halfway up the section with the risers, with a head on view of the stage, slightly to the left of center.
The overall highlight was probably Badge, with Stormy Monday also a standout because of the sheer musicality in the guitar work.
One thing different between this edition of Cream and the 1966-1968 version of the band, at least judging from the live recordings and bootlegs (I was not lucky enough to see them then) was that other songs tended to be highlights bask then, like Spoonful and Crossroads. Spoonful was not remarkable at all this time, although of course very well sung and played – no complaints, just not a highlight. And while the new arrangement of Crossroads is excellent and fresh, it was also not the standout of the concert like it used to be.
They did not try to be the old Cream, which was great. Of course they would have had a hard time doing that anyway 37 years later. They were just the Cream they are now, which is three still great muscians playing in a kind of equal partner format, performing great songs, and jamming.
After all, you go to a concert to hear great songs performed well – and they wrote and covered a lot of great songs. And if you can get some top flight muscians to play some good solos and jam in the bargain, well, it just doesn’t get any better than that.
Someone I was talking with the day after raised the inevitable age question and the burnout issue – didn’t Ginger Baker burn out from drug abuse long ago? Aren’t these guys too old to play that kind of music? No, they were great. They are in their 60s but they played and sang great. Nobody asks this about B.B. King or Buddy Guy or John Lee Hooker when he was still around, so why should we ask it about these old white guys? Maybe this is another precedent – aside from inventing the power trio, inventing how you play bass, drums, and guitar in a blues rock band, inventing some great songs – they have now firmly set the precedent that old white guys can still play.
Ginger Bakers solo on Toad was unbelievable. He kept it going a bit longer than the version on the CD, and added a few more twists. He nailed it, and the place went wild. Afterward he literally limped off stage.
Overall he was like a machine. A drum box could not have been more precise. He didn’t miss a beat the whole concert. My brother, who learned to play the drums by imitating Ginger Baker, kept saying nobody had ever played like that. He invented the style. Is it too much to say Ginger Baker invented modern rock ‘n’ roll rhythm? I don’t think so. I think we also know for sure who the greatest drummer is.
Jack Bruce had the most energy. His voice was strong and clear the whole evening and he kept his bass and harmonica playing inventive, strong, and just fitting into every song exactly the right way. The large screen video screens hanging from the ceiling, often focused in on his fingerwork, which was great because sometimes it is hard to believe the sound is coming from a bass guitar, or that you could even play a bass guitar the way he does.
And of course what more can you say about Eric Clapton. I guess this was the known quantity going in since Eric has been the one member of the band to have great, consistent fame during the past 30 years, and you can often hear his songs on the radio. But this was the group that made him famous, and you could see why. You could almost have called him the weak link in fact – at least until he got going.
At the end, during the encore, Bruce and Clapton stood facing each other from either end of the drum kit, making a tight group. They played that way for a few minutes, just all soloing together, as if saying goodbye, and then Eric nodded his head and they brought things to a close.
Looking back I cannot say for sure that it really seemed like they were playing together for the final time. It just felt more like another concert date. Of course they are true professionals, so you might reasonably expect nothing less. But I would not be too surprised to hear about a session in Tokyo later this year or early next year.
Before going in I was a bit worried I had over hyped myself, listening to the London CDs and the BBC CD and working myself up to such a state of anticipation that would easily lead to disappointment. And the way they started out, the first four slow songs, while of course great, were not up to that level.
After Bruce and Baker kicked Clapton into gear, though, they were flying and didn’t stop. I remember looking at my watch thinking it was about halfway through the show and it was already 10 past ten, much to close to the end already.
And I would definitely say that Jack and Ginger knew how to get the best out of Eric Clapton, and that they also knew very well what he was capable of. They were not going to settle for anything less. Because it just makes for great music. And Brett, I have to admit it is very hard now to argue against you.

Cream Reunion Part 2

I was lucky enough to score a couple of tickets for the upcoming Cream reunion at Madison Square Garden. Ticketmaster sent email today saying that my tickets were printed and sent out.
I’m going with my brother Tor, who started out as a drummer and remembers learning his first solo listening to Ginger on Blind Faith.
I am already “doing my homework” listening to the live side of Wheels of Fire, the bootlegs, and the BBC CD. This last one includes the “goovy” announcer banter that really drives home how long it has been since their break up. I would recommend this CD desipte the fact it’s mono and the sound quality isn’t the best, since the performances are live and energetic, and you can really hear how Eric, Jack, and Ginger all contribute.
Rumors of the reunion have happily proven true. And now it’s coming to New York, a four hour drive away…
These old sides, especially the live performances, are just incredible. Imagine any band with the three top musicians on their respective instruments and you still only have half the impression. Each of these guys could (and in fact did) go on to lead their own bands. These guys are not only talented but also creative musically. I can’t wait!
ps Thanks Brett for letting me know about this – sorry you aren’t able to join us.