The B Side of Beatle George

If you mention the song title “Old Brown Shoe” by The Beatles, I think many people would say, “Huh? What?” I mean it’s not exactly as well known as “She Loves You”, but it is a fantastic song from the pen of the often overshadowed songwriter George Harrison. (To put things into perspective it was the B side of “The Ballad of John and Yoko.”) I found this early demo version on YouTube featuring more prominent vocals and piano.

Lyrically, the song is pretty interesting. The Wikipedia entry compares it to McCartney’s “Hello, Goodbye” in the sense there are themes of opposites and conflicts in both. In “Old Brown Shoe” Harrison sings about wanting “a short haired girl who sometimes wears it twice as long.” To me, the middle eight section is great both lyrically and musically. “When I grown up I’ll be a singer, wearing rings on every finger.” Give Paul McCartney credit for some interesting bass lines here.

Harrison later recorded this song on his 1992 album “Live in Japan.” If you don’t think this song is bluesy enough for you, check out the version by Leslie West (Mountain) on “Song from the Material World – A Tribute to George Harrison.” It’s also been played by Conan O’Brien and Gary Brooker (Procul Harum) at tribute concerts.

The first time I heard this song was on the cassette version of “The Beatles Greatest Hits 1967-1970.” I thoroughly enjoyed the song’s different texture then and still do now.

Till next time, keep your Mojo on the Horizon!

Non-Grunge 90s Rock

The Nineties…do you get a bad taste in your mouth when someone mentions this decade? It wasn’t all bad, but it seems pretty easy to be a hater. It was all about Seattle. You know, Starbucks, grunge, whale watching, and those type of things. Neil Young and his resplendent flannel couldn’t have been any more hip — or is it hipper? (Personally, I was a big fan Neil’s before the whole “Godfather of Grunge” thing. ) What was I doing in the Nineties? I spent some time and money at St. Louis Riverport Amphitheater and Busch Stadium trying to see as many legendary rockers who were doing their alleged-farewell tours — The Who, The Stones. I also saw Ringo Starr a couple of times as well. I even saw Neil Young on an acoustic tour.

Despite the whole grunge thing, there were some contemporary bands getting radio airplay on Album Oriented Rock (A.O.R.) stations. The band “Cry of Love” out of North Carolina had a couple of hits in the early 90s including one called “Peace Pipe.”

I always liked this song and their other hit “Bad Thing.” I did an internship at A.O.R. radio station in St. Louis around this time and wound up with Cry of Love’s album “Brother” on cassette — it also featured a K-SHE 95 sticker and station mascot “Sweet Meat” the sunglasses wearing pig. Pretty cool, huh? Cry of Love’s lead singer with the big bluesy voice was named Kelly Holland.

Around the same time (circa. 1993), K-SHE was also playing a bluesy rock song by another Southern band called “Brother Cane.”

“Got No Shame” is a great, frantic piece of rock n roll. Besides the wailing harmonica in it, I always liked the line “I found shelter, Helter Skelter”. Damon Johnson was the lead singer on this one. Many members of both bands went on to play with some other well-known bands/artists like The Black Crowes, Thin Lizzy, Sheryl Crow and more.

Are both bands considered “Southern Rock” because they’re from the South? I don’t know. I’m just grateful they threw some bluesy vocals and rockin’ music into all of that flannel.

Till next time, keep your Mojo on the Horizon!

Mean Old World

Some people don’t really enjoy or “get” blues music. They think it’s slow, sad, and depressing. Repetitive or simple, too. (Some say the same about country music.) While opinions vary, and I would disagree with that, this song makes a strong argument for those things. “Mean Old World” was first recorded by blues guitarist/musician/songwriter T-Bone Walker, but harmonica phenom Little Walter had a hit with the song in the R & B charts.

If you like the Little Walter version, there are several others in that vein. Artists who followed in his footsteps include Canned Heat, Van Morrison, and Chicken Shack (featuring Christine Perfect on lead vocals).

Christine Perfect would later be part of Fleetwood Mac and marry John McVie to provide her with the better known moniker of Christine McVie. Incidentally, there’s also a live Fleetwood Mac version of the song with Peter Green on guitar.

“Mean Old World” was also recorded with a completely different feeel/arrangement by blues guitarists Eric Clapton and Duane Allman. Their version apparently inspired North Mississippi Allstars to record it as well.

Duane Betts — the son of Allman Brothers’ guitarist Dickie Betts — plays on this track along with Jason Isbell.

Somehow this blog entry unintentionally turned into a Who’s on First -who’s related to who type of thing, but it’s still about the song. If you don’t like any of these versions, check out one by B.B. King or the original by T-Bone Walker. As great as Little Walter was on harmonica, I love his vocals on this one. Ike and Tina Turner have a straight blues of this one with killer vocals, too.

Till next time, keep your Mojo on the Horizon.

Soaring Blues of Steve Marriott

It might be hard to believe a fresh faced kid in the musical “Oliver!” went on to write songs like classic rock radio staple “30 Days in the Hole.” That kid was Steve Marriott. While I’m no expert on Marriott, he was definitely part of the swinging sixties with mod band The Small Faces. I’ll say this: That guy developed one killer set of blues “pipes.” During the past few years, I found a great cover of the Otis Redding tune “Mr. Pitiful”.

I also heard a great live version of Ray Charles’ “Hallelujah I Love Her So” by Marriott.

What words can you use to describe his voice? Bluesy. Powerful. “Soaring” might most accurately describe it. If you remotely like the voice of Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant, you owe it to yourself to listen to Marriott. I know folks who don’t go for Marriott’s voice, but I think it’s fantastic. Maybe the combo of his voice and harder edge blues instrumentation is too much for some people to take.

Marriott may best be remembered for putting together the band Humble Pie (which also featured guitarist Peter Frampton for a time) and their previously mentioned hit “30 Days in the Hole.”

The song has about a million references to various drugs along with getting locked up for 30 days. It’s an interesting track. A capella intro, crunchy guitar, wailing harmonica, and the vocals of Steve Marriott. Personally, I love the spoken word bit about “getting your hair cut” during your 30 day stint. Apparently Marriott struggled with drug addiction like many rock n rollers do. He died in a fire in his home, but his vocal legacy should live forever.

Till next time, keep your Mojo on the Horizon!

Blues Outside The Lines

There’s a song/saying that goes “The Blues had a baby and they named it Rock n Roll.” I think Muddy Waters recorded it. For me personally, I discovered blues music through my uncle and some bands I had in my collection like Led Zeppelin . Big blues influence on their first two albums. Same thing with The Rolling Stones. Before they started writing their own songs, they covered lots of great blues artists like Jimmy Reed and many more.

What’s interesting to me is hearing how different musicians can play THEIR OWN version of the blues. You know, the musical progression/chord changes are still the blues, but it comes out differently than say Muddy Waters or Howlin’ Wolf. One of those songs is “It’s So Hard” by John Lennon. It was on the Imagine album.

It’s got a great bluesy feel to it, but it also has John Lennon’s stream of consciousness observations on life. My favorite line is, “You gotta be somebody, you gotta shove.” The lyrics aren’t anything fancy, but I think they’re fantastic. “When it’s good, it’s really good.” I take it as him saying life can be hard, but it can also be…well, really good. Plus, King Curtis plays a mean saxophone on it.

Another one of my favorite examples of a straight blues tune with the artist’s unique stamp on it is “Jean Genie” by David Bowie.

I crank the volume on this song every time I listen to it. It’s got a rowdy, raucous feel to it that makes you want to shout “Jean Genie” every time it comes up in the song. I’ve read things about the inspiration and meaning to this song, but it doesn’t really matter to me. It’s a sort of spoken word blues on the verses with the loud chorus of “Jean Genie” along with it. The glam rock get ups may look dated in the video, but the music is just as fresh as when it was recorded. “Jean Genie” is a standard 12 bar blues progression with a great bluesy harmonica sound on it, but it’s Bowie all the way.

Both of these songs have great intros that just rock from the get go. I’m assuming John Lennon played lead guitar on his track while the great Mick Ronson played on Bowie’s. I always loved the descending bass line on the intro of “Jean Genie.”

Bob Dylan has at least one song I could have included in this blog entry, but I’ll save it for another time.

Till next time, keep your Mojo on the Horizon!

Brody Buster’s One Man Apocalypse

I was cruising around in my car on a Saturday when I heard a catchy tune with great harmonica on it. I was listening to Kansas City Public Radio KKFI. Turns out it was a local guy named Brody Buster. I was pleasantly surprised to find his latest album Brody Buster’s One Man Band available on iTunes so I immediately bought the song “2029.”

Just because it’s about the end of the world, doesn’t mean it has to be gloomy, right? The same album also has some covers on it including The Beatles’ “Get Back” (which I also bought) and a Grateful Dead tune.

Perhaps Brody Buster’s biggest claim to fame is he was labelled a “harmonica prodigy” as a kid. He has played with some well known musicians. I even found a YouTube video of him playing Montreux with Quincy Jones. With a little more searching, I found this interview he did with Crystle Lampitt on 38 The Spot. They talk about his background and plans for the future.

Interviewing isn’t something everyone can do well. Kudos, Crystle Lampitt!

When you get down to it, radio and television are pretty amazing things. The audio and video go out into the universe and you never know who it’s going to impact and in what way. I’m glad I heard “2029” and look forward to hearing more from Brody Buster. Hopefully, it doesn’t all end there for all of us.

Till next time, keep your Mojo on the Horizon!

Crossroads Mojo

Open a book about rock n roll, and it usually starts with legendary blues guitarist Robert Johnson. He’s the guy who allegedly sold his soul to the devil for the ability to be a great guitarist.

Looking back at it now, the 1986 film “Crossroads” was an awakening for me. I didn’t know who Robert Johnson was or anything about blues music. I don’t think I could have named one film director — let alone this film’s — Walter Hill, who would become one of my favorites. This film is also a great introduction to blues music.

It follows the affable, fresh-faced Eugene Martone (played by Ralph Macchio) on his quest to leave classical music behind and follow his heart as a blues guitar player. Along the way he has to break out the crotchety, old harmonica player Willie Brown (played by Joe Seneca) of a correctional facility. (Incidentally, Willie Brown is referenced in the Robert Johnson song “Crossroad Blues”.) The two go on an adventure to the Mississippi Delta filled with not only blues, but brushes with the law, booze, trains, and pawn shops. They also cross paths with a sultry runaway played by a young Jamie Gertz. She eventually leaves and Eugene purges his emotions into a slide guitar masterpiece (“Feeling Bad Blues” by Ry Cooder.)

One part of Crossroads is a coming of age story. Eugene tries to discover who he is, what he wants, and the price he’s willing to pay for it. In addition, the story is an introduction into blues music and blues folklore. The crossroads theme/deals with the devil are a big piece of that. It also delves into things like mojo hands, which are referenced in some seminal blues songs like “Got My Mojo Working” for example. (Since this blog is titled Mojo Horizon, I feel obligated to elaborate. From what I’ve read, a mojo is essentially a “prayer in a bag” associated with hoodoo/voodoo. It’s usually a charm in a flannel bag and may contain a “lucky hand root” favored by gamblers.)

Some fantastic musicians were involved in the film and the soundtrack: Sonny Terry, Jim Keltner, Arlen Roth, Steve Vai, and Ry Cooder. It’s definitely worth a listen. The script was apparently written by John Fusco for his undergraduate thesis. This film tells a great story and does so with some great music.

Till next time, keep your Mojo on the Horizon!

It’s all about Jimmy Who?

Elvis, ZZ Top, The Rolling Stones, The Grateful Dead, John Hammond, The Steve Miller Band, Neil Young, Van Halen.

Q: Which musician had a big enough impact on these artists THEY ALL recorded his music?

A: Jimmy Reed.

 

Reed is remembered for his recording of  the song “Big Boss Man” (songwriting credits to Luther Dixon and Al Smith), but also for his laid back, if not lazy, sound.   For a beginning guitarist, he was total inspiration  –  and he still is to so many.   Learning the rhythm to a Jimmy Reed song not only sounded like something, but it felt like it, too.  It’s one thing to see/hear someone like Bob Dylan or Neil Young play guitar and then top it off with a harmonica in a neck rack, but they don’t compare to the feeling of Jimmy Reed.

Reed’s music has been covered by famous rock n rollers, country stars, blues artists,    bar bands, and everything in between.   One of my favorite YouTube videos is this version of Jimmy Reed’s somewhat obscure song called “Mr. Luck”.

(The song can be found on the confusingly-titled album Jimmy Reed at Carnegie Hall.      It doesn’t sound like a live recording because it’s not a live recording.)

Going back to the mainstream, Reed’s song “Bright Lights, Big City” has also been recorded dozens of times and appears in pop culture from time to time.   I remember the song (written by Reed) appeared in the film Backbeat about The Beatles’ early days in Hamburg.   More recently, guitarist Jimmie Vaughan (The Fabulous Thunderbirds/Stevie Ray’s older brother) partnered with Omar Kent Dykes (Omar & The Howlers) for a tribute album called On the Jimmy Reed Highway.

(This will not be my last article about the great, yet still underrated, Jimmy Reed. )

Keep your Mojo on the Horizon!

 

“They call me The Hunter…

…that’s my name.”   These are lyrics from a blues song you should absolutely know!   Does it sound intriguing or even familiar to you?  I don’t know if does, but it should.

My favorite version of this song was recorded by Rock God Paul Rodgers — best known as the lead singer of Bad Company — but, The Hunter was originally recorded by blues guitarist Albert King.

It’s nothing short of ironic Paul Rodgers’ version (my favorite cut on the album) was recorded for his 1993 solo release Muddy Water Blues:  A Tribute to Muddy Waters.  This version also features Guitar God “Slash” playing lead on it as well.   Do you need more reasons why this song is great?   It has braggadocio, swagger, attitude.   The singer casually mentions he “bought me a love gun, just the other day.   And I aim, to aim it your way”.  As fantastic as guitarists like Slash and Albert King are, it’s Paul Rodgers’ voice that convinces me he MEANS it.   “Ain’t no need to hide, ain’t no need to run.  ‘Cause I got you in the sight of my love gun.”  My words don’t do it justice.  You just have to listen to it.

According to allmusic.com and Wikipedia, the song itself was written by Stax Records musicians: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Hunter_(Albert_King_song).   The Hunter was previously recorded by Paul Rodgers during his days with the band Free.  In addition, it was recorded by Ike and Tina Turner.  If you’re into the blues or just need a reason to take a road trip,   check out the St. Louis, MO Walk of Fame on Delmar Blvd.  You might see all three stars for Ike, Tina, and Albert King.   It’s hard to believe with that much swagger in his voice, but Paul Rodgers is English.

Stay tuned and keep your Mojo on the Horizon!

http://www.stlouiswalkoffame.org/inductees/albert-king.html