Local Rhythms – My Favorite Years

I don’t really have a definitive answer to the question, “what’s your favorite band?”  Before the Beatles, all I cared about was television cartoons.

All I cared about after was … rock and roll, so it’s probably the Fab Four.

But I can tell you my favorite time – mid-1970 to mid-1972, right after the Beatles officially broke up, and a new order stepped in to fill the void.

The shear amount of music released in that short time was staggering.  Many great bands made their best albums – “Who’s Next,” “Aqualung” and “Sticky Fingers” come to mind, but that just scratches the surface.

There’s Neil Young’s “After The Gold Rush” and Paul Simon’s masterful first solo record.

Don’t forget the Stooges’ “Fun House” or Miles Davis’s “Bitches Brew.”

There was definitely something in the water.

Alice Cooper’s three best records came out in the space of 16 months – “Love It To Death,” “Killer” and “Schools Out.”  I could say the same for Black Sabbath – their eponymous debut, “Paranoid” and “Master of Reality” were a fine triple play, but that band’s fans are a scary lot, so I’ll let them decide.

Two artists in particular made a career’s worth of music in those two years.  Elton John may have become famous for “Bennie and the Jets” – a novelty song, in my opinion – but he won me over with four flawless albums in a row over two years.  Those songs filled a well that Elton’s (justifiably) never stopped returning to.

Rod Stewart took a smidge more than two years to make his four best records (I’ve been embarrassed for him since “Hot Legs,” so don’t even go there).  But during that time, he managed to finish a pair of great discs with his band the Faces.

That’s six records, an average of one every four months.  If you wonder why this stuff endures, it’s partly because there was just so much of it.

None of this nostalgia makes me want to go and re-live it at a live concert – when “Hippie Fest” recently rolled through town, I just chuckled.

But there are some excellent DVDs from the period.  The best, “Fillmore,” can only be found on eBay.

Every generation has their own golden era, but none as prolific as this.  These days, could anyone even afford to make so many records back to back, even if they did come up with the material?

Well, maybe Ryan Adams…

What’s live this week?

Thursday: Fred Haas & Peter Concilio, Sophie & Zeke’s – Two busy bees in the area’s cross-pollinating jazz scene get together.  Haas plays sax and piano, occasionally at the same time, while Concilio lays down the rhythm on bass guitar.  Fred plays next Wednesday at Elixir with his wife Sabrina Brown on vocals, while Peter sits in with Emily Lanier a couple of times (including the 28th at this Claremont restaurant) before month’s end.

Friday: Yer Mother’s Onion, Cornish Fair – The much-loved YMO hasn’t been gigging much of late, but they always play this Fair, now in its 59th year.  Other performers coming to the stage over the weekend include country singer Tammy Jackson’s band, the traditional sounds of Maria Rose, the Celtic-inspired Spirit Fiddle and the local singing group Gospel Train.  If you don’t like that, eat some fried dough and go on one of those spinning rides.

Saturday: For the Heroes, Twin State Speedway – A Nashville-based musical contingent visits Claremont to celebrate the men and women in our uniformed services.  Military, police, fire and rescue workers get in free, and the music starts at 4:30 (contrary to a report in Sunday’s paper). Local bands Little Memphis, High Ground and foreverinmotion join the artists behind the recently released “For The Heroes” country music compilation.

Sunday: Jeffrey Foucault, Armadillo’s (Keene) – One of my favorite new folksingers, with a dusty, weathered voice and songs that cut to the quick.  “Northbound 35” is, in my opinion, one of the five or six best songs written in the last 10 years – “you were as much in my hands as water, or darkness or nothing could ever be held,” he sings, and the blood just drains from my heart.  That’s what a good song should do.

Monday: Music Showcase & Jam Session, Summer Mansion (Hartland) – Ringmaster Dave Clark sends out an invite to “musicians, artists, dancers and music lovers of all stripes” to bring their instruments and voices for a collective good time.  Heck, what else is happening on Monday night?

Wednesday: Hal Ketchum, Iron Horse –
A Claremont favorite who’s played two memorable Opera House shows does an intimate Northampton club date.  Expect songs from his upcoming “Father Time,” a record Neil Diamond calls “so real and unpretentious and so much fun to boot.”

Finally: R.I.P. Doug Bashaw, a good-hearted, talented and enthusiastic participant in the area music scene.

Meadowbrook Marathon – Live, Collective Soul & Blues Traveler

In what could have been billed as a festival (Post-Grunge-Palooza?), three bands that helped shape rock in the 1990s shared the stage at the Meadowbrook U.S. Cellular Pavilion Saturday night.  Live, Collective Soul and Blues Traveler each attracted their own focused contingent of fans, a testament to the decade’s fragmented music landscape.

Few acts reached critical mass back then, but plenty did the kind of respectable business that today’s performers would welcome.  This fact also made the ride home from a sold-out show easier than usual at the end of the night; many fans headed for the parking lots after seeing their favorite perform.

It also gave those who stayed an enjoyable 6-hour musical marathon.  Many spent a large portion of the show milling around in the two lounges adjacent to the stage, each of which afforded excellent views of the stage.

The facility’s design allows fans to be connected to the musical action no matter where they stand.  With each show, Meadowbrook continues to impress, both with its staff and amenities.  The venue is as much a star as the bands on stage.

The afternoon sun still shining brightly, Blues Traveler strolled onstage without introduction.  They set the bar high early with a scorching version of Charlie Daniels’ “Devil Went Down to Georgia,” followed by their biggest hit, “Runaround.”  On “Mullin’ It Over,” John Popper’s harmonica playing echoed the Stones’ “Midnight Rambler” during the extended jam, which ended when the band uncorked “But Anyway” – one of the best moments of the night.

They played a few selections from the upcoming “North Hollywood Shootout,” including “What Remains,” a loping rocker featuring rich organ swirls and passionate vocals from Popper.  Opening act Hana Pestle then joined the band for Steve Miller’s “The Joker.”

The crowd rose to their feet immediately for Collective Soul’s well-received set. The band went from a whisper to a scream on songs like “December” and “Shine,” while 45-year old lead singer Ed Roland ranged across both ends of the stage like a man half his age.  During “Better Now,” Roland hauled ten women (and one over-energized man) onto the eight-foot tall stage to dance, much to the consternation of the security team.  Later, he invited John Popper out to join them for “Hollywood.”

While headliner Live played several familiar songs (“Selling The Drama,” “The Dolphin’s Cry,” “They Stood Up For Love”), their set also featured some nuggets.  They did “Black and White World,” from their first album, and a reworked version of the Johnny Cash song, “I Walk the Line.”  The latter caused a kerfuffle when Daughtry tried to pass off the arrangement as his own on “American Idol” (they’ve since made nice).

There were a few overly earnest moments.  Lead singer Ed Kowalczyk spent too much time introducing “Turn My Head” as a giant hit record he used for his wedding ceremony (did he hire a band to play it?), but Live’s 90 minutes of family-friendly rock was for the most part easily digested.

Though with a relatively equal amount of platinum records (each band has four – Live’s “Throwing Copper” is the biggest seller of all), Collective Soul could have topped the bill – or Blues Traveler, for that matter.