Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Chuck Berry...1926-2017...R.I.P...Tribute Post

Charles Edward Anderson "Chuck" Berry (October 18, 1926 – March 18, 2017) was an American guitarist, singer and songwriter and one of the pioneers of rock and roll music. With songs such as "Maybellene" (1955), "Roll Over Beethoven" (1956), "Rock and Roll Music" (1957) and "Johnny B. Goode" (1958), Berry refined and developed rhythm and blues into the major elements that made rock and roll distinctive. Writing lyrics that focused on teen life and consumerism, and developing a music style that included guitar solos and showmanship, Berry was a major influence on subsequent rock music.

Born into a middle-class African-American family in St. Louis, Missouri, Berry had an interest in music from an early age and gave his first public performance at Sumner High School. While still a high school student he was convicted of armed robbery and was sent to a reformatory, where he was held from 1944 to 1947. After his release, Berry settled into married life and worked at an automobile assembly plant. By early 1953, influenced by the guitar riffs and showmanship techniques of the blues musician T-Bone Walker, Berry began performing with the Johnnie Johnson Trio. His break came when he traveled to Chicago in May 1955 and met Muddy Waters, who suggested he contact Leonard Chess, of Chess Records. With Chess, he recorded "Maybellene"—Berry's adaptation of the country song "Ida Red"—which sold over a million copies, reaching number one on Billboard magazine's rhythm and blues chart. By the end of the 1950's, Berry was an established star, with several hit records and film appearances and a lucrative touring career. He had also established his own St. Louis nightclub, Berry's Club Bandstand. But in January 1962, he was sentenced to three years in prison for offenses under the Mann Act—he had transported a 14-year-old girl across state lines. After his release in 1963, Berry had several more hits, including "No Particular Place to Go", "You Never Can Tell", and "Nadine". But these did not achieve the same success, or lasting impact, of his 1950's songs, and by the 1970's he was more in demand as a nostalgic performer, playing his past hits with local backup bands of variable quality. His insistence on being paid in cash led in 1979 to a four-month jail sentence and community service, for tax evasion.


Berry was among the first musicians to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on its opening in 1986; he was cited for having "laid the groundwork for not only a rock and roll sound but a rock and roll stance." Berry is included in several of Rolling Stone magazine's "greatest of all time" lists; he was ranked fifth on its 2004 list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll includes three of Berry's: "Johnny B. Goode", "Maybellene", and "Rock and Roll Music". Berry's "Johnny B. Goode" is the only rock-and-roll song included on the Voyager Golden Record.

A few choice album selections....

See also other posts on this blog:

The Chess Box
America's Hottest Wax, Rare and Unreleased

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Sunday, February 19, 2017

John Mayall...Lost and Gone (1964) and Blues Breakers (1966)

John Mayall, OBE (born 29 November 1933) is an English blues singer, guitarist, organist and songwriter, whose musical career spans over fifty years. In the 1960's, he was the founder of John Mayall and the Blues Breakers, a band which has counted among its members some of the most famous blues and blues rock musicians. They include Eric Clapton, Peter Green, Jack Bruce, John McVie, Mick Fleetwood, Mick Taylor, Don "Sugarcane" Harris, Harvey Mandel, Larry Taylor, Aynsley Dunbar, Hughie Flint, Jon Hiseman, Dick Heckstall-Smith, Andy Fraser, Johnny Almond, Walter Trout, Coco Montoya and Buddy Whittington.

Born in Macclesfield, Cheshire in 1933, Mayall's father Murray Mayall, was a guitarist and jazz music enthusiast. From an early age, John was drawn to the sounds of American blues players such as Lead Belly, Albert Ammons, Pinetop Smith, and Eddie Lang, and taught himself to play the piano, guitars, and harmonica.

Mayall spent three years in Korea for national service and, during a period of leave, he bought his first electric guitar. Back in England, he enrolled at Manchester College of Art and started playing with semi-professional bands. After graduation, he obtained a job as an art designer but continued to play with local musicians. In 1963, he opted for a full-time musical career and moved to London. His previous craft would be put to good use in the designing of covers for many of his coming albums.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Johnny Rivers...The Memphis Sun Recordings

Johnny Rivers is one of the most underrated rock pioneers. This album is his tribute to rockabilly by recordings that made Sun studios so famous. He plays and sings them close to the originals. Rivers pays homage to the greats, yet makes each well known song his own; no small feat.

One can only imagine how crowded the little Sun Studio in Memphis must have been when this great record was made - guitars, horns, back-up singers, bass, etc, and Johnny singing live. Just terrific versions of early Sun songs plus some of Johnny's hits in stripped down versions. His "Memphis" sounds just as strong as his original 60's recording at the Whiskey A Go Go. Johnny enlisted hall of fame musicians to lend a hand, the late Carl Perkins and James Burton, to name two. 

Carl Perkins sits in and plays after Johnny says to him "Carl, why don't you come in and help us out", after being told by Rebekah Alperin who was helping with the project that I think Carl wants to play. Johnny was thrilled when Carl joined him. Johnny handed his guitar to Carl and picked up an acoustic guitar and they started playing "Bopping the Blues". Carl went on to play lead on all the songs that were his.

Johnny Rivers is in his strongest element on this album; this had to be a great work of joy for him, and it shines through. He has gone back to the roots of rock and roll. Elvis, Roy and Carl would be proud.

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Thursday, January 5, 2017

The Auction at Graceland Elvis memorabilia January 7th 2017

Once again, The Auction at Graceland is on with a collection of very unique and rare Elvis artifacts and memorabilia up for grabs.

The Auction At Graceland, which starts at 2:00 PM CST on the 7th, has more special Elvis items than ever! Elvis was involved in so many different pursuits and his life touched so many people that there are many important items still left at the Graceland estate for auction. With the help of Invaluable, fans have the chance to own part of his legacy.

 Here are a few lots to check out: 

Lot 61: Elvis Presley Gold and Diamond Ring

Estimated Price: $10,000 - $15,000

The offered ring emanates from Charlie Hodge. It was purchased in the early 1980's along with 11 other rings and the original box in which Elvis kept them when he gave them to Charlie.

Lot 126: Elvis Presley and Priscilla Presley Signed Divorce Document

Estimated Price: $5,000 - $7,000

Their love was legendary and their parting was amiable, as evidenced in this one-page Supplement to Property Settlement Agreement in which assets are divided. According to the document, Priscilla is to receive $100,000 tax-free and should any claim be made against this sum, Elvis has agreed to be liable. This agreement is dated August 15, 1972, and framed with two images of Elvis and Priscilla leaving the Santa Monica courthouse the day their divorce was final.

Lot 62: Elvis Presley Film Worn Boxing Gloves

Estimated Price: $12,000 - $15,000

From the collection of “Rockin’” Robin Rosaaen.

check out other Elvis memorabilia and collectible items up for auction on Invaluable.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Stax Instrumentals..Booker T. and The MG's and The Mar-Keys

As back up band for the majority of Stax studio soul music alumni, Booker T. and the MG's/Mar-Keys had a wide range of melodic styles back then as represented on this compilation encompassing early 60's yackety sax dance party pop to the smokey electric base, twangy guitar and bluesy-cool jazz organ riffs first heard in the 1962 Green Onions hit.

Their unique sound has permeated through American pop culture where their influence can be heard in Frankie Avalon beach movies, Beach Boys songs, the Doors' "Rider's On The Storm", the Partridge Family, even TV commercials all the way to the present Late Night with David Letterman and the early SNL bands. The thing is most of the songs on this compilation sound more modern, fresh and original than what most bands are producing today.

Also, specific to this Fantasy Records release, is the sound quality of this remix is the best out of the bunch. Big bass sound with distinct separation between instruments on the majority of the cuts that give a live studio feel similar to the way jazz sessions were recorded back in the day.

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Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Book review - Sam Phillips, The Man Who Invented Rock'n'Roll...paperback edition now available

Peter Guralnick, the author of the critically acclaimed Elvis Presley biography Last Train to Memphis, brings us the life of Sam Phillips, the visionary genius who single-handedly steered the revolutionary path of Sun Records.

The music that he shaped in his tiny Memphis studio with artists as diverse as Elvis Presley, Ike Turner, Howlin' Wolf, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Johnny Cash, introduced a sound that had never been heard before. He brought forth a singular mix of black and white voices passionately proclaiming the vitality of the American vernacular tradition while at the same time declaring, once and for all, a new, integrated musical day. With extensive interviews and firsthand personal observations extending over a 25-year period with Phillips, along with wide-ranging interviews with nearly all the legendary Sun Records artists, Guralnick gives us an ardent, unrestrained portrait of an American original as compelling in his own right as Mark Twain, Walt Whitman, or Thomas Edison.

Marty's review: Probably the most fascinating and informative book on the history of Sam Phillips and Sun Records I have ever read. It is also a music encyclopedia on the birth of rock and roll and all that it spawned after it. The just released paperback edition is a generous 763 pages worth, including dozens of photographs, that will have the most ardent music aficionado drooling over its pages and devouring every tasty morsel of juicy facts, historical events and biographical detail. If you thought you knew all about Sam Phillips, Sun Records and the beginnings of Elvis Presley's rise to fame, then this book will surprise and delight and have you digging out your music collections and wanting to hear more of the artists mentioned hear and appreciate their roots and the music they made.

About the Author

Peter Guralnick has written extensively on American music and musicians. His books include the prize-winning Elvis Presley two-part biography Last Train to Memphis and Careless Love; an acclaimed trilogy on American roots music, Sweet Soul Music, Lost Highway and Feel Like Going Home; the biographical inquiry Searching for Robert Johnson; the novel Nighthawk Blues; and Dream Boogie, a biography of Sam Cooke. He splits his time between Nashville and Massachusetts.

Published by Little Brown and Company


Saturday, November 12, 2016

The Guitar Sounds of James Burton....Guitarist for Elvis Presley, Ricky Nelson and many others

Produced by former Elvis producer Felton Jarvis, THE GUITAR SOUNDS OF JAMES BURTON is a must for fans of great-sounding guitar. He sizzles in places, and backs off in others. Most people know James' resume, having played guitar for so many great artists, especially Elvis. But he is a great artist in his own right. He is a pleasure to watch live, continually proving that you don't need to jump up and down and smash your guitar to get attention. James Burton epitomizes the word "cool."

Originally released in 1971, the album was recorded when Elvis was booked into a Nashville studio but was ill and thus unable to record. Felton Jarvis suggested they use the time to make the solo LP that James had been discussing with him. This album has twelve tracks, many of which are instantly recognizable classics ("Hound Dog," "Mystery Train," "Suzie Q" and "Johnny B. Goode"), but there are tracks on this disc which James wrote himself, "Rock and Raunch" and "Long Reach," which, not surprisingly, play to James' strengths as a picker.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

5 “Ground Breaking” Albums That Are Horrendously Overrated

Okay music collectors and critics, this is one you will either love or hate, but it's an interesting view either way. The article was written and contributed by Jessica Kane (see below article).

5 “Ground breaking” Albums That Are Horrendously Overrated

They might be classics, but that doesn't make them good. Here are just five albums that are unfairly or excessively lauded in music circles.

1. Metallica - The Black Album (1991)

The Black Album was a critical and commercial success, so much so that many people held it up as proof that heavy metal could be profitable and not just a niche market. But how much do you really remember about this album? More than two decades later, can you name any song other than Enter Sandman? While Sandman is admittedly awesome, the presence of one killer song shouldn't elevate its album into "incredible" or "unforgettable" territory. It's with a heavy heart that we have to declare The Black Album to be overrated.

2. Nirvana - Nevermind (1991)

There are some good tracks on this album. Smells Like Teen Spirit is a classic, of course, and Lithium is one of the best of the genre. Even Something in the Way has spawned thousands of mournful covers from kohl-lined bands in dimly-lit bars. But once you take the romanticism and mythos of Kurt Cobain out of it, does Nevermind really stand up to the test of time? Is it really and truly the golden standard to which rock albums should all be compared? Really?

3. Pink Floyd – The Wall (1979)

The favorite album of pretentious music snobs everywhere, The Wall is hailed as one of the most innovate artistic expressions in the history of mankind. It's too bad that The Wall is actually kind of terrible when you get right down to it. Strange, disjointed and lacking memorable songs beyond Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2, it simply isn't a good album by any definition. Even worse, you can't criticize it without millions of angry fans instantly descending on you and declaring that you don't "get it." We admit it: We don't get it.

4. Eminem - The Slim Shady LP (1999)

Eminem has done some amazing things for the hip-hop industry. Unfortunately, these things aren't on The Slim Shady LP. As soon as you've heard My Name Is, you've heard the best of the album, and everything else is a collection of gross-out humor and shock-jock threats. He deserves a little slack since this was his first real debut on a major label, but it definitely isn't on par with his later albums.

5. Michael Jackson – Thriller (1982)

It may seem blasphemous to discredit one of the most popular albums of all time, but honestly, can you name any song in this collection besides Thriller? Even if you remember fun numbers like Billie Jean, you probably forgot clunkers like P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing) and Baby Be Mine. That's what most of this album is: filler. The great songs were very much in the minority, and what's more, they were sandwiched between the mediocrity in a way that forced you to eat your broccoli before you got your desserts. That isn't a great album. It's an overrated one.

These are just a few of the most overrated albums of all time. What do you think? Did we get the worst offenders, or did we miss one?

Jessica Kane is a music connoisseur and an avid record collector. She currently writes for SoundStage Direct, her go-to place for all turntables and vinyl equipment, including VPITurntables.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Jefferson Airplane...60's Psychedelia and the San Francisco Sound

Jefferson Airplane

Jefferson Airplane were a San Francisco, California-based band who pioneered the American counterculture movement as well as psychedelic rock. Formed in 1965, the group defined the San Francisco Sound and was the first from the Bay Area to achieve international commercial success. They were headliners at the three most famous American rock festivals of the 1960s—Monterey (1967), Woodstock (1969) and Altamont (1969)—in addition to the first Isle of Wight Festival (1968) in England. Their 1967 break-out record Surrealistic Pillow ranks on the short list of most significant recordings of the "Summer of Love". Two songs from that album, "Somebody to Love" and "White Rabbit", are among Rolling Stone's "500 Greatest Songs of All Time."

The "classic" line-up of Jefferson Airplane remained stable from 1967 to early 1970, and consisted of Marty Balin, Jack Casady, Spencer Dryden, Paul Kantner, Jorma Kaukonen and Grace Slick. The group broke up in 1972 and split into two bands: Hot Tuna and Jefferson Starship. Jefferson Airplane was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996, and honored with the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2016.

Jefferson Airplane

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Psychedelia At Abbey Road....1965 to 1969...various artists

22 Tracks...The Major and the Minor
A Journey Through the Vaults

This is a phantasmagorical collection of 60's pyschedelic rock and pop. Either a great way to introduce yourself to a fascinating era in music, or an excellent way to get a hold of some hard to find tracks. Of interest also to prog-rock fans (prog-rock's roots lie in psychedelia) for the tracks by Tomorrow (featuring a 17-year old Steve Howe on guitar before he joined up with Yes) and "Kites" by Simon Dupree and the Big Sound, a precursor to the band Gentle Giant.

From Donovan's self-confident "Sunshine Superman", to Syd Barrett's moody, suitably trippy "Golden Hair", this is a fine collection of British psychedelia. Many of the people here would go on to some distinction including the N'betweens, who would become Slade. A really great anthology including a handful of absolute must-haves....especially the amazing "Circus With A Female Clown" by The Fingers and "We Are The Moles, Part 1" by The Moles.

  1. Sunshine Superman-Donovan
  2. My White Bicycle-Tomorrow
  3. Delighted To See You-The N'Betweens
  4. Sunny South Kensington-Donovan
  5. Circus With A Female Clown-The Fingers
  6. Why-Tomorrow
  7. King Midas In Reverse-The Hollies
  8. 10,000 Years Behind My Mind-Focus 3
  9. Monday Morning-Tales Of Justine
  10. Maker-The Hollies
  11. Kites-Simon Dupree And The Big Sound
  12. Talkin' About The Good Times-Pretty Things
  13. Walking Through My Dreams-Pretty Things
  14. Weatherman(He's Our Dear Old)-Mark Witz
  15. 10,000 Words In A Cardboard Box-Aquarian Age
  16. Carpet Man-The Nocturnes
  17. Barricades-The Koobas
  18. We Are The Moles(Part 1)-The Moles
  19. Mr. Armegeddon-Locomotive
  20. Hey Bulldog-The Gods
  21. Strange Walking Man-The Mandrake Paddle Steamer
  22. Golden Hair-Syd Barrett

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