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Tuesday, February 22, 2005
Love You Live
In my travels, I've learned that music listeners can largely be divided into two categories.
There are those for whom music is most frequently associated with a playback device, be it a vinyl album, a compact disc, or an iPod. And there are those for whom music is most frequently associated with a live experience; either as concertgoer or musician.
I've spent time among both camps, and have gotten to know their peculiar differences. Playback enthusiasts tend to have larger music collections. Live enthusiasts tend to show greater devotion to particular bands. Playback enthusiasts can be pretty quick at recalling oldies titles. Live enthusiasts are good at identifying band members and lineups. Playback enthusiasts often enjoy playing music for friends at home. Live enthusiasts are often not at home; they're out catching a band.
The music favored by both camps can be wildly divergent, too. Playback listeners generally go for intricate arrangements and production, live enthusiasts go for energy and power. Some bands were better in the studio, others were better on a stage. It's a talented band indeed that masters both.
So a playbacker might find themselves favoring things like the late Beatles, Pink Floyd, R.E.M., and Beth Orton, to pick a random artist per decade.
The live-er might sooner have a selection of The Who, The Clash, The Replacements, and Sleater-Kinney, to match decades.
It's possible to be both, although seldom at the same time. I still like a good show, but I don't go to them nearly as often as I once did, and I never was much good for more than one a month or so. So, my tastes lean about 60% towards the playback end of the spectrum, with the other 40% looking for that elusive combination of energy, musicianship, charisma, and excitement that rock 'n' roll can still generate, on a good night.
Since this 'blog has dealt strictly so far with the consumption of music as a commodity, and hasn't yet looked at it as a the communal experience, the musianship showcase, or the performing art that it is, I figured it was high time to consider the music as live spectacle.
So: tonight's playlist will be drawn from all "live" performances in my library; any era or genre. These include both legitimate live releases, and stray bootleg recordings. I don't have the titles tagged specifically "live" or not, so I'll randomize the whole shebang (16,992 titles-- maybe about 2,500 are live), and visually pluck out the live tracks, in the order randomplay selected them.
First 10 tracks randomly selected in this manner are profiled, Jam Tags (1-5 stars) follow:
1. The Pretenders: Kid (live) **
&%$*# randomplay; I was hoping to be kicked off with some raucous rip roaring rock 'n' roll. Instead, we get syrupy strings over a ballad. No, this is not your father's "Kid"; it isn't even the Pretenders; it's Crissie Hynde solo with a guitar and string section, and she takes a prefectly good, punky, melencholic song and turns it into a real tearjerker, "As Tears Go By" style. This would sound great on an awards show, or PBS. But it sure as shit won't get you moshing.
2. Portishead: Glory Box (live) *****
Trip-Hop is born studio music; its layered and sampled and multi-tracked. So does Portishead get away with a live performance? Well, yes and no, but mainly yes. It's chilling how close they get to replicating the studio version here, which isn't what good live music ought to be about. However, the difference is in the details; the guitar is just a little better here, Beth Gibbons is just a shade more sultry, and Geoff Barrow brings things to a surprising climax on the turntables and effects. So a landmark song (trip-hop's first crossover) is improved upon by a whit or two. Which makes it greater.
3. Oingo Boingo: Only A Lad (live) ****
Once the hardest working barband in Los Angeles, Oingo Boingo was meant to be experienced live. Not unlike Devo in its quirky new wave riffs and goofiness in general, this combines elements of punk, new wave, psychobilly, and a smidgeon of Frank Zappa in an energetic, rollicking adventure, a good example of their sound. Vocalist Danny Elfman, brother of film director Richard Elfman, has also contributed songs to nearly every movie Tim Burton has made and many episodes of The Simpsons.
4. George Harrison: While My Guitar Gently Weeps (live) ***
Of all the Beatles, it was George Harrison who openly complained about touring the most. Aside from the one-shot Concert for Bangla Desh, he had only toured once, in 1974. That tour was widely regarded a disaster; his voice was shot, his solo material was substandard, he was really grouchy about playing Beatle tunes, and there were Hare Krishnas everywhere. So it came as a surprise when he embarked on a tour of Japan in 1991 with best mate Eric Clapton, and released this live double. Even more surprising is that much of the material works well; they both sound loose and relaxed. This version won't make anyone forget the Beatles, but it is a good tune live, and Clapton's guitar solo beats his original by a hair.
5. The Byrds: Renaissance Fair (live, Monterey Pop festival, 1967) ***
This is crazy stuff. Here is what a band sounds like when they are literally breaking up onstage. David Crosby had decided to play with Buffalo Springfield in addition to the Byrds at Monterey, which Roger McGuinn unsuccessfully vetoed. The two of them are clearly pissed off thoughout their set, and engage in one upsmanship throughout. As a result, the band takes on an almost punky sound they never had on record, but not always for the best. Fascinating to listen to, especially if you get Crosby's bonehead stage patter with it. But not a good way to discover this band for the first time. Crosby never played with the Byrds again, but he would later turn up with ex-Springfield members Stephen Stills and Neil Young in CSNY.
6. U2: Bad (live) ****
From about 1983-1989, it seemed U2 could do no wrong; this stopgap EP release, which marked time between The Unforgettable Fire and The Joshua Tree improves upon the original versions, with "Bad" perhaps the most improved of the bunch. At this stage in time, they had a sound as completely their own as any band ever had, and Bono's vocals were still fresh, optimistic, and elegiac. The band rattles and hums admirably; this is a good tune to listen to just before dawn.
7. The Rolling Stones: Sympathy For The Devil (unreleased live, 1972) ****
The Rolling Stones issued live albums every three years or so for over 30 years, but due to a label change, their 1972 tour, which was recorded and mixed for release, never did come out. As a result, the album is a popular bootleg; excellent sound quality and depth to the recording. As for the performances, the band was still at its creative peak at this stage, and Mick Taylor, who wasn't yet fully integrated into the band during their '69 tour, is much more at home here. Who sounds less at home is Mick Jagger, who distanced himself from his lucifer persona after the Altamont/Hells Angels episode, and hadn't settled into a new stage role comfortably yet. I still think the Altamont version, played in the face of rioting fans and maurauding Hells Angels is one of the best ever; this one is a little soft in comparison. But it belongs in any Stones fan's collection.
8. Cheap Trick: I Want You To Want Me (live) *****
Okay, so word is they re-recorded some (most?) of this stuff in the studio. I don't care; this version is infinitely superior to the studio version, with crunchier guitars, better singing, better drumming, punchier arrangement. This is a guilty pleasure I don't feel very guilty about; a landmark power-pop tune, a fine example of the band, a helluva catchy tune. The overdubbed(?) Japanese screams and screeches in the background actually help the tune; I swear they're mixed like a rhythm track, listen closely next time.
9. Ben Folds Five: Video Killed The Radio Star (unreleased live, WNEW) ***
Creditable live cover of the Buggles' one-shot hit. Stays quite faithful to the original recording. I haven't heard much of Folds' stuff yet; he's one of those guys I mean to check out, and keep putting off. He's got a lot of novelties out there though, which raises my suspicions about performers usually. This is another for the novelty folder, docked a notch for somewhat murky sound quality. Folds fans and fanatics of the original would like this; can't see much use for anyone else.
10. Duran Duran: Ordinary World (unreleased live) **
I was 18 when these guys hit it big in America, and male, so they didn't impress me as much as they did younger, mostly female listeners. Still, I did have a soft spot in my head for their biggest 80's hits, and was pleasantly surprised by this tune, a hit long after they were presumed washed up. Little more than an easy listening ballad, I know, but well, sometimes I'm a sucker for those. That said, I'm not delusional; I expected this live version to suck, and it pretty much does. The sound quality is fairly poor (I'm not sure where it's from; it's an audience recording), but it doesn't quite mask the dull playing and somewhat strained vocals.
Looking over this playlist now, it also isn't one of the better ones we've gotten. Next time, I'll try using some filters for date and genre, and see if we do better.
Ahh, use filters with caution! I actually thought the schizophrenic, helter-skelter quality of that mix was kind of interesting...that's the whole point of random -- some times you're gonna come a cropper!
Off to watch a live Crosby Nash performance now! Strnagly had concert for bangladesh playing this afternoon, George did a great here comes the sun... Have a great weekend, keep up the good work
Just a quick comment on previous entry re Gene Clark, any one interested in checking out his work can load down free tracks and watch all Genes video tv stuff at www.geneclark.com free of charge. One of my biggest regrets is not going to see him
Hey, thanks for the Gene Clark, link, Mellow. Clark's post Byrds stuff is as good as the Byrds themselves, and more varied.
Enjoy Crosby-Nash. I sometimes make fun of those guys, but I love 'em, too. I saw CSN at The Pier in NYC in '84; they really did put on a great show.
I like the schizophrenic mix myself; it also ensures we'll get some unusual stuff coming up, which makes it a little more interesting.
For now, we'll keep things random.
Just so ya know, in case you haven't already been enlightened to the fact....Danny Elfman is Richard Elfman's BROTHER, not his son. Big difference...at least in this neck o' the woods. :)
Thanks anonymous; it makes a difference in my next of the woods, too. ;-)Post a Comment
This was an early post before the format of the blog changed; I believe I've referred to the Elfmans correctly since this post, but I've also fixed the error here.