You Should Be So Lucky (11/17/2000)
Sue Foley, Love Comin' Down (Shanachie 2000) - Hotshot blues guitarist Sue Foley returns with her sixth album, Love Comin' Down. Back in her native Canada after nearly a decade blistering the stage in Austin, Texas, Sue shows that she has the right stuff.
Sue was originally discovered by Clifford Antone, the storied Austin nightclub owner who described Sue as follows: "There's nobody nowhere better than her at playing guitar. She's as good as it gets."
Antone is dead on. Sue Foley has a great blues voice, strong pop sensibilities, and drop-dead guitar technique. You can rock out all night long with her killer original, "Two Trains," a song that sounds like it's been around for 20 years on the bar-rock scene. I dig the compressed vocals on the rocking "Let Me Drive," and "Mediterranean Breakfast" shows Sue's recent studies of flamenco guitar technique.
The musicians on Love Comin' Down include Sue on guitars and vocals, Bryan Owings on drums, Terry Wilkins on string bass, and Richard Bell on piano and organs.
Also appearing are producer Colin Linden on guitar, Joe Cabral on saxophone, and Mark Mullens on trombone (on "To Be Next to You"), and guest harmony vocals by Lucinda Williams (on "Empty Cup").
Sue is the mother of a three-year-old boy, and has returned to her Canadian home in Ottawa to raise her family. Says Sue, "I see this as a roots album that encompasses a lot of different styles. We pushed out in a lot of different directions."
Sue goes for the big blues on the title track, before shifting into a boogie-woogie feel on "You're Barkin' Up the Wrong Tree." And while I don't care for the slowdown blues on "Same Thing," "Let My Tears Fall Down" shows flat pick style that would make Eric Clapton envious.
The album was recorded at the Tragically Hip's Bathouse Studio, a recording facility in a country home that combines living space with studio space. Says Sue, "It's a big old stone farmhouse, and we all lived out there while we were making the record. That had a lot to do with the whole vibe. It was a very relaxed atmosphere, but really conducive to being creative."
Seeking to continue the vibe, the album was mixed at famed Kingsway Studio in New Orleans, where producer Daniel Lanois has worked with U2 and Bob Dylan. Explains Sue, "It's in the French Quarter, so the setting is completely different. But it's got a great ambiance."
For the real deal, look for Sue Foley on Love Comin' Down.
Pink Floyd, The Wall Live - 1980-81 (Columbia 2000) - In commemoration of the 20th anniversary of The Wall, Pink Floyd has released a "live" version, compiled from the 29 live performances that were staged in Los Angeles, New York, Germany and London in 1980-81. Fans will be intrigued as much by the extensive liner notes as by the music.
The Wall stands as a landmark in the career of Pink Floyd, having been certified 23 times platinum. The live performances were a gigantic undertaking, and included the construction of a 25-foot high wall across the stage during the show, to be torn down at the end.
If you come to Live Pink Floyd, 1980-81 expecting the studio perfection on the original recording, you'll be disappointed. The stage show was bigger than life, and changed the dynamics of the performance.
Thus, Live Pink Floyd cannot capture the theatrics of animator Gerald Scarfe or the staging of Jonathan Park.
Yet the music still comes through, on classics like "Another Brick in the Wall," "Hey You," and "Comfortably Numb." Also included are two songs not appearing on the original album: "What Shall We Do Now?" and "The Last Few Bricks."
Which leads to some observations about the continuing strength of the studio version of the The Wall. Explains engineer James Guthrie, "The bulk of the writing and the overall concept was Roger's. One of his great strengths is that he's very good deleting things: He's not concerned that something may have taken three days to produce, nor that he loves it. If it isn't appropriate, or if it serves no purpose to the overall sound or narrative, out it goes."
And that is something that is sadly lacking in modern recordings: Bloated CD lengths have allowed performers to become lazy and complacent, leaving in weaker material to the detriment of the consuming public.
Pink Floyd consisted of Roger Waters, David Gilmour, Nick Mason, and Richard Wright. For the stage shows, the band added Andy Bown on bass, Willie Wilson on drums, Peter Woods on keyboards, and Snowy White and Andy Roberts on guitar.
The Wall was born out of Roger Waters' increasingly ambivalent feelings toward his audience. Recalls Waters, "I had a very vivid image of an audience being bombed - of bombs being lobbed from the stage - and a sense that those people getting blown to bits would go absolutely wild with glee at being at the centre of all the action."
Adds Waters, "The Wall is part of my narrative, my story, but I think the basic themes resonate in other people . . . As to the actual recording and shows, I think they were the best we did together as Pink Floyd. I'm inordinately proud of the work."
David Gilmour continues. "For me, the best bit of The Wall was standing on top of it. We were a few songs into the second half of the show. The band had been bricked in, the audience left to confront a vast, blank barrier. 'Is there anybody out there?' sang Roger, a tiny figure now appearing stage-right.
"Then, a trick of the light, there I was, 30 feet up, with the heat of four enormous spotlights at my back, throwing my shadow as far as I could see over the audience while I belted out the solo to one of the best pieces of music I'd ever written: 'Comfortably Numb.' The sensation was certainly incredible, almost out-of-body."
Says Richard Wright, "Audiences were mesmerized. Nobody had ever done anything like it before, nor has there been anything like it since. In some future history of rock shows, I'm quite sure The Wall will feature as one of the most influential and unforgettable."
Wright's assessment is consistent with everybody else involved in the project - they all knew they were creating something bigger than life. While I prefer the all-star recording made by Roger Waters in 1990, Pink Floyd Live 1980-81 is an historic set of performances.
Best of Joe Cocker (A&M Records 2000) - Making another entry in Universal's mid-line collection is Best of Joe Cocker. With 11 tracks covering Cocker's career, the collection will bring a smile to the face of fans.
Born in Sheffield, England in 1944, Cocker began recording as far back as 1963, and eventually formed the Grease Band with fellow musician Chris Stainton in 1966. This collaboration led to Cocker's bluesy cover of the Beatles' "With a Little Help From My Friends," a No. 1 British hit for Cocker in October 1968.
Cocker soon arrived in the United States, cemented by his riveting set at the Woodstock festival in the summer of 1969. The album continues with "Feelin Alright" (written by Dave Mason), "Delta Lady" (written by Leon Russell), and another Beatles track, "She Came in Through the Bathroom Window," from the 1969 album Joe Cocker!
Then followed the memorable "Mad Dogs & Englishmen" tour with Leon Russell, Carl Radle, Jim Gordon, Bobby Keys, and Jim Keltner, represented by two tracks, including "Cry Me a River." After playing 48 cities in 56 days, Cocker found himself both physically, mentally, and financially drained.
Finally recovered, Cocker's version of "You Are So Beautiful" (co-written by Billy Preston) yielded a 1974 hit, and his pairings with John Belushi on Saturday Night Live are the stuff of legend.
The album concludes with his 1982 recording of "Many Rivers to Cross" (written by Jimmy Cliff), and Cocker's chart-topper hit with duet partner Jennifer Warnes, "Up Where We Belong" (co-written by Buffy Sainte-Marie) from the film, "An Officer and a Gentleman." This love theme also scored both a Grammy and an Academy Award.
For a well-chosen selection from this memorable performer, try Best of Joe Cocker.
Joe Walsh and The James Gang (MCA Records 2000) - As a fond remembrance to Cleveland rockers The James Gang, MCA Records has reissued their first three albums. Compiled and mastered by the trio's famed producer Bill Szymczyk (whose credits also include the Eagles' "Hotel California"), the albums reflect the innovative stylings of this power trio.
The James Gang was founded in 1966 by drummer Jim Fox and bass player Tom Kriss. When Joe Walsh left Kent State University in 1968 to join the band as lead guitarist, the trio's future was cemented. Three albums followed: Yer Album (1969), James Gang Rides Again (1970), and Thirds (1971), yielding such FM radio standards as "Walk Away," "Funk No. 49," and "Take a Look Around."
This was rock at its loud and experimental best, drawing from Cream and leading toward the early blues sound of Led Zeppelin on such songs as "The Bomber" (presented in its entirety, with the once edited "Bolero" section.) The greatest hits collection includes two songs from their soundtrack to the 1970 cult film, "Zachariah," and two tracks from Caught Live in Concert (1971).
I prefer the studio albums, which have a more cohesive feel than the greatest hits collection. In particular, Rides Again shows the band at its most cohesive. Recalls guitarist Joe Walsh, "This was a very favorite time in my life - playing live and recording full time."
James Gang shows the power rock roots of one of America's finest guitarists. If you remember the heyday of FM radio, you'll dig these selections.
- Randy Krbechek © 2000
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