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The Last Waltz – 40 years later, remembered in a guitar

Robbie Robertson’s bronzed guitar from the historic Last Waltz concert recreated

This $14,500 limited edition Fender Stratocaster is a meticulous replica of the hot-rodded 1954 Strat Robertson had dipped in bronze to signify the final show of the Band, on Thanksgiving Day, 1976.

Although the other members of The Band reunited and played together for many years, Robbie Robertson never played with them again.

Influential Axeman

Perhaps more than any other guitarist, Robbie Robertson influenced my own sense of how to play fills as a lead guitarist.

But I am in good company there, Eric Clapton was so enamored of Robertson and the Band’s first album, Music from Big Pink, he said he was seriously considering quitting Cream and moving to Woodstock, NY to commune with the roots music rock band sometimes seen backing Bob Dylan.

Here is one of my all-time favorite performances played on the original article, you can see the gleam of the bronze in the stage lights, even on this lo-res archival footage.

Unfortunately and inexplicably, a pretty big chunk of the guitar solo was cut out of this song in Scorsese’ motion picture The Last Waltz. So here is the version from Winterland’s house archive camera, released after Bill Graham’s death, with the mix the audience actually heard.

 

I tried to synch up the mixed audio from the record album, with all its fancy EQ that combined the stage mix and house mix, but the actual timing on the CD version, the video on Youtube from the film, and this archival footage here, are all at different speeds so it was a no-go.

Also, you will notice the camera man stopped paying attention and pretty much misses Robertson’s playing on the solo – something that seems to happen VERY often when people are filming or video taping classic performances and end up shooting other people instead of showing iconic guitar solos I will only wish I could see in detail – or like in the Last Waltz film in general, where the editor keeps showing Robbie’s face contortions rather than what his hands are playing.

 

Woodstock – Still Wonderful 47 Years On

This week marks the 47th anniversary of the Woodstock Music and Arts Fair.

It actually took place over three days (spilling over into a fourth) on a dairy farm outside of Bethel, New York, because the sleepy town of Woodstock voted to reject the initial plan to have it there.

For the 40th anniversary some films were put together, dedicated to first two days.

Here they are for your enjoyment.

Running just under an hour per film, they are full of footage shot for the Oscar winning documentary entitled Woodstock, but much of it previously unseen. This includes fascinating and entertaining examples of the crowds who attended, as well as the people who put on the festival and the musicians who performed there. Many of these performances were not included in the original theatrical release.

Day One Music Line Up: Richie Havens, Sweetwater, Bert Sommer, Ravi Shankar, Tim Harden, Melanie, Arlo Guthrie, Joan Baez went on at 1 AM to close the first day’s program.

 

Day Two Music Line Up: Quill, Country Joe McDonald, Santana, John Sebastian, Keef Hartley Band, The Incredible String Band, Canned Heat, Mountain, The Grateful Dead, Credence Clearwater Revival, Janice Joplin, Sly and the Family Stone, The Who went on at 5 AM (due to earlier rain delays, ending at sunrise,) The Jefferson Airplane went on at 8 AM, closing out Saturday’s program

 

Day Three Music Line Up: Joe Cocker, Country Joe and the Fish, Ten Years After, The Band, Johnnie Winter, Blood Sweat and Tears, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – Monday starting at 6 AM – Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Sha Na Na, Jimi Hendrix

Unfortunately, there isn’t a Part 3 available for these videos. But here are some videos from the musical perofrmances…

Crosby, Stills and Nash (before Neil Young came out)

And an except of Hendrix’s legendary performance, before a small crowd of diehard audience members who remained.

Woodstock Festival 1969 – Monday Map

Woodstock’s Three Day’s of Peace and Music

Actually it took place some 50 miles from Woodstock, NY, near the town of Bethel. The site is currently occupied by the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts.

1969 woodstock festival location

 

My own Woodstock memory comes ten years after the fact.

I was a freshly minted young adult when I attended the midnight movies on Hollywood Boulevard, in Los Angeles, California, to see the film Woodstock, some weeks before the official 10th anniversary was about to take place.

As I waited in line I was befriended by an older guy, with long hippiefied hair and a mustache partially hiding the fact he was missing his two upper front teeth. He claimed he had lost them at Woodstock and that he has a brief cameo in the documentary. He also provided me with various hippiefied things we could ingest to increase the mood of the event.

We sat in the front row of what was my first of many viewings of this iconic film. And indeed, he appeared on the screen, 10 years younger but recognizable.

That next day I was off to the Hollywood Bowl to see a very special concert. I had won tickets on the radio, when I had called up to request a song. Knowing no one in LA that could go, I went alone – without sleep, since I was still soaring from the stimulating night before.

The concert was the first major event that would lead to the “No Nukes” concerts that took place around the U.S. in the coming months.

Being August in LA, I stopped at the Safeway where Hollywood and Sunset meet, to get some fresh fruit and as much water as I could carry, and took the bus to the concert.

As a ticket winner I was allowed in early, and was amazed to see my current hero, David Lindley in person, on stage, doing a sound check with Jackson Browne. I rushed down the sundrenched aisle and accidentally bumped into a woman who had suddenly risen from a chair and started heading up the aisle. I stopped and grabbed her by the shoulders to steady her and to apologize, to Joan Baez.

There she was, looking into my wide eyes with the dilated pupils, the same woman I had seen 12 hours earlier, very pregnant and ten years younger, sending out an a cappella “Sweet Home Sweet Chariot” thundering over the midnight hills and midnight movie like a Valkyrie priestess. And thus the most profound and seriously enjoyable time trip ensued.

Graham Nash and John Sebastian also appeared, also ten years older than I had seen them a few hours before. I sank into my box seat and soaked up the heat and fruit and water, never sure if the quivering waves before my eyes were from the heat or hippified ingestiments.

This was primarily small and acoustic performances. There were no big speakers or large bands. The closest being Maria Manchester, who was joined by her father and brother and others, playing the oboe and cello as I recall.

Peter, Paul, and Mary were the real headliners, but the single most impressive performance came from John Denver, of all people, who took advantage of the acoustics to step out in front of the microphones and simply blow everyone away with his own a cappella vocal prowess.

Ten years on, the spirit the pervaded the Woodstock was still very much alive and well in 1979, despite the fact the radio and Hollywood and Sunset were full of disco queens of both sexes by this time. And my identity remained rooted very much in the social-political idealism of Woodstock and the No Nukes movement pretty much to this very day.

Peace

Treasure Trove on Cornelia Street

Since 1977 the Cornelia Street Cafe has enriched the cultural life of New York City.

For almost 40 years, this West Village mecca has provided delicious food and the unique, inspiring performance of music and the spoken word.

And it is currently proving as impressive and delightful an experience as ever, if not more so.

The Bill

Stopping by for an excellent meal, I learned about their summer Solo Fest, starting this week.

Each evening will feature solo performers, beginning with Amy Stiller on Wednesday, July 13, in “Just Think,” a semi-autobiographical journey of the only non-famous member of a very famous family.

 All Solofest offerings are at 6 PM and cost $10, which goes to the artist, plus a $10 food or drink minimum.

That is a spectacularly great price for the chance to see Arturo O’Farrill, the multi-Grammy-winning composer and leader of the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra, playing alone on the baby grand piano in an intimate setting. As he will on Friday, July 15.

And on Tuesday, July 19, the cafe’s own Robin Hirsch will present “The Whole Word Passes Through” with tales of the many fascinating people, both famous and obscure, who have crossed the threshold of the Cornelia Street Cafe.

This former Oxford, Fulbright, and English-Speaking Union Scholar never disappoints when it comes to his prose or his extemporaneous storytelling.

The festival runs through July 27, with music, comedy, theater, and political satire. See the cafe’s official website for the full line up and the many other performances taking place this summer.

 The Food

There isn’t an item on the menu I cannot recommend. But my favorites include the kale caesar salad, with just the right amount of avocado and grape tomatoes; the smoked salmon plate with toasted bread, chopped red onion, herb cream cheese, and large capers on the stem; and the richly luscious sea scallops, when they have them.

My go-to entree has been the crusted salmon, which is always excellent. But I only recently had the chicken breast for the first time. Was I ever missing out? It is so tender and juicy and flavorful that it may make you rethink ordering more exotic fare when dining out around New York City. It really is that good.

 The Wine

Mr. Hirsch is understandably proud of the wine list, which offers some interesting and quite reasonably priced selections from around the globe, many of which you are unlikely to taste elsewhere.

I am a new and enthusiastic fan of the Skyline Red, from Idaho, of all places. This blend of several grape varieties is velvety to the point of buttery, with plump dark berries, and integrated oak that is spread throughout, rather than just providing the fruit bowl.

There is also the Cafe’s own label, which appears on a refreshing chardonnay of grape skins, with orchard fruits ripening over time, and on a juicy plum of a pinot noir, both with nicely mild oak and extremely moreish.

And just last night I had a very interesting white wine from France – Perle Bleue, made with a grape used for Cognac and Armagnac. I am not by nature a white wine drinker, but this was extraordinary. Not sweet, but not particularly dry, it had a wisp of sea salt on the nose, and arrived on the palate like an ocean wave, with a vibrant splash that quickly subsided into a relaxing, lingering finish. Itself moreish, but in a curiously enigmatic way.

I cannot speak much to the beers. When people ask me if I am a beer snob, my reply of “Beer is an English word for something made in England by Englishman,” usually shuts down the conversation rather quickly.

But the cafe currently has Bell’s Two Hearted Ale on tap. This Michigan brew is one of best beers in America, with a medium body that is dry yet malty and buttressed by a crisp hoppy edge that remains firm but not overbearing. So it is on par with an English IPA and therefore not the face-puckering astringent grapefruit juice typical of American craft brewing.

The Spirit

But I of all people would be remiss if I did not mention they have some nice Cognac brandy available, which is reminiscent of typical cafe digestifs in France – grounded and pleasant at a decent price. And they also have Brenne, the French single malt whisky.

Made with French barely in French stills in the Cognac region, Brenne is aged in new oak from the Limousin forest, and finished in casks that had previously aged Cognac.

A pure malt spirit of high quality, it is hard to believe it is a scant 7 years old. The telltale toasted marshmallow and wood spice of French oak are further enriched with the orange zest, white pepper, and maraschino cherries of the cognac finishing.

Its youth is revealed by the bubble gum vanillins and lactones on the nose, and the relatively quick finish. However, single malt this young would normally be a blend of various casks, to cover up the rougher edges of immature spirit and smooth out the uncouth tannins. Brenne is bottled as single cask whisky! – astonishing, since it shows none of the harshness normally experienced in younger malts.

If you haven’t already figured it out, the Cornelia Street Cafe is a veritable jewelry box of sensual pleasures and sensational Jazz, poetry, and other artistic expression. It is well worth the time if you are in Greenwich Village, and well worth the effort to get there if you are not.

Open every day except Christmas Day, with 700 shows a year.

But don’t just take my word for it. Here is what Trip Advisor has to say on the cafe.

And that is one man’s word on…

The Cornelia Street Cafe

Cornelia Street Cafe Painting

Painting by Stephen Magsig

Visions of Johanna still haunting after 50 years

May 17, 1966 – Bob Dylan performs Visions of Johanna, solo acoustic

Imagine, if you can, someone hearing this song for the first time, rendered by Dylan in top form

Love songs have been a part of music since, well, forever. Many are light or even trite, while some others can be truly moving.

But when it came to popular music in modern times, there were songs about falling in love, falling out of love, being a teenager in love, or a teenager being dumped, occasionally letting someone down easy, or telling them to “hit the road, Jack.”

And then there came Visions of Johanna.

Read the full essay and hear the song HERE

Dylan 1966 Visions of Johanna concert

photo: Mark Makin who took the only photos from the concert, getting “about nine usable shots” from a roll of film, according to the BBC.

Duluth, Minnesota 1891 – Monday Map

50 years before Bob Dylan was born there

On May 24, 1941 – 75 years ago

Monday Map Duluth 1891

Although he denied his actual origins and place of birth at first, in an effort to create some mystery and an image associated with intrepid figures like Woody Guthrie and Billy the Kid, Bob Dylan was born in Duluth, the Great Lakes port, before his family moved to the North Country mining town of Hibbing, MN when he was 6 years old.

Hibbing, Minnesota in the 1940s

Hibbing Minnesota north of Duluth 1940s

Hibbing Minnesota train to Duluth 1940s Bob Dylan

His mother grew up there, and his father worked for the family electrical supply shop. The young Bob Zimmerman had a normal merchant-class upbringing, and like many teenagers he wanted to play the electric guitar in a rock and roll band.

And that is something he did to revolutionary effect, when he first toured with an electric guitar, in 1966, 50 years ago.

In fact, his double album Blonde on Blonde was released on May 15, 1966, and he performed the infamous “Judas” concert in Manchester, England on May 17.

 

Tennessee Williams Inspires New Music

Bushwick Book Club features Tennessee Williams

Monday, March 21, 8 PM, at Superfine, 126 Front Street, Brooklyn

This coming Monday, musical compositions will be performed, based on Tennessee Williams’s Pulitzer Prize winning play, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

A traveling musical performance event, Bushwick Bookclub invites songwriters to create new pieces of music inspired by various literary works. Be it in Seattle or New York City, or wherever, each event features a different novel or play.

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof starred Ben Gazara and Barbra Bel Geddes, winning the Pulitzer in 1955. It was later adapted for the screen and starred Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor.

I am pleased to announce I am among the songwriters invited to take part for this particular installment and shall be accompanied by various members of the Highland Shatners and Spoonville.

Superfine is a mighty fine restaurant in the Dumbo section of Brooklyn, just under the Manhattan bridge. The York Street stop on the F line is the nearest subway.

http://www.superfine.nyc/
Bushwick Book Club Website

Alan Lomax Music Archive Going On Line

For half a century, musicologist Alan Lomax recorded and preserved priceless cultural treasure.

Thousands of recordings have been digitized for posterity, discovered in the coal country of Kentucky to the cane fields of Haiti, including many legendary voices who would have toiled in obscurity and been forgotten.

With 2015 marking the Alan Lomax centennial, the Association for Cultural Equity is making these recordings available for free.

Read more about that and HERE

Working alongside his folklorist father, John Lomax, the young Alan traveled through the South and West, shining a light on local musicians, allowing the wider world to discover the blues of a prison inmate known as Leadbelly and the ballads of an itinerant laborer named Woody Guthrie.

Those are just two of the voices first recorded by Alan Lomax, out of thousands, and tens of thousands of songs and tunes now preserved for and us and future generations.

The 2002 New York Times Obituary of Alan Lomax is found HERE

Association of Cultural Equity’s website is HERE

The Lomax Family Collection at the American Folklife Center is HERE