Saturday, July 30, 2011

George Harrison and Friends - "The Concert for Bangladesh"

I am going to break with my usual alphabetical posts to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the spectacular "Concert for Bangladesh."

It was August 1, 1971 Vietnam was raging, Nixon was in the White House, Bangladesh was in shambles and in the music world Bob Dylan had vanished and The Beatles had broken up, which was a bigger blow to many Americans than all the other things happening at the time.

Upon the Beatles break up all 4 member released solo works Lennon's first solo album "Plastic Ono Band" and McCartney's "McCartney" while both were quite impressive (particularly Lennon's) they were met with low sales and harsh criticism.

Then came Harrison's triple disc masterpiece "All Things Must Pass" album with its No.1 hit single "My Sweet Lord" the album was nothing short of astonishing especially coming from the quiet Beatle. Ringo also had a big hit single with "It Don't Come Easy."

Ravi Shankar approach Harrison to help the problems facing Shankar's home area of Bangladesh and Harrison organized the very first superstar benefit concert. Two sold out shows on August 1, 1971 at Madison Square Garden, New York City with some top tier talent including Ringo, Billy Preston, Leon Russell, Shankar and his sitar band, Badfinger, Klaus Voorman, Jim Keltner, and Phil Spector arranging it all (building a living wall of sound on stage) and recording a live album. Eric Clapton, who at the time was in self imposed exile, flew over from England to play back up guitar.

Then there was Harrison on top of the music scene and always the center to the concert, wearing his white and orange suit with the OM symbol on his lapels. This was the first time any of the Beatles performed live (barring the performance on the roof of Abbey Road and Lennon's impromptu appearance at the Toronto music festival).

When Harrison plays an acoustic version of "Here Comes the Sun" the rays really fill the room. In this time of problems here were a bunch of rock stars doing something good for other people (none of them got paid for their performances). Here was an audience that wanted to feel good again and Harrison gave them that for a few hours.

Then the sun really shines when the poet of a generation comes out of the shadows, a friend of us all Bob Dylan. Also at his most reclusive point Dylan had not and would not perform live for five years with the exception of this concert. Wearing his acoustic guitar and harmonica Dylan reaches back to his early days to play five of his greatest songs, including "Blowin in the Wind," "Mr. Tambourine Man" and "Just Like a Woman." He had not played these songs in a while and more over he plays them straight. It is truly a magical moment which the listener feels.

Then when Dylan leaves the stage to thunderous applause, Harrison launches into his best song "Something" just to remind us that he is awesome.

So for this 40th Anniversary of "The Concert for Bangladesh" check out the free streaming of the concert film at Download the album or songs from iTunes all proceeds go to The George Harrison Fund for UNICEF. I own the Remastered set which has a cool booklet, great sound and the money I paid for it went to the George Harrison Fund. Long live George Harrison, the quiet one, who in 1971 made a lot of great noise.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Genesis - "Live Over Europe 2007"

This was a birthday present in 2008, from a very good friend of mine, whom I am sad to say, have not seen or spoken to in many years.

Anyway the power trio of Phil Collins, Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks, the best incarnation of the band Genesis, reunited in 2007 for a massive sold out tour. This double disc is a compilation from various performance around Europe. Like all the band's live albums and performances they mix all the various eras and styles (which I talked about in my previous post). The band sounds great and very polished as if they never disbanded or stopped touring.

Like most reunion album as well as live albums this is more a souvenir and aimed at the die hard fan rather than an essential album (much like Cream's recent live reunion release). There are some good extended instrumentals on the more experimental tracks like "Domino" and "In the Cage" but overall most reunion tours are designed to create nostalgia, which this does in an entertaining fashion. Like I said this album is fun but not really anything essentially great. I keep it because of the person who gave it to me.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Genesis - "Turn it on Again, The Hits"

Ok so anyone who is a decent size fan of the band Genesis knows that there are three distinct (well 4 if you count the one Post Phil Collins album, which I don't) eras of Genesis' music. The first era was the Peter Gabriel lead group of the early 70s. This era featured a largely experimental band that focused on Progressive Rock with elaborate concept albums. Gabriel left the group after a few years for his equally experimental but more successful solo career.

This started the second era when drummer Phil Collins took over as lead singer, the band continued in this progressive Rock style but Collins was making the music a little more mainstream.

Then there is the third and most popular era. Most of the original band left and the three remaining members, Phil Collins, Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks turned Genesis into a hit making machine with a series of smash pop songs and albums during the 1980s and 90s. This third era is really what a Genesis Hits collection should focus on.

By and large "Turn it on Again, The Hits" hits the mark, of its 18 tracks 15 come from the third era of the band. But whoever compiles these compilations is unwilling to focus on a single era: here they add two songs "I Know what I like," from the Gabriel era and "Congo" from the Post Collins era that we like to ignore. Neither of these two songs were actual hits and they take up space where two real hits "No Reply at All" and "Paperlate" should have gone. The "Platinum Collection" overlooks the same 2 hits and that spans three discs. There, however, is a nice new recording of "The Carpet Crawlers" that features both Collins and Gabriel in a duet featured here.

Overall this compilation features enough of the hits to make it a worthy collection and it is well priced. In 2007 an expanded edition was released, subtitled The Tour Edition, which features this entire disc plus a second disc. Again they mix together all the eras but they are spot on with the selection of the 2007 edition. "Turn it on Again, The Hits" is the choice for the budget conscious but if you have a few extra dollars, spring for the expanded Tour Edition.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Peter Frampton - "Frampton Comes Alive 2"

Sorry for the long gap in posts, even if it seems no one reads these, I have been busy but I am back for the moment. Like the subject of this post.

Peter Frampton was a member of the band Humble Pie but left when he felt his excellent guitar playing was not getting the attention it deserved, by and large he was right. He embarked on a solo career releasing several moderately successful studio albums in the 1970s. His live shows were what really gained him a following and much of his popularity. So when he released his first solo live album, "Frampton Comes Alive!" in 1976, it made him a superstar. The album became the best selling live album of all time and it is a killer record, one of my favorites.

Yet the success of that album stymied the rest of Frampton's career. He was largely regarded as a one album wonder. He retained his large cult of fans but he lost to mass audience he gained with "Comes Alive!"

Then when the big nostalgia boom of the mid 1990s happened (that continues to this day) Frampton recorded and released a live sequel to his landmark live album. "Fampton Comes Alive 2" is not a bad album and he wisely does not use any of the songs from the original. It is a very slick record with some good songs, "I'm In You" and "Day in the Sun," but overall it is decent but not excellent. This release was his biggest seller in years and it sparked a creative resurgence in his music with a series of popular and critically praised albums like "Fingerprints," "Now" and "Thank you Mr. Churchill."

Originally released as a 14 track single disc "Comes Alive 2" is now only available in a two disc special edition, the second disc contains new live recordings of 4 of the big songs from the original "Show Me the Way" and "Do You Feel Like We Do" among them.

Last year I had the opportunity to see Frampton live in concert and he does a killer show. He is a great guitarist and if the original "Frampton Comes Alive!" is his best and most recognizable album so be it, it is a damn excellent record and any artist would be proud to have it in their catalogue.