NEW ALBUM: The Rentals – Lost In Alphaville

It’s been 15 years since The Rentals last released a full on album (Seven More Minutes) and 19 years since their amazing debut album (Return Of The Rentals) was released. But finally we get a new album, I cannot wait one bit.

Set for release on the 26th August, two single have already been released. They are:

http://soundcloud.com/polyvinyl-records/the-rentals-thought-of-sound/

http://soundcloud.com/polyvinyl-records/the-rentals-1000-seasons

If these two tracks are anything to by, Lost In Alphaville is going to be one big return to form for the band and a great comeback album. They seemed to have regained that original sound from the debut album which is absolutely fantastic. I can’t wait!

BOOTLEG SERIES #11: Cream – Live at Memorial Auditorium, Dallas, TX 25/10/68

“Here they are! The Cream!”, says the announcer right before Cream launch into White Room. You don’t really get band announcers anymore, bands now tend to come out and start playing whenever they feel like it. But back then gigs were almost like an art form and Cream were one of the best around.

The best thing about White Room is the delicious playing by Clapton through a wah peddle. It’s infectious. In many cases during 1968 Cream opened their set with this song however you can’t help but notice the band sound a little too laid back or tired during this particular performance. Just this song though as they would pick up massively after this, starting with Sunshine Of Your Love. Sunshine Of Your Love is hands down the most well known Cream song, in fact you’d find it hard pressed to find any music fans that don’t know that gorgeous intro. It’s one of those songs that you know instantly when hearing it. The only fault here is how short this version is considering at some shows they played it for over 10 minutes, in some cases close to 20 minutes. I mean 6 minutes is probably considered long for most other bands but for Cream that’s barely any time at all! I’m So Glad comes next, a Skip James song that Cream first recorded on their debut album. It is the first song of the set where they really open up the taps and give it everything. The performance lasts just over 10 minutes and you’re reminded why Cream were considered one of the best live bands of the late 1960’s and why Clapton was nicknamed ‘God’.

Sitting On Top Of The World is by far the highlight of the show, Clapton is on another level completely here. The song featured on their third album Wheels Of Fire but the version they played live differed slightly as Clapton doesn’t play the main riff that he played on the studio version. I actually prefer that, the live version of this song is without a doubt one of the best numbers they played live during 1968 and can be heard on the Farewell Concert release recorded at the Royal Albert Hall a few months after this concert in Dallas. It’s immediately followed by Crossroads, a Robert Johnson songs which Cream (and in particular Clapton) made their own. In fact their version of Crossroads recorded live at Winterland earlier in 1968 is widely seen as the standard version. This performance here is no different. The solo is completely different to the one he played at Winterland, but he never played the same solo twice which only highlights the extensive improvisation knowledge that Clapton possessed at the time, and of course still does.

  1. White Room
  2. Sunshine Of Your Love
  3. I’m So Glad
  4. Sitting On Top Of The World
  5. Crossroads
  6. Traintime
  7. Toad
  8. Spoonful

Traintime and Toad are two songs which showcase the abilities of Bruce (Traintime) and Baker (Toad) but in both instances, you can’t help but think “overkill”. Sure it’s great hearing the abilities of both members on their instruments but listening to nearly 8 minutes of Bruce playing harmonica gets a bit tedious after a while and it’s the same with Toad which clocks in at an unbelievable 18 minutes. Especially when you compare them to Sunshine Of Your Love which barely lasted over 6 minutes. But that’s not to say I dislike these two songs, in fact I don’t. But shorter versions of these two in particular would have been better. Just these two songs. When you take a song like I’m So Glad which they went on to play for a little over 10 minutes here, that length is fantastic because all three members of the band are working together to create a musical masterpiece on the stage. But Traintime and Toad, less so. Or perhaps you just needed to be on acid at the time to fully appreciated them.

The band finish with a long version of the Willie Dixon number Spoonful, a live staple of theirs during their entire history as a band. This is a good example of what I was talking about in the previous paragraph where all three members are working together to create something fantastic. It’s not just about one member on their own, it’s the band as a whole. And they sure sound great!

Is this the best Cream performance on bootleg? No, but it captures the band at a certain point of time during their career perfectly. I’d argue that 1968 was their peak year not only in the studio with the release of Wheels Of Fire, but on stage too. This show, at least in my opinion, is one of their best shows from their final US Tour. There are a couple of shaky moments (a mistake by Clapton and Bruce during White Room) but overall it’s a show I wish I could go back in time and witness for myself. You just don’t get them like this anymore.

Top 5: Favourite Guitar Performances

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4 years ago I posted a blog entry stating my top 5 favourite electric guitar tracks. I thought it was about time I updated my list. I still love the songs I mentioned in 2010 but there have been new tracks that have blessed my ears since then, or at least songs I’ve grown to appreciate even more.

1. Got To Get Better In A Little While (live) – Derek and the Dominos

This is a song that the Dominos never recorded in the studio, at least in this live format with this structure. The band would record the song during their aborted second album sessions but it contained none of the magic featured in the live version and a completely different form. Clapton is on fire on this particular version which was played and recorded live at Fillmore East on the 23rd October 1970. When a band open a gig with a 14 minute rendition of a single song you know it’s going to be a good night. Clapton’s tone here is sublime, played on his Brownie Strat with a wah peddle giving an extra bit of texture. Talk about a tone to die for.

2. Crossroads (live) – Cream

In 1968, Cream were in blistering form. This recording is arguably one of the best live performances of all time, and in fact it’s consistently been voted one of the best. Clapton is just on fire here and the band as a unit (Jack Bruce on bass and Ginger Baker on drums) sound absolutely incredible. Talk about in the zone. The solo is improvisation at it’s best which is staggering when you listen to it a few times over. Recorded at Winterland in San Francisco on the 8th March 1968, this is without a doubt the definitive version of Crossroads. It’s a song that was originally written by Robert Johnson and even though it’s been covered by so many artists and bands over the years, THIS version is the one everyone sees as the standard.

BOOTLEG SERIES #10: Derek and the Dominos – Live at Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA 16/10/70

Out of all the recordings that exist of Derek and the Dominos, this show is certainly the most unique. It featured a number of songs the band would only play once, or at least there is only one recording of these songs being played. It’s unsure as to whether certain songs were played at other shows but due to a lack of recordings for those other shows and without excessive research we will never know. But I sure am glad this one exists.

The band start with a great version of the Robert Johnson song Ramblin’ On My Mind, however they play it in more of an Elmore James style with the roaring slide guitar. A lot of people when hearing this may think that is Duane Allman on slide guitar but it is not, it is in fact Clapton as Duane wouldn’t join the band on stage for another month and a half. It’s interesting that the band would play this song so early in to their US tour (this was in fact their second US tour date after playing at Rider College in Trenton, New Jersey the night before) but this could have been for two reason. 1) The band only recently finished recording the Layla album a few weeks prior to this show where Clapton played a number of parts on slide with Duane and 2) the band were still no doubt putting together a setlist for their shows and altering the setlist from what they had been playing in the UK would have been natural due to the different audiences found in the US. But either way this is one hell of a song and I only wish they played it more during their tour dates.

It’s followed by Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad?, a song from their Layla album which at this time wouldn’t be released for another month. It’s without a doubt one of the best versions of this song that I’ve heard from the recordings that exist and it lasts at just over 17 minutes in length. Absolutely incredible. The studio version features both Eric and Duane on guitar but it’s just Eric here and there really is no noticeable lack of a second guitarist. Blues Power comes next and Bobby Whitlock is on fire here on the Hammond organ, blasting away and laying down a beautiful musical landscape for Eric to solo over. Simply breathtaking. At just over 10 minutes in length it’s probably one of the longer renditions of Blues Power but that’s not a complaint because those 10 minutes fly by like there’s no tomorrow. In fact you have to take your hats off to the actual recording as well because you can hear every single instrument as clear as day. Carl Radle on bass sounds like he’s possessed, wow. Absolutely fantastic.

  1. Ramblin’ On My Mind
  2. Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad?
  3. Blues Power
  4. Have You Ever Loved A Woman
  5. Mean Old World
  6. Motherless Children
  7. Let It Rain

Have You Ever Loved A Woman is the first ‘slow’ song of the set and you get to hear Eric really take off. From the sound of his guitar I’m guessing he has his wah turned on during this song, however he’s not touching the peddle. Simply using it to boost the guitar signal and give it a different kind of tone. In fact he seemed to do this quite a lot as the same kind of tone can also be heard on the Live At The Fillmore album. Bobby switches to a grand piano here which really sets the mood and the foundation for when Eric takes off for his first solo at the 3:49 mark. Next up is another song which the band played rarely live (according to existing recordings anyway), Mean Old World. It’s a song the band actually recorded a few times in the studio with Duane but a song that wasn’t properly released until The Layla Sessions was released in 1990. And just like Ramblin’ On My Mind, Eric plays slide here. You really get to hear how fluent he had become with a slide since meeting Duane. He had played slide on a few tracks prior to this show but not to this standard, at least to my ear.

The third song the Dominos played at this show that they only played once (again, according to existing recordings) was Motherless Children. All Clapton fans know that he recorded this very song four years later for his 461 Ocean Boulevard album so it’s extremely exciting to see this song on a Dominos setlist and hear the recording as well. Eric again plays slide and it’s an absolute joy to listen to. What I particular love is the bass playing from Carl Radle actually and that was the first thing to strike me when I heard this song for the first time. I actually much prefer this version to the version that would appear on the 461 Ocean Boulevard album. The whole thing is better. There are of course similarities, in particular the main guitar riff, but it’s a completely different animal. It’s unsure how often the band had played this song when rehearsing (if at all) as Carl Radle makes a small mistake at the 46 second mark, carrying on playing where he was meant to stop with the rest of the band. I love stuff like that though, things that make these songs so raw and real.

To end the set, the Dominos play a song that they played at pretty much every other show. Let It Rain. The previous two songs almost made me feel like I was taken to a completely different show because of how rarely those two songs were played so going to a song that the band played countless times is a nice end to the show. Bobby returns to the Hammond and continues to deliver great playing throughout. This rendition nearly touches the 17 minute mark but falls just short. It’s a great version and Eric really takes off throughout but especially at the 5 minute mark. Great stuff!

This really is a unique show from the Dominos as it contains three songs that may only have been played on this one night in 1970. Only a certain amount of Dominos recordings actually exist (or at least are known about) so who’s to say if the band played these songs again on nights that there are no known recordings of.  Alas, we’ll never know. But thankfully we can cherish this recording and listen to these songs over 40 years since they were played at a venue in Philadelphia that no longer exists. Well, the Electric Factory name has lived on since 1994 but the original building was demolished in 1973. Whoever recorded this show at the time, thank you. It really is one of a kind.

(AUDIO NOT MINE)

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BOOTLEG SERIES #9: The Rolling Stones – Live at the LA Forum, Los Angeles, CA 11/7/75

In July of 1975, The Rolling Stones would embark upon a fantastic run of nights (five to be precise) at the legendary LA Forum in Los Angeles. This was actually the first tour with Ronnie Wood on board after Mick Taylor quit the band at the end of 1974. Although Ronnie Wood wouldn’t fully commit to the Rolling Stones until 1976, he agreed to join the band on this tour having been their number 1 pick to replace Mick Taylor.

Before the band kick off with a stunning rendition of Honky Tonk Women, Fanfare For The Common Man (a 20th century musical work by Aaron Copeland) rings out through the stadium to get everyone in the Forum up and ready for the Stones. And what a song to use, a beautiful piece of music. Then you’re immediately hit by those powerful opening riffs that could only be from Honky Tonk Women. What a way to open a show! Starting with a piece of classical style music before the Human Riff vibrates your soul with his guitar playing. I can feel it just by listening to this performance, I can’t imagine how great it would have been to be there to witness this opening in person. Beyond amazing! All Down The Line, from 1972’s Exile On Main Street comes next which is one of the more underrated songs the Rolling Stones recorded. At least that’s my opinion. It’s a fast rocker and a great song. Next up is a real treat. A medley of two songs from two era’s of the band, the first being If You Can’t Rock Me which is from their 1974 album It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll which is one of my personal favourites from that period. The second song in the medley is the great Get Off Of My Cloud which was released as a single 9 years earlier. The two go great together and this is one of the many highlights of the show.

Star Star (originally named Starfucker before the record company forced the band to change the name) is a song very much in the style of Chuck Berry. I mean that opening riff has Chuck all over it and in fact one of Keith Richards’ main influences was indeed Chuck Berry. The song contains probably the most explicit lyrics the band ever wrote and was quite controversial at the time. Next up is arguably the greatest song the Rolling Stones ever wrote and recorded, Gimme Shelter. The studio version of this is simply stunning in every sense of the word, especially the backing vocals from Merry Clayton who unfortunately doesn’t appear here. But the live version is great too as you can hear from this very recording. Ain’t Too Proud To Beg, another song from the It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll album comes next. This one is a cover having been originally recorded by The Temptations in 1966. It’s a great cover though. You Gotta Move, from Sticky Fingers, is the first slow song of the set which fits nicely after the explosive start. This features some nice slide playing from either Keith or Ronnie and is followed by a 15 minute version of You Can’t Always Get What You Want, the second longest song of the entire set. But the energy packed in to this song is mind boggling. This particular show was the third in five nights they’d play at the LA Forum yet the energy level remains the same. Of course, this could have been because of the amount of drugs they were taking at the time but I like to think it was because the band were on another level musically. It sure sounds like it. This version features some great solo sections from Ronnie and Keith as well as Bobby Keys on sax who was pretty much a member of the band at this period of time, although not on any official level.

BOOTLEG SERIES #8: Creedence Clearwater Revival – Live At The Royal Albert Hall, London 14/4/70

Despite their rock blues, roots and rock sound, Creedence Clearwater Revival are actually from the San Francisco Bay Area. That’s hard to believe the first time you put on one of their records. Not only are you hit with a wave of down and dirty blues mixed together with the best rock imaginable, you’re hit with it in spades. The last thing on your mind is the hippie culture of 1967, a moment in time that will always be associated with the city of San Francisco.

This show, recorded at the Royal Albert Hall in London, England, is arguably one of the greatest shows they ever played. The band open with a roaring rendition of Born On The Bayou from their second album, Bayou Country, which features the tremolo effect that Fogerty would use throughout the bands short yet productive career. Green River comes next which is a fantastic blues style song in the key of E and features some wonderful blues fills from Fogerty. The song is definitely a highlight from their studio career and it’s great to hear such a fantastic live version which is almost note for note the same as the studio version. Usually I’m not one for songs being played live in the same they were recorded in the studio (hence my love for bands like The Allman Brothers Band, Derek and the Dominos & Cream) but Creedence Clearwater Revival are an exception for me. The songs are perfect on the albums and sound just as good when played live. Green River is followed by Tombstone Shadow, a 12 bar number which features some great bass playing from Stu Cook which along with Fogerty’s lead guitar work really make the song.

That’s followed by Travelin’ Band, a song from their 1970 album Cosmo’s Factory. This is in fact the first and only song from that album they would perform at this show which is criminal because that album has some fantastic moments. Fortunate Son comes next, one of the most well known anti-war songs of the 1960’s. From the moment the drums and bass come in you know that amazing riff is only seconds away from blowing your head off. Fogerty’s guitar tone on this particular rendition is wonderful, thicker than honey. You don’t get much better than this! Commotion, a song from their 1969 Green River album follows and clocks in at just over two and a half minutes in length. For such a great song this is too short! In fact a lot of Creedence Clearwater Revival songs are pretty short in length, I only wish the band could have extended this (and others) when playing live.

  1. Born On The Bayou
  2. Green River
  3. Tombstone Shadow
  4. Travelin’ Band
  5. Fortunate Son
  6. Commotion
  7. Midnight Special
  8. Bad Moon Rising
  9. Proud Mary
  10. Night Time Is The Right Time
  11. Good Golly Miss Molly
  12. Keep On Chooglin’

The album Willy And The Poor Boys contained some of their most interesting songs and one of them, Midnight Special, is played beautifully hear. John Fogerty starts the song on vocals with some fantastic guitar playing featuring a tremolo effect again. It’s a great song, I only wish they played more songs from that album apart from the two they played at this show, the other being Fortunate Son. Following Midnight Special is a cracking version of what is probably their most known song, Bad Moon Rising. It’s one of those songs that you know instantly from hearing the first chord.

Proud Mary is a song which is probably most associated with Tina Turner, in fact it’s one of her signature songs. But like most songs you just can’t beat the original version. Fogerty takes a great solo at around a minute and a half in and this song actually features backing vocals from the rest of the band. It was revealed in 1997 that Fogerty hated his band mates backing vocals on this song, saying They went as far as adding background vocals to ‘Proud Mary,’ and it sounded awful. They used tambourines, and it sounded no better.” This is an attitude of Fogerty’s that would cause the band to break up eventually a few years later. After Proud Mary comes Night Time Is The Right Time, the second cover to be played in the evening after Midnight Special. It’s a song by Nappy Brown which was originally recorded 13 years earlier in 1957 and the Creedence version is one of the highlights of the Albert Hall show.

The band finish with two songs from their Bayou Country album, the first a song originally recorded by Little Richard in 1958 called Good Golly Miss Molly. The band (Fogerty in particular) really had a knack for re-working 50’s classics and this is no exception. Keep On Chooglin’ is the final track and is more of a loose jam song compared to most other songs Creedence played and wrote and remains on the same chord from start to finish. It features some great harmonica playing and Doug Clifford is an absolute beast on the drums! The crowd must have been pleased considering they gave the band a non-stop four and a half minute standing ovation at the end. What a show!

A lot of stick has been given to John Fogerty over the years but you can’t take anything away from his songwriting abilities. Later on in the bands career (later in 1970 in fact) Tom Fogerty (rhythm guitarist and brother of band leader John Fogerty) quit during the recording of their Pendulum album which then transformed the band from a quartet to a trio. This would be the beginning of the end for the band with the lack of a second guitar becoming evident in their live shows and the disaster of an album Mardi Gras in 1972 when Fogerty only provided three songs for the album, with Stu Cook (bassist) and Doug Clifford (drummer) providing six between them. There’s no doubt that the magic of Creedence Clearwater Revival resided within John Fogerty.

But going back to this bootleg, it’s certainly one of the best you’ll ever hear in terms of music and quality. Sure there’s a slight dull hiss through some of the songs but for a recording that is now 44 years old you can’t really complain. There are a lot worse recordings out there. This show really did capture the band at the height of their powers. It’s hard to believe that they released three albums in 1969 alone, going on to release another two in 1970. One of the greatest bands of all time, no doubt. And this is one of the greatest shows they played.

(AUDIO AND VIDEO NOT MINE)

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BOOTLEG SERIES #7: Derek and the Dominos – Live at Curtis Hixon Hall, Tampa, Florida, USA 1/12/70

This performance, this recording, these songs are musical history at it’s finest. Duane Allman only joined Derek and the Dominos twice in concert and this is the first show he appeared with them. He would go on to join them the following day at the Onondaga County War Memorial in Syracuse, New York. Recordings supposedly exist from that show as well but they are reportedly of a very low quality. However thankfully someone with a decent recorder was there in Tampa to record these two guitar legends at work at the Curtis Hixon Hall, and boy are we grateful for it.

Duane joined the band in the studio after the Dominos saw The Allman Brothers Band perform in Miami on the 26th August 1970, and the album that came from those studio sessions is now considered one of the greatest albums of all time. It’s fitting that the band open with a roaring rendition of Layla with Duane absolutely on fire. The band had played the song a number of times before this show but those performances, although good, are nowhere near the intensity of this particular rendition. Duane makes the song, there’s no doubt about that. After all he was the one who came up with the guitar riff we all know and love, having taking inspiration from the Albert King song As The Years Go Passing By. It’s interesting to note that out of the recordings that exist of the Dominos, they played Layla at least twice before this show, yet those two recordings previously lasted no longer than 6 minutes. This, however, goes beyond the 8 minute mark. Eric and Duane had some fun up there for sure.

Got To Get Better In A Little While is a song that didn’t feature on the Layla album but was first debuted live. Duane’s lead slide guitar really fits the song well, especially considering he presumably hadn’t played the song before this show. It’s one of my personal favourite Dominos songs and it’s taken to a new height by Duane. That’s a pattern too, because he took the studio songs that he appeared on to completely different level as well. Next up is an Albert King style version of Key To The Highway which is much different to the version that appeared on the Layla album, a version which the band had played live most of the time before this concert. The bass in particular here sound divine with Carl Radle playing that gorgeous riff and Bobby Whitlock playing off him on keys.

Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad? is arguably one of the highlights of the Layla album and it’s great to hear Duane soar on this one. Again, the Dominos had played this at pretty much every gig (at least after their 1st leg of their UK tour) before this show but you can just feel the chemistry pouring out of the speakers when you listen to this. Clocking in at just over 16 minutes, it’s an absolute joy to hear Eric and Duane’s interweaving guitar playing. You can’t help but wish you could have witnessed this performance yourself.

  1. Intro
  2. Layla
  3. Got To Get Better In A Little While
  4. Key To The Highway
  5. Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad?
  6. Blues Power
  7. Have You Ever Loved A Woman
  8. Bottle Of Red Wine
  9. Let It Rain

Blues Power and Have You Ever Loved A Woman come next, the former being a brilliant blues rocker originally from Clapton’s debut self-titled album and the latter a beautiful slow blues that featured on the Layla album. The Dominos play these two songs as a medley, wonderfully blending the two songs together effortlessly. Blues Power sounds great, as it always did when the Dominos played it live, but Have You Ever Loved A Woman contains some of the best playing of the show without a shadow of a doubt. For those familiar with The Allman Brothers Band, you can hear a few riffs Duane used on Stormy Monday when playing with his band. These two songs combined add up to about 25 minutes of non-stop playing and at no point during that time do you hear the band getting tired. With just short of 5 minutes left of Have You Ever Loved A Woman, Eric and Duane trade guitar licks while the band stop to let them work their magic. You can sense everyone in the room watching these two guitar greats like nothing else in the world at that point mattered. And that’s the feeling I get when listening to it. Outstanding.

Bottle Of Red Wine, another song from Clapton’s self titled debut, comes next and that’s followed by the final song, Let It Rain, again from Clapton’s debut. Just like a few of the other songs in the set, Duane presumably didn’t know these songs well before taking the stage but in no way would you think it. The entire set has been building and building with Let It Rain the final musical explosion.

This is just an incredible show in every sense of the word. The tightness of the band, the level of musicianship and improvisation (in my opinion) outshone every other band at the time with the exception of The Allman Brothers Band. Everyone will focus on Eric and Duane when listening to this show but it’s important to think about the entire band. Bobby Whitlock on keys and backing vocals, Carl Radle on bass and Jim Gordon on drums. That’s what you call a band and with the addition of Duane on guitar alongside Eric this was only going to be something special, something unique that only the people present could truly cherish. As I said at the start of this entry, Duane would go on to join the band the following night in Syracuse, New York, but this is the gig that is talked about most. A recording of that Syracuse show allegedly exists but it’s quality and authenticity are regularly questioned.

What’s sad though is this would be the 6th to last show the Dominos would ever play together. Their last show was on the 6th December 1970 at Suffolk College, Selden, New York. During their brief career (the band only played 61 shows in total) the level of music only increased as time went on. They would reconvene in 1971 for initial album sessions for their planned 2nd album but these sessions would be torn apart by drugs and left to smoulder in the dirt. Duane didn’t join them on these sessions, who knows if his presence would have improved the situation. But at least we have recordings like these to listen back to.

(AUDIO NOT MINE)