Early Joplin live album available
Published: Monday, April 2, 2012
Updated: Friday, November 2, 2012 17:11
You know those really cool box sets that come out at Christmas time that nobody can really afford? So Elvis Costello’s record company compiles a set from his two 2011 performances at The Wiltern in Los Angeles that includes a CD, DVD and 10” vinyl EP with a Costello autograph for $300 plus buckaroos.
One figures that his fans would snap it up right? Well they would’ve except when Costello heard how much his record company was asking for it, he implored fans NOT to buy it, it would come out in spring much cheaper. True to his word at $20, here comes the scaled down CD with DVD Elvis Costello and The Imposters The Return Of The Spectacular Spinning Songbook (Universal.)
Recorded during his last tour, which featured a huge spinning wheel that either Costello or members of the audience would spin and they’d play whatever song the wheel landed on. It made for some interesting shows, which had the band playing hits, rarities and covers.
His band The Imposters have been with Costello for a while now and are a stunning unit that can crush (“(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding”), be heartfelt (“God Give Me Strength”) or do both (“Out Of Time”.)
Other standouts on the cd include “Tear Off Your Own Head” with The Bangles Susanna Hoffs guesting on vocals, “I Want You,” “Man Out Of Time,” “I Hope Your Happy Now” and “Watching The Detectives.” Nothing here that’s a disappointment, Costello and band offer a great career retrospect in a unique format.
It is very cool that there are a couple of new releases that feature the amazing Janis Joplin. To commemorate Joplin’s January 19th birthdate, her label announced the April re-issue of her final album Pearl. Currently though, just released is Big Brother & The Holding Company Live at The Carousel Ballroom 1968 (Columbia/Legacy.)
It is a rare recording by the legendary Owsley (Bear) Stanley who mixed for The Grateful Dead back in the day but more importantly was a driving creative force behind perfecting live sound systems. Hold that thought for a second; I’ll get back to Bear.
Big Brother was only together for two short years so this is a pretty important release as it shows a very young second banana Joplin wrestling with a pretty powerful and headstrong band. As we now know, when they splintered, Joplin spread her wings and left everyone in her wake.
Back to Bear, the problem I have with this presentation is that he didn’t really have his technique down yet. For this recording he put all the instruments that were sent to the PA in the left channel and all the others in the right. That meant vocals and drums on one side, everything else in the other.
To recreate the sound from the hall in whatever room your listening to this cd, it’s suggested that you push your left and right speakers together-side by side, that’s right someone move that HDTV outta the way. He felt that this would create an ‘auditory portal’ and recreate what was heard that night in the Carousel.
Can I just take the brown acid instead?
I fully understand the rarity of live material by this band but at what cost? It is a clean recording without any hiss or other imperfections from sitting around in a closet for 40 years but two channel recordings without the ability to remix them to today’s current standards is a minus.
That being said you cannot mask the brilliance of Joplin’s vocals. The Gods blessed her with a golden voice and it’s breathtaking here, especially on soon to be classics but new at the performance; “Summertime,” “Piece Of My Heart,” at the time current single “Down On Me” and “Ball & Chain.” Ultimately for Janis Joplin completists only.
A great many artists have tried to combine the artistic freedom of jazz with the street credence of hip-hop and rap. Most have failed while some have succeeded, arguably none better than on The Robert Glasper Experiment Black Radio (Blue Note.)
A Houston native, Glasper is a stunning jazz pianist who has worked with a slew of diverse artists including Mos Def and Roy Hargrove before striking out on his own. What I love about this 12 track beauty is that Glasper keeps both hip-hop and jazz’ integrity intact, while it favors the jazzy side of things, he never sells one genre out for the other.
Glasper’s Experiment also includes Casey Benjamin on sax, Derrick Hodge on bass and drummer Chris Dave and they do things as musicians that I respect and find essential. They make their instruments identifiable while still maintaining a group setting.
They leave a distinct, wide, musical pallet for guest vocalists to paint their magic. Standouts include “Ah Yeah” featuring Musiq Soulchild, Erykah Badu on “Afro Blue,” “Always Shine” with Lupe Fiasco, the albums title track “Black Radio” and a brilliant new look at Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”
Glasper best explains his motivation for Black Radio in this except from this April 2012 Downbeat magazine story: “I’ve gotten bored with jazz to the point where I wouldn’t mind something bad happening. Slapping hurts, but at some point it’ll wake you up. I feel like jazz needs a big-ass slap.”
You’ve just been slapped!