Tag Archives: mth-v

MTH-V: Steely Dan’s “Black Cow”

Over the last several weeks I’ve gone down the Steely Dan rabbit hole. (And you could arguably say that I’m still in it.) It started with the blind purchase of Gaucho, followed quickly by Aja, Katy Lied, and Pretzel Logic. And I’m sure that others will soon follow. For years Steely Dan has been little more than a George Carlin punchline for me, having only a peripheral knowledge of their music at best. It seemed that the closest I got was the deluxe edition of Elton John‘s Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy, the full live performance of which (on disc 2) includes Jeff “Skunk” Baxter sitting in.

For whatever reason I decided to explore the band’s material, and I began with 1980’s Gaucho simply because of the personnel, particularly: Tom Scott, the Brecker Brothers, David Sanborn, Hiram Bullock, Don Grolnick, Michael McDonald, and Steve Gadd. (Many of these are folks have been featured on the blog before: Tom Scott here and here, Breckers here, and Sanborn/Bullock/Grolnick here.) Honestly, my initial impression after one listen was: for a band (core members Donald Fagen & Walter Becker) so obsessed with production and studio perfection, you’d think Fagen would be a better singer… Anyway, that aside, I was immediately attracted to the songs and arrangements. I don’t know if I’d use “jazz rock” to describe Steely Dan, but it’s a close description. Interesting harmonies and melodies, catchy tunes, and solid players. There are some occasional misses (e.g., the rendition of “St. Louis Blues” on Pretzel Logic…yuck), but overall I’m quite taken with the library.

A song that quickly became one of my favorites is “Black Cow” from 1977’s Aja. It features the aforementioned hooks and complexities, and the studio recording features an outro solo by Tom Scott. Here’s a very nice live version from possibly 2003 featuring solos by keyboardist Ted Baker (whom I may have seen at Einstein on the Beach – I’ll have to check my program) and saxophonist Cornelius Bumpus.

MTH-V: Kids Cover TOOL’s “Forty Six & 2”

This is entirely too good to not share…

A buddy of mine alerted me to this video a couple months ago, knowing my deep love of TOOL. (Previous MTH-V on the band here.) While I was deeply skeptical upon seeing the performers, I was quickly impressed and the video has since stuck with me.

The performers in this video are students of musician, teacher, and entrepreneur Aaron O’Keefe. If only I had been able to participate in something like this when I was young. Although, if that were the case, I’d probably have stuck with the guitar and never touched a saxophone. An interesting thought experiment…

“Forty Six & 2” comes from TOOL’s second full-length album Ænima. That album launched the band into the mainstream and got the undivided attention of yours truly in the late summer of 1996, right before its release. While there are some metrical intricacies here, this is one of the band’s more metrically straightforward songs.

Not only have these kids put in the time and have the talent to pull this off so well, but they rock hard. Very impressive, especially considering the material and their ages. I’m not sure whose idea it was to have a female singer, but kudos to him/her. (Female vocals are a good substitute for singer Maynard James Keenan, given his style and range.) Finally, a special shoutout to the drummer, as attempting to fill Danny’s Carey‘s mammoth shoes is a great undertaking.


And, for reference, a live version by TOOL from 1996:

MTH-V: Jordi Savall

It’s about time I share some of the enchanting realizations of Jordi Savall and his colleagues. Despite my not including it much in this series (except for this one by Trio Mediæval), I do love early music. For those unfamiliar, “early music” generally connotes Western “classical” or “literate” music through at least parts of the Baroque period (ca. 1600-1750). It’s a dense, niche area that includes much unnecessary controversy over performance practice and theory. The 10¢, Reader’s Digest summary is thus:
1. Most practitioners believe that the music should be performed on period-specific instruments. Some don’t care either way.
2. Within the former from “1.”, there’s a divide between strict adherence to the notated score – or recreations of scores – and those who include a healthy does of improvisation – a common practice at the time(s) – within the theoretical, era-specific guidelines. Or, rather, a divide between historical recreations for scholars or bringing the music to life within a similar but new context.

(To dive into this topic, I suggest starting here.)

Of course, as with most things, everyone claims that their preferred way is the most authentic. And while I don’t get too militant about it, especially as a saxophonist, I tend to side with the “period instruments + improvisation” crowd. I suggested as much in my glowing reviews for both Rolf Lislevand’s Diminuito and Trio Mediæval’s A Worcester Ladymass.

Enter Jordi Savall, one of the world’s foremost early music performers. I wasn’t aware of it then, but when I first saw a video of his recording of Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo many years ago (which I now own) he became the first “name” in early music that would stick with me for the long term. A renowned conductor and performer of early music, he and his late wife Montserrat Figueras and helped lead a renaissance (no pun intended) of early music, breathing new life into old styles. Their children Arianna and Ferran are also accomplished performers. (Montserrat and Arianna are also in the aforementioned L’Orfeo production.) Just last week I purchased Arianna Savall’s Hirundo Maris, a wonderful album that I’ve been spinning quite a bit.

Below is a live performance of Antonio Martin y Coll‘s Diferencias sobre las Folias featuring:
Jordi Savall – viola da gamba
Rolf Lislevand – Baroque guitar
Arianna Savall – harp
Pedro Estevan – percussion
Adela Gonzalez-Campa – castanets

For the full concert, which is quite good, go here.

MTH-V: Elton John Live in ’71

Following up on the recent New Listen, I’d like to honor Elton‘s piano trio format by featuring the incarnation that helped to catapult his career. Notably, it was with this trio that he made his US debut at the LA’s The Troubadour in 1970. The trio is:

Elton John – piano & vocals
Dee Murray – bass & backing vocals
Nigel Olsson – drums & backing vocals

For various contractual reasons, Murray and Olsson didn’t regularly play on a lot of Elton’s early studio albums. But, along with the eventual addition of guitarist Davey Johnstone, they were Elton’s core live band until 1975. Johnstone has pretty much remained in the band since, with Murray and Olsson both sporadically rejoining Elton since. Olsson once again joined Elton in 2000 and continues to tour with him through present day.

The below videos are from a live set at the BBC studios in 1971 in support of Madman Across the Water, the album from which these songs come. If you’ve not explored much of Elton’s material beyond the radio, then you’re in for a real treat. It’s a side of him often obscured by fanciful wardrobes and the hit parade. No costumes. No spectacle. Just three musicians and excellent songs.

“Razor Face”

“Rotten Peaches”

“Holiday Inn”

Previous Elton entries are here, here, and here.

MTH-V: Type O Negative

With today having been Friday the 13th, I can think of few artists or groups more appropriate than Type O Negative. They’re not for the faint of heart, and it’s one of the things I love most about them. The last few weeks have been quite busy, and I’ve been trying to think of just the right video to break the recent streak of posts featuring blog regulars DMB, Dave Liebman, and Richard Wagner. Type O Negative do just that.

TON hold a special place in my heart. They not only write and play heavy, dark, high quality rock – a powerful mixture of baritone vocals, organs, and metal – but they don’t take themselves too seriously. Many of their songs include very dark humor, which I of course always appreciate. Though there are some that at least appear to be relatively seriously, even if the tongue was planted firmly in cheek upon writing. Regardless of any humor, these self-described “four dicks from Brooklyn” bring it musically. In that sense they fall into a lineage not far removed from Frank Zappa. It’s a subtle subversion: for those fans that may be somewhat literalist with the lyrical content, they’re missing the point. It’s rock and roll – you’re not supposed to take yourself too seriously. But the boys still rock. HARD.

Well, they rocked. Bassist and lead singer Peter Steele died in 2010. That wasn’t without some confusion, however, as, due to a gag in 2005, a number of fans didn’t believe the initial reports. I remember walking through an airport in Colorado around that time of the hoax wearing a Type O Negative t-shirt and being stopped by another fan asking, “Is it true?” Ha! Joking aside, Peter’s death was a musical loss for me. I miss him.

I became an active fan around the time of October Rust‘s release (late ’96/early ’97). I saw the band three times: twice at Grand Rapids’s Orbit Room and once at Detroit’s infamous Harpos. (Unfortunately I didn’t attend that Halloween 2009 show at Harpos, which turned out the be the band’s last show.) They were always solid and the shows were tons of fun. The last time I saw them, which was at Harpos in April 2007, they pulled out a couple nice surprises including a renditions of “Magical Mystery Tour” and “Hey Joe” (which they dubbed “Hey Pete”).

I try to keep this blog safe for work, greatly limiting my choices to feature. But this performance of World Coming Down‘s title track in Germany in 1999 is solid. This song is one of their serious numbers, and its album isn’t nearly as humorous as some others (e.g., Origin of the Feces), but if you’ve ever had a tendency to headbang then this should scratch you where you itch. Dig it:


And a nice audience tape of “Magical Mystery Tour” from the April ’07 show at Harpos: