Thursday, February 27, 2014

New Tune Tuesday: From Tape Reels to a Box Set to Your Ears, Mike Bloomfield gets his due

Beautiful Melodies Telling You Terrible Things Vol. - New Tune Tuesday: Mike Bloomfield Edition

I can't count the times I've had the "personal 5 greatest guitar players of all time" conversation with people. In record a car as some CD plays underneath our my head with different voices taking different sides. They all do share one common end: when the other person in the conversation gets past their #4 I jump in for them, "the person you're trying to think of is Mike Bloomfield." Then they give me an odd look, "who?" These same people who would froth at the mouth at the mere mention of Hendrix (you can see him smiling and nodding at Bloomfield's playing in DA Pennebaker's The Complete Monterey Pop Festival set), Brian Jones, Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton (who once said "Mike Bloomfield is music on two legs") and others, giving them credit for knowledge of the blues amongst the earlobe masses of youngsters in the 1960's, didn't know Mike Bloomfield.  Even as I read a great article on this box set for Guitar Magazine, they still found an excuse to put Eric Clapton the cover. So I'm here to review the first career retrospective of Mike Bloomfield: The first guitarist to actually show us the ghost of Robert Johnson still lived on in recording studios in rock music's greatest, or at least most prolific, decade. Decades after his untimely death, his sweet blues get their due... 

When Mike Bloomfield plays before a black audience, his sh*t's gonna come out black...You could put Mike Bloolmfield with James Brown and he'd be a mother**ker 
~Miles Davis~

Michael Bloomfield: From his Head to his Heart to his Hands - 3CD/1DVD [Sony/Legacy]
It's 1965, folk rock is quickly becoming "a thing." An early 20's musician from middle class upbringings, rocking a Jew fro, walks the streets of New York City into Columbia's most hollowed grounds: Studio A. He would proceed to be an integral part of the most influential track of it's time, "Like a Rolling Stone." The man I'm referring to isn't Bob Dylan (there's your Dylan reference Bence), but the man who played the unique, almost country blues licks that drove that song behind Al Kooper's organ and the La Bamba rhythm. Mike Bloomfield. At 22 he had come from a middle class upbringing into a love of the blues that brought him into Chicago. Where he played  and hung (even babysitting Muddy Waters kids) alongside the greatest blues players and singers the city had to offer. In 1963 when Bob Dylan came into town to play a gig, Bloomfield went to go rip him for his playing, yet the two became fast friends, charmed with each others wit and intelligence. It was about a year later he was offered a tryout with Columbia's talent scout king, John Hammond, which is where this box set starts...

Bloomfield started singing the blues due to having a Jew fro. As he got older he kept playing blues
due to so many girls coming up and wanting to play with said Jew fro. This is possibly a lie created by me. 
I've heard people who can copy the licks of Clapton or Hendrix, and also sound like them. But I've never heard anyone who can actually sound LIKE Mike Bloomfield, this set reminds one of that. Nicely mastered by Kooper himself, the box set isn't the greatest dynamic range a box set has ever had, but remembering a lot of the rudimentary sources for some of these tracks, all in all, this box is a treasure. We begin with 3 tracks from Bloomfield's tryout for master talent scout John Hammond, in these 3 tracks we get an idea of what Bloomfield can do: from Robert Johnson inspired country blues to Merle Travis style picking...and he does them WELL. Just listen to Hammond's comments over the PA at the end of track 3, "We've explained you enough, I'm signing you!" 

Dylan & Bloomfield Recording H61R
The first disc continues on through some of Hammond's earliest try's of getting some Bloomfield tracks cut with Chicago cats to some unreleased material from his time with Dylan in the studio in '65. As I mentioned, they had become acquaintances in 1963 and when Dylan needed an electric guitarist for "Like a Rolling Stone" and the subsequent Highway 61 Revisited sessions, he immediately remembered Bloomfield who had been signed by Columbia a year earlier. We get an instrumental of "Like a Rolling Stone," which Kooper re-mixed from multi-tracks (turning down his own organ, what a nice guy!) to highlight not only Bloomfield's playing, but the drumming and especially I have to say piano playing of Paul Griffin (Griffin was the highlight of Blonde on Blonde's "Sooner or Later" as well). We also get an alternate version of "Tombstone Blues" featuring Chambers brothers overdubs we heard originally on an aborted take heard on No Direction Home: the Soundtrack. I've used this track in various forms to get people into Dylan - largely due to Bloomfield's stunning playing. 

He was just the best guitar player I ever heard...when it came to bringing in a guitar player for my album I just couldn't think of      anyone better than him... 
~Bob Dylan~

Most of the rest of Disc 1 and Disc 2 highlight the true core of Bloomfield's career - when he tried his hands in some bands (Paul Butterfield's Blues Band - what can I say about East/West? It's awesome - and Electric Flag) and having fun in studio and live form with Al Kooper (the super sessions). These mixture of studio and live tracks are the core of what makes Mike Bloomfield a great artist. You hear his variety from straight blues to funkier, horn driven music to his absolutely exquisite live work. Whether it's making "The Weight" work not only as a cove
Legendary Live, here with the Butterfield Blues Band
r, but an instrumental cover (I heard executives initially laughed at releasing an instrumental of such as a single until they actually heard it) or making "Feeling Groovy" seem like more than it should be, I doubt there's another white guitarist from this ere - aside from maybe Johnny Winter and Robbie Robertson - who had the live presence Bloomfield showcased. My favorite live cut? Bloomfield, Kooper and friends strutting through "One Way Out," a take on the old blues motif of a 'back door man' (husband on the way in the front, lover leaving out the back).

When I first heard Mike Bloomfield I realized I wanted to be a guitar player
~Carlos Santana~

The final disc gives us the most out of Bloomfield's less prolific second half, the time when he just wanted to play music - a superstar wasn't the wanted route for the guitarist with such severe insomnia.
Clapton & Bloomfield backstage, late 60's
We got some more great live tracks (you gotta love the pure blues comedy of "I'm Glad I'm Jewish), some of his work with Janis Joplin (the version of "One Good Man" kills her released studio version) and Muddy Waters and of note, a bit of his return to the stage with Bob Dylan in late 1980. From Dylan's heartfelt speech about Mike and his playing to them storming through the then yet to be studio recorded "Groom's Still Waiting at the Altar," it's a stunning statement on the tragedy of Mike's early death. Finally the DVD documentary isn't what it could be - as I know the filmmaker has a lot more material and was financially unable to much more - at the hour we're given is a nice overview of his career, the musicians who loved him and the kind of person he was. Smart. Funny. Sweet. Kind. The lasting impact of a man being even more important than his musicianship. 

Mike Bloomfield is Music on Two Legs
~Eric Clapton~

Bloomfield, Ramblin' Jack Elliott & Dylan backstage at
the Woody Guthrie Memorial Concert in 1968. They
hadn't seen each other in nearly three years. 
This isn't a treasure trove of rarities, and was never supposed to be. It's also not a box set for Electric Flag or Paul Butterfield's Blues Band or Bloomfield/Kooper Super Sessions. This is meant to be a career/life encompassing first dip into those who didn't even know Mike Bloomfield existed. We do have some great rarities mixed with his greatest cuts and live moments, they're just not the centerpiece. Al Kooper has been trying to get this project off the ground for some time, and even though Sony/Legacy finally came TO HIM to get it done, and yet they still underestimate Michael after all these years. Despite not allowing for a budget beyond the 3-Disc/1 DVD (featuring an hour long documentary) incarnation it ended up, this things has been selling like hotcakes, all things considered in today's music market. They pressed 5,000 copies which more or less immediately sold out, and we can hope more will be on the way. No, I don't mean the 2,000 more pressings Sony/Legacy is getting ready to unleash, I mean a further box set delving further into the archives of Michael Bloomfield. He gave us timeless music, he introduced us to Johnny Winter, he jammed with Duane Allman. The least we can do is have more of him. He played from his head to his heart to his hands, and we listen from tape reels to a box set to our own heads to our hearts. It's the f**king blues and God bless him for what he gave. 

Overall: Buy It Now, Thank Me Later
Available on: 3 CD/1 DVD Box Set w/ Booklet; MP3

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Lost Shots EP 3 Tabula Rasa

It's crazy watching these first few episodes and seeing the survivors deal with the immediate aftermath of the crash. Dealing with day to day issues like food and water or rotting bodies. Stuff that definitely fell by the wayside to give way to time travel, battles of good and evil and some temples and demigods. That's why I picked this picture. The entire scene is a slow pan across the remains of the wreckage as people sift through the chaos looking aimlessly for anything that will help in survival.

This picture shows Claire and some people, who probably die faceless deaths, sifting through the personal belongings of people on the plane. After digging through the possessions that defined so many people now dead she has the idea to hold a memorial service. In this first season I love that so much focus is on how to maintain a sense of civilization and society with the other side constantly pulling our heroes into survival mode bringing them down to a primal state of survival of the fittest. Never forget this show, with all it's brilliant mythology, has always been about the characters and their journey on the island.


One last thought - how about that Bad Twin tho?

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Marvels Big Risk: Guardians of the Galaxy trailer is here and it's badass

Damn it please get this right.

Marvel premiered the first trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy tonight and at first glance it looks fucking fantastic. James Gunn was always a risk and from the trailer it looks like they let him fly his freak flag loud and proud. Biggest thing for me? Their is a tone here that is so specific. It has charm and quirk and yet is still badass. You get the sense that they dove head first into the weird and never looked back.

Pratt? He was always perfect for Starlord and this trailer shows it. Everyone else has little more than a few seconds but they own every moment. This looks fun. ALOT OF FUN. I can't wait. Please for the love of god I hope they got this right. So far so good.


One last thought - glimpse of Rocket doing his thing....bliss

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Lost Shots EP 2 Pilot

The second part of the Pilot provided is with some glimpses into Charlie and Kate and what they were doing on the plane. It also began to flesh out Sawyer and Sayid, two audience favorites that definitely had some gray areas in their past. Also there's that little run in with the polar bear. But more than anything the show began to build these characters. All of them flawed and now stuck together and we began to see how tensions would rise and how relationships began to form. The shot I chose is a simple scene where Jin gives Claire some fish, I'm assuming it's Uni since he was seen harvesting sea urchins. She is the only one to actually take the fish and immediately her baby, who hasn't moved since the crash, springs to life and she grabs Jin's hand in excitement to feel the kick.

There's no huge mythology or symbolic meaning to any of this. We simply see these two characters interacting. We see Jin, who is so proper and observant of gender roles and then Claire who takes him out of his comfort zone with her free spirit. It's a simple gesture of grabbing his hand but Jin plays it perfectly speaking in Korean with as much anxiety as possible. Sure you could say that Claire's black tank foreshadows something ominous, but that's way down the line and I think when this scene was created it was meant to humanize Jin and give Claire some hope. The baby would go on to become a beacon of hope for the island and here we see that life is possible, these people can survive, if they do something so easy as working together.


One last thought - still don't see how people could turn down food? If you're starving and someone is offering you FRESH FISH...c'mon now.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Lost Shots - EP 1 PILOT

Within minutes we see a man running around a beach, disheveled, definitely injured as he gets closer we hear screams and loud mechanical sounds. Debris begins to litter the frame as the horrific tragedy of a plane crash play out in front of our eyes. A second of thought and he springs into action, this is of course our hero Jack and as he moved from person to person he quickly meets some people that are about to have a huge impact on his life. Thus begins my second favorite show of all time, Lost. Whether you stuck with the show till the end or not the intensity of the pilot is undeniable and it grips you from the beginning and for me, I never let go. I have decided to revisit the series now with all the knowledge that comes from having seen the entirety of this complicated story of good and evil. I'm not going to attempt to review every episode, rather I will take a single shot and talk about it in some detail giving my own theories and thoughts about it and maybe what I had originally thought about the shot and what I think now. Don't agree with my thoughts? Please sound off below.

This first post will be a bit longer than I am trying to do here, but here it goes. The shot for the pilot I wanted to pick was immediately after Jack gets up and begins running to the beach. The camera lingers ever so briefly on a pair of white sneakers. This is exactly the kid of shot I am looking for. Something completely inconsequential(15 seconds or so into the show how or why would we think anything of this) but as the show goes on you begin to learn what those shoes most likely are. But many people even remember the shoes hanging in the first place? This attention to detail and rewarding second viewings puts me in awe.

So what are the shoes? Well most likely they are a pair of sneakers that Jack had in his bag which he placed on his father's corpse. Within the reality of the show they probably fell out of the coffin and landed on that tree. But as we come to learn nothing is ever that simple. So let's dive a bit deeper.

The show is a huge long form story of good and evil with "white" being set up quite early as being the representation of good. So within minutes the show creates a visual connection between Jack, our hero, and the representation of good by showing us him run past these shoes and then holding the shot just long enough for you to register that there are shoes hanging from a tree, which we later learn are his. So right off the bat the show foreshadowing concepts that play out over the whole length of the series.

Now imagine you've never seen the show(why are you reading this then there's no way it's interesting). And to you, maybe, they're just a pair of shoes.


One last thought - perhaps the fact that there's only one white shoe shows the dichotomy that is present in everyone on the show. Throughout the show we are asked to question whether the person we are viewing is worthy of redemption or are they destined to love in darkness.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

It Might Sound Absurd But I Have a Tip on Super Bowl Betting From a Reputable Source.

The Super Bowl (a.k.a. The World's Longest Commercial) is a couple hours away and it seems there is no reason to watch as the winner has already been declared. So, cancel the shindig that you had planned and dump the cases of Bud Light you purchased into the gutter since the Seahawks will win. Move along, there is nothing to see here.

Before you declare me a witch and have me burned at the stake, let me explain how I reached this predication. After conducting a thorough statistical analysis of both teams, I then discussed my findings with several NFL scouts and personnel through the use of surveys/ interviews. Once I parsed through all of the recordings, I able to discern more positive sentiment towards the Seahawks than the Broncos. After numerous cease and desist letters from the NFL, I concluded that my study was complete and the Seahawks would hoist the Lombardi Trophy once it was all said and done. With this knowledge in hand, I mortgaged my house, took out 150,000 dollars in loans and "borrowed" all of the funds out of my kid's piggy banks (and college funds) and put it all on Seattle.

Who am I kidding... A monkey at the Utah zoo told me. That is a reputable source, right? Wait, so your saying that I shouldn't have bankrupted myself several times over on a prognosticating ape... But he has been right six times in a row! How can you go against such odds. Oh man, I am so dead, I hope Vegas gives me my money back. Damn it, I should have listened to that manatee, they said he was clairvoyant!

In all seriousness, enjoy the game and its festivities tonight. Hopefully, by the end of the evening, Manning will have another ring. It looks like I am going with the manatee after all... Bookies are understanding when you don't pay them, right?

P.S. Since I am a degenerate gambler now, I put a lot of money on the greatest prop better ever! Will the halftime rock or suck? Bruno Mars is doing it... So, it will definitely suck. That is gonna be the easiest twenty grand I will ever make!