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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Flight of the Dark Bird

Today is Johnny Cash’s birthday. Every time this date rolls around the calendar, I’m reminded of a night a few years ago down in Annapolis, Maryland.
Cover of "Johnny Cash" by Frank Moriarty

In 1997 I wrote a biography of Johnny Cash’s life and music. Of course, the book covered the addition of Marty Stuart as Johnny’s lead guitar player in the years after a very young Stuart cut his country teeth playing with Lester Flatt.

Marty has put out some fantastic albums, not just the country hits people may know him for, but concept albums like The Pilgrim and Badlands: Ballads of the Lakota. He’s also a great photographer, an excellent writer, and a preserver of country music history.
Brad Paisley (left) and Keith Urban (right) back Marty Stuart at the Grand Ole Opry.

He rarely gets into this part of the country here in the Northeast, so when I heard he was playing the Rams Head Tavern in Annapolis with his aptly named Fabulous Superlatives (Kenny Vaughan is as good a guitarist as Marty) I made arrangements to see the show.

After the great set I made my way backstage to meet Marty, intending to give him a copy of my Cash bio. After a warm greeting from Marty, I handed him the book. He smiled, and said, “You know what? This book is sitting right on my coffee table at home.” Obviously, it made my night.
"Country Music: The Masters," a book of Marty Stuart's photography.

Marty remained best friends with Johnny even after leaving Cash to begin a solo career. In fact, the cover of Marty’s latest photography book is a picture of Johnny taken just days before he died.

When I saw Marty in Ocean City, New Jersey more recently after Johnny had passed away, Stuart had written a moving tribute to Johnny called “Dark Bird.” This link leads to the song and its beautiful video. I think you’ll find it well worth a listen and a viewing, especially today…

Friday, February 8, 2013

Psychedelic Sensations

In 1964 the Supreme Court justice Potter Stewart, unable to adequately define pornography, simply noted, “I know it when I see it.”

I was reminded of that remark when I recently listened to the psychedelic strains of The Fraternal Order of The All. Obscure? You bet!

In 1998, when my heavy metal band Third Stone Invasion signed with J-Bird Records, we joined a small roster of talent that included Billy Squier, The Who’s John Entwistle, and singer-songwriter Andrew Gold, who passed away in 2011. We were likely all drawn to J-Bird due to the label’s cutting-edge plans to use the Internet to market its music. Unfortunately, the label was a little too cutting edge. Though many of the approaches they implemented have come to be common in the current music world, it was a case of “too soon” in the late 1990s. J-Bird eventually shut down, and all of our releases were delegated to the status of obscurities. Or, as I prefer to think, collector’s items...

Andrew Gold later in life and his deep-psychedelic release from J-Bird Records.

When I travelled to J-Bird’s headquarters to sign our contract, I was given a few of the label’s releases, including one by The Fraternal Order of The All called Greetings from Planet Love. I soon discovered that this “band” was in fact Andrew Gold, releasing an album recorded all by himself with the exception of an assist or two from his pal Graham Gouldman of the band 10cc.

Greetings from Planet Love can perhaps best be described as a homage to the music of the late 1960s, with spot-on evocations of the Beach Boys, The Beatles, The Doors, The Byrds, and more. What’s shared is that all of the songs on this album immediately infuse the aural air with the unmistakable scent of psychedelia. It’s a musical genre that is instantly recognizable, perhaps more so than any other. But much like Tears for Fears’ equally trippy “Sowing the Seeds of Love,” it’s hard to put your finger on exactly what makes this stuff sound so psychedelic. It just does.

In other words: what is psychedelic music? Well, I know it when I hear it. Thanks, Justice Stewart.

Follow this link for a heady taste of this fun, obscure release by the late Andrew Gold:

Return to action…

There are few things sadder on the Internet than a blog that’s fallen into inactivity, digital cobwebs hanging from that distant date in the past when the content was last updated…

Well, as Patti Smith exclaimed upon her return to the stage after breaking her neck in a fall: “Out of traction, back in action!”
My blog silence was not the result of a medical condition (fortunately!). Instead, I had the opportunity to focus on one area of my range of interests, and it demanded full attention. So I’ve spent much of the last nine months living in the past while working on the music of my band of the 1980s, Informed Sources. This effort ranged from mixing studio multitrack tapes and preparing for a commercial release to practicing and playing a one-off show in Philadelphia. And, of course, there was the creation of a Web site:
But after all those weeks playing the roles of recording engineer, art director, sales manager, web developer, publicist, logistics coordinator – oh, and guitarist! – it’s time to end the hiatus and dust off these blogs.
Keyboard, computer, action!