The Basement Tapes – Bob Dylan and The Band

Yesterday I posted a blog post about Music From Big Pink by The Band. As many know the front cover of that album was painted by Bob Dylan. Bob Dylan hung out with The Band in 1967 while he recovered from his motorcycle accident in Woodstock, New York.

“Big Pink” is a pink house in West SaugertiesNew York. The house was newly built when Rick Danko, who was collaborating with Bob Dylan at the time, found it as a rental. In February 1967, Rick DankoRichard Manuel and Garth Hudson moved into a house in West Saugerties nicknamed Big Pink on Stoll Road.[3] These musicians, when joined by Robbie Robertson and Levon Helm, would later become famous as The Band. In Big Pink, they recorded around a hundred songs with Bob Dylan from June to October 1967, and a selections of these recordings were released in 1975 on the album The Basement Tapes.

The Basement Tapes proved to be the foundation of Bob Dylan’ next recording John Wesley Harding and The Band’s debut recording, Music From Big Pink.

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Ain’t In It For My Health – Levon Helm

When we search within our souls and find that brave spot it summons the strength to conquer our fears. Levon Helm offers us an example of a musical soul guiding us to bravery in a brand new film, Ain’t In It For My Health.

Director Jacob Hatley’s intimate documentary finds Mr. Helm at home in Woodstock, NY, in the midst of creating his first studio album in 25 years. Shot during the course of two-plus years, this highly anticipated film focuses in on the four-time Grammy winner and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member after his 2007 comeback album, Dirt Farmer, brought him back to the spotlight.

The movie premiered last night at a special “Midnight Ramble” at Levon Helm Studios in Woodstock, NY. It was followed by a barbecue dinner and afterwards the Dirt Farmer Band (including Larry Campbell, Amy Helm and Teresa Williams) performed live.

The film will then have a limited run at theaters in the U.S.. I hope we can view it in Greenwich Village NYC at the Cinema Village site.

My wife and I were fortunate to see The Levon Helm Band perform at the Gathering of the Vibes in 2009. Here is one of the songs from that evening set featuring Levon playing mandolin.

He was so brave for all of us that night and he continues to be in the music of our heart.

The 55th Annual Grammy Awards – Best New Artist, Must See Performances

Every year I look forward to the annual Grammy Awards celebration on the CBS Television Network. It is an opportunity to witness unique music performances and collaborations offered nowhere else. It is a must see broadcast as a music journalist and a lifelong music consumer.

The Best New Artist Award category poses a tough choice in 2013. My head tells me that Frank Ocean is the odds on favorite to receive this award. Frank Ocean had a phenomenal year in music. His début studio recording Channel Orange was chosen as the top recording of 2012 in many Top 10 reader and critic polls. There is typically a correlation between year end music poll and Grammy Award winners.

The music of our heart says something different in me about Best New Artist. The Lumineers are my sentimental favorite to win this year. It helps that I have seen The Lumineers perform live just as their star began to burn brightly. The Lumineers continued their ascension as they carried out an extensive global tour. The Lumineers are more than a “one-hit wonder” with the song, “Ho Hey”. Their début album is repeat play and balanced. If they don’t win the Best New Artist award they are also nominated for the Best Americana album which is more likely with the rise of roots music.

The must see performances I want to witness are dedicated to two musicians who died in 2012. There will be all-star tributes to Levon Helm and Dave Brubeck from fellow musicians who want to share their love for these two musical giants. I miss them both terribly and share in the adoration that will be shown for the music legacies they leave us all.

The Last Waltz

Been thinking about Levon Helm and The Band these past few days. The best live concert movie is Martin Scorsese‘s film The Last Waltz.

“The late Jim Carroll once said that Levon Helm was the only drummer who could make you cry, and he was absolutely right,” the Oscar-winning director said in a statement to E! News. “Levon’s touch was so delicate, so deft, that he gave you more than just a beat—he gave the music a pulse. And his high, ringing voice was just as soulful. His bandmate Robbie Robertson wrote “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” for Levon to sing, and I’ll never forget how moving it was to watch him sing it during their final performance at Winterland, which is one of the high points of the movie we made from that wonderful show…I consider myself fortunate to have worked with Levon, and I am one among many, many people who will miss him.”

 

 

Levon Helm Drums On Above Us, We Will Miss Him

We mourn the loss of drummer, singer and multi-instrumentalist Levon Helm. He waged a courageous fight against cancer.

I reflect upon when I first heard Levon Helm’s voice with The Band. It was on the vinyl recording, Music From Big PinkI borrowed that record from my wife Rosemary when were first dating in the spring of 1969.  We loved the song, “The Weight“. I wasn’t aware Levon Helm was the lead vocalist at the time. I thought of The Band collectively and that they were recording with Bob Dylan in Woodstock, NY.

In his autobiography This Wheel’s on Fire, Levon Helm explains that the people mentioned in the song were based on real people The Band knew. The “Miss Anna Lee” mentioned in the lyric is Helm’s longtime friend Anna Lee Amsden.[5][6]

Bob Dylan wrote of Levon Helm: “He was my bosom buddy friend to the end, one of the last true great spirits of my or any other generation. This is just so sad to talk about. I still can remember the first day I met him and the last day I saw him. We go back pretty far and had been through some trials together. I’m going to miss him, as I’m sure a whole lot of others will too.”

Rosemary and I saw Levon Helm perform live in concert twice. The first time he was part of the all-star orchestra ensemble for the 100 year Salute to the Blues at Radio City Music Hall. The concert was filmed for DVD and titled, Lightning In A Bottle. 

The last time we saw Levon Helm play was at the Gathering of the Vibes in Bridgeport, Ct in 2009. He appeared with the Levon Helm Band. He was advised by his doctor not to sing that night so Bob Weir and others stepped up to that task for him.

Last night at The Lumineers concert in Fairfield at Stage One, we all sang in loving memory, “The Weight” as the last song of the night. It was fitting and just to send our voices up into the sky as the last song of the night. We became his voice adding to his legacy, as we celebrated this great musician who showed us so much  heart.

Cover of "Music From Big Pink"
Cover of Music From Big Pink

Hot Tuna Sets the Course Steady As She Goes

I love how Hot Tuna keeps on trucking. They released last month, Steady As She Goes, their first studio recording in over 20 years.  It is a stellar recording which captures and expands the Electric Hot Tuna sound I’ve come to relish and witness all these years 🙂

I’ve been playing Steady As She Goes through the DELL PC and the Bose Sound Dock . Microsoft Zune supplies the Hot Tuna recording as a Windows Media Audio file, 192kbps which is equal to Audio CD output level. I’ve resisted the urge to buy the digital download for the car as I am waiting on the deluxe edition 2-lp vinyl+ release sometime in May? This edition is mastered at half-speed and pressed on 180 gram HQ. I’m always a sucker for “deluxe editions”. This specialty package includes new artwork, which I love to hold and look at, plus a full CD of the album. It also has a temporary tattoo which I think is very cool 😉 Maybe the Fur Peace Ranch Store will sell them separately so I can wear this tattoo to their next concert (hint, hint).

There ain’t a clunker or uneven track on Steady As She Goes, all twelve tracks cook. I think it was an incredibly smart move of Jorma, Jack and company to head up to Woodstock, NY and record at Levon Helm‘s studio. They achieved a warm, engaging sound there. Larry Campbell‘s production ability continues to amaze and impress me. His co-operation with Hot Tuna is very clear throughout the recording. I hear his fiddle and guitar on various tracks.

What can I say about Jorma and Jack, I have dug their interplay ever since JA. I am gaining a strong appreciation for the contributions that Barry Mitterhoff (mandolin and many more instruments…) and Skoota Warner (drums) make as they enhance and extend Hot Tuna’s electric sound.

Hot Tuna

I especially love the vocals by Teresa Williams (she’s married to Larry Campbell) she asserts herself well. Teresa’s voice is a fresh dimension to Hot Tuna’s sound. She has a gutsy blues sound which counter balances Jorma’s vocals with distinction. Electric Hot Tuna growing into a virtual quintet is a cool prospect. I don’t feel compelled to compare Teresa Williams to Grace Slick at all. To my ears they are each unique vocalists, I love how each of them sings and emotes, personally I don’t think its fair to make such a comparison to either of them.

Congratulations to Hot Tuna and Red House Records you have a solid hit on your hands here. Job well done all!