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Staff Picks Category: Classic rock

Let’s Spend the Night Together by Hal Ashby []



I remember watching the Rolling Stones in Let’s Spend the Night Together a few times on television when I was in high school.  I know this sounds unbelievable, but VH1 used to show concert films and was actually a music station back in the day.  Maybe I couldn’t get behind the 1981 renditions of the classic 60’s tunes at the time or was distracted by Mick Jagger’s football tights … truth is, I didn’t really dig the concert film when I first watched it.
Fast forward to last night.  I popped in this dvd for nostalgia sake and wound up really enjoying myself.  The performances are unbelievable!  In addition, I made the statement to my friend who was sitting next to me on the sofa that “this just might be the best Stones concert film ever.”
The boys barrel through 24 songs in under 90 minutes with the right blend of machismo and camp that we expect from the band.  Despite playing a huge stadium, they’re very, very loose with unexpected bendy guitar riffs distributed throughout by Ron and Keith , jazzy drum fills care of Mr. Watts and Mick’s wild singing.  If you look close enough, you may even see a smile on Bill Wyman’s face, too.  Some of the older songs appear to be unrehearsed to a certain extent while more recent cuts from Tattoo You, Emotional Rescue and Some Girls are played tight like a classic rhythm and blues review.  We’re also treated to a bonus keyboard section featuring Ian McLagan (of the Small Faces & Faces fame) sitting behind the organ and classic stones session man Ian Stewart on piano.
It’s also important to note that a serious filmmaker was on staff for Let’s Spend the Night Together.  Hal Ashby, whose credits include Harold & Maude, The Last Detail, Being There and many other fantastic titles, directed the film.  It’s always interesting to see the difference between a standard concert film and one that was overseen by a true artist.  Martin Scorsese’s work on the Last Waltz and D.A. Pennebaker’s Montery Pop are other excellent examples.  They tend to spend more time with the performers and not make pointless quick cuts.  There is something to be said in what these filmmakers find interesting and insist the audience see on stage.
The real lesson learned however is that it doesn’t hurt to revisit films you may not have enjoyed at one stage in your life.  You never know in what direction your taste may take you.

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Plastic Ono Band by John Lennon []



The Plastic Ono Band LP is commonly referred to as the “Primal Scream” album as John and Yoko were going through Arthur Janov’s Primal Scream therapy during the album’s creation in 1970. While Lennon’s lyrics had been hinting at the pain of his childhood since “Help” and “I’m a loser”, on Plastic Ono Band he becomes overtly confessional and addresses directly the disillusionment and isolation of fame and the overwhelming pain of his youth. The cryptic and surreal wordplay that characterized many of John’s contributions to the Beatles albums of the late 60’s is abandoned here and the results are split equally between straightforward quiet love songs (“Hold on”, “Love” and “Look at Me” which more closely resemble his fingerpicked contributions from 1968 such as “Julia” and “Dear Prudence”), filthy distorted rockers (“I Found out” and “Well, Well, Well” which share the heavy tube distortion sounds of “Revolution” and “Cold Turkey”) and epic declarations of loss and rebirth (“Mother” and “God”, both of which feature ‘simple’ piano/bass/drums arrangements). Released in October 1970, in the wake of Altamont, Manson and Kent State, “Plastic Ono Band” addresses the disillusionment of the end of the sixties, the break-up and dispelling of the Beatles myth and the tragedies of John’s childhood. Opening with the intense primal therapy of “Mother” (in which John finally overtly addresses his feelings of abandonment as a child and his mother’s sudden death just as they were reconciling) and closing with the myth-busting “God”, the album is easily Lennon’s most cohesive solo work. Lennon famously hated the sound of his own voice unadorned, and was constantly imploring producers to swathe it in reverb or other effects, and his most famous Beatles contributions were often dense, sonically experimental psychedelic studio creations. On Plastic Ono Band, stripped of daft wordplay and overproduction (Phil Spector, who produced half the sessions, is most notable here for his uncharacteristic restraint), with exceptional accompaniment by Ringo Starr, Billy Preston and Klaus Voorman, Lennon produces his most complete raw and honest solo work.

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Electric Ladyland by The Jimi Hendrix Experience []



You find yourself alone, lying in a field of flowers. You’ve just been awoken by the distant pounding of what sounds like a tympani. Looking ahead, your feet seem miles away and a group of bunnies are gnawing on your blue jeans. Jimi once rapped, “Ho hum. I’m as good as bunnies- and you know how good bunnies are.” Just shake ‘em off, brother or sister; they’re just hungry after a long, hot summer night. The drum fades and nature, and in fact everything you hear as well, is moving backward. Fear not, you’re in Electric Ladyland, friend. Have you ever been?

Take out that note from your back pocket. No matter the urge to call the telephone number written on there, trust me, you don’t want to see Little Miss Strange again. Rip it to shreds.

Spend the next fifteen minutes drying yourself off from the still raining, still dreaming sky with the Experience in concert, floating somewhere in the the astral plane. “Voodoo Chile” is the jam. Look left and see a Marshall stack and a white Fender Strat resting comfortably. It’s been tuned and awaiting on you, man. Put the strap on over your shoulder (and make sure you’re going lefty), pick the open A-string (that’s the second heaviest on the axe), let it ring and move on over toward the amplifier. Things will start buzzing and feeding back some brilliant musical colors and waveforms. Mitch and Noel should be launching off that any minute now.

A singular door will appear in the middle of the field somewhere behind you. Open it and look out into outer-space with those Gypsy eyes. Grab the burning midnight lamp, step out and be mindful of the crosstown traffic. Mr. Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower” is your soundtrack… and your guide, baby.

Keep the sounds of Electric Ladyland steady and you’ll find your way.

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