Great night in Asbury Park for the @lod_foundation
My first night at the annual Light of Day Festival ( @lod_foundation ) in the magic, promised land city of Asbury Park. This is a yearly event to fight Parkinson disease. Killer sets by @willie_nile and @marcribler doing his Stones tribute featuring the amazing @saramtlc1 . Thanks again @djrichrusso
My favorite albums of the year. In no particular order. And I had a hard time narrowing it down! Van Morrison and Taylor Swift could have very well been on this list. So could Brittany Howard and Michael Monroe and the Highwoman lot of others. But in the mean time, check out @stevievanzandt brilliant, mystic summer escape party, @jadejacksonband KILLER second album, @insta_priests great post-punk, @thetanyatucker amazing record (produced by @shooterjennings ), @saintmotel LA noir party Ep (3 more coming! ) and @sophieauster 's wonderful new EP. Billie Eilish is the real deal. And Lana's new record is an LA beauty. And, of course, speaking of beauties (and my brand ), Bruce's "Western Stars" is a gorgeous gem. Been a good year. Listen to music. Lots of music.
"You need something in your soul that's gonna keep you strong, and that kinda good never, ever gonna go wrong" @stevievanzandt is the best show on the road. Last night of the tour!
Paintings by Miles Davis In the last 10 years of his life, Miles began studying with the NY painter Jo Gelbard, who lived in his building (and eventually became his girlfriend ). He also called Joni Mitchell to ask if he could come over and watch her paint. Inspired by Kandinsky, Basquiat and Picasso, Davis mainly painted for himself, although he apparently did it almost every day for his last 10 years and left dozens of canvases. "It ain't that serious" he said. But he sold several paintings to fellow musicians like Quincey Jones and Lionel Richie.
10 of 10. Bruce. Of course. My North Star. Most of you know me. I was born in NY and grew up in NJ. When I was a kid Bruce, Prince, Michael Jackson and Madonna were the biggest stars on the planet. And WHERE I grew up Bruce was Santa, the Beatles and Coca-Cola. He could do no wrong. And that's why this album is so interesting. Bruce's career started as the touted "new Dylan" - a kid who could write dizzying songs faster than you could sing em. The first albums were full of party anthems, tales of street gangs, war songs, Romeo and Juliet tales in the inner city and everything in between. Then all bets paid off on him with "Born to Run". 10 years of touring with his astonishing E Street Band grew his fanatic audience. A top 10 hit came finally with "hungry heart", and then 3 years later it all exploded with "Born In The USA". He was a megastar who even Ronald Reagan tried to co-opt. A live album set followed that just confirmed his status as rock's Everyman megastar. He was an institution. And then... Bruce Springsteen fell in love and got married. And the ghosts that had been running from all this time, that propelled him to do 4 hour shows to 80,000 fans, all came home. Faced with real commitments to real humans he found himself helpless. So he did what he did best- he wrote about it. And he began cutting down his own mythology. An American icon of masculinity wrote about his doubts, failures and shortcomings. "God have mercy on the man who doubts what he's sure of" he sings at the end of "Brilliant Disguise", a song about self-deception. The guy who wrote "Born to Run" now found himself looking at the highway and noting "he didn't find nothing but road". In other words- you can't run forever. Anyone who has followed Springsteen's career lately, read his book, and has seen "Springsteen on Broadway" and "Western Stars" knows that Bruce is STILL in the ongoing process of dismantling his persona in order to reveal the human artist and all his faults underneath. That all started here. I heard this at a time in my life when I wanted to stop believing in superheroes. And seeing this superhero take off his OWN costume left an impression that has never left
Since it's Saturday night I'm taking one more detour to give a shoutout to pop music. Pop music is eternal, essential, silly and the most important thing in the world. Here's to the soundtrack of your Saturday nights, dance floors, drinks, good and bad decisions and losing yourself for a night or for 3 minutes. Do a dance. On the floor. In the round.
9. Back to the "official" list. This is the most "rock and roll" rock and roll album of all time. Dark, dirty, sex-and-drug drenched, recorded by a band that was genuinely out of control in a basement in France over a hot summer because they were exiled from their own country. The Beatles were broken up and 60s were over. The Stones were on the run, surrounded by drugs and violence, and obsessed with American music. Keith may have stolen the whole "cosmic American" music thing from Gram Parsons, but he did it better. He just did. And the blues feels lived- in and authentic. For my money this is the only rock band to pull this off (fuck Eric Clapton's Armani blues, thank you very much ). "The sunshine bores the daylights out of me" yelps Mick from inside the maelstrom on "Rocks Off", the opening track. "Chasing shadows moonlight mystery". And this album is all shadows and mystery. Keith's heroin addiction was raging and he may have engaged in knife fights with local drug dealers, but he was never more inspired. This album is relentless, raw, guttural and real. This is an album with a body count. Countless musicians have been chasing the on-the-edge mixture of danger and nirvana that this album evidences and wound up on the wrong side of it. When Gram died in the Joshua Tree motel, this is what he was chasing. Sid Vicious, Bon Scott, Darby Crash, John Belushi, Phil Lynott- on and on. They were all chasing THIS. Keith survived, somehow, when his imitators couldn't. The album reaches his climax with the gorgeous, stately "Let it Loose", which makes the case for Mick Jagger being a great soul singer- if only for 4 minutes. And then the sex-drenched "All Down The Line", which marries the carnal to the spiritual in a way that Prince would devout his entire career to, and rocks like an out of control steam train while reaching some kind of possible, temporary redemption. "Won't you be my little baby- for a while" The last 3 songs are the hangover (a great cover of Robert Johnson's "Stop Breaking Down" ) and then Sunday morning church ("Shine A Light" and "soul survivor" ). And it's over. And you're still standing. Somehow. So are Mick and Keith.
I mean...10?!? I'm supposed to narrow my life down to 10 albums?!? Please. Music is like oxygen to me. That's like asking me what your favorite 10 heartbeats have been. Along with devouring the blues, I also devoured soul music. Devoured. Ray Charles took the church into the studio and used the methods of gospel to sing about love and heartbreak and sex. He's such a giant that his influence is incalculable. If you've ever listened to a song that makes sex sound like god, you're listening to one of Ray's babies. Everyone- EVERYONE owes Ray a debt of gratitude. Half of us wouldn't be here if it weren't for Ray. Sam took Ray's template and smoothed it out. Sam was kind of like the Sinatra of soul. Talent beyond anyone's wildest dreams, good looks, and unlike Frank he WROTE those songs. And, man, he was just getting started. Wilson Pickett was your primal urges set to wax. The midnight mover, Mister Midnight Hour, Mr. 99 1/2 Wont Do, Wilson could rip your heart out and have you covered with sweat on the dance floor. Sam and Dave were the Memphis streets and church all in one package. Sam is still out there. Go see him! He's amazing! Otis is forever and ever my favorite. Al Green is one of the best live performers you'll ever see. The Rev Al has a secret that we all want in on. And my beloved Southside Johnny is the jersey boy who idolized the rest and had the grit and the guts (and the voice ). to find his way into that pantheon. Southside was my entry point into this amazing world. He deserves to be mentioned with the greats.
Thinking about 10 albums I wished I posed this week. Like I said, I could have posted 10 blues albums. Easily. So I will. I've been obsessed with the blues since I was in high school. I convinced my dad to take me to see John Lee Hooker in 1990. Willie Dixon and Bonnie Raitt played with him. I still can't believe I saw that show. I'm starting with Robert Johnson, cause everything started with Robert Johnson. The legend. Robert Johnson spent his short life outrunning the devil he supposedly sold his soul to, and the hellhounds that his own id unleashed. It's all there. Muddy electrified the blues. Muddy ruled Chicago. When you think of the stereotypical "blues man" you're thinking of Muddy. The Stones took their name from one of his songs. John Lee Hooker was the king of boogie. John Lee was the guy you wanted playing your rent party. Sly, funky and cool. I got into him when he was in his 70s and was enjoying a victory lap with people like Bonnie and Carlos Santana playing on his records. His duet with Bonnie on "In the Mood" from "The Healer" will peel the paint off your wall. Bonnie, by the way, is the only white artist- male or female- who could hang with these boys. Little Walter was the most charismatic showman in Chicago. His primary instrument was his harmonica, not the guitar like the others. He started in Muddy's band but Muddy couldn't contain Walter. Nobody could. And Willie Dixon was the architect of the whole Chicago blues sound. Willie wrote just about every great blues song you know. He put those bands together. He put those records together at Chess. Willie was a genius. Speaking of genius- as John Lee said, "the blues had a baby and they called it rock and roll". Chuck Berry was at Chess records with Muddy, Willie, Howlin' wolf and the rest. But Chuck wanted to do more than sing the blues. He wanted to make the world dance. Chuck and Little Richard and Bo Diddley invented rock and roll. Period. End of sentence. And while Bo had the beat and Richard had the rhythm and the howl, Chuck was rock and roll's poet. Chuck invented an entire new lifestyle in his lyrics. Chuck should be on Mount Rushmore. All of these dudes should.
8. Ok, let's be honest. This spot belonged to Bob Dylan. But everyone knows Bob Dylan so I wanted to shine a light on this one. It was Arlo Guthrie who opened the door at 3520 Mermaid Ave when a 20 year old Bob Dylan came looking for his hero- Arlo's dad, Woody. And Pete had been in a folk group with Woody in the 40's called The Almanac Singers. Woody, of course, is The Godfather of American folk music. Radically, righteously leftest (his guitar had the famous inscription "this machine kills fascists" ) and always, always there to sing out for the under-represented: the working man and women, minorities, immigrants. Woody would still be progressive NOW. And Pete? Pete was right there with him. Pete was famously blacklisted in the red scare 50s when he told Joe McCarthy that it was none of his damn business who Pete associated with. And Pete sang for EVERYONE. If Woody was Jesus, Pete was Peter. He spread the gospel. Pete sang all over the world for everyone. And he brought songs home for Americans to learn. Cause that's what folk singers do- they trade songs. The author isn't important. The song is. This is the record that tipped me off on the endless library of American folk songs. The year before I had gotten a record called "Folkways-a vision shared" in which various artists performed the songs of Woody and Leadbelly, the amazing folk/blues singer. That album lead me to everything from the Clash to Public Enemy- righteous bands with righteous causes. But it also lead me back to Arlo and Pete- the keepers of Woody's flame. Arlo is one of America's best storytellers. (See: "Alice's Restaurant" ) and of course a singular artist in the American tradition in his own right. Pete was America's jukebox. He represented everyone. Always one with the people. Barack Obama asked Pete and Bruce Springsteen to perform Woody's "This Land is Your Land" at his inauguration. America is for everyone. That's the dream. I believe in the dream of America, not the illusion.
7 *Edit- I hate that these albums are supposed to be posted "without comment". The whole idea is to talk about music! So I'm breaking the rules and commenting. And I'm gonna go back to comment on the other albums I posted as well. I chose "Emancipation" because this is the album that turned me from a Prince fan to a fanatic. (I have a Prince symbol on my car and I wear a symbol pin all the time ). I knew and loved "Purple Rain" and all of those amazing singles, like everyone else on earth. But by the mid-90's Prince's stock had fallen. This was his "symbol" period. He was seen as hopelessly out of date. In the 80s Prince was a worldwide superstar. Miles Davis (!!! ) called him a genius. Now he was kinda seen as an eccentric has-been. This is Prince's first first album after being released from his Warner Bros contract that had him writing "slave" on his face. This album was Produced entirely from his NPG label. For a while you had to CALL his hotline (1-800-New Funk ) to buy this album, before he secured distribution. But Prince was FIRMLY in control of his career for the first time. Needless to say, he sounds inspired. I first heard some of the songs on this album on "Oprah". (Oprah: what do I call you? Prince: I hope you call me 'friend' ). His performance was electric and totally killer. I used to have it on VHS. I'd kill to have that back now. This TRIPLE album opens with 5 killer songs in a row. There are more great songs on this album alone than most artists come up with in their entire careers. Not to mention great covers of "I Can't Make You Love Me" and "One Of Us", amongst others. But to me this album is best represented by "The Holy River" -an amazing track in which Prince sounds completely reborn. Look it up. It wasn't his biggest hit. Not by a long run. It's not even his best. But this is a great album and it made me do a deep dive into one of the most astoundingly gifted artists of all time. This is the moment I forever entered Prince's world. What a ride.
6. Fire and Brimstone. Fall and redemption. Hellhounds on the trail. I was OBSESSED with this album- Cash's first for Rick Rubin. This album lead me down the path of real country music- Willie, Waylon, Hank, Dolly, Merle, Loretta. Traditional American music is full of murder ballads, songs to God, songs about broken men and women who are backed into a corner. Highways that run nowhere. Cheating lovers. This album opened up that whole universe to me. I spent the next few years diving down holes that this opened up. But man, nothing has ever eclipsed this one for me. This is the Old Testament. This is sin and salvation. A masterpiece.
Day 5. Otis, man. Otis. What can you even say? To me, Otis is the best pure singer I've ever heard. Definitely the best male soul singer. I'd heard Motown all my life. Of course. I'm obsessed with Motown. Marvin, Smokey, Stevie, Diana- I think Motown is up there with NASA and the moon landing as the pinnacles of American achievement in the 20th Century. But -BUT there was something about Stax that hit me like Motown never could. Stax artists were a gut punch. They sang through blood and whisky. Those thick, hot Memphis nights. Soul music was where my heart was. And is. Sam Cooke started it all for me. Sam was everything. But Sam was perfect. He floated above it all. Handsome, smooth. Perfectly crafted songs. Sam could do anything. The ones who I related to were the ones who made you feel their heartbreak and their release- Wilson Pickett, Johnny Taylor, Sam and Dave (all hail Sam and Dave!! ). But Otis was my favorite. Always. Still is. The best voice I've ever heard. Gone at 26. Forever on the Dock of the Bay. Thanks for a lifetime, Otis. Thanks
Day 4. An undisputed masterpiece. After 6 or so albums with Columbia, who never QUITE know what to do with her, Aretha made her Atlantic debut for Ahmet Ertegun and Jerry Wexler and was finally unleashed. Her cover of Otis' "Respect", of course, moved mountains. But that only begins to show Aretha starting to flex her talents in every way. Her singling is universally celebrated. Of course. Duh. But her songwriting is also 2nd to none. Listen to "Baby, Baby, Baby" and TRY to ask for ask for more from a pop song. You can't. Her covers of Ray Charles "Drown in My Own Tears" and Sam Cooke's "A Change is Gonna Come" And "Good Times" are on par with anything ever recorded. This is a landmark in every way. I love this album. Obviously.
Day 3 I mean, you only get 10 slots, right? I could have EASILY filled up 10 slots- 20 slots with Wolf, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry, Little Walter, Robert Johnson and all the other blues greats. The Stones lead me back to the blues. There's not a single interview with Keith Richards that has ever been published in which he doesn't mention Muddy and Chuck. I was obsessed with the blues in high school. Other kids in my school had Pamela Anderson in their lockers, I had Robert Johnson. I was obsessed with old record shops, libraries, mail order records. Anything I could get my hands on. If Robert Johnson really did sell his soul to the devil on that Mississippi crossroads that night, the devil ultimately lost. Cause Robert Johnson gave birth to a tradition of the most amazing, and ultimately life-affirming music this country has ever known. The blues is truth. And truth is beauty and beauty is hope. Born out of slavery, Jim Crowe and the worst sins of our history, the blues is this country at its best. The authority, masterfulness and inventiveness of these masters can not be understood and will never be matched. Robert Johnson May have been the first master. Muddy may be the one who first electrified the blues, but Wolf has always been my fave. And this is my favorite album of his. He sounds like no one else on earth.
10 albums. 10 days. Day 2 Bonnie Raitt- a true blueswoman, lead me back to Etta. This was her debut!! Can you imagine?!? How can you pack that much wisdom and experience into your DEBUT! Don't ask. Cause Etta did not have a happy life. But man. What a way to channel that pain. Etta was at Chess Records like Muddy and Wolf and Chuck. But she was different. And not just cause she was a woman. Her sensibilities included jazz as well as blues. And Etta lead me to Ella. And Count Basie. And made me dig into Louie beyond "What a Wonderful World". Etta sent me on a trip I'm still on.