Turntable Thursdays 10/12/2017

I have spent the past few days listening to Chicago’s first album “Chicago Transit Authority.”

What a phenomenal record.

Chicago Transit Authority

Originally released in April of 1969 by Columbia Records, Chicago’s opening 12-cut sonic euphoria erupts in your ear, blowing your mind, and making memories from the first note to the last chord. The band’s self-described “rock-n-roll with horns” sound grabs the listener’s attention immediately. From the time the needle hits the vinyl (or when your mp3 player starts), you realize your ears are in for a new experience. Fusing brass and jazz with soulful rock and roll, Chicago Transit Authority (later Chicago) explodes on the music scene.

Almost 50 years later, Chicago is still one of rock’s most underrated, underappreciated, and underestimated bands. That may be due to the marked change in the band’s sound in the early 1980s. You only have to plug-in your earphones and crank up the volume to quickly uncover the band’s superb musicianship, dynamic songwriting, and ability to stretch its sound.

On their debut LP, the late Terry Kath unleashes some of the finest guitar work ever on record. Kath’s guitar licks were so strong that reportedly the late guitar icon Jimi Hendrix became a huge fan of Kath.

Originally called Chicago Transit Authority, the group had to change the band’s moniker to Chicago after the actual Chicago Transit Authority objected to the use of its name.

Their first record features the band’s most iconic lineup:

Terry Kath – electric and acoustic guitars, lead and backing vocals

Robert Lamm – grand piano, Wurlitzer electric piano, lead and backing vocals, Hammond organ, Hohner Pianet, maracas

Peter Cetera – bass, lead and backing vocals

Walter Parazaider – saxophones, backing vocals, tambourine

Lee Loughnane – trumpet, backing vocals, claves

James Pankow – trombone, cowbell, brass arrangements

Danny Seraphine – drums, percussion

Amid the soulful rock numbers, you’ll find a couple of experimental jams that highlight the band’s musicianship. The group pays tribute to the Beatles on ‘South California Purples’, quoting the opening lines of the Fab Four’s classic ‘I Am the Walrus’ (“I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together.”) The band also pays homage to the Spencer Davis Group, with their rendition of ‘I’m A Man’.

Keyboardist Robert Lamm is credited with writing six of songs on the band’s inaugural project and is listed as a co-writer on an additional track. However, in recent interviews, Lamm says that many of the songs were only a framework in the making and weren’t really complete until the band played them, with each musician adding their personal touch on each cut. In the studio, the band would take each individual songwriter’s rough cut and transform into a gem. Perhaps that’s what makes this such a great record.

Track Listings:

Introduction (6:49); Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?(4:34); Beginnings (6:09);

Question 67 And 68 (4:46); Listen (3:24); Poem 58 (8:37); Free Form Guitar (6:49);

South California Purples (6:39); I’m a Man (6:56); Prologue, August 29, 1968 (0:57);

Someday (August 29, 1968) (4:13); Liberation (15:57)

Classic album. Do I what I did and rediscover it. It will be time well spent.

Speaking of Steve Winwood…

Steve Winwood GH Live cover

In a previous post, I mentioned that the legendary musician released a new Greatest Hits Live album at the beginning of September.

The 2 disc Live set features cuts from Winwood’s time with Traffic, Blind Faith, and the Spencer Davis Group in addition to Winwood’s considerable solo catalogue.

Track Listing:

CD 1:

I’m A Man; Them Changes; Fly; Can’t Find My Way Home; Had To Cry Today; Low Spark of High Heeled Boys; Empty Pages; Back In The High Life Again; Higher Love; Dear Mr. Fantasy; Gimme Some Lovin’.

CD 2:

Rainmaker; Pearly Queen; Glad; Why Can’t We Live Together; 40,000 Headmen; Walking In The Wind; Medicated Goo; John Barleycorn; While You See A Chance; Arc Of A Diver; Freedom Overspill; Roll With It.

Winwood is joined on the record by guitarist Jose Neto, drummer Richard Bailey, multi-instrumentalist Paul Booth, and percussionist Edson Silver. Together, Winwood’s ensemble provides fresh portraits of the singer/songwriter’s finest works, flush with imaginative improvisation, and a global, rhythmic pulse. As I mentioned in my previous post, this maybe one of the finest Greatest Hits/Live records I’ve heard. Ever. A big part of that is that Winwood sticks to the recipe but mixes up the ingredients, dishing out top-grade fare with a new flavor.

That’s a glimpse of what’s been playing on my favorite media player…what’s on yours?

Turntable Thursdays 10/5/2017

Memories of Tom Petty

Before we check out Matt Redman’s new record ‘Glory Song’, I’d be remiss to start off this edition of Turntable Thursdays without stopping to pay tribute to Tom Petty. Petty was a consummate live performer and incredible songwriter who added a slew of rock classics to the Great American Songbook. If you ever saw them perform live, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers blew you away. Each of them phenomenal musicians in their own right, together the Heartbreakers etched out a unique sound that rocked our ears, touched our hearts, and stirred our souls. In a couple of interviews I watched the past few days, the band’s keyboardist, Benmont Tench, emphasizes the importance of listening to one another and giving each other space to play in, knowing when to play and when not, and taking care not to tread over one another. Tench stressed that these were key to playing in an ensemble. And Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers were as fine an ensemble as any to ever grace a stage.

My earliest memories of Tom Petty go back to the late 1970s (no, there were no dinosaurs still alive then). I remember hearing ‘Refugee’, ‘Breakdown,’ and ‘American Girl’ around the time I was in 9th grade (1979). I had started playing piano a couple years earlier, around 1976.  The prominence of the keyboards in the Heartbreaker’s music naturally caught my ear.

A young, awkward punk kid with fanciful rock-n-roll dreams, I befriended another kid named Charles Van Devender who played a little guitar and who everybody called Van. Van was also a Petty fan and had already collected every one of the albums the band had released at the time. Van and I started jamming together on occasion, with him on guitar and me on piano and a Casio keyboaturntable-2501762_1920 borg editrd that Van had bought at Radio Shack.

In 10th grade, another friend of Van’s, Robert Bulloch, joined us for our jam sessions. We were just kids playing music. A few months down the road, we joined up with a couple of other dudes, who played bass and drums (Roy Hufstedler and Jon Beck) and before we knew it we had formed a little trailer band (we often rehearsed in trailer instead of a garage). We did covers of the Beatles and the Stones, the Eagles, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Rush, Chicago, and Styx, along with some Zeppelin and Kiss. Heck, we even learned a couple of Cars tunes. And of course, we worked in Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. By the time we’d formed our band, ‘Hard Promises’ had been released and we quickly added ‘The Waiting’ to our repertoire.  I remember the video for ‘Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around’ first coming out (1981) with Stevie Nicks joined by Petty and the Heartbreakers. Brimming over with testosterone, we instantly saw Tom Petty as our hero. Stevie Nicks had it going on and there was Petty crooning next to her. Honestly, I’m not sure we knew how good we had it back then, even though times weren’t easy.

Fast forward to the future…the sudden passing of Tom Petty Monday night has left the fans who loved him in shock, particularly on top of the tragedy that occurred earlier in Las Vegas. After weeks of seeing all the devastation wrought by a series of powerful hurricanes unfold, saying goodbye to one of America’s greatest songwriters felt like a kick below the belt.  To me, Tom Petty’s songs always provided a comforting reminder that let you know everything was gonna be alright, even though the world around us might seem like it was falling apart. Even though he has left this Earth, Petty’s music will live on, and I’m sure I’ll be joining you jamming out to his music while I’m truckin’ down the road.

R.I.P. Tom Petty. I pray you’re having a blast learning to fly somewhere where you are eternally free.

‘Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around’ Stevie Nicks & Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

matt-redman glory song

Glory Song/Matt Redman

Matt Redman’s ‘Glory Song’ is an incredible praise record filled with great songs that believers can celebrate and praise to. In the midst of what feels like an painfully difficult season in our World, Redman’s new project is a welcome reprise from the devastating anguish surrounding us. His latest release is an angelic sound to my ears and a big lift up to this worshipper’s heart. The record features a number of guest vocalists (Kierra Sheard, Tasha Cobbs, Madison Cunningham, Kim-Walker Smith)  and even a rapper (Guvna B).

‘Greatest Hallelujah (Acoustic)’ Matt Redman

Glory Song Track List

1 All Glory (feat. Kierra Sheard) 5:07
2 Gospel Song (feat. Guvna B) 4:32
3 Greatest Hallelujah 7:14
4 Gracefully Broken (feat. Tasha Cobbs Leonard) 5:50
5 One Day (When We All Get to Heaven) 5:42
6 Redemption Ground (feat. Madison Cunningham) 4:46
7 It Is Finished 4:07
8 Questions (You Are Faithful) 6:30
9 Still I Will Sing 4:13
10 Place of Praise (feat. Kim Walker-Smith) 5:08
11 Hope Is Marching On 4:16
12 Simple Pursuit / Glory Song 7:43
13 Your Ways 5:27

From the first track, which opens with  a very, spiritual, Gaither-esque feel, to the final song, Redman has put together a solid album that pays tribute to our Lord and Creator, proclaims the hope believers have in our Savior,  and offers praises reminding us how through His Spirit, God is working all around us. My early favorites include ‘All Glory’, ‘Gospel Song’, ‘Greatest Hallelujah’, ‘Gracefully Broken’, ‘One Day’, and ‘Redemption Song’. Go ahead and give it a listen on Spotify or iTunes or whatever listening method you use. You’ll be uplifted and blessed. It may be Redman’s finest record.

Until next time…keep the music playing.

turntable-1337986_1920 ingrid edit

Photos courtesy of Pixabay.com