Friday, May 27, 2011

Bad Weather California live at Twist and Shout 5/24 wrap up

Bad Weather California played at Twist and Shout last night to a crowd of 70 folks. There was a family reunion vibe as Denver came together to celebrate the release ofDemos and Live Takes for the Fans. This super exclusive vinyl has artwork hand-made by the band and some covers even have their own blood mixed in. Nothing like giving your blood to the craft... But that kind of sums up what Chris Adolf gives to BWC- his blood, sweat and tears. Though there was a lot of laughter and fun here last night. As Chris put it several times "This is WAY more fun than I thought it would be". That always leaves us with a sense of pride, not only are in-stores an enjoyable experience for the music fans, but for the musicians as well. We sold a great amount of the vinyl, which has a really good sound quality for a demo/ live takes album. The band rocked, the crowd danced and people had a great time!

the images above by Tony White

check out and have a great one!

Monday, May 23, 2011

I'd Love To Turn You On #33 - Scott Walker – Scott 4 (Mercury/Fontana)

There are two seemingly irreconcilable Scott Walkers. The first Scott Walker was an Ohio-born teen idol who seduced every girl in England with his dreamy looks, Sinatra-baritone and epic ballads. The second Scott Walker, the one working in the last twenty-five years, is a fiercely independent artist, skirting the outer edges of avant-garde pop music. These two men have seemingly nothing in common, except that they are in fact the same man. And, in between these two polar opposite points is an album he made in 1969 called Scott 4.
After leaving pinup idols The Walker Brothers in 1967, Scott had attempted to shed his teenybopper Tom Jones-like image and stretch out artistically. On his first three solo albums Scott showed that he was already different from he rest, spinning tales involving undesirable fringe characters set to lush but often discordant arrangements, completely at odds with what was happening in the music world at the time. By 1969 and Scott 4, he had moved so far away from acceptable subject material and the musical mainstream that his audience abandoned him. Ironically, it is this move away from the formulaic that has made Scott's catalogue so richly rewarding, and turned Scott into a figure of contemporary fascination.
If you'd been one of the hundreds of people who had bought this LP in 1969, you would have immediately noticed that this was not the usual record, even for Scott Walker. Beside shots of a serious Scott is an impenetrable Albert Camus quote and a still from Ingmar Bergman's film The Seventh Seal. And then there is a photograph of Joseph Stalin. Upon putting the record on your turntable, you would realize that the starkness, otherness and haunting imagery wasn't on the cover only, but in the grooves as well.
Bergman's 1957 existential classic is retold in the stunning opening cut, “The Seventh Seal.” Flamenco guitar and trumpets start things off in dashing style, as Scott narrates the grim goings-on of various knights, doomed witches and Death himself. Given the personal nature of his material at this point, the knight's lament “My life is a vain pursuit” sounds piercingly autobiographical. Following on, we are treated to a series of relatively stripped back vignettes, each more gorgeous than the last.
“The Old Man's Back Again (Dedicated To The Neo-Stalinist Regime)” is an oddly upbeat saga of Soviet terror magnificently set with a male voice choir and lazy Serge Gainsbourg-esque backing. “Angels of Ashes” is a dreamsong that, unlike his more recent nightmarish work, hints that Scott may have inhabited a world of ecstatic beauty during the twilight hours. Best of all is the profound “Boy Child,” a philosophical number with an utterly unique orchestral backing. It's spine tingling stuff, if you let yourself in. You've never heard anything like “Hero of the War,” an ironic tale of a veteran-turned-vegetable set to a killer Bo Diddley beat and phased strings. In the middle of all that, there are “Duchess” and “The World's Strongest Man,” two of the most achingly beautiful love songs ever written.
Scott 4 is the most dazzling work by one of pop music's most brilliant minds, and one of the genre's few flirtations with true greatness. His vocal styling was a huge influence on David Bowie and Bryan Ferry and his singular artistic quest continues to inspire legions of respected music acts from The Smiths and Nick Cave to Radiohead and Portishead. Listen, and see why. 
- Ben Sumner

Monday, May 16, 2011

I'd Love To Turn You On: At the Movies #13 - The Wages Of Fear (1953, dir. Henri-Georges Clouzot) / Sorcerer (1977, dir. William Friedkin)

Here’s a riddle: how could two films taken from the same novel, with the same basic plot and themes be so very different? The Wages of Fear, made in 1953 by French director Henri-Georges Clouzot and Sorcerer produced in 1977 by American William Friedkin have many things in common in a strict “this happens then that happens” kind of way, but when one starts to analyze the effect the movies have on the viewer they couldn’t be more different. Clouzot’s movie is subtle, lyrical and filled with an understated existentialism, while Sorcerer is brash and loud, full of American gung-hoism and bare-knuckled violence.
Both films follow the same turn of events; four ne’er-do-well criminals end up in some god-forsaken South American backwater hiding from the criminal acts of their recent past and finding themselves stuck in a hellish purgatory far from the lives they know. Events develop and they find their only ticket out of this hell is by volunteering for a suicide mission driving trucks loaded with volatile nitroglycerin over impassable roads to help extinguish a raging oil-well fire. Both films essentially split into two parts, the first setting the scene and introducing the characters and the second following them on their harrowing truck trip through the primitive landscape of an indeterminate South American country. That is pretty much the end of the similarities.
The Wages Of Fear is a reserved morality play. The first half doesn’t bother much with how our criminals got where they are, but goes to fairly great lengths to show why main protagonist, Yves Montand, would want to leave. It is a stiflingly boring tropical desert with little hope of the happiness and romance that he feels are his due. When the truck journey starts the movie moves with alarming rapidity, sucking the viewer into the terror these guys face as they attempt the seemingly impossible. There are underlying themes of racial inequality and an overt hatred for the American oil company that caused the nightmarish fire they are trying to put out. In fact much of the thematic continuity of the movie is advanced by the growing realization that the oil company is the real bad guy here and that the men are just bit players in an environmental and cultural disaster far bigger than their petty lives. There are many memorable scenes in their journey, but none more than the steaming pit of oil one of the men sinks into and then rises out of like some perverse, black phoenix from the underworld. The ending also provides one of the great existential shocks in film. Utilizing some quick editing, a beautiful piece of music and the virtue of surprise, the movie ends suddenly, leaving us with our emotional jaws on the floor.
The passage of twenty-four years opened all kinds of doors for Exorcist director William Friedkin. The first thing apparent in Sorcerer is that technology has advanced the art of moviemaking dramatically since The Wages Of Fear used mood and innuendo to make an emotional impact. Sorcerer moves with the breakneck speed of a news camera using the first half hour of the movie to draw four sketches of crime that introduce us to our four truck drivers. The action is fast and violent and the result is that this movie is far more entertaining and less introspective than its predecessor. Friedkin is a skilled director, moving the action along quickly, getting us to the South American purgatory, which is depicted with far more gritty zeal than in Clouzot’s movie. Filled with every manner of human sewage, from Nazi war criminals to sick, addicted lowlifes who have crawled out from under rocks in every corner of this ugly earth. Escape from this place seems to be more motivated by fear than the boredom that motivates the men in The Wages Of Fear. The main protagonist in this film is a low level American hood played with the perfect mix of fear and bravado by Roy Scheider. Scheider’s angular features and haunted look are perfect for this role. He sets off on his journey with three other criminals and the movie really leaves reality behind. Thanks in part to an evocative and spooky soundtrack by German electronic pioneers Tangerine Dream, but mainly due to the tight editing and non-stop action, the trip to the oil fire becomes a true journey into the levels of Dante’s Inferno. Thanks again to the improved technology and advanced special effects available to Friedkin, the movie is a physically draining experience. The scenes involving getting the trucks across a decaying rope bridge in the middle of a howling rainstorm are among the most nerve-wracking I have ever experienced.
The differences between these two movies are what make them such an interesting study in cinematic methodology. Both directors take the same source material and lead the viewer on very different journeys landing us to completely different places. In The Wages Of Fear we are gently but firmly led to an understanding that fate has a script for us and that nobody escapes a bet with the devil. There are bad and worse players in the earthly drama and none is perhaps worse than the American oil company that would place the lives of the innocent above the need for profit. Interestingly, the oil company is far more benign in the American made movie. It is portrayed as a benign, even virtuous force that represents competence and profitability in the midst of third-world chaos. Friedkin doesn’t leave us pondering the existential: instead he leaves us wanting a shower after two plus hours of the most nerve-jarring action imaginable. At the end of Sorcerer there is the numb realization that all is meaningless and people are scum, and there is no getting out of this world alive. I guess that is the conclusion that both of these masterful films leave us with - one does it subtly and with restraint while the other is a non-stop thrill ride. They are both engrossing and thought provoking.
- Paul Epstein

Monday, May 9, 2011

I'd Love To Turn You On #32 - Outkast – Aquemini (LaFace)

Outkast's third major album, Aquemini, in the opinion of this Twister, is one of the best hip-hop albums ever made.
This album is filled with fun, distinctly late 90's Southern Rap, but peppered with amazing beat experimentation and lyrical expression that has become the trademark of Outkast. The duo – consisting of Andre 3000 and Big Boi – conveys their distinctly Southern upbringing in the Atlanta area by creating a collection of interspersed conversations and vivid lyrics that illustrate their community. In the bittersweet “Da Art Of Storytellin', Parts 1 & 2” they use the rhythmic style of rapping indicative of Southern Rap at the time to express the story of women they grew up with and how one particular woman's tragic end solidifies their resolve to go on living. The mix of amazing beats, chorus and the stories paint such a good picture that it's hard not to empathize while listening to Aquemini, song to song.

Outkast made a promise in the title track of this album, “Even the sun goes down, heroes eventually die, horoscopes often lie, and sometimes why nothing is for sure, nothing is for certain, and nothing lasts forever, but until they close the curtain, it's him and I, Aquemini.” It was a promise they eventually couldn't keep, but it's a broken promise that has lent itself to the premise of this album.
Their particular blend of blues, horns, and sighing guitar riffs paired with anthemic lyrics in tracks like “SpottieOttieDopaliscious” and “Rosa Parks” threw this album to double platinum status and Andre and Big Boi into the spotlight with it.  Since then, they've had three more successful albums (including a double album comprised of their solo projects) and even a full-length musical movie that revolved around music from that album.
Ultimately, this album epitomizes a time in late 90's hip-hop that is untouchable to most hip-hop artists today.  More importantly it is a descriptive, musical history of the best hip-hop duo the world has seen yet.  Aquemini is one of those albums that an artist makes that signifies the artist at their peak.  Sure, there may be some amazing tracks and successes before and after, but there is always one album that is 100% indicative of that artist; Aquemini is that album for Outkast.  It's a great introduction to the duo, and an amazing re-listen for any fan that hasn't played this one in a while. 
- Berstler

Friday, May 6, 2011

Steve Earle - Twist and Shout May 5, 2011

This was our third in-store with Steve Earle and as soon as he entered the store with trusted road manager and sound engineer he seemed at ease and friendly. He is comfortable talking about normal stuff like baseball, guitars, burritos and TV, but he is equally at home with geo-politics, chaos-theory or union history; he is a thoughtful, intelligent, interesting man. Armed with his never-absent diet Dr. Pepper he took the stage at 7:05 p.m. for a spine-chilling 45 minute set that leaned heavily on his new album I’ll Never Get Out Of This World Alive, but also included songs from all phases of his career like “Jerusalem,” “Copperhead Road” and the unreleased cover of the Hank Williams song that is the title of his new album. As usual he had plenty on his mind. He talked about the death of Osama Bin Laden, the immigration issue, New Orleans - you name it, he had an opinion and he wasn’t ashamed to share it. That ultimately is Steve Earle’s greatest strength; he has a conscience and it isn’t compartmentalized from his art. He walks the walk and talks the talk. I for one am glad we have him - there aren’t enough like that anymore. The crowd ate up every second of it, staying after to have him autograph and shake hands, his audience totally gets what is great about this guy. We had over 300 people for the event and sold 46 deluxe and 115 regular versions of the new CD. In addition we sold 6 copies of his Record Store Day 7” and 16 copies of his new novel. I can honestly say we love Steve Earle.
- Paul Epstein

Photo by John Hendrickson from

Several Species Of Small Furry Thoughts - New Releases

It occurred to me I haven’t reviewed any recent releases for awhile, so here are a bunch of things that have come out in the last few weeks.
Grateful Dead – Road Trips Vol.4 No.3 - Denver ’73
Finally, a Colorado show! In all the many CDs they have produced, there has never been the release of a full Colorado show. Why does this matter? Obviously, we live here so it would be nice to have a souvenir, but there is the larger point that the Dead had a long and wonderful history in Colorado. They started playing here in the very beginning of their career and continued playing landmark shows until the year before Jerry’s death. 20 shows at Red Rocks, The 15th anniversary shows at Folsom Field, Telluride, McNichols Arena in 1990 (the last great Dead shows many of us saw), and of course these two amazing shows from 1973. 1973 was marked by marathon shows with tons of new songs, and tight, spacey jamming, and these shows from the shitty old Coliseum (when was the last time you saw a show there?) are prime examples of this era of Dead. The release is made up of all of the November 21st show and the tastiest jam from the heart of the November 20th show. There are no highlights, because it is all great! Really, the band is just on fire from the opening “Me and My Uncle” to the final sweet notes of “Uncle John’s Band.” The second set is made up of two gargantuan jams which include three separate visitations to “Playin’ In The Band,” an extremely memorable “Wharf Rat,” “Morning Dew,” and the rarely played “Nobody’s Fault But Mine.” These are concerts that make you understand why The Grateful Dead had such a fanatical following in this state. These epic shows were life-changing for a lot of local fans. If you were there and grasped what you were seeing, it was a glimpse at the golden age of one of the great American rock bands. If you act quickly you can get this release with a very limited bonus disc which includes most of the second set from a very hard to find show; Cleveland, December 6, 1973. This gem includes great versions of “China Cat Sunflower/I Know You Rider,” a 44-minute version of  “Dark Star” that goes to many dark places and “Eyes Of The World.”
Hot Tuna - Steady As She Goes
I didn’t really expect a new Hot Tuna album, and I certainly didn’t expect it to be this enjoyable. Sounding much like they did in the early 80’s they are playing the warm, acoustic style of Tuna music that attracted the large audience they enjoyed in the decades following the Jefferson Airplane. True, they had the reputation for incredibly loud, long, electric concerts, but their albums showed Jorma Kaukonen to be an intelligent, thoughtful songwriter and a fantastic singer. His voice is remarkably unchanged, and the album is filled with the kind of blues/folk material that Jorma started with and still suits his talents better than anything else. Highlights for me are Jorma’s emotional remembrance of his childhood and family relationships called “Things That Might Have Been,” another emotional reflection called “Second Chances,” the funny, rocking “Mourning Interrupted,” a nice remake of the Tuna classic “Easy Now,” and a pair of songs by Jorma’s inspiration The Rev. Gary Davis. While this isn’t the guitar-driven, fire-breathing dragon of those early-70’s live Tuna shows, this is a dignified and well-played set of roots music.
The Feelies - Here Before
From the first note, you have slipped on your favorite t-shirt, licked an ice-cream cone on a summer day, watched a glorious sun set over the Rockies. Really?! Well, I was pretty happy. It’s The Feelies, and they sound just like they always did. With the classic line-up from their second album The Good Earth (1986) intact and playing with the same comforting precision it is really great to have this fantastic band back. It is the same basic formula; two drummers and every other member of the band adding percussion make each track a wonder of rhythmic intensity. Then Glen Mercer and Bill Million start the hypnotic drone of VU-style guitars that can march across the staffs like a military band or erupt into electronic squeals (as on “When You Know”) or roll over you with clouds of stacked up acoustic guitars like on the title track, while never leaving the strict tempo set up by Stanley Demeski and Dave Weckerman. Glen Mercer’s laconic, hipster vocals are as coolly reserved as always and his lyrics still can waver from desperate to joyous with just the slightest inflection. Impossibly, The Feelies still sound completely modern while being true to the psych/folk/drone ethos that originally drove them. There were times in the 80’s when I thought there would never be any more great bands and The Feelies were one of the real high spots of those years. When I listen to a track like “On and On” that drives crazily through a rainstorm of percussion and electric guitar, controlled yet on the verge of chaos, it is a distinctly comforting feeling to know this band is back and doing what it does best.
Derek And The Dominos - Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs - Super Deluxe Version
This highly limited (already deleted) box set contains everything you need to scratch the Layla itch once and for all. One of the most fetish-worthy albums of the “classic-rock” era, I thought I had heard it all with this album. Wrong! This box set truly defines the fan experience. It comes with 4 CDs, 1 DVD, 2 LPs, 1 hardbound book, 2 unused tickets, 1 art print of the cover, 1 guitar face cling with the album artwork and a “Derek Is Eric” button. In addition the box it all comes in is itself a work of art, with the inside of the box top being a three-dimensional die–cut version of the album cover. The really important stuff however is the musical content, and it is awe-inspiring. In addition to a beautifully remastered version of the original album with one bonus track, there is an entire disc of extras; outtakes, early versions, the live TV session with Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins - lots of great stuff that adds context to the time surrounding the album. There is also an expanded version of the Derek and The Dominos Live At The Fillmore album. For some reason I always turned my nose up at this album - thinking the versions weren’t as good as the perfected album takes. I don’t know what I was thinking, because when I listen to it now, it seems to crackle with energy. Clapton’s soloing is funky and energetic and the Dominos prove they weren’t just a backup group for Clapton but actually a real, tight-knit band. Clapton was trying to get the feel of Southern American roots music as filtered through the hippie experience. He was enamored of The Band, Delaney and Bonnie, and The Allman Brothers, and in the Dominos he found a soulful unit that he could join rather than lead. Listening to this live album shows how close he actually came to hitting that elusive note.
For me, the real revelation of the set comes on the DVD-which is a 5.1 version of the original album. Played at full volume, it is incredible to walk around the room and really experience the beautiful mix that the band and legendary Atlantic Records engineer Tom Dowd created. As I said, I thought I knew all there was to know about this album. Not so. The clarity and separation of this surround mix brings out new details I had never heard. Clapton’s exquisite acoustic guitar strumming throughout the album is a huge element to the overall sound. The vocal mix between Clapton and organ player and co-writer of many of the songs Bobby Whitlock is breathtaking. These two guys were meant to sing together. Speaking of meant to be together: there is also Duane Allman. Going from speaker to speaker on the songs they duet on is a near orgasmic experience. It is so easy to give Eric short shrift these days, but this album is a guitar player’s dream. Clapton’s controlled bursts of note clusters and chunky riffing up against Duane’s out-of-control liquid mercury wailing. It’s hard to imagine a more potent combination. From the delicate balladry of “I am Yours” and “Thorn Tree In The Garden” to the raucous blues of  “Key To The Highway” and “Have You Ever Loved A Woman,” from the spectacular rock workouts on Hendrix’s “Little Wing” and “Anyday” to the anthemic performances on “Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad” and of course “Layla” Eric and Duane are a match made in heaven. It is possible to physically move around the mix and hear more Eric or more Duane to fully appreciate how unique each one was, but how smoothly they locked in to each other’s style. There are so many other details to appreciate as well. For instance, the first three songs on the album were recorded before Duane Allman joined the proceedings and they showcase what a powerhouse the Dominoes were even without Allman’s crucial contributions. One of Clapton’s best-ever songs, “Bell Bottom Blues” is a marvelous recording with subtle uses of percussion that add to the exotic feel of this track. “Keep on Growing” is another barn-burner of a track that grew out of a jam and includes an amazing Clapton vocal and a groove that will not leave your head. Throughout the entire album the contributions of Whitlock, drummer Jim Gordon and bassist Carl Radle show a muscular confidence that often borders on brilliance. They were a confident, powerful band able to bring Clapton’s musical desires to life.
I have listened to this surround disc three times already and each time I’ve heard something completely new. It is a statement about not only what an exciting mix this is, but it is a reflection of what an important and lasting statement Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs is in the career of Eric Clapton. It is his most enduring work.

Monday, May 2, 2011

I'd Love to Turn You On - At the Movies #12 - Vanishing Point (1971, dir. Richard C. Sarafian)

Vanishing Point is what Easy Rider would’ve been if Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper had been unknown wannabes with nowhere near the clout necessary to get an unconventional movie made. Watching the two films back to back, you can almost hear the big-shot producer demanding changes to the classic hippy film. Like, the motorcycle thing is cool, but it’d be cooler if it were a hot rod. And why two male leads? Too gay. Make it one guy. Alone. Against the world. And all these pot smoking scenes, with everybody giggling and spouting gibberish about outer space and freedom -- lose that stuff. Make the main character a speed freak. That’ll keep the plot moving. All the road scenes in the West are great, too, but don’t have them hook up with some drunk country lawyer. I don’t care if you can get Nicholson to play him. Make it a naked chick on a bike.
Vanishing Point begins in Denver with a macho, curly-haired 70s dude named Kowalski (Barry Newman) taking a job delivering a white Dodge Challenger to San Francisco. For reasons that are never made clear, Kowalski has to make it to the West Coast in just 15 hours. He buys some speed and pushes the accelerator to the floor. Soon cops are on his tail in cruisers and helicopters, and a black radio DJ who goes by name of Super Soul (Cleavon Little) is calling play-by-play on a coast-to-coast broadcast. It’s fast-paced and wonderfully campy, perfect DVD brain candy, with a hard-driving soundtrack of B-list classic rock by the likes of Mountain, Eve and The Doug Dillard Expedition. But it’s also weirdly and accidentally kind of deep. Like Easy Rider, Vanishing Point offers a probing glimpse of America during a turbulent time, and its theme, such that it is, is in some ways truer than that of its predecessor. For example, it’s hard to ignore Vanishing Point’s racial undertones. Kowalski’s only friend is a black guy in Denver who supplies him with speed before he hits the road, and who he calls periodically from phone booths along the way for moral support. And Super Soul and his big-afro entourage serve as the Greek chorus for this tragedy, cheering on Kowalski in his white chariot, calling him “the last American hero,” wringing their hands as if he’s their only shot at freedom. In other words, it’s an angry white man drawing energy from the oppressed on a doomed quest for liberation, which is a pretty good allegory for the 60s. Along the way he stops at a tent revival in the desert to quickly expose religion as a scam, and then he stops by a commune to enlist the white counter culture on his crusade (and to score more “ups”). He’s Jesus on a 400-horsepower cross, an only begotten son of The Man — an ex-cop and war hero who’s been spurned by the Great Society he once fought to protect, a continuation of Fonda’s Captain America legend: a righteous, doped-out embodiment of the American Dream, a man so free he has to be killed.
- Joe Miller