Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Hooper is Drunk and Useless

This guy had some some time on his hands, but this is really, really funny. The more familiar you are with the film 'Jaws,' the funnier these are, of course. Robert Panico put these together using only audio and visual elements from 'Jaws.' They are recut and re-edited together to create, shall we say, some alternate storylines. I laughed quite a bit, hope you will too. The first one here is what happens when Hooper drinks too much of Quint's apricot brandy. I had to watch it several to times to figure out the ingredients of the chum at the end. Great stuff.

Here are some more that he did. 'Nobody Listens to Quint's Tale' is particularly well done.

Hooper's Boating Massacre:

Nobody Listen's To Quint's Tale:

Hooper as Shart Bait:

Orca Maintenance Mayhem:

Nobody Cares About Quint:

Friday, July 25, 2014

'Jaws' Art

I was recently looking online for memorabilia from my favorite film and the namesake of this blog, 'Jaws'. I came across an art show that occurred last year in L.A. that featured artwork inspired by the film. Below are some of my favorites from that show...

Casey Callender

Erin Gallagher

Dan Mumford


P.J. McQuade

Matthew Woodson

Craig Drake

Friday, July 18, 2014

A Special Dez Record Guides Presentation: The Steve Winwood Musical Odyssey

We recently had some friends over to the house, and had one of those cable music channels playing for the background music. It was the 80’s channel, and Steve Winwood’s “The Finer Things” came on. I commented that Winwood was awesome. My friend looked at me like I was nuts and said “he’s terrible.” I said that Winwood is one of the most talented overall musicians ever to appear on the rock/pop scene. “What?” After exploring my friend’s ignorance further, I discovered that to him, Steve Winwood meant 80’s AOR synth pop.

Another good friend of mine who likes baseball a lot more than I do used to talk of the ‘Nolan Ryan Syndrome,’ referring to someone who does great things, but the expectations are so high that even what would normally be a successful stretch in a career still looks like a disappointment due to impossibly high expectations from things done earlier in the career. If I remember correctly, this referred to after Ryan’s Astros career when he went to the Rangers, where he was good but not the legend people thought he should continue to be. This person reads GNABB fairly regularly, so do I have that right?

Anyway, that is a long way of trying to capture the musical career of Steve Winwood. Amongst musicians who know music, Winwood is hugely admired. One of the most soulful white vocalists of the rock era, he is also a multi-instrumentalist who can play jazz piano or stand toe to toe on guitar with Eric Clapton. He burst onto the scene in the mid-1960’s at the age of 14 as the wunderkind singer/keyboardist for Spencer Davis Group, immediately gaining critical accolades, with his voice often being compared to Ray Charles. Again, that is a scrawny white British teenager being compared to Ray Charles. He soon left to form and lead the more adventurous Traffic, made one record in one of the first true supergroups, Blind Faith, and finally embarked on a fitfully successful solo career. But for a guy many pegged early on as one of the greats, a guy who Jimi Hendrix supposedly wanted to form a group with after the demise of the Experience but was too nervous to ask…as successful as he has been his career in its entirety still seems like wasted potential. As many talents as he has, I think his Achilles Heel is consistent songwriting, which has kept him from becoming the truly great artist that he should be.


But for the talents of Winwood, the Spencer Davis Group would be just one of many merely competent British invasion groups who mainly feasted on R&B covers. I would not recommend any of their studio records, but one of many decent budget compilations is fine. There are really only two essential songs from this group, and they still to this day are a rush of soulful energy. “Gimme Some Lovin’” (wherein the 17 year old Winwood really does stand next to the great soul singers) and “I’m a Man” (not to be confused with the more famous Muddy Waters tune “Mannish Boy.” Different song entirely.)


Wanting to explore more adventurous musical territory, Winwood left the Spencer Davis Group and joined up with likeminded musicians Jim Capaldi (drums), Chris Wood (sax, flute, other woodwinds) and Dave Mason (guitar) to form Traffic. Retreating to a country estate, they holed up and got their sound together. I think that Traffic features Winwood’s finest work, deftly combining folk, psychedelic, jazz, rock and R&B influences for a potent, adventurous blend. There are really two phases of Traffic. One is the tug-of-war between Dave Mason’s more straightforward rock/pop sensibilities vs. the team of Winwood/Capaldi’s jazzier, experimental work. Once Mason left for good (he left and returned three times), Traffic disbanded long enough for Winwood to be a part of the mostly disasterous supergroup Blind Faith. Traffic then reformed sans Mason and it was firmly Winwood’s vision of jazzy jams.

Mr. Fantasy (UK only) (1967) ***
Heaven Is In Your Mind (US only) (1967) ****

As was the common practice at the time, the UK vs. U.S. release of their debut differed in both tracks and running order. The U.S. version is superior, as it includes important singles that in the UK were not included on the record. You only lose some minor Mason tunes from the UK release in exchange for some great folk/psych singles of the era. Many of these songs sound a bit dated (the pastoral, folk/psychedelic vibe is definitely of its time), but it is still quite enjoyable and adventurous. The standout, of course, is “Dear Mr. Fantasy,” one of the greatest songs of the 1960’s. Listeners who mainly associate Steve Winwood with his smooth 80’s synthesizers need to listen to this song to hear an incredible guitarist at work.

ABOVE: Many casual music fans do not realize that Steve Winwood is an excellent guitar player

Traffic (1968) ****
A great and varied listen, primarily due to the Mason vs. Winwood/Capaldi power struggle. Divided about evenly between both styles, it combines for a fantastic record. Winwood’s “(Roamin’ Thru the Gloamin’ With) 40,000 Headmen” is creepy, groovy and mysterious all at once, while “Who Knows What Tomorrow Will Bring” is a funky joy. But the highlight does belong to Mason with his signature tune, “Feelin’ Alright.”

Last Exit (1969) **
Mason left/was booted after the debut record. He returned for the sophomore effort and then was booted again. The band decided to disband after that, but still owed The Man one more record, so this hodgepodge was hastily assembled. The studio side is quite good, featuring three recent Traffic singles and two Dave Mason solo singles that conveniently featured the rest of Traffic backing him. The live side is terrible, though. The recording sounds like a bad bootleg, and the tunes/jams are uninspired.

NOTE: Traffic disbanded and Winwood formed Blind Faith with Eric Clapton. After the brief Blind Faith detour, Traffic reformed.


Blind Faith (1969) ***1/2
After the first phase of Traffic disbanded, Winwood went in search of a new band. He formed one of the first and still most legendary supergroups in rock history. Joining forces with Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker from the recently disbanded Cream and bassist Ric Grech, Blind Faith alas is more about the potential than what they actually did. Given more time and if Clapton had remained interested, this could have been one of the great rock bands. What is great, though, is truly great on their one record. “Had To Cry Today” is a solid heavy rocker with a killer riff and spirited guitar duels between Clapton and Winwood, and “Presence of the Lord” features inspired soloing as well. “Can’t Find My Way Home” is one of my Top 10 favorite songs, a stunning acoustic tune written by Winwood (see, he can write great material if he wants to). Unfortunately, the rest of this record is not that great, and they were clearly filling space by allowing Baker to drum solo over the 15 minute snoozer “Do What You Like.”

TRAFFIC MACH 2: Blind Faith disbanded under the crushing expectations and Clapton went to play with the looser Delaney and Bonnie.

John Barleycorn Must Die (1970) ****
Winwood started work on a solo record in 1970 after Blind Faith imploded and Traffic was a thing of the past. But once he called in Capaldi and Wood to help, it quickly became the rebirth of Traffic. Without competition from Mason, they could fully explore their jazz/rock improvisations, like on the eight minute instrumental opener “Glad.” The title track is an arresting folk tune, while “Empty Pages” features the funkiest keyboard solo of Winwood’s career.

Welcome To the Canteen (live) (1971) ****
Dave Mason returned once again for about a week for a short tour, and this live recording is from those shows. I love this. It is loose, energetic and inspired. There is a rhythmic “40,000 Headmen” that outdoes the studio version, and Mason’s “Sad and Deep As You” and “Shouldn’t Have Taken More Than You Gave” are amongst his finest tunes. But the two extended jams are where it’s at, an incendiary “Dear Mr. Fantasy” and a raucous, almost going off the rails (Winwood and Mason are never quite in sync, symbolic of Mason’s entire Traffic tenure) “Gimme Some Lovin’” closes things out. I used to not really like this record, but in recent months it has hit me hard. Love it.

The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys (1971) *****
Shoot Out at the Fantasy Factory (1973) ***1/2
On the Road (live) (1973) **

Low Spark represents the pinnacle of Traffic’s output. The stunning 11 minute title track is, in my view, the most successful rock/jazz fusion anywhere. “Rainmaker” also features some fantastic, expansive playing. The Capaldi sung rockers “Rock and Roll Stew” and “Light Up Or Leave Me Alone” provide perfect contrast to the otherwise dreamy, midtempo feel of the rest of the record. Shoot Out could really be titled ‘Low Spark, pt. 2,’ as it is a continuation of the same sound. Just not as great a batch of songs. The rocking title track and “(Sometimes I Feel So) Uninspired” are the highlights. On the Road should have been great, a double live album from the Shoot Out tour, but the expanded jams go on too long without ever really catching fire.

ABOVE: Latterday Traffic

When the Eagle Flies (1974) ***
Far From Home (1994) ***
Last Great Traffic Jam (live) (2005) ***
Traffic Gold (compilation) (2005) *****

Winwood closed the book on Traffic in ’74 with a record that both looks back (the extended tune “Dream Gerrard” is fantastic) and looking ahead to his poppier, more concise solo work. In 1994 Winwood reunited with Capaldi for a record that really sounds like a good Winwood solo album. But they called it Traffic (Wood had died, and Mason was not invited). There are several Traffic compilations out there, but Traffic Gold is perfect. Honestly, it is all most fans need, and if I were to compile a two disc Traffic compilation, it would look almost exactly like Gold.


Go (1976) NR
Go Live from Paris (live) (1976) NR

Winwood worked briefly with Japanese composer Stomu Yamashta on the Go project. I probably should hunt these down. I’ve heard a couple of songs that are on Winwood’s box set, and they are interesting.


Steve Winwood (1977) **
Ah, the weight of expectations. Long admired as one of rock’s most talented musicians, expectations were huge for Winwood’s first proper solo record. And it was a huge letdown. Uninspired songwriting, cheesy keyboards and for a man renowned for his bold sonic explorations, it was way too safe, smooth and pop.

Arc of a Diver (1980) *****
One of the great DIY records. Winwood retreated to his home studio and recorded his sophomore effort completely alone, playing every instrument, recording, producing and engineering. While featuring heavy synthesizers that today do sound dated, Winwood’s soulful singing keeps the songs grounded. “While You See a Chance” may be a cheesy self-help tune, but its sweeping melody justifies its status as his first solo hit. The title track, dance track “Night Train” and the soulful “Spanish Dancer” are also highlights. I admire the hell out of him for recording this completely on his own, and as a record created solely by one man, it sounds cohesive and has a solid sound all the way through. Get past some of the dated keyboard sounds and some of the dance/disco grooves of the day, and this still really does hold up.

Talking Back to the Night (1982) **
A similar approach as AOAD, but much less inspired songs. And I do think he does enlist some limited outside help on this. Synth pop tune “Valerie” and the title track are the best songs.

Back in the High Life (1986) ****
If I told you that this record was slick, overly produced, AOR pop music, I doubt you’d get too excited. But when it is done this damn well, this professionally, you’ve got to admire it. This record was huge in the mid-80’s, and for a year or so it propelled Winwood near to the top of the pop/rock mountain. Again, his soulful singing saves many of these songs from being too slick. “Higher Love,” “Freedom Overspill,” “Back In the High Life Again” and “The Finer Things” were all big hits and are all great pop songs of the era. Not to mention that Winwood was sporting a fantastic 80's mullet.

ABOVE: The 80's mullet period

Roll With It (1988) **
Refugees of the Heart (1990) **
Junction Seven (1997) *

The pressure and expectations for following up BITHL were huge, and he choked. Over and over again. RWI tries to recapture the BITHL formula and it sold a lot of copies, but the songs, on the whole, suck. The other two are not even worth discussing.

ABOVE: Steve Winwood and Eric Clapton go way back together. As bandmates in the doomed Blind Faith and as frequent collaborators. Two artists who should have accomplished more than they did, both together and apart.

About Time (2003) ***1/2
Nine Lives (2008) ***
Live From Madison Square Garden (with Eric Clapton) (live) (2009) ****

Winwood has rebounded nicely in the past decade. While not prolific, he has at least regained some respect and artistic integrity. AT is fantastic, where Winwood eschews the synths entirely and jams out on his Hammond B-3. He finally reminds us that he is a great musician again. Winwood unexpectedly joined forces with Blind Faith mate Eric Clapton for a series of very well received shows. Two of our most talented but underachieving artists. This is a great live set, where they dip into Blind Faith, Traffic and solo songs from both artists. (Yeah for dusting off “Forever Man,” one of the most underrated Clapton solo songs. And it is a cool version, with Winwood, the far better singer, taking some of the verses). Winwood, by the way, stands toe to toe with Clapton on the guitar duels.

Chronicles (compilation) (1987) ***
The Finer Things (compilation box set) (1995) ****1/2
Revolutions (compilation box set) (2010) ****
Revolutions (compilation) (2010) ****

No compilation captures all of Winwood’s great moments, but some come close. Chronicles is confounding and should have been the perfect solo compilation, but some of the choices and omissions are real head scratchers. The Finer Things is unfortunately out of print, but it is worth the search. With Winwood’s varied career, it serves the same purpose as Clapton’s Crossroads box set, collecting tunes from every phase of his career, grabbing highlights from Spencer Davis Group, Traffic, Blind Faith, Go and solo, as well as sprinkling in some rarities for the collector. The more recent Revolutions box set takes the place of The Finer Things, and generally does a decent job, even if it does have a couple of crucial omissions. The single disc version of Revolutions is a decent introduction/sampler, picking some tunes from every phase of his career for the neophyte.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Law of the Jungle

I probably forgot to mention that we also have a fish. My four year old daughter got the fish under false pretenses. A little less than a year ago we were in a monumental struggle to get her to go poop on the potty. This is a big step for kids. We resorted to bribery and promised her that we would get her a fish if she did it. She did. We got the fish. A pretty Beta named Mia. Mia has a sexual identity crisis, as Mia is a boy, but my daughter insisted on a pink fish. The male Betas are the pretty ones, and since it is pink, my daughter has decided that it is a girl. After we bought the fish, my daughter promptly refused to use the toilet again for pooping. I told her that we got the fish because she pooped on the potty. Her logic was that that indeed was the agreement, and she did poop on the potty. Once. "I did. So we got Mia." "But you need to keep pooping on the potty." "No." (Fortunately she now does it regularly). So Mia.

For most of the last year, Mia has been swimming obliviously in her little aquarium in the den. Enter Ned, the new kitten. It took Ned about five days to discover Mia's existence on the counter. I took photographs...

I went to the pet store and bought a more secure tank. But Ned figured out how to get the top off. I discovered lots of water all over the floor, but Mia was still swimming. I have put Mia into the witness protection program, and she/he has been relocated to an undisclosed destination for her/his safety (a high shelf in my daughter's bedroom).

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Next Generation

You already read about our new kitten, Ned. Now we have a dog. I've always been more of a cat person, but my wife loves dogs. Since my pre-marriage cat died a couple of years ago and her pre-marriage dog died about a year ago, we decided that this summer it was the time for the Next Generation. Ned has only gotten better. He is a bundle of energy and gets into all of the mischief a healthy kitten should. We had guests over with lots of kids last night, and there were about five kids who were all fascinated by Ned and wanted to play with him and hold him. He was a good sport until they all started to chase him, or mob him really, and he wisely took shelter under a dresser where he was safe from the multitude of little prying hands.

But if I got the cat, then my wife should get her dog. She was obsessed with finding another King Charles Cavalier Spaniel, the breed of the dearly departed Winston. After contacting some breeders (one woman in Houston wanted over $2500 for a King Charles puppy), we were a bit hesitant. (In fact, when my wife e-mailed me the price, I simply responded with "f*ck her." Unfortunately, my wife had sent that e-mail on her work e-mail, so my response got tagged for vulgarity in her company's e-mail system and she got a warning from the higher ups on proper e-mail usage). Since Ned only cost us five dollars (well, we then spent several hundred dollars at the pet store and a couple hundred more at the vet, but the cat himself only cost me five bucks!), I thought it ridiculous to spend two and a half grand on a puppy.


My wife continued searching, and found an ad about a boxer mix who needed a home. Sam has a sad story. This lady found him on the side of the road, emaciated and wounded from a car hit. She took him to the vet, paid for his surgery and recovery, and nursed him back to health. But since her family already had two big dogs, she wanted to find him a home. We took him over the weekend to see how things would work out. Sam is fantastic and we are keeping him.

He is a beautiful boxer/shepherd mix. Incredibly gentle and sweet, especially with my kids. He is a bit timid around me, but is getting more comfortable. As I would like to think it is because I am a very intimidating and imposing figure who casts a shadow over both man and beast, it is probably more to do with some unpleasant experiences with a male owner. But like I said, he is slowly warming to me and becoming more comfortable. He is very happy whenever my wife walks in the door and enjoys the kids.

The cat and dog hit it off. Ned needed a playmate, and has reveled in pestering the dog to no end. He will hide in wait and ambush the dog as he walks by. He grabs the dog's tail. He steals the dog's food. He naps in the dog's kennel. Mind you, Ned is a three month old kitten while Sam is a well built medium sized dog (about two years old is the best guess) who is capable of crushing the cat within seconds. But he doesn't. He will give chase occasionally, but that is it. They seem to already have found a good place in their relationship. They strike a fantastic balance too. Ned is a bundle of energy, while Sam is a mellow dude. Sam will play and run, but he is pretty relaxed most of the time. He doesn't even have food aggression. We will fill his bowl with food, and Ned will dart in and steal some food and the dog just stares patiently at him with what I swear looks like a look of mild exasperation.

So, welcome to the family Sam.

ABOVE: I think Sam and Ned will be good buddies

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Dez Reviews Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young's 'CSNY '74' (1974/2014)

The Doom Tour. Few rock tours are more notorious than CSNY's disasterous 1974 reunion tour. It was one of the first (if not the first) stadium tours. The egos and excess were legendary. They each traveled on their own buses and jets. Neil Young was so detached that the other three only saw him at soundchecks and the shows. The drug use was olympian, with David Crosby and Stephen Stills especially baked out of their minds. Stills was spiraling into paranoid fantasies, telling people that he had served in Vietnam in the late 60's and had performed covert operations for the CIA in Southeast Asia. He was claiming that he did this while he had actually been a star in Buffalo Springfield. Bob Dylan visited the group during the tour, and after he pulled out an acoustic guitar and played Stills the entire Blood on the Tracks record that he was currently working on privately for him in his hotel room, Stills scoffed that Dylan was "no musician." While Paul McCartney visited the group on the road, Stills gave Macca a gift of a Precision bass guitar telling him that he needed to dump his iconic Hofner bass (the one he had used on most of the Beatles recordings) and start playing a "real" instrument. The tour made over $11 million (a massive amount for the 70's), yet they hardly came out on the other end with any profit. They had their roadies empty boxes worth of Marlboro cigarettes of tobacco and replace it with weed. They filled Vitamin C capsules with cocaine and handed them all out like mints. One of them accidently spilled a prodigious amount of coke on the floor in a hotel room, and the story goes that they all got down on all fours and sniffed it out of the carpet. Crosby was constantly accompanied by two young groupies who were constantly giving him oral pleasure as he snorted cocaine and conducted business over the phone. "That might have happened," he now concedes. Since it was one of the first stadium tours, the sound system was wholly inadequate, and the always dueling Young and Stills compensated by turning up their amps to earsplitting decibels, so much so that Crosby says he and Nash couldn't even hear eachother to harmonize. (Thanks to the excellent recent Rolling Stone article detailing the Doom Tour for these juicy details).

They recorded about a dozen of the shows with the intention of releasing a live record, and then planned on recording a new studio one as well. But the acrimony was at such a high level, the shows so notoriously sloppy, the business dealings from the tour so shady, that they all went their separate ways after the tour. They did reconvene to record a record, but when Crosby and Nash were away for a few weeks to fulfill some performance obligations, Stills and Young decided to wipe their vocals from the tracks and promply formed the Stills-Young Band and released Long May You Run instead. Not surprisingly, Crosby and Nash reconvened the Crosby & Nash ventures, and there were two warring camps. It is an incident that Crosby and Nash resent to this day, and Stills and Young refuse to even discuss it. (Of course, Stills learned the hard way the lesson of siding with Neil Young. Mid Stills-Young Band tour, Neil decided to split, sent Stills a note saying "eat a peach" and turned his tour bus towards home. Stills fulfilled the rest of the tour dates solo.) Naturally, the live tracks recorded from The Doom Tour were not revisited for decades, as all four wanted to forget the whole debacle.

With all of this background, how good could this music be? Well, f*cking awesome, it turns out. Nash, who has become the currator of the CSN(Y) legacy, has spent the last four years meticulously combing through all of the tapes from the Doom Tour and constructed a monumental three disc set. Granted, this set is better than any single show you would have heard. He readily admits that it is somewhat an ideal, Frankenstein monster-type set, "if I found one line of one vocal out of tune, I went to a different night and took a line that was in tune and put it in." His Herculean editing efforts have been rewarded, as he has constructed pretty much a dream marathon show from a peak time for these four artists.

One of the reasons this is such a treasure is that it was an incredibly creative time for these guys. The excellent Four Way Street double live album from earlier was outstanding, but by '74 they had all really established their own solo identities. 27 of the 40 tracks on this set are from various member's solo records, side projects or are simply unreleased until now. One of the many joys is hearing how the quartet tackle and often enhance songs from their respective solo records. The highlights are many, many, and Nash has done a fabulous job of creating the perfect pacing over three discs. The middle disc is all acoustic, while discs one and three bookend it with often blistering electric sets. The highlights are too many to list, but some real peaks are a churning, rumbling opener of Stills' "Love the One You're With," a stunning "On the Beach" from Neil, a lovely "Johnny's Garden," a rare blistering electric take on Stills' "Black Queen" and an experimental, extended "Deja Vu."

Two more great things here. The entire acoustic disc is a highlight. It is just brilliant all the way through, again perfectly paced by Nash. Full band acoustic singalongs of "Change Partners," "The Lee Shore," "Only Love Can Break Your Heart," "Our House," "Old Man" and "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes" are pure joy and make one appreciate the gift of music. The acoustic disc is so wonderful because, like the acoustic disc on Four Way Street, each band member's personality is given space to shine through. There are various combinations to keep it fresh over the entire disc: full band acoustic tunes, Crosby and Nash do their lovely thing over several tracks, Neil gets his quirky solo slot and Stills is given his spotlight to stun with his acoustic guitar prowess (this time on "Word Game," as well as a gorgeous full group cover of The Beatles' "Blackbird" and stunner "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes").

ABOVE: As great as all four are here, Neil Young is on a different level

The other great thing is Neil Young. 1974 captures him at perhaps the most fascinating point in his entire career. This is the time of his own Ditch Trilogy (Time Fades Away, Tonight's the Night and On the Beach). As he was hiding away in his tour bus from his cohorts, he was writing and writing. So the Neil Young songs here are a Neil fan's dream. Outside the fantastic but obligatory chestnuts like "Helpless" and "Ohio," concert rarities show up like "On the Beach," "Mellow My Mind," the blistering Charles Manson-inspired "Revolution Blues" and perhaps his most autobiographical track, "Don't Be Denied." But that's not all, folks. Top shelf Neil Young songs that have not been released before! Neil, why the hell have you been keeping "Traces" in the vaults?! It is an absolutely gorgeous pop song that would have been right at home and a highlight on Comes a Time. Holy sh*t what a great song. Nixon had just resigned weeks before, and Neil has a little fun with an impromptu tune called "Goodbye Dick" that gets a predictable big cheer. I had never heard "Love Art Blues," another fantastic Neil number. "Pushed It Over the End" is another unearthed Neil gem, a brooding number about Patty Hearst. As great as everyone is, you can tell here that Neil Young is on another level as a songwriter. You can understand his decades long ambivalence regarding playing with these other three.

Over three discs, there are going to be a few duds. But surprisingly few. Crosby gives a disappointingly weak performance of his usually lovely autobiographical "Carry Me." Nash's previously unreleased "Grave Concern" is weak, and Neil's previously unreleased "Hawaiian Sunrise" is lightweight for him. A rote run through of "Long Time Gone" and Stills' forgettable "My Angel" mar an otherwise near perfect third disc. And you can always complain about what is missing. It would be nice to hear an epic "Carry On," but Nash claims he could not really find an acceptable version to release, so perhaps it is best that it is missing. Some of the songs clock in at "only" eight or nine minutes, so it would have been nice to have at least one of those famous, epic 15 to 20 minutes guitar duel songs featuring Stills and Young really bringing it, like a "Down By the River" perhaps, which was performed on the tour. But oh well. It is hard to quibble with the vast majority of what is here.

CSNY '74 will quickly become a cornerstone in securing their legacy, and is essential listening for anyone even remotely interested in these guys.

ABOVE: Imagine trying to play an intimate acoustic set to a stadium

****1/2 out of *****

Wednesday, July 2, 2014


So this is what a normal cat is like. Longtime readers will recall that my beloved psychotic, vicious, mentally unstable cat Maurice died a few years ago. This last week we finally got a new kitten. He is really too good to be true. It all started when I took my four year old to the zoo. Across the street from the zoo is an animal shelter, and we had just gotten into the car to go home, when she said she had to potty. So we went into the shelter to use the facilities. Since we were there, I figured we could look at kittens and puppies.

When we went into the cattery, they had many cute kittens. My daughter, on the whole, preferred the puppies. But this one kitten caught my eye. First, he was beautiful. Secondly, he seemed really relaxed. I took him out of the cage and he was great. Cuddly, but also playful when you grabbed a cat toy.

A couple of days later we returned to the zoo (It's summer. She loves the zoo). Again, she had to go potty once we got in the car, so we went back to the shelter. And again we looked at animals and again I looked at this kitten. The wife said it was OK. So for a full five dollars I bought the kitten (they had overflow, and so really wanted to sell some kittens). My daughter was not all that excited at first, she wanted a puppy.

But once we got home, she fell in love. She went from being disappointed that we didn't come home with a puppy (a puppy is probably on the way too, though) to repeatedly stating that "I'm a cat person now." This cat is amazing. I was apprehensive due to my experiences with Maurice, but this cat is completely different. He is so affectionate and patient. My four year old cannot keep her hands off him, always picking him up and carrying him around the house. He lets her carry him in all sorts of positions with no complaint. My one year old lets out gleeful screams when she sees him and gets in his face. He just sits there patiently (or runs away). I taught the one year old how to gently pet a cat, and she has stopped grabbing his ears. He loves to play and loves to snuggle. Considering the new home, two excited children...he has taken it all in stride.

We named him Ned, after Lord Ned Stark from "Game of Thrones." That can be a totally separate topic, but we are addicted to "Game of Thrones." Last weekend the four year old spent the night with grandma and my wife and I watched eight hours of Thrones. We are just starting Season Three, so no spoilers in the comments!

ABOVE: Ned's namesake. Hopefully our Ned can be as honorable as Lord Stark

Welcome to the family, Ned.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

RIP Bobby Womack, 1944-2014

I always felt that Bobby Womack should have been in the upper echelon of soul artists. He was definitely respected, but never the household name of a James Brown or Marvin Gaye. He stood out to me for a couple of reasons. His gruff voice was arresting and immediately recognizeable. Secondly he was a great songwriter too. As great as many of the soul legends are, many of them left the songwriting to others. In fact, Womack may be most famous for writing the Rolling Stones' first number one single, "It's All Over Now." To their credit, the Stones have been supporters of Womack ever since. RIP Bobby Womack.

ABOVE: I think this is his best song. You have probably heard the original version, but this solo acoustic version, what it lacks in refinement makes up for in soul and power.