Monday, December 22, 2014

CSNY 1974 Live - 3CD/DVD Box Set

CSNY 1974 Live - 3CD/DVD Box Set
Antonio G. Pereira © 2014 Antonio G. Pereira

        I have to hand it to Graham Nash, he's done a wonderful job here. This is a piece of American History presented in near pristine form.
        I remember this 1974 tour very well, as the following night after Nixon resigned, some black and white news footage of the CSNY New Jersey concert was on the Evening News; and I remember Crosby on stage performing in his fringe jacket. A complete shock to the American system's perception of 'right and wrong' was taking place, and there was nowhere to hide from it.
        Just like The Beatles Anthology nearly 20 years ago, the time was right for CSNY 1974 Live to be released. 'To Everything, Turn, Turn, Turn...'
        Though the design and packaging of this set is absolutely gorgeous and very easy to open and to access the CDs, DVD and 188 page Booklet (For a fairly good reference book, as far as historical background information on CSN & CSNY are concerned {also relating to previous band affiliations such as the Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, the Hollies etc..., and later band affiliations like the great Blows Against The Empire Band (and) album, Manassas, The Seastones Project, the Jitters, the Stills/Young Band etc...}, check out Crosby, Stills & Nash: The Authorized Biography by Dave Zimmer Published by St. Martins Press  {You can also check out an earlier posting  }), and the collection of photographs by Joel Bernstein are very good, I wonder why there are no photographs by other photographers as well. Jim Marshall immediately comes to mind, as he was very good at capturing musicians in photographic moments that no one else could ever get (e.g. his photographs of The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, Mimi Farina and Joan Baez, Duke Ellington, Duane Allman, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards etc...). But this is up to individual choice and opinion.
        The first CD begins with a Latin flavoured 'Love The One You're With' from Stephen Stills first solo album, 'Stephen Stills', which he dedicated to his friend Jimi Hendrix. Still's vocals on this particular song are a little raspy, but he makes up for it with some smokin' guitar work; and Crosby, Nash and Young give great vocal and instrumental backup (Nash and Crosby on guitar and Young on Hammond Organ) with Tim Drummond on bass, Russ Kunkel on drums and Joe Lala on Congas and Timbales. Following this are great versions of 'Wooden Ships', 'Immigration Man' and 'Helpless' from earlier group and solo albums, as Crosby/Stills (on Wooden Ships), Nash and then Young, take vocals on each song respectively, backed up by the others. These are followed by 'Carry Me', a strikingly beautiful new song written and performed by Crosby (that would later grace the Crosby/Nash album 'Wind On The Water'), with beautiful harmonies by Stills, Nash and Young, and 'Johnny's Garden' (written by Stills for the gardener of his home in England {which he bought from actor Peter Sellers}), recorded originally on the album 'Manassas'; which was also the name of his music ensemble. And then recent songs by Neil Young (Traces), Graham Nash (Grave Concern) and Young (On The Beach). Nash's 'Grave Concern' is particularly funny and biting, as it refers to the full out exposure of the Watergate Scandal. Finally, closing out the first disc is Stills doing a pretty good version of 'Black Queen' from his first solo album, and Crosby doing 'Almost Cut My Hair' from Deja Vu.
        The second disc is the acoustic set, and begins with a gorgeous number by Stills named 'Change Partners', from his second solo album Stephen Stills 2. Performed like a stop/start Latin Waltz, this song has everyone in perfect voice and is infectious and joyous. Next up is Crosby's delicately beautiful song 'The Lee Shore', with it's enchanting imagery. Then we have Neil's song 'Only Love Can Break Your Heart', from his album Harvest; touchingly sad and moving. Then comes Nash's lovely 'Our House', with friendly tuneful harmonies from the others, which he follows with a new song written for the United Farm Workers, 'Fieldworker'. And then two exquisite songs by Crosby, the haunting 'Guinevere' and the deeply moving 'Time After Time'. Next is Nash's 'Prison Song' where he gets the audience to participate in clapping along. And now we get Neil's 'Long May You Run', with a wonderful duet between Neil and Stephen. Ah yes.... then comes 'Goodbye Dick', Neil Young's impromptu little ditty on six sting banjo. A sort of kiss-off to Richard Nixon, who had just resigned in disgrace. (Actually you could subtitle that sucker 'Ode To Tricky Dicky' or 'Et tu Brute?' would be a very suitable subtitle as well.) Following up are two more by Young, 'Mellow My Mind' (again on six string banjo), and the touching 'Old Man'. Now Stills goes right for the gut as he spits out 'Word Game'. His specialty. And the audience goes nuts! Then Stephen does a new composition 'Myth Of Sisyphus'. It is beautiful and he is in great voice at the piano. And Magic Time is upon us. Crosby, Stills and Nash do a strikingly beautiful and unforgettable job on Lennon/McCartney's 'Blackbird'. Followed up by Young doing a recent song he wrote for his dog, the country tinged 'Love Art Blues'. And another new song, Young's beautiful 'Hawaiian Sunrise'. Nash comes up next with his wonderful song 'Teach Your Children', and now they've got the audience eating out of their hands, as they explode with delight. And now the kicker. They finish off this acoustic side with Stills' 'Suite:Judy Blue Eyes', Stills hitting all the high notes for emphasis during the harmonies. With hypnotic wizardry he comes in on "it's my HEART that's a sufferin' ", and drives the audience crazy. As CSNY take the song out with the chorus at the end, Stills digs in with phrasing in Spanish and that does it. They slay the audience.
        The third disc begins with the title song from Deja Vu, and Crosby does justice to it with dramatic and subtle harmonies from Stills and Nash, and lead guitar from Stills. Following this is a recent and smooth, Latin flavoured song from Stills named 'My Angel', with both Stills and Young playing across each other on piano and organ, and backing vocals from Crosby and Nash. Next is a really good rocking version of Nash's 'Pre-Road Downs', which was also an FM Radio favourite back in the '70s. Young is up next with a very good version of his song, 'Don't Be Denied', and then performs 'Revolution Blues'. Following are Nash and Crosby doing excellent versions of their songs 'Military Madness' and 'Long Time Gone' respectively. Nash getting the audience to join in on a rousing chorus that ends 'Military Madness', and Crosby doing an angry 'Long Time Gone'. Neil Young then does a new one, 'Pushed It Over The End'. Finishing everything off, Nash and Young do powerful versions of 'Chicago' and 'Ohio' respectively, and the band plays their butts off. A fitting conclusion.
        Now we get to the DVD. These are songs that were actually filmed during the 1974 tour. 4 using what was then early reel to reel Video, at a concert at the Capital Centre in Landover, Maryland. Young's 'Only Love Can Break Your Heart', with Stills on piano and Crosby and Nash on harmonies. Crosby doing an intense version of 'Almost Cut My Hair', Nash on organ and Stills and Young on dual lead guitars. Graham Nash performing 'Grave Concern' (with hilarious opening one-liners from Crosby), Neil Young on piano, Nash and Stills on electric six string and Crosby on electric 12 string. And Neil Young doing his song 'Old Man' with Nash on vocal harmony and Stills with a light touch on Congas. The other 4 were filmed professionally at the final concert at Wembley Stadium in London, England. Stills, Nash, Crosby and Young respectively, doing surprisingly good alternative versions of their songs 'Johnny's Garden', 'Our House', 'Deja Vu' and 'Pushed It Over The End'. Nash's 'Our House' {this must have been a wonderful moment of vindication for him, that he had followed the right path}, and Crosby's 'Deja Vu' {the point where he and Stephen are directly connecting while playing and looking at each other is marvelous}, being standouts. This is quite a package. Well Done and Highly Recommended!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Photo by Sammy Davis Jr. with Burt Boyar

Photo by Sammy Davis Jr. with Burt Boyar
Antonio G. Pereira © 2014 Antonio G. Pereira

        During his lifetime, Sammy Davis Jr. created a Photographic Archive of his life. This began in the latter 1940s, post World War II, after he had served in the Army, and The Will Mastin Trio was still struggling in the remnants of Vaudeville. Followed by their appearances on early television (The story of the Trio's presentation on The Colgate Comedy Hour and Sammy's relationship with the host of the show Eddie Cantor, is well documented in 'Photo', by Burt Boyar; and indicative of the continuing spectre of Race, that America is still yet to finally and permanently overcome.), the breakthrough performance at Ciro's nightclub in Hollywood in the early 1950s, and Sammy's subsequent life as one of the biggest stars on the planet; as he became a solo artist, while Will Mastin and his father Davis Sr. retired. Also clearly visable in the photographs, is the obvious love and admiration in the faces of the fraternity of friends and very close friends in the world of entertainment, in which Sammy Davis Jr. lived. The author, Burt Boyar and his late wife Jane, were two of his closest friends, and co-authored his first and last autobiographies, 'Yes I Can' and 'Why Me?' 'Photo' was posthumously put together by Burt Boyar after the passing of both Sammy Davis Jr. and Jane Boyar. Through Mr. Davis' obvious talent as a photographer, we see America's changing face. His eye for catching subjects in special moments is remarkable. Whether it's his friends or his family or people he just met briefly or persons who touched his life deeply (Martin Luther King Jr., Bobby Kennedy, the mother of his children and the love of his life, May Britt), he leaves a lasting impression of some magic he was able to capture and record with his camera.
        It is rather odd now, as I look back over Sammy Davis' life while going through 'Photo', that he reminds me (in his personage as a photographer) of the character that Sidney Poitier played in one of the most unusual and haunting films he ever made, named 'Brother John'.
        I most appreciated the Afterword written by Burt Boyar, that ended the book. In the Afterword, Mr. Boyar permanently jettisons any misconceptions and lies aimed at his dear friend. These misconceptions and lies being the products of envy, jealousy, resentment and outright hatred, created by people who themselves never contributed anything worthwhile other than their rotten opinions; led empty lives, and took comfort in spreading the misinformation that Sammy Davis Jr. left his family cash poor. Mr. Boyar was nice enough to detail the facts on this subject very clearly thank you. A great ending to this book.
Well worth reading and Highly Recommended.