On July 11, the jazz world lost one of its greatest bassists: Charlie Haden, known far and wide for his work with Ornette Coleman and Keith Jarrett while also contributing to the music of everyone from John Coltrane and Don Cherry to Rickie Lee Jones and Ringo Starr.
Born on August 6, 1937 in Shenandoah, Iowa, Charles Edward Haden was playing music from an early age, which is the sort of thing which is likely to happen when your family goes around calling themselves the Haden Family Band and performing on the radio. It’s also how Haden came to make his singing debut at the ripe old age of two, which he continued doing until his mid-teens, when he contracted a form of polio that affected his vocal pitch. Thankfully, he’d also developed a fascination with the bass, one which increased in the wake of his inability to sing as he once had, and before he’d even gotten out of his teens, he was performing as the house bassist on the ABC series, Ozark Jubilee, filmed in Springfield, Missouri. By that point, though, Haden had already decided that his true destiny was waiting for him in Los Angeles.
This past Friday brought music fans one of the most depressing end-of-an-era moments in rock ‘n’ roll history: the announcement that Tommy Erdelyi, a.k.a. Tommy Ramone, the last of the original Ramones, died after a struggle with bile duct dancer.
As he was born in Budapest, Hungary on January 29, 1949, Erdélyi Tamás may have been destined from day one never to be elected President of the United States, but the U.S. government’s loss proved to be punk rock’s gain. After moving to America when he was four years old, the future Tommy Ramone grew up in Forest Hills, New York, where he played with the future Johnny Ramone – then still known as John Cummings – in a garage band called the Tangerine Puppets, and at age 18 he served as an assistant engineer on Jimi Hendrix’s Band of Gypsies album. (In a 2011 interview with the website Noisecreep, Tommy said of the guitarist, “He was as big as you could get. He was a wonderful person, very easy going, very hardworking and dedicated – a real perfectionist.”)
"If every concert tells a tale, then every tour writes an epic. Spring 1990 felt that way: an epic with more than its share of genius and drama, brilliance and tension. And that is why the rest of the music of that tour deserves this release, why the rest of those stories need to be heard." - Nicholas G. Meriwether
Some consider Spring 1990 the last great Grateful Dead tour. That it may be. In spite of outside difficulties and downsides, nothing could deter the Grateful Dead from crafting lightness from darkness. They were overwhelmingly triumphant in doing what they came to do, what they did best — forging powerful explorations in music. Yes, it was the music that would propel their legacy further, young fans joining the ranks with veteran Dead Heads, Jerry wondering "where do they keep coming from?" — a sentiment that still rings true today, a sentiment that offers up another opportunity for an exceptional release from a tour that serves as transcendental chapter in the Grateful Dead masterpiece.
New this week in the Rhino Room at iTunes:
Big Daddy, Cruisin’ Through the Rhino Years: To call Big Daddy a cover band is to come nowhere close to describing how much fun it is to hear these guys tackle tunes by everyone from Bruce Springsteen and the Beatles to Survivor and Sir Mix-a-Lot in the style of rock ‘n’ roll artists from the ‘50s and early ‘60s. Their Wikipedia page suggests that they were “among the first groups to create mash-ups,” and while that phrasing makes them sound perhaps a bit more important to music history than they really are, Big Daddy certainly has a gift for melding the sounds of two disparate artists together. Take, for instance, their complete re-recording of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which found them crooning “With a Little Help from My Friends” like Johnny Mathis and “A Day in the Life” like a Buddy Holly song. If you’re a longtime fan, we’ll close by letting you know that this 21-track set features the 16 songs from their previous greatest-hits collection (The Best of Big Daddy) while also adding “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” “The Way You Make Me Feel,” “Baby Got Back,” “It’s So Hard to Say I Love You,” and “Addicted to Love.”
Luka Bloom, The Platinum Collection: It’s possible that those of you who came of age listening to Christy Moore may still only see Luka Bloom as Moore’s little brother, Barry – that’s how he was billed on his first few albums, you know – but for those who were introduced to Bloom in 1990 when he burst back onto the scene bearing a new name, a big-time American record deal (Reprise), and a cracking little single called “Delirious,” they’re more likely to wonder, “So who’s this Christy Moore guy?” This compilation isn’t completely career-spanning, as Bloom’s been relatively prolific over the years, but it’s a nice sampler for those looking for a simple one-disc distillation of his career. (Plus, it includes his truly fantastic cover of LL Cool J’s “I Need Love.”)
It’s not what you’d call a hard and fast rule, but when we post an entry in our “Doing a 180” feature to spotlight a new release on 180-gram vinyl, we generally tend to only spotlight one artist at a time. This week, though, we’re playing a little bit of catch-up, so we’re combining a couple of releases into a single piece, a la our weekly Digital Roundup, so hopefully you’ll forgive us for trying to condense what would ordinarily be a trio of posts into a single entry, and please trust us when we tell you that they’re all very much worthy of their own posts…particularly this first one.
Syd Barrett, The Madcap Laughs / Barrett / Opel – There are those whose knowledge of Pink Floyd starts and ends with whatever’s been forced down their throat by classic-rock radio, which means that there are countless casual fans that haven’t a clue about the decidedly psychedelic era when the band was fronted by someone other than Roger Waters or David Gilmour. That said, diving into the back catalog of Syd Barrett is an endeavor which should never, ever start with his solo work, because he’s definitely a musician whose story is best appreciated in chronological order. As such, you should first go check out Pink Floyd’s The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, A Saucerful of Secrets, and Relics, and then dive into Barrett’s own output, which really only consists of these three albums: the two studio efforts he released in 1970 – The Madcap Laughs and Barrett – and the 14-track compilation entitled Opel, which was originally released in 1988 and features alternate takes and previously-unreleased songs. They’re an acquired taste, to be certain, but they’re a part of Pink Floyd’s history that every fan of the band should hear.