sweettea_On his classic 1967 album A Man And The Blues, Buddy Guy sang:

I think I’ll move back down South, where the weather suits my clothes
I done laid ’round this big city so long, man…oooh, until I almost done froze

On his new album Sweet Tea (Silvertone/Jive), Buddy Guy moves his music “back down South”–turning loose his incendiary guitar and powerfully expressive voice on a set of dirt-road rural blues originating from the hill country of North Mississippi.

This style of hill-country blues is separate and distinct from the Mississippi Delta blues pioneered by pre-war performers like Robert Johnson, Son House, and Charley Patton, and later amplified (literally and figuratively) by such Delta migrants to Chicago as Muddy Waters and Robert Nighthawk. In contrast to the familiar 12-bar blues pattern, the North Mississippi style is characterized by elongated bar lines and one- or two-chord modal forms. There is a kind of trance-inducing drone quality to these blues that seems to draw upon the music’s deepest West African wellsprings.

This album could be subtitled “Buddy Guy Sings Fat Possum,” for seven of its nine songs are taken from the repertoires of hill-country stalwarts like Robert Cage, T-Model Ford, and the late Junior Kimbrough. The musical careers of these men—along with those of R.L. Burnside, Paul “Wine” Jones, and Robert Belfour, among others—were either initiated or revived by the iconoclastic Fat Possum Records of Oxford, Mississippi. Today, Fat Possum’s catalog encompasses both raw field recordings (Junior Kimbrough’s Most Things Haven’t Worked Out, Johnny Farmer’s Wrong Doers Respect Me) and startling collaborations by country blues elders with contemporary remixers and rappers (R.L. Burnside’s Mr. Wizard, the various-artists collection New Beats From The Delta).

Jim “Jimbo” Malthus is a founding member of Squirrel Nut Zippers and the sure-handed rhythm guitarist on Sweet Tea. A native of Oxford, Mississippi, he notes that until the first Fat Possum albums arrived in 1991, “people that lived 20 miles from R.L. Burnside in Mississippi didn’t know about his music. I used to deer hunt in Holly Springs [Burnside’s home town] every year of my life, and I never knew about any juke joints around there.”

From the solo acoustic moan of “Done Got Old” to the last searing strains of his own composition “It’s A Jungle Out There,” the droning force of the hill-country style and the alternately ecstatic and agonized delivery of Buddy Guy make for one intense combination. Bassist Davey Faragher locks in with Jimbo Malthus on the hypnotic rhythms and heaving chord changes, pushed relentlessly by one of three drummers on the album—either the indigenous blues veterans Spam (of T-Model Ford’s band) and Sam Carr, or Los Angeles import Pete Thomas (Elvis Costello & the Attractions, John Hiatt).

Together, they can make the 12-minute workout “I Got To Try You Girl” seem to go by in half the time, and take Lowell Fulson’s “Tramp” to a place beyond not only his original 1967 version but those of Otis Redding and Salt-N-Pepa as well. The razor-sharp mix by album producer Dennis Herring and Clay Jones creates an almost palpably humid atmosphere, with Buddy’s voice and guitar cutting through it like summer lightning in the Mississippi night.

Born in the hamlet of Lettsworth, Louisiana on July 30, 1936, Buddy Guy has lived in Chicago since 1957. But the sound of Sweet Tea “takes me way back,” he says. Back to Lightnin’ Slim, who sat on the porch of the Lettsworth general store and played the first electric guitar Buddy ever heardback to his own early years on the rough Baton Rouge club circuit, as a fledgling guitarist in the bands of “Big Poppa” John Tilley and blues harp master Raful Neal.

“It reminds me of some of the things in the beginning—the Smokey Hoggs, the Sonny Boy Williamsons, the Lightnin’ Hopkins,” Buddy recalls. “All those people just playin’ for a drop of the dime in the hat. The Saturday night fish fries—you had fun, you woke up the next morning with a headache, you just drank the wine or the beer, grab the guitar and go doin’ it again.”

Yet Sweet Tea is not necessarily the album this artist would have made on his own. Beginning with Damn Right, I’ve Got The Blues in 1991, the four-time Grammy Award winner (including Best Contemporary Blues Album in 1991, 1993 and 1995) has recorded contemporary songs by John Hiatt and Denise LaSalle alongside blues classics by Jimmy Reed and Charles Brown. His five Silvertone albums have featured guest appearances by friends ranging from Travis Tritt and Paul Rodgers to Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck. (Guy’s fourth Grammy Award—Best Rock Instrumental Performance in 1996—was for “SRV Shuffle,” an all-star jam track from A Tribute To Stevie Ray Vaughan).

But Sweet Tea would be a brand-new bag for Buddy Guy, conceived and organized by his long-time fan Dennis Herring. In 1997, this well-respected producer of best-selling albums by Counting Crows and Jars of Clay had relocated his Los Angeles studio back to his home state of Mississippi.

“I just found myself getting steeped in that sound,” explains Dennis, who grew up in a small town near Tupelo. “I saw a T-Model Ford show, just him and Spam, that blew me away. You’d hear that music everywhere, almost in a subliminal way, like part of the water—yet it was a kind of music that even the general blues audience hadn’t really been exposed to.”

Herring continues: “I’ve always been a huge Buddy Guy fan, though I felt that in recent years his records had gotten very ‘studio-like.’ But about three years ago, I heard him on a live radio broadcast and he sounded so incredible”

“So in the back of my mind was the wish for Buddy to make a record in a setting that was older, more real, that would capture the energy and intensity he still has. And I wanted to see an outside artist come in and expose this hill-country style to a whole new audience. Finally, it all just clicked.”

“Buddy was a little out of his element at first,” Jimbo Malthus recalls. “He would say [referring to his classic Chess Records sessions of the early Sixties], ‘Well, the Chess brothers would make you have at least four verses before you cut a song.’ Whereas a lot of this stuff is more repetitive, more of a feeling than a particular lyric or verses, and sometimes very idiosyncratic. It would have been daunting for anyone who wasn’t familiar with the style, but Buddy just jumped right in.”

“Every time he came in the studio, it was like a gift he was pouring out. We played five or six hours straight, every night, all in one big room.”

The Sweet Tea sessions took place over ten days in July 2000, with band and producer rehearsing the songs—but not too much—for a few days before Buddy’s arrival.

“I was feelin’ just like I felt when Muddy Waters and them would call me to come in and make a session with them,” says Buddy about the deceptively casual but relentless playing of the Sweet Tea band. “I never did go in and rehearse with the Wolf, Muddy or Little Walter. They would have these other guys ready to make this session, and they would say, ‘Well, I know who’ll play it right. Call Buddy.’ And sometimes they would get me out of bed and I would go in.”

“So when these guys was brought in, I’m listenin’ at this and sayin’ “Wow, I can play this—I feel good behind this!” And whatever the song was, the guys played great.”

Buddy employed his trusty Fender Stratocaster on “80 or 90 per cent” of Sweet Tea. He loved the selection of vintage amplifiers assembled by Dennis Herring.

“He went back and pulled out some of these old amps,” Buddy enthuses. “I said, ‘Man, leave that right there!’ That’s the way amplifiers used to be—all you had to do was just go in the studio and plug it in. Those things got a tone, a tone like you can’t find in amplifiers anymore now. When Dennis brought those amps out down there, the hair stood on my head.”

In 2001, Buddy Guy is still the king of Chicago blues. But Sweet Tea shows how much more of the blues—how much more music—lives within in him, more than 40 years into his amazing career.

“You never lose things like that,” says Buddy Guy of this vivid, vital, down-home sound. “That’s the way music was before it got too much tech and too many people. People just learnt it, man, and you’d just go on and on.”

“If you came up in that time like I did, you don’t lose that, ever.”

The Founder: Duane Allman (1946-1971)

The Founder: Duane Allman (1946-1971)

For the Allman Brothers Band, the road goes on forever. But when spring comes around, the veteran touring group pulls into the venerable Beacon Theatre in New York City for its annual “March Madness” run of SRO performances.

On March 24, 2002, the Brothers played the ninth and final show of their 2002 Beacon Theatre series. With this performance, the band extended its record to a total of 112 sold-out Beacon shows since the inception of “March Madness” with four shows in 1989.

The month of March is a significant one in the Brothers’ history. On March 26, 1969 in Jacksonville, Florida, guitarist Duane Allman convened a jam session with bassist Berry Oakley, guitarist Dickey Betts, and drummers Jaimoe and Butch Trucks. It was the first musical meeting of the group, which—with the addition of Duane’s younger brother Gregory Allman on vocals and Hammond organ—would become The Allman Brothers Band—one of the most acclaimed and influential groups in the history of rock and roll. In addition, “March Madness” coincides with the anniversary of the March 12-13, 1971 re¬cording of the band’s landmark double live album, At Fillmore East.

Thus, the annual Beacon Theatre run serves as both a commemoration of the Brothers’ incredible history and a testament to their creative vitality. Now, the sounds of “March Madness” are captured on Peakin’ At The Beacon, the new live album from the Allman Brothers Band (Epic Records/Sony Music) , recorded over 13 nights (March 9-25, 2000) at the Beacon Theatre. These performances were dedicated to the memory of the late Joe Dan Petty, the Brothers’ long-serving guitar tech, who died in January 2000  in the crash of his private plane near Macon, Georgia.

In compiling this 74-minute collection, the band members made a conscious effort to select songs not previously performed on the live albums At Fillmore East (1971), An Evening With the Allman Brothers Band (1992), and Second Set (1995). Indeed, the ten songs on Peakin’ At The Beacon bring the Brothers “back where it all began” with no less than four tunes from their self-titled 1969 debut album. These include the opening medley of instrumental rave-up “Don’t Want You No More” and Gregg Allman’s slow blues “It’s Not My Cross To Bear,” and the blues-rock classic “Every Hungry Woman” and “Black Hearted Woman.”

Other highlights include Gregg’s moving and mournful soul ballad “Please Call Home,” from the 1970 album Idlewild South; and Dickey Betts’ vocal feature “Seven Turns,” the title track from the Brothers’ 1990 comeback album and Epic label debut. Peakin’ At The Beacon closes with the incredible instrumental journey known as “High Falls.” The song first appeared on Win, Lose Or Draw (1975), but this version—nearly 30 minutes in length—explores the full range of its melodic and rhythmic potential, including an extended break featuring ABB drummers Jaimoe and Butch Trucks and percussionist Marc Quiñones.  “High Falls” garnered a nomination for Best Rock Instrumental in the 43rd annual Grammy Awards.

The Brothers’ 2000 shows marked the Beacon Theatre debut of Derek Trucks, who replaced Jack Pearson in the lineup in the summer of ‘99. The 21 year-old slide guitar prodigy is the nephew of drummer and founding band member Butch Trucks. When not on the road with the ABB, Derek tours tirelessly with his own Derek Trucks Band, which has released two albums (The Derek Trucks Band and Out Of The Madness). Derek has toured as a member of Phil Lesh & Friends, and has recorded with Gregg Allman, Gatemouth Brown, Johnny Copeland, and Junior Wells. On stage, he’s sat in with Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, John Lee Hooker, Buddy Guy, and Susan Tedeschi, to name a few.

In May 2000, the Brothers announced that guitarist Dickey Betts had been replaced by Jimmy Herring for the remainder of their 2000 touring season. The following spring, Warren Haynes had rejoined the group as its lead guitarist. The Brothers toured relentlessly in 2001 as Warren  juggled his own band Gov’t Mule and a prior commitment to gigs with Phil Lesh & Friends. March 2002 finds the Brothers’ lineup solidified, with Haynes entrenched in the guitar slot along with slide guitar sensation Derek Trucks. The band debuted new songs at the Beacon this spring from an album that is already partially recorded for release in the near future. The “Peach Corps” of ABB fans have made this year’s nine shows an instant sell¬out, running the band’s career total to 112 sold-out nights at the Beacon Theater

The Story So Far

The Allman Brothers Band defined Southern Rock. The originators of a sound that continues to be hugely influential on contemporary rock, they spawned a host of bands that drew on their model—proving only that the genius of the ABB could be imitated, but never duplicated.

In 1969, Florida-born guitarist Duane Allman left Muscle Shoals, Alabama, where he’d established himself as an in-demand session player on recordings by Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, King Curtis, and Boz Scaggs, among others. Seeking to form his own dream band, Allman recruited bassist Berry Oakley and guitarist Dickey Betts from a Jacksonville, Florida band called The Second Coming.

He also tapped not one but two drummers:  the r&b veteran Jaimoe (then known as Jai Johanny Johanson), who had worked with Otis Redding, Joe Tex and Percy Sledge; and Butch Trucks, late of a Jacksonville folk-rock group, The 31st Of February. Hammond B-3 organist and lead vocalist Gregg Allman had recorded two albums with brother Duane as part of the LA-based band Hourglass, and was developing into one of the finest white blues singers of all time.

The Allman Brothers Band’s sonic trademarks were all in place by the time their self-titled debut album was released in 1969 (see discography below). Driven by the relentless propulsion of Jaimoe and Butch, Gregg’s colorful keyboard comping and Berry’s deep, melodic bass lines, Dickey Betts and Duane Allman crafted a unique twin lead guitar approach which took its cues from both jazz horn players (particularly Miles Davis and John Coltrane) and the twin-fiddle lines of western swing and bluegrass. Together, they rewrote the rulebook on how rock guitarists could play together, and paved the way for every two- and even three-guitar band that followed in the ABB’s wake.

“Most fans had never heard anything quite like the mercurial solos and meticulous counterpoint effortlessly unreeled by Duane Allman and Betts,” wrote author Joe Nick Patoski in The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock & Roll (1992, Random House).  “In many respects, indeed, the Allman Brothers Band had become one of the most impressive bands in the country.”

On their first four classic recordings—The Allman Brothers Band, Idlewild South, At The Fillmore East, and Eat A Peach—the ABB perfected a sound that effortlessly combined rock, blues, country and jazz on such unforgettable original tunes as “Dreams,” “Revival,” “Midnight Rider,” “Melissa,” and “In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed.” By 1971, they were poised for superstardom. Even the tragic deaths of both Duane Allman (on October 29, 1971) and bassist Berry Oakley (on November 11, 1972) in eerily similar motorcycle accidents couldn’t stop the band’s upward trajectory.

The success of the No. 2 Pop single “Ramblin’ Man” was the start of a mid-Seventies run (with the four surviving original members joined by bassist Lamar Williams and keyboardist Chuck Leavell) that ended only when internal conflicts sundered the group in 1975. A third incarnation of the ABB was formed in 1978 for the album Enlightened Rogues but after two further albums, the group disbanded once again.

Yet the pull of their roots proved too strong for the Brothers to remain apart forever. In the summer of 1989, the Allman Brothers Band launched a 20th Anniversary Tour with Gregg Allman, Dickey Betts, Butch Trucks and Jaimoe complemented by slide guitarist Warren Haynes and bassist Allen Woody (percussionist Marc Quiñones joined in 1991). Signed to Epic Records, the new lineup returned to the recording studio with Tom Dowd for three studio albums and two live sets. (Dowd is the legendary producer and engineer who manned the controls for Idlewild South, Eat A Peach, and Enlightened Rogues.) Of the ABB’s Epic label debut Seven Turns, The New Yorker wrote:  “The Brothers play with the energy of teenagers and the ornery wildness of veteran blues men.”

In an increasingly predictable world of prefabricated pop, the ABB’s peerless musicianship and extravagant flights of improvisation earned the group a new audience—one that transcended generational and regional boundaries.  Their lengthy annual tours grew to include multi-night stands:  six shows at New York’s Radio City Music Hall, five nights at the Tower Theater in Philadelphia. In October 1989, the Allman Brothers Band headlined the Beacon Theatre in New York City for four nights, inaugurating a live performance tradition.

Nineteen ninety-four was a banner year, though not an untypical one, in the recent history of the Allman Brothers Band. The group made five live network television appearances; played 90 live dates including the H.O.R.D.E. tour, which the Brothers headlined; turned in one of the best, most exciting sets of Woodstock ‘94; and was voted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in its first year of eligibility. “In terms of sheer creativity, they’re experiencing the strongest second wind of any act,” noted The New York Daily News. “For sheer soloing ability, not only do the Allman Brothers run circles around any¬one of the present generation, they outperform anyone of their own…Their road deserves to go on forever.”

In the 38th Annual Grammy Awards held in February 1996, the Allman Brothers Band won the first Grammy in its 27-year history: Best Rock Instrumental Performance for “Jessica,” a track from the acclaimed live album 2nd Set. This 16-minute improvisation may be the longest single non-classical performance ever to win a Grammy.  (Another track from 2nd Set, “In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed,” was also nominated in the Pop Instrumental category.)

In the spring of 1997, Warren Haynes and Allen Woody left the Allman Brothers Band. Their successors were Oteil Burbridge on bass and Jack Pearson on guitar.  Acclaimed by critics and fans alike as the rising star of electric bass, Oteil also performs with his own band, the Peacemakers, and on occasional reunion shows by his former group, Aquarium Rescue Unit.

[Warren and Allen, along with drummer Matt Abts, found an eager audience for their new band Gov’t. Mule. Sadly, Allen Woody died at the age of 44 on August 26, 2000.  In September, the Brothers organized and performed at “One For Woody,” an all-star benefit concert at Roseland Ballroom in New York.  The evening featured over five hours of music by the Allman Brothers Band, Phil Lesh & Friends, The Black Crowes, and special guests Little Milton, Leslie West, and Edwin McCain.]

In June 1998, Epic Records released Mycology: An Anthology. This collection features eight tracks culled from the Brothers’ Epic catalog:  “Good Clean Fun” and “Seven Turns” from Seven Turns; “End of The Line” and “Get On With Your Life” from Shades Of Two Worlds (1991); “Nobody Knows” from An Evening With The Allman Brothers Band (1992); “Sailin’ Cross The Devil’s Sea” from 2nd Set (1995); and “No One To Run With” and “Back Where It All Begins,” from Where It All Begins (released 1994, certified gold in November 1997). In addition, Mycology includes two bonus tracks: a live acoustic version of “Midnight Rider” from the limited-edition benefit CD for the Rhett’s Syndrome Foundation; and a previously unreleased version of “Every Hungry Woman,” recorded live at the 1970 Atlanta Pop Festival by the original lineup of the Allman Brothers Band.

The Brothers have toured nationally every year since 1989, averaging over 60 live shows per year. The tradition continues in 2002 when the Allman Brothers Band returns to the Beacon Theatre for the next installment of “March Madness.”

Perhaps no one has said it better than Willie Nelson in his induction of the Brothers into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame:

“The Allman Brothers Band took what moved them and merged it into something unique that audiences love: a sound that redefined the direction of rock and roll, and opened the doors to a spirit of experinentation that continues in today’s music.

“The Allman Brothers Band were and still are one of the most exciting live bands ever to hit the stage. They became road warriors with a vengeance and left devoted fans wherever they went…[The ABB is] a band that reflects so many of my sentiments about music:  originality, a determination not be confined musically or stylistically but instead to forge your own way and make music that moves you, a devotion to the road, and understanding that beyond pleasing yourself as an artist, the only other consideration should be the people, the fans who come to hear you.

“And so with pleasure, I give you rock and roll’s greatest jammin’ blues band, the Allman Brothers Band!”

June 22, 2009

Books, Gigs

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“You know, gentlemen, no matter how many beautiful songs you write or how many other major achievements you may realize in your lifetimes, you’ll always be remembered as the guys who wrote ‘Hound Dog.'” — Nesuhi Ertegun (undated quote from the first page of Hound Dog: The Leiber & Stoller Autobiography)

jacketimage1Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, a creative pairing as significant as any in the history of Our Music, have written a book. Hound Dog: The Leiber & Stoller Autobiography (Simon & Schuster). Their story is told entirely in their own words, with co-author David Ritz acting as chief interrogator and structural engineer in the style of his earlier collaborations with Ray Charles (Brother Ray, 1978), Etta James (Rage To Survive, 1995), and Jerry Wexler (Rhythm and The Blues, 1993). However, Randy Poe’s appended discography (“The Songs”) is necessarily limited to the Leiber & Stoller’s charting tunes: Deeper diggers may turn to the mind-boggling Nearly Complete Leiber & Stoller Discography. (You won’t believe how many people have cut “Kansas City” in the wake of Little Willie Littlefield and especially Wilbert Harrison.)

Jerry Leiber and MIke Stoller, along with David Ritz, came to Barnes & Noble (Lincoln Center) on the evening of 6/10/09. Born just weeks apart, the two songwriters turned 76 in the spring of this year. Stoller (the bald one) was alert, energetic, and witty. Leiber was more subdued and rather inert physically (in the book, he refers to a 20-year history of heart problems) but conversationally he got his licks in. Sadly but predictably, this SRO in-store attracted almost no one under 45 with a few notable exceptions such as Lincoln Barron (son of ace lensman Ted Barron) and Doc Pomus‘ grand-daughter. Actress Loretta Swit (of TV’s “M.A.S.H.”) and Letterman bandleader Paul Shaffer were importuned for autographs by some of the pale, unshaven, middle-aged men in unironed shirts who are always part of the crowd at such events.

A 25-minute conversation in which the songwriters answered questions posed by David Ritz mostly just recapped anecdotes from the book or even widely known from previous books, interviews, TV documentaries, etc. A lengthy Q&A session proved only slightly more productive, with valuable time taken by such inquiries as: “I’m a singer, and my question is, when a vocalist is interpreting your material, what elements of the song do you think he or she should focus on?

Leiber, after pausing to stare silently at the speaker: “I didn’t answer because I’m still trying to understand your question.”

Vocalist: “What I’m trying to say is, what are the most important aspects of your compositions that a singer should understand or concentrate on?”

Stoller: “The WORDS and the MELODY.”

Asked by my friend Arthur Levy about their early relationship with Phil Spector early in the career of the boy-genius-turned-convicted-murderer, Jerry Leiber replied with this incomplete but telling sentence: “I never knew what a headache was…”

Mike Stoller: “Phil was probably 18 or 19 then but he’d tell people he was younger, like 16. We were 17 when we cut ‘Hound Dog’ so Phil had to be, you know, more of a prodigy than we’d been.”

An elderly gent raised his hand to announce himself “probably the only person in this room to have co-written a song with you.”

“Ray Passman, is that you?” replied Stoller, peering into the audience. “Ray, are you still alive?” (“Get Him,” a 1963 rarity by the Exciters, was co-written by Leiber, Stoller, Passman, and “Bert Russell” a/k/a Bert Berns.)

yaketyyak-cover_The event lasted for over three hours, mainly because of the sheer number of people who stood in line to get their books signed, have their pictures taken with the authors, and/or chat with L&S in order to lavish them with doofy if heartfelt compliments and reveal that person’s bottomless knowledge of the duo’s career, etc. Finally, after a tedious 45-minute wait, L&S signed my book (as did David Ritz, always genuinely warm and friendly) and both my LPs. One was a UK collection of Presley versions of their tunes, with a nice cover shot of the team and Elvis. The other was Yakety Yak, a 1958 Atlantic album by “The Leiber & Stoller Big Band” — actually the entire Count Basie organization playing jazz arrangements (both swinging and hilarious) of “Charlie Brown,” “Hound Dog,” “Jailhouse Rock,” etc. and complete with deadly serious liner notes by Nat Hentoff.

Hound Dog: The Leiber & Stoller Autobiographyreview by Geoffrey Himes (Baltimore City Paper, 8.12.2009)

On the sidewalk outside Strand Books in Manhattan, store personnel daily wheel out shelf units holding hundreds of used books priced at $1.00 apiece. Gazing idly along the spine-rows last week, I found “Movies Are Better Than Ever” – Wide-Screen Memories of The Fifties by Andrew Dowdy (Wm. Morrow & Co., 1973). This unread copy contained the publisher’s original press release and reviewer’s card (“Please do not publish your review before October 19, 1973”).

Dowdy was born in 1936 and on the first page he notes that during the 1940s, “in the neighborhood theaters where programs frequently changed three times a week, you could see as many as six different films every seven days.” He must have seen a lot of them, because Dowdy mentions a number of films I’d never heard of before–and I’m only up to page 55 of this engaging book. In the chapter entitled “I Married A Communist & Other Disasters of the Blacklist,” Dowdy notes the following pictures:

conspiratorConspirator (1949) – “Junior Miss vs. Marx…Robert Taylor, as the Communist disguised as a British officer of unusually cool reserve, swept young Elizabeth [Taylor] off her feet. The reserve, we come to suspect, is induced by a party discipline which teaches that notions of a right to private life are ridiculous.”

The Red Danube (1949) – “As an escaped Russian ballet dancer, Janet Leigh…preferred a suicidal leap from a window to forced repatriation to Russia.”

The Steel Fist (1952) – “Former child actor Roddy McDowell portrayed an American student trapped in an Iron Curtain country.”

The Whip Hand (1951) – “Soviet agents successfully construct a laboratory for developing germ warfare in a New England village.”

walkeast3Walk East On Beacon (1952) – “…based loosely on the actual case of British spy Klaus Fuchs…the film was almost alone in suggesting historically credible reasons for the international appeal of Communism…Active Communists were shown to be complexly different: a reluctantly fanatical spy whose failure results in his ambiguous punishment, a repressed couple with the look of an ascetic idealism in their pinched faces, a cynical bureaucratic leader, etc.”

Red Planet Mars (1952) – “A scientist contacts Mars and transmits to Earth the accumulated wisdom of a society so advanced in technology that inhabitants live to a graceful three hundred years of age. Earth undergoes a miraculous religious revival in which a secret sect overthrows the Communist regime of Russia.”

Assignment–Paris (1952) – “Dana Andrews, as a newsman, had returned from Budapest a completely zonked potato. The Communists had done something to him with drugs and strobe lights.”

missvfrommoscowDowdy also mentions two obscure pro-Soviet films released at the height of WWII: The Boy From Stalingrad (1943 and never on video, it seems) and Miss V From Moscow (1942).

June 2, 2009


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Tim Buckley

Tim Buckley (1947-1975)

On a visit to my former Sony Music office circa 1999 from his adopted city of Stockholm, the one and only Izzy Young entrusted me with a reel of analog tape containing his one and only recording of Tim Buckley’s first New York concert. Appearing March 6, 1967 at Izzy’s Folklore Center in Greenwich Village. Tim performed a lengthy set for an estimated 35 listeners accompanied only by his own 12-string acoustic guitar.

For the next eight or nine years, I made sporadic unsuccessful efforts to get this tape released by a legitimate record company. Finally, in 2008, my good friend Josh Rosenthal of Tompkins Square stepped up to the plate with a reasonable financial offer; the determination to navigate a minefield of clearances and permissions, and — most importantly — an innate understanding of the power, beauty, and significance of this remarkable performance. In contrast to all previous posthumous releases (Live in London from ’68, Honeyman from ’73, etc.)  Folklore Center is the only solo live Tim Buckley recording that has emerged to date. “He plays sixteen songs,” Josh Rosenthal marvels, “and never hits a wrong note.”

Josh and the staff of The Magic Shop have worked small wonders of engineering to improve the sound of Izzy’s one-microphone recording, and the result is not only a must-buy for any fan of Tim Buckley but perhaps the most important non-box set archival release of 2009. This RollingStone.com article is the first shot in what will surely be a fusillade of media acclaim (deserved, for once) for Tim Buckley – Live at the Folklore Center, NYC – March 6, 1967.