Winter Jam

Bruce Springsteen is a prolific recording artist and live performer, but if you had to limit yourself to just one of his albums, the decision process would be easy: it’d be his Live at Hammersmith Odeon without question. I cannot imagine a better introduction to Springsteen and the E Street Band than that album and today’s selected Jam, which includes a literal introduction, in particular.

Without thinking about it too much, the E Street Band might be the tightest loose band I’ve heard, and on this album, which spans two compact discs, they play every song as if it’s their last– and this was 1975! Since then, sadly, a few members of the band– Dan Federici and Clarence Clemons– have played their last songs. Thankfully, however, high-definition video of this concert, during the band’s first overseas trip, exists and brings the Big Man, the Boss, and everyone else to vibrant life. Here’s the door:

Dia de los Muertos Jam

Following his death on Sunday, today’s Jam features the lately departed Lou Reed. I’ve already posted some of my favorite selections, and there’s an obvious choice for this post, but in the spirit of the week’s holidays, today’s selection is a celebration.

Reed’s wife, Laurie Anderson, published a short obituary in the East Hampton Star yesterday. It concluded:

Lou was a prince and a fighter and I know his songs of the pain and beauty in the world will fill many people with the incredible joy he felt for life. Long live the beauty that comes down and through and onto all of us.

Lou Reed, Rock & Roll Animal, Purveyor of the Perfect Day, passes on at age 71

lrLegendary American musician Lou Reed died yesterday on Long Island at the age of seventy-one. Rolling Stone called Reed’s first band, Velvet Underground, “the most influential American rock band of all time.”

I first heard Reed in high school when I was on the air at WYCE and someone from a local hippie shop phoned in a request. I can’t recall the album or the song, but I still remember the moment, because I was surprisingly and immediately hooked. By the time I was on WHCL and living with one of Reed’s modern-day disciples, VU’s Loaded was in heavy rotation, and, stretching traditional conventions about linear time, I’d tell listeners that Reed, a Syracuse grad, wrote “Rock & Roll” about that little radio station. In 2008, ALDLAND Podcast co-host Chris and I saw Reed in live performance at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium.

You can read about the power and reach of Reed’s influence on music across the web today. Here are a few songs and an original photograph for your listening and viewing remembrance:   Continue reading

Utility Jam

The Detroit Tigers clinched first place in the American League Central division this week, and with that, a spot in the playoffs. For a variety of reasons, this season saw an increased role for utility player Don Kelly, and while a proper update on the full team as the playoffs loom remains forthcoming, today’s Jam, performed by the Don Kelley Band at one of my favorite music venues in the world, is a nod to Donnie K.

Mashed Music

Bandwagoning on the wild success that our dear leader AD’s most recent music post created, I’m contributing a mashup I recently found between George Gershwin’s famous piano concerto “Rhapsody in Blue” and Freddie Mercury’s (for Queen) hit single “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

I hope that most readers are familiar with one or both of these works and I hope that readers will comment on the connection to each piece and the new composition by itself (for example: “I’m really only familiar with Rhapsody in Blue and think that he nailed it” or “I don’t know either but the piano sounds nice”).

I’m rather familiar with each and think that in most parts he blended the two songs beautifully. I had a hard time determining if it would stand alone, as I was too busy collecting reference after reference (or, often, reference on top of reference: the melody from one piece with a baseline or voicing from the other).

Let’s see action! Tennis > Baseball > Football?

Entering that time of year when baseball and football overlap, I was reminded of the mostly uninteresting sports superiority debate, one football usually wins because of its media popularity and perception that it offers a lot more action than the other sports. It’s pointless to swim against the tide of football supremacy, but is it really true that a football game offers more action than a baseball game?

I found myself reevaluating this question while flipping between baseball and football games on college football’s opening weekend, simultaneously enticed by shiny football and entranced by the playoff potential of my favorite and local baseball teams. Baseball seems slow, of course, and there’s no clock. Most of the time, though, a televised baseball game takes as much time to complete as a televised football game. As a comparison of these two random articles indicates, MLB games actually tend to consume less time than NFL games. The nature of the gameplay is what it is, but a fan is going to spend the same amount of time– roughly three hours– watching a game of one or the other.

We can go deeper and wider, though. Fewer Americans watch tennis than either the official or unofficial national pastimes, but even men’s tennis matches (played as the best of five sets, rather than the women’s best of three) tend to take less time than baseball or football. Moreover, as a set of recent Wall Street Journal studies conclude, it’s tennis– not baseball or football– that packs the most action per match or game.

Read the full article here.

Upton Abbey: Episode 6 – I Can See Clearly Now?

upton abbey bannerYesterday, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Dan Uggla, Braves second baseman, would be placed on the disabled list in order for him to undergo Lasik eye surgery:

In the midst of the worst season of his career, Braves second baseman Dan Uggla will have Lasik eye surgery that will keep him out of the lineup for at least the next two weeks.

Uggla was placed on the 15-day disabled list and Tyler Pastornicky was recalled from Triple-A Gwinnett and will start Tuesday night’s game against the Phillies at Turner Field.

Uggla will have surgery in two or three days, and the Braves think he’ll be able to recover quickly, play in a few minor league games and return to the active roster in 15 days or shortly thereafter.

“It was a mutual decision,” said Uggla, who ranks second among Braves with 21 home runs and leads the team with 62 walks, but has the lowest average (.186) among major league qualifiers and most strikeouts (146) in the National League. “Obviously I don’t want to go on the DL whatsoever, but at the same time you’ve got to do what’s best for the team right now.

“I’ve been struggling pretty bad and battling with the contacts and grinding with those things day in and day out. I think the best thing to do is just go ahead and do it now.”

The full story is available here. Uggla can be a lightning rod for criticism, and the fact that his home runs and walks are up at the same time he has baseball’s worst batting average (supplanting teammate B.J. Upton) and is leading the National League in strikeouts sounds to me like a very Uggla season. With the team continuing to be beset by seemingly critical injuries (and succeeding in spite of that), the question is whether Lasik– which sounds a bit dog-ate-my-homework-esque– can help Uggla.

The idea here is that Uggla’s having trouble hitting the ball because he’s having trouble seeing the ball, and that having corrective eye surgery would improve his ability to see, and therefore hit, the ball. That AJC story includes an apparent testimonial from Uggla’s teammate, catcher Brian McCann, who battled vision problems and is having a great season at the plate this year.

But a 2005 study found “no statistically significant or practically significant difference . . . between the presurgery and postsurgery means on either on-base percentage, batting average, slugging percentage, or on-base plus slugging of any major league baseball players.”

Fangraphs’ Chad Young thinks there’s good reason to believe that study is flawed, however. His article raises three primary issues with the study: 1) it fails to account for player age; 2) it does not place player output in historical context; and 3) it utilizes rigid, narrow sample windows.

Young attempted to crunch the numbers himself in a way that addressed the flaws he saw in the study’s methodology, leading to a number of conclusions, including: a) offensive contribution increased significantly in the year following surgery, and b) players in Uggla’s age range saw an increase in offensive contribution, while older players saw a decrease, something Young attributes to age independent of eye surgery. In other words, “when we account for age and league context, the picture gets quite a bit rosier. Maybe the way I am looking at the data suggests I need the surgery more than Uggla does, but I am not ruling out the possibility that we will see noticeable gains once Uggla can see.”

_____________________________________________

Uggla may be having trouble seeing the game right now, but we certainly did not, as our last trip to Turner Field found us in what may be the best seats I’ve ever had for a baseball game.

rockies braves august 2013I have yet to see the Braves lose in Atlanta this season (a streak that will be put to the test again tonight), and this particular game was the most emphatic victory yet. Continue reading

J.J. Jam

Recent selections in this space have featured the music of the lately departed (Ray Manzarek and Bobby “Blue” Bland), and today’s offering adheres to that trend. While trying to avoid engaging in any sort of comparative analyses, the passing of today’s featured artist feels like a pretty big deal. Eric Clapton’s site has the details:

The legendary American Singer / Songwriter, JJ Cale, died on Friday 26 July of a heart attack at Scripps Hospital in La Jolla, California. The news was reported on his management company’s website and on the musician’s Facebook page.

JJ Cale (John W. Cale) was born on 5 December 1938, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. …

A composer, guitarist and vocalist, he was one of the innovators of the “Tulsa Sound.” It draws on blues, rockabilly, country, and jazz influences. In an interview, JJ once said, “I don’t think there is a Tulsa sound as such. It’s just individuals. But I know what you mean. In western Oklahoma you’ve got a lot of country music. Then in eastern Oklahoma, it’s closer to the Mississippi and you’ve got more blues musicians. In Tulsa we got influenced by both and there’s some jazz in there too. So I guess that’s what made my sound.”

JJ began playing guitar in the clubs around Tulsa, Oklahoma in the 1950s. He played in a variety of rock and western swing bands, including one with Leon Russell. In 1959, he moved to Nashville, Tennessee where he was hired by the Grand Ole Opry’s touring company. After a few years, he returned to Tulsa where he reunited with Russell and began playing in the local clubs. In 1964, JJ and Leon moved to Los Angeles with another musician from Oklahoma, Carl Radle. In Los Angeles, JJ worked as a studio engineer and played with Delaney and Bonnie for a brief time. He launched his solo career in 1965. That same year, he cut the first version of “After Midnight,” which would become his most famous song. …

He returned to Tulsa in 1967 and again embarked on the club circuit. Within a year, he had completed a set of demos. Carl Radle obtained a copy and sent them to Denny Cordell, who was launching Shelter Records with Leon Russell. Shelter signed Cale in 1969. JJ’s debut album, Naturally, was released in December 1971. It included the Top 40 hit “Crazy Mama,” a re-recorded version of “After Midnight” (which nearly reached the Top 40) and “Call Me the Breeze.” These remain some of his best known songs.

Following the release of his sophomore effort, JJ embarked a slow work schedule. Over the years, his aversion to stardom and extensive touring became well-known. He happily remained relatively obscure for decades. In an interview, JJ Cale said, “I’m a guitarist and a songwriter and I got lucky when Clapton heard one of my songs. I’m not a showbiz kind of guy. I had the passion to do music as much as anybody. But I never wanted to be the patsy up front. And I still don’t want to be famous.”

It took until 1983 for him to record his eighth album, 8. Then, there were no further albums until1990′s Travel Log. 10 was released in 1992, followed by Close to You (1994) and Guitar Man (1996). Those albums were followed by another long period of inactivity. JJ did not return to recording until 2003. The result was the critically acclaimed To Tulsa and Back (2004). His last CD was Roll On (2009). He embarked on his final tour in April 2009 to support it’s [sic] release.

Eric Clapton is one of many musicians who have noted J.J’s influence on their music. They include Mark Knopfler, Neil Young, Bryan Ferry, and “jam bands” like Widespread Panic. Clapton, when asked by Vanity Fair several years ago “What living person do you most admire?” replied simply “JJ Cale.” Neil Young has said, “Of all the players I ever heard, it’s gotta be Hendrix and JJ Cale who are the best electric guitar players.”

Over the years, Eric Clapton recorded several of JJ Cales’ compositions including “After Midnight”, “I’ll Make Love To You Anytime”, “Travelin’ Light”, “Angel” and “Cocaine” which remains a Clapton concert staple to this day.

… Later [in 2004], Eric invited JJ to produce an album for him. Work started in the summer of 2005, but it evolved into a collaborative effort. Their joint album, The Road To Escondido, was released to critical acclaim on 7 November 2006. Certified gold by the RIAA, it won a Grammy for Best Contemporary Blues Album in 2008. … JJ can also be heard on EC’s 19th studio album, Clapton (2010) and Old Sock (2013).

Famous for songs others turned into hits, “After Midnight” and “Cocaine,” via Clapton, and “Call Me the Breeze,” via Skynyrd, J.J. Cale was far from a back-room, record company songwriter. He was, as the tribute from Clapton’s folks indicates, a true musician in his own right, and he would have been an important one even if those heavy commercial hitters hadn’t picked up a few of his tunes. (He didn’t mind the royalty checks, though, he acknowledged in a statement picked up by this nice Daily Beast retrospective.) That’s why it seems right to remember him not through the interpretive work of others, but through his own performances.

His 2004 release, To Tulsa and Back, has been in my regular rotation since it came out, so the first of the following three selections comes from that album:

[Video not available for embedding. Click here.]

A friend commended the next choice, from Cale’s 1972 album, Naturally, which features Carl Radle on bass:

Finally, a collaboration with fellow propagator of the Tulsa Sound, Leon Russell:

Ride on, J.J.