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‘CSNY 1974’: Listen to exclusive live tracks from Crosby, Still, Nash and Young


Photo: Joel Bernstein

Not only am I one of those people who gets all squirmy if a concert goes on for much longer than an hour, I tend to really hate live albums. So why did I spend six straight hours yesterday listening intently to CSNY 1974, the new 40 song live box set from Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young all the way through twice in back to back playings? Because it’s the best archival rock release of the year…

The coked-out megalomanical circus that saw David Crosby, Graham Nash, Stephen Stills and Neil Young storm across America in the first and most decadent superstar open air stadium tour of the rock era was nicknamed the “Doom Tour” by Crosby because of the feuding, the drugs and the fact that a small army of promoters and hangeroners were sucking at their hyper-megastar corporate rock teets like there was no tomorrow. There had been big rock tours in the past, but CSNY’s extra ginormous 1974 outing—dreamed up by manager Elliot Roberts and put into action by rock promoter Bill Graham—was like plotting an invasion of each new town that the show moved to. The beachheads were 50-70,000 seat football arenas, which saw stages erected and massive PA systems hooked up by a legion of roadies. Other acts on the tour included The Band, Joni Mitchell, Santana and the Beach Boys.

The “Doom Tour” grossed $11 million back when $11 million was still a hell of a lot of money, but the principals only pocketed half a mill each after expenses (and the promoters) were paid. There’s an amusing “oral history” of the trek at Rolling Stone.com. Only Young kept both feet (literally) on the ground, traveling in a bus with his son Zeke and avoiding the insanity, but suffice to say that the debauchery and rockstar egos—at least from the evidence on display here—didn’t interfere with the music, which is insanely good.
 

“Carry Me”

The musicianship on CSNY 1974  is first rate, better even than their earlier live album 4 Way Street as each member had creatively matured since the 1970 tour. In Stephen Stills we have one of the single most remarkable guitarists of the rock era. Don’t get me wrong, Neil Young is no slouch on the six-string himself, but with Stills—as opposed to with Crazy Horse—his ragged, idiosyncratic playing is obliged to conform to, fight against and to parry with Stills’ more structured and almost architectural guitar style. Musically at least, they bring out the best in each other, but it’s Stills who provides the foundation in CSNY that Young reacts to and then he in turn reacts to what Young does, and lemme tell ya, it’s breathtaking. If, like some people, you approach CSNY solely from the POV of Young’s perhaps more “aloof” contributions, these are some canonical performances by him here that I think any Neil Young freak would go absolutely nuts over. (Five of the songs in the set composed by Young—“Traces,” “Goodbye Dick,” “Love Art Blues,” “Hawaiian Sunrise” and “Pushed It Over the End” –appear on CSNY 1974 for the first time on any official release.)

For all the talk of the backstage feuds, there is simply no sign of this in the onstage camaraderie documented here, which is supportive, fraternal and joyously ecstatic. A good example of this comes with Stills’ delicate piano backing of Young on “Only Love Can Break Your Heart.” Other highlights of the set include several “solo” numbers: a simply smouldering take on Young’s “On The Beach,” a gorgeous rendition of Crosby’s confessional “Carry Me” (at that point still un-issued on record), Nash’s “Grave Concern” from his dark, nearly unknown Wild Tales solo LP and Stills’ motherfucker of a rip, spitting his way through a frantic “Word Game.”

There are various configurations of CSNY 1974 on vinyl, CDs, DVD and Blu-ray Pure Audio discs. Unless you have to have vinyl (and are a masochist who loves flipping six records over) I’d highly suggest going with the version that Rhino sent me, the Blu-ray, which has all 40 songs—there were three sets, two rock sets with an acoustic set in between—on one disc so you can just relax and take it all in for three hours. Another reason to opt for the Blu-ray set is that it sounds really, really good. Produced by Graham Nash and the group’s longtime archivist, Joel Bernstein, the set was culled from the tapes of nine shows that were recorded by Elliot Mazer, the tour’s audio engineer and others. The audio quality here is astonishingly good for 40-year-old live recordings to begin with, but it would be remarkable sounding if it was recorded yesterday. The acoustic guitars chime, the electric leads cut through you like a knife, Stills and Young’s duelling guitars complement and argue with each other. You’ve got the heavenly harmonies of Crosby and Nash mic’d so closely that you can hear their breath. The piano has presence and clarity as if it had been recorded in a studio and not at an open air sports arena in front of 50,000 screaming fans. You get the idea. At least when all of that money was flying out the door unaccounted for, they got these great recordings out of it. The mastering was done by Bernie Grundman (an audiophile mark of distinction) after it was mixed down by Nash, Bernstein and Stanley Tajima Johnston in 192-kHz/24-bit resolution. [To anyone who says that stuff doesn’t make a difference, I defy you to listen to the acoustic set on Blu-ray and tell me you’ve heard a more “intimate” sounding live recording, ever. I suspect that Nash and Bernstein presented their work to Stills and the notoriously picky audiophile Young with confidence. What else would there be for Neil Young to say other than “Hey, great job, guys!”?]
 


“Grave Concern”

To my mind CSNY 1974 is the “classic rock” release of the year so far. It’s so damned good that I can’t imagine anything coming along and topping it, either, but if that did occur, then 2014 will be a good year for rock snobs, overflowing with an embarrassment of riches like this and the Led Zeppelin remasters.

Like the majority of Amazon reviewers, Ima gonna give CSNY 1974 five stars. One woman writes that she bought it for her husband and gave it to him before they were going to go out and eat. They opted instead to stay home and listen to it all the way through. That was my reaction to it, too. I expected to like it, but I liked it so much that I spent six hours straight with it. Not listening while surfing on my iPad, but listening to it. Listening intently and digging the shit out of it. In summation: CSNY 1974 is fucking good. You want a box set to feel like a good value and Christmas day simultaneously and this one truly does.

(Did I mention that there’s a separate DVD of video performances shot at Wembley Stadium and at Landover, MD’s Capital Centre? That’s awesome, too.)

Here’s something fascinating, a black and white video recording of an impromptu CSNY set taped at Winterland in 1973. It was originally a Stephen Stills and Manassas concert, then some “very special guests” showed up. At the time Neil Young was on his Tonight’s the Night tour with the Santa Monica Flyers and Crosby & Nash were touring as a duo. It’s sloppy, sure, the four hadn’t played together in over two years at this point, but it’s history, baby! Neil Young, perhaps emphasizing his independence from the other three, doesn’t come onstage until the fifth number:
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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‘I have come to die with you’: Nico performs ‘Genghis Khan’ on French TV, 1979
07.18.2014
09:35 am

Topics:
Music

Tags:
Nico


 
On June 27, 1979, accompanied only by her harmonium, Nico performed a stunning “Genghis Khan,” a typically atmospheric number that would later appear on her 1981 Drama of Exile album, on French television.

I have come to lie with you
I have come to die with you
On your padded shoulder
And your golden chest
In a wilderness of glass we rest
And all the flowers they are our words
And my chances follow dances Into a storm afraid
A sweet and bitter rest he gets
A sweet and bitter rest he gets
I have come to lie with you
I have come to die with you.

They don’t write ‘em like that anymore, do they?

The golf claps from the audience at the end speak volumes! There are so few professionally “in studio” performances by her. This one is a bleak gem.

Nico, real name Christa Päffgen, died on this day in 1988 at the age of 48. More or less off heroin at that point, but still struggling with it, she was living with her son Ari Boulogne in Ibiza. One very hot day she decided to take her bike into town to buy some marijuana, but had a heart attack along the way, hitting her head as she fell and causing a severe cerebral hemorrhage. A cabdriver found her but she was mistakenly diagnosed as suffering from heat exposure at the hospital and died later that evening.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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Pizza-themed ‘punk’ albums are stupid, but funny
07.18.2014
09:11 am

Topics:
Amusing
Food
Music

Tags:
Pizza


 
I kinda hate myself for blogging this, but yet, here I am… fucking blogging this! I laughed at a few these, okay?! The Richard Hell and The Voidoids album cover with the Domino’s Pizza character the Noid is sorta genius. Or maybe not. Perhaps I’m just easily amused.

So why do these exist, you ask? Riot Fest is holding an online contest where folks are asked to “pizzafy” any punk album of their choice and a winner will be chosen on July 31, 2014. The winner is picked by Internet voters. 
 

 

 

 

 
More after the jump…

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
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David Bowie in his tighty-whiteys, 1973
07.18.2014
07:49 am

Topics:
Amusing
Fashion
Music
Pop Culture

Tags:
David Bowie


 
Many of you have probably already seen these stills of David Bowie in his “tighty-whiteys” from a 1973 photoshoot. I think they should be resurrected from time-to-time here on Dangerous Minds. Never forget!

Admittedly, I still giggle like a young schoolgirl every damned time I see these.


 

 

 
h/t Britrockaholic

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
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‘The Black Man in the Cosmos’: Sun Ra teaches at UC Berkeley, 1971
07.18.2014
06:48 am

Topics:
Music
Race
Thinkers

Tags:
Sun Ra


 
The first thing I’d do with a time machine is point it to Berkeley, California, 1971. Those are the spacetime coordinates of the Afro-American Studies course Sun Ra taught at UC Berkeley. I’ve never been able to find an image of an original syllabus, but the reading list reportedly included the King James Bible, Blavatsky, Ouspensky, Radix by Bill Looney, the Egyptian Book of the Dead, LeRoi Jones’ Black Fire, The Real History of the Rosicrucians, The Secret Doctrine of the Rosicrucians, The Rosicrucians: Their Rites and Mysteries, OAHSPE, and In the Pronaos of the Temple of Wisdom.

According to John F. Szwed’s scholarly biography Space Is The Place: The Lives And Times Of Sun Ra, when students complained that some of these books were impossible to find, their professor “merely smiled knowingly”—of course the books that disclosed the secret history of the world were hard to come by. Szwed describes the class:

“Every week during the spring quarter of 1971 he met his class, Afro-American Studies 198: ‘The Black Man in the Cosmos,’ in a large room in the music department building. Although a respectable number of students signed up, after a couple of classes it was down to a handful (‘What could you expect with a course named like that,’ Sun Ra once chortled). [...] But it was a proper course—Sun Ra had after all trained to be a teacher in college—with class handouts, assignments, and a reading list which made even the most au courant sixties professors’ courses pale.

[...] In a typical lecture, Sun Ra wrote biblical quotes on the board and then ‘permutated’ them—rewrote and transformed their letters and syntax into new equations of meaning, while members of the Arkestra passed through the room, preventing anyone from taping the class. His lecture subjects included Neoplatonic doctrines; the application of ancient history and religious texts to racial problems; pollution and war; and a radical reinterpretation of the Bible in light of Egyptology.”

Apparently, the Arkestra’s agents failed to prevent the taping of Sun Ra’s May 4 lecture, “The Power of Words,” a recording of which surfaced on the double-CD set The Creator Of The Universe. Though the recording starts and ends abruptly in mid-sentence, it’s actually of higher fidelity than much of the master’s officially sanctioned musical product (just listen to the tapping of the chalk on the board). The whole thing is worth listening to, but for me the climax comes around the 37-minute mark. “If you’re not mad at the world, you don’t have what it takes,” Sun Ra told his musicians, and towards the end of the lecture, the questions of a tardy student seem to touch a nerve. Prof. Ra’s improvised response is an impassioned summary of his militant, gnostic philosophy:

“I’m thinking about the future of black Egypt, which is outside of the realm of history. History has been very unkind to black people, so actually what I’m always talking about is the myth, and nothing that has ever been is part of what I’m talking about, because I’m saying that black folks need a myth-ocracy instead of a de-mocracy. Because they’re not gonna make it in anything else. They’re not gonna make it in history[. . .]

You see, that’s what’s wrong with y’all. Now here you walk in, the last man to get in here, and you gonna ask questions. But honesty is not what I’m talking about. You’re not in a place where truth can do you any good. So you gonna have to come to me privately, and we’ll talk about things that can help the black race. Truth has been abolished, so any truth you say is not permissible in here, because it never done anybody any good. Now, I’m dealing with things that can do you some good. If I come across the biggest lie in the universe, if it can help the black race, then I’m gonna use it. That’s fair warning to anybody, any nation on the face of the earth. I’m gonna use anything I find, and any weapon that I find.

Now I find that the truth is not permissible for me to use. Because I’m not righteous and holy; I’m evil. That’s because I’m black. And I’m not a striver to any righteousness. I never been righteous, I’m never going to be righteous. So now I’m evil. I’m the incarnation of evil. I’m black. I’m following their dictionary. Now I’m dealing with equations. I can’t go around and tell you I’m ‘right’ or ‘good’ when the dictionary is telling everybody in the world everything black is evil and wicked, so then I come and say, ‘Yes. So what? Yes, I’m wicked. Yes, I’m evil.’ I’m not gonna be converted. I’m not gonna strive to righteousness. I don’t wanna go to heaven, because good folks don’t never do nothing but be good, and they always failing, and they always getting killed, and they frustrating. So all I see on this planet is something evil like the white man being successful, and successful, and successful, and successful.

And I see evil killing black men every day, destroying him. Why should I be good? No, it’s better for me to come up to the white race and say, ‘Yes. We evil people should sit down to the table and talk together. You’re evil, I’m evil too. Now, them other folks that you’re dealing with are good black folks. I’m not good, and you’re not good. We understand one another.’”

This is before he gets to explaining that white people are evil and wicked because “they were made evil and wicked in imitation of the evil and wicked black man,” but you should really just listen to the whole thing.

Listen to, or download the entire thing at Sensitive Skin

Posted by Oliver Hall | Discussion
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‘Rave of Thrones’: Have a listen to Hodor’s Sound Cloud page
07.17.2014
11:39 am

Topics:
Music
Television

Tags:
Game of Thrones
Kristian Nairn

hodorraves.jpg
 
Game of Thrones actor Kristian Nairn has announced a Rave of Thrones tour of Australia this August and September.

Nairn, who plays the gentle giant from Winterfell, has a second career as a successful DJ back in his native Northern Ireland and has perfomed with Scissor Sisters and as far afield South Africa and Australia. Now he will returning “down under” to bring the Seven Kingdoms with his skills as a DJ.

Details here.

If you want a taste of the kind of tunes Hodor will be playing have a listen to his Sound Cloud page.
 

 

 

 
H/T Popbitch

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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George Harrison’s 1966 selfies from India
07.17.2014
09:13 am

Topics:
Music
Pop Culture

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George Harrison
India


 
George Harrison’s 1966 trip to India was a major catalyst in the development of the Beatles’ sound, and pop music was forever changed by his sitar tutelage under Ravi Shankar. However, all the talk about the musical, spiritual and yoga training tend to obfuscate the real historic legacy of Harrison’s journey—selfies!!!  The quiet Beatle captured some really beautiful scenery (as well as his lovely face), using a fisheye lens to clever effect. Frankly, I’m a little surprised Instagram hasn’t pushed for a nostalgic fisheye comeback—who doesn’t like a little psychedelic bulge to their selfie?
 

 

 

 

 
More after the jump…

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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Gary Numan’s 1981 ‘farewell’ concerts
07.17.2014
07:37 am

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Music

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Gary Numan


 
This was probably a pretty bad idea: In 1981, at the absolute height of his U.K. superstardom, Gary Numan announced his retirement from live performance. His intended last hurrah, at Wembley Arena, sold out so quickly that two more shows had to be added to accommodate the fans who wished to see him one last time.

Despite/because of his success, Numan had been the subject of massive derision by the U.K. music press, and retiring from live shows at the ripe old age of 23 only fueled further accusations of pretension. While the British music press have historically been legendarily dickish, they kind of had a point this time. Numan would in fact return to live performance in less than two years. The whole big retirement to-do ultimately did the man no favors.
 

 
But all that context aside, the shows were reportedly incredible. Numan sang the hits, of course—he drew material from Replicas, The Pleasure Principle and Telekon, stone classics, all—but his choice of deep cuts was superb as well (see the setlist here), and the result was a marvelous two hours of elaborately staged, visionary synth-pop, with live support from violinist Nash the Slash (RIP May 2014) and the mime/dance troupe Shock. Fortunately one (or more?) of the performances was filmed. The scale of the productions was impressive: rotating pyramids, huge banks of lighting panels, the famous “Down in the Park” car you’ll remember if you saw Urgh! A Music War, it seems like no expense was spared.

After these shows, Numan continued to record, release, and tour. Though subsequent albums like Dance and I, Assassin were quite good, his popularity never returned to its pre-“retirement” level. In the ‘90s, however, he embraced a darker, harsher direction, finding a renewed energy in the goth/industrial scene, and he released the excellent Exile in 1997. (I saw him perform on that tour, and the audience was half 35/40ish guys, half really young goth chicks. It was amusing.) Impressively, his 2013 LP, Splinter (Songs From A Broken Mind), is easily one of his best, which is quite a testament to the man’s enduring talent. I caught a show on that tour, as well, and HOLY SHIT, I’d swear the energy in performance of the now 56-year old singer actually rivals that of his youth. I was a bit too young for concerts and an ocean away when he played Wembley, so thankfully, this video exists.
 

 
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
New Gary Numan video: ‘I am Dust’

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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Avant garde app visualizes Steve Reich’s ‘Piano Phase’
07.16.2014
12:11 pm

Topics:
Music
Science/Tech

Tags:
Steve Reich


 
“Piano Phase” (1967) was Steve Reich’s first composition to use phasing in live performance—he had already tried it with taped music. The concept here is that you have two pianos playing the same repetitive lines of music but at very slightly different speeds, which means that over the course of several minutes the two melodies will overlap (almost) perfectly at certain points and then gradually diverge, which creates interesting tonalities. Todd Tarantino explains:
 

The score presents a handful of rotations of a twleve-note figure that is played in twelve variations. In its first presentation the theme begins on the first note; the first variation begins on the second note and ends on the first note; the second variation begins on the third note and ends on the second and so forth until all the rotations of the figure have been played. Alone it would be a simple, quick and relatively dull score. However the process by which the variations proceed is where the interest lies. Reich asks the first piano to begin by playing the theme alone. The second piano joins when the theme is sufficiently established. While one piano keeps the initial tempo, the other speeds up ever so slightly which causes the two to become out-of-sync for a moment before the second pitch of the slowing down piano locks with the first pitch of the steady tempo piano. This process repeats until the two return to unison. It sounds more complicated than it actually is.

 
As Tarantino drily concludes, “It is quite difficult to play.” Yeah—it sure seems like it!

You can see part of the score on Tarantino’s site as well. Indeed, as delightful as the challenge of humans playing may be, the optimal performance of “Piano Phase” would be undertaken by computer, as only a computer can perfectly track the almost imperceptibly slow alterations in phase that are so integral to the work. And that has happened—on Vimeo there is a surprisingly entertaining rendition of the composition performed by an “ER-101 Indexed Quad Sequencer and some other eurorack modules.” (What makes it entertaining is that we can watch the user setting the sequence up.)

Google Creative Labs honcho Alexander Chen has created a fun web app called, appropriately enough, Piano Phase in which you can see the notes being played (by computer) as well as hear them. Appropriately, as if to mirror the inherently cyclical nature of the work, Chen has two differently colored dots trace lines up and down (to represent pitch) around a circle, rather than scrolling endlessly to the right as in a traditional score.

Chen writes:

This site is based on the first section from Steve Reich’s 1967 piece Piano Phase. Two pianists repeat the same twelve note sequence, but one gradually speeds up. Here, the musical patterns are visualized by drawing two lines, one following each pianist.

The sound is performed live in the browser with the Web Audio API, and drawn in HTML5 Canvas.

 
The app does interesting visual things if you pause the music to read the “about” text and also if you click and drag anywhere in the browser. Play around with it, it’s pretty cool.
 

 
Two mesmerizing performances of “Piano Phase” after the jump….

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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Grauzone: The ice cold sounds of a classic 80s Swiss New Wave group
07.16.2014
09:12 am

Topics:
Music

Tags:
Grauzone
Neue Deutsche Welle


 
Grauzone (German for “grey area”) was a Swiss synthpop group formed in 1979 who recorded four singles and one album and played just ten concerts before splitting up at the end of 1982. They are most famous for their amazing 1981 song “Eisbär” (“Polar Bear”). Ladytron samples the song on “Fighting In Built Up Areas” and it was also covered by French group Nouvelle Vague.
 

 
Grauzone would be considered a classic (albeit Swiss) band of the “Neue Deutsche Welle” era. Today they might also be re-classified as “Cold Wave.”

My favorite Grauzone number, “Hinter Den Bergen” (“Behind The Mountains”):

 
An animation for “Eisbär” made to promote the 2010 Grauzone 1980-1982 double album release:
 

 
More Swiss New Wave synthpop after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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