Blog on the Tracks

Writer/reviewer Simon Sweetman covers music for The Dominion Post and North And South. He cares far too much about music, and the list of bands he loves is far longer than the list of groups he has shown no love.

The wonderful and beautiful B.B. King

11:15am 09 Apr 2014


Yesterday the story was posted around the place (including here) that an "erratic" B.B. King was "painful to watch". 

There's even plenty of footage from the show to watch in a "highlights" clip. But if you saw B.B. King in Auckland a couple of years ago (as I did) the footage and story might seem instantly familiar.B.B.

I'm curious to know what you think about this though - it's essentially a story telling us that a living legend should be put out to pasture, a trip to the glue factory for this old warhorse...

The issue I have with this is that it's actually the audience's duty to do the homework, to have an understanding of what they're about to see, not just who they think they are seeing. You need to go to a gig prepared for the reality, not just with your hopes and dreams of seeing, in this case, the person who created two of the greatest live albums of all time; a blues guitar legend. It's not realistic to expect the B.B. King of 88 to play like, well, the B.B. King of 80, let alone the B.B. King of 75 or 60 or 50...

My grandmothers are still alive - one is slightly older than B.B. King, one is slightly younger. Neither of them ever troubled a guitar, nor performed on any stage. It's sometimes hard for me to see them at this stage of their life, I don't get the chance to see them as often as I used to, conversation is difficult. They're both in care; neither one capable of living alone, of functioning without support. It can sometimes even seem cruel to see - for just a few moments - their daily battle.

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Your gushings, please...

10:52am 08 Apr 2014


You'll remember, just the other week, I gave you all the opportunity to gush over just one album - in this year's version of the Right This Blog! series you were to put forth an album for review, could be old, could be new, and you're going to base your writing around that album. It doesn't, in the strictest sense, need to be 'a review' since this is a blog. So, rather, it's a piece of writing around an album. A chance to share some thoughts on a favourite piece of music.Checklist

Anyway, it's time to reveal the winners.

You'll have one week to get your work in. Aim for between 800-1200 words as a guide, that said you can write as much or little as you like (within reason). You want to try to keep the reader's/readers' attention. You want to try to have a point.

In no particular order the winning blog-writers are:

John Iscariot: Red House Painters' Down Colorful Hill

A few starters for Monday...

11:09am 07 Apr 2014


Okay, here's a few things for you to kick off your Monday; to kick off your week...

SJD has made his first album available at a 'name your price' deal on Bandcamp. Check it out - and throw in some coins. He's one of our great talents I reckon. And this early album will be interesting to anyone who has enjoyed his more recent efforts.Happy Monday

I'm giving away a double ticket to Morcheeba on Friday night in Wellington, so click this link to be in to win.

The other week I mentioned interviewing Jason Isbell - well, the interview is right here. And he's playing this weekend in Auckland. It'll be well worth seeing.

I finally got around to writing a review of Anika Moa's Songs for Bubbas - a worthwhile thing to have in the house if you have small children.

Updating The Worst

01:28am 04 Apr 2014


So there I am, just walking around the house buzzing the fly-spray out of the can in time with the percussion breaks on a Santana record - pretty standard, really. Then I start to think about where my life is going and what it even is. And as the live version of Oye Como Va finishes just as I run out of fly-spray and - fortunately - flies I think, 'well it could be worse. At least I'm not Carlos Santana'

You see the album is Lotus - one of the records I've listened to the most in my life. And one of a handful of Santana records that mean the world to me; Lotus was recorded on the back of the Welcome album and that was the first non-compilation record I heard from Santana. Man, this music set my world alight. I was taken with it. Instantly. I was 12, 13 years old. And I was discovering all of this music - grabbing with both hands whatever I could from the 1960s and 1970s (and the 1950s for that matter). It was all a revelation. Exciting, because my folks were rediscovering it, they were building a CD collection out of memories of what their record collection once was. I took whatever was left of their record collection and bought tapes, then CDs, then replacement-LPs...

Carlos Santana has had the biggest fall from grace. That's my belief. I realised this when, four years ago now, or nearly, I had to listen to his embarrassing idea of "Guitar Classics". Nobody needs to hear that.

It's the worst!

Now, sure, a lot of the Santana music isn't much chop after Welcome/Lotus - there's a few gems, but the wobbles start to kick in pretty swiftly. But in that first half decade you hear a band so vital, a guitarist so fluid, so inventive. There's power and majesty in that music. There's grace, there's enchantment. Sixteen minutes of Incident At Neshabur? F**k yes! Those live versions of Se A Cabo and Samba Pa Ti? Oh man. Forget about it! Wonderful. And the Welcome and Caravanserai records. And everything before that - Abraxas obviously... the performance at Woodstock...

Reminded of Grant Lee Buffalo

11:12am 03 Apr 2014


The CDs were always in alphabetical order, before that the tape collection - at one point I had about 500 or so - were arranged according to genre/flow, chronological within artist. But records, actual LPs, I've only ever liked having them in any order. I like to play a new game of Lost and Found every time I flip through them, it creates new joy with each new discovery.

One of the criticisms of the Mp3 world is that everything is just a click and drag away. (It's one of the selling points too, obviously). Well, last night I experienced something close to the Lost and Found game. I 'found' an old hard-drive and scrolled through to recover the first two albums by Grant Lee Buffalo. I have a new iPod. I believe the last time I looked for Grant Lee Buffalo was when I last had a new iPod.

The Storm Hymnal compilation (kinda) does the job, but there's nothing like those first twoFuzzy albums. Oh, I like bits of Copperopolis and lots of Jubilee too - I'd say the band never made a bad album. It's a nice, tidy discography - and I've kept up with most of Grant-Lee Phillip' solo albums - found a few to really dig as well. But it has always been about Fuzzy and Mighty Joe Moon for me.

A wonderful one-two, 1993 and 1994 - perhaps for me they go together because I heard them together; I even made a tape, C-90, one album on each side - a little bit cut off on each side, so I copied them to separate C-60 cassette tapes too, repeating favourite tracks to fill up the space. But that C-90 did the rounds back when the car still had a tape-player. And then it was off to buy my own CD copies as well.

A new friend loaned me the two Grant Lee Buffalo albums back in the day. I didn't see the gig when they played in Auckland with Crowded House and R.E.M. but I heard enough people talking about it. So my friend loaned me the albums and the cultural exchange was completed with me sharing my then-so-special, favourite Charles Bukowski anthology; that and William S. Burroughs' The Cat Inside.Mighty Joe Moon

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