American Stars 'N Bars

In the mid-’70s, Neil Young couldn’t decide what to release, He’d record a full album, plan its release and at the last minute – shelve it in favor of something totally different (which is what happened in 1975 with the aborted Homegrown, which then gave way to the “Tonights The Night” album. These were years of hard drinking, hard living and, apparently, hard decisions. In late 1976, he made another hard decision.

While hanging out with Cameron Crowe, who was with Neil  writing a Rolling Stone magazine special, Young abruptly changed his mind about “Decade” , a three-LP retrospective of his career, which also included some new material. Some 300,000 copies of the compilation were being pressed when Young began to have second thoughts. Record label head honchos were meeting with Neil at a tour stop to discuss delaying – but not ditching “Decade”.

“What if I just save Decade for a year, then put out a new album? ,The new stuff sounds so good – I’ve got this song called ‘Hurricane’ that just soars – I think I’d feel better releasing something new. It’s not time to look back yet.”

Neil played Warner Bros. President Mo Ostin and Executive Vice President Ed Rosenblatt the album he wanted to put out first: something he was calling American Stars ’n Bars. “One side is about American folk heroes and the other is about getting loose in bars,” Young revealed. Ostin and Rosenblatt granted the singer-guitarist’s wish to first focus on a new LP of original material.

But the material that the guys from Warner Bros. heard wasn’t exactly what ended up on the final version of American Stars ’n Bars recorded between December 13th 1974 to April 4th 1977. In the run-up to releasing the album in the spring of 1977, Young changed course yet again, removing songs such as “Powderfinger,” “Captain Kennedy” and “Sedan Delivery” from the record.

In place of those tunes, he quickly recorded a batch of new songs with Crazy Horse in April at his ranch in La Honda, California. Young was in a country mood at the time, which showed on twangy, shuffling songs like “Hey Babe” and “Saddle Up the Palomino.” Adding some extra country flavor was Ben Keith with his pedal steel, as well as backing vocalists including Linda Ronstadt and Nicolette Larson. Ronstadt would later recall being tricked into delivering a more rustic performance.

Neil and his band were in an old barn and it was set up like a live gig with a P.A. and vocal monitors,” she recalled, When the day was over, Ronstadt commented on how good the songs sounded and that she looked forward to recording them. “Neil took us out back of the barn and there was a remote recording truck that unbeknownst to us had been recording us all day. And Neil said we were done.”

But the five songs that came from those sessions only made up Side One of American Stars ’N Bars. For the second half of the album, Young decided to release some songs that had been kicking around a while. “Star of Bethlehem”  featuring vocals from Emmy Lou Harris originated from the Harvest days, this was set for Homegrown, then Chrome Dreams, both of which went unreleased. “Homegrown,” obviously, dated from its namesake LP, while “Hold Back the Tears” (on Side One) and “Will to Love” could have seen release on Chrome Dreams. The same goes for the song Young mentioned as the impetus for releasing American Stars ’n Bars: In the first place the momentus “Like a Hurricane.” Songs from the April 1977 sessions are all in a country-styled vein.

This most epic of Neil Young’s recorded works had its origins in the summer of ’75, when the musician was recovering from throat surgery and couldn’t talk or sing. According to Jimmy McDonough’s biography, Shakey, the song’s key line was inspired by an attractive woman that Neil saw when he was drinking with his buddies: “You are like a hurricane / There’s calm in your eye.”

“As was our habit between bars, we had stopped at Skeggs Point scenic lookout on Skyline Boulevard up on the mountain to do a few lines of coke,” Young said , “I wrote ‘Hurricane’ right there. … Then when I got home, I played the chords on this old Univox Stringman mounted in an old ornate pump-organ body set up in the living room. I played that damn thing through the night. I finished the melody in five minutes, but I was so jacked I couldn’t stop playing.”

“Like a Hurricane” turned into a swirling, “Runaway”-referencing epic when Young recorded the song with Crazy Horse in November ’75. He took a different approach to another very long song, “Will to Love,” in which Young imagines himself as a salmon swimming upstream. The seven-minute track is a home recording of Neil playing acoustic guitar in front of his fireplace (which you can occasionally hear crackling). It’s a dreamy, meandering song – with overdubbed vibes and drums from also by Neil – which Young has never performed, because he doesn’t recall the intricacies of the vocal melodies. It remains a divisive song among fans and critics, although Young has said it “might be one of the best records I ever made.”

With its country-rock first side and its hodgepodge second side, American Stars ’n Bars came out on May 27th, 1977 – becoming Young’s eighth full-length studio LP. Actor – and Young pal – Dean Stockwell created the album cover, referencing the “Bars” portion of the record It features Connie Moskos, girlfriend of producer David Briggs, drooping with a bottle of Canadian Whisky in her hand and an intoxicated Young with his face pressed against the glass floor of the tavern, seemingly on the verge of passing out. Compiled from recording sessions scattered over a 29-month period, it includes Like a Hurricane,” one of Neil Young’s best-known songs

Fans seemed to like it about as much as any of Neil’s post-Harvest releases as the LP made a respectable showing on the charts in many countries, going silver in the U.K. and gold in the U.S. (just like the last three albums). Reviewers were kind, if restrained, in their appreciation of American Stars ’n Bars, mostly focusing on the power of “Like a Hurricane.” And when Decade finally appeared in the fall of 1977, “Like a Hurricane” joined the tracklist.

Side One,

“The Old Country Waltz” (recorded April 1977)

“Saddle Up the Palomino” (recorded April 1977

“Hey Babe” (recorded April 1977)

“Hold Back the Tears” (recorded April 1977)

“Bite the Bullet” (recorded April 1977)

Side Two

“Star of Bethlehem” (recorded November 1974)

Will to Love” (recorded May 1976)

Like a Hurricane (recorded November 1975)

“Homegrown” (recorded November 1975)

Band

  • Neil Youngvocals, guitars; harmonica on “Star of Bethlehem”; glockenspiel, keyboard, piano, vibes, drums on “Will to Love”
  • Frank “Poncho” Sampedro — guitars all tracks except “Star of Bethlehem” and “Will to Love”; organ on “Like A Hurricane”; backing vocals on “Like A Hurricane” and “Homegrown”
  • Ben Keithpedal steel guitar on “The Old Country Waltz,” “Saddle Up the Palomino,” “Hey Babe,” “Hold Back the Tears,” and “Bite the Bullet”; Dobro, backing vocal on “Star of Bethlehem”
  • Carole Mayedo — violin on “The Old Country Waltz,” “Saddle Up the Palomino,” “Hey Babe,” “Hold Back the Tears,” and “Bite the Bullet”
  • Billy Talbotbass all tracks except “Star of Bethlehem” and “Will to Love”
  • Tim Drummond — bass on “Star of Bethlehem”
  • Ralph Molina — drums all tracks except “Star of Bethlehem” and “Will to Love”; backing vocal on “Like A Hurricane” and “Homegrown”
  • Karl T. Himmel — drums on “Star of Bethlehem”
  • Linda Ronstadt, Nicolette Larson — backing vocals on “The Old Country Waltz,” “Saddle Up the Palomino,” “Hey Babe,” “Hold Back the Tears,” and “Bite the Bullet”
  • Emmylou Harris — harmony vocal on “Star of Bethlehem”

Thanks to Ultimateclassicrock.

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Welsh multi-instrumentalist Novo Amor returns with his new track “Colourway” off his forthcoming EP, Bathing Beach. The beautifully chilling track begins with a simple acoustic guitar, and the track comes to life as the soundscape slowly builds.

Novo Amor, aka Ali Lacey, described “Colourway” as “an expression of nostalgia, a wistful nod to a certain period of time.”

He continues, “The idea to title the EP Bathing Beach comes from an illustrated postcard of a shore in New York State, a pace that was my home for a summer back in 2011. For me, Bathing Beach exerts a calmness that was present during my time there; the idea of it being a place where the land meets the water almost feels like the perfect place to let something go, or set something free.”

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Lifted from the ‘Bathing Beach EP‘ out now via AllPoints

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Welles make music that’s influenced from the past but is authentically present. It’s the thoughts and sounds of a busy and energetic mind. Their debut EP Codeine came out April 28th

I heard Sgt. Pepper’s in ‘97 – that album built every bike ramp I had from ‘97-’02 at least. I saw Queen on public access television and that was awe-inspiring. I saw local bands in Arkansas playing “Surf Wax America” in a shed in Fort Smith and that turned me green with envy, gave me a yearning to be the one playing live music late at night. There were tangents, small town dreams of athletic success, maybe be a poet, maybe get comfy with Nascar and Busch Lite in the river valley, marry a mobile home, but when I think of these tangents there’s always a soundtrack. A slide show riddled with clips of Electric Wizard, CCR, White Album, Bleach, Dead Moon, and my homemade attempts. In the end I’d be awfully uncomfortable doin’ anything else.

WELLES – “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings”  Father John Misty Cover
Recorded Live: 3/31/2017 – Paste Studios – New York, NY

Beloved power pop group Big Star will release a new greatest hits collection featuring rare single versions of six of the band’s tracks.

The Best of Big Star culls its 16 songs from the late Alex Chilton and company’s three studio LPs – 1972’s #1 Record, 1973’s Radio City and 1978’s Third/Sister Lovers along with the single versions of tracks like “In the Street,” “September Gurls” and “O My Soul.”

The compilation includes liner notes penned by Robert Gorden, who previously won a Grammy for his liner notes in the 2009 Big Star box set “Keep an Eye on the Sky”, plus an introduction from drummer Jody Stephens, the band’s lone surviving member.

The Best of Big Star is due out June 16th on CD and vinyl. Check out the single mix for “In the Street” and the compilation’s track list below.

The Lititz, Pennsylvania-formed four-piece don’t concern themselves with mundane tales. With frontman Rob Grote at the helm, they bellow out wild stories about the vastness, fear and thunder of youth. Everything sounds huge. Grote’s vocal never simmers down, guitars are packed like sardines bursting at the seams, drums threaten to blow the doors down.

If 2015 coming-of-age album ‘A Flourish and a Spoil’ hinted at the band’s big-thinking signatures, new song ‘If Before I Wake’ cements it. Grote chants “I’m just a narcissist!” and claims he’s “too blessed to be depressed!”, like he’s had a spiritual awakening. Every fragment of the track has been pushed up to 100 per cent, blared out to the skies. In just three minutes, it feels like The Districts have contained a lifetime’s tale.

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With Untouchable, Kelly has raised the stakes even more than his previous album “Goes Missing”, now fully embracing some of the more outwardly power-pop sensibilities he’d hinted at in previous records.

Kelly has become synonymous with L.A. fuzz-punk contemporaries like Ty Segall and Mikal Cronin, and has played in projects with both men. What’s remarkable about Kelly, though, is his confidence in his voice, and it’s a primary focal point throughout Untouchable. Kelly’s vocals are amped up to the forefront, a move that makes for more memorable, hummable moments, as is evident right out of the gate on LP opener “Broken Record.” The song’s slow-burn guitar progression is just monotonous enough to invite Kelly’s meandering melodies to enchant the vibe, as he sings “I took to making circles round the world/every time I run through/I take to making circles round some girl/Like a broken record I hear myself put it in a tune.”

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Continuing onto the fantastic “Real Enough to Believe,” Kelly homes in on a perfectly proportioned ‘60s pop format, fully welcoming the dreaded “derivative” song. Rather than being careful to avoid direct aural influences from his favorite styles of music, Kelly embraces the nuances of decades of rock ‘n’ roll and reinvents it in his own smorgasbord of cool. “Real Enough to Believe,” against all odds, rivals the brilliant standout track “Be What You Are” from Goes Missing, a feat that once seemed near-impossible.

Untouchable revels in a generally lo-fi mix that sits well with the record’s found-sound ambiance, in another nod to Kelly’s nomadic muses. “That’s When It’s Over” writhes in a mid-song homage to “Hey Joe,” with Kelly’s scintillating guitar solos saluting both Hendrix and the wormy noodling of the Dead. Perched in the thick of the album’s more thoughtful tunes, “That’s When It’s Over” is a juggernaut of energy that perfectly splits the record into two parts. The song’s breakneck riffing explodes with a full head of steam, chugging along atop motorik drums and Kelly crooning, hooting and hollering to a repeated refrain of “In the heart of her heart, she don’t care.”

In its more tender moments, Untouchable unloads heavier pseudo-ballads like the titletrack. With little more than a reverb-y acoustic guitar and a plunky bass backing, Kelly lets his gorgeous voice take even more of a central role, stripped of the blistering leads that permeate most of the album. “Will It To Be” follows suit near the end of the record, a twisted ballad that finds Kelly cooing “I’m holding back now/but I’m getting closer/I am pretending I don’t need to know or even care at all.” The song’s moody, Velvet Undergroundian darkness comes through despite its Fleetwood Mac facade, with rhythmic instruments set deep and foreboding under Kelly’s fluttering melodies.

The magic moments found on Untouchable speak to Kelly’s swaggering confidence—as if that weren’t perhaps alluded to enough in the album’s very title. As a result, the ambitiousness of his work seems increasingly more destined to join the canon of timeless pop from which The Cairo Gang’s songs find their roots.

The spiny tingle of excitement, the building anticipation of ritual! Chord progressions in the key of the heart! Star-crossed breakthroughs and guitars cross-talking with a bejeweled ennui throughout interrelationships .

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Leah Senior is the kind of artist best enjoyed alone, indoors and cozy on a cold winter’s day, allowing her exquisite folk sounds to melt your heart.

The depth she achieves with just her voice and a guitar on Where Have You Been? is astonishing, while the subtle strings on Pretty Faces and Jenny are stirring. You Were Not Fit For The Day is wonderfully evocative as Senior spins an observational story, her double-tracked vocals inducing chills. Black Limousine notably shifts the pace of the album as Senior’s backing band joins the fray, to potent effect. With a spellbinding voice and a delicateness to her music that is nothing short of awe-inspiring, Senior is truly something special.

The second single taken from Leah Senior’s new album “Pretty Faces” out May 26th on Flightless Records.

It’s an engrossing release, 10 tracks delicate, dark folk music that grabs you from the first gentle guitar pluck, and refuses to let go across a swirling world that ebbs and flows, all pinned down down to some kind of ethereal reality by Senior’s incredible voice. It’s released on King Gizzard’s own Flightless label, and was recorded and produced with King Gizz’s Joey Walker. It also features musicians Jesse Williams (keyboard/electric guitar), Andi Senior (vocals), Joe Walker (therovox), Michael Cavanagh (drums), Alex Bleakly (bass) and Vince Ward (cello).

Hayden Calnin

The Australian electro-folk singer-songwriter Hayden Calnin has just released his stunning new track “Waves”. The track is taken from an upcoming EP which is due for release later this year.

”Waves” was written for a good friend and became my interpretation of what was going on in that friend’s head whilst battling severe mental health issues,” Calnin explained. “I wasn’t always able to be there to help them through it and the song evolved into somewhat of an ode to me being a bit of a shit friend when they really needed someone around. I wanted to let that friend know I’m always thinking of them.”

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Ok, so if you’ve got “Live” or even “Babylon by Bus” so, why do you have to purchase another live Bob Marley album? Just listen to a few seconds of the opening bass line to the first song “Trenchtown Rock” as i did, and as i did you will have to purchase the product inmediately. Don’t need to hear anymore. This is another great live album, perfect vocals, vibrant performances and fantastic sound ( !and its a 1976 recording!). The drum and bass from the Barret Brothers are outstanding ( listen with headphones ) and the songs are spectacular. Only the 24 minutes rendition of “Get up,stand up/No more trouble/War” worth the price of the record alone, but there are 12 other songs. So, this is as good as “Live” but longer, and much better than “Babylon by Bus”. If you like  Bob Marley, you can’t go wrong with this one. This concert was originally broadcast live on the KMET radio station in Los Angeles. Because of the radio simulcast, this concert became widely bootlegged beginning in 1976.

Bob Marley and the Wailers “Live” was one of those seminal albums that I played to death when it came out. Then I came across a review of this album, so bought it, and have been blown away. Its easy to think that reggae is an easy music format to play, but it isn’t, and yet the Wailers make it sound like the easiest music form in the world. The opening is stunning, the rhythm section effortlessly dropping into a cool vibe – turn the bass up and listen to a true master at work.

And then there’s Marley himself, passionate, artful, giving a master class in singing with fire and bringing the crowd to a crescendo. This truly is a stunning album, with plenty of recognisable tracks from the earlier part of Bob Marley’s career : Burning and Looting is terrific, Trenchtown Rock stunning, and I Shot the Sheriff steals the song back from Clapton.

The sound quality is excellent,turn it up and it feels like you are in the arena with them.The second disc shows what a great band they were with a 22 minute version of Get Up,War,No More Trouble all rolled into one.

Happy birthday to Paul Weller, born on 25th May 1958, The UK singer, guitarist, songwriter, of The Jam (1980 UK No.1 single ‘Going Underground’ plus over 15 other UK Top 40 singles). With the Style Council, (1983 UK No.3 single ‘Long Hot Summer’, plus 14 other UK Top 40 singles). Solo (1995 UK No.7 single ‘The Changing Man’). Weller has received four Brit Awards, winning the award for Best British Male twice, and the 2006 Brit Award for Outstanding Contribution to Music. Do you have a favourite Weller track?