Posts Tagged ‘Glyn Johns’

Whiskeytown Pneumonia

It was 1999 and Ryan Adams, the man who formed pioneers Whiskeytown and led them for close to five years through series of beloved live shows and three studio albums – the last of which, Pneumonia, was only just in the can – was ready to move on. Having already jettisoned his first musical incarnation, The Patty Duke Syndrome (a short-lived punk outfit formed just outside of his hometown, Jacksonville, North Carolina), it was time for him to go solo and leave another band, another persona behind.

Since their much-lauded second album, Strangers Almanac, Whiskeytown had become the torch-bearers for the new breed of It’s not difficult to imagine a young Sturgill Simpson nodding along to the slow rambles and dreaming lyricism of its frontman.
But it would be on their final, “lost” album, Pneumonia, that Adams finally stopped limiting himself to people’s perceptions of what Whiskeytown should be, and followed his own intuitions and influences.

Pneumonia was borne amid of a series of record industry mergers and a tumultuous tour in support of Strangers Almanac, during which the band cycled through line-ups, with just Adams and violinist Caitlin Cary as its constants. With the record being shelved for two years, Adams and company had amassed a great number of tracks to choose from, resulting in a folk- and country-influenced pop/rock creation that refused to be pigeonholed. At the time, fans of Whiskeytown were surprised by this musical departure, but it when it came to their shape-shifting frontman, Pneumonia would serve as a harbinger to Ryan Adams’ future solo efforts.

Adams had always insisted he never wanted to be the “frontman” of Whiskeytown, thinking of it as more of a collective that shared the spotlight and song-writing duties. But on Pneumonia, the prolific songwriter took the lead. When it came to developing the sound, however, it would be producer Ethan Johns (son of legendary producer/engineer Glyn Johns) who would take the reins. Their creative collaboration would continue on Adams’ solo debut, Heartbreaker, and subsequent albums.

Pneumonia is an open and honest album about loss and moving on from what pains you. Adams has described it as “the euphoria you get when you’re sick”, and there’s certainly a bittersweet sense to proceedings. The album opens with a lover’s farewell, ‘The Ballad Of Carol Lynn’, a song of strained appreciation for a troubled soul who’s too much for the singer to deal with any longer. It’s one of seven songs written with multi-instrumentalist Mike Daly and features Adams’ passionate vocals over a simple piano arrangement and harmonic interludes.

The following track, ‘Don’t Wanna Know Why’, is more upbeat rhythmically, but still stuck in the mud of a difficult parting of ways. The lyrics “Breathe in, breathe out” signify an attempt at the patience a lover seeks to find while in the middle of reconciling the end of something.

On ‘Jacksonville Skyline’, Adams goes into storyteller mode, recalling a small-town tale that feels like a homesick ode to his childhood home. At first the song seems like a simple vignette about day-to-day life in the south, but through the lens of Pneumonia as a whole, it takes on another meaning. Is its narrator longing for more simple days before the complications that clearly burden him, overwhelmed him? Over a decade after its recording, the song continued to resonate with Adams, who performed solo versions of it on his stunning solo 2011 acoustic tour, collected on the 15LP box set Live After Deaf.

The next four entries play like stages of a dissolving of a relationship. Even the song titles refer to those tense conversations one must have to explain, comfort, blame and finally accept. ‘Reasons To Lie’, ‘Don’t Be Sad’, ‘Sit And Listen To The Rain’ and ‘Under Your Breath’ are the heavy lifting of the sorrow this album dramatises.

‘Mirror, Mirror’ is the first hopeful song on the album. Almost out of place with its jaunty horn section and cheery backing vocals, it has more in common with a Ben Folds Five cut than anything anyone had heard from Whiskeytown. Nonetheless, upon re-examination, it feels fuelled by the freedom of a recently emancipated person who’s ready for what life has in store. ‘Paper Moon’, meanwhile, evokes a warm evening under the stars. Featuring orchestral arrangements by Glyn Johns, it lifts you up and carries you down cobblestone streets with its lilting melody and mandolins.

By the time the languid and sultry ‘What The Devil Wanted’ hits you, it’s clear we are now in the soft embrace of a new relationship. The past is gone and a new romance has blossomed. “All my time is wasteful now,” is not just a lyric, it’s a belief system for the man singing it. While most of Pneumonia takes on a first-person point of view, it’s not without some wonderful harmonising between Adams and Cary, especially on the penultimate track, ‘Easy Hearts’.

For a band remembered as pioneers, Pneumonia is full of welcome experimentation, each track bearing its own sonic feeling and diverse vocal delivery while still telling a cohesive story. It comes to a close with ‘Bar Lights’ and the hidden track, ‘To Be Evil’, an imperfect recording that ends with Adams laughing at his own mistakes. It’s as close to Springsteen as there Pneumonia gets, and – whether consciously or unconsciously – if Adams is leaning on The Boss here, it doesn’t matter. The results are a fitting farewell for a band that many would have liked to have seen stick around.


There’s nothing like making the grand entrance to impress people, but few do it in such style as Humble Pie’s Jerry Shirley and I managed when we drove to Steve Marriott’s country home on Friday. As the brakes of Jerry’s mini failed in the entrance to the drive we gracefully smashed into and through the newly-repaired gate and glided to a regal halt half on the lawn!

A barefooted Steve came hurtling through a gateway from the rear garden and pulled up in his tracks when he saw what had happened. Jerry was attempting to halt the car which had started rolling again in the direction of Steve’s car while I clambered through the dead gate.

“I thought it was a scooter crash, we’re always getting them out here. We keep having to rush out with cups of tea to revive people,” Steve gasped. “Are you okay? Right, one new gate needed and two shots of liquid refreshment for medicinal purposes.” on that practical note we filed into one of Steve’s two cottages to find his wife, Jenny, making tea amid four dogs, three kittens, and two geese. This, it seems, was only part of the Marriott menagerie.

Steve Marriott had been living in the country for almost three years now and Jerry thinks it has made a new man of the one-time looner. “He’s much calmer now, different,” Jerry said on the way down. “He’s changed, but not that much… he’s more himself. He doesn’t get moods, he’s just back into being the real Steve.” He has virtually finished with drink and accessories, preferring cups of tea and the fresh air. Uppermost in Steve’s mind that day is the group’s first album with A&M. Titled simply Humble Pie, it is an important first and a lot of hard work has gone into it.

‘Live With Me’ on side one, called This Side, is the type of thing you might expect to hear during a jazz festival when the sun is high and the atmosphere is peaceful. Pete Frampton’s organ begins and is joined by Jerry on drums and then the guitars of Steve and Greg Ridley. Pete controls the organ fluctuation very well, taking the crescendos down to a soft melody very neatly. It’s a relaxing number with little bursts of energy.

Steve: “That’s a stage number. All those things we kept them like we do on stage.”

‘Only A Roach’ could well be a modern country-and-western number in its approach. The vocal harmonies are used to repeat lines at the end of verses and then sing along together. Not the sort of thing I would have expected from Humble Pie‘One-Eyed Trouse-Snake Rumba‘. If you don’t know what the creature in the title is, write to me for the answer in a plain, sealed envelope! A fair old bit of rock and roll with two voices taking alternate parts.

‘Earth and Water Song’ has quiet vocals and thoughtful lyrics with an uncomplicated backing. The acoustic guitar, tapping cymbals, light drumming and flowing organ create a pleasing effect. “I am the earth and she is my water” goes one line, then there’s a short piece of louder instrumental work which becomes more prominent during the number, though it’s never obtrusive. The other side is called That Side; it is generally much louder ‘I’m Ready’ is all very heavy and has Pete yelling over a frenzied riff. A lot of bass drum and cymbals and a fine contrasting lead guitar with lots of guts going into the whole thing. ‘Theme From Skint’ is almost a folk song. It’s like a cross between Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones being folksy. It gets more pounding after a time and this is because it leads straight into…Rock On.  ‘See You Later Liquidator’ which is no doubt a reference to a certain period in the Pie’s recent career. It is musically violent and takes over as the second part of an idea that began during the preceding track. It builds and builds to a walloping crash of thunder at the end after holding the same course but progressing in volume. ‘Red Light Mamma, Red Hot!’ Much heaviness and pounderama abounds here. Stomp, stomp go the drums, the guitars crack away and Pete belts the lyrics out in fine fashion. A nice guitar passage is combined with fierce drumming and a forceful bass line.

‘Sucking On The Sweet Vine’ is the final track. “A love song” is not quite the right description, though it is basically just that. It is in some ways similar to ‘Only A Roach’ though not so involved. The theme is sadness and desolation, and the music is complimentary though very much of today. Steve: “Greg wrote it and sung it. He needed a band where he could come out of himself.”

The Album over, we talked about its chances, which I rate highly, and Steve commented: “I think it’s the best thing I’ve ever been involved in. What I’m knocked out about is the clarity, that’s down to Glyn Johns, the engineer.

“It’s not just a thin sound to get the clarity, he gets a nice loud sound at the same time. I’ll stand up for this album to anyone any day of the week. an album should be like a stage show.” From the “Life and Times of Steve Marriott”

We rejoined Jerry and Jenny and the dogs who were playing football (honestly) on the lawn. The group had a gig that evening at Southampton Top Rank and getting there was proving a bit of a problem because of Jerry’s crash, the fact that Steve oughtn’t to drive at night (says Jenny) and they had to pick up Pete at his home in Hampstead en route. So a mini cab was called.

The journey back to London from deepest Essex was spent by Steve, Jerry and myself awarding points out of ten to young ladies in the street. It’s a popular Humble Pie pastime it seems.



The Who released this album WHO’S NEXT on the 13th August 1971 featuring the classic songs “Won’t Get Fooled Again” and “Baba O’Reilly” both still in their live set, Roger Daltrys incredible vocalon “The Song Is Over” and “Bargain” John Entwhistles song “My Wife” and Pete Townshends ballad “Behind Blue Eyes” . Recorded at London Olympic Studios between March-May 1971 and produced by the Who and Glyn Johns . With parts of the Album coming from Pete’s “Lifehouse” a further sci-fi rock opera  project which did’nt come to fruition became the fifth studio album and almost certainally their most instant accesible finest record.  the Who’s sound changed with Townshend become infatuated with the fairly devolping sound of the synthesiser during the recording of the album  adding texture and amplifying the sound. Named as one of the best rock albums of all time and one of Classic Guitars best ever albums and featured in the VH1 “Classic Albums” series