Magpie Salute due in Portland

By Tom Von Malder | Sep 09, 2018
Photo by: Eagle Rock Records The Magpie Salute will play at Aura in Portland this Thursday.

Owls Head — The Magpie Salute: High Water I (Eagle Rock CD, 4814). One of the better new bands of the past three years will play Aura, 121 Center St. in Portland, ME Thursday, Sept. 13. The band was founded in the fall of 2016 by former Black Crowes guitarist Rick Robinson. It includes ex-Black Crowes Marc Ford (guitar/vocals) and Sven Pipien (bass/vocals) and former Rick Robinson band members Matt Slocum (keyboards) and Joe Magistro (drums/percussion), giving the band access to a repertoire of more than 170 songs from the Black Crowes, solo material and covers. The lead vocalist is John Hogg.

On this, their debut album, the band offers swaggering rock and roll, psychedelic blues  and storytelling. It opens with the loud, boisterous "Mary the Gypsy."  The rocking "Send Me an Omen," which is Southern rock/blues," is one of three singles from the album. The other two are "For the Wind," a softer song with a sweet intro and sweet late guitar solo (it talks of battlefields and recalls the Allman Brothers), and "Sister Moon," again softer, with a piano and drums intro and then pedal steel. All three are fine tracks. Most of the songs are written by Robinson in combination with either Hogg or Ford.

"Walk on Water," which features slide guitar, brings Tom Petty to mind. Another song with slide guitar is "Take It All." The solid "Color Blind," with its burbling electric guitar, is about racial equality and it is thematically tied to "Can You See," a slice of psychedelic pop-rock. The ballad "You Found Me" also features pedal steel, and the fine album wraps up with the powerful, but softer "Open Up." Grade: A-

J.D. Shelburne: Two Lane Town (J.D. Shelburne Music CD, 30:25). This is the fourth album by the up-and-coming country artist, who grew up on a tobacco farm in the small community of Taylorsville, KY. The small town experience is reflected in the lyrics of many of the songs, five of which he co-wrote. Particularly autobiographical is "Born For This," the album's standout track, which he wrote with Ryan Broshear. They also co-wrote "Stuck in My Memory," which is full of precise memories and lots of details about his home town.

On his Website, Shelburne talks about "Born For This," saying, "It talks about picking up guitar and adapting to a new venture in life while attending college and just running with it. I was 19, when my grandmother passed away. My life turned around in an instant when I found that guitar after her death. I didn’t realize until early in college that music was my true passion in life. I had played three different sports growing up, and just led the simple small-town life. I picked up the guitar, and my life hasn’t been the same since

" It’s kind of the title track of my life. When I was about to finish college, there was a point when I realized I was about to be an adult and wondered what I was going to do with my life.  Where I was going to go? I honestly felt like I was born to play music and entertain people. It was just something that I gravitated towards naturally. Nashville, Tenn. was my next destination and I haven’t looked back since."

"Good Ol' Boy Good Time" is a courting song that uses fishing metaphors, while the slower "She Keeps Me Up Nights" is a about girls with play the dating game by their own rules. Both were written by Bob Nesler and others, as was "One Less Girl." "Young Again" celebrates youth, while his co-written (with Bob Stewart) "Lovin' on a Dirt Road" is about what its title says, outside romance. In "Superman," the childhood hero without a cape is his father and the song is about realizing he was just a man, now slowing down. Shelburne wrote "Superman" with Nesler and Marty Dodson. The album's bonus track is "Make It That Far," co-written by Shelburne, Nesler and Carson Chamberlain and about how he would help his family if he ever achieves fame. I would say there is no doubt that Shelburne's ambitions will be realized. Grade: A-

Willie Nelson: My Way (Legacy CD, 35:33). Every so often, the prolific Nelson likes to put out a tribute album. Recent examples have included "Summertime: Willie Nelson Sings Gershwin" (winner of the Best Traditional Vocal Album Grammy Award) and "For the Good Times: A Tribute to Ray Price" (both 2016). This time the tribute is to Frank Sinatra, with whom Nelson was a close friend and musical colleague. Sinatra opened for Nelson at Golden Nugget in Las Vegas and the two appeared together in a public service announcement for NASA's Space Foundation.

In a recent interview for AARP magazine (June/July 2018), Nelson said, "I learned a lot about phrasing listening to Frank. He didn't worry about behind the beat or in front of the beat, or whatever -- he could sing it either way, and that's the feel you have to have."

The album has wonderful arrangements by co-producer Matt Rollings, with help by Chris McDonald on the horns and by Kristin Wilkinson on the strings, that generally are true to the originals."Fly Me To the Moon" and, especially, "Blue Moon," have a bit of country swing added, but the fast-paced "A Foggy Day" has jaunty horns and a jazzy piano. "The Summer Wind" is mostly piano and a little percussion at the start and "One For My Baby (And One More For the Road)" opens with mostly piano, before strings come in later. Nelson also covers one of my all-time favorite songs, "It Was a Very Good Year," making good use of that phrasing he learned from Sinatra. "I'll Be Around" is done as a tender waltz. The highlight is the closing "My Way," done very low key with perhaps extra meaning behind the lyrics. Grade:  A

Joni Mitchell: Both Sides Now: Live at the Isle of Wight Festival 1970 (Eagle Vision, Blu-ray or standard DVD, NR, 76 min.). The 1970 Isle of Wight Festival has to be one of the most filmed festivals ever, in large part due to Murray Lerner, who also directed this film. Lerner, who died last September, filmed and directed at least eight films from the festival, including this one. Previous releases were "Message To Love: The Isle of Wight Festival" (1996), "Listening To You: The Who at the Isle of Wight Festival 1970" (1998), "Blue Wild Angel: Jimi Hendrix at the Isle of Wight" (2002), "Nothing Is Easy: Jethro Tull at the Isle of Wight 1970" (2004), "Leonard Cohen: Live at the Isle of Wight 1970" (2009), "Taste: What's Going On -- Live at the Isle of Wight 1970" (2015) and "The Doors: Live at the Isle of Wight" (2017).

Each of the documentaries focus on more than just the music, and that is the case with this one on Joni Mitchell, with general scenes from the festival opening the film and shown during the song "For Free." There also is a sequence in which a man interrupts her performance, trying to deliver a message over Mitchell's microphone. The cameras then follow the man as he protests while being dragged away and he then speaks his piece offstage.

Lerner augments the 1970 footage with portions of a 2003 interview with Mitchell, who recalls her feelings on the day, including being thrown to "the beast," as she called the large audience -- more than 600,000 attended -- during the afternoon rather than her promised 9 p.m. slot due to other acts canceling. The August performance was only Mitchell's second in the U.K. She had released her third album, "Ladies of the Canyon," in March. Of the three songs she performed from it, two were her hit "Big Yellow Taxi" and her anthematic "Woodstock."

The 2003 Mitchell, smoking while she sits at a piano, recalls some early difficulty with the vast audience -- in fact, she stops singing "Chelsea Morning" midway through, just strumming her guitar until she says she is not in the mood to sing that song. She admonishes the crowd to be quiet while she is performing, as their calling out disrupts her, then launches into "Woodstock" on the piano. After the man interrupts the performance and there is a bit lengthy delay, she asks the crowd for respect and seems to win them over, starting with some dulcimer playing on "California." She is back on guitar for "Big Yellow Taxi," he gentle ecological protest song, and "Both Sides Now," her song that was a big hit for Judy Collins. Mitchell is partway through the support vehicles, before she runs back to the stage to do an encore of "Hunter."

Most interesting of the 2003 interview is when Mitchell talks about composing, how her chords depict her "emotionality" and how she often uses unresolved chords in non-standard ways, and talks about jazz musicians' reactions to that. Grade: B+

Led Zeppelin: The Song Remains the Same, The Soundtrack from the Film (1976, Swan Song, 2 CDs, 2:11:58). Led Zeppelin -- singer Robert Plant, guitarist Jimmy Page, bassist John Paul Jones and drummer John Bonham -- was at its performance peak when its July 27-19, 1973 shows at New York City's Madison Square Garden were recorded for the concert film, "The Song Remains the Same." The double album was remastered for a 2007 release, but this version has newly remastered audio again, supervised by Page.

On a historical note, it was Sept. 7, 1968 that the quartet played its first live show together, under the name "The New Yardbirds." Page had been in The Yardbirds from 1966 to 1968, but the band broke up in July 1968.

The concert film and soundtrack are notable for the band's excesses. There is a nearly 30-minute version of "Dazed and Confused" (a song The Yardbirds used to perform, by the way), a 12:47 drum solo in "Moby Dick" (sometimes Bonham's playing sounds like a helicopter) and a 6:19 version of "Heartbreaker," which is basically a long guitar solo. The soundtrack starts off full-throttle with "Rock and Roll" spilling over into "Celebration Day" and then "Black Dog," non-stop. After Plant's brief "Good evening" comes "Over the Hills and Far Away," with an extended instrumental section that has guitar and drum solos. Page has very nice guitar work on the slower "Since I've Been Loving You." There are keyboard segments in "No Quarter" and strings on "The Rain Song," which extends to 8:25.

Disc two has Plant introducing "Stairway To Heaven" as "a song of hope" -- although this is not the best version of the song -- and the whole affair ends on a high note with "Whole Lotta Love," incorporating a lot of "boogie mama" and Willie Dixon's "You Need Love" (1962).

The 2-CD package comes with a 24-page booklet that has lots of very small photos. There also is a 4-LP vinyl version; a Blu-ray with DTS-HD Master Audio Surround, stereo mixes and video performances of four songs not in the original film; and a super deluxe boxed set with the 2 CDs, 4 vinyl, 2 DVDs of the theatrical version of the film and the four bonus songs; a DVD of the entire album in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround and PCM Stereo, plus a photo gallery; a high-def download card of all the stereo audio content; a 28-page book with band photos, film stills and an essay by Cameron Crowe; a replica of the 1077 Japanese program; and the first 30,000 copies get a high-quality print of the original album cover. Grade: B+

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