I love live music. It's my church of choice. One of the great regrets I have as I get older is the less time I seem to have to capture the live experience (My financial planner said it would be the other way around). That's not to say I never go out. From a crowd of about a dozen people at Casa Del Popolo for a sizzling Leeroy Stagger and his band (don't miss him next time around) to a packed Petit Campus for Justin Townes Earle and company (including a couple of former members of the Levon Helm Band) during the Jazz Festival to a sweaty throwback night at La Salla Rossa courtesy of Black Joe Lewis to a magical night at Metropolis featuring the wife-husband combo of the Tedeschi Trucks Band to a rocky trip down memory lane courtesy of the Rolling Stones at a packed Bell Centre, I've seen plenty (among other highlights - Justin's dad and the The Dukes were phenomenal at Corona, the brilliant songwriter and performer Tom Russell at Petit Campus, Three O'Clock Train - also at Petit Campus - providing an alt/country/punk flashback to the 80s and the Garland Jeffreys 70th birthday blow out at Highline Ballroom in Manhattan, a welcome night out during the NHL draft) but I do wish I could see more (but my ears might feel differently).
Minus the amps and mics and monitors and energy of a live crowd I still do manage to listen a lot. Usually have a game on - especially the late ones from the west coast - with the sound muted in favour of the CD/DVD player. These 2013 albums spent the most time on that player and in their proper slot on Melnick in the Afternoon:
- "Live at New York Academy Of Music 1971: The Rock of Ages Concerts" - The Band (I could listen to this nonstop 24/7. The Band in peak form. If you're a fan and wondering is it really worth getting if you already own "Rock of Ages" the answer is a resounding yes. The new mix by Bob Clearmountain is spectacular.)
- "Crossroads: Eric Clapton Guitar Festival Recorded Live MSG New York April 12 & 13 2013" - Eric Clapton & friends (Like I said I love it live. Clapton joined by Jeff Beck, Warren Haynes, Gary Clark Jr and other guitar heros. Royalties of CD and the must see BluRay benefit the Crossroads Centre in Antigua.)
- "Rhythm & Blues" - Buddy Guy. Most enjoyable studio album I heard all year. And it's a double. Buddy Guy, even at 77 years of age, at his best. Who's better?)
- "Miami Pop Festival" - The Jimi Hendrix Experience (Jimi in Miami in 1968 less than a year after his historic performance at Monterey Pop. Yes you've heard the songs before. But not like this.)
- "Made Up Mind" - Tedeschi Trucks Band (Unbeatable combination of Susan Tedeschi's soulful vocals backed by perhaps the best slide guitarist on the planet - Derek Trucks. Joyful.)
- "Victim Of Love" - Charles Bradley (Old school soul. Not enough of this today.)
- "The Low Highway" - Steve Earle & The Dukes (& Duchesses) (The hard core troubadour and baseball junkie hits another one out of the park.)
- "Another Self Portrait The Bootleg Series Vol. 10 (1969-1971) - Bob Dylan (As a big Dylan fan I never understood the harsh criticism of 1970s Self Portrait. Hadn't Dylan released enough A+ material by then? I thought it was cool to hear him cover some of his favourite artists. As usual, he was way ahead of the curve. Now everybody does it. This is Dylan as country crooner. Some real gems here including, finally (expanded edition only), the entire Dylan & The Band set from the 1969 Isle Of Wight concert.
- "Wrote A Song For Everyone" - John Fogerty and company (I was prepared to hate this. Do we really need Fogerty reworking some of his classics? Well, when there is new life breathed into "Fortunate Son" (Foo Fighters), "Long As I Can See The Light" (My Morning Jacket) and "Who'll Stop The Rain" (Bob Seger) maybe more classic rock era artists ought to give it a go.)
- "Truth Be Sold" - Leeroy Stagger (If you love Steve Earle you'll dig our Canadian version. Then tell your friends.)
- "Alabama Ass Whuppin'" - Drive By Truckers (My favourite American band. This is actually a remastered live album circa late 90s when the Truckers were still playing small clubs. They were Southern punks before they grew up.)
- "Blind, Crippled & Crazy" - Delbert McClinton and Glen Clark (Old partners reunite on record for first time since the early 1970s. McClinton is a Texas legend who once taught John Lennon the finer points of harmonica playing. Sure would be great to see him in Montreal.)
- "Electric Slave" - Black Joe Lewis. (A bit of old school soul and R&B fused with fuzzed out punk courtesy of another native Texan. And a horn section. Don't hold his love of Dallas Cowboys against him.)
- "Lightning Bolt" - Pearl Jam (Might be best pure rock and roll album of the year.)
- "Indigo Meadow" - The Black Angels (Back to Texas for the audio heirs to the Velvet Underground. I get this sound completely. Think drone, fuzz, darkness. With some light finally coming through as well.)
- "The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You" - Neko Case (Gorgeous voice who also sends me back in time.)
- "Internal Sounds" - The Sadies (More fresh retro sound from one of Canada's best live acts.)
- "Sound City Real To Reel" - Dave Grohl and company (Companion CD to Grohl's fantastic documentary on the famed LA Studio. Heavy duty rock and roll with guests Peter Hayes (Black Rebel Motorcycle Club), Stevie Nicks, Josh Homme, Rick Springfield (yes!) and Paul McCartney who contributed the track of the year ("Cut Me Some Slack") while fronting the surviving members of Nirvana.)
- "New" - Paul McCartney (Maybe he was re-energized by the Sound City sessions. Best McCartney studio album in forever.)
- "A New Day" - David Bowie (Coming out of nowhere with no tour to support it. Worth the wait. Without a tour many of us settled for an informative and entertaining Q & A with producer Tony Visconti during Pop Montreal.)
- "Magpie And The Dandelion" - The Avett Brothers (These guys are the best of the nouveau folk/country/rock types - maybe because they can also rock really hard.)
- "Billie Joe + Norah foreverly" - Billie Joe Armstrong & Norah Jones (Beautiful modern variation on one of The Everly Brothers most respected albums - "Songs Our Daddy Taught Us" - released in 1958. No idea whose idea this was but they should take a bow. Made more poignant by recent death of Phil Everly.)
- "Mechanical Bull" - Kings Of Leon (They'll always be greasy Southern rockers to me.)
- "American Ride" - Willie Nile (If you're a fan of Dylan or Springsteen you'd really like Willie who's been around several blocks. Writes intelligently and touchingly about the streets of New York and the soul of America.)
- "See You There" - Glen Campbell (Fading from sight with Alzheimer's this was a pleasant surprise. Like Fogerty, Campbell revisited some of his gold standards but stripped them of the original schmaltz. Brilliant guitarist brought to the front of the mix unlike the original recordings.)
Also enjoyed "13" by Black Sabbath; "Specter At The Feast" by Black Rebel Motorcycle Club; "Push The Sky Away" by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds (and the "Live From KCRW" follow up; "Tambourine" by Fred Eaglesmith; "In Our Nature" by Blue Rodeo; "Old Yellow Moon" by Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell; "Songs From St. Somewhere" by Jimmy Buffett; "Live at the Great American Music Hall" by Ry Cooder & Corridos Famosos; "Live at the Cellar Door (1970)" by Neil Young; "Sound The Alarm" by Booker T; "Lickety Split" by Robert Randolph & The Family Band; "Love Has Come For You" by Steve Martin & Edie Brickell; "Pushin' Against A Stone" by Valerie June; "The Wild Feathers"by The Wild Feathers; "Can't Get Enough" by The Rides (Stephen Stills, Kenny Wayne Sheppard & Barry Goldberg); "valleyheart" by Justin Rutledge and "The Bravest Birds" by Rob Lutes - his best work yet.
And while Shane Murphy's latest "Dirty Work (The Good Years)" was actually released in December of 2012 regular listeners know I haven't stopped listening to it. It is that good. Now we wait for Shane's elusive live album.
In the meantime, Keep on Rockin' In The Free World.