Now Hear This: Episode 1
Episode 1 Tracklist:
- NHT INTRO (conversation)
- Something’s Coming (WEST SIDE STORY/Todd Rundgren)
- Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (The Beatles)
- With A Little Help From My Friends (Andy Timmons)
- Sofa No. 1 (Frank Zappa & The Mothers of Invention)
- Tumbling Dice (The Rolling Stones)
- Get Rhythm (NRBQ)
- Conversation After First Five Songs
- These Days (Gregg Allman)
- JS Introduces Dickie Betts’ Story About Taj Mahal (conversation)
- Duane Allman, Slide Guitar, And Statesboro Blues (conversation)
- Statesboro Blues (Taj Mahal)
- RS Talks Hollies’ “Wings” (conversation)
- More On Hollies’ “Wings” (conversation)
- Wings (The Hollies)
- Raving About Little Feat (conversation)
- Rock ‘N Roll Doctor (Little Feat)
- Caledonia/Signed,Sealed,Delivered (B.B. King)
- JS B.B. King Question (conversation)
- B.B. King Future Of The Blues (interview)
- Key To The Highway (B.B. King & Jeff Beck)
- Rollin’ And Tumblin’ (Jeff Beck)
- Not Fade Away (The Rolling Stones)
- Coming Your Way (Fleetwood Mac)
- NHT OUTRO (conversation)
“Something’s Coming” (WEST SIDE STORY/Todd Rundgren):
Sometime in the late ’60s I purchased a Nakamichi 500 Cassette Deck. That, along with my Dual 1219 Turntable was the pride of my stereo setup. My favorite function on the deck was the pause button. It was automatic. There was not a moment of hesitation, so if there was a break in a song I could pause the tape and whenever I let it go, it would be a flawless segue into the next song. It was magic. In this case I started with the soundtrack to West Side Story and “Something’s Coming” and segued into Todd Rundgren’s version of the same song. Magic! There was a difference in the key that Todd played in, but the Dual had a knob that let you dial in the speed and there you have it.
“Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” / “With A Little Help From My Friends” (Andy Timmons Band):
I’m a big fan of cover tunes on instrumental albums. It’s about being comfortable, and a familiar melody is an easy way to invite people along for a new ride. With my own Guitar Recordings record label, I believed that the cover tune just might be the only other place a new listener would go after the opening track. Blues Saraceno did “Funk 49”, “Bouree,” and “My Generation” on his three guitar albums. Randy Coven and Al Pitrelli did “Little Wing” and “I Wish” on their C.P.R. albums. Mark Wood did “Stand” and “Red” on his violin albums.
In 2011, Andy Timmons had the balls to record all the songs from The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album with an instrumental rock trio. He also has the musical sensibility, talent and sumptuous tone to make it into a joyous listen. With the exception of “Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite”, this is not a forum for solos or reinterpretation. It is a celebration of these great songs as filtered through the versatility of the electric guitar by one of its finest practitioners. Andy plays all the vocal parts and all the instrumental bits, as we know them, without impersonation. Andy’s guitar voice reminds me of Ella Fitzgerald, who sang songs by composers like Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, Richard Rogers, and George Gershwin as the respective composers originally intended, yet they were always completely her own.
Timmons’ entire record can be listened to as if it were a fresh vocal album. There will be no instrumental fatigue (your girlfriend will not turn it off). Andy’s guitar voicing’s are always firmly in the groove, relaxed but present and totally fresh and familiar at the same time. Andy Timmons has put out a record that will be one of the pillars of his career. It is also one of the finest albums of cover tunes ever released. Saxophone giant Charlie Parker said, “Learn everything you can and then forget it and play.” True to those words this album took two years of arranging and two days of recording. Prepare to smile.
“Get Rhythm” (NRBQ):
NRBQ (The New Rhythm & Blues Quartet/Quintet, depending on members involved) is a Northeastern U.S.-based band that was formed in 1967. Their version of Johnny Cash’s “Get Rhythm” was recorded in the early ’90’s at NYC’s Summer Stage concert series and features the band’s unique (and rocking’) arrangement of the tune, which is sung by NRBQ’s towering former guitarist Al Anderson, who remains a great singer. songwriter, and player. At the time, the group was rounded out by keyboardist/vocalist/founder Terry Adams (the only original member in today’s NRBQ lineup), bassist/songwriter/vocalist and founding member Joey Spampinato, and drummer/musical genius (really!), the late Tom Ardolino.
NRBQ’s legion of fans include Paul McCartney, who once asked Spampinato, “How do you do that?” regarding the bassist’s wholly original playing style, which makes an electric bass guitar sound just like an amplified acoustic stand-up bass. Other admirers are Elvis Costello, Keith Richards (who used Spampinato for Chuck Berry’s cherry-picked back-up band in 1987’s HAIL! HAIL! ROCK & ROLL film), Bonnie Raitt, John Sebastian (who often joins the group onstage), and lots more, all of whom appreciate the ease with which NRBQ glides between musical genres onstage and on their many studio albums.
NRBQ is a truly fun band to see. They never use a set list and prefer spontaneity and their brand of off-beat humor to the more scripted performances other acts often employ. They’ve even revived the legendary “Magic Box” of late, where audience members are prompted to put written requests for any song in any style by anyone. At some point during the show, the drummer is tasked with randomly pulling out one request after another, which the band must then perform. The results are often hilarious (you should hear their take on Blood, Sweat & Tears’ “Spinning Wheel”), but are also often spot-on. The band can do anything, apparently.
As I’ve always maintained, I defy anyone to go and see NRBQ and not become a convert. There is no typical NRBQ performance or style and they can play just about anything … and often do. So give their live take of “Get Rhythm” a listen to get a taste of what NRBQ is capable of. You’re in for a real treat.,
“Caledonia”/“Signed,Sealed,Delivered” (B.B. King/Stuff):
The only band we didn’t talk about in NHT Episode #1 was Stuff. What we have is a Nakamichi cassette deck segue between a raucous live “Caledonia” from B. B. King, plus Stevie Wonder’s “Signed Sealed Delivered” laid down by Stuff. Stuff were the captains of the New York groove and kings of the New York session sound. Tom Scott came east to record Apple Juice live at Bottom Line with them, Paul Simon used the core band for his One-Trick Pony movie and soundtrack album Joe Cocker brought the whole band on tour. Richard Tee, Steve Gadd, Cornell Dupree, Eric Gale and Gordon Edwards appeared on hundreds of albums individually and often recorded with each other in different groupings. As Stuff they made at least three studio albums that had a few bright moments, but lacked fire and energy. Easily their best record is Live At Montreaux. This version of Stevie Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” came from a Japanese import. Stuff Live in Japan.
Their band interplay is like a great game of pickup basketball. It’s uptempo, funky and fluid. I fade after Richard Tee’s piano solo because I hate Eric Gale. But that’s a story for another day.
“Coming Your Way” (Fleetwood Mac):
“Coming Your Way” is off of Fleetwood Mac’s original three-guitar, blues-infected lineup’s last studio album, 1969’s THEN PLAY ON. Featuring guitar legend/virtuoso Peter Green, guitarists Jeremy Spencer and Danny Kirwan (who wrote and sings “Coming Your Way”), the band at the time often employed a whisper-to-a-scream playing style that’s well in evidence on this track.
As Fleetwood Mac consisted of several vastly different lineups in the years before Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks arrived in 1975, their styles shifted a lot over the years, however, each respective lineup featured talented singers, songwriters and players, including the late guitarist Bob Welch and keyboardist Christine McVie, bassist John McVie’s former wife who returned to the fold in 2014 after taking a 16-year hiatus from the band.
Of course, it’s drummer Mick Fleetwood who, with bassist McVie, who really drive and support the THEN PLAY ON lineup’s multi-guitar verve, especially towards the song’s finale.
We’ll be playing lots more from Fleetwood Mac’s various 1970 – 1974 lineups on future episodes of NHT. There are plenty of hidden gems to be unearthed there and we’re going to play them for you. Enjoy!