SIMON AND GARFUNKEL — BRIDGE OVER TROUBLED WATER (Sony Legacy)
Yes, it seems like all the major record labels do anymore is package and repackage albums to get fans to buy them again. But every once in a while they take extra care with an important album and it does become an essential purchase for devotees and newcomers. What Springsteen fan didn’t want to get the Darkness boxed set? And what S&G fan won’t want to check this out?
The album of course is their crowning work. What makes this modestly priced CD ($15 on Amazon) a really good buy, however, are the
Tag: Pop Music
SIMON AND GARFUNKEL — BRIDGE OVER TROUBLED WATER (Sony Legacy)
Once upon a time, a day existed when there was no internet, no Youtube and no Twitter. It was a strange time when information and entertainment was shared through a box with dials called a television. Imagine that! Are you old enough to remember rushing home to catch an MTV World Premier Video? I am. Yesterday, as the video for Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” was released on the internet I was transported to those days, if only for a few
Album sales may be slower than ever, but there’s more great music out there than ever before — and you can check it out more easily than ever. So every week, I’ll share a favorite new album. Usually, it will be a new release or maybe it’s just been out for a few weeks or months and just caught my ear. By the end of the year, you’ll have sampled some of the best albums of the
With American Idol back for its 10th season, some music fans are wondering how Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler can fit into the mix at the judges table. Tyler, it was reported this week, was once in contention to replace Robert Plant in Led Zeppelin. The rocker’s role on the Fox singing competition is rightfully being scrutinized – Is he the new Simon Cowell? Or is he the new Paula Abdul? For Tyler, though, listening to so many aspiring singers could lead him back to the stage. “Don’t be surprised if the scores of Idol wannabes have him scrambling for Joe Perry and the boys sooner than later,” says one
The names of the top bands of the 1960s are so much a part of them that it’s almost impossible to think of the names simply as names. But let’s make the effort in order to evaluate how good their names were.
Of course, names can be good in many ways. They can be descriptive, ironic, memorably eccentric… But, it seems to me that some of the best bands had the worst names.
Here’s an unordered and, of course, utterly subjective list, graded on a scale of 1-10, where 10 is best:
Jefferson Airplane: Retro + modern + meaningless =
This past Friday I listened to Michael Jackson’s highly-anticipated posthumous album, Michael (Epic), which is expected to hit stores in the U.S. on December 14th. I had many questions going in, not only about the music itself, but the process. How were the tracks selected? How much were they altered or embellished? And what was the end result?
Posthumous works are notoriously tricky. There are essentially two philosophical approaches: 1) present the material basically as it was found; or, 2) try to complete the artist’s vision based on instructions and/or intuition. Either way comes with its own unique challenges and complications.
For the 2009 documentary, This Is It, the Estate of Michael Jackson opted for the first approach. Audiences around the world witnessed the raw rehearsals of what would have been an unprecedented concert spectacle. At the time, some complained that Jackson wouldn’t have wanted people to see anything but the final, finished result. He was a perfectionist who gave everything to a performance; in the footage, however, he was often conserving his voice, marking his dance steps, and correcting mistakes. Yet there was something undeniably riveting and enlightening about watching the artist at work. It was tragic, of course, that his full vision was never realized. But for many viewers it humanized the singer, even as it showcased his extraordinary talent.
With this first posthumous album, however, a different approach was taken. All of the songs were completed within the past year by various collaborators and caretakers–ranging from Teddy Riley to Neff-U to Estate co-executor John McClain. Michael, his Estate said, left a “roadmap” behind, and they felt an obligation to finish what he had started. It was a risky decision that has caused a severe backlash amongst many of Jackson’s core fans. A similar controversy resulted in 1995, when Paul, George and Ringo “finished” two John Lennon tracks (“Free as a Bird” and “Real Love”) under the banner of the Beatles. For some fans, it could never be an “authentic” Beatles track without Lennon’s full participation. Similarly, no matter how closely Akon, Lenny Kravitz and others worked with Jackson, could they ever fully intuit what he would have wanted on a given track?
In some cases, Jackson did indeed leave very specific notes and instructions. It is also well-known to those familiar with his artistic process that he frequently returned to tracks from previous album sessions and updated them. Versions of “Blood on the Dance Floor,” “They Don’t Care About Us,” and “Earth Song,” for example, were all originally recorded during the Dangerous sessions; but Jackson continued to tinker with each of these songs for years until he felt they were ready. A Michael Jackson song was never final until it made an official studio album.
This return-treatment is essentially what his collaborators have attempted on Michael. They wanted to make these tracks as fresh, vibrant and relevant as possible, believing that this is what Jackson would have wanted as well. Of course, in the end, since none of them are Michael Jackson, the best they could do is approximate. The album, then, is a hybrid creation. At times it feels truly inspired and very close to what Michael himself would have done; at other times, it feels a bit more like a tribute, similar to the remixes on Thriller 25.
Much of this probably won’t even register to the average listener, who will simply listen to the music and decide whether they like it or not.
But because Michael Jackson is one of the most important artists of the past century the question of how much to modify the work he left behind is a very serious one. As amazing as the new version of “Behind the Mask” sounds, for example, it isn’t the version Michael last worked on in the early 1980s. If for no other reason than documenting history, then, it would seem worthwhile to release the originals/demos as well (perhaps as bonus tracks or a supplementary album), even if they aren’t perfectly polished or updated.
With that preface in place, I proceed to my review of the actual album, which, on the whole, really is an exciting and enjoyable listening experience. Indeed, for all the controversy about its authenticity, going through the album song by song, Jackson’s presence is undeniable. His habits, his obsessions, his versatility, and his genius are on display at every turn.
Who else could move so seamlessly from social anthem to floor burner, fleet hip hop to cosmic rock, vintage funk to poignant folk ballad? Who besides Michael Jackson would follow a tender love song with a trenchant critique of the media? An uplifting gospel tune with a ferocious polemic on the monstrosity of Hollywood culture?
This, ultimately, is the most important quality of Michael: it feels like Michael.
The Estate and Sony should be given credit for retaining much of Jackson’s edginess and eclecticism where they could have easily opted for a more traditional lineup. (For all the uproar over “Breaking News,” I thought it was a pretty bold statement out of the gate in terms of its lyrical target.)
The album also contains some nice, natural touches, including Jackson’s incredibly dynamic beatboxing (displayed most prominently on “Hollywood Tonight”), and a phone message introduction to “(I Like) The Way You Love Me,” in which Jackson explains the composition of the song to longtime collaborator, Brad Buxer. The point of these examples is that Jackson the artist and person doesn’t get swallowed in “over-production,” as some have feared. In spite of its limitations, from opening line (“This life don’t last forever…”) to closing (“I guess I learned my lesson much too soon”) a very intimate, authentic, humanizing picture evolves.
Below, is my song-by-song breakdown of the album:
Hold My Hand
Simple, but powerful love song turned social anthem. Since I already reviewed this, I will just point to the link. I’m actually stunned this isn’t charting better in the U.S., but maybe that will change when the video premiers and the holidays draw closer.
Definitely an album highlight. The song begins with a haunting Gothic church choir, before transforming into an energetic dance stomper. I’m not too keen on the spoken parts (performed by nephew, Taryll Jackson), but clearly there were places in the song Michael hadn’t filled yet. The track features Michael in a notably deeper voice, and concludes with military-style whistling. As Ellen displayed on her show last week, the song will get people up and moving.
Keep Your Head Up
Narrates the life of an ordinary woman “looking for the hope in the empty promises.” The song is well-suited to the current economic climate and will likely resonate with many listeners. The back half of the song offers a classic MJ crescendo, with the gospel choir providing the lift and communal strength the woman needs to keep going. (Fans will be happy to know the “Earth Song” ad libs heard on a leaked version of the track were removed.)
(I Like) The Way You Love Me
Great new production by Neff-U that was being actively discussed and transformed with Michael in Los Angeles (the original demo appeared on the 2004 boxed set, Michael Jackson: The Ultimate Collection). The new version retains all of the charm of the original while injecting some fresh elements, including new piano, bass, strings, and vocal effects.
A blistering rhythm track that probably hits harder than any song on the album. Features a rap solo by 50 Cent, guitar work by Orianthi, and excellent production by Teddy Riley. As Jackson holds a mirror up to society, asking us to observe the distorted reflection, I couldn’t help but picture the horrifying scene of paparazzi shoving their cameras up against the ambulance carrying him to the hospital. “Everywhere you seem to turn there’s a monster,” he sings. “Paparazzi got you scared like a monster.” Some reviewers continue to dismiss songs like this as petty “ranting” and “paranoia,” but this is some deft social criticism for those who look beyond the surface. It has all the makings of a hit single.
Best of Joy
A breezy mid-tempo ballad, Jackson’s falsetto is as effortless as ever as he sings promises to a loved one. Recorded in Los Angeles in 2009, this was one of his final recordings, and he still sounds fantastic.
The song will likely be forever-linked to the controversy surrounding its vocals. Yet in spite of the backlash, the content of the song is classic Michael Jackson, following in the tradition of anti-media tracks like “Leave Me Alone, “Tabloid Junkie,” and “Privacy.” The repeated use of the name, “Michael Jackson,” highlights the way his name has been objectified–it is simply a media construct, a “boogieman,” that the real Michael feels detached from. The exaggerated way the name is uttered humorously mocks the way the media exploits him for sensational effect. While the strength and clarity of the vocals clearly aren’t up to Jackson’s standards, the song itself is quite good. The harmonized chorus is catchy and memorable. Teddy Riley gives the song a fresh but faithful sheen. One can easily imagine the song as an outtake from the Dangerous or HIStory sessions.
(I Can’t Make It) Another Day
Originally recorded by Jackson and Lenny Kravitz in 1999 at the legendary Marvin’s Room Studio, the track has Michael summoning a cosmic power over a rugged, industrial funk beat and a soaring chorus. This is an example, however, of the new version sounding more like a Kravitz tribute to Jackson, rather than a Jackson track. In the original, Jackson’s vocals are less overwhelmed by the drums and guitar, allowing him to convey the full mystery and wonder of the lyrics. Kravitz’s update isn’t too different, but enough to change the feel of the song. It still rocks, but in a different way than the original.
Behind the Mask
“Behind the Mask” was originally intended for Thriller, but left off reportedly because of a song credit dispute. It was later covered by Jackson’s keyboardist Greg Phillinganes as well as Eric Clapton. Had Jackson released it in 1982, the quirky Yellow Magic Orchestra adaptation likely would have been a big hit. Estate executor John McClain updates it skillfully in this new version, making it sound brand new and retro at the same time. It is definitely one of the highlights of the album. Still, many fans will likely be anxious to hear those classic sheets of synth and 80s production on the original demo. Modernizing the production does make it fit better with the album, though it’s unclear if Jackson himself planned to update the track.
Much Too Soon
An excellent choice to end the album, “Much Too Soon” showcases Jackson’s ability as a singer-songwriter to magnificent effect. An exquisite expression of loss and yearning, it stands should-to-shoulder with some of the best folk ballads of The Carpenters and The Beatles. The lyrics almost read like a W.B. Yeats poem.
The track was first written by Jackson in 1981 and revisited multiple times over the years. The vocal on this version was recorded in 1994 at The Hit Factory during the HIStory sessions. It was originally engineered and mixed by Bruce Swedien (this version leaked online a couple weeks ago); the album version, featuring more prominent accordion and strings, was re-produced for the Michael album by estate co-executor John McClain.
In the song, a forlorn Jackson, accompanied by the subtle acoustic guitar work of Tommy Emmanuel, sings about being separated from a loved one “much too soon.” The bridge features a harmonica solo that highlights the song’s folk-blues essence, before Jackson returns with a final verse about “never letting fate control [his] soul.” It is a beautiful, bittersweet song that perfectly balances hope and regret, loneliness and the desire for reconciliation. For all Jackson’s superstardom, “Much Too Soon” reminds that behind the media construct was a human being.
Call it a collage, an approximation, or a tribute. Or call it, as many of Michael’s collaborators have: “a labor of love.” That sentiment certainly shines through on the record. Yet obviously, this is not the exact album Jackson would have created. For a variety of reasons, many tracks that Jackson was working on during his final years aren’t on the tracklist (including those with will.i.am). In addition, the vocals, particularly on a couple of the “Cascio tracks,” don’t always measure up to Jackson’s typical strength and vitality, leading some to label them as “fake.” Until a forensic analysis or some other concrete evidence proves otherwise that conspiracy theory doesn’t hold up for me–especially after hearing the final album versions on very good speakers. But occasionally, the creative liberties taken do seem questionable, or at the very least, unexplained. For the purists (myself included), it would be nice, in addition to the current album versions, to have some of these songs as they were last heard by Michael–just as it was nice to see Michael un-mediated in This Is It.
But the bottom line is this: Michael contains some very impressive new material. One job of Jackson’s Estate is to extend his legacy to new generations of listeners and this album will likely accomplish that. At ten songs, it is a tight, diverse, almost 80s-esque LP–which also means fans have many more songs in the vaults to look forward to. In the meantime, songs like “Hollywood Tonight,” “Monster,” “Behind the Mask,” and “Much Too Soon” make excellent additions to an already legendary catalog.
Joe Vogel is the author of the forthcoming book, Man in the Music: The Creative Life and Work of Michael Jackson (Sterling 2011).
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From the ongoing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” debate to a disturbing rash of teen suicides, the gay population finds its usual glitter shrouded in a frenzy of societal and political strife as of late. Ironically, awareness of such dire concerns made festivities at the 16th annual “Out 100″ party — Out Magazine’s end-of-year celebration of influential gay men, lesbians and LGBT community allies — all the more euphoric.
Diversity within that community seemed an implicit goal of the event’s organizers, as evidenced by the manifold list of attending stars, many of whom just dodged Thursday night’s downpour to stroll the red carpet inside the lobby of Frank Gehry’s IAC Building in Chelsea. Honoring “100 influential men and women who inspired, shaped, and changed our world in 2010,” the “Out 100″ party has the distinction of being one of the few events where political hopefuls chat up pop artists, and reality TV stars are greeted with the same enthusiasm as porn actors as well as one notoriously disgruntled flight attendant.
As luminaries mingled amidst a remixed set of Motown classics and aptly named “Think Pink” and “Spice is Right” bespoke cocktails, courtesy of sponsors Belvedere Vodka, there was little mention of politics. Instead, many of the night’s honorees preferred to show strength in subtlety. “To be the first openly gay man with a syndicated talk show is a responsibility that I take extremely seriously,” said “Stylemaker of the Year” Nate Berkus, who recently launched his own show after completing a whopping 127 home makeovers during his Oprah Winfrey Show tenure. “I don’t intend to use my status to serve any specific political agenda, but…my whole show is about living well. How can we live well if we don’t have civil rights?” Named “Diva of the Year,” U.S. Olympic figure skater Johnny Weir agreed. “For me, it was important to look at my life in terms of what I wanted to make of it,” he noted. “Create something to be proud of. Be your own army!”
Others, such as discharged Iraq veteran Lt. Dan Choi, said they hoped to parlay that recent fame into a more tangible form of personal and professional success. “For people who are new to the public role, it’s just a beginning, and a way to hopefully branch out into other things,” he said. “No one would ever have expected me to become a gay activist.” Currently at work on a new book he says will show the flip side of the airline industry, former JetBlue flight attendant and newly-crowned folk hero Steven Slater added, “I’m happy to have been part of a new dialogue… I’m optimistic.”
Of course, any event whose attendees comprise a high number of drag queens can be expected to feature cutthroat-edgy fashion. Known as much for his flamboyant antics on the ice as his catwalk-inspired glam get-ups, Weir kept it cool in a grey suit by Thom Browne, the only flash of that well-known panache being a Carrie Bradshaw-esque flower pinned to his chest and fire-engine-red loafers by Christian Louboutin. Meanwhile, Food Network star and girlfriend of NY governor-elect Andrew Cuomo Sandra Lee shimmered in a silver Badgley Mischka gown. For others such as the impeccably-coiffed Berkus, who opted for a casual black blazer paired with jeans, fashion took a back seat to other concerns, such as the upcoming holidays. And what is he most looking forward to? “Eating stuffing,” he quipped.
Notably missed this year were Ricky Martin, named “Entertainer of the Year” and featured most prominently on the magazine’s cover, as well as The Kids Are All Right star Julianne Moore and young Glee actor Chris Colfer, whose portrayal of theatrically tortured teen Kurt Hummel provides much of the hit show’s dramatic heft. Though Weir says he texted his pal in the days leading up to the event in hopes the pop star might make an appearance, Martin “just wanted to hang with his kids.” And to those who continue to criticize the community as what Choi describes as “a group seeking superior rights, rather than equal rights,” Martin might just have chosen the most stinging response of all — a night of peaceful domesticity.
See photos of the “Out 100″ attendees here:
Nate Berkus and date
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The topic of Michael Jackson is an emotional one. I waiver between disgust at Michael Jackson mania and exploitation and awe at how well his legacy is being preserved.
The first single “Breaking News” off of his first posthumous release “Michael” is an odd ironic take on the legend’s life. The song premiered Nov. 8 on michaeljackson.com and will stream on the site for one week.
“Breaking News” is Michael singing about himself in the third person, as someone stalked by the news and the paparazzi, who are hungry to cast judgment on the star, calling him crazy. It is bittersweet and in many ways reminds me of Lady Diana’s death. Wasn’t it was the news that pushed the star over the edge? Now, hauntingly, he comes back from the grave to sing about it.
“Breaking News” was originally recorded in New Jersey in 2007 and was brought to completion just before the singer’s death.
“Michael” will be released on Dec. 14 via Epic Records. There are few details about the album though I do know that producer and hit-maker Rodney Jerkins and producer/arranger Mervyn Warren both worked on the album.
I’ve heard stories about these sessions – about Michael’s kindness and desire to make great music. These stories I hear closely resemble the Michael the world got to see in “This Is It.” I was opposed to the film – my own silly knee-jerk reaction or anger that he was dead. I’m not sure. I only met him once. “This Is It” is a beautiful film that captures the joy and pain of preparing for a tour like nothing I’ve ever seen. It also shows Michael for the raw genius that he was. I hope the Cirque du Soleil show “Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour,” which kicks off next year, captures some of that.
I remain on the fence about the two video games – a dance title, “Michael Jackson: The Experience” and a virtual world called “Planet Michael.” Virtual world? Really?
I think what every artist aspires for – whether a musician, actor, painter, dancer, producer or writer – is immortality.
Michael you have yours.
For more go to The Comet.
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I do not know if it’s a sign. I do not know if it portends things ugly and low, something related to aging and time, sadness and death, or if it’s the exact reverse, and in fact illuminates some sort of higher truth, an enlightened and honest wisdom happily marinating for many years in dark rum and sultry chillout and classic Iron Maiden.
Nevertheless, I find myself at this weird juncture, a cultural snag wrapped in a conundrum shaped like a question mark dressed in scratchy raw Japanese selvedge and smoking American Spirits, glumly, in a grungy hoody, outside the bike shop, twitching just a little.
I find I am, in other words, at shockingly brutal odds with the expert hipster indie kids of this city and generation, the skinny jeans n’ fedoras set, AKA Those in The Know. What to make of it?
Oh, it’s not the first time. And I do not mind much. I am often here, in this very spot, completely comfortable with not at all caring a whit for the cute vagaries of indie hipsterdom, with its pallid skin and questionable sexual acumen and slumpy thirty-year-olds on skateboards. Angular sidebangs and cheap horn-rimmed glasses and a faraway stares into the near distance? Thank you, no.
But music? I’m there. I’m open. I’m down with almost anything except for reggae and maybe Euro zydeco techno, have happily had my musical sensibilities rescrambled and slapped anew a thousand times over by as many different groups, DJs, producers, styles, introduced to the innovative and the refreshing in almost all categories — indie, dubstep, post-rock, crunk, chillwave, garagedubcrunksteptechwave — and often been delighted at the results.
See, I’m utterly convinced music is one of the great barometers of the soul, the perfect analogy for one’s fluidity of spirit. That is to say, the minute you lock it all down, settle too hard on your preferences and refuse to allow new musical possibilities, new bands and sounds and head bobbings into your personal transom, well, might as well hang it up and go watch Bill O’Reilly and listen to Helen Reddy on the transistor in Florida. You’re done.
This is why I am slightly, momentarily troubled. For no matter how hard I try, no matter the volume or the environment, the mood or the alcohol consumption, my musical sensibilities simply refuse to enjoy the current gods of cool indie music, the greatest act known to all of modern hipsterdom next to Radiohead, the band known as The Arcade Fire.
Do you know of them? Have you heard? They are from Montreal. They have a ridiculously tall singer named Win and some members play uber-quirky, ironic instruments like the glockenspiel and the xylophone and even the hurdy-gurdy — which I had to look up to see what it was — and many appear to wear thrift-store clothes and sport appropriate indie-approved beards, making them look gangly and sexy and silly, all at once….
Read the rest of this column right here
Mark Morford is the author of The Daring Spectacle: Adventures in Deviant Journalism, a mega-collection of his finest columns for the SF Chronicle and SFGate. Get it at daringspectacle.com or Amazon. He recently wrote about those damnable Muslims, the wonderful hoax that is global warming, and the dark, magnificent horror of the BP spill. His website is markmorford.com. Join him on Facebook, or email him. Not to mention…
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I get a lot of new music at my daytime gig as the editor of a music website. So much that it’s impossible to keep up with all of it. In this digital overloaded world, I can’t even imagine how music fans with jobs that don’t involve surfing the web all day can keep up with all the good music out there.
With that in mind, URB has assembled a list of our fave new artists who people will be talking about this Fall. There easily could have been ten different acts on this list, but we feel confident about those chosen here.
Check out the rest at URB.com
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When Lady Gaga added this week another sold-out concert in Washington, D.C. to her tour, her mix of flashy pop spectacle and outrageousness still didn’t do much to bail out a troubled concert season this summer. She’s taken the music industry’s emphasis on dazzle and flash over great music that can last (despite her crafting danceable pop) to its ultimate extreme, when image trumps the music every time. Few acts these days are offering music that makes it worthwhile for people to pay the exorbitant prices that they’re charging, abetted by the gouging by the leading promoter and ticket-seller, Live Nation, recently merged with Ticketmaster.
In contrast, there’s another sort of showmanship that still endures, and it’s grounded in great music delivered with passion and integrity by committed artists at reasonable prices. Bruce Springsteen, of course, is among the greatest live performers in the world, and he’s done what he can to make affordable tickets available for his shows, even though it has inadvertently led to more scalping. Yet this summer, Lyle Lovett’s tour especially offered a model of what a great show should be like, sweetened by the sort of sensible prices that were especially appealing on a recent August evening at Wolf Trap, the national park for the performing arts: lawn seats were just $25 and the covered orchestra seats $45, all under the warm summer sky.
All dressed in suits (who does that anymore?), his 15-man Large Band, including a four-man gospel quartet, put on a vibrant two-and-half-hour show that mixed the best American music can offer, from swing and folk ballads to gospel and blues to country and bluegrass. It was an eclectic gumbo of styles rivaled only by, say, Willie Nelson who also draws from across the American songbook. But even Nelson doesn’t play those varied songs in such differing styles as Lyle Lovett does.
It was his 19th appearance at Wolf Trap since his breakthrough albums of the 1980s, and the venue was packed. Will Lady Gaga be playing to enthusiastic crowds 20 years from now?
In truth, the pernicious trends that are wrecking the live music industry — stale music at jacked-up prices — just aren’t working anymore, despite Gaga’s current success, as shown by the cratering stock prices for Live Nation and its downgrading this week by a top analyst. As the Associated Press reported on the same day that Lady Gaga sold out her concert:
Gaga’s success has been an exception to a grim concert season, noticed as early as July with the cancellations of at least 10 Lillith Fair concerts featuring women singers. While Gaga has to keep upping the ante with bizarre, skimpy outfits and lurid stunts to keep the customers coming, even though she’s also a talented singer and pianist, Lovett offers something else instead: heartfelt music spiced with his wry humor.
Much of the show was devoted to his last two albums, including his latest, Natural Forces, a sign that he keeps growing as an artist. He opened with a Vince Bell song,”Sun and Moon and Stars,” sung with quiet intensity backed simply by a cello, bass, fiddle and Lovett on acoustic guitar. His slightly strained tenor only added to the melancholy nostalgia of the song as he sang, “Lost to me is how the lives of friends go like autumn leaves in Oklahoma wind.” But in fact, he didn’t forget Vince Bell, the Houston singer who got his start in the 70s as a follower of Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt, and was a musical hero to then-young Lovett. “He called me on the stage for no good reason,” he recalled. “When somebody like that says what you’re doing is okay, it’s a real help.” In fact, he graciously credited all his musicians and made sure to tell the audience who the composer was of each song he covered.
One of the show’s centerpieces was the latest album’s title song, “Natural Forces,” inspired while watching a beer commercial during a football game, and realizing he and other Americans were not sacrificing anything while troops fought overseas for them. It led him to craft a song, apparently from the point of view of a truck driver, recalling his trips across the American landscape. Now the trucker was watching a beer commercial and wondering: “Now as I sit here safe at home/With a cold Coors Lite an’ the TV on/All the sacrifice and the death and woe/Lord I pray that I’m worth fighting for.” It was a reminder of what the rest of us don’t often think about:
His range was stunning, from his classic songs, such as the ballad “If Had A Boat,” to powerful gospel numbers such as “Church” and “I Will Rise Up.” In fact, he showed that he’s one of the few white singers who has fully mastered the nuances of the black gospel idiom without ever descending to minstrel-like mimicry of a “black” accent to convey the power of the songs.
He ended the show with yet another gospel-style number, “Ain’t No More Cane,” drawn from the Southern work-song tradition, and it powerfully evoked some of the darkest eras of our history — as well as the sort of anthemic, epic songs that haven’t been performed since the heyday of Robbie Robertson and The Band. Almost each member of the band contributed a verse, but Lyle’s plaintive voice was nothing less than haunting: “You should have been on the river
in nineteen and four/you could have found a dead man/at every turning road…”
After taking us through a rich tapestry of of styles and emotions, Lyle chose to end the show with a gripping song like this that shows that you don’t need smoke machines and pianos shooting fire to reach people with your music.