Monday, December 29, 2008

The Weight Remembers...Delaney Bramlett

From Reuters:

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Rock guitarist Delaney Bramlett, who collaborated with such artists as George Harrison and Eric Clapton, died in a Los Angeles hospital following gallbladder surgery. He was 69.

His wife, Susan Lanier-Bramlett, said he died on Saturday after "seven hard months" of ill health.

"I held him and he held on up until the last breath with which he went in peace to the light and on into eternity," she said in a statement.

The Mississippi native first gained renown in the late 1960s as part of the southern-fried rhythm and blues combo Delaney & Bonnie, which he formed with his first wife, Bonnie Lynn. The gifted duo were often overshadowed by their "Friends," as their backing group was known. Among them was Clapton, who regularly performed as a low-key sideman.

Bramlett, in turn, produced Clapton's self-titled debut solo album in 1970, and co-wrote most of the songs, including the gospel-tinged hit single "Let It Rain."

Clapton brought Delaney & Bonnie to England, and recruited such musicians as Harrison and Dave Mason to perform at their shows. According to Bramlett's biography, he taught Harrison how to play slide guitar and to write a gospel song, which led to the recording of the former Beatle's hit single "My Sweet Lord."

Delaney & Bonnie enjoyed a few hits of their own, including the 1971 tune "Never Ending Song Of Love," but their popularity faded after Clapton moved on. The couple divorced after releasing their last album together, 1972's "Together."

Friday, December 26, 2008

Weighing In: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers: Runnin' Down a Dream

"You can stand me up at the gates of Hell, but I won't back down." -- Tom Petty

There is a fundamental difference between the "concert" documentary and the "artist" documentary. The "concert" documentary primarily focuses on a band or artist's performance; narrative and behind-the-scenes material are by-products. Scorsese's The Last Waltz, Bob Smeaton's Festival Express and Jonathan Demme's Heart of Gold all fall into this category. Not surprisingly, the "artist" documentary primarily focuses on the artist or band itself; performance is the by-product. The Beatles Anthology and Scorsese's No Direction Home are two fine examples in this group. Peter Bogdanovich's Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers: Runnin' Down a Dream (2007) is a near-perfect take on the latter.

Director/critic/John Ford enthusiast Bogdanovich (The Last Picture Show, Paper Moon), masterfully interweaves archival footage, interviews, rare outtakes and a smattering of live performance to produce one of the best artist documentaries I've seen in years. The film begins fittingly with footage from the band's 30th anniversary concert in Gainsville, Florida -- the same town where a younger, free-spirited rebel named Tom Petty egged some local buddies to forgo college (and in one case, the military) in hopes of acheiving rock 'n' roll stardom. What foresight. Despite its 3+ hour running time, Bogdanovich does an impeccable job taking us through virtually every aspect of Petty's storied life: an abusive father, a mother's untimely death, the Mudcrutch period, the band's odyssey to L.A., record deals, bankruptcies, the rise to stardom, the tragic loss of a bandmate, and of course, becoming one of the biggest names in rock history. There is never a dull moment.

Admittedly, much of this I was unaware of beforehand. Take for example Petty's vigilante heroism against the predatory record companies during the 1970's and 1980's or the band's immense popularity overseas before becoming a household name in the States. But what I found most astonishing was the sheer number of hits penned by Petty -- each one more recognizable than the last. This is certainly a near-impossible feat given today's standards. If there was a ever a Picasso of rock 'n' roll, it would be Petty.

Also included is great interview footage from a list of admirers ranging from: Eddie Vedder, Jeff Lynne, Stevie Nicks, Dave Grohl, Johnny Depp, George Harrison...George Harrison -- a FUCKING BEATLE! Who can boast about that these days? Fall Out Boy? The Jonas Brothers? The Black Eyed Peas? Laughable. Another high point recounts Petty's stint with the exceedingly underrated Traveling Wilburys. The Wilburys, whose members included, Petty, Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan, George Harrison, and Jeff Lynne, was hands down, the GREATEST rock "supergroup" of all-time. And for those who disagree, let me repeat the names a second time: Tom Petty, Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan, George Harrison and Jeff Lynne. Just watching the group jam and mess around is staggering. There is a great scene where Petty assists Orbison in writing Orbison's mega hit "You Got It." I had no idea of Petty's collaboration. The only real disappointment was that Bogdanovich couldn't land an interview with Dylan, although I suspect this had more to do with Dylan's elusiveness than any oversight on Bogdanovich's part.

There is a great quote by Petty where he observes that today, rock stars are "being invented on game shows." There is a sadness in his eyes; a sort of reluctant acceptance that the industry has let us all down. I think he knows the gig is up. Unlike the cookie-cutter, money-making machines of the music biz today, Petty earned his stripes the hard way. He trekked over 2000 miles to California in a broken down van, armed only with a pocketful of songs and a will to be heard. There was no reality t.v., no MySpace, no YouTube, no Sirius; just one man and his guitar. The future was wide open...

--D.S., Weightstaff

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Weight: Flashbacks

When The Weight was born almost 2 years ago, it was merely a forum for a few friends to share music videos and sound clips of the artists we love. But over the last 24 months, the site has proudly evolved to include concert/movie reviews, ruminations, criticism, editorials, news, comments, contributions, and a healthy portion of (justifiable) Beyonce bashing.

Anyway, as our frequent visitors have probably noticed, the site has been dormant for an inexcusable period of time -- and for that, I apologize. I guess between the holidays and our busy work schedules, we unfortunately haven't had the time to generate quality posts. So, I'll make it easy: I'm going back to our roots and posting, for lack of better words, one damn cool video clip; no clever conversation, just Billy Joel.

p.s. The only person missing from this performance is Albert Hammond, Jr...

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Thanksgiving Eve 2008: The Bridge

Before I overloaded on turkey, mashed potatoes, and football, I had one task that needed to be complete…go out and see The Bridge. Every year the night before Thanksgiving, The Bridge can be found playing a gig in their beloved hometown, Baltimore. This event has become a tradition that seems to grow larger and larger every year. If memory serves me correctly, the first pre-turkey gig started at Paloma's, a now out of business nightclub that reminded me of dark and trendy dive bars in New York City. Eventually the band moved the show to the 8X10 club, the same place it holds it's summer residency shows. With ever growing popularity, and the fact that the 8X10 can't hold more than about 350 people, the band made a wise choice in 2006 to move the gig to Ram's Head Live, right in the heart of downtown Baltimore and the Inner Harbor. A venue more similar to DC's 9:30 club in size (it holds about 1500 people), this venue was the perfect avenue for The Bridge to market their latest CD, Blind Man's Hill.

It seems that each year The Bridge play this gig, it also serves as a reunion of friends and family from the area's surrounding the band's roots. Everyone comes home for the holiday, so why not head out the night before for some drinkin' and good music. This particular year I got a chance to hang out with 2/3rd's of The Weight's staff not only for the show, but for some good Mexican eatin' right next door to the venue.

We headed into the show just in time to catch the opening act, Ekoostik Hookah. These guys have been around since the early 90's and I recall seeing them at an All Good Festival or two many moons ago. They have a huge following in Ohio and it looked like the band even brought some of their fans out from the "Buckeye State." The played for about 75 minutes which is pretty nice when you have the warm up slot. Their sound is saturated with hints of southern rock, blues, jazz, improvisational jamming, and good harmonies. They definitely got the crowd warmed up, but for me their songs tended to sound alike.

The Bridge finally took the stage close to 11pm and immediately launched into songs from their new album. During their two sets, they managed to play almost every song from the new disc as well as some older crowd favorites. Their new songs continue to be rich in originality and feeling. Throw in some covers from Ray Charles, Robert Palmer, and Robert Johnson, and you have a typical Bridge show full of fantastic music. They even managed to hire a woman to do a trapeze routine in front of the stage. Nothing wrong with throwing in a little Cirque De Soleil to add to the mix.

Recently, The Bridge added a new member to its crew, Mark Brown on the keyboards. His abilities and style have added a new color to the band's music which compliments nicely with Kenny's mandolin. Mark hasn't been in the band for too long, but you could already see the chemistry on stage between him and his band mates. This band continues to amaze me after seeing them for eight years. Each new album brings great songwriting, catchy melodies, and phenomenal playing. Chris Jacobs continues to be the primary singer/songwriter and he pours his soul onto the strings of his guitar night after night. Dave Markowitz's back-up harmonies and impressive bass skills allows the band to creatively jam and open new doors. The Bridge has seen a few people step into the saxophone role, but Patrick Rainey is no amateur. He's got great chops and gives the band its signature sound. I will never get tired of Kenny Liner's beatbox routine and I think he has come the furthest from a musical prospective on his electric mandolin. Mike Gambone rounds it out on the drums with his consistent, hard-hitting, and on pace style.

For me the night was an A+ all around and I look forward to living out this tradition year in and year out. If you have not seen this band yet, please make it a priority…you will not be disappointed.

The Bridge continues their tour this month through the end of the year and already has dates set for early next year.
Here is the setlist from the show:

Set I
Let Me Off This Train
Old White Lightning 95
Brother Don't
Honey Bee
Poison Wine*
How Much Fun^
Bad Locomotive->
What I'd Say$->
Bad Locomotive

Set II
Come in My Kitchen%
Heavy Water
Diggin in the Cold Ground
In Dreams
Devil on Me*
Shake 'em Down
Born Ramblin'
Give it Up
Lasting Hymm
Bury My Bones in Baltimore

E: Will it go Round in Circles&

* w/ Kate Brown on trapeze
$ Ray Charles Cover
^ Robert Palmer Cover
# new original, first time played
% Robert Johnson Cover
@ Van Morrison Cover
& Billy Preston Cover