Ravings

The Beatles Go To 11: Reed Mathis’ Picks

1 Reply

The Impound is asking our favorite musicians to pick their eleven favorite Beatles songs in an effort to offer Fab-u-lous insights in our shared love of the greatest rock band of all-time. This inaugural selection comes from Reed Mathis, bass wunderkind of San Francisco-based Tea Leaf Green, a true Beatles connoisseur with a positively obsessive knowledge of what went into the making of their landmark music. Here’s what Reed had to say about his choices.

[In Chronological Order]

1) “I’ll Be Back”

I adore early Beatles, but this one from their third album really stands out to me. Harmonically, melodically, and lyrically it presages a lot of their later, darker work. Also, I love the outtakes from Anthology where they first try it as a waltz! Oh, sweet, sweet process. ( STEREO MASTER) / (WALTZ DEMO)

2) “Help!”

In a 70s interview, Lennon was asked what Beatles songs he was most proud of. He answered that he thought he’d written three good Beatle songs – “Strawberry Fields”, “In My Life” and “Help!” In this one, he reveals perhaps much more than he meant to about his inner life, as much great art does. And the groove! Jeez. Home run. (MONO MASTER)

3) “The Word”

Did someone try LSD? :) Suddenly spirituality and universality creep into Lennon’s writing, along with Day-Glo harmonies and exaggerated arrangements. And, speaking as a bass player, Paul’s stuff on this one is just unreal. They’re trying to be Motown, and they’re killing it. (MONO MASTER)

4) “Tomorrow Never Knows”

In April 1966, The Beatles entered Abbey Road to begin their seventh LP. George Martin: “Who wants to go first?” John Lennon: “Well, I’ve got one…” This was the first tune they tackled. Chord progression? Drone. Groove? Breakbeat. Lyrics? Tibetan Book of the Dead. Mix? Lennon said he wanted his voice to sound like “a hundred chanting Tibetan monks”. They ended up re-wiring the Hammond Organ’s Leslie Cabinet to run Lennon’s voice through it. Sound effects? Paul recorded dozens of incidental sounds around his home, and they cut the tapes up with scissors, threw them up in the air, and re-spliced them at random. OK. That’s one way to make a masterpiece. My only complaint? I wish the outro was 10 minutes longer. (STEREO MASTER)

5) “Rain”

Again with the spiritual metaphors? Wow. Lennon’s taking a real stand. “She Loves You” it ain’t. He can show us! The recording is notable for several reasons. He tuned the guitar down a whole-step to D, but then slowed the tape down so he’s got a low C. Pretty epic. Also, it’s the first time that Paul overdubbed his bass after the fact, and rather than use a mic on his bass amp, they rewired a huge woofer to receive rather than amplify sound and used THAT as a mic. Ringo said this was his best drumming on any Beatle track. AND John took the rough mix home and put it on his reel-to-reel, but (stoned) but it on upside down, and listened to it in reverse. The next day he proudly showed his discovery to the team, and they tagged his reverse voice on to the end, thus creating for the first time in history backwards recording. You’re welcome, Mr. Hendrix. (STEREO MASTER)

6) “I’m Only Sleeping”

There’s not another song in the entire Beatles catalog like this one. Such a creative, weird form. Such a sexy, lazy groove. Such amazing singing! And, George really digs deep on the backwards guitar….someone’s got a new toy! (MONO MASTER)

7) “Penny Lane”

They finished their final tour. They took four months off. Then, they reconvened to do… what? They could do and be anything now. They decided to make a concept record with all songs about their childhoods. John’s first offering was “Strawberry Fields”. Paul’s was “Penny Lane”. Incidentally, their label demanded a single in time for Xmas, and took the only two finished songs, so these two were not a part of what was, by then, becoming Sgt. Pepper’s. This song is a quantum leap in sophistication and production. The piano you hear is actually FIVE pianos, played by John, Paul and George. The changing feel on the drums is ingenious. And the bass playing….well, I’m not sure I’ve ever heard better. I personally channel the bass playing from this tune every single night. Astounding. (MONO MASTER)

8) “Getting Better”

Another entry in the original Pepper concept of songs about childhood. A good friend of mine once said that if you were ever with someone who was having a bad LSD trip just put this song on. :) I thought of that when I learned later that the one-time Lennon was tripping in the studio (on accident, it turns out) and he was recording the backup vocals on this tune. The huge quarter-note pulse that rolls through the whole thing is the definition of ICONIC, and something that I’ve tried to get every band I’m in to pull off, with limited success. So sick. Again, the overdubbed bass has much more freedom than it would have if it had been tracked live with the band. (MONO MASTER)

9) “Within You, Without You”

George’s masterpiece. Aside from “Revolution 9,” The Beatles never ventured farther from “Love Me Do” than this, and they rarely spoke so profoundly of real truth. George Martin’s orchestration is absolutely masterful. This one’s brought me to tears on more than one occasion. And then when I heard Martin’s 2006 remix with the “Tomorrow Never Knows” drums and bass underneath, I nearly lost my shit. This song almost makes the rest of their catalog look silly. (MONO MASTER) / (2006 remix)

10) “Fool On The Hill”

This one is Paul at his absolute best. Light/heavy, simple/surreal, catchy/mystical, melodic/groovy, profound/absurd. I love how it’s basically a piano song, and all the other instruments just add a tiny touch here and there. The baritone harmonica sounds like an ancient ritual. They didn’t flirt with the guru, they married the guru. Then, yes, they divorced the guru. But, for a time, they meant it. (STEREO MASTER)

11) “You Know My Name (Look Up The Number)”

I vividly remember my reaction the first time I heard this track: “THIS is the Beatles?!?!” The drums and bass on the intro are so heavy, so funky, I thought surely it was The Pharcyde. This was cut as an instrumental just days after Sgt. Pepper’s was completed. It then sat in the vault for three years. Then, at the absolute end of The Beatles career, they needed a B-side for “Let It Be”. John and Paul pulled it out, and overdubbed some AMAZING vocals, that are nothing short of pure Monty Python-esque brilliance. Also, that’s the Rolling Stones’ Brian Jones on saxophone at the end. Truly a unique recording in the history of music. Paul once said this was, without hesitation, his favorite Beatle track. I concur! (STEREO MASTER)

Up next, the Impound’s own picks. It’ll be less erudite but just as heartfelt. See y’all around the virtual water cooler soon!

We'll Do It Live

New Monsoon's Garyfest 2012

2 Replies

New Monsoon :: Garyfest :: 10.19.12-10.21.12 :: Houston, TX

There are times in life that seem calculated to drive us to our knees, as if some grand design wants to break us down to our rawest, weariest selves. It’s a self-pitying perspective but unavoidable sometimes – being human makes one prone to such slips. However, such times can also unearth our strengths, our gifts, our blessings in ways nothing else possibly can. This is what one witnessed with S.F. Bay Area-based New Monsoon during the inaugural Garyfest, a three day tribute series of concerts to the band’s friend and manager Gary Hartman, who passed away suddenly last May. Add to this some family deaths for New Monsoon members just prior to these shows and the weekend took on unmistakable significance, a survivor’s edge that dug hard into life and transmuted that primal force into song. It was a feeling off-handedly summed up nicely by NM electric guitarist-singer-songwriter Jeff Miller, who remarked with a crooked smile just before he went onstage the first night, “We’re still here. That’s something, right?”

I’ve been chronicling the evolution of New Monsoon since 2003, when I became fast friends with the group as well as an enduring fan. Though it’s thrown around a lot (and often inappropriately), the word that fits these guys best is “genuine”. There’s no sense of subterfuge and strategy about them, their feelings and artistic intentions worn on their sleeves honestly, even brazenly, and they were very much these guys during the three nights in Houston. In essence, New Monsoon is a dead solid rock band fused with a love of instrumental diversity, folk forms and jamming in the best sense. They are one of the few “jam bands” to emerge from the early 2000s that make that descriptor a good thing, perhaps most because the songwriting core – Miller, Bo Carper (acoustic guitar, banjo, vocals) and Phil Ferlino (keyboards, vocals) – has put serious sweat and care into honing their tunesmithing and vocal chops over the past decade. It’s one thing to shred mightily – which they do at times – but better still to offer up songs that stick, conjecture, skip, and generally seem determined to wrestle with the wherewithal and whims of living in a way that’s kinda illuminating or healing. At all three chapters of this first Garyfest, the breadth and deep feeling of their catalogue was laid bare in the company of many of their dearest, most dedicated fans at two of the sweetest venues in the U.S. As combinations of elements go it was downright wonderful, a chance to see a band at their best in the best possible circumstances.

New Monsoon 2012

Friday and Saturday nights took place at funky (in the 60s slang sense) back street Houston hangout Last Concert Café, a Mexican restaurant and live music spot where one either knocks to get in or wanders through a gate leading into a sand pit in front of the outdoor stage. Everything about the joint says, “Slip off your shoes and get to liquor-ing up yo’ blood, kids, ‘cause we’re gonna have a good, good time.” The staff and locals are the definition of colorful and friendly, and for this longtime Bay Area NM loyalist it was a blast to meet up with one of this band’s other dedicated tribes. Houston was one of the first cities outside San Francisco that really took to New Monsoon and swiftly became a home-away-from-home for them during their heavier touring years. One feels surrounded by kind-hearted people who really care about this band, a constituency that has let this music seep into the ground water of their lives, singing along with tearful understanding and smiling pleasure. Gary Hartman was core to this scene, and from the start of his friendship with NM proved a positive instigator and undying champion for what isn’t always an easy sell in an era where specificity is rewarded far above diversity.

The current lineup – rounded out by bassist Marshall Harrell and newest member drummer Michael Pinkham – is scarily together for guys who don’t play out all that often anymore. Natural talent is a big part of it – and they’ve all got that in spades – but it’s clear these five guys are dedicated to their cause and really get off on playing music together. Right out of the gate on Friday, their shared intensity and obvious desire to knock these shows out of the park was apparent, and when added to the strong emotions zinging around the LCC, one would have to be a hard soul not to be moved by what unfolded. This is music for life’s long slog, rib sticking stuff that suits their many travelogues and philosophical musings. Further stoked by the inescapable specter of mortality in the air, the Friday show straight on through to the intimate closer on Sunday at modern day speakeasy “The Lounge” – a former woodshop over a creek behind a private home that brought the locals and distant journeyers into a linked arm huddle to wrap this weekend – one was reminded of the quality and life-affirming nature of what NM does, where the unfolding moment dances with history, the now and the then swirled into a rhythm rich force that stirs one to sway and engage.

Backstage at LCC w/ Miller, Ylitalo, Ferlino & Pinkham

It doesn’t hurt that New Monsoon expands on their own catalog with some of the most credible, consistently excellent covers of iconic material out there, starting Friday with spectacular readings of Pink Floyd’s “Pigs” and Led Zeppelin’s “Poor Tom.” They inhabit classic material with confidence, both evoking the originals and veering off on unique tangents that reflect their personalities while still honoring what makes this material great – i.e. respectful but not too respectful. To wit, Miller’s decidedly non-Hendrix soloing on “Manic Depression,” which consciously avoided sounding at all like Jimi, instead offering up a smooth encapsulation of Miller’s creamy essence. In fact, every man onstage this weekend showed off a range and distinct identity that’s WAY beyond what most players are capable of. In another band it might all prove too much but the sheer density of what they do melds beautifully, each aspect sparked and carved by the tunes and what the others bring to them in real time, spontaneity playing on their faces and communicated to their limbs in ways that are awfully fun to watch.

For veteran New Monsoon enthusiasts, Garyfest brought the welcome return of original percussion trio Rajiv Parikh (tabla), Marty Ylitalo (trap drums) and Brian Carey (conga, Latin percussion). For many in attendance it was the mighty 7-headed juggernaut of the early-mid 2000s that first made them fall for this band, and even a taste of that heady mélange was delicious, a warming elixir to these times that too often stumble without intrinsic rhythm. Friday night Carey jumped in and out of proceedings, injecting vigor into whatever he touched, but it was Saturday night that brought the full force of this combo to bear with ah-damn-that’s-good versions of “Mountain Air,” Little Feat’s “Spanish Moon” diving into “En Fuego,” and other treats that recalled the group’s earlier more international bent. It really seemed as if no time had passed since these guys had explored music together – a testament to their great skill and unshakeable chemistry.

Pre-Show Circle Backstage at LCC on Saturday

Another secret ingredient to this first Garyfest was special guest Tim Carbone, violinist from primo festival/live circuit champs Railroad Earth. In my experience, Carbone is like magic dust sprinkled on ANY musical setting, a player whose listening and technical skills are at such a level that he’s a duck in whatever waters he’s tossed in. For Carbone, New Monsoon seems a super swell playground, guys who operate at his level and give him plenty to chew on. From his arrival on Saturday into Sunday’s quieter, more contemplative set at “The Lounge,” Carbone injected too many good things to list, a foil that brought out the best in New Monsoon – especially the poetic communication he shares with Miller and Ferlino, his sometimes bandmates in side project The Contribution – and a guest that felt as natural in their idiosyncratic style as a long term member. More simply, Tim Carbone makes music better – any music, any genre, anytime, anywhere – and he surely did that in his extended visit this weekend.

By Sunday evening, one was hard pressed not to be reflective, both about this band and their troubles as well as one’s own tribulations and blessings. While New Monsoon can be entertaining, it’s their capacity for something deeper that makes them stand out. Sure, they throw a good party – and all involved in crafting this first Garyfest did that very well – but they give one plenty to think about when the taps have run dry and the working week returns. These are craftsmen who have steadfastly made something of their own, borrowing from what’s come before but never yielding to imitation or lazy routine. They are part of a long line of singular, hyper-gifted bands that never hit the big lights but persevere because a core group is there to listen and support what they do with real love. It’s a noble thing to create without steady riches or fame, and there are too few genuinely noble things left in this greed-stoked, angling, politicized, self-interest driven world. At the closing Sunday performance, New Monsoon flew high AND into people’s hearts by being willing to do what they do just for the sake of doing it.

“This is like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow,” said Miller at “The Lounge.

I did not know Gary as well as many that attended these special shows but one thing I gleaned from my few conversations with him was the man knew a good idea when he saw one and was willing to put his back into seeing such ideas survive and blossom. He saw the good in New Monsoon from the very start, and in this way he and I share a fundamental feeling about this band. In so many ways, New Monsoon makes very little sense to an outsider perspective but slip into their world and the internal logic of what they do shines like sunrise. Garyfest was a reminder to fans what a strong, engaging band New Monsoon is, but I think it also reminded the musicians why this endeavor should continue. Love is a powerful force and there was lots of love permeating this inaugural outing for what will surely be a grand time year after year, a good idea that should be nurtured and savored for the unique celebration it is.

Mix Tape

Brought To You By The Letter…H

Comments Off

The Impound is working our way from A-Z with a choice selection each week that includes bands/artists from a single letter.

Our “H” assortment begins shiftless in the 50s with The Hold Steady and winds through bucolic rock from Incredible String Band’s Mike Heron, Heart and the great Roy Harper, as well as nods to great contemporary bands like Howlin Rain and The Habit next to primo vintage fare from Richie Havens, Tom T. Hall and enduring DI love Robyn Hitchcock. This is an especially great letter in our library so we super sized this edition. Just doing our part to keep your ears pricked towards the right stuff…

Listen to this mix HERE. Track listing below.

You can listen to 8tracks mixes on your iPhone (pick up the app here) and Android (pick up the app here).

track listing

The Free Bird Project

Brett Dennen

Comments Off

This is one of the sweetest, most mischievous entries in DI’s ongoing salute to the raised middle finger in rock. To us, Brett Dennen looks like he’s stopped momentarily to accede to our request on his way to a cool rabbit hole that will whoosh him to a party with Paul Williams (in his Phantom of the Paradise costume), numerous dancing girls and other droll amusements, and a delectable spread drawn from Caligula’s notebooks. Yes, we’ve been told we have an over-active imagination. Thanks to Brett for flipping us off, and to most swell photographer Josh Miller for capturing the moment.

Brett Dennon by Josh Miller

Are you interested in giving Dirty Impound the finger? Are you in a band? Well, we wanna see whatcha you got, cowboys (and cowgirls)! Send us your birdie pics and we’ll add them to our archive and make sure folks know you cared enough to raise a middle finger for rock! Send pictures to freebird@dirtyimpound.com

Mix Tape

Winter 2012 Snappy Mix

Comments Off

The Seasonal Mix Series is an inquiry in song about where we stand as the weather changes and the calendar pages leaf by.

Screw being jolly, we’re embracing the cold ache of time and history that creeps into one’s bones with winter’s arrival. The solstice doesn’t officially arrive until December 21st this year but with all the storms – figurative and literal – raging around the world and in our own lives it seemed right to share this leeching tonic a few weeks early, a small reminder that it’s okay to be sad, to have regrets, to wonder what could have been done different but make sure to hold onto the sure knowledge that eventually the sun will shine again no matter how rain presently falls.

Listen to this mix HERE. Track listing below.

You can listen to 8tracks mixes on your iPhone (pick up the app here) and Android (pick up the app here).

track listing

Mix Tape

Snack Time V

Comments Off

When we were young, radio was a blessing, something one turned on to find a smile, a comforting shoulder, or just a nifty tune that made the world shine a bit brighter for a few minutes. Those days – very sadly – are largely past with the commercial radio programming of today, but we at Dirty Impound like to conjecture what a better radio world might sound like. Our fifth installment in this daydream offers Beatles covers, Richard Thompson tackling a Squeeze hit, fresh new talent right at the top, and more with ample nods to the 70s AM radio magnificence of our youth.

Listen to this mix HERE. Track listing below.

You can listen to 8tracks mixes on your iPhone (pick up the app here) and Android (pick up the app here).

track listing

Vintage Stash

Bert Jansch

Comments Off

Bert Jansch

Bert Jansch was a towering figure in the modern folk-rock scene, a high water mark that everyone who’s ever strapped on an acoustic guitar and told stories to strangers aspires to emulate. But unlike many of his peers in the field, there was a quiet humility to the man despite his gigantic talent, something unmistakably wounded and inescapably human that makes his work resonate in such a timeless manner with each generation that discovers it. With a voice warm and earthy as good aged single malt whiskey and a deft picking style that unerringly melded direct simplicity with technical dexterity and abundant melody, Jansch represents the archetypal troubadour/bard running headlong into the complexities of modern man. This fascinating dichotomy has rarely been laid bare so well in his catalog as the wonderful 30th anniversary edition of long out-of-print 1982 album Heartbreak (released November 6 on Omnivore Recordings), where the original Los Angeles studio sessions are paired with a previously unreleased solo live performance from McCabe’s Guitar Shop in Santa Monica from summer of 1981.

By juxtaposing one of Jansch’s most well-realized, contemporary sounding studio sets with the naked grace of his live experience allows the listener to revel in the two sides of this shiny silver coin, each inextricably melded to the other, a tension between past flavors and late 20th century tastes – a prickly conversation that chatters away in Jansch’s music from his early days in Pentangle on through his 21st century records Black Swan (2006) and Edge of a Dream (2002), whose nucleus one hears in Heartbreak, where Jansch’s nimble acoustic guitar fences with a particularly tasty Albert Lee, who wields electric and acoustic guitars as well as mandolin. A tight but relaxed rhythm team of Randy Tico (bass) and drummers Matt Betton and Jack Kelly provides an intuitive pulse to a strong set of originals and choice covers (Elvis nugget “Heartbreak Hotel” and traditionals “Blackwater Side” and “Wild Mountain Thyme,” the latter featuring a nice vocal turn from Jennifer Warnes). First time producers Rick and John Chelew were super fans who brought Jansch into a Silverlake studio and coaxed some lovely performances from the man during what were reportedly dark, drunken days where the once well-established musician was struggling to find his footing and relevance. The closest sonic relatives in Jansch’s catalog are the two stellar albums he made in California the previous decade – L.A. Turnaround (1974) and Santa Barbara Honeymoon (1975) – and Heartbreak feels like the sequel these gems never received in the 70s.

The live disc is a treasure, where it feels Jansch is singing right to us, telling us brief tales and offering funny quips as he weaves his way through tunes that would end up on Heartbreak as well as unique renditions of modern folk staples “If I Were A Carpenter” (Tim Hardin) and “Blues Run The Game” (Jackson C. Frank) as well as a gorgeous reading of Ewan MacColl’s “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” that neatly returns to tune to its folk roots after Roberta Flack made a pop hit of it. What this set makes clear is Jansch needed nothing but a single guitar and a microphone to mesmerize audiences, the proceedings filled with pin drop intimacy and good humor (including a ditty about the delights of potatoes to a hungry soul). While a whole new set of folks got turned onto Jansch from his extensive touring with Neil Young the past few years, this McCabe’s concert shows what he sounded like at his gently troubled, big hearted best – a gift to long time enthusiasts and a belated hello for anyone still discovering this international treasure after his passing last year.