segunda-feira, maio 01, 2006

A Profile Of Mahalia Jackson (by Studs Terkel for Down Beat — 12/11/1958)

"Mahalia, she was a girl in the slave days. She was dreaming of jubilee all the time. Of better days to come. My people gave me her name."

The big, handsome woman with the gentle face was weary as she stared out of the window of her south side Chicago home at the Indian summer afternoon. She was looking out toward the setting sun, miles away and years ago. Her hands were clasped in her lap. They are graceful hands but not dainty, not soft. The callouses are eloquently present.

Mahalia Jackson spoke again:

"You got to work with your hands. All artists should work with their hands. How can you sing of amazing grace, how can you sing of heaven and earth and all God's wonders without using your hands? My hands demonstrate what I feel inside. My hands, my feet. I throw my whole body to say all that is within me. The mind and the voice by themselves are not sufficient . . ."

Her weariness might have been explained by five straight nights of revival singing at Greater Salem's new church, all the proceeds going to the church's young persons fund "so those children wouldn't have to run around in the streets like sick little chickens."

She had just returned from an appearance on Bing Crosby's television program, which one might have thought added to her fatigue. "Oh, no," she said, "it's just that California's too far away for anybody to go."

She had traveled from Chicago, which has been her home town since the late 1920s. Now 46, Miss Jackson, since her arrival in Chicago, has done her share of manual labor - washerwoman, day factories, domestic.

What about the beauty shop? "Oh, I didn't get to work there 'til I was up on the hog's back," she said - 1943.

When she get to sing? "Sundays and in the evening," she said. "Prof. Thompson of the Greater Salem Baptist church picked me out of the choir. I sang so loud. I just drowned out the others. Remember they had no mikes in churches in those days. I just sang out, and with the Lord's help the people in the back rows heard. I got that from David of the Bible. Remember what he said? 'Sing joyfully unto the Lord with a loud voice.' I took his advice.

"When did I first begin to sing? You might as well ask when did I first begin to walk and talk. In New Orleans, where I lived as a child, I remember singing as I scrubbed the floors. It would make the work go easier. When the old people weren't home, I'd turn on a Bessie Smith record. And play it over and over. Careless Love, that was the blues she sang."

Suddenly her eyes suggested a twinkle, and she added, "That was before I was saved. The blues are fine, but I don't want to sing them. Just remember, all I'm saying about my listening to Bessie and imitating her when I was a little girl; just remember this was before I was saved.

I'd play that record over and over again, and Bessie's voice would come out so full and round. And I'd make my mouth do the same thing. And before you know, all the people would stand outside the door and listen.

"I didn't know what it was at the time. All I know is it would grip me. It would give me that same feeling as when I'd hear the men singing outside as they worked, laying the ties for the railroad. I liked the way Bessie made her tones . . ."

What was it about Bessie? Mahalia squinted thoughtfully and said:

"Listening to a song by Bessie, it almost fits into your own plane. You have a troubled mind, you sense it in her. She's an oppressed woman, a troubled woman. She's trying to get free from something. It's like a preachment, even though it's the blues. More than words, you feel a troubled heart.

"When I was a little girl, I felt she was having troubles like me. That's why it was such a comfort for the people of the south to hear her. She expressed something they couldn't put into words.

All you could hear was Bessie. The houses were thin; the phonographs were loud. You could hear her for blocks."

Before she was saved, had the thought of singing the blues occurred to her? Mahalia laughed.

"My father's people were theatrical," she said. "They worked with Ma Rainey and Bessie and the other great blues singers. They wanted me to travel with them. But my mother's people were very religious. They forbade it. My mother was so independent, too. They told her I could make what was good money at the time. But she said no. And she didn't have a dime. It's easy to be independent when you got money. But to be independent when you ain't got a dime, that's the Lord's test.

"Sure, somebody's always coming up to me telling me if I'd sing the blues, they'd get all kinds of money for me. Or if I'd sing in a night club, I could name my own price. They won't serve drinks while I'm singin' and all that foolishness.

"They just don't understand. I try to explain. I don't mean to hurt their feelings; they don't mean bad. But I just wouldn't feel right singing about that kind of music. After all, I've been saved. The good Lord has helped me in so many ways, and I can't let Him down. He spared me. Remember?"

Several years ago, Mahalia, gaunt and emaciated, lay in a bed in Billings Memorial hospital in Chicago. It appeared to be a most critical ailment, affecting her chest and thus the strength of her voice. That she pulled through and now sings - with as much strength as ever - she attributes to God's amazing grace.

Does she have any idea in how many churches she has appeared?

"Hundreds, I guess," she said. "I can't count 'em. All the way from little store-front churches to big ones. Oh sure, I've sung anywhere people asked me to sing to. I've got to have people to sing to. In front of me. I got to see their faces. Their response. Oh, yes, even when I close my eyes I see them. I can't explain why I close my eyes when I sing a soulful song. I suppose it's because I don't want to lose what's inside me all at once."

The feeling. There was a feeling Blind Frank had. He was one of the earliest singers of spirituals she remembers.

"He used to come around the churches in New Orleans and play his guitar. Places where the Holiness folks gathered, the Sanctified people. They sang the way I liked it, with free expression.

"That's where I think jazz caught its beat. From the Holiness people. Long before Buddy Bolden and Bunk Johnson, they were clapping their hands and beating their tambourines and blowing their horns."

On the state of spiritual singing today she noted, "they can't be sung exactly as they were sung in the slavery days, because today the Negro people have a new type of hope. They don't have to hide any more, like the slaves or the Jews in Egypt.

"Oh yeah, we still have troubles, plenty burdens. So it still has to be from-the-heart singing. Not like some of those quartets you hear on the jukeboxes. Making a gimmick out of this music, this music which is the hope of humanity. I'm so tired of these singers who make a mess of things. They don't care about religion or the Lord, taking His name in vain the way they do.

"It's taking our great music, like taking the country's flag and stepping on it. These songs have been the hope and salvation of our people. I get mad."

About jazzmen playing spirituals, she said, "If they play for their own comfort, for their real feeling, all right. But if they gimmick it, they're no better than those gimmicky jukebox singers."

Mahalia arose and mimicked a bloodless soprano in what was for a moment a wildly comic interpretation. But then she was serious about music again:

"When it comes to singing anthems, that's something else. Like the Hallelujah chorus from The Messiah. But you have to have the right voices, good strong young voices. Our older people used to sing them in churches when I first came up to Chicago. They seemed uncomfortable. I know they'd have felt a lot better with spirituals or gospel songs or just plain hymns. They seemed so stiff, not free.

"No matter what kind of songs people sing, it must come natural to them. They shouldn't just try to sing something just because they feel it's the proper thing to do. Then the real person gets lost. He's away from his roots."

A pause. Any feeling about modern jazz . . .?

"I prefer listening to the old style because I'm used to it," she replied. "I don't know which direction they're going today. Maybe I'm wrong, but I feel they've gone too far away from roots.

"When I was small and they played jazz, the houses just talked, spoke the music. Some of the progressive jazz sounds to me like lost little children, who don't know what road they're on or what they're doing or why they're doing it. Maybe they're reaching out for something good, but I just don't understand it."

"Today so many people call gospel songs 'jazz.' They don't know, they just don't know. Just as the spiritual came from the slavery days, the gospel song came from liberation.

"The jubilee songs that sprang up after the Civil war led into what we call gospel songs today. Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen or Swing Low Sweet Chariot. They're spirituals. What a Friend I Have in Jesus or I'm so Glad Jesus Lifted Me. They're gospel songs."

There came a change in the tempo and tenor of the conversation that - like her songs - is sometimes soft and deeply moving and at other times earthly and exuberant. She offered random observations of people, places and things, the lost and found . . .

Billy Holiday: "I never knew her, never met her, never knew what made her do the things she did. But when I saw her last year on the CBS show, The Sound of Jazz - you know that Lively Arts series? -I caught that cry from her. I know everybody who watched that show caught something from her. She looked like she knew trouble. She sounded like it."

Miss Jackson feels strongly about Europe, where she was recognize and accepted long before white America did so. Why were Europeans seemingly able to appreciate her so readily?

"People are people the world over," she said, "and everybody can feel suffering when you sing a spiritual. We all carry different kinds of burdens, and each person interprets the spiritual in his own way. It's more than just words. It's the feelin. It lingers after the song is ended."

What of tomorrow?

"I hope one day I can teach people to sing songs with the deep feeling they once had," she said. "We shouldn't forget our roots, our history.

"Sometimes I hear how music is supposed to be sung; there are certain notes I want to make. I get to my pianist, Mildred Falls. We put it down. So in this way I'm able to capture the voice within me. Oh, people should study, of course. But they should also listen to what is inside themselves. You first must sing for yourself. When you make that peace within yourself, then you can reach out to the others. If I do nothing else, I hope to teach people that. Each to find his way."

Mahalia Jackson found her way. She found it long before Move on up a Little Higher sold a million in the mid-40s. Adversities and detours were present.

But always Mahalia has made her own free-wheeling way onto the main road.

She'll never get lost.

Van Morrison Explores the Unknowable, Sometimes in Silence (by Ben Ratcliff for The New York Times)

Van Morrison is interested in the unknowable, the forces that can't love you as you love them. This could be why, in running through streams of semi-improvised words and phrases in a performance, he mentions the names of deceased singers — Jackie Wilson, Muddy Waters, Jimmy Witherspoon — almost as liturgy.

It could also be why, in the best parts of his show in the Theater at Madison Square Garden on Monday, he didn't use words at all. (The name of the unknowable, after all, may be Sha-la-la-la or Dang-a-lang-a-lang.) It could explain the silences seamed into his phrasing, which he controls uniquely but probably adapted from Louis Armstrong's roomy, airy swing.

It could also explain a moment that arrived in a version of Don Gibson's "I Can't Stop Loving You." Mr. Morrison ordered his three background singers — who did not make a particularly good foreground sound — to fill in two verses of the song. As they sang, he approached the microphone to interject something as antiphony. He opened his mouth, raised a hand, and then stopped himself and backed away, and this void was part of his performance too.

Mr. Morrison could be like any number of pop singers from the late 60's who have been enshrined for decades on album-oriented radio and create a species of rigidly nostalgic hell in person. (A cursory version of "Moondance" on Monday night suggested what this might be like.) Instead, at his best, he is a bandleader in a constant state of choice, patrolling his band's dynamics and ordering up solos as he makes his silences more valuable.

For long stretches on Monday, he moved tensely in his dark suit and cowboy hat, barely acknowledging the crowd. He used impatience as a means to creativity, thinking his way through, finally hitting his stride toward the end.

His new album, "Pay the Devil" (Lost Highway), borrows its repertory and instrumentation from country music; though he played only a few of its songs on Monday, a fiddle player (Jason Roberts, from the band Asleep at the Wheel) and a steel guitarist (Cindy Cashdollar) floated in and out of the band, which at its largest numbered 11 musicians. Some of these songs — Webb Pierce's "There Stands the Glass," Clarence Williams's "My Bucket's Got a Hole In It" — aren't yet soil for great vocal improvisations, though Mr. Morrison toyed with them, working them out, testing them to see what kind of repetitions, phrase-bunching and vowel-stretching they can stand.

Those kinds of devices took over a number of songs in the show's last third: the mesmerizing waltz-time ballad "In the Midnight"; "Precious Time," in which the idea of life slipping away made him sing "na-na-na-na" and turn from plummy bellowing to a low, nasal, growling vocal rip; the almost radical confrontation with "I Can't Stop Loving You"; and a version of the old pop song "All in the Game."

"All in the Game" is just Mr. Morrison's thing: it is entirely about the unknowable: why a lover won't return one's call, why he might then change his mind. Tumbling through the words, rolling them around, he unleashed volleys of "they wanna, they wanna, they wanna, they wanna" and "once in a while, in a while, in a while." He sang the word "love" and looked straight up at the ceiling, until the next phrase appeared to him. He injected the gospel phrase "99½ won't do." Leaving the stage as musical lines kept repeating, he in turn repeated his own line, "one more time again, one more time again."

Randy Weston: The Sounds of Morocco, the Influences of Monk (by Nate Chinen for The New York Times)

Randy Weston composed his first song for Africa — the ebullient, offhandedly dissonant "Zulu" — in 1954. It marked the embarkation point of a quest: Mr. Weston has spent most of the last half-century promulgating a distinctly African approach to jazz, one shaped by ethnic folk traditions and rooted in spiritual concerns.

Mr. Weston employed "Zulu" as an invocation on Tuesday night at the World Financial Center, teasing out its theme with a chordal rumble and an artfully halting cadence. Alone at the piano, he reached back to a formative influence, Thelonious Monk; one triplet cascade gave off a particular air of homage. In that moment, and in a burst of stride rhythm on the following tune, Mr. Weston offered a glimpse of the jazz pedigree that preceded his African exploration.

That journey began, in a literal sense, at the dawn of the 1960's, when Mr. Weston, who was born and raised in Brooklyn, first visited Lagos, Nigeria. He traveled more widely through the continent in 1967 in behalf of the State Department; by the end of that tour he had decided to relocate. He settled for a while in Tangier, Morocco, where a musician named Abdellah El Gourd brought him into contact with the musical traditions of the Gnawa, an ethnic group descended from Morocco's sub-Saharan slave population.

Mr. Gourd gave a brief synopsis of those traditions on Tuesday night, in careful English. Then he put one of them to use, demonstrating a percussive thumb-strumming technique on the hag'houge, a bass-clef lute with a deep, hypnotic drone. In an aside, Mr. Weston recalled his first impression of the instrument's sound, which reminded him of the Duke Ellington bassist Jimmy Blanton. "I heard the black church, I heard the blues, I heard the music we call jazz," he said.

Those echoes reverberated in an ensuing performance by the Gnawa Master Musicians of Morocco, comprising Mr. Gourd and four additional artists from either Tangier or Marrakesh. Mr. Weston refrained from playing during their first selection, the traditional song "Chalabati," which featured polyrhythmic hand-claps and keening vocals. But he did call up the members of his African Rhythms Quintet, one by one: the bassist Alex Blake, the percussionist Neil Clarke, the multi-reedist T. K. Blue and finally the trombonist Benny Powell.

Mr. Weston has led a version of this ensemble since the early 1990's, and it can be a powder keg. Here, subtle coloration was the focus, especially on "The Shrine," a quintet feature. "Blue Moses," Mr. Weston's adaptation of the Gnawa song "Sidi Musa," better captured the ardor of his Africanized jazz expression; Mr. Blake's bass solo was a gust of strumming and vocalizing that suggested a Moroccan touch.

The Gnawa players offered their own "Sidi Musa," slicing through the thrum of the hag'houge with a metallic din of several karkabas, or hand-held cymbal castanets. Mr. Blue joined their singing with his soprano saxophone; Mr. Powell and Mr. Blake fed the low churn. The overall effect was irrepressibly exuberant, especially as Mr. Blue led his Gnawa brethren on a ramble down from the stage and through the aisles.

The same thing happened on the closing tune, "Lalla Mira," and by then the audience was on its feet. Mr. Weston didn't add to this joyful noise; he merely reveled in it, rocking on his heels with a grin. He wasn't the only one smiling.

Fats Domino Sets an Example for New Orleans (by Jon Pareles for The New York Times)

Fats Domino starts his first album since 1993 by singing, "All over the country, people want to know/ whatever happened to Fats Domino." It continues, "I'm alive and kicking and I'm where I wanna be."

That's the way he still feels about New Orleans, although his house in the Lower Ninth Ward was severely damaged by the flooding after Hurricane Katrina. "As long as I'm in New Orleans, I'm not away from home," he said in a rare interview at the uptown club Tipitina's. He's living in a suburban-style housing development in Harvey, La., but he intends to rebuild his house and return to the Ninth Ward as soon as he can. Asked about the prospects for his city, the perpetually optimistic Mr. Domino said, "Everything's gonna be all right, I think."

"Alive and Kickin'," the title track of his new album, may remind listeners of the image of Mr. Domino being rescued by helicopter from his flooded house on Sept. 1. But like the rest of the album, which includes 11 songs Mr. Domino had never recorded, it was actually made in 2000. (The studio where it was recorded, Ultrasonic, is gone since the flood.) After the hurricane, he said, "everybody got interested in it."

The album is being released as a benefit for the Tipitina's Foundation, which has aided New Orleans musicians with everything from Internet service to new eyeglasses to more than $300,000 worth of new instruments. It is available from

"I think it's a pretty good song, and it fits what's happening now," Mr. Domino said of the title track. Mr. Domino, who is 78, lost three pianos and most of his other possessions in the flood; afterward, looters took most of the gold records he earned in the 1950's, when he was the second-best-selling singer after Elvis Presley. But when he was awaiting rescue, he said, "I wasn't too nervous." He added, "I had my little wine and a couple of beers with me; I'm all right."

The album mingles Mr. Domino's rolling New Orleans rhythm-and-blues piano and horns with touches of synthesizer or slide guitar. His genial croon can sound close to country music, a style he likes, he says, because "it tells a wonderful story, true stories."

Some of the new songs now sound prophetic for Mr. Domino and the people of his city, proclaiming "I'll Be All Right" or announcing, in "One Step at a Time," that "My baby's coming home today" and adding, "Please don't change your mind, it's been such a long time." In "Home USA," he sings, "I'm going home tomorrow/ Can't go on this way," continuing, "I'm headed for New Orleans, La."

There can be a painstaking process behind the straightforward songs, Mr. Domino said. "I have a hard time pleasing myself with my songs," he said. "I have to do them over and over until I think I got them right. I'm always finding fault, but the people seem to like them. I always figure I can do something different that I wouldn't have already. I may not be right, but I don't want to be too far wrong."

He has an electric keyboard by his bed, in case he wakes up with an idea. "You try to dig for it, you'll never find it sometimes," he said. "Sometimes you could do it in an hour, sometimes in three weeks, a month, sometimes it just comes to you like that. I get the spirit, and whatever happens, let that happen."

Mr. Domino hasn't performed since the hurricane, but he is to be one of the headliners at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, which begins April 28. As far as he is concerned, New Orleans is still home. "I know I'm not leavin'," he said with a smile. "I ain't going nowhere."

Both Barrels Blasting: An Interview With Ben Harper (By Shawn Hammond for Acoustic Guitar)

Ben Harper's command of roundneck and lap-steel guitars—not to mention singing, piano, bass, drums, vibraphone, and production—makes him perhaps the premier roots-rock Renaissance man of Generation X. Here he talks about how he avoids writer's block, how he got the vintage sonic vibe on his latest album, Both Sides of the Gun, and why he feels like a classical musician trapped in a guitarist's body.

For many of us regular-Joe guitarists, it can be tempting to pessimistically dismiss a guitar-toting rock star whose handsome mug is all over magazine covers and VH1 spots as yet another example of pop culture elevating form over substance, beauty over soul. But if you’ve made that assumption about Ben Harper just because he has graced the cover of Rolling Stone (twice), made a guest appearance on Jack Johnson’s chart-topping soundtrack to Curious George, and received coverage in mainstream media (both CNN and an Australian news magazine were interviewing him on the day of our photo shoot at his family’s Claremont, California, music store), well, you’ve made a huge mistake. Influenced by everyone from Blind Willie Johnson and Mississippi Fred McDowell to Jimi Hendrix, AC/DC, Bob Marley, Cat Stevens, Bob Dylan, and Jerry Douglas, Ben Harper is a prototypical guitar fanatic—which isn’t surprising, considering his upbringing.

Besides spending countless hours as a youth hanging out (and working) in his parents’ shop, Folk Music Center, Harper began attending Taj Mahal concerts at the age of six and learned from both his mother (“an incredible singer and acoustic guitar player”) and legendary multi-instrumentalist David Lindley, with whom Harper’s family has been closely associated as far back as he can remember. Early encounters such as these helped Harper evolve into a roots-rock Renaissance man, with an enviably multifaceted vocal style and an uncanny ability to blend standard six-string and lap-steel guitars into a musical brew that is simultaneously ferocious, funky, and folky.

On this year’s Both Sides of the Gun (Virgin,, Harper’s seventh studio album, he serves up the same vibe fans have come to expect, but with a few new wrinkles. For starters, the album has a soulful depth that surpasses his past efforts. Harper also played drums on all but three of the 18 tracks, a step that he says not only served as a fun diversion but also significantly increased the impact of his guitar parts. And, though the album tracks could have fit on one disc, as producer Harper felt that the record’s stylistic diversity was best served by making Both Sides a double disc—an uncommon move these days.

We spoke with Harper just prior to the release of his new album and the launch of its promotional tour. Despite having just completed a daylong rehearsal, he spoke at great length about his approach to practicing, songwriting, and recording—as well as the orchestral melodies that incessantly play in his head, night and day.

Both Sides of the Gun has an impressive variety of songs, a great soul vibe, and a nice mix of guitar work and instrumentation.

HARPER Thank you. I always had pretty good luck mixing things up on past records, so I figured I could do it again. But as I kept trying to force that mix of songs and moods, I was stumped for the first time. It didn’t feel like a complete body of work until I split it into two discs. I discovered that power of uniformity working with the gospel group Blind Boys of Alabama [on the 2004 collaboration There Will Be a Light]. Even though we kind of pushed the limits of what gospel can mean, the album still had a consistent theme and sound. That inspired me to make this a double album so that there isn’t so much variation within each record.

At what point did you realize you should make two albums?

HARPER After about the 117th track sequence. Once I broke it into two discs, it sequenced itself. Literally, it fell together in minutes.

Were the new songs written recently or have some been around for a while?

HARPER “Black Rain”—which talks about the ultimate representation of administrative irresponsibility and political injustice, in terms of what happened in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina—was written in the studio. We were in the recording process when that all went down. “Please Don’t Talk About Murder While I’m Eating” was written in the studio, too, but the rest were written between the time Diamonds on the Inside [Harper’s 2003 release] was finished and the time we started this album.

How do you deal with writer’s block?

HARPER I don’t mean to boast, but I’ve never had it—let it be known that I’m knocking on wood! Lyrically, I overwrite songs absurdly—I write a chapter for every song. I don’t lift the pen until I get every idea out—good, bad, or indifferent.

What about getting out of musical ruts?

HARPER That’s the great thing about playing slide and roundneck—you’ve always got something to say because of the different approach each one requires. If I get on roundneck and I’m stuttering, I’ll just put the damn thing down and go to slide guitar. That has really kept it fresh for me. No matter what guitar riff you try to cop, it’s always going to sound different on slide guitar.

How many instruments did you play on Both Sides of the Gun?

HARPER Drums—they were my first instrument—guitar, bass, piano, vibraphone, congas, shakers, tabla, and other percussion. I brought in other players when I knew the job was too dangerous—like on “Serve Your Soul,” “Get It Like You Like It,” and “The Way You Found Me.” I could never pull off that kind of drumming. But everything is built around guitar and voice. Guitar points the direction on every song.

What made you decide to play drums for most of this album?

HARPER I played them on “She’s Only Happy in the Sun,” on Diamonds—I played all the other instruments on that record, except for keyboard—and when I was preparing for this record, I knew I wanted to stretch out more on the drums and get more of that feel.

Does laying that foundation help you lock in better when you track the guitars later?

HARPER Definitely. There’s something musically significant when you play the bass, drums, and guitar on a track, because the same idiosyncrasies and accents come out at just about the same time on the different instruments.

You’ve said in the past that you feel like a classical musician trapped in a slide guitar player’s body.

HARPER I hear classical melodies in my head, nonstop, every second of every day.

What instrument do you hear them on?

HARPER Entire orchestras—tympanis, cellos, bassoons. I’m telling you, man. I’m in the wrong field! But when you check out my solos, you can tell that it’s classical music informed by rock. Jimi Hendrix’s longer pieces, like “1983 . . . (A Merman I Should Turn to Be),” clued me into the fact that rock and classical music can be connected. I’m not schooled in music theory, but I know what sounds I want and I know how to get them.

Have you considered using guitar synths to get those sounds in your head?

HARPER No. I enjoy mixing in Mellotrons, synths, and other electronic voices, but guitar is just too great an instrument. It’s a perfect invention, and there’s nothing else that can say what it says in the way that it does. If I’m proud of anything on this record, it’s that none of those other instruments have overshadowed the guitar.

Was “The Way That You Found Me”—which has a swinging piano and upright-bass groove—written on guitar, too?

HARPER Yeah, that was written as an acoustic- slide piece, but then it was kind of overtaken by the other instruments. Michael Ward from the Wallflowers is playing a Martin 000-18 in the background, but it’s hard to hear because we tracked in the same room as the other instruments and it kind of got swallowed up. I played the solo and outro on my Asher lap-steel—which has a chambered mahogany body with a maple cap that gives it an acoustic resonance, even though it’s a solid-wood guitar compared to, say, a Weissenborn. I’d been listening to a lot of Howlin’ Wolf, John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, and Mississippi Fred McDowell, and I noticed that those guys got the most acoustic-like electrified sound I’ve ever heard because the mics were so far away from their amps. That yields a breathier sound and more room ambience. I was going for that tone and I researched quite a bit before this record to find out how they got it.

Do you feel like your guitar playing has evolved since Diamonds?

HARPER It’s getting a bit raunchier—acceptably raunchier—and more aggressive and melodically purposeful. There’s more letting go and shedding of inhibitions.

Mentally, or in the sense that you’re a more proficient player now?

HARPER A combination of those. When you surround yourself with great players, five percent will make you say, “I should never pick this thing up again.” But the other 95 percent will inspire you to play something you never would have otherwise.

Do you practice guitar?

HARPER Not as much as I should, but more than a lot of people I know. But playing is not practicing. Practicing is taking something you can’t do and trying it until you can. I do that once a week—often enough to be able to keep throwing different things into my playing, especially on slide. I’ll put on a Jerry Douglas record and get real pissed off. These days I never learn anything note-for-note, but I’ll get the vibe of licks and learn new tunings and chord progressions.

What first made you realize you could really go somewhere with it?

HARPER When I finally learned how to double thumb and fingerpick Mississippi John Hurt’s “Hey, Baby, Right Away.” I learned it note-for-note. Once I did that, I was, like, “I’m doing this for the rest of my life!”

How did you discover that technique?

HARPER I’d heard that song all my life, but the technique, John’s voice, the tempo, and the spirit in the song completely penetrated my soul when I was 15 or 16. The three keys to my guitar playing were Mississippi John Hurt’s fingerpicking, Weissenborn guitars—because they let me get a wood-body tone while playing lap-steel—and Jimi Hendrix.

Before you found those keys, what had you been working on?

HARPER I was playing flattop and Hawaiian and blues music on lap-steel. Tampa Red songs translated well to lap-steel, and I loved Black Ace, who played a National Tricone squareneck, and Blind Willie Johnson. I was focusing on their work, but I didn’t have the double thumbing down, and I didn’t realize that that was such a crucial part of fingerpicking blues—bouncing with your thumb and picking with your fingers simultaneously.

Are there any other insights you wish someone had shared with you as a beginner?

HARPER That’s a good question. Each person has to live it and define it with their own life. I could’ve taken lessons and learned to sight-read and pick apart blues songs note-for-note instead of by instinct, but that would’ve taken me down a different path. And there’s no other path I’d rather be on. If I had sat down with a metronome when I was 14, I’d probably be more on with my timing now, but then I wouldn’t come up with the crazy, loose, off-kilter stuff that I love the most.

The “right” way is the way that gets you where you know you’re bound. If you want to go to music institute, hell, you may come out of there an incredible player. Jeff Buckley went to Musicians Institute, and he had some of the most interesting chords and chord progressions of my generation. So there is no wrong way, as long as you get there. I love being me and doing what I do the way I do it. Would I like to be able to read music? Yes! Would I like to be closer to my inner classical musician? Of course. I could’ve done stuff differently—but then, chances are I’d be somewhere different, missing what I have now.


One of the most surprising things about Ben Harper’s latest album, Both Sides of the Gun, isn’t that its production sensibilities are old-school—all of Harper’s albums have a warm, vintage feel—but rather how he got that vibe this time around. Previously, he swore by ’70s-era studio gear, including reel-to-reel multitrack tape machines and solid-state mixing consoles. But for these sessions he used a state-of-the-art Pro Tools hard-disk system.

“I was an all-analog guy until the Blind Boys record [2004’s There Will Be a Light],” Harper admits. “That’s when I put the sonics under the microscope and said, ‘OK, I wanna hear the difference. And if I can’t tell the difference, I’m moving forward with the method that helps the process move along the smoothest.’ We recorded the first few songs on both analog and Pro Tools setups, but I wasn’t hearing or feeling a difference.” He switched to ProTools, but with the additional “padding” (as he calls it) of a Neve board, Neve preamps, and vintage mics. “That’s really where you get the warm sound,” he points out. “Not to say that you can’t do incredible stuff with Shure mics and Pro Tools in your bedroom—because you can, and I’ve heard it. There are kids in their garages making unbelievable songs straight into Pro Tools or GarageBand.”

With instruments, Harper still leans retro—and he often routes his acoustic guitars through electric-guitar stompboxes and amps. “Guitar-wise, the whole record was definitely defined by an early-’50s Gibson J-50 and a new Martin HD-28VE,” he says. To capture amplified-acoustic tones to disk, Harper explains, “We experimented with each instrument and amp, but the mics were always between a foot and six feet away from the amp. We’d also switch on the overhead drum mics, which were in the same room, to hear the guitar through those. We’d end up using either that or a combination of that and the amp mic.”

For traditional acoustic parts, it was even simpler. “We just used one mic and found the sweet spot. We mostly used vintage Neumanns—a U 67, a KM 54, a U 47, and a U 48,” Harper says. “I know there are a lot of miking techniques, like crisscrossed stereo mics, and stuff like that, but we just stuck a big ol’ tube mic in front of it— right around the 12th fret/soundhole area—and went for it.”

During the sessions Harper also discovered one of his favorite new guitar-tone recipes. “I played a Fender Custom Shop Telecaster on ‘Please Don’t Talk About Murder While I’m Eating,’ but it’s sort of a clean, Johnny Cash–style part,” he says. “That showed me how amazing a clean Telecaster through, say, a Fender tweed Deluxe accents an acoustic guitar when they’re stereo-panned.”

Perhaps the best example of Harper’s blending of influences and instruments is the song “Engraved Invitation,” which features straight-ahead flattop work, distorted guitar, weird guitar stabs, and a crazy solo. “That song pulled to go in so many directions, and it was a challenge to find the right balance of acoustic and electric,” Harper notes. “I just stacked guitar parts, played drums and bass, and let it be as raggedy and loose—but musical—as possible. At first it was really AC/DC-ish. Finally I stripped down the electrics to just one track of a 1956 Gibson Les Paul Special, soft-panned left, and the J-50 acoustic, soft-panned right. Then there’s a bunch of noodling on the Asher lap-steel, through a Dumble combo amp. I turned the back pickup off and stuttered between the two pickups with the selector switch.”  


• Acoustic Guitars: Weissenborn Teardrop (circa 1930s) and two Style 4 (1925 and 1927) lap-style guitars; a 2004 and a custom 2005 National Reso-Phonic Model D Western squareneck; 2005 Martin HD-28VE; vintage Gibson J-50; 2005 Cole Clark dreadnought.

• Electric Guitars: Asher Ben Harper lap-steel; 1956 Gibson Les Paul Special; Fender Custom Shop Telecaster.

• Amplification: Seymour Duncan Mag Mics (Weissenborns); National/Lace Humbucker (Nationals); Fishman Ellipse System (Martin); Trance Audio Amulet system (Gibson); Cole Clark Dual Input Acoustic Pickup (FL2); Radial JDI direct box; Dumble Overdrive Special amps—one 1980s 100-watt 1x12 combo and a 1970s 50-watt head driving a 2x12 Dumble cab.

• Effects: Ernie Ball volume pedal; Vox V847 wah; Teese RMC wah; Ibanez TS808 Tube Screamer; Ibanez AD99 Analog Delay; Electro-Harmonix Small Stone phaser, Demeter Tremulator; Line 6 DL4.

• Strings: D’Addario EJ16, EJ17, EJ18, and EJ22 sets for slide guitars; D’Addario EFT16 sets for Cole Clark, Gibson, and Martin acoustics; D’Addario EXL110W sets for Les Paul and Telecaster. 

Neil Young's 'Living With War' Shows He Doesn't Like It (by Jon Pareles for The New York Times)

Neil Young unleashes a digital broadside today. His new album, "Living With War" (Reprise), was recorded and mostly written three to four weeks ago and as of Friday can be heard in its entirety free on his Web site,, and on satellite radio networks.

Mr. Young half-jokingly describes "Living With War" as his "metal folk protest" album. It's his blunt statement about the Iraq war; "History was a cruel judge of overconfidence/back in the days of shock and awe," he sings, strumming an electric guitar and leading a power trio with a sound that harks back to Young albums like "Rust Never Sleeps" and "Ragged Glory."

Some songs add a trumpet or a 100-voice choir, hastily convened in Los Angeles for one 12-hour session. During the nine new songs he sympathizes with soldiers and war victims, insists "Don't need no more lies," longs for a leader to reunite America and prays for peace.

In a song whose title alone has already brought him the fury of right-wing blogs, he urges, "Let's Impeach the President." It ends with Mr. Young shouting, "Flip, flop," amid contradictory sound bites of President Bush. But Mr. Young insists the album is nonpartisan.

"If you impeach Bush, you're doing a huge favor for the Republicans," he argued, speaking by telephone from California. "They can run again with some pride."

Mr. Young is a Canadian citizen. But having lived in the United States since the 1960's, he sings as if he were an American. The title song of "Living With War" quotes "The Star-Spangled Banner," and the album ends with the choir singing "America the Beautiful."

The album's release is a high-tech, globe-spanning update of a topical song tradition that's much older than recordings: the broadside, a songwriter's rapid response to events of the day. "They had these songs that everybody knew the melodies to," Mr. Young said. "They'd just write new words, and the minstrels would be traveling around spreading the word. Music spreads like wildfire when you do it that way."

On Tuesday a higher-quality version will be for sale as a download from online music stores, and a CD will be in stores next week as soon as it can be manufactured and shipped. Eventually a DVD will be released with video of the recording sessions, which took place March 29 to April 6. Many of the songs on the album were first takes, recorded immediately after Mr. Young taught them to the band. On March 31 he wrote three songs: "Let's Impeach the President" before breakfast, "Looking for a Leader" after he recorded "Let's Impeach the President" and "Roger and Out" the same evening.

Mr. Young's Web site will have a more elaborate presentation, available free. It will include a page designed like a cable-news broadcast, complete with visuals (including recording-session scenes), ticker and logo: LWW (for "Living With War") rather than CNN. "Even if it turns out that we can't sell it with the news in it, we won't sell it, we'll just stream it," he said. "We don't have to sell it. We can still get it out there. This has nothing to do with money as far as I'm concerned."

Mr. Young wants the album heard as a whole. The online streams play through from beginning to end; until the CD is ready, the downloadable copies will be available only as a bundle of the full album. "That first impression is so important," he said. "Instead of just going to 'Let's Impeach the President,' people will have to absorb the whole thing. To understand the songs, you need to understand where the whole album's coming from. It protects my right as an artist to have the work presented the way I created it."

Mr. Young has always been impatient with the time lag between writing a song and getting it to the world. When four student protesters were shot dead at Kent State University in 1970, he wrote "Ohio," recorded it with Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young and released it two and a half weeks later by sending acetates — preliminary pressings — to radio stations. (He will be on tour this summer as a member of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young in what's billed as the Freedom of Speech Tour.)

After 9/11 Mr. Young wrote "Let's Roll," a song about the passengers who brought down a hijacked plane in Pennsylvania, and released it free online. "Now we have the Internet," he said. "It doesn't sound as good, but it's much faster, and it gets around the world. That's huge, that's as big as we get."

The songs on "Living With War" are straightforward and single-minded, setting aside the allusive, enigmatic quality of Mr. Young's rock classics. "These are all ideas we've heard before," he said. "There's nothing new in there. I just connected the dots."

The protest song, rocked-up slightly from its folky 1960's form, has been making a comeback during the Iraq war, from arena bands like Pearl Jam, the Rolling Stones and Green Day to indie-rockers like Bright Eyes and blues-rockers like Keb' Mo' and Robert Cray. Bruce Springsteen's latest album is a tribute to the protest-song mentor Pete Seeger, although it features old folk songs rather than Mr. Seeger's topical material.

"We are the silent majority now, and we haven't done a damn thing," Mr. Young said. "We've stood by and watched this happen. But there's more of us than there is of them, and we have to do something. When people start talking and see they can get away with it, it's going to happen everywhere. It's going to be a landslide, it's going to be a tidal wave. This is just the tip of it."

Mr. Young said that he made "Living With War" not with a plan, but on an impulse. "I don't know what actually did it," he said. "It happened really fast, faster than I think I've ever experienced. There was just a kind of a wave."

As in the 60's, protest songs risk self-righteousness and preaching only to the converted. Only the most generalized ones outlast the interest in whatever headlines inspired them. There's not a lot of mystery to the songs on "Living With War"; they make their points as forthrightly as possible. Yet in the Internet era information — not just songs but blogs, videos, photos, drawings, e-mail jottings — is in the paradoxical position of being published worldwide and perhaps archived forever, but also being impulsive and ephemeral. A song for the Internet doesn't have to be one for the ages. Like an old broadside, it just has to get around for its moment, for right now. "Living With War" — irate, passionate, tuneful, thoughtful and obstinate — is definitely worth a click.

It's All Right, Ma: Bob Dylan Turns D.J. (by Bob Dylan for The New York Times)

Once famously reclusive, Mr. Dylan is now going very public with his eclectic musical tastes, on a show that makes its debut Wednesday on XM Satellite Radio.

"Theme Time Radio Hour" (XM Channel 40) features Mr. Dylan introducing his favorite records, organized each week around a different theme — like cars, drinking or, this week's theme, weather. (First tune: "Blow, Wind, Blow," by Muddy Waters.) He typically records from home or on tour, XM says, even though an announcer says the show is recorded in "Studio B of the Abernathy Building," to lend it a vintage aura. The hourly programs are sprinkled with recorded spoken cameos from the likes of Elvis Costello, Sarah Silverman and Penn Jillette.

As D.J., Mr. Dylan vamps on the lyrics of his chosen songs, and makes observations that often amount to something like what he does musically: he taps America's musical heritage with words that veer from the logically linear to the abstract, delivered in his wry, mumbly growl.

To illustrate, here are excerpts from the show to be broadcast next week, devoted to mothers for Mother's Day.

Tommy Duncan - "Daddy Loves Mommyo"

His real name was Thomas Elmer Duncan, born on January 11, 1911, in Whitney, Texas — full of iodine and iron. He won an audition against 66 other singers to join Bob Wills's Light Crust Doughboys, who later became the Texas Playboys. Tommy Duncan left the band in 1948, recorded a number of songs including "Gambling Polka Dot Blues," "Sick, Sober and Sorry" and "There's Not a Cow in Texas" — lot of fuzzy logic there. But in honor of Mother's Day, here's a song. Tommy Duncan, "Daddy Loves Mommyo" — no fatty acid in there.

Buck Owens - "I'll Go to Church With Mama"

Buck Owens. Come out of Sherman, Texas. Made his way to Bakersfield, California. In the 1960's, the Beatles recorded a song of Buck's called "Act Naturally." In those years Buck had 39 chart hits, 19 of 'em at No. 1. Hey, let's not forget "Hee Haw." Never missed it. I still remember some of them jokes from "Hee Haw": "My mother-in-law's very neat — puts paper under the cuckoo clock." Here's Buck singing about hymns that warm your heart in the sweet by-and-by, that chapel in the sky.

Bobby Peterson Quintet - "Mama Get the Hammer"

Some songs you don't have to talk about; they just say it all: "Mama get the hammer, there's a fly on baby's head."

Ruth Brown - "Mama He Treats Your Daughter Mean"

They called Atlantic Records the House That Ruth Built, and they weren't talking about Babe Ruth or garbanzo beans. ... Ruth Brown had more hits on Atlantic Records than anybody else in the beginning, and she was no gang-banger. But even with all those hits, Ruth's star began to fade. She eventually had to take a 9-to-5 job. But in recent years she's been rediscovered, appearing on Broadway in "Black and Blue," where she won a Tony.

Carl Smith - "Let Old Mother Nature Have Her Way"

Carl was married to June Carter before Johnny Cash was, and after he divorced June he married another singer named Goldie Hill. Carl Smith singing a song about Mother Nature, the goddess of the harvest. She wreaked revenge upon the earth by refusing to provide any crops, so that the entire human race would have perished of cruel, biting hunger if the great Zeus had not been concerned. I hope your mother's not that vengeful.

Ernie K-Doe - "Mother-in-Law"

Today's e-mail comes from John Rudolph. ... He writes, "Dear Bob: I've got a hammerhead of a mother-in-law, an ugly, evil-lookin' old woman, so pitiful. She's careworn, drawn and pinched — gaunt and lank. I bought her a new chair, but she won't let me plug it in. She belittles me, depreciates me, disparages me. She downgrades me, berates me, censures me and condemns me, libels me and raps me, dismisses me and rejects me. Could you please play a song for her?" Well, thanks for the letter, John. Your wish is our command.

Little Junior Parker - "Mother-in-Law Blues"

Here's a couple of mother-in-law jokes, couple of slow burners: "I just came back from a pleasure trip. Took my mother-in-law to the airport." "What do you do if you miss your mother-in-law? Reload. Try again." Here's one by Little Junior Parker: "Mother-in-Law Blues." I don't know if you need both Little and Junior. His real name was Herman Parker Jr. I guess I'd call myself Little Junior Parker too. He was a singer and a harmonica player. He got started on Sun Records with his group the Blue Flames. He recorded the original version of "Mystery Train" that Elvis Presley later did.

Jimmy McCracklin - "Gonna Tell Your Mother"

On the Modern record label. Born in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1921. His real name's James Walker, a professional boxer in the Midwest. He didn't get anywhere doing that, so he turned to music, playing piano and singing. His band was called Jimmy McCracklin and His Blues Blasters, featuring Lafayette Thomas on the guitar. This is from 1955 — a strange weed indeed.

LL Cool J - "Mama Said Knock You Out"

Don't call it a comeback, he been here for years, rocking his peers, putting 'em in fear, making tears rain down like a monsoon, explosions overpowerin', over the competition LL Cool J is towering. LL Cool J — stands for Ladies Love Cool J.

O dia em que a música rachou (por Ana Maria Bahiana para Digestivo Cultural)

Uma pessoa considerando uma publicação de música, hoje não um site, portal ou blog, mas um produto de banca deve pensar em alguns fatores essenciais:

* Música não existe num vácuo. Os melhores momentos para publicações do gênero vieram quando um ou vários estilos de música tinham suas velas infladas por poderosos ventos sociais, culturais e econômicos - o que hoje os marketeiros chamariam de "estilo de vida". Isso era verdadeiro para a Crawdaddy!, avózinha de todas; e é verdadeiro para a Uncut, a Vibe ou a Blender.

* Consumir música e consumir publicações que falem sobre música são duas coisas inteiramente diferentes. Já eram diferentes nos tempos da Crawdaddy!, mas hoje são radicalmente opostas.

Detenho-me aqui sobre este último elemento. A digitalização da música e a expansão da internet provocaram, na última década, uma rachadura de proporções épicas.

Em linhas gerais, já temos hoje parafraseando um dos debatedores num ótimo programa recente da série To the Point, na National Public Radio americana, uma geração inteira que não tem a menor noção de que música é um produto que se compre. Ingressos para shows, ou clubes, sim. Canções, não.

Por extensão, esta é uma geração que não consome discos ou os consome marginal e ocasionalmente. Que não se interessa por (aliás, não tem o menor interesse pelo conceito em si) coleções coerentes de canções, numa única embalagem, a noção de "álbum", essencial à maior parte da produção musical de massa pós-1965. Que não dá grande valor a autoria, griffe, identidade.

Que não tem o hábito de leitura musical das gerações anteriores e aí me refiro tanto a ler a música em si, como um "trabalho" assinado/criado por alguém com uma história pessoal e referências coletivas quanto a ler sobre a música algo que só pode interessar a quem reconhece valores intrínsecos em conceitos como "álbum", "história", "autoria" e "criador".

Muito em breve teremos duas gerações inteiras com este perfil.

Quem consome discos, hoje, tem mais de 30 anos. Não tirei isto da minha cabeça. Um estudo recente publicado nos Estados Unidos (e me perdoem por não citar os detalhes, mas estou trabalhando no meu computador-da-estrada, em cujos arquivos não está o tal texto) disse, sem meias palavras, que a tentativa da indústria do disco em correr atrás do chamado "público jovem" era uma ilusão que poderia se tornar fatal se não fosse revertida. Entre muitos exemplos e estatísticas, o estudo apontava o maior sucesso recente em vendagem de CDs: a antologia "One", dos Beatles.

Indústria de música, hoje, é uma coisa - uma coisa em formação, que exige modelos novos e, a julgar pelo estado de pânico das gravadoras, ainda longe de serem desenhados.

Mediaticamente (vocês me relevam o francesismo?) suspeito que a internet seja o veículo mais adequado a este admirável mundo novo.

Indústria de discos é outra coisa, completamente diferente.

Ao imaginar uma publicação de banca com inclinações musicais, com quem e de quem estaríamos falando?

Estatisticamente, o tempo está a favor dos coroas. A geração nascida entre 1945 e 1965, os chamados "baby boomers" é, ainda, a maior fatia demográfica do mundo. E, graças aos avanços da medicina e da higiene, vai viver muito, mas muito além de seus antepassados. Além e melhor.

A ela se somam os nascidos entre 1965 e 1975, que ainda tiveram seus anos decisivos, adolescência e juventude, marcados por coleções identificáveis de canções, assinadas e interpretadas por personalidades distintas, com referências históricas precisas, e contidas em objetos chamados "discos", produtos tão únicos e nobres que merecem ser adquiridos e pagos em moeda corrente no país.

Suspeito que quem não entender o racha da música vai, como se dizia antigamente, dançar.

'Vou Tirar Você Desse Lugar', Um Tributo a Odair José (por André "Velvet" Fiori para Scream & Yell)

De tempos em tempos, algum artista tem a obra "revista" ou "reavaliada". Na década passada, o próprio Roberto Carlos foi redescoberto pelos ouvintes mais jovens, que não conheciam a melhor fase do seu trabalho. O mesmo se passou com Jorge Ben, Tim Maia e Erasmo Carlos. Mais recentemente, as pessoas perceberam que até artistas considerados bizarros, como Reginaldo Rossi e Ronnie Von, já tinham um dia realizado um trabalho interessante.

O livro Eu Não Sou Cachorro Não, do pesquisador Paulo César de Araújo, lançado em 2002, defendeu com mais propriedade ainda a qualidade dos chamados artistas "cafonas", notadamente na década de 70, defendendo a teoria de que os "bregas" afrontaram tanto o regime militar quanto os chamados "medalhões da MPB". No livro, um dos nomes que surge com mais força é o de Odair José.

Grande sucesso popular, a sua grande sacada era compor letras que retratavam a realidade do "povão", com grande criatividade e persipcácia. Ele fazia também músicas "normais", sobre amor, traição e etc., mas que outro doido fazia músicas com temas como prostituição, controle de natalidade, religião, sexo livre, drogas, homosexualismo, exclusão social e o cotidiano das empregadas domésticas?

Apesar de a maioria da crítica dita "séria" lhe render alcunhas pouco auspiciosas, como "Bob Dylan da Central do Brasil" ou "O Terror das Empregadas" (como ele é chamado em Arrombou a Festa, de Rita Lee e Paulo Coelho), desde aquela época caras antenados e influentes como Caetano Veloso já apontavam que ali estava mais que um cafona iletrado.

Todo esse preâmbulo está aí só para ilustrar o lançamento de Eu Vou Tirar Você desse Lugar - Um Tributo a Odair José, estréia do selo independente goiano Allegro Discos (distribuição da Trama Independente), com produção executiva de Sandro Rogério Lima Belo. Chama a atenção a bela capa, e a também a qualidade do encarte, com várias fotos, ficha técnica e texto do já citado Paulo César Araújo. Quase todo "tributo" é assim: existem aquelas músicas que ficaram excelentes, outras medianas, e algumas bens ruins.

Nesse aqui, podemos dizer que os destaques ficam com o Mombojó, Pato Fu e Jumbo Elektro.

Para facilitar o entendimento, seguem algumas cotações:

***** Vai pra Libertadores
**** Vai pra Copa Sulamericana
*** Pelotão intermediário
** Escapou por pouco
* Rebaixamento

Faixa a Faixa:

01. Vou Tirar Você Desse Lugar - Paulo Miklos ****
Acompanhado pelo "Midas" Rick Bonadio na guitarra, Miklos faz uma versão bem rock'n'roll do maior clássico de Odair. Na letra, um sujeito se apaixona por mulher que conhece em um prostíbulo, e quer tirá-la de lá para que ela vá morar com ele.

02. Vida Que Não Pára - Suzana Flag ****
Alternando vocais masculinos e femininos, o simpático Suzana Flag (de Belém-PA) faz uma versão bem "ensolarada" dessa que é a música mais otimista do CD.

03. Uma Lágrima - Pato Fu *****
Essa poderia ser facilmente um "outtake" do álbum Toda Cura Para Todo o Mal, que tem algumas faixas com essa sonoridade setentista, no estilo das baladas de Roberto Carlos. Portando, soa muito pertinente a gravação dessa música, que foi a primeiro compacto de Odair José, no distante 1969.

04. Eu Queria Ser John Lennon - Columbia ****
A letra nonsense ganha maçicas (e benvindas) doses de doçura na voz de Fernanda Marques, do grupo carioca Columbia.

05. Ela Voltou Diferente - Mombojó *****
Uma das melhores versões do tributo, é uma música tristíssima e muito sutil, que ganhou uma gravação supimpa, com um solo de órgão Hammond de fazer chorar. Os pernambucanos do Mombojó tem know-how para tanto, já que eles também mantém o projeto Del Rey, só de covers da Jovem Guarda. Tirando as de Lupicínio Rodrigues, essa deve ser a mais pungente "música de corno" já escrita em português.

06. Eu, Você e a Praça - Zeca Baleiro ****
Zeca deve ter realizado seu sonho de ser um cantor 'cafona', de camisa estampada e medalhão no peito, cantando no Chacrinha.

07. Deixe Essa Vergonha de Lado - Mundo Livre S/A *
Sobre uma base eletrônica, Fred 04 recita a letra, tal qual um Arnaldo Antunes tecnopop, matando toda a beleza da melodia original. Parece uma defesa de tese de sociologia, tal qual a banda protagonizou em outros tributos, como nos para Luiz Gonzagua (Dezessete e Setecentos) e Reginaldo Rossi (Mon Amour Meu Bem Ma Femme). Em covers, o Mundo Livre fica devendo. No caso de Odair, é ainda mais frustrante. Para que tanta invencionice logo nessa, que tem alguns dos maiores achados do compositor:

"Deixe essa vergonha de lado
Pois nada disso tem valor
Por você ser uma simples empregada
Não vai modificar o meu amor"

08. Foi Tudo Culpa do Amor - Suíte Super Luxo ***
Os brasilienses fazem, talvez sem querer, um dueto masculino/feminino que emula o imaginário de brigas do casal Odair & Diana (esposa do compositor na época). Só não funciona melhor pois o vocal do cantor não combina muito com a canção.

09. Nunca Mais - Shakemakers **
Outra na qual os vocais (e a pegada "grunge") destoam um pouco. Talvez funcionasse melhor em alguma outra música.

10. E Ninguém Liga pra Mim - Leela ***
A letra já é meio "down", e Bianca Jhordão trata de fazê-la mais "emo" ainda.

11. Cadê Você? - Sufrágio ****
Essa seria muito difícil de não ficar boa, e os paulistas do Sufrágio não decepcionam, dando um ar oitentista à canção.

12. Esta Noite Você Vai Ter Que Ser Minha - Picassos Falsos ****
Essa foi uma que mudou bastante em relação à original, mas ficou muito boa, com Humberto Effe tratando a melodia com a delicadeza que ela merece.

13. A Maçã e a Serpente - Poléxia ***
Correta, mas para a banda curitibana faltou um pouco mais de convicção (e ouvir um pouco mais de rádio AM...)

14. A Noite Mais Linda do Mundo (A Felicidade) - Jumbo Elektro *****
Aquela que contém os sábios versos: "Felicidade não existe, os que existe na vida são momentos felizes..." Essa versão ficou com uma levada empolgante, com cara mesmo de momento feliz. O que ficou legal aqui foram os "cacos" que eles colocaram no final, por conta própria, o que funcionou muito bem.

15. Uma Vida Só (Pare de tomar a Pílula) - Arthur de Faria e Seu Conjunto *
Essa era uma música chave no disco. Não podia errar, e os gaúchos fizeram uma versão um tanto quanto equivocada. Começa baixinho e dedilhada (tributo a João Gilberto?) para no final explodir num constrangedor coro à la Hey Jude...

16. Que Saudade de Você - Terminal Guadalupe ****
Os curitibanos levam Odair José para passear no BRock dos anos 80

17. Vou Contar de Um a Três - Volver ****
Os brasilienses levam Odair José para passear na Jovem Guarda.

18. Cotidiano nº 3 - Los Pirata ****
Cantada em portunhol, com o tradicional bom humor do trio paulistano, não tem como não simpatizar.

Depoimentos que saíram na imprensa:

Zeca Baleiro:
"Odair é um lorde da poesia popular"

Paulo Miklos:
"Gravei a canção, a convite dos produtores, que viria a ser a faixa-título do tributo. Imediatamente aceitei o convite que, depois soube, veio diretamente do Odair. Sou fã do seu estilo despojado e precioso. Ele faz parte das boas influências que absorvi como ouvinte de rádio, com seu traço objetivo e seu temperamento sincero. Fiquei bastante feliz com o resultado que alcancei. Nessa versão, eu inclui uns versos no final, com a melodia de 'Candy' do Iggy Pop, que trata do mesmo assunto."

Fernanda Takai (Pato Fu):
"Quando eu era mais nova e morava em Jacobina, ouvia o Odair de tabela porque ele tocava muito nas rádios e com certeza até hoje é um dos maiores representantes daquela geração de artistas considerados 'populares' demais. O projeto da Allegro é muito saudável porque, através de vários artistas contemporâneos, mas com características muito diferentes, traz de volta o nome do Odair e faz com que novos ouvintes e até mesmo aquelas pessoas que torciam o nariz pra o tipo de música que ele faz prestem um pouco mais de atenção à sua obra. A gente escolheu uma música dos primeiros anos de carreira dele. Não é conhecida mas, de tudo que eu ouvi, foi com ela que mais me identifiquei. Tem uma timidez, uma letra bem mais contida do que as outras composições dele e achei que uma versão Pato Fu cairia bem. O arranjo original é bem singelo, tem uns pianinhos e tim bres de órgão muito bonitos além de uma orquestração suave comum a algumas coisas da época. Espero que principalmente o Odair tenha gostado!".

Bianca Jhordão (Leela):
"Fomos convidados pelo Sandro para participar da coletânea e achamos interessante toda a idéia do projeto. Daí começamos a pesquisar as músicas do Odair e quanto escutamos E ninguém liga pra mim, percebemos algo que tinha a ver com nosso universo estético. Trabalhamos uma versão que achamos que ficou com a nossa cara. É sempre divertido participar de coletâneas, pesquisar a obra de outros artistas, gravar, fazer um novo arranjo pra canção... É um desafio e uma boa diversão".

Reinaldo Andreatta (Sufrágio):
"Fui criado por dona Natalina, uma brilhante cantora do lar, já falecida, que tenho certeza que se orgulha da homenagem dos filhos Reinaldo e Ronaldo a ela. Para minha banda, que é ótima, mas não tem espaço na mídia, também foi uma oportunidade de aparecer um pouco".

Arthur de Faria:
"São canções de carinho absoluto pelo gênero humano, de uma doçura comovente, de uma singeleza. A chave maior é esta: gentileza. Ele é encantador."

Tatá Aeroplano (Jumbo Elektro):
"Na banda a gente quer mesmo é deixar a vergonha de lado e se divertir. Acho que hoje essa coisa de gostar escondido está acabando".

Luc Albano (Suíte Super Luxo):
"A música cafona existe e é parte da cultura. Não gravamos porque é algo excêntrico e sim porque gostamos".

Pedro Alexandre Sanches (Carta Capital):
"Dentro do grande armário da música popular brasileira, a obra de Odair José quase sempre ficou guardada numa gaveta modesta, de cuja clausura só escapuliam rótulos como "brega", "cafona", "popularesco", "limitado"... A novidade é que cresce uma frente de oposição à compreensão corrente, que tem historicamente mantido em trincheiras inimigas as classes ditas intelectualizadas e o povo".

Odair José (no livro Eu Não Sou Cachorro Não):
"O que rolava antigamente na música popular brasileira era o namoro no portão sob a luz do luar e eu vim falando de cama, de pílula, de puta, de empregada doméstica, porque essa é a realidade do Brasil. Então foi por isso que eu me tornei um artista polêmico e a censura começou a me proibir".

- O Los Hermanos gravou Eu Vou Tirar Você Desse Lugar para a trilha do Filme A Taça do Mundo é Nossa (Casseta e Planeta), em 2003 e a canção não entrou no tributo por disputas entre editoras.

- Quem também ficou de fora na última hora foram Os Abimonistas (que chegaram a gravar uma versão para Minhas Coisas), Tom Zé (que interpretaria Deixa Essa Vergonha de Lado) e Autoramas.

- Em 1996, Paulo Miklos, Marcelo Fromer e Arnaldo Antunes fizeram uma música para Odair, Baby, que a gravou no álbum As minhas canções.

- Cotidiano nº 3 é uma continuação "não-oficial" de Cotidiano (Chico Buarque) e Cotidiano nº 2, de Toquinho & Vinícius.

- Na música Eu Quero Mesmo, de 1977, Raul Seixas cantava: "Eu gosto de Besame Mucho e eu gosto de Eu Vou Tirar Você Desse Lugar, pra quê mentir?"

Discos Ao Vivo: Os melhores de todos os tempos (por Bud Scoppa para a Tracks)

Existem muito mais grandes bandas ao vivo do que grandes albuns gravados ao vivo. The Beatles, Bowie, Springsteen, the Clash e U2 estão entre os artistas que nunca gravaram um album ao vivo clássic — mas ao menos nunca nos brindaram com abacaxis antológicos. Ao contrário dos discos que vem a seguir, que entraram (por bem ou por mal) para a história da música popular:

Os melhores:

Allman Brothers Band
At Fillmore East
A reputação pode ter ficado com o Grateful Dead, mas o sexteto comandado por Duane Allman foi o mais inspirada jam band de todos os tempos. Esse disco ao vivo de 1971 captura a banda exercitando de forma brilhante todos os seus poderes.E não eram poucos...

The Band
Rock of Ages
Nessas performances que não envelhecem, do Reveillon de 1972 no Academy of Music, Brooklyn, NY, The Band recebe o reforço de uma sessão de metais espetacular, e, para completar, Bob Dylan sobe ao palco para participar de 4 números, entre eles “Like a Rolling Stone.”

James Brown
Live at the Apollo 1962
Na Bíblia da Soul Music, esse aqui é o Livro do Genesis, mas o status de clássico desse disco não tem nada de sagrado. Pelo contrário: é uma aula de energia primal e precisão musical, devidamente mescladas.

Grateful Dead
O primeiro disco ao vivo do Grateful Dead, gravado em 1969 com os integrantes originais, e incluindo a jam de mais de 20 minutos para "Dark Star", talvez seja até hoje o mais palatável dos discos ao vivo do grupo. Ao menos, para quem não é "deadhead".

Little Feat
Waiting for Columbus
É lamentável a maneira como o trabalho de Lowell George permanece subapreciado até hoje. Nesse disco ao vivo, de 1977, ele estava em plena forma, e comandava o Little Feat rumo a mergulhos inacreditáveis nos mais diversos ritmos americanos. Como nenhuma outra banda jamais ousou fazer.

Van Morrison
It’s Too Late to Stop Now
Quando se vai a uma apresentação de Van Morrison, nunca se sabe o que pode acontecer, que extremo ele vai privilegiar: o do cantor sóbrio e magestoso, ou seu gêmeo endemoniado. Nesse concerto belíssimo de 1973, ele deu muito, tanto de um quanto do outro.

MTV Unplugged in New York
Esse disco de 1994 pode ter sido feito para um programa de TV, mas é sem dúvidaa performance mais íntima e reveladora de Kurt Cobain em sua curta carreira.

Rolling Stones
Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out
Mick Taylor revelou-se o contraponto perfeito para Keith Richards nessa histórica tournée dos Stones de 1969, enquanto Mick Jagger dava verdadeiras aulas de como ser o arquétipo do cantor de rock and roll, e Charlie Watts tinha o maior prazer em ser Charlie Watts.

Talking Heads
The Name of This Band Is
Com o suingue peculiar dos Heads ganhando novos contornos, graças ao reforço de alguns grandes músicos na banda, as canções de David Byrne ficam ainda mais deliciosas nesses shows de 1977 a 1981, do que nas versões de estúdio.

Neil Young & Crazy Horse
Rust Never Sleeps / Live Rust
Neil Young encerrou a década de 1970 com uma dupla de discos ao vivo desconcertantes, o primeiro trazendo um lote de novas canções poderosíssimas, e o outro formando uma retrospectiva de carreira magistral.

No princípio do britpop, havia o Echo (por Jotabê Medeiros para o Estadão)

Arctic Monkeys? Babyshambles? Yeah Yeah Yeahs? The Magic Numbers?

Tudo bandinha derivativa, essa é a grande verdade. Se você quer conhecer uma fonte original, suas preces foram atendidas: toca amanhã à noite no Credicard Hall o grupo inglês Echo & the Bunnymen (domingo será em Curitiba, no Master Hall, e na segunda no Rio, no Claro Hall).

Britpop, pop rock indie: rótulos assim nasceram e se cristalizaram a partir do som de grupos como o Echo & The Bunnymen, em atividade desde 15 de novembro de 1978, quando o grupo fez seu primeiro show em Liverpool, sua terra natal, na casa noturna Eric´s, na Mattew Street, abrindo para a banda Teardrop Explodes.

Em uma carreira de quase 30 anos, eles influenciaram grupos como Coldplay, Pavement, Stereophonics, Travis, Keane, Radiohead. Você pode dizer: putz, 30 anos? Isso é mesozóico, falemos de coisas vivas! Ok, seria quase justa a acusação de nostalgia se o Echo não chegasse ao Brasil a bordo de um novo disco sensacional, Siberia, uma das mais saborosas coleções de canções do ano passado.

O Echo deveria ter tocado aqui em março, mas uma confusão burocrática os tirou da rota, levando ao cancelamento dos shows. "Agora está tudo certo, já estamos com os vistos", disse o vocalista Ian McCulloch ao Estado, por telefone, de Londres, na semana passada. Ele revelou que tem planos de atacar de novo de DJ na noite de São Paulo. "Toquei há um mês em um clube chamado Bangers and Mash, em Estocolmo, Suécia, e sempre que posso arrisco um som. E São Paulo é minha segunda casa", disse.

Siberia, nono álbum do Echo, foi gravado no Parr Street Studios de Liverpool, com produção do mesmo Hugh Jones que fez o aclamado disco de 1981 do Bunnymen, Heaven Up Here. Ian McCulloch avisou que o repertório do show provavelmente incluirá quatro das novas canções (pelo privilégio da conversa telefônica, o repórter conseguiu a promessa que All Because of You Days e Stormy Weather estarão no show), além dos clássicos de sempre (Lips Like Sugar, The Cutter, Bring on the Dancing Horses e The Killing Moon).

O líder dos Bunnymen não crê que seja a mão do produtor Hugh Jones que tenha devolvido o toque sagrado ao som dos Bunnymen. "Não há segredos nesse disco. Ou melhor: os segredos são as canções. O mais importante é o sentimento das canções. E há também uma química entre os integrantes do grupo, já que nós passamos três anos juntos tocando e compondo", disse McCulloch, que chegaria ontem à cidade.

No dia 5 de maio, o cantor completará 47 anos (foi na mesma data, 5 de maio de 1979, que os Bunnymen lançaram seu primeiro single, The Pictures on My Wall/Read it in Books, pelo selo independente Zoo Discos). "Não me sinto velho. Sinto-me como se tivesse os mesmos 20 anos. É estranho dizer isso, mas é verdade", disse o cantor. "São tantas boas canções nesses 28 anos. Eu as vejo como pinturas. É mais que rock and roll. Por meio dessas canções, nós mostramos o que somos".

Liderada inicialmente por McCulloch, pelo guitarrista Will Sergeant, o carismático Les Pattinson e o baterista Pete DeFreitas (morto em 14 de junho de 1989), o grupo é uma referência do pop rock.Sua atitute anti-star system, a voz única de Ian e a guitarra minimalista de Sergeant tornaram-se pedra fundamental de um gênero.

McCulloch negou rumores de negociações para que, em setembro, ele toque de novo no Brasil abrindo para o Coldplay. "Não sei de nada disso", afirmou. "Mas não seria uma má idéia". Ele é grande amigo (e influenciador) de Chris Martin, do Coldplay. Em julho, eles serão uma das atrações do prestigioso festival Benicassim, na Espanha.