music clip of the day


Month: November, 2010

Tuesday, 11/30/10

Subtlety and delicacy aren’t usually associated with hard rock. But those are the qualities that (to these ears) stand out when you unpack this recording and hear the tracks separately. Listen to the guitar, the bass. Sledgehammers? More like sushi knives.

Rolling Stones, “Gimme Shelter,” 1969

voice (Mick Jagger & Merry Clayton)


guitar/1 (Keith Richards)


guitar/2 and piano (Keith Richards & Nicky Hopkins)


bass (Bill Wyman)


drums (Charlie Watts)


all of it

(Yo, Don: Thanks for the tip!)

Monday, 11/29/10

. . . the best and most original guitar player of his generation.

James “The Hound” Marshall


Someday Quine will be recognized for the pivotal figure that he is on his instrument—he is the first guitarist to take the breakthroughs of early Lou Reed and James Williamson and work through them to a new, individual vocabulary, driven into odd places by obsessive attention to On the Corner-era Miles Davis.

Lester Bangs

Lou Reed with Robert Quine (guitar), “Coney Island Baby,” “White Light/White Heat,” live, 1984

Sunday, 11/28/10

With voices like these you don’t need instruments.

“Father, I Stretch My Hands To Thee,” live, Mt. Moriah Baptist Church, Chester, South Carolina, 10/08



In African American Churches in certain parts of the South Eastern United States, there still exists a style of music that pre-dates what the Gospel Music industry refers to as “Traditional Gospel Music,” founded by the late Dr. Thomas A. Dorsey.  Some congregations refer to the choirs that sing the foundational “old-style” music, made up of middle-aged adults to senior citizens, as Hymn Choirs or Prayer Bands.  They continue to have choir anniversaries and Fifth Sunday singings, and are very much favored for Revival services.

These hymns date back as far as 1707, and the spirituals have been passed down by oral tradition over the centuries.  This sacred style of music and the traditions associated with it are in danger of disappearing as the singers go on to be with the Lord.  As you listen, you may find yourself going back in time — remembering people you haven’t thought about in years.  On the other hand, the music and the message may be totally foreign to you — but yet intriguing.  Whatever the case, you will definitely be impacted by what you hear.

According to William T. Dargan, Ph.D., Professor of Music at St. Augustine’s College in Raleigh, North Carolina, the old style a capella “spirituals and hymns are characterized by two and three part modal harmonies, gradual but drastic quickening of tempos, frequent and strong body movements as well as polyrhythmic clapping and stomping patterns.”

“Developed by slaves during the camp meeting revivals of the early nineteenth century, spirituals are rhythmic, call-and-response song forms that continue in oral tradition among African-American congregations.  ‘Lining out’ is a method of performing a psalm or hymn in which the leader gives out the words, or the melody, or both, one or two lines at a time, to be followed by the congregation.  This practice began in the early seventeenth century by the British Parish Churches as an aid for those who were unable to read.”

Saturday, 11/27/10

This guy and the guy we heard Monday (Syl Johnson) are brothers.

Speaking of Syl, he’s getting a lot of attention right now: the cover story in this week’s Chicago Reader; a big new boxed set on the Numero label; and a concert tonight, in Chicago, with a top-flight band and guest Otis Clay (yeah, I’ll be there).


replay: a clip too good for just one day

This take?

Or that?

Move the voice forward?


Make the guitar brighter?


Enough bass?

Too much?

Enough room sound?

Mixing a record, as I learned when I worked at Alligator Records (back in the 1970s), involves a seemingly countless number of decisions. After a few hours, everyone starts to get a little punch-drunk. By the end of the night, for instance, this track had morphed—in the warped warble of engineer Freddie Breitberg (AKA, in his personal mythology, Eddie B. Flick)—into “Serve Me Rice For Supper.”

Jimmy Johnson, “Serves Me Right To Suffer” (Living Chicago Blues, Vol. 1, Alligator Records, 1977 [Grammy Nominee])



reading table

The ’net’s filled with enough dreck for a thousand lifetimes; but then, as happened the other day (after hearing about it on the radio), you come across something that’s simply stunning—like the new, complete collection of the letters of Vincent van Gogh.

. . . Van Gogh’s letters are the best written by any artist . . . Their mixture of humble detail and heroic aspiration is quite simply life-affirming.—Andrew Motion, The Guardian (11/21/09)

(Originally posted a year ago [11/27/09].)

Friday, 11/26/10

Deep, wide, strong: the groove, with this guy at the drums, is like a river.

The Levon Helm Band with guest Jim Keltner (drums), “Deep Ellum Blues,” live, Los Angeles (Greek Theater), 8/15/10

Thursday, 11/25/10

How many pop stars have given thanks so memorably?

Sly & The Family Stone

“Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin),” live (TV broadcast), 1973


“Thankful N’ Thoughtful,” 1973

Vodpod videos no longer available.


Michael Jackson and
George Clinton and
Miles Davis

Big influence on all three?

Short list.

James Brown
Sly Stone

Wednesday, 11/24/10

Coolest guy on the planet?

Will Gaines (tap dance) with Steve Beresford (piano), Alex Ward (clarinet), live, London, 2009

Want more? Here. Here.



I tap-danced for ten years before I began to understand that people don’t make musicals anymore.

Zadie Smith

Tuesday, 11/23/10

what’s new
(an occasional series)

Dad, listen to this . . .

—my (19-year-old) son Luke

Lupe Fiasco, “The Show Goes On” (2010)


Take 2

Live, Georgetown University, 10/30/10: “Superstar,” “The Show Goes On” (’til he forgets the lyrics), back to “Superstar”


More from Georgetown

“Hip-Hop Saved My Life”

More? Here. Here. Here.



Interview (Tavis Smiley, 2008)


listening room

Here, in MP3 format, is a track featuring a guy we listened to the other day: Cecil Taylor, with drummer Tony Williams (“Morgan’s Motion,” from Williams’ 1978 album The Joy of Flying).

Monday, 11/22/10

Walk into a blues bar on Chicago’s south or west side in the mid-1970s:
this would jump out of the jukebox.

Syl Johnson, “Take Me To The River,” live, 1975, Memphis

Sunday, 11/21/10

ain’t no grave can hold . . .

Johnny Cash, “Ain’t No Grave,” 2003 (recorded), 2010 (released)

Vodpod videos no longer available.



The Johnny Cash Project is a global collective art project, and we would love for you to participate. Through this website, we invite you to share your vision of Johnny Cash, as he lives on in your mind’s eye. Working with a single image as a template, and using a custom drawing tool, you’ll create a unique and personal portrait of Johnny. Your work will then be combined with art from participants around the world, and integrated into a collective whole: a music video for “Ain’t No Grave,” rising from a sea of one-of-a-kind portraits.

Strung together and played in sequence over the song, the portraits will create a moving, ever evolving homage to this beloved musical icon.  What’s more, as new people discover and contribute to the project, this living portrait will continue to transform and grow, so it’s virtually never the same video twice.

Ain’t No Grave is Johnny’s final studio recording. The album and its title track deal heavily with themes of mortality, resurrection, and everlasting life. The Johnny Cash Project pays tribute to these themes. Through the love and contributions of the people around the world that Johnny has touched so deeply, he appears once again before us.

The Johnny Cash Project is a visual testament to how the Man in Black lives on—not just through his vast musical legacy, but in the hearts and minds of all of us around the world he has touched with his talent, his passion, and his indomitable spirit. It is this spirit that is the lifeblood of The Johnny Cash Project. Thank you for helping Johnny’s spirit soar once more. God bless.

Chris Milk



reading table

Without trouble, there is no life.

—New Orleans restaurateur Provino Mosca, quoted in Calvin Trillin, U.S. Journal, “No Daily Specials,” New Yorker, 11/22/10



Happy Birthday, Hawk!

Today, Coleman Hawkins’ (106th) birthday, the folks at WKCR-FM (broadcasting from Columbia University) are celebrating in their usual way—playing his music all day (and then some [til 9:30 a.m. tomorrow]).

When I heard Hawk I learned to play ballads.

Miles Davis

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