KEEP THE BLUES ALIVE

August 29, 2008 – 6:20 am

Just before soft rock arrived in a big way, American artists were playing traditional blues not the British blues rock that hammered U.S. shores from the mid ’60s.

Click on the panels for a better view or to download artwork.

BONNIE RAITT, LOWELL GEORGE, JOHN PAUL HAMMOND, FREEBO
Ultrasonic Studios 1972 [no label, 2CD]

Live in Hempstead, New York, October 17, 1972. An excellent WLIR-FM stereo broadcast. The complete show.

Well my telephone was ringing
And they told me it was Chairman Mao
Well my telephone was ringing
And they told me it was Chairman Mao
You can tell him anything
‘Cause I just don’t wanna talk to him now

This show from 1972, the era of open opposition and student revolt at the U.S. in Vietnam, is a blues fest with some of the up-and-coming youngsters of the scene.

Bonnie Raitt took blues away from the sturm und drang of Janis Joplin and “softened” it. Can’t Find My Way Home in her hands is prettified. While Lowell George from Little Feat added a toe-tapping rhythm to his version of the blues. He funkified it. Only John Hammond stayed true to the form.

The community spirit was alive. Raitt covers fellow singer-songwriter Jackson Browne’s Under The Falling Sky. Lowell George backs Raitt’s set and marks his presence with his stinging notes and snaking lines.

Although a singer in his own right, this evening Lowell George offers support with some achingly beautiful picking instead. When Ken Cole requests he sings his best known tune, Willin’, George instead offers to sing new composition Apolitical Blues. The song is subversive. Faking apathy, it saves its best line for verse two when he sings Apolitical Blues, “that’s the meanest blues of all”.

Compromising the blues was probably never on John Hammond’s mind. While Raitt and others were all moving to make the music either heavier or sweeter to attract a young audience, Hammond was solid in his resolve to stay true. How you react to his set, which takes up the second CD, depends on what you were brought up listening.

After almost a decade in opposition, the generation in motion was to paraphrase the Eagles “takin’ it easy”, winding down, relaxin’ and finding their way in the grownups world.

But for every moment you spent in idle retreat, the real world of business and politics moves ahead to take up your space. The MAN today is more powerful than he ever was. An inactive citizenry only offers more opportunity for predators.

It’s getting hard not to answer the call.

Thanks to jerryo1521 for the artwork. Shared by boogar420, corrected by Prof Goody and special thanks to Davmar77 for the original version.
- The Little Chicken

Click on the highlighted tracks to download the MP3s (these are high quality stereo MP3s - sample rate of 192 kibit/s). As far as we can ascertain, this recording has never been officially released.

These tracks are no longer available for download. Kindly email us at [email protected] if you want to download the tracks at a later time.

CD1
1 Intro by Ken Cole
2 Love Me Like A Man [Bonnie Raitt]
3 Under The Falling Sky  [Bonnie Raitt]
4 Talk
5 Love Had No Pride  [Bonnie Raitt]
6 Talk
7 Going Down To Louisiana [Bonnie Raitt]
8 Talk
9 Can’t Find My Way Home [Bonnie Raitt]
10 Tuning
11 Big Road [Bonnie Raitt]
12 You Got To Know How  [Bonnie Raitt]
13 Talk
14 Apolitical Blues [L George]

CD2
1 Talk
2 Riding In The Moonlight [John Hammond]
3 Talk
4 As The Years Go Passing By [J Hammond]
5 All Night Long  [J Hammond]
6 I Can’t Be Satisfied  [J Hammond]
7 The Sky Is Crying  [J Hammond]
8 Tuning
9 Honest I Do [J Hammond]
10 Talk
11 It’s Too Late [J Hammond]
singers in [ ]

Lineup
Bonnie Raitt - guitar, vocals
Lowell George - guitar, vocals
John Hammond - guitar, vocals, harmonica
Freebo - bass

Bonnie Raitt was plugging her second album Give It Up. Lowell George’s Little Feat had just released Sailin’ Shoes and John Hammond was singing As The Years Go Passing By off his then new album Source Point.

You can buy them here: Bonnie Raitt; Little Feat; John Hammond.

  1. 16 Responses to “KEEP THE BLUES ALIVE”

  2. In case someone wants to know: WLIR, one of the trendsetters in music, is now a sports radio, where they second-guess what should have been done to win a game.

    It’s almost too ironic … These are the guys who killed WLIR:
    http://longislandpress.com/main.asp?SectionID=25&SubSectionID=84&ArticleID=14326

    By Bozo on Aug 29, 2008

  3. Bonnie Raitt’s blues stuff is among the best. What a great voice! Add Lowell Geoirge for a great treat. Unreal how great the music of the early seventies was- especially compared to the absolute shit coming out today. Shame really.

    By Sluggo on Aug 30, 2008

  4. No bout a doubt it Sluggo. This show was really cool. I heard bonnie’s version of Can’t Find My Way Home before but it’s nice to hear the whole show. John Hammond brings back a lot of memories too.

    By soulhealer on Aug 31, 2008

  5. What a great recording!
    Two of my favorite artists, lovely Bonnie & the late, but not forgotten, Lowell!

    Thanks a lot!

    By Benny Mulder on Sep 3, 2008

  6. well it seems someone else has decided to use my sluggo moniker…
    tsk tsk..
    the aug 30 post isn`t mine…
    however this is a grand show..thanks

    sluggo

    By sluggo on Sep 3, 2008

  7. Looks like Bob Lefsetz has been on the site!:

    I’ve been spending all day downloading live shows.

    The Linda Ronstadt radio show from the Record Plant back in ‘73 wasn’t as audio-exquisite as one might expect, it being broadcasted and everything.

    Karla Bonoff’s show from Nashville back in ‘78 was revelatory. How do they know the essence of life so young? I had to enter my thirties, late twenties at best, before I knew most of what Karla and Jackson Browne were singing about as young pups.

    And speaking of Jackson, there’s a great show from the Main Point back in ‘73. It’s good enough to release as is.

    But not as good as this radio show from ‘72, broadcast on WLIR. This is BETTER than most live shows. It sounds like they’re playing in your living room!

    Back before she became the poster child for baby boomer perseverance, getting kudos for hanging in there, through the bad relationships and alcohol to find commercial success, Bonnie Raitt was a blues mama. An irreverent one at that. Actually, she’s still irreverent. In a business that takes itself way too seriously.

    When she sings that you should love her as a man, she retains all the sensitivities of a woman without being subservient. When the Republicans are focused on so-called babes like Cindy McCain, I’d much rather spend time with someone three-dimensional, with a few miles on her, who’s not afraid to give me directions.

    There’s her take on “Love Has No Pride”, from “Give It Up”, long before Ronstadt made it a classic. Bonnie’s not oversinging, she’s lived it.

    “You Got To Know How” is better than the take on the album. Sans the production, it’s got authenticity.

    The apotheosis is “Can’t Find My Way Home”. And one of the reasons it exudes such magic is the help Bonnie receives from John Hammond and Lowell George. Lowell’s slide is barely there, sneaking in from the sidelines, it adds a dose of reality, it adds character, it’s the plot of the song come alive.

    That was one of Lowell’s specialties. Knowing when not to play.

    Subtlety’s gone out the window. Everything’s faders up, in your face. We revere melisma, the singers who can belt. But turning it up to 11 only works if you know how to play at 2.

    Lowell doesn’t exactly play at 2 in his own number from this set, but he’s not jamming it down your throat, he draws you TO HIM! Or, as Bonnie says…WAIT ‘TIL YOU HEAR THIS! The fat man in the bathtub STEALS THE SHOW!

    Back when record companies were trustworthy, I got turned on to Little Feat by a Warner Brothers Loss Leader, a double album of the label’s wares sold mail order for $2.

    But I can’t say I loved “Dixie Chicken” from the moment I played it. There was no context. Lowell had played with Frank Zappa, but this didn’t sound like anything on “Weasels Ripped My Flesh”. But, then I got hooked by the penultimate number, “Juliette”.

    “Don’t sing sad songs, Juliette”

    We no longer believe the words our acts sing, if we can make them out at all. They’re written by hacks, or illiterates. And they’re sold with such force it’s like a book hitting you in the face. Whereas you’d prefer to turn the pages yourself, and let the story unfold.

    That’s the power of Lowell George. Occasionally he demanded attention, via a bit of bluster, but it’s the subtlety that got under your skin, that gave you the heebie-jeebies, that made you play the record again.

    I can’t pick a favorite from “Dixie Chicken”. But I’d recommend the cut Bonnie ultimately covered, “Fool Yourself”.

    “You might say you ain’t got a hold on yourself
    You might say you always try your best
    You might say you only need a rest
    You might say you can only fool yourself
    I said fool yourself
    I said fool yourself”

    What’s fascinating is the position from which Lowell George is singing. He’s an observer, the best friend, giving advice. Not just telling you what you want to hear, but splicing in some truth.

    Lowell drugged himself to death. Only the good die young. But, unless you’ve had hits, you’re usually forgotten. Living on only in the memories of those who experienced you, there being no traction amongst the younger generation.

    If Lowell George had traction amongst young ‘uns, it’d be a completely different music business. With the focus on music.

    “A Apolitical Blues” appeared originally on “Sailin’ Shoes”. An album I went back and bought after wearing out “Dixie Chicken”. It contains my favorite Feat cut, “Easy To Slip”, another take on “Willin’”, “Tripe Face Boogie” and the title cut, ultimately covered by Robert Palmer. You can hear a live take of “A Apolitical Blues” as a bonus cut on “The Last Record Album”, which followed up “Dixie Chicken” unsuccessfully, financially and artistically. But both commercially-available versions pale in comparison to the live take from WLIR.

    Nobody is watching, and probably not a ton of people were listening, Bonnie had not broken through yet, but Lowell is playing like it’s a telethon, like he’s finally got a shot to exhibit all his wares, like people are FINALLY PAYING ATTENTION!

    His voice is so sweet, that even when he’s imploring it sounds like his vocals are covered in honey. This is a man. The kind who’s capable of loving the woman in Bonnie Raitt’s song. He doesn’t show up with gold jewelry. He doesn’t exit from a Mercedes. He doesn’t look like a movie star. He just exudes humanity, personality, CHARISMA!

    “Well my telephone was ringing
    They told me, told me it was Chairman Mao
    Well my telephone was ringing, hear it ringing?
    They told me it was Chairman Mao
    I don’t care who it is
    I just don’t want to talk to him now”

    We’d been burned by the sixties. Baby boomers were licking their wounds in apathy. They’d tried to change the world and ended up with Nixon and an extended war in Vietnam.

    Some people maintain that with the death of hope the flame of music was extinguished, that all the great stuff expired with the sixties.

    But one listen to Lowell George will tell you otherwise.

    Little Feat ultimately got some radio action, even had a song resembling a hit. But Lowell did too much dope, ultimately went solo and died. And since his triumphs were so subtle, he’s been forgotten. But he shouldn’t be.


    Visit the archive: http://lefsetz.com/wordpress/

    By engvaymalmsteen on Sep 4, 2008

  8. Sorry about that sluggo. I usually go by Sluggo714, but the savvy folks around here might see the diff betwixt Sluggo and sluggo anyhoo. And yeah, it’s a freakin’ great show.

    And I fixed things….

    By Sluggo714 on Sep 4, 2008

  9. To engvaymalmstee.I think you are one of the last guys who knows what good handmade music is.
    Turn on your radio today - all what you hear is musical terror.It makes me sad and sick.Some times I think they play the same tape day by day.
    It is every where the same.In America or in Europe.Allways synthetic trash.In 24 hours you will nerver hear one good song.well I am an old man.I remember the time from the 50th to the 70th.We had here in Europe some good pirate radio stations.Ther you they played wonderful music.But today today radio and TY is an instrument to kill the brain of the People who hear and see this bullshit.
    I hope that there are more people who think like you do.Best wishes from me.God bless you.

    By Joe "The Catman" on Sep 12, 2008

  10. What a bunch of whiners they were back in ‘08! Music today is great, you just have to get up off that thing and go look for it.
    I like this old recording because Bonnie is so stoned and admits it on the radio and still manages to keep her little band on track. What happens in 09? River Phoenix.

    By skidz on Apr 16, 2009

  11. 40 years ago today! (also the Grateful Dead at the Fox in Atlanta)

    thanks, bigO and keep up the great work !!

    By deadheadned on Oct 18, 2012

  12. thank you for the fantastic work you offer us … Is it possible that you re-give the link for this item
    thank you in advance
    Jean-Louis

    By DREAU on Dec 3, 2012

  13. if u like bonnie raitt.. shes on fallon on tues and the view on wed. performing live. in all likelihood there will be 2 songs on fallon.. one to be aired.. one not.

    and ot - dont forget live performances this week by the who robert cray dave matthews and jack white next week. and the appearance of zep (or plant) on letterman monday.

    By darth on Dec 3, 2012

  14. It really amuses me how nearly everyone seems to know about Robbie and his business decisions.
    None of us were there yet everyone has a Robbie opinion.
    Actually if they had all took care of their affairs like Robbie did they may have avoided these bankruptcies. Between poor financial decisions and excessive drug use by a few members how can it be Robertsons fault for everything you accuse him of ?

    By sluggo on Jul 17, 2015

  15. Just a and a highly interesting post to stumble at on this nice site! Never input any reply but now i couldnt i could not resist ..

    By http://www.loubatieres.fr on Sep 14, 2015

  16. Hi Big O. Can you put this back up? I missed it the first time around.

    By beanzalo on Jan 31, 2021

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