Category Archives: Music

Robbie Fulks – Ballad of Leonard Cohen: “Leonard Cohen was the finest poet that ever sang the blues”

Robbie Fulks - Feb 6, 2012 (screen capture)

Lynyrd Cohen –  Leonard Vs Skynyrd

Robbie Fulks, the outstanding Chicago alt-country singer-songwriter1 perhaps best known for “Fuck This Town,” his nuanced musical assessment of the country music industry represented by Nashville, somehow decided to put together  the “Leonard Cohen Vs Lynyrd Skynyrd”2  show, which he performed at The Hideout in Chicago on February 6, 2012. A video of one number, “The Ballad Of Leonard Cohen,” has just appeared in YouTube (2 viewings at time of this posting).

Mr Fulks himself offers this description of the show:

Lynyrd Cohen, a/k/a Leonard vs Skynyrd, as two 1970s icons duke it out via my quintet’s sensitive musical channeling. The kind of clever club programming that bored, frozen Chicagoans thrive on.

Robbie Fulks & his band - Feb 6, 2012 (screen capture)

Now, the content  of any imaginable alt-country music program called “Leonard Cohen Vs Lynyrd Skynyrd” is, by definition, sufficiently outré, arcane, and downright inexplicable to limit its appeal to a tiny elite of fans.

Incredibly enough, it turns out that the group of folks who would be into something labeled “The Lynyrd Cohen Show” have a 0.91 demographic  correlation with Heck Of A Guy readers.3

Consequently, Heck Of A Guy is happy to have booked the off-YouTube internet video premiere of …

Robbie Fulks – Ballad of Leonard Cohen

The video will automatically start at the point the song itself commences. Aficionados of stage banter may wish to adjust their dials back to the beginning of  the video to hear Mr Fulks introduce the show.

  1. According to Peter Applebome of the New York Times, “Mr. Fulks is more than a songwriter. He’s a gifted guitarist who has taught for years at the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago, he’s a soulful singer with an expressive honky-tonk tenor, and he’s a natural performer. It rings true when he says he’s only truly comfortable when he’s onstage or when he’s totally alone. But what really sets him apart is his songwriting, which is one part artful country, one part artful sendup of country and one part a little of everything else.” []
  2. Sometimes referenced as “Lynyrd Skynyrd vs. Leonard Cohen” []
  3. If Robbie Fulks had gone ménage à trois on us and added Leonard Bernstein to the program, the correlation would have been 0.96. Adding Lenny Kravitz instead of Leonard Bernstein would have pushed it to 0.975, but no one, with the possible exception of his mother, calls Mr Kravitz “Leonard.” []

Who The Heck Is Lana Del Rey?

[Note: This post was originally published Feb 4, 2012 but was vaporized in a server glitch. I've reconstituted the post, but the comments are, like the Robinson family and Dr. Zachary Smith, lost in space.]

Lana, Lana, Lana – We Don’t Really Hate You

Here’s the problem, neatly encapsulated by this story by Robin Murray from today’s edition of ClashMusic.com:

Lana Del Rey Heading To Number One With Leonard Cohen In Hot Pursuit

Lana Del Rey is racing to number one on the UK charts with her debut album ‘Born To Die’.

It’s one of the most unlikely chart face offs you can imagine. In one corner, Lana Del Rey: a perfectly sculpted pop princess whose expert control of web based hype turned her into one of 2011′s most high profile newcomers.

In the other corner: Leonard Cohen. The legendary Canadian songwriter returned with his new album ‘Old Ideas’ this week, proving that the seven years since his previous album ‘Dear Heather’ have been well spent.

Widely hailed by fans and critics as yet another milestone in a rightly celebrated career, Leonard Cohen is set to make a big impression on this week’s charts. ‘Old Ideas’ currently sits at number two, with the Official Chart Company placing Lana Del Rey in pole position.

‘Born To Die’ looks set to grab the number one slot, with pre-order sales pushing Lana Del Rey into the lead. If Leonard Cohen were to over-take the singer, ‘Old Ideas’ would become his first UK number one.

iTunes Top Ten Albums - screen capture Feb 2, 2012

So, it’s only natural that Cohen fans are asking …

Who The Heck Is Lana Del Rey?

Lana Del Rey

“Think Nancy Sinatra sans the boots.”

 Rhapsody asks and answers that question:

Who is Lana Del Rey? The ‘net nearly imploded in 2011 with bloggers trying to figure that out. And judging by her debut, even Lana (born Lizzy Grant) seems perplexed. Born to Die attempts to cast her as the sultry seductress, ever lusting after fame and the boy with the “cocaine heart.” But past that pretty-girl pout is nothing but a lost and lovesick ingénue: Think Nancy Sinatra sans the boots. But this juxtaposition works, mostly in the top half [of the Born To Die  album]  (“Born to Die,” “Video Games,” “Blue Jeans”), as she rolls her smoky pipes around symphonic strings and trip-hop beats, like one of Tricky’s sirens.

The biography provided by Last.fm is helpful:

Elizabeth “Lizzy” Grant (born 21 June 1986), better known as Lana Del Rey, is a singer-songwriter from Lake Placid, New York, United States. Del Rey is known for embellishing her songs and music videos with an eerily nostalgic vibe heavy on Americana themes, including images of surfing, Coney Island, Frank Sinatra, and Marilyn Monroe. She has also listed a large number of her artistic influences, including Allen Ginsberg, Elvis Presley, Britney Spears, Nina Simone, Nirvana, Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, The Beach Boys, Antony and the Johnsons, actor and filmmaker John Waters, artists Mark Ryden and Marilyn Minter, and photographers Juergen Teller and Philip-Lorca diCorcia. Grant released her first professionally produced body of work in 2010, an EP entitled Kill Kill, as Lizzy Grant via Five Points Records with producer David Kahne. It was available for purchase on iTunes for a brief period before being withdrawn for unknown reasons. Soon after, Del Rey released a self-titled collection of songs, Lana Del Rey, for electronic download. In June 2011, Del Rey was signed with Stranger Records and issued the “Video Games” single, and in October 2011 she signed with Interscope Records. [emphasis mine]

I had planned to focus on the inclusion of Leonard Cohen among Ms Del Rey’s influences, but not only is the above listing extensive enough to dilute the Cohen reference, but when BBC 6 Music asked which musicians have inspired her, the response, according to Snipe, was  “All the great masters of every genre.”

Well, OK then.

Further, this story from Ministry of Gossip, informs us that

Pouty music star1 Lana Del Rey has a coy, indie persona but is owning up to a love for one pop’s iconic princesses — Britney Spears. The “Born To Die” singer says she’s not very taken with many lady artists (which we’re not exactly buying), but Spears has always fascinated her. “I’m not really interested in a ton of female musicians but there is something about Britney that compelled me — the way she sings and just the way she looks,” she told UK radio station Magic 104.5.

Let’s see, Leonard Cohen admires Ray Charles, Hank Williams, Nina Simone, … and Lana Del Rey is fascinated by – Britney Spears.

Perhaps we should move on to …

The Lyrics

I’ve paired a few thematically comparable excerpts from the lyrics of songs performed by Ms Del Rey and Mr Cohen.

National Anthem – Lana Del Rey

Money is the anthem
Of success
So before we go out
What’s your address?

I’m your national anthem
God, you’re so handsome
Take me to the Hamptons
Bugatti Veyron

Chelsea Hotel – Leonard Cohen

I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel
you were famous, your heart was a legend.
You told me again you preferred handsome men
but for me you would make an exception.

fedoradivider

Dark Paradise – Lana Del Rey

And there’s no remedy for memory your face is
Like a melody, it won’t leave my head
Your soul is haunting me and telling me
That everything is fine
But I wish I was dead

Ain’t No Cure For Love – Leonard Cohen

I see you in the subway and I see you on the bus
I see you lying down with me, I see you waking up
I see your hand, I see your hair
Your bracelets and your brush
And I call to you, I call to you
But I don’t call soft enough
There ain’t no cure,
There ain’t no cure,
There ain’t no cure for love

fedoradivider

Lucky Ones – Lana Del Rey

Bugging into my car, got a bad desire
You know that we’ll never leave if we don’t get out now, now, now
You’re a crazy con and you’re a crazy liar
But baby, nobody can compare to the way you get down, down, down

Crazy To Love You – Leonard Cohen


Sometimes I’d head for the highway

I’m old and the mirrors don’t lie 

But crazy has places to hide in 

That are deeper than any goodbye

Lana Del Rey Performs

Born To Die  – Official Video

Note: Album title song

Leonard Cohen Performs

Darkness – Las Vegas November 12, 2009

Note: A different version of “Darkness” appears on the Old Ideas album

DrHGuy Final Assessment

OK, I don’t hate Lana but I’m certainly perplexed and maybe just a tad miffed.

fedoradivider

Credit Due Department: Photo of Lana Del Rey by Nicole Nodland

  1. On reviewing the entire list of Leonard Cohen Nicknames  , I can assure readers that Mr. Cohen has never been referenced as “Pouty Music Star.” []

Best Bootlegs: Joni Mitchell Sings Joni Mitchell ’70

Because I may not know music, but I know what you should like

… and where to find it1

Joni Mitchell In Concert – BBC 1970

This is, to my ears, Joni Mitchell at her best – when her voice was exquisite, and she was mature enough to allow herself to feel vulnerable now and again but still  young enough to devote herself primarily  to music. She performs an excellent selection songs from her first three albums and some material that would become part of her 1971 Blue Album.

The concert, played in intimate surroundings before a small audience was recorded September 3, 1970 at BBC Television Center – Shepherd’s Bush, London, England. It was originally broadcast October 9, 1970.

Track List: Joni Mitchell Sings Joni Mitchell

  1. Chelsea Morning
  2. Hunter
  3. Intro to ‘The Gallery’
  4. The Gallery
  5. Cactus Tree
  6. My Old Man
  7. For Free
  8. Intro to ‘Woodstock’
  9. Woodstock
  10. Introduction of dulcimer
  11. All I Want
  12. Intro to ‘California’
  13. California
  14. Intro to ‘Big Yellow Taxi’
  15. Big Yellow Taxi
  16. Both Sides Now

Viewing Information

The concert can be seen viewed on videos embedded at The Sixties Archive2

I’ve included “The Gallery” below as an example. The introduction is as interesting as the song, involving Scientology and the problem of being “a lady to an artist” – especially if the artist has dumped the lady.  The lyrics themselves are – well, let’s go with “bittersweet.”  Viewers experiencing difficulty in identifying the artist/infidel lover may wish  to consult Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell: Just One Of Those Things.

Downloading Information

Soundaboard has ripped the audio from the video files, in Flac, MP3, and M4A (note that audio is 2 channel mono), making them available for download in any of these formats at Joni Mitchell – England 1970.3

  1. This post is part of the Heck Of A Guy Best Bootlegs Series. An explanation of this project is included in the first post in this category: Best Bootlegs: Otis Redding – A Soupçon Of Soul. []
  2. Technical details from the site follow:

    PAL DVD, reconstruction of complete BBC 1970 b/cast in original order (48′ 44” edit here)
    from the best known sources (incl. edited 2007 digital broadcast)

    Video: 720×576, VBR (mixed VBR/CBR, 8500kbps max), interlaced, TFF
    Audio: LPCM (48kHz, 16 bit, 1536kbps, 2 channel mono) []

  3. The actual download is from Hotfiles.com as a single zip file. []

Finally, A Photo Of Willie Greene Jr – Courtesy Of Jennifer Warnes

Left to right: Willie Greene Jr., Terry Evans, Bobby King

Why Jennifer Warnes Sent Me A Photo Of Willie Greene Jr

Jennifer Warnes

Just before Christmas, the Heck Of A Guy mailbag included the photo seen above accompanied by this message from Dee:

Ms Jennifer Warnes asked me to send this photo to you at your website…so here you go.

left to right: Willie Greene Jr.. Terry Evans. Bobby King

Photo by Roscoe Beck

Thank you

So, why did Jennifer Warnes send me a photo of Willie Greene Jr?

The short answer is “I asked her for a photo of Willie Greene Jr.”

No one who has read more than three Heck Of A Guy posts will be surprised to discover that we won’t be going with the short answer.

The Famous Blue Raincoat Album

That photo of Willie Greene Jr., Terry Evans, and Bobby King can indeed be found at the official Jennifer Warnes site in the Famous Blue Raincoat: 20th Anniversary Edition Photo Gallery. At that location, the legend includes, in addition to the names of the singers and the Roscoe Beck photo credit, the explanation

Recording vocals, “Coming Back to You”

Willie Greene Jr contributed backing vocals on three tracks of Jennifer Warnes’ Famous Blue Raincoat album,1 which was released 1987: Coming Back To You, A Singer Must Die, and Bird On A Wire.

It was his efforts on that 1987 cover of Bird On A Wire that led to a concatenation of events culminating – 24 years later – in the posting of this photo today.

Famous Blue Raincoat As Audio Equipment Testing Instrument

A query about that track on that album, posed by the guy who had installed, revised, and cajoled into operation sound and TV systems for me over the past decade, precipitated the posting of Famous Blue Raincoat By Jennifer Warnes: Audiophile Addendum on August 6, 2007:

When listening to Bird On A Wire with a very high resolution sound system you can hear what sounds like a deep guttural humming along with Warnes’ vocals. On anything less than that is does not turn up at all, or sounds like a partially blown woofer. Is that Leonard Cohen humming along?

Knowing my correspondent was not one given to hallucinations or the mid-day ingestion of intoxicating doses of legal or illegal substances, I investigated, only to discover that Jennifer Warnes’ Famous Blue Raincoat, or as the vinyl-philes affectionately call it, Cypress 661 111-1, has a second career as a test LP for audio equipment. In tech circles, in fact, the Bird On A Wire hum is quite well known.

The review of the Origin Live “Advanced” power supply and DC-100 Motor at Vinyl Asylum, for example, describes it in this manner,

On Jennifer Warnes “Famous Blue Raincoat” the song “Bird On a Wire” has a low background humming by a bass. [With the equipment being reviewed,] This humming is more distinct, with greater weight and greater extension. Musically, the humming is more integrated with the melody. The integration between octaves is tighter, vocal transitions between chest and throat are clearer and more natural sounding.

A few straightforward web searches revealed substantial information about the technical aspects of the recording, a summary of which is available at the Audiophile Addendum post. At that time, however, those web sites did not identify, as far as I was able to determine, the singer of the extraordinarily low tones on the Warnes version of Bird On A Wire.

Since there was a tie-in with with Leonard Cohen, I sent a few emails to members of the Cohen cognoscente. I only received one positive response; on the other hand that same source had been correct about obscure details on a handful of other queries. So, …

I wrote that I had received

… information from that usually reliable source1 that the referenced hum in Jennifer Warnes’ Bird on a Wire is the sound of Leonard Cohen’s voice doubling behind and an or octave below Warnes.

The original post included a caveat in the form of a footnote:

This source has been 100% correct about such matters in the past, but I have no way to double-check this tidbit so if anyone has information that confirms or conflicts with the answer I’ve reported, I’d appreciate an email.

Oops

At this point, a year passes, …

… after which, word arrives from Jennifer Warnes:

Hi Dr. Hguy;

While doing some research on Jennifer’s behalf, I came across your column from Aug 6 of last year in which your usually reliable source named Leonard Cohen as the source of low humming on Jennifer’s version of “Bird on a Wire”.

I sent the article to Jennifer; she asked me to send you the true details, straight from the diva’s keyboard:

“Will you write back for me and say that this low voice is Willie Greene Jr. He sings also on Ry Cooder’s records. His bass can reach lower than the lowest note on an acoustic piano. We proved it. Ask Billy Youdelman who was the recordist or my co producer, Roscoe Beck, for proof. Leonard’s voice dropped down after many years chanting during Zen practice.”

I hope this is helpful.

Matt Kramer

Well, it was certainly helpful.2 As I wrote in Blog Error On Jennifer Warnes Famous Blue Raincoat Corrected – By Jennifer Warnes (posted September 15th, 2008):

There you have it. The ultra-low voice belongs to Willie Greene Jr. Searches for Willie Greene Jr. turn up batches of credits, including work with Lyle Lovett and the afore mentioned Ry Cooder, but, alas, no photos in which he is unambiguously identified. I did find this brief but compelling mention of Mr. Greene at the July 28, 2008 entry in Jack Bog’s Blog in a description of a Lyle Lovett performance:

But all of the side men were upstaged by the background singers who stood to the star’s immediate right. What to my wondering eyes did appear — two of them were from the earth-shaking front line of Was (Not Was), who knocked our socks off (as we knew they would) at the Wonder a while back. Sure enough, it was Sweet Pea Atkinson and Sir Harry Bowens! Next to them was bass singer Willie Greene Jr., whose voice knows no bottom and whose bottom, along with the rest of him, moved smooth as silk in synchronicity with Sweet Pea and Sir Harry. (Emphasis mine)

I extend my apologies to Mr. Greene and Mr. Cohen for the error and my thanks to Mr. Kramer and Ms Warnes for the correction.

And that was that – until three more years pass,

… at which time I received the photo of Willie Greene Jr displayed near the top of this post, which is, I assume, the response to my request for a shot of Mr Greene that I included with my thank-you note written just before that 2008 post correcting the misidentification of the humming source.

The Willie Greene Jr Gallery

Happily, with the photo Jennifer Warnes forwarded and additional help from the webmaster of the aforementioned Jack Bog’s Blog, I’ve been able to identify a few other online images of Willie Greene Jr.

The middle three men in the above shot, found at Concert review: Lyle Lovett and His Big Band at the Progress Energy Center for the Arts – Mahaffey Theater, St. Petersburg by Tracy May (Daily Loaf: Nov 27, 2010), are the backup vocalists for Lyle Lovett. From left to right, they are Willie Greene Jr, Sir Harry Bowens, and Sweet Pea Atkinson.

The two photos below are identified as Willie Greene Jr at Discogs.com:

And finally, Willie Greene can be viewed as supporting vocalist in this Lyle Lovett performance of I’m Going to Wait at Chastain Park in Atlanta on July 6, 2008.

(Tentative) Conclusion

I hope Willie Greene Jr, my sound & TV installer, Jennifer Warnes, and Heck Of A Guy readers are now satisfied with the completeness of the answer to the original question about the source of the humming on Bird On A Wire from The Famous Blue Raincoat album if not the length of time required for that answer.

I even more fervently hope the information now offered is correct. If not, I’m sure I will (eventually) be notified, occasioning another post on the topic.

In respect to the four year lag between this post and and the first entry in this series, I have chosen to interpret it as an indicator of the tenacity and persistence characteristic of both Jennifer Warnes, who has recently been back on Tour and who performs on Leonard Cohen’s forthcoming Old Ideas album, and yours truly, who keeps blogging along for reasons as unclear to him as it is to others. I suspect, in both case, it has to do with the trait also shared by and exquisitely expressed in the lyrics of Leonard Cohen:

But I’m stubborn as those garbage bags
that Time cannot decay, I’m junk but I’m still holding up
this little wild bouquet3

  1. For the three Heck Of A Guy readers who don’t recognize this album by name, Jennifer Warnes’ Famous Blue Raincoat consists entirely of covers of Leonard Cohen songs and is attributed by Cohen for the revitalization of his reputation as a singer-songwriter. It was also the first record produced by Roscoe Beck []
  2. For the record, I confess that I did not pursue, as suggested, confirmation from either Mssrs Youdelman or Beck, choosing inst instead to trust both the accuracy and integrity of Ms Warnes. []
  3. From Democracy by Leonard Cohen []

It’s Beginning To Sound A Lot Like Allison Crowe

Allison Crowe – A Voice Made For Christmas

Allison Crowe’s resonant, rich, gorgeous voice seems as much a manifestation of Christmas as an instrument for singing holiday songs.

Indeed, a Christmas season at Heck Of A Guy without an  Allison Crowe post would be like Christmas without – well, without a performance by Allison Crowe.

Visions Of Boney M. Dance In Allison’s Head

Allison, who is currently in the midst of her annual Christmas Concert Tour,1
responded to my request for a Christmas-specific memory:

For my whole life, as far back as I can remember, to me the sound of Christmas has been Boney M. On Christmas morning or decorating the tree before Christmas – I hear Mary’s Boy Child and the entire album.

I have one memory in particular of decorating the tree, (I needed a step-stool then and I still do now), in my Scottie dog pajamas and pink satin princess hat with lavender crepe train, and my initials in purple sequins, (part of my Halloween costume made by Mom), and putting up white pearly sparkly musical instruments and notes ornaments near the top of the tree and listening to Boney M.

That album is so totally ingrained for me that I can’t even tell you now if I was actually listening to it at that moment, or if that’s just the mental soundtrack that’s permanently in my head for Christmas.

Yep, a very young Allison Crowe, clad in Scottie dog pajamas and pink satin princess hat, decorating the tree to music from the Boney M. holiday album –  now that’s Christmas.

Allison Crowe Christmas Videos

Allison Crowe has published a holiday album called “Tidings,” the songs from which have been broadcast live as a TV special, so she has a batch of Christmas songs from which to choose. These are a couple of my favorites (today):

O Holy Night – Performed by Allison Crowe

River by Joni Mitchell ~ Performed by Allison Crowe

Bonus: Boney M. – Mary’s Boy Child

  1. See the official Allison Crowe web site for information about her Christmas Tour. []

It’s Stll True In 2011 – Nobody Rocks Christmas Like Bruce Springsteen

springsteen xmas blowup

It’s A Springsteen Merry Christmas From Asbury Park

Once again Heck Of A Guy is pointing readers to this nifty composite of Springsteen songs at the bigO audio archive.  While that site typically carries its offerings only for a limited time, a quick check this morning verifies that this compilation is indeed available for download now.

As for the content, the goal of mchuck22, who put this program together, follows:

My goal was to create a one-disc sampler of the best tracks from the Asbury Park Convention Hall holiday shows – structured loosely along the lines of a typical show. I tried to include a good mix of Christmas favorites and essential Springsteen tracks.

And, mchuck22 has succeeded. Check out the tracks (the date refers to the Springsteen concert at which the song was recorded):

  1. Deck The Halls (12/08/01) (894k)
  2. Incident On 57th Street (12/08/01) (12.6MB)
  3. Blue Christmas (12/17/00) (5.9MB)
  4. Christmas Day (12/06/01) (9.0MB)
  5. Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want To Fight Tonight) (12-08-03) (6.1MB)
  6. Shine Silently (12/17/00) (8.9MB)
  7. The Wish (12-08-03) (7.7MB)
  8. Kitty’s Back (12/17/00) (14.3MB)
  9. Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) (12/06/01) (4.6MB)
  10. My City Of Ruins (12/17/00) (8.7MB)
  11. I Don’t Want To Go Home (12/17/00) (5.4MB)
  12. Rosalita (12/17/00) (10.3MB) (10.3MB)
  13. Santa Claus Is Coming To Town (12/17/00) (7.9MB)
  14. WMMR Christmas Message (831k)

The tracks are MP3s with a sample rate of 192 kbps. The downloads are directly from the site (rather than through a service such as Rapidshare) and require no decompression or use of codes or passwords. According to the site, “As far as we can ascertain, these tracks have never been officially released on CD.”

The Artful Albeit Uncredited Heck Of A Guy Contribution

Ever wonder where they find the cover art for bootlegs?

1. The Cover Art: Immediately below is a screenshot from the BigO website with the cover art for Bruce Springsteen – Merry Christmas From Asbury Park around the time it was first posted in Dec 2009:

springsteen xmas

2. The Heck Of A Guy Art: Immediately below is a screenshot of the Heck Of A Guy post, Nobody Rocks Christmas Like Bruce Springsteen, with our own homemade cut and paste image from a Dec 2008 post:

nobodyrocks2

Merry Christmas from
Bruce, bigO, mchuck22, and DrHGuy