19-tom-petty.w750.h560.2xYou can’t turn him into a company man. Of course when The Last DJ came out I was pumped. I mean come on Tom was writing about me …right? This album without going through it track by track is what every one of us wants to say back to the man. What does that mean? Tom was one of us. Tom spoke for us in his lyrics.

Honestly when the disc came out I was looking for more of Damn the Torpedoes. Tom’s musical vision had evolved of course how could it not? True artists evolve they don’t necessarily follow the trend. Yet we know we music lovers of many starving artists trying to grab that toe hold and who will do anything to grab onto popularity and make the killing. Tom tried for sure he didn’t back into it but he also came from a very genuine point of view. It’s interesting because a lot of us I sure know I do and did have the same view. If it sounds good to me people will like it or as Robben Ford once said do your own thing the people will find you. Sage like advice sometimes seems a no brainer but too many potential artists get over managed or sell out. You can’t blame them they are trying to eat, put the bread on the table but I think the Bard had it right. To thy own self be true. And as far as Tom Petty goes we were all lucky enough that he held to those tenants.

The Last DJ bursts forth in a beautiful array of acoustic guitar strums and delivers the truth. In fact this whole album is track for track a takedown of the recording industry. Tom makes us laugh along the way (a craving for lite beer) but also peppers the screed against the industry with heart felt ballads. Dreamville is a beautiful tune that evokes memories of days of yore and Like a Diamond evokes a hopeful beautiful spirit. The album closes with the magnificent Can’t Stop the Sun.

When I first saw Can’t Stop the Sun in concert the lighting for that number was biblical as they shot an array of lights straight out from behind the band right into the audience during the Shining lyric. It was a horizontal lighting array of white light that I can still see to this day. Tom and the Heartbreakers always had the visual down. The Last Chance for Mary Jane shoot is a hoot. Watch it on You Tube if you haven’t seen it in a while. I love all of Tom’s slacker like Florida boy expressions, laid backness and shuffle. He embodied a pretty righteous attitude which I respect and emulated myself growing up. I need people like Tom to remind me of my former self so as to not get too caught up in the day to day distractions gobbled up by business negotiating contracts and the politics of it all. I think that’s why the Big Lebowski was such a hit even though Jeff played it so hilariously over the top.

Anyway when this album hit my ears I was searching for American Girl what I got took a while for me to grab hold of but now I prefer to the earlier Tom. It’s like we evolved together. My wife and I are constantly shrugging our shoulders and saying in unbelievable and undeniable recognition, “did he ever write a bad song”.

The answer is well sure maybe but he was damn careful enough not to let us hear them. Those we did hear the lyrics always were diamonds and the chorus’s gold.

The Last DJ delivers the goods in every way imaginable. There are power chords, intricate production work, acoustic guitars, Rickenbacher’s jangling, delicate keyboard work, powerful drumming and a theme running through the album that ties it all together from the opening lament to the closing ray of hope. Every track is satisfying. The mixes between songs keeping to the theme of transmission. The heavy in your face truth of Joe the title track and When Money Becomes King are the songs deep in your rebel heart you wish you wrote and I am sure glad someone did.

Get them out play them again. This album is a must for any child dreaming of a recording career. And the influences span Beck, the Beatles, The Byrds. I get a real subtle Jeff Lynne flavor from time to time as well. But there are softer influences and they balance the album beautifully.

Tom’s lyrics in Like A Diamond, are compelling and romantic and Mike’s lead work holds back so achingly its enormous. Even the little ode to the Beach Boys in the harmony chorus towards the end is just the beautiful and fun subtle touch that makes a recording great. It’s just so perfect. The bass line reminds me of Abbey Road and Benmont’s tender keyboard at the end will put a lump in your throat. This album should not be overshadowed by anything they have ever recorded. And Blue Sunday is a wonderful story telling song crafted around simple chord changes so there is much more here than just calling out the industry.

You and Me and the road ahead is a bouncy little jaunt that feels like freedom itself. It’s hopeful, reaffirming and bucolic. It’s a perfect little pallet cleanser. The Man Who Loves Women is Tom’s satirical side coming out and it’s hilarious wrapped up in what is definitely a Beatleesque like Abbey Road Maxwell Hammer fun ditty complete with whistling. It’s a great mood changer and worlds away from Joe.

May My Love Travel with you always…I sure hope so Tom you know mine will with you. Because I’m the lonely DJ digging the ditch trying to keep the flames from the Temple.

I’ll keep digging brother not on my watch…..never!

 

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Tom Petty thank you so much for driving hard through all the issues and delivering your righteous vision to us in the form of musical bliss. How can I thank you enough? I’ll spend a lifetime reveling in your music. Maybe that’s the kind of thanks he was looking for and so we have MOJO.

Oh yeah we are going to talk about this album. I’m happy and we are lucky the band was well established enough to say hey here’s a new album all on our terms our music our writing. This is what we want and so we have before us a collective artistic vision. A righteous ripping album that delivers on all fronts.

MOJO gets the party started with a Bo Diddly romp and sardonic lyrics that rip at a cultural icon with truth. Classic Tom lyrics and ripping good time rhythm and blues. Mike’s guitar is in a strip down mode and we get flashes of Chuck Berry along with a raging harmonica and driving drum kit what’s not to love? The song closes out in a grand short sharp crescendo and then we slide effortlessly into a mood changer First Flash of Freedom.

Here we get some sort of Jeff Beck opening with a Gregg Allman Berry Oakley Dream’s bass line and I’m up and noticing. The seascape that follows has all the ear marks of a wandering sublime sojourn. Tom’s lyrics like an overdue train satisfy mightily upon arrival. I’m definitely feeling the ABB here and I use it as a descriptor. That subtle bass line holding plenty of room for Benmont’s organ and Mike’s major scale climb. Yes the guys are writing their own tunes but I think, I suspect we have an album of homage and respect to their influences, peers and those who have gone before. Isn’t that like Tom and the Heartbreakers? The Jeff Beck/ABB merger of styles is spellbinding and well done.

Back to the grove we go with Running Man’s Bible and I’m hearing a serious Booker T & the M.G.’s vibe with Robin Ford like blues riffs smoky in tone and style. Heavy syncopated rhythm riffs punctuating classic organ keys and staccato lead lines. A lovely surge of guitar wrapped up in a long searing organ note and we are back to the crunchy swing rhythm. This is a way cool melody with lots of sway and swagger with jazz overtones in the swanky refrain. We float along on the outro as Mike punctuates unsustained notes.

The Trip to Pirates Cove has a quick opening drum lick and we are into the LA Woman scene of the Doors. I totally hear more than a nod to Riders on the Storm and I love it. After repeated listen this song has risen to the top for me. This is my jam. Tom’s at it again with a phenomenal set of lyrics. I got a friend in Mendocino and its getting close to harvest time and we all smile knowingly. Benmont is channeling Ray Manzarek beautifully I mean I’m having a religious experience as Mike flirts with Robbie Krieger licks back in the mix. This tune is a melodic soul warming thing of beauty.

Candy lifts the atmospheric veil into a classic blues deliberate bop and I’m getting a huge whiff of JJ Cale with those relaxed understated riffs. Tom sings about Eldorado’s, cornfields and moonshine and it gets you over to that south west Texas frame of mind.

The surprise to me and what really knocks me out is the next tune No Reason to Cry. This tune could fit squarely on an Arlo Guthrie album. Sound strange? We’ll I’ve listened to a lot of Arlo Guthrie in my day and he is a national treasure as well. Tom’s voice and lyrics right here on this song deliver one of those Arlo spiritual love ballads in such a fine fashion it brings me to tears even as Tom is singing there is no reason to cry. The poignancy of this song is not to be denied. The band lays down such a sweet subtle lullaby blanket of music for this love song to lay on. It’s beautiful and if you are not familiar with Arlo go listen to some of his music. I recommend the exploration as the tears well up in my eyes again sorry Tom.

Turning on a dime I Should Have Known It sounds like it belongs on Physical Graffiti right down to the Jimmy Page riffs and tone and aren’t you pumped by that? I am. The band delivers on the classic syncopation of many classic Led Zeppelin tunes. Boneham would be proud! Bron Yr-Aur Stomp and an acoustic guitar tease and they move seamlessly to another tune keeping that whole Zep vibe. Works for me and we ride right on to U.S. 41. Classic guitar tones, lots of slide and periodic harmonica riffs mark this tune with outlaw lyrics. This is a serious set of riff heavy tunes not to be missed.

Takin’ My Time stomps in with the origin a massive heavy John Lee Hooker beat that never lets up driving its heel into the dirt floor and grinding out the guitar. We are deep in the Delta now.

Let Yourself Go is another driving little tune that swings and I’m hearing many many influences crossing over at the heart of this song dare I reference the Doors again. This is an excellent tune although I’m moving onto reggae (?) Tom and the Heartbreakers slip into a Peter Tosh groove that makes you kind of wish they did a whole reggae album. They own each of these modes they are slipping in and out of without pretense and with authority and it’s fantastic. The song is called Don’t Pull Me Over Tom humor and wisdom all rolled up into one. I love the little sarcastic bastard.

Lover’s Touch is a great swinging blues slow romp followed by High in the Morning an authoritative work which features Tom’s lyrical genius and the band locked in a serious groove. You know Mike is going to make his move and he brings the Steve Cropper licks right in at the end.

What strikes you next as you listen to Something Good is Coming is the stark spirituality of Tom Petty. He talked about hope but I believe there was something more he was trying to say with songs like these. There’s a beauty here a pastoral tone and a resignation and that bittersweet feeling is on us in a minute. Tom wasn’t just about rock n roll. Tom’s writing was about love, hope, getting up again and being able to see past all the hypocrisy, lies and subterfuge into the light of an oncoming sunrise. After all we can’t keep the sun from shinning. And after we come upon enlightenment and reach a state of nirvana what are we supposed to do with our moment in time?

We rock that’s what we do. Tom and the Heartbreakers close out with an I Want You/She’s So Heavy Lennon and Harrison guitar scream called Good Enough. The lyrics get right to the heart of the matter. The moment. The moment is what we live in and it’s good enough for me. If she marry’s into money she’s still gonna miss me and that’s good enough for me. Mike rips the guitar neck in a melodic searing high end scream driving the strings over the top of the guitar pushing all that emotion and energy forward as the rhythm guitars climb down the fret board in classic wave crashing fashion and we fade out…. such is life.

I love this album the Mojo is righteous and flying close to heaven. It belongs in the Pantheon of Music (a temple dedicated to all the gods) with Abbey Road, Physical Graffiti, Fillmore East and Dark Side of the Moon.

Paul

 

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Hypnotic Eye – is tremendous. I know it seems like Hyperbole now that Tom has passed but I’m not kidding this record rocks. It starts out with a crunch American Dream Plan B. As usual Tom’s lyrics aren’t pulling any punches and just as your neck is getting sore from the head banging the band segues out into a light melodic chorus with full chord strums. At the two minute mark Mike cranks out some classic Chuck Berry licks and oh yeah this is rock n roll.

Fault Lines is mixed right onto the heels of the first track and the bass line is to die for I freakin’ love it and the fuzz tone on the guitar is fantastic. Then enters Tom’s voice singing about broken promises. I love this cut fantastic – give me more.

Red River veers back into the crunchy riffs of American Dream Plan B but the strength of this cut are Tom’s lyrics – She’s got a 3D Jesus in a picture frame, Got a child she’s never named, She shakes a snake above her hair, Talks in tongues when there’s no one there. There’s a nice short little acoustic measure in the middle of the song followed by Mike shredding it up and in an instant we are back to the verse.

The thing I love about this album is how each song is put together and arranged by Tom and the Band plus the mixes from one tune to the next are clean, tight and perfect. They flow effortlessly into one another.

The next tune Full Grown Boy has a gentle shuffle. It’s quiet with shades of Kenny Burrell as the lead guitar takes on the tone of a classic hollow body. Love it!

Just as we are all chilled and relaxed in comes the heavy again with Tom singing about ghosts and then the stand out chorus of the disc comes in “Take What You Can All That You Can Carry”. There’s a little Steeley Dan feel to some measures but it has a rock beat that Mike just screams over. I love how they switch the tones of the guitars here back and forth between the verse and the chorus. At the top of their game people. All you Can Carry is a great tune.

Power Drunk the next tune should just play in the Oval Office 24/7. It has some interesting tone and textures again harkening back to early Steeley Dan just for comparrison if you haven’t gotten familiar with this album.

Forgotten Man is Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers doing what they do best charging mightly through Tom’s lyrics. There is a nice acoustic break in the middle of the song before Mike rips our faces off again. Thanks Mike I love it when you do that!

Sin’s of my youth opens up as if a film noir detective movie is starting and Tom’s Lyrics settle quietly and lightly on the bands arrangements. Time for a little introspection and reflection and I love you more than the sins of my youth floats along with Benmonts keyboard. Very nice and chill and perfectly placed in the sequence of songs.

U Get Me High understands how light Sins of my Youth was and doesn’t charge back in so hard. It retains some of that free floating melody we all love about Tom’s tunes. And if you listen closely the bass is having a ball high stepping through the verse. This song also introduces different textures of guitar than we have heard before. All of their tunes are little rock n roll symphonies that always manage to hit the sweet spot.

Burnt Out Town brings Tom’s humor up front in the opening and in the lyrics. It definitely swings and has a Bo Diddley feel to it with touches of Barrell House keyboards and a wailing harmonica. This tune puts you squarely on main street with one gas station and dirt roads.

Shadow people closes with a cultural statement about us. That one’s thinking of great art…that one’s strapped on a gun and joined up with the herd. We get almost a pink floyd like break in the middle of the tune with a subtle heartbeat around moody blue like guitar chords until someone pokes Mike and we are back gristling under our collective societal ills.

And it is because we are so inundated with those ills as we speak that I’m surely going to miss Tom’s insight, the bands swagger and from a musical standpoint just the sheer intelligence and taste of their arrangements and productions.

In short this is a great album. There are a many touches of acoustic guitars peppering the heavy and the bass lines are imaginative, funky and all the tunes shift and turn. The arrangements are sophisticated and righteous. The shifting guitar tones jangle and explode, and the drum kit drives everything beautifully. This is just a great band doing its thing and in expert fashion. You have to pay attention to everything and not miss the endings as they transit into the next song. The whole thing feels like a movie score it moves so brilliantly from song to song but also within each song. Its in heavy rotation at my house and we are rockin with our bad selves. We love you for that and more Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.

 

 

10688024_10152341655625905_4194827429724092637_oI’m still so very impressed with Tom’s work as I dive deeper into his catalogue. There is definitely a huge contingent of us out here that may have had a greatest hits or a few choice albums like Wildflowers but thats just scratching the surface.

I caught Story Tellers this weekend someone had posted the broadcast on You Tube. It wasn’t a bad capture seeing that it was an old VH-1 tape with German subtitles and I was struck by a tune from an album called Echo.

Echo is the album where Howie missed the photo shoot. It only went gold and was a top ten album so it begs the question – what in good gods blazes was I paying attention to at the time to have missed this album.

The tune I heard was “Swingin” and I just shook my head. How did I miss this? What stupid conceit was I under or lame ass distraction?

It’s just so inconceivable and phenomenal to me that Tom channeled all this great music, lyrical poetry, driving rock n roll and sweet, sweet, ballads in such an amazing outpouring of vital, swagger, and frailty. Its an historic revelation of immense creativity.

Tom had a helluva of a lot of heart. He poured it all out for us every last drop of his passion, enthusiasm and thoughtfulness. He consistently time in and time out painted beautiful landscapes some stark some brightly full and others of humor, pain, hope, the mundane. His music was down to earth and flying heavenly all at once and within each refrain. There is an honest complexity to it all as it is with our very own lives.

Tom Petty put it all into words and sang it back to us and we understood every last bit of it as each of us gets up and climbs that hill again.

What a bittersweet affair his music, his life and his passing. The very damn definition of the word. I’m in awe of the man and the band and will be forever grateful. It’s with a heavy heart that we have to say goodbye. Totally out of our control we feel ripped off but if we embrace the music just as hard as we are gutted by the suddenness of it all we’ll get through it. After all we have the sound of his voice and all of his everything to embrace in each and every stanza.

It’s manna from Heaven – believe that. Tom Petty gave expression to our very core from deep inside his and thats why it hits home to all of us so completely. He exhausted his whole being into his craft and it shows with every syllable, every note, every verse, every chorus.

And I thought I wasn’t going to write anything today..then I put his music on and the feeling was unstoppable.

Maybe he felt the same way too….

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Born to play, born to write, born to rock n roll. I’m somehow experiencing all the stages of grief at once mostly anger. God damn it we need Tom in this day and age more than ever.

But this weird unfolding is taking place as well. His catalogue is enormous a dozen lifetimes worth of music. Every nook and cranny of his catalogue reveals something amazing, a sonic turn of tone or phrase. It may seem like simple rock n roll but there is a whole lot going on with each track. There is much to discover and I’m going to end up with all his recordings I just know it. They are dragging me toward them even though I’m out of room in my house and I’m resisting but I’m just not going to able to refrain.

In ice hockey we have whats called rink rats. Players, professional, amateur, kids, these are guys who show up to the rink early and leave late. They are always around in the locker room, trainers room, getting their skates sharpened and on the ice every chance they get practicing their shots and skating just waiting for the Zamboni to take its final turn. I fully believe Tom was a certified studio rat honing his craft, exploring the sonic journey and capturing what he thought sounded right chasing the muse and I’m guessing he lived in whatever studio he could find.

If you go out on the web and look at the pictures its amazing. No matter when or where in his life fans were on their feet with their arms in the air jumping up and down in appreciation. Since he was a skinny kid to a full grown adult and all the roads and stages in between in the adulation poured.

And Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers deserved every bit of it, every round of applause, every clap, every holler, every whistle, every breath, every sing along, every standing ovation they ever got and then some. He knew we loved him and the band. He knew he was universally adored and from looking at the pictures, reading the interviews and witnessing him in person myself more than a few times I believe he really was humbled by it and it knocked him out and he appreciated it maybe more than we know and maybe even needed it more than we know for what he had been through as a child. And I for one am god damn glad we could give it back to him.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreaker shows were a love fest and I’m proud to say it and he had to have felt that down to his core, piercing his soul as we sang his songs back to him. How unbelievably soulfully righteous is that?

Tom knew how much we loved him and how much he meant to us and thats the thought I’m holding onto with both of my hands and all of my heart as I try to grip my way through this one just after making my peace with losing Gregg and Doc Watson before that. My strength is my faith and my faith is in the music.

Paul

Tom Petty
I had a very interesting Tom Petty day yesterday. Those of you who know me well are used to these stories. Sometimes I scare myself, sometimes I have been scared it can be terrifying if you fling that door open to the other worlds fear can override the best of intentions. But as I have gotten older I have learned to vanquish that fear and amazing visions transcend sleep as if awake. We all know dreams. In the waking hours of Sunday morning I heard Tom’s voice speak one word to me thoughtfully, slowly in his regular cadence and tone, “sorry”.

The word rang out and I awoke. No matter what the coroner says or will say chain smoking is fucking bullshit and I have been pissed off that Tom submitted to corporate addiction. What can you do but this is the thing that riles me up. The guy who stared down corporate music let himself get snagged by corporate addiction arrrrgggghhhh!

Anger not attributed to Tom slipping away so young after all he left several lifetimes worth of song behind and I recall brother Duane speaking about how righteous it was for a person to leave recordings behind. I think he was ruminating on King Curtis and his senseless murder.

Anyway I was thunder struck by the clarity of the sound of Tom’s voice and how in a word it addressed my pissed offedness. As if somehow immediately resolved I rose to do my normal Sunday routine and the moment was lost to distraction.

The sun was shining so after a spell I headed for the yard and threw six Tom Petty CD’s in my Pioneer changer and hit the random button. A few days earlier I had bought my wife and received in the mail a bracelet with lyrics to Wildflower written on both sides. She is a huge Petty fan and it brought tears to her eyes – it was a moment in more ways than I can express here. There were layers around this gift giving that exceeded expectations.

We hadn’t listened to Tom for two days preoccupied by life so of course out of six CD’s and out of close to a hundred tracks Wildflowers comes on first. We both took notice and it was then I recalled his voice in my dream.

I worked in the yard for a good portion of the day listening to Tom and the Heartbreakers the soundtrack to a beautifully sunny and warm day. After a long soak in the pool I headed for the club to grab an early dinner. There was no one at the bar and I randomly sat at the far end and there before me was a golf ball just sitting by itself in perfect shape with the word MOJO written on both sides.

The ethereal is hard to capture in words but somehow someway Tom or the powers that created creativity formed the multiverse and spun off our little solar system and Earth was communicating to me and in such a small, persistent and magnificent way reminding me all is not as it appears, all our states of consciousness are intertwined. The unseen is real coincidences too many stacked one after the other all in one day to be written off and so somehow someway we are on our sacred path.

What may come I don’t know but what has been and what remains is still spectacular when you stop for just a second and immerse yourself in the moment take that pause as to what we are, who we are with and where we are going spinning on our axis hurtling through the cosmos.

Be well have faith and listen to the music – that according to Tom is where the magic transpires.

 

American singer-songwriter Tom Petty of American rock band Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers perform during their "Mojo Tour 2010'" at Madison Square Garden in New York.
How about a little more love for Tom.

I’m just starting to go through his catalogue – trust me it’s only a partial catalogue the man was prolific. What strikes me is the quality of the tracks you’ve never heard or rather his less famous “hits” – no thats not right either – all the stuff thats not on the best ofs – well thats not quite right either oh damn Tom wrote a lot of brilliant lyrics, innumerable melodies of sonic sojourns, ballads, and love songs. Rock and Roll.

It was music he wanted to hear the way he wanted it played based on his early and life long passion for music. You don’t think buried treasure was an accident….it was his god damn record collection.

Tom was the other guy in the used record store you bumped into at 11 in the morning instead of going to work. Flipping through LP after LP studying the art work, the instruments, the players, the producers and labels who was able to join forces with a great band of lifelong friends and carve out a long, large, continent wide swath through the global consciousness of our lives.

Something spoke to him and something drove him. His passion exhausted him. Is there a better way to live?

He would want us all to carry on knowing rock n roll will save your soul. Real music, honest, not fame, not money, not attention the pure love and passion for the music that lies just out of reach until one of us, one of the members of this tribe called humanity reaches out and grabs it and lays it down with all their heart, dreams, drive and vision.

Something so free, so right, we are never, never, never, going to change our minds about it… heaven and nothing the arrogant, stupid, greedy whores can ever reach or take away. Turn it up! This machine kills fascism.

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Dear lord enough already – Gregg in the late Spring and Tom in the early fall?!!? Way to bookend the summer Dr. Death.

I remember the first time I saw Tom Petty I was late to the Tom Petty concert experience and it took me until my wife dragged me off to one of his shows. What Gregg Allman was to me Tom Petty was to my wife.

Tom to me was a savior to the 1980’s and all of that awful industry generated clap trap noise, empty, banal lyrics, costumes, posing and synth machines. Here was a Byrd’s influenced rocker with an edge and being in radio in the 1980’s I knew how good he and the band were. But not until I saw him live did I get a forehand across the brow.

A veteran of rock concerts having seen Bob Marley, Lowell George’s Little Feat, prancing around like a horse to Marshall Tucker in the middle of the afternoon working a Beach Boys concert in the sand, hanging with Peter Tosh, seeing the original Skynyrd a bunch of times, Steve Miller, the Rolling Stones in 1975, and catching Jerry solo and with the boys every time they came through town and then some I was no stranger to the rock scene or the concert going experience.

What transpired that night of 6/30/2001 might have been the most cathartic insanity of pure rock n roll bliss I had ever witnessed. Tom and Mike blistered through their songs in a relentless fashion. “Don’t bore us get to the chorus” indeed the set list and veracity in which they played it had me proclaiming it was the best concert I had ever seen and to this day that comment still gets repeated to the many folks interested in listening whether in a bar, or playing one of his tunes to a small crowd. That comment stands and it’s not hyperbole for the occasion.

This set list below blew my mind. Walking into the opener with that wonderful opening rif was a match to a fuse that stayed burning bright to this day.

Runnin’ Down A Dream
I Won’t Back Down
Breakdown
Billy The Kid
Mary Jane’s Last Dance
Here Comes My Girl
Even The Losers
It’s Good To Be King
You Don’t Know How It Feels
Green Onions
Don’t Come Around Here No More
Learning To Fly
Into The Great Wide Open
Refugee
Too Much Ain’t Enough
You Wreck Me
Free Fallin’
American Girl

What follows that was learning a bunch of his tunes for my shows, repopulating my collection of CD’s and going to see Tom every time they came to town. We have a real love affair for his lyricism, cynicism, ballads, his rockers biting tenacity and respect for the art form that he had and he delivered in all facets of the game. You know Last DJ was written for me …right 🙂 well I certainly felt that way.

We told everyone who stood still long enough go see Tom and we always hearkened back to that show from 2001 and the blistering assault and rock and roll euphoria from the first note. When the 40th anniversary tour was announced we were disappointed he wasn’t coming through our area. He had been through a lot so I just assumed for the 40th he would be back but he was playing the bigger venues and so good for him. I remember thinking wow what an extensive tour in relation to how could he be skipping our quadrant look at all these other venues he’s playing. But I figured after the big tour he would be back playing the smaller venues. I figured wrong but I am thankful we saw Tom and the band every chance we had since 2001. I was really looking forward to seeing them again in the future as a balm for missing Gregg and didn’t even guess at a future without the Heartbreakers.

I’m sad to think the enormity of that 40th celebration tour might have degraded his health. But he went out playing and on fire I’m sure. If that tour was one tenth of what we always, always witnessed over the past sixteen years the audiences got smoked and Tom left the stage with nothing left to give. A Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers Concert was a much needed and desired immersion in rock n roll heaven. How can you top that?

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Southern Blood

Well, it sucks that Gregg got old before his time but what he poured into his time was several lifetimes’ worth of living and as he said he had himself a ball so why should we feel sad? For us the core fans who have been with him through thick and thin for decades it’s like losing a family member. It really is and it’s going to take time. I’ve been listening to Southern Blood exclusively. I wanted to get past the immediate emotional reaction as the song selections have laid us bare and ripped our souls out.

But there is more here than just all of that and even though the music is powerful beyond words it works simply standing alone. Imagine for a second if Gregg was healthy this album would still be a religious experience of expert playing, singing and sounding craft combine that now with the unfortunate circumstances and it will weaken your knees and tighten your throat.

Those are tears you are trying not to cry and why not you’ve just lost a family member and a friend and the music is so very soulful and moving and isn’t that what we want from our art? It’s supposed to make us feel something. We are inundated with the shallow, exasperated by the petty. It is our art our creativity that reminds us of our humanity and the essential and real depth of our lives. Often ignored daily preoccupied with self-imposed distractions we paper over our experience with the superficial. But it’s a carnival as well believe it or not The Band sang so truthfully to us a celebration and a tragedy all at the same time. It’s a dualistic reality in which we choose what to accentuate. It’s a horn section and a backup singer’s good time and it’s a drunk in a gutter you step over or become.

The Album Southern Blood jumps out righteously with Steve Potts muscular drums and then Gregg’s voice recorded so clear. He picked the right time to get into the studio. He was in exceptional voice and it’s all there the nuanced pronunciation the extended vowels for just the right length. Bravo to the engineers, the makers of microphones and recording equipment and the mixers. The disc sounds beautiful, the musicianship outstanding. Scott’s guitar work is tasteful, elegant, piercing and punctuates the melody with strength and grace. My Only True Friend climbs and falls dramatically with the poignant lyrics and heart felt voice. Gregg is writing and singing to all of us and speaking to his fans, friends and family without any other consideration except for getting it right. The ending with Marc Franklin’s trumpet and Scott’s outro is warm with the lights turned down low. The timing is paced beautifully with Peter’s piano cascading over the ending.

Then comes Gregg Allman’s great American song book. I really truly think this among other things is Gregg saying once again look here. Southern Blood is like a sign post pointing the way to Tim Buckley, Jackson, Percy Sledge, Robert Hunter, Lowell, Willie Dixon, New Orleans, and Bob Dylan and the Band. Everything is on this platter soul, gospel, R&B, swing, blues, and country sweet heart of the rodeo twang.

To begin with navigating Once I Was will slice through you and lay you low. The acoustic guitar opening followed by Gregg’s vocals slowly, calmly, not exactly a whisper but singing quietly those words to us and the band in the background subtly waiting for all of Gregg’s delivery clearly makes this a beautiful delicate song. Lorca is Tim’s album that really got me as well as Goodbye and Hello from which this song originated. And then Planet Waves. What a great choice. This is a Bob Dylan album that is immediately accessible and features The Band and some of Bob’s finest work. Going, Going, Gone is righteous and again we find Gregg in a contemplative mood, singing slowly, with purpose delivering the important messages of our lives as written by Bob.

“Grandma said Boy go and follow your heart and you’ll be fine at the end of the line all that’s gold isn’t meant to shine don’t you and your one true love ever part.” What more does anybody need to know than that? Don Was and Gregg’s band wrapped this number up with a Flying Burrito Brother vibe and it invokes the heart wrenching finest work of Graham Parsons with Greg Leisz’s pedal steel. It’s different than the original but it’s just as great.

For me the song track list is like Gregg peered into my record collection or listened to my show. I never anticipated he’d pull off of In The Dark – Black Muddy River. After listening to Garcia sing that song when it first came out I got worried how could Gregg deliver this tune. It’s Garcia at his heart wrenching best and I was worried but there it is with the mandolin opening and the familiar melody. Robert’s lyrics and we all love Robert Hunter’s lyrics are delivered beautifully and by the time we get to the scream of an eagle on the fly we are all in and Gregg has us. Bring in the McCrary Sisters and we are in the pews nodding our heads.

Thankfully Gregory gives us a break I mean how much can we take and one of our favorite classics comes “nasty” strolling down the sidewalk on its way to the pool hall. I mean this was our rallying call growing up I Live the Life I Love and I Love The Life I Live. Jay’s big baritone sax and Scott’s guitar work shades of Roomful of Blues and Sugar Ray Norcia another outstanding vocalist come to mind. No regrets here people this is a swanky, swinging, punch back of defiance. Gregg’s growl before the “how I love it” lyric and his little well placed howls as the song winds down are expertly placed and extended just at the right volume well I’ll take every day you got… amen brother amen.

Willin’ are you kidding me? Gregg needs to give me my albums back. How great are these lyrics, how great was it when we first heard this song? Gregg, Buddy Miller and the band breathe new life into this seminal work. Peter’s piano and the pedal steel briefly dance and the acoustic guitar is right there in the background supporting Gregg’s voice. It’s a great arrangement with the horns quickly punctuating the beat anchored by Steve and Ronald’s solid rhythm. How great it is to hear this song sung and played so well again… Dallas Alice.

Thankfully we get nice and greasy with Blind Bats and Swamp Rats. You have to mix it up when you are putting your play list together and after repeated listens of the whole album this is an excellent segue. Mac has got to be proud as Marie Laveau herself comes straight up out of the swamp brushing the Spanish moss from her hair and laying down her voodoo magic. Gregg snarls and growls out the lyrics and you feel like you are in the middle of the bayou, hot, sweaty, something other worldly breathing down your neck, eyes darting looking for gators….love it!

Then out of left field we get Percy Sledge’s soulful love song. And it isn’t hard to imagine Gregg recorded this for Shannon what a sweet song and gesture and if you aren’t thinking about your significant other when this is playing you are missing the point. She made me a mountain from a little grain of sand. Everything is all right and the horns sound like Memphis Stew, Stax, and Sun Records all rolled up into one. Gregg grew up with this music it was of the era and he reminds us all of the treasure trove of soul and R&B that is out there waiting for us and that we should be listening to that as well.

The first time I heard Gregg and the boys tear into Love Like Kerosene I leaped out of my seat. Bring it on this is the gutsy roots ripping barrel house jam my soul requires. I want my ears pinned back I want that shuffle, I want that beer spilled on the floor things to get a little dangerous, dance a little too close, a sweaty night with an edge but never losing the fun. She’s pretty ain’t she and you’re dead meat I might just be having a heart attack. It’s a joint is jumping horns are screaming bass is pounding drums are thrashing good time. Hell yeah! More of this!

The opening guitar of Song for Adam turns us once again and immediately we are thrown back into church where we belong whether your church is an ever expansive wildflower field in the plains of Denver like mine or a wooden pew with stained glass windows we are there. Gregg and Jackson’s delivery of the lyrics is the focus. Throughout the whole album Gregg’s voice paints the landscape with all the depth of life and twists and turns and death the fantastic, wretched journey all of it and all it can be and all it is. “And when I stood myself beside him I never thought I was as strong” listen to how Gregg sings this line and how the word strong rolls out. Imagine now you are a young boy without a father and somehow your older brother is strong and you can’t fathom it the first one into the fire going a hundred miles an hour or at rest and now still while so young he vanishes as well. But strength is not just all about bravado and bellicose behavior strength is not false, strength is passion, strength is honesty, strength is open, strength is understanding and wisdom and vision and drive and compassion and the ability to persevere.

Gregg Allman was as strong as they come relentlessly coming back like Sisyphus. Fifteen times he went into rehab pursuing and scraping his will and soul to survive exhausted by trials and tribulations and getting out of the way of himself and the record machine to finally emerge fully realized, happy resolved. It was a herculean effort and many, many others fell by the way side when confronted with challenges far fewer and just as many self-imposed. To walk from chemotherapy when you have the best doctors in the world at your disposal not fearing death but challenging it one final time and living on your own terms those actions take deep resolve, deep faith in something unseen. That takes strength the kind of inner strength you cannot find by just adding muscle to your bike, car or body. That’s the foundational strength of love, a love or many loves of something other than and outside of yourself.

For all the words, music, fame, money and looks that is the real beauty of one Gregory LeNoir Allman.

2016 atlThe Gregg Allman Anthology is a thirty four track two disc set released by Bill, Kirk and Alan on Mercury Capricorn. It is my absolute favorite Gregg Allman collection because he is often accompanied just by himself with voice, guitar or piano.

It’s thoughtfully put together and Alan’s liner notes are another informative, good read. I am so happy I scooped this up before it was pulled from circulation. Officially titled “One More Try: An Anthology a quick google search turns up copies on amazon and elsewhere that run around eighty dollars. That is a pittance to hear Gregg working these tunes out. All the tracks are fully realized they do not cut off or trail off. He finishes each track. I do seem to recall him mentioning that he loved rehearsing – it shows!

Demos, outtakes, covers, alternate versions, band rehearsals have never sounded better. Gregg took the music seriously and to heart and thats what separates him from all those to come and all those who have come before. The Jackson Browne cover Shadow Dream Song is biblical. These are not just run throughs. And there is a 1969 version of Cross To Bear recorded out in LA with session musicians that is absolutely the birth of the Allman Brothers as much as anything we have heard or have been told before. These selections are just beautiful, intimate and haunting.

There’s not a track on here that doesn’t ring true. I’m listening to an alternate version of These Days from the collection as I’m writing and it’s very hard to concentrate. There’s a track featuring Johnny Winter Berry Oakley and Buddy Miles (Hendrix) on Wasted Words that screams and then later Bonnie Bramlett joining Gregg singing a stripped down, slowed down Win, Lose or Draw feels like its just you and them in front of a fireplace late at night. Catfish Blues is another great tune just Gregg and his guitar. I mean dear lord he’s just finger picking his way through Will The Circle Be Unbroken by himself that alone is worth the price.

This is like an intimate house concert and Gregg just shows up to play in your living room. It’s powerful and clean. There are full band performances as well from the Laid Back era, The Live Tour era, and The I’m No Angel era. The earliest track is 1968 with Gregg and Duane doing Melisa.

Twenty million, bazillion stars and thumbs up!
Highly recommended!

 

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Journey Home Reviews

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Paul Burke is some fantastic, talented writer. Journey Home is an eye-opener. It is down to earth and humanly raw! I highly recommend it as a must read!!" -- Knowledge Tree Bookstore
I randomly stumbled upon this book online and it looked intriguing. Little did I know that it was more than just a curious cover...a wonderful picture of nature and a nice mindset of our place within it. I recommend the hell out of it!" -- Jonny Bear
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I just finished reading Journey Home and I can't tell you how bowled over I am. It is so insightful and powerful and it emanates such wonderment of reality. It is Phenomenal on so many levels...tremendous! -- Aimee'
When I first started reading Journey Home I couldn’t put it down! Each person and situation became vivid in my mind. I could feel the book. It became one with me and the sounds ... here on Big River. The unexpected twists and turns, continued to peak my interest, and the first night I read till I could see no more. Then, as I awoke I read till I was done. A book of this quality is an Amazing Gift for all to read and Understand!!!! -- Dusty

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