Friday, February 12, 2016

Blood: Love lies Bleeding

purchase [Love Lies Bleeding]

Back in the early 70s, I just about wore out the grooves listening to Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. ("Wore out the grooves" harks back to the time when people spun a vinyl disk on a motor-driven turntable, scratching the ridged surface of the plastic with a diamond stylus: the more you played/re-played the music, the more likelihood of your permanently wearing down the ridges/grooves.)

The first song off the album, "Funeral for a Friend" segues directly into "Love Lies Bleeding" and the two are considered and generally performed as a single piece, although Elton has commented that they were separate pieces that just fit back to back because one ends in the key of A and the other begins in A. Together, they make up a powerful start to a powerful album. His best.

As for the lyrics (Bernie Taupin) - if you go beyond the driving piano/guitar/drums (there are no lyrics to Funeral), it's not the happiest Valentines Day message:

The roses in the window box
Have tilted to one side
Everything about this house
Was born to grow and die

As I revisit Yellow Brick Road on account of the theme relevance, I recall that there are several of my favorite (and I am not an overboard Elton John fan)/several of his best pieces all on this one the album: "Candle in the Wind," "Saturday Night's Alright," "Bennie and the Jets," "Your Sister Can't Twist," and of course, "Yellow Brick Road "...

Starting a little before Yellow Brick Road, but almost inseparable ever since, Elton John's go-to guitar player is Davey Johnstone. Similarly, beating the drums on this version  is the inseparable Nigel Olsson (see his name prominently displayed on the front-facing bass drum). Both of them adding vocal embellishments here.


(Goodbye Yellow Brick Road)

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Blood: Beauty Way

Eliza Gilkyson: Beauty Way

For the next two weeks, our theme is Blood, vaguely derived from the classic heart symbolism for Valentine’s Day which falls during this period, but also because we thought it was a good idea.

Sometimes, when a theme is announced, I need to search my iTunes library for a song, and other times something just jumps into my head. And for some reason, that is what happened here, despite the fact that there are many more obvious choices.

The amount of music out there is staggering. I’m sure that there are many people whose musical taste and collection (tangible or virtual) has basically stagnated. But for me, and other music fanatics, it is impossible to keep up. I have a pretty significant collection of music, and a pretty broad range of musical likes, but I simply can’t know everything, or keep up with all of the new good things. I hear all of the time about music I should like or should check out, and often when I do, I realize, yeah, that’s pretty good. And maybe I’ll download a few songs and check them out more.

Which is a long way of getting to my point—there are people making great music out there—music you might really like, if you heard it, but you just haven’t had the chance. Eliza Gilkyson is one of those musicians who has had a long career in the industry, great reviews, but not a huge amount of name recognition outside of the Austin area. Although, to be fair, she has been pretty popular in these pages, having been tagged in 6 prior pieces, more than Aimee Mann, Alejandro Escovedo, Pete Townshend and Harry Chapin, to randomly choose a few people with bigger profiles.

Gilkyson comes from a musical family. Her father Terry was a folksinger in the 50s and 60s, and then became a songwriter for Disney movies—his songs include “The Bare Necessities” from The Jungle Book. Her brother Tony was the guitarist in Lone Justice, and for a period, X, and also produces. Her sister Nancy is a singer and an executive at Warner Bros. Records. Eliza began her career singing on her father’s demos and soundtracks, including a couple of Disney TV shows. She moved from Hollywood to Santa Fe, New Mexico in her late teens, started a family and began releasing records. Her musical and personal journey took her to Austin, then back to Los Angeles, then to Taos and to Europe, before returning to Austin. Her son Ryder has produced some of her albums, and her daughter Delia has sung on some of them. Her songs have been covered by Joan Baez, Lucy Kaplansky, Bob Geldof, Roseanne Cash and others. She even has a couple of Grammy nominations, and was inducted into the Austin Music Hall of Fame.

Our featured song, “Beauty Way,” from Gilkyson’s 2000 release, Hard Times In Babylon, is a semi-autobiographical tale about the hard life of a musician who comes close to, but just misses, hitting it big. What always struck me about the songs were her lyrics, which make it almost seem like her desire to play music was irresistible, and that she simply had to keep going, no matter what the result:

I worked the clubs along the Sangre de Cristos 
Polished the diamond in the rough 
By the time I hit L.A. I was hotter than a pistol 
But you're never hot enough little darling 
You never really hot enough 

I felt the lights on the big, big stages 
The fire burning in my soul 
I've had those nights when my guitar rages 
But it's not something you control little darling 
It's not something you control 

And there’s the blood reference—the Sangre de Cristo mountains, which run from Colorado to just north of Santa Fe. But I also think of the metaphorical blood that Gilkyson spent trying to make it in the music business.

A little side note--back in the days before iPods and CD burning, I was one of those people who made mixtapes, which I listened to on a tape player or in the car. In 2001, I included a version of “Beauty Way” on a tape, followed by a Los Lobos song, “Down on the Riverbed.” At some point, I was listening to the tape, and realized that the two songs mentioned red-tailed hawks, making it a great subconscious segue. Which is something that only ex-college radio DJs think about.