Monday, November 15, 2010

In Concert: John Mellencamp

image from

Venue: Midland Theater; Kansas City, MO

The Set List:

1. Authority Song
2. No One Cares about Me
3. Deep Blue Heart
4. Death Letter
5. Walk Tall
6. The West End
7. Check It Out
8. Save Some Time to Dream
9. Cherry Bomb
10. Don’t Need This Body
11. Right Behind Me
12. Jackie Brown

13. Longest Days
14. Easter Eve
15. Jack and Diane
16. Small Town
17. Rain on the Scarecrow
18. Paper in Fire
19. The Real Life
20. Human Wheels
21. If I Die Sudden
22. No Better Than This
23. Pink Houses
24. R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Nov. 12, 1960: Bobby "Blue" Bland recorded second session for Two Steps from the Blues

First posted May 29, 2008. Last updated September 10, 2018.

Two Steps from the Blues

Bobby “Blue” Bland

Released: Jan. 1, 1961

Recorded: 1956-1960

Sales (in millions):
US: --
UK: --
IFPI: --
World (estimated): --

US: --
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Quotable: “One of the key albums in modern blues” – Stephen Thomas Erlewine, All Music Guide

Genre: blues

Album Tracks:

  1. Two Steps from the Blues (1960)
  2. Cry, Cry, Cry (10/10/60, #71 US, #9 RB)
  3. I’m Not Ashamed (5/4/59, #13 RB)
  4. Don’t Cry No More (7/24/61, #71 US, #2 RB)
  5. Lead Me On (4/11/60, #9 RB)
  6. I Pity the Fool (2/6/61, #46 US, #1 RB)
  7. I’ve Just Got to Forget You (1960)
  8. Little Boy Blue (10/6/58, #10 RB)
  9. St. James Infirmary (1960)
  10. I’ll Take Care of You (12/21/59, #89 US, #2 RB)
  11. I Don’t Want No Woman (recorded 1/22/57)
  12. I’ve Been Wrong So Long (1960)

Singles/Hit Songs:

Click here for the chart codes for singles/hit songs.


“Without a doubt, Two Steps from the Blues is the definitive Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland album and one of the great records in electric blues and soul-blues. In fact, it’s one of the key albums in modern blues, marking a turning point when juke joint blues were seamlessly blended with gospel and Southern soul, creating a distinctly Southern sound where all of these styles blended so thoroughly it was impossible to tell where one began and one ended.” STE

From 1956 to 1960, Bland had some success on the R&B charts – five of those songs are gathered here. He also recorded two albums (Blues Consolidated and Like ‘Er Red Hot) for Duke Records. WK He moved to Chicago in 1960, WK and recorded another seven songs at Universal Studio which would be compiled on this album. WK

The first session, on August 3, 1960, produced Two Steps from the Blues, Cry, Cry, Cry, and the ballad I’ve Been Wrong So Long, WK on which biographer Charles Farley praised Wayne Bennett as “the most articulate blues guitarist ever.” WK At a November 12 session, the crew recorded a cover of Joe Primrose’s St. James Infirmary and “the moody” I’ve Just Got to Forget You,” WK which didn’t emerge until 1970 as the B-side of “Keep on Loving Me (You’ll See the Change).” WK That session also produced Don’t Cry No More with a faster rhythm, and the Joe Medwick-penned I Pity the Fool. WK

The new songs were done at Universal Studio with “a tight, well-rehearsed, bombastic, blues band.” WK Joe Scott, producer and arranger, crafted the “wailing horn arrangements that sounded as impassioned as Bland’s full-throated, anguished vocals.” STE These songs “form the core of Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland’s legend and the foundation of soul-blues.” STE They “blur the division between Ray Charles soul and Chess blues, opening the doors for numerous soul and blues sounds, from Muscle Shoals and Stax through the modern-day soul-bluesman.” STE

Mojo’s Geoff Brown said: “No song is wasted and hardly a note sounds false as Bland's blues-wearied voice, driven to anguished screams, grapples with the vicissitudes of life and love, his torment echoed and bolstered by Joe Scott’s memorable horn arrangements.” WK

“Since this, like many blues albums from the late ‘50s/early ‘60s, was a collection of singles, it’s possible to find the key tracks, even the entire album, on the numerous Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland collections released over the years, but this remains an excellent, essential blues album on its own terms – one of the greatest ever released.” STE

Review Source(s):


Related DMDB Link(s):

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Coming Soon to a Stage Near You

A friend on Facebook posted photos of ticket stubs from concerts he attended, mostly in the latter half of the eighties. Among them were The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, U2, Eric Clapton, Van Halen, Bruce Springsteen, AC/DC, Aerosmith, Paul McCartney, Tom Petty, ZZ Top, Fleetwood Mac, R.E.M., Billy Joel, Bob Seger, Styx, Foreigner, The Cars, and Heart. It proved quite the enviable list of classic rock artists – of which I’ve seen a mere four. I’ve accumulated my share over the years, but Steve amassed as many shows in half a decade as I’ve seen in my lifetime.

I was a latecomer to the rock concert scene, not seeing my first show until my college days. My introduction to the world of live music was via the Rainmakers, a local Kansas-City based group. Their music fit snuggly in the classic rock format with jangly pop that recalled Big Star and that group’s subsequent followers such as Tom Petty and R.E.M. Lead singer Bob Walkenhorst’s unique vocal delivery encompassed some of the nasal snarl of Bob Dylan along with the hiccups and twang of classic country from the 1940s and ‘50s.

The show was on our college campus and I went with a bunch of friends. I don’t remember much – we had seats in the balcony and Amy was disgusted with us for not getting up and dancing (never a strong suit of mine). My virginal concert outing did a lot to make the group’s debut album, 1986’s The Rainmakers, one of my 20 favorite albums of all time.

I’ve amassed a slew of memories since. I traveled to Chicago to see Marillion (my favorite band) and trekked to Minneapolis for The Police. My one-time neighbor and childhood playmate grew up to be a percussionist/drummer with Rod Stewart and got about thirty of us backstage. When I saw Bob Dylan, a gang of us locked arms at an outdoor festival with no ticketed seating to safeguard our primo location from being overrun by people trying to shove in front of us. For my 40th birthday, my wife surprised me with Eric Clapton tickets and more than a half dozen friends to accompany us to the show. A buddy got box seats for the Allman Brothers and we sat next to local DJ Skid Roadie. My brother caught a drum stick at a Styx concert. I loved the clever short film featuring Jerry Stiller that opened the Rush show and seem to remember they had a fridge on stage. I saw Yes with Jon Anderson replaced by Benoit David, a guy about twenty years younger than the rest of the band and about twenty years too energetic. I felt for the guy who’d wasted all that dough to see Roger Waters only to pass out before the thing even got started.

All right, so plenty of memories – which will make this next comment very odd. In general, I’m not wowed by the whole concert experience. Perhaps this is due to a failure to be, shall we say, “properly stimulated.” Maybe a distaste for the party vibe is to blame. I also lack the sense of awe that many possess in the presence of legends. Similarly, hearing a group’s gotta-play-it hit fails to lift me to the heights to which most of the audience are transported. My inability to play an instrument, a complete lack of schooling in musical theory, and a failure to appreciate the technological complexities of putting on such productions all play huge parts. It’s a wonder I go to concerts at all.

So why do I? A little more than a week ago, I saw Roger Waters performing Pink Floyd’s The Wall in its entirety. The album, its brief tour, and the movie in the late seventies and early eighties have all reached legendary status. I bought the album years ago and saw the movie, but missed the original concert experience. An actual wall was constructed on stage throughout the performance, literally and symbolically closing the band off from the audience. The complexities of staging the show, however, led to only a handful of concerts.

When Roger Waters announced plans to revisit the show with a full-fledged tour, I was in immediately. Here was a show for which I’d built up expectations over nearly three decades. I wondered if I might be setting myself up for a huge disappointment.

I was giddy upon arriving just to see the edges of the wall on either side of the stage that would, in the hands of a busy tech crew, become the eventual barricade between us and them. Throughout the show, the visual projections cast upon that slowly-erected wall were a mix of powerful imagery, eye-tricking effects, a rainbow of colors, and poignant graffiti-scrawled commentaries. A homeless man pushed a shopping cart around the arena floor pre-show. Waters performed “Nobody Home” in a motel room set that came out of the wall. The guitar solo for “Comfortably Numb” was played atop the wall. During “Another Brick in the Wall Pt. II”, a gaggle of local kids taunted the monstrous teacher puppet lifted straight out of the movie version of The Wall with a chorus of “hey, teacher, leave those kids alone!” Of course, the gasp from the audience as the wall crumbles at the show’s close is priceless.

That show, the one I’d anticipated more than any other – and one that didn’t disappoint – is the quintessential example of the theatrical possibilities of the concert-going experience. While I doubt the visual spectacle of that extravaganza will ever be matched for me, there’s more to concerts than just what meets the eye. There are smaller, but no less poignant possibilities in every show. I pray that an artist will grace listeners with a creative re-interpretation of a beloved hit (John Mellencamp’s calypso version of “Jack and Diane”). I dream of a song moving me to tears (Bruce Springsteen’s “The River”). I relish the unexpected (like being ho-hum about Peter Frampton as an opening act, only to become a believer after seeing the sheer joy he still received from playing “Baby, I Love Your Way” for the umpteenth time).

For some, it may be about the impressive concert ticket collection. For others, it’s the party or whatever substance circulates through the aisles. There are those who will get a rush from the energy of the crowd and others who are awed by a guitar God nailing just the right chord. It might be the lights or the pyrotechnics or a ten-minute drum solo. It could be the sheer grandiosity of an arena or the intimacy of a club. No matter the specifics, the cherished memories and moments are about the music and the atmosphere surrounding it.

I still have a long wish list. Please bring U2, Squeeze, Fish, the Rolling Stones, the Who, and others to a venue near me. Give me a great light show or a moving theatrical production. Give me an inspiring moment where an artist plays that familiar hit in a less than familiar way. Most of all, give me a chance to walk out of an arena clutching a ticket stub that will remind me of some special moment for years to come.