A few thoughts on Ginger Baker

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The recent passing of Ginger Baker brought back memories for me. The former Cream drummer died this past October 6th after years of health issues. Having grown up with two older brothers, I recall there always being Cream albums around and being played in the house. Whether it be Disraeli Gears, Fresh Cream, Wheels of Fire, Live Cream or the Good Bye album, the music fascinated me and raised the bar in Rock and Blues music.

I remember that it was either my brother Mike or someone else saying that each of the musicians in the band (Baker, guitarist Eric Clapton, and bassist Jack Bruce) were the best or among the best at their respective instruments. In fact each would regularly win annual music polls in their categories. The band truly left its mark in music history.

After his stint in Cream, Baker went on to form bands such as Ginger Bakers Air Force, Baker Gurvitz Army and Ginger Baker and Friends. Among Ginger’s other notable music achievements was when he made an extended “Road Trip” in Africa, traveling across the Sahara dessert, which lasted several years. In fact Ginger set up a recording studio in Lagos, Nigeria in 1971 recording with some of Africa’s finest musicians. The 2012 documentary on Ginger’s life, “Beware of Mr. Baker”, went into his time in Africa in some detail.

I didn’t know much about Ginger’s personal life before watching “Beware of Mr. Baker”. The film exposed his volatile personality and drug use. The film begins with footage of Mr. Baker physically attacking the film’s director, Jay Bulger. He was, by all accounts, not a very likable man. In fact, several of his fellow musicians alluded to this in the film. For instance, Simon Kirke, Bad Company drummer said, “He influenced me as a drummer but not as a man”. Drugs were, apparently, an ongoing issue in Baker’s life. He was quoted as once admitting that he quit heroin 29 times.

Through all his imperfections, Ginger Baker’s proficiency and influence as a drummer cannot be overstated.

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Cream ( l. to r.) Ginger Baker, Jack Bruce and Eric Clapton)

 

 

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Amy Helm – Three Heads Brewing, 10/10/19

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Amy Helm took the stage at Three Heads Brewing in Rochester, NY on October 10th. As a long time fan of the Levon Helm and The Band, I had been curious about his daughter Amy’s music, having sampling some here and there online recently. While I enjoy much of the music from her releases, “Didn’t it Rain” and “This Too Shall be Light”, Amy exceeded my expectations live in concert.

Amy, who often broke out with the mandolin, was accompanied by guitar, bass and drums, all very competent at their instruments. As I mentioned, her recordings are enjoyable but the live show was noticeably more soulful and lively. In addition to her own music, her band performed several covers, including The Band (Including their version of Springsteens Atlantic City with Amy on Mandolin), Sam Cook and Tom Petty. She played homage to her dad and played some music from his solo album “Dirt Farmer”.  All in all a great night of music. If you have a chance to see her, it’s highly recommended.

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Classic Albums Live – Abbey Road – 10/5/19

The timing was right with the recent 50th Anniversary of the release of The Beatles masterpiece of final recordings together – Abbey Road. It’s hard to believe 50 years has gone by. I recall my brothers and I bringing it home and listening to it for the first time. At any rate, a group of talented musicians brought the album to life on October 5th at the Kodak Center Theater here in Rochester, NY. The group who performed the music that night call themselves Classic Albums Live. Classic Albums Live are based in Toronto and perform entire albums from an array of artists. In addition to the Beatles, that list includes Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Fleetwood Mac, Creedence Clearwater Revival and more.

One of the first things that the band made clear that night is that they are not a tribute band (They don’t dress up, try to look like or lift every move from the original artist), but rather, try to stay as true as possible to the piece of music to which they perform, and that they did. They played two sets on this evening. The first set was Abbey Road from start to finish. The second set consisted of various tunes from the remainder of the Beatles catalog.

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This is one of my favorite, if not the favorite Beatles album of mine. The nine piece outfit came out and performed Abbey Road in its entirety, starting with Come Together and ending with Her Majesty. Among my favorites were the George Harrison compositions, “Something” and “Here Comes the Sun”, McCartney’s “Oh Darling” and Lennon’s “I want You (She’s So Heavy)”.  Some of my favorites from Abbey Road are the medleys on side 2 of the album and the group also delivered on those as well. These consist of “Mean Mr. Mustard”, “Polythene Pam” and “She Came in through the Bathroom Window” for the first and, “Golden Slumbers”, “Carry that Weight”, and “The End”

Overall, Classic Albums live gave a solid performance and truly did justice to Abbey Road. Since the Beatles broke up not long after its release, it’s a good opportunity to see it performed live. But this was only half of the show….

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When Classic Albums Live came out at the beginning of the show, they promised some special surprises in the second set but weren’t specific. At the end of the Abbey Road set, they elaborated and mentioned that they would be coming back with an assortment from the Beatles song catalog. This set was also entertaining. Opening up with “Hello Goodbye”, some of the other hits also included “I am The Walrus”, “Strawberry Fields” and “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”. It was a treat and a good compliment to the entire Abbey Road set in the first half of the show. It was an overall enjoyable night of music. As an increasing number of our Classic Rock Artists fade into retirement or the great beyond, bands like Classic Albums Live make it possible to enjoy live versions of some of our favorite music.

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Southern Culture on The Skids – Tralf Buffalo – 9/24/19

Southern Culture on the Skids brought their brew of Rockabilly, Surf Rock, 60’s Psychedelic Garage Rock, Country and Alternative Rock to The Tralf in downtown Buffalo on Tuesday, September 24th, 2019. This is the 4th time I’ve seen SCOTS live and, as always, they never fail to deliver an amazing show that is just downright fun!

Guitarist/Vocalist Rick Miller always amazes with this command of the instrument. An underrated guitarist, Rick can hold his water with most of the best. His guitar work is especially showcased during the band’s Surf instrumentals such as The Wet Spot and Meximelt. He doesn’t fail to mention and play tribute surf late, great Dick Dale prior to one of these tunes. Rick even mentions that he lifted one of the intros from Dale.

The band, which also includes the very capable rhythm section of Mary Huff (Bass) and Dave Hartman (Drums), played most of the fan favorites that you would expect. In addition to the Surf classics already discussed, these included: Voodoo Cadillac, Nitty Gritty, Too Much Pork for Just One Fork, Liquored Up and Lacquered Down, 69 El Camino, King of the Mountain, House of Bamboo, Soul City, Mojo Box, Green Back Fly, Firefly, Banana Puddin’ and the legendary 8 piece box which, as always, included, as they say in the business, audience participation.

Not only can this band rock their assess off with excellent musicianship, they always provide a truly entertaining and fun evening!

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Bassist Mary Huff kept the rhythm tight and took the lead vocal on a few tracks such as House of Bamboo

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Southern Culture on The Skids, l to r (Dave Hartman, Rick Miller and Mary Huff)

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8 Piece Box…What they call in the trade “Audience Participation”

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