Monday, 29 April 2013

George Harrison - All Things Must Pass (Part One)

Album 4 - George Harrison - All Things Must Pass (1970)

US Amazon - CD/MP3
UK Amazon - CD/MP3

1. I'd Have You Anytime
2. My Sweet Lord
3. Wah-Wah
4. Isn't It A Pity (Version One)
5. What Is Life
6. If Not For You
7. Behind That Locked Door
8. Let It Down
9. Run of the Mill
10. Beware of Darkness
11. Apple Scruffs
12. Ballad of Sir Frankie Crisp (Let It Roll)
13. Awaiting on You All
14. All Things Must Pass
15. I Dig Love
16. Art of Dying
17. Isn't It A Pity (Version Two)
18. Hear Me Lord
19. Out of the Blue
20. It's Johnny's Birthday
21. Plug Me In
22. I Remember Jeep
23. Thanks for the Pepperoni


I know that this has been a long time coming, but at last we have reached the absolute monster that is George Harrison's debut - the juggernaut of a set entitled All Things Must Pass (and oh my this is going to take a long time to get past).  The whole triple album's worth of material!

In some ways I think that George was perhaps more prepared than the others when it came to a solo career when you look at the wealth of material that he quite obviously had ready.  I will say however that I'm not completely certain if everything on the album would have worked as part of the Beatles catalogue.  That comment isn't meant to put down any of the material that appears, but just an opinion that I have.  Some I think would have worked wonderfully on Beatles releases.

From what I've heard of the attempts made by The Beatles to "run through" the title track, that would have made a killer Beatles song (much like McCartney's Back Seat of My Car and Lennon's Look At Me - I'm not saying Jealous Guy because at the time it was still called Child of Nature and the change of lyrics made that into a better song in my opinion).  There are other songs on here that would have worked too, but others that wouldn't.

Here is an apt quote by Paul McCartney taken from an interview with Mojo magazine from 2009 -

"I remember him talking about All Things Must Pass as diarrhoea. That was his own affectionate way of describing that he'd had a lot of stuff stored up and it had to come out. I mean, I don't think I'd describe it like that. [laughs] But I know what he meant. He now was writing furiously - great things - like Isn't It A Pity."

I'm glad that George had the chance to record and release this beast of a set because, in all honesty, we would possibly have not heard all of the songs on this album if we were just left with what would have been chosen for the Beatles albums.  George had already come out of the shadows long before now as a songwriter, but here was absolute proof that he was a songwriter to be reckoned with.  It also proved his versatility as a songwriter, and as a collaborator.  The opening song was written with Bob Dylan, and it is a far better song than a Rolling Stone magazine reviewer back in 1971 said.

George & Bob
I'd Have You Anytime is actually a strange song in my opinion to start the album off.  It is a laid back chilled introduced song, which a lot of the album is I suppose, which in a way could be seen as a "two-fingered" response to the accepted tradition of bringing the listener in with a faster tune that they can sing along to.

Instead, this opening song is one that is relaxed, with some fascinating chord usage.  In a sense it is actually a good song to start the set off because it introduces the tone of the whole thing.  The song is very dramatic with all of the changes (timings, mood, keys, chords, etc), and it has that big production to it as well, just like the rest of the album.  The song comes in lightly though and the instrumentation is built up, so it introduces that production sound bit by bit.

Written in November of 1968 at Dylan's house in Bearsville, Harrison was taking some time off and Dylan was having a break from music for a while to have time with his family after the motorcycle accident.  No one had heard or seen much from Dylan since 1966, apart from the John Wesley Harding (UK/US) album.  A lot of people see the song as being about the friendship that had developed between the two of them since they had first met in 1964, which is when both parties changed the way they looked at music (I'm not writing about the music of The Beatles exactly, so I'll leave that there).

Dylan had been very influential on Harrison's writing, with George's lyrics becoming much more focused, and Harrison was influential to Bob as well, because his writings started to use less basic chords which were his stock in trade before this time.  Now he started to look at some chord inversions, and this was something that he had purposely asked Harrison about.

George with producer Phil Spector
Apparently the song started with George just playing something on the guitar to show Bob some different chord shapes (sevenths, diminished, augmented, etc), when he happened to go from the G major chord to B flat major 7, and he said to Bob "This sounds like a tune here..."  Keen to get Bob writing again, George came up with the first verse based on the G major 7, B flat major 7, C minor 7, G, Am, Em, D run (in the key of G major, but with the Bb in the Bbmaj7 and C minor 7 chords being a flattened third of the scale).

Bob then responded with the chorus lyrics, and between them they worked on the music for the chorus as well as working together on the lyrics for the second verse.  Musically the chorus is an incredible piece of work that, I think, goes through three different keys.  Perhaps that's just me not understanding it properly, but I see the first line as being in the key of A major (A, E, and D), the second line in C major (C, G, F, and then the A to lead to third key), and the finishing two lines in D major (ish) of D, D/C (the C being a flattened seventh), D/B, D/Bb (Bb is a flattened sixth), and then the lovely A major to A suspended fourth to A major as a musical finish to that chorus to bring us back to the G major key verses.

The first two lines of the chorus by the way slightly touch on one of the "tickets to write" as they're called in my friend Matt's Beatles Songwriting Academy blog - "Ticket 43" is to descend in fourths (or go up in fifths), and here the A to E and C to G changes are exactly that.  You get it slightly in the verses as well with C minor 7 to G, and with the Am to Em chords.  I'm not sure if that was arrived at on purpose or just coincidence, because I think if it was intended then they may have gone further with it.

So there we have it, to my ears a song that is in four different keys (please let me know if you have another opinion, as I am a novice at looking at these things).

Oh I almost forgot...  Timings!   Intro is basically the first half of a verse - five times through 4/4, four times through 3/4, and once through 4/4. It's the same for both halves of the verse.  The chorus is, I think, 4/4, 2/4, 4/4 three times, 2/4, 3/4, 5/4, and then six bars of 4/4.  The constant change in time signature adds so much to the song I feel, and is something that John, George, and Paul did a lot in their songs. John was very well known for doing it in his songs, mostly to trim out what wasn't necessary.  George wasn't like that at all with his writing, because he loved the idea of giving instruments space to create atmosphere and mood.

I think that I will leave this post as it is with just the one song.  Next time we will be looking at the song that most people see as George's best ever song - My Sweet Lord.

Links -
My cover version of I'd Have You Anytime (needs re-recording due to one chord mistake)
The original runthrough demo I'm guessing from 1968
Cover version by Evan Rachel Wood
The story behind the song and it's cover recording by Evan Rachel Wood (featuring Laurence Juber of Wings)
Chimes of Freedom album for Amnesty International - UK CD/MP3       US CD/MP3

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Ringo Starr - Beaucoups Of Blues (1970) Part Three

Album 3 - Ringo Starr - Beaucoups Of Blues (1970)

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UK Amazon - MP3 / CD

1. Beaucoups Of Blues
2. Love Don't Last Long
3. Fastest Growing Heartache In The West
4. Without Her
5. Woman Of The Night
6. I'd Be Taking All The Time
7. $15 Draw
8. Wine, Women And Loud Happy Songs
9. I Wouldn't Have You Any Other Way
10. Loser's Lounge
11. Waiting
12. Silent Homecoming

The tenth song on the album then is the Bobby Pierce song Loser's Lounge, which was originally recorded by Cal Smith for his 1969 album Drinking Champagne.  In the key of F major it starts off with the band riffing around the F major chord.  I will split this song into a verse/chorus pattern which makes the verse section being F, Bb, F, C, and F twice through.  The chorus then is Bb, F, Gm, C, F, Bb, F, C, and F.  The instrumental section is the same as the verse with it's twice through F, Bb, F, C, and F.  At the end of the song you have "(C) Oh (F) Yeah!" to finish.

The song itself is about a possibly fictional bar called the Loser's Lounge somewhere, where people go to drown their sorrows.  In the song there are a few tales told of people there.
Ringo with Producer/Pedal Steel player
and conceiver of the project Pete Drake.

Song number eleven on the set is the final title written by Chuck Howard, his fourth over all.  Waiting is a song that is in the key of C major.  It opens up with a nice run of C, C/G, Am7, and Am7/G.   The verse then is lovely how it starts by repeating a C to C/G vamp.  From that it does a Dm to Dm7 thing like the C to C/G playing, then back to C, C7, Dm, Dm7, C, and then it's "For (Dm) you (G)", and then back around again.

I really like the way they play with the chords in the song such as playing the C chord and then adding the low G, and then D minor chord to the D minor seventh chord.  Very simple, but incredibly effective, and all the instrumentation in these areas works really well.  They do the same thing with the chords when it goes up a tone later in the song (D, D/A, Em, G, D, D7, Em, Em7, A, D, Em, G, and it eventually finishes on a D chord).

The thing I don't like in the song though is how they do the change from the key of C major to D major - it is very messy.  D major to E minor twice.  Maybe it is just me, but it is the low point of the song.  Lyrically the song is about someone who is waiting to find out what is happening with a relationship that they are in with someone.

Ringo playing guitar
The last song on the original album release was the Sorrells Pickard song Silent Homecoming (the fourth one of his that features on here as well).  The song is one that would have been very topical at the time (and would be now as well if someone were to record it again).  It is about a woman waiting at the airport for her partner (husband or boyfriend, it isn't made clear), who has been to Vietnam after being drafted.  She is wondering if he will be the same person that he was when he left.  She is thinking of how as a child he had played with toy guns and toy grenades playing as a soldier.

The last verse is incredibly emotional and moving.  I want to go into it, but I think that it is worth listening to, because lyrically it absolute perfection.  Check the song out if you can, even if you only look up the lyrics online.  It is an incredibly epic narrative.  Behind this there is very simple chord work, which works perfectly with the song as a whole.  I will put in brackets what chord pattern to play if you place a capo on your guitar on the first fret.  The verse is just the chord Ab (G) played throughout.  The chorus then is Eb (D) and Ab (G) twice, then Cb (B) for ages, then Bb (A) and Eb (D).  The simple and beautiful guitar line in the verse is made of the notes C, Db, Bb and C.

Now, on the CD issue of the album the original twelve songs had two bonus songs added.

Charlie McCoy on harmonica
The first of these is a song that Ringo wrote himself (credited as his real name Richard Starkey).  Coochy Coochy was recorded during the sessions for Beaucoups of Blues, but ended up being left off the album and becoming the B-Side to the single release of the song Beaucoups of Blues.  The song is basically a good lesson in what you can do with a single chord, as the whole song is based around the E major chord.  Yes, it's true, it's all basically everyone jamming around that chord with even Ringo playing acoustic guitar on it.

Funnily enough, the song Sunshine Life For Me (Sail Away Raymond) from Ringo's next album (entitled Ringo and released three years later) would also be a song that is based around the single chord of E major, but that would be written by George Harrison.  We'll look at that eventually.

Guitarist Charlie Daniels
I think that Coochy Coochy is a really good songwriting/arrangement lesson, because it shows what is possible from just one  basic three note chord.  The musicians throw in licks, solos, and all sorts that work around it and include passing notes that are still fitting within the key of E major.  It has the ability to make you think that if you can do that with one single chord, then what can you do with more!  It isn't the only song that is like this, with other famous songs using just one chord including Bullet The Blue Sky by U2 (though it could be seen as a two chord song since it is Dm with a C passing chord), Bad To The Bone by George Thorogood (G with a C passing chord), Electric Avenue by Eddy Grant (A), and Exodus by Bob Marley & The Wailers (Am).

Lyrically the song is really about someone that has been to places, seen things, and done things in his life, but despite everything all that is important to him is his "coochy, coochy, coochy, coochy, coo".  It doesn't need to be a clever lyric to get the point across, he loves her and that's all that he needs to say.

In truth I can understand why this song that Ringo wrote wasn't included on the album, which is that it didn't fit stylistically with the rest of the songs, but it is a good song for a few reasons.  Firstly it is a song that everyone can understand.  It isn't poetry, it isn't great literature, but it is an eternal emotion that everyone has - that feeling of love where you can't think straight and just have to let it be known that that other person means so much than anything.  Secondly, it has a fantastic groove to it that gets your feet moving.  Ringo had written a song here that allowed the musicians to really get into it, and that is something that comes across so well on the recording - it has that excitement in there for all to see.  Most musicians dream of being able to just let go and get lost in a groove, which this song allows them to.
A group photograph

The other bonus track then is Nashville Jam, which basically is a recording of the band jamming around a twelve bar pattern in C, playing C major (I), F major (IV), and G major(V).  It is that simple.  Again it is something that the musicians enjoy, and many other musicians/bands have done this before where they will jam out a twelve bar as a warm up or to just relax.  I myself have been party to many of these in rehearsals (and gigs), as I am sure most bands have.

The album has a whole is a really good piece of work.  Pete Drake's production is first rate, and the playing on the album is impeccable.  The songs are really strong, and Ringo's voice is in good shape.  Yes there is the odd hiccup with his singing, but we'll excuse that considering that the recording only two days according to Wikipedia. although I am not sure how much credence we can give that.

It is an album that when initially released wasn't well received, but since then has been seen by many to be the best work that Ringo has released.  I am not too sure if I would go that far, but then I have to admit that I hadn't heard the album until I started swatting up for this blog.  I do think however that it is a really good album, performed with a crack team of musicians that are at the top of their games.  The songwriters too had some absolute pearls on here as well for the most part.  I wasn't so sure about this album when I was coming up to it, but was really really pleasantly surprised by it.

Links -
A little bit cheeky I know, but my friend Nicholas Tozier's blog on songwriting.
My version of the song Coochy Coochy.
A fascinating post on Donald Sauter's Beatles Pages.

Me at home working out the
final bunch of songs on Jan 22 2013.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Ringo Starr - Beaucoups Of Blues (1970) Part Two

Album 3 - Ringo Starr - Beaucoups Of Blues (1970) - Part Two

US Amazon - MP3 / CD
UK Amazon - MP3 / CD

1. Beaucoups Of Blues
2. Love Don't Last Long
3. Fastest Growing Heartache In The West
4. Without Her
5. Woman Of The Night
6. I'd Be Taking All The Time
7. $15 Draw
8. Wine, Women And Loud Happy Songs
9. I Wouldn't Have You Any Other Way
10. Loser's Lounge
11. Waiting
12. Silent Homecoming

Songwriter/Musician Chuck Howard
The sixth song on the album is I'd Be Talking All The Time, which was written by Chuck Howard (his second appearance songwriting-wise) and Larry Kingston (his second appearance as a songwriter on here too).

Here we have a song that is about the feelings people have when a relationship has completely died disastrously.  There was no love left here, only hatred - one of those break-up's.  Music wise it's relatively simple chord wise, but with some great surprises musically.  Firstly I will say that Starr's vocal on here is great, including his perfect use of the twang, so to speak.  What I mean by that is where country singers particularly (and some rock 'n' rollers such as Buddy Holly) bend their voices in a way, whilst throwing in what are I suppose blue notes.  What I mean by that are notes that aren't part of the key, such as the note slide from Bb to B (the flattened fifth note in G major to the natural fifth).  It is something that gives country music it's particular sound and style.

Ringo during the Nashville sessions
To start the song off, there is an intro of D | D | G | G, which is basically the last part of the verse.  The verse itself is G | C | G | G | D | D | G | G.  The chorus then is G | G | C | C | D | A | D | D, which in itself is interesting because in the key of G, which the song is in, the natural chord there would be the A minor, and not the major (that uses the sharpened fourth note in the G major scale of C#).  If my friend Matt was reading this, then I am sure he would notice that that is in his list of songwriting tricks that the Beatles utilise a lot - the major fourth as opposed to the more natural minor fourth chord.  Later in the song, after the chorus that comes in from the solo, the song then shifts up a full tone for the repeated third verse, making it A | D | A | A | E | E | A | A.  A simple, yet well crafted song.

Fifteen Dollars
The next song on the album is $15 Draw, which is the third of the four songs written by Sorrells Pickard.  Musically the song is in G major and starts with some licks in the G major scale, followed by two bars of G major.  Then basically the song is twice through of G|Am|C|Dm|G|G, then C|C|Dm|Dm.  I think the musical turnaround that happens is Dm|C|Am|G|Em|Dm|Am|C|G, and then a bar of G.

1972 Eponymous solo album by Sorrells
Pickard. writer of four songs on here
I think that lyrically it is a story song about a guitarist/singer/songwriter who was given his uncle's guitar after his uncle had passed on.  The guitar was found in his the car of his uncle and the guy's fingers blistered while he was learning to play, which is something that does happen a lot to people when they learn to play the instrument while your fingers get used to it (the skin on the tips of your fingers harden up).  He is a guy that was married once before, but it never worked out, and he is a prodigal, because he speaks of problems with the family.  His father was seemingly disgusted that he didn't want to go into the family business, hence why the younger son, Tommy, has now taken over the business since the father has passed away.  I would take a leap at saying the song is actually a letter to his mother, hence the opening line "mama I guess you stood and cursed the day I found that old guitar," etc.  The "mama" there is basically the opening of the letter.  It is a very clever lyric, and Ringo being the every man performer is perfect to put that lyric across.  His voice has that sort of feel to it that puts the emotion of the lyric across.  It is a song that speaks about how the character is very proud at how he is getting on with the band that he is a member of, whilst at the same time saddened by the fact that his family is seemingly unhappy with him.  He wants so much for his life to be accepted by his family, but the fact that his "daddy's passed away" means that there will be no reconciliation with him.  He hopes to mend the relations with his mother and brother though and promises to send them fifteen dollars as soon as he draws it from one of the gigs he has in Bolton City.  The thing is that after looking I can only find two places named Bolton in the US, and they are both towns (Connecticut and Massachusetts), and Bolton in Lancashire, UK is only a town as well.  Oh well, it is only a song after all.  It is a really good song though that is quite simple musically.  You can really hear Ringo really got into the song because he gets carried away at the end when the band are playing out musically.  A lot of producers may have faded Ringo out once the last section had finished lyrically, but here the producer wanted to capture that sense of enjoyment from Ringo.
Ringo with acoustic guitar, which
he played on some of the songs.

Song number eight then is the Larry Kingston written Wine, Women & Loud Happy Songs.  The song is another simple song musically which in this case is about a drunkard who likes to go out, get drunk, pick women up, and sing bar songs.  However, the sad part of it all is that his alcohol consumption means that he goes to far and irritates the people who are at first attracted to him, because they leave him after so long and he is left alone.  This person is an alcoholic, which is ironic considering that Ringo himself very soon would be one himself.

The late great Jerry Reed
The song is in 3/4 time (yes a waltz) that is in the key of D major  It opens up with a straight D major chord, and then it basically D for four bars, A for two bars, and then G for 2 bars.  The one bar occasionally thrown in as an extended gap is A major.  When the second verse comes in, the song is raised by a full tone where the chords change to E, B, and A major chords, which they get to with some really nice arpeggio that is basically working through the chords G to A and then finally E, because then it has gone into the key of E major of course.  A quick in and out song basically, that has some really good country twang thrown in by Ringo in the shape of some clever "bar style" vibrato, such as the occasions where he goes vocally from major third down to minor third and then back to the major third all while the music remains on the major chord, except for a couple of lead instruments just about audible enough in the background to hear, which adds to the emotional weight of the piece.  Because it is country music it works perfectly, and he keeps throwing things like that in.  It feels to me as if a lot of time could have been spent trying to get that exactly right.

One of two bass players on the
album - Roy Huskey Jr
The ninth song is the third of four songs written by Chuck Howard on this album I Wouldn't Have You Any Other Way.  The song is a believable narrative of a man in a relationship with someone where he is perfectly happy with the other person, even though he doesn't always understand where she is coming from.  He doesn't want to change her either because he likes the individuality and the fact that he wouldn't have her "any other way".  Musically it is in the key of E major for the most part (I'll explain very soon what I mean by that).  It opens with a run of the notes C# and B to the E chord, which is done twice before the opening verse chorus type thing.  The first verse chorus opens with the pushed chord of A/C# to the B chord, which is the "on the one" chord, then A and then E.  This is done once more before the "Sometimes I don't understand..." part which is E, E7 (which includes the b7th note in the key in the note D), A, A/C#, then B, A, and finally the quick E to A to E.

Best of The Kendalls, featuring
Jeannie Kendall - harmony singer on
the song I Wouldn't Have You Any
Other Way.
After this, the verse/chorus pattern changes for the rest of the song.  This time the opening A/C# leads to B, then a E to A to E change, and then a F#m into a B to A to B change, which then leads to the same "Sometimes I..." part of E, E7, A, A/C#, then B, A, and E to A to E.  When the song moves up though, it moves up by five semitones to A major.  Here the "Sometimes..." section that is repeated becomes A, A7, D, D/F#, E, D, and then a A to D to A run.  This change is one that works in every way except for Ringo's voice, which I feel bad saying really, but I am being honest.  I think the rise in key seems very uncomfortable and forced - it is very jarring.  Jeannie Kendall of The Kendalls is the great female harmony singer.

Next time I will be looking at the rest of this second album by Ringo, which are songs ten to twelve, plus the two songs that were bonus tracks on the CD.  I will only touch on the second of those two songs because it is a jam session, but the first one is the largely overlooked Coochy Coochy, which Ringo wrote himself.

Links -
Sorrells Pickard's eponymous album on Amazon US
The Best of The Kendalls on Amazon US and Amazon UK