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Neil Young Tag

Sixto RodriguezBy now you’ve probably heard the story of Sixto Rodgriguez. He recorded two fine albums for Sussex Records in 1969 and 1970, but neither one made any impact on the charts. Rodgriguez backed away from the music scene and went to work doing construction in Detroit. During this time he was politically active and made an unsuccessful run for the Detroit city council. His name was misspelled on the ballot.

In the meantime, no one knows exactly how, Rodriguez’ music became immensely popular in South Africa. He was completely unaware of this however, and as far as the South Africans knew, he was dead. Finally, in the late ’90s two intrepid South Africans, Stephen “Sugar” Segerman and Craig Bartholomew Strydom, decided to try to find out how he died, only to learn that Rodriguez was very much alive.

Rodriguez was invited to perform in South Africa and played sold-out venues before adoring fans. Some years later first-time filmmaker Malik Bendjelloul decided to tell the Rodriguez story and the result is the acclaimed documentary Searching For Sugar Man, which will be released on DVD on January 22. This week the film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.

Los Lobos - photo credit: Drew Reynolds
As music fans, bands find their way into our song-obsessed hearts in a variety of ways and some of the best experiences come about very unexpectedly.

I think we all have those early albums that we remember hearing that were different. They were different, because top to bottom, the listening experience provided a sonic knockout because of the quality of the songs and in some cases, where the band took those songs.

Kiko by Los Lobos hit the mark on both of those points. Spanning 16 tracks, it was a remarkably filler-free listen that found the band reaching new creative peaks throughout. Los Lobos were extremely inspired during the recording sessions for Kiko and that comes through in the vibe of the songs which made it to our ears in album form.

And yet, it wasn’t an easy time for the band. They began the sessions for what would become Kiko surrounded by feelings of frustration. The creation of their previous album The Neighborhood had been somewhat of a soul sucking experience on many levels and the touring process to promote the album would leave the group bleeding money at its conclusion.

As saxophonist/keyboardist Steve Berlin tells us, they entered the process of recording their next album “pissed off” about a number of things, but they had a new approach in mind. They were going to do things their way and that artistic leap of faith certainly paid off. Berlin says they knew when they completed recording sessions for Kiko that they had captured “something that was pretty special.”

20 years after its original 1992 release, Kiko is getting a well-deserved ticker tape parade in the form of two new releases from Shout! Factory. The original Kiko album has been expanded with five additional bonus tracks, including previously unreleased studio demos and live tracks.

Additionally, Kiko Live presents a full album performance from 2006 which reveals how perfectly the Kiko album was sequenced. It flows very naturally in the live setting. Available on CD, DVD and CD/Blu-ray, the video component of this package is an essential pickup. Documentary footage surrounds the live performance of the album and tells the complete story of how Kiko came together, featuring interviews conducted with the members of Los Lobos specifically for this project.

We were happy to get the chance to talk with Steve Berlin to talk about the rich history behind Kiko, the nearly 40 year history of Los Lobos and the band’s upcoming tour with Neil Young.

I didn’t intend for this lapse to happen, but it’s taken me over a week to get around to writing my Outside Lands coverage. Yeah, I happened to have a really busy week and my laptop was out of commission for two days being fixed, but this also happened because at the culmination of Outside Lands last Sunday night, I could hardly even see straight or hear myself think, having experienced three straight days of one of the biggest music festivals San Francisco has to offer. Yes, I’m getting old but I’m not that old; this festival just happens to lay me out due to its sheer size, volume, and intensity. And so after last Sunday, I simply needed to let the experience resonate for a few days before just firing off my recap or notable highlights.

35 years ago tomorrow, one of the most important events in the history of rock and roll took place at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco. It was on that Thanksgiving night that Bill Graham presented the Band in what was to be their farewell concert appearance, and they in turn brought along a lot of friends who had played a part in their career.

Fortunately, it wasn’t only musical friends who were there that night. Director Martin Scorcese was there too, and his film of the concert, along with three-disc soundtrack album, insured that the unforgettable evening would be experienced by millions of fans worldwide.

Musical guests that night included Eric Clapton, Muddy Waters, Dr. John, Ronnie Hawkins, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Bobby Charles, Ringo Starr, and Neil Young. But the indisputable highlight for me was the performance of Van Morrison, accompanied by the Band, on his song “Caravan”. It was a perfect example of how a passionate live performance can lift an already great song to another level.

Back in the fall of 1990, I served what would be my final semester as a college radio DJ, working a 6:00 AM to 8:00 AM slot at my campus’ carrier-current radio hidey-hole, spinning LPs and playing CDs and sounding pretty damned professional, if I may say so myself, compared to some of my compañeros. The earliness of the hour and the lack of broadcast range, aside from the dorms and student union, meant I was spinning for exactly two listeners—me and anyone riding with me in my car later, as I played tapes of each of my shifts.

It also meant I could play and say whatever I wanted; even though we were forbidden from swearing on the air and playing songs with swear words in them, none of the station management listened to my show, and the student union didn’t even open until I was off the air, not to mention that any passenger in my car would have known of my potty mouth. I could curse a blue streak, if so moved (though I rarely was—it was too early to get that worked up about much). Two of the three songs I played most often that semester were Neil Young’s “Fuckin’ Up” and Boogie Down Productions’ “Love’s Gonna Get’cha (Material Love),” with KRS-One’s refrain, “Now tell me what the fuck am I supposed to do.”

If you had to go away for awhile and you could only take five of your favorite albums with you, which ones would you choose? Yes, we know it isn’t a fair question, but that hasn’t stopped us from asking music fans who happen to be recording artists in their own right. This edition of Desert Island Discs comes courtesy of singer/songwriter Henry Wolfe, whose first full-length album is scheduled for release next month. Visit Henry’s site for samples of his music — after reading his Desert Island picks, of course!

Bob Dylan and the Band, The Basement Tapes
This album is slightly unhinged. Dylan and the Band at their most carefree. It just sounds like they’re having so much fun.

Hello again, everyone! Welcome to week three of revisiting past Best Original Song nominees! I hope you had as much fun reading last week’s post about the 1985 nominees as I did writing it. What a crazy year for Best Original Song, right?

This week, I’ve decided to move on to the ’90s and discuss what I call a “downer” year. I call it that because when you look at the nominees for most of the major categories, they’re, for the most part, pretty heavy, serious films. Not that most Oscar nominees don’t tend to lean toward the serious, but this seemed to be a year in which that was especially prevalent.

The 66th Academy Awards were full of firsts. They featured the first African-American host, saw Steven Spielberg win his first Oscar for Best Director and the Best Picture tropy went to a black and white film for the first time since 1933. It also was a year of momentous seconds: Anna Paquin became the second youngest to win the Best Supporting Actress Oscar and Jane Campion became the second woman in history to be nominated for Best Director.

The 66th Academy Awards
Date of telecast: March 21, 1994
Host: Whoopi Goldberg

(Per Academy rules, all nominated films were released between January 1 and December 31, 1993, in Los Angeles County, California.)

Best Picture: Schindler’s List
Best Actor: Tom Hanks, Philadelphia
Best Actress: Holly Hunter, The Piano
Best Supporting Actor: Tommy Lee Jones, The Fugitive
Best Supporting Actress: Anna Paquin, The Piano
Best Director: Steven Spielberg, Schindler’s List

Who could forget Tom Hanks’s heartfelt acceptance speech, which inspired the 1997 film In & Out?