V_UWith the official release of (most of) the Matrix Tapes last year, there is very little unheard Velvet Underground live material left in the vaults. But there is a still-unreleased tape that should be heard, capturing the band during its last stand with Lou Reed at Max’s Kansas City, 45 years ago this summer.

The details: Way back in 1999, a guy named Joseph Freeman showed up on a Velvet Underground online forum and posted the following:

“I recorded an entire set at Max’s (around the same time as [Brigid] Polk’s). The tape was recorded on a Sony TCS-124 a portable stereo cassette recorder with an external single stereo mic. The quality of the tape is very good and has never been bootlegged. I may be interested in having this tape surface as a legitimate release.”

A legitimate release has yet to happen, and the only evidence we have of Freeman’s tape is a sampler filled with one minute snippets of the VU set. This version of the band is very different from the one that emerged from the lower East Side in 1965 — John Cale was long gone, replaced by Doug Yule, and Maureen Tucker was on maternity leave, replaced by Doug’s little brother Billy (who was still in his teens at the time).

So it’s not the “classic” VU by a longshot — but it’s still cool stuff if you’re someone like me, who wants to hear pretty much every note Sterling Morrison ever played. Even though Lou was just weeks away from walking away from the band, the latter-day Velvets still sound good, with some choice rarities (a Lou-sung “Oh Sweet Nuthin’” and “Head Held High”) along with some wild reinterpretations (“What Goes On” and “Some Kinda Love”).

As on the officially released Max’s LP, Billy’s overly busy drumming is no match for Tucker’s minimalist thump, but that is OK. This is a more mainstream-leaning band — the VU as an awesome bar band, providing the perfect soundtrack for the glam goings-on at Max’s. Let’s hope that one day the Freeman tape will be set free. words / t wilcox

Download: The Velvet Underground :: The Freeman Tape Sampler – August, 1970

Setlist after the jump. . .


Our weekly two hour show on SIRIUS/XMU, channel 35, can now be heard twice, every Friday – Noon EST with an encore broadcast at Midnight EST.

SIRIUS 396: Jean Michel Bernard – Générique Stephane ++ Los Holy’s – Campo de Vampiros ++ Oliver Nelson & His Orchestra – Skull Session ++ Leon Ware – Tamed To Be Wild ++ Ramsey Lewis – Kufanya Mapenzi (Making Love) ++ Fela Ransome-Kuti & Africa ’70 – Let’s Start (Live) ++ Nina Simone – Funkier Than a Mosquito’s Tweeter (Live) ++ Rhetta Hughes – Light My Fire ++ Rufus Thomas – Sixty Minute Man ++ Starcrost – Quicksand ++ The Children – Tomorrow People ++ Bo Dollis & The Wild Magnolia Mardi Gras Indian Band – Hand Wanda Pt. I ++ The Incredible Bongo Band – Kiburi ++ Manu Dibango – Weya ++ Dr. John – Mama Roux ++ Upp – It’s A Mystery ++ Gene Ammons – Jungle Strut ++ Supermax – Push, Push (Sexy Chocolate Girl) ++ V.I.P. Connection – West Coast Drive ++ Groove Holmes – Song For My Father (Live) Charles Earland – ‘Cause I Love Her ++ Shirley Nannette – All Of Your Life ++ Afrique – Hot Mud ++ Azymuth – Dear Limmertz ++ Leon Thomas – Shape Your Mind To Die ++ Bombers – Shake ++ Jo Ann Garrett – It’s No Secret ++ Ju-Par Universal Orchestra – Time ++ Barbara & Ernie – For You ++ Akido – Blow

*Listen for free, online, with the SIRIUS three day trial — just submit an email address and they will send you a password.


Chuck Johnson’s 2013 long player Crows in the Basilica was one of the finest guitar soli excursions in recent memory. His latest release, Blood Moon Boulder, might just be even better. Gorgeously recorded by Trans Am’s Phil Manley, the half-dozen tracks here showcase Johnson’s powerful six-string mastery, as the guitarist rolls out one breathtaking composition after the next.

Like Daniel Bachman’s recent River, Blood Moon Boulder kicks off with an ambitious, extended work: the 11+ minute “Corvid Tactics” is captivating from the first note to the last, calling to mind John Fahey’s Fare Forward Voyagers period or Ry Cooder in an expansive frame of mind. The driving Americana of “Silver Teeth in the Sun” follows, with a descending minor-key melody that is perfectly complemented by the wistful mood of “Medicine Map.” Johnson throws the rulebook out the window on the meditative closing track, “Private Violence,” filling the frame with lonesome electric guitar and luminous pedal steel. All in all, Blood Moon Boulder is a widescreen stunner, music to lose yourself in. Don’t miss it. words / t wilcox

Chuck Johnson :: Medicine Map

Screen Shot 2015-07-08 at 2.38.06 PMShell Lake, Saskatchewan, Canada. Early morning, August 15, 1967. Recently released from a mental hospital, 21 year-old Victor Hoffman randomly enters a sleeping farmhouse armed with a .22-calibre rifle. In what still stands as one of Canada’s worst mass murders, he shoots and kills nine members of the family inside (seven of them children), sparing just one four-year-old girl.

Learning of the tragedy, Manitoba country musician Irvin Freese immediately writes and records “Shell Lake Disaster” and a single (backed with a fine and faithful version of Wilf Carter’s “Fate of Old Strawberry Roan”) is released by Winnipeg’s Eagle Records in September.

Stark lyrics detail the incident to an uncomfortable extent and Irvin’s daughter Jacqueline provides the presumed cries of the spared child. Coupled with almost jaunty instrumentation, the result is deeply unsettling.

Too raw and too soon, Eagle Records was understandably threatened with legal action and the single was recalled shortly after its release, with seemingly few copies escaping the Canadian prairies. words / k evans

Irvin Freese & Daughter Jacqueline :: Shell Lake Disaster

Leon Russell and Ernest Tubb A Poem Is A Naked Person by Les Blank lb#823-0-2000-0-1125-crop

As one of the programmers of the annual DKTR Film and Music Festival, which is now in it’s 12th year, I have watched countless films on musicians, bands, regional music scenes, record stores, and significant characters who have been involved with music. One common denominator of these films is that the subject matter rarely stands alone. The fans, the places where they came from, the people who surround and work with them are all a very significant part of their stories and their music.

In Les Blank’s A Poem is a Naked Person, a film commissioned by and documenting Leon Russell’s making of his 1973 album Hank Wilson’s Back, we not only get to experience intimate recording sessions with the powerful piano genius Leon Russell, we also experience his fans, his interactions with fans, his friends, his fellow musicians and life in northeast Oklahoma in 1973. The film is as every bit as rambling, gritty, and passionate as our subject. There are very few staged interviews, the camera is left to capture all moments raw and objectively, from George Jones singing in the studio, to local residents catching catfish in the river. While there is an excitement every time you see Leon or one of the guest stars (Willie Nelson, George Jones, Mama Cass all make appearances) by the end of the film you find that the secondary characters are all just as impressionable.

While I’ve been a Leon Russell fan longer than I can remember, the film compelled me to really ruminate on who and what Russell’s music exactly is. An Oklahoma native there is no doubt that Russell’s music is deeply steeped in country and blues, but even in this film, where he is recording covers of country classics, you still wouldn’t really categorize him with the likes of country piano players or even that of blues or boogie woogie. Leon’s music is all of these things and more. While the argument has been made that rock ‘n’ roll stole from country and blues, it’s almost as if Leon has done the reverse, keeping his feet firmly planted in an authentic southern sound with the added swagger and momentum of rock ‘n’ roll, an approach that makes it all completely uniquely Leon.

lester_and_jon_langford_1980Our weekly two hour show on SIRIUS/XMU, channel 35, can now be heard twice, every Friday – Noon EST with an encore broadcast at Midnight EST.

The Lagniappe Session with Ought can be downloaded, here

SIRIUS 395: Jean Michel Bernard – Générique Stephane ++ The Soft Boys – Old Pervert (section 2) ++ Lower Dens – Tea Lights ++ Landline – Jungle Jenny ++ Vaselines – Slushy ++ Cleaners From Venus – Clara Bow ++ Ought – New Calm, Pt. 2 ++Viet Cong – Static Wall ++ Women – Black Rice ++ Ought – Money Changes Everything (Aquarium Drunkard Session) ++ Ought – Sisters Are Forever (Aquarium Drunkard Session) ++ Deaf Wish – Mercy ++ England’s Glory – Shattered Illusions ++ Yo La Tengo – Automatic Doom ++ Whitney – No Matter Where We Go ++ The Art Museums – Oh, Modern Girls ++ Ultimate Painting – Talking Central Park Blues ++ Parquet Courts – Careers In Combat ++ The Mekons – Where Were You? ++ Hagerty-Toth Band – Spindizzy ++ Ham1 – Clown-Shoed Feet  ++ Mirage – Blood For The Return ++ Jana Hunter – A Bright-Ass Light ++ Vic Chesnutt – Degenerate  ++ Ryley Walker – Sweet Satisfaction ++ David Bowie – Win ++ Julian Lynch – Terra ++ Atlas Sound – Recent Bedroom ++ Daughn Gibson – Tiffany Lou ++ Deerhunter – Little Kids ++ Map of Africa – Bone ++ The Black Lips – The Drop I Hold ++ Steve Gunn & The Black Twig Pickers – Trailways Ramble ++ Thee Milkshakes – Gringles And Groyles

*Listen for free, online, with the SIRIUS three day trial — just submit an email address and they will send you a password.


Summer, 2004—a hotel room after dark. Joanna Newsom weaves a plastic ribbon between the strings of her harp. She flicks a few chords that, muted as they are, sound like they’re coming from an 8-bit processor and not an instrument of the Baroque eighteenth century. She is slightly drunk, apparently in want of something to do for the camera. Beside the room’s furniture, the harp looks comically gargantuan.

Kevin Barker, the man holding the camera, hasn’t gotten much out of her so far. If she isn’t exactly shy, she hasn’t seemed interested in extroverting either, at least not beyond the muse-state that so animates her performances on stage. But here, whether by intuition or luck, Barker has gotten his timing right. From the other side of the room, a request—that new song, something “ultra cinematic.”

A jump cut, and it’s “Cosmia,” already sinuous and confident in wordless fragment. The folk-lyric trot that’s characterized Newsom’s work up to this point has drifted definitively away, enfolded in the vortex of something much richer: a canto, glimpsed here through the keyhole of a digital camera in bad lighting. Two years from now, a completed version of the song will anchor Ys, Newsom’s high modernist opus. Tonight, the bedside clock reads 3:42 AM. A moment of fleeting levitation. Somewhere in America.

new joanna

Joanna Newsom :: Cosmia

It’s this scene, and a few others like it, that The Family Jams was made for. Barker’s documentary is a snapshot of the mid-aughts ‘freak folk’ movement in its nascence. Newsom, touring nationally for the first time, accompanies friends and sonic fellow travelers Vetiver and Devendra Banhart, just as critical attention and collective Internet fanfare is translating into sold-out venues for them all across the country.

That snapshot can feel sentimental or quaint, or both, depending on your perspective. Originally premiered in 2009, and now given the deluxe treatment by Factory25 this spring, The Family Jams reemerges at a time when the sound it celebrates is largely out of fashion. By now, groups with broader aspirations have drawn from the same well of influences and smoothed over the eccentricities. For those interested in anthems and arenas, the modesty and sometimes-painful intimacy of these artists (both then and now) has less appeal. Devoted followings notwithstanding, the movement’s major players languish in a middle-distance of cultural memory, their legacy for the most part unexamined.

Eiichi_OhtakiOur weekly two hour show on SIRIUS/XMU, channel 35, can be heard twice every Friday – Noon EST with an encore broadcast at Midnight EST.

SIRIUS 394: Jean Michel Bernard – Générique Stephane ++ The B-G System – I Don’t Want To Be Your Man ++ Harvey Mandel – Wade In The Water Part I ++ Unknown Japanese Artist – Song Unknown ++ Toy Factory – Little Girl ++ The Rattlers – The Witch ++ Think – California (Is Getting So Heavy) ++ Spirit – The Other Song ++ Lightmyth – Across The Universe ++ Unknown Russian Artist – BPEMR ++ Wilding/Bonus – Son Of Alma ++ Emy Jackson and Blue Comets – You Don’t Know Baby ++ The Mardi Gras – If I Can’t Have You ++ Novac – Beyond The Look ++ Little Richard – Nuki Suki ++ Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger and The Trinity – This Wheel’s On Fire ++ Delia Gartrell – See What You Done, Done ++ Funkadelic – I Wanna Know If It’s Good To You? ++ Shuggie Otis – Jenni Lee ++ Takuro Yoshida – A Night Of Our Trip ++ The Cryan’ Shames – Baltimore Oriole ++ The Fabulous Flippers – It Was A Very Good Year ++ Zephyr – Night Fades Softly ++ The Tigers – Seaside Bound ++ Ichiro Araki – Itoshi No Macks ++ The Dirty Shames – Coconut Grove ++ Old Well – Sanae-chan ++ The Kinks – Apeman ++ Midnight Sun – Where You Going To Be ++ Anita Kerr – Strange ++ The Free Design – Girls Alone ++ The Tempters – Kamisama Onegai ++ David Axelrod – Part I ++ Takuro Yoshida – I Live On ++ Little Wings – Eyes Without A Face

*Listen for free, online, with the SIRIUS three day trial — just submit an email address and they will send you a password.


“Most of the guys in the band come from England and the rest of them come from South Africa – which is a wonderful place to come from…” Ronnie Scott chortles as way of introduction for Chris McGregor’s Brotherhood of Breath. The crowd knowingly laughs along while Scott enthusiastically introduces the band – a who’s who of South African and English jazz. The joy and excitement nearly eclipses the truly unfunny nature of the joke. 1971 was a very bad time to be in South Africa.

It had been a mere seven years since McGregor and his fellow members of The Blue Notes had left South Africa for exile, the fate of so many intellectuals and artists of the era. Moving to Europe not only invigorated their work, it quite simply allowed them to continue to play what they wanted to who they wanted.

Within a few years McGregor, along with Blue Notes members Dudu Pukwana and Louis Moholo (incredible solo and collaborative recorded artists in their own right) had formed the Brotherhood of Breath. A hodge podge of free jazz, big band and township music (that of segregated musicians in early Apartheid), the group added nearly a dozen English members to round out their version of a big band. McGregor, who was white, played the part of Duke Ellington while his trans-national and racially mixed band played to packed halls across Europe. Their success and collaboration, like that of so many other South Africans during those times, flew in defiance and in spite of the oppressive Apartheid regime back home.

Taking to the stage at the Berlin Jazzfest, the group seamlessly weaves its influences into large numbers. By turns Afro-pop, bebop and calypso, the group reaches towards the wildest extremes of free jazz only to coalesce in Gershwin-esque swings. On “Nick Tete,” (written by Pukwana) the group waltzes through the closest thing it creates to a standard jazz tune. The horns swirl and solo over one another, by turns “free” and perfectly composed. Moholo pounds out a tom heavy groove while Harry Miller (another white Afrikaner, who cut some chops with Manfred Mann) lays down a driving bass line, together forming the core from which the rest of the band can take any whims it wishes.

“Nick Tete” segues into “Restless” which is about as “free” as jazz was getting in the 70s. Its title sums up the sensation jazz purists get about free jazz, but the group utilizes the piece to show off its high-caliber. There isn’t a moment of the track that isn’t a solo of some kind – in particular, trumpeters Harry Beckett and Marc Charig pound and stab away, equally adept at improvisation and forming the foundation that allows the piece to hold together.

The mix of styles presented over the hour of performance can allow listeners to forget that these styles were direct responses to political environments. Township music was a reflection of forced segregation within South Africa, just as jazz was for African-Americans. Free jazz was a response to the constraints and expectations of composed jazz, both musically and culturally. Bebop was a response to the big band years (and its primarily white audience). Just playing music together – black-white, African-Afrikaner, European-African – was a response to a world that was still too easily distracted and disinterested in the brutal National Party regime of South Africa and its British colonial influence.

Eclipse At Dawn is the melding of personal and musical histories. Many of those in exile found welcoming and receptive audiences across Europe, both in the Western and Eastern Blocs. Those listeners had a great tolerance for the diverse sounds and styles presented to them. More importantly, they had a great tolerance for the diversity and value of the musicians themselves. But most importantly, they gave them a place to play, a place to be safe, and a place to be free, in all definitions. words / b kramer

Chris McGregor’s Brotherhood of Breath :: Nick Tete
Chris McGregor’s Brotherhood of Breath :: Restless