Another year means another load of books, DVDs, CDs, vinyl and other irresistible money-suckers for music fans who simply can’t resist another addition to their collection. Luckily, 2012 was especially rife with perfect gifts for the fanatical music nut in your family.
On the DVD front, check out Celebration Day (Three P Films Limited), which offers the Dec. 10, 2007, benefit concert that took place at London’s O2 Arena in honor of Ahmet Ertegun, the legendary founder and president of Atlantic Records. Over the years, Ertegun had championed artists like Eric Clapton, Genesis, the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin. It was fitting (and rare) that the concert lured the three remaining Zeppelin members, Jimmy Page, Robert Plant and John Paul Jones, along with John Bonham’s son, Jason, filling in on drums. They performed a monster playlist including “Good Times Bad Times,” “Ramble On,” “Black Dog,” “No Quarter,” “Misty Mountain Hop” and “Kashmir,” closing with a double encore of “Whole Lotta Love” and “Rock and Roll.”
Although the event was recorded with 16 cameras and rumors of a DVD release started immediately, it wasn’t until a mysterious Facebook post last Sept. 9 that they were confirmed by the band. Page had called mixing the project a “massive job to embark on” following the 2007 performance, yet the recording and performance quality was strong so that only a minimal amount of overdubs and corrections were needed. The album’s title, named after a track from the 1970 album Led Zeppelin III (Atlantic), is now available on DVD or Blu-ray with two soundtrack CDs ($44.99). A triple vinyl LP was also released this month ($49.99). (Warning: Don’t bother asking the Zep men if they’ll be getting back together for another reunion show any time soon. Plant and Page will either laugh at you or bite your head off.)
Turning to tomes, 2012 has been a feast for word-loving book nerds, full of fantastic tales of excess and success from a wide range of rock’n’roll royalty. For starters, there’s My Cross to Bear, by Gregg Allman with Alan Light (Morrow/HarperCollins; $27.99/hardcover). After reading an excerpt of this autobiography in the April 27 issue of Rolling Stone, the resonating emotion was difficult to pin down. It was unnerving, for example, to learn that the last thing Allman ever said to his brother Duane, who died in 1971, was a lie. But other parts proved as humorous and mischievous as all the stories Allman shares in his interviews with curious, young reporters. (That’s a story for another day.)
Allman tells wild anecdotes, like finding “Welcome Allman Bros” spelled out in cocaine on a newly acquired jet, along with painful recollections, like dealing with the deaths of Duane and bassist Berry Oakley to motorcycle accidents. He talks about six divorces, hepatitis C and what drinking two quarts of vodka a day will do to a man (lead to a liver transplant).
While Keith Richards’ 2010 autobiography Life (Mindless Records) gets readers rolling with laughter with more absurd stories than difficult ones (although there are a few), Allman’s book ends on a more somber note: “I don’t know if I’d do it again.”
The Who’s Pete Townshend is represented with Who I Am (Harper/HarperCollins; $32.50/hardcover). Although some book reviewers have noted its flighty nature, skipping over mounds of details in exchange for big words that show off Townshend’s undeniably high IQ and experience as a columnist and an editor, it’s tough not to find the musician’s life and times enticing enough to read about. And coming from the man himself always makes the stories richer.
He runs it all down in 538 pages of yachts, studios, substance abuse, women and life in and out of his longtime band. The author of more than 100 songs for 11 Who studio albums obviously has something to say, and fans should enjoy this crazy, although perhaps scattered, look inside the master guitarist, singer and songwriter’s jam-packed life. Reading will be easy, it’s fighting the urge to smash a guitar or blow up a drum set when you finish that will be tough.
For Bruce Springsteen fanatics (and count me in), you know it’s going to take more than a mint-condition vintage vinyl album or three (got ’em) or a framed photo from the “Born in the U.S.A.” tour straight from the photographer who took it (two are on the wall). You need something new that also reveals something old. We’ve read the books and know all the lyrics. We need a biography that manages to dig up some nuggets of Bruce-isms that have remained undiscovered.
Peter Ames Carlin comes to the rescue with Bruce (Touchstone; $28/hardcover). The book offers the well-known stories of a boy from Freehold, N.J., who transformed from an ordinary man to an exceptional one. Since hardcore Springsteen fans already know those stories, it’s a good thing this book digs deeper, thanks to cooperation from The Boss himself, whose consent hasn’t been given to a biographer for 25 years.
Ex-girlfriends, sisters, his mother, band mates, managers, former managers, club owners and journalists were all consulted to help excavate the stories that have yet to be told about one of the greatest storytellers in rock. From the crush Janis Joplin instantly had on the young, scruffy Jersey boy to Springsteen’s terrible diet of Ring Dings, Devil Dogs and Pepsis, all the little details bubble up. The bottom line is the same: No matter how far up The Boss rises, the roots stay down, still dug into a little state on the East Coast.
As usual, local musicians stepped up their game and delivered the kind of albums that make reviewing music all the fun it should be. Dusty Pas’cal’s masterpiece Human Heart (independent) impressed with the kind of songwriting that has made artists legendary. Master Thieves kicked it up a notch with sophomore effort Nature of Gravity (Melvin Recording Company) and Soul Risin’ reminded listeners how good it feels to find an album that pulls enough at heartstrings; it makes you cry every time it takes a spin.
The year ended with strength, seeing Miss E, Ben Fiore and House on a Spring all wrapping up 2012 with new material.
Also due out just in time for Christmas stockings everywhere, is Mark Doyle and the Maniacs’ Pushin’ (Free Will Records). The revamped Maniac lineup now features the curly headed and massively impressive Joel Kane, who wails on vocals, guitar and bass at various points throughout the album. Doyle hasn’t lost his touch on guitar, keyboard, bass, vocals, songwriting or production, and still leads his partners with the deft guitar work that sets him on a level apart from his peers. Frank DeFonda on drums and Phil Broikos on bass and vocals round out the group, and the unstoppable Jocko of MoreSound Studios worked the recording and mixing magic.
Special guests add another layer to this gritty blues rocker. Pete McMahon grinds it out on harp, Darryl Pugh adds that irreplaceable, jazzy upright bass boom on “Night Crawler” and Marcia Hagan, Kathy Goode and Jennifer Davis provide soulful backing vocals with a perfectly powerful feminine touch.
“Rooster in the Hen House” blows the disc’s doors open with a blustery start thanks largely to McMahon’s harp. “Trials and Tribulations” gets a solid groove thumping with a chorus of percussion that hands the baton of sound off to keys and guitar. “Gypsy Rider” puts the ladies’ vocal harmonies to good use and Doyle’s keys work to the test (he passes with flying colors). And “I’m Your Witchdoctor” is a perfect cover choice for this smokin’ blues rock powerhouse.
The Maniacs’ Pushin’ CD release party will blow
the roof off the Redhouse Arts Center, 201 S. West St., on Saturday,
Dec. 22, 8 p.m. McMahon, Hagan, Davis and Goode will also join the band
for the show. Tickets are $15. For more information, call 425-0405.