Kris Kristofferson: A Profound Experience

Last week I wrote about Diana Ross’ nearly perfect show. Although, that was not the only show I saw that weekend. Sunday I had tickets to see Kris Kristofferson as well.

It was sensory overload.

Now it’s easy to see the stark differences in Diana Ross and Kris Kristofferson. I hope this speaks to my diversity or mental instability. I went from turning upside down to hanging with Bobby McGee within 48 hours. That’s quite a stretch.

I received an email from a friend a few weeks ago with a link to Kristofferson’s show at The City Winery in NYC. Now I’m not a Kristofferson expert, but the tickets seemed irresistible. Oddly, I grew up watching A Star is Born, and I knew some of his songs. He reminded me of home, so I decided to buy.

Kristofferson left me speechless. I didn’t know what to say about his show, and I still don’t. The only word that I can find to describe his set is profound. Every note he sang, every lyric he wrote, every look he gave the audience was simply profound.

He sang a staggering 28 songs. These songs ranged from his hits like “Help Me Make It Through The Night” and “For The Good Times,” while also touching on some minor musical milestones. From the moment he began to sing I could not take my attention away from the stage.

During his show, he seemed to profess wisdom while singing the same songs he has sung for years. Instead of coming at them from just experience, his demeanor also led to advice. This concert was set in a winery and I felt like it was my grandpa and I having drinks together. Kristofferson wanted to give me advice so that I could have a better tomorrow.

The entire show told a story. It was a concept show. Although, I don’t think Kristofferson meant it in that way at all. Each song was a chapter. Every topic he sang about came to a head at the end of the show with the songs “The Pilgrim: Chapter 33,” “Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down,” “Jesus Was a Capricorn,” and “Why Me.” I believe these 5 songs, some of Kristofferson’s best, describe both the high and low of his life and the topics he struggles with. Life may be tough, but he is just happy to be alive.

It was a simple show. The stage was just adorned with Kristofferson, his guitar, and harmonica. What struck me the most in retrospect is how relevant his songs are today. They have passed over generations and he is still writing. He finds a way to explain timeless truths in a language that will never be antiquated.

Seeing him live is surreal and truly a profound experience.

 

Tina Turner Country…Music?

There is barely any debate among music critics and listeners wheather or not Tina Turner is an impeccable artist. She has a style that cannot be replicated and a legacy that is sealed into society’s consciousness. Find me one person that doesn’t know when to shake their head during “Proud Mary” and I’d be shocked.

IMG_2377There is more music that often goes unnoticed from her career between being a solo superstar with the album Private Dancer and her tenure with the Ike and Tina Turner Review. Between the years of 1974, a year before she divorced Ike, and 1984, the year “What’s Love Got To Do With It” went number one, Tina recorded multiple albums to little success.

The first of these albums was Tina Turns The Country On! This album finds Tina at her first solo experiment. When looking at music history and the history of Tina’s style, the choice to release an album of country and western covers does not seem like the obvious next step in her career. Yet this album speaks volumes of where Tina was at in 1974 and also widens her breadth as a vocal artist.

This album comes right at the end of Ike and Tina Turner’s marriage. Their popularity had waned in the 70’s due to Ike’s frequent drug use, which resulted in missed and postponed shows. Tina was beginning to build her nerve through inspiration she had found through Buddhism which was the budding of her independence.

That’s the diamond in the rough when it comes to Tina’s first solo album: independence. For the first time, she was given the most freedom on how she was going to conduct herself as a muscian.

Tina Turns The Country On! is completely…country. Tina knows country because she was brought up in Tennessee, but I don’t think anybody was expecting her to sing it. Each song is a cover of a country hit with a new arrangement and that arrangement was…country.

Tina Turner, the queen of rock and roll R&B, now had twang.

IMG_2378I could see Tina doing a twist off of Ray Charles successes from his early 1960’s country themed albums, but I didn’t expect a performance I would have readily seen on The Wilburn Brothers Show or The Johnny Cash Show. I was expecting a blended mix of early R&B and country, but instead she fit in perfectly right next to Loretta Lynn.

There are three levels of Tina within the album and with each level she becomes more…Tina. I call the first level “Mid-Tina.” This level finds Tina singing with the roughness we have all grown to love, but mixed with smooth twang. We find this on the songs “Bayou Song, “If You Love Me Let Me Know,” and “Don’t Talk Now.”

Next we venture into “Tina Turned Up.” This is the Tina we generally find in her earlier recordings with Ike Turner. These elements are found in songs such as Bob Dylan’s “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You” and Hank Snow’s “I’m Moving On.”

Lastly, we have “Tina Turned Down.” In this level, Tina demonstrates her chops for delivering straightforward and easy masterpieces. This level contains all my favorite songs from this album. First she sings a vulnerable and rousing rendition of Kris Kristofferson’s “Help Me Make It Through The Night.” Her voice is as smooth and liquid as melted butter. Her performance of this song finds her vocals in their most purest form. It is like they come from a child.

Tina-Album-Tina-Turns-The-Country-On-Promo-02Then there is the hopeful Dolly Parton cover “There’ll Always Be Music.” I could easily see a choir erupting behind Tina at any moment during this recording. Her genuine love of unadulterated music is on complete view. She then closes out the album with “The Love That Light’s Our Way.” This song eludes to the concrete truth that love will always prevail and lead the way, a sentiment that was muddled for Tina at this time. Her vocals in this song will convince anybody, that truth and love always prevails, something she still believed deep down.

This album begins to encapsulate the independent artistry of Tina Turner. It shows that she was not only a musical interpreter that crossed genres, but one that can reach the furthest of human emotions in the same fell swoop. She takes country music, flips it on its head, reconstructs it, and sings it her way, but she was still under a jail cell.

Her later solo efforts were to be completely independent of Ike Turner in all regards. This album shows that all you need sometimes is to let someone shake their own tail-feather and to never restrict someone to be a private dancer. This artistry within Tina was nearly untapped and it was time for the world to hear it.

It was time for Tina to be Tina.

January’s Top Five Picks

I have decided to provide you with my musical summary for this month. It contains some new vinyl as well as old. This is basically what I have been spending the most of my time listening to this month. I’m finding that it is quite an eclectic selection.

1. Buddy Holly, The Story of Buddy Holly and The Great Buddy Holly

This month I read a biography over Buddy Holly entitled Not Fade Away by John Gribbin. ThisMI0001766933 book touches very briskly on the surface of Holly’s career, but it has really sparked my interest. I have had these two records for awhile and had not listened to them before. I also learned many interesting facts about Holly from the documentary The Real Buddy Holly Story. It was produced by Paul McCartney after The Buddy Holly Story movie came out but was filled with inaccuracies. Watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4CwnEdqkNaY.

2. Rosanne Cash, The River and The Thread

Rosanen-Cash-The-River-The-ThreadThis album was released just a few weeks ago on January 14th. It has quickly become one of my favorite albums. Rosanne and her husband, John Leventhal, wrote all the songs on the album. The songs are intended to be third person narratives over their travels throughout the south while Rosanne was helping the University of Arkansas restore her father’s childhood home. With my highest regards, I suggest this album.

3. Michael Jackson and The Jacksons, Bad and Victory

In my previous post I mentioned finding a vintage picture disk of The photo 1Jackson’s Victory. It’s a bit addicting. It sounds like a relative of Michael Jackson’s Thrillerbut it’s not nearly as Epic. After listening to this album I had to bust out my favorite Michael record, Bad. It just doesn’t get much better then “Dirty Diana,” “Just Another Part of Me,” and “Bad.”

4. Loretta Lynn, Van Lear Rose

This album has also quickly become one of my favorite albums. I find something new about it every time I listen to it. Jack White amazes me how he can resurrect artists, keeping both their tradition and updating them to today.  Read my full review here:

A Bouquet, https://vinylvortexok.wordpress.com/2013/12/03/a-bouquet/

5. Barbara Streisand and Kris Kristofferson, A Star is Born

A+Star+Is+Born+Barbra+Streisand++Kris+KristofIt’s obvious if you follow the blog, that I have been listening to this album lately. I just wrote a full review. To be honest though, I’m not a fan of the whole album. My favorite tunes are “The Woman in The Moon” and Streisand’s finale. Just scroll down a story and you can find my full opinion.

Honorable Mentions: The Beatles, Jan and Dean, and Anita Bryant.

This is what has been spinning on my turntable this month. How about yours? Please let me know what you’ve been listening to in the comments!

Spinnin’ and Spinnin,’

Gabe

Dumbed Down Music, Decent Film, and Streisand, Oh My!

The tale of A Star is Born is a classic story that has been told three times in movie form. First, there is the 1937 version which, to my knowledge, did not contain any musical numbers. Years later in 1954 Judy Garland saddled into the role of the budding star, Esther, and nearly won an Oscar for her performance (my personal favorite). Then came 1976 and Streisand gave us her take of this understated character.

Although, this movie did not go as planned from the very beginning. For starters, Barbra decided that 1-a-star-is-born-barbra-streisand-1976-everettshe wanted Elvis Presley to play the role of John Norman Howard, a distressed singer who falls in love while creating a new superstar. Presley wanted to play the role, but his manager became angry when Barbra went around him and straight to Elvis to make the pitch. There are chains of command Ms. Streisand!

There was a string of other actors considered for the male lead including Marlon Brando, Neil Diamond, and Mick Jaggar. I am not positive how Kristofferson came into play, but he was nearly the movie’s saving grace. Oddly, his drunkenness throughout the movie made it bearable. I think he role played this character on and off screen.

Now there is two ways to looking at this film. One lens is through the film itself, the other is through it’s soundtrack.

The film itself is decent with overwhelming musical performances by Streisand. In fact, every notable musical sequence throughout the film belonged to Streisand and her portrayal of Esther. Kristofferson was just a necessity to make the film. Thank goodness he was there, especially through those horrendous outfits.  A sweater at a hot summer concert? A bow tie in a recording studio? Dandruff in a wedding?

A+Star+Is+Born+Barbra+Streisand++Kris+KristofThe soundtrack is where my love lies. I like every song off the album, but my particular favorites are “Watch Closely Now,” “Queen Bee,” and “The Woman in the Moon.” The first was introduced by Kristofferson, but was later redone in the film by Ms. Streisand. The latter was Streisand’s alone and contains some very creative lyrics and “Moon” is seductively sassy. Of course on every Streisand “Greatest Hits” collection you’ll see “Evergreen.” The one song she solely wrote the music to.

So the music was great, the film was alright, and Streisand was a star to be reckoned with. I feel the soundtrack and movie was an attempt by Streisand to make herself relevant in a time where her vocal style was waining. She had some control over each aspect of the movie and soundtrack where she was a producer. Her vocals soar, while Kristofferson seemed to be pushed to the corner. Now Kris is no Barbra, but he has his own chops.

Now don’t get me wrong, I believe that Streisand is one of the greatest talents of the 20th and 21st century, but this movie was just plain egotistical. Kristofferson said that Streisand cured him from the movies.

Even all her clothes she choose herself….from her closet….watch the credits.

Dang it! I hate it when I have oversized dandruff.

Dang it! I hate it when I have oversized dandruff.

Oh, and another reason Elvis didn’t join the cast, he wanted top billing and Streisand wouldn’t stand for that.

Lastly, It was just painful to watch Barbra in this role. It demeaned her acting skills, and sometimes her vocals.There just seems to be a hint of desperation. Her vocals are great, but sometimes overly simplified. Her acting was good, but she could do better.

In the end a star was not born.

A star clearly existed.

Spinnin’,

Gabe