New Music Review: Sound City, Boz Scaggs, Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix

There’s a lot of great new music hitting the streets this week, and I wanted to take a moment to stop and listen with you.  The first drop is “Sound City” — Dave Grohl’s tribute band to the old sound of rock technology in the pre-digital age.  Dave recorded this odd set of songs using an old engineering board from the former “Sound City” recording studio.  I think the idea to create new from the old is exciting, but the effort feels forced and unfinished, and I have always expected excellence and fulfillment from Dave Grohl.  So, for me, Sound City is a fine idea with middling success.

The great Boz Scaggs is back!  I grew up listening to that glistening, instantly recognizable, voice and in “Memphis” he returns to the music scene with a relevant, if not revelatory, new suite of covered standards.

Boz is in terrific voice.  His version of “Midnight Train to Georgia” is now the new high water mark for that song.  At 68, Boz still rules The Blues.

What in the world happened to Eric Clapton?  He’s 67, and tired, and he recently said he’d stop touring when he reaches age 70.

Eric used to have stratospheric, iconic, album covers, like this one from 1996:

Now he’s continuing his odd feat of making himself look as ugly as possible on the cover of his new “Old Sock” album — and while Eric is certainly cozy and lazy on this set of songs — there isn’t an overwhelming “Clapton Aesthetic” to lead us into higher learning.  The song, Angel, comes closest, but one song does not an album make.

This album sounds like a bad recording of Live from Daryl’s House — but without the crisp musicianship and care to detail.  I think Clapton is still a Guitar God, but I do feel he’s bored and searching for something with meaning, but there’s nothing in “Old Sock” except a 67-year-old toenail in search of a clipper.

I don’t know how it’s possible that old music from Jimi Hendrix in 1969 can sounder newer and fresher in 2013 than an Eric Clapton album, but that’s precisely the case in “People, Hell and Angels.”

These studio jams and early stabs at evolving songs mostly come from 1969 as Hendrix worked with shifting lineups, indecisive about his post-Experience path. Three tracks date from a May session, his first with Billy Cox and Buddy Miles, the future Band of Gypsys, including a funky turn through the signature blues “Hear My Train A Comin’.” A rough “Izabella” with his short-lived Woodstock band comes with a diving-jet solo.

A year after recording the music found on this album, Jimi Hendrix was dead at 27.

Eric Clapton is fond of telling a story from his early guitar-ripping days, circa 1968, when he and Jimi were getting to know of each other.  The legend goes that, one day, after a concert, Eric went into the street and saw graffiti sprayed on a wall that said, “Clapton is God.”

Eric thought for a moment and said, “If I’m God, then who is is Jimi Hendrix?”

Way back in 1968, Eric Clapton knew Jimi Hendrix was a better guitarist than he, and a more talented musician as well — and 45 years later, Jimi, from the grave, is still beating the Hell out of Eric Clapton in the studio and I don’t think Clapton would want it any other way; but we, as his fans, wish he’d try just a little bit harder to match the Hendrix standard of excellence with each and every album.

David Bowie also released a new album this week.  I passed on the purchase because it was “Mastered for iTunes” — aka “Bastardized for iTunes!” When I listened to the free live stream of the album and heard how awful it sounded, I knew I’d be better off saving my money to buy Eric and Jimi and Dave and Boz — and I was right!  These new albums sound luscious and authentic.  David Bowie feels as faint and as artificial as ever, and I prefer not to waste my money on music that has no depth of tone despite what Apple tries to sell you.

17 comments

  • Gordon Davidescu

    David,

    It looks like Amazon also is selling the Bowie album, sans bastardization.

    I would be ashamed to spend money on something that looked like Old Sock. Who was the design artist that finished that off for the day and went home thinking “Another job well done!” ?

    There seem to be new Hendrix releases every couple of years — I wonder when the end of the Hendrix recordings will be found?

    • Thanks for the Amazon, tip, Gordon. I prefer to keep all my music under a single roof, but sometimes, I’m forced to mix and match. Listening to Bowie on Amazon already reveals a much better sound!

      As I understand it, “Old Sock” is a 100% Clapton-produced effort from start to finish on his own record label. So, we’re seeing his real taste in design and music without any outside producers or PR filters. The typeface… the title… his picture… it’s supposed to look relaxed and Caribbean, but it looks like a Kindergarten project gone astray!

      When Jimi was recording — there were lots of high people and not a lot of good record keeping — and I think that’s why new music keeps popping up here and there. He played with a lot of people and, back then, tape recorders were new and ubiquitous and we’re seeing that benefit today.

  • Yeah to Jimi – sad to hear Clapton missed, I passed on Bowie after hearing the single and seeing the video – looks Like Jimi and Boz rule the world and get onto the list.

    • Even after listening to some of the Bowie songs on Amazon, I decided to pass, too. He wasn’t speaking to me.

      You won’t be disappointed in Boz. I have yet to hear a clunker from Jimi.

  • I used to love Bowie – I was hugely disappointed that there was a parting of the ways …….I used to get fired up and there was not even a spark …………… maybe I am too old for Bowie now ??

    • I don’t think Bowie has been the same since John Lennon died.

      To me, he’s lost his spark and his innovative youth, and perhaps, his Muse. He feels old and uninspired now.

      My favorite Bowie album is a special “Space Oddity” only version in 12 tracks — where each part of the song is separated into it’s specialty. “Acoustic Guitar” and “Strings” and “Mellotron” and “Backing Vocal, Vlue & Cellos” and so on — you get the feel for just how the song was produced and you can hear how off-key Bowie is in his harmonies. A lot of the tracks are silent counting until just those special moments pop up when the piece is added to the overall song.

      The first four cuts are “Mono Single Edit” and then “US Mono Single Edit” and then “US Stereo Edit” and “1979 Re-record.” The best one is, of course, the first mono edit.

  • Wow!

    WINNER OF THE WEEK: Jimi Hendrix. What appears to be the late guitar hero’s final studio album, consisting of unreleased tracks recorded with a variety of musicians between 1968 and 1970, sold 72,000 copies and made its debut at Number Two. It’s a little creepy to have to report this, but People, Hell & Angels is Hendrix’ highest-charting album since 1969.

    http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/on-the-charts-jimi-hendrix-earns-highest-chart-debut-since-1969-20130313

  • I felt he was looking back

    Just had a thought – wonder of the great EC smells like an old sock ?

    • I am confused by the “Old Sock” title. Is it a UK thing or what?

      Visiting his site reveals a “Special Old Sock Limited Deluxe Edition” –

      Available now for pre-order is a limited deluxe edition of Eric Clapton’s new studio album, Old Sock. Only 1,000 units have been manufactured. A custom linen-covered book with copper foil-stamped lettering holds both the CD and bound booklet with photos and lyrics. Additionally, it contains a USB Card with hi-res wav files of all songs, a digital booklet and the bonus track “No Sympathy”.

      http://whereseric.com/eric-clapton-news/303-limited-deluxe-edition-old-sock-bonus-track

  • So that Old Sock cover is very interesting. Who thought it was a good idea? It looks like they literally just slapped his vacation picture on a background and added some words. Otherwise, very well done on the article, it definitely shed some light on how what is not considered “mainstream” and popular music is doing.

  • Thanks for talking about the Hendrix album! What a great collection from a man whose career was cut far too short. On the other hand, at least he didn’t take the Clapton route and continue to make music far past his prime…

  • Sound City was absolutely amazing. SO impressed with all aspects of this project. I learned a lot from the film too which is always stellar. http://smarturl.it/SCtrailer. Highly recommend you see it!

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