Sunday, August 25, 2013

I Want Your Sax -- Best Sax Solos of the 80's (According to Me)

Ever since I was a young yinzer growing up in Western PA, I wanted to move to NYC. Because of Cyndi Lauper, Reading Rainbow, Tina Turner -- I was moving to NYC and no one was going to stop me. If you ask me what I remember about moving to NYC, part of it was the romantic image in my head of the sax player in Central Park or the subway,the sound of it echoing into the dark, steamy night (steamy now I know courtesy of Con Ed). Tina Turner, Glen Fry, Bananarama all used NYC as the backdrop. It was the sax that capped it for me.

So without any order in mind, my favorite Sax Solos of the 1980's.

You Belong to the City by Glen Fry. You cannot get anymore NYC than this - the opening scene alone, a vantage point from Brooklyn, starting at the South Street Seaport then panning wide to reveal the World Trade Center. It's a classic night-life NYC. The lyrics alone paint the picture of anonymity in NYC, even more so at night. The interwoven scenes of Miami Vice also help the 80's feel. Love this song, it's NYC to me.

Next up, Quarterflash with Harden My Heart. I actually had not seen the video until recently (nothing says 80's more than swinging light bulbs and a wood paneled trailer). The sax intro makes this song and helps to give it that sound that means the 80's to me ... almost as much as the next song.

Yes, George Michael, Wham! and Careless Whisper. From an early age, I have loved Georgios Kyriacos PanagiĆ²tou, or as we all know him, George Michael. Faith, while I had no idea at the time (nor should any ten year old) what half of those songs were talking about, introduced me to sounds like I had never heard before and haunting videos life Father Figure. It would be one of his last Wham! songs though that would always remind me of those 80's.

Quintessential 80's sound with sultry sax and lots of hair: Hall and Oates Maneater. While not one of their best songs when it comes to complexity, it is a defining sound for Hall and Oates and hands down one of the most recognized songs from the 80's.

This next song not only has an incredible sax solo but has one of the best bass lines of an 80's song (fangirl moment for John Taylor). Duran Duran's Rio is arguably another one of those 80's best of hits ever with one of the top videos from the 80's as well. But here is some trivia for you all. Who played the sax solo for the song? Well, if you watch the video you would say "John Taylor or Nick Rhodes" but no - you have been duped. It was actually Andy Hamilton, a British saxophone player who has played with not only Duran, but with Wham (see above) Elton John, David Bowie, and more.

Ahh, the mates from Down Unda, Men at Work with Overkill. And, again, another haunting video full of sunsets and mystery ... and Colin Hay going through some type of paranoia. Ghosts appear and fade away ...

And who can forget Sade's Smooth Operator? The jazzy song begs for the saxophone. Without the woodwind, this song would be missing something. This song song about a jet-setting, womanizing business man was usually never heard in its full form and was nominated for a VMA for it's 4 minute version. Ladies and gents, here is the eight minute full version.

And how can you mention sax solos without mentioning INXS? Kirk Pengilly made the sax sexy in the 80's. While bands were jamming to guitar and synthesizer solos, Kirk made us weak in the knees with his famous sax solos in songs such as New Sensation, Johnson's Aeroplane, Kick, The One Thing, Mediate and this one - Never Tear Us Apart. I personally wish it could have been a longer solo, or spread throughout the song, but then I realize, oh yeah, he also has to play guitar.

 So there is my list of some of the best sax solos of the 80's ... you think they will ever make a comeback?

Friday, August 23, 2013

It Will Take Care of You

Courtesy Lisa Seifert
Ladies and Gentlemen, I'd like to introduce to you the greatest guitar player in the world...
Eric Clapton introducing Stevie Ray Vaughan on August 26, 1990 Alpine Valley

Every August for me is a reminder of how brief and wonderful life really is. In a span of 7 days in August of 1990, I lost my father and the musician that helped me through his illness, Stevie Ray Vaughan.

Although I didn't know then, I know now why Stevie had such a lasting impact on me and why his music was like a security blanket in my twelve year old mind full of questions, angst and sadness. Stevie had been to hell and back and his takeaway was that Love was the answer. He'd seen greed and known addiction, but love seemed to be his saving grace. Love yourself and love one another was his constant message.

Tonight, I made the realization that not only is it 23 years since his passing, but I am the exact same age that he was when he boarded that helicopter in Alpine Valley. Knowing that he had almost seen death, overcome addiction, been divorced, played Carnegie Hall when he was 30, had Eric Clapton calling him the greatest guitar player, fell in love, and inspired so many that they could overcome anything by the age of 35 is simply incredible to me. To be that good, I understand how hard he had to work, how dedicated he was and how much he loved music.

To this day, I still chase the ghost of Stevie Ray. Every artist I see thinking, I don't want to miss the opportunity again. I was twelve, it wasn't like I was given much choice, but he is one of less than a handful of artists that I feel that way about. He inspired me and speaks to me that much.

Stevie also reminds me of those last months with a man I knew so little about. Sitting in my room, not far from my ill father, I would listen to Stevie sing and play from the heart. It's a connection that will be forever.

Not one video (that anyone knows of) exists of Stevie's last show. There are several taper recordings of those final songs this legend played. Rumor is he played the best he ever played that night - the sound coming out of his guitar larger than the valley itself.
The last song Stevie ever played, he played it with his heroes, Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy, Robert Cray and his brother Jimmy Vaughan.
It was fitting that Stevie would play Sweet Home Chicago with his heroes who in turn would look to him, as theirs.

Stevie Ray Vaughan, I cannot thank you enough for what you have given me as a gift. It isn't just your songs, its your lessons of love, hope and understanding. You also give me the soundtrack to the priceless memories of my father.

Stevie Ray Vaughan set list from Alpine Valley WI August 26, 1990
  • Collins' Shuffle
  • The House is Rockin'
  • Tightrope
  • The Things (That) I Used To Do
  • Let Me Love You Baby
  • Leave My Girl Alone
  • Pride and Joy
  • Wall of Denial
  • Riviera Paradise
  • Superstition
  • Couldn't Stand the Weather
  • Goin' Down
  • Crossfire
  • Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)
  • Sweet Home Chicago (Clapton, Cray, Guy, Vaughan)

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Gypsies, Golden Hair Rock Gods and the Belle of St. Marks

Robert Plant Prospect Park
I have to surmise that it seems that my music adventures come in tsunamis. No, I cannot simply go to see a show. My behavior is quite obsessive when it comes to music, I openly admit. I had a perfect close to July this year, seeing a legend. one of my favorite bands multiple times, and an 80's icon.
When you are a rock and roll fan, you would travel far and wide to see legend, Robert Plant. Although some are mad at him that he won't do a Zeppelin reunion - I get it. He's moved on and in true artist style, he isn't in that vibe anymore. He has embraced southern blues and he has done so with his entire being.
I've seen him in Tennessee and twice in New York, but when I heard he was playing in Brooklyn, it was an opportunity not to be missed.
 There was quite the mix of audience members from four year- olds to probable 1970's groupies. And we were all there for the same reason. I knew the show would be good, but when he opened with Babe, I'm Gonna Leave You, I just knew the night would be fantastic. He didn't disappoint. He continued with varied versions of In the Mood, Black Dog, Goin' to California, Four Sticks, Friends, a soulful cover of Fixin' to Die, What is and What Should Never Be, Rock and Roll and a few others. For someone not in the Zeppelin mood - he was that night. The songs would all start out mysterious, bluesy, tribal, and then WHAM, pure rock and roll Led Zeppelin. What everyone is Prospect Park received that night was a gift. Robert Plant is not only a legend but he is a talented musician who continues to learn about the job he loves so very much.
Moving right along. Back in 2008, I witnessed the beginning of my love affair with this Gypsy Punk band from New York City's Lower East Side: Gogol Bordello. Maybe it is my Slovak background and the numerous Sunday's spent listening to polkas, but I fell in love immediately. With the  release of their latest album Pura Vida Conspiracy, I had the opportunity to see them three obsessive times in one week. 

Pasha and Elizabeth
Every time I see Gogol Bordello, there seems to be more energy, more synergy and more mosh pits. Eugene exudes nothing but positive energy, Sergey is a Russian violin god and, I do miss Yuri, but he chose well with the new accordion player, Pasha. If you get the opportunity - do not miss them. Warning though, if you stand up front, be prepared to dance, fit pump, jump up and down and crowd surf.
Just when I thought my musical adventure had come to an end, a co-worker told me that none other than Sheila E was performing for free at BAM's Metrotech lunch series. You must check out their summer calendar folks. I saw Richie Havens a few years back - and it's free!
So I trekked down to Metrotech in the rain and made it just in time to hear the first cheers from the crowd. And there she was - the drummer for Prince,  Sheila E. Highlight of the lunch hour show? Hearing the classic Belle of St. Marks live
So there you have it, my end of July music extravaganza. I never, ever pass up the opportunity to see music if it is possible. If you love music as much as I do, surround yourself with musicians that do the same. You want to walk away from a show knowing they gave their all for you and enjoyed every minute of it!

Saturday, August 3, 2013


Dan Avery at the 5th Avenue Street Festival

My only true want in life was to always live somewhere where I could have access to music. Not just record stores but live music - large venues, small venues, backyards and barrooms.

I am blessed to live in the neighborhood of music: Bay Ridge Brooklyn. From Kitty Kiernan's to the Kettle Black all the way down to the Irish Haven, you can hear musicians singing their dreams into the streets at all hours of the day.

Below are some local artists to check out (and in truth many have become friends and I am blessed to know such talented folk). I have included their website / facebook info.
Let's start with John Rafferty, Brooklyn's story teller. His latest album, Lucky, is simply perfect. Done in mere days, this album captures a the ups and downs of life. And let me tell, you , he loves this album and he should be proud of it. Many artists strive to capture what came to him naturally.

You can find all of his dates on facebook... he seems to be fond of the rockaways in the summer;)                  

Next up is Xavier Cadriche. A swimmer, Irish lover and singer rolled into one -- come on what is not to lose? Xavier plays all around the Ridge and has been doing some gigs at the LIC Bar as well. I have to say what impresses me the most about Xavier is that you can tell he loves music - he knows music! You wont be disappointed if you make the trek out to see him

What can I say about Dan Avery? On a Sunday in Bay Ridge after lingering to the end of the 5th Avenue Street Festival, the about mentioned John Rafferty said "we gotta go see this kid." And John, you were so right!

He played acoustic from all generations and then his own material. The talent glowed around this this kid (kid I say). There is hope, America, these young ones remember the classics. When he played Simon and Garfunkel's The Boxer, I was completely sold. He was so good that, in fact, we told Mr. Rafferty himself this kid was going to put him out of business.
Dan, I know you're from Jersey, but you have been playing a lot here in the Ridge (Kelly's and the Monk)so consider yourself a Bay Ridge artist.!/freedanavery

Now, these aren't the only Bay Ridge artists, there are so many more. Some don't play as much as we'd like, but they are still Bay Ridge's best - folks like Andrew Gerardi or Pill Hill Radio. If you see them on a playbill outside your local haunt (which I believe Andrew is playing out in the Hamptons at the Boardy Barn September 9th)