John Swenson

John Swenson  |  Jul 02, 2021  |  4 comments
Blood, Sweat & Tears began as Al Kooper's dream of a rock band with horns. By the time he realized the concept—on the band's 1968 debut, Child Is Father to the Man—it had become much more: an engaging hybrid of New York soul, Greenwich Village folk, and innovative jazz arrangements. With producer John Simon at the helm, Child was a virtual definition of the possibilities inherent in the heady musical experimentation of the late 1960s. Kooper's writing and arranging for that record (including the monumental "I'll Love You More Than You'll Ever Know," later a hit for Donny Hathaway) is one of the high points of his storied career.
John Swenson  |  Jun 29, 2021  |  1 comments
Last week, I had a puzzling dream. When I woke, the vision remaining from the dreamscape was of a single thread of conversation, almost oracular, with no context. Ringo was telling me, "That was actually John singing on that one, mate."

I searched for a hidden message. Maybe it was one of those naked-in-public dreams, the Beatles drummer chastising me for misidentifying the singer in some review I wrote. I soon forgot about it.

John Swenson  |  Jun 16, 2021  |  1 comments
The Who: The Who Sell Out
Universal 7711420 (5 CDs, 2 7" singles). 1967/2021. Kit Lambert, Pete Townshend, prods.; Damon Lyon-Shaw, Jon Astley, Andy MacPherson, other engs.
Performance *****
Sonics ****

This 5-CD box-set version of The Who Sell Out is the latest iteration of a 54-year-old work-in-progress. It contains an unrivaled wealth of recorded information covering the period between the Who's second album, A Quick One (Happy Jack in the US), and the monumental rock opera Tommy.

Phil Brett, Tom Fine, Anne E. Johnson, Fred Kaplan, John Swenson  |  Apr 09, 2021  |  0 comments
Paul McCartney: McCartney III, Loretta Lynn: Still Woman Enough, Little Freddie King: Going Upstairs, Irma Thomas: Love Is the Foundation, Goat Girl: On All Fours and James Yorkston: The Wide, Wide River.
John Swenson  |  Mar 16, 2021  |  11 comments
My music is keeping me alive.

I have terminal cancer, which is like Bergman's chess match with the Grim Reaper: You know you're going to lose, but with skill, determination, and luck, you can delay the inevitable, move by move. Determination is key, because it's all too easy to give up. My music—a collection I've amassed over the last 60 years—inspires me to keep going, to keep listening.

John Swenson  |  Jan 27, 2021  |  3 comments
The Story of the Grateful Dead, a 14-LP, 8-album collection of Grateful Dead recordings with booklet and deluxe packaging, from Vinyl Me, Please (VMP-A006, 2020), is intended as a curated sampling of the high points in the Dead's extensive catalog. The first seven albums were cut from analog tape, while Without a Net comes from the original digital master. The sound is breathtaking.
John Swenson  |  Dec 10, 2020  |  6 comments
I've just recently finished reading guitarist/vocalist Walter Lure's autobiography, To Hell and Back. Walter has a great story about his days in Johnny Thunders's Heartbreakers and his own Waldos. Until he died in late August, you could still hear him playing with the Waldos and running periodic tributes to Johnny. But he also took some space to write about his first band, a hard-rock dance band called Bloodbath that pounded the risers in the North Bronx at the dawn of the 1970s.
John Swenson  |  Jun 30, 2020  |  8 comments
New Orleans, Louisiana — As I write this, my city is locked down. To make sure of it, the National Guard is encamped in Louis Armstrong Park, site of Congo Square, where in former times enslaved Americans gathered to dance and play music, and tourists gathered to watch them. People still gather there when the city is not locked down; they gather at other places, too. No one's gathering now.
John Swenson  |  May 26, 2020  |  7 comments
I loved New Orleans music before I even knew what it was.

In the mid-1960s, I went to high school in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, which back then was a bleak, On the Waterfront landscape of dock workers and drifters hanging out in the pool halls along Bedford Avenue. We were warned to watch out on our way to track practice at nearby McCarren Park, because the pool halls were violent and confrontations often spilled out onto the street.

John Swenson  |  Apr 20, 2020  |  1 comments
Frank Zappa: The Hot Rats Sessions
Zappa Records/UMe ZR20032 (6 CDs). 1969–2019. Frank Zappa, prod.; Joe Travers, Craig Parker Adams, Jack Hunt, others, engs.
Performance *****
Sonics ****

Frank Zappa's first real solo album (he conducted but did not play on Lumpy Gravy) is probably his greatest recording and perhaps his most uncharacteristic in that his singing voice is nowhere to be heard. The one vocal, "Willie the Pimp," is sung by Captain Beefheart, whose Zappa-produced pinnacle Trout Mask Replica was released the same year (1969).

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