blues music

REVIEW: Tesla – “Call It What You Want” (single)

TESLA – “Call It What You Want” (1991 Geffen UK single)

Yesterday, I reviewed Tesla’s damn fine third album, Psychotic Supper.  As part of that, I wanted to talk about this single, the album’s second.  It’s an excellent companion to the album proper.

“Call It What You Want” isn’t a bad song.  It has a great chorus even if I find the verses sub-par.  Where Tesla have always excelled is in their rootsy but eloquent musicianship.  Not only are there Lizzy-esque dual guitar harmonies, but there are other things that border on country style.

I also dig the lyric, dated although they may be:

“Heavy metal, hard-core, punk, pop, or thrash,
You can call it anything, it don’t matter to me,
Call it what you want,
It’s all music to me.”

I think Tesla more than most hard rock bands around in 1991 were about breaking down boundaries between genres, and I’m sure this lyric was sincere to them.  I know guitarist Tommy Skeoch had a thrash side project going at the time called Thrash Tandoori.

I hate when bands use a regular album track as a B-side!  Nonetheless, “Freedom Slaves” is one of the best (if not the best) song from Psychotic Supper.  This is the hard rock/heavy metal side of Tesla shining through.  A Leppardy riff accompanies a song that boasts an anthemic chorus and dark verses.

The next two tracks are both previously unreleased, and both are covers.  “Children’s Heritage” is what I’d call an obscure cover!  I’ve never heard this, nor the band that wrote it, Bloodrock a 70’s band from Texas.  It’s a good song, straight ahead riff based hard rock.  It’s also self produced by Tesla, and is a lot looser than the album material.

More familiar is the old blues classic “Cotton Fields”, rocked up and slowed down from its CCR incarnation.  It bares almost no resemblance to the classic Leadbelly version, but it does rock.  Dirty slide guitars and wah-wah solos render this version almost as if Zeppelin were covering it.  That’s the overall vibe anyway, and few hard rock artists were sounding this raw and authentic in 1991!

In a rare  (I assure you) lapse of memory, I’ve forgotten where I got this CD.  I think Trevor got it in used, at his store, and sent it to me.  This would make sense, since one of his customers, Gord Taylor, used to sell him metal CD singles that he bought in Europe.  So that piece fits the puzzle.  Either way, whoever originally bought it paid £4.50 at HMV.

Tesla singles are rare in these parts, but thankfully both of these B-sides are now available on the compilation Tesla Gold.

4/5 stars

OMG MORE TESLA_0003

REVIEW: Crazy Heart (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

CRAZY HEART  Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (2010 NewWest)

Produced by T Bone Burnett and Stephen Bruton

I grew up on this kind of music. I remember long drives to the cottage, singing away to the hits by Hank Jr., Hank Sr., Johnny, Willie, and Waylon…all those great artists. So to hear Jeff Bridges perform his character Bad Blake’s songs on this soundtrack is already in the ballpark of music I love. The great thing about this soundtrack is that it’s loaded with awesome original tunage such as “Fallin’ & Flying'” and “The Weary Kind”, but it also has great oldies by Townes, Buck and Waylon. There’s even a classic Lightnin’ Hopkins blues.

CRAZY HEART_0004Buck Owens’ “Hello Trouble” (1964) is lyrically as apt as ever.  Townes Van Zandt’s “If I Needed You” (1972) is laden with emotion within an inventive dual-track lead vocal.  But it’s “Once A Gambler” by Hopkins that I am spellbound by.  It’s shocking how vibrant this old recording is, and it’s gotta be 50 years old.  Much like the singer’s name, the playing, singing and song itself are electrifying.  You couldn’t record this better today with all the computers in the world.

Meanwhile, Jeff’s performance on “Somebody Else” is more rock n’ roll; this is an original tune by T Bone Burnett and Stephen Bruton. It has a live sound to it.   Bridges’ lead vocal edges into nasal territory, but the dude was 61 years old at the time.  Another new tune, “I Don’t Know” by Ryan Bingham is firmly in 80’s Steve Earle territory, and that’s fine by me.

The main song from the soundtrack is “Fallin’ & Flying”, which appears twice:  Once sung by Jeff, and once as a duet with his co-star Colin Ferrell.  A couple years back, I sent Aaron a CD with the Jeff/Colin version of “Fallin’ & Flyin'” on it.  His comment:

I saw Crazy Heart and I thought they did a fairly credible job, but I very rarely like it when Hollywood types do these types of films. Leave the singing to the singers (I’m looking at you, Gwenyth Paltrow!). Still, this Bridges/Ferrell track is roadhouse-worthy.

Sure, in some cases I would agree with that. Nobody needed Eddie Murphy to make an album for example.  In the case of “Fallin’ & Flyin'”, I really like this track.  It was written to suit Jeff’s leathery but expressive singing voice.  Jeff Bridges is no slouch; I’m sure Kris Kristofferson taught him a few tricks when they jammed behind the scenes during Heaven’s Gate.   Jeff’s slant on “I Don’t Know” is more country than Bingham’s and features piano and squeezebox.  I believe I am well on record for being a fan of the Dude in the first place.

There’s only one tune I didn’t like, which is “Reflecting Light” by Sam Phillips (2004).  Sorry Sam.  It’s not you; it’s me.

My only regret is picking up the single disc version before I knew there was a double disc with even more tunes. At some point in the future I’ll trade up. I got this used, at Encore Records, so not a huge expense (I paid $10) and I can always trade up.

4/5 stars