Music…How We Get It (2021)

Here are the major trends in how we purchase music.  Far and away the biggest way we pay for music is by streaming.

The RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) released the figures today for the first half of 2021.   Streaming accounted for 84% of all music sales.  There are more than 80-million subscriptions to streaming.  Physical sales were only about 10% of revenues.  About two-thirds of that is vinyl records, which saw a 94% increase (skewed some by the pandemic, which hurt last year’s sales).

The biggest album for physical sales was Taylor Swift’s Evermore, which sold over 100,000 vinyl copies in one week…more than any other album in the last 30-years.  Even with significant growth in vinyl sales, listening to records is mostly a hobby, and not the major way we consume most of our music.  Remember, artists used to sell millions of vinyl albums in the ‘70’s & ‘80’s.  Records and CD’s do make nice souvenirs of our favorite artists.

While vinyl continues to grow, CD purchases are still going down.  Box sets, like my George Harrison All Things Must Pass (shown above) are still money makers, but CD’s only accounted for one-third of physical sales.  To be fair, CD’s also cost much less than vinyl, so the number of units sold could actually be similar.

Digital purchases, such as on iTunes, have fallen drastically in the past few years, and now provide around 5% of sales.

That leaves music licensing (such as for films, commercials, and venues), which accounted for less than 2% of music sales.

The way we get our music shifted amazingly fast once services like Spotify, Apple Music, and Amazon Music gave us access to millions of songs for relatively low monthly fees.  For the price of one box set, you can have a year’s worth of music on streaming.

Fleetwood Mac Attack

Fleetwood Mac has broken up and gotten back together many times, but based on some nasty comments by Lindsey Buckingham, he seems to be guaranteeing he’s never going back again.

Lindsey Buckingham launched some missiles at Stevie Nicks, and she returned fire.  In an interview with The Los Angeles Times, Lindsey Buckingham said he was fired from the band in 2018 because Stevie Nicks said the group had to choose either him or her.  He said… “I think she saw the possibility of remaking the band more in a Stevie Nicks vein.  More mellow and kind of down, giving her more chances to do the kind of talking she does on stage.”

Then Buckingham made it even more personal and mean by criticizing her creativity, energy, and life.  “Her creativity, at least for a while it seemed like she wasn’t in touch with that.  Same with the level of energy she once had on stage.  I think that was hard for her, seeing me jumping around in an age-inappropriate way.  Also, she’s lonely.  She’s alone.”

Stevie Nicks responded.  “To be exceedingly clear, I did not ask for him to be fired.  I did not demand he be fired.  Frankly, I fired myself.  I proactively removed myself from the band and a situation I considered to be toxic for my wellbeing.  I was done.  So if the band went on without me, so be it.  After many lengthy discussions, Fleetwood Mac, a band whose legacy is rooted in evolution and change, found a new path forward with two hugely talented new members.”  (Those being Mike Campbell and Neil Finn.  The concerts weren’t criticized as being “mellow”.)

Nicks also chided Buckingham for calling her “lonely” because of her choice of career over family.  She said… “I’m proud of the life choices I’ve made, and it seems a shame for him to pass judgement on anyone who chooses to live their life on their own terms.”

Lindsey Buckingham had more criticism, which he aimed at Fleetwood Mac manager Irving Azoff.  Buckingham said the decision to axe him was “driven by the money”.

Irving Azoff issued this statement.  “While I understand it’s challenging for Lindsey to accept his own role in these matters and far easier for him to blame a manager, the fact remains that his actions alone are responsible for what transpired.  Frankly, If I can be accused of anything, it’s perhaps holding things together longer than I should have.  After 2018 when Fleetwood Mac evolved with their new lineup, my continued work with the band was due entirely to the fact I’ve been aligned with Stevie Nicks in thought and purpose from the earliest of days.  While financial gain was not a motivator for me, it was a delightful bonus that the band scored their highest grossing tour ever, without Lindsey.”

(Stevie & Lindsey during Fleetwood Mac’s prime.)

So let’s take a look at what seems to be the end of Lindsey Buckingham’s chances of rejoining his band.

When the whole “firing” incident started in 2018, Lindsey wanted to do a solo tour and asked the band to delay the Fleetwood Mac tour.  Lindsey has always called Fleetwood Mac “The Big Machine”, and his solo work “The Small Machine”.  It looks like he lost sight of which one takes precedence, especially when some of the band’s tour dates had been booked.

Stevie Nicks was already upset with Buckingham, because she felt he had mocked her at a MusiCares event in January of 2018.  It seems likely, based on what she said about removing herself from a toxic situation, Stevie did force a him-or-me choice.  Even though she never asked the band to fire Lindsey, there’s no other way they could eliminate the situation that was causing her to fire herself from the band.  Despite Buckingham’s major production, writing, and guitar skills during their recording years, he was obviously more replaceable than Stevie Nicks, who had become the biggest star of the band.

The question to ask Nicks is if she would have toured with Mac if Lindsey had agreed to the timing of the tour.  If the answer is yes, then his request to delay the tour really was the last straw, and the true reason he was fired.

As the drama has unfolded over the past three years, it seems obvious Stevie Nicks’ and Lindsey Buckingham’s love and friendship has run its course.

Why did Lindsey decide to slam the door on Fleetwood Mac now?  The cynical answer might be that it’s because he has a new album released September 17th.  His attack on Nicks and Azoff sure garnered attention.

J.D. Souther…Almost Famous

He was almost in the Eagles, and he was almost a solo star.  His friends became very famous…Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt, James Taylor, Glenn Frey, and Don Henley.  John David Souther may have just missed stardom, but he was very successful.

(Photos from 1971 and 1972)

J.D. Souther was born in Detroit in 1945, and was raised in Texas.  When he moved to California in the late ‘60’s, he met another Detroit native, Glenn Frey, and they formed a Country Rock duo called Longbranch Pennywhistle.

What?  You don’t remember their 1969 album?  It would probably be completely forgotten if it weren’t for the historical perspective it provides.  As the Eagles formed in 1971, J.D. Souther was encouraged to join.  They even worked on one of his songs, “How Long”, but J.D. thought the band already had enough guitarists & singers, and decided solo was the way to go.

His self-titled album came out in 1972, just like the Eagles’ first album.  One of the albums was a hit, and one went to the cut-out bins.  Souther wouldn’t release another solo album for four years; however, he soon found great success…as a songwriter.

Let’s look at some of the songs J.D. Souther helped write for these albums.

Here are the songs J.D. co-wrote (mostly with Don Henley & Glenn Frey):

”Doolin’-Dalton”, “Best Of My Love” (#1), “You Never Cry Like A Lover”, “James Dean”, “New Kid In Town” (#1), “Heartache Tonight” (#1), and “The Sad Cafe”.  That’s three #1 singles, and they’re on some of the best-selling albums of all time.

Three decades later (2007), the Eagles released J.D. Souther’s “How Long” as a hit off their final studio album, Long Road Out Of Eden.  The song won the Grammy Award for Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group.  It also was a hit on the Adult Contemporary charts.

Besides the Eagles, J.D. Souther helped with the success of one-time girlfriend, and lifetime friend, Linda Ronstadt.

Here are the songs J.D. Souther wrote that Linda Ronstadt recorded (including duets on which he sang):

”I Can Almost See It”, “Don’t Cry Now”, “The Fast One”, “Faithless Love” (duet), “Prisoner In Disguise” (duet), “Silver Blue” (duet), “Simple Man, Simple Dream”, “White Rhythm And Blues”, and “Hearts Against The Wind” (duet on the Urban Cowboy soundtrack).

Obviously, with the extreme popularity of Linda Ronstadt and the Eagles, J.D. Souther was earning an amazing living as a songwriter.  He would see limited success as a solo artist starting in 1976, but first…a band.

There was an attempt to form a “supergroup” by putting J.D. Souther, Chris Hillman (of The Byrds), and Richie Furay (of Poco) together as a band.  It resulted in two albums (I bought), and some success.  The albums reached #11 and #39 in 1974 & 1975, but the group split up after the second album.  It was partly because they were put together by their label, rather than having come together naturally.  Next were the solo albums.

I picked up the first three of these albums as they were released in 1976, 1979 and 1984, and then the fourth in 2011.  The Black Rose album included several songs Souther had written for Ronstadt, plus more originals.  As a young man, J.D. had been influenced by Jazz artists, so besides the Country Rock feel, there are touches of Jazz in some of the arrangements.  It’s a good album, but only made it to #85 on the Top 200 chart.

J.D. Souther’s greatest solo success was in 1979.  His single “You’re Only Lonely” went to #7 on the Top 100 chart, and spent multiple weeks at #1 on the Adult Contemporary chart.  The You’re Only Lonely album peaked at #41, his best solo showing.  It’s also his best album.

Between albums in 1981, James Taylor & J.D. Souther released the duet “Her Town Too”.  It went to #11 on the Top 100 chart, and hit #5 on the AC chart.  The song was written by the two singers, and guitarist Waddy Wachtel.

Neither of Souther’s other two albums, Home By Dawn and Natural History charted, but the latter one featured cool stripped-down versions of some of the songs he co-wrote with the Eagles.  At this point, Souther dropped the periods from his initials, and became JD Souther.

You might have caught JD on TV.  He had a significant role on season three of Thirty Something (1989-1990), and more recently was a recurring character in the country music show Nashville (2012-2017).

While not well known by the general pubic, JD Souther is famous with musicians and songwriters.  He was inducted into the Songwriters Hall Of Fame in 2013.  John David Souther has had an impressive career…with maybe just the right amount of fame.

Extra:  In case you’re not familiar with his recordings, here’s a recommended playlist of JD Souther songs you can stream.  The first six songs are from You’re Only Lonely, and the next six are from Black Rose.

  1. You’re Only Lonely
  2. The Last In Love
  3. If You Don’t Want My Love
  4. Songs Of Love
  5. White Rhythm & Blues (Phil Everly on Harmony)
  6. Til The Bars Burn Down
  7. Simple Man, Simple Dream
  8. Silver Blue
  9. Midnight Prowl
  10. I Can Almost See It (Demo)
  11. Faithless Love
  12. Doors Swing Open
  13. Go Ahead And Rain
  14. Hearts Against The Wind (with Linda Ronstadt)
  15. The Sad Cafe
  16. It Might Be Mine (with Linda Ronstadt)
  17. The Heartbreaker (with Souther-Hillman-Fury Band)
  18. New Kid In Town
  19. Something In The Dark
  20. I’ll Be Here At Closing Time

The Beatles…Let It Be Box Set (2021)

A 5-CD plus Blu-ray “Super Deluxe” box set of Let It  Be is being released on October 15th (vinyl too).

The discs include the new remix the Let It Be album, the original unreleased 1969 Get Back album, plus songs from sessions and rehearsals.  You can see a hardback book of photos and information is included.  It’s a 100 page book, as compared with the 240 page The Beatles: Get Back book that’s coming out October 12th.  The book in the box set has information on the recordings, and comments from Paul McCartney, Glyn Johns and more, whereas the other book has dialogue from the film.  Both have previously unreleased photos.   The list price for this Super Deluxe set is $139.98.  (The vinyl version is $199.98.)

Here are the track listings from the back of the box (click to enlarge & make clearer):

Each of these playlists is short enough to fit on a vinyl record, so the Super Deluxe vinyl box set is 5-discs too (4 LP’s and an EP).  The list price is $199.98.

A 2-CD Deluxe set (below) contains the new remix, plus a disc of selected highlights from the rest of the box set.  The list price is $24.98.  The remixed album will also be available as a single disc or record.

The never-released Get Back album (with no overdubs) that was assembled by Glyn Johns comes with a nice touch.  Both the CD & Vinyl sets include a version of the cover that was planned for that 1969 album.

The Super Deluxe sets also include two discs of recordings from sessions and rehearsals, and a 4-track EP that includes remixes of the “Let It Be” & “Don’t Let Me Down” singles.  The CD set also has a Blu-ray audio disc of the new remix album with 5.1/Dolby Atmos.  

It’s surprising the rooftop concert isn’t included using the best versions of the five songs that were played.  There was certainly room for it on the five CD’s.  Maybe the version of the album done by Glyn Johns is meant to take its place, because the rooftop recordings were used for those mixes, and all five of the songs played during the concert are on the Get Back album.

The cover of the box set is very similar to the original Let It Be album cover.

There’s even a vinyl picture disc!  $35.98 ($10 more than the standard vinyl.)

A lot of the material from the sessions, rehearsals, and jams has been available in various versions from Anthology 3 and bootlegs.  Now we’ll hear them in the best possible audio, along with the remix of the original Let It Be album.  We’ve been waiting nearly a year-and-a-half past the 50th Anniversary!

Poco…The Country Rock Band That Kept On Tryin’

The Country Rock band Poco released their first album in 1969, but it wasn’t until a decade later that they finally had a hit.

(Jim Messina, Randy Meisner, George Grantham, Richie Furay, Rusty Young)

When their band, Buffalo Springfield, broke up in 1968, Jim Messina and Richie Furay (guitarists, vocalists, & songwriters) started the band Poco.  They added Randy Meisner on bass & vocals, George Grantham on drums & vocals, and Rusty Young on steel guitar, banjo, guitar & vocals.  Country Rock was just heating up, and with this talented line-up, Poco was sure to be a big success, even though their name means “little” in Spanish.

Unfortunately, their first two albums in 1969 & 1970 only made it to #63 and #58 on the Billboard Top 200 album chart.  Bassist Randy Meisner left the band as the first album was being released.  He went on to play in Rick Nelson’s Stone Canyon Band, and then become a founding member of the Eagles.  He stayed with them through the album Hotel California.

Poco’s singles weren’t hits either….including “You Better Think Twice” #72 and “Just For Me And You” #110.

I started buying Poco albums when they released the live album Deliverin’ (#26) in 1971.  Timothy B. Schmidt had replaced Randy Meisner on bass, and he would replace him in the Eagles years later.  When I bought the studio album From The Inside, (#52) also in 1971, I found out Jim Messina had left (to get together with Kenny Loggins), and he was replaced by Paul Cotton.  Cotton became the lead guitarist, one of the lead vocalists, and one of the songwriters for the band.

(This is probably the most classic line-up of Poco.  Timothy B. Schmidt. Richie Furay, George Grantham, Rusty Young, and Paul Cotton.)

Paul Cotton was a little familiar to me, because I had purchased an album by The Illinois Speed Press from a cut-out bin in 1970.  The album had one song I loved, “Bad Weather”, which Paul Cotton also did with Poco on From The Inside.

(Poco’s best studio album, Crazy Eyes.)

Poco kept almost making it big.  By 1973, the Eagles were taking Country Rock into the upper portion of both the album and singles charts.  Poco’s label, Epic, brought in Guess Who producer, Jack Richardson, who helped create a really solid album, Crazy Eyes.  Some of the songs featured extensive orchestration like the Eagles would come to use on some of their songs.

Tracks on Crazy Eyes included a beautiful rendition of “Magnolia” which is one of J.J. Cale’s best songs.  It also had the first recording of “Brass Buttons” written by Gram Parsons.   He had been a member of The Byrds and The Flying Burrito Brothers.  The centerpiece of the album is “Crazy Eyes” (by Richie Furay) which is over nine-and-a-half minutes long, and is brilliantly arranged.  The song is in reference to Gram Parsons, who died at the age of 26 from a drug and alcohol overdose that year.

Crazy Eyes was the highest charting of Poco’s first ten studio albums, but at #38, it still wasn’t the level of success they had hoped for.  Richie Furay left to join The Souther-Hillman-Furay band with Chris Hillman and J.D. Souther.  Instead of replacing Furay, Rusty Young stepped up his songwriting and vocal work.  Poco followed the advice of their 1975 song “Keep On Tryin’” (#50), as they moved to the ABC label.

Finally, in 1979 a song written and sung by Rusty Young, “Crazy Love”, made it to #17 on the Top 40 chart, and #1 on the Adult Contemporary chart.  Just a reminder, the song starts off…. “Tonight I’m gonna break away…”  and the chorus has… “It happens all the time, this crazy love of mine.”  The album, Legend, climbed to #14, their best showing ever.  It also contained the hit “Heart Of The Night” (#20), written and sung by Paul Cotton.

The album’s cover drawing of a horse was by Phil Hartman of Saturday Night Live.  You can see the artwork was incorporated into multiple Poco album covers.  Hartman was a graphic artist before he became an actor and comedian.  His brother, John, was the manager for Poco and the band America.  Phil Hartman also did the excellent cover art for the album History: America’s Greatest Hits.

After 1979, Poco released another seven studio albums, and lots of various “Best Of” collections.  I particularly liked the 2 CD set shown above.  It contained the songs recorded while they were with the Epic label.

In 1989, the original members of Poco got together for the album Legacy which made it to #40, and had their third and final Top 40 hit, “Call It Love” (#18).

The truth is, no other Country Rock bands ever came close to the popularity of the Eagles, and few even equaled Poco’s popularity.  It seemed like the acts were too Country for Rock radio stations, and too Rock for Country stations.

This year, we lost two of Poco’s most important members.

Rusty Young, shown above on banjo & steel guitar, passed away of a heart attack on April 14h at his home in Missouri at the age of 75.  Lead guitarist Paul Cotton passed away August 1st.  He was at his Summer home near Eugene, Oregon.  His wife said he died suddenly, but no cause was given.  He was 78.

Even though Poco never became immensely popular, they still attracted a large following of devoted fans who attended their live shows for decades.  The musicians of Poco were respected professionals who made a great living doing the thing they loved.  Almost everyone would call that a big success.

Alison Krauss & Robert Plant…Raise The Roof (New Album)

Most artist don’t wait 14 years to follow up a big Grammy winning album, but Alison Krauss and Robert Plant did.

Raise The Roof is being released on November 19th, 2021.  The first single is “Can’t Let Go”, which sounds like a long lost hit by the Everly Brothers.  You may remember that the Everly’s “Gone Gone Gone” was the first hit from their previous album.  Here’s the link to “Can’t Let Go”:

Of course their 2007 album Raising Sand won five Grammy awards, including Album Of The Year.  Once again, T Bone Burnett is the producer, and he used top session players.  Burnett wrote one song with Robert Plant, “High And Lonesome”, and the other eleven songs are by outside writers.  Here’s the track list:

Krauss and Plant are planning a 2022 tour.

Can those two recapture the magic of their first collaboration?  We’ll find out November 19th.

Extra:  For a career-spanning article on Alison Krauss, and exclusive concert photos, here’s the link:

George Harrison…All Things Must Pass 50th Anniversary Remix (Review)

All Things Must Pass…but apparently not this great album.  It’s been 51 years since George Harrison’s best post-Beatles album was released, and now it sounds better than ever!

George Harrison said he was tempted to remix the album to lose some of the reverb and “wall of sound” production techniques used by Phil Spector.  George’s son Dhani and mixer/engineer Paul Hicks have made that happen. The 50th Anniversary remix of All Things Must Pass lets us hear George Harrison’s vocals much better than previously, yet the the songs retain the feel of the original arrangements.  Paul Hicks was able to do the same thing for John Lennon’s best songs with last year’s collection Gimme Some Truth.

Despite all the extra demos and outtakes, the most important recordings are the ones on the original album that we’ve known for over 50 years.  The improvement in those recordings is impressive.  From the first track, the Harrison/Dylan song “I’d Have You Anytime”, the depth and clarity of the voices and instruments are so much better.  “My Sweet Lord” let’s you hear George’s voice and the background chorus like never before.

The new remix of “Isn’t It A Pity” is especially revealing.  Now we can hear the individual instruments, and how brilliantly they were used to build up the song as it progresses.  We’re fully hearing the song for the first time.  By the way, like many of these songs, “Isn’t It A Pity” was written during The Beatles’ time together, but wasn’t seriously worked on by the band.  It may be better that George was able to keep these songs for his personal vision.

Following “Isn’t It A Pity” are three more of the album’s best songs… “What Is Life”, “If Not For You”, and “Behind That Locked Door”.  They all sound great, especially the last one.  The remix sounds like George and the band are in the room with you.  A surprise for me was “Let It Down”.  The remix sounds so much better that it elevates my opinion of the song.  “Run Of The Mill” (which every common sense person knows should have been titled “It’s You That Decides”) is perfection.  On the outtakes CD, there’s an alternate version with dual guitars that are a bit reminiscent of the style used by The Allman Brothers Band.

The third side of the original album started with one of the album’s very best tracks, “Beware Of Darkness”, and that side’s lineup is strong all the way through to the excellent title track “All Things Must Pass”.  The point is, if you liked the songs before, you’re going to enjoy them even more with the greatly improved mixes.  Dhani Harrison and Paul Hicks deserve high praise for their years of work on this project.  Their goal was to improve the sound of these recordings so they will be enjoyed for another 50 years and beyond.  Mission accomplished.

There are a bunch of different CD and vinyl versions available.  This is my three CD version.  It includes the remixes of the original three record set, plus a full CD of outtakes and alternate versions.  You can click and zoom the photo to see the songs on each CD sleeve.  The set also has a nice colorful 20-page booklet, and a folded poster with the lyrics on the back.  There’s a five CD version that has two discs of demos, which I listened to on streaming.  A complete list of the songs and the descriptions of the various CD & Vinyl versions (with prices) are available in an earlier article on this site.

(A quote from George Harrison at the front of the booklet)

The outtakes disc starts with a short verse that shows George’s sense of humor about how long it takes to get a song right.  He sings… “Isn’t it so shitty, isn’t it a shame.  How we do so many takes, and we’re doing it again.”  The outtakes are interesting, but like nearly every box set, you’ll hear why the versions ultimately chosen are better.  There’s a new track on the disc that’s an enjoyable eight-and-a-half-minute blues jam, “Almost 12-Bar Honky Tonk”.  George recruited top musicians for this album, and they played great together.

The two demo CD’s are divided into Day 1 and Day 2.  It’s striking how many songs George Harrison had available to record just six months after The Beatles broke up.  He had obviously been writing the songs for years, and now he could bring them to life for the public.  Even though the produced versions are better than the demos, you may enjoy hearing how the songs began.

(My 30th & 50th Anniversary CD box sets)

Additional test:  After loading the CD’s into my computer at the highest quality possible, I made a playlist of the songs from the 2001 remaster.  Then immediately followed each song with the same song from the 2021 remix…in order to get a good comparison.  The audio was played on a high-quality stereo system.  The simplest explanation of the result is that the 2001 remaster sounded like it was playing on smaller speakers than the 2021 remix.  Even though the volume levels were the same, the new remix definitely lets you hear the bass and drums more like the instruments really sound (full & clear).  Besides the clarity of all the instruments, the biggest improvement is that the remix sounds more like George is right there with you.

There are always some people who are going to prefer the version they’ve known for 50 years, and that’s okay.  But I can only imagine the screams that would have happened if this new remix had been the original version, and Apple later released that thinner sounding version with vocals more buried, and an over abundance of reverb.

I bought the original 3-record set on sale for $6.50 the week it came out in 1970.  The album was extremely popular.  It went to #1 for seven weeks, and by some counts is the biggest selling solo album by any of The Beatles.  Paul McCartney’s Band On The Run may have actually sold more copies, but a 3-record set counts as three sales.

It’s obvious George Harrison would have loved the new mix of All Things Must Pass, and would have been proud of his son for making his wish come true.  There’s no other solo album by an ex-Beatle that contains so many great songs.  The new remix deserves as many stars as reviewers are allowed to give.

Extra:  Wanted to share this photo from the booklet.

David Crosby…For Free (Album Review)

Is this the ‘70’s?  David Crosby and Jackson Browne released new albums on the same day (July 23rd, 2021).

David Crosby has had trouble keeping friends in recent years, especially his band mates Stephen Stills, Graham Nash, and Neil Young.  So, he recruited other friends to help with his new album, For Free.

The impressive cover painting is by Joan Baez.  The first song, “River Rise” is a solid start for the album, and features great harmony work by Michael McDonald.  Of course McDonald is known for his solo hits, as well as his work with The Doobie Brothers and Steely Dan.  Crosby also got Steely Dan’s Donald Fagan to co-write one of the other tracks, “Rodriguez For A Night”, which definitely sounds like it would have been at home on a Steely Dan album.

(Photo by Anna Webber)

The title track, “For Free”, is the well-known song by Joni Mitchell, and is done here as a duet with Sarah Jarosz.  The song is about a popular singer spotting a street musician who is…”playing real good for free”.  The recording has a beautiful sound, and they sing it in perfect harmony, but that’s the problem.   If Sara Jarosz had only joined-in with harmony for portions of the song, it would have been effective.  Unfortunately, with the two singing nearly every word in harmony, you can hear how hard they’re striving to stay in perfect synchronization.  The song loses its story-telling flow.  Crosby did a better version with The Byrds nearly 50 years ago.  By the way, David Crosby turned 80 on August 14h, 2021, and his voice is still strong.

Despite the slight miss on the title track, this is a high quality album. The playing, singing, and arranging are all first rate.  There are no clunkers to be found.  Some of these songs would have worked great as Crosby Stills & Nash recordings, but the tracks on this album that have more of a pop/jazz feel (like “Secret Dancer”) are cool too.  Of the flurry of albums David Crosby has released in recent years, this is the best one.

For Free concludes with a touching song, “I Won’t Stay For Long”, by David Crosby’s son, James Raymond.  It includes the lyrics… “I don’t know if I’m dying or about to be born, but I’d like to be with you today, and I won’t stay for long.”

(Photo by Scott Dudelson)

It’s been a long stay in the music business for David Crosby.  Since The Byrds hit with “Mr. Tamborine Man” in 1965, we’ve had the privilege of enjoying his talent.  Whether he’s singing harmony or lead, whether he’s in a group or solo, he’s always given us his very original style.  With all of David Crosby’s personal and health problems over the years, it’s amazing he’s made it to 80, and is still writing and singing at this high level.

Update:  David Crosby’s next release is the 50th Anniversary edition of his first solo album, If I Could Only Remember My Name.  It’s being remastered, and there will be a second disc with outtakes and demos.  The release date is October 15th, 2021.  It includes demos of some good songs that would appear on the album Graham Nash-David Crosby… “ The Wall Song”, “Games”, and “Where Will I Be”.

Extra:  During an interview this week with Jackson Browne in the Los Angeles Times, they asked him if any musicians served as mentors to him when he was young.  Here’s his answer:  “David Crosby agreed to sing on my first record.  He absolutely showed me how to record, how to multitrack vocals.  He praised me to others and to myself, and that was really important.  I feel a great debt of gratitude to David.”

Here’s the link to the review of Jackson Browne’s new album:

Jackson Browne…Downhill From Everywhere (Review)

These days, Jackson Browne says the songwriting process is slower for him.  It’s been seven years since the about-to-turn-73 (October 9th) singer/songwriter released a new album, and now we have Downhill From Everywhere.

The album is a collection of ten Jackson Browne originals (with some co-writing).  Right away, Jackson lets us know he’s “Still Looking For Something”, which is a really good song, and a strong start for the the album.  It would have been a good title for it.  He says…“If all I find is freedom, it’s alright.”

The featured single and video is “My Cleveland Heart”.  It’s a lap steel guitar rocker about avoiding heartbreak by getting an artificial heart at the famous Cleveland Clinic.  The video adds some humor to the idea.

The third track on the album, “Minutes To Downtown”, is another song about heartbreak, and it has that classic Jackson Browne sound.  “I See that smile, and even while it breaks my heart, I laugh.  That’s because this heart was already torn in half.”

The quality continues with the duet “A Human Touch”.  The vocal is started by co-writer Leslie Mendelson.  Jackson Browne adds harmony on the chorus, and then takes the lead on the next verse.  The lap steel guitar gives it a country feel, and the lyrics hit home after the distancing of the pandemic… “Sometimes all anybody needs is a human touch.”  It reminded me of another duet, “Sometimes Love Just Ain’t Enough”, by Patty Smyth and Don Henley.

The title track, “Downhill From Everywhere”, is based on the thought that everything we do eventually goes downhill into the ocean, polluting it.  The song is a rocker that sounds like the guitarist had the riff from The Rolling Stones’ “Start Me Up” stuck in his head.  It’s not one of the better songs on the album…just too many listings of  “Downhill from…” on it.

The second song that has a Stone’s guitar feel is “Until Justice Is Real”.  It took a few listens for me to warm up to it, but it sounds like it would have fit on Jackson’s “Lives In The balance” album.

 One of the best songs is the welcome new ballad “A Little Soon To Say”.  It features beautiful guitar and organ accompaniment, with effective vocal harmonies, especially on the title line about whether things will be alright….“It’s just a little soon to say.”

The album ends upbeat with “A Song For Barcelona”.  The rhythm and instrumental arrangement match the title perfectly.  The band is energetic and in a groove.  Jackson Browne sings that Barcelona “gave me refuge in my escape from Rock & Roll.”

Something Jackson Browne could work on is making his album covers more appealing.  Here are his last two covers next to each other.

It looks like a place you’d want to avoid.  It would be a shame if anyone missed the music because they were turned away by the cover.  One of the new publicity photos would have made a much more inviting cover, and would have still been in line with his often serious lyrics.

Jackson Browne fans will definitely be adding some of the songs from Downhill From Everywhere to their permanent playlists.  This album has the most Jackson Browne songs I’ve added from any of his albums in the last 30 years.  Jackson will be performing tracks from the new album, as he’s touring this fall with James Taylor, and on his own.  These days, we’re lucky Jackson Browne is still providing fans with new music.

Extra:  For a look at Jackson’s best albums, and some original concert photos, here’s the link.

Update (August, 2021):  Jackson Browne & James Taylor returned to the stage in Sarasota, Florida August 23rd.  Here are photos from the Daily Gazette.

According to the article, the two singer-songwriters performed together on three of Jackson’s songs “The Pretender”, “Running On Empty” and “Take It Easy”.  Trivia:  Both J.B. & J.T. were born in 1948.

Paul McCartney…McCartney 3, 2, 1 (Review)

Famous producer Rick Rubin gets a Beatles fan’s dream…a conversation with the man who is probably the world’s most famous musician, Paul McCartney.  Rubin asks him about the music McCartney created with The Beatles, Wings, and as a solo artist.

McCartney 3, 2, 1  is a new six-part documentary on Hulu (each part is about half-an-hour).  The interview portion is in black & white, but some featured photos and film segments are in color.  Hulu subscribers (Hulu also offers free trials) can binge all episodes of the series, which started on Friday July 16th, 2021.

Actually, here on the West Coast, it became available Thursday at 9 PM.  My wife and I watched the six episodes straight through to Midnight.  If you’re into Beatles music, you’ll find the series to be absolutely fascinating.  Rick Rubin selected song sections to play for Paul McCartney, and Paul describes how the recordings came to be.  There are some familiar stories, but also a lot of new insights about songs we love.

Paul McCartney and Rick Rubin cover a lot of ground, and it’s never boring.  Both men at times controlled the mixing board, and various instruments or vocals were isolated like we’ve never heard before.  You get completely pulled into how the recordings were created.  As expected, the majority of the time is spent on Beatles songs, but some of Paul’s Wings and solo recordings are included.  The questions and discussions go beyond specific songs, and reveal so much about how The Beatles worked together.

McCartney even provides some live musical demonstrations on piano, guitar, drums, and his Hofner bass.  Instead of trying to be a definitive documentary of all things Beatles & McCartney, it’s a wonderfully casual and candid conversation. 

Beatles fans and musicians…a splendid time is guaranteed for all.

Here’s the trailer for the documentary: