Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Love Me Don't

The Happy Couple, About Ready to Pop The Champagne
Hear ye, hear ye!
The ruling is in, in the tabloid-pandering Case No: FD06D03721, Royal Courts of Justice Strand, London WC2A 2LL, Sir James Paul McCartney, Petitioner/Respondent and Heather Anne Mills-McCartney, Respondent/Petitioner. And although still subject to appeal, 1600's esteemed legal affairs advisors have predicted that Heather Mills, the ex-model and now ex-wife of ex-Beatle Paul McCartney, will gladly take her approximately $48.6 million settlement and run- or, perhaps get a ticket to ride with it, after speculation that the greedy shrew would take another bite at the "apple" (pun intended) to get the $125 million she originally demanded.

The award was approximately $400,000 less than the amount offered in settlement approximately a year ago, which was turned down flat at the time by Ms. Mills-McCartney. However, when the decision came down, she held a press conference to announce she was "so glad it's over" and that the ruling "secure(d) my and my daughter's future." After all, she gave the guy nearly the best 48 months of her life! That works out to a little over a million bucks a month, probably a tad more than she ever made limping down the runway, ya think? My love don't give me presents, indeed!

Judge Hugh Bennett heard the sordid case, which alleged various mega-ugly acts of cruelty, including stabbing and choking incidents at the hands of a livid Sir Paul, alcoholism, drug abuse, infidelity, and other pretty much "irreconcilable differences." He characterized the Plaintiff's testimony as "inconsistent and inaccurate," stating that she had been "less than candid," while calling her request for relief "unreasonable, indeed exorbitant." In a final slap, he indicated that she was "less than impressive" as a witness, summarizing her "ideas about her marriage" as "make-belief." Sounds like polite English legalese for "lying, gold-digging vulture."

Perhaps worst of all, the couple's only child, Beatrice, is entitled to a mere £35,000 (about $70,000 a year) of that still-humungous chunk of change, for her continued support and education. Presumably Sir Paul, who has described Beatrice as the only good thing to come of this ill-advised union, will continue to contribute voluntarily to her upbringing. And while Ms. Mills-McCartney was also awarded primary custody of Beatrice for now, we are reminded that the status of her continued residence is always subject to modification. And it will doubtless be reviewed again when she becomes old enough for the court to recognize her own preferences in the matter.

In related news, word on the street has it that this seeming end to hostilities may finally prompt Sir Paul to make his portion of the Beatles' catalogue, worth approximately $400 million, available for online services such as i-Tunes, now that the income from such a sale won't be considered part of his estate for this settlement. And even if he doesn't follow through on that, it's unlikely the "Macca" will wind up "darning his socks in the night when there's nobody there," as the settlement represented only about 3% of his total assets, a figure English counsel has suggested was "remarkably low."

Well, I guess you have to consider the merits and the parties involved. Sounds like that probably accounts for it. Hell, if ya ask me they were overly generous.

Paul- two important words for the future: "pre-nup." And next time around, don't take any wooden legs! D'Oh!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Three of A Perfect Pair

INCOMPARABLE: Julie Slick, Adrian Belew, Eric Slick- Still Making Beautiful Music Together

The Adrian Belew Power Trio returned to Jammin' Java in Vienna for their second show in just under a year, this time at the very end of the tour and holding absolutely nothing back for their final SOLD OUT performance. From the opening notes of their first song, Writing on the Wall, to the last echoing feedback of Crimson-era compositions Neurotica and the autobiographical Thela Hun Ginjeet (wherein Belew, on tape loop, describes an ugly confrontation with would-be muggers in London), the band was even tighter and more practiced than their last trip. At the same time, this visit found them more relaxed and confident than ever, stretching their wings and experimenting, improvising, and building to wild crescendoes, only to stop on a dime and come back together in unison.

The capacity crowd was then treated to another intimate, intense performance, showcasing the material that is featured in the band's new release, the live "Side Four." The disc captures the sheer joy of this band as they give it their all, playing with reckless abandon and staggering musicianship, especially impressive for a bassist and drummer barely old enough to vote! As a good musician and close friend once observed, it's enough to make longtime players lock themselves in their rooms for months on end trying to learn the chops that Julie and Eric Slick demonstrated so effortlessly, or else make you throw your instrument down (perhaps in many pieces) because you know that you'll never be as good as they are if you spend every moment you have left trying...

Nonetheless, as a non-musician, I dwelled on the positive and inspiring side of that equation, wondering what new tricks (and perhaps which old favorites) Mr. Belew and Co. would have up their sleeves. And as always, I was not disappointed. Saul Zonana, co-producer of forementioned "Side Four", warmed up with his uniquely expressive blend of vocals and guitar, with songs that ran the gamut from Beatles-influenced pop (Mr. Blue, Midnight Rain, If I Don't) to more provacative and daring, edgier songs, using guitar loops and occasional drum programs for good effect. He too has used the last year to hone his skills, especially as a guitarist. I look forward to his next release to mark his progress as a songwriter.

The Power Trio played much of the new album, but also many favorites from Adrian's solo career (Matchless Man and Drive were standouts once again), as well as several of the songs he co-wrote as a member of King Crimson (Dinosaur remains among my favorite songs of all time, and their rendition of Three of A Perfect Pair was spot on). Naturally, the arrangements were different with a trio format, but none of them suffered for it. In fact, it breathed new life into some of the songs, propelled by Eric's furious barrage on drums (I have to wonder how many heads he must go through in a year!), with Julie more than capably playing Tony Levin's best licks, while adding some twists and more than a few original touches of her own. Afterward, she told me that she follows her brother's drumming and really plays off of him- and credits their amazing empathy and affinity that allows them to anticipate each other and flow in flawless precision. I don't think I heard a sour note all night- and I was listening pretty closely!

Other highlights were Adrian's transcendent solo on Within You Without You that has apparently become a staple, as Eric and Julie take a well-earned breather; Ampersand, which found the band tearing up the stage in glorious cacophony; and Big Electric Cat, a favorite from Adrian's first solo record, the ambitious "Lone Rhino," still luxuriant with the same innovation and whimsical charm that makes it's way into all the music that bears his imprint, 25+ years later...

So, the good news is: they're coming back AGAIN, to the Ram's Head in Annapolis on June 6th! Well? What are you waiting for?? 'Cause you KNOW that show will be sold out too-

And while you're at it, sign the petition to put this most deserving guitar hero in the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame! The link is below- and it also contains a nice outline of Adrian's career, recordings, and contributions to the world. If they can induct Madonna (who has yet to do anything remotely approaching rock n' roll music) the least we can do is put this guy in there for all the great work he's done! (At least, as long as he promises not to play a guitar rendition of Like A Virgin when they honor him!)


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Rockin' Robin

Robin Trower: Channeling Deep, Hypnotic Blues

I've never heard the volume cranked up to 11 at Alexandria's famous Birchmere before, but I'm sure I saw the roof rising off the building from the sheer sound and spectacle of Robin Trower's brilliant performance there last Sunday, the 9th of March. The packed house celebrated the legendary guitarist's 63rd birthday in fine style, and Mr. Trower obligingly gave a non-stop, pedal to the metal performance par excellence. The well-rehearsed quartet, including Pete Thompson on drums, and former Gamma band alumnae Glenn Letsch on bass, and vocalist Davey Pattison flew through a solid 90 minutes of Trower's trademark blistering psychedelic blues, indulging the audience in extended romps and atmospheric solos.

Mr. Trower also joined us for an interview backstage after soundcheck, to be aired on 1600 sometime in the next few weeks. He discussed his long and well-documented career, some of the master musicians with whom he has and continues to work, the new "Seven Moons" CD, collaborating again with his old friend Jack Bruce, for perhaps their most powerful venture together yet. And while we were expecting to hear some of it live, Robin stuck to older material, as the new CD had not been available for long and he didn't think that enough fans would be familiar with it. (Cue the fanbelt, Steve!)

The band started early, and wasted no time launching into a driving, blues-drenched attack. They opened with the title cut from Trower's 1975 debut, Twice Removed From Yesterday, immediately capturing the attentive audience and establishing that he was not there to play a lightweight, mellow set, and even did a bit of vocalizing himself. They followed immediately with another fan favorite, Shame the Devil, and a soulful reading of the title track also from his 1975 solo debut, For Earth Below, which set the mood for a very memorable performance. In between, the crowd offered a brief serenade of their own to Robin, wishing him a happy birthday and many more years of rockin' our socks off!

In rapid-fire succession came a wealth of classic Trower tunes, including The Fool and Me, a rocking Day of the Eagle, Bridge of Sighs, A Little Bit of Sympathy, and Too Rolling Stoned from what is probably his best known work, the psychedelic masterpiece "Bridge of Sighs." The title cut was especially moving: a slow, deep blues that wound around the room, enveloping the transfixed audience in a plush sonic cocoon, and sweeping them away. The guitarist's technique and flair were further showcased on Gonna Be More Suspicious,with a lilting Hannah, Victims of the Fury, and the thoughtful Another Time, Another Place (as captured on Trower's recent live disc, the 2006 CD "Living Out of Time- Live") were other highlights rounding out a fine set. The band largely relied on Trower's first three records, all of which sounded as crisp and retained every measure of the power they had thirty years ago.

I'm not sure how much of a new following Trower will find, forty years into an exceptional career of making unique and engaging music. On the other hand, this was among those rare shows when we actually saw people at the show that looked even older than us, if you can believe that! But for interested novices, I would encourage seeking out 1991's "The Essential Robin Trower" for a good primer, featuring several of the highlights we heard that night. The previously mentioned live album, the classics "Bridge of Sighs" and "For Earth Below," and many more recent recordings, including the 2005 release "Another Day's Blues," and his latest album, "Seven Moons," all deliver satisfying and timeless rock and roll that sounds fresh yet familiar at the same time. Ya pretty much can't go wrong.

Thanks again to Robin, his tour manager Laurie Brace, publicist David Maida of Rising Talent Group, and John Brinegar and our good friends at the Birchmere for another memorable evening in their good company! We'll be back- and SOON!