John Swenson

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).

John Swenson  |  Feb 19, 2020  |  11 comments
The Who: Who
Interscope B0031280-02 (CD). 2019. Pete Townshend, Dave Sardy, Bob Pridden, Dave Eringa, prods.; Dave Sardy, James Monti, others, engs.
Performance ****
Sonics ****

What motivates an artist to make great statements?

Whatever it is, it's certainly a shock to see a rock-era songwriter rediscover his muse after some 40 years treading water. So it is that Pete Townshend re-emerges at the end of 2019 with his most powerful collection of songs since Empty Glass and the best Who album since Quadrophenia.

John Swenson  |  Oct 24, 2019  |  2 comments
The Doors: The Soft Parade (50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition)
Rhino Records R2-596001 (3CDs, 1LP). 1969–2019. Paul A. Rothchild, prod.; Bruce Botnick, eng. ADD. TT: 146:47
Performance ****
Sonics ****

The Soft Parade has long been the Doors' most under-valued album. After the revolutionary impact of the band's first two LPs, The Doors and Strange Days, and the commercial consolidation of the band's popularity on the third, Waiting for the Sun, Soft Parade was perceived as a fall from grace. The charismatic Jim Morrison, famously dubbed "The Lizard King" by Crawdaddy! guru Paul Williams, had transitioned from perhaps the most sexually powerful rock'n'roll figure since Elvis Presley into a troubled frontman bent on self-destruction.

John Swenson  |  Jun 20, 2019  |  1 comments
Herbie Hancock: Takin' Off
Herbie Hancock, piano; Freddie Hubbard, trumpet; Dexter Gordon, tenor saxophone; Butch Warren, double bass; Billy Higgins, drums.
Blue Note Records 84109 (LP), 1962, 2019. Alfred Lion, prod.; Rudy Van Gelder, eng.; Don Was, Cem Kurosman, reissue prods.; Kevin Gray, reissue eng. AAA. TT: 39:01
Performance ****
Sonics ****½

From 1962 until now, and counting all formats except downloads, there have been no fewer than 62 releases of Herbie Hancock's debut album, Takin' Off—more than any of his other albums except Maiden Voyage (1965) and Head Hunters (1973). This issue's Recording of the Month comes from an ambitious project referred to by Blue Note Records as the Blue Note 80 Vinyl Reissue Series, which is distinct from the company's Tone Poet Audiophile Vinyl Reissue Series, described in Sasha Matson's interview with company President Don Was in the May 2019 Stereophile.

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