Category Archives: Garland Jeffreys

Garland Jeffreys: 14 Steps to Harlem – The Review

Since the dawn of what I’ve decided to dub the fast-track century, aka the 21st, there have been a few constants in my life. Family? Of course. Feline? Check. Music? Well, duh! I listen as much now as ever – new artists and old favorites forever intermingle on the ever-evolving soundtrack of my life. Some new artists become old favorites in short order. And old favorites, though they may fade to the background for a spell, always resurface.

There’s just not enough time – not for music, and not for life. It “goes away as quick as a wink. Quicker than you think.” Those lines come from “Time Goes Away,” a meditative gem on this, Garland Jeffreys’ latest long-player. (If it was on YouTube, I’d embed it here.) It’s a beautiful, plaintive tune buttressed by the addition of Garland’s 20-year-old daughter Savannah, who echoes her father’s simple yet profound words: “Time goes away/Till you don’t have many/Till you don’t have any.” (That young voice deserves an album of her own. Just sayin’.) It’s a topic Diane and I discuss often these days, actually: yesteryear often seems like yesterday to us. And our tomorrows…we both know there’s less of them to come.

As a whole, 14 Steps to Harlem finds Garland looking back, surveying the present and contemplating the future – and doing it all to melodies that linger long after the music has ceased. This morning, for instance, I woke with the title track in my head:

Other highlights include “When You Call My Name”…

…and “Venus.”

His cover of the Velvet Underground’s “Waiting for the Man,” written by his old friend Lou Reed, is great to have on album. (It’s been a concert staple of his for the past good while.)

And “Luna Park Love Theme,” which features Lou’s wife Laurie Anderson on electric violin, is the perfect cap to a great outing. Unfortunately, it’s not on YouTube so, instead, here’s a clip of another high point: Garland’s slowed-down spin on the Beatles’ “Help.”

(Here’s the AP’s review; and an excellent USA Today article on the album.)

Of Concerts Past: Garland Jeffreys at the Tin Angel, Dec. 14, 2001

img_0459And so it’s finally come to pass: the Tin Angel closed its door on Feb. 4th, a fate expected since the announcement of the building’s sale last fall. The plan, according to owner Donal McCory and booker Larry Goldfarb, is to re-open at a different (and larger) location by the end of the year.

Diane and I saw many shows at the intimate 115-seat venue through the years, from the early 1990s to last year. One memorable concert: Maria McKee in 1998. Another: Garland Jeffreys in 2001.

The Brooklyn-bred singer, songwriter and reggae-infused rock artiste has been making music since the 1960s, but most folks likely remember him from his remarkable run in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, when he released a string of excellent albums, including Ghost Writer and Escape Artist, and was frequently heard (in Philly, at least) on AOR radio with such songs as “Wild in the Streets,” “Cool Down Boy,” “35 Millimeter Dreams,” “Matador” and his cover of “96 Tears.”

This Wikipedia entry goes in-depth into his career. If you read through it, you’ll know that he took a break from music for much (though not all) of the ‘90s; and then re-entered the music arena during the summer of 2001.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention another salient point: Diane turned me from a radio fan to an actual fan. It was she who discovered he was playing this specific show, in fact, and convinced quite a few of our friends to attend it, too.

garlandtinangelAnyway, my memory of this show, which saw Garland accompanied only by longtime guitarist Alan Freedman, was that it was hypnotic. I don’t recall many of the specific songs performed, unfortunately, though I imagine they included the ones featured above. What blew my mind: an extended excerpt from a psychodrama-like musical play he was writing at the time, Spook House. The protagonist was named Bolden; and the extended scene, if I remember it correctly, involved Bolden and his departed mother. It was powerful, dramatic and spine-tingling.

I also remember this: a sterling rendition of “New York Skyline” closing the show. That was but a few months after 9/11, of course, and I’m sure my – and everyone’s – reaction to it was colored by the emotions of the time. It was jaw-droppingly beautiful.

In the years since, we’ve seen Garland more times than we can count. He’s released two excellent albums – The King of In Between (2011) and Truth Serum (2013) – and has now embarked on making a PledgeMusic-backed documentary and album.

Today’s Top 5: January 1982 (via Record Magazine)

IMG_0795This issue, the third in the magazine’s history, marks the start of my half-decade-long subscription to Record. You’ll notice, on the cover, that the date is listed as “Jan. 1981.” That’s incorrect, as becomes evident once one unfolds it to its newspaper-size front page, where the date is listed as “Jan. 1982.” It wasn’t the only flub the magazine made during its run. One issue, and I’ll likely feature it in the coming weeks, lists Joan Jett on the cover, but includes nada thing about the former Runaway inside.

Rod Stewart’s mug, obviously, graces the cover. I wasn’t a fan of his then, and am still not a fan – though I did see him in concert once, on a very muggy summer’s night at Hershey Stadium in ’88 or ’89. In the accompanying interview, he says about his late-‘70s work: “I probably deserve all the criticism I got. I was listening to Britt Ekland, having stupid album covers done. But we’re allowed to make mistakes, and I think I’ve come through the other end of the tunnel. I just let the image run away with itself, posing all the time.”

IMG_0796The issue does have a few cool articles, however, including one by David McGee about legendary producer Bob Ezrin. Ezrin explains that “[t]here are certain philosophies behind what I do in terms of how I construct a record and where I think things belong. Part of my style might be that I don’t believe in stereo drums. You know why? Because if you sit back listening to a record you will automatically think of a live performance in front of your face somewhere. And when you hear a guitar player who’s far left, and a guitar player who’s far right, and a bass player who’s in the center and a singer who’s in the middle and you have a drummer who’s in the center too but he’s got one tom-tom 20 feet out to the side and the other 20 feet out in the other direction, the only way for that guy to play that kit is to run real fast from one side of the stage to the other, right? I think that’s psycho-acoustically disturbing.”

There’s also a piece about the new wave in music videos: concept videos. Other articles focus on Foreigner, Molly Hatchet and the Rolling Stones, who’d just wrapped a major tour.

And, with that, here’s today’s Top 5:

IMG_07991) David Bowie – “Cat People (Putting Out Fire).” There’s this, on page 6: “Director Paul Shrader and composer-producer Giorgio Moroder…have enlisted David Bowie to write lyrics and sing the title song for Shrader’s remake of the 1942 horror classic, Cat People.” Skip down a few paragraphs and… “Although he hasn’t heard Bowie’s lyrics yet, Shrader says the artist described the song to him as ‘very Doors-like, Jim Morrison and all that,’  which jibes well with Moroder’s plan to use ‘strange noises and a kind of low note which keeps the tension throughout the film.”

IMG_08022) Garland Jeffreys – “R.O.C.K.” The song comes from Garland’s 1981 Escape Artist album, as well as his live Rock ’n Roll Adult LP from the same year. He’s the focus of a short report that reads: “Garland Jeffreys continues to confound the savants. At a time when touring has soured for most bands, he’s drawing crowds in areas where he’s never had a track record of serious album sales. Now he’s planning to test the international arena with a world tour in 1982. ‘Comes this time next year,’ he asserts, ‘you’ll know where I’ll be—on the road. And I’m enjoying it because I’m getting what I want—I put out a record and I tour around it.’” He also had an MTV special lined up; was planning a new album; and was “in the process of fulfilling his ’35-millimeter dreams’ by writing music for a new film titled The Breaks, which tentatively costars Jeffreys and Harvey Keitel.”

IMG_08073) Garland Jeffreys – “96 Tears.” Garland is also mentioned in one of the articles about the Rolling Stones’ tour, as he opened for Mick & the Boys in Hartford. “Although Garland Jeffreys had been set to open the Brendan Byrne Arena shows, a scheduling foul-up within the Stones organization resulted in his dates being shifted to Hartford. Nevertheless, when all was said and done, Jeffreys found it an exhilarating experience. ‘When it came down to the show in Hartford, the Stones and their crew treated us wonderfully. Mick, Charlie, and Bill came backstage to greet us…I was very moved.’”

So, though I rarely indulge in twin spins, the double mention deserves a double-shot. As with the first clip, here’s Garland on the ABC late-night sketch-comedy show Fridays.

IMG_08064) Neil Young – “Shots.” re*ac*tor receives a negative review from Wayne King, who writes: “What saves the record is the last song, ‘Shots,’ the kind of song Young always comes up with when he needs it. Car horns and exploding amplifiers become the shots, ‘ringing all along the border’ of the nightmare world that Young transports us to with his best material. It’s probably appropriate that the song’s best line points up why so much of Reactor is a failure: ‘lust comes creeping in/through the night/to feed on hearts.’ If Young had focused less on the objects that move people, and more on the emotions that drive them, he might have made a great record.”

I think I’ve written this before on this blog, but if I haven’t: re*ac*tor was the first Neil album I purchased; and I liked it enough to name it my Album of the Year for 1981. Of course, I was 15 and heard music in a different way than, say, I do today. In retrospect, I wouldn’t choose it for top honors – that would go to my No. 2 that year, Beauty and the Beat by the Go-Go’s. But, while re*ac*tor isn’t a great album, per se, it does possess some truly stupendous moments, such as “Southern Pacific,” “Rapid Transit” and, as Mr. King mentions, “Shots.”

IMG_08105) Elvis Costello – “A Good Year for the Roses.” Another album reviewed by Wayne King is Elvis’ country outing, Almost Blue: “Elvis, known to be a bit of a wise guy on his own, doesn’t sound too convincing on a track like ‘Tonight the Bottle Let Me Down,’ and, hell, I don’t think he’s much of a drinker, either. Right there is the dilemma Almost Blue never resolves: imagine this punning, paranoid Britisher as a good ol’ Southern boy. That would require a leap of faith that the music won’t let you make.”

I’ve written before about this song, and shared this same video, but – hey, unlike Mr. King, I find the album extremely listenable and likable. Maybe not Elvis’ best, but definitely worth a spin.

And… one bonus:  the Go-Go’s – “Lust to Love.” As Record’s list shows, Belinda & Band opened for the Stones in Rockford. There’s no mention of them in the article, though. One wonders how they were received – hopefully well, as they were a punky bunch. Here they are in December ’81: