Tag Archives: Breathe

Today’s Top 5: Maria McKee in 1989

I came across this CDR tucked in a box in our basement – a copy of another CDR that I received while a member of a Maria McKee email discussion group sometime in the…late ‘90s, I believe. It came with cover art created by whoever initiated the “CD tree”; you can see his (or her) original on this 45worlds.com page. I don’t believe it was ever a store-sold bootleg, just a fan-generated creation. He (or she), or a friend, snuck a tape recorder into this specific show, which is from the Bayou Theater in Washington, D.C., in 1989.

As I said, though, this particular CDR is my copy of the original, and dates to the early 2000s. In those pre-iPod days, I frequently made CDRs for the car and, for a time, also created the covers for them. Sometimes, just as whoever created the original artwork for the set, I snagged a picture off the ‘net and added the track list, such as with the Juliana comp I blogged about a while back. Other times, though, I used Paint Shop Pro to tinker with the image and/or create collages – it was a fun thing to do. And, too, as in this case, I powered up Poser, a 3D-image creation program that I played around with at the time, and tried to develop something totally unique.

Of note, my image includes a picture lifted from a Kiss the Stone bootleg titled Breathe, which preserved a 1994 concert from somewhere in Europe, that I used on my old website for a time. I scanned the cover, loaded it into Paint Shop Pro and splashed color here, there and everywhere, and then cut out a picture scanned from one of Maria’s CD singles. You can see the original Breathe cover here.

All of which leads to this: I also encoded the versions of “Shelter,” “Breathe” and “Into the Mystic” from the performance onto my computer’s 20-gig hard drive as “high” bit-rate MP3s: 192kbps. Maria’s rendition of all three were spellbinding.

My hope had been to feature five tracks from the show itself, but since only two are (apparently) on YouTube, I’ve expanded the theme to include all of 1989.

1) “Into the Mystic” – From the Bayou Theater in Washington, D.C.

2) “Over Me” – Another from the Bayou.

3) “Am I the Only One” –

4) “To Miss Someone” –

5) “Breathe” –

And two bonuses in one:

6) Maria with Van Dyke Parks and Stevie Ray Vaughan on Night Music performing “Troubled Waters” and “Sailin’ Shoes.”

Of Concerts Past: Maria McKee @ the TLA in Philly, 9/18/93

Ah, Maria. Sweet, sweet, sweet Maria. Last night she tweeted a link to a YouTube video of a 1993 TV appearance with the Jayhawks…

…and I was thrust through a time portal to that very year, which is when I first saw her in concert.

Now, regular readers of this blog already know that I became a fan of her old band, Lone Justice, on April 17, 1985, which is when I first heard the “shotgun blast of sonic newness” that was, is and will always be (to me, at least) their self-titled debut LP. Time and circumstance, and a little thing called cash (and lack thereof), kept me from ever catching them in concert, however.

Flash-forward to 1993 and life was different. I was married, had a decent job and, best of all, had a wife who was (and is) as much of a music freak as me. By then, of course, Lone Justice was done and Maria was on her own, having released a stellar self-titled solo debut in 1989 and an even more stellar sophomore set, You Gotta Sin to Get Saved, in June 1993. In the weeks (months?) following that second album’s release, she made a series of in-store appearances promoting it and, on an unknown afternoon that month or the next, she stopped at Tower Records on Philadelphia’s famed South Street (aka “the hippest street in town”) to perform a few songs and meet-and-greet with fans such as myself. It’s when she autographed my Lone Justice CD cover. (it’s times like this when I wish I’d never stopped notating such stuff in a desk calendar.)

What I remember: She plugged in her guitar and ripped through three songs, including a kickass rendition of “Sister Anne.” As in, the MC5 song. And she literally kicked out the jams, ripped it to shreds, made it her own. What were the other two songs? Was she by herself or accompanied by others? Both fair questions, and questions I can’t answer. Only “Sister Anne” has remained lodged in my memory. (Diane says they were “Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye” and “The Way Young Lovers Do.”) Perhaps the mini-set ended similar to this clip from the Forum in London that same year, where she played “Sister Anne” back-to-back with the album’s title track (though, if Diane’s correct, there was no title track).

Anyway, she returned to South Street (the TLA, to be specific) in September to headline a proper concert—and again proved her mettle. Or is that metal? Granted, it was a too-short set of 75-80 minutes, but while she was on that stage, she commanded the audience’s attention. I seem to recall that “East of Eden” opened the show, but that the bulk of the night was devoted to her solo work.

That last clip mistakes the year – it’s from Maria’s 1993 appearance on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno. (Side note: I’ve always wondered if “Why Wasn’t I More Grateful” inspired “Life Is Sweet.”) The night also featured a sublime performance of “Breathe,” one of my all-time favorite songs. Here she is from a few years earlier performing it on the Night Music TV show:

In short, it was a raucous, rockin’ set intermingled with moments of high drama via her operatic ballads; and at the end, in a dramatic flourish, she slammed the microphone stand down before stomping off stage.

The set was similar to this, though I believe I’m missing a few songs.

  1. East of Eden
  2. I Can’t Make It Alone
  3. My Lonely Sad Eyes
  4. Goodbye
  5. I Forgive You
  6. My Girlhood Among the Outlaws
  7. This Property Is Condemned
  8. Breathe
  9. Nobody’s Child
  10. The Way Young Lovers Do
  11. Why Wasn’t I More Grateful
  12. You Gotta Sin to Get Saved

Other memories: It was general admission; we were at the foot of the stage; and, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer’s review, it was sold out. (I’d link to the review, but unfortunately the Inky now charges for its archives.) What else? A fan beside us had traveled from New York City, where he’d seen her the night before, and used his knowledge of opening act David Gray’s short set to sarcastically call out for his closing number several times, as he wanted him off the stage. (In a serendipitous moment, we ran into that same guy a few months later in NYC while we were there to see…I think it was Laura Nyro’s Christmas Eve show at the Bottom Line, but I may be mistaken. We bumped into him in a diner.) Back on point: the reviewer for the Philadelphia Inquirer mistook those jibes for enthusiasm.

Update 4/10/2017: I found this set list for the concert online, though I have doubts about its accuracy – 

  1. East of Eden
  2. I Can’t Make It Alone
  3. My Lonely Sad Eyes
  4. I’m Gonna Soothe You
  5. The Way Young Lovers Do
  6. Panic Beach
  7. This Property Is Condemned
  8. Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye
  9. Nothing Takes the Place of You
  10. Breathe
  11. Why Wasn’t I More Grateful
  12. Sister Anne
  13. Soap, Soup & Salvation
  14. You Gotta Sin to Get Saved
  15. Ways to Be Wicked

My doubts: I remember being surprised that Maria didn’t perform “I’m Gonna Soothe You,” which Christopher confirms in the comments below, and I recall “Nobody’s Child” (though that could be a memory from one of the other times I saw her). And I also recall “You Gotta Sin…” as the last song of the night. Oh, and “Sister Anne” again?! I hope I’d remember that… 

What I do remember: It was a great show!

 

Today’s Top 5: January-February 1999 (via Da Boot!)

IMG_5395Da Boot! was an excellent idea: a fanzine devoted primarily to collector CDs, which were all the rage in the 1990s. Just as I reviewed bootleg CDs on my old website, we aimed to do the same in print, vowing to separate the wheat from the chaff. Myself and the two other principles, plus my wife Diane, leveraged my website, which attracted more than 100 eyeballs every day, and what might best be called pre-social media (i.e., mailing lists, for anyone who remembers them), and pushed our subscribers from none to 100 or so  – at $11.25 for six issues – within a few months. (Old copies sometimes appear, alone or in bunches, on Ebay, believe it or not. Here’s a recent example.)

IMG_5406Most folks likely signed on because of our initial inducement, which promised the first 60 subscribers true collector CDs – radio shows, such as King Biscuit Flower Hour or Reeiin’ in the Years. International CD, which was run by the CD-store barker I wrote about in Juliana Hatfield’s Bed, Unmade, provided the radio shows in exchange for a few full-page ads. It was a bargain, to say the least – for us, not him. He basically invested, in the abstract, $600. (Legitimate radio shows, back then, routinely sold for anywhere from $10 to $20 a disc, though he likely bought them for a few bucks a pop.)

What initially doomed the venture: the company we worked for was sold, depriving us of our printing press. I.e., we had no overhead beyond buying the CDs we reviewed because we used the company’s color printer and ink. What would have doomed us, anyway: the tectonic forces of CD burners and file-sharing sites, aka Napster and its clones, which reshaped the landscape of the music industry legitimate and illicit. Why buy a $30 bootleg when you can download the same for free? (And sound quality becomes a non-issue, then. If it sucks, so be it; it’s not like you lost money.) Or, better, join a mailing-list “tree” that cost you the price of a CDR and postage. You received a CDR in the mail, made a copy and sent it on to the next person on the list.

What would have doomed it, for me, in the long run: bootlegs were beginning to bore me. That’s grist for another post, though.

Anyway, today’s Top 5 is drawn from the January-February issue of Da Boot!. It sports a cover story on Bruce Springsteen; although we were a bootleg-centric ‘zine, our focus also included legitimate releases, concerts and books – anything collectors that were interested in, basically.

IMG_5399

1) Bruce Springsteen – “Frankie.” Diane’s cover story on Bruce goes in-depth into Tracks, the then-recent Songs tome, upcoming reunion tour with the E Street Band, and his soon-to-be induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Diane writes: “Vis-a-vis the thorny issue of the Hall of Fame inducting only Bruce Springsteen sans the E Streeters, I am of a mixed mindset. On one hand, I don’t think the E Streeters would have been thought of as Hall of Famers sans Bruce. However, having sat through four tortuous shows during the Human Touch/Lucky Town tour, I realize how very badly Bruce needed them. Chills still run down my body, a body that becomes very clammy whenever I think of Crystal Taliaferro’s sax solos on ‘Born to Run.’ When Joseph Conrad writes ‘The horror, the horror,” I am sure he is referring to the Heart of Darkness that was that tour.”

IMG_54002) Lucinda Williams – “Joy.” My Album of the Year for 1998 was Lucinda’s Car Wheels on a Gravel Road. Small surprise, I suppose, but it also lead this article, which recaps the Top 5 Albums of 1998 as chosen by me and a few others. I wrote: “In years to come, folks will write about Car Wheels with the same reverence that they do for such genre-busting albums as the Byrds’ Sweetheart of the Rodeo or Steve Earle’s Copperhead Road—it’s that good, if not better. Delivering a platter of sensual confessions (“Right in Time”) and sinewy, guitar-driven jousts (“Joy”), Lucinda offers a stew of sublime, superb and incredible songs, tasty morsels all. This isn’t just the best album of the year—it’s one of the best albums of the decade, period.”

3) Emmylou Harris – “Prayer in Open D.” Emmy’s live Spyboy was a runner-up for Album of the Year honors, as the article above shows. I wrote: “Her voice shimmers across a foggy lake, a virtual beacon for lost souls to follow. Emmylou flies high on this deft collection of songs spanning her career, from ‘My Songbird’  to ‘Where Will I Be,” the keynote track off 1996’s atmospheric studio foray Wrecking Ball.” “Prayer in Open D” is one of my favorites by her. It hails from her overlooked 1993 Cowgirl’s Prayer album, but she played it with the Spyboy band, too, and it’s on the Spyboy album. It’s a classic.

IMG_54014) Maria McKee – “Breathe.” The Little Diva’s 1998 stop in Philly is one of the first concerts that comes to mind when I think back on the many shows I’ve attended. Diane and I were literally an arm’s length away from her; and it was, suffice it to say, an absolutely stunning show. Anyway, I reviewed it in this issue. “It’s music for the psyche that she’s after,” I wrote. “It’s music of and for the soul.” I’d quote from it a bit more, but I mined this review for a semi-recent Of Concerts Past post. This song, which she performed that night, dates to her solo debut in 1989 and the clip comes the same basic time frame, when she appeared on USA’s Night Flight show.

IMG_54055) Steve Earle – “Fort Worth Blues” & “I Feel Alright.” I reviewed two Steve Earle bootlegs: Come Back Woody Guthrie, on Copperhead Records, and Do Not Try This at Home!, on Doberman. Of the former, I wrote “[T]he guitars are mixed too low. Those thud-thick, Crazy Horse-like chords of ‘Taneytown,’ for instance, come off tinny and thin.’ Of the latter, I wrote: “Sourced from a crystal-clear audience tape, the guitars are blunt instruments bashing out ominous, yet addictive, chords.” Later, I spotlighted the set’s heart: “There’s perhaps not a more chilling moment on either boot—or on the tour, period—than the coupling of ‘Fort Worth Blues’ and ‘I Feel Alright.’ Written for the late Townes Van Zandt, ‘Fort Worth Blues’ chronicles the travails of a hardcore troubadour who comes across signs that remind him of a lost friend. And while Steve’s singing for Townes, he—you, me—knows the song could just as easily have been written for and about him. It’s no accident, then, that ‘I Feel Alright’ follows. There’s not a better, brasher declaration of survival: “I’ve been through hell but now I’m back again.”

And, one bonus…

IMG_54086) Bruce Springsteen – “The Promise.” Diane digs into the three-CD Deep Down in the Vaults bootleg. “When Jeff said that there were actually bootlegs created to accompany Tracks, I was somewhat skeptical. But having experienced Deep Down in the Vaults, I am a convinced woman.” She closes with: “[It] doesn’t have the omissions that critics bemoaned in Tracks. It includes ‘The Promise,’ and ‘Missing.’ Even so, I prefer Tracks, the ultimate non-bootleg boot.” (“The Promise” eventually surfaced on the one-CD 18 Tracks, released in 1999, and again on the 2010 Darkness on the Edge of Town companion album The Promise, which gathered alternate versions and unreleased songs from the Darkness sessions.)