Bootleg Nation

The Gmail Project

Since Google has graciously began giving out e-mail accounts with over 2 gigs of storage space I have concocted a plan to share the groovy tunes that I know I have, and I’m sure frequent readers of Brewster’s Millions share.

I’ve created a secret Gmail account in which those deemed worthy enough can begin sharing music via MP3s and other compressed forms.

The idea started backed when a bunch of blogging friends and I started talking about music. I realized that we all shared some common interests, but also often referenced bands that I had never heard of. Since music is insanely expensive, and some of the friend’s lived across the ocean it seemed difficult to enjoy these musilogical musings without going broke in the process. Thus the gmail thingy as we affectionately called it was born.

It worked like a charm. Now when one of us has a song we particularly dig, we throw it to the shared Gmail account. We can then download, listen, and if we dig it go out and purchase the album.

The process isn’t really to be the new Napster or Limewire service, but to share music we love. It’s also not about getting free music, but rather opening each other up to new sounds, which when dug, will bring us to new purchases.

So record industry types, if you come across this, please don’t despair. I have no need to start up a big music stealing business. Sure a few songs will be swapped, but in the end more music will be bough and your pockets will be lined.

If you dig the idea, and want to share the music, send me an e-mail at brewcritic@gmail.com

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September 29, 2006 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Fresh Boots – 09/23/06

I didn’t manage to trade, download or receive a single boot via a vine this week.  The thing is I recently was laid off of my job and so the finances are a little low.  Well actually, they gave me a good severance package so the finances are ok, but I expect they will get low so I’ve cut all extra expenses out of the budget, which includes blank disks. 

I still have a few dozen blanks left, but I’m trying to let them out slowly.  Thus I’ve not added myself to any vines over the last few weeks, and haven’t downloaded a whole lot of shows.  

I suspect the well will run dry over the next few weeks until I find a new job.  A feat which is proving difficult in this town.  It’s pretty bad when you look through the jobs wanted and there is absolutely nothing to apply for. I’m either underqualified, or way overqualified. 

Oh well.  I did pick up a copy of John Prine Live at the library and thus far it sounds nice.

September 23, 2006 Posted by | Fresh Boots | Leave a comment

Bootleg Country: William Shatner – 1977

128574.jpgWilliam Shatner
??/??/77
Hofstra University
Hempstead, NY

I first learned of bootleg trading through the now defunct Grateful Dead usenet group rec.music.gdead. It is no surprise then when I say that the majority of the music I saw available was the Dead and Dead related bands. Once in awhile I would find a list with something a little more unusual, say Pink Floyd or Lynard Skynard on a list, but it was usually just one show from such a band and it was an unusual sight.

Whenever I would see these “odd” shows I would scramble to trade for them. Partially because I thought they were so rare and would make good trade bait, and partially because I was interested to hear what these other bands sounded like.

It wasn’t until years later, with the availability of broadband internet and the usability of bit torrent that I realized that these oddities were much more available than I thought. Moving out of jam band circles enlightened me to another world.

By far the oddest bootleg in my collection is this 1977 recording of William Shatner performance. It is part stand up, part dramatic performance, and part audience participation and completely weird.

The performance is some 8 years after the original Star Trek television series was cancelled and a couple of years before the first movie came out, yet it is obvious that Shatner is performing before a group of Trekkers.

The show begins with Shatner reading a poem entitled “Earthbound” about a fanciful young man who is abducted by aliens for a time. It is very theatrical with spacey sound effects and Shatner reciting in his best Shakespearean voice.

Throughout the show he reads poetry, essays and theatrical monologues to illustrate points he’s trying to make in his spoken word performance. In his verbal essay he points towards man’s yearning to travel, explore and learn throughout time.

Shatner appears very well versed in history and philosophical matters, at least for the purpose of this performance.

Scattered throughout the theatrics, he answers questions from the audience which mostly deal with the series and rumors of the upcoming movie. It is particularly interesting to hear this information as the film is still in the very early stages of development (Leonard Nimoy has yet to even sign on, though Shatner says it is simply a dispute over contracts.)

In these segments Shatner also sound nervous and unsure of himself. It is quite often he tosses of a quick line and follows it with a high pitched giggle making him sound like a school boy asking a girl to the prom. It seems peculiar that a well worn actor of stage and screen would get nervous around an audience, but that may be the difference between performance and simply talking in front of a lot of people. In fact the nervousness goes completely away when he recites his theatrical lines.

I would never be able to consider myself one of the Trek fold. I remember watching the original series as a boy in afternoon reruns. I was enthralled with the drama, the action and the ladies legs in those little skirts. On the school bus me and a friend would often draw the different versions of the Enterprise in the condensations forming on the window.

However when the Next Generation came out I watched some episodes with enthusiasm, but often I was distracted by other things and paid it no mind whatsoever. I’ve watched all of the movies, but have paid no mind to subsequent series. So while I would consider myself a fan, I am always humble when I say such a thing for I know my fandom goes only so far.

Which may be why when I listen to William Shatner wax poetic about mankind’s deepest desires to explore the unknown I have a mysterious smirk on my face instead of a mystified look of reverence.

September 21, 2006 Posted by | Bootleg Review | Leave a comment

Fresh Boots – 09/15/06

marvin_gaye.jpgI must first apologize for my absence last week in the Fresh Boots article. I had every intention of writing it on Friday and didn’t. Then I was going to write it Saturday and didn’t. So on and so forth until it became so far into this week that I’d figure I’d just wait. In some ways it is a good thing, since I didn’t receive or download a single boot this week.

The two disks I’ll talk about this week come again from a trade. That’s two weeks in a row where I’ve been approached for a trade. Must be something in the air.

I’ve talked a bit in my writing about how I miss the old days of trading. With all of the high speed downloading we’ve lost the personal touch of actual trading.

A few weeks back a very kind lady, Nancy, set up a trade with me and it fully reminded me of what a pleasant experience trading can be.

She had read my Jimmy Cliff review on Blogcritics, liked the review, and wanted to trade for the show. A few kind e-mails later and we had set up a trade for a few more shows. Her list was a beautiful thing – full of personal gradings on sound quality, personnel and overall performance.

We made the trade without a hitch and have a standing agreement to do more anytime we like. I got a few good shows, some compliments to this site, and a new trading friend.

This past week I got another request for a trade. I went to this person’s, who will remain nameless, online list. At the top of it in big bright letters was a warning to everybody that he wasn’t doing very many trades so they could e-mail him for one, but very likely they’d get no positive response.

Now this is not a particularly unusual thing – lots of people put announcements on their lists noting that they are not trading at the moment. I wrote a similar one when I was in France so that people wouldn’t ask me for a trade, when I knew there was no way I would be able to do so.

But the wording in this one should have made me realize it wouldn’t be a pleasant trade. It had a tone that made it read like it was the greatest list in the world and that he knew there would be folks lined up to trade with him. The note seemed to say that he was too good for everyone, and would have to hand pick from the lot of peasant beggars.

Each e-mail had a similar tone. They were often full of hipster slang that was annoying and even became condescending at times.

I have a pretty standard policy that when people I don’t know e-mail me I ask them to send their disks first and once I receive them I will send mine. The reason for this is that I have been burned on many occasion. People would set up a trade, I’d send my disks and they would never send theirs, on purpose as a means to scam me.

Now it is true that the total loss is small – blanks are about a quarter a pop, add in postage and a bubble mailer and your still into small change. However the hassle of finding the disks, ripping and burning them added to the total disappointment of not receiving the new boots just plain obnoxious.

Everybody has totally understood this concept and agreed to it willingly. This guy agreed but gave me this mini lecture on how he has over a thousand shows on his list plus another thousand not on there and he’s been trading for 30 years…blah blah blah. Like somehow I’m supposed to know who he is and bow to his trading powers.

When I did receive his disks I sent an e –mail asking for his address. What I got was his address and a sarcastic response asking why I didn’t just get it off of the mailer he had just sent. I didn’t reply, but should have said that I threw his mailer away because it was wrapped poorly. Essentially he had taken a ratty old mailer that was torn in half, tucked his disks inside and then wrapped that in a large envelope. It was all perfectly useless to me.

All of this may sound a little childish or small, and it is really, but it is these little things that make a trade pleasant, or annoying. It is just a hobby after all. It was really just interesting to me to in one week find a trade that reminded me of all the great things that come along with person to person trading, and then the next remember why it wasn’t all that pleasant. Maybe being able to download shows isn’t such a bad thing after all.

Marvin Gaye                 10/10/76
Eden Halle Concert Hall – Amsterdam Holland

Marvin Gaye is one of those artists that I know I ought to have more of in my collection, but I’ve never managed to buy many of his disks. I have Let’s Get It On and a Greatest Hits package. I thought I had What’s Going On, but after my review of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band’s reimagining, I suddenly realized I didn’t have the original.

I was really kind of anticipating a groove heavy, soul machine for this boot. I could picture this sexy, wild beast throwing out “Let’s Get It On” and “Sexual Healing” with a crowd grooving along as one.

What I got was a disk full of (mostly) songs I don’t know performed in manner that is a bit more low key than my expectations. The sound quality of the disk is also rather sub-par. There isn’t a lot of crowd noise or anything, but it sounds a little muddled and distant. Nothing that catches my ears and makes me want more.

I had expected to review this disk, but I couldn’t manage to get myself in the mood for a full listen.

Bonnie Raitt                     05/16/02
Austin Convention Center – Austin, Texas

There is a small boxed set of John Prine’s music that contains a duet of “Angel in Montgomery” with Bonnie Raitt. It is a song that just aches through your whole body. When Bonnie sings the line “how the hell can a person go to work in the morning, come home in the evening and still having nothing to say?” you can feel the loneliness and heartache seeping through her every poor.

Though a Prine song, she has made it completely her own. She now owns it.

I have a Bruce Hornsby bootleg in which Raitt plays for about a third of it. It is a great show, and Raitt adds an additional layer of fun and sexiness that is just smoking.

These two performances make me want to be a Bonnie Raitt fan. Unfortunately I’ve never found a disk of only hers that makes me one. I recently checked out a disk from the library and found it underwhelming. Part of it was that none of the songs had the same power of “Angel” and the performances never match that of the Hornsby show. The songs all feel a little weak, and try to hard.

I got this disk, hoping it would show me something more. It doesn’t. It was a taping for an Austin City Limits show, a television program I generally enjoy, and she sounds like she’s nervous or afraid. The energy level just isn’t there.

Truth be known I haven’t given it a full listen, but a precursory flip through, but nothing really stood out. Not even her duet on “Angel” with Prine. Both artists sounded flat and a little bored.

In the end this is the fate of trades and downloads a like. What looks good on paper isn’t always interesting at all.

September 15, 2006 Posted by | Fresh Boots | Leave a comment

Bootleg Review: Paul Simon – 02/14/87

paul-simon.jpgWhen I was an early teen, say 14, I got a little compact stereo for Christmas. It has a radio, tape deck and a record player. As my parent’s record player had died many years prior I was very interested in this little device.

My mother, ever the child of the sixties, had an astounding record collection of great early rock and roll (I am sad to say it has since been lost in a flood.) The Beatles, Dylan, the Rolling Stones, Sonny and Cher, the Rascals, Beach Boys, Loving’ Spoonful, you name it if it was a hit in the 1960s she probably had it on vinyl.

This was also the point in my life when I began to take music seriously. Certainly I had enjoyed music prior to this. I used to tape Casey Casem’s Top 40 show every week as well as the local stations nightly top 10 requests. But I would often record over those tapes with whatever songs were new and popular. Music was something fluffy and fun, like candy that was to be enjoyed and discarded afterwards.

Now with all of this great music at my fingertips I began to really understand the depth and reach of what music could really be. For the first time I began to really digest the poetry of Dylan, the guttural sex of the Stones and the sheer brilliance of the Beatles. This was more than just throw away pop music, it was important.

I spent many hours sitting inside my room, lying flat on my back in my bed devouring this new music. Most of these songs I had heard previously. Mother listened to Oldies radio and so much of what I was now listening to wasn’t new at all. I had heard all of Bob Dylan’s greatest hits separately many times over the years. Yet, as odd as it may sound, I had never put together that they were all his.

As much as I might now scoff at Greatest Hits albums, the 10 songs put together on Dylan’s version was life changing to this little boy. I couldn’t believe one person had sung so much greatness.

It was Dylan and Simon and Garfunkel that made the biggest impression on me. Something about the sheer force of their songwriting knocked the breath out of me.

To this day I can remember listening to the “Boxer” late one night. As I had done many times before I turned off the lights and set the volume down low as to allow the music to lull me asleep. Except I couldn’t sleep because my mind kept listening. I couldn’t stop, the song was too forceful to allow such a thing as sleep. The music, as it has done many a time since, kept me awake and begging for more.

02/14/87
Rutfaro Stadium
Harare, Zimbabwe
Etree Link for Setlist

When I first started dating the girl who was to become my wife I gave her three CDs as a means to share my musical obsession. They weren’t necessarily my all time favorite CDs, though they would certainly be high on the list, but albums I thought she would never have heard and that would shed some light into music that moved me.

Those albums were Willie Nelson’s Stardust, Nanci Griffith’s One Fair Summer Evening, and Paul Simon’s Graceland.

Graceland is an album of sheer joy to me. It is filled with great pop songcraft as well as a myriad of astounding vocals and rhythms from South Africa. It also helped bring about Americans listening to “World Music”.

This show is a song by song recreation of the album complete with a cacophony of South African musicians who provide their own myriad of sounds.

In fact it is the African performances that make the bootleg worth listening to. Simon certainly performs with adequacy, but there is nothing here that really outshines the album. Part of the problem is that he only plays songs off of Graceland. To be a really great performance, to me, you need to play songs spanning your entire career, not just one album.

Maybe Simon wanted to highlight only his newest album. Perhaps he wanted to showcase the African musicians and singers for the entire show. It seems to me this could have been done better by arranging a few older songs to include the singers. I can imagine an absolutely astounding African vocal arrangement of “April Come She Will” and a mesmerizing “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover.” But for whatever reason, we don’t get any of that, just Graceland and a number of what I can only guess are African originals.

It is there that the disks shine. The South African performers create sounds with their voices and instruments that are out of this world (or at least out of this part of the world). It is mystifying.

Unfortunately the mix of Simon and the South Africans is a little underwhelming. I have heard marvelous things about this tour, and I suspect had I been in the audience I would be saying similar marvelous things, but to these ears, the tape doesn’t hold up to the hype.

It is hard to point at anything particularly wrong with this set, but when I think of Paul Simon performing Graceland live in South Africa with performers from the area I get all goose pimply and when I listen to the disks, I keep waiting for something more.

It is a good set, with good music. It’s just that when compared to say the Grateful Dead circa 1977 or Dylan in the 60’s or Bela Fleck in any year, this set just doesn’t have that same magic.

September 13, 2006 Posted by | Bootleg Review | Leave a comment

Bootleg Review: Gillian Welch – 09/17/03

david rawlings and gillian welchI have a long history of not going to a concert and then regretting it for years to come. The reasons for not going usually involve not having anyone to go with/not wanting to go alone, and not being familiar enough with the artist to convince me that the show is a must see.

That and I’m a cheap bastard.

A few months down the road I usually become more familiar with the artist and begin cursing myself for not seeing them. This happens often in the city I currently live. It is a college town and large enough to nab artists just before they hit the big time, but too small, and too close to Indianapolis to carry them after that. So usually it is once missed, never see again.

Gillian Welch came to town a few years back and I thought about seeing her. I liked the few songs I had heard of hers, but the voice in the back of my head got to nagging – you don’t know her songs, you won’t be able to sing along, you should be saving your hard earned dough – and I didn’t go.

Oh how I have cursed my ever loving name for that. How I’ve yearned for her to come back to no avail.

09/17/03
Calvin College
Grand Rapids, MI

Quite simply, Gillian Welch’s voice is nothing short of heavenly.

If there really are angels, and they really do sing, then they must sound like Gillian Welch.

She has some of the most haunting, achingly beautiful songs ever sung. I am reminded of Alison Krauss in that the two have similarly beautiful voices, yet where Alison’s choice of songs often make no impression on me, Gillian’s own songs and her choice of covers are perfect for her style and often get stuck in my head for days on end. I have been singing “Look at Miss Ohio” for a week now.

This show starts with a triple play of my favorite Gillian Welch songs. “Look at Miss Ohio” starts off the show and it often gets a repeat play around these parts. It is followed by “Elvis Presley Blues” which is the first Gillian Welch song I ever knew, and remains one of my favorites. It speaks of nostalgia, the deep mysterious ache of loss and the magic of music. It is a perfect song and Gillian Welch sings it like it’s the only song in the world.

My holy trinity is concluded with “Rock of Ages” which is one of Gillian Welch’s rocking out songs, and by that I mean it has a tempo other than a slow dirge.

Before I go any further, I really must mention David Rawlings, Gillian’s musical partner for many years. David often gets overlooked in writings about Gillian, but is very much an important player in her musicality. On stage he sings harmony and plays guitar and gives the music a layered and more dense quality.

She follows her trio of excellence with an entire show of great music. It is a show that reaches spiritual proportions. The music is so soft and warm and kind it wraps around me like a blanket near a fire while the cold wind and rain whip about outside.

This is an audience recording and as such we hear the crowd scream and shout between songs at a louder volume than preferable. However, they do keep quiet during the song performances allowing the music to filter in untouched and unmarred.

My only complaint is that the show runs just a tad long. While the music is always beautiful, Gillian’s penchant for playing slow, sad songs starts to be too much by the middle of the second disk. I find myself fully ready for it to be over a few songs before it actually is. I suspect as an audience member I would have begged for more, but as it is, on CD I’m ready for the closure.

It is a great disk by a overlooked performer, whose music really matters. In a world full of dizzying pop songs, flashy lights, and fast edited videos, Gillian Welch seems more of the past, like some ancient hieroglyph pulled from the very dust of America. It is old, real music that should last another millennium.

September 1, 2006 Posted by | Bootleg Review | 2 Comments

Fresh Boots – 09-01-06

paul-simon.jpgYesterday I received six bootleg CDs in the mail! That’s right, not downloaded, not via Bit Torrent, but through a real live, person to person trade! After publishing my last episode of Bootleg Country (which is what I call my bootleg reviews on Blogcritics) a lovely lady, named Nancy, dropped me an e-mail after having looked up my db.etree bootleg list. It seems she much enjoyed the review, and fancied a trade for that Jimmy Cliff show. We passed around wants and desires and set up a 6 CD trade.

Now in my day I traded a great deal. This was in the days of analog tape and spending entirely too long browsing lists, sending e-mails and hoping for a good trade. But now with all the high speed downloads, it is a rare thing that I do the regular trading bit.

It is actually rather nice. There is more personality in a show that comes through a trade. There is a social aspect to a trade that gets missed in the quick download.

So, thanks Nancy for the trade and for reminding me that I share this obsession with others.

Paul Simon 02/14/87
Rutfaro Stadium Harare, Zimbabwe

This is from the Graceland tour, a remarkable album that started Paul Simon’s obsession with African music and in itself started the American interest in world music. It is full of lovely chants, warbles and otherworldly sounds.

This concert, taking place in Africa, is full of all the players from the album. It covers a great deal of Graceland, and adds in a whole bunch of African songs that I’ve never heard before. It sounds marvelous and I suspect it will soon become a Bootleg Country review.

John Prine 09/12/99
West 54th Street New York, New York

John Prine had the great misfortune to be labeled as a new Dylan when he emerged into the folk scene in 1971. I say misfortune because to be compared to Dylan is to fall short. No one lives up to that name, even if they try. Like many Dylan comparisons, Prine had a short lived glory, before fading from view for many years. Lucky for Prine, good for us, he reemerged awhile back and has been releasing great music ever since.

Prine has a lyrical sensibility to that of Lyle Lovett which is to say he can be immensely funny and sadly poignant at the same time.

This show was taped at the Sessions at 54th television show. A show which I used to see commercials for, but rarely if ever actually managed to catch. It was one of those shows that sounded wonderful, but never actually told me when it was on.

It is a lovely performance punctuated by several duets with Iris Dement, being not long after Prine’s album, In Spite of Ourselves came out. It also contains a few interviews pieces as, I guess, is the nature of the television program.

Nanci Griffith 11/29/98

Barbican Centre London, United Kingdom

I fell in love with Nanci Griffith almost by accident. I was a member of the BMG music club and while browsing through their catalog stumbled into a mini-highlight of Nanci’s Blue Roses from the Moon and decided to order it. I loved it almost instantly and found my way through much of her catalog.

She has a sweet, quirky, country voice which is not to everyone’s liking, but I’m very much a fan. The brilliant live disk, One Fair Summer Evening is an absolute must have, and one of three disks I sent my wife when we first started dating as a sampler of my musical taste.

This show comes during her Other Voices, Other Rooms Too tour, and features a number of special guests. From what I have listened too of this disk, the guest artists tend to interrupt the flow of the show a bit, but add a very nice vibe too it. I’m looking forward to hearing the full show.

Lyle Lovett 11/15/94
The Tower Theater Upper Darby, PA

The only other Lyle Lovett show I own is the recently reviewed bootleg with a bare knuckles band. When I asked for this show in the trade I was afraid I was going to get something not nearly as good. Lyle released an official live disk, Live In Texas, a few years back and frankly it gets very little action around here.

Luckily this, at first glance, seems like a spectacular little show. The sound is superb, Lyle is in fine form with hilarious banter, and the playing is sublime. It features a lot of the songs off of the underrated I Love Everybody album, which is one of my all time favorite disks by anybody, and they are songs he hardly seems to play anymore.

Yeah, it will get a lot of airplay, I suspect.

PS With this many shows, I’ve opted to link to Etree for their set lists instead of reprinting them here.

September 1, 2006 Posted by | Fresh Boots | Leave a comment