December 13, 2005

On Music: Gone and Mostly Forgotten

There are many tales of woe from the world of popular music. They recount tragic endings to otherwise stellar careers. Or maybe they recount the commercial failures of fine musicians who never got a chance to show what they could do. Some careers last forever in obscurity. Others only endure over the proverbial 15 minutes. That band you dug in the 80s could very well be playing the Greater Sandusky Craft Fair. Or the lead singer of that heavy metal band you once liked found a greater calling breeding ferrets. No matter which road you take to get there, obscurity is a lonely place. So today I highlight some long-forgotten or, possibly, never heard stuff that deserves a listen.

Robbie Robertson: Robbie Robertson
Robertson is, by all accounts, a musical genius. Guitarist, vocalist and songwriter for the legendary The Band (The Weight, The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down...), there was a lot of buzz around Robertson when he released his first solo album. In subsequent releases he became almost obsessed with the music of American Indians to the exclusion of all else. His fame waned and his debut has been largely overlooked. And it shouldn't be. Featuring The BoDeans, Ivan Neville, Peter Gabriel, Tony Levin and U2 (yes, the entire band) and produced by Daniel Lanois, this is truly a lost classic.

Rick Wright: Broken China
There are quite a few Pink Floyd fans who remain relatively unaware that Floyd keyboardist Rick Wright has released two decent but commercially unsuccessful solo albums. Wet Dream, released in 1978, is slightly tedious and not incredibly well-rounded but Broken China, released 18 years later, is a masterpiece. In fact, it's the best Pink Floyd album that Pink Floyd never recorded. The strength of the album is completely attributable to the musicianship. Wright recruited heavyweights such as drummer Manu Katche, bassist Pino Palladino and guitarist Dominic Miller. Sinead O'Connor contributes vocals to two very strong songs while Wright handles other vocal duties.

Kevin Gilbert: Thud
Kevin Gilbert is a name that probably won't mean a lot to anyone. And it should. Kevin was a founding member of the Tuesday Night Music Club which spawned Sheryl Crow's debut solo album. A multi-instrumentalist, Kevin wrote countless songs, was a gifted pianist, bass player, guitarist and vocalist. In addition, he built and ran his own studio and produced dozens of albums. Unfortunately, after the release of his fantastic album Thud in 1996, Kevin died. I'd originally intended on posting another song but this one fit well with some of my posts last week. Written ten years ago, it still rings true.

Goodness Gracious by Kevin Gilbert

New this week...American Idol Bo Bice releases The Real Thing and Dave Matthews Band releases The Complete Weekend on the Rocks featuring 8 CDs and DVDs....and that's it. Obvious its only a couple weeks before Christmas, isn't it?

Posted by Chris at December 13, 2005 5:37 PM

How much do I love Robbie Robertson... let me count the ways... aaaaaaah...


Posted by: Nat at December 13, 2005 5:45 PM

Dang, dude - only two comments? It's 'cause you mentioned Bo Bice. That'll learn ya.

Posted by: Jason at December 13, 2005 7:00 PM

LOVED Robbie Robertson's eponymous album. "Somewhere Down the Crazy River"? "The Bells?" GENIUS!

But have you heard of The Negro Problem?

Posted by: Broad at December 13, 2005 7:22 PM

Robbie R. is one of my all-time favorites. Agree with Broad, "Somewhere...River" is classic, with Margot Timmons was it? (excuse spelling).

Posted by: JuJu's Mom at December 13, 2005 7:41 PM

Robbie Robertson's solo release still gets big-time play around here. LOVE IT

Posted by: Karen at December 13, 2005 7:49 PM

Ooh, nice.

You should do more of these.

Posted by: Sepra at December 13, 2005 8:25 PM

Btw, I know that Cactus readers are cool and hip and all, but I thought I'd throw it out there that there's a band called "The Negro Problem" that's really, REALLY good, and that THAT's what I meant.

Carry on.

Posted by: Broad at December 13, 2005 11:51 PM

I just wanted to say that I love your attitude. :) Maybe when I get one of my secret sites up, you could write for me. (a group blog)

Posted by: Serra at December 14, 2005 1:29 AM

What, Serra, Chris isn't good enough to be on your public site? You have to keep him a secret so your friends don't find out? Oh the shame! Poor Chris.

(j/k ;))

Posted by: Sara at December 14, 2005 9:21 AM

Someone else who appreciates (or has even heard of) Kevin Gilbert! I'll be dipped. Don't get me started on Sheryl Crow. Ugh. Talk about riding someone else's talented coattails.

Posted by: Tracy at December 14, 2005 6:24 PM

The Dave Matthews ROCKS SO HARD. Especially Exodus.

Bo Bice? Pffffffft. His CD blows. When I saw him live doing Voodoo Chile? I thought I was going to float away on a memory induced 60s high.

Posted by: Rori at December 17, 2005 4:43 PM