When the calendar turned to 1980, it was time for Bruce Springsteen to grow up. “How people connect and relate to one another, or don’t—I want to be a part of that, not just looking at it from the outside,” Bruce says at the outset of the new documentary on the Blu-ray Disc that lies at the very center of The Ties That Bind – The River Collection box set. And that statement is, in essence, the manifesto for the direction taken by The Boss and his merry E Street Bandmates on The River, which found the brash ’n’ brazen New Jersey singer/songwriter staring down the dawn of a new decade with a cautious combination of equal parts hope and trepidation. The River could have easily taken a wrong turn and just kept going—and, in fact, it nearly did—but Bruce held steadfast to deliver a double album that put him on a path of “writing for my age” from that point forward on each successive album.
Charlie Daniels is an American treasure. Still going strong on the cusp of his 80th birthday, the man best known for fiddle-driven story songs like “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” “In America,” and “The Legend of Wooley Swamp” has just released a long-gestating passion project, Night Hawk (CDC Records), which covers all different shades of the authentic cowboy lifestyle. “It was a long time in the making,” Daniels recounts. “Night Hawk is an album I’d always intended to make for many, many years, so I had been collecting songs for it for a long time. I wanted it to be an album with songs about the working cowboy, because that culture still exists.” I got on the line with Daniels, 79, to discuss the changes in recording technology over the years, the art of storytelling, and the many ways his band transforms other people’s material into Charlie Daniels Band (CDB) songs. With Night Hawk, the Long Haired Country Boy finally comes full circle.
To say it’s been a banner year for Chicago might be a bit of an understatement. Not only is the band in the midst of its (yes) 49th consecutive year on the road, but it’s also celebrating a well-deserved induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which took place back on April 8 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. “Rather than limping into our 50th year, we are sprinting uphill,” observes Chicago co-founding member and trumpeter Lee Loughnane (pronounced “Lock-nane”). Not only that, Rhino has just released Quadio, a collection of the band’s first eight studio albums plus their first greatest hits compilation in 192/24 DTS-HD Master Audio 4.0 mixes on nine Blu-ray discs. Recently, Loughnane, 69, called me to discuss quad and surround, the challenges of mastering digitally, and the unique way the band recorded its most recent studio album, 2014’s Chicago XXXVI – “Now.” In many ways, it feels like it’s only the beginning.
Chilly Gonzales (seated) and Jarvis Cocker. Courtesy of Deutsche Grammophon.
Let us now give praise to the power of the almighty song cycle that comprises Room 29, a decidedly thrilling 16-track treatise jointly concocted by vocalist/lyricist Jarvis Cocker (of Pulp fame) and composer/pianist Chilly Gonzales (Feist, Peaches, Daft Punk) in and around a baby grand piano located in the same-numbered room on the second floor of the famed Chateau Marmont Hotel on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood. Gonzales called in from his room across the Pond to discuss the sonics of Room 29, his and Cocker’s “reverse” song-cycle writing process, and how (yes) Gilligan’s Island fits into the middle of it all.