Thanks for joining in the conversation!
Let me respond to your post item-by-item.
You wrote: ----->Back to you Paul, sorry if we seem on the attack - in reading your review I understand you were once an admirer of Alvin's and you did have a couple of nice things to say (and the review itself was well written) - I just don't think you've been listening to Alvin much since the 1970s.
No, I'm not bothered by the responses. They are more temperate than what I got at Mr. Vai's site and Mr. Derringer's site! I guess it's because some of you folks are British? Anyway, I still like his music. I recently bought the Rock And Roll Music To The World Album, and it is in my music rotation. What I am not is a "fan" or an acolyte. I'm just too old for that. I no longer have a favorite guitarist, and what I listen to depends on what day it is. To be sure, I haven't been listening to him much recently, but I didn't pretend to say anything about him generally, I was only speaking about that particular album and what it showed me about Mr. Lee's development. Thanks for the suggestions about where else to look.
You wrote ---> Leaving In Tennessee aside, because obviously it was lost on you, what do you think of Zoom and 1994 - surely you couldn't possibly have heard a song like the Bluest Blues and still claim that Alvin hasn't grown as a musician, can you?
See, that's what I like -- now I'll have to get ahold of those and give 'em a listen. Thanks again. But, no, In Tennessee was not lost on me. Let me say it again, it's a good album.
You wrote ----> Oddly, what I got from your review was the opposite of what you actually wrote - I think you want Alvin to sound exactly like 1969 (comparisons to speed and power players were the tip off) and don't really accept that growth sometimes means holding back a bit, appreciating the spaces and letting the music take the lead. Less really can be more in the hands of great talent.
Well, with respect, now you're just wrong. I wanted to hear something different from Mr. Lee, and holding back would be something new, except he used to do it back then, too (listen to the solo on Rock and Roll Music To The World). And you missed the fact that I talked about wishing he'd learned some new speed techniques (referencing Satriani) and also playing through the changes, which has nothing to do with speed and everything to do with taste.
Anyway, thanks for your comments.
Everyones taste in music is different but I wonder what your motives were in writing a review of Tennessee.Are you an old fan who was looking for early TYA or are you, as I suspect, just looking to be controversial. I myself have played this album to many people here in Edinburgh both old and young,and many who have not even heard of Alvin Lee with the feedback being nothing but positive. I would take your criticism more seriously if you had not likened this music to Alvin,s TYA music.TYA were superb in the late sixties and early seventies but like most bands got a bit stale with the Positive Vibrations album being a low point.Alvin to his great credit has remained true to himself at all times and I for one would love him to release more albums maybe even changing style again.
Aside from your comments about Mr. Vai -- who is truly a great guitarist with a lot of soul...
(get ahold of the G3 DVD and compare how Mr. Vai plays Little Wing with how Mr. Malmsteen plays Voodoo Chile - Slight Return. Yeah! and UGH!, respectively)
... we agree on a lot. Mr. Lee is, of course, doing a good job knowing when and where to put his notes. But he did that in the 70's, too. The closing point of my review expresses what I would stand by -- my disappointment at not hearing much new might well be a function of how much of Mr. Lee I listened to in the 70's, and how well he played when so young.
But to say that Mr. Lee' playing is much different - no. He played with that light touch/jazzy feel on "I May Be Wrong But I Won't Be Wrong Always." While the distortion is down somewhat on In Tennessee, he still uses it. And I simply don't know what you mean by "a different league" when comparing Messrs. Lee, Van Halen, and Vai. Each is a monster, an important point in the history of rock guitar. And Satch, well, I won't try to convert you, but he's played a lot of stuff, and while some is show, other stuff is feel. And how can you not like a guy who writes a song called "Mystical Potato Head Groove Thing"? Finally, what do you think the two-finger slow-pokes had to say about Mr. Lee's performance at Woodstock? It's possible to play fast and still fell the music. It's a matter of balance, proportion and appropriateness, isn't it? Mr. Lee's got it. Vai's got it. Malmsteen doesn't.
I won't comment on myself as a guitarist, because if I told you of the times when I have been so moved by the music that my friends and I were making that I've been in tears (literally) in the middle of a solo -- well, you might just want to say it was drugs. I can't convince you, so I won't try.
My purpose was to write an honest review that I thought would be helpful. It was balanced, and had some nice things to say about Mr. Lee. Did the picture of myself tearing my hair out in frustration at trying to learn his stuff not engender at least a smile?
Anyway, you might want to look at some of my other responses here, to get where I'm coming from.
Thanks for your comments.
Music is a matter of taste....we agree, and we disagree.....
When i said different league...I meant different league....not that one is necessarily better, cause I believe it is impossible to say one is better.
Music is more than being heard, which is why I used the term Feel....The guitarists you mention, Vai, Malmsteen, Satch are all very good technically....and I would give a nod to Vai.....but I do not "feel" the music...yes, it rocks, and has the hooks etc...but, for me...does not touch me.
In that same "style", I would put Eric Johnson above them...not that he is "better", but his music touches me.
I also play, and quick licks do not impress me...I can play fast....but it is feeling the music, and being touched by music, for me..that puts musicians in a "different league"
Toni....Crap may have not been the best word to use...but there is some work where it seemed Alvin was not as inspired as the majority of his work.
Also, when he puts out stuff that is so incredible....one has expectations for all of it to be incredible. I know that is not fair, but it is a reality.
Sorry Alvin.....on a positive note...You are by far the best guitarist I have ever seen live...you have NEVER disappointed when I see your shows....
Speaking of which...when you making it back to San Francisco? Clarence should be available!
I cannot help but detect the unmistakable whiff of smugness in your communications, not least because you deemed it appropriate to advise us of your review, and precisely where it could be found. Thus, I have not read it, nor do I intend to.
Enough can be gleaned from the replies of my fellow 'acolytes' to allow to me to determine that an air of disappointment emanates from your goodself, with specific regard to 'Mr. Lee's' progress as a musician.
You, and many of his devotees have failed, or simply refused to grasp that the said 'Mr. Lee' and his accompanists recorded an album within the strict parameters of 50's style music. Thus, is could quite legitimately be deemed a 'theme' CD, much in way as Clapton's 'Johnson' offerings could be similarly described.
Comparisons therefore with Mr. Lee's past works are therefore pointless, not to mention meaningless. 'In Tennessee' is an exercise, bringing the 50's style into this age, whilst remaining true to it's roots and structure. Including his trademark guitar pyrotechnics would have been anachronistic, in much the same way as wearing a pair of 'Nike Airs' would be in a Capone movie.
This fact seems to have whizzed over the heads of many fans, as well as the casual onlookers, who have not even had the good grace to compliment the musicianship of EVERYONE involved in the album.
Maybe they were disappointed that after a considerable wait for a new CD, their dislike of the 'theme' dissolved their collective ability to appreciate a masterpiece of reproductive art, albeit using 21st century technology, I do not know, nor do I care.
'Mr. Lee' may pay more cogniscence to criticism from fellow musicians, evaluating what may be valid, or otherwise, but only he can enlighten us on that front. Speaking, however, as more of one than the other, your grounds for picking holes in 'In Tennessee' in my book, are decidely shaky.
I could have told you to **** off, but that would not have been British.
Paul, I'm glad I was wrong about your expectations - but you still are wrong about Alvin's playing and In Tennessee in general. I'm sorry you can't hear the differences and growth in Alvin's playing; maybe you're just out of touch or maybe, as I said before, you just didn't get it.
In reference to In Tennessee, I can explain the differences easily. Alvin has always played rock and roll, its true, and he does indeed use the same licks in places as he did back in the 60s/70s. But Alvin used to play 50s rock and roll like a 60s rock musician. On In Tennessee, he plays 50s rock and roll like a 50s rock and roll musician.
You obviously didn't understand what "putting the roll back in rock and roll" meant - and you sure as heck were so intent on listening for technical proficiency that you didn't get the feel at all. Music shouldn't be dissected and reduced to a series of notes and efficiency - it should be experienced. I strongly suggest taking Alvin's advice when he sings " I'll play the music - you just dance". That's the way to listen to In Tennessee.
This is like an argument about whether new beer is better than old wine.
Nobody needs to eff off. Life's short enough as it is. Enjoy it while it lasts and just let your feet tap.
So speaketh the voice of reason.
I am dismayed that you are getting personal about it.
You wrote: ---> "In reference to In Tennessee, I can explain the differences easily. Alvin has always played rock and roll, its true, and he does indeed use the same licks in places as he did back in the 60s/70s. But Alvin used to play 50s rock and roll like a 60s rock musician. On In Tennessee, he plays 50s rock and roll like a 50s rock and roll musician."
No, he's still using the same licks in the same places. And, no, he doesn't "play[...] 50s rock and roll like a 50s rock and roll musician." Brian Setzer came closer to doing that, by playing rockabilly. Keith Richards always did it by playing like Chuck Berry. Mr. Lee's breakthrough was that, rather than just using the low-action, light stringed electric guitar to play same-old bent-string blues licks (like Eric Clapton), he took advantage of the ease of play the new electric guitars offered to define a different style of fluid and at times very fast guitar playing. And he's still using it. Good for him.
Mr. Lee is playing the same licks -- with a little more Chuck Berry thrown in than usual, to be sure, but it's only a matter of proportion -- and with a bit less distortion. And he has always -- let me repeat that: always -- turned down the guitar for a different tonality and texture from time to time.
You wrote ----> "You obviously didn't understand what "putting the roll back in rock and roll" meant - and you sure as heck were so intent on listening for technical proficiency that you didn't get the feel at all."
Ugh. Whenever I get into discussions with true believers, they fall back on notions like "feel" and "soul" because then they can simply assert that I am focusing too much on the technical side and "just don't get it." I do, OK?
But to get to the "feel", you have to travel through the five senses, and those senses can very well pick things apart and figure out why the senses -- and the emotions -- are affected as they are. It's not that the "elements" are everything -- far from it, despite what your fellow countrymen Locke, Berkeley, Hume and Mill had to say. But the empirical "elements" do mean something, and a big part of being a musician is in how you manipulate them.
I can hear the texture he's trying for, and I can also hear the same licks as 35 years ago, the same guitar tone as 35 years ago, albeit with less distortion, the same attack styles with the pick, the same use of slides and trills, etc. Yeah, he's going for a more "Tennessee" sound, and he gets partway there, but that's more a function of the volume on his amp and his co-musicians than any development of his playing or musicianship. I mean, let's not blind ourselves here, ok?
You wrote ----> "Music shouldn't be dissected and reduced to a series of notes and efficiency - it should be experienced."
Yes and no. Ultimately I agree that music can't be "reduced" to notes and efficiency, any more than a description of the frequencies of sound waves can be substituted, without loss, for the experience of hearing Ravi Shankar make his way through a raga. I can sit back and turn off the criticism from time to time, but it is a disservice if that's all you do, and it is unfair to suggest that someone's musicianship is good, bad, or indifferent, or better or worse, or more developed or less, just by claiming that you are "getting" a gestalt. And it is surely unfair when, if you are called to the mat on such claims, you just say "you don't get it."
You wrote ----> "I strongly suggest taking Alvin's advice when he sings " I'll play the music - you just dance". That's the way to listen to In Tennessee."
Do you realize how arrogant that statement is? Why do I want to do that? Here I am at a fan site full of people just gushing with how great Alvin Lee is. Why? Why aren't they just as happy to simply sit back (or just dance) and let Neil Young's guitar ravings wash over them? Or why not -- and this is especially pertinent -- the Rolling Stones, who do a **** fine job of playing old-style rock 'n' roll (can you say "Round and Round"?) when they put their minds to it? On what basis can they say such things, as others here have said to me, as that Mr. Lee is in a "different league" than some other guitarists?
Please, Toni, I do get it. I can hear the different sound on this album. But I still say he's the same guy, musically, he was back then. he's just tapping into a more age-appropriate style and a different (or differently-aged) market.
OK, I think I get your point, although I think you are somewhat inconsistent in saying
"I meant different league....not that one is necessarily better, cause I believe it is impossible to say one is better."
but then also saying:
"In that same "style", I would put Eric Johnson above them."
I also disagree with your central point, and think that there are standards of better or worse, but I do not want to re-kindle a debate I had at Mr. Vai's site about the possibility of aesthetic standards.
Can I take a stab at changing your mind about Mr. Vai? Have you heard tracks 3, 4 and 7 on "Alien Love Secrets"? Of course, the style is different, and perhaps that is the unbridgeable gap...
One has to wonder how fast licks could still impress these days. Mr. Malmsteen has leeched everything out of that brick. On the other hand, fast licks can contribute to effect, can't they?
Finally, knowing that you are a fan of Mr. Lee and a guitar player and apparently also a person of some maturity, judging from your writing style, and thus someone who's had ample time to learn, why am I not surprised that you can play fast? How many hours did you spend in your youth, as I did, trying to learn "I'm Going Home"?
No, its a very specific argument. Has Alvin grown as a musician or not? Not whether he is better or not, but is he at all different. I agree life is short and we should just enjoy the music, but conversation is frequently about differences of opinion. So, when someone comes in and says something - particularly about Alvin's abilities - that some of us disagree with, you certainly can't expect us to be quiet. Particularly when we were all specifically asked to comment.
Hey, Alan, what's your problem? I have opinions, and I'm prepared to defend them or modify them. If that's smugness to you, then you're looking in a mirror. And if you are insulted because, as a Brit, you didn't like my complimenting your countrymen on the greater temperance than I've experienced on the other side of the pond, you do have a problem.
Having said that, and always being prepared to put the gloves back on, let me respond.
You wrote ---> "I cannot help but detect the unmistakable whiff of smugness in your communications, not least because you deemed it appropriate to advise us of your review, and precisely where it could be found. Thus, I have not read it, nor do I intend to."
I asked for comments, and I am prepared to consider them. One of the others has suggested that I listen to certain specific albums. I appreciated that, and hope to get to it quite soon.
You wrote ----> "Enough can be gleaned from the replies of my fellow 'acolytes' to allow to me to determine that an air of disappointment emanates from your goodself, with specific regard to 'Mr. Lee's' progress as a musician."
Actually, you can get a more accurate picture of my moderate dissapointment from some of my replies; some of the responses seem to ignore what I actually wrote. At the risk of repeating myself ad nauseam -- and I'm only risking it because, again, some people just don't seem to read what I write -- I LIKE THE ALBUM. OK? And I never said that anyone here was an acolyte; I said that I was not. Sheesh.
Your wrote ---> "You, and many of his devotees have failed, or simply refused to grasp that the said 'Mr. Lee' and his accompanists recorded an album within the strict parameters of 50's style music. Thus, is could quite legitimately be deemed a 'theme' CD, much in way as Clapton's 'Johnson' offerings could be similarly described."
Blah, blah, blah. In case YOU missed it, one of my points is that what he plays is not "within the strict parameters of 50's style music." If he wanted to do that, he'd have had to play more like Brian Setzer or Keith Richards. He's still playing like Alvin Lee, a style that he brought to a high state of development by 1969, and which he has not changed to any significant extent for this album. All he's done is surround himself with his heros, and turned his amp down somewhat.
You wrote ----> "Comparisons therefore with Mr. Lee's past works are therefore pointless, not to mention meaningless. 'In Tennessee' is an exercise, bringing the 50's style into this age, whilst remaining true to it's roots and structure."
Is it truly pointless, then, to point out that he hasn't done what you think he's supposed to be doing? Also, since my main criticism of the album is that he hasn't changed I guess, by your lights you figure that I think he failed his exercise. But let me remind you: I LIKE THE ALBUM.
You wrote ----> "Including his trademark guitar pyrotechnics would have been anachronistic, in much the same way as wearing a pair of 'Nike Airs' would be in a Capone movie."
Duh. That's one of the reasons why I referred to the recording of "I'm Going Home" on this album as "unfortunate." Butyou don't know that because you didn't read the review and don't intend to. Duh.
You wrote: ----> "This fact seems to have whizzed over the heads of many fans, as well as the casual onlookers, who have not even had the good grace to compliment the musicianship of EVERYONE involved in the album."
Well, I guess then we should go to THEIR fan sites, eh?
You wrote ---> "Maybe they were disappointed that after a considerable wait for a new CD, their dislike of the 'theme' dissolved their collective ability to appreciate a masterpiece of reproductive art, albeit using 21st century technology, I do not know, nor do I care."
You're not talking about me here, are you? Let me say it again, I LIKE THE ALBUM
You wrote ---> "Mr. Lee' may pay more cogniscence to criticism from fellow musicians, evaluating what may be valid, or otherwise, but only he can enlighten us on that front. Speaking, however, as more of one than the other, your grounds for picking holes in 'In Tennessee' in my book, are decidely shaky."
On what front, and why only Mr. Lee? And how do you know whether I "picked holes" or instead talked broad brush, or what were the grounds for doing whatever I did if you have not, and do not intend to, read the review? DUH! Let me say it again, I LIKE THE ALBUM. The end of the review says that it is a GOOD album for the guitar afficionado, and a GREAT album for the more casual listener. OK?
You wrote: ---> "I could have told you to **** off, but that would not have been British."
But it IS British to do so in that backhanded way, is it? My, my, and I had had such a nice impression of the folks on this board before.
Finally, in case you find my referring to professional musicians as "Mr." so-and-so to be smug or stuffy (ha-ha, that's the pot calling the kettle metal, now isn't it?), let me explain. I'm not Mr. Lee's friend; I've never met him, and don't even know whether or not he'd like me if I did. I am simply trying to show respect, rather than pretending to some false familiarity by calling him "Alvin" or reducing him to a fleshless abstraction by calling him "Lee." Hope that clarifies things.
Well I'm going to leave you folks to it. I love Alvin... but some of you act like you're the Keepers of the Sacred Flame.
Thanks, Toni, your point is well taken, and your comments, in large part, appreciated. As I recall, you are the only one so far to point out specific albums and specific songs that I might want to listen to for evidence of growth.
Ah, akc, of course some of act like we're the keepers of the Sacred Flame - we're fans of many many years standing , and fans have a tendency to think of their heroes as something, well, as something heroic. On a personal level, we all know Alvin is human and has human flaws just like the rest of us - but on a musical level, we put him above most others. It's why we gather on this site and its why we pay homage to him. Certainly, we don't expect everyone to share our views - but good heavens, you can't honestly expect that we won't come to Alvin's defense when we think he's been judged unfairly!
I'm sorry if you feel I became too personal, but I don't know how NOT to personalize what is basically a difference of opinion. I certainly didn't mean to insult you, and hope that I didn't.
I've collected many reviews of the album, from both journalists and musicians, and the one recurring thread is exactly how well Alvin has transcended time on In Tennessee to truly capture the 1950s.
The gentlemen playing on the album with Alvin certainly have unarguable pedigrees as 50s rock and rollers....and they think Alvin tapped into the heart and distinctiveness of 50s rock and roll. So, yes of course, its still the same Alvin Lee, but an awful lot of people are hearing something that you don't hear.
My statements may have been arrogant, I apologize if so, but is there no part of you that understands the arrogance of insisting that you are right and many others are wrong? I don't fault you your opinion, I fault that you don't recognize it is an opinion.
I still like your writing style very much and feel you made some good valid points - and I'm glad you like the album despite not hearing anything different. I do look forward to hearing your take on some of Alvin's other recent albums.
Oh, and I'm not British.
How dare you speak to me in that tone, you with your peanut butter breath and high school yearbook hairstyle! I take great exeption to your demeanor, and I don't have a problem....at least nothing that I find affects the way I walk.
You created the anomoly, not me, not Toni, not anyone...you did it all by yourself, praising the album....but then...oh no! You had to go and spoil it all by saying something stupid. OK, so you liked the album, but why detract from your obvious good taste. AL put the shackles on himself, playing within the bounds of the style...with the exclusion of 'I'm Going Home' as you so astutely point out..Duh!
Your use of the word 'acolyte' was not an inference to anyone here?...apologies are accepted here gratiously, no matter how well disguised...and Oh yes, you liked the album.
I must take issue with your point regarding the 50's style. By a fortunate chain of events I was able to listen to the album very early on, and was asked here, for my opinion. My reaction was to say 'think Brian Setzer, and you're not far away.' That was my first instinct, maybe you would ridicule such sentiments, but I stand by it as being as close as AL might want to get, intentionally, or otherwise...and Oh yes, you liked the album, I'm getting to grips with that now.
With regard to AL's accompanists, very complimentry remarks were made here regarding Pete Pritchard, Scotty Moore, D.J. Fontana, and Willie Rainsford....but from those whose taste the CD didn't suit?....not a peep of compliment...not the merest toot of appreciation...nor even the merest squeak of acknowledgement..bad form, very bad form indeed, Paul. Did you say you liked the album? Oh yes, you did didn't you.
Finally, and without any prejudice, well maybe a little, I apologise for tarnishing your impression of the Board, it was completely unintentional. My intention was to pull your chain with only a modicum of ferocity...mission accomplished....Double Duh!!
Please, by all means listen to the recommended albums, I'm certain you'll enjoy them. Let us know what you think.....if you dare!
'akc' this is a debating chamber, I suppose, as well as meeting point for fans of the whole spectrum of interest in Alvin Lee and classic TYA.
Like any place of debate, things might be said that don't suit everyone. Just because this is on the internet doesn't mean that representatives of differing opinions and different character won't be here, just like they are in the pub or at work.
Things get aired here that I'm not necessarily comfortable with, but I just keep schtum, I don't flounce away in the 'cream puff'.
Stay around please! Enjoy the banter, and squirm at the sucking up if you must, but never let the Board detract from your enjoyment of the music.
Come on guys,Chill out.If you like the music, just enjoy and if you don't, sell the CD and find something you do like.
I'm at a loss at akc and Graeme's basic advice that we chill out. What is it we're doing??? If we forgo all conversation on this board - and conversation is all it is - I may as well shut the darn thing down. When did the people here get so thin skinned that simple - and quite civil - differences of opinion cause such rankled feelings?
Sheesh....anyone wanna discuss the Cream reunion? Did they grow as musicians? Did they play anything different? Were they boring??
That'll be three no's and a yes, Boss.
As Toni suggests Graeme, what's all this about being nice to each other? It would be very dull if we all agreed all of the time. But as long as heated discussion remains civil, and everyone eventually agrees with me, there will be no problems.
Nobody gets hurt....well, maybe the odd feeling here and there, and a few egos might get dented...but that's all. It's better than going to watch the Jam Tarts or the Hibees, surely?
Note to non-Scots: Don't even ask!
now we could have some very heated discussions on hibs and hearts but i think we are on the wrong forum.as regards chilling out,i just thought we had overplayed the arguments and it was going nowhere.rock on
Geeeez, leave you guys alone for a few days and goe to Disneyland and what happens? LOL!
Time for my belated two cents worth - and no you don't get change!
Anybody looking for something "new" in a Rockabilly album in which the artist has an honest appreciation of, and is trying to capture the "roots" of, 50s rock and roll isn't going to find what they are looking for. And it's silly to even search.
Alvin was not out to show anybody how much technical powress or "new" innovations he has in his playing. Nor was he out to compete with a whole slew of fleet fingered axe slingers.
Alvin set out to make a d@mned fine rockabilly album. In Tennessee is a ****ed fine rockabilly album. Objective achieved. End of discussion.