Jan 13, 2005 Edition of Worcester Magazine
A recorded look at some of the city's musical highlights
By Brian Goslow
Over the years, various recordings have been released of concerts and club dates in Worcester. While they may not contain once-in-a-lifetime moments like the night Korn joined a young Korn tribute act at The Lucky Dog, Prince jamming at the Crowne Plaza, or The Stones at Sir Morgan's, they do document 40-plus years of live shows in the city.
Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys -- Live at Mechanics Hall (Acoustic Disc)
Recorded on Nov. 16, 1963, when Monroe and company performed as part of a Grand Ole Opry tour, this disc, released earlier this year, captures the father of bluegrass at the height of his career. A then-teenage David Grisman had the good sense to bring a reel-to-reel tape recorder to the show (thank God there weren't any "no recordings" edicts in those days). Highlights include "Muleskinner Blues" and "Blue Mean of Kentucky" and Monroe's daughter Melissa joining in for Buck Owens's "Love's Gonna Live Here." Get you own piece of history at acousticdisc.com.
Jimi Hendrix -- Live at Clark University (Dagger)
This legendary March 15, 1968, Atwood Hall show was first aired later that year on the BBC, portions of which became bootleg folklore before being officially released as part of Rykodisc's Radio One collection in the early '90s. The Hendrix Estate released this CD, which includes hot versions of "Fire," Red House," "Foxy Lady," "Purple Haze" and "Wild Thing" on Dagger Records in 1999. They're complemented by interviews with The Jimi Hendrix Experience that supposedly were conducted after the infamously late show that started well past midnight. Yeah, man! Sound clips and an order form can be found at daggerrecords.com.
The New Riders of the Purple Sage -- Worcester, MA 04.04.73 (Kufala Recordings)
Clark University hosted The New Riders in the middle of an early spring blizzard. The band had just completed an East Coast tour with The Grateful Dead, whose pianist Keith Godchaux joined them for this 25-song set while Donna Jean Godchaux sat in for Loretta Lynn's "You Ain't Woman Enough." The disc features John Dawson's beautiful steel guitar playing on the Dead-like trippy "I Don't Know You," a spirited rocking version of Ricky Nelson's "Hello Mary Lou," and concludes with a wild rendition of "Willie and the Hand Jive." Get a taste at songbaby.com/cd/nrps.
Bob Dylan -- The Bootleg Series Vol. 5 Live 1975 The Rolling Thunder Revue (Sony)
Bob Dylan summoned a circus troupe of musicians -- including Byrds' Roger McGuinn, former Spider from Mars guitarist Mick Ronson, Joan Baez and other assorted guests -- for a series of now-legendary shows throughout small-town New England. The Rolling Thunder Revue's performance of "Mr. Tambourine Man" at the Worcester Memorial Auditorium on Nov. 19, 1975, is included on this 2002-released two CD set. Unfortunately, there's no rockin' "jingle jangle" of McGuinn's guitar on the song, which is performed in a stripped down bare style accompanied by Dylan's harmonica even rawer then it was first heard in on "Bringing It All Back Home" in 1965.
Black Sabbath, Purple Sabbath
This Holy Grail for metal fans features Deep Purple frontman Ian Gillan joining an Ozzyless Black Sabbath on Nov. 4, 1983. Along with the Sabbath classics "War Pigs" and "Iron Man," there's a metal hall of fame double shot of "Smoke on the Water" and "Paranoid." Tony Iommi reportedly has "an ass-kicking night on the guitar." Regularly found on eBay.
Jerry Lee Lewis, Silver Eagle Presents Jerry Lee Lewis Live (Silver Eagle Classics)
Supposedly recorded in Worcester on Oct. 5, 1984, when Jerry Lee Lewis headlined the Silver Eagle Cross Country Music Show, this CD, released in 1997, regularly shows up on eBay. This 13-song set includes his big hits "Great Balls of Fire" and "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On" as well as his take on the Big Bopper's "Chantilly Lace," the piano-playing on which has to be worth the cost of the disc alone. Still available in stores.
Elton John, Live (MCA)
Captain Fantastic arrived at the Centrum on Nov. 4, 1984, for a show including "Tiny Dancer," "The Bitch is Back," and Bennie and the Jets" that had turned 10 and were headed for the oldies bin while "Sad Songs" and "I'm Still Standing" were rocking WSRS. Now out-of-print, the disc turns up as part of a Japanese reissue on eBay.
Plainfolk, Live at Mechanics Hall
This now-out-of-print release by the long-running local folk band ("New England's Premier Folk Band," according to their Web site) was recorded during a show the group opened for The Wolfetones. It was released in 1986, first on cassette, then on CD, and includes their version of Ralph McTell's "Streets of London" and The Kingston Trio's "Charlie on the MTA." You could probably beg them to burn you a copy via plainfolk.com.
Kiss, Turn on the Night
This four-song CD was accompanied by a video for "Turn on the Night" which was filmed at the Centrum on Jan. 27, 1988. The then-unmasked group lip-synched the song three times during their set that night -- twice after opening the show with "Love Gun" and "Cold Gin" and once before its encore of "Tears Are Falling," "Strutter," and "Detroit Rock City." You want the best? You just have to sit through the video shoot.
The Count Basie Orchestra featuring Frank Foster, Live at the El Morocco (Telarc)
The legendary Count had been dead for eight years when his orchestra, led by tenor saxophonist Frank Foster, pulled into the legendary El Morocco club for two nights on Feb. 20 and 21, 1992. The 18-piece group got things cooking with "Gone An' Git It Y'All," followed it up with "A Night at the El Morocco (Easy As It Goes)," and shut the place down with "One O'Clock Jump" on what would be one of the final great moments up on Suffolk Street.
Live Phish Vol. 6: 11/27/98, The Centrum, Worcester, Massachusetts (Elektra)
"Phish always seems to deliver in Worcester and this night was the jewel of the Fall '98 tour," writes one Wisconsin-based fan on Amazon.com while another states it was "one of the most unbelievable nights of music that I have ever heard." Tracks include "I Am Hydrogen" and "Weekapaug Groove."
Dave Matthews Band -- Live Worcester
Released to DMB fan club members only, this two-CD set captures DMB live at the Centrum Centre on Dec. 8, 1998, on the heels of a show at Foxboro Stadium that summer. According to a review on eBay, it features "set list standards" that "were transcended into virtually new songs" with the highlights being opening tracks "Seek Up" and "Linus and Lucy" plus a long 15 minute version of "No. 41."
Bob Dylan -- Highlands of Worcester
This "very unique music disc" (think the legendary "Bootleg Tapes") captures Dylan at the Centrum Centre on Nov. 14, 1999. According to the Telegram's Scott McLennon, Dylan opened with a selection of gospel and country-flavored acoustic numbers. He reached into his youth for "Hard Rain's Gonna Fall" and "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right," then plugged in for intense versions of "All Along the Watchtower" and "Highlands" from the Grammy-winning "Time Out of Mind." Look for this on eBay.
Godsmack -- Live (Image Entertainment)
This DVD was filmed at the then-Centrum Centre on March 2, 2001. Whoever's trying to get rid of their copy on eBay says, "they pound through such eardrum-busters as "Bad Religion," "Voodoo," "Bad Magick," and "Sick of Life." The Telegram's review the follow day says, "Brutally energetic, with Sully Erna's voice in fine form."
The Commandos -- Fight to Win
"Ladies and gentlemen, all the way from West Boylston -- The Commandos!" Hard-to-find early '80s discs by this once-teenage punk band were selling for high prices on eBay, so a French record label offered to put out a collection of their recordings on limited-edition vinyl in early 2003. When Fight to Win" moved from vinyl to CD, the band tacked on their May 2, 2003, Wormtown 25th Anniversary Celebration performance at Ralph's. After Wormtown Mayor LB Worm's aforementioned introduction, they perform the title track followed by "Stay Out Tonight," "Suburb Rock," and "Operation Annihilation" from their two Beast Records 45s. The live portion concludes with spirited covers of Crazy Jack and the Automatics' "21," the MC5's "Kick Out the Jams," and Iggy Pop's "I Got a Right." The disc and a DVD or video of the show is available via thecommandos.org.
Various Artists -- Rotmans Café Fantastique Live: Volume 1
WICN DJ Troy Tyree gathered this collection of highlights from the station's 2002-2003 simulcasts of shows from Rotmans Furniture. Local favorites Chuck & Mud, Valerie & Walter Crockett, Norman Schell, and She's Busy are joined by regional acts Boogaloo Swamis and Anni Clark and national acts Slaid Cleaves and Terri Hendrix, both hailing from Texas. This is a good introduction to today's acoustic roots and folk scene you can inquire about at womp.com.
Undoubtedly, these aren't all the live recordings made in Worcester, including a number of Grammy-winning CDs that utilized the acoustics of Mechanics Hall. Feel free to write us with any we've missed.