The Sound of the Trees

With the temperature beginning to stir it is about time to end this blogging hibernation. And what better way than to trace some wonderful classics as they appear in Trees through the ages. Lets start with that gritty classic, Midnight Special. I’m always a sucker for a song where a new line starts just when you think the singer should be taking a breath, and this is one of the best.

Leadbelly got there early on:

And Odetta sings it how it should be:

So, who in the Trees has done justice to the song?

Not, in my humble opinion, the otherwise fab Spencer Davis Group:

And here is a short take from Journey, who happen to get a whole Tree just to themselves:

Then there’s Ken Colyer’s skiffle version with Alexis Korner:

Luckily we have Van Morrison, to bring it all back home. There’s hope after all:

And if you haven’t had enough yet, here’s Van, with Lonnie and Chris Barber, in a skiffle revival version of 2007.

Willie Dixon and the Roots of Rock Family Trees

If Rock Family Trees had DNA then traces of Willie Dixon would be found everywhere. Rolling Stones, Little Red Rooster: Willie Dixon (Kinks, Stones and Pretties, London R&B Explosion). Cream, Spoonful: Willie Dixon (Alexis Korner, Clapton early and late, Steve Winwood). Jeff Beck, You Shook Me: Willie Dixon (Jeff Beck, Beck Page and Yardbirds). Bluesbreakers: All Your Love: Willie Dixon (John Mayall). Led Zeppelin: Whole Lotta Love, after legal action admitted to have been derived from Willie Dixon’s You Need Love (Beck, Page and Yardbirds, and others).

Check it out for yourself:

Here are some more examples:

Alexis Korner, I’m Built for Comfort

Savoy Brown: Wang Dang Doodle

Dr Feelgood, You’ll Be Mine

The Merseybeats: You Can’t Judge a Book By It’s Cover

Fleetwood Mac: My Baby’s Sweeter

Georgie Fame: Seventh Son

Spencer Davis: My Babe

It’s an old cliche, but if you want to see an illustration of what we could call ‘music laundering’ – how British players imported black Chicago blues and rendered them in a form acceptable to white American audiences – compare Eric Clapton’s solo on All Your Love with the Otis Rush version.

Listen to the solo starting around 1:22, and then listen at 1.20 to this:

And a further twist, Willie Dixon’s performances of his own songs don’t always have the power other singers sometimes can manage. Compare his version of Spoonful, at the top of this page, with Howlin’ Wolf, one of the greatest performances of any Willie Dixon song. Actually, make that one of the greatest performances of any song, full stop. Turn up the volume. And then some more.

Out in the Streets, and the London R&B Explosion

We have just added two superb trees to the shop: Out in the Streets, which documents the early punk scene in New York, and the London R&B Explosion, which looks at a similar burst of energy, culminating in the Rolling Stones, in London about two decades earlier.

Just until the end of August these two trees will be available at a huge discount: £150 against the normal selling price of £250, while stocks last. Click on the trees to go to the shop.

Out in StreetsLondon R&B Explosion