Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Silos - Flipping The Bird

I don't remember exactly how I first learned about The Silos. Maybe the distinctive cover from their self-titled second release (and only one on RCA) caught my eye at Turtle Records in Chattanooga, TN. Or maybe I read a review of it in Tower Records' Pulse magazine. Those are the two most likely scenarios.

Either way, I'm really glad I bought the CD. It was and remains a fantastic album. Its certainly in my top 5 or so albums that cemented my interest in Americana music. The disc still rotates through my truck CD player and iPod earbuds with a high degree of regularity. One of my favorite lyrics - from all music - is from I'm Over You from the album:
Today I'm gonna be
Driving down Highway 441 with the windows down
A beer in one hand, the radio blasting
My old needs I won't recognize
I'm over you
RCA ended its relationship with The Silos after only "the one with the bird on the cover" release. Long since out-of-print, I consider myself fortunate to have two copies of the sho-nuff, official release. Once I really started digging "The Bird" CD, I wanted more. I sought out their second release Cuba and found it at the now-gone Tower Records store near George Washington University in Washington, DC. I have no idea why I remember that bit of trivia.

The sound of these first two CDs is just fantastic in my opinion - a balance of electric and acoustic, of drawn-out bluesy ballads vs. drum-thumping and power chords, of concise yet often complex lyrics.

The success came from a collaboration between Walter Salas-Humara and Bob Rupe. Following the RCA "Bird" release, however, the band's members and sound changed significantly. Rupe and most of the rest of the band moved on. Salas-Humara replaced them with new musicians (and has done so many times since), and has tweaked the sound of the band a bit with each subsequent release.

I've continued to purchase every Silos CD, a couple of Walter's solo and side project discs, and material by other bands produced by Walter. All good stuff in their own right, but those first two CDs are still my favorite releases even after all these years.

It took the better part of two decades, many band members, different musical and lyrical styles, and six or seven releases before I finally got to see The Silos live. I've since seen them twice more. Not only have live shows been rare for me, but getting my hands on quality boots has been equally challenging.

But as Jason & The Scorchers sing, good things come to those who wait. Recently, my mailbox welcomed an unexpected surprise - a 3 CD set of soundboard recordings of The Silos titled Flipping The Bird.

The CDs are a compilation of live recordings from multiple tour dates in 1990 as the band supported "The Bird". They were sent by a fellow fan of the band in the hopes I could find a way to share the tunes.

I'm particularly excited because the compilation includes a few tracks recorded at Nashville's iconic Exit/In - right here in my own backyard. Sadly, I didn't make the show back in the day - but hey at least Nashville made it to the final press!

The CDs were accompanied by "liner notes" written by the taper, Joe Chinnici, who was the sound man for The Silos during the tour. Here are excerpts from Joe's notes he compiled in 2000.
...Roughly 11 years ago (1989)...I was working in a local recording studio on Long Island in New York...Then along comes a band via the studio owners connection. It was "The Silos". A band that was on the verge of being signed to RCA Records, but needed to record some final demos. I had a blast, but thought nothing of it, as every band I worked with was "on the verge". Well, a year later they got signed, recorded a record, and asked me to go on tour with them as their Sound Man.

I had never done live sound before, but felt up to the challenge and needed a break from the recording studio thing, so I accepted. It was a two month whirlwind tour, but it was a blast. For the most part everything is a positive memory. And even the things that were not, now just seem funny, not bad... it was 10 years later... so I decided to go through my recordings from the tour, and cherry pick the best performances. Keep in mind, this was a very tedious task, as I had the entire tour recorded on a dozen shows prior to the actual tour of 1990...Plus the tapes are 10 years old. I was surprised at how well they held up. I wanted to compile the best versions of each and every song. This does not necessarily mean that these are the most flawless versions. I had to take the performance, energy, sonic quality, and attitude into consideration, not to mention that some of these songs were only performed on tape once, so I had to go with what I had...

Okay, so now it was time to come up with a title for this compilation. I began thinking about the RCA album with "The Bird" on the cover...Although the songs were great, the true essence of the band was lost in the translation. It was kind of sterile. I suddenly realized just how much these live performances captured the sound of the band. They were so raw, tight and powerful in person, they showed their flip-side. Hence the title "Flipping The Bird".

Now I realize that Walter has carried on "The Silos" name. I've heard much of the later material, and must admit that some of it is really good. However, in my eyes, "The Silos" was, is and always will be Bob, Walter, Brian and Graham, with me behind the board of course. No other line up, combination, or song list will ever add up to what was captured on this tour. It was truly magical... ~ Joe Chinnici
Perhaps without much surprise, many of the songs included in the set list in 1990 remain staples of set lists today for the band - despite the myriad of artists who have shared the stage with Walter since then.

Disc 1

Tennessee Fire (1)
Caroline (2) (MP3)
She Lives Up The Street (1)
Shine It Down
For Always (1)
Commodore Peter (2)
Take My Country Back (2)
(We'll Go) Out of Town (2)
Start The Clock
You And Your Sister (3)
Let's Work Together

Disc 2

Only Story I Tell (2)
Now That I've Lost You
I'm Over You (2)
Anyway You Choose Me (2)
Just This Morning (1)
Going Round (1)
Heart & Soul
Memories (1) (MP3)
Find Someone
Margaret (1)
Picture Of Helen (2)
Porque No (2)
How's The Road
Get Back My Name (1)

Disc 3

Honky Tonk Man (Johnny Horton cover)
It's Alright (1)
T-Bone (Neil Young cover)
All Falls Away (1) (MP3)
Don't Talk That Way (2)
band introductions
Here's To You (2)
A Few Hundred Thank You's
Maybe Everything (1)
One After 909 (Lennon-McCartney)
Mary's Getting Married (1)

(1) from Cuba
(2) from The Silos / "Bird"
(3) from the Vulgar Boatmen's 1989 You and Your Sister release. WSH was in the band pre-Silos and produced their Y&YS album. Walter sold me the VB tape via a snail-mail and personal check transaction. I've never heard this song live until now.

If you are a big fan of The Silos, you should really enjoy these rare tracks. If you are a casual fan or just a noob, download the songs - you won't regret it.

Edited 2014-03-06: This post continues to get so many visits. Thank you! Here is an updated set of links to the FTB set. Take a track, or take 'em all.


Friday, July 9, 2010

Kevin Salem

The last few years I've found myself enjoying bootlegs, rarities, show rehearsals, etc. about as much as officially released material. One, its cheaper because most fans/tapers share their recordings freely. Two, I like the roughness of a lot of the material - the lack of recording perfection demanded by studio production crews is a nice change of pace. Three, I've been able to experiment with artists with whom I'm not as familiar - far easier to listen to a downloaded boot vs. forking over $15 for an unknown official release.

Recently, a friend of mine sent me a CD of some demo tracks recorded by Kevin Salem thinking I'd enjoy it. I'll admit I didn't know anything about him and really still don't much. But as I say, I enjoy the roughness of these kinds of recordings - not to mention the element of surprise. It was a bit like opening a Christmas present in the middle of summer.

Once I listened to a few of the tracks, I started enjoying it. Hey Mikey! He likes it! Now that I've played it a few times, I figured others might enjoy it as well. So its offered here to you for the low, low price of free.

From what I can gather (i.e. Google this, Wikipedia that, e-mail this and that 'un), this record was made, mixed and mastered in the early 1990s. But Salem then apparently shelved it thinking he might get greater exposure if he worked with a "name" producer. His first official record, Soma City, was released in 1994. Some of the songs featured Syd Straw on background vocals, and I have heard of her. These demo tracks, however, never were included on his three solo releases.

Kevin has a website, and I've now learned he was quite the hired gun for some artists/bands with whom I am familiar. Some of his recording cred includes:
  • Mary Lee's Corvette - From New York City. One degree of separation here: Konrad Meissner, the drummer for a fave band of mine, The Silos, also plays drums for MLC.
  • Walter Salas-Humara's Radar - WSH is the frontman for The Silos. And hey, I've had this solo CD from him in my collection for years.
  • Todd Thibaud- From Boston, MA. Another find for me over the last couple of years thanks to some suggested tracks by I bought Todd's Favorite Waste of Time because of the tracks I streamed on Pandora. So with Walter's solo CD and Todd's FWOT CD, I had some Kevin Salem material in my possession and never realized it!
  • Emmylou Harris - I think she may be one of those promising, up-and-comer, country artists. I wish her well and hope she has a prosperous career. [/tongueincheek]. Are you kidding me? Emmylou?! Nice.
  • Dumptruck
  • Freedy Johnston
  • Yo La Tengo
The CD of demos also included one track by another artist - Mary Lorson. Again, she was a songwriter not familiar to me. In the early 90s, she fronted a band called Madder Rose. Does that help? No? Well don't feel bad because I hadn't heard of them either. But a web search for her landed me on Trouser Press. There I learned Madder Rose's debut was produced by...Kevin Salem. So now I think I know why this demo was included with the Salem cuts. The final two tracks of this set were Lorson's first attempts at songwriting and from her first recording session.

Track list:
  • Drag The River
  • Unfaithful
  • Shot Down
  • Remain
  • Privileges
  • Blue Candles
  • Tears To Ice Water
  • Late Night Prayers
  • Borderline
  • Mary Lorson's 1st two demos
Download here from

Edited August 13, 2014

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

That dusty old box of vinyl records

Every September, our department goes to a state park for a week of Every year is a different theme. Some of our themes have been centered around sports, old TV shows, movies, game shows, and a cruise ship.

This year, I'll be attending my 14th edition of these things, and I am pretty much over it. But I give full marks to the handful of folks charged with planning and executing the week. They do a helluva job with a limited budget and a ton of creativity and resourcefulness. They can't get 140 people to enjoy the same food menu - much less make them happy with training choices and themes.

The theme for this fall apparently involves music. We've all been required...cajoled...requested to introduce ourselves to the rest of our co-workers via a video about our favorite band, first concert, memorable song, etc.

I went old school and dug out some vinyl LPs from deep in the dark corners of my closet. Trolling through those old albums reminded of Todd Snider's great song Vinyl Records:

At the risk of spoiling the surprise to any co-workers reading this entry, I'll refrain from mentioning my featured albums, songs, concert experiences, etc. at this time. In digging through my LPs, however, I found some interesting but somewhat forgotten albums. Because the box was open and my camera was nearby, it seemed only appropriate to share I care...about you.

How about this winner? Elvis sings Flaming Star. They say 50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can't Be Wrong, so I'm hoping they all will agree with me that this LP likely really sucked. I'm not sure if you can tell or not, but it looks like I used a blue pencil to give the King some evil eyebrows and a pencil-thin mustache/goatee combo. I'm not sure why I would have done that...unless the LP really sucked...which it probably did.

Pat Travers - Crash and Burn. This one caught my eye simply because I've seen some bootlegs of the band surface recently.

I'm pretty sure I bought this one at the time because of the single Snorting Whiskey (and Drinking Cocaine). Just the whole sound of it sounded cool and rebellious to me - much more so than the simplicity of Clapton's one-word Cocaine. (Disclaimer: For the record, I've neither snorted whiskey nor drank cocaine. A long weekend with Schaefer beer? Well, that's a different discussion altogether.) That was a great southern rock hit back in the day - and it remains so today mainly because its not nearly as overplayed as the obvious ones by Skynyrd, Molly Hatchet, The Allman Brothers, etc.

Night Ranger - Midnight Madness. I bought their debut, Dawn Patrol, on cassette tape because I liked a couple of cuts and because they opened for KISS. Figured if they were good enough to open for Gene and the boys, then they deserved $7 of my high school earnings. I should have stopped there, but instead I bought their follow-up on vinyl.

What caused me to pull this album out of the box and blog my embarrassment was the sticker still on the protective plastic wrap. In my youth, KDF 103.3 was the rock station of Nashville. None could touch it. Great music. Great radio personalities. Chatty Patty Murray - man oh man, did she have a sultry voice to excite every young male in middle Tennessee. (Until you had the chance to meet her in person and realize dejectedly that her voice was about her most thrilling asset.)

From the mid 70s through about the mid 80s, just about every young person's car either had this decal in the back window or had a similar license plate on the front.

My first ride was a 1965 Dodge Dart given to me by my grandmother. First thing that went in it? A Craig AM/FM/cassette stero. The second modification? Applying my right-of-passage KDF sticker to the rear glass.

About a decade or so ago, the station's format changed to country. Boring country. Stale country. Hat-act country. Useless "personalities". The end of KDF for me...forever.

Roger Miller - Golden Hits. This perhaps was the one album my father had that I appreciated at the time. Over time, I've learned to appreciate the significance of many others he had such as Cash, Roy Orbison, Hank Sr., Charlie Pride, Sam the Sham & The Pharohs, etc. But with Roger Miller - I got it. I loved when he played this album on his Zenith stereo, and I got my own copy in high school when I got my own stereo. As an adult, I've replaced it with a 3 CD set of Miller's greatest hits.

Jason & The Scorchers - Lost and Found. A college roommate introduced me to The Scorchers. Because of my clinging to my fading interest in arena rock bands, I missed Jason & The Nashville Scorchers (as they were originally named). But my roommate got my attention quickly when he played songs such as Broken Whiskey Glass and Harvest Moon. Pretty soon I had to claim my own copy rather than bum a listen of his.

College life in the dorm my freshman year got me into a lot of Bocephus, Hag, David Allan Coe, etc. I bought Waylon & Company in my university bookstore because it featured some great duets between Waylon and artists such as Hank Jr., Emmylou, and Jerry Reed.

After college, I moved to Chattanooga, TN and quickly became a frequent Friday night visitor to Yesterday's - a long-since-gone club featuring primarily cover bands. Occasionally, regional bands with their own songs such as Mobius Strip and The Hammerheads played the place. And a Chattanooga original - 37 Targetz - packed the house when they played. Their cover of June Carter's Ring of Fire won MTV's Basement Tapes. This is one album I'd really like to convert to digital. Anyone wanna loan me one of those USB-powered turntables?

I'll close with a couple of oddities. First, Meet Richard Petty. Yes, this was a Petty-narrated album from 1970 accompanied by about a 20-page booklet of various pictures. I ordered it from Darlington Speedway in the late 1970s. I still have the booklet to go with it.

The final one I laughed at when I spotted it was a recording of my high school concert band. Living in Nashville, there is only about one or two degrees of separation between you and someone in the music business. One of our band parents - no recollection of whom - likely was at the second degree and had one of our concerts pressed to vinyl.

We didn't sell a half-million copies to earn Gold record status. Matter of fact, I'm willing to bet we didn't sell any. I think they were just given us as souvenirs from a proud band parent. So while we didn't earn gold, I am the proud owner of an old yeller LP.

This trip through my platters was fun. Maybe next I'll tackle my two to three hundred cassettes to see what interesting things surface.