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...

...here 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 cassette...plus 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)
Susan
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.

TMC

19 comments:

  1. Most enjoyable reading, this SILOS entry. Listened to the "Start The Clock" track, the quality is great. Thank You for sharing this material.

    What is flashing on me, is the similarity in tone, lyrics, arrangement and attitude with WILCO as they've grown. Have been listening to quite a bit of JeffTweedy/Wilco lately and maybe why I like it so much has its roots in what attracted me to the SILOS, 10-years earlier.

    It's neat, connecting musical dots. Nice work, Keep it going,

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  2. Wow. This is just amazing. The mp3s sound terrific.

    I saw the Silos on that tour, and I'd still probably say it was the best show I've ever seen.

    This is a real treat. Thanks!!

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  3. Thanks for posting this. Any chance of your posting the RCA release, seeing as it's out of print and all. I have it on vinyl, but would love a digital copy.

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  4. @Anon You are correct. "The Bird" is out of print. But Walter still sells his own bootleg version at his shows. So for the time being, I don't feel right about up'ing. But I won't say it'll never happen.

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  5. Fair enough, didn't know that. Thanks for the response.

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  6. TMC - I got lost down a web wormhole and came across your site. Thank you so much for posting this! I've never seen a Silos boot before, let alone one this good. Fantastic!

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  7. can you upload this again please

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  8. awesome thank you thank you

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  9. Awesome. I was in Gainesville when this the Bird Record came out. Loved it. This is the best. Thanks for sharing!

    Joe Kelly

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  10. Ahh man! I am always too late to the party. I am able to download four of the songs that you have uploaded to box.net but the throughthewhiskeyglass link is no mas.
    I've been a fan since I accidentally bought The Bird thinking it was something else. Somehow this album found me regardless of my intentions. It was meant to be. Never did see them play but hopefully Walter will make it out to Colorado someday...

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  11. At Anon 5:47 - ARRRGH, not again! Can't believe I'm having trouble with another hosted location. Thanks for heads up. I'll try putting my copy elsewhere. But give this a shot by DL'ing from someone else I know that has the tunes...

    Dropbox: Flipping The Bird

    Thanks again for reading and your comment.

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    1. Thanks Brother for keeping great music flowing!

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  12. Thanks for this. I just added The Silos album to my iPod once again after a few year absence and it still holds-up beautifully. I think this album is a lost-masterpiece and it's a real shame the chemistry of this line up didn't last, but that's rock and roll for ya.
    I've read how good this boot is so I'm really looking forward to it!

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  13. @Anon 4:25 - Glad you found my post. The boot truly is wonderful. Of all the things I've blogged here, this post far and away has had more views and comments. Enjoy.

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  14. The download link appears to be broken again. Any chance of re-uploading? What I've heard sounds amazing, and I'd love to hear the rest!

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  15. Hey there, thanks for this. Such a good band then, and also now. I just saw Walter last night in a local bar here in NY. Sadly there were only about 8 people there but his acoustic solo set was great and he played like it was a full house. I also saw the full band a few years back at an local upstate festival. I've never met Bob but he married an old friend and lives near other friends back in VA, so maybe one day I'll have the pleasure.

    This music goes back a ways for me and a small group of friends it will be good to share it. Thanks

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    1. Thanks Anon! Glad to see folks still dig WSH & The Silos and continue to find their way to this blog and collection. I too once saw WSH with just a handful of folks. Was in Philly. Felt bad for him but still performed wonderfully. Plus, Drew Glackin showed up & I got to chat with him a bit. Memorable night.

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