Otis Taylor’s entrancing trance blues
OTIS TAYLOR Clovis People Vol. 3 (Telarc)
Otis Taylor embraces the eclectic so don’t be searching his back catalog for Vols. 1 and 2 of Clovis People. There aren’t any. The Boulder singer-songwriter – yeah, he’s something of a blues guy, but he prefers that tag – hasn’t changed the basic single-core “trance blues” approach of his music.
He does continue to add more color, whether it’s the electric guitar leads of UK slinger Gary Moore (a frequent touring partner in Europe), “sacred steel” guitar player Chuck Campbell or homegrown musicians like Hot Rize banjo player Pete Wernick and jazz cornetist Ron Miles.
Taylor’s lyrics have little traditional song structure. He creates character sketches, sets a scene, creates a mood and leaves it to the listener to complete the picture, though he has a long tradition of including notes to each song to give fans a road map to what was on his mind. The song “Little Willie,” for example is about a school shooting; “Past Times” is song from the perspective of a man who knows he’s dying and wonders how much time he has left.
The album’s title was inspired by an archeological dig near Taylor’s home that included a cache of tools and other artifacts belonging to a civilization known as the Clovis people, who disappeared thousands of years ago, according to press materials for the album. That plays to Taylor’s long-time interest in history, which pervades his music as he tries to shed light on forgotten stories of personal and social struggle.
“Tell your children. They may not listen. So just whisper in their ear,” he sings on “Lee and Arnez,” a song that slowly builds from its plodding tempo toward a rousing instrumental jam. Once thing is for sure, it’s not the kind of message you’re going to read in a Twitter post. You need the human voice for what Taylor is trying to convey.
THE KINKS You Really Got Me: The Story of the Kinks (MVD Visual – DVD)
The Kinks have never gotten their proper respect when compared to the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and the Who so it’s only fitting this 87-minute DVD compilation of ’60s TV clips, late ’70s concert footage and early ’80s MTV-era videos hardly does the British Invasion band justice.
A bland narrator wanders in and out of the hodgepodge of footage, often telling the story out of order or repeating the same passages. He even gets one of the albums titles wrong when alluding to the band’s 1987 live disc The Road. Ouch.
That said, hardcore fans will want this poor man’s “Kinks Anthology” anyway, primarily for the full-length black-and-white TV clips of the band performing such early classics as “Dedicated Follower of Fashion,” “Milk Cow Blues” and “Till the End of the Day,” when the young band was at its primal best. Most of the rest of the complete-song footage – mixed in with the oddball snippets of music and interview footage — comes from the band’s second coming and most commercially successfully period in the late ’70s, when the Low Budget album elevated the band to arena heroes, and “(Wish I Could Fly Like) Superman” got the band some radio airplay.
Most frustrating moment: an early ‘70s clip of the band about to perform their drunken country rock classic “Muswell Hillbillies” that includes little more than bandleader Ray Davies introducing the band. There’s next to nothing from the group’s mid-’70s theatrical rock-opera period, and the story pretty stops with a 1984 video of “Do It Again,” even though the group soldiered on until 1996.
Note to the Kinks: How about recruiting Martin Scorcese or Peter Bogdonavich to direct a real documentary of the band like the iconic directors did for Bob Dylan and Tom Petty, respectively. Or Ray Davies, a long-time dabbler in film directing, can do the job himself.