Bonnie Raitt and Lowell George with John Hammond: Ultrasonic Studios 1972
The old Ultrasonic Studios sessions curated by the old influential Long Island rock station WLIR-FM continue to provide some of the coolest archival live material in record shops today. And the latest gem mined from the depths of the station’s archives is a “super session” to rival Bloomfield, Stills and Cooper, boasting John Hammond, Bonnie Raitt and Lowell George. Recorded on Oct. 17, 1972, the first half of this largely acoustic 77-minute set spotlights a young Raitt, emanating all sorts of stoned, soulful sexiness as she rolls through easy, mellow versions of tunes by the likes of Chris Smither (“Love Me Like a Man”), Jackson Browne (“Under the Fallling Sky”) and Blind Faith (a heart-stopping take on “Can’t Find My Way Home”). Lowell’s portion of the set is equally sublime, although it would’ve been nice if that annoying tape hiss permeating the performance was mixed down for retail. Nevertheless, once you hear the Little Feat guitar great deliver rolling versions of the old Elmore James favorite “The Sky Is Crying” and Jimmy Reed’s “Honest I Do,” any unwelcome audio imperfections simply fade into the background. But the real treat on Ultrasonic Studios 1972 is when Raitt, George and the perennially underrated Hammond on harp are all locked in together on the Sailin’ Shoes highlight “A Apolitical Blues,” performed in defiance after the show’s host Ken Cole requested they play “Willin’” from the first Little Feat album. There is nothing a little EQ-ing couldn’t fix to get to the pure heart of this long, lost Hempstead hootenanny.
Bonnie Raitt was born in Burbank, California. She is the daughter of Broadway musical star John Raitt and his first wife, pianist Marjorie Haydock. She began playing guitar at an early age. Later she gained notice for her bottleneck-style guitar playing. Raitt says she played “a little at school and at [a summer] camp” called Camp Regis-Applejack in New York State. Bonnie always had a guitar in her hands while at Camp Regis, which is located near Lake Placid in Upstate New York.
After graduating from Oakwood Friends School in Poughkeepsie, New York, in 1967 Raitt entered Radcliffe College majoring in social relations and African Studies. Raitt said her “plan was to travel to Tanzania, where President Julius Nyerere was creating a government based on democracy and socialism”. Raitt became friends with the then 65-year-old blues promoter, Dick Waterman. During her second year Raitt took a semester off and moved to Philadelphia with Waterman and a number of local musicians. Raitt says it was an “opportunity that changed everything.”
George’s first instrument was the harmonica. At the age of six he appeared on Ted Mack’s Original Amateur Hour performing a duet with his older brother, Hampton. As a student at Hollywood High School (where he befriended Paul Barrere and future wife Elizabeth), he took up the flute in the school marching band and orchestra. He had already started to play Hampton’s acoustic guitar at age 11, progressed to the electric guitar by his high school years, and later learned to play the saxophone, shakuhachi and sitar. During this period, George viewed the teen idol-oriented rock and roll of the era in a contemptuous light, instead favoring West Coast jazz and the soul jazz of Les McCann & Mose Allison. Following graduation in 1963, he briefly worked at a gas station (an experience that inspired such later songs as “Willin'”) to support himself while studying art and art history at Los Angeles Valley College for two years.
Hammond was a son of the famed record producer and talent scout John Henry Hammond, Jr. and his first wife, Jemison McBride, an actress. He is a descendant of Cornelius Vanderbilt, founder of the prominentVanderbilt family. He has a brother, Jason, and by his father’s second marriage to Esme O’Brien Sarnoff, he has a stepsister, (Esme) Rosita Sarnoff. Hammond’s middle name, Paul, is in honor of a friend of his father, the actor Paul Robeson. However, the younger Hammond was raised by his mother and only saw his father a few times a year while growing up.He began playing guitar in high school, partially inspired by the album Jimmy Reed at Carnegie Hall. He attended Antioch College for one year, but dropped out to pursue a music career. By the mid-1960s he was touring nationally and living in Greenwich Village. He befriended and recorded with many electric blues musicians in New York, including Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, The Hawks (later known as The Band), Dr. John and Duane Allman.Hammond usually plays acoustically, choosing National Reso-Phonic Guitars and sings in a barrelhouse style. Since 1962, when he made his debut on Vanguard Records, Hammond has made thirty-four albums. In the 1990s he began recording on the Point Blank Records label. Hammond has earned one Grammy Award and been nominated for four others. He also provided the soundtrack for the 1970 film, Little Big Man, starringDustin Hoffman.
Although critically acclaimed, Hammond has received only moderate commercial success. Nonetheless, he enjoys a strong fan base and has earned respect from the likes of John Lee Hooker, Roosevelt Sykes, Duane Allman, Willy Deville, Robbie Robertson, Mike Bloomfield and Charlie Musselwhite, all of whom have contributed their musical talents to Hammond’s records. In addition, he is the only person who ever had both Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix in his band at the same time, if only for five days in the 1960s when Hammond played The Gaslight Cafe in New York City. To his regret, they never recorded together. It has been suggested by at least one author that Hammond deserves some credit for helping boost The Band to wider recognition. He recorded with several of the members of The Band in 1965, and recommended them to Bob Dylan, with whom they undertook a famed and tumultuous world tour.
Freebo (Daniel Friedberg) From world renowned bassist (Bonnie Raitt 10 years, CSN, John Mayall, Maria Muldaur, Ringo Starr, Neil Young, Dr. John, Loudon Wainwright) to award winning singer/songwriter,
Freebo’s music touches your heart with songs of life, love, dogs, and the human condition. He is well regarded for his high level of musicality coupled with his thoughtful and powerful use of words in song lyrics as well as in prose and narrative. He has also appeared on the classic TV shows Saturday Night Live, Midnight Special, The Tonight Show, and in concert with the legendary Spinal Tap. Here’s what critics are saying about Freebo:
“Freebo is more than one of LA’s best players, he’s also a richly gifted and distinctive songwriter, as expressive in his writing as on a bass” (Paul Zollo, Songwriters On Songwriting)
“Freebo’s intimate and go-down-easy personable vocals tie in light-hearted fare, social commentary and spiritual quest with love-sweet-love, and make it sound seamless.” (Janet Goodman, Music News Nashville)
“Standing Ovation is an astounding song which encompasses a profound view of life, destined to become a classic.” (Russ Paris, Folkworks.org)
“Listening to Freebo is like riding on a cumulus cloud of peaceful awareness, a cosmic blend of folk/country/rock/soul ear-pleasing genre-defying music.” (Walt Falconer, Cool Album Of The Day)
“‘Freebo sounds as if he’s not really singing to you; he’s talking to you. One of the best albums of the year.” (John Shelton Ivany, jsitop21.com)
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