How ’Bout Some Bobby Keys?

Originally posted March 13, 2009

Here comes another list!

I was over at Amazon.com this morning, doing some research and trying to determine if a recent online find is as rare as I think it might be.

And I saw one of those lists/conversation thingies that Amazon places at the bottoms of its web pages. I left a response at one of them once, but that’s all. Some of the list topics on the music pages are interesting, like “The Most Hated Song,” and “They Actually Made A Song About That?” Others are, well, a little more limited, like, “ZAPPA: Wasted Talant?” (sic) and “If you could see a band play all the psychedelic classics accurately what would you want them to play?”

And then I saw:

“You are given your own radio show. You have time to play ten songs each night. What is the first song you play? If you have time, what are the first ten songs you play?”

I’m sure my friends out there in radio consider this question all the time, even if it’s only for themselves in reaction to today’s mandated and limited playlists. But despite all the various music lists I’ve compiled over the years, this is one I’ve never pondered. And it’s an interesting one.

Now, if I were truly going to be on the radio and have to put together a playlist for my first shift, I’d likely take more time than I will here. But this still could be a pretty good show, I hope:

“(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” by Blue Öyster Cult
“Don’t the Moon Look Sad and Lonesome” by Joy of Cooking
“You Don’t Have To Cry” by Crosby, Stills & Nash
“Bare Trees” by Fleetwood Mac
“Valdez In The Country” by Cold Blood
“Anyday” by Derek & the Dominos
“A Woman Left Lonely” by Janis Joplin
“Blue River” by Danko/Fjeld/Andersen
“Shooting Star” by Bob Dylan
“The Promised Land” by Bruce Springsteen

I know, lots of big names – but with some unexpected choices, I hope – and not too much found too deep in the files. We’ll just consider this a rough draft. I’m sure there are other tracks I’ll think of as soon as I put this post up. (What would be your ten tracks? Leave a comment and let us all know!)

I imagine the first change I’d make to my list is to find room for a track from my current listening.

Given my affinity for music from the early part of the 1970s, especially from the musicians in the Joe Cocker/Derek & the Dominos/Delaney & Bonnie axis, it’s not often I learn about an album of which I’d been utterly unaware. When I see mention of a record that includes performances by musicians from that group of players, I might think, Gee, I didn’t know they played on that. But it’s very rare to run across a record from that time frame and along that axis of players that’s absolutely new to me.

It happened late last week. In my wanderings from blog to blog to blog, I found myself in unfamiliar precincts. And I saw mention of a post at another blog of a 1972 solo album by saxophone player Bobby Keys. I’d never heard of the album, so I clicked through several more links and found myself at the blog Old and New On Stage For You.* And indeed, the post there offered Bobby Keys, released in 1972 on Warner Brothers.

I wrote a few weeks ago – in my musings on Jim Horn’s Through the Eyes of a Horn – about my regard for Keys. At the time, I wondered vaguely if he’d ever put out a solo album, but in focus of putting together the post and then in the flitter of day-to-day life, I didn’t think to check it out. And, after it came to me by accident, Bobby Keys is rapidly becoming one of my favorite listens.

Part of that is Keys’ work. The man can play. But the Texas-born horn player was also fortunate to have an outstanding group of musicians backing him as he made what appears to be his only solo album. Here are the credits from inside the record jacket.

Saxophone: Bobby Keys
Trumpet: Jim Price
Guitars: John Uruibe, Leslie West, Charlee Freeman, Dave Mason, George Harrison
Bass: Carl Radle, Klaus Voorman, Felix Pappalardi, Jack Bruce
Keyboards: Nicky Hopkins, Mike Utley, Jim Price
Drums: Corky Laing, Jim Gordon, Ringo Starr

Additionally, I learned from some digging at a website that catalogs his uncredited performances that Eric Clapton is said to have played on four tracks on the album. (Those are “Steal From A King,” “Bootleg,” “Command Performance” and “Crispy Duck.”)

As might be expected, the album is a bit like a jam session, and the sound is sometimes dense. In fact, at some points, it reminds me a bit of the “Apple Jam” disk that was part of Harrison’s All Things Must Pass album. And why not? Many of the same players were on that record. But the tracks on Keys’ album are much shorter than the jams on Harrison’s album and things seem under more control. (Credit for that goes to Keys, Gordon and Andy Johns, who co-produced the record.)

It seems to be a very rare record. GEMM doesn’t have it listed (though it does list multiple copies of a Keys’ 45: “Gimmie The Key/Honky Tonk Parts 1 and 2” that evidently dates from 1975). Nor is the LP listed at Ebay (though a couple copies of the same single are offered).

Best tracks? It’s hard to say, as I’m still getting to know the record. That will take a few more listens. At this point, I like three tracks a lot: “Key West,” “Crispy Duck” and “Sand & Foam.” But the entire album is a pleasure. And a wonderful surprise.

Tracks
Steal From A King
Smokefoot
Bootleg
Altar Rock
Key West
Command Performance
Crispy Duck
Sand & Foam

Bobby Keys – Bobby Keys [1972]

(The title of the third track is spelled “Bootleg.” I think the file name and the tags in the zip have it as “Boot-Leg.” Sorry I didn’t catch that sooner. And this is a rip from vinyl, so there are a few clicks here and there.)

*The blog Old and New On Stage For You is, sadly, dormant if not dead. Note added March 21, 2012.

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