Stand Alone Performance

A stand alone performance to me is the ultimate test of talent. A musician accompanying themselves, is really a special benchmark because they hold their own hand. I’m not talking about hacks like myself, I’m talking about the demi gods of music. I actively seek out these recordings; I pour over box sets and anthologies and when I occasionally stumble upon these gems, I wet my pants a little bit. Partly I like these performances because they reveal musical secrets but mostly because I am in awe of their genius. These recordings don’t have to be perfect recordings, in fact I like the rough diamonds just as much.

When you think about ***Robert Johnson’s catalogue of tunes; it was just him and his guitar. 29 tunes recorded 76 years ago. Today I can go into my local record shop and ‘The Complete Recordings’ will be there somewhere on the shelves and I’m a long, long way from Texas Toto. Somehow he put something very special down on tape. That kind of magic is rare but not unachievable.

Jimi Hendrix sitting on a stool with a borrowed 12 string playing “Hear My Train A Comin’” is just as magical and fortunately that was caught on film as well. In that little three minute window Jimi gifts us the key to where he had come from, musically and spiritually. Dissect it and you can see Voodoo Child (Slight Return) hidden inside those notes and plenty more besides. A similar pearl (hehe) is Janis Joplin pairing up with Jorma Kaukonen to render “Trouble In Mind” on the “Typewriter Tape”. It wasn’t stand alone but the talent and the soul is breath taking.

In the eighties there was “The Secret Policeman’s Ball” series which unearthed terrific acoustic versions of Pete Townshend’s “Pinball Wizard” and Sting’s “Roxanne”. In aid of Amnesty International, the benefits ushered in the era of “Unplugged” recordings which in itself brought with it a swag of brilliant stand alone recordings. The “Eric Clapton Unplugged” was wildly popular and probably helped fund his “Crossroad” festivals.

Then there was “The Beatles Anthology” which not only offered intimate insights into some of their extensive catalogue but also triggered the release of other box sets and anthologies.

Stevie Ray Vaughan’s rendering of Doyle Bramhall’s “Life By The Drop” is another favourite and when you hear Bramhall’s version you can hear where Stevie drew his singing and phrasing style.

At this point you probably think I’m a ‘white boy lost in the blues’ and you would be right but I most certainly try to be a contemporary man, at least on occasions. The advent of Youtube has unearthed a wealth of stand alone talent. Too numerous to mention really but it is the way of the future and I am still trying to work my way up to the present.

If you know of any of these solo flashes of genius, I would love to hear them or check them out.

***(incidentally my post on ‘Love In Vain’ featured a fake picture of Robert Johnson. There are only two known photo’s of the man and that wasn’t one of them…hehehe).


7 Responses to “Stand Alone Performance”

  1. Thank you for exposing us to and reminding us of the good stuff! I checked out that Song Bird song by McVie….gorgeous! She has such a beautiful, honest voice! Thanks so much for sharing music with me.

  2. Adam McKay-Allen Jarvis Says:

    I’ll have to look into some of these recordings – thanks for some ideas!


  3. I could point to my blog and youtube channel for some John Lennon & Beatles related home demos / recordings, as well as some old jazz classics that I’ve been tampering with – I call it restoration of sound quality, denoising, decrackling, stereo-ising, etc.
    But that would be shameless self promotion which I’m adamantly opposed to. 😉

    Youtube (or better, some of its free minded users and uploaders) has a lot to offer concerning home demo tapes. You’d be surprised how many treasures I’ve found there – have to be quick to download them though. Videos either get blocked very soon (if you’re from a Narnia-Country like myself, that is) or deleted because some greedy rightsholder wants to cash in on them.

    • Well after reading your post again, I thought I’d contribute something else (from rants), Here are some of my acoustic favorites…for what it’s worth:

      1. The Dragonborn comes, a song from TES V – Skyrim sung by the marvellous Malukah:

      2. the wonderful Karnamrita Dasi in concert (song is Devaki):

      3. Adrian Holovaty – that guy is a really good cover artist. He has a lot of Jazz-standards as well. Most of them recorded live.

      And last but not least:
      4. Slow Club – Never Look Back (acoustic in Copenhagen)
      That band is awesome!

      • There’s something pure and honest about these kind of performances. Funnily enough my most favourite is the first one which clearly has a fair whack of audio trickery. Theyre all good choices, however.

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