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Chris Whitley - On Air (Live)

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On Air (Live)

Chris Whitley

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There are the fortunate few who really encountered Chris Whitley's music during his brief lifetime (he passed away from cancer in November of 2005); for everyone else, recordings like this are gifts. Whitley's last official offering was Reiter In, recorded as he was dying -- he was a pauper, an imperfect businessman who had been deeply exploited by unscrupulous labels and "handlers." The record was a way to leave something for his daughter, Trixie, a brilliant singer, pianist, and songwriter in her own right, and was the last we thought we'd get from him. On Air was recorded on September 8, 2003 at Radio Bremen. It showcases the artist many of us remember best: a guy with a beat vintage National Steel guitar with a stompbox for his foot, playing his songs with all the revelatory passion and pathos he'd written them with. There are 17 cuts on this set, they range in origin from material he recorded for his Sony records, to killer blues and rock covers arranged and performed as only he could: enigmatically. The recording quality is flawless, the vibe in the room and its sonics are picked up perfectly, and Whitley's otherworldly engagement with his guitar and voice are captured intimately and forcefully. Performed in this way, his own vintage tunes carry the immediacy that they were written with, the contain a definite raw psychosexual spiritual magnetism, whether it's "Kick the Stones," the spooky blues of "Clear Blue Sky," "Shadowland," or "New Lost World," or "Hotel Vast Horizon," just to name a few. This vision of his, with the world as a darkly magical place for caged and restless spirits to wander through and connect with one another in any way they could, was also revealed in his covers. There are a number of them here, including Muddy Waters' "Light Rain," the Doors' "Crystal Ship," Bob Dylan's "Fourth Time Around," and Buddy Holly's "Well...All Right." But the real deal here is that Whitley made no distinctions -- in performance at least -- between his own songs and those he loved. He performed them all with a fervent desire to reveal their meanings, to release them to his audiences through the ritual of playing live. What On Air also offers is yet another view of the sheer originality and technical acumen Whitley possessed as a guitarist. One of the reasons that his albums were all over the place stylistically and in terms of production is because he understood exactly what he was doing as a player. He could lay seven different guitar tracks down on a given song in the studio, because when he played live he could find a way to pull it off without gimmicks. All of Chris Whitley's music was rooted in Delta and Texas blues, no matter how it eventually came off on his studio recordings. Here, that's obvious, whether he's rattling a slide as he plays a completely separate melody line with his other fingers, or whether he's crooning a spooky, seductive ballad. It all sounds like Robert Johnson meets Blind Lemon Jefferson meets the drone of Lightnin' Hopkins meets the bravado and roar of Muddy Waters and the sly humor of Dylan wrapped in the apocalyptic visions of Bill Fay. For Whitley's fans, this is essential listening; it's the measure of the artist in a sympathetic venue, allowing all of his prodigious gifts to surface. On Air will edify anyone who takes the trouble to encounter it. Those of us who followed his work can only on hope this is the first of many such tapes to surface.
© Thom Jurek /TiVo

More info

On Air (Live)

Chris Whitley

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1
The Old Man and Me (Live)
00:03:54

Chris Whitley, MainArtist - Audigram Music, MusicPublisher - J,J,Cale, Composer, Lyricist

Tradition & Moderne Tradition & Moderne

2
Drifting (Live)
00:02:44

Jimi Hendrix, Composer, Lyricist - Chris Whitley, MainArtist - Bella Godiva Music Corp., MusicPublisher

Tradition & Moderne Tradition & Moderne

3
Kick the Stones (Live)
00:04:02

Chris Whitley, Composer, Lyricist, MainArtist - Siete Leguas Music, MusicPublisher

Tradition & Moderne Tradition & Moderne

4
Clear Blue Sky (Live)
00:05:06

Chris Whitley, Composer, Lyricist, MainArtist - Siete Leguas Music, MusicPublisher

Tradition & Moderne Tradition & Moderne

5
Light Rain (Live)
00:04:07

trad, Lyricist - trad,, Composer - Chris Whitley, MainArtist

Tradition & Moderne Tradition & Moderne

6
She's Alright (Live)
00:04:22

McKinley Morganfield, Composer, Lyricist - Chris Whitley, MainArtist - Watertoons Music, MusicPublisher

Tradition & Moderne Tradition & Moderne

7
New Lost World (Live)
00:04:06

Chris Whitley, Composer, Lyricist, MainArtist - Siete Leguas Music, MusicPublisher

Tradition & Moderne Tradition & Moderne

8
To Joy (Revolution of the Innocents) (Live)
00:04:41

Chris Whitley, Composer, Lyricist, MainArtist - Siete Leguas Music, MusicPublisher

Tradition & Moderne Tradition & Moderne

9
The Crystal Ship (Live)
00:03:21

Chris Whitley, MainArtist - Doors Music Company, MusicPublisher - Jim Morrison, Raymund Daniel Manzarek, Robbie Krieger, John Paul Densmore, Composer, Lyricist

Tradition & Moderne Tradition & Moderne

10
Fourth Time Around (Live)
00:04:08

Bob Dylan, Composer, Lyricist - Chris Whitley, MainArtist - Dwarf Music, MusicPublisher

Tradition & Moderne Tradition & Moderne

11
Vertical Desert (Live)
00:04:00

Chris Whitley, Composer, Lyricist, MainArtist - Siete Leguas Music, MusicPublisher

Tradition & Moderne Tradition & Moderne

12
Hotel Vast Horizon (Live)
00:03:59

Chris Whitley, Composer, Lyricist, MainArtist - Siete Leguas Music, MusicPublisher

Tradition & Moderne Tradition & Moderne

13
Scrapyard Lullaby (Live)
00:04:16

Chris Whitley, Composer, Lyricist, MainArtist - Siete Leguas Music, MusicPublisher

Tradition & Moderne Tradition & Moderne

14
Phonecall from Leavenworth (Live)
00:04:42

Chris Whitley, Composer, Lyricist, MainArtist - Siete Leguas Music, MusicPublisher

Tradition & Moderne Tradition & Moderne

15
From a Photograph (Live)
00:03:43

Chris Whitley, Composer, Lyricist, MainArtist - Siete Leguas Music, MusicPublisher

Tradition & Moderne Tradition & Moderne

16
Shadowland (Live)
00:04:35

Chris Whitley, Composer, Lyricist, MainArtist - Siete Leguas Music, MusicPublisher

Tradition & Moderne Tradition & Moderne

17
Well... All Right (Live)
00:04:04

Chris Whitley, MainArtist - Norman Petty, Charles Hardin Holly, Jerry Allison, Joe Benson Mauldin, Composer, Lyricist - McCartney Music Inc., MusicPublisher

Tradition & Moderne Tradition & Moderne

18
Velocity Girl (Live)
00:04:51

Chris Whitley, Composer, Lyricist, MainArtist - Siete Leguas Music, MusicPublisher

Tradition & Moderne Tradition & Moderne

Album Description

There are the fortunate few who really encountered Chris Whitley's music during his brief lifetime (he passed away from cancer in November of 2005); for everyone else, recordings like this are gifts. Whitley's last official offering was Reiter In, recorded as he was dying -- he was a pauper, an imperfect businessman who had been deeply exploited by unscrupulous labels and "handlers." The record was a way to leave something for his daughter, Trixie, a brilliant singer, pianist, and songwriter in her own right, and was the last we thought we'd get from him. On Air was recorded on September 8, 2003 at Radio Bremen. It showcases the artist many of us remember best: a guy with a beat vintage National Steel guitar with a stompbox for his foot, playing his songs with all the revelatory passion and pathos he'd written them with. There are 17 cuts on this set, they range in origin from material he recorded for his Sony records, to killer blues and rock covers arranged and performed as only he could: enigmatically. The recording quality is flawless, the vibe in the room and its sonics are picked up perfectly, and Whitley's otherworldly engagement with his guitar and voice are captured intimately and forcefully. Performed in this way, his own vintage tunes carry the immediacy that they were written with, the contain a definite raw psychosexual spiritual magnetism, whether it's "Kick the Stones," the spooky blues of "Clear Blue Sky," "Shadowland," or "New Lost World," or "Hotel Vast Horizon," just to name a few. This vision of his, with the world as a darkly magical place for caged and restless spirits to wander through and connect with one another in any way they could, was also revealed in his covers. There are a number of them here, including Muddy Waters' "Light Rain," the Doors' "Crystal Ship," Bob Dylan's "Fourth Time Around," and Buddy Holly's "Well...All Right." But the real deal here is that Whitley made no distinctions -- in performance at least -- between his own songs and those he loved. He performed them all with a fervent desire to reveal their meanings, to release them to his audiences through the ritual of playing live. What On Air also offers is yet another view of the sheer originality and technical acumen Whitley possessed as a guitarist. One of the reasons that his albums were all over the place stylistically and in terms of production is because he understood exactly what he was doing as a player. He could lay seven different guitar tracks down on a given song in the studio, because when he played live he could find a way to pull it off without gimmicks. All of Chris Whitley's music was rooted in Delta and Texas blues, no matter how it eventually came off on his studio recordings. Here, that's obvious, whether he's rattling a slide as he plays a completely separate melody line with his other fingers, or whether he's crooning a spooky, seductive ballad. It all sounds like Robert Johnson meets Blind Lemon Jefferson meets the drone of Lightnin' Hopkins meets the bravado and roar of Muddy Waters and the sly humor of Dylan wrapped in the apocalyptic visions of Bill Fay. For Whitley's fans, this is essential listening; it's the measure of the artist in a sympathetic venue, allowing all of his prodigious gifts to surface. On Air will edify anyone who takes the trouble to encounter it. Those of us who followed his work can only on hope this is the first of many such tapes to surface.
© Thom Jurek /TiVo

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