Prince solo a highlight of new Rock Hall vinyl LP
“Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Live — Volume 1,” Time Life’s first-ever vinyl LP collection of performances plucked from three decades worth of Rock Hall induction ceremonies, isn’t going to win any prizes for its packaging. With its plain white cover and complete lack of liner notes (which seems downright un-Time-Life-like), it’s a bare-bones affair. Fortunately, the music speaks for itself loud and clear.
The track that will resonate most in relation to recent events is the album-closing take on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” from 2004, featuring Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne, Steve Winwood, Dhani Harrison and Prince. Clips of the performance have gone viral since news of Prince’s death broke on Wednesday, and with good reason — the song simply explodes when Prince’s guitar kicks in halfway through and never lets up. He single-handedly turns a safe classic-rock chestnut into something blistering and alive.
But it’s also appropriate that 1999 inductee Bruce Springsteen should be all over this inaugural vinyl set, having been one of the hall’s most prolific presenters and performers. He turns up on three of the 10 tracks: backing Chuck Berry on an exuberant “Johnny B. Goode” in 1995, trading verses with Mick Jagger — who wails gamely even if he’d already lost some of his swagger by 1988 — on “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” and with his own E Street Band on a tight, terrific “Tenth Avenue Freeze Out” that will make you miss the late Clarence Clemons more than ever.
Those are far from the only highlights — in fact, there’s not really a dud in the bunch, which features a mix of songs by the original artists and tributes from those they influenced. Springsteen’s “Tenth Avenue” is the definite standout in the former category, although Eric Clapton and Cream nail the crunchy charm of “Sunshine of Your Love” in their 1993 performance.
As for the tributes, Green Day’s 2002’s “Blitzkrieg Bop” is convincingly Ramones-esque, and Al Green is simply sublime in a 1995 take on Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come” that will make you find religion whether you want to or not. And a 2006 “Iron Man” by Metallica is full of hard rock energy behind Black Sabbath’s classic riff.
Granted, I could have done without James Taylor’s sleepy 1997 version of CSN’s “Woodstock,” especially if it could have meant getting a woman onto the LP. (Hello, The Ronettes?) They should make Volume II mostly women to offset this boys’ club collection.
But it would be tough to think of a group of performances better suited for a vinyl release, given the pedigree of these classic tracks, and there’s something to be said for dropping the needle on them even if you already have some or all on CD or MP3. (The fact that proceeds benefit the the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation doesn’t hurt.)
Nowhere is that more apparent than on the 2009 take on “The Train Kept A-Rollin’” by former Yardbirds Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page, along with Ron Wood, Joe Perry, Flea and Metallica. (I want to party with those guys.) It’s a raucous, vital version that displays why rock ’n’ roll must have seemed so subversive when Johnny Burnette first revved up that song with distorted guitar licks in 1956. For that reminder alone, this set is more than worth a spin.
1. Johnny B. Goode (Chuck Berry With Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band)
2. Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out (Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band)
3. A Change Is Gonna Come (Al Green)
4. The Train Kept A Rollin' (Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, Ron Wood, Joe Perry, Flea & Metallica)
5. Iron Man (Metallica)
6. Woodstock (James Taylor)
7. Sunshine Of Your Love (Cream)
8. Blitzkrieg Bop (Green Day)
9. (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction (Mick Jagger, Bruce Springsteen & The Rock Hall Jam Band)
10. While My Guitar Gently Weeps (Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne, Steve Winwood, Dhani Harrison And Prince)
— Email Peter Chianca at email@example.com, or follow him on Twitter at @pchianca.