Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Michael Shrieve – 1949

If any of you were at Woodstock in 1969 or have seen the video recordings then you would know that it was the greatest musical concert that ever took place. I must have bought the video cassettes back in 1998 and I would watch them almost every Sunday. I have the DVD’s now and I still throw them in whenever I get the chance. It is amazing to listen to the music on its own but a whole new experience to watch Joe Cocker plucking at his air guitar in a daze as he sang ‘With a Little Help From My Friends’ or to see Arlo Guthrie sing ‘Coming Into Los Angeles’ and proceed to talk for 5 minutes about how the interstate has been shut down because of the concert. Janis Joplin belted out a 10 song set including a heart wrenching rendition of ‘Summertime’. In my opinion, her version will always be the best.

Of course one of the most memorable performances and probably the most photographed would be the closing by Jimi Hendrix who lashed out 16 songs. If there is one event in ALL of history that I could travel back in time to visit, this would be it, without a doubt. To see The Who, Jefferson Airplane, Richie Havens, Sly and the Family Stone, Ravi Shanker and all the others playing their hearts out would have been awesome. The vibes were perfect and that is something that is very unlikely to repeat itself.

All the performers and guests who attended Woodstock ’69 are some of the most fortunate. From the video clips and interviews you can get a feeling of the space and time they lived in, not just having beliefs to live for but also to die for. They believed in themselves, their ideas, and the choices they were making. These kids went against every existing doctrine and created a foundation for humanity today. It is hard for me to explain how I look back upon that era but I am obviously passionate about it. Many people may argue that this was the downfall of modern civilization and I have met such people, to them, you know what I say. The documentary is a fair and balanced review of the event.

In my opinion, one of the most noteworthy performances at the concert was by Santana. They played 2 songs, ‘Persuasion’ and ‘Soul Sacrifice’. On the video they only show ‘Soul Sacrifice’. The band must have consisted of at least 8 people and the song lasted 11:38 minutes! It is an instrumental composition so each member took turns playing a solo. They had everything from maracas to congas and cowbells to organs. Of course Carlos jammed guitar in the unique style that only he can. However, the longest and most impressive solo I have ever seen or heard in a rock composition was by Michael Shrieve, the 19 year old drummer, who was also coincidently the youngest performer at Woodstock ’69.

This is one of the longest drum solo I have heard next to Led Zeppelin’s ‘Moby Dick’ and yet it is so much better. The whole time Shrieve plays, his eyes are closed and his mouth hangs slightly open. He is clearly in some drug or music induced trance, in a dimension of his own. He never skips a beat as he moves between tunes. At most times he is only backed up by a simple base line but you never looses track of the composition. Pure fucking genius I tell you. I have watched him play on that video for years now just shaking my head in disbelief as he puts his soul on the line. I never knew what his name was and only yesterday after spending an hour on search engines was I actually able to track him down.

Michael Shrieve is still alive and well as you can see from his website. Although I have not heard any of the music he has performed since his days with Santana, I am excited to get hold of some. His discography is extensive and over the years he worked with artists like Mick Jagger to Zakhir Hussain. In fact I was surprised to learn that in 2004 he was actually in my home town Ghana, shooting a musical film ‘Soul to Soul’ with Tina Turner, Carlos Santana, and others.

His most recent release would be ‘Drums of Compassion’ which is due out this year. On this project he has worked with Jeff Greinke, Jack DeJohnette, Zakir Hussain and Airto Moriera. I am very eager to get hold of this because Zakhir Hussain also happens to be one hell of a tabla (Indian Drum) player. It would be interesting to see what these guys have come up with.

Woodstock ’69 was another time and another place, and like I said before, nothing will recreate that sentiment or the passion in the music that was played there. You only have to watch clips from the concert to believe that. If you are fanatical about music then ‘Soul Sacrifice’ live at Woodstock is a must have. If you have heard it before, let me know what you think. It is hard for me to put this performance into words.


Jax said...

Oh My God Man! I remember watching the video a couple of years ago and thinking, "That's fucking amazing!" I'm still in awe of it, and although I haven't managed to acquire my own copy of it, on audio, it was the video element of seeing this guy losing it on the drum set and just being so damn good! Damn man, there are some truly artistic folk out there who can keep doing stuff with music and always tend to leave their audience dumbfounded and searching for appropriate words of praise. Hey, let us know what the new album of his is like...or if you happen to come across anything else of his.

Avi said...

i am looking out for the new album but i dont think it is out yet. and isnt zakhir fucking awesome as well? i have some of his videos too. you should just download what you want though. speeds in India are good right?

asl said...

Just re-watched the directors cut of woodstock and there are a few must see performances in my mind: joe cocker and soul sacrifice. Just awesome.. so inspiring.. Pure chanelling of some other-world godly energy..