Friday, December 27, 2019
Steve Winwood & the All-Star Garage Band - City of Hope Benefit Concert, Universal Amphitheatre, Los Angeles, CA, 10-16-1996
In 1996, there was a high-profile black-tie gala in Los Angeles for the City of Hope, a foundation raising money to fight several deadly diseases. All sorts of rich and famous people attended, and it raised over $3 million. For the evening's concert, a very unusual mix of famous musicians got together to create what they called the "All-Star Garage Band": Steve Winwood, Don Henley, Bryan Adams, Sheryl Crow, Melissa Etheridge, John Mellencamp, Eddie Van Halen, Me'shell Ndegeocello, Bobby Keys, Tony Rich, Richie Sambora, Jim Price, Narada Michael Walden, Paul Shaffer, and Max Weinberg.
It was different than your usual concert for this sort of event, where famous musicians take turns go on stage, sing a song or two, then leave the stage. Instead, in keeping with the "garage band" concept, most of them stayed on stage for the whole show, and played various instruments and/or sang backing vocals when they weren't in the spotlight. For instance, in addition to singing a couple of songs, Don Henley of the Eagles either played cowbell or a full drum set on some of the other songs.
I find this a fascinating mixture of musicians that I never imagined would play together. What's even more interesting is that in nearly all cases, they did classic songs that they normally didn't play. Nobody was promoting their latest record, and nobody even sang any song they actually wrote (with the exception of Steve Winwood, who co-wrote "Gimme Some Lovin'"). It seems they had a ball playing the songs they all loved and grew up with.
Winwood sang the most songs (though not by much), and played organ on all the songs, so I've filed this album in the Winwood part of my music collection. I've helped beef up the Winwood emphasis by adding some songs featuring him at the start and end of this album that come from different concerts around the same time. The first two songs, "Higher Ground" and "Gimme Some Lovin'," are duets between Stevie Wonder and Winwood at a 1997 awards show. This means that "Gimme Some Lovin'" is performed twice on this album, but I figure that's acceptable because one version is a duet (plus, it's a fantastic song!). The last two songs come from a 1996 Chic concert in Tokyo, Japan. Both Winwood and Slash joined in on Winwood's hit "Higher Love" and the Jimi Hendrix classic "Stone Free." Winwood sang lead and played organ on those songs, while Slash did all the guitar soloing.
Speaking of guitar soloing, one interesting thing about the main "All-Star Garage Band" show is Eddie Van Halen's guitar playing. Personally, I'm not a really big fan of the band Van Halen, although I do enjoy their well known songs. But I gather it's been very rare for Eddie Van Halen to play lead guitar outside of that band (unlike, say, Eric Clapton, who has played on zillions of other musician's projects). Yet Van Halen is all over this. He plays his easily identifiable style of soloing on a bunch of songs (unfortunately not giving guitarist Richie Sambora much of a chance to shine).
The recording sound quality is good, not great. I searched the Internet fairly thoroughly, but all I could find of the show was some YouTube videos, from a variety of sources. All of them come from a VH-1 broadcast of the concert, but some were recorded better than others. In particular, "Stay with Me" sounds rougher than the rest, but I've included it here since I deemed it just good enough. For two of the songs played at that concert, I couldn't find any versions at all: "Get Ready" by Tony Rich and "Tequila" by Bobby Keys. If anyone has those, please let me know, and I'll add them in. And if you have better versions of other songs, or even have one consistent recording of the whole thing, also please let me know so I can upgrade the sound.
From what I understand, the show wasn't broadcast on VH-1 until 1997. By that time, the footage was edited so that the band leader (and longtime Tonight Show with David Letterman sidekick) Paul Shaffer gave introductions to each song that were recorded later in a different place. I've cut out what bits of these intros the YouTube videos had, which often wasn't much. That means there's no actual between song dialogue by the people on stage, since all that had been edited out of the broadcast. Also, there generally are only a few seconds of applause at the end of each song before Shaffer resumed talking or the broadcast cut to a commercial. So I've added more applause to the ends of most songs, patching in the applause from the few songs that did have a decent applause length.
The core "All-Star Garage Band" recording is 42 minutes long. With the added Winwood bonus tracks, the full album is 58 minutes long. And by the way, since I got these from YouTube videos, you can go to that website and watch the footage of all of these songs. It's interesting to see so many big stars often playing more humble backing musician roles.
01 Higher Ground (Stevie Wonder & Steve Winwood)
02 Gimme Some Lovin' (Stevie Wonder & Steve Winwood)
03 I Fought the Law (John Mellencamp & Bryan Adams with Eddie Van Halen & the All-Star Garage Band)
04 Stay with Me (Melissa Etheridge with the All-Star Garage Band)
05 Bitch (Sheryl Crow with Eddie Van Halen & the All-Star Garage Band)
06 In the Midnight Hour (Don Henley with the All-Star Garage Band)
07 C'mon Everybody (Bryan Adams with Eddie Van Halen & the All-Star Garage Band)
08 Shotgun (Steve Winwood with the All-Star Garage Band)
09 When Something Is Wrong with My Baby (Steve Winwood & Sheryl Crow with the All-Star Garage Band)
10 Hold On, I'm Comin' (Steve Winwood & Don Henley with the All-Star Garage Band)
11 Gloria (John Mellencamp with Richie Sambora, Eddie Van Halen & the All-Star Garage Band)
12 Gimme Some Lovin' (Steve Winwood with the All-Star Garage Band)
13 Get Back (Richie Sambora & Melissa Etheridge with Eddie Van Halen & the All-Star Garage Band)
14 Higher Love (Steve Winwood with Slash & Chic)
15 Stone Free (Steve Winwood with Slash & Chic)
For the cover, I found two nice photos for the actual event, and I couldn't decide which one to use. So I simply used both of them. The top photo shows, from right to left: Bryan Adams, Max Weinberg, Richie Sambora, Eddie Van Halen, and Steve Winwood. The bottom photo was taken that same evening, back stage. It shows, from right to left: Don Henley, Van Halen, Winwood, Sheryl Crow, Narada Michael Walden, and John Mellancamp. Unfortunately, not everyone on stage that evening could be captured in these two photos, but at least it shows most of them.