Monday, December 16, 2019

CD Review - Cosmic Partners: The McCabe Tapes - Michael Nesmith with Red Rhodes

Cosmic Partners: The McCabe Tapes captures Michael Nesmith at the height of his powers as a country rock pioneer. In the early 1970s, Nez released classic LPs, including Nevada Fighter, Loose Salute, Pretty Much Your Standard Ranch Stash, and Magnetic South. A few songs from those albums are featured on this CD, a Nesmith/Red Rhodes show recorded at McCabes Guitar Shop in Santa Monica on August 18, 1973.

Several other concerts have been released as live albums, including shows by Mike Bloomfield, Townes Van Zant and Henry Rollins. McCabe’s is still going strong today.  

This CD features a show as it was recorded, directly from the soundboard. The show was transferred from analogue tapes and cleaned up for McCabe Tapes. The sound is clear and crisp the instruments have retained their vibrancy from almost 47 years ago.

The show opens with “Tomorrow and Me”, a dirge to broken love. Rhodes’ pedal steel cushions the despair of Nesmith’s bittersweet lyrics with blips of vibrancy.  

                                                                    Red Rhodes

The band then picks up the groove with “Grand Ennui”, followed by “Some of Shelly’s Blues”. Nez introduces “…..Blues” by saying it’s been covered by “374” people. (And that was in 1973. You could imagine what the number is now.)

The band consists of Colin Cameron on bass, Danny Lane on drums, Red Rhodes on pedal steel guitar. Nez provides vocals, acoustic guitar and between song stage banter.. 

The banter includes Nez’s story about the Monkees’ infamous Cincinnati incident. (The band evaded their security and took an elevator to the ground floor, where they were chased by fans.)  Nez gives some topical banter about Alice Cooper and glam rock, which was popular at the time of the McCabe’s show.

Rhodes takes the spotlight mid-show, showcasing his pedal steel mastery on three instrumentals - the Ernset Tubb favorite, “Rose City Chimes”,  the lush “Poinciana” (from Rhodes’ solo album Velvet Hammer in a Cowboy Band) and “Crippled Lion”.   

Nez lends some yodeling to the lovely, old-school country song “One Rose” and ends the set with his biggest solo song “JoAnne” (wait for that high note) and “Silver Moon.”   

There’s only one problem with Cosmic Partners – the set goes by too fast.

The CD package includes liner notes by Christian Nesmith (who co-produced the CD ), Circe Link, and original producer Ed Heffelinger, along with Joe Alterio’s essay on Red Rhodes. There’s a note from Nez, too, about his musical collaborations with Rhodes, and how the steel pedal guitar player “made the instrument sail, and take off on its own.”  

A poster of the gatefold sleeve for Not Your Standard Ranch Stash, with topless sirens in a swimming pool/makeshift lake, is also included. 

Cosmic Partners is also available as an 180g vinyl picture disc. This CD is another Monkees-related release from 7A Records out of the UK.