Karl Denson and Anders Osborne perform Rolling Stones’ album ‘Sticky Fingers’ at Tahoe
“Wild Horses” couldn’t drag Karl Denson and Anders Osborne away for long.
The saxophone player and rock guitarist from February’s four-night Snowlive in the Crystal Bay Casino will be together again on the Crown Room stage Friday and Saturday.
“I think (Denson’s) completely Zen,” Osborne said. “He is the perfect combination of detail and soul.”
Denson described Osborne more concisely: “He’s Neil Young.”
Considering how Osborne nearly stole the show at Snowlive, maybe he is Neil Young and the bushy gray beard is part of a disguise. Or maybe he’s Keith Richards or Mick Jagger. We’ll find out this weekend when Osborne joins Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe in a reinvention of the Rolling Stones’ album “Sticky Fingers.” They will perform the songs in the same sequence as the record.
“That’s Karl,” Osborne said. “He likes that stuff. He likes projects and themes.”
The iconic Rolling Stones’ 1971 album was No. 1 on the charts in both the United States and United Kingdom. It included the rock song “Brown Sugar” and the ballad “Wild Horses.” The cover image was a photo of blue jeans with an actual zipper taken by avant-garde artist Andy Warhol.
Denson said his first thought was to recreate Jethro Tull’s “Aqualung.” But the Stones are more universally appreciated, it was decided, and “Sticky Fingers” is not only one of the group’s best-known records, it lends itself to improvised jams, especially the songs “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking,” “I Got The Blues” and “Sister Morphine.”
And while the original concept behind the Rolling Stones band was to emulate American blues, the English group also paid homage to U.S. country and western with the catchy yet morose “Dead Flowers.” Drugs and mortality were a theme on “Sticky Fingers,” the first album without any material by Stones original bandleader guitarist Brian Jones, who was found dead in July 1969 in a swimming pool. Mick Taylor replaced Jones.
“We went out to Karl’s place in San Diego and we just spent a week (wood) shedding the actual parts,” Osborne said. “That album is pretty loose. It’s a very impulsive record.
“It’s erratic at times but once you get inside the songs, you find that it’s definitely pretty special, and it had a framework. We made sure that we had all the landmarks of the songs and that we had them really well tight and strong. … Once you get that, and you get a handful of gigs under your belt, you start to develop your own thing more and more, and that’s the way we are now.”
“Sticky Fingers” features saxophonist Bobby Keys, a studio player with all of Britain’s top bands of the era: the Who, Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs and Englishmen, Eric Clapton and each member of The Beatles.
“I don’t know (Keys) but I know his work very well,” Denson said. “I’m a big fan. I’m the kind of guy who wants to know what they did. I learned his solos before I departed from them.”
The six-piece Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe will play what Denson described as a
“quarter-set” before bringing Osborne to the stage. Osborne is not a mad Englishman, just a Swedish ex-pat who, when he was 19, adopted New Orleans as his hometown. In recent years, Osborne has displayed a newfound energy that is incredible to witness. He is, as Denson said, Neil Young-like in emotion, passion and performance.
“He rocks like that, like it’s an animal, and there’s something slightly scary about it,” Denson said.
During the final night of Snowlive, which also featured the trio Soulive, Ivan Neville, George Porter Jr., Luther Dickinson and Matisyahu, Osborne broke into the Neil Young song “Tonight’s the Night.”
“I hadn’t played that since I was probably 14,” Osborne said. “There were just a lot of things that fell into place that night and that song seemed to be the appropriate song.”
Osborne’s appreciation for Young also is apparent from a tune on his 2010 Alligator Records debut album, “American Patchwork.” Osborne, whose experience with addictions is well known, wrote the song “Standing with Angels.” Young in 1994 released an album called “Sleeping with Angels.”
“There’s something about Neil’s stuff that appeals to me,” Osborne said. “It’s a great combination of the New Orleans that I have, that freeness, that taking-it-to-the-streets kind of thing. There’s a teenage angst that you can pull out of yourself.
“There’s a very fine, fine jazz approach that you can take to his stuff. Not just his songs but the way he approaches music has been a great influence on me, between Bob Marley, (John) Coltrane, Miles Davis, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, possibly Van Morrison. These are people that to me are all pulling from the same well. They just happen to have a style that identifies them as either rock or jazz or folk, whatever you want to call it. It’s the same type of thing. So that’s what I like about Neil. He can do it any old way he wants.”
Osborne met Denson through mutual friends drummer Stanton Moore (Galactic) and keyboardist Robert Walter, who plays with Denson in the Greyboy Allstars.
“Those guys (said), ‘You’ve got to meet Anders, he’s a really great cat,'” Denson said. “So it’s been one of those things where we’ve been trying to get together for years. Finally we hooked up a couple of jam cruises ago and he sat in with me and he was incredible. We’ve been talking ever since then, and we finally figured out something to do together.”
Denson said he has some new songs which after this spring’s New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival he will record for an album possibly to be released in the fall. Expect to hear a couple of the new songs before the “Sticky Fingers” set, he said.
Osborne’s second Alligator record is scheduled to come out May 1 and it will be called “Black Eye Galaxy.”
Last year Osborne produced Mike Zito’s acclaimed album “Greyhound.” Zito told Lake Tahoe Action that Osborne instructed him to play from his heart and not worry about playing all the notes correctly.
“I can’t believe, actually, that he listens to what I am saying,” Osborne laughed. “That’s a compliment. There’s so many ways to do this thing. For me, it seems to do the best if I just let go of all the heady stuff and go really, really deep inside, whether I make mistakes or not or if the amp blows up or all of those things. We just try to play with that, rather than be hidered by it.”
Osborne and Zito played last summer with the Voice of the Wetlands Allstars in what Casino Manager Bill Wood and sound engineer Blake Beeman voted as the 2011 Lake Tahoe Action Concert of the Year. Osborne also played here in May 2010 after releasing “American Patchwork, so this will be his fourth trip to Tahoe in 23 months. The Snowlive finale, which had each night’s headliners together on the same stage, is an obvious contender for 2012 Action Concert of the Year.
“Anytime you get invited and you get to see all your friends like that and be able to hang out two or three days, have rehearsals and the whole thing, it’s definitely magical,” Osborne said. “And I gotta say, that audience up there, too, they don’t take anything for granted. They are definitely devoted to the night. They are making sure they are having a good time. They are supporting the band better than most areas and venues I’ve played. That’s an honest statement.”
Osborne quickly captured everyone’s attention during his first night at Snowlive. Early in his set, he blew up his amplifier.
“Yeah, I do it pretty often,” he said.
1 – “Brown Sugar”
2 – “Sway”
3 – “Wild Horses”
4 – “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking”
5 – “You Gotta Move”
6 – “Bitch”
7 – “I Got The Blues”
8 – “Sister Morphine”
9 – “Dead Flowers”
10 – “Moonlight Mile”
– The album’s cover image was taken by artist Andy Warhol. It was a close-up image from crotch level of a man wearing blue jeans. It had a zipper which when opened revealed white cotton underwear. VH1 named it the No. 1 Greatest Album Cover of all time.
– Mick Taylor played electric, acoustic and slide guitar. It was the first Stones album without material from founding member Brian Jones.
– Saxophonist Bobby Keys also recorded on albums with the Who, Eric Clapton, George Harrison, John Lennon, Ringo Starr and Elvis Presley.
– It was the first album on which Mick Jagger played guitar.
– Guest artists who appeared included Ry Cooder, Billy Preston, Jim Dickinson and Pete Townshend.
– It was No. 1 in both the UK and US Billboard charts. The single “Brown Sugar” also was No. 1 in both countries.
– Recording began in 1970 at Muscle Shoals Studios in Alabama.
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