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Category Archives: Paul Pena

Big Ole Jet Airliner, Don’t Carry Me Too Far Away

Sorry that I have been mindfully absent for a few days.  Over the last three weeks, I have been on an airplane more than on the ground, it seems.  Busy time of year in my business, but it’s all good.

Flying presents lots of contemplation time and while there’s a certain thrill of flying to far away cities to important meetings, that feeling generally fades about 10 minutes into my flight.  Then, I’m counting the hours until I’m home again.  The bustle of airports, rental cars, taxis and hotels wears on me much more now than when I was in my 20s and 30s.  My trusty iPod generally keeps me occupied and I usually have ample work to make the time pass more quickly, but each time I leave, I can’t wait to come home to my comfortable surroundings.  Yes, I am old.

However, I still am in awe of the wonderousness of being able to fly in the sky like an eagle.  God’s wonderous creation of sky and earth never ceases to amaze me and the views are just so cool.  Like the puffiness of the clouds on my way to Memphis right after Hurricane Gustav…

Or, the magnificent hues of blue that greeted me over Atlanta….

Or the most gorgeous sunset over Alabama on the final leg of my flight home from New York City, reassuring me that all was right with the world and God is in His heaven…

As the sun was setting, my naval gazing grew deep and I was reminded of the old sailor’s axiom,

Red sky by morning, sailor take warning….red sky by night, sailor’s delight.

There’s just something about being so high in the clouds that makes me so appreciative of the fact that I am so drawn home and “grounded”.

So, here’s a little tribute to those big ole jet airliners that take me back “where I belong”.

First, the late, great Paul Pena’s Jet Airliner.  Steve Miller made it popular, but it was the brillance of Paul Pena that captured feelings about flying to and fro.  The lyrics are pretty much perfect…

Leavin’ home, out on the road
I’ve been down before
Ridin’ along in this big ol’ jet plane
I’ve been thinkin’ about my home
But my love light seems so far away
And I feel like it’s all been done
Somebody’s tryin’ to make me stay
You know I’ve got to be movin’ on

Oh, Oh big ol’ jet airliner
Don’t carry me too far away
Oh, Oh big ol’ jet airliner
Cause it’s here that I’ve got to stay

Goodbye to all my friends at home
Goodbye to people I’ve trusted
I’ve got to go out and make my way
I might get rich you know I might get busted
But my heart keeps calling me backwards
As I get on the 707
Ridin’ high I got tears in my eyes
You know you got to go through hell
Before you get to heaven

Big ol’ jet airliner
Don’t carry me too far away
Oh, Oh big ol’ jet airliner
Cause it’s here that I’ve got to stay

Touchin’ down in New England town
Feel the heat comin’ down
I’ve got to keep on keepin’ on
You know the big wheel keeps on spinnin’ around
And I’m goin’ with some hesitation
You know that I can surely see
That I don’t want to get caught up in any of that
Funky shit goin’ down in the city

Big ol’ jet airliner
Don’t carry me too far away
Oh, Oh big ol’ jet airliner
Cause it’s here that I’ve got to stay

Oh, Oh big ol’ jet airliner
Don’t carry me too far away
Oh, Oh big ol’ jet airliner
Cause it’s here that I’ve got to stay
Yeah, yeah yeah, yeah

Big ol’ jet airliner
Don’t carry me too far away
Oh, Oh big ol’ jet airliner
Cause it’s here that I’ve got to stay

Oh, Oh big ol’ jet airliner
Carry me to my home
Oh, Oh big ol’ jet airliner
Cause it’s there that I belong

Paul changes up the lyrics a bit in this version done on the Conan O’Brien show shortly before his death…

  Jet Airliner, Paul Pena

While no other “airplane” song quite captures the essence of business flying, for me, here are a few other “flying” songs…

  Come Fly With Me, Frank Sinatra

….gotta love that “exotic booze in old Bombay”.  Here’s a lovely new twist on the old classic of Leaving on a Jet Plane…

  Leaving on a Jet Plane, Jewel

Of course, I have to include James Taylor’s perennial hit, Fire and Rain

  Fire and Rain, James Taylor

And, one of my favorite Tom Petty songs is Learning to Fly (even though it’s really not about airplane flying)…

  Learning to Fly, Tom Petty

 

 

 

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Music + Passion = PAUL PENA

ETA: Interview with Paul Pena from The Human Chorus

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“It’s all about the music” has become quite cliche’, nowadays. If you want a REAL example of this credo, see Paul Pena.

Paul’s family came from the Cape Verde Islands and a Creole background. As a young child, he learned guitar from his father, Jack, and as a teenager, was classically trained in flamenco music.

Paul Pena first hit the American music scene at the Newport Blues Festival back in the late ’60s. Although blind, Paul became one with music and it was truly his “home”. After a few years of performing with the likes of B.B. King, John Lee Hooker, T-Bone Walker and Bonnie Raitt, Paul recorded his debut album, Paul Pena, released by Capitol Records in 1972. It got little attention and has been out of print and unavailable for quite a while.

While researching all things Pena, I came across a great new blog, Feed Me Good Tunes. JT, one of the contributors, wrote up a very apt review of the debut album in June that I think captures it best:

Paul Pena could have been something. Paul Pena’s music was captured briefly in precious few recordings, considering his legacy in music spans over three decades. And yet, his soul lives on in this, his first album, one that’s been out of print for as long as I can remember.

Overall, it’s a seamless, gorgeous, glorious blend of blues, classic rock, and soul, sung with the smokiest baritone and clearest electric guitar. Pena’s playing and arrangements are sunny and bright, richly layered with chorus voices and slide guitar. His lyrics are full of hope and curiosity for the world around me, and read like a road map to understanding and maturity. Where are we going in the world? What is my place? What do I have to offer? What can I give back? Where should I go next?

As we enter the summer months, and an endless tangle of FmGT posts aiming to pin down the elusive summer sound, this album screams June, July and August. The airy arrangements and shimmering guitar riffs work tirelessly and breathlessly in the sunshine. This is true “larger than your headphones” music; you’ll sing along without really knowing the words, you’ll hum the melodies, you’ll pick at yr air guitar, you’ll subconsciously break out the handclaps, the adoration, the adulation and the uncensored joy in Pena’s music.

Choice cuts include the opening track, “Woke Up This Morning”, a shimmering expression of Pena’s determination to transcend his obstacles and get where he wants to be. “Gonna Make It Alright” is a breezy, bright song that grows out of a very Meters-esque riff into a nasty, deep groove. “Something to Make You Happy” is seven minutes of gritty, shuffle blues, anchored by a frenetic bassline and soulful B-3. “When I’m Gone” is another meditation on the meaning of his life and the value of his existence, presented in his unmistakable style.

Pena’s music is as good as any coming out of this era in American music. The seamless blending of so many genres is a joy to listen to, especially when wrapped in Pena’s virtuosic guitar-playing. If he was better-known, he’d surely stand in the pantheon of great blues players, but as it is, he’s still relatively-unknown.

Download this, and enjoy it. Spread it around. This music is too good to keep under wraps.

Pena’s life was defined by several layers of misfortune, sadness and tragedy, but in listening to his music, you’d never know it. I hope you get as much enjoyment out of Paul Pena as I do.

Additionally, he provides all eight tracks of Paul Pena. I, like JT, feel that it’s critical to share Paul Pena’s work, so I’m also posting them here for others to discover and enjoy. This album is epic, yet basically unknown. I’ve added a short review of my own, as well.

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Woke Up This Morning – Paul is a wonderful mixture of James Taylor and Bill Withers on this first track. A mellow melody with powerful lyrics.



I’m Gonna Make it Alright
– This one is very Wet Willie-ish to me. Great bass lines, guitar and the music is just real. I particularly enjoy the subtle crackles of the LP.



The River
– Nice, slow blues ballad with rich voices and instruments. When listening through headphones, it’s hard to believe that this was recorded with little manipulation 35 years ago. Music the way it’s supposed to be.



One for the Lonely – Good, old fashioned early ’70′s rock. Pena was an opening act for the Grateful Dead at one point and there is that vibe to this song.



Something to Make You Happy – Not my favorite on the album, but very much in the vein of the anguish songs of the day.



My Adorable One – Just when you think you can pigeon-hole Paul, he throws a hard curve. This song SHOULD have been done by Otis Redding or Sam Cooke. Awesome….likely my favorite of this compilation.



When I’m Gone – Another beautiful acoustical. Fantastic musicianship and just a great song.


Lullaby - Soothing acoustics from a brilliant player. Demonstrates Pena’s vast songwriting capabilities.


Paul made a lot of friends along the way, with Bonnie Raitt being one of the most loyal. Paul provided back up on her first album and shortly thereafter, recorded New Train in 1973. It was on the Bearsville label and produced by Ben Sidran, who happened to be the keyboardist for the Steve Miller Band. Shortly after the album was finished, Paul and his manager, Gunther Weil, got into a notorious feud with label owner, Albert Grossman, over the album’s content and release. Grossman shelved the album and refused to let Paul out of his contract to record elsewhere. Therefore, New Train tragically sat on a shelf for 27 years until, with the assistance of old friends who recognized Paul’s failing health and who had the desire to see his dream fulfilled it was finally released in 2000.

Paul Pena Bio

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When the album was aborted, Sidran shared one of Paul’s New Train tracks with Steve Miller, who immediately fell in love with Jet Airliner. It would be one of the biggest hits of his career and the music world’s only exposure to Paul Pena until the turn of the century. Paul would eventually get his vindication by performing Jet Airliner on Conan, shortly before his death.

New Train was truly brilliant. Jerry Garcia provides backup on New Train and Venutian Lady. Merl Saunders also lent a hand on keyboards.

The great harmony group, The Persuasions, provided back-up on the most famous song on the album — Gonna Move. That’s them in the banter at the beginning. While Gonna Move has been covered by Susan Tedeschi, The Derek Trucks Band, and most recently, Taylor Hicks, the original is my favorite.

Added treats….Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks Band doing Gonna Move, Joyful Noise and The Feeling Music Brings on the Early Show:

Taylor Hicks’ Gonna Move (I like this version better than the CD version):

 

 

Here’s a short article on Paul’s trials and tribulations. Life always seem to serve Paul the proverbial chicken shit, which he generally turned into chicken salad. Sadly, there are only 18 slivers of Paul Pena for posterity.

If I could recommend one CD in my life, this would be it. It’s simply that good. There are a few songs on this CD that are begging to be covered. There are several that could easily be hits today. If today’s artists are truly students of music and there is ANY justice, more of these songs will be covered. It’s the one way to properly pay homage to Paul Pena.

I would particularly like to see Let’s Move and Groove Together covered:


Man, just a gut grabber.

The other more obscure Pena song that would be a great cover for one of today’s artists is A Bit of Alright.


Paul spent years taking care of his ailing wife and was ill with diabetes and pancreatitis. He was misdiagnosed as having pancreatic cancer and went through unnecessary chemotherapy that likely contributed to his death. However, he still found time to explore music, discovering something a world away that would captivate him in his later years. He stumbled across Tuvan throat singing one night when scanning short wave radio to learn Korean. Subsequently, he studied the music and from that came Genghis Blues, a documentary that ended up winning an Academy Award.

Not exactly my cup a tea, but interesting nonetheless.

Paul passed away in 2005 of complications from his illnesses at the age of 55. Hopefully, a new generation of listeners will discover and share Paul’s diverse music, keeping it alive. That would be a fitting tribute to a guy that was truly “all about the music”. For now, however, do yourself and Paul a favor. Go to iTunes or Amazon and purchase the amazing New Train. You will not be sorry.

New Train review from I Guess I’m Floating.

http://www.paulpena.com/

 
 
 
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