Thursday, July 2, 2015

The Kingbees: “The Kingbees” (1980/2015) CD Review

The self-titled album from The Kingbees is some classic rock and roll, not from the 1950s but rather from 1980. But don’t worry, this is the real thing. It’s not a put-on; it’s not a costume this band dons for an hour or two and a few dollars. Clearly the band was living it, breathing it. This is no-frills rock by a classic rock trio – guitar, bass and drums. And they clearly needed nothing else. This special re-issue includes eight bonus tracks, demos and live recordings, all of which were previously unreleased. It also contains new liner notes by lead singer/guitarist Jamie James, in which he offers some interesting information on the band’s conception and formation. The original idea was to do a Buddy Holly tribute band, and you can certainly hear lead singer Jamie James’ affection for Holly on a song like “Ting-A-Ling.” Also, among this disc’s bonus tracks is a live cover of Holly’s “Not Fade Away.”

The Kingbees kick off the album with “Sweet Sweet Girl To Me,” a fun tune with a bit of a rockabilly flavor, and backing vocals repeating, “Sweet, sweet.” It’s a look back at a girl who left him, but he seems to have nothing but fondness for her, which is certainly unusual. “Well, I can’t talk about her, ‘cause she’s with someone new/As long as she was with me, she was true true true.” It’s followed by “My Mistake,” which has a groove you can sink your teeth into. I love the way the bass plays such a prominent role. And I also like the sense of humor about it, as in these lines: “I saw a real fine girl at the marketplace/She had a nice way of walking and real fine face/A voice like a man, I don’t understand/I’m sorry, chick, but it’s my mistake.” I like this track a lot.

“Man Made For Love” begins with a slow (and therefore kind of surprising) and even sweet introduction. “My arms are made for hugging/And my lips are made for kissing you.” Then once it kicks in it has a Bo Diddley kind of vibe (think a fast “Who Do You Love” kind of thing). “Fast Girls” has a bit of a punk vibe about it, which I love. The punk edge makes sense, as both types of music were a sort of reaction to the excesses of some mainstream music and a return to a more stripped down, simple, immediate sound. Plus, it has the respectable punk rock song length of two minutes. And I love the ending – it has a very familiar classic rock and roll ending, but then eliminates that final chord, so you’re left hanging there, waiting for it, hearing it in your head. It’s like a bit of a tease.

“Once Is Not Enough” is a great, fast-paced rock and roll number with a lot of energy, and a beat to get you dancing. “Well, give me, give me all you got/I’m in love and my blood’s red hot/Give me, give me all you got/You got me started and I just can’t stop.” This is one of my personal favorite tracks. But my absolute favorite is “Everybody’s Gone,” the original album’s closing track. It a rock and roll love letter to rock and roll, and is a whole lot of fun. It’s about dancing all night long, and it should get you dancing. “I don’t care if it’s getting too late/I can’t leave this rock and roll/I’ll never leave this rock and roll.” There is some really nice work on guitar, and little nod to “Wild Thing” (“Come on baby, you move me”). And then, hurrah, this track gives us a drum solo, and follows that with a seriously cool bass solo. I love this track.

Bonus Tracks

This special re-issue includes eight bonus tracks, all of which were previously unreleased. The first five are early demos, including “My Mistake,” “Man Made For Love,” “Ting-A-Ling” and “Fast Girls” from the first album, and “Burnin’ The Town Tonight,” a song which was included on their second record. I actually prefer this version of “Man Made For Love,” especially the intro, because the bass has more presence. The demo version of “Fast Girls” has a different ending, with a false fade, and then a real fade-out. I definitely prefer the album version for that reason.

The other three bonus tracks are live recordings from a show the band performed in Detroit on June 8, 1980. Interestingly, all three are covers. The first, “Somethin’ Else,” puts me in such a good mood each time I listen to it. This song actually had me laughing aloud the first time I listened to this disc, specifically these lines (and the way they are delivered): “To own a car would be a luxury/But right now I can't afford the gas/A brand new convertible is out of my class/But that can't stop me from thinking to myself/That car's fine looking, man, it's somethin’ else.” “Somethin’ Else” was written by Eddie Cochran and Sharon Sheeley. That’s followed by a very cool rendition of Buddy Holly’s classic number, “Not Fade Away.” The CD then concludes with a really good cover of “Bo Diddley,” with that famous rhythm. They ask the audience to sing along at one point, then tease them, “Oh you’d have never got a recording contract singing like that, cats.”

CD Track List
  1. Sweet Sweet Girl To Me
  2. My Mistake
  3. Man Made For Love
  4. No Respect
  5. Fast Girls
  6. Shake-Bop
  7. Once Is Not Enough
  8. Ting-A-Ling
  9. Follow Your Heart
  10. Everybody’s Gone
  11. My Mistake (demo)
  12. Man Made For Love (demo)
  13. Burnin’ The Town Tonight (demo)
  14. Ting-A-Ling (demo)
  15. Fast Girls (demo)
  16. Somethin’ Else (live)
  17. Not Fade Away (live)
  18. Bo Diddley (live)

The Kingbees are Jamie James on lead vocals and guitar, Michael Rummans on bass and backing vocals, and Rex Roberts on drums and backing vocals.
This special re-issue of The Kingbees was released on April 28, 2015 through Omnivore Recordings.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

July 2015 Concert Calendar

I started this blog to let people know about all the good music that's out there. Here is a list of a few concerts you might be interested in for the month of July, 2015. Most of these are artists that I've reviewed, though some are some bands that I haven't yet written about, but really like. I will try to add to this calendar whenever I can throughout the month.

July 1, 2015  (Wednesday)
Lady Low  -  Harvard And Stone, Los Angeles, CA
Patrolled By Radar  -  3 Clubs, 1123 Vine St., Los Angeles, CA
Yonder Mountain String Band  -   Prescott Park Arts, Portsmouth, NH

July 2, 2015  (Thursday)
Honey County  -  Hotel Cafe, Los Angeles, CA
The Howlin' Brothers  -   The 5 Spot, Nashville, TN  -  6:00 p.m.
Red Molly  -  The Hamilton, Washington, D.C.
Uncle Lucius  -   FitzGerald's American Music Festival, Berwyn, IL
Yonder Mountain String Band  -   Buffalo Rocks The Harbor, Buffalo, NY

July 3, 2015  (Friday)
Annabelle's Curse  -   Folk City All Stars, Johnson City, TN
Kelley Mickwee  -  Mountain View Hotel, Centennial, WY
Red Molly  - Sellersville Theater, Sellersville, PA
Red Wanting Blue  -   Fountain Square, Cincinnati, OH
The Whooligans  -   E.J. Malloy's Pub, Long Beach, CA
Yonder Mountain String Band  -  Sherman Theater Summer Stage, Mt. Pocono, PA

July 4, 2015  (Saturday)
The Band Of Heathens  -  Hero's Music Festival, Eden, TX   -  4:00 p.m.
Uncle Lucius  -    Hill Country Galleria Independence Day Festival, Bee Cave, TX
Yonder Mountain String Band  -   Moonlite Gardens, Cincinnati, OH

July 5, 2015  (Sunday)
The Band Of Heathens  -   Levitt Pavilion, Arlington, TX  -  8:00 p.m.
Red Molly  -   Clifton Park, Clifton Park, NY

July 6, 2015  (Monday)

July 7, 2015  (Tuesday)
Annabelle's Curse  -    The Basement, Nashville, TN
The Grownup Noise  -  The Lizard Lounge, Cambridge, MA
James McMurtry  -  Continental Club Gallery, Austin, TX
Yonder Mountain String Band  -   Brooklyn Bowlm Brooklyn, NY

July 8, 2015  (Wednesday)
James McMurtry  -   Continental Club, Austin, TX
Patrolled By Radar  -   Cinema Bar, Culver City, CA
Red Molly  -   Music On Main Street, Woodbridge, NJ
Uncle Lucius  -    Larimer Lounge, Denver, CO
Yonder Mountain String Band  -   The Ridgefield Playhouse Ridgefield, CT

July 9, 2015  (Thursday)
The Band Of Heathens  -   Newpark Town Center, Park City, UT  -  6:00 p.m.
The Howlin' Brothers  -    The 5 Spot, Nashville, TN  -  6:00 p.m.
Mates Of State  -  The Sinclair, Cambridge, MA
Kelley Mickwee  - Woody Guthrie Folk Festival, Okemah, OK  -  1:00 p.m.
Ellis Paul  -  The Blue Door, 2805 North McKinley, Oklahoma City, OK  -  8:00 p.m.
Uncle Lucius  -    Chief Theater, Steamboat Springs, CO
Yonder Mountain String Band  -   Alive At Fivem Albany, NY

July 10, 2015  (Friday)
The Band Of Heathens  -   Cervantes Masterpiece Ballroom, Denver, CO  -  10:00 p.m.
Cake  -  Stone Pony Summer Stage, Asbury Park, NJ
Kelley Mickwee  -   Magnolia Motor Lounge, Fort Worth, TX
Willie Nile  -  SummerSounds, Greensburgh, PA
Ellis Paul  -   Woody Guthrie Folk Festival, 100-328 Sertco Road, Okemah, OK  -  10:00 p.m.
Red Molly  -   Manship Theatre, Baton Rouge, LA
Uncle Lucius  -    The Town Square Tavern, Jackson, WY
Yonder Mountain String Band  -  Paper Mill Island Amphitheater, Baldwinsville, NY

July 11, 2015  (Saturday)
Annabelle's Curse  -    The Empty Glass, Charleston, WV
The Band Of Heathens  -   The Ride Festival, Telluride, CO  -  10:00 p.m.
Bombadil  -  Fishin' Pig,  Farmville, VA
Cake  -   All Good Music Festival, Summit Point, WV
Rebecca Loebe  -  Strange Brew, Austin, TX
James McMurtry  -   Buscadero Festival, Pusiano, Italy
Red Wanting Blue  -   Pembina River Nights, Edmonton, Canada
Uncle Lucius  -    Mountain Village Resort, Stanley, ID
Yonder Mountain String Band  -  All Good Music Festival, Summit Point, WV

July 12, 2015  (Sunday)
Annabelle's Curse  -    The Purple Fiddle, Thomas, WV
Cake  -   Levitt Pavilion, Bethlehem, PA
Susie Glaze And The Hilonesome Band  -   Santa Clarita Valley Americana Folk Festival, Santa Clarita, CA  -  5:00 p.m.
Willie Nile  - Ottawa Blues Fest, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Ellis Paul  -  Black Potato Music Festival, Red Mill Museum Village, Clinton, NJ  -  6:30 p.m.
Red Molly  -   City Winery, Nashville, TN  -  6:00 p.m.
Yonder Mountain String Band  -   Mountain Sol Festival, Felton, CA

July 13, 2015  (Monday)

July 14, 2015  (Tuesday)
The Band Of Heathens  and Uncle Lucius  -   The Crocodile Cafe, Seattle, WA

July 15, 2015  (Wednesday)
The Band Of Heathens  -   Treehouse Cafe, Bainbridge Isle, WA
James McMurtry  -   Continental Club, Austin, TX
Miss Tess And The Talkbacks  -  Carnahan Hall, Lafayette, IN

July 16, 2015  (Thursday)
The Buzzcocks  -  The Garage, London, UK
The Howlin' Brothers  -    The 5 Spot, Nashville, TN  -  6:00 p.m.
James McMurtry  -   Shady Grove, Austin, TX
Miss Tess And The Talkbacks  -   Cafe Paradiso, Fairfield, IA
Willie Nile  -   Stearns Square, Springfield, MA
Patrolled By Radar  -   Lagunitas Brewing Company, Petaluma, CA  -  4:00 p.m.
Red Molly  -   Sussex County Community College, Newton, NJ  -  6:30 p.m.

July 17, 2015  (Friday)
Annabelle's Curse  -    Preservation Pub, Knoxville, TN
The Band Of Heathens  -   Camp Navarro, Navarro, CA  -  4:00 p.m.
The Buzzcocks  -   Festival Portamerica, Nigran, Spain
The Howlin' Brothers  -    ACME Feed And Seed, Nashville, TN
James McMurtry  -   Kessler Theatre, Dallas, TX
Kelley Mickwee  -   Paramount Theatre, Austin, TX
Miss Tess And The Talkbacks  -   Harriet Brewing Taproom, Minneapolis, MN
Willie Nile  -   Seneca Queen Theatre, Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada
Tom Paxton  -  Mason District Park, Annandale, VA 
(free show)
Red Wanting Blue  -   Moods Of The Madison, Ennis, MT
Martin Sexton  -  Grand Targhee Fest, Alta, WY

July 18, 2015  (Saturday)
Annabelle's Curse  -    Smith's Olde Bar, Atlanta, GA
The Band Of Heathens  -   Sweetwater Music Hall, Mill Valley, CA  -  8:00 p.m.
The Mansfield Band  -  Molly Malone's, Los Angeles, CA
Kelley Mickwee  -   The Gage Hotel, Marathon, TX
Miss Tess And The Talkbacks  -   KAXE Mississippi River Festival, Grand Rapids, MN
The Nields  -  West Cummington Church, West Cummington, MA
Patrolled By Radar  -   Lobero Theater, Santa Barbara, CA
Martin Sexton  -   Stephen Talkhouse, Amagansett, NY
The Whooligans  -    The Auld Dubliner, Long Beach, CA

July 19, 2015  (Sunday)
The Band Of Heathens  -   SLO Brewing Company, San Luis Obispo, CA
The Buzzcocks  -   Project Pabst, Portland, OR
Lady Low  -   Tin Roof, San Diego, CA  -  8:00 p.m.
James McMurtry  -   Targhee Fest, Alta, WY
Miss Tess And The Talkbacks  -   The Gas Lamp, Des Moines, IA
Red Molly  -   Bartlett Arboretum, Stamford, CT  -  5:00 p.m.
Martin Sexton  -   Prescott Park, Portsmouth, NH
The Whooligans  -    The Red Leprechaun, Long Beach  -  2:00 p.m.

July 20, 2015  (Monday)
The Band Of Heathens  -  Hotel Cafe, Los Angeles, CA  -  8:00 p.m.
Red Molly  -   Music On The River, East Haddam, CT  -  6:30 p.m.
Red Wanting Blue  -   The Rendezvous, Seattle, WA

July 21, 2015  (Tuesday)
The Band Of Heathens  -   Buck Owens' Crystal Palace, Bakersfield, CA  -  8:00 p.m.
James McMurtry  -   Continental Club Gallery, Austin, TX
Miss Tess And The Talkbacks  -   Daytrotter, Rock Island, IL

July 22, 2015  (Wednesday)
Bombadil  -   Tennessee Shines, Knoxville, TN
James McMurtry  -   Continental Club, Austin, TX
Miss Tess And The Talkbacks  -   The Tonic Room, Chicago, IL
Red Wanting Blue  -   Hotel Utah, San Francisco, CA
Uncle Lucius  -  The Mint, Los Angeles, CA
Martin Sexton  -   Payomet Performing Arts Center, North Truro, MA

July 23, 2015  (Thursday)
Cake  -   Lifestyle Communities Pavilion, Columbus, OH
The Howlin' Brothers  -    The 5 Spot, Nashville, TN  -  6:00 p.m.
Kelley Mickwee  -   Strange Brew, Austin, TX
Miss Tess And The Talkbacks  - The Southgate House Revival, Newport, KY
Patrolled By Radar  -   Pappy And Harriet's, Pioneertown, CA
Red Wanting Blue  -  The Hotel Cafe, Los Angeles, CA  -  7:00 p.m.
Uncle Lucius  -   The Cashbah, San Diego, CA

July 24, 2015  (Friday)
The Band Of Heathens  - Miller Plaza, Chattanooga, TN  -  8:00 p.m.
Bombadil  -   Wolf Hills Brewing Co., Abingdon, VA
The Buzzcocks  -   The Live Rooms, Chester, UK
Cake  -   Jacobs Pavilion, Cleveland, OH
The Howlin' Brothers  -    Bowie Nature Park, Fairview, TN
Uncle Lucius  -   The Rebel Lounge, Phoenix, AZ

July 25, 2015  (Saturday)
The Band Of Heathens  - Southland Ballroom, Raleigh, NC
Bombadil  -   The Willow Tree, Johnson City, TN
The Buzzcocks  -   Leeds Ska And Mod Festival, Leeds, UK
Cake  -   Kerfuffle, Buffalo, NY
Miss Tess And The Talkbacks  -   Floyd Fest, Floyd, VA
Ellis Paul B'Nai Chaim Synagogue, 4716 South Coors Lane, Morrison, CO  -  7:00 p.m.
Tom Paxton  -   Presbyterian Church, Chatham, NJ
Red Molly  -   Red Ants Pants Festival, White Sulphur Springs, MT  -  5:00 p.m.
Red Wanting Blue  -   Oyster Ridge Music Festival, Kemmerer, WY
Martin Sexton  -   Flying Monkey, Plymouth, NH
Uncle Lucius  -   The Liberty, Roswell, NM

July 26, 2015  (Sunday)
The Band Of Heathens  -  Visulite Theatre, Charlotte, NC
The Buzzcocks  -   Tramlines Fest, Sheffield, UK
Hot Club Of Cowtown  -  Fiddles, Vittles And Vino, Colorado Springs, CO
Miss Tess And The Talkbacks  -   Floyd Fest, Floyd, VA
Tom Paxton  - Huntington Summer Arts Festival, Huntington, NY
Martin Sexton  -   Shalin Liu Theatre, Rockport, MA
The Whooligans  -    Nadine's Irish Mist, Sunset Beach, CA  -  4:00 p.m.
Christopher Williams  -  North River Church Of Christ, Marietta, GA

July 27, 2015  (Monday)
Red Molly  -   Ellen Theater, Bozeman, MT
Red Wanting Blue  -   Soiled Dove Underground, Denver, CO

July 28, 2015  (Tuesday) 
James McMurtry  -   Continental Club Gallery, Austin, TX

July 29, 2015  (Wednesday)
Hot Club Of Cowtown  -   Continental Club, Austin, TX  -  6:30 p.m.
James McMurtry  -   Continental Club, Austin, TX
Uncle Lucius  -   Golden Light, Amarillo, TX

July 30, 2015  (Thursday)
Hot Club Of Cowtown  -   City Hall Concert Series, Culver City, CA  -  7:00 p.m.
The Howlin' Brothers  -    The 5 Spot, Nashville, TN  -  6:00 p.m.
Patrolled By Radar  -  Trip, Santa Monica, CA 

July 31, 2015  (Friday)
The Buzzcocks  -   Camp Bestival, Dorset, UK
Cloud Cult  -  Live On King Street, Madison, WI -  6:00 p.m.
Melissa Ferrick  -  The Sinclair, Cambridge, MA
Hot Club Of Cowtown  -   City Hall Concert Series, Culver City, CA  -  8:00 p.m.
James McMurtry  -  Main Street Crossing, Tomball, TX 
Miss Tess And The Talkbacks  -  The Crimson Moon, Dahlonega, GA 

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Uncle Lucius: “The Light” (2015) CD Review

Uncle Lucius’s new album, The Light, was funded by fans, and perhaps partly for that reason has a much-appreciated optimism and an underlying faith in folks (which should transfer to the listener). This album at times feeling like a phone call from a friend who not only wants to catch you up on his life but wants to hear about yours, even offering thoughtful bits of advice, like “Don’t be afraid to change your mind/Don’t be afraid to change.” These songs have elements of rock, country and folk (man, I’d love to see them on a double bill with I See Hawks In L.A.), with a focus on the songwriting. I like these lines from “Nothing To Save”: “Time is a concept/A construct of man/Man could very well be/Dead wrong again.” Uncle Lucius is based in Austin, and “The Light” is the band’s fourth album.

This CD kicks off with “The Light,” the album’s title track. Interestingly, this is a song that is simultaneously about taking a more active approach to one’s life and also about looking inward rather than outward. It was written by singer/guitarist Kevin Galloway. Here is a taste of the lyrics: “Instead of choosing to live in reaction mode/I set intention before me, let go and flow/To grow and know from the inside out/And shine light into shadows cast by doubt.” Not bad, eh? Plus, this song has a good groove, and some really nice work on keys by Jonathan Grossman.

It’s followed by “Age Of Reason,” which was written by Hal Vorpahl, the band’s original bass player. This is one of my favorite tracks, and it has a very positive vibe and groove and lyrics. “Oh, we say division/Comes from within/But how we’re different/Will never mean as much/As how we’re kin.” The song calls for an age of reason, which I think we could all get behind. This track takes on something of a funky soul vibe, akin to some of the late ‘60s, early ‘70s R&B recordings, as the band is joined by Tiger Anaya on trumpet and Mark Wilson on saxophone (both from Shinyribs).

I really like this album, and as I’ve said, a lot of its appeal for me is in the lyrics. Another of my favorites, “Taking In The View,” begins with a play on the idea of the devil being in the detail: “The devil’s in the detail shop/Waiting on his old ragtop/Wondering where the hell have all the real souls gone.” The main line, “And he’s going to spend his golden years taking in the view,” taken on its own, on the one hand sounds kind of sad, like giving up, but on the other hand, has a positive ring, as it’s a conscious choice, like taking some control. But the whole thing takes on a different feel when you see just who this character is, referred to as “the bright and morning star” in Revelation 22:16 (yeah, I looked it up). This song combines that description with ZZ Tops’ “Jesus Just Left Chicago” to give us the lines, “And the bright and morning star/Just left Chicago.” He has a stack of records, and in one section, this song makes reference to several of the records he’s listening to: Dylan, CCR, Beatles, and so on. I like taking these characters from religion and putting them into a sort of mundane context. And I like the addition of strings on this track (that’s Eleanor Whitmore). The opening instrumental section is beautiful. And the ending is intense. This is an all-round strong song, written by Kevin Galloway.

“No Time Flat” has a gorgeous mellow country feel at the start, and grows from there. “It’s a new day, a new time/A fresh chance to start right.” And the second time Kevin sings, “Slow down, slow down,” the song itself responds, slowing down. And the following line, “Just be here now,” is a reference to the Ram Dass book. So yes, this is a seize-the-day, live-in-the-moment song, and I’m starting to think there can’t be enough of these. It seems a message we need to hear on a regular basis, especially these days.

“No Time Flat” is followed by “Wheels In Motion,” written by Jonathan Grossman and Michael Carpenter, which takes us on a bit of an emotional ride, at first offering some depressing thoughts: “We are all broken/There is no new/No home left/Just someplace/We’re passing through.” But then it offers this: “Don’t be afraid to change/When your own skin/Seems so strange/And the right road/You can’t find/Don’t be afraid to change your mind/Don’t be afraid to change.” The song then takes us to the death of a young soldier before repeating, “The wheel’s in motion/And there’s no stopping.” For good or ill, it’s true.

The album concludes with “Someday Is A Far Cry,” which has a wonderful, fast groove during the chorus, and makes me think this band must put on a good concert.

CD Track List
  1. The Light
  2. Age Of Reason
  3. Taking In The View
  4. Ouroboros
  5. The End Of 118
  6. No Time Flat
  7. Wheels In Motion
  8. Gulf Coast Gypsies
  9. Flood Then Fade Away
  10. Don’t Own The Right
  11. Nothing To Save
  12. Someday Is A Far Cry

Uncle Lucius is Kevin Galloway on vocals and acoustic guitar; Michael Carpenter on electric guitar, acoustic guitar and vocals; Josh Greco on drums, percussion and vocals; Jonathan Grossman on keyboards, synth and vocals; and Nigel Frye on bass and synth.

The Light was released on June 9, 2015 through Thirty Tigers and Boo Clap Records.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Ronny And The Daytonas: “The Complete Recordings” (2015) CD Review

Oh yes, music can really save us sometimes, you know? I was in a foul mood, trying to deal with the landlord (actually, just trying to get the bastard to return my calls), when the Ronny And The Daytonas two-disc set arrived. I popped in the first disc, and was immediately in a better mood, no longer wanting to hunt the guy down and have him drawn and quartered. The Complete Recordings includes forty-eight tracks on two discs. There are some great 1960s surf and hot rod tunes, including their huge hit, “G.T.O.,” and four previously unreleased tracks. This wonderful collection also includes extensive liner notes written by John Buck Wilkin, singer, guitarist and songwriter for the band. He’s the “Ronny” of Ronny And The Daytonas. Yup, it turns out some really good surf music came out of Nashville. Go figure. There are lots of mellow tunes as well, like the pretty “Baby Say No.”

The collection opens with the band’s most famous tune, “G.T.O.,” a song which reached #4 on the Billboard Hot 100. This is such a fun tune, and I can’t believe I left it off of my recent list of songs for road trip mixes. I will have to start compiling a second list. John Buck Wilkin gives us some interesting information on this song in the liner notes. That tune is followed by “Hot Rod Baby,” about a girl named Sally who “lives way down in the valley” and “dreams about hot rod cars.” This one was written by Jerry Dean Smith.

“California Bound” is another tune to add to my list of music for road trips. It was written by John Wilkin, and released as a single, reaching #72 on the Billboard Hot 100. This was the follow-up single to “G.T.O.” “There’s nothing going on in this town/I’m going to rock it tonight/Gonna really get right/I’m California bound.” “Hey Little Girl,” the single’s flip side, is one of my favorites, mainly due to the cool vocal approach. This was also written by John Wilkin.

“Bucket ‘T’” is a goofy and delightful tune with lines like “All the girls want to take a ride with me/But there’s only seat in my bucket ‘T’” and a little nod to “Surfin’ Bird.” “Bucket ‘T’” is a Jan And Dean cover, written by Don Altfeld, Roger Christian, Dean Torrence and Jan Berry. Ronny And The Daytonas released this as a single. They also do a good job with Chuck Berry’s “Back In The U.S.A.”

John Wilkin co-wrote “Hot Rod City” with Bill Justis, who also produced a lot of these tracks. This tune features some nice work on keys. “They’re really getting their kicks out in Hot Rod City.” Then in the slow number “Teenage Years” Wilkins sings, “But good times never last/And my teenage years are going mighty fast.” No kidding. He also sings, “I don’t know what I’ll do/When my teenage years are through.” Yeah, most of us are still trying to figure that out, and we’re in our forties now.

I love the playfulness of “Little Scrambler,” written by John Wilkin, pointing out that his scrambler was “Made in Japan.” But the lines that I find just totally delightful are these: “Some people think I’m crazy because I drive a bike/But I don’t make too much money and I’d rather not hike/But if fellas with cars try to give me sass/I tell them I can go forever on a gallon of gas.” This tune was released as a single. Another seriously fun song is “Tiger-A-Go-Go,” about San Francisco. It opens in faux serious tones: “We didn’t see the bridge, or visit Chinatown/When we hit San Francisco, all we did was fool around.” And then it kicks in and is just a delight. John Wilkin co-wrote this one with Buzz Cason. That writing team is responsible for several other tracks in this collection, including “Bay City” (an instrumental), “No Wheels” and “Sandy.” “Sandy,” a slower song, was released as a single in 1965, and reached #27 on the Billboard Hot 100. (Its flip side was a slightly shorter instrumental version, also included here.)

The second disc is a lot mellower, at least for the first several songs, until we get to “Antique ’32 Studebaker Dictator Coupe,” which is a fun song written by Jerry Dean Smith. It was released as a single, but didn’t do anything on the charts. Even more fun is “All American Girl,” one of my favorites. It begins with some cool a cappella vocal work, then has a good groove and vibe. “She’s the hippest thing going with her pretty, long hair/And with a natural personality that’s good anywhere/Always where the action is and right with the trend.” “All American Girl” was written by John Wilkin. It was released as a single, with “Dianne, Dianne,” which John Wilkin co-wrote with Merle Kilgore. That single reached #69 on the Billboard chart.

I’m also really fond of “Winter Weather,” with its first lines being, “Put on your old coat with the big fur collar/And we’ll take a walk in the snow/And though it’s cold out and I ain’t got a dollar/There’s still a lot of places to go.” It has such a playful, catchy vibe. I like the bass line. “Winter Weather” was written by John Wilkin.

“Brave New World” is another good track, with an excellent mid-1960s rock feel, and a cool vocal performance. The title “Brave New World” is a Shakespeare reference. In the fifth act of The Tempest, when Miranda suddenly meets several men, she exclaims, “O wonder!/How many goodly creatures are there here!/How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world/That has such people in’t.” In “Brave New World,” John Wilkin sings, “It’s a brave new world/Look around you, girl.” He co-wrote this song with Buzz Cason.

“Delta Day (No Time To Cry)” is perhaps the most interesting song in this collection. It has quite a different feel from the other tracks, and was written by John Wilkin, Kris Kristofferson and Marijohn Wilkin (John’s mother, a country music writer). There is certainly a country element, but also a very serious tone. Here is a taste of the lyrics: “Then awaking to hear the sound of one helicopter bursting in flame go down/Hold on, boy, don’t lose your mind/Hold on, boy, it’s no time to cry.” And check out this line: “I see the eyes of the enemy older than any child ought to be.” This song was released as a single under the name Bucky Wilkin rather than Ronny And The Daytonas. It’s a seriously strong track, though apparently the single didn’t make a dent in the charts. The other side of the single is a good cover of The Monkees’ “I Wanna Be Free,” which was written by Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart.

Previously Unreleased Tracks

This two-disc set includes four tracks that were previously unreleased. The first is “Daytona Beach,” which was written by John Wilkin and Lee Kraft. This is a groovy, upbeat surfin' tune. That's followed by a different version of “Hey Little Girl.” It has a different intro and is a bit shorter than the original version. I really like this version a lot. Also included is a cover of “Chapel Of Love” and
a pretty tune called “Angelina,” which was written by John Wilkin and Wayne Usher and recorded in 1967.

CD Track List

Disc One
  1. G.T.O.
  2. Hot Rod Baby
  3. California Bound
  4. Hey Little Girl
  5. Bucket “T”
  6. Little Rail Job
  7. The Little Stingray That Could
  8. Surfin’ In The Summertime
  9. Back In The U.S.A.
  10. Hot Rod City
  11. Teenage Years
  12. Little Scrambler
  13. Tiger-A-Go-Go
  14. Bay City
  15. Beach Boy
  16. No Wheels
  17. Sandy
  18. Sandy (Instrumental)
  19. Somebody To Love Me
  20. Goodbye Baby
  21. Hold Me My Baby
  22. Baby Say No
  23. When Stars Shine Bright
  24. Be Good To Your Baby
Disc Two
  1. If I Had My Way
  2. Nanci
  3. Come Into My Heart
  4. So In Love
  5. Then The Rains Came
  6. Antique ’32 Studebaker Dictator Coupe
  7. I’ll Think Of Summer
  8. All American Girl
  9. Dianne, Dianne
  10. Young
  11. Winter Weather
  12. The Last Letter
  13. Walk With The Sun
  14. Brave New World
  15. Hold Onto Your Heart
  16. The Girls And The Boys
  17. Alfie
  18. 4-Cast She’ll Love Me Again
  19. Delta Day (No Time To Cry)
  20. I Wanna Be Free
  21. Daytona Beach
  22. Hey Little Girl
  23. Chapel Of Love
  24. Angelina
The Complete Recordings is going to be released on June 30, 2015 through Real Gone Music. 

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Mick Abrahams: “Revived!” (2015) CD Review

Mick Abrahams is probably still best known as the original guitarist for Jethro Tull, but he has also released several solo albums over the years. His newest, Revived!, finds him dipping into some classic rhythm and blues and rock and roll. Most of the tracks here are covers, though there are some originals too (one track was written by his son). Mick Abrahams has quite an amazing group of musicians joining him on this project, including Graham Walker on drums, Mark Feltham on vocals and harmonica, and Bill Wyman on bass. Martin Barre, who took over for Mick on guitar in Jethro Tull, joins him on guitar for one track. There are some really good tunes on this album, and its title is clearly a playful nod to Mick's recent health issues. This CD includes liner notes by Mick Abrahams, with thoughts on each of the tracks. Also in the limited edition version of this release is a bonus disc, a DVD.

Mick Abrahams kicks off the album with an original tune, “Summer Day,” a kind of heavy bluesy rock number that features Peter Eldridge on vocals, and a good bass line by John Gordon. The album actually concludes with a different version of this tune, featuring Josh Phillips on Hammond. The rest of the musicians remain the same as on the first track. “Remember” is another original song, a wonderful blues number that features Mick on lead vocals as well as guitar. “Oh, I remember you, baby/The first time I saw you I fell in love with you.” Bernie Marsden (whom you might know from Whitesnake) joins him on guitar. This track also features some fantastic and passionate work on harmonica by Paul Jones.

Most of the other tracks are covers, including three songs written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. “What About Us?” is the first of the Leiber and Stoller covers on this CD. It’s a playful number that features vocals by Mick Abrahams and Patrick Walshe, and Nick Payn on saxophone. One of the CD’s most fun tracks is the groovy rendition of “I’m A Hog For You,” also written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. Beverley Skeete does a completely delicious job on vocals, and Bill Wyman plays bass on this track. The first version I ever heard of this song was an early live version by the Grateful Dead, with a heavy blue edge due mainly to Pigpen’s influence. The version here has almost a bit of a swing to it, which is great. And I love the guitar. Beverley Skeete also provides vocals on “Poison Ivy,” another Leiber and Stoller tune. Bill Wyman is on bass for that one as well. By the way, Beverley Skeete also sings with Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings. You can hear her on the five-disc set, Collector’s Edition Box Set, which was released in 2011.

Mick Abrahams does a good job on “On The Road Again,” the Canned Heat song, which was based on an earlier blues tune. Patrick Walshe does the vocals on this track, and Mark Feltham plays harmonica. Another song I’ve loved for a long time is “Bright Lights, Big City,” and Mick Abrahams does a wonderful rendition, with a steady blues vibe. He and Paul Jones share vocal duties on this track, and Paul Jones also plays a mean harmonica. Bernie Marsden is on guitar, and Jim Rodford is on bass (you likely know Jim from his work with The Kinks). This version does seem to end a bit prematurely.

Another highlight for me is “Goodnight Irene.” I’m not sure I’ve ever heard a bad version of this song. It’s just one of those inherently excellent tunes. And Mick Abrahams delivers an interesting take on it, giving it a soft blues edge, which works so well. He sings lead, but has some backup singers on the chorus. He also plays slide guitar on this track. Paul Jones is on harmonica.

Instrumental Tracks

This CD includes several instrumental tracks. The first, “Elz. & Abys Jam,” is a groovy track, with Chris Gore on keyboard, and a brass section. Elliott Randall (whom you probably know from Steely Dan) joins Mick on guitar. Mick and Elliott co-wrote this one. They also co-wrote “North By North West,” a great bluesy instrumental track which features just the two of them on guitar.

“Dragonfly” is a kind of sweet and pretty instrumental track, written by Alex Abrahams, Mick’s son, and performed by just the two of them on guitar. This is actually one of my favorite tracks. “Red River Rock” is a seriously fun instrumental, with both Nick Payn and Frank Mead on saxophone. Frank Mead also plays squeezebox on this track. Geoff Whitehorn is on guitar, and George Muranyi is on keys.

Bonus DVD

The second disc of the limited edition release of this album is a DVD, which contains an introduction by Mick Abrahams, where he talks about his health, mentioning the stroke he suffered from. He also talks about the song choices for the album, and the many musicians who appear on these tracks. Mick has a sweet, kind of playful disposition, and speaks highly of those working with him.

There is also footage from the studio, including the band working on “Nadine,” “On The Road Again,” “What About Us” and “Hungry For Love.” There are also some outtakes from Mick’s interview.

CD Track List
  1. Summer Day
  2. What About Us?
  3. Elz. & Abys Jam
  4. On The Road Again
  5. Nadine
  6. Remember
  7. I Can Tell
  8. I’m A Hog For You
  9. Bright Lights, Big City
  10. Dragonfly
  11. Boney Moronie
  12. Goodnight Irene
  13. Poison Ivy
  14. Red River Rock
  15. North By North West
  16. Hungry For Love
  17. Summer Day 
I’m not sure of the exact release date of Revived! According to the press release, it was released on April 7, 2015. According to the Gonzo Multimedia site, it will be released on June 29, 2015 (but that’s a Monday, which seems odd). And according to Amazon, it will be released on July 24, 2015. Well, whatever the release date, fifty percent of all royalties made from the sales of this CD will go to a children’s charity. To get the edition with the DVD, you have to order it directly from Gonzo Multimedia.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Bill Payne, Eva Lindal, Carol Liebowitz: “Payne, Lindal, Liebowitz” (2015) CD Review

The new, self-titled CD from Bill Payne, Eva Lindal and Carol Liebowitz is a strange, sometimes joyous, sometimes unsettling album. The music was completely improvised, and recorded in one day in June of 2012, with Bill Payne on clarinet, Eva Lindal on violin and Carol Liebowitz on piano. These musicians each have such interesting and diverse backgrounds, which clearly come into play in these improvised pieces. Bill Payne actually worked with the Ringling Bros. circus for several years, as well as other circuses. Eva Lindal is from Stockholm, and has been a member of KammarensembleN since 2008, and is also a member of Katzen Kapell. Carol Liebowitz attended the High School of Performing Arts and NYU, and is a singer in addition to being a pianist. You can hear her vocal work on Time On My Hands, a CD she recorded with Any Fite. One common element among the three musicians is Connie Crothers, with whom they've worked and studied. And of course they share a love of improvisation.

“Ever Since,” the CD’s opening track, has an oddly unsettling effect as each instrument gives us what feels like its own memory, its own feeling. It is somewhat pretty, somewhat haunting. And then they combine, reaching a moment together and building in intensity from there, before separating again, and then rising again together. It’s like toward the end they’ve accepted some common fate, perhaps even finding delight in it.

“It Happened This Way” has a more playful feel, though perhaps a bit disjointed at first, like each trying to tell a slightly different story simultaneously, but then teasing each other. It’s really interesting, the way the instruments converse, each having its own personality, then come together.

“Unspoken” begins softly, with a kind of eerie atmosphere. The strange little touches on each instrument work on your imagination, as you fill in the spaces with whatever might be preying on your mind. It’s followed by “B/E,” a delightful and playful track, like a sprite frolicking throughout the woods, perhaps looking for a bit of mischief, and quickly finding some playfellows and soon beginning a fanciful dance. This is one of my favorite tracks.

“Preludes” is another highlight for me. It’s an interesting track. The violin opens, with something urgent to say, grabbing out attention in fits and starts, then suddenly disappearing as the clarinet more gently announces its presence. It has a more joyous, pleasantly excited vibe. Then it too backs off for the piano to enter. The piano conveys both beauty and chaos, sweetness and anger. Then all three come together, bringing their various views and emotions into one intriguing piece. Things can get a little crazy, a little intense at moments. And the following track, “Holus Bolus,” is a wild, chaotic, excited piece, as if the voice of each instrument is striving desperately for our attention. Holus-bolus means “all at once; in one lump.”

“What We Are Saying” is kind of an odd track, and the title is appropriate, as in one section there are actually some vocals, though they’re my least favorite element of this track. My favorite sections are actually the solos. The CD concludes with “’Til Always,” which is another highlight for me. It's so pretty at times. It feels like a relationship of love and compromises, differing opinions, but so much passion.

CD Track List
  1. Ever Since
  2. It Happened This Way
  3. Unspoken
  4. B/E
  5. If Then
  6. Glissade
  7. Preludes
  8. Holus Bolus
  9. What We Are Saying
  10. Blue Flame
  11. ‘Til Always 
Payne, Lindal, Liebowitz was released on June 5, 2015 through Line Art Records, a new label. I don’t usually mention CD artwork, but in this case I have to point out that the painting on the inside cover is wonderful. It was done by Jeff Schlanger, and I cannot conceive a reason as to why it wasn’t used on the front cover.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Innovators In Music: Mickey Hart (2013) DVD Review

This DVD contains an episode of the Innovators In Music television series, which was filmed in 2010. It was shot at Mickey Hart’s home and studio in Sonoma County, California. Mickey is allowed to sort of narrate the show himself, though the filmed interviews. There is no introduction or information from outside sources. What the episode does is take us into the thoughts and drives of one of the world’s most interesting drummers.

Early on he mentions playing with the Grateful Dead and his other groups, saying, “All are part of my search for the meaning of life, and also what my place is in the infinite universe.” He talks about how even as a child he was drawn to the various sounds of things, from rain to wrecking balls. He says that music is “like nourishment for me.” And of course there is plenty of great drumming in this episode. We see Mickey perform in his studio, along with Zakir Hussein and Sikiru Adepoju.

This show also takes us into Mickey’s art studio, where he shows a bit of the process of creating his art. He talks about the relation between his painting (visual art) and his music, and how all of this comes from his philosophy and outlook on life and reality. “That’s what art is really all about: expressing the unknown in a form that you can share with someone else.”

Bonus Features

The actual episode is only twenty-four minutes long, but the DVD contains plenty of bonus material. The first, Ballophone Jam, shows Mickey, Zakir and Sikiru performing in his studio, with touches of “Fire On The Mountain,” which Mickey co-wrote, and a bit of banter at the end. This is approximately eight minutes long. Mickey Hart On His Instruments has Mickey talking about some of his instruments and demonstrating them, including a nice, close look at the Beam, which Grateful Dead fans will recall from the “Drums” segment of those concerts. This feature is approximately eight minutes.

Obama Rap is a segment of Mickey, Zakir and Sikiru performing in the studio a song that uses samples from speeches. A bit of this is seen in the program. If you watch closely, you’ll see little typed notes taped to an instrument. One of them reads, “Obama & Limbaugh Convo.” This is approximately nine and a half minutes. The Beast Jam is another musical segment, in which Mickey plays the Beast, a set of large drums that Grateful Dead fans will remember.

The bonus material also includes interviews with both Sikiru Adepoju and Zakir Hussein. Sikiru talks about the talking drum and its uses, and plays it for us. The sticks he uses are actually rolled leather. He also talks about first meeting Mickey Hart. Zakir also talks about meeting Mickey Hart, and about combining tradition with modern methods in music, particularly in drumming. The Sikiru Adepoju interview is approximately twelve and a half minutes; the Zakir Hussein interview is approximately seven minutes.

Innovators In Music: Mickey Hart was directed by Daniel Berman, and was released on DVD on August 6, 2013.