Monday, September 1, 2014

The Ides Of March: “Vehicle” (1970/2014 re-issue) CD Review

When I was twelve or thirteen, I got a classic rock compilation tape that included The Ides Of March tune “Vehicle.” And I listened to it over and over. But honestly, that was it for me. I never picked up a full-length album from the band. So most of the material on the special re-issue of Vehicle is new to me. And it’s really good. There is a lot of energy in these tracks. Check out “The Sky Is Falling” or “Time For Thinking” for example. Most of the songs are originals, written by lead vocalist/guitarist Jim Peterik, but there are also a couple of excellent covers. This re-issue contains four bonus tracks, as well as new liner notes by Richie Unterberger, with thoughts from some band members.


The album kicks off with the title track, the song the band is most known for. It’s a tune with a great beat and some expressive and excellent work on horns. I’ve always loved the way Jim Peterik delivers the line “Great god in heaven, you know I love you.” And then there is that fantastic guitar part right afterwards. This is such a fun tune, and as a single it reached #2 on the U.S. chart.

That song is followed by “Factory Band,” a Creedence Clearwater-type song, a sort of homage to that great band, with references to their early rehearsal space and some of their tunes. But the song is a good rock number in its own right.


“Home” is quite a bit different from other tracks. Right at the start it sounds like a certain section of “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’.” Then when the vocals come in, the song sounds like something Neil Diamond might have done at the time. Seriously. But it’s not long before it takes on its own life, and I like the song. I know I’ve said it before, but I need to make a mix CD of songs titled “Home.” There are certainly a lot of them, and I’ve yet to hear a bad one.

“Wooden Ships”

“Wooden Ships” is such a great song by CSN, and The Ides Of March do a truly interesting and unusual rendition of it, mixing in parts of Jethro Tull’s “Dharma For One,” opening with some work on drums, followed by bright tones on horn. It’s wild. And then a couple of minutes in, it calms down and becomes much closer to the CSN original. This is an excellent track, one of the CD’s highlights for me.

There is some great energy in "Time For Thinking," a horn-driven, funky, past-paced rock song. Listening to this track (and others), you get the sense this band must have been something to see in concert.

“Eleanor Rigby”

The original album ended with the band’s take on The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby,” titled “Symphony For Eleanor (Eleanor Rigby).” It opens with a good, mean groove, and builds into something rather wonderful. It breathes, pauses, sways, grows, investigates. The vocals don’t come in for the first minute and a half or so. I love the way the “Father McKenzie” verse is delivered. This is certainly one of the best covers of “Eleanor Rigby.” And in the liner notes, Larry Millas is quoted as saying, “the version on the record is nowhere near as good as we used to do it.” Holy shit! I’d love to hear a live recording of this one. This track is nearly ten minutes long, but apparently in concert they played even longer versions.

Bonus Tracks

The CD includes four bonus tracks, all of which were previously released as singles. The first, "High On A Hillside," was the flip side to the “One Woman Man” 1969 single. It features some really nice blending of vocals. "Lead Me Home, Gently" was the flip side of the “Vehicle” single, and is a softer tune. “Melody” was another single in 1970, and it’s a lively track with a great feel to it. The final track is the single version of “Vehicle.”

CD Track List
  1. Vehicle
  2. Factory Band
  3. The Sky Is Falling
  4. Home
  5. Wooden Ships/Dharma For One
  6. Bald Medusa
  7. Aire Of Good Feeling
  8. Time For Thinking
  9. One Woman Man
  10. Symphony For Eleanor (Eleanor Rigby)
  11. High On A Hillside
  12. Lead Me Home, Gently
  13. Melody
  14. Vehicle (single version)
This special re-issue of Vehicle is scheduled to be released on September 2, 2014 through Real Gone Music.

September 2014 Concert Calendar

I started this blog to let people know about all the good music that's out there. Sometimes folks become a bit negative about the state of the music industry. I understand, but there is a tremendous amount of excellent music if you just look for it. Here is a list of concerts you might be interested in for the month of September, 2014. Most of these are bands 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 as much as I can throughout the month.

September 1, 2014  (Monday)
Kelley Mickwee  -  Lost Love Saloon, Red River, NM  -  5:00 p.m.

September 2, 2014  (Tuesday)
Kelley Mickwee  -   Lost Love Saloon, Red River, NM  -  5:00 p.m.
Willie Nile  -  Triple Door, Seattle, WA

September 3, 2014  (Wednesday)
Kelley Mickwee  -   The Adobe Bar at The Taos Inn, Taos, NM  -  7:00 p.m.
Patrolled By Radar  -  Lucky Joe's Sidewalk Saloon, 25 Old Town Square, Fort Collins, CO  -  9:00 p.m.
Martin Sexton  -  Denver Botanic Gardens, Denver, CO
Seth Walker  -  Music City Roots, Nashville, TN

September 4, 2014  (Thursday)
Bombadil  -  Bullfrog Brewery, Williamsport, PA  -  8:00 p.m.
Ruthie Foster  -  Dosey Doe, The Woodlands, TX
Willie Nile  -  Saint Rocke,  Hermosa Beach, CA
Patrolled By Radar  -   Davey's Uptown Ramblers Club, Kansas City, MO  -  9:00 p.m.
Ellis Paul 20th Century Theater, 3021 Madison Road, Cincinnati, OH  -  8:00 p.m. 

September 5, 2014  (Friday)
Bombadil  -   Tellus 360, Lancaster, PA  -  8:30 p.m.
Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven  -  Club Congress, Tucson, AZ
Ruthie Foster  -   Paramount Theatre, Austin, TX
John Gorka  -  Rubin Museum Of Art, New York, NY
Sarah Jaffe  -  Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL
Kelley Mickwee  -   Michael Hearne's Big Barndance Music Festival, Taos, NM
Willie Nile  -  McCabe's, Santa Monica, CA
Red Molly  -  Club Passim, Cambridge, MA  -  7:00 p.m. 
Red Molly  -  Club Passim, Cambridge, MA  -  9:30 p.m.
Seth Walker  -   Sails Music Series, Hickory, NC

September 6, 2014  (Saturday)
Bombadil  -   Ram's Head On Stage, Annapolis, MD  -  1:30 p.m.
Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven  -   Crescent Ballroom, Phoenix, AZ
Ruthie Foster  -   Sam's Burger Joint Music Hall, San Antonio, TX
Gaelic Storm  -  Shock Top Oyster Fest, Chicago, IL 
John Gorka  -   Voices United, Chevy Chase, MD
The Howlin' Brothers  -  Take Me To The River Music And Arts Festival, Hastings-On-Hudson, NY  -  5:25 p.m.
Patrolled By Radar  -   Black Swamp Arts Festival, Bowling Green, OH  -  3:00 p.m.
Patrolled By Radar  -  Stones Throw, E. 176 Wooster St., Bowling Green, OH  -  11:00 p.m.
Ellis Paul Open Books, 213 W. Institute Place, Chicago, IL  -  2:00 p.m.
Ellis Paul  -  Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago, IL  -  8:00 p.m. 
Red Molly  -   CT Folk Festival, Edgerton Park, New Haven, CT  -  8:30 p.m.
Seth Walker  -   The Garage, Winston-Salem, NC
Bob Weir And RatDog  -  Festival Pier at Penn's Landing, Philadelphia, PA

September 7, 2014 (Sunday)
Bombadil  -   The Camel, 1621 W. Broad St., Richmond, VA  -  9:00 p.m.
Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven  -   Backstage Bar, Las Vegas, NV
John Gorka  -   Colorscape Chenango Arts And Music Festival, Norwich, NY
Willie Nile  -  Club Passim, Cambridge, MA
Patrolled By Radar  -   Black Swamp Arts Festival, Bowling Green, OH  - 1:00 p.m.
Ellis Paul The Ark, 316 S Main St, Ann Arbor, MI  -  7:30 p.m.  
Red Molly  -   Turning Point, Piermont, NY  -  4:00 p.m.
Red Molly  -   Turning Point, Piermont, NY  -  7:00 p.m. 
Seth Walker  -   Birchmere, Alexandria, VA

September 8, 2014  (Monday)
Ellis Paul  -   Lyric Theater, 300 E. 3rd Street, Lexington, KY  -  6:45 p.m.

September 9, 2014  (Tuesday)
Sarah Jaffe  -   Iron Works, Buffalo, NY
Seth Walker  -   Atwood's Tavern, Cambridge, MA
Bob Weir And RatDog  -   PNC Pavilion, Cincinnati, OH

September 10, 2014  (Wednesday)
The Evangenitals  -  Bombs Away Cafe, Corvallis, OR
Steve Forbert  -  Eddie's Attic, Decatur, GA
The Howlin' Brothers  -   SPACE, Evanston, IL  -  7:00 p.m.
Sarah Jaffe  -   Port City Music Hall, Portland, ME
Bob Weir And RatDog  -   Jacob's Pavilion, Cleveland, OH

September 11, 2014 (Thursday)
Cloud Cult  - Vaudeville Mews, Iowa City, IA
Judy Collins  -  Iron Horse Music Hall, Northampton, MA
Steve Forbert  -   Blumenthal, Charlotte, NC
The Howlin' Brothers  -   KAXE Amphitheatre, Grand Rapids, MN
Sarah Jaffe  -   Great Scott, Allston, MA
Patrolled By Radar  -    The Armoury, Denver, CO  -  10:00 p.m.
Ellis Paul  -  The Four Corners / Flying Goose Brewpub, 40 Andover Road, New London, NH  -  8:00 p.m.
Melvern Taylor And His Fabulous Meltones  -  Toad, Cambridge, MA  -  7:30 p.m.
Seth Walker  -   Hill Country Live, New York, NY

September 12, 2014  (Friday)
Bombadil  -   The Fishin' Pig, Farmville, VA  -  7:30 p.m.
Cloud Cult  - The Waiting Room, Omaha, NE
Judy Collins  -  Iron Horse Music Hall, Northampton, MA 
The Evangenitals  -  Axe And Fiddle, Cottage Grove, OR  -  8:00 p.m.
Steve Forbert  - The Arts Center, Carrboro, NC
Gaelic Storm  -   Michigan Irish Music Festival, Muskegon, MI
John Gorka  -   Fresno Folklore Society at Frank's Place, Fresno, CA
Dan Hicks And The Hot Licks  -  McCabe's, Santa Monica, CA
Sarah Jaffe  -   The SPACE, Hamden, CT
Mingo Fishtrap  -  Phases Of The Moon Festival, Kennekuk County Park, Danville, IL
Patrolled By Radar  -    Taos Mesa Brewing Company, El Prado, NM  -  9:00 p.m.
Ellis Paul  - Old Sloop Coffeehouse, 12 School Street, Rockport, MA  -  7:30 p.m. 
Peter Rowan  -  Javarita Coffee House, Tucson, AZ
Martin Sexton  -   The Ark, Ann Arbor, MI
Seth Walker  -   Narrows Center For The Arts, Fall River, MA
Bob Weir And RatDog  -   Phases Of The Moon Festival, Kennekuk County Park, Danville, IL

September 13, 2014  (Saturday)
Bombadil  -   Indie Music And Arts Festival, Norfolk, VA  -  5:00 p.m.
Cloud Cult  - Bluebird Theatre, Denver, CO
Antje Duvekot  -  Private show
Steve Forbert  - Jammin Java, Vienna, VA
Gaelic Storm  -   Michigan Irish Music Festival, Muskegon, MI
John Gorka  -  Creekside Folk Music Festival, Atascadero, CA 
The Howlin' Brothers  -   Legendary Waters Resort And Casino, Red Cliff, WI
I See Hawks In L.A.  -  Frog Town Art Walk, RAC Design Building, Los Angeles, CA  -  8:00 p.m.
Sarah Jaffe  -   Mercury Lounge, New York, NY
Kelley Mickwee  -   Saxon Pub, Austin, TX  -  5:00 p.m.
Mingo Fishtrap  -  Phases Of The Moon Festival, Kennekuk County Park, Danville, IL
Miss Tess And The Talkbacks  -  Madison Square Park, New York, NY
Patrolled By Radar  -    Thunder Road Cantina, Route 66 Casino Hotel, Albuquerque, NM  -  9:00 p.m.
Ellis Paul First Parish Church, 1446 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA  -  7:30 p.m.
Peter Rowan  -   Pepsi Amphitheater, Flagstaff, AZ
Martin Sexton  -   Phases Of The Moon Festival, Kennekuk County Park, Danville, IL
Seth Walker  -   The Press Room, Portsmouth, NH
Bob Weir And RatDog  -   Thomas Wolfe Auditorium, Asheville, NC

September 14, 2014  (Sunday)
Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven  -   The Echoplex, Los Angeles, CA
The Evangenitals  -   Jade Lounge, Portland, OR  -  6:00 p.m.
Gaelic Storm  -    The Ark, Ann Arbor, MI
John Gorka  -   McCabe's, Santa Monica, CA
The Howlin' Brothers  - Vaudeville Mews, Des Moines, IA  -  7:30 p.m.
Sarah Jaffe  -   The Barbary, Philadelphia, PA
Red Molly  -    Tribes Hill Music Festival, Katonah, NY
Peter Rowan  -   Pepsi Amphitheater, Flagstaff, AZ
Bob Weir And RatDog  -   The Woods Amphitheatre, Nashville, TN

September 15, 2014  (Monday)
Cloud Cult  - Urban Lounge, Salt Lake City, UT
Ruthie Foster  -   HighLine Ballroom, New York, NY
Mingo Fishtrap  -   Fat Fish Pub, Galesburg, IL

September 16, 2013  (Tuesday)
Ruthie Foster  -   World Cafe Live, Philadelphia, PA
Gaelic Storm  -    The Arts Center, Athens, TN
Sarah Jaffe  -   CATTIVO, Pittsburgh, PA
James McMurtry  -  Lagunitas Amphitheatre, Petaluma, CA
Mingo Fishtrap  -   City Winery, Chicago, IL

September 17, 2014  (Wednesday)
Cloud Cult  - Great American Music Hall, San Francisco, CA
Steve Forbert  -   One Longfellow Square, Portland, ME
Ruthie Foster  -   The Howard Theatre, Washington, D.C.
Gaelic Storm  -    Eastern Kentucky University Center For The Arts, Richmond, KY
Sarah Jaffe  -   DC9, Washington, D.C.
Patrolled By Radar  -    The Joint, 8771 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, CA  -  10:00 p.m.

September 18, 2014  (Thursday)
Cloud Cult  - Troubadour, Los Angeles, CA
Steve Forbert  -  Club Passim, Cambridge, MA
Gaelic Storm  -    Paramount Arts Center, Ashland, KY
Sarah Jaffe  -   Strange Matter, Richmond, VA
Kelley Mickwee  -   Double Door Inn, Charlotte, NC
Mingo Fishtrap  - Bijou Theatre, Knoxville, TN

September 19, 2014  (Friday)
Bombadil  -   Bristol Rhythm And Roots Reunion, Bristol, TN
Steve Forbert  - Iron Horse, Northampton, MA
Ruthie Foster  -   Johnny D's Restaurant And Music Club, Somerville, MA
Gaelic Storm  -    Neighborhood Theatre, Charlotte, NC
Eliza Gilkyson  -  McCabe's, Santa Monica, CA
The Howlin' Brothers  -   3rd & Lindsley, Nashville, TN  -  10:00 p.m.
Sarah Jaffe  -   Kings, Raleigh, NC
Kelley Mickwee  -   Grey Eagle, Asheville, NC
Mingo Fishtrap  - Lincoln Theatre, Raleigh, NC
Ellis Paul   -  Court Square Theatre, 41 Court Square, Harrisonburg, VA  -  8:00 p.m. 
Red Molly  -    Bristol Rhythm And Roots Reunion, Bristol, TN 
Cheryl Wheeler and Chris Trapper  -  Club Passim, Cambridge, MA 
Yonder Mountain String Band  -  Kinfolk Celebration at Planet Bluegrass Ranch, Lyons, CO

September 20, 2014  (Saturday)
Antje Duvekot  -   Rose Garden Coffeehouse, Mansfield, MA
Steve Forbert  -   The Kennett Flash, Kennett Square, PA
Ruthie Foster  -   Payomet Performing Arts Center, Truro, MA
Gaelic Storm  -    Highland Brewing Company, Asheville, NC
John Gorka  -   Chatfield Center For The Arts, Chatfield, MN
The Howlin' Brothers  -   Bowman House Concerts, Lawrenceville, GA
Sarah Jaffe  -   The Milestone, Charlotte, NC
James McMurtry  -   Rally Round Greenville, Greenville, TX
Kelley Mickwee  -   Bristol Rhythm And Roots Festival, Bristol, TN
Miss Tess And The Talkbacks  -   3rd & Lindsley, Nashville, TN
Yonder Mountain String Band  -  Kinfolk Celebration at Planet Bluegrass Ranch, Lyons, CO

September 21, 2014  (Sunday)
David Bromberg  -  McCabe's, Santa Monica, CA
The Howlin' Brothers  -   The Crimson Moon Cafe, Dahlonega, GA
Sarah Jaffe  -   The End, Nashville, TN
Kelley Mickwee  -   Southland Ballroom, Raleigh, NC
Mingo Fishtrap  - Music Farm, Columbia, SC

September 22, 2014  (Monday)

September 23, 2014  (Tuesday)
The Howlin' Brothers  -   The Willow Tree Coffeehouse And Music Room, Johnston City, TN
Sarah Jaffe  -   The Taft, Cincinnati, OH
Mingo Fishtrap  -   Brooklyn Arts Center, Wilmington, NC

September 24, 2014  (Wednesday)
Sarah Jaffe  -   Beachland Tavern, Cleveland, OH

September 25, 2014  (Thursday)
Ruthie Foster  -   Private show, Dallas, TX
The Howlin' Brothers  -   World Cafe at The Queen World Cafe Live, Wilmington, DE  -  8:00 p.m.
Sarah Jaffe  -   The Magic Bag, Ferndale, MI
Patrolled By Radar  -    El Cid, 4212 Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake, CA  -  9:00 p.m.
Ellis Paul Calliope Center Stage Concerts, 6300 Fifth Ave., Shadyside, PA  -  7:30 p.m. 
Red Wanting Blue  -  The Bluebird, Bloomington, IN 
Melvern Taylor And His Fabulous Meltones  -  Toad, Cambridge, MA  -  7:30 p.m. 

September 26, 2014  (Friday)
Ruthie Foster  -   Levitt Pavilion, Arlington, TX
I See Hawks In L.A.  -   Santa Monica 3rd Street Promenade, Santa Monica, CA  -  noon
Sarah Jaffe  -   The Duck Room, St. Louis, MO
Mingo Fishtrap  -   Center Stage Theatre, Atlanta, GA
Ellis Paul Kennett Flash, 106 West State Street, Kennett Square, PA  -  8:00 p.m. 
Red Wanting Blue  -   Dinkey Day, Ames, IA
Peter Rowan  -    Arena Theater, Point Arena, CA
Martin Sexton  -   Waterville Opera House, Waterville, ME

September 27, 2014   (Saturday)
Ruthie Foster  -   Cassidy Park, Bogalusa, LA
The Howlin' Brothers  -   UUCY, York, PA  -  8:00 p.m.
I See Hawks In L.A.  -   The Frog Spot, 2825 Benedict St., Los Angeles, CA  -  8:00 p.m.
Sarah Jaffe  -   Blue Moose, Iowa City, IA
Mingo Fishtrap  -   The WorkPlay Theatre, Birmingham, AL
Willie Nile  -  Boulton Center For the Performing Arts, Bay Shore, NY
Ellis Paul Ashland Coffee And Tea, 100 N. Railroad Ave, Ashland, VA  -  8:00 p.m. 
Red Wanting Blue  -   Huntington Music And Arts Festival, Huntington, WV
Peter Rowan  -    Humboldt Hills Hoedown, Redway, CA
Martin Sexton  -   Colonial Theatre, Bethlehem, NH

September 28, 2014  (Sunday)
Kelley Mickwee  -   Hills Cafe, Austin, TX
Mingo Fishtrap  - City Winery, Nashville, TN
Geoff Muldaur  -  Club Passim, Cambridge, MA

September 29, 2014  (Monday)

September 30, 2014  (Tuesday)
The Howlin' Brothers  -   The Alternate Root TV, Norwood, MA  -  7:00 p.m.
Mingo Fishtrap  -   Rex Theater, Pittsburgh, PA

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Billy Thermal: “Billy Thermal” (2014) CD Review

Sometimes music can come at exactly the right time. I was totally stressed out about work, trying to create my first call sheet for a production, and decided to pop in the Billy Thermal disc. And it immediately made me feel better. A nice combination of rock, punk and pop, it got me feeling looser, happier, had me laughing, even dancing around as I continued to work.

It’s interesting that this disc came at just the right time for me, because this is an album that should have been released more than thirty years ago. Billy Thermal is a band that was formed in 1978 by Billy Steinberg (the man who would later co-write “Like A Virgin” and “True Colors”). This album was recorded in early 1980, but not released, and within a year the band had broken up.

All of the songs were written or co-written by Billy Steinberg. Five of these tracks were released on a record in 1982; the others remained unreleased until now. The CD includes three bonus tracks, all demos. Also, there are liner notes by Billy Steinberg.

“I Tell You My Dream”

The album opens with “I Tell You My Dream,” an excellent rock tune with a good steady beat. I was just talking with someone the other day about this – about how rock music was so much fun at this time. I love the sound and feel of this track, particularly the chorus. And those delicious ya-yas give it an excellent summer feel, and some tasty guitar licks make this one of those perfect rock songs. Plus, it has some cool lyrics, like “I thought I was a schizo/I thought I was romantic” and “I think I could remember but I’m a little sleepy yet/There was a German Shepherd/He had a rabbit in his teeth.”

Linda Ronstadt

Linda Ronstadt covered “How Do I Make You” on her 1980 album Mad Love and as a single, and had a hit with it. This too has a fun rock vibe, and is also related to dreams, one line being “How do I make you dream about me?” In the liner notes for this release, Billy Steinberg mentions that he was seeing an analyst at the time, so perhaps that is why dreams were on his mind.

I really dig “Control.” It has a bit of a bouncy feel to it that is catchy, particularly on the chorus. And it has lyrics we can all relate to: “I lost control/You lost control.” I also like the line, “You had chemistry on your side.”

Pat Benatar

“Precious Time” is one that was covered by Pat Benatar. In fact, she used it as the title track for her 1981 release. This original version is actually a bit shorter than Pat Benatar’s rendition, not having that wild lead guitar section and the long ending. This song has a darker feel in the verses, with lyrics that fit the tone, opening with these lines: “I don’t want to argue about who was the victim/’Cause maybe we both got burned/I don’t want to talk about who was the traitor/’Cause both of our loyalties turned.” But the lines “I don’t want to hear about who was the winner/’Cause we both know it’s a tie” strike me as funny, and the chorus has a brighter pop feel, with a positive seize-the-day message.

“I’m Gonna Follow You” was also recorded by Pat Benatar, and included on her excellent 1980 LP, Crimes Of Passion. This is the one song on the album that Billy co-wrote, Ralph McCarthy being his collaborator on this track (though he wasn’t credited on the Pat Benatar record). This is such a cool tune. Here is a taste of the lyrics: “I’m gonna follow you ‘til I wear you down/I’m gonna follow you ‘cause this here’s my town/You don’t know these streets the way that I do/You can’t turn it on and off the way that I do.” It was included on a 1980 compilation titled Sharp Cuts – New Music From American Bands.

“I’m Your Baby”

“I’m Your Baby” is one of my favorites. It’s totally fucking delightful, and that “Ooh” makes me smile every time. I really love the lyrics, with some lines standing out as humorous, such as “I would like to help you lose control” and “When you kiss me, your ruby lips leave a stain.”

“They Didn’t See It” is such a strange pop song, with lyrics that make me laugh out loud, like “The child was sweet just like Narcissus/There was a budding psychosis/But the parents’ eyes were out of focus.”

Bonus Tracks

The CD contains three bonus tracks. The first, “Don’t Look At Me,” was covered by Rick Nelson (though in that version Rick sings, “Don’t look at me with those sad eyes”). It’s a seriously good rock song in which a man tries to get his girl to stop being jealous, to stop accusing him. “You got the whole world to fight with/You shouldn't fight with me.” And I love at the beginning how he sings, “I don’t care who said so,” then immediately asks, “Who said so? Spit it out.” Wonderful.

“Chez Metz” has a good vibe with a bit of a reggae thing happening (I like that work on bass), then mixed with a rock and roll drive. “I don’t know where everybody is now/Selling insurance or under the influence/We fell out of touch, it don’t matter that much.”

The CD’s final track, “Fa Fa Feelings,” is a bit goofy, but kind of catchy. And I like the line, “Too many buttons, baby, on your dress.”

CD Track List

  1. I Tell You My Dream
  2. How Do I Make You
  3. Control
  4. The Price I Pay
  5. Precious Time
  6. I’m Your Baby
  7. They Didn’t See It
  8. I Need You
  9. I’m Gonna Follow You
  10. Julie
  11. Mirror Man
  12. No Connection
  13. Don’t Look At Me (demo)
  14. Chez Metz (demo)
  15. Fa Fa Feelings (demo) 

Billy Thermal is Billy Steinberg on lead vocals, Craig Hull on guitar, Bob Carlisle on bass and backing vocals, and Efren Espinosa on drums and backing vocals.

Billy Thermal was released on August 12, 2014 through Omnivore Recordings.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Soul Of Designer Records (2014) Box Set Review

The Soul Of Designer Records is a four-disc box set containing nearly five hours of gospel music from the 1960s and 1970s. You don’t have to be religious to enjoy this set. There is a lot of great music contained on these discs, music that is impossible to dislike regardless of your personal philosophy and spirituality. There is a lot of passion in these recordings. These singles are, of course, dominated by some phenomenal vocals, but it’s the artists’ obvious love of music that really makes these tracks shine.

Interestingly, the artists and groups on these discs paid to record their singles, sometimes on an installment plan. It’s a bit surprising to me just how great these tracks are, considering how they came about. You’d think that bands that had to pay to record their material might not be so hot. But these tracks (with just a few exceptions) are seriously good. And the box set includes just over one hundred songs.

The packaging is like that of a double LP. The liner notes booklet is the size of a record, and includes some information on the artists and on the folks behind the label. There are also several photos. I only wish the liner notes included the original release dates for these records.

Gospel Songbirds

This collection begins with a couple of tracks by the Gospel Songbirds. The first, “Tone The Bells Easy,” features some cool guitar (the opening lick makes it seems like this will be a rock and roll tune) and amazing vocals. How can you go wrong? The energy, the power, the passion are quite moving. And I love when that slow soul groove comes in (more than a minute into the song), and the way the vocals rise above it, like the song is both grounded and reaching great heights simultaneously. This is such a great track to open this collection.

Dynamic Hughes Gospel Singers

“Viet Nam” is a really good soul song tackling that giant 1960s political subject. “I’ve just arrived in Viet Nam/Lord, let me survive/Now, here I am.” The song also mentions segregation. There is some simple, but very effective work on organ.

Twilight Singers

“Tone The Bells,” from Twilight Singers, is a slow, glorious, mesmerizing track, and is one of the highlights for me. The flip side, “Climbing High Mountains,” is a more fun, catchy song, and another excellent track. “I’m climbing high mountains, trying to get home.”

Sensational Family Singers

“I’ll Go” is a rockin’ number by Sensational Family Singers, featuring Gilford Evans, with the lead vocals ripping and tearing. I can’t imagine he could keep singing like that for very long, but it’s wild to hear. “Listen to this,” he sings before delivering something between a scream and a sort of pleasant growl.

The Shaw Singers

“After Awhile,” by The Shaw Singers, is such an interesting track, combining gospel and country, with pedal steel as a prominent element. I really like this one a lot. “God Has Done So Much For Me” is wonderful gospel song, dominated by vocals and piano. It’s a song of rejoicing and praise, with lines like “When I was a stranger/You know, the Lord he turned me about/He’ll be a mother and a father too/He’ll do things no one else can do” and “Change my midnight into day.”

This collection also includes The Shaw Singers’ “Since He Touched Me.” I couldn’t help but take the song’s first line, “Yes, I’ve got a new way of walking since he touched me,” in a different way from what the group intended. That being said, this is a really nice track. But then I laughed again when I heard them sing, “I’ve got a brand new home since he touched me.” Clearly, the court settlement was significant.

Soul Superiors Of Detroit, MI

I love the sound of Soul Superiors’ “Whatever You Do, Do Good,” a gorgeous, relaxed soul track with some wonderful (and surprising) changes in the vocals, in the way the song is delivered. This is an all-round wonderful track, one of the collection’s highlights.

And the second track by this group, “A Great Day,” has a fantastic joy that will transfer to you as you listen. It has shades of Little Richard.

Alberta Powell

Alberta Powell delivers two excellent blues-gospel tracks, with some wonderful work on guitar and smooth backing vocals. I believe Alberta when she sings in “Trusted,” “Lord, I’ll make it somehow/Yes, I’ll make it somehow.” Of the two tracks, I prefer “Trusted” (it is one of the collection’s highlights), but “The Same God” is also really good.

The Jubilee Hummingbirds

One of my favorite groups to be featured in this collection is The Jubilee Hummingbirds. Their first track, “Stand By Me,” has such a cool sound (almost like garage gospel at times), with some excellent vocal work. I love it. The flip side, “Something Within Me,” has a happier, excited feel, with the humorous line, “I met Jesus one Thursday” near the end.

“I Won’t Have To Cry No More” has such a good groove, and the backing vocalists’ repetition of the title line is wonderful. The lead singer refers to the others (and perhaps the listeners) as “church,” like in the line, “Did you hear me, church?

The rock groove of “A Sinner’s Plea” actually reminds me of very early Grateful Dead. Yeah, it’s great, and comes at you with full force. If church had sounded like this when I was a kid, I must have stuck with it. Who knows?

The Breckenridge Singers

The Breckenridge deliver a delicious dose of blues in “God Is Ruler From Above,” a tune with more fantastic vocals. “Aren’t you glad?” Oh yes.

The Fantastic Alphonzo Thomas

That one is followed by another excellent track, this one by The Fantastic Alphonzo Thomas. “I’m On My Way” is a lot of fun, with some nice work on piano. “I had a mighty hard time, Lord/But I’m on my way.” This is one of my favorites. I just wish it were a bit longer, as it seems to fade out too soon.

O’Neal And The Dean Brothers

O’Neal And The Dean Brothers provide another of this set’s highlights with “I Am Going Home,” a seriously good R&B track. “The ABC’s” is a bit silly as it goes through the entire alphabet to describe Jesus: “J, his name is Jesus/K, he is king of them all/L, he is a mighty good leader.”

“Don’t Give Up” is an interesting rock tune, playing on a simple groove. It might feel repetitive, but I got into that groove. Much better is their “It’s Your Life,” with nice vocals and some good work on both guitar and organ. “It’s your life/Live it like you want to/Ain’t nobody gonna tell you what to do.” This is one of my favorite tracks of this set.

Traveling Stars

“Beautiful Mansion” is a good little rock and soul tune in the same realm as some of James Brown’s work. It’s a fun track, even if it’s a bit repetitive. And I dig that bass line.

Golden Travelers

“Too Close To Turn Around” is such a fantastic track, with excellent, emotional, passionate vocals, and a slow, powerful groove. This track from Golden Travelers is one of the highlights of this set, just one hell of a great song.

George Shields And His Gospel Singers

“God’s Word Will Never Pass Away” by George Shields And His Gospel Singers is another track that stands out for me, with its back porch blues feel and those glorious vocals over that great guitar. They keep it simple, keep it honest, and it works so well.

The Southland Singers

The Southland Singers’ “When The Gates Open” is another absolutely wonderful track. The backing vocals are excellent, the bass is perfect, the groove gets me smiling. This is a phenomenal tune.

Joe Townsend

Joe Townsend provides some classic blues, with a couple of recordings that sound decades older than they are. Here is a guy in complete command of the music, with an honesty and authenticity. There is a small crowd, like these songs were recorded in a tavern somewhere, or in someone’s home for the best private show ever. “You know I don’t want to stop,” he sings in “Going Over The Hill.”

The Original Golden Stars

Things get kind of funky with The Original Golden Stars’ “Nobody’s Fault But Mine," a fun track that is some strange combination of funk, gospel and garage. And it rocks. “At The Red Sea” is a slower track, but just as cool and striking. It’s one that grabs me right away.

The Wandering Five

The Wandering Five do a cool rendition of “I’ll Fly Away,” with a slow, bluesy groove, and with backing vocalists repeating “Oh, oh yeah.”

As for the track list, since there are more than a hundred tracks, I’ve decided to take a photo of the back of the box rather than type out all the songs.

The Soul Of Designer Records is scheduled to be released on September 30, 2014 through Big Legal Mess Records.