Saturday, April 30, 2011

Dr. Demento: Holidays In Dementia (Christmas Comedy Compilation)

This CD contains some of the best Christmas comedy songs, including "The Twelve Pains Of Christmas" and "The Pretty Little Dolly."

Dr. Demento is famous for his weekly syndicated radio show, which started in the early 1970s, and which had him playing all sorts of novelty songs. Several collections of these songs have been released over the years, including Holidays In Dementia.

While this compilation focuses on funny Christmas songs and parodies, it also includes a couple of Hanukkah songs, as well as two New Year's Eve songs. For the most part, these songs are clever as well as hilarious, but there are certainly a couple of weak tunes also.

"The Twelve Pains Of Christmas"

"The Twelve Pains Of Christmas" is probably the best of the many parodies of "The Twelve Days Of Christmas." It lists all (well, not all - only twelve) things that are very annoying about the holiday, including "Five months of bills, sending Christmas cards, hangovers, rigging up the lights and finding a Christmas tree."

As the song continues, more details are added, and that's when it gets really funny, particularly the guy who is trying to rig up the Christmas lights. He gets more and more frustrated, saying, "What - we have no extension cords?" and "Now why the hell are they blinking?" and "One light goes out, they all go out."

This is a song that most everyone can relate to. It was included on the album Twisted Christmas (1987).

"Gridlock Christmas"

The Hollytones' "Gridlock Christmas" tells the story of people who are stuck in traffic and unable to get home to their loved ones. While at first they're frustrated, they end up getting out of their cars and celebrating with one another.

The Hollytones actually have two songs on this compilation, the other being "Christmas Is Coming Twice This Year." Both songs are from their 1992 album Gridlock Christmas (which was re-released in 2007).

"It's Christmas And I Wonder Where I Am"

Ah yes, "It's Christmas And I Wonder Where I Am" is about that most wonderful of holiday traditions - getting completely sloshed. The vocals are sung as if by Dudley Moore in Arthur.

Here is a taste of the lyrics: "I had a beer at my brother's/Had eggnog at my mother's/Then two bottles of wine/Which automobile is mine?/It's Christmas and I wonder where I am/Someone caught me dancing with a snowman/A policeman came and put me in his car/He said, 'Are you drunk?'/And I said, 'No, man, but could you drop me off at the next bar?'"

"It's Christmas And I Wonder Where I Am" is by The Bob & Tom Band.

"Santa Claus Is Watching You"

"Santa Claus Is Watching You" is a song about the paranoia engendered by the Santa Claus myth. The best part of this song is the alarmed little child shouting out, "He's everywhere! He's everywhere!"

This song also has Rudolph laid up from a busted hip (from a Twist contest), and his replacement is a camel named Clyde. Why not?

"Santa's Lament"

Father Guido Sarducci's "Santa's Lament" is a song sung from Santa's point of view, in which he tells people what he wants because he's sick of listening to what others want from him.

He sings, "I want out of the grind/I want some peace of mind/I want Christmas every other year/I want a Barbie doll/About five feet tall/I'm sick of being with deer all the time."

There are children doing backing vocals, demanding various items.

This song also makes fun of Rudolph, which is wonderful. "You know how long a reindeer like that would last with a nose like that in the woods come hunting season? About two minutes. He would be tied to the hood of some Pontiac, heading toward some recreation room in Michigan."

"Rusty Chevrolet"

"Rusty Chevrolet" is a parody of "Jingle Bells." Here is the chorus: "Oh, rust and smoke, the heater's broke/The door just blew away/I light a match to see the dash/And then I start to pray/The frame is bent, the muffler went/The radio, it's okay/Oh what fun it is to drive/This Rusty Chevrolet."

"Christmas Is Coming Twice This Year"

"Christmas Is Coming Twice This Year" is a wonderful little tune about how divorce affects selfish children. The girl, Ashley, says to her mom, "When we go to Dad's he gets anything we want. Are you going to let him do that to you?" She also asks, "Can't you afford to take care of me?" as she demands a larger television and a VCR.

Then it's the boy's turn. Brandon tells his father he wants a lot of pornographic magazines and weapons. When his father expresses dismay, Brandon says, "All Mom's getting me is a stupid new computer. She says that violent stuff warps my head. She never lets me watch any slasher movies like you do, Dad. You know, sometimes I wish she were dead."

The chorus is, "Christmas is coming twice this year/Once with Mommy, then again with Dad/They feel real crummy ‘cause they split up/I’ll get more presents than I’ve ever had/Grandparents falling all over themselves/To get me something really rad/Christmas is coming twice this year/And all I’ve got to do is try and look sad."

"Christmas Wrapping"

"Christmas Wrapping" by The Waitresses is absolutely one of the best Christmas songs ever written (I would say second only to The Pogues' "Fairytale Of New York"). It's totally fun, it has a great rhythm, and it has a sweet and happy ending.

It tells the story of a woman who's tired and has decided to keep the holiday low-key. She sings, "So deck those halls, trim those trees/Raise up cups of Christmas cheer/I just need to catch my breath/Christmas by myself this year."

But then forgetting cranberries leads her to sing, "So on with the boots, back out in the snow/To the only all-night grocery/When what to my wondering eyes should appear/In the line is that guy I've been chasing all year." And guess what? He forgot cranberries too. A wonderful, silly happy ending.

"Christmas Wrapping" was written by Chris Butler, and included on the 1982 record by The Waitresses, I Could Rule The World If I Could Only Get The Parts. "Christmas Wrapping" was also included on the holiday compilation A Rock 'N' Roll Christmas (1994).

"Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town"

Joseph Spence does the absolute best version of "Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town." He hardly sings it at all, just mumbles a few of the lines, and that's what helps to make it such a great version. Because, seriously, those lyrics aren't any good. And it's wonderful how he calls him "Santy Claw." And his guitar work is fantastic. This is a live recording.

For another good version of this song, check out Bruce Springsteen's rendition, which is included on the compilation, Christmas Of Hope.

"A Terrorist Christmas"

"A Terrorist Christmas" is another parody of "The Twelve Days Of Christmas," but it's pretty weak. It just lists the various weapons that the terrorist receives, and then ends in an explosion.

"The Pretty Little Dolly"

"The Pretty Little Dolly" is one of the funniest, silliest Christmas songs ever recorded. It was written by Jim Fisk, and sung by Mona Abboud. Here is a taste of the lyrics, sung in a little girl voice: "The pretty little dolly can sing/The pretty little dolly can shout/Hold her footsies high above her head, and she passes out/The pretty little dolly can plead/The pretty little dolly can beg/And she screams in realistic pain when you break her leg."

This version was recorded live at a performance on The Tonight Show in 1966. At the end, Johnny Carson can be heard laughing.

"Happy New Year"

"Happy New Year" is one of this compilation's best tracks. Spike Jones & His City Slickers take turns telling their resolutions. For example, "When I take a lovely lady out to eat/And she orders caviar instead of meat/I resolve to let the lady have her fill/And of course I'll also let her pay the bill/This is my New Year's Resolution." This recording is from 1948.

CD Track List

  1. The Twelve Pain Of Christmas - Bob Rivers Comedy Corp
  2. It's So Chic To Be Pregnant At Christmas - Nancy White
  3. Gridlock Christmas - The Hollytones
  4. It's Christmas And I Wonder Where I Am - The Bob & Tom Band
  5. Santa Claus Is Watching You - Ray Stevens
  6. Santa's Lament - Father Guido Sarducci
  7. Rusty Chevrolet - Da Yoopers
  8. Christmas Is Coming Twice This Year - The Hollytones
  9. Christmas Wrapping - The Waitresses
  10. Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town - Joseph Spence
  11. A Terrorist Christmas - James & Kling
  12. Stop The Cavalry - Jona Lewie
  13. The Pretty Little Dolly - Mona Abboud
  14. Hanukkah Rocks - Gefilte Joe & The Fish
  15. Hanukkah Homeboy - Doc Mo She
  16. Happy New Year - Spike Jones & His City Slickers
  17. New Year's Resolutions - Scary Gary Alan

This CD was released in 1995 through Rhino Records.

Christmas Of Hope (1995 Christmas Rock Compilation)

This Christmas music compilation includes songs from Bruce Springsteen, U2, James Brown and Aretha Franklin.

Christmas Of Hope was released to benefit City Of Hope National Medical Center, which is dedicated to finding cures for cancer, diabetes and other life-threatening diseases. Though this album was released in 1995, most of the recordings are from previous years. The exception is John Mellencamp's "Teddi's Song (When Christmas Comes)."

Bruce Springsteen

Bruce Springsteen introduces his famous rendition of "Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town" by saying, "It's all cold down along the beach. The wind's whipping down the boardwalk." He asks his band if they've all been good "and practicing real hard." He then asks the audience if they've been good. The audience responds. And Bruce teases them, "That's not many. You guys are in trouble out here."

This is certainly one of the only versions of this song worth listening to, mostly because Bruce Springsteen is clearly having fun with it. Another thing that makes recording worth listening to is the part where he breaks the song down and sings, "You better be good for goodness sake." He does that twice during the song. And the last thing making this worthwhile is of course Clarence Clemons on saxophone.

This is a live recording from December 12, 1975.

Mariah Carey

Mariah Carey's version of "Silent Night" isn't terrible, but because of the way the organ is played, one keeps waiting for it to break out into a bit of rock. And it doesn't. The backing vocals are really good. But the end of the song is obnoxious.


"New Year's Day" by U2 clearly isn't a Christmas song, and it really doesn't fit in with the rest of this album's selections. That being said, it's also one of this compilation's best songs. It was originally included on U2's best record, 1983's War, and was actually a single from that album. But again, it has absolutely nothing to do with Christmas.

Here is a bit of the lyrics: "And so we're told this is the golden age/And gold is the reason for the wars we wage/Though I want to be with you/Be with you night and day/Nothing changes/On New Year's Day."

The Eagles

The Eagles are one of the most boring bands in the history of rock music. Sure, they have some good tunes. Of course they do. They also have the most overplayed song of all time (well, maybe the second most overplayed song of all time, following The Rolling Stones' "Satisfaction").

But that aside, their Christmas song, "Please Come Home For Christmas," is harmless. But it's also a cover. The original version was released in 1960 by Charles Brown, and it's much better. There is a moment in The Eagles version that seems lifted from The Beatles song, "Oh! Darling."
This song was released as a single in 1978. It reached #18 on the U.S. chart.

Wynton Marsalis

Probably the coolest track from this compilation is "Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!" by Wynton Marsalis. Obviously, it's jazz, not rock. Wynton breathes new life into the song, finding interesting place for improvisation. This recording is from 1989 and appeared on his album Crescent City Christmas Card.

John Mellencamp

John Mellencamp's contribution to this compilation, "Teddi's Song (When Christmas Comes)," is actually a sweet song. The lyrics are a bit on the weak side, but the feeling is so positive and bright that it's hard to dislike the song. Here is a bit of the lyrics: "When Christmas comes/The world will lay down its arms/When Christmas comes/We'll all sing 'Silent Night'/Lots of toys for the girls and boys/Hope, hope, hope it's a peaceful world/When Christmas comes." John Mellencamp wrote this one.

James Brown

James Brown did what is probably the best version ever of "Merry Christmas, Baby." His voice sounds amazing, and the horns are fantastic. There is something undeniably sexy about this rendition, with its bluesy tones. "Merry Christmas, Baby" was written by Lou Baxter and Johnny Moore.

This version is from 1966. Other artists who have done good renditions of this song include Otis Redding, Chuck Berry and Bruce Springsteen.

Elton John

Elton John has recorded a lot of great songs over the years. "Step Into Christmas" is not one of them. This is the weakest song on this compilation, though the short guitar section two minutes and twenty seconds in is nice. It was written by Elton John and Bernie Taupin, and was originally released as a single.

Aaron Neville

Aaron Neville's version of "Bells Of St. Mary's" is very cool. His vocals are impressive, and the backing vocals give the song an early 1960s feel. Though the song itself is actually much older, having been written in 1917 by A. Emmett Adams and Douglas Furber. This song has absolutely nothing to do with Christmas.

Reba McEntire

Reba McEntire turns "I'll Be Home For Christmas" into a country song. This song was written by Kim Gannon, Walter Kent and Buck Ram. The most famous version is still that by Bing Crosby.

Aretha Franklin

Aretha Franklin can really belt out a tune like nobody's business. She makes "Joy To The World" seriously rock in this gospel-flavored number. This is certainly one of the best versions of this song ever recorded. There is enough power here to make even the staunchest of atheists cry out "Hallelujah."

CD Track List

  1. Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town - Bruce Springsteen
  2. Silent Night - Mariah Carey
  3. New Year's Day - U2
  4. Please Come Home For Christmas - The Eagles
  5. Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! - Wynton Marsalis
  6. Teddi's Song (When Christmas Comes) - John Mellencamp
  7. Merry Christmas, Baby - James Brown
  8. Step Into Christmas - Elton John
  9. Bells Of St. Mary's - Aaron Neville
  10. I'll Be Home For Christmas - Reba McEntire
  11. Joy To The World - Aretha Franklin

This compilation was released November 14, 1995 by Sony Music Entertainment Inc.

Friday, April 29, 2011

John Zacherle: "Monster Mash/Scary Tales" (2010 Release)

This release contains two complete albums by John Zacherle that were previously unavailable on CD. It's the perfect CD for Halloween (and really any time).

Collectors' Choice Music is continuing its series of classic Cameo-Parkway releases with four more titles this month, including this playfully twisted - and often hilarious - CD by John Zacherle.

Long before Elvira there was John Zacherle (and his alter ego, Roland, later renamed Zacherley). He hosted horror movies on television in Philadelphia and New York in the 1950s and 1960s. His popularity led to his making recordings for Cameo-Parkway.

This CD contains two complete albums by John Zacherle, as well as bonus tracks. Many of the tracks are parodies of hits by other Cameo-Parkway artists.

"Monster Mash"

John Zacherle begins with a pretty straight-forward cover of "Monster Mash," the song made famous by Bobby "Boris" Pickett. If anyone can pull off a decent cover of this song, it's John Zacherle, and he does it in earnest - he's not making fun of the tune at all.

"Hurry Bury Baby"

"Hurry Bury Baby" is a parody of "Hully Gully Baby" by The Dovells (from an album which, not coincidentally, is also being released by Collectors' Choice Music). Like that song, this one takes place in Miami with a girl named Sammy. John laughs as he tells his tale of romance troubles: "I held her tight - too tight/I squeezed and I squeezed some more/Till she didn't breathe no more/I had to hurry bury baby."

This song is hilarious and twisted, a perfect combination for Halloween (or for any other holiday if you want to it interesting).

"Let's Twist Again (Mummy Time Is Here)"

"Let's Twist Again (Mummy Time Is Here)" is a wonderful twist on the Chubby Checker hit song.

Check out these lyrics, which begin the song: "Okay, Igor, you take the mummy's head and twist right/And I'll take the mummy's feet and twist left/And we'll produce some mummy juice/All right, now let's twist again like we did last summer/Let's twist again like we did last year."

"Gravy (With Some Cyanide)"

"Gravy (With Some Cyanide)" is an incredibly funny parody of "Gravy (For My Mashed Potatoes)." This version is about murdering the in-laws with some special gravy. He sings, "I'm serving dinner to my in-laws tonight/I'll be a winner if I play the game right/Got a gravy, oh what a gravy/That's going to kill all my in-laws'...appetite."

"Limb From Limbo Rock"

In "Limb From Limbo Rock" (the absolute best title on this album), John Zacherle offers a new strategy for winning the limbo. He sings, "Jack be simple, Jack be sick/Jack go under the limbo stick/To get in the limbo swim/Tear your partner limb from limb."

Like a lot of early rock dances, he instructs the listener how to do it: "First you pull off a limbo hand/To the tune of a limbo band/Then you pull off a limbo feet/But don't miss the limbo beat."

The original "Limbo Rock" was written by Kal Mann and Billy Strange, and was a hit for Chubby Checker.

"Pistol Stomp"

"Pistol Stomp" is, of course, a parody of The Dovells' #2 hit, "Bristol Stomp." John sings, "The kids in Bristol all carry a pistol/When they do the pistol stomp." This one isn't quite as funny as the others, no nearly as twisted, but that might be because kids carrying guns is no longer a rare things.

"Dinner with Drac Part 1"

"Dinner With Drac Part 1" is a wonderfully absurd song about being invited to dinner at Dracula's home by the sea. John sings that he "choked on my wine when I learned that the main course was me."

And check out this ridiculously delightful verse: "The waitress, a vampire named Perkins/Was so very fond of small gherkins/While she served the tea she ate forty-three/Which pickled her internal workins."

Dracula chides Igor for his mistakes in dinner etiquette, "The scalpels go on the left with the pitchforks."

"Dinner With Drac Part 1" was actually a hit single, reaching #6 on the Billboard pop chart in 1958. Kal Mann (under the pseudonym Jon Sheldon) wrote this one.

"The Bat"

Monster Mash concludes with "The Bat," which begins with the sound effect of a bat flying. This is a song instructing the listeners on the steps for a new dance called The Bat. "You're going to flap your wings/All around and around the sky/Then you get in someone's hair/You can do it if you really try/All the chicks and cats are going bats."

"Scary Tales (From Mother Goose)"

The second album opens with its title track, "Scary Tales (From Mother Goose)." This song has an added layer of twistedness by the inclusion of children singing. The kids call out a character, and John sings a sick verse.

For example, the children call out, "Jack and Jill," and John responds, "Jack and Jill went up the hill/To fetch a pail of water/Only Jill came down the hill/You see, she was Dracula's daughter/And the pail looked more red than it oughta."

To add even more humor, the children then sing happily, "Ho ho ho, ha ha ha/Won't you sing along/Call a name from Mother Goose/And sing a scary song."

"Scary Tales" Bonus Tracks

When this album was originally released, the first track of side one - that is, "Scary Tales (From Mother Goose)" - had three different versions. And depending on where a listener placed the needle,he or she would hear one or another version.

All three versions are included on this CD - the second and third versions are tracks 24 and 25.

"Happy Halloween"

"Happy Halloween" is obviously a perfect song for Halloween, and it's also one of the album's most fun tracks. In it, John sings, "Through the nauseous night I'll soar/Through the pools of rancid gore/Through the sewer pipes I'll crawl/To the horror hall/ To the hall where vampires scream/Happy Halloween."

The ghastly guests include werewolves, witches, and vampires. This is one of the best Halloween songs ever recorded. Seriously, it's just wonderful.


Only John Zacherle could take the alphabet song and turn it into something twisted. He sings, "A-B-C-D-E-F-G/I'll smash you and you'll smash me /H-I-J-K-L-M-N-O-P/I'll beat your brains out - wait and see." And, "W,X and Y and Z/Now I'm going to dislocate your knee." And he laughs as he sings it.

How do we go about hiring this guy to teach kindergarten?

Single Bonus Tracks

John Zacherle's first Cameo-Parkway release was a single whose A side was "Igor" and flip side was "Dinner With Drac Part 1." But "Dinner With Drac Part 1" became the hit, so subsequent printings had that as the A side, and the flip side was changed to "Dinner With Drac Part 2."
"Igor" and "Dinner With Drac Part 2" are included as bonus tracks on this CD release.

CD Track List

  1. Monster Mash
  2. Hurry Bury Baby
  3. Let's Twist Again (Mummy Time Is Here)
  4. I'm The Ghoul From Wolverton Mountain
  5. Gravy (With Some Cyanide)
  6. Popeye (The Gravedigger)
  7. Limb From Limbo Rock
  8. Weird Watusi
  9. Pistol Stomp
  10. Dinner With Drac Part 1
  11. The Ha-Ha-Ha
  12. The Bat
  13. Scary Tales (From Mother Goose) (Version One)
  14. A-Tisket, A-Casket
  15. Hansel And Gretel
  16. Clementine
  17. Happy Halloween
  18. Monster Monkey
  19. The Spider And The Fly
  20. A-B-C
  21. Little Red Riding Hood
  22. Surfboard 1-0-9
  23. Dear, Dear Valentine
  24. Scary Tales (From Mother Goose) (Version Two)
  25. Scary Tales (From Mother Goose) (Version Three)
  26. Igor
  27. Dinner With Drac Part 2

This CD was released on October 26, 2010 through Collectors' Choice Music in conjunction with ABKCO Music & Records.

Three other selections in the Cameo-Parkway series will be released on November 23, 2010: Dee Dee Sharp: It's Mashed Potato Time/Do The Bird; The Dovells: For Your Hully Gully Party/You Can't Sit Down; and a compilation titled Cameo-Parkway Holiday Hits (which features a very young Bob Seger).

In June of 2010 Collectors' Choice Music released the first set of six classic Cameo-Parkway albums. Those included albums by Chubby Checker, Bobby Rydell, The Orlons, Clint Eastwood, and Terry Knight And The Pack, as well as a compilation titled Remember Me Baby: Cameo Parkway Vocal Groups Vol. 1.

The liner notes for this special release were written by John Sebastian (yes, of The Lovin' Spoonful) - how cool is that? John Zacherle turned 92 in September.

(Note: I originally posted this review on November 8, 2010.)

The Young Dubliners Perform At Warner Park, 6-27-10

Irish rock band The Young Dubliners performed at Warner Park as part of the 2010 Concerts On The Green series.

The Young Dubliners put on an excellent concert Sunday evening at Warner Park in Woodland Hills. They did two one-hour sets, and a one-song encore.

The Young Dubliners took the stage at 6:05 p.m. and opened the show with "Paddy's Green Shamrock Shore," a song that was included on With All Due Respect, The Irish Sessions (2007).

Saints And Sinners

As one might expect, the band did several songs from the 2009 release, Saints And Sinners. In the first set they performed the title track, as well as "Howaya Girls" and "In The End." Before playing "Saints And Sinners," vocalist/guitarist Keith Roberts joked about conserving water, that the band has always conserved water by drinking beer instead. It's typical Irish drinking humor, but it got a big laugh from the crowd of approximately 4,000 people.

The first set also featured an excellent version of The Pogues' "If I Should Fall From Grace With God," as well as great versions of "Evermore" and "Waxies Dargle," both off of the band's 2005 release, Real World. During the rocking "Waxies Dargle," the audience joyfully shouted out, "Have a pint," after Keith sang the line, "What will you have?" The first set concluded with "Brown Dog," from Absolutely (2002).

Second Set Starts With Guitar Solo

The second set started with Bob Boulding taking the stage alone for an electric guitar solo. This led directly into an instrumental tune with the entire band, and then "Stop Me," from the band's 2000 release, Red.

The band encouraged people to dance, and most responded by getting to their feet and dancing for most of the second set.

"I'll Tell Me Ma"

They did an interesting version of "I'll Tell Me Ma." It was slow at the start, then increased in tempo. They also repeated verses in order to extend it, as it's a short song. They dropped certain lines in the repetition. Before the song, the band joked that there were going to do a song for the ladies. "Are there any ladies out there?" Several women shouted in response. And Keith teased, "I said, 'Ladies.'"

As a side note, very few people in the audience clapped on the "one, two, three" part during that song.

After "I'll Tell Me Ma," they played "Rosie," another song from the Saints And Sinners album. And then toward the end of the second set, they played several instrumental songs, including a song from the film Braveheart.

"Rocky Road To Dublin"
The encore was the always appreciated "Rocky Road To Dublin." This is an incredible song, and one that's impressive, especially as the lyrics are relentless. There are very few pauses, very few places to breathe, built into the song - making it a difficult song to sing. And The Young Dubliners do an amazing version of it.

Concerts On The Green

This concert was part of the free Concerts On The Green series put on by the Valley Cultural Center. Every Sunday in the summer a free concert is put on at Warner Park. This year the tent was no longer in place, and so the old folks had to find shelter elsewhere. In years past, there was a covered area with several folding chairs fairly close to the stage. Of course, that always blocked the view of anyone seated behind that area. So its absence was certainly appreciated by a large number of concert-goers.

The Young Dubliners had played this concert series a few times in past years, but were sorely missing from last year's concert lineup. It was wonderful seeing them return this year. The concerts are generally rigidly scheduled from 6 to 8 p.m., but The Young Dubliners played until 8:15 p.m.

(Note: I originally posted this review on June 30, 2010.)

David Daskal - Singer For Los Angeles Band Xyzyx

In this interview, David Daskal discusses his band's live performances, including an anecdote about the first show, and how it almost didn't happen.

David Daskal was on Average Joe: Hawaii and Fear Factor. He now fronts the Los Angeles rock band Xyzyx. In a recent interview with Suite101, David discussed the band's performances.

How would you describe the Xyzyx music to somebody who hasn't heard the band?

DAVID: We're like a Weezer meets Foo Fighters with the stage presence of Spinal Tap. In a nutshell.

You were on the television show Average Joe. A lot of actors have bands, but for you has music taken a priority now over acting?

DAVID: It has. Acting to me was never a serious thing. I only took it seriously on the forefront because I realized that I'd come out here and created a brand for my name. I used to introduce myself as Daaaavid Daskal. And that in itself was funny, walking into auditions and things. And I have a very character look. So I came out as a joke just to do extra work. And everything that has happened as a result of that has snowballed. I didn't come out here to win an Oscar. I didn't come out to win my parents' love or anybody else's love. I don't have that lack in my life. And a lot of people are usually driven by that. Like they have to prove something to somebody.

But I know that I want to entertain people, period. So it doesn't have to be in the acting environment. Xyzyx is definitely my priority. And in a way I'm acting when I'm on stage. I'm pouring my emotions out, but in a different fashion.

There definitely seems to be a sense of humor in the band. There are the rock god poses, and the neon green translucent guitar and an ode to a 1980s sitcom actor. So just how serious are you?

DAVID: We don't take ourselves too seriously on stage, because we want people to have a fun time. We're serious, but we're not. We understand the business aspect that you have to create something unique if you want to do anything with music in the industry. But we want to have so much fun with it that it gives off the impression that these guys are just lunatics.

So how much of it is by design? For example, the rock poses. Do you guys talk about doing that ahead of time, or is that something that's just come out during performances?

DAVID: The Baumgaertners are improv geniuses, and they're in an improv troupe together called Some Assembly Required. And I love improv too; I just don't do it. But a lot of it has stemmed from feelings that we get when we're practicing. So some of the stuff that you see is choreographed by at first accident, by the way we feel. Like we have a point that we do in "Kirk Cameron" now, like the three of us up on the front line. Or we all drop to our knees at a certain point in "Melissa" or "Too Much Country In This World." Because that's the way we felt when we did it. So it's instant amazing choreography, and if we love it, and if people scream about it from the audience, then it sticks. So yeah, it's by design by accident.

What's your favorite song to perform in concert?

DAVID: At first it was "Kirk Cameron." Now it's "Expendable."

"Expendable" to me is everything I always wanted to write with the heaviest kind of rock song. And I have a very poppy voice too. It was the first song I had written where I had really found my voice. Because with the earlier songs, I still wasn't confident about where I was singing. And I'll never claim to be the best singer in the world, and I don't care, because I know that I give a show. And that is more outstanding. But as time has gone by, people will pay attention to the voice, and they want it to sound good. So that was the first song I wrote in my correct register. And I can sing high, and I can sing falsetto, and I've been denying myself that.

I can walk around to every band member and there's like a piece of every band member that's a part of that song. It was something that we created together as a unit - the first song that we had done that. And then I get to scream at the end of the song.

"Kirk Cameron" is really fun because it gets people to dance. And we have our girls up front and they go to town. And they're just totally owning the space. It makes everybody happy. It's a tongue in cheek song. We're not making fun of Kirk Cameron. We're just saying, I remember you, man.

So it has an '80s feel to it, and a whole verse dedicated to the "Growing Pains." And paying homage to every character on the show, even Leonardo DiCaprio. We have a line about him getting his start there. So it's just a fun song.

Xyxyz recently played at The Whiskey. How did that show come about, and how did it go?
DAVID: A booker contacted us who works for the venue a couple days a week, and the last few months he had said, "Hey, do you guys want to play The Whiskey?" It was a non-presale, non-pay-to-play scenario. And I'm like, "Absolutely." We know that we have to make a statement with the venue if we want to get good slots later. If we want to play a weekend at 10 or 11 p.m. we have to prove to The Whiskey that we do have a fanbase and a draw. And it's like, how do you do that when you start from scratch or you only have x amount of people come to a show? We're spacing our shows out now. We're making better decisions about venues that we play that it's not an issue for us.

Because when you come see Xyzyx, it's an event now. We don't play every week. We don't play every other day. We play twice a month, and that is it. So we promoted the heck out of it. And we had an amazing turn-out. And it was an awesome show.

Our sound guy was amazing. We sounded the best we have sounded almost ever. We were able to focus more because we could hear ourselves. A lot of cheaper venues out here - venues that don't take care of the sound unless you have your own sound guy - you can't hear the vocalist hardly ever because the guitars are too loud. And that's something I've had to live with - it's my peeve. I sing my ass off. I sing my heart out.

But like you get into an environment like the Whiskey or the Viper Room, where they care about the bands and they take thirty minutes to set up and do a sound check for you if you open like we did, and you're going to sound awesome. So that's how Whiskey came about. And we're very fortunate.

(Xyzyx had a chance to open for Kiss. There was a contest, in which bands had to get votes to play in a certain city. Kiss then chose one band out of the top five for each city. Xyzyx came in second in number of votes. Kiss chose the band that came in fourth.)

Kiss has their own reputation, that they're legendary, that they're showmen. And if anybody knows my band, they know that we give a show. So everybody was instantly excited that we had the possibility to open for them.

I always said that I wanted to open up for Def Leppard. Ever since I was a kid, I've always wanted to open for Def Leppard. It's in Entertainment Weekly, when I got interviewed for Average Joe. "What's your goal now?" "I would love to get a band and open up for Def Leppard." It's in there, etched in an issue. And you know what? Def Leppard's my favorite band. And I love Kiss to death. I'm not complaining if we open for Kiss and not Def Leppard. I'm a firm believer that if you work hard and you work smart and you believe in what you're doing that people are going to believe it too, especially if your product's good, and we have a good product.

And we're going to open for Steel Panther in mid-October. And that show came about by timing and patience. John had made a statement - Johnny X - a couple months ago. He said, "It would be my dream to open up for Steel Panther." And I said, "Really? That's it?" So I was like, I can book that. Because I've been booking the band's shows since day one. It's just something that's very natural to me. I booked the show purposely around his birthday. So like it's Johnny X's birthday show. And we're right up before Steel Panther.

I have a funny story about the first show. We actually almost didn't get to play our very first show because the previous bands at the Cobalt Cafe didn't bring a crowd. And we were like the seventh of eight bands. And they're about to pull the plug on us, and the manager said, "This is not a rehearsal space for bands to come play."

I said, "We have forty people coming from all over L.A. to see the show." I wasn't going to tell the manager it was our very first show, because then that would probably give him more reason to pull the plug on us. But I'm like, "We seriously have people coming to Canoga Park, of all places - not the easiest place to get to - from everywhere to see us play tonight. You can't just yank us. Especially if you let the other bands play."

And he said, "Well, it's costing us money when people aren't showing up." And I said, "How many people do you need to show up for us for us to play?" And he said, "Ten. It's a hundred bucks." And I'm like, "We'll definitely have them." And he's like, "If they don't show up, then you would have to pay me a hundred bucks." I'm like, "I guarantee you if they don't show up, I will pay you a hundred dollars out of my pocket" and we shook on it. We had about twenty some odd people show up to the show, and I didn't get any kind of apology from that guy. Just like a "Hmm, okay."

But that was our first show. So I mean, from the start, it has been a battle behind the scenes for Xyzyx.

What do you hope to accomplish with the band?
DAVID: I really think that Xyzyx can make it. It doesn't necessarily have to be mainsteam, but I think Xyzyx can rock the world, and do it successfully. I just want to give fun to people. And also create the environment with the band that nobody feels trapped in the band.

It's my baby and my direction, but with everybody's input. The second Xyzyx is not fun for us is the day we stop. Because we were built on the premise of fun. And with my capabilities and my belief that the band can make it, I'm going to strive to build us to that point. So as long as I see the worth in Xyzyx, in giving it to people, just giving fun to people, which I know we can do. I'm going to try that as long as I can. But I can't see myself not doing Xyzyx. So I would be very, very sad if I couldn't get up there with those boys, that I love give, and give that to people. So I'm not looking for that in the future. I'm dealing with the now.

(In the first section of this interview, David Daskal discusses the band's inception and songwriting. Xyzyx is performing September 16th at the Terrace in Pasadena, and October 1st at The Viper Room.)

(Note: I originally posted this on August 30, 2010.)

David Daskal - Lead Singer Of L.A. Rock Group Xyzyx

David Daskal is the lead singer of the Los Angeles rock group Xyzyx. In this interview he discusses the band's inception and songwriting.

Fans of reality television might recognize David Daskal from such shows as Average Joe: Hawaii and Fear Factor. Now he's fronting a rock band called Xyzyx.

In this section of the interview, David discusses the origins of the band, the band name, and songwriting.

Why Xyzyx? How did you choose the name of the band?

DAVID: It's funny. We're on a road trip to Vegas. It's funny because a lot of people, if they know the term Xyzyx, they'll be like, "Oh my god, is that the road on the way to Vegas?" I'm like, "Well, it's the road that's situated between California and Nevada." So it's not necessarily on the way to Vegas if you're coming from the other direction, but yeah, it's the road on the way to Vegas.

So we saw this really strange spelling of a road, like Z-z-y-z-x. And we were laughing about it. We got back and we did a search to find out what's the deal behind this road. And we find out that the pronunciation is actually "Zy-ziks" road. And I'm like, that's whacked, because anyone who looks at that is going to say "Zizziks."

And I've always wanted a band name that started with an X. Like my previous band - I had one in Virginia - started with an X, called Xenon. And then we had one called Xylem. And I'm like, "That's messed up - it should be Xyzyx, like everybody thinks, and spelled X-y-z-y-x." And that's how the band name came about.

Who was on the road trip?

DAVID: All the band members were on the road trip.

Was the band already in place at that point, without a name?

DAVID: Yeah. Actually, the band development was really funny too. John Baumgaertner is my rhythm guitarist. He was on a show called Average Joe. And I did second season of Average Joe. And they flew the runner up of my show out to come be on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno. And we were going to meet at the Saddle Ranch, because I hadn't seen him since the taping of our show.

John had showed up like three or four hours later, and I had seen him on television. And I was really surprised, because the way they had portrayed him was a lot different than how he had presented himself when he showed up. And he seemed like this really vibrant character. And this was back in my goofy days, where I would just sit and burst out in random song or sing what was overhead coming out of the speakers. And it was a Christopher Cross song, "Ride Like The Wind." And he started chiming in with me, like harmonizing, as if we'd been doing this all our lives. And I said, "Wow, who does that?" No one.

So afterwards, I had just been invited to do a sketch comedy show and I said, "I think the director wouldn't mind, but would you like to partake in that? We could write some parodies together." So we did that. And he said, "Man, if I can get my brother to move out here, we should start a band."

Six months later his brother moved out here.

John had drummed in his previous band and he sang, and I drummed and I sang in my previous band, but neither of us wanted to be trapped behind the set. Because we're absolutely animated performers. So I said, "Well, I know a guy I went to acting school with at Playhouse West. He drummed a little bit in high school, but not for a band. Ever. I've seen him play, and I think if he had some practice he could totally play these songs." So I proposed it to him.

We went to the Guitar Center one day and we walked out with a massive drum set. And I taught him all these songs I had in my head. So we just needed a bass player. The funniest thing about Xyzyx is we've gone through now five bass players.

But the guy that's playing bass for us now - Adam Sears - has his own progressive rock band and an acappella group. And it just came about as a joke one day because our last bass player was moving to Florida. He said, "Yeah, you should ask Adam Sears to play bass." Because Adam would come to all the shows - he's a big Xyzyx fan. And I got the impression that he wanted to be in the band from how much energy he was putting out from the crowd. Like singing the songs, and you could hear him do the harmonies from the audience. And I'm like, "Adam doesn't play bass. He plays keyboards and he sings and that's it."

I sent Adam a message, because he's a humongous social butterfly. I'm like, "Do you know anybody who'd love to be in a fun outfit that plays bass?" And he replied, "I play bass." So I called him and said, "I haven't talked to anybody in the band, but how would you like to be the next bass player for Xyzyx?" And he joined in June.

You had two other bands before you moved here - Xenon and Xylem. When did you first desire to start a band?

DAVID: I've always wanted to be in a band since I was probably five years old. And I've always wanted to play the drums since I was ten. I don't know if they did this in your school, but when you're in grade school and you're about to go into middle school, where they start the whole band thing, the middle school instructors come by and they bring a woodwind instrument and a brass instrument and you try it out so you get a feel, and then you pick an instrument.

Well, I'm like, "I'm going to play the drums." I went home, like, "Mom I want to play the drums." And Mom was like, "David, you're playing the trumpet or nothing at all." And I'm like, "Hmm, nothing at all." So that was that. For like my whole childhood, I played no instrument. And I couldn't sing to save anybody's life.

It wasn't until about 2001. I ended up picking up a drum set and self-teaching myself and wrote a bunch of songs. And had a couple of roommates at the time, who also just picked up instruments from scratch. And it was actually the same band. It was Xenon, and we changed it to Xylem when we had another person come into the band, because he thought that Xenon was a bad name. We were living together, working together, but we never practiced together. So we just had all these instruments and just sat around and didn't do anything with it.

And then I decided to move to California to do extra work as a joke.

So did you begin writing songs in 2001? And are any of those songs that you started then part of the lineup now?

DAVID: I wrote a couple songs in '99 and then I wrote a ton in 2001. And two of the songs from 01, from that previous band - "For You" and "Get High" - are the only ones that are now in the Xyzyx repertoire.

When you take a song to the band, how formed is it in your head?

DAVID: Well, when we first started, I wanted like a foundation because I had all these songs in my head, and I don't know music theory. And I don't know chords or anything. I just know humming. Like, "Can you play do do-do-do-do on the bass? And like I'll break it down for you, we'll go slow, but can we find these exact notes?" And I always thought it would be the hardest thing to come up with music and the easiest thing to come up with lyrics.

But now I think it has reversed. Coming up with the music for me is the easiest thing in the world and the lyrics to fit it are the work. So when we first started, we had a bunch of songs that were in my head, and Pauly just pulled them all out on guitar. And we called what they did - the Baumgaertners - Xyzyxify the songs. So they take the basic root, which is catchy and infectious, in my opinion, and then they complicate chords and make it more progressive so it's not boring for them to play.

Now we write differently. One of our latest songs, "Expendable," was an idea from the bass player as a joke. And he sent an email off with like a funny techno beat behind it, and I said I love this beat and I can write lyrics to it. And in an hour and a half I wrote lyrics to it. We went in, we modified it, we completed a structure. And then the band members came in one by one before practice and added their parts. And then we polished it. We recorded it the next day in twelve hours. We had it mixed the day after, remixed the next day, mastered the day after and then ready to send off to Lionsgate the next day after that.

So we now write in a fashion where everybody contributes.

So the other members contribute lyrics too now? Or mostly it's you?

DAVID: It's mostly me. And John has written one song. Actually, Eric has written a song called "Our Lives," which we also do in concert. When we first started, I really wanted to encourage everybody to write. Paul was just like, "I don't write. I just don't do it. I do the guitar and that's it." And then Eric was like, "I don't write." And I'm like, "Well, you could write." And he fleshed out a couple of songs, and we polished one of them up.

I want to create the forum with Xyzyx that everybody has the opportunity to contribute. And I want it to be like an all star team. I want it to be like The Eagles, without the egos. Because I think that was the issue with them, is that it turned into like a who's doing more, who's doing less. And I don't want that environment at all. I want everybody to be able to create if they feel it. And it saves me too, because I get a break in concert and get to thrash out when somebody's completely singing a song and I'm just doing backups.

You said you sent "Expendable" to Lionsgate. What was that about?

DAVID: Well, that was the joke. I got a hold of the head of music of Lionsgate. We had found out the movie "The Expendables" was coming out last year. And I'm like, "Oh my god, we have to write a song for the movie and try to get it in." Because like these are our heroes. And I got a hold of him and I said we had a song. And he's like, "Oh, really? Cool. Send it to me." And I'm like, "Oh shit, we don't have a song."

So that's why we created it. My bass player had sent a joking line, like a bass line with some backbeats with some Schwarzenegger quotes over it, machine guns, and we just took those out and actually created a song from it, and sent it off to Lionsgate. And they liked the song, but they were going in a classic rock direction at the time. So it's not actually in the movie. We're okay with the fact that it's not in there, but we love the song. I think sometimes if you're inspired by anything, write. Because we got an awesome song out of it.

(In the second section of this interview, David Daskal discusses the band's performances, including the upcoming show at the Key Club, opening for Steel Panther. Xyzyx is also performing September 16th at the Terrace in Pasadena, and October 1st at The Viper Room.)

(Note: I originally posted this on August 30, 2010.)

Keller Williams: "Kids" (2010 release) CD Review

Keller Williams' 16th album is a children's record that adults will enjoy too.

A lot of folks are releasing children's albums these days.They Might Be Giants, Ellis Paul, Brian Doser and Ziggy Marley have all put out children's albums in the past few years. There is also the For The Kids series, which features songs by Cake, Barenaked Ladies, The Submarines, Mates Of State and Dar Williams.

Maybe it's just that everyone's getting older, and these musicians are having kids. And of course when they have kids, they want to combine their professional and personal worlds. Although it can be said that musicians have always been having offspring, and the children's record craze is fairly new. But no matter, because some of these kids albums are actually quite good, like this one by Keller Williams.

Simply titled Kids, this CD features mostly original material, with good rhythms and playful, fun lyrics. Often musicians will include their kids on their children's albums, and Keller does so here, featuring his daughter Ella on several tracks. Several of the songs end with a child's laughter.

"My Neighbor Is Happy Again"

Keller opens this album with "My Neighbor Is Happy Again," a very silly song about a person with a goat. And because he owns a goat, he doesn't bother owning a lawn mower or a trash compactor. Here is a bit of the lyrics: "So I had to dig a moat to keep in my goat/And I had to buy a boat because my goat don't float/But my neighbor is happy again."

Sure, it's a song that kids will dig. But adults will love it just as much (if not more).

"Car Seat"

"Car Seat" is less silly, and less likely to be a favorite of the adult listener, with lines like "I'm chillin' in my car seat, smile on my face." But kids will enjoy the rhythm, and there is a very cool percussion section in the song. It ends with a bit of goofiness about "going" in the car seat.

"Because I Said So"
"Because I Said So" begins with a child asking for pink flamingos, like the ones in the neighbors' yard. The child then asks for an alligator, a bulldozer and other crazy things. The answer of course is No. "Why?/Because I said so."

This is a great song for kids, because of course they're bound to get that answer often from their parents. And knowing this song will perhaps make it easier for the kids, providing a little humor and maybe helping to avoid tantrums.

The song ends with the child asking for a goldfish. The parent responds, "Yes, you can have a goldfish/Now leave me alone."

"Hulahoop To Da Loop"
Keller Williams is known for looping tracks during his live shows, and playing along to himself. He's often been called a one-man jam band. And this song makes references to that. The kids might not get it, but who cares? The children will enjoy dancing around to this song anyway. It has a catchy rhythm.

"Horse Back Rider" is Keller and his daughter singing acappella, with finger snaps keeping the pace as they go. This is one of the tracks that ends with a child's laughter.

"Good Advice"

"Good Advice" is a silly little song featuring that old bit about picking your nose, picking your friends, but not picking your friend's nose. But Keller adds to it, singing, "Never pick your toes and then pick your nose/Because then your nose smells like your toes/And that's not good, that's bad." Then he says, "Now in Chinese." The Chinese vocals are provided by Dr. John Flower.

"Mama Tooted"

Yes, "Mama Tooted" is about exactly what you imagine it to be about. It starts, "It's perfectly natural/It can happen to anyone." Keller then likens the sounds to various animals. What makes children laugh more than farts? Well, talking or singing about farts, naturally.

The lines "She may say that she did not and she is probably right/But I am going to blame it on Mama all night" will amuse the parents as much as their children.

"Soakie Von Soakerman"
"Soakie Von Soakerman" is a strange acappella song, similar to some of the work by The Bobs, and sounding a bit like "Bathtime In Clerkenwell" by The Real Tuesday Weld.

"Lucy Lawcy" is a song about flying turkeys, and it includes a nod to The Beatles with the line, "Lucy fly in the sky with amethyst."

"Grandmother's Feather Bed" was written by Jim Connor.

"The Fastest Song In The World"

The album concludes with "The Fastest Song In The World," another track featuring Ella Williams (who is also credited as the song's writer). Most of the track, which is less than a minute, is them joking about the song, figuring out which key to sing it in, and so on. And then they sing the song, which is simply, "La."

CD Track List

  1. My Neighbor Is Happy Again
  2. Car Seat
  3. Because I Said So
  4. Hulahoop To Da Loop
  5. Horse Back Rider
  6. Taking A Bath
  7. Good Advice
  8. Keep It On The Paper
  9. Hey Little Baby
  10. Mama Tooted
  11. Soakie Von Soakerman
  12. Lucy Lawcy
  13. Grandma's Feather Bed
  14. The Fastest Song In The World

This CD is scheduled to be released October 26, 2010 on SCI Fidelity Records. Keller Williams does the lead vocals and all instruments. The children, billed as "Keller's Kid Choir," are Ella Williams, Nico Covert, Ian Covert and Tessa Claire Berman.

There is a warning in the liner notes of the CD, advising children not to steal music.

(Note: I originally posted this review on October 19, 2010.)

Bob Weir: "Heaven Help The Fool" (1978) CD Review

This album is a departure from the Grateful Dead for Bob Weir and his songwriting partner, John Barlow.

This album is more of a departure from the Grateful Dead than Bob Weir's earlier solo efforts. First of all, no other members of the Dead appear on any track of this album (unlike, for example, Ace). Secondly, these songs for the most part were not performed by the Dead in concert, as much of the other work by Bob Weir was (for example, "Lazy Lightning" and "Supplication" from the first Kingfish album).

However, Bob did write these songs with his regular songwriting partner, John Barlow, who wrote the lyrics to many of the Grateful Dead songs. (The two exceptions on this album are the two covers: "Easy To Slip" and "I'll Be Doggone.")

"Bombs Away"

The album starts with "Bombs Away," one of the best songs on the album. It's clear that this record is a product of its time - the late 1970s - with disco-like sections.

"Easy To Slip" Little Feat Cover

"Easy To Slip" is one of two cover songs on this album. This is a Little Feat song. It has interesting backing vocals by Bill Champlin, Carmen Twilly and Lynette Gloud. It's the vocals that really drive this song. The lyrics start, "It's so easy to slip/It's so easy to fall/And let your memory drift/And do nothin' at all."

"Salt Lake City"

Of all the songs on this album, "Salt Lake City" sounds the most like something the Dead might have done at this time. And in fact it was actually played by the Grateful Dead once in concert, but not in 1978. The Dead opened the show with this song on February 21, 1995 at a show in Salt Lake City.

"Heaven Help The Fool" Title Track
"Heaven Help The Fool" is a song that the Grateful Dead did perform in concert. This one they did several times, all in 1980. Interestingly, they only performed it as part of their acoustic sets that started many of their concerts that year.

The short instrumental opening sounds almost exactly like the opening of the Grateful Dead's "Saint Of Circumstance," which was released on their 1980 album, Go To Heaven. That instrumental bit is repeated twice more in the song.

"I'll Be Doggone"
"I'll Be Doggone" is the second cover song on this album. It was written by Smokey Robinson, Pete Moore and Marv Tarplin. It was recorded by Marvin Gaye and released as a single in January of 1965.

The album concludes with "Wrong Way Feelin'," one of the best songs on the album. Certainly, this one rocks.

Musicians Include David Foster

As already noted, no other members of the Grateful Dead appear on this album. Bob Weir of course does lead vocals and guitar. David Foster plays keyboards. That name should be familiar to anyone who knows anything about music. David Foster has played has produced albums and played with everyone from Neil Diamond to Donovan. He also wrote the score to the film St. Elmo's Fire.

Mike Baird plays drums. He also played drums with Rick Springfield and Eddie Money. Nigel Olsson plays drums on "Easy To Slip" and "I'll Be Doggone." Mike Porcaro plays bass on most of the songs (he also played bass with Toto). Dee Murrey plays bass on "Easy To Slip." Bill Champlin plays keyboards on "Easy To Slip" and "I'll Be Doggone" and plays organ on "Salt Lake City." Tom Scott plays saxophone on "Bombs Away," "Salt Lake City" and "Heaven Help The Fool." (Tom also played with the Blues Brothers Band.) Waddy Wachtel plays guitar on "Easy To Slip," "I'll Be Doggone" and "Shade Of Gray."

Backing vocalists include Tom Kelly, Bill Champlin, Carmen Twilly and Lynette Gloud.

CD Track List

  1. Bombs Away
  2. Easy To Slip
  3. Salt Lake City
  4. Shade Of Grey
  5. Heaven Help The Fool
  6. This Time Forever
  7. I'll Be Doggone
  8. Wrong Way Feelin'

Album Released On Arista Records

Bob Weir and John Barlow wrote all of the songs on this album, with the exceptions of "Easy To Slip" and "I'll Be Doggone." "Heaven Help The Fool" was released January 13, 1978 on Arista Records, which also released Grateful Dead records starting with 1977's "Terrapin Station."

Bob Weir: "Ace" (1972) CD Review

Though billed as a Bob Weir solo album, this is really a Grateful Dead record, with Bob Weir singing lead on all of the songs.

This album features songs co-written and sung by Bob Weir. The majority of the songs were co-written by John Barlow. But some, such as "One More Saturday Night," were co-written by Robert Hunter, who wrote the lyrics to most of the Jerry Garcia songs in the Grateful Dead.

"Black-Throated Wind"

The lyrics to "Black-Throated Wind" were written by John Barlow, and they're pretty wonderful. Here is a taste: "The black-throated wind/Keeps on pouring in/And it speaks of a life that passes like dew/It's forced me to see that you've done better by me/Better by me than I've done by you." The horns on this version are a really nice touch.

This song was first performed by the Grateful Dead on March 5, 1972. It was played through 1974, and then not again until 1990.

"Walk In The Sunshine"

"Walk In The Sunshine" is the only song on this album that wasn't played in concert by the Grateful Dead. It's an interesting song about personal evolution rather than political revolution. And coming as this song did in the early 1970s, it was certainly unusual. And the song was aware of as much, as the lyrics show: "'Cause people'll say:/ 'You got to make a revolution/You got to help me with my cause/You got to burn down all the buildings/You got to rub out all the laws.'/But I ain't burning/Lord I'm only learning/How to become a man of my own." Certainly not the common sentiment at the time.

Though the song starts with Bob Weir saying, "here comes some free advice," he then admits that he really doesn't have the answers. He sings, "I ain't preaching, 'cause I don't know/How to make fast things move along slow/I can't stop it. I can't make it go./Just 'cause I say it, that don't mean that it's so."

There is a really nice piano part by Keith Godchaux on this song.

"Playing In The Band"

"Playing In The Band" became a staple of the live Grateful Dead experience. This was a song they regularly stretched out on. The version here is 7:36, short by Dead standards, but relatively long for a studio track.

"Looks Like Rain"
"Looks Like Rain" is a wonderful song, and this is a good version of it. The strings really add to the beauty of this already pretty song. Ed Bogus did the string arrangement for this song. And the lyrics to this song are sweet, such as "I only want to hold you/I don't want to tie you down/Or fence you in the lines/I might have drawn/It's just that I've gotten used to/Havin' you around/My landscape would be empty if you were gone."

Jerry Garcia plays pedal steel on this version of the song. He also played pedal steel with the New Riders Of The Purple Sage and on the song "Teach Your Children" by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.

"One More Saturday Night"
"One More Saturay Night" is an unabashed rock and roll number, one of Bob's strong areas. And anyone who saw the Grateful Dead perform on a Saturday was certain to see the band do this song. It was often a set closer. The lyrics to this song were written by Robert Hunter. This version features some great horns, and some fun piano-playing by Keith Godchaux.


"Cassidy" is one of the best songs on this album, and one of the best the Grateful Dead performed in concert. The lyrics were written by John Barlow, and were written partly for Neal Cassady, who was one of the Merry Pranksters (and who will forever be known as Dean Moriarty in Jack Kerouac's On The Road). The song was also written partly for Cassidy Law, who was only a baby when this album was recorded.

The lyrics are excellent. "Faring thee well now/Let your life proceed by its own design/Nothing to tell now./Let the words be ours, I'm done with mine."

Musicians On "Ace"

As noted, this truly is a Grateful Dead record. However, some of the credits in the liner notes are interesting. Bob Weir is listed as Robert "Ace" Weir, and credited as playing "acoustical and electric guitars." Bill Kreutzmann is listed as William "Fairplay" Kreutzmann. He plays drums. Phil Lesh plays bass, and performs harmony vocal on "Mexicali Blues." Jerry Garcia plays electric guitar, and pedal steel guitar on "Looks Like Rain." Keith Godchaux is on piano. Donna Jean Godchaux is credited for doing "harmony, the chick vocals."

Missing from this recording are Ron "Pigpen" McKernan, who suffered from health issues during this time. His final concert performance with the Grateful Dead was on June 17, 1972, at the Hollywood Bowl. Also missing is Mickey Hart, though he has writing credits on two of the songs - "Greatest Story Ever Told" and "Playing In The Band." This was during Mickey Hart's self-imposed hiatus from the band following his father's embezzling of band funds. He would return to the band in October of 1974.

Additional musicians for this album include Dave Torbert, who plays bass on "Greatest Story Ever Told." Horns are credited to Luis Gasca, Hadley "Snooky" Flowers and The Space Rangers.

CD Track List

Greatest Story Ever Told
Black-Throated Wind
Walk In The Sunshine
Playing In The Band
Looks Like Rain
Mexicali Blues
One More Saturday Night

Bob Weir's Ace was released in May of 1972. Most of these songs were performed fairly regularly in concert by the Grateful Dead. When this album came out, the Grateful Dead were doing a tour of Europe, and several recordings from that tour would be released on their album, Europe '72. Later, a lot of one of those shows would be released on an album titled Hundred Year Hall.

Steve Wariner: "No More Mr. Nice Guy" (1996) CD Review

Album of mostly instrumental tracks features many guest appearances by some incredible musicians like Bela Bleck and Leo Kotke.

Steve Wariner is known mostly for country music. He's been writing, performing and recording country albums since the 1970s.

No More Mr. Nice Guy is a bit of a departure for him. This album of mostly instrumental tracks features a wide range of styles, though all dominated by some great guitar playing. Most of these tracks have guest players, a who's who of excellent musicians.

"No More Mr. Nice Guy"
The album opens with the title track, "No More Mr. Nice Guy." This is an instrumental tune, except that right at the beginning there is the line, "No more Mr. Nice Guy, huh?" The song has a strange, cheesy intro, but it soon kicks in with some good bar-type country rock music.

Oddly, twice more in the song, it breaks and goes back to that cheesy bit. Why? To make the listener appreciate the rest of the song more? That's unnecessary, as the main body of the song is really good, and features dueling guitars. Vince Gill plays on this track.

"Big Hero, Little Hero"

"Big Hero, Little Hero" is an instrumental track with two distinct sections. One has a mellow folk, new-age feel; the other has almost a jazz sense to the guitar.

Chet Atkins performs on this track. As a side note, last year, Steve Wariner released My Tribute To Chet Atkins.

"Prelude/Practice Your Scales Somewhere Else"

The "Prelude" section of "Prelude/Practice Your Scales Somewhere Else" is a seriously pretty intro on guitar. It has a timeless quality. Then the drums kick in, and this is a playful, wistful song that brings to mind an outdoor fair. This song goes through several phases, with some jazzy tones to it. This track is great fun.

There is also some really nice work on fiddle by Mark O'Connor, and great work on guitar. Sam Bush also makes a guest appearance on this track.

"The Theme"

"The Theme" definitely has cheesy pop elements, but it's also undeniably catchy. It's one of those harmless fun songs. Larry Carlton and Randy Goodrum make guest appearances on this track.

"Forever Loving You"
"Forever Loving You" is a mellow instrumental track. The keyboards make it sound like something from a soundtrack to a 1980s movie - one of those sad moments when a character is looking back on a relationship, remembering the good times (and so the film replays certain moments that the viewer saw only five or ten minutes before).

"Next March"

"Next March" is an instrumental song that begins with a New Orleans-flavored drum beat, and then a short guitar section reminiscent of Trey Anastasio's work. (Those parts are repeated twice more in the song.) This song really benefits from the presence of Bela Fleck on banjo.

"If You Can't Say Something Good"
"If You Can't Say Something Good" starts with some laughter. This is a blues tune, with great work on guitar. This track is one of two that are not instrumentals. First this song includes some cool scat, then has one line sung, "If you can't say something good." The line is repeated a few times at the end. Mac McAnally performs on this track.

"Hap Towne Breakdowne"

"Hap Towne Breakdowne" is a fun, fast-paced instrumental tune mixing bluegrass and country elements. It also features Mark O'Connor doing some wonderful work on fiddle. This is one of the CD's best songs. Carl Jackson and Jimmy Olander also play on this track.

"For Chester B." is a short little exploratory instrumental track.

"The Brickyard Boogie" is a rock song with a fun bar atmosphere feel, with brief solos and good work on guitar. Bryan White, Derek George, Bryan Austin and Jeffrey Steele all perform on this track.

"Don't Call Me Ray"

"Don't Call Me Ray" is an instrumental track featuring a nice blending of folk and blues elements. Leo Kotke plays on this one.

"Guitar Talk"

The album concludes with "Guitar Talk," the second and final track that is not an instrumental. This is a bluesy rock number about playing guitar. He sings,"When I don't know what to stay/I just stand up here and play/I let my guitar do the talking."

"I let my guitar do the talking" is an interesting refrain for an album which, apart from this song and one other, lets the guitar do all the talking. This is a sort of love song to a guitar. Richie Sambora (known primarily for his work with Bon Jovi) has a great guitar solo in this one. Lee Roy Parnell also performs on this track.

CD Track List
  1. No More Mr. Nice Guy
  2. Big Hero, Little Hero
  3. Prelude/Practice Your Scales Somewhere Else
  4. The Theme
  5. Forever Loving You
  6. Next March
  7. If You Can't Say Something Good
  8. Hap Towne Breakdown
  9. For Chester B.
  10. The Brickyard Boogie
  11. Don't Call Me Ray
  12. Guitar Talk

No More Mr. Nice Guy was released on Arista Records March 12, 1996. Steve Wariner has released many other albums over the years, including Life's Highway (1985), I Should Be With You (1988) and Burnin' The Roadhouse Down (1998). His most release albums are last year's Guitar Christmas, a collection of traditional Christmas songs which was released October 12, 2010, and this year's Guitar Laboratory.

Tuscadero: "The Pink Album" (1994) CD Review

Tuscadero's first album contains lots of wonderful childhood pop references, cool vocals, fun guitar riffs and a love song to Leather Tuscadero.

How can someone not love this band? First off, they named themselves after a couple of characters from the television series Happy Days: Pinkie and Leather Tuscadero. This album is called The Pink Album, after the first, and there is a song about the second, titled "Leather Idol."

This band is totally cool. It's alternative pop-rock teen-punk joy. The band is two girls, two guys, a lot of cool riffs and some fun lyrics.

"Heat Lightnin'"

The album opens with "Heat Lightin'." Struck by heat lightning? Okay, sure. It's easy to accept after the lines, "Quick as a flash, the light can ride you/Like having a motorcycle stuck inside you."

"Candy Song" and "Game Song"

"Candy Song" lists a lot of the classic candies, such as Almond Joy, Necco Wafers and Tootsie Rolls, comparing them to the singer's new love. She sings, "I like taking candy from you, my baby."

From a song called "Candy Song" that lists candies, the band goes to a song called "Game Song" that lists a lot of classic games like Mousetrap, Monopoly, Go Fish, Old Maid, Clue and Life, and relates them to a relationship.

Here's a bit of the lyrics: "The 8 Ball said, 'The reply is hazy'/But I know that you will drive my crazy/And when I tried to give you the slip/You said 'C4' and sunk my Battleship." This is the kind of playful lyrics that the band is so good at writing.

"Latex Dominatrix"
With a title like "Latex Dominatrix," the song would have to be fun, right? Well, it doesn't disappoint. But it does have serious overtones. The lyrics include, "They pay her, obey her and try to lay her/And pray someday to rise above her/To her, there's nothing to it/Just get on all fours and do it." The song celebrates the power of a dominatrix, but it is also about the distance a dominatrix feels from her work, from her clients, and thus from sex itself.

"Just My Size"

This song rocks. It's fun, it's loud, and at 1:53 it's over way too soon. The vocals sound amazing in all their distorted glory.

"Dime A Dozen"
This is a fun little pop song, one of the best on the album. It's a totally catchy song, replete with a punk drumbeat and pop handclaps. And sure, "You know your daddy must have married his first cousin/And guys like you are a dime a dozen."

"Mt. Pleasant"

This is another of the best songs on the album. It's just so bloody cool, with catchy riffs and then the chorus, which is nearly screamed, about how they wouldn't leave Mt. Pleasant even if they could. The vocals are awesome on this one, as they sing, "All liquor and lace/Drunk guys in your face/Broken 40s in the street/Losing lottery tickets at your feet."

"Nancy Drew"

This is an excellent song about a woman whose parents have thrown out all of her childhood possessions. It starts with a great bass line. And the lyrics are cool: "You threw out my Nancy Drew books/My model horses from Massachusetts/All my Barbies and all my Kens/My stuffed animals, my childhood friends." And she sings about the way that makes her feel now as an adult: "How do I get along without them?/I feel so unsteady/Oh Nancy, I miss you already."

"Leather Idol"

Oh yes, a love song to Leather Tuscadero, a minor character from the television series Happy Days. This song is wonderful. The guitar line is fantastic and fun. It starts off, "Forgive me if I worship vinyl idols/False idols with gleaming pleather sheen/But it's only for want of my Leather/Tuscadero, you'll always be my queen." And of course, "When I'm at your feet it's Happy Days."

The song breaks for a moment in the middle as they sing, "Your name was once Suzi Quatro/ 'til you changed your identity/Now it's Leather and so much the better." Suzi Quatro of course put out several records of her own.


For an album full of pop references from childhood, it's no surprise that it concludes with a song called "Crayola." This song is totally catchy, with pretty pop vocals. "I sent a letter, don't forget it/I drew a picture, I hope you get it/And that you're rested/And unmolested." And then it kicks in, with a furious guitar.

CD Track List

  1. Heat Lightnin'
  2. Candy Song
  3. Game Song
  4. Latex Dominatrix
  5. Just My Size
  6. Dime A Dozen
  7. Lovesick
  8. Mt. Pleasant
  9. Nancy Drew
  10. Hollywood Handsome
  11. Leather Idol
  12. Crayola

The Pink Album was released on Teen Beat, and then later re-issued by Elektra. Tuscadero formed in 1993. They joined Teen Beat the night of their very first concert performance. They put out several singles and a few albums, and then broke up in 1999. Tuscadero is Melissa Farris on vocals and guitar, Margaret McCartney on vocals and guitar, Phil Satlof on bass and screams, and Jack Hornady on drums.

TriChromes: "TriChromes" (2002) CD Review

Full-length album from the TriChromes features Grateful Dead's Bill Kreutzmann on drums and lyrics by Robert Hunter.

After Jerry Garcia's death, the surviving members of the Grateful Dead went their separate ways for a while, tackling a number of other projects. Bob Weir continued working with Ratdog. Phil Lesh formed Phil Lesh & Friends. Bill Kreutzmann formed the TriChromes.

The TriChromes released just one full-length CD, simply titled, TriChromes. Robert Hunter, one of the two main lyricists for the Grateful Dead, wrote the lyrics for most of the songs on this album.

"None So Blind"

The album opens with "None So Blind," a sometimes sweet, but always easy rock tune. It's a fairly simple, straightforward song with some nice guitar work. What's surprising is that the lead-off track on an album by a band with Bill Kreutzmann has such a simple and rather dull drum beat. Bill Kreutzmann is an incredible drummer, who usually has a jazzy edge to his grooves and rhythms.

"Iowa Soldier" is a more interesting song, with a good groove and a nice chorus: "Iowa's far away/Don't forsake me for another/Hold on for one more day." It's a song from a soldier who is asking his girl to hold on, that he'll see her when the war is over, no matter which side wins.

"Track 6" is possibly the best song on the album. The song has such a great feel to it, especially the chorus, which is "Train leaving on Track 6/Track 6 to paradise/Track 6 to heaven, baby/Wouldn't that be nice." Train imagery has always worked for Robert Hunter, as has river imagery - this song has both.

"Simply Nowhere" is a cool tune with a great reggae beat and groove.

"Dice With The Universe"
"Dice With The Universe" is a nice tune that was released on the EP of the same name early in 2002. This version is different from the version on the EP. Neal Schon and Ira Walker wrote the music for this one, and though they were both in the band when the EP was recorded, they are not listed as musicians on this CD. (Though they are thanked in the liner notes.)

Ralph Woodson

"Say You're Not Leaving" is the only song on the album whose lyrics were not written by Robert Hunter. (There are two instrumental tracks, which of course also don't have Robert Hunter's lyrics.) Ralph Woodson wrote this song. It has some interesting guitar work toward the end.

"Kick Ass On The Avenue" is a fun rocking tune with nice guitar licks and a bit of a blues edge. Sure, it has a dumb title, but it's a nice unabashed rock song.

"Stop, Drop And Roll" has an interesting drum beat and a cool guitar part, but again this song suffers from a stupid title. And sadly, these lyrics by Robert Hunter are just not up to his usual standards. As an instrumental, this would be a cool song, and in fact the instrumental section is pretty awesome.

Instrumental Tracks

The last two tracks are instrumentals. The first, "Impossible Triangle," has a cool, steady bass line and some nice guitar work. It was written by Ralph Woodson. The second, "Knot Of Eternity," fades in, as if from a jam or another song. But this song is itself a jam - a seemingly improvised strange little jam. It's this instrumental that shows more of what Bill Kreutzmann usually does on the drums.

TriChromes Musicians

The Trichromes are Bill Kreutzmann on drums, Mike DiPirro on bass, Ralph Woodson on guitar, and Sy Klopps on vocals.

CD Track List

  1. None So Blind
  2. Iowa Soldier
  3. Track 6
  4. Simply Nowhere
  5. Dice With The Universe
  6. Say You're Not Leaving
  7. For You
  8. Kick Ass On The Avenue
  9. Stop, Drop And Roll
  10. Impossible Triangle
  11. Knot Of Eternity

This was the only full-length release by the TriChromes, but they did release an EP, titled Dice With The Universe. This full-length CD was released in July of 2002.

Bill Kreutzmann is now working with a new band called 7 Walkers.

TriChromes: "Dice With The Universe" (2002) EP

There are only three songs, but this EP has twenty-five minutes of great music, and features features Bill Kreutzmann, drummer for the Grateful Dead.

"Dice With The Universe"

The CD starts with its only original song, "Dice With The Universe." The lyrics were written by Robert Hunter, who wrote many of the Grateful Dead's most loved songs. Here is a taste: "God don't play dice with the universe/Can't catch a cab, then grab a hearse/Don't matter how much you pray and curse/When the law comes down, you best disperse."

Neal Schon and Ira Walker wrote the music. The version on this EP is different from that on the full-length album. This version is slightly longer. It's a cool, easy jam, with some really nice guitar work.

"New Speedway Boogie"

The second song is a Grateful Dead cover, with lyrics by Robert Hunter and music by Jerry Garcia. "New Speedway Boogie" was originally included on the Grateful Dead's 1970 release Workingman's Dead.

The version here seems a bit faster than the Grateful Dead ever played it. The band does its own version, with its own style. While it's impossible for any guitarist in this position to not be compared to Jerry Garcia, Ralph Woodson definitely has his own style and flair. Of course there are moments when it seems he's trying to copy a lick or tone of Jerry's, but he clearly doesn't feel trapped or restricted by that. And of course Neal Schon has his own style. And so the jam in the song is something new. And it's pretty damn cool.

This is a live concert track.

"Tore Up Over You"

"Tore Up Over You" interestingly is a song that the Grateful Dead never did, but that Jerry Garcia did on his 1976 solo album Reflections. It was written by Hank Ballard. This was a song that the Jerry Garcia Band performed often in concert. Live versions can be found on How Sweet It Is, Pure Jerry: Theatre 1839, San Francisco and Pure Jerry: Bay Area 1978.

This version by the TriChromes has a good groove. It's rock, but with a definite blues edge. It's got a nice jam too which keeps the same groove, but never gets dull. There is some very cool drumming by Bill Kreutzmann.

This is a live track.

CD Track List

  1. Dice With The Universe
  2. New Speedway Boogie
  3. Tore Up Over You

This CD is dedicated to the memory of Ken Kesey, who died in November of 2001. Ken Kesey was closely tied to the early development of the Grateful Dead, and was part of the extended family throughout the band's existence. The Dead were the house band for Kesey's acid tests in 1965 and 1966 (for the first of these, the Grateful Dead still performed under their previous name, The Warlocks).

Musicians Include Neal Schon From Journey
The musicians on this EP are Bill Kreutzmann on drums, Neal Schon on guitar, Ralph Woodson on guitar, Ira Walker on bass, and Sy Klopps on vocals. (Bill, Ralph and Sy are also on the full-length CD, with the addition of Mike DiPirro on bass.)

Neal Schon is best known as the guitarist for Journey.

Bill Kreutzmann's New Project - 7 Walkers

Since Jerry Garcia's death in 1995, the surviving members of the Grateful Dead have done various individual projects. Bill Kreutzmann formed House Of Spirits in 1998. And then in 2002 he released this TriChromes EP as well as a full length CD titled simply TriChromes. (This EP was released in February on 33rd Street Records, and the full-length CD came out in July of 2002.)

In 2009 he got back together with the surviving members of the Grateful Dead, and toured as The Dead. And now in 2010 he is performing with a new band, 7 Walkers. They will be releasing an album later this year.

(Note: I originally posted this review on June 6, 2010 on another website.)