Monday, April 30, 2012

Little Richard: "Here's Little Richard" (2012) Enhanced CD Review

Has there ever been anyone with the energy and vivacity and, well, jubilance of Little Richard?  This album is like an instant party. Seriously.  If you haven't listened to him in a while, you might have forgotten how palpable the joy is in his performance.  This CD works as a great reminder. Don't listen to it too late at night, because your stereo will turn the volume up on its own, and rightly so.

This album contains those songs you love, like "Tutti Frutti," "True, Fine Mama," "Ready Teddy" and "Jenny Jenny."  And he has a great band backing him, including Earl Palmer on drums on most of these tracks. (Palmer played with Frank Sinatra, Cannonball Adderly, Fats Domino and The Monkees, among others.)

There are also three bonus tracks. The first two bonus tracks are the demo that Little Richard made at a radio station and mailed to Specialty Records.  The third bonus track is an interview with Art Rupe, the founder of Specialty Records (recorded in 1997).  He talks about how he was looking for a singer like BB King when Little Richard's demo tape arrived, and how Richard's persistence helped get him signed to the label.  He also talks about the film The Girl Can't Help It, and then about Little Richard finding religion and quitting rock and roll (an argument against religion, if ever one was needed.)

In addition to the bonus tracks, there are two videos included on the disc: "Tutti Frutti" and "Long Tall Sally."  Both have Little Richard standing at the piano, sometimes playing it, sometimes dancing around.  They seemed to have been filmed on the same stage, though he's wearing a different suit in each video. We don't see the band at all, which is a shame.  But it's great to see Little Richard from those early years.

This CD also contains nice long liner notes, with several photos (plus, it includes the original liner notes). This special disc even contains a small poster of the album cover.  Is it necessary?  No.  Am I happy to have it?  Absolutely.

"Tutti Frutti"

The CD opens with "Tutti Frutti," and yes, this song still hits me in all the right spots. The liner notes for this special release include a bit of the original, much raunchier lyrics: "Tutti frutti, good booty" and "If it's greasy, it makes it easy."  Oh man, I'd love to hear Little Richard shout out those lines.  "Tutti Frutti" reached #1 on the R&B chart, and #17 on the pop chart.

Little Richard wrote it, along with Robert Blackwell and Dorothy LaBostrie, the latter apparently responsible for the cleaner lyrics.

"True, Fine Mama"

"True, Fine Mama" is another delicious song. I love listening to Little Richard sing.  He sounds like he might explode at any moment.  This song has more typical early rock and roll backing vocals, but if anything, they show even more how wild Richard is, by contrast.  Little Richard wrote this one.

"Ready Teddy"

"Ready Teddy" has always been one of my favorites.  When he shouts about picking up his girl, you know he means business - this isn't the voice of someone who is going to merely hold the girl's hand and give her a peck at the end of the night.  The lyrics are innocent, the voice isn't.  This is a great one to dance to.  It must have been something to see him perform in the 1950s.


"Baby" is a bit mellower, but still miles from being mellow.  It has a more relaxed rock groove, but Little Richard's vocals are still electric and electrifying.  It was recorded in September of 1955.

There is another version of this song in the bonus tracks.  It's the first of two tracks on the demo, and on this recording Little Richard introduces himself and the song.  This version is twice as long as the officially released one.  It has an instrumental intro.  His vocals aren't as loud in this version, but the raw quality is totally delicious.  He's backed by The Upsetters.  This version was recorded in February of 1955.

Little Richard wrote "Baby."

"Slippin' And Slidin'"

"Slippin' And Slidin'" was a popular tune for Little Richard, reaching #2 on the R&B chart, and #33 on the pop chart. There is almost a yodel-like quality to his voice at a moment in this song, which is completely wonderful.  I basically love everything Little Richard does with his voice. This song also features Lee Allen on tenor sax and Alvin "Red" Tyler on baritone sax.

"Long Tall Sally"

"Long Tall Sally", of course, was another big hit, reaching #1 on the R&B chart, and #6 on the pop chart.  It has everything we love about Little Richard's music, including those built-in pauses to let Richard's vocals really rip.  It was written by Robert Blackwell, Enotris Johnson and Little Richard.

"Rip It Up"

Little Richard is one performer that I completely believe when he says he's going to rip it up and shake it up.  This song also reached #1 on the R&B chart (and only #17 on the pop chart).  I love Earl Palmer's work on drums on this track.

"Jenny Jenny"

"Jenny Jenny" is an insane song.  Little Richard acts as his own backing singer - it's exhausting just listening to him.  How does he do it?  Bloody incredible, and still gets "wooo" in there, as well as that delicious scream before the sax allows him to take a brief breather.  This song certainly has a loose feel, and when he sings "spinning like a spinning top," you get the sense that he himself is spinning, and likely to fly into you if you're not careful.

"Jenny Jenny" reached #2 on the R&B chart, and #10 on the pop chart.

"All Night Long"

"All Night Long" is the second song of the demo he made with The Upsetters in February of 1955. This one is much more in the blues category.  It features some wild work on saxophone, at one point screaming as well as Little Richard does.  Little Richard wrote "All Night Long."

CD Track List
  1. Tutti Frutti
  2. True, Fine Mama
  3. Can't Believe You Wanna Leave
  4. Ready Teddy
  5. Baby
  6. Slippin' And Slidin'
  7. Long Tall Sally
  8. Miss Ann
  9. Oh Why?
  10. Rip It Up
  11. Jenny Jenny
  12. She's Got It
  13. Baby (demo)
  14. All Night Long (demo)
  15. Interview With Special Records Founder Art Rupe
This special edition of Here's Little Richard was released on April 17, 2012.

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Ad Libs: "The Complete Blue Cat Recordings" (2012) CD Review

The Ad Libs, for those who might be unfamiliar with the name, was a 1960s doo-wop group from New Jersey.  I love listening to these early vocal groups.  There is a joy and an innocence to the music. It's like an alternate reality that you sometimes want to be a part of, and almost can be simply by listening and immersing yourself in these great tunes.

There are twenty-three tracks listed on the back of the case, more than half of which were previously unreleased.  But when I put the disc in, I was surprised to see there are thirty tracks, totaling nearly eighty minutes.  Holy moly!

It's pretty amazing that these tracks are available.  A good chunk of them are a cappella demos, and these are the best tracks of this collection.  It's especially in these renditions that you can hear just what a damn good group of singers these guys were.  And of course, that's how a lot of these groups began, performing unaccompanied on street corners and wherever else they could.  So you're hearing the real thing here.  These songs were all recorded in 1964 and 1965.

"The Boy From New York City"

The Complete Blue Cat Recordings opens with The Ad Libs' giant hit, "The Boy From New York City." It reached #8 on the Billboard Hot 100.  You all know this one.  This is a song that often creeps into my noggin.  The line that always sticks out for me is "And he's cute in his mohair suit."  Is this an early fetish song?  Okay, I want a mohair suit.

This collection features three more versions of "The Boy From New York City."  The first is an a cappella demo version that is completely delightful.  This song really doesn't need any instruments, just this great group of singers (with some finger snaps, of course).  I think this version might be superior to the one everyone's heard.

The second bonus version is a slightly longer, alternate version, which features some interesting stuff on horn, particularly on the lines "And he's neat, and oh so sweet" and "And he's cute in his mohair suit" (there is no horn on those lines in the original). The final version is the backing track without the lead vocals.

"Kicked Around"

"Kicked Around" is a very strange song. It feels almost like it's not quite finished, like the instruments present were selected at random with the intention that they'd be replaced later.  That is not to say it's a bad tune.  I actually really like it, partly because there is nothing else that sounds quite like it.  This song was the flip side to "The Boy From New York City."

There are two more versions of "Kicked Around" on this disc.  The first is an a cappella demo version, which is insanely fun.  I definitely prefer it to the official version.  It's one of the collection's best tracks.  The second is a slightly longer, alternate version, which features some goofy and fun backing vocals.

"Ask Anybody"

"Ask Anybody" is a fun, silly tune with a great groove.  This one really features female vocalist Mary Ann Thomas. She lets loose on this one at times.  There are some strange little (and very cool) touches on saxophone, like little thoughts, breaths, interjections.  "Ask Anybody" was written by Rudy Clark, and is one of my favorites.

There is a second version presented in this collection.  This alternate version has a great energy, and feels just a bit more raw, particularly in Mary Ann's lead vocal line.

"The Slime"

I knew I was going to love this song.  After all, how could a mid-1960s song titled "The Slime" be anything less than wonderful?  And yeah, my favorite section is when the male vocalists sing, "The slime" while Mary Ann Thomas sings, "Get down in the gutter/And melt like butter." 

"The Slime" isn't about some jerk who did her wrong.  It's the name of a dance.  And if anyone can show me how to do it, please contact me.  I'm serious.  It was written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, the folks responsible for some of Elvis Presley's most famous songs, as well as some great stuff The Coasters did. 

(I'm trying to find out for sure, but it seems that the Coasters recorded a version of "The Slime" that was titled "The Climb."  I've read conflicting information, but it seems "The Climb" was the original version, and later it was switched to "The Slime."  And one site says it was later titled "Daddy Wah Dah Do" and recorded by Peggy Lee.  Who knows?)

"The Tide Has Turned"

"The Tide Has Turned" is a wonderful tune with male lead vocals.  This is an a cappella demo recorded in October of 1964.  Here is a taste of the lyrics: "I told you a long, long time ago/How much I really love you so/Now the tide has turned/Say I pleaded with you patiently/To always stay real close to me/Yeah, but now the tide has turned."

"Santa's On His Way"

I'm always on the lookout for good Christmas tunes, because most Christmas songs flat-out suck.  While The Ad Libs' tune, "Santa's On His Way," isn't fantastic, it definitely has charm.  A good deal of its appeal is in its a cappella delivery.  And I can't help but like the lines, "Don't you know little things you say and do/Will make ol' Santa Claus think an awful lot of you." And the second time she sings it, she changes the second line to "Will make ol' Santa Claus bring a lot of things to you."  Hey, I want a lot of things!  I'm certainly adding "Santa's On His Way" to my holiday play list.

Tracks 24 - 30

Tracks 24 through 30, though not listed on the CD case, are bits of The Ad Libs in the studio.  All contain studio chatter.  They break down as follows:

Track 24 is the band working on "The Slime."  Some of the studio chatter is interesting, like when they're told how to position themselves around the microphone.

Track 25 is the band working on "He Ain't No Angel."  You can hear someone ask, "Is the group singing too loud?"

Track 26 is the band working on "Ask Anybody."  There is a bit of horn, and they work on the tempo.

Track 27 is the band working on "Johnny My Baby."  Someone says it's take 1.

Track 28 is the band working on "Kicked Around."  This track has probably the most interesting studio chatter in terms of putting a song together.  Plus, it has this: "I'm sorry - I forgot your name."

Track 29 is the band working on "Oo-Wee Oh Me Oh My."

Track 30 is the band working on "The Boy From New York City."  After a bit of it, someone says, "Everybody's soul wasn't in it."

CD Track List
  1. The Boy From New York City
  2. Kicked Around
  3. He Ain't No Angel
  4. Ask Anybody
  5. On The Corner
  6. Oo-Wee Oh Me Oh My
  7. I'm Just A Down Home Girl
  8. Johnny My Boy
  9. The Slime
  10. You'll Always Be In Style
  11. The Boy From New York City (a cappella demo)
  12. Kicked Around  (a cappella demo)
  13. Oo-Wee Oh Me Oh My  (a cappella demo)
  14. The Tide Has Turned  (a cappella demo)
  15. Strange Things  (a cappella demo)
  16. Come On And Help Me  (a cappella demo)
  17. Santa's On His Way  (a cappella demo)
  18. The Boy From New York City  (alt. version)
  19. Kicked Around  (alt. version)
  20. Ask Anybody  (alt. version)
  21. Oo-Wee Oh Me Oh My  (alt. version)
  22. Johnny My Boy  (alt. version)
  23. The Boy From New York City (backing track)
Plus tracks 24 - 30, The Ad Libs in the studio

The Ad Libs, at the time of these recordings, were Hughie Harris, Danny Austin, Dave Watt, Norman Donegan and Mary Ann Thomas.

The Complete Blue Cat Recordings is scheduled to be released on May 1, 2012 through Sun Entertainment and Real Gone Music.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Eddie Rabbitt: "13 Original #1 Hits" (2012) CD Review

When I was growing up, there was one summer when Eddie Rabbitt's "Step By Step" played on the radio approximately every fifteen minutes.  I had the song memorized long before I bought the record.  Shockingly, that song is not included in this new collection, 13 Original #1 Hits, though it did reach #1.  However, all the songs on this disc were giant hits, and some of Eddie Rabbitt's absolute best songs are included.

There are some wonderful tunes in this collection, particularly "Every Which Way But Loose" and "Drivin' My Life Away" (and the ridiculously catchy "You Can't Run From Love").  Just to be clear, all of these songs reached #1 on the country chart, not the pop chart.  However, a lot of them did well on the pop chart too.  Most of these songs were co-written by Eddie Rabbitt.

"Drinkin' My Baby (Off My Mind)"

This collection of #1 hits opens with "Drinkin' My Baby (Off My Mind)," a fun, boppy country tune from 1976.  This one showcases Eddie Rabbitt's vocal talents, and is one of those great country honky tonk bar songs. So joyously he sings, "Drinking and thinking about facing tomorrow/Sinking, sinking in a sea of sorrow/Hey bartender, line 'em up down the bar." 

"Drinkin' My Baby (Off My Mind)" was written by Eddie Rabbitt and Even Stevens, and was featured on Eddie Rabbitt's LP Rocky Mountain Music

"You Don't Love Me Anymore"

"You Don't Love Me Anymore" is one of those great sad 1970s tunes, this one from 1978. He says to her, "It would be a lie to say I don't still love you."  That line makes what follows even more heartbreaking: "And tomorrow I'll remember how you turned to me and said/It'd be a lie to say that I still love you/That I'll be thinking of you, boy/I'll drive by to say hello sometimes/Oh, but now you're gone/And all I have are five words on my mind/You don't love me anymore."

This is one of the few tracks on this collection not co-written by Eddie Rabbitt.  It was written by Alan Ray and Jeff Raymond.

"Every Which Way But Loose"

"Every Which Way But Loose" is my favorite from this collection.  This song was a big one for me in my childhood.  I really enjoyed the film, and its sequel, Any Which Way You Can, watching both many times.  I've recently revisited them, and they're actually not that great. In fact, the one thing that does really hold up is this song.  "Every Which Way But Loose" is truly an excellent song.

Written by Steve Dorff, Milton Brown and Snuff Garrett, it features lines like, "Those memories still keep calling me/From somewhere in my past/Better hurry if they want me/Because I can feel me fading fast/While you're turning me/Every which way but loose."  And Eddie Rabbitt's delivery is perfect.

"Drivin' My Life Away"

"Drivin' My Life Away" is a fun song with an interesting vocal line (which during the verses reminds me more than just a bit of Dylan's "Subterranean Homesick Blues").  It also has a sweet-sounding chorus: "Ooh, I'm drivin' my life away/Looking for a better way for me/Ooh, I'm drivin' my life away/Looking for a sunny day." Eddie Rabbitt has a really good voice.  This is another of my personal favorites. 

"Drivin' My Life Away" was originally included on Eddie Rabbitt's 1980 record, Horizon. It was also featured in the 1980 film, Roadie.

"I Love A Rainy Night"

"I Love A Rainy Night" is possibly his most famous song, and with good cause - it's a seriously good and totally catchy tune.  It's one of those songs that makes you feel good every time you hear it. There's a reason we go back to these songs over and over. And I like that he throws in at the end, almost as an afterthought, "And I love you too." 

"I Love A Rainy Night" was written by Eddie Rabbitt, Even Stevens and David Malloy, and was included on Horizon.  It not only reached #1 on the country chart, but hit the top spot on the pop chart too.

"You And I"

There are two duets in this collection.  The first is "You And I," a duet with Crystal Gayle. They sing, "And I remember our first embrace/That smile that was on your face/The promises that we made/And now your love is my reward/And I love you even more than I ever did before."  Sure, it's a bit cheesy, but it's also pretty.

In addition to reaching the top of the country chart, "You And I" reached #7 on the pop chart.  "You And I" was written by Frank Myers.

"Both To Each Other (Friends & Lovers)"

This collection ends with its second duet, "Both To Each Other (Friends & Lovers)," which Eddie Rabbitt sings with Juice Newton.  Again, there is an undeniable cheesiness to it.  Keep in mind this song came out in 1986, the year everything went wrong in pop music. That being said, their voices blend well together as they sing, "And I'll be your friend/And I'll be your lover/'Cause I know in our hearts we agree/We can be both to each other."  And Juice sounds great on the verse she takes herself.

CD Track List
  1. Drinkin' My Baby (Off My Mind)
  2. You Don't Love Me Anymore
  3. I Just Want To Love You
  4. Every Which Way But Loose
  5. Suspicions
  6. Gone Too Far
  7. Drivin' My Life Away
  8. I Love A Rainy Night
  9. Someone Could Lose A Heart Tonight
  10. You And I
  11. You Can't Run From Love
  12. The Best Year Of My Life
  13. Both To Each Other (Friends & Lovers)
Eddie Rabbitt's 13 Original #1 Hits is scheduled to be released on May 1st, 2012 through Rhino Entertainment and Real Gone Music.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Chris Barber: "Memories Of My Trip" (2011/2012) CD Review

The new Chris Barber two-disc retrospective, Memories Of My Trip, is one of the best anthologies I've ever heard.  The music here is all phenomenal, and a lot of it is stuff you may not have heard, for some of these tracks were previously unreleased.  But certainly you know the players - Muddy Waters, Eric Clapton, Van Morrison, Mark Knopfler.  And you know a lot of the tunes (there is a ten-minute rendition of "Georgia On My Mind" that is wonderful).  It's two and a half hours of music - blues, jazz, and a bit of gospel.  Chris Barber, for those who aren't familiar with him, plays trombone and bass, and also does some of the vocals.  He has been around for a long time (he turned eighty-two just a week ago), and these recordings span many decades.

Another reason to own this collection is its extensive liner notes, with remembrances by Chris Barber himself regarding these tracks.  Very cool.

"Memories Of My Trip"

Memories Of My Trip begins with its title track, a great acoustic blues tune that features Brownie McGhee on vocals and guitar. Recorded in 1959, this song mentions Chris Barber's band members ("And they had a singer called Ottilie Patterson/Dick, Graham and Eddie, Monty, Pat and Chris/How can I forget memories of my trip"), and was Brownie's way of thanking them for the good times.

"When Things Go Wrong"

I've always known this song under the title "It Hurts Me Too."  But under either title, this is a great tune.  And this is a wonderful rendition, with female vocalist Ottilie Patterson singing lead. (Most versions I've heard have had male lead vocals.) And of course the horn section is wonderful - featuring Chris Barber on trombone, Pat Halcox on trumpet, and Monty Sunshine on clarinet. There is also some great work by Sonny Terry on harmonica. This recording is from 1958.

"Weeping Willow"

"Weeping Willow" features Eric Clapton on vocals and guitar.  It's always great to hear Eric Clapton do some real blues, and this one with a bit of New Orleans jazz flavor. It's interesting how lines from one song would find their way to others: "Well, I lay down last night, tried to take my rest/Lay down last night, tried to take my rest/But my mind kept rambling like the wild geese in the west" will be familiar to anyone who's heard "I Know You Rider."  This recording is from 2010, but its fantastic and authentic sound could lead you to believe it was from the 1940s or 1950s.

"Kansas City"

The first disc features a rendition of "Kansas City" with Muddy Waters on vocals and guitar that was recorded at the Capital Jazz Festival in 1979. The recording isn't of the best quality, but as Chris Barber explains in the liner notes, a member of the audience recorded it and handed him the cassette after the show.  And now we all get the chance to hear it.  How cool is that?

"Goin' Up The River"

"Goin' Up The River" is one of the CD's coolest tracks (in a collection where every track is cool). Recorded in 2006, this is a nice long version, and it features Jeff Healey on trumpet, guitar and vocals. I love the guitar work on this track. This song has a wonderful, slow groove, and there is some nice work on piano by Brian Graville. And of course Chris Barber's solo is so smooth, so great.  This track was originally included on the Jeff Healey & The Jazz Wizards album It's Tight Like That.

Van Morrison

The first disc features three songs with Van Morrison.  The first is "How Long Blues," recorded in 1998.  It's a delicious mix of trombone, banjo and harmonica.  Van Morrison is on vocals, guitar and harmonica, and his voice sounds great. This is seriously good live track.

The second, "Goin' Home," was recorded on that same date. This song features the same musicians as on "How Long Blues," but has an expanded horn section (Pat Halcox, John Crocker, John Defferary). Van Morrison is on vocals and guitar.  "Goin' Home" has a great easy-going jazz groove that will absolutely lift your spirits.

The third, "Oh Didn't He Ramble," was recorded many years earlier, in 1976.  It is a ridiculously fun track that features Dr. John on piano, as well as some great work by Ollie Brown on drums.  Insanely, this track was not released until this collection, and is yet one more reason to grab a copy.

"Another Sad One"

The first disc ends with a short instrumental track by guitarist John Slaughter, who died in August of 2010, when this album was first being put together.

"St. Louis Blues/Missouri Special/St. Louis Blues"

The second disc begins with a great live track from 1962 that features Ottilie Patterson on vocals.  And boy, she really belts this one out, giving a fantastic vocal performance - "You know that I hate, hate everybody/Lord, I hate everybody in your town."  I love this kind of slow, mean, dark blues/jazz.

"St. Louis Blues" then moves right into "Missouri Special," picking up the tempo.  This is a fun one to dance to.  And then it effortlessly switches gears back to "St. Louis Blues."  This track features Edmond Hall on clarinet.

"High Society"

The second disc has a very cool rendition of "High Society," also from 1962. This track features Edmond Hall on clarinet, Ian Wheeler on clarinet, Pat Halcox on trumpet, Eddie Smith on banjo, Dick Smith on bass, Graham Burbidge on drums, and of course Chris Barber on trombone. There is some truly impressive and spirited playing on this track, and it's one of my favorites.

"Rock Candy"

Okay, "Rocky Candy" kind of blew me away.  In a way, it's a really simple groove.  But it's also a great tune, a fast-paced instrumental gem from 1966.  And it features Keith Emerson on organ (yes, from Emerson, Lake & Palmer). Lee Jackson is on bass, and Alan Turner is on drums.  If this song were about half as good as it is, I could imagine it in one of those mid-1960s black and white New York grindhouse films, with awkward women stripping to it.  There are lots of false endings, which normally annoy me, but for some reason totally work for this song.

"Tea Party Blues"

"Tea Party Blues" has nothing to do with those right-wing wackos. This song is a great, groovy instrumental tune, complete with finger snaps and delicious bass line reminiscent of "Fever."  (That's Gary Simons on bass.)  And on top of that, there are some great performances on horns - Jonny Boston, James Evans and Chris Barber.  This track was recorded in 1993.

"Jack Teagarden Blues"

"Jack Teagarden Blues" is one of the most interesting tracks in this collection. It features Eddie Durham on trombone, as well as Chris Barber on trombone. It's like this wild, bizarre conversation between the two of them, and it is seriously a joy to listen to.  Even if you can't pick up this collection, make an effort to somehow listen to this track.

Mark Knopfler

The second disc concludes with three tracks featuring Mark Knopfler, all recorded in 2000.  The first is a groovy rendition of "Blues Stay Away From Me."  The second is a fun ragtime instrumental titled "Dallas Rag."  And the third, "'Til The Next Time I'm In Town," is probably the sweetest tune of the whole collection.  I particularly love Mark Knopfler's vocals on this one.

CD Track List

Disc One
  1. Memories Of My Trip
  2. When Things Go Wrong
  3. Do Lord, Do Remember Me
  4. Weeping Willow
  5. Kansas City
  6. Love Me Or Leave Me
  7. Can't Be Satisfied
  8. Diggin' My Potatoes
  9. Goin' Up The River
  10. How Long Blues
  11. Goin' Home
  12. Oh Didn't He Ramble
  13. Lonesome Road
  14. I'll Be Rested
  15. Precious Lord, Take My Hand
  16. Couldn't Keep It To Myself
  17. Another Sad One
Disc Two
  1. St. Louis Blues/Missouri Special/St. Louis Blues
  2. High Society
  3. Rock Candy
  4. Georgia On My Mind
  5. Rose Room
  6. C-Jam Blues
  7. Tea Party Blues
  8. Jack Teagarden Blues
  9. Tailgate Boogie
  10. Winin' Boy Blues
  11. On The Sunny Side Of The Street
  12. Blues Stay Away From Me
  13. Dallas Rag
  14. 'Til The Next Time I'm In Town
Memories Of My Trip was released last year on April 18th in the UK, and is scheduled to be released May 8, 2012 in the U.S. through Proper American.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Paul Thorn: "What The Hell Is Goin' On?" (2012) CD Review

Paul Thorn's new CD, What The Hell Is Goin' On?, is an album of cover songs, his first such album. There's a wonderfully gritty quality to Paul's voice, which is perfect for blues rock. His is a voice with blues and soul, but also humor. And some of the song selections in this collection really highlight that sense of humor. But there is also the gorgeous and earnest "Shed A Little Light" (one of my favorite tracks), and the serious (and intense) title track. He has an excellent, tight band, and the songs are presented with a kind of immediate bluesy joy. This is a good album.

"Don't Let Me Down Again"

What The Hell Is Goin' On? opens with the Lindsey Buckingham song "Don't Let Me Down Again," which features a fun, bright, groove. The bright feel is especially due to the keyboards. This is one of the CD's best tracks, and a great way to open the album. And wouldn't we all like to say this to that special someone: "Baby, baby, don't treat me this way/I'm going to make it again someday/There's just one thing I'd like you to know/I'm going to be just fine if you go."

"Snake Farm"

"Snake Farm" is a good heavy blues number. The line "Snake farm/Just sounds nasty" always makes me laugh, and then it's followed by "Snake farm/It pretty much is." That's great. "Snake Farm" is a simple song that's completely effective and, yes, a bit silly. And if you listen on headphones, you'll hear him whisper "Snake farm" into your left ear. It's intimate and odd. The song has a strange ending. The drums fade out, and the keyboard and shaker become more prominent.

"Snake Farm" was written by Ray Wylie Hubbard, and was the title track to his 2006 release.

"Shelter Me Lord"

Tab Benoit's rendition of this song was just released on his Legacy album. Paul Thorn's version is quite different, sounding somewhat like Joe Cocker in the late 1980s (particularly in that glorious section with the backup singers). "Shelter Me Lord" was written by Buddy Miller and Julie Miller.

"What The Hell Is Goin' On"

The CD's title track is a great blues rock number written by Elvin Bishop. This song begins with the steady thump of the kick drum, before that great ripping blues guitar comes in. But it's the song's lyrics and vocals that really do it for me. It starts, "Robbing and shooting/And raping and killing/Bloody murder more or less than running airplanes into buildings/Every time I turn around, something else is going wrong/Hey hey hey, tell me what the hell is goin' on."

Paul Thorn delivers these lyrics in a voice that is part anger, part impotence ("Scared to read my paper/I can't watch TV/The world is getting way too crazy for me"). Something a lot of us feel these days. That leads him to sing, "Keep your doors all locked up real tight/Don't let your children get out of your sight/Oh boy, the good ol' days are gone/Won't somebody please tell me, what the hell is goin' on?" No one has the answer. We're all asking the question.

"Small Town Talk"

"Small Town Talk" is a sweet, reggae-flavored song. And thematically it's an interesting follow-up to "What The Hell Is Goin' On," for in this one he sings, "You can't believe everything you hear/And only half of what you see/And if you're gonna believe in anyone/Well, you gotta believe in me." Written by Rick Danko, "Small Town Talk" is one of my favorite tracks. (It feels a bit like Elvis Costello.)

"Bull Mountain Bridge"

"Bull Mountain Bridge" is a great song. It starts as a rough guitar-led tune, telling the tale of an interesting character. But it becomes truly wonderful when the backing vocalists join him for these lines: "Take him on down below the Bull Mountain Bridge/Tie his hands and throw him in the river/We might as well give him his farewell party tonight/He said knock him in the head, he's better off dead/Break his arms and throw him in the river/If anybody asks, just tell him he committed suicide." Suicide with broken arms and tied hands? Well, let's not worry about it. Once they sing the chorus, they don't go back to any verses. No need, right? Just sing that great chorus again, and again. This song is strangely fun and joyous.

"Bull Mountain Bridge" was written by Wild Bill Emerson and Martha Jo Emerson. This version features Delbert McLinton on vocals, as well as the talents of Delaney McLinton, Kevin Welch, Danny Flowers, Etta Britt and Bob Britt on backing vocals.


"Jukin'" is another fun tune, this one written by Big Al Anderson, Shawn Camp and Pat McLaughlin. In this one, Paul sings, "Call up your sister/She come right on/Wouldn't you know she had the red dress on/I can't resist her/Girl, you know I done you wrong." Cheating has never sounded so wonderful. And of course it's the girl's fault: "If you want me to stop it, girl, you'd better get on back home." That's right, you tell her. And in the meantime, enjoy yourself. I love these lines: "I love you, baby/You know I do/But your sister wiggles just like you."

CD Track List
  1. Don't Let Me Down Again
  2. Snake Farm
  3. Shelter Me Lord
  4. Shed A Little Light
  5. What The Hell Is Goin' On
  6. Small Town Talk
  7. Walk In My Shadow
  8. Wrong Number
  9. Bull Mountain Bridge
  10. Jukin'
  11. She's Got A Crush On You
  12. Take My Love With You

Musicians appearing on this album include Paul Thorn on vocals, guitar and percussion; Bill Hinds on slide guitar, electric guitar, acoustic guitar and backing vocals; Michael Graham on piano and organ; Ralph Friedrichsen on bass and backing vocals; and Jeffrey Perkins on drums and percussion.

What The Hell Is Goin' On? is scheduled to be released May 8, 2012 on Perpetual Obscurity Records.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Run For The Roses: Celebrating The Music Of Jerry Garcia, Robert Hunter And The Jerry Garcia Band (2012) CD Review

On December 3, 2011 a benefit concert was held at The Fillmore in San Francisco. Titled Run for the Roses, this show celebrated the music of Jerry Garcia, Robert Hunter and the Jerry Garcia Band. The concert, which benefited the Rex Foundation, featured three sets of music. Tim Bluhm, Greg Loiacono, Nicki Bluhm, Dan Eisenberg and Scott Thunes performed an acoustic opening set of Grateful Dead music. That was followed by Greg Anton, Sunshine Garcia Becker, John Kadlecik, Melvin Seals and Mike Sugar performing a Jerry Garcia Band tribute set. The third set was performed by The Everyone Orchestra, which as you might guess was all of the musicians from the earlier sets, with the additions of Tim Carbone, Katy Gaughan and John Morgan Kimock.

A good portion of the music performed that night (approximately two hours' worth) is now available on a 2-CD set titled Run For The Roses.

Acoustic Set

This collection starts with a nice, slow sweet acoustic version of "Bird Song." This version features some nice harmonies, and sounds almost like a lullaby, which works especially well on a line like "sleep in the stars." It's a really good rendition, with a nice, subdued jam. This song originally appeared on Jerry Garcia's first solo album, titled simply Garcia.

This CD's rendition of "Tennessee Jed" has an interesting and cool mix of acoustic guitar with electric organ. The line "Drink all day and rock all night" gets a predictable reaction from the crowd.

There is a slow, easy-going rendition of "Brown-Eyed Women." The way it's sung, with the vocals at the front of the mix, really highlights the story, the characters (which I always liked). For those who aren't familiar with the song, here is a taste of the lyrics: "Delilah Jones was the mother of twins/Two times over, and the rest were sins/Raised eight boys, only I turned bad/I didn't get the lickings that the other ones had." I really love this song, and this is one of the best renditions I've heard.

"Brokedown Palace" is a song off of my favorite album of all time, American Beauty (1970). This is one of the most beautiful songs the Grateful Dead ever performed, and these guys do a great job with it. Apparently, this was the last song of the acoustic set, for at the end they say, "Thank you very much. Enjoy your evening. We'll see you guys in a little while."

Second Set

The second set, though known as the Jerry Garcia Band tribute set, features two original songs (with lyrics by Robert Hunter), as well as a somewhat messy version of "Alabama Getaway," a Grateful Dead tune. So it's not strictly a set of Jerry Garcia Band material.

The first track is "Run For The Roses," the title track from Jerry Garcia's 1982 studio release. This is a pretty good version. And of course it's great to hear Melvin Seals, who played keyboards in the Jerry Garcia Band.

As I mentioned, this set includes two original songs, with music by Greg Anton and John Kadlecik, and lyrics by Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter. The first of those is "Give Me The Business." This band definitely gives it a Grateful Dead feel, interpreting the song in a way that Garcia might have if he'd tackled it. Here is a taste of the lyrics: "Remember what I told you/Not so many years ago/Over in the doorway underneath the mistletoe/A kiss is not a promise/Just the interest on a smile/The only thing important is a certain sense of style."

The second original song is title "American Spring." This one doesn't feel like a Grateful Dead song, and, perhaps at least partly for that reason, is less interesting to me.

Those are followed by two songs that Robert Hunter and Jerry Garcia had no part in writing, but which the Jerry Garcia Band often played in concert: "That's What Love Will Make You Do" and "Tangled Up In Blue." Melvin Seals is really prominent on these tracks, and that helps make them two of the collection's best.

"That's What Love Will Make You Do" was written by Eddie Marion, James Banks, and Henderson Thigpen, and was included Jerry Garcia's Don't Let Go (2001) and Let It Rock (2009). You can hear the audience sing along with this one.

"Tangled Up In Blue" was, of course, written by Bob Dylan. Jerry Garcia certainly had his own spin on this song, and this band followed that interpretation, including the backing vocals, "tangled up in blue, tangled up in blue." However, like Bob Dylan often does, they screw around with the pronouns in the first several verses - sometimes it's "I," but more often "he" or "she." As far as the pronouns went, Jerry Garcia stuck pretty closely to Dylan's original version of the song, from Blood On The Tracks. There are a few changes in the lyrics, like "truck drivers' wives" instead of "carpenters' wives."

Third Set

Music from the third set includes two long jams. Matt Butler is listed as musical conductor for this set. I'm not quite sure how one conducts a jam, but no matter. The music is good.

The first jam, titled "Rex Jam," has a good groove. And even though it's a jam, there are vocals. They come in at approximately the six-minute mark, and are riffs on "And We Bid You Goodnight" - "Lay down my brothers, you'd better take your rest/Put your head on your savior's breast" - and "Run For The Roses - "We're gonna run for the roses." There is also a nice percussion section, but it is the section after that that is my favorite. And of course I absolutely love the violin (that's Tim Carbone, from Railroad Earth).

The second jam is titled "Conducted Jam." (Again, how does one conduct a jam?) John Morgan Kimock plays drums on this track. The jam starts with bass and drums, setting a cool groove. This is an interesting jam, as it keeps a somewhat slow, steady rhythm. That is, until a few minutes before the end, when there is a false ending, and then the audience is asked to sing a section. It gets a bit silly, and someone wonders aloud what Ken Kesey would think of this one. At the end of the track, there are band introductions.

Between those two jams is a really nice version of "Deal," a song Jerry Garcia played frequently, both with the Grateful Dead and at Jerry Garcia Band shows. "Deal" would often conclude the first set. And this collection of music ends with "My Sisters And Brothers," often a highlight of Jerry Garcia Band shows. This is a really good rendition of the tune, with a nice lead section on violin.

CD Track List
  1. Bird Song - Tim Bluhm, Greg Loiacono, Nicki Bluhm, Dan Eisenberg and Scott Thunes
  2. Tennessee Jed - Tim Bluhm, Greg Loiacono, Nicki Bluhm, Dan Eisenberg and Scott Thunes
  3. Brown-Eyed Women - Tim Bluhm, Greg Loiacono, Nicki Bluhm, Dan Eisenberg and Scott Thunes
  4. Brokedown Palace - Tim Bluhm, Greg Loiacono, Nicki Bluhm, Dan Eisenberg and Scott Thunes
  5. Run For The Roses - Greg Anton, Sunshine Becker, John Kadlecik, Melvin Seals, and Mike Sugar
  6. Give Me The Business - Greg Anton, Sunshine Becker, John Kadlecik, Melvin Seals, and Mike Sugar
  7. Mission In The Rain - Greg Anton, Sunshine Becker, John Kadlecik, Melvin Seals, and Mike Sugar
  8. Alabama Getaway - Greg Anton, Sunshine Becker, John Kadlecik, Melvin Seals, and Mike Sugar
  9. American Spring - Greg Anton, Sunshine Becker, John Kadlecik, Melvin Seals, and Mike Sugar
  10. That's What Love Will Make You Do - Greg Anton, Sunshine Becker, John Kadlecik, Melvin Seals, and Mike Sugar
  11. Tangled Up In Blue - Greg Anton, Sunshine Becker, John Kadlecik, Melvin Seals, and Mike Sugar
  12. Rex Jam - Everyone Orchestra
  13. Deal - Everyone Orchestra
  14. Conducted Jam - Everyone Orchestra
  15. My Sisters And Brothers - Everyone Orchestra
Run For The Roses: Celebrating The Music Of Jerry Garcia, Robert Hunter And The Jerry Garcia Band was released on April 3, 2012, and is available as a download, as well as on CD.

This compilation is a benefit for the Rex Foundation. The Rex Foundation was established in 1983 as a non-profit charitable organization by members of the Grateful Dead and their friends. The Rex Foundation enabled the Grateful Dead to provide community support to creative endeavors in the arts, sciences, and education. The Rex Foundation was named after Rex Jackson, a Grateful Dead roadie and later road manager who died in 1976.

In 2010, a compilation titled Jerry Jams For Rex was released, and in 2011 Jerry Jams For Rex II was released. Both of those were also benefits for the Rex Foundation. The difference is that those were collections of live tracks from many different concerts, whereas the tracks on Run For The Roses are all from the same show.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Marley's Ghost: "Jubilee" (2012) CD Review

I got turned onto Marley's Ghost a couple of years ago, when they released Ghost Town, which was one of the best albums from that year. So my expectations were quite high when I popped in their new disc, Jubilee. Well, as good as Ghost Town is, Jubilee is even better.

This is an amazingly good CD, with absolutely no filler. And in addition to some excellent original material (such as "Rollin'" and "South For A Change"), there are some darn good covers (including a cover of "It's All Over Now" that completely blew me away). And to top it all off, this album features some wonderful guest players, including John Prine and Emmylou Harris. It really doesn't get much better than this.

was produced by Cowboy Jack Clement, who also makes a guest vocal appearance on the band's cover of "It's All Over Now."


Jubilee opens with "Rollin'," a good traveling song which starts, "Way out yonder where the road disappears/I've been trying to get to that place for years/But the longer I drive, day after day/Well, that old road keeps slippin' away." Those are good lines, but the lyrics that made me completely fall for this song are these: "If I ever stop rollin', what would I be/I'd be a shipwrecked sailor staring out at the sea." Nice.

"Rollin'" was written by Dan Wheetman, and it features Marty Stuart on mandolin.

"Wake Up Mama"

"Wake Up Mama" is a fun rocking country tune, also written by lead vocalist/guitarist Dan Wheetman. I love that loose, jangly piano that comes in about a minute and a half into the song. It's a good track, but that piano makes it a great track. This song has a lot of energy, and a good vibe. Turn up the volume on this one.

"The Blues Are Callin'"

"The Blues Are Callin'" is some sweet slow country blues, like tumbleweed blues. Go ahead, cry on your gal's shoulder, or if you have no gal, cry into your beer. Another original tune written by Dan Wheetman, "The Blues Are Callin'" features lines like, "There on my table the whiskey glass says go ahead and fill me up/And I will kill the emptiness you feel inside." Mike Phelan takes lead vocal duties on this one, and his delivery has a smooth, rich and emotional quality that is perfect.

"This Old Road"

"This Old Road" is the CD's first cover, and it's a Kris Kristofferson song with John Prine on vocals. Oh yes, that pretty much guarantees this song to be fantastic, and it does not disappoint. "Ain't you come a long way/Ain't you come a long way down this old road." This album just gets better and better.

"This Old Road" is the title track to Kris Kristofferson's 2006 release.

"It's All Over Now"

I have heard a lot of versions of "It's All Over Now" over the years, and this is far and away the best rendition ever. I'm not exaggerating. It's better than those by the Rolling Stones, Grateful Dead, and Rod Stewart.

Old Crow Medicine Show is featured on this track. So there are two fiddle players, and that's some kind of double bliss. And, as mentioned, Cowboy Jack Clement makes a guest appearance on vocals (and listen to the laughter in the background - this definitely feels like a party). I love the vocals on this track. Different players take turns on different verses. This song is just so much fun. I cannot stress enough how much I love this track.

"It's All Over Now" was written by Bobby Womack and Shirley Womack, and originally done by The Valentinos.

"South For A Change"

"South For A Change" is a wonderful tune. This kind of music always makes me smile - that jazzy old timey country type of treat. And though this tune feels like old gem unearthed and still shining, it's actually an original written by Dan Wheetman.

All the players get a chance to strut their stuff on this one. And, as if to somehow improve on the previous track, this song features not two, but three fiddle players: Larry Franklin, Kenny Sears and Joe Spivey. And there is some wonderful work on horns - Roger Bissell on trombone, Denis Solee on clarinet, and Bernie Walker on trumpet. I love when the horns answer the pedal steel. This song is joy.

"Unwed Fathers"

John Prine joined the band on a Kris Kristofferson song, and now the incomparable Emmylou Harris joins them on a John Prine song. Emmylou Harris has one of those voices that I just can't get enough of. I admit it, I have something of a crush on her. Listen to this song, and you will too. She and Dan Wheetman sound great together.

"Unwed Fathers" was co-written by Robert Braddock, and originally included on John Prine's 1984 release, Aimless Love.

"Lonely Night"

"Lonely Night" is a sweet and sad (yet upbeat) country tune. It's one of those songs that makes you feel good and sad simultaneously. This one was written by Mike Phelan, who also sings lead. Here is a taste of the lyrics: "I know there'll be no sleep tonight/This room's too crowded with your memory." "Lonely Night" features Marty Stuart on mandolin.

"She Made Me Lose My Blues"

Jubilee ends with "She Made Me Lose My Blues," an upbeat tune that features some yodeling. You can't go wrong ending an album with a yodeling song. This song also features Larry Campbell on electric guitar.

CD Track List
  1. Rollin'
  2. Wake Up Mama
  3. The Blues Are Callin'
  4. This Old Road
  5. It's All Over Now
  6. South For A Change
  7. Unwed Fathers
  8. Growin' Trade
  9. Hank And Audrey
  10. If You Were A Bluebird
  11. Lonely Night
  12. Diamond Joe
  13. She Made Me Lose My Blues

Marley's Ghost is Dan Wheetman on vocals, acoustic guitar, bass and fiddle; Jon Wilcox on mandolin and vocals; Jerry Fletcher on piano, accordion, B3, vocals and shaker; Mike Phelan on electric guitar, dobro, fiddle and vocals; and Ed Littlefield Jr. on pedal steel guitar and vocals. Joining them is Byron House on bass and Don Heffington on drums and shaker.

Guest musicians include Marty Stuart on mandolin; Larry Campbell on electric guitar and fiddle; Roger Bissell on trombone; Denis Solee on clarinet; Bernie Walker on trumpet; John Prine on vocals; Kevin Hayes on guitjo; Morgan Jahnig on bass; Gill Landry on banjo; Ketch Secor on harmonica, fiddle and vocals; Willie Watson on acoustic guitar and vocals; Cory Younts on mandolin and vocals; Larry Franklin on fiddle; Kenny Sears on fiddle; Joe Spivey on fiddle; and Emmylou Harris on vocals.

Jubilee is scheduled to be released on June 5, 2012.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Tab Benoit: "Legacy: The Best Of Tab Benoit" (2012) CD Review

Legacy: The Best Of Tab Benoit is a collection of blues tunes that Tab Benoit recorded between 1998 and 2011. It's a good mix of original material and some interesting covers (particularly Buffalo Springfield's "For What's It's Worth" and Otis Redding's "These Arms Of Mine"). Tab Benoit is based in Louisiana, and that state plays an important part in his music. You can hear it in all of the songs, but especially in ones like "Muddy Bottom Blues." All of the tracks on this CD were previously released on other albums.

"Shelter Me"

Legacy: The Best Of Tab Benoit opens with a cool track from his 2007 release Power Of The Pontchartrain. This is good, no-frills, no-nonsense blues rock, driven by the vocals and of course the electric guitar. Here is a taste of the lyrics: "The wind will blow, the rain can pour/The deluge breaks, the tempest roars/But in the storm, my spirit sings/Shelter me, lord, underneath your wing."

"Shelter Me" was written by Julie Miller and Stephen Miller. Buddy Miller included this song on his 2004 release, Universal United House Of Prayer.

"I Put A Spell On You"

Halloween is the best holiday of the year, and there are some fantastic songs associated with the day, and possibly the best is Screamin' Jay Hawkins' "I Put A Spell On You." A lot of folks have covered that song over the years, including Creedence Clearwater Revival, Nina Simone and Joe Cocker.

Tab Benoit's blues version is a slow, groovy gem. It has an easy groove, which is an interesting take on the song. There is something almost pretty about it at times. I particularly like the organ work by Bruce Katz. This track also features Kenny Neal on guitar. This track was originally included on Tab Benoit's 1999 release, Homesick For The Road.

"For What It's Worth"

I was surprised by how well "For What It's Worth" works as blues. Written by Stephen Stills, this song first appeared as a single by Buffalo Springfield in 1967. A few months ago, Martin Sexton included a rendition of it on his EP Fall Like Rain. I think what makes Tab Benoit's version work as well as it does is his voice. There is something slightly rough, but completely honest about his voice. It has the earnest quality necessary for this song. This version, however, has a strange ending, just sort of petering out.

"Muddy Bottom Blues"

Oh yes, "Muddy Bottom Blues" is a fun rockin' blues tune. It's a song about a fishing trip gone wrong, with the boat stuck in the mud. This one really feels like Louisiana, partially because of its subject of course. But really, this is just a damned good and lively song. And it's done by just a trio of musicians: Tab Benoit on guitar and vocals, Carl Dufrene on bass, and Darryl White on drums. What a lot of glorious noise these three make.

Written by Tab Benoit, this song features lyrics like, "Hey, it's too soft to walk and it's too hard to swim/And you can scream and holler, nobody hears a thing." This is one of my favorites from this collection. It was originally included on the 2002 release, Wetlands.


"Darkness" is another song performed by that trio, this one from The Sea Saint Sessions (2003). I love the emotion in Tab Benoit's voice, the weariness, the weight - it's fantastic. This one was also written by Tab Benoit. Here is a taste of the lyrics: "You know I love you/Oh, but I did you wrong/And we both made our choices/But it's time to move on/So please please forgive me/And let's walk side by side/And fill in the darkness between you and I." And he follows those lines with a wonderful lead guitar part that seems to speak, cry, and beg on its own. This is an excellent song.

"Comin' On Strong"

"Comin' On Strong" is one of this CD's biggest surprises. It's a somewhat mellow country tune. Yes, that's right, and Tab Benoit plays pedal steel. There is also banjo and fiddle. There is actually a really nice fiddle section by Waylon Thibodeaux. "Comin' On Strong" was written by Billy Joe Shaver, who also provides vocals on this track. This track was originally included on Brother To The Blues (2006).


"Medicine" is a nice, heavy blues number. And it has that great steady thump of the drum like a warning, like an advancing, dangerous, angry beast. Bring him his medicine, for pete's sake. "Medicine" is the title track from his 2011 release.

"These Arms Of Mine"

I love Otis Redding, but often covers of his material don't come anywhere close to capturing the essence, the soul of the originals. But Tab Benoit does a great job with "These Arms Of Mine." He keeps it simple, lets the song carry him. And his voice really works well with the song. It's an excellent rendition, and originally appeared on Wetlands.

Live Tracks

Legacy concludes with two live cuts. The first, "New Orleans Ladies," is a sweet, slower tune that features Jimmy Hall on harmonica. It's from Night Train To Nashville (2008).

The second is "Bayou Boogie." Tab Benoit asks at the beginning, "If we give you the boogie, can you handle it?" It may seem a bit condescending, but this is a damn fun song. It's fast-paced boogie, and it features Jimmy Carpenter on saxophone. This one will likely exhaust you if surrender to it and dance the whole thing, approximately ten minutes' worth of boogie. Enjoy.

CD Track List
  1. Shelter Me
  2. Night Train
  3. I Put A Spell On You
  4. For What It's Worth
  5. Nice And Warm
  6. Muddy Bottom Blues
  7. Darkness
  8. Comin' On Strong
  9. The Blues Is Here To Stay
  10. Medicine
  11. These Arms Of Mine
  12. Whiskey Store
  13. New Orleans Ladies
  14. Bayou Boogie
Legacy: The Best Of Tab Benoit was released on April 3, 2012 through Telarc, a division of Concord Music Group.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Wishbone Ash: "Live Dates Volume Two" (1980/2012 re-issue) CD Review

Wishbone Ash is a rock band from England that formed at the end of the 1960s. In 1973, they released a live album titled Live Dates. It was one of their most popular records, and so in 1980, they released another live album, this one titled Live Dates Volume Two. The first 25,000 copies of that album included a second record. Subsequent pressings had only the first record. This special CD issue of Live Dates Volume Two contains all the tracks from both records. These songs are from a variety of concerts from 1976 to 1980.

I grew up in the seventies and eighties, and yet I had never really heard this band. I expected some of these tracks to ring a bell in some hidden, neglected place in my memory. But no. I did listen to a lot of Deep Purple and Rush as a child, and probably would have dug this had I heard it then. But now it's a bit much for me. After all, this is nearly eighty minutes of hard and progressive rock. These guys are clearly good musicians, but I can listen to hard rock for only so long before I get bored. That being said, there are some good tunes on this album, and some good performances.


"Doctor" is a fun, energetic rock tune, and is my favorite from this release. It opens with the lines, "Doctor, can you help me please/I'm laying on the floor/I need a shot of something like you gave me once before." There are some moments where their voices sound completely fantastic together (particularly on "If I feed your every need, then you won't feel so empty/In my web, I'll bet your life you're dead before you're thirty").

This is a really good rock song, and there is a section where the two lead guitars do a call-and-response bit, and then join together in some 1970s guitar showboating that is delicious.


"F.U.B.B." is a nice, long instrumental track. I love the bass, which drew me in from the start and then kept the groove going. Then nearly four minutes in, the song begins to take you on a journey, like up a mountain to some palace of rock wisdom and glory. Then around the six-minute mark, the songs takes another turn, seeming to pick up speed, as if becoming impatient, or waking to a new level. And through it all, it's the bass that really makes me enjoy this tune.

By the way, "F.U.B.B." stands for "Fucked Up Beyond Belief."


"Lorelei" was the first track on the second LP. This one has a pretty good groove, and again, it's the bass that I really dig. But there are good performances all around on this track. And it has an exploratory feel, which I appreciate. Here is a taste of the lyrics: "Mystery and danger was all I got from you/Oh oh, you mesmerized me/Oh oh, you tantalized me/Like the singing of the lorelei."


"Persephone" has some interesting stuff too. I definitely prefer the instrumental sections, which have a good vibe. The vocals leave something to be desired - there is something unnatural and distant about them. I can connect to the song better during the instrumental sections.

"Persephone" was originally included on the band's 1974 studio release, There's The Rub (the title being a reference to Hamlet's most famous soliloquy).

"Time Was"

"Time Was" is a really fun track, when the lead electric guitar doesn't get in the way. This is closer to straight rock and roll. This also happens to be the earliest tune of the collection, the original version appearing on the band's 1972 record, Argus. Here is a bit of the lyrics: "Time was when I had you around/I was a strong man/I need you to help me make a change/Be a new man."

"No Easy Road"

Live Dates Volume Two ends with "No Easy Road," another fun rock and roll tune. Again, this one is from early in the band's career, originally appearing on the 1973 studio release Wishbone Four. The chorus is, "Watch me join the circus/Watch me steal the show/There ain't no easy money/There ain't no easy road." I really like the backing vocals repeating, "It ain't easy." However, this song doesn't need to be seven minutes long, as there aren't many places for it to go, and it gets a bit repetitive.

CD Track List
  1. Doctor
  2. Living Proof
  3. Runaway
  4. Helpless
  5. F.U.B.B.
  6. The Way Of The World
  7. Lorelei
  8. Persephone
  9. You Rescue Me
  10. Time Was
  11. Goodbye Baby Hello Friend
  12. No Easy Road

The band's lineup at the time of these recordings was Andy Powell on guitar and vocals, Martin Turner on bass and vocals, Steve Upton on drums, and Laurie Wisefield on guitar and vocals.

This special re-issue of Live Dates Volume Two was released on April 3, 2012 through Real Gone Music.

Frankie Avalon: "Muscle Beach Party: The United Artists Sessions" (2012) CD Review

Frankie Avalon might still be most known for the series of beach party films he did with Annette Funicello in the 1960s. Muscle Beach Party was the second of the beach movies, following Beach Party. There was also Bikini Beach, Pajama Party, and of course Beach Blanket Bingo. While well aware of these films, I haven't actually seen any of them. My introduction to Frankie Avalon came in 1978, watching Grease, then listening to the soundtrack over and over at a neighbor's house. His rendition of "Beauty School Dropout" is perfect, and is one of the film's highlights.

The first side of the original release of this record, then titled Muscle Beach Party And Other Movie Songs, comprises songs from the first two films. The other side was songs from other films, including Mondo Cane. So the two sides are very different - the first being beach and surf music, the second being more along the line of standards. This CD has eight other tracks, including four songs from the soundtrack to I'll Take Sweden (1965), which also starred Bob Hope and Tuesday Weld. These twenty tracks are all of Frankie Avalon's output with United Artists, recorded in 1964 and 1965.

"Muscle Beach Party"

The album opens with "Muscle Beach Party," the title song from the 1964 film. What really cracks me up about this song is the line, "Take a vitamin pill now" in the chorus, that that is one of the key elements when you "hustle the chicks." "Muscle Beach Party" is fun fluff, and yes, it has that distinct beach sound, that innocent, harmless mid-1960s rock feel.

Oddly, Annette Funicello released her own Muscle Beach Party album in 1964, as well as Annette's Beach Party in 1963.

"Surfer's Holiday"

"Surfer's Holiday" is more harmless beach music about going surfing, and gathering around a fire at night. But it also mentions that they worked after school to save money for this trip: "And all the kids knew that they had to have work before play" (so even the most uptight parents couldn't object to this song). "Surfer's Holiday" is a breezy tune, at less than two minutes long.

Both "Muscle Beach Party" and "Surfer's Holiday" were written by Gary Usher, Roger Christian and Brian Wilson (which of course explains The Beach Boys sound).

"Beach Party"

"Beach Party" is the title track from Frankie and Annette's first beach movie. And it's fun, with lines like "Surfin' all day and we're swingin' all night/Vacation is here/Beach party tonight." This song also features some nice work on guitar.

This is a version Frankie Avalon recorded for this original 1964 record, not the version from the film.

The same goes for "Don't Stop Now," this CD's other song from Beach Party. Written by Bob Marcucci and Russ Faith, "Don't Stop Now" is one of the best and most lively tracks from this collection. The Beach Party/Don't Stop Now single was released on Chancellor (Frankie Avalon's last single for that label), so he recorded the songs again for the United Artists LP release.

"Runnin' Wild"

"Runnin' Wild" was the last song on the first side of the original release, another song from Muscle Beach Party. It's a fast-paced bit of fun. Listen to those drums. The drummer must have been tired at the end of this one. Good thing for him this is another insanely short song; it starts to fade out after only a minute and a half.

"Days Of Wine And Roses"

Frankie Avalon does a really good version of "Days Of Wine And Roses," the famous song written by Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer for the 1962 film of the same name. This rendition features possibly Frankie Avalon's best vocal performance of the entire album, and some sweet backing vocals. This is a fairly simple arrangement, which is perfect - this is not overproduced.

"Don't Make Fun Of Me"

"Don't Make Fun Of Me" is a pretty cool and unusual tune about a boy who doesn't want his ex-girlfriend to hurt him with her "laughter and destroy the past." She has moved on and found someone new, but he hasn't, and sings, "Darling, I can't help it if I'll always be your fool/Just because I love you, that's no reason to be cruel." This is a good mid-1960s pop tune, and its sound is unlike the rest of the tracks.

"Don't Make Fun Of Me" was written by Howard Greenfield and Helen Miller.

"New-Fangled, Jingle-Jangle Swimming Suit From Paris"

"New-Fangled, Jingle-Jangle Swimming Suit From Paris" is certainly one of the stupidest, most vapid songs I've ever heard, and yet there is a definite kitsch appeal. This is a song in which he asks the president of the United States to step in and stop a girl from wearing a revealing bathing suit on the beach. "Don't let her do it, Mr. President/You gotta pass a law." Ah, the ridiculous innocence of the times (or rather, the presumed innocence of the times).

He then adds, "It's not that she's acting too bold/She's got a new-fangled, jingle-jangle swimming suit from Paris/I'm afraid she's going to catch a cold." And the backing singers join him in repeating "A cold, a cold." It's absolutely ridiculous, but I can't help but like it. Something might be wrong with me.

"There'll Be Rainbows Again"

"There'll Be Rainbows Again" is a slower, pretty tune from I'll Take Sweden. Written by William "By" Dunham and Bobby Beverley, this song features lines like, "People are the same the whole world over/One day you'll admit you're just a rover/Please come back and then/And then there'll be rainbows again." I really love this tune.

"The Bells Keep Ringin'"

"The Bells Keep Ringin'" is my favorite track from this collection. It's got that early rock 'n' roll feel, including those great deep backing vocals. And of course it has some wonderful saxophone. Like "There'll Be Rainbows Again," this one was written by William "By" Dunham and Bobby Beverley, and is from the film I'll Take Sweden. It even features a jaw harp. This is one of those perfect, fun party tunes.

CD Track List
  1. Muscle Beach Party
  2. Surfer's Holiday
  3. A Boy Needs A Girl
  4. Beach Party
  5. Don't Stop Now
  6. Runnin' Wild
  7. Nevertheless (I'm In Love With You)
  8. More
  9. Days Of Wine And Roses
  10. Moon River
  11. The Stolen Hour
  12. Again
  13. Don't Make Fun Of Me
  14. Every Girl Should Get Married
  15. New-Fangled, Jingle-Jangle Swimming Suit From Paris
  16. Here To Stay
  17. I'll Take Sweden
  18. There'll Be Rainbows Again
  19. Would Ya Like My Last Name
  20. The Bells Keep Ringin'
Muscle Beach Party: The United Artists Sessions was released on March 27, 2012 through Real Gone Music.

Monday, April 2, 2012

April 2012 Update (With Links To All Reviews)

Howdy, everybody. At the beginning of each month, I'll include a link to the blog entry that lists all of my articles, arranged by subject, so that they're easy to find. That link is this:

List Of All My Music Articles

I add to that blog each time I post a new review.

It's been my intention with this blog to let people know about all the great music that's out there. So I tend to write about CDs and bands that I like. Sure, there might be an exception now and again. But I have no desire to tear apart some new band that's out there struggling to find a fan base. What I want to do is let people know about new bands they might not have heard of yet, and to remind them of some bands they might have forgotten. And to keep people up-to-date with all the great new releases, as well as concert listings. Basically, to share my love of music with anyone who cares to read this.

The best news at this time, of course, is that Leonard Cohen is going on tour again. European dates have already been announced for August, September and early October. The word is he'll be adding dates in Canada and the United States for the fall.