Monday, September 28, 2015

Sneakers: “Sneakers” (2015) CD Review

A couple of years before The dB’s formed, Chris Stamey and Will Rigby were in another band together, Sneakers, along with Rob Slater and Robert Keely, and in 1976 they released a 7-inch EP on Carnivorous Records. That record had six tracks on it, and featured Mitch Easter (before Let’s Active) on guitar. Then in 1978, Stamey and Easter released a 12-inch titled In The Red. And in 1992, Stamey and Easter got back together to release Racket, which combined remixed versions of songs from both of the earlier records, along with some new recordings. Then last year on Record Store Day (the second Record Store Day of the year, the one after Thanksgiving), an expanded 10-inch limited edition of that first record was released, with three bonus tracks, including a previously unreleased rendition of “Let’s Live For Today.” And now, finally, that first record has been released on CD through Omnivore Recordings. And it not only includes the bonus tracks from the Record Store Day release, but includes two more tracks – one from In The Red and one from Racket. Fans of The dB’s are going to love this CD. It is excellent pop, but with a certain raw garage feel to it, and most of the tracks were written by Chris Stamey. This special re-issue also includes liner notes by Scott Schinder.

The CD opens with “Ruby,” a fun bit of pop bliss with a little punk and some rock tossed in to give it more of an edge. (There is certainly a Kinks influence.) Plus, it has some interesting lyrics: “It’s funny, you don’t look like a character assassin” and “You find there’s more to hatred than physical attraction.” It’s followed by “Condition Red,” which has some delicious, forceful sections, as well as some sweeter pop vibes. “Driving” is one of my favorites. It has an unusual sound, and is full of surprises. Sure, it gets a bit messy at certain moments, but that is part of its charm for me. I love it when a band goes for something new and different, even if it’s not completely successful, and I think this track is largely a success anyway. Even a track like “On The Brink,” which mainly feels like a more straight-forward rock tune, has interesting moments and changes.

“Let’s Live For Today” is my favorite Grass Roots song, and recently I suffered through a version by someone calling himself Sir Ivan. But this rendition by Sneakers completely washes away any remaining muck left in my brain by Sir Ivan’s version. This is a really good version, with an earnest approach which I appreciate. In fact, the only bit of goofing is in the counting off the second time: rather than repeat “one, two, three, four,” they sing, “five, six, seven, eight.” This track was first included on the 2014 Record Store Day version of this album. The dB’s also included a cover of this song on the Ride The Wild TomTom album (I prefer this Sneakers version).

“Story Of A Girl” is another unusual song, originally included on Racket. Mitch Easter plays electric guitar and drums on this track, as well as on “S’il Vous Plait,” “Be My Ambulance” and “Some Kinda Fool.” “S’il Vous Plait” and “Some Kinda Fool” were also included on Racket (with Gene Holder on bass), while “Be My Ambulance” was included on In The Red. “Be My Ambulance” is one of my favorite tracks on this CD. It reminds me a bit of early David Bowie at times, and a bit of Syd Barrett. “Be my ambulance/I’ve got a plan/Give me alcohol/Give me oxygen.

CD Track List
  1. Ruby
  2. Condition Red
  3. Driving
  4. Love’s Like A Cuban Crisis
  5. On The Brink
  6. Let’s Live For Today
  7. Story Of A Girl
  8. Non Sequitur
  9. S’il Vous Plait
  10. Be My Ambulance
  11. Some Kinda Fool 
This special re-issue of Sneakers was released on September 25, 2015 through Omnivore Recordings. And for you fans of The dB's, Omnivore Recordings will also be re-issuing Christmas Time Again, with some different tracks.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

The dB’s & Friends: “Christmas Time Again!” (2015) CD Review

Every autumn, Christmas albums are unleashed on the public, and most of them are bad. That’s because most of the traditional Christmas songs are awful (read my critique of “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer,” for example). But Christmas Time Again! piqued my interest, mainly because of the artists involved. The dB’s of course contribute several tracks, and Chris Stamey adds a couple as a solo artist, but this disc also includes tracks from Marshall Crenshaw, Robyn Hitchcock and Yo La Tengo & Jeff Tweedy. The other thing that got me interested is that the majority of the tracks are originals. You won’t find yet another rendition of bloody “Jingle Bells” or “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” here, and amen to that. Not all of these songs are winners, but most are, making the album worth owning. I’ll be adding several of these tunes to my Christmas play list.

This album has been released a few times before, but with some different tracks, a slightly different cover, and different liner notes. It was released in 1986, in 1993, and again in 2006, each time with some different tunes. The new ones this time include “The Sounds Of Christmas” by Skylar Gudasz, “It’s Christmas” by Lydia Kavanagh, “Eight Day Weekend” by Yo La Tengo and Jeff Tweedy, “In The Bleak Midwinter” by Birds And Arrows, “The Day Before Boxing Day” by Robyn Hitchcock and “Remember (Christmas)” by Brett Harris.

The CD opens with “Christmas Time,” a harmless little pop tune by the dB’s, with something of a 1960s vibe. This is the song that has opened each of the four versions of this album. Here is a taste of the lyrics: “I can’t believe it’s Christmas time/Where is the year we left behind/The summer went so fast/The fall went roaring past/And we watched it disappear.” Suddenly toward the end there is a roaring (though brief) drum solo that caught me by surprise the first time I listened to this disc. It’s not a bad song, but I much prefer the following track, “Holiday Spirit,” also by The dB’s. It’s a fun, fast-paced tune written by Peter Holsapple, and it’s one I’m definitely adding to my Christmas play list. This song first appeared on the second version of this album, the one released in 1993. It has some silly, delightful lyrics like “I went on a shopping spree/I want to be your Christmas tree/Watch me change from red to green to red” and “Well, Santa comes when no one's looking/Hang me up inside your stocking/I'll be sure to tell him what we want/What we want.”

Another highlight of this CD is Marshall Crenshaw’s rendition of “(It’s Going To Be A) Lonely Christmas,” a song written by Ralph Freed and Grace Saxon, and originally recorded by The Orioles. Marshall Crenshaw does a really wonderful job with it, and his vocals are just perfect. (By the way, just a month ago Marshall Crenshaw released #392: The EP Collection.) And then Skylar Gudasz delivers a pretty rendition of “The Sounds Of Christmas,” one of new tracks to this collection, and one written by Tim Madigan. This song is just right for a quiet late night, as snow falls outside. Also new to this album is Lydia Kavanagh’s “It’s Christmas,” another pretty tune.

This CD includes Whiskeytown’s “Houses On The Hill,” a mellow and moving country song written by Ryan Adams and Caitlin Cary, and originally included on that band’s 1997 release, Strangers Almanac (and included on the 2006 version of Christmas Time Again). I also really like “Christmas In The Only Time,” written by Wes Lachot, with the lines, “Now Christmas is the only time, Christmas is the only time I think of you” and “I don’t know if I miss you, or I miss the memory.” This track was on the 1993 version of this album.

One of the most interesting tracks on this release is the live version of “Eight Day Weekend” by Yo La Tengo and Jeff Tweedy. This is one of the new tracks, but it’s an old tune. Originally titled “Seven Day Weekend,” this was written by Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman and recorded by Gary U.S. Bonds. It is one of the many songs that rhymes “self” with “shelf,” a rhyme I never care for, but other than that, it’s a good tune. The version by Yo La Tengo and Jeff Tweedy becomes “Eight” in honor of Hanukkah. There are two other live tracks on this CD: Don Dixon’s “I Saw Three Ships” and Big Star’s “Jesus Christ.” And the strangest track is Ted Lyons’ “The Only Law That Santa Claus Understood,” a song that has been included on all four versions of this album. “’Cause the point of a gun was the only law that Santa Claus understood/So there’s old Santa at the poker table with some pretty shady company.” And I love this line: “He’s frightening all in red.” This is another that will be going on my Christmas play list, for sure. Ted Lyons’ other contribution to this release, “Santa’s Moonlight Sleighride,” will also have a spot on this list. It’s a delightful instrumental track. This collection’s other instrumental is the excellent “It’s A Wonderful Life” by Chris Stamey, which includes a bit of “Greensleeves.”

Another favorite of mine is “In The Bleak Midwinter” by Birds And Arrows. The song is based on a poem by Christina Rossetti, set to music in the early 1900s by Gustav von Holst. This version by Birds And Arrows is absolutely beautiful, and it focuses just on the first verse. I love the instrumental section. This is another of tracks new to this version of the CD, and it is wonderful.

Robyn Hitchcock’s “The Day Before Boxing Day” is another interesting and odd track, delivered as spoken word, with a couple of different voices, a strange conversation that is definitely amusing. Check out lines like these: “Christmas, let’s face it, is a miserable occasion, an oasis of artificial light in a dark wasteland” and “Nobody loves their family, except crazy people.” This is one of the new tracks. The album concludes with another new one, Brett Harris’ nice rendition of Harry Nilsson’s “Remember (Christmas).”

CD Track List
  1. Christmas Time – The dB’s
  2. Holiday Spirit – The dB’s
  3. (It’s Going To Be A) Lonely Christmas – Marshall Crenshaw
  4. The Sounds Of Christmas – Skylar Gudasz
  5. Christmas Time Is Here – Thad Cockrell & Roman Candle
  6. Home For The Holidays – The dB’s
  7. Houses On The Hill – Whiskeytown
  8. Christmas Is The Only Time – Wes Lachot
  9. It’s Christmas – Lydia Kavanagh
  10. Eight Day Weekend – Yo La Tengo & Jeff Tweedy
  11. I Saw Three Ships – Don Dixon
  12. The Only Law That Santa  Claus Understood – Ted Lyons
  13. In The Bleak Midwinter – Birds And Arrows
  14. The Christmas Song – Alex Chilton
  15. Santa’s Moonlight Sleighride – Ted Lyons
  16. Jesus Christ – Big Star’s Third
  17. Christmas Light – Keegan DeWitt & The Sparrows
  18. You’re What I Want (For Christmas) – Chris Stamey & Cathy Harrington
  19. Feliz Navidad – The dB’s
  20. The Day Before Boxing Day – Robyn Hitchcock
  21. It’s A Wonderful Life – Chris Stamey
  22. Remember (Christmas) – Brett Harris
Christmas Time Again! is scheduled to be released on October 16, 2015 through Omnivore Recordings. 

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Music At Work

Working as a production assistant for television, I don’t often get to hear a lot of music on the job, as quiet is the name of the game. But sometimes the sound guy or someone else will have music playing on his cart during lighting mode. Today it was the camera guys who had a bit of music playing as we were getting ready before crew call. A little Clash to start the day: “Police & Thieves.” Nice. It’s amazing what just a little bit of music at the start of the day can do to put me in a good mood. As long as it’s the right music, of course. Later in the day during a set-up, the camera crew played Steely Dan, which didn’t work as well for me. I like the band’s name (which comes from a William S. Burroughs book), but that’s all I like about them.

Music plays in my head for a good portion of each day anyway.  Yesterday it was a Helen Reddy song that wouldn’t leave my noggin – “Leave Me Alone (Ruby Red Dress).” Today it was “I Love Paris,” the version by Myriam Phiro off of her new album. And it's not just me with music playing in his head. The set dresser was singing a James Gang song at one point today. And for like two years after Kill Bill came out, you’d hear crew members whistling that theme. And usually at least once a day someone would sing a line or two of Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse Of The Heart” (in response to the first AD calling out, “Turning around”), but that doesn’t happen as much anymore.

Every once in a while, music will be a key part of a scene. On Hart Of Dixie, there were a couple of musical numbers, and once on George Lopez, War performed. That was pretty awesome. Usually when there is music on sets, it’s playback, not performed live. But the best music-related moment for me on any set was that day on Almost Famous when Peter Frampton did a short set for the entire cast and crew. It was fantastic, although I was discouraged by some of the younger folks working as extras, as they asked me, “Who is this?

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Myriam Phiro: “Voyages” (2015) CD Review

Jazz vocalist Myriam Phiro’s new CD, Voyages, her first full-length release, was exactly what I needed after a somewhat crazy week at work. This CD put me in a fantastic mood within moments, and I was dancing around my apartment, singing along to the first couple of tracks, all cares lifted miraculously, almost effortlessly. I fell in love with her the way I fell in love with Julie Delpy when she sang at the end of Before Sunset. Her voice is not just beautiful. It’s also friendly and inviting, and at times intoxicating (like on “Besame Mucho”). Here Myriam Phiro delivers excellent renditions of some old favorites, making them feel alive again. And she’s backed by some seriously talented musicians, including Vinny Raniolo on guitar, John di Martino on piano, Nicki Parrott on bass and Rob Garcia on drums. This album reminds of us why these songs are so often returned to, that they really are some of the best songs ever written.

Myriam Phiro kicks off the CD with a beautiful, delightful, delicious rendition of Cole Porter’s “I Love Paris.” She gives it a really fun feel, and Adrien Chevalier adds a whole lot to this track on violin. Benjamin Ickies adds some great touches on accordion. “I love Paris in the winter when it drizzles/I love Paris in the summer when it sizzles.” This rendition has something of a big finish, which is just perfect. This track is a total delight, and fans of bands like Squirrel Nut Zippers should definitely check it out.

She follows that with “Beyond The Sea/La Mer,” written by Charles Trenet. Though I like both versions, I’ve always preferred the French version. She begins the track with the French version, then playfully asks in English, “Sounds familiar?” before going into the English rendition. Partway through, she does a bit of scat, which leads into a very cool instrumental section, with a bass solo by Nicki Parrott. And then Myriam goes into the French version.

It’s difficult to listen to “It Had To Be You” without thinking of that scene from Annie Hall, where it’s sung by Diane Keaton. I love the way Myriam Phiro delivers this one. Just listen to the places she takes lines like “For nobody else gave me the thrill/With all your faults, I love you still.” She makes it sound like this song is coming from within her, sung for the first time, rather than a cover that’s been done countless times. And I really like what John Di Martino does on piano here. “It Had To Be You” was written by Isham Jones and Gus Kahn.

One of the most interesting tracks on this CD is “Caravan,” with some excellent work on drums by Rob Garcia and on trombone by Robbie Klein. The whole band really shines here, but Rob Garcia is particularly incredible. (Of course, after Whiplash we probably expect a lot from drummers on “Caravan.”) “This is so exciting,” Myriam sings. Oh yes, indeed!

Myriam Phiro gives us a gorgeous, passionate, sexy rendition of “Besame Mucho.” I love Adrien Chevalier’s work on violin here, helping to make this track one of the disc’s many highlights. Myriam follows that with “I Don’t Want To Set The World On Fire,” with a vocal delivery that is both pretty and playful. And I love the section with the whistling, two voices in conversation without a word spoken. Robbie Klein provides vocals and plays trombone on this track. Nicki Parrott’s work on bass adds to the kind of playful vibe of this rendition.

The version of “On A Slow Boat To China” on this CD has a good, easy groove, and begins with the chorus, skipping the various introductions that are in some other versions (such as “It seems to me that I’ve tried long enough/To prove to you my love is strong enough”). But after singing the song, the tempo picks up, and she then sings one of those introductions, “There is no verse to this song/’Cause I don’t want to wait a moment too long.” And then she goes into the main section of the song again, this time at a quicker pace. Dominique Gagné plays flute on this track.

Another really good and playful track is Myriam Phiro’s rendition of “Tico Tico No Fubá” by Zequinha de Abreau (here simply titled “Tico Tico”). A few months ago, Frank Vignola and Vinny Raniolo included an excellent version of this song on Swing Zing! (combining it with Frank Vignola’s “Djangomania”). While Myriam’s version is quite a bit different, it too is wonderful, and it too features Vinny Raniolo on guitar. Adrien Chevalier plays violin on this track. While their work is delightful, it is Myriam's voice that really surprises me on this one. She certainly does some interesting things here.

Myriam Phiro concludes the album with a more recent pop song, a slow, sweet rendition of The Beatles’ “In My Life,” her vocals accompanied only by piano. This is an excellent version, giving focus to one of the best set of lyrics in all of the Beatles catalogue.

CD Track List
  1. I Love Paris
  2. Beyond The Sea/La Mer
  3. Nature Boy
  4. It Had To Be You
  5. Caravan
  6. Skylark
  7. Besame Mucho
  8. I Don’t Want To Set The World On Fire
  9. Autumn In New York
  10. On A Slow Boat To China
  11. Tico Tico
  12. Moonglow
  13. Volare
  14. In My Life
Voyages is scheduled to be released on CD on October 6, 2015.

Salad Days DVD Review

Salad Days documents the hardcore punk rock scene in Washington D.C. from 1980 to 1990. When the film opens, music plays over images of the capital during that decade. Remember, this was the decade of that bastard Ronald Reagan and his partner and successor, the criminal George Bush Sr. These were dark days politically. While the film reminds of us this briefly at the beginning, the focus is on the music, not the politics, that is at least until the music became involved in the politics halfway through the 1980s.

Salad Days relies heavily on interviews with key musicians from the period, including members of Minor Threat, Teen Idles, The Untouchables, Iron Cross, Gray Matter, Youth Brigade, Dag Nasty, Fire Party and Fugazi. Many of those interviewed talk of the power and influence of Bad Brains. Henry Rollins says, “Bad Brains was one of the most influential bands of my life.” They also talk about how the punk guys had to look out for each other. Sab Grey, of Iron Cross, says, “There wasn’t very many of us, so we kind of had to stick together.” Violence was directed at the punks early on.

As they did have to rely on each other, and as the scene was relatively small early on, the bands did most of the work themselves, creating record labels and booking shows and so on. And while watching the film, you’ll wish you had been a part of this community. One thing that’s interesting is that most of these D.C. bands did not last long, and those interviewed talk about that. Like by the time the Teen Idles’ record came out, the band was already a thing of the past, and Minor Threat had already formed. (Minor Threat themselves lasted only a few years.)

There is also some concert footage, mainly from the Washington D.C. venues DC Space and Wilson Center, including S.O.A. performing in 1980 (the picture quality is poor, but it’s still cool to see), Minor Threat, The Untouchables, Faith, Void and Fugazi.

The film also goes into the so-called Straight Edge movement within the punk scene, and we hear a bit of the Minor Threat song “Straight Edge,” which inspired it. Brian Baker, of Minor Threat (and later of Dag Nasty and Bad Religion) says, “For me, the biggest misconception about D.C. punk rock is that Straight Edge was the law and rule of the land, and that this one Minor Threat song has defined basically the entire region and all the bands within, when it was really a song off an EP.” Musicians talk about how the whole Straight Edge thing actually came to divide the punk community.

Salad Days also gets into how women were treated in the scene, and the problems of increasing violence and slam-dancing. I always hated people who would slam-dance at concerts I attended, because it took focus from the music. Instead of being able to lose yourself in the music, you had to worry about these assholes banging into you. And for a while they would do it at every show. I remember some dipshits doing it at a They Might Be Giants show in Portland in the early ‘90s, and the band was like, “We’ll stop the show if you don’t cut that out.” It’s great to hear Ian MacKaye (of Minor Threat and Fugazi) speak against slam-dancing in this film.

The stuff on Revolution Summer is interesting, and includes concert footage of several bands. There is also material on Positive Force and the political involvement of punk music starting in 1985, and the differing opinions about that turn.

By the way, the title Salad Days comes from the title a song by Minor Threat. But the phrase is much older than that. It comes from Shakespeare’s Antony And Cleopatra. In the first act, Cleopatra says, “My salad days,/When I was green in judgment, cold in blood,/To say as I said then.”

Special Features

The DVD includes more footage from interviews with folks like Brian Baker, Ian MacKaye (who gives a great analogy for making a music video), Monica Richards and Henry Rollins. There is also a bit of footage of director Scott Crawford as a child outside of a punk show.

The special features also include concert footage of Embrace, Beefeater, Fugazi, Government Issue, Gray Matter (including a recent performance), Holy Rollers, Marginal Man and Mission Impossible. The picture quality of the footage of Beefeater and Mission Impossible isn’t that great, but it’s still definitely cool to see. There is also a video of Soulside.

Salad Days was directed by Scott Crawford (who also appears in the film), and was released on DVD on September 18, 2015 through MVD Visual. By the way, the title on screen is simply Salad Days, but the title on the DVD case is Salad Days: A Decade Of Punk In Washington, DC (1980-1990).

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Terry Adams: “Talk Thelonious” (2015) CD Review

Terry Adams, pianist and founding member of NRBQ (New Rhythm And Blues Quartet), is releasing an album of his own arrangements of Thelonious Monk compositions titled Talk Thelonious. This is a live album (mostly), recorded at a show in Burlington, Vermont on April 5, 2012. Joining Terry Adams on this CD are fellow NRBQ members Scott Ligon, Pete Donnelly and Conrad Choucroun, as well as Jim Hoke, Klem Kimek and Pete Toigo. An album of Thelonious Monk tunes will probably not come as a surprise to fans of NRBQ, as that band has long incorporated jazz into its style and has been covering Monk for quite some time, contributing a track to the 1984 compilation That’s The Way I Feel Now: A Tribute To Thelonious Monk (actually, Terry Adams himself contributes a second track to that album: “In Walked Bud”). Here they play some of Monk’s most beloved tunes, including “Reflections,” “In Walked Bud” and “Straight, No Chaser.” This album could provide a nice entry point to Monk’s music for a lot of rock and rhythm and blues fans who might not have otherwise heard Monk’s music. And those who are fans of Thelonious Monk should appreciate the love and joy for the music that went into this recording, and will dig these different takes on the tunes.

Talk Thelonious opens with “Reflections” a song that was included on Sonny Rollins' 1957 record, Sonny Rollins, Vol. 2 (Thelonious Monk plays on that record) and Thelonious Alone In San Francisco. Here it is given a different feel, as Terry Adams plays pipe organ at the beginning (making me think of Thelonious Monk getting folks at the ball park ready for a baseball game). A little more than two minutes in, Adams switches to piano, and Pete Toigo and Conrad Choucroun come in on bass and drums respectively, at which point the composition is given something of a more traditional jazz feel. Then Terry switches back to pipe organ for the final minute or so of the track.

“Reflections” is followed by “Hornin’ In,” which is given some kind of fun honky tonk rhythm and blues vibe, with a bit of a New Orleans jazz flavor. The results are fantastic. Jim Hoke and Klem Klimek play alto saxophone on this track. Pete Donnelly is on bass.

One of my favorite tracks is “In Walked Bud,” and I am particularly fond of the bass, how it really drives the tune, and I love how Scott Ligon’s guitar dances lightly above it in sections, almost delicately at times. And Terry’s lead on piano is wonderful. This version is quite a bit shorter than the version Monk included on Misterioso. And then “Monk’s Mood” is quite pretty, opening with a piano solo by Terry Adams, and including some sweet work on harmonica by Jim Hoke. Jim also plays pedal steel on this track, obviously giving this rendition its own special feel. This is another of the CD’s highlights.

And once they get into “Children’s Song (That Old Man)” (here simply titled “That Old Man”), it has some sweet vibes. I love what Terry Adams does on piano, at times reminding me a bit of Vince Guaraldi. For those unfamiliar with this composition, it provides variations on the theme of “This Old Man” (you know, the children’s song that goes “This old man, he played one/He played knick-knack on my thumb/With a knick-knack paddywhack/Give the dog a bone/This old man came rolling home”), played by different instruments. This rendition begins with Jim Hoke playing that familiar theme on ocarina. Pete Toigo also delivers the theme on bass later in the song.

Terry Adams tackles the energetic early Monk tune “Humph,” and this rendition includes some good work on guitar by Scott Ligon, as well a groovy little drum solo near the end (though brief, this drum solo is still longer than that on the original Monk recording). And then I love what Terry Adams does with “Think Of One.” The whole band really nails this one, and I’m particularly into what Conrad Choucroun does on drums here. There’s a cool section of just drums and bass that is wonderful. And check out those saxophones! This is one my favorite tracks.

In the CD’s liner notes, Terry Adams recounts the time he requested that Thelonious Monk play “Gallop’s Gallop.” And here he delivers a really good rendition, which features Jim Hoke on alto saxophone. Terry Adams then gives  “Straight, No Chaser” a delightful, kind of silly country rock vibe, and it works really well. Jim Hoke plays pedal steel on this track, and Scott Ligon is on guitar. It's a lot of fun, and is another of my favorites. The album concludes with “Ruby, My Dear,” the only track here to have been recorded in the studio rather than live. On this one, the band is joined by Joe Jewett, Hilary Tanaka, Greg Diehl and Liz Rose on violins. Christine Mortensen and Jean Jeffries are on French horns, Kitty LeBlanc is on harp, and Norm DeMoura is on percussion. Jim Hoke adds a nice bit on harmonica. Hoke also plays flute on this track. Oddly, this track reminds me of the Beach Boys’ “Summer Means New Love,” particularly in the guitar.

CD Track List
  1. Reflections
  2. Hornin’ In
  3. In Walked Bud
  4. Monk’s Mood
  5. That Old Man
  6. Humph
  7. Think Of One
  8. Ask Me Now
  9. Ugly Beauty
  10. Gallop’s Gallop
  11. Straight, No Chaser
  12. Ruby My Dear
Talk Thelonious is scheduled to be released on CD on November 27, 2015 through Clang! and also on vinyl through Euclid Records.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Holly Golightly And The Brokeoffs: “Coulda Shoulda Woulda” (2015) CD Review

Geez, Holly is certainly keeping herself busy. She just released Slowtown Now! a few days ago. That is the first full-band album in quite a while, and it’s excellent. And right on its heels comes the release of a new Holly Golightly And The Brokeoffs album, Coulda Shoulda Woulda. Maybe it’s because of her work on that other album, but the lead-off track on this new CD has more of a rock and roll flavor, as does “Karate,” which is great. And we get more of those raw, mean, fun vibes that these guys are known for. We even get a bizarre and wonderful waltz in “Jackhammer.” Brokeoffs CDs always put me in a fucking fantastic mood, and this one is certainly no exception. There is that delicious humor, in lines like “If you’re wondering where hell is, try apartment 34” and “The giving season/A visit from three kings/Myrrh and gold and something else/Kids, they need these things.” As you likely know, Holly Golightly And The Brokeoffs are actually just two people – Holly and Lawyer Dave. And on this album they are joined by Jeff Walls on guitar for a few tracks, including the lead-off tune, “Heaven Buy And Buy.”

Just the title “Heaven Buy And Buy” is great, and the song comes on strong like the best garage tune. It’s like some heavenly and twisted garage gospel, with lines like “Did you bring your wallet/Did you bring your gun/Driving out the devil with the word of Jesus/Satan’s on the run” and “Getting down with Jesus out on the floor.” It’s like intelligent, witty folks took over the revival tent. Write ‘em a check and dance your pious ass off.

That’s followed by “Apartment 34,” which is a total fucking delight, describing the questionable inhabitants of a certain abode. I love the humor of this song’s lyrics. Check out these lines: “They have a thing for old Camaros/That ain’t running anymore/And if you’re wondering what that smell is/That’d be apartment 34/Daddy rarely wears a T-shirt/Except for metal bands he likes/Sometimes you’ll see him on the highway/Riding a Little Mermaid bike.” This song is just so much bloody fun, which of course will come as no surprise to fans of this band. Most of their material (perhaps all of it?) is so enjoyable.

The CD’s title track, “Coulda Shoulda Woulda,” has something of a raw bite mixed with classic rock and roll vibes. Jeff Walls plays guitar on it. That one is followed by one of personal my favorites, “Jump In The River.” It has something of a traditional folk flavor mixed with gospel and country, but with a sharp edge. Lawyer Dave delivers lead vocals on this track, and he really belts out the lyrics. “Sometimes I get lonesome/Sometimes I’m get down/Sometimes I get the big idea/I’m gonna jump in the river and drown.” And these lines crack me up every time: “And when I prayed to Jesus/He said jump in the river and drown.” Oh man, you know things are rough when even your savior tells you to give it up.

“Marijuana, The Devil’s Flower” is a delightful, old-time country tune about the dangers and evils of marijuana. This is actually a cover of a tune that was originally recorded by Mr. Sunshine And His Guitar Pickers in the 1950s. But Holly’s style is such that I could believe she wrote it. In fact, I thought the line “Hold your head up high and just say no” was a humorous nod to Nancy Reagan. But no, that line was in the original. Perhaps Nancy and the other idiots got it from this song? Who knows? What I do know is that this is a fun track, and I love the way Holly plays with the word “grave,” making the idea of being sent to one’s grave kind of light and amusing.

Holly sounds so sweet and innocent on “What He Does,” a kind of mellow folk/country number offering a warning about a man. “He’ll charm you, I know/He’s hard to refuse/And then he’ll come on home/That’s what he’ll do.” Holly and Lawyer Dave return to their own brand of gospel for the Sunday morning tune “No Judgment Day,” in which they sing, “No, there ain’t no guardian angel/Ain’t no savior on the way/Ain’t no hell or heaven waiting/And there ain’t gonna be no judgment day.” Amen! And that song is followed by a song that I will be adding to my Christmas play list. It’s called “Christmas Is A Lie,” and it has a sweet and pleasant vibe, even as they sing, “You keep believing/I just don’t buy/The shit you’re selling/This Christmas is a lie.” It ends with a little “Jingle Bells” tease, before the final dissonant chord happily destroys it.

CD Track List
  1. Heaven Buy And Buy
  2. Apartment 34
  3. Coulda Shoulda Woulda
  4. Jump In The River
  5. Jackhammer
  6. Marijuana, The Devil’s Flower
  7. Little Mule
  8. What He Does
  9. Karate
  10. Lonesome Grave
  11. No Judgment Day
  12. Christmas Is A Lie
Coulda Woulda Shoulda is scheduled to be released on CD on October 16, 2015 on Transdreamer Records.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Ted Russell Kamp: “The Low And Lonesome Sound” (2015) CD Review

Ted Russell Kamp plays bass with Shooter Jennings, and has also played with Wanda Jackson, 29 Mules and James Intveld, among others. His new album, The Low And Lonesome Sound, is largely a solo effort, meaning just vocals and bass, though he does have some guest musicians sitting in with him on certain tracks. Interestingly, I just reviewed another CD that was all bass and vocals – Sinne Eeg’s new album with bass player Thomas Fonnesbaek. This is a sound that I really love, and this new CD from Ted Russell Kamp is a delight. A few of these tracks were recorded live in the Netherlands. All tracks but one are originals, written or co-written by Ted Russell Kamp.

The CD opens with “Rainy Day Valentine,” which begins with a mellow, but nice line on bass, almost as if it were guitar. There is something intimate and honest about the sound of just vocals and bass, and that works well with lines like “And every time she’s here, I get the notion/That we could have forever for a while” (a line I really like) and “And she don’t ever worry about tomorrow/’Cause she’s got everything she needs tonight” and “You know, she’s always been the one to pour just one more glass of wine/She won’t ever be mine, but she’s my rainy day Valentine.” (The way he sings those last lines reminds me a bit of early, good Billy Joel.) “Rainy Day Valentine” was written by Ted Russell Kamp and Dave Kennedy.

That’s followed by a live recording of “Boom Boom,” a song written by Ted Russell Kamp, Jennifer Gibbons and John Schreffler, one that Kamp and Gibbons perform in Funkyjenn with Jennifer on lead vocals. The version on this CD is just bass and vocals, allowing that great rhythm on bass to take focus. And I really like Ted Russell Kamp’s vocal delivery here. And of course when he sings, “Boom boom boom boom,” you can’t help but think of John Lee Hooker’s “Boom Boom.” This song is certainly referring to that one, at least in that one line. By the way, you can really only tell that this is a live track at the very end, when you hear the audience applaud.

“Deep In A Dream” is one of my favorite tracks, mainly for its great vibe and rhythm. This one is really about the bass, and includes an excellent bass solo. And the feel is like some back room at a smoky beatnik joint. Jason Sutter joins Ted on percussion on this track (credited as playing “pizza box” on the back of the CD case). “Because I’m deep in a dream of you/And you’re the only one who can wake me.” That one is followed by another favorite, a mellower tune titled “A Whole Lot Of You And Me,” written by Ted Russell Kamp and Dylan Altman. This is a live recording from Bergen Op Zoom in the Netherlands. Here is a taste of the lyrics: “I’ve got a little bit of money and a little bit of gas in my car/I’ve got an old dirt road, and it don’t have to take me too far/Because I know where I’m going, and I’m rolling right to your door/’Cause a little bit of you is all I’m looking for.” Ted also included this song on Night Owl.

“Help Is Coming” has kind of a sweet vibe. Ted plays dobro on “Help Is Coming,” and Dave Tolley is on percussion. That track is followed by the album’s one cover, a really nice rendition of Townes Van Zandt’s “Tecumseh Valley.” Aubrey Richmond joins Ted Russell Kamp on violin on this track.

“Another Love Song” is a good country tune written by Ted Russell Kamp, Dylan Altman and Eric Paslay, and included on Night Owl.  There are actually two versions on that CD, and the version here is closer to the “Tulsa Style” version at the end of that album. And it’s interesting to hear a country song that is just bass and vocals. It actually works well. “Don’t want to see another slow dance/’Cause it just brings me down/I don’t need another love song/I just need you right now.” This is the third and final live track from the Netherlands, and it includes a bass solo. The album then concludes with “Nothing Shy Of Perfect,” another of this CD’s highlights. It has a totally cool vibe, and Ted plays trumpet on this track. Jason Sutter returns with his brushes on that pizza box for this one.

CD Track List
  1. Rainy Day Valentine
  2. Boom Boom
  3. Deep In A Dream
  4. A Whole Lot Of You And Me
  5. Help Is Coming
  6. Tecumseh Valley
  7. Another Love Song
  8. Nothing Shy Of Perfect
The Low And Lonesome Sound was released on June 9, 2015 on PoMo Records. 

Friday, September 11, 2015

Interview With Randy O. Of Odin

Randy O. (photo supplied by Randy O.)
Recently the three Decline Of Western Civilization films were released in a Blu-ray box set. One of the most memorable groups from the second film, The Decline Of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years (1988), is Odin, fronted by lead singer Randy O. In this interview Randy offers his personal take on that film, and shares memories of that time, as well as thoughts on life nearly three decades later.

I read that you joined Odin after answering an ad for a singer. Do you remember what the ad said? Any recollections of the audition or first meeting with the other band members?
I don't really remember what the ad said, but I do remember seeing it and wanting to be in Odin very much. I worked at the Builder's Emporium in Montrose, California at the time and I had my coworker call Odin to see if they were still looking for a singer.
I think it was Jeff or Brad Parker that I was talking to about getting the gig. For a while I really didn't think I would get the gig and would get really bummed out, but after maybe a couple of weeks, I remember Brad Parker picking me up and bringing my PA to the studio down in Glendale so I could audition. I think at first they weren't really sure about my voice (I never thought I could sing anyway), but they loved my energy and craziness, a perfect attitude to be a front man, and after that, the rest was history.

How did Odin come to be featured in The Decline Of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years? Who approached you with regards to that project? And had you seen the first film at that point?
I don't remember exactly how that went down, but I do remember Penelope Spheeris interviewing us one day, and then not too long after, she asked if we wanted to do the movie, and of course we all said yes. I had seen bits of the first film and it seemed like a fun thing to do. They gave us some money and the next thing I knew I was drinking my ass off with a bunch of my friends, telling a camera about my dreams of becoming a mega rock star. I know people talk a lot of shit about us and that interview, but if your dream is to become a rock star, you have to think big, right?
I'm glad they finally released it on DVD. Maybe I'll get another little check out of it and I'll take my family out to dinner at BJ's. I love me some IPAs plus my son Patrick loves their clam chowder.

What were your expectations with regards to the film, specifically how it might affect the band’s career? 
I didn't really go into it with any expectations other than being stoked that we were going to be in a movie with Aerosmith and Ozzy Osbourne. I always tell people, "Don't believe everything you see and only half of what you hear, and don't ever take yourself too seriously." I think a lot of people went into that movie thinking it would be a great opportunity for themselves or their band, but the end product seemed to try to make the whole scene look foolish. As far as how I thought it would affect the band, I guess just that we would be getting worldwide exposure, which we did, and we all had a blast doing it.

The interview with Odin featured in The Decline Of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years was conducted in a hot tub in Penelope Spheeris’ yard. How was that location chosen? And was there any sort of direction to act like it was your own place?
Yeah, the location was at Penelope's house, which was her idea. I think that she knew that we always had a lot of pretty women around us at all times, so she just figured, "Let's throw the boys in the hot tub with some girls and a couple cases of Budweiser and see what we get out of it." Some people loved it and others hated it. Bottom line, thirty years later I'm still getting a pay check and now doing an interview with you about it, so I got to love it.

What were your impressions of Penelope Spheeris and her directing style?
At the time, I really had no idea what was going on with her directing us. The hot tub seemed like a setup to get us drunk and see how many crazy comments she could get out of us. Everything I said was truly how I felt at the time though, but obviously everyone changes and you can't hold that against me. I think things got a little wacky in the editing room. A lot of the stuff that she actually put in the film seemed unnecessary to me.

What was the band’s relationship with Bill Gazzarri, and how did it come about? In the film he comes across as a big fan and supporter, leading the crowd in an “Odin, Odin, Odin” chant.
Wow, Bill! He was a great man and he loved the band a lot. I guess because we made him plenty of money, and he paid us well for playing at his club. We were always welcome to go there and have free drinks and sometimes he would take us to the Rainbow and buy us pizza. He had a huge heart, God rest his soul.

In the film, you are completely determined to make it as a rock star. But soon after that film was released, you left Odin for the Lostboys (along with guitarist Jeff Duncan). What led to that decision?
What happened is I actually was being managed by Vicky Hamilton (who also managed bands such as Guns N' Roses, Poison, Mötley Crüe and many others), and she thought it was in my best interest to leave Odin and do a solo project. Jeff Duncan was not the original guitar player for Lost Boys. Originally I took the bass player, Jimmy Tavis, and I had my brother Patrick as a rhythm guitarist. Jimmy knew of a drummer named Dorian (AKA Chad).
We then got our lead guitarist, Steve Mojica. Once we got into the studio, we found it wasn't working out with Steve, and at that time Jeff was living pretty close to the studio. I called him up and asked him if he wanted to come and lay some leads down. Jeff was down with it, so Jimmy and I just asked him to be in the band. RIP Jimmy Tavis, Patrick Gainor and Dorian Chad Matson. Jeff and I are the only living members left of Lost Boys, which is a total bummer.

In 2008, an EP titled Human Animal was released, and in 2009, a best of Odin CD was released. How did these come about? I’m especially curious about “Let The Show Begin,” a high-energy rock tune that looks back while also looking forward with that same sort of certainty the band had back in the 1980s.
Those songs are pretty much Aaron's deal (the bass player for Odin), and I had nothing to do with that. He wrote all three and Odin recorded the instrumentals. They just sent me a copy with how he wanted me to sing it, and I went into the studio and sang what Aaron had put together for me. Aaron produced it all and we never played any of those songs live. I think that little session made a few people bitter. In my opinion, they were good songs but not really Odin.

In the film, you said that all you want to do is music. These days you’re working in television. What’s happening in the music world for you now? Any projects, plans?
As you know, people change and I definitely have changed. When I was about twenty-five years old, I got married, and at that point all I wanted to do was just be with my wife and have a family. I didn't have a place in my heart for music anymore, and I've been blessed with a great job. I have worked on some of the biggest motion picture films in history. Twenty-five years later and I'm still married and love my wife and family more today than ever. I spend most of my time going to my son's football games and cheering him on. I have been asked several times to play gigs but I'm just not into it anymore. I will be going to a gig here in the next month though - I bought tickets for my daughter and I to see Van Halen at the Hollywood Bowl.

The film contains some great concert footage, in which you’re wearing some revealing pants. On the audio commentary track, Penelope Spheeris says that you’re the only guy around who could get away with the ass-less pants. I have to ask, where did those pants come from? 
Funny that you asked that question. Those pants were actually my roommate's pants—a guy named Chris Holmes—and I needed something to wear. He told me, "Dude you got to wear my ass-less chaps! But the only way you can wear them, man, is you can't wear any pants underneath. Those will make you famous!" And that's a true story.

Have you re-watched the film lately? What are your thoughts on the film now?
No, I have not watched the movie recently, but my rock 'n' roll daughter, Hanah, got the VHS copy off of E-Bay a few years ago. She has watched it a few times and just loves it. I think she thinks it's pretty cool that her dad is in the same movie as Ozzy and Megadeth (some of her favorites). If I had to do it all over again, I'm sure I would change a lot of things, but no matter what any one says, I'm known all over the world and (believe it or not) I'm loved by many many people all over. I think that the movie definitely captured the essence of that time period and I hope it's able to live on in the generations to come.

The Decline Of Western Civilization Collection is available on Blu-ray and DVD.

Wilson Pickett: “Mr. Magic Man: The Complete RCA Studio Recordings” (2015) CD Review

Wilson Pickett is best known for his 1960s recordings such as “In The Midnight Hour,” “Mustang Sally” and “Everybody Needs Somebody To Love.” In 1973, he began recording for RCA, and many of the tracks he recorded there showcase his songwriting as well as his singing, particularly from the first LP, Mr. Magic Man. Mr. Magic Man: The Complete RCA Studio Recordings contains four complete albums that Wilson Pickett released with RCA between 1973 and 1975, plus four bonus tracks. This two-disc set contains forty-two tracks, and nearly two and a half hours of music. This collection also includes new liner notes by Joe Marchese.

The first disc contains two complete records – Mr. Magic Man and Miz Lena’s Boy – and two bonus tracks. Mr. Magic Man opens with its title track, which was also released as a single. It’s kind of catchy, but definitely has a 1970s pop sound, and is not my favorite track. I prefer the following track, “Only I Can Sing This Song,” which Wilson Pickett wrote. He delivers a heartfelt and moving vocal performance here, singing of a lost love, of how he “watched a future pass me by.” Interestingly, the song isn’t just about the woman who broke up with him, but about being able to turn to his family for strength. “Love Is Beautiful” doesn’t quite work now, perhaps because of the woman’s goal: “You just wanted to be married, raise a family and be a mighty fine wife.” It seems that his mellower tunes on this LP work best, and I absolutely love “I Sho’ Love You.” Check out the way he holds onto the word “please” in the line “I told my emotions to please step aside.” So good. “I Sho’ Love You” was written by Wilson Pickett, Brad Shapiro and Dave Crawford. (Shapiro and Crawford also produced that album.) I also love “If You Need Me,” which is so beautiful and simple. At the beginning he sings, “If you need me, call me/If you need me, call me/Don’t wait too long/If things go wrong me/I’ll be home.” His vocal performance is just perfect, full of passion, and I also really like the piano part. “If You Need Me” was written by Wilson Pickett, Robert Bateman and Sonny Sanders, and is my favorite track from Mr. Magic Man.

Though there isn’t quite as much original material on Miz Lena’s Boy, I think in general it’s a better album. It opens with “Take A Closer Look At The Woman You’re With,” which was written by Wilson Pickett and Brad Shapiro. And right away it announces that this album is going to be funkier. “Lord have mercy/How about that?” The bonus tracks on this disc include the mono single version of this tune, which is just a bit shorter. Wilson Pickett delivers an excellent and original take on Chuck Berry’s “Memphis, Tennessee.” This is one of the highlights. It is so different from the original version, but works so damn well. I completely love those backing vocals, which are used sparingly and perfectly. And then there’s the horn. Geez, just everything about this track is wonderful. Plus, it’s such a great song to begin with. I still remember being surprised at just who it’s about the first time I ever heard the Chuck Berry version. If somehow you haven’t heard this song, I won’t spoil it for you here. Wilson Pickett also does a really good cover of Kris Kristofferson’s “Help Me Make It Through The Night,” and he delivers what is probably the best version of “Never My Love” I’ve ever heard.  “Soft Soul Boogie Woogie” is a fun tune, complete with hand-claps and a great beat, and the way Wilson sings it, the vocals are almost like a percussion instrument, contributing to the rhythm. The bonus tracks include the mono single version of this song. Also fun is “Two Women And A Wife.” Hell, just that title is fun. “Two Women And A Wife” was written by Wilson Pickett and Brad Shapiro. “Our great love affair is not meant to be/A man can love one woman, but he can never have three.”

The second disc contains two complete LPs – Pickett In The Pocket and Join Me And Let’s Be Free – and two bonus tracks. Pickett In The Pocket, originally released in 1974, opens with “Iron It Out,” an energetic and funky number written by George Jackson. That’s followed by a cover of Jesse Winchester’s “Isn’t That So.” The bonus tracks include the mono single version of this song. But for me, this LP really gets going with “I Was Too Nice,” written by Wilson Pickett, Brad Shapiro and Barry Beckett. It has a cool, easy groove. Here is a taste of the lyrics: “I’m crying tears alone/Gave up right for wrong/Made a sacrifice twice/I was too nice, lord, I was too nice.” And it’s followed by the fun “Don’t Pass Me By,” written by Wilson Pickett, Dave Crawford and Brad Shapiro. One of the best tracks, though, is “Young Boy Blues,” a song written by Doc Pomus and Phil Spector. This song was the title track for a Ben E. King album and later recorded by The Honeydrippers, but while both of those renditions are good, this version by Wilson Pickett is even better. Wilson really gets into it, and I love the backing vocals on this track. “Take Your Pleasure Where You Find It” is a funky number that was also released as a single. The bonus tracks include the mono single version. It was written by Paul Butterfield and Bobby Charles. Pickett In The Pocket concludes with a wonderful, moving rendition of Jackie Verdell’s “You’re The One.”

Join Me And Let’s Be Free, the fourth and final album of this collection, opens with its title track, a song that Wilson Pickett wrote. It has something of a gospel feel, and lyrics that are a bit on the cheesy side: “Kick off your shoes of sadness/Try on this robe of love/Join me and let’s be free.” Shoes of sadness? Geez. And I could do without the Jesus song, “I’ve Got A Good Friend.” But there are some good tunes on this LP. “Smokin’ In The United Nations” is a fun track, with a spoken word section about Los Angeles: “All the way out here in Los Angeles, California/Where I heard it was nothing but pretty women, movie stars and people laying around on the beach with a whole lot of money.” Written by Kevin Beamish, Wilson Pickett and Yusuf Rahman, this song features the lines, “I had to build my house on a funky plantation/But don’t be surprised if you look up and see me smokin’ in the united nations.” Another highlight is “Good Things,” which features a totally delicious groove and some nice work on harmonica.

CD Track List

CD One
  1. Mr. Magic Man
  2. Only I Can Sing This Song
  3. Love Is Beautiful
  4. I Sho’ Love You
  5. Baby Man
  6. Sin Was The Blame
  7. What It Is
  8. If You Need Me
  9. I Can’t Let My True Love Slip Away
  10. I Keep Walking Straight Ahead
  11. Take A Closer Look At The Woman You’re With
  12. Memphis, Tennessee
  13. Soft Soul Boogie Woogie
  14. Help Me Make It Through The Night
  15. Never My Love
  16. You Lay’d It On Me
  17. Is Your Love Life Better
  18. Two Women And A Wife
  19. Why Don’t You Make Up Your Mind
  20. Take The Pollution Out Your Throat
  21. Take A Closer Look At The Woman You’re With (Mono Promo Version)
  22. Soft Soul Boogie Woogie (Mono Promo Version)
CD Two
  1. Iron It Out
  2. Isn’t That So
  3. Take A Look
  4. I Was Too Nice
  5. Don’t Pass Me By
  6. What Good Is A Lie
  7. Young Boy Blues
  8. Take Your Pleasure Where You Find It
  9. You’re The One
  10. Join Me And Let’s Be Free
  11. Let’s Make Love Right
  12. I’ve Got A Good Friend
  13. Smokin’ In The United Nations
  14. Gone
  15. Good Things
  16. Higher Consciousness
  17. Bailin’ Hay On A Rainy Day
  18. Mighty Mouth
  19. Isn’t That So (Mono Promo Version)
  20. Take Your Pleasure Where You Find It (Mono Promo Version)
Mr. Magic Man: The Complete RCA Studio Recordings was released on September 4, 2015 through Real Gone Music.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Dr. John: “The Atco/Atlantic Singles 1968-1974” (2015) CD Review

I am always in the mood for Dr. John, the Night Tripper. Last year saw the re-release of his first album, 1968’s Gris-Gris. And now a collection of his early singles is being released through Omnivore Recordings. The Atco/Atlantic Singles 1968-1974 contains twenty-two tracks (more than seventy minutes of music), including some of his most famous recordings such as “Mama Roux,” “Iko Iko,” “Right Place Wrong Time” and “Such A Night.” This collection also includes liner notes by Gene Sculatti, who offers information about Dr. John’s early career and first several albums.

The collection opens with the mono long version of “The Patriotic Flag Waver,” which was released as a promotional single. It’s an interesting one in which Dr. John sings that he belongs to “the KKK and the NAACP, the Berkeley School and the John Birch Society,” and children sing “My Country, ‘Tis Of Thee” occasionally in the background. This tune would end up on Dr. John’s 1969 studio album Babylon. That’s followed by “Mama Roux,” which was released as a single in 1968 and also included on Gris-Gris. It’s a lot of fun. “Come on down, boy, and now follow me/Wham bam thank you ma’am/Come on, boy, and follow me.” The flip side, “Jump Sturdy,” is also a fun tune, and was also included on Gris-Gris. It has something of an early rock and roll feel, particularly in the backing vocals.

“I Walk On Gilded Splinters” is a longer song, the last track from Gris-Gris. In this collection, it is presented as two tracks, as it was on the single. This is such a cool and unusual tune, with lines like “Je suis le grand zombie” and “Fill my brains with poison” and “Soon you'll be in the gutter/Melt your heart like butter/And, and, and I can make you stutter.”

“Loop Garoo” and “Wash, Mama, Wash” were the two tunes on the only single from Dr. John’s 1970 release, Remedies. Of the two, I prefer “Wash, Mama, Wash,” which is ridiculously fun and catchy. Dr. John sings, “You got to rub-a-dubba-dubba/Mama, bust them suds,” and the backing vocalists sing, “Scrub, Mama, scrub.” And I like this verse, “If you stop playing them numbers/I’ll tell you up front/You may be able to save the whole family/’Cause at the rate the things you're doin' is going/We may all be out on the street come morning,” which he delivers as spoken word.

That’s followed by his recording of “Iko Iko,” one of the most well-known tunes associated with New Orleans. It’s such a great song. I think the first version I ever heard was a live version by the Grateful Dead, and it sent me in search of other versions. In fact, it was this song and “Right Place Wrong Time” that led me to purchase my first Dr. John album, a greatest hits compilation titled The Ultimate Dr. John. I still really have no idea what this song is about, and I don’t care. It’s a fantastic tune to get you dancing, and this rendition by Dr. John is among the best I’ve heard. Enjoy. Its flip side is a medley of songs by Huey Smith, including his famous “Don’t You Just Know It.”

Dr. John also does a really good rendition of Willie Dixon’s “Wang Dang Doodle.” It’s not quite as raw and mean as some versions I’ve heard, but it’s definitely cool and has an excellent (though brief) jam. “All night long, all night long, all night long, all night long.” Also included here is a Buddy Guy single on which Dr. John appears. “A Man Of Many Words” was written by Buddy Guy, and this single, which was released in 1972, also features Eric Clapton (Clapton was also one of the single’s producers). This song reminds me quite a bit of Otis Redding’s “Hard To Handle.”

“Right Place Wrong Time” was, as I recall, the song that turned me onto Dr. John when I was in my teens. I remember hearing it on the radio several times, back when commercial radio still played cool shit. This is a funky little gem. “I been in the right place/But it must have been the wrong time/I'd have said the right thing/But I must have used the wrong line/I been on the right trip/But I must have used the wrong car/My head was in a bad place/And I wonder what it's good for.” This song was also the lead track on Dr. John’s In The Right Place, released in 1973. “Right Place Wrong Time” was a hit for Dr. John. The single’s flip side, “I Been Hoodood,” was also included on In The Right Place.

“Such A Night” is another of Dr. John’s biggest hits, and it too is from In The Right Place. It is a total delight. Seriously, if this song doesn’t get you smiling, you might want to see an undertaker. You can watch Dr. John perform this song with The Band in The Last Waltz. “Life” is also a fun song with a great groove. It was written and produced by Allen Toussaint. It’s followed by another tune that will have you dancing soon enough, “Let’s Make A Better World,” which was written by Earl King.

CD Track List
  1. The Patriotic Flag Waver (Mono Long Version)
  2. Mama Roux
  3. Jump Sturdy
  4. I Walk On Gilded Splinters (Part I)
  5. I Walk On Gilded Splinters (Part II)
  6. Gris-Gris Gumbo Ya Ya
  7. Loop Garoo
  8. Wash Mama Wash
  9. Iko Iko
  10. Huey Smith Medley: High Blood Pressure/Don’t You Just Know It/Well, I’ll Be John Brown
  11. Wang Dang Doodle
  12. Big Chief
  13. A Man Of Many Words
  14. Right Place Wrong Time
  15. I Been Hoodood
  16. Such A Night
  17. Cold Cold Cold
  18. Life
  19. Let’s Make A Better World
  20. Me – You = Loneliness
  21. (Everybody Wanna Get Rich) Rite Away
  22. Mos’ Scocious
The Atco/Atlantic Singles 1968-1974 is scheduled to be released on September 18, 2015 through Omnivore Recordings.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Kinky Friedman: “The Loneliest Man I Ever Met” (2015) CD Review

Recently I was at an unusual music venue called Kulak’s Woodshed, and I noticed on its shelves a hardcover book by Kinky Friedman. It was on its side on top of the other books, so perhaps someone had recently been reading it. I had never read any of his books, and the folks who were at the concert with me hadn’t either. But we got to talking a bit about his songwriting, and about a new studio album coming out, his first in many years, which got us very excited. Though he’s known for his songwriting, interestingly his new CD, The Loneliest Man I Ever Met, is mostly covers. Here he picks some excellent songs by folks like Willie Nelson, Warren Zevon, Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan. There are also a few Kinky Friedman originals.

Kinky kicks off the new album with a song I love, “Bloody Mary Morning.” It was written by Willie Nelson, who joins Kinky on vocals and guitar on this recording. This is a wonderful, loose, intimate acoustic rendition. Bobbie Nelson (Willie’s sister) is on piano, and Kevin Smith is on bass. It’s a great start to the album. Kinky follows that with a spoken word rendition of Tom Waits’ “Christmas Card From A Hooker In Minneapolis,” a song originally included on Waits’ 1978 release Blue Valentine. Like the original version, the vocals are accompanied by piano, but this version adds a gorgeous harmonica. Kinky changes the man’s name from Charlie to Kinky, of course, and the pace is a bit quicker, giving the song a slightly happier feel. There is a strange, romantic, nostalgic bent to this song, with lines like “Hey, Kinky, I think about you every time I pass a filling station.”

“The Loneliest Man I Ever Met,” the CD’s title track, is one of the album’s original compositions, co-written by Kinky Friedman and Will Hoover. The song is dedicated to Tompall Glaser, and at the beginning Kinky says, “Raise your glasses, one and all; drink a toast to the great Tompall.” This song was actually written years ago, but finally gets its first official recording here. And it’s one of my personal favorites from this CD. Here is a taste of the lyrics: “And though it was the happy hour, it wasn’t any fun/’Cause the party again was just a party of one.”

Another of my favorites is Kinky’s cover of Warren Zevon’s “My Shit’s Fucked Up.” The line “Your shit’s fucked up” is hilarious when put into the mouth of a doctor, as Warren Zevon does in this song.  This song was originally on one of Zevon’s final albums, and many of the songs he was writing at the time dealt in one way or another with death. “He said the shit that used to work, it won’t work now.” Kinky’s version certainly has a sense of humor, and also some wonderful work on harmonica. He follows that with a sweet love song, “Lady Yesterday,” a tune which was originally included on his 1976 album Lasso From El Paso. The age in his voice makes this new version even stronger, giving more poignancy to lines like “Could you make it spring” and “You danced like it was yesterday again.” By the way, in this version he changes the line “If I had the songs from David’s old guitar” to “If I had the songs from Willie’s old guitar.”

“Freedom To Stay” was written by Will Hoover (who co-wrote the CD’s title track). It’s an excellent song that has also been covered by Waylon Jennings and Tina Turner. Check out these lyrics: “I could ramble a thousand miles or more/Never find the light I’ve seen in your eyes before/You gave me the freedom to go my own way/No, but you gave me much more/I have the freedom to stay.” That is followed by “Wild Man From Borneo,” an original composition by Kinky Friedman which was included on Old Testaments & New Revelations, there with a full band. Here he is accompanied by acoustic guitar and harmonica. I prefer this new version. “I wonder if you’re happy/I wonder if you’re free/I wonder if you’ll ever know the mark you left on me.

Another of my favorites is Kinky’s cover of “Wand’rin’ Star,” a song written by Alan J. Lerner and Frederick Loewe for the musical Paint Your Wagon. In the film version, Lee Marvin sings it, and actually had a huge hit with it in the UK. (I own the DVD and keep meaning to watch this film, but have not yet been able to bring myself to do it.) Kinky Friedman does a great job with it. He then concludes the CD with “A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square,” a romantic tune which was written by Eric Maschwitz and Manning Sherwin. It’s been recorded by a large number of artists over the years, including Frank Sinatra, Bobby Darin and Mel Tormé.

CD Track List
  1. Bloody Mary Morning
  2. A Christmas Card From A Hooker In Minneapolis
  3. The Loneliest Man I Ever Met
  4. My Shit’s Fucked Up
  5. Lady Yesterday
  6. Freedom To Stay
  7. Wild Man From Borneo
  8. Hungry Eyes
  9. Pickin’ Time
  10. Girl From The North Country
  11. Wand’rin’ Star
  12. A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square
The Loneliest Man I Ever Met is scheduled to be released on October 2, 2015 through Avenue A Records and Thirty Tigers. (And now I'm curious enough to read some of his novels.)