Saturday, January 30, 2016

Circle Jerks: “VI” (1987/2016) CD Review

In 1987, the Circle Jerks released their fifth album, titled VI because, fuck, not everything needs to be in order. I had listened to the Circle Jerks early on, thanks to some friends who turned me on to bands like Descendents, Dead Kennedys, Suicidal Tendencies and, of course, Black Flag. One thing I appreciated about the Circle Jerks was their sense of humor. I mean, even their choice of band names is funny, and I have to admit the title of their third album, Golden Shower Of Hits, still makes me smile (and what a great cover that album has). But by 1987 I was off into other musical realms, and so didn’t listen to VI upon its initial release. Now it’s being remastered and re-issued, with new liner notes, and so I’m getting a chance to enjoy it. And there is plenty to enjoy on this disc. The tracks are mostly hard, fast, short, in-and-out punk rock tunes, with a sense of humor, but also with something to say. Check out “Living,” for example. I wish I had this record back in my teens, but the lines “I’m tired, give me something/Is that all there is, is that all there is” still speak strongly to me. Most of the tracks are originals, the exception being an excellent CCR cover.

The album opens with “Beat Me Senseless,” which is actually one of my least favorite tracks. It’s just not all that interesting. It has kind of a hard rock sound. But no worries, two minutes later, we’re into “Patty’s Killing Mel,” which is a much better tune with more of a biting sense of humor. This one was written by Zander Schloss, who had joined the band in 1984. “Patty’s killing Mel/Red beef, cocktails, sending him to hell/Susie killing Sal, Bobbi killing Joe/It’s your blood, who’s to know/Carol killing Del, Sally killing Sam/Get too close, you’ll understand.” And of course it has the spoken word part about dust under the counter indicating a possible lack of love in the relationship. Then “Casualty Vampires” rips on people who thrive on seeing the misery of others, those people who slow down on the highway to look at car wrecks, hoping to see a corpse. That’s followed by one of my favorites, “Tell Me Why,” which has a strong message. “Watch your mouth, mind your speech/Be aware, stay on your feet/Try to run, get you when you’re weak/Why are they always hounding me.”

I am also really fond of “Protection.” Here is a taste of the lyrics: “Like the whales in the ocean/We could become extinct/Don’t let them hunt us/In the wild kingdom/You better believe all the animals need protection.” But probably my absolute favorite on this album is “Living,” which is another with strong social commentary. Check out these lines: “Not much hope for any future/No desire to recall the past/Lower standards of education/Hard to think when your stomach is empty.” This is a great song.

The album’s only cover is a rendition of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Fortunate Son,” which is perfectly placed after “American Way” (which has lines like “They can justify anything they do/It’s all right, as long they’re/Waving the red white and blue”), and delivered with the right snarl and anger and attitude. Seriously, this is a really good version of “Fortunate Son.” It’s a perfect song for getting the hardcore punk treatment, the anger being there in the original (John Fogerty sings the fuck out of it). This CD concludes with another strong track, “I Don’t.” “I don’t cook, I don’t clean/I don’t have the energy for the scene/And I don’t got no car/I don’t worry ‘bout the price of gasoline.”

CD Track List
  1. Beat Me Senseless
  2. Patty’s Killing Mel
  3. Casualty Vampire
  4. Tell Me Why
  5. Protection
  6. I’m Alive
  7. Status Clinger
  8. Living
  9. American Way
  10. Fortunate Son
  11. Love Kills
  12. All Wound Up
  13. I Don’t 
This re-issue of VI is scheduled to be released on February 5, 2016 through Real Gone Music.

J.D. Souther: “Home By Dawn” (1984/2016) CD Review

J.D. Souther may be known primarily for his songwriting talents (he co-wrote some of The Eagles’ biggest hits), but these days people are getting another chance to hear some of his excellent recordings. His first solo album was released as an expanded edition by Omnivore Recordings, and soon both his second album, Black Rose, and his fourth album, Home By Dawn, will likewise get expanded editions. (Of course, that makes me wonder why his third, You’re Only Lonely, is being skipped.) Home By Dawn has quite a different feel from the others, having a more pop-oriented country vibe, along with elements of rockabilly. As with earlier albums, this one boasts some wonderful guests, including Linda Ronstadt and Don Henley, and features all original material, written or co-written by J.D. Souther (one of the bonus tracks, however, is a cover). This expanded edition contains four bonus tracks, three of which were previously unreleased, and new liner notes by Scott Schinder with excerpts from a recent interview with J.D. Souther.

The album kicks off with its title track, “Home By Dawn,” a lively tune with a much more modern country pop feel than earlier material, while somehow simultaneously having something of an early rock or rockabilly element, all wrapped up in 1980s production sounds. As different as the sound is, at the heart of it is still J.D. Souther’s impressive songwriting. “He said goodbye and just walked right out the door/He looked so good he must have practiced it before.” Don Henley provides some backing vocals on this track (he also sings on “Bad News Travels Fast”). That’s followed by “Go Ahead And Rain,” which has kind of a sweeter pop feel. It opens with these lines: “I don’t know how you go on with your sorrows/Weighing you down like a stone/But then, I don’t know how I can sit here/And give you advice, dying for home.” He’s such a good songwriter.

“Say You Will” has a bit of a Buddy Holly vibe, and features Linda Ronstadt on vocals. Linda and J.D. had worked together before, and actually she sang on “If You Have Crying Eyes” on Black Rose. She had also covered several of his songs on her own albums, including “Faithless Love,” “I Can Almost See It,” “Don’t Cry Now,” “The Fast One” and “Silver Blue.” As always, J.D. and Linda sound excellent together on “Say You Will,” a song that J.D. Souther wrote with Danny Kortchmar. “You can stay until/Either one of us gives up/And then all right/Kiss me good night/But say you won’t let me go.” This is one of the album’s best tracks.

“I’ll Take Care Of You” is a sweet, fairly straight, unabashed love song, which came as kind of a surprise after listening to his earlier albums. This track features J.D. Souther on vocals and piano, with Billy Walker on guitar. This song was covered by The Dixie Chicks on their 1998 release, Wide Open Spaces. The bonus tracks include a demo version of this song. “I’ll Take Care Of You” is followed by another love song, “All For You,” with lines like “But this is just one night/And I know life is too long/To go on living without you.” I also really like these lines: “You know I’d do anything you want me to/The darkest night is just the kind I like/But I just can’t sleep it through.”

“Night” is a really good and catchy pop song, which J.D. Souther co-wrote with Waddy Watchtel, who plays guitar on this track. “Light, too much light/Means one more night/Is all over/But the night keeps coming back/Nothing could be as good as that.” How was this song not a hit? It’s one of my personal favorites. The original album concludes with “All I Want,” a track on which J.D. Souther plays all the instruments.

The bonus tracks include “Hearts Against The Wind,” an absolutely wonderful song from the 1980 film Urban Cowboy. It’s a duet with Linda Ronstadt, and features Ricky Skaggs on mandolin. This is the one bonus track that was previously released. “Little Girl Blue” is the one cover tune on this CD. It was written by Lorenz Hart and Richard Rodgers, and was also covered by Janis Joplin and Nina Simone, among many others. This is such a pretty song, and J.D. Souther goes a great job with it. The CD then ends with “Girls All Over The World,” a very cool, humorous, bluesy tune. This is actually one of my favorite tracks. Here is a taste of the lyrics: “You see 'em on the beaches/Wearing big blond curls/Or standing on a bus stop/Wearing big fake pearls/I don't care/Just as long as they care about me.

CD Track List
  1. Home By Dawn
  2. Go Ahead And Rain
  3. Say You Will
  4. I’ll Take Care Of You
  5. All For You
  6. Night
  7. Don’t Know What I’m Gonna Do
  8. Bad News Travels Fast
  9. All I Want
  10. Hearts Against The Wind
  11. I’ll Take Care Of You (demo)
  12. Little Girl Blue
  13. Girls All Over The World 
This special re-issue of Home By Dawn is scheduled to be released on February 12, 2016 through Omnivore Recordings.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

John David Souther: “Black Rose” (1976/2016) CD Review

On January 8, Omnivore Recordings released John David Souther’s first solo album, the 1972 self-titled record, with several bonus tracks. Now his second solo album, Black Rose, is being re-issued, also with bonus tracks, most of which were previously unreleased. Glenn Frey played guitar on a few tracks on the previous album, and he joins Souther again for a couple of tracks on this release. Fellow Eagles member Joe Walsh also joins Souther on this album, and there are lots of other great guest players. The original album features all original material, written by J.D. Souther, and most of the bonus tracks are also original numbers. This expanded edition includes new liner notes by Scott Schinder, with excerpts from a recent interview with John David Souther.

The album opens with “Banging My Head Against The Moon,” a fun tune with a kind of reggae vibe. “But the way I feel today/I think love is here to stay/You got something and I want it all.” This track features backing vocals by David Crosby, Art Garfunkel and Andrew Gold. That’s followed by “If You Have Crying Eyes,” a truly pretty country pop tune with Linda Ronstadt on harmony vocals. They sound wonderful together. Both Glenn Frey and Andrew Gold play electric guitar on this track. Andrew Gold also plays electric piano. “I don’t mind if it takes us a little longer/I’m willing to stay here and love you, love you ‘til dawn/It’ll be all right.” This song builds beautifully toward the end.

“Faithless Love” is another beautiful song, and one that Linda Ronstadt covered on her 1974 record Heart Like A Wheel (John David Souther appears on that album). Glen Campbell also later covered it. This version by J.D. Souther features Charles Veal on viola, and both Dennis Karmazyn and Ray Kelly on cello (and I learned something from the liner notes: celli is one plural form of cello). Here is a taste of the lyrics: “Too many stories/Too many heartbreak songs/Where nobody’s right/And nobody’s wrong/Faithless love will find you/And the misery entwine you/Faithless love/Where did I go wrong.” The bonus tracks include a live version, recorded in Los Angeles in October of 1976. In his introduction, he refers to Linda Ronstadt’s version (“It makes it a little hard to do, but here it goes”).

Joe Walsh joins Souther on slide guitar for “Baby Come Home.” David Crosby provides some backing vocals on this track. “You were my queen/A little fool for a king/In the reign of misery/All this time has gone by/Dried these tears in my eyes/Trying to smile at the memory.” This song also has a nice string section. And then the first lines of “Simple Man, Simple Dream” make me laugh: “What if I fall in love with you/Just like normal people do/Well, maybe I’d kill you/Or maybe I’d be true.” J.D. Souther sure can write a damn good lyric.

One of my favorite tracks on the expanded edition of J.D. Souther’s first album was the bonus track demo version of “Silver Blue.” And on this album, we get the official version. And again, it’s one of my favorite tracks on this CD. This version has that wonderful bass work by Stanley Clarke. There is also a cello, an instrument I always appreciate. This is just an absolutely excellent song. “If you were ever lonely/You never let it show/But someday baby/You’ll be here/And I’ll be going home/Without you/And blood on both my hands.”

“Midnight Prowl” is such a cool tune, with a bit of a funky edge. And I love that horn. That’s Donald Byrd on flugelhorn. Lowell George (from Little Feat) plays slide guitar on this track. “Doors Swing Open” is a powerful song that kind of sneaks up on you. You don’t realize for a while that this song has its hold on you. At least, that is my experience with it. Check out these lines: “What’s the difference/Who started it now/I’d have thought/You’d be past that somehow/It’s not just what I’d call/Making a friend/It looks more like the start of an end.” And I love that moment with the violins halfway through the song. The original album then concludes with its title track, “Black Rose,” which features backing vocals by Ned Doheny, Glenn Frey and Don Henley.

The bonus tracks include two versions of “Songs Of Love,” an excellent song that would be included on J.D. Souther’s 1979 LP You’re Only Lonely. The first is a band demo, the second a solo demo (vocals and piano). “I know I’ve been wrong/In so many songs/That I must have been right/In one.” (In the solo demo he sings, “But I’ve been wrong.”) There is also a demo of “I Can Almost See It,” a song that Linda Ronstadt did on her 1973 record, Don’t Cry Now.

The only song on this CD not written by John David Souther is “Cheek To Cheek,” which was written by Lowell George and Van Dyke Parks. It is also the only of the bonus tracks to have been previously released; it was included on Lowell George’s only solo album, Thanks I’ll Eat It Here. The bonus tracks also include a demo version of “Border Town,” a song that J.D. Souther included on the self-titled 1974 record by The Souther-Hillman-Fury Band. I actually prefer this demo version. And there is an instrumental piano demo version of “Texas Nights And Mexican Moons.”

CD Track List
  1. Banging My Head Against The Moon
  2. If You Have Crying Eyes
  3. Your Turn Now
  4. Faithless Love
  5. Baby Come Home
  6. Simple Man, Simple Dream
  7. Silver Blue
  8. Midnight Prowl
  9. Doors Swing Open
  10. Black Rose
  11. Faithless Love (live)
  12. Songs Of Love (band demo)
  13. I Can Almost See It (demo)
  14. Cheek To Cheek
  15. Border Town (solo demo)
  16. Texas Nights And Mexican Moons (instrumental demo)
  17. Songs Of Love (solo demo)
This special re-issue of Black Rose is scheduled to be released on February 12, 2016 through Omnivore Recordings.

Rebel Scum DVD Review

Rebel Scum is a documentary film about southern punk rock band The Dirty Works, and specifically about its lead singer, Christopher Scum. It’s about music, expression, addiction, abuse and living in the so-called Bible Belt. Before the film even begins, a title card tells us of a tragedy – after the film was completed, Christopher Scum and his girlfriend Rene were in a car accident, which killed Rene and left Christopher severely burned. It’s interesting that the filmmaker chose to include this at the beginning rather than at the end, because of course it colors our perception and reception of everything in the film, at least to a degree.

Before we are introduced to Christopher Scum, Rene tells us, “Nobody knows what he’s like when he drinks.” And moments later we see him, wasted and wielding a knife. He says he might burn the city down, and then lights his own hair on fire. This guy is a fucking mess, clearly; but he is also intriguing.

The film then goes back two years to when the filmmaker first started documenting the band. Interestingly, the director tells us that initially he was filming another band, Dropsonic, when he saw The Dirty Works on the same bill, and members of Dropsonic told him that that was the band he should be documenting. And the film shows us footage of both bands at that small venue in Atlanta.

Though Christopher Scum is at the center of the film, this documentary features plenty of footage of the other band members, who seem fairly candid and unabashed. Guitarist Steven Crime say that he wanted to be like Jimmy Page. “I started to party like a rock star later on when I was in high school and stuff, without actually being a rock star.” Rene is also fairly candid, saying when she met Christopher they were both alcoholics. “When we met, it was like a train wreck,” she says. And there is material on Christopher’s childhood, when he suffered beatings at the hands of his stepfather (who, by the way, is interviewed in the film). That seems to have informed a lot of his outlook and personality, understandably, and Christopher seems fairly aware of its effect.

But it isn’t just Christopher who has problems. Steven Crime has a serious drinking problem, and we see the effects of this throughout the documentary. This film doesn’t shy away from any of the negative experiences, including fights. Sure, sometimes their troubles feel tedious, and you just want to throttle these guys and tell them to get it together or fuck off. But it feels like they’re telling each other just that, and yet still having trouble making it work. There are moments that are funny, moments that are depressing, but overall it is something of a nightmare, a place from which these people just can’t seem to escape.

And of course there is plenty of music, with the band’s themes centering on living in the Bible Belt, with lines like “Everything we do is a sin” (a line I especially love). There is quite a bit of footage of the area, particularly of those crazy church signs. And there is concert footage. Christopher has a set of brass knuckles attached to his microphone, which as one band member says, he only uses on himself. Christopher tells us that it’s a release, that he uses it to relieve the angst he feels daily. For me, some of the most interesting footage is from when they are recording Biscuits And Liquor, having paid for a twelve-hour slot to record all their material, and absolutely having to finish the entire album in that time, enough to stress anyone out.

Special Features

This DVD includes the music video for “Bible Belt.” It also has footage from the Atlanta premiere of the movie (which was quite a while ago – May 8, 2010), with interviews with band members and the filmmakers. Interestingly, Steven’s drinking problem comes into play even in this footage. There is also footage from the Knoxville premiere, with Christopher Scum performing “Drinkin’ Beer With Jesus” afterward. Rene was still alive for these premieres, by the way. The NPR coverage before the Atlanta premiere is also included, and there is a behind-the-scenes photo gallery and the film’s trailer.

Rebel Scum was directed by Video Rahim, and was released on DVD on November 24, 2015 through Wild Eye Releasing.

One other note: The film’s title can’t help but remind me of that moment from Return Of The Jedi when the imperial forces surround our heroes on Endor, and one officer says, “You rebel scum!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Dazed & Confused: A Stoned-Out Salute To Led Zeppelin (2016) CD Review

Last year saw first the release of Stoned: A Psych Tribute To The Rolling Stones, a compilation of covers with the focus being on the psychedelic aspects of the Rolling Stones’ material, and then the release of The Magical Mystery Psych Out: A Tribute To The Beatles, which likewise focused on the psychedelic elements of that band’s music, and is perhaps even better than the Rolling Stones tribute album. Now Cleopatra Records is following those up with Dazed & Confused: A Stoned-Out Salute To Led Zeppelin. This CD isn’t quite as good as the other two, in part because Led Zeppelin wasn’t as good a band, and also because this one has a heavier, harder feel on several tracks, rather than highlighting the psychedelic qualities, as the earlier two CDs did. But still, there are some really good tracks on this compilation, like Mothership’s rendition of “Heartbreaker” and Electric Eye’s take on “Immigrant Song” and The Tulips’ version of “Stairway To Heaven.”

It opens with Siena Root’s version of “Whole Lotta Love.” This version doesn’t quite work for me. The vocals have more of a heavy metal feel, and this isn’t really that interesting a song anyway. It’s actually a rip-off of Muddy Waters’ recording of Willie Dixon’s “You Need Love.” As you might be aware, Led Zeppelin ripped off a lot of artists, claiming writing credits for songs they basically stole. More on this in a moment. “Whole Lotta Love” is followed by Fireball Ministry’s rendition of “The Rover.” “The Rover” is a rather dull song from the Physical Graffiti album, and this version is a typical hard rock version.

The first really interesting and original interpretation of a song on this CD is The Cult Of Dom Keller’s rendition of “Dazed And Confused.” They really delve into this song, creating an interesting heavy and electronic landscape. Of course, this is another song that Led Zeppelin stole. It was written by Jake Holmes, not Jimmy Page. Jake Holmes released his version in 1967, two years before Led Zeppelin recorded it. (That original Jake Holmes version is excellent, by the way.)

I got into Led Zeppelin when I was eight or nine years old, and “Heartbreaker” was one of my early favorites. On this CD, hard rock band Mothership does a really good job with it, though without exploring any new avenues. (By the way, there is a greatest hits compilation of Led Zeppelin songs titled Mothership.) “No Quarter” is a more interesting song, and Dead Meadow seems quite at home in this more psychedelic realm.

Another of the compilation’s more interesting takes is Electric Eye’s rendition of “Immigration Song,” one of Led Zeppelin’s coolest tunes (originally on III). That great rhythm is slowed down just a bit, and some trippy elements play over it as the song opens. It’s such a great version, exploring new territory while still remaining true to the core of the song. This is one of my favorite tracks on this compilation. Electric Eye is a band I didn’t know before, hailing from Norway, but this track has gotten me excited enough to look further into their music.

When I first started playing drums in my early teens, “The Ocean” was one of my favorite songs to play. You just couldn’t get away from playing Led Zeppelin in those days, but I never minded when this song was chosen. It’s from Houses Of The Holy, which I still think is the band’s best album, and this song still really works for me. I definitely dig Brutus’ rendition. This is another band I didn’t know, and another band from Norway.

“Nobody’s Fault But Mine” is another song of dubious authorship. Blind Willie Johnson’s version came out decades earlier, and there are definitely some similarities between the two, but Led Zeppelin’s version goes in quite a different direction. Still, the Led Zeppelin song would not exist without the Blind Willie Johnson song. On this compilation, The Machine, a band out of The Netherlands, does a good job with it. “Stairway To Heaven” is another song that got Led Zeppelin into trouble. They stole that guitar intro from an instrumental tune called “Taurus” by Spirit (a band that Led Zeppelin actually opened for). There is no question about it. Just listen to “Taurus.” Here “Stairway To Heaven” is covered by The Tulips, and I love what they do with it, giving it a cool, psychedelic vibe. This is another of the compilation’s highlights.

In Fast Times At Ridgemont High, one character advises another, “When it comes down to making out, whenever possible, put on side one of Led Zeppelin IV.” And then it cuts to this kid on his date, and we hear “Kashmir,” which of course is not from Led Zeppelin IV, but Physical Graffiti. I wonder about that time every time I watch that movie. Anyway, “Kashmir” is another of Led Zeppelin’s coolest songs, and Indian Jewelry does a strange and original rendition.

CD Track List
  1. Whole Lotta Love – Siena Root
  2. The Rover – Fireball Ministry
  3. Dazed And Confused – The Clut Of Dom Keller
  4. Heartbreaker – Mothership
  5. We’re Gonna Groove – JOY
  6. No Quarter – Dead Meadow
  7. Communication Breakdown – Lostage
  8. Immigrant Song – Electric Eye
  9. The Ocean – Brutus
  10. Nobody’s Fault But Mine – The Machine
  11. In The Light – The Fresh & Onlys
  12. Kashmir – Indian Jewelry
  13. Stairway To Heaven – The Tulips
  14. Thank You – The Black Moods
Dazed & Confused: A Stoned-Out Salute To Led Zeppelin is scheduled to be released on February 5, 2016 on Cleopatra Records.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Wendy Pedersen & Jim Gasior: “We Two” (2016) CD Review

Vocalist Wendy Pedersen and pianist Jim Gasior have both been performing and recording for quite some time, and are known in the Florida music scene. Wendy Pedersen has put out several CDs of her own, and Jim Gasior has recorded with many artists and is also on the music faculty at the New World School of the Arts. They have recorded together on Wendy Pedersen’s 2007 release Under The Influence, and her 2010 release Boy Meets Girl, but We Two is their first album as a duo. On this new CD, they put their own delightful spin on some well-known compositions, including material by Gershwin, Ellington, Monk and Rodgers and Hammerstein. There are also a couple of playful combinations of songs, like “If I Should Lose You” paired with “If Ever I Would Leave You.” And actually it is that sense of play, that sense of fun, which makes this disc something special (which isn’t to say that they don’t take these tunes seriously). These are songs you’ve heard many times, but these two are able to make them fresh and lively.

The album opens with “The Late Late Show,” written by Murray Berlin and Roy Alfred, and famously recorded by Dakota Staton in 1957. This version has a lot of joy, and is a great way to get this CD off to a good start. “Stars above begin to glow/And we are putting on a late late show/Hear the crazy music in the trees/See the flowers dancing in the breeze.” Yes, this track sets the tone, giving you the feeling that everything that follows is part of their late, late show. And there is an absolutely wonderful piano solo. They follow it with “It Ain’t Necessarily So,” written by Ira Gershwin and George Gershwin. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: You can’t go wrong with Gershwin. And this rendition has a very cool vibe, and is one of my favorite tracks. I love what Wendy Pedersen does with the line “But who calls that livin’ when no gal’s gonna give in to no man who is nine hundred years.” And she ends it in such a cute, adorable way.

Wendy and Jim combine “If I Should Lose You”(written by Leo Robin and Ralph Rainger) with “If Ever I Would Leave You” (written by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe). I think those two titles together is rather playful, but of course “If I Should Lose You” has a more serious, somber sound. The transition between the two songs is done a cappella. I really like what they do with Duke Ellington’s “Everything But You” (which was co-written by Harry James and Don George), with Jim Gasior giving a little western tease at the beginning after the first line, “You left me a horse from Texas.” This is a delightful rendition, and it is certain to make you smile. It is another of my favorites, and is followed by another highlight, a fun, delicious rendition of Fats Waller’s “Jitterbug Waltz.” “Nothing to do but waltz.”

The other pairing of songs on this album is Irving Berlin’s “The Best Thing For You” with “Just You, Just Me,” written by Jesse Greer and Raymond Klages. I am happy that they begin with the verse, “Please let me say from the start/I don't pretend to be smart/I just suggest what I think’s best/Having your interest at heart,” which many versions leave out. There is actually just a bit of “Just You, Just Me” at the end of this track. (Whenever I hear that song, I can’t help but think of that scene from Woody Allen’s Everyone Says I Love You.) That one is followed by another highlight, a cool version of “Meet Me At No Special Place” and a nice version of Thelonious Monk’s “’Round Midnight.” The only track I could do without is “My Favorite Things,” a song I’ve never cared for (I should say it’s just the lyrics of that one that I don’t like; I’ve heard some cool instrumental renditions over the years).

CD Track List
  1. The Late Late Show
  2. It Ain’t Necessarily So
  3. If I Should Lose You/If Ever I Would Leave You
  4. Everything But You
  5. Jitterbug Waltz
  6. Besame Much 
  7. The Best Thing For You/Just You, Just Me
  8. Meet Me At No Special Place
  9. ‘Round Midnight
  10. My Favorite Things
  11. Oh, What A Beautiful Morning
  12. Exactly Like You 
We Two is scheduled to be released on March 4, 2016 through Jimmy G’s House Of Sound.


I get a lot of promotional materials from bands and about bands, and one thing I really wish publicists would stop doing is referring to actual, living people as "legendary." The Moody Blues are not legendary. They actually exist. I have seen them in concert. They are really good. They are not legendary.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Stumpwaller at The Federal Bar, 1-23-16 Photos

Last night I went to see Patrolled By Radar at The Federal Bar in North Hollywood. My plan had been to stay just for their set, but I ended up staying for the next band, Stumpwaller, as well. And I am so glad I did. This band is a lot of fun, with elements of rockabilly and gospel, and with both male and female vocals. They got folks dancing, and maybe even saved a few souls. I’m aiming to check these guys out again as soon as I get a chance.

Here are a few photos from their set:

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Patrolled By Radar at The Federal Bar, 1-23-16 Concert Review

Patrolled By Radar performing "Lost Cause"
I am always excited when I get a chance to see Patrolled By Radar, and I am particularly excited when I don’t have to get on the 405 to do it. And tonight I didn’t even have to get in my car. They played at The Federal Bar in North Hollywood, walking distance from my apartment. I was told they were to go on at 8 p.m. sharp, so when at 7:55 p.m. a comedian was introduced, I was a bit confused. He danced around to Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” and then did a short set. He asked me if I had any New Year’s resolutions. I told him, “No,” and after that he left me alone. At 8:07 p.m., he introduced Patrolled By Radar.

They kicked off their set with “Widow Next Door,” the lead-off track from the band’s 2011 release, Be Happy, and then followed it with the title track from that CD (with Jay Souza playing harmonica). “It’s been a while since we played here,” Jay said, then added, “What do you think about that?” They did a nice version of “El Norte,” from the 2014 release Cool Your Jets, then followed it with a new song, “I Feel Found.” This is a really good song, and it’s getting me excited for their new album (whenever that may be – I am hoping it will be later this year).

They did a couple of my favorites – “Lost Cause” and “Coat Of Disappointment.” “Coat Of Disappointment” was particularly good tonight, with Jay again on harmonica. The band got bluesy with a good cover of Slim Harpo’s “Rainin’ In My Heart.” They also did a cover of “Walking The Dog.” In between those was a really sweet rendition of “Fast Life Slow Death.” In introducing “Born Thirsty,” Jay raised his cup to 2016, saying, “It’s going to be interesting… and scary.” Patrolled By Radar ended the set with “This Is Not The Blues.” Their set ended at 8:50 p.m., and they were followed by Stumpwaller.

Set List
  1. Widow Next Door
  2. Be Happy
  3. El Norte
  4. I Feel Found
  5. Lost Cause
  6. Coat Of Disappointment
  7. Rainin' In My Heart
  8. Fast Life Slow Death
  9. Walking The Dog
  10. Born Thirsty
  11. This Is Not The Blues 
Here are a few photos from their set:

"El Norte"
"Lost Cause"

"Lost Cause"
"Lost Cause"
"Rainin' In My Heart"
"Rainin' In My Heart"

The Federal Bar is located at 5303 Lankershim Blvd. in North Hollywood, California.

Aruán Ortiz Trio: “Hidden Voices” (2016) CD Review

Aruán Ortiz is a talented jazz pianist who composed music for the 2015 film Sin Alas, and who leads his own trio. On his new CD, Hidden Voices, Aruán Ortiz Trio is made up of Aruán Ortiz on piano, Eric Revis on bass and Gerald Cleaver on drums. Most of the material here is original compositions written by Aruán Ortiz, but there are also a few good choices of covers, including material by Ornette Coleman and Thelonious Monk.

The CD opens with “Fractal Sketches,” and Aruán Ortiz begins it on piano. Soon Eric and Gerald join in, and things get very interesting. This track has a kind of insistent vibe about it early on. There is nothing relaxed or too loose here, at least not at the start. It is like a well-structured chaos, if that makes any sense, with all three musicians having plenty to say within that structure. There is even a very cool drum solo which emerges approximately four and a half minutes in.

“Open & Close/The Sphinx” then begins with a wonderful bass solo. Then while the bass repeats a short rhythm, the piano and drums get a little wild above it, with deliciously chaotic-sounding moments. I love these moments, because it sounds like everything is possible, and the world is whipping around freely and joyfully. This is one of the CD’s few covers, and was written by Ornette Coleman, “The Sphinx” originally appearing on his Something Else!!!! LP. Ortiz has covered Coleman before. On Vol. 1, Aruán Ortiz Trio did Coleman’s “Invisible” (which was also from that same Coleman LP).

“Caribbean Vortex/Hidden Voices” is an interesting track, feeling like the score to a strange, intense foreign film where you’re following one particular character, knowing something is going to go wrong very soon. And then approximately halfway through, it changes, feeling just a bit more relaxed, a bit brighter, even happier. Arturo Stable and Enildo Rasúa play claves on this track.

“Analytical Symmetry” also has a kind of intense vibe at the beginning, with that steady rhythm working on your mood. Then suddenly nearly two minutes in, it breaks in a wonderful way, bursting to some other joyous, wild level. I love it. Aruán Ortiz is so adept at creating and controlling a mood, and then once you’re at home in it, suddenly changing it on you. This track suddenly turns introspective, contemplative, with the piano and bass voicing short thoughts, while Gerald works the cymbals steadily beneath. This is music you can get caught up in and react to in a strong way, particularly when it returns to that intense section toward the end. This track is for me one of the CD’s highlights.

“Arabesques Of A Geometrical Rose (Spring)” is a kind of pretty and mellow piano piece. And then “Arabesques Of A Geometrical Rose (Summer)” has such a cool vibe. I really love that bass; it’s nothing showy or anything, but it totally works, holding everything together, keeping it moving, while the piano explore more freely above it.

At the beginning of “Joyful Noises,” it sounds like the sheet music becomes an instrument itself, its rustling heard prominently. It’s like the whole room is tuning up, preparing for something. This composition is by all three members of the trio. It’s followed by “Skippy,” one of the album’s few covers, this one written by Thelonious Monk (one of Monk’s early compositions). It’s an interesting rendition, with a cool lead part by Eric Revis on bass. The album then ends with another cover, “Uno, Dos Y Tres, Que Paso Más Chévere,” written by Rafael Ortiz, this version having a rather serious, somber feel.

CD Track List
  1. Fractal Sketches
  2. Open & Close/The Sphinx
  3. Caribbean Vortex/Hidden Voices
  4. Analytical Symmetry
  5. Arabesques Of A Geometrical Rose (Spring)
  6. Arabesques Of A Geometrical Rose (Summer)
  7. 17 Moments Of Liam’s Moments (or 18)
  8. Joyful Noises
  9. Skippy
  10. Uno, Dos Y Tres, Que Paso Más Chévere
Hidden Voices is scheduled to be released on January 29, 2016 through Intakt Records.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Frank Zappa And The Mothers Of Invention: The Lost Broadcast: The Full Performance DVD Review

I first became aware of Frank Zappa through The Monkees. He appeared in an episode of the television series, where he is dressed as Mike Nesmith and Mike is dressed as him, and they tease each other (it’s one of the series’ funniest segments). That episode aired in 1968, and later that year Zappa also appeared in The Monkees movie, Head (one of my personal favorite films). That same year, Frank Zappa And The Mothers Of Invention filmed a band rehearsal at the Beat Club in Bremen, Germany, a portion of which aired on German television a couple of years later. And now that full performance is available on DVD as The Lost Broadcast. It is approximately 79 minutes, and it is in black and white. The DVD also allows you to watch just the original broadcast, which is approximately 32 minutes (and is the last section of the full performance).

There is a caveat at the beginning, mentioning that the footage “contains some sound dropouts and imbalances.” And yes, the sound does cut out at moments. It’s annoying, sure, but it’s definitely worth dealing with these imperfections because the footage is so worthwhile. The footage includes the band tuning up at the beginning. After a bit of high-pitched feedback, Frank Zappa says, “Sounds great.” Before they can get going, however, a tray of food is wheeled in, and the band fools around with the grapes. But soon the warm-up becomes a jam, and there’s even a cool drum solo before too long. And it’s great watching Frank conducting the band with his hand signals. That’s interesting because it shows that even in what seems like a completely improvised moment, Frank is really in control.

That being said, this performance has a relaxed, loose, fun vibe and atmosphere. At one point, Frank introduces Don Preston, the man on keys, who then tells us about his problem: “It’s those nurses, they make me sleepy.” And another band member begins recounting the problems with his nose: “Maybe something bit me while I was sleeping.” And out come the toys. Watch the teddy bear getting it on with a doll. Yeah, even though it’s a rehearsal, there are some odd theatrics, including a makeup artist applying makeup to one of the guys while the rest play.

There are a lot of cool, jazzy moments in this performance. Zappa’s famous Uncle Meat record would be released in the spring of the following year, and much of this rehearsal is material from that album. Also here is a version of “Prelude To The Afternoon Of A Sexually Aroused Gas Mask,” a tune that would be included on the 1970 album Weasels Ripped My Flesh (hell, even if for some reason you don’t like Zappa, you certainly have to appreciate his titles). The tunes here are basically, largely instrumental pieces. It ends with a kind of sweet-sounding instrumental rendition of “Let’s Make The Water Turn Black,” a song from We’re Only In It For The Money.

The DVD is divided into only two chapters, not by song. And interestingly, the original broadcast version contains no opening or closing credits. The full version doesn’t either, but I didn’t really expect it to. Frank Zappa And The Mothers Of Invention: The Lost Broadcast was released on DVD on December 18, 2015. There are no special features.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Dead & Company to Play Bonnaroo

At the Dead & Company’s New Year’s Eve show, there were hints of more shows to come in 2016, and now the band has announced its first show of the year. Dead & Company will be part of the lineup of the fifteenth annual Bonnaroo Festival, which will take place from June 9th to June 12th in Manchester, Tennessee. Dead & Company will play two sets. The lineup also includes Grace Potter, Mavis Staples, Sam Bush Band and Judah & The Lion, among many others. Tickets go on sale January 22 at noon eastern time.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Alan Price: “Savaloy Dip” (2016) CD Review

Alan Price is known for being a founding member of The Animals, and he left that group after a few years to pursue his own musical ventures. He provided the music for the 1973 film O Lucky Man! (if you haven’t seen that movie, I highly recommend checking it out). He also appears in that film. And following it, he recorded Savaloy Dip, which was scheduled to come out in 1974. The album was mysteriously shelved, though for some reason some copies were released on 8-track. Go figure. The album has now finally gotten an official release, thanks to Omnivore Recordings, and the liner notes by Gene Sculatti provide a little information on the story of this album (the liner notes include a photo of the 8-track), but it largely remains a mystery why this album didn’t get a proper release back in the day. One of the songs, “Between Today And Yesterday,” would end up on Alan Price’s next release, and actually would be that record’s title track.  But this entire album is excellent, and most of the tracks are originals, written by Alan Price. Some interesting characters populate these songs (listen to “Willie The Queen,” “Poor Jimmy” and “Over And Over Again” for examples). This album is whole lot of fun. By the way, there is a cute note about the album’s title on the back of the CD case.

The album opens with a fantastically fun, energetic tune titled “Smells Like Lemon, Tastes Like Wine.” Drums kick off this tune, which has a great rhythm. Alan Price’s vocals themselves have a great rhythmic quality. And there is a humor to the vocal approach as well. “Before I knew it, she was out the door and she was out of town/She put me down/Making me frown/Just look around/I’m down.” This song is a joy, and there is a very cool instrumental section led by guitar. I can’t imagine what the reasoning was behind the decision to not release this album. Insane.

The following track, “Willie The Queen,” reminds me a bit of Randy Newman, but also has something of a New Orleans vibe. It’s a delightful and kind of sweet song about a popular crossdresser. “When Willie has a party, all the boys turn out/’Cause he loves them so.” And I love that organ section. “You Won’t Get Me” also has an excellent instrumental section, with Alan Price delivering some wonderful stuff on piano, nice and loose. Cool work on bass too. And I love that the instrumental section is allowed to go on longer than you might expect.

“Savaloy Dip,” the CD’s title track, is a fun rock and roll song, with some nice work on horns. “Mention me to my friends up north when you visit/Tell them I think of them each lonely minute.” And toward the end he repeats, “Won’t you tell them to keep my chair warm, I’ll be home.” “Country Life” is a kind of quirky and cute number about leaving the city and heading out to the country, driven by some wonderful vocal work. “Oh, won’t you let the pixies through your door and over your window sills/Country life will make a man feel twice the man you are.” Again, why was this record not released in 1974? It’s so damn good.

“Over And Over Again” is the one song on this album not written by Alan Price. Ken Craddock wrote this one, and it’s one of the album’s highlights. I love the joyous carnival sound juxtaposed with lines about making the same mistakes over and over. This track definitely has a theatrical element. “He goes out looking for fun, but he always finds trouble/Around every corner is somebody bursting his bubble/His heart’s in the right place, if only his head were the same/Who can blame him for making the same mistakes/Making the same mistakes over and over and over and over and over and over again.” This song is completely delightful and enjoyable. I have been listening to it over and over and over and over again.

The album concludes with “Between Today And Yesterday,” a song that would be used as the title track for Alan Price’s next record. It’s the most serious song on this disc. Here is a taste of the lyrics:  “He’s never seen a mother’s face/Or felt a father’s hand/Who do you show when you succeed/In Never Never Land/He’s afraid to have his fortune told/For fear what it might mean/And there’s one thing that he does wish/And that’s that he didn't have to dream.” If you are familiar with this song from the following album, you'll notice some slight differences in the lyrics. In that version these lines are: “He’ll never see his mother’s face/Or feel his father’s hand/Who can you show when you succeed/In Never Never Land/He’s afraid to have his fortune told/For fear what it might mean/He doesn't want the picture drawn/Of things he has to dream.”

CD Track List
  1. Smells Like Lemon, Tastes Like Wine
  2. Willie The Queen
  3. You Won’t Get Me
  4. Poor Jimmy
  5. Savaloy Dip
  6. Keep On Doin’ It
  7. Country Life
  8. Passin’ Us By
  9. Over And Over Again
  10. And So Goodbye
  11. Between Today And Yesterday 
Savaloy Dip was released on January 15, 2016 through Omnivore Recordings.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

John David Souther: “John David Souther” (1972/2016) CD Review

John David Souther might be primarily known for his songwriting – he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2013 – but he’s also released some damn good albums, including his self-titled debut, on which he sings and plays guitar. Now that first record has been re-issued in an expanded edition with plenty of bonus tracks, mostly demos, all of which were previously unreleased. There are also new liner notes written by Scott Schinder, with excerpts from a recent interview with J.D. Souther. This album is full of excellent country rock material, including “Run Like A Thief,” which was covered by Bonnie Raitt, and “How Long,” which was covered by The Eagles (J.D. Souther co-wrote a number of The Eagles’ hits). Glenn Frey plays guitar on a few tracks on this album. (Before this record, Souther and Frey released an album under the name Longbranch/Pennywhistle.) All of the tracks on this album were written by J.D. Souther.

The album opens with “The Fast One,” a wonderful country rock tune with good, clear vocals and of course some great lyrics. It begins with these lines: “You don’t know how I feel/You don’t seem to care/If I let you see it through my eyes/You wouldn’t see anyone there.” Not bad, eh? This is one of the songs on which Glenn Frey plays guitar. Plus, this track features Gib Guilbeau on fiddle. There is a demo version of this song in the bonus tracks, and it has a slightly slower folk feel, with just guitar and vocals. “The Fast One” is a song that Linda Ronstadt covered on her 1973 record Don’t Cry Now. That song is followed by “Run Like A Thief,” which has a mellower and more serious vibe. This is a song that Bonnie Raitt covered on her 1975 record Home Plate. It’s an excellent song (which is basically par for the course on this CD). And a demo of this one is included in the bonus tracks.

One of my favorites is “Jesus In 3/4 Time,” which has this wonderful, kind of sad tone, with touches of gospel, and features David Jackson on piano. This is another track with Glenn Frey on guitar. Check out these lyrics: “Once I was saved/That one was free/I’d be pleased to know just where I stand/Living for Jesus and making it pay/Well now, nobody lives quite that long/Once I was baptized/Now I am free/To sing you a new gospel song.” Yeah, this guy sure writes some good lyrics. The bonus tracks include a demo version of “Jesus In 3/4 Time,” and I really love this version too. It obviously has a more raw sound, and that really works for this song. There is no piano. I like the simultaneously rough and pretty quality of the demo.

“White Wing” has a delicious bluesy vibe, and it features Joel Tepp on harmonica. It’s a very cool tune, but the following track, “It’s The Same,” is probably my absolute favorite. It’s so beautiful. “In the crowded part of heaven/There’s room enough for pain/On the lonely side of living/Without you it’s the same.” Gary Mallaber plays piano on this track.

“How Long” is a more energetic country rock song. This is one that The Eagles performed in concert in the 1970s, and also included on their 2007 CD Long Road Out Of Eden. This original version by J.D. Souther is much better. (Interestingly, Glenn Frey does not perform on this track.) “Like a blue bird with his heart removed, lonely as a train/I’ve run just as far as I can run/Well, if I never see the good old days shining in the sun/I’ll be doing fine, and then some.” The bonus tracks include a demo version of this song, with just vocals and guitar.

The bonus tracks also include “One In The Middle” and “Silver Blue.” “Silver Blue” is one that would end up on Souther’s next album, 1976’s Black Rose. Linda Ronstadt covered this one as well, including it on her Prisoner In Disguise record (with J.D. Souther on harmony vocals). The phrase “silver blue” was also used in “It’s The Same”: “Will that silver blue turn golden by and by.” The demo version of “Silver Blue” doesn't include that great bass line from the Black Rose version, but is still one of the highlights of this CD. It’s such a great song.

CD Track List
  1. The Fast One
  2. Run Like A Thief
  3. Jesus in 3/4 Time
  4. Kite Woman
  5. Some People Call It Music
  6. White Wing
  7. It’s The Same
  8. How Long
  9. Out To Sea 
  10. Lullaby
  11. Kite Woman (alternate version)
  12. Jesus In 3/4 Time (demo)
  13. The Fast One (demo)
  14. Run Like A Thief (demo)
  15. How Long (demo)
  16. One In The Middle (demo)
  17. Silver Blue (demo)
This special expanded edition of John David Souther was released on January 8, 2016 through Omnivore Recordings. By the way, J.D. Souther is also an actor, and he played a significant role in one of my all-time favorite television shows, thirtysomething.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Miamis: “We Deliver: The Lost Band Of The CBGB Era (1974-1979)” (2016) CD Review

I knew nothing about The Miamis before popping in the new compilation disc, We Deliver: The Lost Band Of The CBGB Era (1974-1979). But what I found was a seriously fun combination of pop and punk sensibilities. Apparently this band was quite popular for its live shows in New York in the 1970s, but for some reason didn’t get the exposure beyond that market that it so clearly deserved. In the compilation’s liner notes, Glenn Coe explains, “Record companies of the time deemed The Miamis too punk for the pop market and too pop for punk.” They did record some tracks in the studio, however, and some of that is included here. Also included are several live tracks recorded at CBGB in April, 1978. Most of the tracks are original material, written by brothers James Wynbrandt and Thomas Wynbrandt. If you’re into bands like The Knack you should definitely give a listen to this disc. This music is a lot of fun, and there is a sense of humor about it too.  In “Just Too Many People (In The World),” they sing, “Every time that I go camping/I hear other people tramping/Through the forest God created for me/They’re looking under every tree/And I can’t help it, I just don’t like it/They never mean to get in my way/But there’s just so many of them today.” This is a song I expect I’ll be singing whenever I’m driving on the 405 freeway. And in the very catchy “Another Place, Another Time,” these lines make me laugh: “I’ll see you eat dirt/Don’t get it on your skirt.” In “Wang It,” they sing, “We’re going to have a whole lot of fun.” Indeed! It might be a few decades too late, but this band should be gaining a wider audience with the release of this CD.

This compilation kicks off with its title track, “We Deliver,” an energetic little pop gem that should get you bopping around like a delirious fool in the sunshine. There is also an alternate version included on this disc. “Cry Baby” is likewise a wonderful pop tune, with an early 1960s rock and roll influence, and a funny spoken word introduction (“I said, baby, the first time I saw you I knew it was love”). This is such a delightful song, and the instrumental section is perfect, making it one of the highlights of the disc. That is followed by “I Want A Girlfriend.” Oh yes, all of our dreams can come true if we just get that perfect girlfriend. In this pop world, that makes sense and seems true. There is also an alternate version of this tune, a much shorter demo.

“Dancin’ Together” is a ridiculously fun rock and roll tune about girls dancing together (“But when they started dancing, and the man said ‘Ladies’ choice’/Well, none of the girls would dance with the boys”). This should be enough to get you off your seat, and dancing around your apartment or car or wherever it is you’re listening to this disc. This is the kind of song that makes you want to dance with strangers, and maybe by the end of this album life will indeed be like a pop song, like a musical. Why not? This is one of my favorites.

“Let There Be Pain” is a strange and delightful song. In a way, it feels like a play on those early 1960s songs about teen heartache, and as such is quite funny. Here are a few lines that stand out: “For every heart that’s happy, make one that’s sad,” “’Cause now I find instead of you/All I’ve got is this pain/But I don’t care/Let it hurt, I hope it gets worse” and “I want to see a frown on every child.”

“We Need A Bigger Navy” is another silly one about getting a bigger navy to keep up with the Russians (sort of like keeping up with the Joneses?). There’s no better way to poke fun at warmongers than by adopting their position and singing a punk song from that perspective. And believe me, you’ll be singing along before long. “I don’t want to hear defense cuts/If that’s what you want, you gotta be nuts.” And from a pseudo-patriotic song this disc goes to a fake rah-rah-rah school fight song (“Fight Team Fight”), which is perfect. I love that the folks who put this CD together drew that parallel, even if it is rather obvious. The song interestingly then becomes about the band itself: “Like me and The Miamis/Now there’s a team/It’s one of the best/I think you know what I mean/And when we’re warming up and getting ready, we say/Oh let’s hit the stage and go all the way.”

Live Tracks

The last nine tracks on this disc are live recordings from April of 1978 at CBGB. “Open Up Your Heart” is an energetic rock and roll tune. And there is a bit of stage banter before the insanely fun “Dada Mama” (one of the best titles ever, which art fans will certainly appreciate). From this track, I can totally understand why their live shows were so popular. As wonderful as that song is, I’m even more fond of “Détente (That’s What I Want),” mostly because it has lines that completely surprised me: “Let me wrap you in my nuclear arms/I need a love, a love that will last/Don’t blow me up in no holocaust” (with “holocaust” rhyming with “last”). And check out these lines: “I heard all about the Paris Accord/They only signed it ‘cause they all got so bored/But you and me, we’ve got a real U.N./Fight on the floor, and then we do it again.” Another fun tune is “Elvis, Groucho & Bing,” with lines like “Two of them sure could sing” and “Drugs, old age, a heart attack/I wish they’d come back.” There are also live versions of “We Need A Bigger Navy” (with an introduction that made me laugh), “Dancin’ Together,” “Wang It” and “Fight Team Fight.” The CD ends with a live rendition of “That’s Life,” the only cover song on this disc, and one made famous by Frank Sinatra. And they do a really good job with it.

CD Track List
  1. We Deliver
  2. Cry Baby
  3. I Want A Girlfriend
  4. Dancin’ Together
  5. Just Too Many People (In The World)
  6. Wang It
  7. Let There Be Pain
  8. Another Place, Another Time
  9. We Need A Bigger Navy
  10. Fight Team Fight
  11. She Sure Works Hard (At Lovin’ Me)
  12. We Deliver (alternate version)
  13. I Want A Girlfriend (alternate version)
  14. Another Place, Another Time (alternate version)
  15. Open Up Your Heart (live)
  16. Dada Mama (live)
  17. Détente (That’s What I Want) (live)
  18. We Need A Bigger Navy (live)
  19. Dancin’ Together (live)
  20. Wang It (live)
  21. Elvis, Groucho & Bing (live)
  22. Fight Team Fight (live)
  23. That’s Life (live)
We Deliver: The Lost Band Of The CBGB Era (1974-1979) is scheduled to be released on January 29, 2016 through Omnivore Recordings.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Laura Perlman: “Precious Moments” (2016) CD Review

Life certainly takes us on some unexpected journeys. Laura Perlman had to suffer through some giant health scares before really focusing on her lifelong passion for jazz. The results of that focus are the tracks on Precious Moments, a wonderful CD on which Laura sings some beloved standards. Joining Laura Perlman on this release are some incredibly accomplished jazz musicians, including Bill Cunliffe on piano, Mark Sherman on vibraphone (Sherman also produced the album and did most of the arrangements), Chris Colangelo on bass and Joe La Barbera on drums. There are liner notes by both Laura Perlman and Mark Sherman, in which they talk about Laura’s struggles with cancer. The story of this CD can certainly inspire us, or at least remind us of the brief and fragile state of life, and so encourage us to follow our dreams while we can. But of course what is also important here is the music itself, and you can certainly hear Laura’s passion for these songs in her vocal delivery.

Laura Perlman opens the album with a good rendition of “I’ve Never Been In Love Before,” a song written by Frank Loesser, featured in the musical Guys And Dolls. Laura’s rendition is actually fun, with a bit more spark than many versions I’ve heard. There is a joy in her delivery. “I’ve never been in love before/I thought my heart was safe/I thought I knew the score/But this is wine that’s all too strange and strong/I’m full of foolish song/And out my song must pour.” Those last two lines in particular make this song the perfect choice to begin this CD.

Laura follows that with “I’ve Grown Accustomed To His Face,” written by Frederick Loewe and Alan Jay Lerner (as “I’ve Grown Accustomed To Her Face”) for the musical My Fair Lady. This version is faster and more energetic than usual. There is a nice instrumental section, with lots of good stuff by Mark Sherman on vibraphone and by Bill Cunliffe on piano, ending with a couple of brief but very cool drum solos before Laura Perlman comes back in on vocals. Interestingly, this track also ends with drums. Also from My Fair Lady, Laura tackles “On The Street Where You Live,” with an arrangement by Bill Cunliffe. This rendition has a bright feel.

“But Beautiful” is the first track I heard from this CD, and is the one that got me interested in this artist. It is mellow and intimate, at first just vocals and piano, but then with some gentle work on drums and bass. Laura’s vocals are beautiful and tender. This is a wonderful track, and it is the piano that leads the instrumental section here. “But Beautiful” was written by Jimmy Van Heusen and Johnny Burke.

“My Favorite Things” is not one of my favorite songs (I’m just not that crazy about the lyrics), but I like what Laura Perlman does with it, especially that short sort of scat section. And the instrumental section is wonderful, including some great work by Joe La Barbera on drums.

One of the CD’s highlights for me is “You Go To My Head.” I love how Laura Perlman takes her vocals from intimate, sexy, vulnerable places to these great heights of confidence and joy. This track also features a delicious lead on bass by Chris Colangelo. “You Go To My Head” was written by J. Fred Coots and Haven Gillespie. The album concludes with “Every Time We Say Goodbye” (often written as “Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye”), a song by Cole Porter. There is a joy heard here in her vocal approach, even in having to say goodbye.

CD Track List
  1. I’ve Never Been In Love Before
  2. I’ve Grown Accustomed To His Face
  3. But Beautiful
  4. My Favorite Things
  5. I’m Old Fashioned
  6. You Go To My Head
  7. My Foolish Heart
  8. On The Street Where You Live
  9. My One And Only Love
  10. Every Time We Say Goodbye
Precious Moments is scheduled to be released on January 15, 2016 on Miles High Records.

Steal Your Face

I don't see that many Grateful Dead stickers anymore. I didn't even see very many outside the Forum on New Year's Eve for the Dead & Company show. In fact, none of the cars near where I parked had a single Grateful Dead sticker, at least not that I noticed. My car doesn't even have one. That's because it came into my possession in 2003, nearly a decade after the Grateful Dead ceased to exist. My previous vehicle, a 1986 Chevy van, had a lot of stickers. For a while, I was getting one at each show I attended. And when my van finally died, the saddest thing about it for me was losing all those stickers. I considered removing all the windows from the van and saving them, but... Well, I didn't do that. Seeing a Grateful Dead sticker these days always makes me happy. Someone stuck one inside the place where you deposit letters and small packages at the post office near my home.  A Steal Your Face sticker. Every time I mail a letter (or, as was the case today, some bills), that sticker makes me smile. So thank you, whoever put that there. And thank you to the post office employees for not removing it.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Henry Wagons: “After What I Did Last Night…” (2016) CD Review

I got turned on to the Australian band Wagons in 2011 with the release of Rumble, Shake And Tumble, which I consider one of the best albums of the decade (if you haven’t heard it yet, I highly recommend picking up a copy). Henry’s voice and his songwriting are two big parts of what makes that band so special, and so I was excited in 2013 when Expecting Company? (his solo EP) was released. That EP confirmed for me that this guy is the real deal, a serious talent, and I knew then that I’d want to hear everything he put out from then on. His new album, After What I Did Last Night…, is his first full-length solo album, and (as I expected) it’s fantastic, a total delight. All of the tracks are originals, written or co-written by Henry Wagons. Joining him on this album are Jerry Pentecost on drums, percussion and backing vocals; Richie Kirkpatrick on electric guitar, bass and backing vocals; Chris Altmann on bass, electric guitar, steel guitar and backing vocals; Skylar Wilson on keyboards, percussion and backing vocals (Wilson also produced the album); Josh Hedley on fiddle; and Cory Younts on harmonica. Quinn Devaux, Erin Rae McKaskle and Rayland Baxter provide harmony vocals. Interestingly, this CD was recorded in Nashville.

The album opens with “Cold Burger, Cold Fries,” a really good tune about a man whose apartment is not just devoid of good food but of the woman he wronged. “Cold burger, cold fries/Yes, it’s all I deserve/After what I did last night/I’m eating my just desserts.” My favorite lines, however, are these: “’Cause I know you’re a mess like me/And you must be a little bit hungry.” The song ends with a promise of trying to make it up to her. And I dig these lines from the following tune, “Weak Link”: “One thing you don’t know/About being the weak link, babe/Is that only I as the weak link/That can make the chain break.”

“King Hit” is a great, raw and mean-sounding tune, and is one of my personal favorites. If you enjoy Holly Golightly And The Brokeoffs and Tom Waits, you will fucking love this song. Pour yourself a drink and turn your stereo up. Here is a taste of the lyrics: “In walks little Janey, five feet five/Leopard print get-up, legs for miles/Whiskey on the rocks and a familiar smile/I say next thing’s next, my face is on the tiles/I’ve been king hit/On the back of my head.” And this is a man who “can’t help but think I might’ve deserved this.” Giving it an autobiographical feel, Henry makes this character a musician named Henry. Hell, maybe it really happened. Who knows? All I know is it makes a great tune.

“Head Or Heart” is a delightful country song about the question of whether to lead with one’s head or heart. There is a good humor to this tune, with lines like “She said I could have any girl in the room/Well, I ain’t ordinarily all that choosey/But the only girl I want in this room is you.” And the song’s last lines are hilarious. It’s followed by “Anything You Want,” another of the CD’s highlights. Of course “Anything You Want” can’t help but remind me of Leonard Cohen’s “I’m Your Man,” not so much in the sound, but in the lyrics and idea. And actually he sings, “I’m your man” a couple of times. “You want a snake, girl, I’ll charm it/If you need weed, I’ll farm it/If you want diamonds on that pretty little hand/Oh baby, I’m your man.”

“Cowboy In Krakow” is another wonderful and unusual tune, and I totally love those deep backing vocals. Ah, those wonderful adventures involving alcohol and women. “She came in the room, near six feet tall/Heels on the cobblestone/I was broken, under her spell/If I hung around this would not work out well.” And there is a delicious change toward the end, picking up the pace. I just love it.

“Long As I Breathe” is a sweet song about being a parent. It was co-written by Matthew Hassett, keyboardist in Wagons. “First kiss, heartache/Well into high school/Some days we try/And the pain never ends/When the world can’t stop you anymore/Just remember one thing/I’ll be there for you as long as I breathe.” There is also a song about being an only child, appropriately titled “Only Child,” and this is another favorite of mine. It has a sweet, intimate, honest feel. Here is a taste of the lyrics: “No older brother to teach me how to fight/No sister teaching me to treat women right/I was born on my own and I’ll die on my own/I feel a sense of loss now that I am grown/So please stay.”

The album then concludes with “Melbourne,” a good song about going home. Wagons is based in Melbourne, but as I mentioned, this CD was recorded in Nashville, and Nashville is mentioned in the song’s lyrics. “Nashville’s cool and all/New York City and Montreal/I’m going back to Melbourne, Melbourne, Melbourne.”

CD Track List
  1. Cold Burger, Cold Fries
  2. Weak Link
  3. King Hit
  4. Santa Fe
  5. Head Or Heart
  6. Anything You Want
  7. Tomboy
  8. Cowboy In Krakow
  9. As Long As I Breathe
  10. Only Sane Mother Fucker
  11. Only Child
  12. Melbourne
After What I Did Last Night… is scheduled to be released on February 16, 2016 through Goldview and Metropolitan Groove Merchants.

Friday, January 8, 2016

The Mamas And The Papas: “The Complete Singles 50th Anniversary Collection” (2016) CD Review

In early 2014, an unusual and interesting compilation of music by The Mamas And The Papas was released on CD. Titled A Gathering Of Flowers: The Anthology Of The Mamas And The Papas, this CD contained snippets of interviews as well as music. And now a special new anthology of the band’s singles, The Complete Singles 50th Anniversary Collection, is being released by Real Gone Music. This two-disc set includes both the A sides and the flip sides, and if you think you already own all this material, you might be surprised. Several of the singles have differences from the album versions. Also, the second disc includes the band members’ solo singles, many of which I hadn’t heard before. This set contains extensive liner notes by Ed Osborne (with some information I hadn’t previously known, or perhaps had forgotten), as well as some photos (look how adorable Michelle Phillips is in that fur jacket, particularly on the photo on the back of the booklet).

The first disc kicks off with “Go Where You Wanna Go,” which was the band’s first single, released in 1965, but then pulled so that “California Dreamin’” would be thought of as the band’s first single. “Go Where You Wanna Go” is one of the many semi-autobiographical songs in the band’s repertoire. It and its flip side, “Somebody Groovy,” would be included on the group’s first LP, If You Can Believe Your Eyes And Ears. Also included on that record are those two huge hits, “California Dreamin’” (which also used “Somebody Groovy” as its flip side) and “Monday, Monday,” both of which are included here. As much as I like “Monday, Monday,” I actually prefer its flip side, “Got A Feelin’,” which was written by Denny Doherty and John Phillips and is included on this disc. “Got a feelin’ that I’m wasting time on you, babe/Got a feelin’ that you’ve been untrue/I’ve got a feelin’ that you’re stealin’/All the love I thought I was giving to you.”

“I Saw Her Again” is another great song, and is one of the tracks that is different from the album version.  That song was included on the group’s second LP, The Mamas And The Papas. Also from that album is the hit “Words Of Love,” written by John Phillips and featuring Cass Elliot on lead vocals. This single version is different from the album version, with some prominent horns and a more prominent piano part. The flip side is a good cover of “Dancing In The Street,” a song that a lot of bands were covering at that time. There is a nice instrumental section with some good work on keys, and some goofing around at the end. That’s followed by one of their best covers, “Dedicated To The One I Love.” I love their rendition, but my absolute favorite cover is their version of “Dream A Little Dream Of Me,” which is also included in this set. It was the band’s last really big hit, and it’s absolutely beautiful, with Cass sounding great.

“Creeque Alley” has always been one of my favorite Mamas And The Papas songs, and it’s one that this set’s liner notes go into some detail about, detailing some of the autobiographical material in the lyrics. This is another track to have significant differences from the LP version. Its B side, “Did You Ever Want To Cry,” is also a really good song, and one you might not be as familiar with. Another of my favorites is “Twelve Thirty (Young Girls Are Coming To The Canyon).” This song was included on a compilation cassette I had in my teens – you know, one of those Summer Of Love compilations that were so popular in the mid and late 1980s – and I could never get enough of it. It’s a wonderful song. “At first so strange to feel so friendly/To say good morning and really mean it/To feel these changes happening in me/But not to notice ‘til I feel it.”

The second disc begins with a few Mamas And The Papas songs, but is mostly made up of solo singles from three of the band’s members. It opens with The Mamas And The Papas doing a couple of covers – “Do You Wanna Dance” and “My Girl.” Their version of “Do You Wanna Dance” is slow and has strings, and frankly isn’t that good. “My Girl” is better, though of course not as good as the original. The other two Mamas And Papas songs on this disc are the songs from the group’s final single. “Step Out” and “Shooting Star” were both written by John Phillips and also were included on People Like Us.

The second disc then gets into the solo singles, beginning with Cass Elliot’s output, and that’s when this disc starts getting really good. She covers John Hartford’s “California Earthquake,” and does a good job with it. Obviously her version is a bigger production than the original, but it works well. That’s followed by “Talkin’ To Your Toothbrush,” a wonderfully mellow and groovy song that was written by John Simon. I really like Mama Cass’ relaxed vocal approach here. “All For Me” is an odd little number, with Mama Cass mostly humming throughout the track. “It’s Getting Better” was a hit for Mama Cass. This song, written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, was also covered by Leonard Nimoy. Mama Cass also does a nice version of Mann and Weil’s “Make Your Own Kind Of Music,” which was a top forty hit for her. One of my favorites is “Lady Love,” which she dedicates to her daughter, and which has a fun vibe. It was written by Delaney Bramlett. Another favorite is “Blow Me A Kiss,” written by Jack Carone. “Don’t bother me while I’m dreaming/Don’t make me move while I feel like this/Blow me a kiss.” Interestingly, both of those songs were B sides. And “I Can Dream, Can’t I” is actually a better song than its A side, “A Song That Never Comes.” Go figure.

The second disc includes a single from John Phillips – “Mississippi,” along with its flip side, “April Anne.” Both songs were written by John Phillips, and both are quite good, with strong country elements. “Mississippi” is a totally delightful tune. “Sipping on a beer on Bourbon St., and I’m sitting easy/Don’t get me wrong – it takes a lot to please me.” And I love that bass. This is one of my favorite tracks of the second disc. “April Anne” is a mellower tune. “Anne, the gypsy woman once said/Let an easy rider share your bed/But you chose the drunken gigolo instead.” (This single was released in 1970, the year after Easy Rider.)

This disc also has two singles from Denny Doherty. “Whatcha Gonna Do” is an excellent folk rock song. This song was also used as the title track to an LP (on the cover of that album, Denny is pictured in a tub outside, which is interesting, as the cover of the first Mamas And The Papas record showed the group in a bathtub). “Gathering The Words” has a sweeter feel. “To Claudia On Thursday” and “Tuesday Morning” are also really good (“Tuesday Morning” has a little “Monday, Monday” reference). I hope Real Gone Music will see about releasing Whatcha Gonna Do on CD.  Right now it looks like that album is only available as a very expensive import.

CD Track List

Disc One
  1. Go Where You Wanna Go
  2. Somebody Groovy
  3. California Dreamin’
  4. Monday, Monday
  5. Got A Feelin’
  6. I Saw Her Again
  7. Even If I Could
  8. Look Through My Window
  9. Once Was A Time I Thought
  10. Words Of Love
  11. Dancing In The Street
  12. Dedicated To The One I Love
  13. Free Advice
  14. Creeque Alley
  15. Did You Ever Want To Cry
  16. Twelve Thirty (Young Girls Are Coming To The Canyon)
  17. Straight Shooter
  18. Glad To Be Unhappy
  19. Hey Girl
  20. Dancing Bear
  21. John’s Music Box
  22. Safe In My Garden
  23. Too Late
  24. Dream A Little Dream Of Me
  25. Midnight Voyage
  26. For The Love Of Ivy
  27. Strange Young Girls
Disc Two
  1. Do You Wanna Dance
  2. My Girl
  3. Step Out
  4. Shooting Star
  5. California Earthquake
  6. Talkin’ To Your Toothbrush
  7. Move In A Little Closer, Baby
  8. All For Me
  9. It’s Getting Better
  10. Who’s To Blame
  11. Make Your Own Kind Of Music
  12. Lady Love
  13. New World Coming
  14. Blow Me A Kiss
  15. A Song That Never Comes
  16. I Can Dream, Can’t I
  17. The Good Times Are Coming
  18. Welcome To The World
  19. Don’t Let The Good Life Pass You By
  20. The Costume Ball
  21. Mississippi
  22. April Anne
  23. Watcha Gonna Do
  24. Gathering The Words
  25. To Claudia On Thursday
  26. Tuesday Morning
The Complete Singles 50th Anniversary Collection was released today (January 8, 2016) through Real Gone Music.