Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Ornette Coleman: "Something Else!!!! The Music Of Ornette Coleman" (1958/2011 re-issue) CD Review

I was turned onto Ornette Coleman in 1988 when Jerry Garcia performed on one of his albums. I was a huge fan of the Grateful Dead, and of Garcia's guitar-playing. A Grateful Dead radio program played a cut from Ornette Coleman's album Virgin Beauty (the tune was "Singing In The Shower"), and after a moment it just clicked for me. Of course! It was one of those moments where everything made sense.

The Grateful Dead were all about jamming, about striving for those moments that approach some version of heaven. You get the feeling at times listening to this Ornette Coleman CD that what you're hearing is some perfect improvisation caught on a recording. It sounds like magic.

The tracks on Something Else!!!! were recorded in early 1958. This is Ornette Coleman's first album as a band leader, before he went completely off the charts and into some sort of outer jazz land. There are some traditional jazz rhythms here. But knowing what we do, it's easy to hear Ornette already bursting at the seams, ready to break through all boundaries, break through the songs themselves, to push them and himself into the Unknown. Free.

Those folks who don't care for his later work will still likely enjoy this album. So if you've been avoiding Ornette Coleman, give this one a go. It will probably also help give you more appreciation for what he did later.


Something Else!!!! opens with "Invisible," a tune that is loose, fun, playful, and just totally amazing. You can hear Ornette beginning to shake whatever shackles he perceived in the traditional forms. His saxophone is singing at times, to the point where you can understand just what it's saying. There is also some great work on drums by Billy Higgins - a nice solo.

"The Blessing"

To my ears, this track is the most set in the forms that preceded Ornette's work. That is, the main theme and structure feel traditional. But Ornette still does some incredible stuff, and works it - as if to say that any structure can be a jumping off point.


There are moments in "Jayne" where Ornette's horn is almost humming, like it's thinking aloud. There is great stuff on piano by Walter Norris, and I really love what Don Cherry does on trumpet on this one. "Jayne" was named for Ornette Coleman's wife.


"Chippie" is frantic right from the start, like his saxophone isn't satisfied and is pushing everyone else to get going, to get with it - giving a glimpse of the places it could go, the possibilities. And it screams, "Now! Now! Now!"

The rest of the band is totally up to the task. Granted, there are times when it sounds like Ornette is playing on a different level from them, but there are some amazing moments particularly on this track where everything comes together perfectly. Listen to Don Payne on bass - oo-wee.


Though "Alpha" has a clear structure, there are a few moments when Ornette is just about to push beyond it. Moments when he might leave all form behind. It's a cool tune, but also a bit frustrating because you want him to pursue those moments more fully.

The album concludes with "The Sphinx," which features some wonderful work by Walter Norris on piano. There are no bonus tracks on this re-issue. But that's all right. The music it contains is plenty. There is so much joy in Ornette's playing, and you can hear it throughout this album. All tracks were composed by Ornette Coleman.

CD Track List

  1. Invisible
  2. The Blessing
  3. Jayne
  4. Chippie
  5. The Disguise
  6. Angel Voice
  7. Alpha
  8. When Will The Blues Leave?
  9. The Sphinx


The musicians on this release are Ornette Coleman on alto saxophone, Don Cherry on trumpet, Walter Norris on piano, Don Payne on bass and Billy Higgins on drums.

Something Else!!!! was released on June 14, 2011 through Concord Music Group, as part of its Original Jazz Classics Remasters Series. On that date, several other recordings in this series were released, including Chet Baker: In New York, Thelonious Monk: Thelonious Alone In San Francisco, Cannonball Adderly with Bill Evans: Know What I Mean?, Bill Evans Trio: Explorations, and Ella Fitzgerald and Joe Pass: Easy Living.

This re-issue of Something Else!!!! includes new liner notes by Neil Tesser, as well as the original liner notes by Nat Hentoff.

(Side note for movie fans: Ornette Coleman composed music for the film version of the William S. Burroughs novel Naked Lunch.)

Friday, June 24, 2011

Jon Svetkey and Heather Quay at Main Streets Market & Cafe, Concord, MA 6-16-11

A lot of folks know Jon Svetkey as the singer/guitarist/songwriter of the rock band The Loomers. But before that band existed, he was in a band called End Construction, which was composed of four Boston singer/songwriters. Yes, folk. Brian Doser, Jim Infantino, Ellis Paul and Jon Svetkey played mainly around the New England area in the late 1980s and early 1990s. They played mostly original material, but occasionally would do a cover tune. And whenever they did, it was always an interesting choice. For example, they covered The Police song "So Lonely." They also did a bluegrass medley of David Bowie songs. And it was fantastic.

So it's not a giant surprise to learn that Jon Svetkey and Heather Quay are doing a series of concerts of covers. All covers. And while there were no Police tunes in the set list on June 16th, there was a David Bowie song. Surprisingly, it was one that End Construction had never done - "Life On Mars?" from Bowie's 1971 release, Hunky Dory. Heather expressed a bit of worry before playing it - wondering if perhaps they were stepping a bit too far outside the comfort zone. But it was a seriously cool rendition. I wish i had been taping this show.

They opened the show with one of Randy Newman's best songs, "Louisiana 1927," from his 1974 record, Good Old Boys. (This was long before Randy Newman went completely soft and starting writing nonsense for Disney.) I always thought Randy Newman had a great combination of heart and wit in his early work, and in that way Jon Svetkey is actually quite similar to him. So perhaps this is a natural choice of covers, and Jon and Heather did an excellent job with it. Their voices blend perfectly together.

In the first set, they also did a wonderful version of "Falling Slowly," a song that won the Academy Award for Best Original Song. (It was from the 2007 film Once.)

Jon and Heather also did beautiful renditions of Simon & Garfunkel's "Homeward Bound," "Bookends" and "The Boxer." And one of the highlights of the second set was their string of Bee Gees songs, including "How Can You Mend A Broken Heart," "New York Mining Disaster 1941," "I Started A Joke," "World," "Massachusetts" and "Run To Me."

If you get the chance to see Jon and Heather do one of these nights of cover songs, i definitely recommend going.

Here is the set list:

Jon Svetkey And Heather Quay - Main Streets Market & Cafe, Concord, MA - June 16, 2011

Set I
  1. Louisiana 1927
  2. Homeward Bound
  3. Save The Last Dance For Me
  4. If I Fell
  5. Operator
  6. Help Me Make It Through The Night
  7. Romeo And Juliet
  8. You'll Think Of Me
  9. Falling Slowly
  10. Boulder To Birmingham
  11. Strawberry Wine
  12. High And Dry
  13. Big Yellow Taxi
  14. Wasted On The Way
  15. Handle Me With Care
  16. Catfish John
  17. Nowhere Man
  18. Danny's Song
  19. Superstar
Set II
  1. Question
  2. See The World
  3. You're So Vain
  4. Bookends >
  5. The Boxer
  6. I Can't Get Over You
  7. Desperado
  8. Life On Mars?
  9. Elenore
  10. Georgy Girl
  11. How Can You Mend A Broken Heart
  12. New York Mining Disaster 1941 >
  13. I Started A Joke >
  14. World >
  15. Massachusetts
  16. Run To Me
  17. Happy Birthday To You
  18. Mary Jane's Last Dance
  19. Different Drum
  20. Two Of Us
  21. Stop Draggin' My Heart Around
There was no encore.

More Photos Of The Monkees at Lowell Memorial Auditorium

I had a great time at The Monkees concert at Lowell Memorial Auditorium in Lowell, Massachusetts on June 15, 2011. I posted a review of the show, and included a few photos in that review.

But I just have to share a few more. So here you go...

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Monkees at Lowell Memorial Auditorium, Lowell, MA - 6-15-11

The Monkees put on a phenomenal show tonight in Lowell. This is the fourth time i've seen them, and it was probably the best show of the four. They did a lot of songs that surprised me, and they played my favorite Monkees song - "As We Go Along."

The band took the stage at 8:13 p.m. After "I'm A Believer," Micky said, "Thank you, Los Angeles." (At the end of the show, after "I'm A Believer (Reprise)" he said, "Thank you, Chicago.")

All three members (Mike Nesmith is not performing on this tour) joked around quite a bit on stage, as was expected. Before "When Love Comes Knockin' At Your Door," Davy said, "I used to be a heartthrob." And though Mike Nesmith wasn't present, the set list included some of his songs, including "Papa Gene's Blues," "What Am I Doing Hangin' 'Round" and "Listen To The Band."

The set also included a fantastic section of songs from the band's 1968 film Head (which was recently released on Criterion as part of the BBS box set). They started that section with Peter Tork's psychedelic gem, "Can You Dig It," and then went right into "As We Go Along," which is a personal favorite of mine. And then, perhaps even more surprisingly, they played "Long Title: Do I Have To Do This All Over Again," Peter Tork's other contribution to the film's soundtrack. After that, they did "Porpoise Song," and then wrapped up the Head tunes with "Daddy's Song," the only tune from this section that I'd seen the band perform before. Really, all that was missing was "Ditty Diego" and Nesmith's "Circle Sky."

The set contained some other pleasant surprises, including "All Of Your Toys" and "Someday Man."

By now everyone knows the whole controversy regarding whether The Monkees played instruments on their original recordings. (On some songs they did; on others, they didn't.) At this concert, Peter played guitar, keyboards and even French horn. Micky played drums, tambourine and acoustic guitar. Davy played tambourine, drums and acoustic guitar. But on some songs, one or more members of the band just did vocals, letting the backing band play the instruments.

Here is the set list:

The Monkees - Lowell Memorial Auditorium, Lowell, MA - June 15, 2011
1. Theme From The Monkees
2. I'm A Believer
3. Mary, Mary
4. Look Out, Here Comes Tomorrow
5. The Girl I Knew Somewhere
6. When Love Comes Knockin' At Your Door
7. Randy Scouse Git
8. Valleri
9. Papa Gene's Blues
10. Saturday's Child
11. I Wanna Be Free
12. That Was Then, This Is Now
13. I Don't Think You Know Me At All
14. All Of Your Toys
15. What Am I Doing Hanging 'Round?
16. She Hangs Out
17. Sometime In The Morning
18. Someday Man
19. Can You Dig It? >
20. As We Go Along
21. Long Title: Do I Have To Do This All Over Again
22. Porpoise Song
23. Daddy's Song
24. For Pete's Sake
25. Cuddly Toy
26. Words
27. She
28. Shades Of Grey
29. Goin' Down
30. It's Nice To Be With You
31. Auntie Grizelda
32. Last Train To Clarkesville
33. A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You
34. I'm Not Your Steppin' Stone
35. Daydream Believer
36. I'm A Believer (Outro)
1. Listen To The Band
2. Pleasant Valley Sunday
3. I'm A Believer (Reprise)
4. Theme From The Monkees (Outro)

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Nields Celebrate 20 Years of Excellent Music

I just got back from the special full-band Nields concert at the Iron Horse, part of their 20th anniversary weekend extravaganza (which also included an open mike, a family show and even a scavenger hunt). And as i expected, it was an incredible show. Two solid hours of music spanning the band's entire career.

The show started with an acoustic number, performed by just Nerissa and Katryna unmiked: "This Happens Again And Again" (from their 1992 release 66 Hoxsey Street) They joked after the song that it reminded them of a show they did at the Iron Horse in 1995 when the power had gone out due to a snow storm. (By the way, my brother was at that show.)

Then Dave Chalfant (there are actually three Daves in this band) joined them on bass for "Just Like Christopher Columbus" (which i think is the first Nields song i ever heard). That song was included on both their 1993 release Live At The Iron Horse Music Hall and their 1994 release, Bob On The Ceiling. (A live version was also included on The Old Vienna Tapes Volume Two.)

Dave Hower (the second Dave) sat in on drums starting with a Sinead O'Connor cover, "Black Boys On Mopeds."

The third Dave - Dave Nields - played guitar on several songs, including great versions of "Bulletproof" and "Taxi Girl" and a wonderfully energetic rendition of "Gotta Get Over Greta."

Paul Kochanski joined them on bass for "James," at which point Dave Chalfant moved to guitar.

Special guest Dar Williams joined The Nields on backing vocals for "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry," "The Endless Day" and "Easy People."

Toward the end of the set, The Nields performed a new song, written specially for the band's 20th anniversary. The song is called "You Come Around Again," and it's a wonderful song that describes their lives and careers at this point. The lyrics contain a reference to Bob Dylan's "My Back Pages" in the lines, "Oh, but I was so much older then/I’m younger than that now."

After the first encore of "Gotta Get Over Greta," Nerissa and Katryna ended the show as they began it, with an unmiked song. This time they performed "May Day Carol," and they did it acappella at the top of the stairs toward the back of the venue. A sweet ending to a fantastic concert.

Here is the set list:

The Nields - 6-11-11 - Iron Horse Music Hall, Northampton, MA
1. This Happens Again And Again
2. Just Like Christopher Columbus
3. Black Boys On Mopeds
4. James
5. Que Sera Sera >
6. Alfred Hitchcock
7. Bulletproof
8. Taxi Girl
9. Snowman
10. One Hundred Names
11. Georgia O
12. Best Black Dress
13. Tailspin
14. This Town Is Wrong
15. I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry
16. The Endless Day
17. The Full Catastrophe
18. You Come Around Again >
19. Easy People
1. Gotta Get Over Greta
2. May Day Carol

Monday, June 6, 2011

Gary Nicholson: "Texas Songbook" (2011) CD Review

This album is Texas through and through. Gary Nicholson had set out to make what he calls "a truly country record." He's certainly succeeded, though there still are other elements there, like a New Orleans flavor on a couple of tracks. But those who love country will most likely dig this album.

I have to admit, at first I had a bit of trouble with this album. Maybe it's because I have a lot of negative associations with Texas. First off, there is George W. Bush and that whole debacle. Also, Texas executes many more people than any other state. And we have Texas to blame for Alex Rodriguez's insane contract and subsequent ego. Of course, none of this has anything to do with the music (except that the music celebrates that state). And this album definitely did grow on me, especially songs like "Some Kind Of Crazy" and "A Woman In Texas, A Woman In Tennessee."

"Texas Weather"

The album opens with "Texas Weather," a sort of love song. Its first lines are, "Sometimes we're a lot like Texas weather/We take a turn for the worse, then take one for the better." The best sections of this song are the instrumental parts, mostly due to the wonderful fiddle work by James Pennebaker. But lyrically this is one of the weaker tracks on the album.

"Same Kind Of Crazy"

"Same Kind Of Crazy" is more of a country rock tune. This one is about finding that perfect woman. Gary sings, "Man, it's amazing/She's the same kind of crazy as me." That's basically perfect. After all, it's generally accepted that everyone is bonkers. So the object is to find someone whose lunacy matches your own. This song grew on me, partly because of these funny lines: "She talks endlessly but she always gets my name right/Whatever it is that's wrong with her/Is something I just can't see."

"Same Kind Of Crazy" was written by Gary Nicholson and Delbert McClinton.

"Messin' With My Woman"

"Messin' With My Woman" is pretty fun. The backing vocals are a bit silly - they sound almost like the pop vocal groups of the early 1960s, echoing some of the lyrics - a strange element to mix in with country. My favorite section of this song is the lead keyboard part two minutes in, which is then followed by some good work on guitar. This song is basically one that threatens violence to anyone who fools around with his woman when he's away. He sings, "Don't be messin' with my woman when I'm out on the road/Let my song be a warning/You can't say you ain't been told."

"Listen To Willie"

"Listen To Willie" opens with a reference to "Bloody Mary Morning," which is a fantastic song from Willie Nelson's 1974 release Phases And Stages. Then in quick succession, Gary includes references to several other Willie Nelson songs such as "The Party's Over," "Hello Walls," "Night Life," "Crazy," "On The Road Again" and "Me And Paul." He then sings, "I need to listen to Willie for a little while/Just the sound of his voice always brings a smile." Hey, we all need to listen to Willie Nelson.

"Listen To Willie" features Mickey Raphael on harmonica. Ray Benson and Stoney LaRue perform backing vocals on this track.

"Texas Ruby"

Though the title is "Texas Ruby," this song is country with a New Orleans flavor and references to St. Charles Avenue and Bourbon St. It's about the vibe of New Orleans getting to a Texas girl, and making her acting a bit out of character. "It's not so much that I recall the face/But all the other parts were right in place/And when she saw me standing by the bandstand/She reached out and she took my hand/She said I usually don't perform on a streetcar down St. Charles/New Orleans heat just got to me."

This song features Marcia Ball on piano and Jim Hoke on saxophone. Both are wonderful. And "Texas Ruby" has a big show tune finish. "Texas Ruby" was written by Gary Nicholson and A.J. Croce.

"Live, Laugh, Love" also has a bit of New Orleans thing going on.

"Talkin' Texan"

"Talkin' Texan" is pure fun. I can't help but love it, partly because of its sense of humor about itself, which is refreshing. Here is a bit of the lyrics: "He ain't lyin'/He's just talkin' Texan/He's got a wild imagination/Under that old Stetson/There's nothing he ain't seen or done/He's always got the biggest one."

"Talkin' Texan" was written by Gary Nicholson and Jon Randall Stewart.

"Bless 'Em All"

"Bless 'Em All" is about folks from all of the religions of the world getting along. But what about agnostics? I don't think Gary includes them in the song. Because, as he sings, "I believe there's one living god among us/Wishing we could all get along/As long as we're singing his glory/He don't care what kind of song." (He does mention atheists in the line, "And the atheists got nothing to do" - but really, they're not going to join that song either.)

The album concludes with the sweet "Somedays You Write The Song," which was written by Gary Nicholson, Guy Clark and Jon Randall Stewart.

CD Track List
  1. Texas Weather
  2. Same Kind Of Crazy
  3. Fallin' & Flyin'
  4. Messin' With My Woman
  5. A Woman In Texas, A Woman In Tennessee
  6. Listen To Willie
  7. Texas Ruby
  8. Lone Star Blues
  9. Talkin' Texan
  10. Bless 'Em All
  11. Live, Laugh, Love
  12. She Feels Like Texas
  13. Somedays You Write The Song

Texas Songbook is scheduled to be released June 21, 2011 on Bismeaux Records.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Frank Sinatra: "Ring-A-Ding Ding!" (2011 re-issue) CD Review

Ring-A-Ding Ding indeed! The first time I put on this album, it was late at night, which was frustrating because this album just demands volume (and I'm a considerate neighbor). Seriously. When you put it on, you'll understand. You'll want it loud. This is the quintessential Sinatra - at the height of his powers. And it was with a renewed vigor that he set to work on this album, after leaving Capitol.

This was his first album on Reprise, Sinatra's own label, and so of course he poured his heart into the project. And all the excitement and joy of this venture is heard on every track. This album swings. And Sinatra's voice is simply perfect. Ring-A-Ding Ding! reached #4 on the Billboard chart.

This is the 50th anniversary edition of the album, and includes two bonus tracks, including a previously unreleased ten-minute outtake of "Have You Met Miss Jones?" Enjoy.

Title Track

The album opens with the title track, "Ring-A-Ding Ding," and the first line of this album is "Life is dull/It's nothing but one big lull." This is totally not the case when you have this Sinatra album playing. This track is bursting with joy, as is this whole album. Life just feels good when you're listening to it. Really, if you need your spirits raised, this will do the trick. This track features some great jazzy piano playing, and also wonderful work on drums.

"Ring-A-Ding Ding" was written by Jimmy Van Heusen and Sammy Cahn.

"Let's Fall In Love"

"Let's Fall In Love" is another fun tune, with a bizarre and delightful pause a minute in. I love the vocal pattern of this song - the rhyme scheme, and what Sinatra does with it. Listen to lines like, "I have a feelin'/It's a feelin' I'm concealin'/I don't know why/It's just a mental, incidental, sentimental alibi." (And there's a Shakespeare reference in the line, "To be or not to be, let our hearts discover.")

"Let's Fall In Love" was written by Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler.

"A Foggy Day"

One of the coolest songs on this release is "A Foggy Day," a song written by George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin. This song features a great bass line, and a delightfully playful horn. And of course Frank Sinatra's voice is particularly excellent on this track. He seems to find more places to vary his delivery on this song than the others. It seems like he's really just having a great time on this song, and that translates easily to a fun time for the listener.

"A Foggy Day" was originally featured in the 1937 film A Damsel In Distress.

Cole Porter Songs

"In The Still Of The Night" is sort of the hit from this record. Certainly it's its most popular song with listeners and radio, and it's easy to see why. What a wonderful arrangement by Johnny Mandel of this excellent Cole Porter tune. It's got this great energy that builds and explodes with wonderful work by the horn section. And dig that bass line. And I love the way Sinatra sings the last line: "In the chill chill chill chill still of the night."

A live version of this song was included on Sinatra's 1995 release Sinatra's 80th: Live In Concert. "In The Still Of The Night" was written for the MGM film Rosalie (1937).

Sinatra also includes a cover of Porter's "You'd Be So Easy To Love" on this album. This song was written for the 1936 film Born To Dance.

"The Coffee Song"

"The Coffee Song" is kind of a silly song, but Sinatra somehow gives it an air of class. He also really belts it out. But check out these lyrics: "The politician's daughter/Was accused of drinkin' water/And was fined a great big fifty dollar bill/They've got an awful lot of coffee in Brazil." And these: "You date a girl and find out later/She smells just like a percolator/Her perfume was made right on the grill/Why, they could percolate the ocean in Brazil." This is silly stuff. But it's fun.

And for those who don't like coffee, the very next track is "When I Take My Sugar To Tea," which has a great easy swing rhythm. It's a wonderful tune written by Sammy Fain and Irving Kahal.

"Let's Face The Music And Dance"

"Let's Face The Music And Dance" is one of my favorite tracks from this album. It's a fantastic tune written by Irving Berlin. It has a catchy rhythm and a great feel. It was originally featured in the 1936 film Follow The Fleet, which starred Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Here is a taste of the lyrics: "Before the fiddlers have fled/Before they ask us to pay the bill/And while we still have the chance/Let's face the music and dance."

Bonus Tracks

There are two bonus tracks included on this special re-issue. The first is an outtake of "Zing! Went The Strings Of My Heart." At the beginning of the track, you can hear, "Okay, we're rolling."

Sinatra really gives us everything on this one, and I love the way he sings the line, "You came along when everything was wrong and put a song in my heart." And the little lone bell after the first line, "Never could carry a tune," makes me smile every time.

A different version of "Zing! Went The Strings Of My Heart" was included on Frank Sinatra's The Reprise Collection box set (1990). "Zing! Went The Strings Of My Heart" was written by James Hanley.

The second bonus track is "Have You Met Miss Jones?" and at the beginning of the track you can hear some fooling around, "Maybe you got the wrong arrangement." And then when the song begins: "This sounds like a different album." Yes, it does. This song was originally slated to be included on Ring-A-Ding Ding!, but it was felt it didn't quite fit. The album is all fun swing-type tunes, with no ballads. So this song was bumped.

About a minute and a half in (no vocals yet), it stops, and adjustments are made. It's great hearing the studio chatter, and Sinatra testing things out, snapping out the rhythm. Approximately three and a half minutes into the track, the song starts. During the second take, Frank stops the song, saying it's the wrong notes. And then, "I guess it's me."

"Have You Met Miss Jones?" was written by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart for the musical I'd Rather Be Right. Frank Sinatra included it on his 1962 release Swing Along With Me.

CD Track List

  1. Ring-A-Ding Ding
  2. Let's Fall In Love
  3. Be Careful, It's My Heart
  4. A Foggy Day
  5. A Fine Romance
  6. In The Still Of The Night
  7. The Coffee Song
  8. When I Take My Sugar To Tea
  9. Let's Face The Music And Dance
  10. You'd Be So Easy To Love
  11. You And The Night And The Music
  12. I've Got My Love To Keep Me Warm
  13. Zing! Went The Strings Of My Heart
  14. Have You Met Miss Jones?

This special re-issue of Ring-A-Ding Ding! is scheduled to be released on June 7, 2011 through Concord Music Group. The album was originally released in March of 1961.

Frank Sinatra died on May 14, 1998.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Whooligans: "The Whooligans" CD Review

Every Day is St. Patrick's Day with The Whooligans. The Whooligans are a seriously fun band doing mostly traditional Irish songs. The band is based in Long Beach, California.

The Whooligans are a great band to see perform live in concert. They are so much fun, and they play nice long shows. This album manages to capture the energy and joy of this Irish band. The CD opens with a fun version of "Leaving Of Liverpool," a traditional song. It's a good version of the song too.

"Dirty Old Town"

Anyone going out for St. Patrick's Day will certainly hear "Dirty Old Town," a song written by Ewan MacColl in 1949. And anyone who stays at the pub for more than one band will hear this song several times. This is one of those songs that everyone has covered. The version on this album has a great fiddle part. And the call and response section at the end is nice.

Live Version Of "Wild Rover"

The third track is a live recording of "Wild Rover" from The Irish Mist, with an introduction of the band. Because this is a live version, listeners can hear the audience's clapping part. After the line, "And it's no, nay, never," there are four claps.

The other claps (two after "No, nay, never, no more" and one after "Will I play the wild rover") aren't there. That might be an east coast thing. Folks on the west coast can handle only so much, it seems.

"Black Velvet Band"

"Black Velvet Band" is also a live recording from The Irish Mist. It's on the same track as "Wild Rover," though it's not a medley. There is a break between songs. Why this song isn't a separate track is anyone's guess. No matter. It's a wonderful version. Particularly fun is Ed Bell doing the voice of the judge.

"There Were Roses" Is About Two Irish Friends - A Catholic And A Protestant

"There Were Roses" is a sad song about two friends - one a Catholic, the other a Protestant. One is killed, and then there are thoughts and fears of revenge. Check out these great lyrics: "An eye for an eye, and that was all that filled their minds/And another eye for another eye until everyone is blind." "There Were Roses" was written by Thomas Sands.

"Jolly Beggerman/Carolan's Concerto" is an instrumental track. It's fun, especially as the tempo picks up near the end. It also features wonderful work on the fiddle. (And yes, that's how it is spell on the CD: "Beggerman," rather than "Beggarman.")

"I'm A Murphy's Man" Written By Ed Bell

"I'm A Murphy's Man" is the only song on this album written by Ed Bell, and it's a fun little tune about a man who likes his Murphy's. Not that he will turn down a Guinness. Ed sings, "I'm a Murphy's Man/That's what I am/I drink it up each time I can/But if the Guinness brew is all you got/I'll drink that too, because rude I'm not."

"Danny Boy"

This is an Irish album, so it ends with the obligatory "Danny Boy." Everyone's heard this song a million times, but there is a reason for that. It's a good song, and The Whooligans really do it justice on this recording.

The Whooligans Include Ed Bell From Married With Children

The band on this album is as follows: Ed Bell on vocals and bodhran; Matt Brislawn on fiddle and mandolin; Matt Clatterbuck on guitar and vocals; Dan Wilder on accordion, recorder and vocals; and Paul Toth on fretless bass and vocals.

Folks might recognize Ed Bell from his recurring role on Married With Children. He played the role of Bob Rooney. More recently Ed Bell (his stage name is E.E. Bell) was in episodes of Without A Trace, Bones and My Name Is Earl.

CD Track List
  1. Leaving Of Liverpool
  2. Dirty Old Town
  3. Wild Rover/Black Velvet Band
  4. There Were Roses
  5. Jolly Beggerman/Carolan's Concerto
  6. Fields Of Athenry
  7. Big Strong Man
  8. Grace
  9. I'm A Murphy Man
  10. The Liar
  11. Rattlin' Bog
  12. A Man You Don't Meet Every Day
  13. Back Home In Derry
  14. Come Out Ye Black And Tans
  15. Danny Boy

This CD was released in 2005.

(Note: I originally posted this review on March 2, 2010 on another site.)

The Deanna Varagona Trio: "The Goodbyes Have All Been Taken, Hello" CD Review

The Deanna Varagona Trio's 2003 release, The Goodbyes Have All Been Taken, Hello, is a wonderful and diverse collection of songs, all driven by Deanna's powerful voice, and featuring some excellent guest musicians.

"Faye Got Lost"

Deanna Varagona has a gorgeous voice. At times it's reminiscent of Patty Griffin, with a bit of Nanci Griffith and Laura Love too. This album opens with "Faye Got Lost," a pretty folk song with little touches of mandolin. The chorus is "Is she calling out your name/Is she calling just the same/Is she close/Or is the wind/Just cryin' steady."

"Little Randall"

Though an original song, "Little Randall" has an old timey folk feel, on the heavier bluesy side. It's a seriously cool song with male vocals backing Deanna's voice. It's powerful and raw, a tough song that will clean the flesh off the bones.

Here is a taste of the lyrics: "By the station, past the courthouse/I saw your Mary Jane/She was reachin' for the heavens/And callin' out your name/Callin' out your name, boy/Calling out your name."

"Gardener Man"

"Gardener Man" begins acappella - serious and strong. Then when it kicks in, it's a country song, which is a surprise, particularly after the last track. "Gardener Man" is a fun, upbeat tune, a song to dance to. Deanna sings, "If I was a fallen angel/and you were a gardener man/you could sweep my dusty ashes/off this hard and barren land."

"I Better Stay Away"

"I Better Stay Away" is a slow, sad song featuring Deb Spoerl on cello and Robert Lloyd on mandolin. Robert is especially wonderful during the great instrumental section of this song.
"In Heat" is a folk tune with a nice rhythm provided by Jimmy Earley on drums. And the title refers to exactly what you think it does.

"Folding The Clothes" features Robert Lloyd on mandolin and Deb Spoerl on violin. This song has a nice blending of male backing vocals with Deanna's voice. It's a sweet, easy-feeling folk song.

"Dag Rag"

"Dag Rag" is an old timey folk song, with the crackling sound effect of a record playing. It's amazing how often that effect is employed on CDs. Maybe these songs should just be released on vinyl. "Dag Rag" features Jeb Bishop on trombone.

Here is a bit of the lyrics: "Said I need a little time/Get back on my feet again/'Cause these clouds they fill my day time/And the rain it fills my head."

"My Better Years"

"My Better Years" is a wonderful song written by Hazel Dickens. It's the only cover song on this release. This song was originally included on Hazel Dickens and Alice Gerrard's 1973 album, Hazel & Alice.

The Deanna Varagona Trio does an excellent job on this song, with a great blending of vocals, punctuated by Jimmy Earley's hits on the snare drum.

"Starin' Out My Window"

"Starin' Out My Window" is a bluesy folk song written by Deanna Varagona and Joe Ferguson. Deanna belts out the vocals on this one, in perfect contrast to the quiet guitar. Robert Lloyd plays harmonica on this one.

Here is a bit of the lyrics: "Whiskey jar near empty/Feel my throat is goin' dry/Blues lurkin' in my doorstep, don't know if I'll make it by."

"Choose Your Way"

This CD concludes with "Choose Your Way," a song that has strong, raw power in the vocals and guitar. There is something fearless in Deanna's voice, in her delivery. The song begins, "Shake out the worry/What was that sound?/Thought I heard something/Before I fell to the ground."

CD Track List

  1. Faye Got Lost
  2. Little Randall
  3. Gardener Man
  4. I Better Stay Away
  5. In Heat
  6. Folding The Clothes
  7. Hollow Town
  8. Angel On His Knee
  9. Dag Rag
  10. My Better Years
  11. Starin' Out My Window
  12. Choose Your Way

The Deanna Varagona Trio is Deanna Varagona on vocals, acoustic guitar, banjitar, baritone sax and lap steel guitar; Joe Ferguson on bass and vocals; and Jimmy Earley on drums and vocals.
Guest musicians include Robert Lloyd on mandolin, guitar, harmonica and piano; Deb Spoerl on violin and cello; Jeb Bishop on trombone; Kelly Hogan on vocals; and Alex McManus on euphonium.

The Goodbyes Have All Been Taken, Hello was released in 2003 on Gadfly Records.

Jerry Garcia Acoustic Band: "Almost Acoustic" CD Review

Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia shows his roots with this excellent album of folk songs.

This is a live album, recorded in the fall of 1987. Obviously it's an acoustic record, which is interesting, because this was recorded at what was really the height of the Grateful Dead's fame. They had their first genuine hit, "Touch Of Grey" earlier that year.

But Jerry Garcia never really cared about hits, and always cared about good music. And that's what this CD is: good music.

Traditional Folk Songs

A lot of the songs on this album are traditional songs. Of course, what that really means is that either no one knows who wrote the songs, or that people don't care to find out. But Jerry had always been interested in folk music. He had a bluegrass band in the 1970s called Old & In The Way.

The album starts with "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot." The first known recording of this song is from 1909, by the Fisk Jubilee Singers.

The second song is "Deep Elem Blues," another traditional song, but one that the Grateful Dead had done years earlier. This version is excellent.

The crowd is clearly ecstatic just to be there, to be witnessing this show. The musicians seem to be sharing their ecstasy, putting in some of their best performances.

Jerry Garcia Yodels

On Jimmie Rodgers' "Blue Yodel #9" Jerry even does a bit of yodeling. He does a pretty good job too.

"Oh, The Wind And Rain"

"Oh, The Wind And Rain" is also known as "Dreadful Wind And Rain" and "Wind And Rain." It is also similar to "Two Sisters," telling the same story about two sisters who love the same boy. And so one of the girls pushes the other into the river to drown her.

This song has been covered by many artists over the years.

Elizabeth Cotten

Jerry introduces "Oh, Babe, It Ain't No Lie" by saying, "I'd like to dedicate this song to the memory of Elizabeth Cotten." Elizabeth Cotten, who had written this song, died earlier in 1987. Elizabeth Cotten was self-taught on the guitar, and started writing songs when just a child - including "Freight Train," which was also covered by Jerry Garcia.

"Casey Jones"

The song "Casey Jones" on this album is not the Grateful Dead song of the same name. That one was written by Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter, and released on 1970's Workingman's Dead. This "Casey Jones" was written by Mississippi John Hurt. Mississippi John Hurt also recorded a song called "Talkin' Casey Jones." There is yet another traditional song called "The Ballad Of Casey Jones," written in 1909.


The album ends with its only original Garcia/Hunter composition, the beautiful "Ripple." Originally released on the Grateful Dead record American Beauty (one of the best albums ever recorded) in 1970, this song also concluded the Grateful Dead's live acoustic record Reckoning (which was also released under the title For The Faithful).

Grateful Dead Fans And Anyone Who Appreciates Good Folk Music

One does not have to be a fan of the Grateful Dead to appreciate this album. In fact, only a few of the songs on this album were ever performed by the Dead, including "Deep Elem Blues," "I've Been All Around This World," "Oh, Babe, It Ain't No Lie" and of course "Ripple."

Most of the songs on this album are covers. But Jerry, when away from the Grateful Dead, always chose more cover songs than his own original compositions - even when the Jerry Garcia Band performed their more regular electric sets. In the electric shows, the material was more often by Bob Dylan or selections from Motown, rather than the folk songs on this album.

Jerry Garcia Acoustic Band

Jerry Garcia's band on this recording is Jerry Garcia on vocals and guitar; David Nelson on guitar and vocals; Sandy Rothman on mandolin, dobro and vocals; John Kahn on acoustic bass; Kenny Kosek on fiddle; and David Kempter on snare drum.

CD Track List

  1. Swing Low, Sweet Chariot
  2. Deep Elem Blues
  3. Blue Yodel #9 (Standin' On The Corner)
  4. Spike Driver Blues
  5. I've Been All Around This World
  6. I'm Here To Get My Baby Out Of Jail
  7. I'm Troubled
  8. Oh, The Wind And Rain
  9. The Girl At The Crossroads Bar
  10. Oh, Babe, It Ain't No Lie
  11. Casey Jones
  12. Diamond Joe
  13. Gone Home
  14. Ripple
(Note: I originally posted this review on February 25, 2010 on another site.)

Gaelic Storm: "Herding Cats" (1999) CD Review

Gaelic Storm, famous for being the band that played the lower decks in the film Titanic, includes several instrumentals and original songs on this CD.

Before the film Titanic catapulted them to some higher level of fame and to larger venues, Gaelic Storm was the house band at O'Brien's in Santa Monica. Every week (every Sunday night, if memory serves), they would play, and they'd play for four or five hours. The cover was five dollars, and sometimes there was no cover at all. Those were great times.

"Drink The Night Away"

They open the album with "Drink The Night Away." What - an Irish band starting an album with a drinking song? Of course. And it's a good one too. This version isn't as lively as the song is when they perform it in concert, but it's a fun, cheerful song written by Steve Twigger and Steve Wehmeyer.

"The Ferryman"

"The Ferryman" is another joyous tune. The chorus is: "Where the strawberry beds sweep down to the Liffey/you'll kiss away the troubles from my brow/I love you well today, and I'll love you more tomorrow/If you ever loved me, Molly, love me now." Is there a sweeter name than Molly? Pete St. John wrote this song.

When "South Australia" kicks in, people will be dancing. However, this is another song that had more power in concert performances.

Instrumental Medley

"After Hours At McGann's" is actually an instrumental medley made up of "The Primrose Lass," "Hewlett's Reel" and "Reel Gan Anim." As with most Irish reels, the fiddle dominates. Listening to this song will make people want to learn the Irish step dances.

"Heart Of The Ocean" Was Inspired By Titanic

"Heart Of The Ocean" was inevitable. This song was inspired by the film that made the band famous. It's not a bad song, but it goes on just a bit too long. It's pretty mellow, as it tries to capture the feel and sound of the film. "Heart Of The Ocean" was written by Steve Twigger and Steve Wehmeyer.

"Breakfast At Lady A.'s" kicks the album back into gear. This is another instrumental medley, this time of "Coleman's Jig," "Sean Ryan's Jig #2" and "The Lark In The Morning."

"Titanic Set"

The album ends with another medley called "Titanic Set." Yes, yes. The song is made up of "O'Mahoney's" and "Murphy's Reel."

Gaelic Storm Does Great Live Shows

At O'Brien's this band got the whole audience dancing and singing along - which can be something of a feat in Los Angeles with its sometimes jaded, inhibited crowds. Nights with this band were always incredible. They used to hold drinking contests during "Seven Drunken Nights" - audience members against band members - during every verse. That song would sometimes last twenty minutes.

CD Doesn't Quite Have The Energy Of Their Live Performances

Somehow they weren't quite able to capture the energy of their live shows on this studio release. The CD lacks that raw power and intimacy of their live performances. There is some distance there, particularly on the vocals. The instrumentals fare better - having more energy and life. But the songs are good, the songs are strong.

Band Members

The band (as of this recording) is as follows: Patrick Murphy on vocals, harmonica, accordion and spoons; Shep Lonsdale on djembe, doumbeks, percussion; Samantha Hunt on fiddle; Steve Twigger on guitar, mandolin and vocals; and Steve Wehmeyer on bodhran, vocals and didjeridoo.

CD Track List

  1. Drink The Night Away
  2. The Ferryman
  3. South Australia
  4. After Hours At McGanns
  5. Heart Of The Ocean
  6. Breakfast At Lady A.'s
  7. The Park East Polkas
  8. Spanish Lady
  9. The Devil Went Down To Doolin
  10. The Barnyards Of Delgaty
  11. The Broken Promise
  12. She Was The Prize
  13. Titanic Set
(Note: I originally posted this on March 3, 2010 on another site.)

Fred Small: "I Will Stand Fast" (1988) CD Review

Fred Small is generally a very serious type of folksinger. He crafts good songs, but this is not an album that people would turn to in order to be cheered up after a tough day. The lyrics are often of a political nature, from Fred's honest desire to make society better. This is a noble endeavor, of course, but makes for some heavy listening at times. There are exceptions, like the uplifting and pretty "I Will Stand Fast."

"The Hills Of Ayalon"

The album opens with "The Hills Of Ayalon," a very serious song based on actual workshops held in Israel where Jewish and Arab youths can learn about each other. The song ends on an optimistic note.

"Diamonds Of Anger"

"Diamonds Of Anger" is another serious song, written while Nelson Mandela was still imprisoned in Pollsmoor Prison. The chorus is "Crossroads/We are diamonds of anger we are brilliant gold/Every blow makes us stronger the chain cannot hold/We are rocks against tear gas we are songs against guns/We are life against terror we have already won." These are good lyrics.

"I Will Stand Fast" Title Track

"I Will Stand Fast," the title track, is one of the two best songs on the album. When he would perform this one in concert, he'd have the audience sing the lines "Cold wind beating out of the past" and "Hold on, I will stand fast" during the verses, and it sounded beautiful. This is a pretty and optimistic song, and stands out partially because of that. The chorus is "I will stand fast, I will stand fast/You are safe in the daylight at last/Nightmare and fear, they have no power here/I will stand fast."

Mary Chapin Carpenter performs harmony vocals on "I Will Stand Fast."

"At The Elbe"

"At The Elbe" is a song about how the United States and Russia were once allies during World War II. Keep in mind that this album was released in 1988, during the Cold War.

"If I Were A Moose"

"If I Were A Moose" demonstrates the lighter side of Fred Small. But of course it still has a clear message. It starts off, "If I were a moose and you were a cow/Would you love me anyhow?/Would you introduce me to your folks/Would you tell your friends 'No moose jokes!'/If I were a moose and you were a cow."

"Every Man"

"Every Man" is the other of the two best songs on this album. Here is a taste of the lyrics: "Came the war to my generation/Government said son it's your time make us proud/Some went to jail some went to Canada/Some went over some went crazy some went down."

"Scott And Jamie"

"Scott And Jamie" is a song about a gay couple in a long-term committed relationship who adopt children. One might wish this song were dated by now, but sadly after this nonsense with Measure 8 in California in 2008, this song is just as pertinent as ever. It's seriously depressing. (Measure 8, which was ironically and horribly called the "California Marriage Protection Act," denied same-sex couples the constitutional right to marry.)

Here is the chorus: "Love is love no matter who no matter where/Love is love and a child knows when it's there/They can pry away the fingers that graced these walls with dirt/They can pull us apart they can lie oh they can hurt/But love leaves a trace and the heart holds a place for love's return."

Scott and Jamie are the names of the two boys that the couple has adopted, and who are eventually taken away by the state. It's a beautiful and sad song.

"This Love"

The album ends with "This Love," an unabashed love song, and probably the weakest song on the album. It tells of all the changes that would happen in the world if for just one moment everyone on the planet could feel the love he feels. It's a nice sentiment, but it really is the height of cheesiness. Cris Williamson performs the duet with Fred Small on this song.

Musicians On CD

Fred Small does the lead vocals and guitar. John McCutcheon plays hammer dulcimer. Howard Levy plays harmonica and penny whistle. Pete Kennedy is on the electric guitar. Tom Espinola plays mandolin and deff drum. Lorraine Duisit plays mandolin and performs backing vocals. Joe Kohansky is on trombone. Lou Abbott is on drums. Michael Aharon plays fretless bass, cello, piano, synthesizer, dumbeck and electronic percussion, and performs backing vocals.

CD Track List

  1. The Hills Of Ayalon
  2. Diamonds Of Anger
  3. I Will Stand Fast
  4. At The Elbe
  5. If I Were A Moose
  6. Every Man
  7. Scott And Jamie
  8. Denmark 1943
  9. This Love

I Will Stand Fast was released on Flying Fish Records. Fred Small released several other albums, including Love's Gonna Carry Us (1981), No Limit (1985) and Jaguar (1991).

Cat Stevens: "Mona Bone Jakon" (1970) CD Review

Mona Bone Jakon is one of Cat Stevens' best recordings, and one of the two albums from which songs were selected for the film Harold And Maude. (The other is "Tea For The Tillerman.")

This album was originally going to be titled, The Dustbin Cried The Day The Dustman Died - a title more fitting for the album cover's artwork. The artwork, by the way, was done by Cat Stevens. But apparently that title was too long to fit on the cover.

"Maybe You're Right"

"Maybe You're Right" is a wonderful song about a relationship that's ended. As Cat Steven assures the other person, "It will never happen again." He sings, "So maybe you're right/And maybe you're wrong/But I ain't gonna argue with you no more/I've done it for too long." It's over, and there is nothing but regrets, but why talk about it anymore? But of course he's singing about it.

"Pop Star"

This is an amusing song, especially as Cat Stevens was, before venturing off into the land of folk, a pop star (or at least on his way to being a pop star). The song follows him as he makes his way through all the trappings of pop stardom, including going to the bank. And is he doing this all in order to impress his mother? The narrator is constantly trying to get his mother's attention, singing the song to her.

Harold And Maude

A few of the songs from this album were used in the film Harold And Maude. Cat Stevens also wrote two songs specifically for that film: "Don't Be Shy" and "If You Want To Sing Out, Sing Out." The songs from this album that are in the film are "I Think I See The Light," "Trouble" and "I Wish, I Wish."

"I Think I See The Light" is an incredible and powerful song. Cat Stevens has never sounded so intense as in this song. Though this album was released long before Cat Stevens became Yusaf Islam, it is the one song that he revisited for his first album under his new moniker. A new version of "I Think I See The Light" is on Yusaf's 2006 release, An Other Cup.

Though "Trouble" was not written specifically for Harold And Maude, it's difficult to listen to it without remembering those final scenes from the film. "Trouble" is one of the saddest songs ever. Cat Stevens sings, "Trouble/Oh trouble can't you see/You're eating my heart away/And there's nothing much left of me."

"I Wish, I Wish" is a fun song.

The album ends with the beautiful "Lilywhite."

Other Musicians On CD Include Peter Gabriel

Cat Stevens does the vocals and guitar. Alun Davies plays additional guitar. John Ryan plays bass. Harvey Burns does the percussion. Peter Gabriel (yes, that Peter Gabriel) plays flute. All the songs were written by Cat Stevens.

CD Track List

  1. Lady D'Arbanville
  2. Maybe You're Right
  3. Pop Star
  4. I Think I See The Light
  5. Trouble
  6. Mona Bone Jakon
  7. I Wish, I Wish
  8. Katmandu
  9. Time
  10. Fill My Eyes
  11. Lilywhite
(Note: I originally posted this review on February 27, 2010 on another site.)

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Patrolled By Radar at The Federal Bar, 6-1-11

Tonight i caught a good set by Patrolled By Radar at The Federal Bar in North Hollywood, CA. It was a special show, the High Adventure Management Showcase. Four artists were featured: Jack Littman, Nikki Lang, Patrolled By Radar and Prima Donna.

Patrolled By Radar featured songs from their excellent new album, Be Happy, which is going to be released June 7, 2011. From that album, they played "New Fight Song," "Haywire," "Fast Life Slow Death," Be Happy," "Coat Of Disappointment" and "Widow Next Door."

The Federal Bar is a fairly new venue. It's a nice big space upstairs, with plenty of room to dance in front of the stage. Toward the back of the room there are several couches and chairs. There is also a good selection of beer.

Allan Sherman: "My Son, The Folk Singer" (1962/2010 re-issue) CD Review

Allan Sherman's first album features his great song parodies, such as "Sarah Jackman" (sung to "Frere Jacques").

My Son, The Folk Singer is Allan Sherman's debut album, and it hit #1 (as did his next two albums). (The pop charts were somewhat different before The Beatles arrived.) It was recorded in one night - August 6, 1962 - in front of a small audience of friends (who had access to an open bar).

Allan Sherman was thirty-seven years old at the time of the recording. Before this, he'd produced game shows such as I've Got A Secret. The album was such a smash hit that Warner Bros. ran out of album jackets, and yet continued to sell the vinyl alone.

"The Ballad Of Harry Lewis"

Well, who is Harry Lewis? The audience seems to know. And regardless of whether the listener knows who he is, the line about "The Drapes Of Roth" is absolutely hilarious.

But anyway, Harry Lewis was a supporting actor in films. With his wife, Marilyn, he opened a hamburger restaurant in Los Angeles, Hamburger Hamlet (because his two ambitions were to play Hamlet and to open a restaurant). His wife then decided to create a line of clothing, and it's this that the song is joking about.

"The Ballad Of Harry Lewis" is sung to "The Battle Hymn Of The Republic." There are lots of jokes relating tailors to priests, introducing Harry Lewis as "a man of the cloth." And the funniest line is "He was trampling through the warehouse/Where the Drapes of Roth are stored."

"Sir Greenbaum's Madrigal"

This song tells the story of a knight, Greenbaum, whose name alone gets a big laugh from the audience. Also getting a large laugh are the lines, "Said he, I don't want to be a knight/That's no job for a boy who is Jewish." This is sung to the tune of "Greensleeves." This song also features the great line, "Oh, wouldst I could kick the habit/And give up smoting for good."

"My Zelda"

"My Zelda," which is sung to the tune of "Matilda," is about a wife who takes her husband's money and runs off with the tailor. Allan sings, "My Zelda, she found her big romance/When I broke the zipper in my pants." Allan Sherman has a whole group of back-up singers, and these singers somehow elevate the humor by singing it seriously, doing it straight (in this song and others). Also, this song really demonstrates Allan Sherman's spot-on comic timing.

"Sarah Jackman"

"Sarah Jackman" is a phone conversation sung to the tune of "Frere Jacques." It's a duet with Christine Nelson, and it's probably the funniest song on the album. It was the most popular tune from the album when the record was originally released, and it's easy to see why.

It starts, once he's sure he's got the right number, "Sarah Jackman, Sarah Jackman/How's by you, how's by you?" They discuss their families: "How's your sister Doris?/Still with William Morris" and "How's your brother Bentley?/Feeling better mentally." In addition to the William Morris Agency, it includes references to Lolita and The Peace Corps.

"Jump Down, Spin Around (Pick A Dress O' Cotton)"

"Jump Down, Spin Around (Pick A Dress O' Cotton)" is a song about shopping and getting bargains. It's hilarious, especially considering the song it's parodying - "Pick A Bale Of Cotton." The only work done by the folks in this song is taking a dress off the hanger more quickly than the other shoppers. Allan and the back-up singers sing, "Gotta jump down, spin around, save a dollar eighty/Gotta jump down, spin around, save a lot of dough/Gotta get yourself a bargain."

"Oh Boy"

"Oh Boy," which is introduced as "The Ballad Of Oh Boy," is one of the funniest songs on the album. It's amazing how many different line readings Allan Sherman could give to the line, "Oh boy." It starts, "We'd like to know what you think/Oh boy/What's your opinion of mink?/Oh boy."

This song is very funny, though many of the references are clearly dated. There are references to Chief Justice Warren, Sylvia Porter and Barry Goldwater. To everything, Allan Sherman's response is "Oh boy." And then there's a switch: "Sir Arthur Conan Doyle/Both great." This song is sung to the tune of "Chiapanecas."

"Shticks And Stones"

The album concludes with "Shticks And Stones," which is actually a medley of parodies with basically just vocals and drums, and much laughter. It turns "Jericho" to "Geritol," for example. And why not?

As funny as this album is, one can't help but wonder, "Would I be laughing even more if I were Jewish?" The answer is probably yes. And even more if this were 1962. But it doesn't matter. There are plenty of laughs for everyone even now in 2010.

The music was arranged and conducted by Lou Busch. Doctor Demento (Barry Hansen), who's made a living playing parodies on the radio, wrote the liner notes for this album.

CD Track List

  1. The Ballad Of Harry Lewis
  2. Shake Hands With Your Uncle Max
  3. Sir Greenbaum's Madrigal
  4. My Zelda
  5. The Streets Of Miami
  6. Sarah Jackman
  7. Jump Down, Spin Around (Pick A Dress O' Cotton)
  8. Seltzer Boy
  9. Oh Boy
  10. Shticks And Stones

My Son, The Folk Singer is scheduled to be re-issued on September 7, 2010, along with seven other Allan Sherman records, including My Son, The Celebrity (1963), My Son, The Nut (1963) and For Swingin' Livers Only! (1964). All eight are being released by Collectors' Choice Music.

(Note: I originally posted this review on August 4, 2010 on another site.)

Allison Geddie: "Everything You Don't See" (2009) CD Review

Allison Geddie's debut album features beautiful vocals, some good songwriting, and some wonderful work on cello.

Allison Geddie's album Everything You Don't See has a lot going for it. The most obvious is Allison's voice. Her voice is strong and pretty, and she's able to find some wonderful nuances in certain songs. Also, the voice is never lost in the instrumentation. The lyrics are never muddied, which is great because there is some decent songwriting on this album. This CD also benefits from some beautiful cello parts by Tina Guo.

"Messed It Up Again"

Allison Geddie opens the album with "Messed It Up Again." The first line of the song, and thus the first of the album, is "I'm waiting for the wings to grow." This line perfectly sets up the album, for there is something almost angelic about Allison - about her voice, her style - and yet she's still completely grounded in this life, in this world, as these songs will attest to.

"Messed It Up Again" has some excellent lyrics, like these lines: "I messed it up again/And don’t you try to mend/What I’ve done to you."

"Take A Shot"

"Take A Shot" sounds somewhat like Mieka Pauley, particularly in the vocals - not just the voice, but the phrasing. Allison sings, "Take a shot at me/I promise I won't run away." The song has a strange break approximately two minutes in. It's a song about a simple and beautiful moment, and it ends with the excellent line, "I'll just stand here and let you see me."

"Leave With Me"

"Leave With Me" is a gorgeous song which builds nicely. The vocals are beautiful, especially in the section that goes, "I spent all this time today/Expecting you to show/And now I feel miles away/'Cause you have let me go." And the cello sounds particularly good on this track.

"Fixing Me"

"Fixing Me" is another song that is reminiscent of Mieka Pauley, in the vocals and mood. It's a beautiful song, possibly the best on the album. The song is mainly acoustic guitar and vocals, with the cello backing her up. This song also features the great line, "It feels like life is just one long road/Of fixing me."

"Walking Slow"

"Walking Slow" is a pretty song, and the closest thing to a title track with the repeated line, "I wanna see everything I don't see." Stevie Black plays strings on this track. Chris Marin plays the cymbals (though in the liner notes it's listed as "symbol swells").


"Divided" starts with what sounds like putting a needle on a record - that static and scratchy sound of a record. The vocals sound great on this song. The mix is just right, so that the vocals are louder than the instruments, because it is the voice that drives this song (and most of the album).

Here is a taste of the lyrics: "But there was no fire/I had no desire/And I've become a liar inside/So black no tension/I couldn't flinch/And I swear/I've been divided ever since."

"In This City"

For "In This City," there is more of a full band sound. In this song, Allison varies her vocal performance perhaps more than on the other songs. This is one of the strongest songs on the album, with some interesting changes and rhythms. The song ends with these lines: "Yeah don't you ask me/If I like it here/ In this city/You will forget that we're at war/But in your head you know/Exactly what you're fighting for/And do you like it here?"

"What We Lived For (The Starbucks Song)"

Allison Geddie concludes this album with "What We Lived For (The Starbucks Song)." Early in the song there is the great line, "And we'd look for our fathers/In nineteen year olds," which is then repeated at the end. The cello sound great in this song, and Allison's voice is so pretty as she sings, "Time flies/But it's never ever too late."

CD Track List

  1. Messed It Up Again
  2. Take A Shot
  3. Leave With Me
  4. Fixing Me
  5. Walking Slow
  6. Divided
  7. In This City
  8. The Need
  9. Set Us Free
  10. What We Lived For (The Starbucks Song)

All of the songs on Everything You Don't See were written by Allison Geddie. Allison Geddie does the lead vocals and acoustic guitar on all songs. Tina Guo plays cello. Greg Suran plays guitar and bass on "Messed It Up Again," "Take A Shot," "In This City," "Set Us Free" and "What We Lived For (The Starbucks Song)." Mike Krompass plays guitar and bass on "Leave With Me," "Divided" and "The Need."

Greg Critchley is credited as playing "all other instruments." He also produced the album.

Allison Geddie recently opened up for Blue Oyster Cult in Woodland Hills. Perhaps an odd choice for an opening act for that rock band, but Allison drew the audience in. She performed a few songs from this album, including "In This City," "Leave With Me" and "Fixing Me."

(Note: I originally posted this review on August 19, 2010 on another site.)

Teddy Goldstein & The Goldsteins: "Alright is The New Fantastic" (2010) CD Review

Teddy Goldstein's 2010 release is full of beautiful, bittersweet songs of longing and love, despair and optimism. His voice so clearly conveys these mixed emotions that the lyrics are almost unneeded. But the lyrics are really good.


The album opens with "Fully," a beautiful and sad song. This song creates a mood so perfectly. The vocals are excellent, as are the lyrics. He sings, "And I lost my mind when I was a child/And it never came back fully." Wonderful. And this: "So now you're heading back home/You've got a life of your own/And enough things to do to forget me/And I'm going to be fine/It's just a matter of time."


This song has a bit more of a rock edge to it. The electric rather than the acoustic guitar drives this one. Teddy sings, "There comes a time you realize how much you have lost by now/playing the game." The refrain is "That's when you change, change, change." The song hints that the change is for the better, but what exactly the change is, well, that's not spelled out, which is great.

"Not The Real Thing"

"Not The Real Thing" is another simple and wonderful song, with a nice little instrumental section in the middle. The song starts with Teddy saying, "Congratulations," but then the repeated line is, "This is not the real thing." The song has some great lyrics, like, "Everybody's been trying to tell you/Friends and family/But it never got through/You were working on something else then/Like being young and independent."

Daru Oda performs backing vocals on this song.


"Comeback" is a song from the perspective of someone who is lonely and distraught, but still optimistic about his ability to rise above it and to improve his lot. This song has contemporary R&B overtones and rhythms.

Jes Hudak does backing vocals on "Comeback."

"Livin' Like We Care"

"Livin' Like We Care" opens with the line, "Well I know I'm my father's son/I've got a mountain to climb." What an excellent opening line. The chorus is also wonderful: "It's a long way up/If you want to reach the sky/But it's a long way down/So you might as well try/Nobody ever said it would be fair/Still we've got to keep on livin' like we care."

"New York City"

"New York City" has that certain New York sense of humor about itself. Actually, it's slightly reminiscent of John Gorka's "I'm From New Jersey" in its tone and attitude, with that bittersweet look at one's home town. Here is a taste of the lyrics: "Everyone has gone insane/It's too damn bright to see the stars/And you can't afford to keep your car/You may as well just kill yourself/Because New York City is a living hell." And yes, it's a love song to the city. After all, New York is his home now.

The song's feel is mellow, which is in wonderful contrast to its somewhat silly lyrics. This is a really good song. Bennett Paster's keyboard sounds just exactly right.

"Union Street"

"Union Street" is a look back at the early days of a relationship when the narrator lived on Union Street, and he wasn't sure which buzzer outside the building was his. Right from the beginning, the listener knows they're still together and living in Ohio, so there's no fear of this song turning sad (except perhaps for the fact that they're living in Ohio). How refreshing to hear about the beginning of a love that still exists. But of course, they've only been together for a year, so...


The album concludes with "Narcissistic." It opens with the line, "I have never won a thing in my life, but I still got faith." The chorus is, "Everyone I know is good down to their soul/What does that say about me/And my narcissistic personality." This song features some nice keyboard work by Bennett Paster, and some nice electric guitar fills by Steve Walsh.


Teddy Goldstein does lead vocals and plays acoustic guitar on all tracks. Steve Walsh plays electric guitar on "Fully," "Change," "Livin' Like We Care," "Union Street" and "Narcissistic." Meghan Toohey plays electric guitar on "Not The Real Thing."

Bennett Paster plays keyboards on most of the songs. Ken Rich plays keyboards on "Not The Real Thing" and plays bass and mellotron on "Comeback." Andrew Sherman plays keyboards on "Comeback." Jeff Hill plays bass on "Fully" and "New York City." Whynot Jansveld plays bass on "Change," "Livin' Like We Care," "Union Street" and "Narcissistic." Ethan Eubanks plays drums on "Fuly," "Change" and "Livin' Like We Care." Andy Borger plays drums on "Not The Real Thing." Dan Reiser plays drums on "Union Street" and "Narcissistic."

All the songs were written by Teddy Goldstein.

CD Track List

  1. Fully
  2. Change
  3. Not The Real Thing
  4. Comeback
  5. Livin' Like We Care
  6. New York City
  7. Union Street
  8. Narcissistic

Alright Is The New Fantastic is Teddy Goldstein's fifth album. His other releases include Teddy Goldstein (1998), The Love Lot (2002), Live (2004) and Backseat (2008). Alright Is The New Fantastic was produced by Teddy Goldstein and Ken Rich.

(Note: I originally posted this review on April 30, 2010 on another site.)