Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Paul Kelly: "Greatest Hits: Songs From The South Volumes 1 & 2" (2011) CD Review

Paul Kelly is an amazing songwriter, something that is immediately apparent when listening to this collection, which features a good range of songs. Sure, there are a couple of Dylanesque folk tunes, but also some more rock-related tunes like "Darling It Hurts" or "Pouring Petrol On A Burning Man." Others, like "Before Too Long," are in more of a pop vein.

These songs aren't dated, though they span nearly twenty-five years (from 1985 to 2008). And though he changes genres with different songs, each time it feels right, feels natural. It's not like a folkie who suddenly straps on an electric guitar, or a rocker who puts out an "unplugged" album. And whatever realm he's working in, the lyrics are always interesting. Some of these songs are great stories. This is an album you'll want to pay attention to, but which will also get you tapping your feet and even dancing at times. The more I listen to this album, the more I love it. I'm almost embarrassed to admit this is the first Paul Kelly album I've owned. Have I wasted twenty-five years of my life?

"From St. Kilda To Kings Cross"

This collection opens with "From St. Kilda To Kings Cross," a song that reminds me just a bit of Billy Bragg, mostly in the electric guitar and vocals, but also in lines like "Fairweather friends are the hungriest friends." And suddenly Chris Coyne comes in on sax, a strange and welcome surprise. "From St. Kilda To Kings Cross" is from Paul Kelly's1985 record, Post.

"Dumb Things"

"Dumb Things" is one of my favorites. It's a pop tune with a simple but infectious rock rhythm. I love his vocals. Here is a taste of the lyrics: "In the middle of a dream/I lost my shirt, I pawned my rings/I've done all the dumb things." He even howls a bit on the word "howl" in the line, "hung my heart on the moon, started howling."

I love these lines: "And I get all your good advice/Never stops me from going through these things twice." Is it that we can relate to it? Possibly. But regardless, it's such a damn good song. It's from 1987's Under The Sun. Chris Wilson plays harmonica on this track. Chris Coyne plays saxophone.

"Everything's Turning To White"

"Everything's Turning To White" is another song that reminds me a bit of Billy Bragg. Again, it's the guitar. This song is just Paul on vocals and guitar. Nothing else is needed. And part of it is done as spoken word, but it doesn't sound of place. It's not jarring, as sudden spoken word sections sometimes are. It's actually a pretty powerful song. And I particularly love his voice on this one.

The last lines are "When he holds me now I'm pretending/I feel like I'm frozen inside/And behind my eyes, my daily disguise/Everything's turning to white." Only when he finishes and the audience applauds do I realize it's a live track.


"Careless" is a cool tune. It oddly reminds me a bit of Tracy Chapman. Go figure. Paul Kelly plays harmonica on it. Paulinho Da Costa is on percussion. "I know I've been careless/I lost my tenderness."

"From Little Things Big Things Grow"

"From Little Things Big Things Grow" is an odd, sweet and catchy pop-folk tune. It has a sort of waltz thing going on. Ian Simpson pays banjo on this one. Paul plays harmonica, and it's those moments when the song sounds a bit like Dylan - although there are moments in the vocals when he comes to mind too. I love the backing vocals near the end. This song is just wonderful. It does go a bit mad in the last minute, and ends with didgeridoo (played by Ernie Dingo).

On "When I First Met Your Ma" Paul sounds like Dylan right from the first line. This song is Paul Kelly solo - on vocals, guitar and harmonica.

"Nothing On My Mind"

The second disc opens with "Nothing On My Mind," which starts with Paul saying, "Yup, here we go." Indeed. This second disc starts off with a good rock tune with a solid rhythm. It's done in spoken word: "You wouldn't believe the crap I've had to deal with this week." And: "Fighting the bulls is one thing; fighting bullshit is another."

The verses are all done in a spoken word fashion, and it works. The only problem is that the song doesn't really go anywhere, so it becomes a bit repetitive. The good rhythm becomes a relentless rhythm, and the song, which feels like it's building toward something, never breaks to the next plateau. Instead it fades out.

"Nothing On My Mind" is from the 1998 album Words And Music, a title that conjures fond memories of Eddie And The Cruisers.

"Love Letter"

"Love Letter" is a sort of sweet pop song in which he's writing a letter to go back to when his life was better. Paul sings to this woman, "You're every rich man's friend/You're every poor boy's dream/I want to make a deep connection/Between you and me." I like Bruce Haymes' work on keys.


Paul Kelly strays into country and bluegrass territory with "Our Sunshine," one of two tracks from his 1999 release Smoke to be included on this disc. It features fiddle and mandolin. I love the instrumental section at the end.

"Gathering Storm," the other tune off Smoke, is one of the most beautiful songs on this album. It's a sweet acoustic number, with some nice harmonies and good work by Gerry Hale on lap steel.

"Every Fucking City"

"Every Fucking City" is one of my favorites. It's about a couple with a somewhat tempestuous relationship. He follows her through various cities of Europe, but just can't quite make the connection with her again. Early in the song Paul sings, "We split up for a while in Barcelona/We met up six days later in Madrid/I was hoping that the break would make things go a little better for us/And for a little while it almost did."

These lines will get a laugh from most music fans: "Now I'm in a night club in Helsinki/And they're playing 'La Vida Loca' once again. And I can't believe I'm dancing to this crap." Remember that song? Of course you do. I'm fairly adept at avoiding annoying pop songs, but even I couldn't escape that one. Neither could Paul Kelly. "Every fucking city sounds the same," he sings.

I love these lines: "And on the Reeperbahn I paid a woman far too much/To kick me out before I'd even reached my goal." This song even has an Arnold Schwarzenegger reference, which gets a laugh from the audience. (It's a live track.)

"Be Careful What You Pray For"

"Be Careful What You Pray For" reminds me of Bob Dylan's "Things Have Changed," which was featured in the film Wonder Boys (2000). Paul sings, "You finally make it to your place in the sun/You stop and look around you/You're friends with no one/Be careful what you want now/You might be sorry." This song is also from a soundtrack - to Silent Partner (2001).

"If I Could Start Today Again"

"If I Could Start Today Again" is a wonderful song. It's a sad acoustic song about regrets. It starts off with these lines: "All the kings and queens in The Bible/They could not turn back time/So what chance have I of a miracle in this life of mine?/I only want one day/To unsay the things I said/Undo the thing I did/Twenty-four little hours/Oh god, please wipe them all away/And I promise I will change/If I could start today again."

Wow. Have these feelings been expressed so powerfully, so clearly in another song? He begs, in a voice full of regret and shame, "Please give me back today/And I won't say the things I said or do that thing I did."

"Gunnamatta" is the only instrumental track in this collection. It has at times a bit of a dark surf sound, which is always cool.

"Your Lovin' Is On My Mind"

One of the best folk songs on this album is "Your Lovin' Is On My Mind." It's simple, sweet, and rings true. It features a nice instrumental section. But of course it's the vocals that really make this song work. Paul sings, "You're a miracle, girl, I never understand/Ooh, your lovin' is on my mind."

"Your Lovin' Is On My Mind" is from Paul Kelly's 2004 release, Ways & Means.

"You're 39, You're Beautiful And You're Mine"

The first time I listened to this album, when the CD reached "You're 39, You're Beautiful And You're Mine," I was immediately taken with it. When the song ended, I pressed the back arrow on my CD player, let it play again. And then again. And again. After maybe six or seven times, I finally let the CD continue on to the last two tracks. Then I went back and listened to "You're 39" a few more times. I absolutely love this song.

The first thing that will grab you and delight you is Dan Luscombe's work on keyboard. That short section is so adorable and catchy and to my ear reminiscent of the best of the oldies, which makes sense as this song works partly as a reference to "You're Sixteen" (which has the line, "You're sixteen, you're beautiful and your mine").

I could listen to just that part over and over and be happy. But Paul's lyrics are so beautiful and moving, and he sings them with such love in his voice. Here is a taste of the lyrics: "I don't talk all that much/About how I feel and such/Though I try to keep in touch with this heart of mine/Now I'm going to speak out loud/Because it makes me feel so proud/That we're standing the test of time/You're 39, you're beautiful and you're mine."

Later he sings, "You still take my breath away in the morning light." Ah, if we could all have that. In a collection that is full of excellent material, this song is far and away my favorite.

CD Track List

Disc One:
  1. From St. Kilda To Kings Cross
  2. Leaps And Bounds
  3. Before Too Long
  4. Darling It Hurts
  5. Look So Fine, Feel So Low
  6. Dumb Things
  7. To Her Door
  8. Bradman
  9. Everything's Turning To White
  10. Sweet Guy
  11. Careless
  12. Winter Coat
  13. From Little Things Big Things Grow
  14. When I First Met Your Ma
  15. Pouring Petrol On A Burning Man
  16. Love Never Runs On Time
  17. Song From The Sixteenth Floor
  18. Deeper Water
  19. Give In To My Love
  20. How To Make Gravy
Disc Two:
  1. Nothing On My Mind
  2. I'll Be Your Lover
  3. Love Letter
  4. Our Sunshine
  5. Gathering Storm
  6. Every Fucking City
  7. Be Careful What You Pray For
  8. Love Is The Law
  9. If I Could Start Today Again
  10. The Oldest Story In The Book
  11. Won't You Come Around
  12. Gunnamatta
  13. Your Lovin' Is On My Mind
  14. Song Of The Old Rake
  15. They Thought I Was Asleep
  16. Everybody Loves You Baby
  17. God Told Me To
  18. You're 39, You're Beautiful And You're Mine
  19. Thoughts In The Middle Of The Night
  20. Shane Warne

Greatest Hits: Songs From The South Volumes 1 & 2 is scheduled to be released October 25, 2011. It's already available as a digital release (as of September 6th), but of course it's always better to own the disc - that way you get the liner notes and everything.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Photos of The Evangenitals at The Golden Spur

Saturday I caught a great show by The Evangenitals at The Golden Spur in Glendora, California. I wrote a review of the show, and included a few photos in the review. But as sometimes happens, I got a bit carried away with taking photos at the concert, so I thought I'd share a few more here. Why not?

The Evangenitals at The Golden Spur 9-24-11 Concert Review

The Evangenitals are one of my favorite bands. They're also a band that always seems to be going through changes. Drummer Kristy McInnis just left the band after getting a gig in Chicago on Rosie O'Donnell's new show. But that's not the biggest change. Lead singer/guitarist/songwriter Juli Crockett is about to give birth to her first child, so there are only a couple of shows left before the band takes a break. She and keyboardist Michael Feldman recently got married. One might think these things would slow a band down, but Saturday night they played three sets at The Golden Spur in Glendora, California. The only indication that the band might be performing at anything less than peak capacity was that Juli was seated for this show.

They opened with a cover of Devo's "Girl U Want" (originally released on that band's 1980 record, Freedom Of Choice). After that, almost the entire rest of the first set was original songs, including the always-pertinent "Hard Luck Song" and the incredibly beautiful and uplifting "Sadie Hawkins." The latter song really showcases fiddler Andrea Baker's talent.

"Bad Town"

Another song that features some great work on fiddle is "Bad Town." This song also features the impressive talent of guitarist Henry Bermudez. Henry is one of my favorite guitarists. I'm not quite sure how many bands I've seen him play in over the years, but these days he's focused solely on The Evangenitals.

In the middle of "Bad Town," there is that great guitar/fiddle duel, which was particularly wonderful at this show. That led into a short bass solo. The Evangenitals have had many bass players over the years, and last night Joey Maramba did some great stuff with that section - quite different from anything I'd heard before. Juli changed the line "every motherfucker" to "every mother's daughter" because there were children in the audience.

After the song, Lisa Dee said, "We encourage dancing." "Don't be shy," Juli added, "There are nice wood floors."

Lisa took over lead vocals for a section of "Never Too Late," which was wonderful. That song also featured a great fiddle solo by Andrea Baker followed by a cool keyboard solo by Michael Feldman.

The first set ended with the second cover of the night, "Tall Lover Man," a song by June Carter, and one that Juli used to do during her days with Cash'd Out.

"Quee Queg"

The Evangenitals opened the second set with the soft and sweet "Quee Queg," one of several songs related to Moby Dick (a book that Juli has a minor obsession with) that the band plays. Lisa plays guitar on this song. Joey used a bow on his bass for this one. Interestingly, there were no cymbal crashes during the "storm brewing" line. This was only Dominique Rodriguez's second show as the band's drummer (the first being just the night before), so he's still finding his footing. But each drummer in this band has done different things with that line. Kristy's approach was very different from David Hurlin's, for example. It will be interesting to see what direction Dominique takes it.

Lisa Dee remained on guitar for "Home."

Henry Bermudez did some wild stuff on guitar on "Ahab's Leg," and that was even before his solo. After the song, someone in the audience shouted out, "That was a great song." Indeed.

"Just Stay Away" had more energy than it used to. It's fuller now, helped by Michael Feldman's work on keys and some cool work on bass by Joey Maramba. I also really dug Dominique's rhythm on this one. It's interesting that this band can find new places to go within so many of these songs. It keeps things fresh for them and for their audience.

One of my favorite songs from the second set was "How Can I Choose." This song is like some insane kick-ass hoedown on amphetamine. Juli introduced the song by saying, "This song is a question. It has no answer."

They also did a fast, happy rendition of "Bury Me Beneath The Willow," a song that most bands perform as a slower number. This version featured a wonderful solo on fiddle, followed by a bass solo.

"The Lee Shore"

The band started the third set with two of their best tunes: first, the beautiful "Don't Wake From Dreaming," and then the simply amazing "The Lee Shore." Before that song, Juli turned to the rest of the band, and said, "Let's try a gentle version of 'The Lee Shore.'" But almost right away Henry went mad on guitar - forget gentle - they flew into the tune (probably my favorite song of theirs), and didn't look back. This is their most intricate song, with several distinct sections. It is a powerful and wonderful song, and is another of the band's Moby Dick tunes.

"Purple Rain"

Years ago I heard Martin Sexton do an incredible version of Prince's "Purple Rain." It seriously blew me away, and I thought I'd never hear anyone else do a version to match it. Then The Evangenitals began covering it. You really have to be there to experience this song the way they do it. I'm not even going to attempt to describe it. But suffice it to say they did a terrific rendition at The Golden Spur, and each band member had a turn at a solo during the song.

They then wrapped up the show with their usual closer, the high-energy "Gasoline."

The show ended at 11:45 p.m.

Concert Set List

Set I
  1. Girl U Want
  2. Hello
  3. Hard Luck Song
  4. Sadie Hawkins
  5. Five Beers
  6. The Hippie Song
  7. So Sweet
  8. I'm Sad
  9. Bad Town
  10. Never Too Late
  11. Tall Lover Man

Set II
  1. Quee Queg
  2. Home
  3. Sergio
  4. Ahab's Leg
  5. Just Stay Away
  6. McCann
  7. How Can I Choose
  8. Caterpillar
  9. Bury Me Beneath The Willow
  10. Can You Picture That? >
  11. The Sun Is Shining

  1. Don't Wake From Dreaming
  2. The Lee Shore
  3. Thirty Days
  4. Never Again
  5. Purple Rain
  6. Gasoline

There was no encore.

The Evangenitals are Juli Crockett on vocals and guitar; Lisa Dee on vocals, percussion and guitar; Henry Bermudez on guitar; Andrea Baker on fiddle; Michael Feldman on keyboard; Joey Maramba on bass; and Dominique Rodriguez on drums.

Your next chance to catch The Evangenitals is this Wednesday at The Basement Tavern in Santa Monica. If you haven't seen them perform, and you are in the area, I highly recommend you check these guys out.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Halloween Music: Song Choices For Your Halloween Party

The two holidays with the best music are St. Patrick's Day and Halloween. St. Patrick's Day is number one, of course, with all that great Irish music. But there is a large amount of wonderful songs for Halloween. A lot of them are known to everyone, like "Monster Mash" and "Werewolves Of London." But there are plenty of other Halloween-related tunes that not everyone is familiar with. Here are a few of them...

"Cemetery Boys"

The Peak Show was one of the best bands ever in the history of music. They released one song that is perfect for Halloween. It's called "Cemetery Boys" and it was released on their CD titled (appropriately enough) The Halloween EP. This CD was released with both red and black covers, in limited editions. Members of the band - guitarist Derock Goodwin, drummer Gabriel "Front Row" Rowland and bassist Alex Painter - are all mentioned by name in this song. There was actually an earlier version of this song titled "Cemetery Girls," but it was never released.
Unfortunately, The Peak Show broke up in 2004. But the band members all have their own individual projects. Lead singer Holland Greco recently released an EP titled Tunnel Vision. Gabe Rowland's current project, Bullied By Strings, has moved from Los Angeles to Chicago.

Cherry Poppin' Daddies And The Cramps

The Cherry Poppin' Daddies are a seriously fun band, combining swing and some serious rock. "Teenage Brainsurgeon" fits more in the latter category, though there is still some great work from the horn section.

Here is a taste of the lyrics: "I am the teenage brainsurgeon/The butcher of hellhouse/Descend into the maelstrom/With the grinning Dr. Klaus/Uncle Creepy and the giant pink hand/Imp of the perverse/Feel the wrath of the scorpion/Dead bodies crawlin' out of the dirt."

"Teenage Brainsurgeon" was released on The Cherry Poppin' Daddies album Ferociously Stoned (which came out in 1990 - not 1995, as certain websites would have people believe).

While on the teenage theme, there is also "I Was A Teenage Werewolf" by The Cramps. Certainly a lot of songs by The Cramps are suitable for Halloween (perhaps all of them). But "I Was A Teenage Werewolf" is particularly delicious - a different take on teenage angst (but hey, wasn't that what all of those 1950s teenage horror films were about?). Here is a bit of the lyrics: "A Midwest monster/Of the highest grade/All my teachers thought/It was growing pains, oh no no/Somebody stop this pain."

"I Was A Teenage Werewolf" was originally released on The Cramps album Songs The Lord Taught Us (1990).

"Itsy Bitsy Spider"

There is a song that plays over the closing credits to Eight Legged Freaks that is seriously cool. It's a strange and twisted version of "Itsy Bitsy Spider," and it's by Joey Deluxe. Here is a bit of the lyrics: "Itsy bitsy spider crawled into mama's bed/Crawled up on her hubby and bit him in the head/Mama laid there sleepin' while hubby laid there dead/And the ittsy bitsy spider crawled out of mama's bed."

Ann Magnuson

Ann Magnuson is one of the coolest chicks on the planet. No one can dispute that. And she recorded one of the best Halloween songs. It's called "Sex With The Devil," and it's on her 1995 release, The Luv Show. This song is funny and, yes, sexy, as Ann sings, "I'm about to come/When the devil wants his fun/Because I'm a tart/He plunges his pitchfork through my heart." Ann even does an impression of Ethel Merman in this song. (By the way, in the liner notes is an incredibly sexy photo of Ann with her own pitchfork.)

For those unfamiliar with Ann Magnuson, she was in the great band Bongwater. She is also an accomplished actor, and has had roles in films like Making Mr. Right, Panic Room and The United States Of Leland. And for horror fans, check out The Hunger. She plays Young Woman From Disco.

"The Vampires Of New York"

Marcy Playground became popular because of the song "Sex And Candy" from their self-titled album released in 1997. But there are a lot of better songs from that release, including the last track, "The Vampires Of New York." Here is a bit of the lyrics: "Come see the vampires of New York/Come lose your mind in Central Park/But don't leave your soul behind/Come take in 8th street after dark/Such peculiar people you'll remark/You might even see a murder."

"My Son, The Vampire"

"My Son, The Vampire" is one of the funniest songs about vampires. And it probably comes as no surprise, as it was written by Allan Sherman, who is famous for his parodies. In this song, he sings, "My son, the vampire/He will leave you pale/All he does is drink your blood/'Cause he don't like ginger ale."

(Note: I originally posted this on September 12, 2010 on another site.)

Halloween Music: Fun Songs For A Halloween Party

There is a lot of great music associated with Halloween, including fun tunes for a Halloween party. As might be expected, several of these songs are from the early to mid-1980s, a ridiculously fun time for music in general.


Michael Jackson's "Thriller" is an obvious choice for a Halloween mix. But it's also a perfect choice. Not only is it a fun dance song, but it has a great Halloween eerie feel to it. And the lyrics completely fit the mood: "It's close to midnight and something evil's lurking in the dark/Under the moonlight, you see a sight that almost stops your heart/You try to scream but terror takes the sound before you make it/You start to freeze as horror looks you right between the eyes/You're paralyzed."

This song was the title track to Michael Jackson's 1982 release. It wasn't released as a single until January of 1984. It was the seventh and final single from that album. And then there's that incredible music video in which Michael Jackson plays a Teen Wolf and then a zombie. It was directed by John Landis, and features a sort of rap by Vincent Price, placing it as the best music video ever made.

"Somebody's Watching Me"

"Somebody's Watching Me" is a wonderful song about a paranoid man. It's the first single by Rockwell, and was released in 1984. This song features Michael Jackson on backing vocals, as well as Jermaine Jackson on backing vocals.

Its lyrics are perfect for Halloween, with references to The Twilight Zone and Psycho. Here is a bit of the lyrics: "When I'm in the shower/I'm afraid to wash my hair/'Cause I might open my eyes/And find someone standing there/People say I'm crazy/Just a little touched/But maybe showers remind me/Of Psycho too much."

Kim Carnes

Along the same paranoid lines, there is the wonderful "Crazy In The Night (Barking At Airplanes)" by Kim Carnes. This is a seriously fun song from 1985, and it's one that's often overlooked for Halloween. But check out these lyrics and decide for yourself if it fits the bill: "There's a monster on my ceiling/There's a monster on the wall/There are thousands in the closet/Now they're coming down the hall/I'm so hidden they can't find me/But then again they might/What can I do to keep from going/Crazy in the night." Kim Carnes is totally cool. That's all there is to it.

The Kinks

And while on the paranoid bent, why not include "Destroyer" by The Kinks? This is a fun little song that totally works for Halloween. Well, sort of. Here is a bit of the lyrics: "And there's a little green man in my head/And he said, you're not goin' crazy, you're just a bit sad/'Cause there's a man in ya, gnawin' ya, tearin' ya into two."

Also, the song revisits Lola, the transvestite from the most famous of all Kinks songs. And really, what is Halloween without a good dose of transvestism? "Destroyer" is from the 1981 album Give The People What They Want.


"Bark At The Moon" by Ozzy Osbourne is another great choice for a Halloween party. It's the title track from his 1983 record. Ozzy sings, "Years spent in torment/Buried in a nameless grave/Now he has risen/Miracles would have to save/Those that the beast is looking for/Listen in awe and you'll hear him/Bark at the moon."

Sure, werewolves are scary. But don't forget the relatives of werewolves, who should also be invited to Halloween parties. There is "Wolfman's Brother" by Phish. Here is a taste of the lyrics: "Well it was many years ago now/But I really can't be sure/That's when it all began then/I heard that knock upon my door/And the wolfman's brother/The wolfman's brother/Came down on me."

"Wolfman's Brother" is from Phish's 1994 release, Hoist.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show

One album that is undeniably and forever linked to Halloween is the soundtrack to The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Every weekend people all over the country get dressed in black fishnets and go out to their local movie theatres to watch The Rocky Horror Picture Show. But the theatres are never more crowded than at Halloween.

And so it's natural that music from this film would be played at Halloween parties. Most people who choose to include music from The Rocky Horror Picture Show pick "The Time Warp" and "Sweet Transvestite." While those songs certainly work, there are two others from that film that are equally pertinent to Halloween: "Science Fiction Double Feature" and "Over At The Frankenstein Place."

"Science Fiction Double Feature" mentions all sorts of cheesy sci-fi horror classics, like The Day Of The Triffids, The Invisible Man and Tarantula. And "Over At The Frankenstein Place" mentions...well, Frankenstein. So there.

And for those who wish to mix it up a bit, instead of playing the versions from the film, why not play the versions from one of the many soundtracks to the play, The Rocky Horror Show. There are probably at least a dozen different CDs to choose from. The original London cast includes several of the actors from the film, including Tim Curry.

TV Theme Songs

There are a couple of television theme songs that are perfect for a Halloween party. The best is the theme to The Adams Family with lines like, "They're creepy and they're kooky/Mysterious and spooky/They're altogether ooky/The Addams Family."

Other television theme songs that might work include those for The Munsters, Scooby Doo, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Outer Limits, Dark Shadows and The Twilight Zone.

And while not a theme song, there is always "Twilight Zone" by Golden Earring. This song works for a Halloween party, with these lyrics: "Help I'm steppin' into the twilight zone/The place is a madhouse/Feels like being blown/My beacon's been moved under moon and star/Where am I to go/Now that I've gone too far." This song is from Golden Earring's 1982 record Cut.

There are many other great songs for a Halloween party, including some classic Halloween songs, as well as some more recent, but lesser known songs. There are also many Halloween compilations such as Haunted Hits: An Hour Of Scary Songs & Sounds (1996) and The Monster Mash Rock 'N' Roll Party (2000).

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

Halloween Music: Classic Halloween Songs For A Party

Halloween is the best holiday of the year, and that's partly due to the great music associated with the holiday. Here are some of the classic rock songs related to Halloween.

"Monster Mash"

"Monster Mash" is probably the most famous of all the Halloween-related songs. It was originally recorded by Bobby "Boris" Pickett and released in 1962. It was soon covered by The Beach Boys, and then after that by many other bands.

For the two or three people on the planet who are unfamiliar with this song, here are the first several lines of the lyrics: "I was working in the lab late one night/When my eyes beheld an eerie sight/For my monster from his slab began to rise/And suddenly to my surprise/He did the mash/He did the monster mash." This song is basically a requirement for any Halloween party.

"Haunted House"

"Haunted House" is a strange song by Jumpin' Gene Simmons (and no, that's not the Gene Simmons from Kiss). It starts off like a normal Halloween haunted house story, with these lyrics: "I just moved in my new house today/Moving was hard but I got squared away/Bells started ringing and chains rattled loud/I knew I'd moved in a haunted house."

But then it gets weird. Check out these lyrics from later in the song: "In the kitchen my stove was a blazing hot/Coffee was a-boiling in the pot/The grease had melted in my pan/I had a hunk of meat in my hand/From out of space there sat a man/On the hot stove was pots and pans/'Say that's hot,' I began to shout/He drank the hot coffee from the spout." What is that about? Well, this is also possibly the only song to contain the word "haint," which means "ghost." The line is, "Ain't no haint gonna run me off."

"I Put A Spell On You"

"I Put A Spell On You" might be the coolest song ever that's become associated with Halloween. The original version is by Screaming Jay Hawkins, and it's just a fantastic song. This song basically defined Jay Hawkins and led to him creating an onstage persona and show that included him emerging from a coffin and holding a skull on a stick.

This song has been covered many times. Some of the covers worth checking out are the ones by Nina Simone, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Joe Cocker, Marilyn Manson and Buddy Guy (Buddy Guy's version features Carlos Santana).

"Werewolves Of London"

"Werewolves Of London" is another really well known song associated with Halloween, and it's another song that absolutely should be played at any Halloween party. It's by Warren Zevon, and was included on his 1978 release Excitable Boy. It's a fun song with some great lyrics. Really, it's worth it just for the line, "I saw a werewolf drinking a pina colada at Trader Vic's/His hair was perfect."

"Witch Doctor"

"Witch Doctor" is one of the silliest and most fun of the Halloween-related songs. It was written and recorded by Ross Bagdasarian, but released under the name David Seville in 1958. This song, like most of the classic Halloween songs, has been covered by many bands over the years. Sha Na Na actually did a really good version of it. Perhaps the most famous version is that by Alvin And The Chipmunks.

These are a few of the classic Halloween-related tunes. There are, of course, many other great songs to choose from for play at a Halloween party, including some more recent, buy perhaps lesser known songs and music from film soundtracks.

"Haunted House," "Monster Mash," "I Put A Spell On You" and "Werewolves Of London" are all included on the compilation Haunted Hits: An Hour Of Scary Songs & Sounds (1996).

(Note: I originally posted this on September 13, 2010 on another site.)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Photos From The Hotel Cafe, 9-21-11

Last night I went to see Wagons at The Hotel Cafe. (Please read my review.) It was a fantastic show, and I took quite a few photos. I included a few with the review, but decided to include a few more here.

I stayed for the other three bands: The Wild Feathers, Sean Flinn And The Royal We, and The Far West. All three were really good. It ended up being an excellent night of music. I've included photos of those three bands as well.

Wagons at Hotel Cafe 9-21-11 Concert Review

Wagons wrapped up their U.S. tour last night at The Hotel Cafe in Los Angeles. Because of the strict schedule at that venue, there wasn't that much time for a soundcheck. After just a moment, Henry told the crowd, "If you're ready for us, we might be ready for you too."

The audience was indeed ready and eager for this band's set. I myself had high expectations for this show. Listening to their latest CD, I got the sense that this was a band that put on a great concert. And then a friend caught the Atlanta show, and told me they were fantastic. So I went in with fairly high expectations, and Wagons greatly exceeded them.

They started with "I Blew It," from their newest release, Rumble, Shake And Tumble. They followed that with one of my personal favorites from that album, "Save Me." And it was a kick-ass fun version. Those two songs were a great way to start the set, drawing in the crowd immediately.

"Never Been To Spain"

Before "Never Been To Spain," Henry talked about going to Graceland, and seeing Elvis Presley's shooting range. He joked that it was approximately the size of The Hotel Cafe's stage, that Elvis liked to practice shooting at point blank range. Henry needed to tune a bit before starting the song, so he told guitarist Chad Mason to serenade the audience for a bit. Henry then called what Chad did "the worst serenade."

"Never Been To Spain" started with Henry on acoustic guitar and vocals before the rest of the band came in. It was a really fun rendition of the song, which had been recorded by Elvis, but earlier made popular by Three Dog Night. It was written by Hoyt Axton. Wagons included a version of it on The Rise And Fall Of Goodtown (2009).

Toward the end of the song, Henry sang, "I've never been to Los Angeles, but I kinda like the music/They say the ladies are insane here - is that true?" One woman shouted out, and Henry said, "There's one."

After that song, the drummer (Si Francis) and bass player (Mark Dawson) switched instruments.

"The Gambler"

Henry dedicated "The Gambler" to Elvis, saying "I'm borderline obsessed." "The Gambler" was the oddest song of the set, and it found Henry stepping off stage into the audience to sing a section of it, and then hushing the rest of the band while placing bets on an imaginary roulette wheel. He also asked a few audience members for numbers. One woman said, "Eighty-two." Henry pointed out that roulette wheels don't go up that high. As the wheel slowed down, the drummer used the floor tom to represent the slowing click as the wheel came to a stop. Henry didn't call out a winning number. (After the set, when someone asked him about that, Henry told him that everyone lost.)

"The Gambler" is from the band's 2009 release, The Rise And Fall Of Goodtown.

Chad had a chance to redeem himself after the "worst serenade" because during "The Gambler" Henry managed to unplug his guitar. So while he plugged it back in, Chad played a short bit of a song.

The band then went into an incredibly high-energy version of "Willie Nelson," one of the coolest tracks from Rumble, Shake And Tumble. This was a favorite with the audience, who began cheering the song from the moment Henry began to introduce it. He said that while he might have an obsession with Elvis, the next song was about someone he truly was obsessed with.

The sound man alerted them that they only had five minutes left (the set flew by), and they did the most surprising song of the set, "Tha Bizness," with Si Francis on lead vocals, Mark Dawson on backing vocals, Chad on bass, and Henry on drums. I'm not really into rap, but I have to admit that was a lot of fun. They finished the set with another fun tune, "Goodtown" (with Si and Mark resuming their original instruments).

The energy at this show was tremendous, and Henry had a great rapport with the crowd. I got the feeling that he'd be able to just as easily engage a crowd of thousands at a large venue. A friend turned to me after the show and said she really wanted to see them again. I said, "Sure, next time they come to the states." But she doesn't want to wait that long and said she might go to Australia to see them. And I wouldn't be surprised if she did. I think anyone who sees this band will be an instant fan. The band just has this uncanny ability to inspire immediate loyalty. I highly recommend checking them out the next time they tour the U.S. Or, like my friend, make plans to visit Australia.

Set List

  1. I Blew It
  2. Save Me
  3. Drive All Night Till Dawn
  4. Never Been To Spain
  5. Love Me Like I Love You
  6. The Gambler
  7. Willie Nelson
  8. Tha Bizness
  9. Goodtown

There was no encore.

Wagons are Henry Wagons on lead vocals and acoustic guitar (and drums for one song), Chad Mason on electric guitar (and bass for one song), Si Francis on drums and bass (and lead vocals for one song), and Mark Dawson on bass and drums.

The Hotel Cafe is located at 1623 1/2 N. Cahuenga Blvd. in Los Angeles.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Short Music Update, 9-20-11

Hey, folks. Just a couple of notes. This year continues to be an exciting year for CD releases, and music in general.

On November 15th, Concord Records is releasing Ray Charles' Singular Genius: The Complete ABC Singles. That's 106 songs on five discs. That's a whole lot of Ray Charles. I'm going to get a couple bottles of wine, turn my phone off, and just enjoy that collection. And yes, I am planning on writing a review.

And then if that wasn't enough to get me completely thrilled, I just learned that also being re-issued on that day are three of the Grateful Dead's Dick's Picks series. As you might know, I'm a huge Grateful Dead fan. I only managed to catch 41 shows between 1988 and 1995, but those provided some of my fondest memories and some of my craziest stories. Anyway, Real Gone Music is re-releasing Dick's Picks Volume 34, Volume 35 and Volume 36 on November 15th. These are three that I did not manage to get the first time around, so I am incredibly excited about these releases. I'll review them as soon as they come in.

One more note about November 15th: Real Gone Music is also re-issuing two records (yes, on vinyl) by ? And The Mysterians: 96 Tears and Action. I need to get my turntable fixed (or replaced) before then.

And for those in the Los Angeles area, don't forget that tomorrow night Wagons are playing at The Hotel Cafe. I've been told they go on at 8 p.m. sharp. And The Hotel Cafe is a venue that actually keeps to a strict schedule, so don't be late. For those who haven't heard of this band yet, you can read my review of their latest release, Rumble, Shake And Tumble, which is one of my favorite CDs of the year (I'm especially fond of "Moon Into The Sun" and "Save Me"). It should be an excellent concert.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Fur Dixon & Steve Werner Record Live CD In San Pedro - Photos And Set List

Yesterday afternoon Fur Dixon & Steve Werner performed a special concert at Alvas Showroom in San Pedro, California. The show was recorded for a live album, which is due out in early December.

They opened the show with the title track from their first full-length CD, The Pearl And The Swine. The majority of the songs from the set were from that album, including several that the duo does not often play these days. Getting to hear "Where Are We Going?" followed by "When My Face Is Covered Over" was a total treat. They followed that with a gorgeous rendition of "Summer's Gone Again," one of my favorites from their second album, Travelers.

Before "Scars," Steve joked about getting a scar while doing dishes. Then, more seriously, he said, "Some scars are less apparent. I guess this goes out to all of us."

Steve's guitar work on "Brother Tumbleweed" was wonderful, but caused Fur to laugh to the point where she stopped playing for a moment. That was one of three songs that they performed a second time during the encore, so they'd have options when putting the CD together. I personally thought the first version was better.

Before "Homesick For The Highway Blues," Steve asked the audience to give them their best possible yodel, which they did. Fur then kidded that they'd fix it in the studio later. A little later in the set, Steve's guitar mike had started to droop, so they had to pause a moment while it was adjusted. "Well, it happens to a lot of guys," Steve joked.

Fur Dixon sang "I Like How I Feel," a song written by Randall Lamb, and the only cover song of the main set. This song, and the final song of the night, "Dreary Black Hills," were the only two songs they performed from their most recent album, Songs Of The Open Road Volume One.

Besides excellent songs, one of the things that make their performances so enjoyable is the relationship between these two, the way they riff off each other, and this live album should convey that for those folks who haven't yet had the chance to see them in concert.

Set List

  1. The Pearl And The Swine
  2. Ventura County Line
  3. Every Day A Different Journey
  4. Where Are We Going?
  5. When My Face Is Covered Over
  6. Summer's Gone Again
  7. Scars
  8. My Blue Yodel
  9. Brother Tumbleweed
  10. Journey To Another Side
  11. Homesick For The Highway Blues
  12. When Will My Wandering End?
  13. Friends Around The Fire
  14. I Like How I Feel
  15. Reputation Of A Rambler
  16. Backroads And Blue Skies


  1. The Pearl And The Swine
  2. My Blue Yodel
  3. Brother Tumbleweed
  4. Dreary Black Hills

Tickets for this show were twenty dollars, and that price includes a copy of the CD when it's ready.

Alvas Showroom is located at 1417 W. Eighth St. in San Pedro. It was a really comfortable room. Bottles of water were provided at every table, and of course the sound was perfect.