Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Buck Owens: “Buck ‘Em! Volume Two: The Music Of Buck Owens (1967-1975)” (2015) CD Review

Two years ago Omnivore Recordings released Buck ‘Em! The Music Of Buck Owens (1955-1967), an excellent collection of fifty classic Buck Owens songs on two discs. It featured some rare recordings, but largely it contained the music that we usually think of when we think of Buck Owens. Now Omnivore Recordings is following up with Buck ‘Em! Volume Two: The Music Of Buck Owens (1967-1975), containing another fifty tracks on two discs. The music includes singles, album tracks, rare tracks, some live material, and some wonderful duets. For me, there are lots of delightful surprises here, with Buck Owens going in some directions I wasn’t really aware of before this. Here he covers a rock and roll tune, Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode,” does an original Halloween song, and does a country version of “The Cover Of Rolling Stone.” But there are, of course, plenty of classic country tunes in this collection as well. This two-disc set contains a booklet with excerpts from Buck ‘Em! The Autobiography Of Buck Owens, with details on some of the specific songs included in this set, as well as several photos.

The first disc opens with “Happy Times Are Here Again,” a peppy country number expressing joy about his woman arriving soon. “No more sleepless nights all alone/No more walking the floor ‘til dawn/Hugs and kisses from now on/Happy times are here again.” This song, along with “Sweet Rosie Jones” as its flip side, was released as a single in 1968. “Sweet Rosie Jones” is a sweeter, mellow tune. “And in her eyes I saw big trouble/Like the muddy waters down below.” Both of these songs also appeared on Buck Owens’ 1968 LP Sweet Rosie Jones. Also from that LP come “You’ll Never Miss The Water (Till The Well Runs Dry)” and “If I Had Three Wishes,” both of which Owens co-wrote with Don Rich. (The liner notes include a passage from the autobiography about Don Rich’s death from a motorcycle accident.) “If I Had Three Wishes” is a completely delightful, catchy tune. Check out these lines: “Wish I was a speckled trout a-swimming in a brook/And if you had a fishing pole, I’d jump up on your hook/Wish I was the evening star for everyone to see/I’d shine a little brighter every time you looked at me.”

The first real surprise of the album for me is “Things I Saw Happening At The Fountain On The Plaza When I Was Visiting Rome Or Amore,” an unexpected delight featuring some great work on guitar. This wonderful instrumental track was released as a single and also included on the LP The Guitar Player, and is one of my favorite tracks in this collection. It’s followed by an alternate version of “Darlin’, You Can Depend On Me,” a track that was previously unreleased in the United States. This is another great tune, the regular version appearing on “Tall Dark Stranger.” Another surprise for me is “Who’s Gonna Mow Your Grass,” which features some great fuzzy guitar by Don Rich. I love this country rock song.

Buck ‘Em! The Music Of Buck Owens (1955-1967) included “I’ve Got A Tiger By The Tail,” one of Buck Owens’ most famous songs. And this second volume includes a live version of it recorded at the White House on September 9, 1968 (and included on the 1972 LP “Live” At The White House). There is also a live version of “I’ve Got You On My Mind Again,” recorded in London in 1969, another of my favorite tracks. Recorded at that same concert is Buck Owens’ rendition of “Johnny B. Goode,” which includes an introduction and features some excellent guitar-playing as well as a great groove on bass. This live recording was released as a single, and it’s talked about in the liner notes to this collection. Buck Owens also covers Simon And Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and Cousin Emmy’s “Ruby (Are You Mad).” I don’t think I’ve ever met a Ruby in my life, but I must have heard at least two dozen songs about women with that name. Where have all the Rubys gone? Well, this version of the bluegrass tune “Ruby (Are You Mad)” is really good.

The first disc includes a wonderful duet with Susan Raye on “We’re Gonna Get Together,” the title track from an album they put out in 1970. There is also a really good duet with Bettye Swann on “Today I Started Loving You Again,” an outtake that was previously unreleased in the United States. Also previously unreleased in the U.S. is this early version of “Down In New Orleans,” recorded in March of 1970.

One of my favorite tracks on the first disc is “I Wouldn’t Live In New York City (If They Gave Me The Whole Dang Town),” partly because I feel the same way about that city. Here is a taste of the lyrics: “Where everybody’s trying to live beyond their means/Where all the natives hurry and scurry to and fro/But like fleas on a puppy dog, they’ve got no place to go.” I thought this song included sound effects, which I don’t appreciate, but the vocals were actually recorded on the street, so all those sounds are part of that recording. The liner notes include a photo of Buck Owens recording the vocals.

The second disc opens with “Arms Full Of Empty,” a song that was released as a single and also as the title track to Buck Owens’ 1973 LP. It’s tough when a woman leaves, leading the man to get “Sick of dirty clothes and dirty dishes.” The title of “You Ain’t Gonna Have Ol’ Buck To Kick Around No More” is a reference to a line Richard Nixon uttered in 1962 during his so-called “last press conference,” a bit prematurely as it turned out. That sore loser would eventually be kicked out of the White House. “The last time was the last time/And this time it’s for sure/The next sound that you hear will be the slamming of the door/And you ain’t gonna have ol’ Buck to kick around no more.”

The line “When the love of your life turns into a waste of time” from “Something’s Wrong” is so depressing. I also love this line from “I Won’t Be Needing You”: “And when there’s nothing left of me, I won’t be needing you.” “I Won’t Be Needing You” was included on the 1973 LP Arms Full Of Empty, as was the following track, “It Never Will Be Over For Me.”

“Big Game Hunter” is a strange tune about an obsession with football leaving no time for anything else. It even has references to Batman and All In The Family: “Well, there ain’t gonna be no Batman and Robin take the place of the NFL/And for all I care old Archie Bunker can go right straight to/Well, what’s that you say/You made me miss a play/No, we’re not going to watch cartoons.” That song is followed by another silly tune, “(It’s A) Monster’s Holiday.” I’m excited to have a song to add to my Halloween play list. This song features lines like “Dracula was doing his stuff, breathing down my neck” and “There was screaming and moaning, wailing and groaning/Scary as a mummy’s curse/I said, good buddy, you may get me/But brother, let me tell you that you’re going to have to catch me first.” This disc also includes a goofy play on Shel Silverstein’s “The Cover Of Rolling Stone,” re-titled “On The Cover Of The Music City News,” with some new lyrics by Buck Owens and Jim Shaw. Lines like: “We got a big long bus with a driver named Gus/That shines our cowboy boots” and “And backstage ladies with furs and diamond rings.”  This is a live recording from Japan.

The second disc also includes a beautiful duet of “Somewhere Between You And Me” with Susan Raye, recorded live in New Zealand, as well a live recording of “Rollin’ In My Sweet Baby’s Arms,” a great fun bluegrass tune. This was recorded in April of 1974, and included on the album Live At The Sydney Opera House, and is another highlight. There are also two outtakes which were previously unreleased in the United States: “He Ain’t Been out Bowling With The Boys” and “A Different Kind Of Sad,” both recorded in the spring of 1975.

CD Track List

Disc One
  1. Happy Times Are Here Again
  2. Sweet Rosie Jones
  3. Your Mother’s Prayer
  4. You’ll Never Miss The Water (Till The Well Runs Dry)
  5. If I Had Three Wishes
  6. Let The World Keep On A Turnin’
  7. Things I Saw Happening At The Fountain On The Plaza When I Was Visiting Rome Or Amore
  8. Darlin’, You Can Depend On Me
  9. I’ve Got A Tiger By The Tail
  10. Who’s Gonna Mow Your Grass
  11. We’re Gonna Get Together
  12. I’ve Got You On My Mind Again
  13. Johnny B. Goode
  14. Today I Started Loving You Again
  15. Big In Vegas
  16. Las Vegas Lament
  17. The Kansas City Song
  18. Down In New Orleans
  19. Tall Dark Stranger
  20. I Wouldn’t Live In New York City (If They Gave Me The Whole Dang Town)
  21. Bridge Over Troubled Water
  22. (I’m Goin’) Home
  23. Ruby (Are You Mad)
  24. Corn Likker
  25. I’ll Still Be Waiting For You
Disc Two
  1. Arms Full Of Empty
  2. Ain’t It Amazing, Gracie
  3. You Ain’t Gonna Have Ol’ Buck To Kick Around No More
  4. I Love You So Much It Hurts
  5. Something’s Wrong
  6. In The Palm Of Your Hand
  7. Streets Of Bakersfield
  8. The Good Old Days (Are Here Again)
  9. I Won’t Be Needing You
  10. It Never Will Be Over For Me
  11. Big Game Hunter
  12. (It’s A) Monster’s Holiday
  13. Stony Mountain West Virginia
  14. Holdin’ On
  15. On The Cover Of The Music City News
  16. Made In Japan
  17. Somewhere Between You And Me
  18. Rollin’ In My Sweet Baby’s Arms
  19. Great Expectations
  20. 41st Street Lonely Hearts’ Club
  21. Weekend Daddy
  22. He Ain’t Been Out Bowling With The Boys
  23. A Different Kind Of Sad
  24. The Battle Of New Orleans
  25. Country Singer’s Prayer 
Buck ‘Em! Volume Two: The Music Of Buck Owens (1967-1975) is scheduled to be released on November 13, 2015 through Omnivore Recordings.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Matt Panayides: “Conduits” (2015) CD Review

Matt Panayides is a jazz guitarist and composer, and his new album, Conduits, features all original material which he composed, arranged and produced. This is his second album as a leader, following 2011’s Tapestries Of Song. As with that first CD, here he is joined by Rich Perry on tenor saxophone. Rich Perry has released several of his own albums, including this year’s Organique. Also joining Matt Panayides are Thomson Kneeland on bass and Mark Ferber on drums. (Kneeland too has been band leader on several CDs, most recently on 2010’s Mazurka For A Modern Man, and Mark Ferber has played with a wide range of folks on both coasts.) This album was recorded in New York on June 6th, 2014.

The CD opens with “Notes From The Anechoic Chamber,” which has a really nice groove on drums and bass. And it isn’t long before Matt Panayides delivers some wonderful stuff on guitar, while that great groove continues. I also love Rich Perry’s lead on saxophone, and the way the guitar still offers interesting stuff beneath it. An anechoic chamber, by the way, is a soundproof room, designed to completely absorb reflections of sound, to keep exterior noise out. From what I understand, it’s difficult to stay in one of these rooms for very long, as you begin to hear all your bodily sounds and nothing else. This tune, however, has a very positive vibe, without hints of stress or anxiety that might be caused by remaining in one of these rooms.

It’s followed by “The Past Is Obdurate,” and almost immediately the guitar and saxophone are working in conjunction, and it sounds great. The guitar seems to want to go off in a solo, do some exploring, but the saxophone asserts itself, holds on. And then surprisingly a drum solo emerges. This is less than a minute and a half into the track. And it isn’t until after the saxophone and guitar have revisited that theme (and this time with more insistence) that the guitar is allowed to take a lead spot.  I really appreciate the journey of this tune, though I do wish it had a stronger ending rather than fading out.

Though perhaps that fade-out helps lead into the following track, “Heny’s Tune,” which begins like a sweet lullaby. And the saxophone is so gentle when it comes in. This is a beautiful late-night track, which takes on a more romantic bent, and yet still has the freedom to explore some areas within its sweet world, particularly on guitar. This one ends up being one of my favorite tracks. It just makes me feel really good. And then “Awaken” has kind of kind of an older and lively jazz feel, taking us back several decades. I love the way the bass becomes dominant, demanding attention at points during that great lead guitar spot by Matt. This is another favorite of mine.

“Gravity And Walt” begins with a guitar solo, and the other musicians don’t come in until about a minute into the tune. There is something kind of beautiful about this track, something light at times, and there is also a great jam feel to it. “Watcher” has a different feel that I really got into, and features some free-moving work on saxophone. The CD then concludes with “Of The Winter Light,” which begins with a mellow guitar solo, and soon builds into something wonderful, with a bright, energetic, positive vibe. This is another highlight of the CD.

CD Track List
  1. Notes From The Anechoic Chamber
  2. The Past Is Obdurate
  3. Heny’s Tune
  4. Awaken
  5. Shades Of Greens
  6. Gravity And Walt
  7. Watcher
  8. Of The Winter Light
Conduits was released on February 10, 2015 on Pacific Coast Jazz.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Gone With The Wind: The Remarkable Rise And Tragic Fall Of Lynyrd Skynyrd (2015) DVD Review

The very first time I ever drove into Alabama, just as I crossed the state line from Georgia, I turned the radio on and heard these words: “Sweet home Alabama.” Not just the song, but that very line. And I thought, is this a coincidence, or is this song played on a constant loop by every station in the area? I don’t know, but I always enjoyed the song. I got into Lynyrd Skynyrd in my early teens, picking up the band’s first album on cassette and listening to it a whole lot. But then somewhere along the way I drifted away from their music. The new documentary, Gone With The Wind: The Remarkable Rise And Tragic Fall Of Lynyrd Skynyrd, provides the perfect opportunity to get reacquainted with the band, and it has given me a deeper appreciation for the music.

Just as lead singer Ronnie Van Zant was the focal member of the band, he is the main focus of the film, which begins with some biographical information (the film is narrated by Thomas Arnold). It was attending a Rolling Stones concert that got Ronnie interested in music (and the film provides some early concert footage of the Stones). There is information about Ronnie’s early bands and the formation of Lynyrd Skynyrd in high school, when they were called The Noble Five, doing all covers, before changing the name to The One Percent and then finally Lynyrd Skynyrd. As the narrator tells us, the band’s name is “a bastardization of the name of their high school gym teacher.”

The documentary is nearly three hours long, so there is plenty of information, as well as lots of concert footage, including a performance of “Tuesday’s Gone,” one of my favorites from the debut album, and the song that gives this film its title (in the lines, “Tuesday’s gone with the wind/My baby’s gone with the wind”). There are interviews with a few of the members of Lynyrd Skynyrd, including original drummer Bob Burns (who died in April of this year, before the film was released), Ed King (guitarist with the band from 1973 to 1975), and Artimus Pyle (drummer with the band from 1975 to 1977). Ed King talks about joining the band, and about switching from bass to guitar. He also reveals quite a bit about the way the band conducted rehearsals, and about the writing of “Sweet Home Alabama.” There are also interviews with Alan Walden, the band’s first manager, and Al Kooper, who produced the band’s first few albums. Al Kooper tells us: “When I started working with them, I discovered what really made them unique. There was no, not one moment of improvisation in their whole show.” Even the guitar solos were written and memorized, which is really interesting. And of course there are interviews with friends and journalists.

There is information on the influence of The Allman Brothers Band, how they urged Lynyrd Skynyrd to write their own material, rehearse every day and work really hard, something Ronnie really took to heart. Alan Walden talks about the influence of the band Free on Ronnie Van Zant, and how Ronnie wanted to sound like lead singer Paul Rodgers. The film goes in basically chronological order, charting the band’s rise, and of course documenting each of the recordings and the changes in personnel along the way. There is some interesting stuff about the band’s use of the Confederate flag as its backdrop at concerts. Al Kooper says it was the band’s idea, that MCA would never have suggested it. Ed King says it’s simply a rebel flag, and that’s all it meant.

The documentary does focus on some of the band’s key songs, including “Free Bird” (though makes no mention of how requests for this song have become a running joke at concerts all over) and “Sweet Home Alabama,” and the latter song’s references to Neil Young and George Wallace. We hear a bit of Neil Young’s “Southern Man,” the song Lynyrd Skynyrd refers to in the lyrics. And the ambiguity of the lines regarding Governor George Wallace is discussed, and that is particularly interesting.

And of course there is plenty of information on the 1977 plane crash which took the lives of band members Ronnie Van Zant, Steve Gaines and Cassie Gaines, and ended the band. Particularly moving is Artimus Pyle’s firsthand account of the crash. There is mention of the surviving members reuniting for a show in 1987, and how that led to the current pseudo-Skynyrd. But like there is no Queen without Freddie Mercury, there is no Lynyrd Skynyrd without Ronnie Van Zant.

Special Features

The DVD contains Ronnie Van Zant: Fighting Talk, which is seven minutes of extra footage about Ronnie, including some interesting anecdotes. There are also short biographies of those interviewed for the film.

Gone With The Wind: The Remarkable Rise And Tragic Fall Of Lynyrd Skynyrd was written and directed by Tom O’Dell, and was released on DVD on October 16, 2015 through Sexy Intellectual. By the way, as I was leaving Alabama that first time, I thought it would be cool to hear “Alabama Getaway” by the Grateful Dead. But no such luck.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Peter Case: “HWY 62” (2015) CD Review

I have been a fan of Peter Case’s music for quite some time, and finally got a chance to see him perform in concert four years ago as part of a double bill with Phranc, and that show made me appreciate him all the more. He played a few songs off of his then-latest release, Wig!, which came out in 2010. Since then, we’ve heard him on the Chris Smither tribute Link Of Chain (where he plays “Caveman”), but we’ve had to wait five years for a new Peter Case CD. Well, I think any music fan will agree that HWY 62 was worth the wait. The album showcases his songwriting talent, which always impresses me. All but one of these songs are originals. I love this line from “The Long Good Time”: “The world keeps turning/What’s it turning to?” And he has some great musicians backing him on this CD, including Ben Harper on lead guitar and slide guitar, as well as D.J. Bonebrake (from X) on drums (Bonebrake also played on Wig!). Jebin Bruni plays keys on this CD (you probably heard Bruni on last year’s Ruthie Foster CD, Promise Of A Brand New Day). If somehow you haven’t yet heard this excellent singer/songwriter, this is the perfect time to get on board.

Peter Case opens HWY 62 with “Pelican Bay,” a seriously strong folk song with a bluesy edge about a man sent to the California state prison designed to hold the state’s most serious criminals. “Well, he said, there’s nothing to it/To himself as they slammed the door/In an eight by ten foot cubicle/A bed and not much more.” And I really like the line, “Lost in a one-room maze.” The statistics are always staggering, no matter how many times you hear them: “There’s two million people in prison/Tonight in the U.S.A./Eighty thousand in solitary.” Of course, it’s not just his songwriting that is impressive. Check out his work on 12-string guitar.

He takes a sweeter turn on the mellow, even pretty “Waiting On A Plane,” one of my favorite tracks. In addition to 12-string guitar, Peter Case plays piano on this one. Don Heffington is on snare drum on this track. This one finds him at an airport all night, and the song has a wonderful late-night vibe. Here is a taste of the lyrics: “Gone as far as I can go/Until tomorrow/I swear I’ll give back what I owe/Everything I stole/Well, I only meant to borrow.” It’s followed by “New Mexico,” another favorite of mine. This one is so interesting. The vocals have a kind of sweet early-1970s folk rock feel. “But the music always sounded right/When you heard it late at night/Rolling across the mesa in New Mexico.” And I love the electric guitar here.

“All Dressed Up (For Trial)” is yet another highlight of this disc. Often Peter Case’s songs have something of a message, but he’s able to deliver that message with a humor which only strengthens the meaning rather than diminishing it. Check out these lines: “The DA throws his weight around/They all assume I’m jailhouse bound/I’ll tell the truth if that won’t help/I’m terrified to be myself/They listen in to smoke me out/The court says there’s no room for doubt.” And these: “The wheels and gears of justice grind/But justice still gets left behind/So when you see me on a street/Your heart don’t have to skip a beat/Because I’m all dressed up, I’m all dressed up for/All dressed up, I’m all dressed up for/All dressed up, I’m all dressed up trial.” And it’s hard to argue with this line from the wonderful bluesy country number “If I Go Crazy”: “If I go crazy, I will lose my mind.”

On Wig! he included a tune called “House Rent Jump,” about not having the rent, as well as “House Rent Party,” about a last-ditch effort to try to get the rent (both of which he played when I saw him four years ago). And now on HWY 62, he has a song called “Evicted,” the natural progression, I suppose. It’s a really good song. “There are locks and chains on the door/No one lives here anymore.” Peter Case plays harmonica on this track. That’s followed by “Long Time Gone,” the album’s only cover. It’s an early Bob Dylan song, included on The Witmark Demos: 1962-1964.

The CD concludes with its title track, “HWY 62,” the CD's only instrumental track. Peter Case plays piano on this one.

CD Track List
  1. Pelican Bay
  2. Waiting On A Plane
  3. New Mexico
  4. Water From A Stone
  5. All Dressed Up (For Trial)
  6. If I Go Crazy
  7. The Long Good Time
  8. Evicted
  9. Long Time Gone
  10. Bluebells
  11. HWY 62 
HWY 62 is scheduled to be released on October 30, 2015 through Omnivore Recordings. The album was produced by Peter Case and Sheldon Gomberg.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers: “L.A.M.F. Live At The Village Gate 1977” (2015) CD Review

Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers were a punk rock band started in 1975 by New York Dolls members Johnny Thunder and Jerry Nolan, along with Walter Lure and Billy Rath. During the band’s brief career, they released only one studio album, L.A.M.F. (which stands for Like A Mother Fucker), which came out in 1977. L.A.M.F. Live At The Village Gate 1977 contains tracks from two concerts that the band performed in August of 1977, just a couple of months before the studio album’s release, and most of the songs here are ones included on L.A.M.F. (thus the title of the CD).

This CD is full of raw, high-energy punk rock performances in New York before enthusiastic crowds. The sound is certainly not perfect, but it feels appropriate. It seems like a more accurate representation of the concerts, giving you the feel of being the room, particularly if you turn it up, drink quite a bit and move around until you’re dizzy. It would be wrong somehow to have a crystal clear soundboard recording of these shows. Or maybe not.

This live album kicks off with “Chinese Rocks,” a song included on L.A.M.F., but one that was written by Dee Dee Ramone and Richard Hell. The Ramones’ version, titled “Chinese Rock,” would end up on their 1980 release End Of The Century. The song is introduced here as a song “written by a bunch of ego maniacs.” (And interestingly, it’s clear that the song is introduced as “Chinese Rock,” not “Chinese Rocks.”) Here is a taste of the lyrics: “I'm living on a Chinese rock/All my best things are in hock/I'm living on a Chinese rock/Everything is in the pawn shop.” The band then goes right into “Pirate Love,” another tune from L.A.M.F., but one written by Johnny Thunders.

For me, things really get cooking with the third track, “Get Off The Phone,” which has a great punk pace and a ton of energy. I love this tune, especially these days, when I want to shout it to basically everyone I see. “What's that ringing sound?/Everything's going round and round/Calling everybody and their mother too/But don't call me ‘cause I just left you/Get off the phone.” It was written by Walter Lure and Jerry Nolan, and is one of my favorite tracks. Another favorite, “All By Myself,” was also written by Walter Lure and Jerry Nolan, and was also included on L.A.M.F.

“Can’t Keep My Eyes On You” was not on the original studio album, but is a tune that was included on L.A.M.F. Revisited and on L.A.M.F.: The Lost ’77 Mixes. The song’s title must be a play on the 1967 single “Can’t Keep My Eyes Off You” by Frankie Valli. “Can’t Keep My Eyes On You” was written by Walter Lure and Jerry Nolan, and it’s a love song in its own right. “Can't keep my eyes on you/You know you're something new/And I'm in love with you.” It’s followed by “Chatterbox,” another song that was not on the original L.A.M.F. studio album. Actually, this tune was originally a New York Dolls song, written by Johnny Thunders and included on Too Much Too Soon. The version here is reworked, with different lyrics, and is sometimes called “Leave Me Alone” and also “Milk Me.”

“Born Too Loose” is an interesting one, if only for its title. This CD has the track listed as “Born Too Loose,” like the title of a greatest hits compilation of Johnny Thunders’ material. But some versions of the original studio album have the title as “Born To Lose,” and a tribute to Johnny Thunders is titled Born To Lose. Which is correct? Fuck if I know. But I do appreciate the play with words in the title “Born Too Loose.”

Fellow New York Dolls member Sylvain Sylvain joins The Heartbreakers on guitar for a cover of Carl Perkins’ “Boppin The Blues,” and Robert Gordon joins the band on vocals. That's followed by a wild cover of The Contours' “Do You Love Me,” which was written by Berry Gordy (this song was featured in the overrated Dirty Dancing). The CD ends with another tune from L.A.M.F., “I Wanna Be Loved,” written by Johnny Thunders. Actually, there is a brief hidden track at the end, just a bit of stage banter.

CD Track List
  1. Chinese Rocks
  2. Pirate Love
  3. Get Off The Phone
  4. All By Myself
  5. Let Go
  6. Can’t Keep My Eyes On You
  7. Chatterbox
  8. One Track Mind
  9. Take A Chance With Me
  10. Born Too Loose
  11. Boppin The Blues
  12. Do You Love Me
  13. I Wanna Be Loved 
L.A.M.F. Live At The Village Gate 1977 was released on October 16, 2015 on Cleopatra Records.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Loggins And Messina: “Loggins And Messina” (2015) Hybrid Multichannel SACD Review

I’ve been a fan of Loggins And Messina since I was pretty young, and got to see Kenny Loggins perform some of this music at a concert in Portland, Oregon in 1993. Most of my Loggins And Messina albums are on vinyl, including their 1972 self-titled album. But now Audio Fidelity has released Loggins And Messina on a hybrid multichannel SACD, in a limited, numbered edition. I’m not sure how many of them were made, but my copy is number 2063, so there are at least a couple thousand of them out there. This is the perfect chance to revisit some of their earliest and best music, and this album includes the big hit “Your Mama Don’t Dance.” Loggins And Messina was the duo’s second album together, following 1971’s Kenny Loggins With Jim Messina Sittin’ In. This album features Rusty Young on steel dobro on one track, Young and Messina having previously played together in Poco.

The CD opens with “Good Friend,” a fun, kind of funky rock tune written by Jim Messina, featuring some good percussion as well as some nice work on saxophone. “I had a good friend some time ago/We had a good thing/And we let it show/Oh, I was a fool/I let him go/Oh, how I miss him so.” That’s followed by “Whiskey,” a pretty and short folk tune about the Whiskey A Go Go in which they sing, “Don’t sing anything pretty at The Whiskey.” I appreciate that sense of humor. And that line is followed by these: “’Cause the stony little crowd will get to talking even louder/And they’ll smother you in hissin’/And if they do, your musical insurance better be paid up.” I wonder if that still holds true at that venue (I’ve never been there).

This wonderful tune is followed by the album’s big hit, “Your Mama Don’t Dance,” which reached #4 on the Billboard Hot 100. That guitar hook is so catchy, and I love the piano part to this rock and roll tune. Michael Omartian is on piano and organ on this album. Plus, this song features saxophone. And that “Out of the car, Longhair” line always makes me laugh.

“Long Tail Cat” is the tune that features Rusty Young on steel dobro. Rusty Young and Jim Messina had been founding members of Poco. “Long Tail Cat” was written by Kenny Loggins, and is another of my favorites from this album. It has a fun back porch country vibe, and features Al Garth on fiddle. “Your daddy’s getting older and your cows are going dry/You gotta go bye, go bye bye/On a Dixie holiday.”

“Thinking Of You” was the album’s other single, and it reached #18 on the Billboard chart. This is such a sweet, positive song. “Something about your eyes/Won’t let me look away/Something about your smile/That’s making it hard to say/Whenever you’re near me/You’ve got me thinking of you.” And I’ve always liked the harmonica in this song. “Thinking Of You” was written by Jim Messina, and it’s followed by a country instrumental tune titled “Just Before The News,” also written by Jim Messina. That’s the album’s only instrumental number.

This album concludes with “Angry Eyes,” another of the duo’s most loved songs. It is the shorter version that was included on the compilation The Best Of Friends, but here you can find the full-length version, which is nearly eight minutes (more than five minutes longer than the other version). This is an excellent song, written by Kenny Loggins and Jim Messina. I love the way their voices blend here. Here is a taste of the lyrics: “You try to defend that/You are not the one to blame/But I’m finding it hard, my friend/When I’m in the deadly aim/Of those angry eyes.” And I totally dig the bass and saxophone in the instrumental section a couple of minutes in. The short version of this song is really good, but this full-length version is fantastic.

CD Track List
  1. Good Friend
  2. Whiskey
  3. Your Mama Don’t Dance
  4. Long Tail Cat
  5. Golden Ribbons
  6. Thinking Of You
  7. Just Before The News
  8. Till The Ends Meet
  9. Holiday Hotel
  10. Lady Of My Heart
  11. Angry Eyes 
This limited edition SACD of Loggins And Messina was released on September 25, 2015 through Audio Fidelity. By the way, this disc will play in all CD players.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

James McMurtry: “Complicated Game” (2015) CD Review

Last year I saw an excellent solo acoustic set by James McMurtry, where he focused on some new material. I was really impressed by the new songs, and those songs are on his 2015 release, Complicated Game. It is great to be able to hear those tunes again, and their impact is just as strong now as it was then. Every track on this album is seriously good. James McMurtry is such a phenomenal storyteller, and he has a voice that feels like it was designed and created specifically for the material. There is something so genuine, so honest about him as a singer. Plus, he has a sense of humor, which I always appreciate.

The first line of “Copper Canteen,” for example, is one I find really funny: “Honey, don’t you be yelling at me when I’m cleaning my gun.” And yet there is something really sweet about the folk sound of this song, with his son Curtis McMurtry on banjo and Rick Nelson on strings. There are a lot of lines that I really like in this song, like these: “This life that we crave/So little we save/Between the grandparents’ graves and the grandchildren’s toys” and “And your breath on my skin/Still pulls me back in/’Til I’m weightless and then I can rest.” This is one he did when I saw him in concert.

He also played “Ain’t Got A Place” at that show, performing it as the encore. This is one of my favorite tracks. Dustin Welch joins him on banjo for this one. Even as he sings that he “ain’t got a place in this world,” the song will have you tapping your feet and smiling. I love how he can surprise you with his lyrics; you can’t predict the direction he’ll go. Check out these lines for example: “Rivers run east out of West Virginia/Rivers run west down in Tennessee/A river runs north out of South Dakota/None of that makes a damn to me.” The last line comes as a delightful surprise.

“She Loves Me” has a pretty feel, but tells of an unusual love. Check out these lines: “I hear she has another/I hear she likes him well/I won’t be home ‘til Christmas/They’ll be at it for a spell/It was part of our agreement/I signed off on the deal/I must admit I never saw it happening for real/’Cause she loves me.” Excellent, right? This is another of my favorites. “I’m not writing this screenplay/It’s writing me.” “How’m I Gonna Find You Now” is another highlight, and is another that he performed at that show last year, one of the songs I was excited to hear again, and one that I’ll be adding to my road trip mix CD list, with lines like “I got a rattle in the dashboard driving me crazy/And if I hit it with my fist it will quit for a little while/Going to have to stop and take a piss in another mile” and “I’ll leave the hitchhiker standing ‘cause I haven’t got room.” This one has something of a mean bluesy rock edge.

Curtis McMurtry joins James again on “Deaver’s Crossing,” this time providing some backing vocals. Dirk Powell also provides some backing vocals on this wonderful folk track, as well as playing bass, mandolin and banjo, giving it something of a bluegrass feel.

Derek Trucks joins James McMurtry on the fun “Forgotten Coast,” playing slide guitar. And then on “South Dakota,” James McMurtry is joined by Sam Broussard on electric guitar, and by Richard Comeaux on pedal steel. This is another that he played when I saw him concert, and the line that stuck in my mind was, “And barbed wire won’t stop the wind.” Have I mentioned what a talented and intelligent songwriter he is? The beginning of “Long Island Sound” has a different vibe, a gorgeous Irish folk sound, with Mike McGoldrick on uilleann pipes. Donald Shaw plays accordion and harmonium on this track. The album then concludes with “Cutter,” which features Benmont Tench (from Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers) on Hammond B3. I know some people for whom these lines will have particular meaning: “I cut myself sharp and deep/It’s the only thing that lets me sleep/Takes the pain from off my face/And puts it in one tiny space/Where I can keep it down out of sight.”

CD Track List
  1. Copper Canteen
  2. You Got To Me
  3. Ain’t Got A Place
  4. She Loves Me
  5. How’m I Gonna Find You Now
  6. These Things I’ve Come To Know
  7. Deaver’s Crossing
  8. Carlisle’s Haul
  9. Forgotten Coast
  10. South Dakota
  11. Long Island Sound
  12. Cutter
Complicated Game was released on February 24, 2015.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Ted Russell Kamp: “Get Back To The Land” (2011)

While Ted Russell Kamp’s new release, The Low And Lonesome Sound, is largely a solo effort, many tracks being just bass and vocals, Get Back To The Land, an earlier release, is a full band album, giving it quite a different sound. The band is Ted Russell Kamp on vocals, bass, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, Hammond organ, Wurlitzer, trumpet and trombone; Don Ian on guitar; Mike Sessa on drums; and Brian Whelan on electric guitar, Wurlitzer and drums. And this disc has plenty of guest musicians as well, including Carl Byron and Dave Raven (both of whom I saw play here in town with Anne McCue). It’s remarkable how deliciously incestuous the Los Angeles music scene is, with musicians all popping up on each other’s recordings. Ted Russell Kamp and Carl Byron both play on the Funkyjenn disc Rock And Roll Voodoo Queen, and actually Jennifer Gibbons provides the cover photo for Get Back To The Land. All of the material here is original, written or co-written by Ted Russell Kamp, and is mostly an excellent mix of country rock and folk, with some pop elements. There are a lot of strong tracks here, and the more I listen to this CD the more I love it.

The album kicks off with “California Wildflower,” a good pop tune, with sweet, positive vibes. Here is a taste of the lyrics: “California wildflower/Nothing like you/Underneath the blue/Blooms quite like you do/Rising higher/Shining brighter/Reaching to the sky/Girl, you got a fire/Burning inside you.” Dave Raven plays drums on this track, as well as on the following track, “If I Had A Dollar,” which is a fun country rock tune. I saw Ted Russell Kamp perform this song recently with Funkyjenn. “If I had a dollar, or if I had a dime/Even a million bucks ain’t enough to get you off my mind.” Ted Russell Kamp co-wrote this song with Nicole Gordon, who also provides harmony vocals on this track. (I think I first heard her on the Patrolled By Radar album Cards Gifts & Caskets Vol. 1.)

One of my favorites on this CD is “Lonelytown,” which Ted Russell Kamp wrote with Ted Wulfers, who also provides harmony vocals. This is a song about leaving and about staying behind, and depending on the perspective, one or the other will be in Lonelytown.  At first Kamp sings, “A year ago today/You took my heart away/And left me barely standing on the ground/The road called you again/Like it was your only friend/And then you turned and said, I’ll see you around/And left me here in Lonelytown.” And then at the end, the last line changes to, “And headed off to Lonelytown.” I love the line, “Some highways lead you home, and some just lead you astray.” This is a beautiful song. “(Down At The) 7th Heaven” also has a certain beauty to it, and features Robby Turner on pedal steel. Levi Sims provides harmony vocals. “Her hair was black as the coffee/That we drank on through the night/And my words worked through the thick skin/That held her pain inside.”

Another favorite of mine is “Aces & Eights,” which is country, but with the sense of fun of a great New Orleans jazz number. Angelo Moore plays saxophone on this track, and Dave Raven plays drums. “And with a fake ID, she was the prettiest thing in Reno/I said it don’t matter if we win or lose/As long as I’m walkin’ away with you/You and me are going to be the highest rollers at the whole casino.” “Aces & Eights” was written by Ted Russell Kamp and Shaun Ames.

As for great guest musicians, check out “Time Is A Joker,” which features Tony Gilkyson on guitar. Eric Heywood (from Son Volt) is on pedal steel, and Jason Sutter plays drums on this track (Sutter also appears on some tracks on The Low And Lonesome Sound). This tune has a more raw, mean sound, which I dig.

“Get Back To The Land,” the CD’s title track, opens with a reference to Woody Guthrie’s “Do Re Mi,” using that tune’s line “California is a garden of Eden.” The Woody Guthrie song is about the dustbowl folks heading to California, but not finding the paradise they were hoping for. “Get Back To The Land” starts in California, on the streets of Los Angeles, with lines like “The Sunset Strip and silver screens/Bills and booze and broken dreams” and “The bright lights of Hollywood are blinding/The stars are on the sidewalks and waiting in the wings.” And of course as you might guess from the song’s title, it’s about leaving the city and returning to the land. “Every city is Las Vegas, no matter what they say.” This is an excellent tune, featuring Kenny Vaughan on guitar. (You might have heard him on recordings by Moot Davis and The Trishas, among others.)
Carl Byron plays Wurlitzer on “Right As Rain,” a wonderful and moving song which also features Nick Nguyen on violin, viola and cello. “It was right as rain/Every touch in the dark and every spark/Every word you say/Every smile that lit the way/Like a burning flame/Turning nighttime into day.” “Right As Rain” was written by Ted Russell Kamp and Dave Berg. Daniel Glass plays drums on this track.

The album concludes with “Bottles On The Table,” a powerful song which features Eric Heywood on pedal steel and Gia Ciambotti on harmony vocals. “So you come to me/And let me feel your pain/But I’m too damn sober.”

CD Track List
  1. California Wildflower
  2. If I Had A Dollar
  3. Lonelytown
  4. God’s Little Acre
  5. (Down At The) 7th Heaven
  6. Aces & Eights
  7. Georgia Blue
  8. Time Is A Joker
  9. Get Back To The Land
  10. Right As Rain
  11. Don’t Look Down
  12. Half Hearted
  13. Bottles On The Table 
Get Back To The Land was released on May 10, 2011 through Dualtone Music Group.

Anton Fig: “Figments” (2002/2015) CD Review

Anton Fig is known for being the drummer on Late Night With David Letterman and The Late Show With David Letterman, and he has appeared on numerous albums over the years. His first solo album, Figments, which was originally released in the spring of 2002, features an interesting variety of styles and different musicians for each track. Many of these musicians and vocalists are people with whom he had worked before, appearing on their albums. Here they get a chance to return the favor. This CD features original material, written or co-written by Anton Fig. And in addition to drums, Anton Fig plays rhythm guitar and bass on this album. Many of these tracks (though not all) are quite good.

The opening track, “Home,” features Blondie Chaplin on vocals and guitar. This track, particularly because of the vocal approach, reminds me of Peter Gabriel. It’s a cool song, and it uses some African rhythms (Anton Fig was born in South Africa). Mo Gee is on flute, and Bakithi Kumalo plays bass on this track. “Home” was written by Blondie Chaplin and Anton Fig, as was the following track, “Hand On My Shoulder,” which also features Bakithi Kumalo on bass. “Hand On My Shoulder” has a lot of late 1980s pop influences, and makes me think of Elton John and Peter Cetera. Brian Wilson provides some backing vocals on this track. Blondie Chaplin had briefly been a member of The Beach Boys in the early 1970s. I really like the lines, “Yesterday’s gone/Tomorrow will never be the same.” There are more 1980s sounds on “Inside Out,” which features Ivan Neville on vocals, Catherine Russell on backing vocals, and Randy Brecker on flugelhorn.

With “More Than Friends,” there’s not much to speak of lyrically, but that’s Richie Havens on vocals, and he takes these average lyrics and raises them to something much better. Catherine Russell again joins on backing vocals, and this track features Enrique Vargas on flamenco guitar.

Anton Fig was a member of Frehley’s Comet for a few years, and Ace Frehley joins Anton Fig on lead guitar on “Know Where You Go.” This is a hard rock song that I don’t care for at all. It features Sebastian Bach (from Skid Row) on vocals. I could also do without “Heart Of Darkness,” with its verses delivered as rap. However, the instrumental section at the end, with the cool percussion and Lew Soloff on trumpet, is wonderful.

One of the most interesting tracks is “3:4 Folk,” which features both Richard Bona and Amit Chaterjee on vocals, creating an unusual combination of styles. And of course Richard Bona also plays bass on this track. This one does remind me a bit of Sting.

“Jan/Feb/March” is a children’s song designed to teach kids the months (it’s also been called “Months Of The Year” and “The Calendar Song”). It’s certainly unexpected on this CD, and has a ridiculously fun and energetic rhythm, plus a horn section. This song is about nothing, but is oddly one of my favorite tracks, like when They Might Be Giants sing the alphabet in “Who Put The Alphabet In Alphabetical Order.” Tony Cedras is on vocals, and also plays piano, accordion and banjo. That’s followed by another of my favorites, “Tears,” a really nice instrumental track featuring Tony Cedras on piano and accordion. This one too has a horn section: Chris Botti on trumpet and Andy Snitzer on saxophone. And I dig the bass by Chris Minh Doky.

The album concludes with its other instrumental track, “KWYG II,” which features Oz Noy on lead guitar and Chris Palmero on organ. And, actually, there is a hidden track after this one: a bit of studio banter; then, after another pause, we're treated to a bit of a cappella singing from Brian Wilson, which is very pretty. This is the isolated track of his harmonies from “Hand On My Shoulder.”

CD Track List
  1. Home
  2. Hand On My Shoulder
  3. Inside Out
  4. More Than Friends
  5. Know Where You Go
  6. Utopia
  7. 3:4 Folk
  8. Jan/Feb/March
  9. Tears
  10. When The Good Die Young
  11. Anyway That You Want Me
  12. Heart Of Darkness
  13. KWYG II 
Figments was released on August 14, 2015. The original issue from the spring of 2002 was a limited-edition pressing.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Dave Wilson Quartet: “There Was Never” (2015) CD Review

There Was Never, the new album from Dave Wilson Quartet, features mostly original material, written by the saxophonist. And the choices of the CD’s few covers are good ones from my perspective, being three songs I love. On this release, Dave Wilson is joined by Bobby Avey on piano, Tony Marino on acoustic bass and Alex Ritz on drums. (Tony Marino had played on Wilson’s previous release, 2010’s Spiral.) This album was recorded in two days of February this year, at Red Rock Studios in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania. The CD includes liner notes by Bill Milkowski, featuring quotations from an interview with Dave Wilson, as well as some photos.

The opening track, “The Time Has Come,” begins with an interesting rhythm, and soon Dave Wilson’s saxophone is soaring and shouting above it. It feels like bordering on chaos at moments, but I love the glorious relentless energy of this one, with leads on saxophone and then on piano, the drums continuing to rumble wildly throughout. And then, nearly five minutes in, the tune relaxes a bit, like the day is ending and the song, almost reluctantly, is turning in. But then there is a collective changing of mind, and it kicks again, as if intending to blow on through the night.

The first of the album’s three covers is “Cassidy,” one of my favorite Grateful Dead songs, one they played at one of the best shows I ever attended – June 17, 1991 at Giants Stadium. It originally appeared on the Bob Weir “solo” album, Ace, which was released in 1972. I got a chance to talk about this song with lyricist John Barlow a few years ago when I met him at a Yonder Mountain String Band show. I told him it was always one of my favorite Dead songs, and he told me it was one of his favorites too. There is something really beautiful about “Cassidy,” and Dave Wilson Quartet definitely taps into that beauty in this version. “Cassidy” can also include some excellent jams (like that version from June 17, 1991), and this rendition has the energy of some of the best jams, always returning to that familiar theme. In the liner notes, Dave Wilson is quoted as saying he went to approximately thirty Dead shows, and his fondness and appreciation for the band’s music is apparent in his interpretation of “Cassidy.”

That’s followed by “God Only Knows,” which is probably my favorite Beach Boys song. It’s such a beautiful song, written by Brian Wilson and Tony Asher, and originally included on the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds album. And Dave Wilson keeps the tempo slow and sweet, his saxophone following that pretty vocal line. This is a really nice version, and Dave Wilson treats the material respectfully while certainly adding his own touch.

“There Was Never,” the CD’s title track, is one of my favorites. It has several sections, and yet maintains a great flow. There is even a bit of funk here that works really well. I am particularly fond of what Bobby Avey does on piano here. And Alex Ritz provides some fantastic drumming (toward the end there is a drum solo, which is really good, but it’s his playing earlier that really impresses me). And throughout this piece you can hear what a damned good bass player Tony Marino is. The band is really together, through all the changes, and there is also a sense a fun, of play here that is wonderful.

“Master Plan” is a wild and delightful beast of a tune, with the saxophone blowing madly over a great rhythm. It begins easily enough, especially after the intense playing of the previous track, “Smooth Sailing,” but it’s not long before things get swinging, and then just launch off from there. Check out what Tony Marino does on bass like four minutes into this one. There’s also an interesting section with some nice, quiet touches on keys like six minutes in, and then it builds again from there. This is a fantastic track.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll undoubtedly say it again, but you can never go wrong with Gershwin. The third and final cover on this album is “Summertime,” originally written for Porgy And Bess. There have been thousands of recordings of this song over the years. I think the first one I heard was that by Janis Joplin, back in my early teens. The version on this CD has some interesting changes, like the groovy bass lead only a minute and a half in. I love where the song goes from there, the way the piano and drums work together to create something of an intense rhythm. This is certainly not a mellow rendition of the song.

The CD then concludes with “On The Prairie,” an original composition, with a somewhat whimsical feel near the beginning. This one also has some really sweet and pretty moments.

CD Track List
  1. The Time Has Come
  2. Cassidy
  3. God Only Knows
  4. There Was Never
  5. Smooth Sailing
  6. Master Plan
  7. Feeling Peaceful
  8. Summertime
  9. On The Prairie 
There Was Never is scheduled to be released on November 6, 2015 through Zoho Music.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Funkyjenn: “Rock And Roll Voodoo Queen” (2013) CD Review

I recently caught a couple of sets by Funkyjenn at Ireland’s 32, and really enjoyed their music. They played the majority of tracks from their 2013 release, Rock And Roll Voodoo Queen, an album that was produced by Ted Russell Kamp and Jennifer Gibbons. It was through Ted Russell Kamp that I became interested in this band, and on this album he plays bass, Hammond, acoustic guitar and percussion, as well as providing some backing vocals. Also joining Jenn on this CD is Carl Byron, a musician I’ve admired for quite some time, having seen him perform with Anne McCue a couple of times, and having heard him on several other discs, including Mason Summit’s Loud Music & Soft Drinks, Steve Casper & Cowboy Angst’s Endless Sky, Skyline Drive’s Topanga Ranch Motel, and of course on Anne McCue’s Blue Sky Thinkin’. On this CD he plays Wurlitzer, piano, organ and clavinet. Rounding out the band are Dan Wistrom on guitar and Jamie Douglass on drums. This is an excellent band, no question, but it is Jenn’s vocals which of course are the driving force of this music.

The CD opens with “Shoulda Been My Lover,” the song Funkyjenn closed the second set with the other night. It’s a rousing rock and roll number that right away shows the power of Jenn’s vocals, as she belts out the lyrics: “You’ve got me pinned against the jukebox and you just won’t leave me alone/You had your chance with me oh so many years ago.” That is followed by “Boom Boom,” a song that Ted Russell Kamp included on The Low And Lonesome Sound, which was released this summer. And it is this song that got me interested in Funkyjenn. This is one of my favorites. It has a great rhythm and is a lot of fun. And of course it does make me think of John Lee Hooker’s “Boom Boom” when Jenn sings the title line. It was written by Jennifer Gibbons, John Schreffler and Ted Russell Kamp. Here is a taste of the lyrics: “Come a little bit closer/I’ll give you the goods/Whatever you wish for/It’s understood/That I am yours, boy, and yours alone/Hang up your tie, hang up your cares, hang up the phone.”

Probably my favorite track on this disc, however, is “Butterflies Bleed,” a slower, more soulful song, with a passionate and moving vocal delivery. “When you held my hand/I knew I was at your command/But the feeling was too strong to mention.” And of course I love the organ on this track. “Butterflies Bleed” is just a wonderful and strong song.

“Nashville, TN” is a solid bar-type rock tune, with some nice work on both keys and guitar. It’s followed by “Outta Sight Outta Mind,” the only song I hadn’t heard prior to popping in this CD, and it’s another of my favorites. This is another slower number, and it features some excellent work on violin by Aubrey Richmond (this is another musician I admire; I think I first heard Richmond play on the Kelly’s Lot album Plain Simple Me). There is a delightful beauty to this song. And I love Jenn’s vocal delivery, particularly on lines like “I’ll find someone else/It’s easy to do/He’ll play me a song/And buy me a drink or two/Then he’ll take me home/Lean in for a kiss/I’ll pretend that I like it/And that you don’t exist.”

The CD closes with its title track, “Rock And Roll Voodoo Queen,” which was written by Ted Russell Kamp. This is a good, lively rock and roll tune, which has something of a 1970s vibe to it. “The show begins when the clock strikes midnight/It’s the witching hour, and everybody’s feeling all right.” Oh yes.

CD Track List
  1. Shoulda Been My Lover
  2. Boom Boom
  3. Butterflies Bleed
  4. Nashville, TN
  5. Outta Sight Outta Mind
  6. Rock And Roll Voodoo Queen
Rock And Roll Voodoo Queen was released on November 12, 2013.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Love: “Reel To Real” (1974/2015) CD Review

Love’s final studio album, Reel To Real, is finally getting an official CD release. It’s incredible to me that this hasn’t been released before, for it’s an absolutely excellent album. Yes, it is quite a bit different from the band’s earlier releases, sounding nothing like the music of Forever Changes, the band’s most popular record. Of course, the band itself – apart from Arthur Lee – is completely different on those two records. As much as I love Forever Changes, Reel To Real, taken on its own, is just as good. Seriously. And this deluxe edition includes tons of previously unreleased bonus material, including outtakes and alternate mixes and takes. Sure, we had a long wait for this one, but the folks who put together this package were clearly determined to make it up to us. And they totally succeeded. In addition to twelve bonus tracks, the CD includes extensive liner notes by David Fricke (with some biographical information – hey, Arthur Lee has the same birthday as me) and by Steven Rosen, along with several photos. Forget what you might have heard. Just put this on and enjoy.

The album opens with “Time Is Like A River,” which has a groovy, joyous feel. The summer can be endless if you play tunes like this one. “Keep on rolling, keep on rolling, keep on rolling.” It’s followed by “Stop The Music,” a wonderful bluesy soul gem, which features some cool work on harmonica by Arthur Lee. In this one he sings, “Well, I’ve been lonely and I’ve been blue/I ain’t had no loving, baby, since I had you,” but the song is about getting back on his feet. He sings that he’s “going out tonight,” determined to have a good time, to not give up. This one ends quietly with just Arthur’s voice, and then the next song bursts in, this great funky dance number titled “Who Are You?” There is some fantastic stuff on percussion driving this tune. He keeps things rolling with “Good Old Fashion Dream,” which has such a great joyous energy. I love the horns.

“Which Witch Is Which” is an unexpected, unusual tune that is bluesy with delicious psychedelic bits on electric guitar. But it is the acoustic guitar and vocals which are at the heart of this one. The odd lyrics urge, “Don’t be me/Don’t be you” and “Don’t be good/Don’t be bad/Don’t be happy/Don’t be sad.” And then it’s back to funky dance and soul with “With A Little Energy.” When Arthur Lee sings, “Love’s got the power,” is he talking about the emotion or his own band? I think both.

“Singing Cowboy” is a song that Love included on an earlier album, Four Sail. Interestingly, at the end of this song Arthur sings, “Keep on rolling” as he does on the opening track. On this CD you get two versions of it, as the bonus tracks include an alternate take. On the alternate take in particular Arthur at times makes me think of Blood, Sweat And Tears. He doesn’t sing “Keep on rolling” at the end of this version (but he does ask for something to drink). “Singing Cowboy” was written by Arthur Lee and Jay Donnellan. “Be Thankful For What You Got” is the album’s sole cover, written by William DeVaughn.

“You Said You Would” is kind of simple, but ends up being one of my favorites on this album. It has a good, catchy groove (I dig the bass), and lyrics that are easily remembered, and so you’ll be singing along soon enough. “Well, you said you would and you said you would/But now you’re gone/Well, you said you would/But you, you did me wrong.” The bonus tracks include the single mix. I prefer the album version.

Arthur Lee must enjoy juxtaposition and leading the listener on a ride, for the album’s hardest rocker, “Busted Feet,” leads directly into a soft, acoustic number, “Everybody’s Gotta Live,” which concludes the original album. “Everybody’s Gotta Live” is kind of simple too, Arthur’s vocals accompanied by some strumming on guitar, but it has this quiet, raw power, particularly in the chorus, where he is joined by backing vocalists. The bonus tracks include an electric version of this song, which has quite a different feel, with a more pronounced groove, but works really well. Interestingly, both of these songs were also included on Arthur Lee’s 1972 solo album, Vindicator, though not positioned together on that record. The electric version of “Everybody’s Gotta Live” is closer to the rendition included in Vindicator.

Bonus Tracks

This deluxe edition contains twelve bonus tracks, eleven of which were previously unreleased. “Do It Yourself” is an electrifying funky number with an empowering message. “Don’t let no one make a fool of you/’Cause you can make it if you want to/You’ve got to learn to do it yourself.” It’s a wonderful, energetic tune. “Somebody” is a really good rock number, with some nice work on electric guitar, and I love those moments on vocals where he just lets loose.

“You Gotta Feel It” is a sweet, gentle soul number with a good groove. This is actually one of my favorite tracks on this CD, and to think this was an outtake, unreleased until now. Crazy. “’Cause if you feel it in your heart/It won’t be long, you’ll soon be home.” I love this song.

Some of the bonus tracks include a bit of studio banter, such as the alternate take of “Stop The Music,” where at the beginning Arthur says, “You can relax, you know what I mean, let’s get into more of a groove.” “Graveyard Hop” also has some studio banter at the end. This tune is kind of a weird version of “Jailhouse Rock” for your Halloween party, and I love it. “Everybody at the funeral hall was dancing to the graveyard hop.” (The second and third times he sings that line it sounds like “funeral march.”) It has a wild, Little Richard-type energy. And then the CD’s closing track, “Wonder People (I Do Wonder),” has just a bit of banter at the beginning and at the end.

CD Track List
  1. Time Is Like A River
  2. Stop The Music
  3. Who Are You?
  4. Good Old Fashion Dream
  5. Which Witch Is Which
  6. With A Little Energy
  7. Singing Cowboy
  8. Be Thankful For What You Got
  9. You Said You Would
  10. Busted Feet
  11. Everybody’s Gotta Live
  12. Do It Yourself
  13. I Gotta Remember
  14. Somebody
  15. You Gotta Feel It
  16. With A Little Energy (Alternate Mix)
  17. Busted Feet (Alternate Mix)
  18. You Said You Would (Single Mix)
  19. Stop The Music (Alternate Take)
  20. Graveyard Hop (Studio Rehearsal)
  21. Singing Cowboy (Alternate Take)
  22. Everybody’s Gotta Live (Electric Version)
  23. Wonder People (I Do Wonder) (Studio Rehearsal) 
This special deluxe issue of Reel To Real is scheduled to be released on November 27, 2015 through High Moon Records.

The Resonant Heads: “This Is Getting Fun” (2008) CD Review

The Resonant Heads are a Los Angeles-based pop rock band, with some definite 1960s influences, as well as a bit of punk attitude. Their debut album, This Is Getting Fun, which was released in 2008, is largely the work of two people: Dawn Frinta and Michael Sattin. They wrote all the material and played the majority of the instruments, though are joined by some friends on certain tracks. This CD is everything I could want from pop rock – fun rhythms, catchy riffs, great energy, excellent vocals, and positive vibes.

This Is Getting Fun opens with “I’ll Take You,” which begins with the drums quickly fading in, like the band is rapidly approaching us, and then there is some great work on electric guitar before the vocals come in. The hell with easing in, this band announces its presence immediately with a fun rock tune that you’ll likely want to turn up. Brad Gordon does those cool guitar solos on this track. But Dawn Frinta’s vocals are what I like most about this song, with a great combination of sweet friendliness and kick-ass power. Here is a taste of the lyrics: “Well, I don’t make concessions/And I don’t read subscriptions/But I’ll take you.” It’s a strong opener, and it’s followed by “It’s Not Me,” a rock tune which has a great raw edge at times, particularly in the vocals, while still maintaining a very good groove. John Wolf plays drums on this track (as well as on several others).

Near the end of “Kiss My Love,” there is a surprising, mellow section with some interesting work on guitar. I dig it, and then I love the way the song quickly builds back from there, like dipping low only to be able to go right back to those heights. That one is followed by one of my personal favorites, “Unglued.” It’s got this great pop groove, along with attitude, which makes for a seriously good tune. Plus, there are some great lyrics, like these lines: “And I’d save you if I could/It does no good to please you” and “Have your little fun/Don’t come undone ‘til I do.” Robin Fallowfield plays rhythm guitar on this track.

But my absolute favorite track is the CD’s closing number, “War.” This song delights me for so many reasons, and on several levels. The first time I heard it, a few of the lines had me laughing aloud. I mean, hell, the first line is “War isn’t fun anymore.” That had me from the start, and that line is followed by “It’s like we’ve got to appease the left and right/And everyone in between.” Great, right? And then it pokes fun at a phrase that I hear a lot and despise: “It’s like we’ve got to agree to disagree.” By the way, one of the other lines that struck me as hilarious is “Vietnam ruined everything,” particularly in context. Plus, the song is just so cool, even if, for some reason, you don’t want to pay attention to the lyrics. Perry Ostrin plays drums on this track, and Amanda Mullins and Robin Fallowfield provide backing vocals.

CD Track List
  1. I’ll Take You
  2. It’s Not Me
  3. Kiss My Love
  4. Unglued
  5. Your Mistake
  6. Collide
  7. Good As Gold
  8. War
This Is Getting Fun was released in 2008.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Funkyjenn at Ireland’s 32, 10-8-15

I became aware of Funkyjenn through Ted Russell Kamp, whose new CD I reviewed recently. On that album, The Low And Lonesome Sound, he does a tune called “Boom Boom,” which I learned is a song he also plays with Funkyjenn. And that’s what got me interested. So when I saw that Funkyjenn was playing at Ireland’s 32, a bar I used to frequent, and on a night I had off to boot, well, it was too perfect to pass up. Plus, I had a relatively late call in the morning, so no worries about hangovers. Some live music, some Guinness, and I am a happy boy.

Jenn had a great four-piece band supporting her, including Ted Russell Kamp on bass and backing vocals, Storm Rhode on guitar and backing vocals, Jeff Howell on keys, and Jim Doyle on drums. She opened with a couple of originals, showing the power of her voice, then did a nice rendition of “You’re No Good,” introducing it by saying, “You might know this one.” She followed that with “Marry Me,” which features some good lyrics like, “I want to swim in your ocean/I want to drown in your sea/I want to live inside you/I’m going to get you to marry me.” She then proved she could be sweet with her cover of Paul Williams’ “Ordinary Fool.” That song is from the film Bugsy Malone, which starred Scott Baio, and mention of his name began a little conversation between the band and certain members of the audience. (That movie, by the way, also stars a young Jodie Foster.) “Rock And Roll Voodoo Queen” is a good rock and roll song, though the music did drown out her vocals a bit on this one, and it was hard to make out all the lyrics. She ended the first set with “Nashville, TN.”

After a set break, the band came back with a cover of “Only You Know And I Know,” followed by an original tune which Jenn said is not on any of her CDs, and then a good cover of the country tune “There He Goes,” which was famously done by Patsy Cline. During the second set, we were treated to Ted Russell Kamp singing lead on three songs: “If I Had A Dollar,” “Dixie” and “Roll On Through The Night.” In his introduction to “Dixie,” Ted mentioned John Cougar’s “Jack And Diane,” which brought me back briefly to my very first concert (John Cougar opened for Heart). They then rounded out the second set with the wonderful “Butterflies Bleed” and the energetic “Shoulda Been My Lover,” both of which are on Funkyjenn’s Rock And Roll Voodoo Queen CD.

Here are the set lists. I apologize for the title I don’t know.

Set I
  1. Coming On Too Strong
  2. Forgive And Forget
  3. You’re No Good
  4. Marry Me
  5. Ordinary Fool
  6. Rock And Roll Voodoo Queen
  7. Nashville, TN
Set II
  1. Only You Know And I Know
  2. (title?)
  3. There He Goes
  4. If I Had A Dollar
  5. Dixie
  6. Roll On Through The Night
  7. Butterflies Bleed
  8. Shoulda Been My Lover
The second set ended at 11:48 p.m., and I had to get going soon after that, so I wasn’t able to catch the third set.

Here are a few photos from the show:

"Only You Know And I Know"

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Lou Volpe: “Remembering Ol’ Blue Eyes (Songs Of Sinatra)” (2015) CD Review

Jazz guitarist Lou Volpe’s new CD, Remembering Ol’ Blue Eyes (Songs Of Sinatra), features tunes that Frank Sinatra recorded and made famous. It’s interesting that a CD paying homage to Frank Sinatra is actually an instrumental album. After all, it’s not like Sinatra wrote any of these songs. What Sinatra is known for is his voice. That being said, this is a really good CD by an accomplished guitarist, capturing the spirit of Sinatra’s approach, his passion, and of course command of the material. Lou Volpe’s guitar work has a smooth, delicious flow, feeling effortless and clear, like speaking.  Lou Volpe is based in New York, and has recorded with many artists over the years.

The CD opens with a really good rendition of “I’ll Remember April,” a song written by Gene de Paul, Patricia Johnston, and Don Raye. This version has a good groove, and some nice work on drums by Buddy Williams, as well as wonderful work on guitar. Sinatra released his version as a single, and also included it on his Point Of No Return album.

One of Frank Sinatra’s most famous recordings is his version of “It Was A Very Good Year,” a song written by Ervin Drake and originally recorded by The Kingston Trio. Sinatra included it on his 1965 record September Of My Years, and his recording won him a Grammy. Lou Volpe’s rendition has more of a pronounced groove at the beginning, and some nice work by Leo Traversa on bass. There is also some nice interplay between guitar and keyboard, and then approximately halfway through there is a really cool and interesting section that makes me think of whales singing this tune. You’ll know what I’m talking about when you hear it. And Lou Volpe’s guitar really shines on the following track, “You Go To My Head.”

But one of my favorite tracks is Lou Volpe’s rendition of “A Foggy Day,” a song composed by George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin, and originally recorded by Fred Astaire. It was included on many Frank Sinatra records, including Songs For Young Lovers and Ring-A-Ding-Ding! As for Volpe’s version, in addition to some great work on guitar, this one features some excellent work on keys by Mel Davis. It does feel odd that it fades out, but that’s all right. You can never go wrong with Gershwin. Another song that Sinatra included on several records is “One For My Baby,” written by Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer. Lou Volpe gives it a bluesy edge from the start, and his rendition isn’t nearly as mellow as many versions such as Sinatra’s version from Only The Lonely.

Another song that Sinatra really made famous is “That’s Life,” which was written by Dean Kay and Kelly Gordon, and originally recorded by Marion Montgomery. Lou Volpe’s rendition doesn’t have the same energy as Sinatra’s, and has a more bluesy feel, but still works well. “The Best Is Yet To Come” is another song closely associated with Frank Sinatra, though again other artists recorded it before he did. On this CD, Volpe gives it a bit of a bossa nova feel, with Gary Fritz on percussion. As a side note, “The Best Is Yet To Come” is the last song Frank Sinatra performed.

I love what Lou Volpe does with “All The Things You Are,” picking up the pace, his guitar flying over the wonderful groove by Leo Traversa on bass and Buddy Williams on drums. This is a total treat, and one of my personal favorite tracks. “All The Things You Are” was written by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II. The CD ends with “Europa,” which was written by Carlos Santana, and is the one tune here not to have been recorded by Frank Sinatra. It is one of Santana's most famous compositions, and Lou Volpe delivers it as a guitar solo, dedicating it “to the Brilliance of Frank.”

CD Track List
  1. I’ll Remember April
  2. Speak Low
  3. It Was A Very Good Year
  4. You Go To My Head
  5. A Foggy Day
  6. One For My Baby
  7. Days Of Wine And Roses
  8. That’s Life
  9. Softly As I Leave You
  10. The Best Is Yet To Come
  11. I Get A Kick Out Of You
  12. All The Things You Are
  13. I’ve Got You Under My Skin
  14. Europa
Remembering Ol’ Blue Eyes is scheduled to be released on November 6, 2015 on Jazz Guitar Records.

Ferris And The Wheels: “Ferris And The Wheels” (2015) CD Review

Okay, I usually don’t review a CD unless I really dig the majority of the tracks. But I have to make an exception in the case of the new, self-titled disc by Ferris And The Wheels. When I first popped it on, I wasn’t all that into it. The first couple of tracks are hard rock, and the play on “dam hole” instead of “damn hole” in the first track wasn’t enough to win me over. But the third track, “Typical,” totally grabbed me. It’s a ridiculously catchy and goofy pop tune. At first I felt that I shouldn’t like it, that maybe something was wrong with me. But its charm is just undeniable (and it even has some “ooh la la” vocals). I ended up listening to it several times, and then getting online and watching the video several times. The video is even more ridiculous – and I don’t even like videos as an artistic medium – but I couldn’t stop watching it. The more I watched it, the more I loved the song, and the more I liked the band. They’re clearly having a goof. I’d had my doubts about this band after reading the press release, because it’s all about their nicknames and their marketing plans – targeting Chicago and Atlanta, and so on. And the band’s web site counts its own press release as a CD review. But whatever, no matter, because then the fifth track, “Last Parade,” is also seriously good. It has a quirky little groove that I totally enjoy, and some nice vocal play. Plus, I dig the lyrics, with lines like “These low expectations always save my day” and “Why do I always worry about things I can’t explain?” and “I’m not going to tell you what it means.” It’s such a damn good song, with a fun, positive bent (“We’ve got to take advantage of each breath we take”). I’ve been listening to this one over and over too.

As for the other songs, I kind of got into “Found It,” mainly because I let it play several times after “Last Parade,” and it began to work for me. It’s a slower number, with some good lyrics: “You don’t know what you do to me/You’re pushing me to the edge of insanity/And I’m always looking for a way out/And I – I – I think I just found it.” Ferris And The Wheels are based in Nashville, and are made up of Geoff Ferris on lead vocals and guitar, Jake Lentner on lead guitar and vocals, Dylan Ayers on drums on vocals, and Josh Ayers on bass and vocals. All the tracks on this CD are originals.

CD Track List
  1. Stuck In This Dam Hole
  2. I Got Something
  3. Typical
  4. Mania
  5. Last Parade
  6. Found It
Ferris And The Wheels is scheduled to be released on October 9, 2015.