Monday, March 2, 2015

Week In Review: He's Dead Jim

It's March but looking outside you wouldn't know it.  Except for parts of January, all of February was cold and snowy, and the last two days of that shitty month we had twenty below temps.  And it feels more like January than March with single digits.  Climate change sucks.  Seems like every winter we're getting back to the ice ages.  Not a good sign.

The continual disgust of the world, a ten cent gas tax hike and another ten cents and we're back at two fifty a  gallon, with the majority of gas stations continuing to rape the consumer with dime raises here and there throughout of last month. On a brief run to Moondog Music a out of the way gas station in Hopkinton had it at 2.15 a gallon and one other at 2.09 and the pumps you can turn out without prepay.  A real throw back to the good ole days.  I got a kick out of having to count to ten and then turn it back on, since it was a slow pump and the poor guy come running out in 5 degree weather telling me how to do that.  He also remarked it's cold outside. In terms of all of this, blame shouldn't be on the Emperor Terry Branstad, longest serving dictator of this great state, but rather on Tod Bowman, asshole from Maquoketa after voting for a pay raise since he thinks he's done a great job, said that we needed better roads, which happens to be another excuse of having a local option sales tax that was supposed to be doing this in the first place.  The bi partisan vote for the hike also had a few GOP/Democrats saying no to the idea.  The next road trip will be to McQ and seek out Bowman and nut punch him.  Funny how these asshats say that they're speaking for us when I have yet to hear any of them actually speaking about what we want.  Koch brothers robot Joni (wonderbags) Ernst sure in the hell don't speak of me when she opens her big mouth.  Visions of the Michelle Bachman Jr from somebody who won on the ass vote, meaning how Iowans sat on their ass at home and didn't vote.   Can't get rid of these Koch puppets just by bitching about it, voting them out should have been the answer. In the meantime, I'm once again stuck with another fucking cold that has not gone away at all since December when they were saying get a flu shot, I did and been sick ever since.  I always know when I'm going to get sick, when it feels like I got a granola bar stuck in my throat and can't get it out.  So far 2015 has been even more shitty than last year.  And cold and snow and cough colds every other week do not help.

Death has been very busy this year and he once again made the rounds and picked two out.  Minnie Minoso, the long time Chicago White Sox player who played five decades (he could have played six decades but MLB said no).  Minoso was to the Sox as was Ernie Banks was for the Cubs and in this day and age of sports they were rare.  He was 89.   But the big story was Lenard Nimoy, the beloved actor who was Spock on Star Trek but also starred in Mission Impossible after Martin Landau left and was host of In Search Of, one of the best syndicated shows of the 70s that nobody remembers.  Later on he appeared in Futurerama's show of the late 90s.  An all around actor he also made a few records, his Proud Mary version is the stuff of legends.  As they say, He's Dead Jim and now has been beamed up to the Enterprise to join Scotty and Bones McCoy.

Orrin Keepnews is synonymous with jazz music especially the classic albums that he overseen on his Riverside Label, classic recordings from Bill Evans, Sonny Rollins and most notably Monk, which the classic and hard to played Brilliant Corners album to which Orrin spliced together a couple takes since the original song was very hard to play.  Challenge Neil Peart and Rush to try to play this.  Riverside was famous for Cannonball Adderley and the two minute Jive Samba which the long version is 11 minutes long.  Orrin would later found Milestone in the 60s and later became one of the best writers on jazz, he gives deep insight on the Bluebird reissues of the 1980s and Fantasy Concord would issue the Keepnews Collection, a batch of Riverside Recordings Reissued with Orrin's views on those albums.  Even up to his passing he was continuing to write about jazz albums and music.  He was 91 and died one day short of what would have been his 92nd birthday.

Country radio today sucks.  Here today gone tomorrow A and R nobody Gary Overton got his 5 minutes of fame by saying If you're not on country radio you don't exist and the Nashville country artists came storming back with comments of their own.  One of the better new country artists is Aaron Watson as well as Sturgill Simpson but now old timer (hard to say that) Charlie Robison gave his two cents worth in a interview blasting out some I Heart DJ of Bobby Bones (whoever he is) after Watson called one of the receptionist (Let's use that word since i can't spell secretary, hell I actually did spell it right) a sweetheart and Bones popped a tampon.  This shows you how out of touch that I am about new music today or country.  Or who plays it.  Corporations took out all the independent stations be it rock or country and replaced them with robots from a satellite or personalities from afar.  I don't know Bobby Bones, nor care to since he also started up a flame war with Farce The Music (FTM posted a link to that last week but you can look it up on your own). I'm not that big of a fan of Charlie Robison either but I do admire his line of thinking of dealing with A and R beancounters like Gary Overton, who will be losing his job once the Bro country fad wears thin or Florida Georgia Line gets resigned to Average Joe's whichever comes first.  Music continues to revolve all the time but it has been regressing since Luke Bryan gave us the infamous Dallas Davidson line of Conway and T Pain a few years ago.  The folks at Lucky Dog may have given Charlie Robison a bad taste in his mouth during his time there but he's so dead on, that perhaps I might return to his back catalog to see what I missed.  And on the same but different department Israel dictator  Benjamin Netanyahu is a asshole too.

Of course FGL continues to rub it in, throwing up a picture of them making faces in front of a sold out crowd. After all, a bit of manipulation of the charts gave them the all time number single. But perhaps the best parting shot which FGL was left searching for words came from Robison.   “How do you lose respect for someone who doesn’t exist?”

And that no picture can ever compensate. Drink on Boys.

Blog of the week: Jim Wright  He tells it like it is, especially when it comes to the Koch Brother party and a few others.  Not music related but more common sense.

Late to press: The NTSB has decided to look into the plane crash that killed Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper and Richie Valens after 56 years.  The conclusion was of pilot error and that Roger Peterson misjudged the clipper system that blew up the winds and snow that downed the plane and took him and the rest out of this world.  The original findings can be found here:

The basic take on this is that 56 years after the fact all involved are dead and basically it's a waste of taxpayer money to even open up such a case.  Or have Roger Peterson being blamed for taking the lives of three up and coming rock pioneers.  Nothing will bring any of them back.  If there was any of today's technology they would have stayed on ground and waited till the clipper system moved out of their area.  The winds and snow may have impaired Peterson's judgement but we'll never know his final moments before impact.  Anybody who gets stuck out in blizzard conditions knows that the blinding snow and winds can impaired judgement or knowing your sense of direction.   In Roger's case he paid dearly.  Perhaps if there was a working heater on a bus music might be much more differently today, but in a world of speculation that's all it is. A sad way to end lives but perhaps it's too bad that they couldn't postpone a rock show a day just to get clear their minds.  Basically the promoters in charge of the Dance Party of 59 could be considered murderers for this unheard of places to play and having Buddy and company hop around the midwest in the middle of winter.   Even today, it would be a miracle to even complete such a grueling schedule as the promoters drew it out.  

Record Review Time  (A list of things found at Moondog Music)

Terry Reid-Bang Bang You're Terry Reid (Epic 1968)

If you really want to know what would have happened had Reid joined up with the New Yardbirds instead of unknown Robert Plant, this record really tells the story.  Reid's vocals were higher up in range kinda like Plant although history has shown that Robert would be the better known.  Jimmy Page really wanted Reid to join up and I can see why.  A cult classic as they say, one track Without Expression (don't be the man) was later covered by REO Speedwagon of the early 70s.  One of the longest albums of the the 60s (the timing actually goes over 50 minutes for a single record) Reid turns Season Of The Witch into a 10 minute freakout, that instead of building up to a climax, it slowly descends back into the grave  at the ending and Bang Bang owes more to Vanilla Fudge than Sonny And Cher.  And another 10 minute medley gives way to Summertime Blues, probably the least of the versions that I have heard but that's not a bad thing, it kinda leads nowhere.  Perhaps Reid could have used a better producer, he ended up with the indifferent Mickie Most and there have been horror stories of bands trying to to work with Most and not liking the end results (See Little Games by The Yardbirds for example).  Reid also borrows from the Yardbirds, Tinker Tailor and slows it to a blues like number.  Rumor has it that Reid turned down Page's offer to join up the New Yardbirds since he was tied up with Most but he did suggest Robert Plant.  And thus remained a cult artist at best and disappearing off the map for a time before coming back on a album for Warner Brothers in the 1990s. Oh, and that other band The New Yardbirds,  They went on to become Led Zeppelin and the rest is history. For shits and giggles, find a copy of Bang Bang and play it along side Led Zeppelin's first album and compare.  You'll be surprised at the results.
Grade B+

Mel "Pigue" Robbins-Hully Gully To The Hits  (Smash 1964)

File this under Tom And Jerry (Tom Tolimson and Jerry Kennedy not Simon And Garfunkel).  Back in the early 60s there was no shortage of instrumentals doing the latest hits to either the Twist or the lesser known Hully Gully. Hargis or Mel as he was known back then was a outstanding piano player that can be heard on many many country and rock singles of that time (He had two Jerry Lee Lewis type of piano pumping numbers that came out on Argo/Chess that collectors have been looking to find) but another fun fact that he was a blind piano player.  At that time he was part of the Mercury/Smash records session group known as the The Merry Melody group and Singers who sang on recordings by Leroy Van Dyke and Ray Stevens and was lead by Jerry Kennedy, himself no stranger to music only albums (Golden Guitar Greats can be found easily at thrift stores if you look hard enough).  Perfect for dance parties of 1964 thereabouts, Hully Gully To The Hits are just that, and Robbins and company go through the hits of the time although none will ever replace the vocals once such as I Know or Mother In Law.  And basically this is a fun romp and listen, Robbins' White Sliver Sands grooves harder than Bill Black Combo's version without the cheesy organ.  It's also fun to hear Robbins play around with Blueberry Hill by adding the melody of On Top Of Old Smokey. Of course the ever capable Boots Randolph is there to provide sax, as well as the Merrie Melody Singers shouting along to Baby Hully Gully, which was done by The Olympics.  It may not be much to hear it fifty years later but I still get a kick out of LPs like this.
Grade B

Willie Nelson-Country Willie His Own Songs (RCA 1965, Buddha reissue 1999)

Out of all of the RCA recording stars of that era, Willie Nelson was the most stripped down, at least on his RCA debut and like he did when recording for Liberty he redid some of his famous songs, but even back then, Willie's oft kilter vocal phasing wasn't the stuff for country music, he was eccentric from the word go.  Without the Anita Kerr Singers who smothered him on the Liberty album And Then I Wrote, it's Willie on guitar and a sympathetic group led by Chet Atkins (with the late Jerry Reed helping out as well).  Perhaps the polished Atkins production might get in the way but I think they added some clarity on his single One Day At A Time and Healing Hands Of Time.  Willie flirts with jazz blues on Night Life and adds Pete Drake's talking steel guitar novelty on Hello Walls.  The other thing that stands out is how dark these songs are, Willie could write a nice love song if he wanted to but the grimness of Darkness On The Face Of The Earth or Mr. Record Man is telling.  Later recordings with Atkins and then Felton Jarvis trying to add more strings and the Anita Kerr Singers returning and getting minimal results, one later best of Naked Willie has some of his better songs relived of the singers and strings that got in the way. But for all intent purposes Country Willie is in reality the first true Naked Willie and it would also would benefit him greatly 10 years later on his signature album Red Headed Stranger.  For myself, I tend to look at his RCA years with a lot more appreciation than on his classic Columbia albums, it shows a struggling and hungry songwriter wanting to do his own thing.  In a way his first album was like that, uncompromising and stripped down dark country.  And it worked.
Grade B+

Dr. Feelgood-I'm A Man  (Best Of The Wilko Johnson Era)  (Parlophone 2015)

There isn't no Dr Feelgood albums in the US that is available anymore (unless Sony Music still has Malpractice in print) and the early years with Wilko Johnson is arguably their best years although Gypsie Mayo gave them a classic in the 1981 Case Of The Shakes album.  It basically cherry picks Wilko's tunes from Down By The Jetty and Malpractice and curiously leaves off Paradise from Sneaking Suspicion.  I still would recommend Jetty and Malpractice in a heartbeat but this has five cuts from the outrageous Stupidity, which shows them in fine form.  I suspect this compilation would not exist had Wilko's Going Back Home recorded with Roger Daltrey became a surprise hit  but I also thank our lucky stars and Rhino for at least had the guts to put out on CD.  After all, America should have at least one Dr Feelgood record in print. (although in a perfect world they would all be available).  A nice sampler of the early years and Lee Brilleaux is still missed.
Grade  B+

Various: The Danceland Years (Pointblank Classic 1994)

20 years ago, Virgin via their blues outlet Pointblank issued a compilation of most of the sides that Morris Kaplan issued for his short lived Danceland label of the late 1948 through 1951 and perhaps best known for five hard to find John Lee Hooker numbers under the Baby Pork Chops alias he was using for that label.  Basically hard bop blues is the subject here,  both John and little known Tony "blues" Lewis have 9 cuts between them, which leaves Candy Johnson with the songs that sold the best for Danceland, Stampin' and Ebony Jump which echoes a bit of very primitive rock and swing.  The final track, at that time a mystery unknown What's The Matter With The World turns out was done by The Goldtones upon further research, The Goldtones somewhat a smooth harmony doo wop which owed as much to the Mills Brothers and Ink Spots too, with a shimmering vibrato guitar providing melody.  Apparently Sammy Kaplan, couldn't locate the other side to this song Lazy Daisy Blues since according to the liner notes, acetates of songs were lost  or exchanged hands.  The Danceland Years basically was compiled after an interest of finding lost John Lee Hooker songs and the five songs are trademark Hooker boogie/blues but with a very young voice, Tony Blues Lewis sounds more like Guitar Slim.    For those with a liking of obscure blues, Danceland Years is a find addition to your collection and about the Artist Unknown, mystery solved, although little is known about the Goldtones (there's a doo wop band going around the area but I doubt if they're related), despite the internet and Google. Update: There's a 50th Anniversary Edition of The Danceland Years that you can get off Itunes, and does provide a few more missing pieces to this puzzle plus Rose Nelson, the missing Lazy Daisy Blues from The Goldtones and Tommy Jefferson's Rock With Jesus.  But Candy Johnson's selections are MIA.

Grade B+ (this applies to the Virgin/Pointblank Comp).

Reference link below about Dance land Records.!__danceland-records

Foghat-Drivin' Wheels Best Of Foghat (Raven 2014)

I guess we'll never get a full decent compilation of Foghat's greatest moments but this comes very close. Unlike the Rhino best ofs, Raven goes further and adds the full length versions of their hits.  Complaint number 1 is that only 2 selections are from the last five albums and only one is the B side to Slipped Tripped Fell In Love (MIA) as well as Live Now Pay Later (MIA too) and Wide Boy (Ditto number 3).  Complaint number 2, we really don't need Take It Or Leave It or Couldn't Make Her Stay on a best of, (although the latter song is only 2 minutes long, it's still filler, and Take It Or Leave It isn't one of Dave Peverett's better songs.  Overlook that, and the comp gives you the indication of just how damn good Foghat is in delivering the boogie and it takes three of the best four available numbers from Rock And Roll Outlaws as well, IMO their most underrated.  There's more to them than just Slow Ride which will forever give Roger and company a nice living 40 years after the fact.  Will the young un's buy this?  You never know although I do hold out some hope for the future of the kids of today.  After all I know a certain old bar band that did love this band enough to note for note cover the live version of I Just Want To Make Love To You. And it turned out to be their highlight as well.
Grade B+

Can't review them all: Cheap Trick, Herman's Hermits

While people are continuing to volley for them being into the Rock Hall Of Fame, it gave me some time to revisit what I remember from Cheap Trick in their catalog.  Their classic years were on Epic and their classic albums remain the ones up to Dream Police although Budokan broke them big.  The most successful power pop rock band ever but I had to admit that I'm not an major gotta have it all fan of theirs.  The one thing that stands out is how they phased Bun E Carlos out of the band leaving him on the outside looking in.   The other thing that stands out, is their first album, folks call it an instant classic, and I listened and didn't think it was and despite of a couple numbers, I gave it a B minus and sold the record off.  They hit their mark with In Color and Heaven Tonight but Dream Police outside of the hit single was a drop off and Need Your Love sounded best on the live Budokan album.  And then they polished a turd up and called it All Shook Up and that's where I quit listening.   Then they got their biggest hit with hair metal pop ballad The Flame, which good for them gave them some pop credo but to these ears they sold out and got a gold ballad in return.  Moving to Warner Brothers for Woke Up With A Monster that CD is famous for hitting the cut outs in record time and The Tricksters moved on to independent record land at times coming up with a listenable record (Rockford) once in a while.  They tend to miss more often than hit but once they can come with something that's pretty damn good (Surrender, Stiff Competition) their songs are just as good as anyone else.  What they were good at was being a great live show band, especially during the Budokan years and having 20 thousand screaming Japanese girls in the background?  I'll always will fast forward over I Want You To Want Me, classic rock radio ran that into the ground but the pop rock charm of Bukodan will always remain despite radio overkill plays of I Want You etc.   Fun fact:  I have seen Cheap Trick twice in this area. One when they opened up for Blue Oyster Cult when BOC was touting The Revolution At Night and later in 1996 when they opened up for Styx, I would have forgotten the latter had I not come across an old ticket stub of the latter show. Like any bands still around from the 70s they're looking much older and not as sexy but Rick Neilsen as long as he still lives remains one of the better live guitar players in rock history.  I'll never be sold on the first Cheap Trick album  nor anything after Budokan but the first three albums are the reason why fans want them in the Rock hall.  And prove to be a valid argument for consideration.

It's pledge month at PBS and they have dusted off the same old DVD of past bands of the 60s to which most of the members have retired or died.  Hell, most of them are dead (Jim), and let's face it, the 60s were fifty years ago and it's a time we'll never return although the music will remain.  Perhaps the most unlikely of bands or singer that really hasn't changed is Peter Noone, who continues to be heard on 60s on 6. That said, I haven't been much of a fan of Herman Hermits, blame that on I'm Henry The 8th I Am, which is silly as they come or Mrs Brown You Got A Lovely Daughter which brings memories of holding my nose while singing that in the shower.  Better to leave that on the radio than in your collection.  That also said, The Hermits had some nice songs of their own, Can't You Hear My Heartbeat actually does Buddy Holly proud, or No Milk Today which is nicely placed along the works of the Hollies, or East West another song that rarely gets mentioned or played anymore. Noone's career after Herman was spotty at best, there was a band that made two albums for CBS that I can't recall but he's played the role of an aging teen idol quite well. Noone makes the oldies' circuit at times (he was here with The Turtles with Flo And Eddie and Mitch Ryder last year) and they put on a good show. I consider Herman Hermits to be in the same league as Gerry And The Pacemakers or Freddy And The Dreamers, pop idol music that got them lucky with a couple of novelty numbers.  ABKCO has updated the very best of Herman Hermits and has all the good and bad that one could ever need.  A singles bands but not a very good album band, that's Peter and the Hermits. 

Finally, record buying over the internet can be a tricky and sometimes challenging. Looking at EBAY pictures of records that appear to be VG or better can also reveal them to be more VG minus or F or G.  Interesting read about how photoshop can reveal the scratches that you may not see on the photo.  The rule of thumb is that if the label looks a bit chewed up, chances are the vinyl is too.  Buyer beware.

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