Thursday, May 28, 2015

Week In Review: Texas Flood, New Wave Theater

Well, it's been raining down south in Texas and Oklahoma.  Houston Monday Night got 11 inches of rain in 4 hours flooding each and everything in sight.  The river levels have never been so high, Austin got hit, so did Wemberley, a place where a lot of musicians call home.   Perhaps Mother Nature has issues with Greg Abbott, the GOP Idiot governor who been telling people that Obama is ready to invade their state.  I think Greg better worry more about Mother Nature who's doing the invading.  Of course with the chest beating, Abbott would now like the government to step in and help.  To which they, or we the taxpayers will, and then Greg will bitch about Government take over after everything said is done.

The double standard that is the GOP way of thinking has now come down to Jim Bob Dugger and his family, including his son Josh playing the game of incest with his sisters, which the internet blew up with this story.  TLC pulled the Dugger Show 19 Kids And Counting.  Not that I watch TLC, I don't but there's something wrong with this country when you have these Christian abiding Bible Thumpers screaming fire and brimstone to anybody else but if Josh is playing with his sisters they look the other way.  Look for more fun and hi jinx from the Dugger Family as time and years ensued.  I basically wasted enough space on this story anyway.

An afternoon in Davenport again. Deja Vu all over. Quad Cities laid into Kane County 13-4 in front of a sparse crowd, they said about 2500 showed up but most of the place was empty.  Strange for a team with the best record in the minor leagues.  I didn't figure that Kane County would be back up there this soon.  They started out hot with a three run homer and the next inning another Cougar got a inside the park HR, but The River Bandits chipped away at the lead and eventually had a five run 7th to pretty much seal the deal.  Of course the assorted yayhoos showed up, namely the rejects from CMT's Party Down South both teasing home player Bobby Boyd and Kane County's Dane McFarland, who last game damn near killed himself with a amazing catch in foul territory.  Alas McFarland hasn't had much of a hitting season, hitting .062 and going zero for four in Wednesday's game.  I'll probably find myself back in the Quad Cities a few more times before the season is over.  As for bargains, I did find a bunch of CD's for a dollar plus a Chuck Prophet and Alejandro Escovedo's Cds for 20 cents, which means I get to hear The Boxing Mirror all over again and see if it's improves from the original time I heard it.  For 45's I seen a Vicki Lawrence's The Night The Lights Went Out In Georgia on Soma before Bell Records took over.  While it was a odd find, I didn't see the need to buy it, and after a half, somebody did buy the Jimmy Webb Suspending Disbelief CD I took down in December.  For records, I found three at Goodwill for 4 dollars, a Kayak Royal Bed Bouncer, Earl Scruggs Review Volume 2 and a Jan Akkerman Atlantic album which I'll never see again.  If nothing, this trip tried my patience, hitting every fucking red light and getting behind some of the worst traffic ever.  When you have 10 straight red lights to deal with, you will lose patience and of course I did.  The Moline Hardee's service sucked so bad, I decided to take my business elsewhere, to Arby's to which some old man tried to take my beef and Cheddar sandwiches.

The 2015 Iowa City Art Festival, for next week, will have Shawn Colvin and Marc Coen on stage Friday Night and The BoDeans on Saturday.  I'll probably sit this one out.  But it is the start of the upcoming summer festival tour to which Cedar Rapids already got entertained by Chicago in a overpriced outdoors show and Steve Miller Band playing the Five Seasons Center last week.

Back a long time ago, when cable TV was the new wild frontier before Charter and Comcast and Mediacom starting buying everything up and making every channel just about the same, there was a weekend program called Night Flight and it could be seen on USA Network before they became the CSI Marathon channel. One of the standout shows from Night Flight was something called New Wave Theater, hosted by Peter Ivers, a very eccentric person that made a couple of albums for Warner Brothers in the 70s. NWT showcased some of the up and coming punk bands of the LA area back in the early 80s.  Standouts included Fear, X and The Blasters who all found a hole via Slash Records at that time.  But it was famous for The Angry Samoans, Bad Religion, 45 Grave and included poetry from a then unknown Henry Rollins. For a couple years New Wave Theater was the underground choice of punk and new wave but unfortunately when Peter Ivers was killed the show died too. Somehow, somebody decided to put all the episodes up for your viewing pleasure and I'm sure the statue of limitations will run out and somebody will yank the shows due to some Corporate greediness. But if you want to see how different this show was and just how opened minded the USA network was back then you can see the show from here:

Record World Pin up Girl: Melissa McCartney

I tend to favor the plus size women of the world as you can tell.  The one's that I had been with were a lot more fun than the skin and bones type that seems to be the rage of the youth.  Ivy Doomkitty gets plenty of lovin here on Record World.  However, Melissa McCartney I think would be a dream date, I like watching Mike And Molly from time to time although I have seen the reruns about 10 more times than usual.   In some ways Melissa does remind me of somebody I went out with years ago all the way down to that mischievous laugh of hers. This season you can see Mike And Molly reruns on the local station and FX.  That dream date is a dream anyway, the lucky guy is Ben Falcone, her husband.  Oh, did I mention that he's one lucky guy? He is ya kno?

Some reviews of note:

Blindside Blues Band (Blues Bureau 1993)

For myself there are two types of blues that are known around here, one is the Chicago blues that is pretty much nonexistent and the second is the show off blues of guitar players playing lead at every given chance of song played.  The Blindside Blues Band fits in the latter.  Kind of a all star band, this features Jeff Martin on drums and Greg Chalsson on bass, both have played in Badlands, Jack E Lee's band of the early 90s when they were on Atlantic and Chalsson was part of Leatherwolf.  Scott Johnson and Mike Onesko are the guitar players who duel each other on the 10 songs of this debut album.  What I find about this album is that...anybody who has been on any of Mike Varney's label be it Shrapnel or Blues Bureau is that Varney tends to favor the show off lead guitar work that has made certain albums from Craig Erickson a bit hard to listen to.  Onesko does showcase a Johnny Winter guitar lead but also I hear Frank Marino as well as Scott Johnson, no relation to the Gin Blossoms' guitar player.  From the opening notes of Bad Premonition to the ending of Winner Takes It All, this is in your face hard rock blues with plenty of screaming guitar.  I tend to get bored with this style very quickly although Hit The Highway and perhaps Back Against The Wall is worth hearing once or twice more.  I tend to like my blues a bit more melodic and less chaotic.
Grade C+

Sam Lay Blues Band-I'm The One (Superbird/Cherry Red 2009)

This is more to my liking of blues.  Sam Lay is best known for The Paul Butterfield Blues Band and playing drums on Howlin' Wolf's 1962 Rocking Chair album.  And at 80 years old continues to play the blues, but this 2009 album does show with the right backing of band, you can still make a good blues album.  Lay's vocals is somewhat akin to Eddie Taylor or to a lesser extent Muddy Waters but he does do a good cover of Taylor's Ride Em On Down, or Both Sides Of The Fence.  Billy C Farlow is a underrated harmonica player and producer guitarist Fred James puts his heart and soul into product, he even wrote the liner notes to this album.  It's the instrumentals that make this record go, Lay put his trademark shuffle into (what else) The Sammy Lay Shuffle and Alabama Crawl.  CD adds six bonus tracks, including a more jazzed up Poison Ivy that's better than the album take and three more instrumentals to shake em on down.
Grade B+

Mark Knopfler-Golden Heart (Warner Brothers/Mercury UK 1996)
                         Shangri La (Mercury 2005)
                         Tracker (Verve/Mercury 2015)

I always enjoyed Dire Straits as a guitar based band of the late 70s and early 80s but with something changed him after the success of Brothers In Arms and by the time On Every Street came out, it was basically Mark Knopfler and company.  He tends to stretch them out too, the songs that is.  Golden Heart is no different than On Every Street or Sailing To Philadelphia but gawd I wish he would cut out the Celtic stuff and leave that to The Pogues.  This record he employ a lot of Nashville session people (Eddie Bayers, Chad Cromwell, Richard Bennett) and even Vince Gill pays a visit to add vocals too.  I tend to think Mark would like to be as laid back as say, Eric Clapton or even more so the late great J J Cale but the major difference is that Cale knew when to end the song, whereas Knopfler tends to drag them out.  Are We In Trouble Now would be great to hear had Jim Reeves been alive to record it or perhaps Vince Gill himself.  I enjoy Mark more when he ups the beat (Imelda, Don't You Get It) but most of the time Mark is contented to just play at slow to midtempo beat.  Which can be a double edge sword, as it is on this hour long 14 song collection.
Grade B

9 years later, Knopfler was riding somewhat of a successful streak, he would later have Emmy Lou Harris help out on All Of The Roadrunning which really benefited him more.  He could make good albums but he tends to drone on and on with those slow numbers and Celtic numbers to which is on his latest album Tracker (reviewed next week) but on Shangri La, he tells the Celtic folks to take a album off.  Still working with some choice Nashville Sessionmen (Chad Cromwell returns, so does Glen Worf and Richard Bennett), Mark doesn't alter the formula that made him successful with Dire Straits.  You get the usual slight uptempo numbers (Boom Like That), blues and shuffles (Donegan's Gone, Song For Sonny Liston) and plenty more slow songs that are perfect to drive home after a hard day at work.  Of course Our Shangri-la is the best of the slower numbers on this album.  But the problem remains that Knopfler works in a CD format rather than a LP format, instead of working up 9 songs for about 40 minutes, he ups the ante to 14 songs that total 56 minutes, which made Golden Heart hard to stay awake to. But on the plus side, it does get a B plus simply of the fact that the penny whistles are not on this album.  One of his better solo efforts and worth a listen if you find it for a dollar like I did.
Grade B+

If you take Knopfler's career in stride, he really does not rock all that much, perhaps he never did if you consider his Dire Straits career although once in a while Pick Withers would up the tempo or Terry Williams kick him in the ass on Twisting By The Pool, but if you accept his easy listening type of music it does have its moments.  Tracker, is no different from Privateering or Shangri La but if you play it at the right time of day it might move you.  Of course the Celtic stuff is there on lead off song Laughs & Jones & Drinks & Smokes but on Tracker, Knopfler moves back to England.  Usually Chuck Ainsley has produced in the past but on this effort Mark and long time cohort Guy Fletcher produces and this does sounds like Mark was more comfortable working this way rather than heading to Nashville.  There's a bit more of a swinging beat at times (I can't call it rock and roll) on songs like Beryl and bonus track Terminal Of Tribute To.  Fact of the matter is that the bonus tracks do have something to the album up to the minute forty four of Heart Of Oak, to which it's simply Mark and his guitar.  While Privateering was a comeback of sorts, I think Explorer is the better of the two, in fact I'll go out on a limb and say that this album is his best effort since Sailing To Philadelphia.
Grade B+


Singles Going Steady Medley:

Money Too Tight To Mention/Holding Back The Years-Simply Red (Elektra 7-65979) 1985

The two best songs they ever did and they're on a handy little seven inch forty five.  Mick Hucknoll gets points for playing in a Faces reunion without Rod Stewart a few years ago and he had aspirations of being a white soul man but I just can't into the Simply Red albums and singles after Holding Back The Years, which sounds fine on lite rock stations, but I don't listen to lite rock stations if I can avoid it.

Pretty Brown Eyes-The Golden Leaves (Challenge 59375) 1967

Hippy Dippy Muzak.

Good Clean Fun-The Monkees (Colgrems 66-5005)  1969

My goodness, the teenie boppers sure quit buying The Monkees after 1968 it seems.  But in my bargain hunts I have found more of their latter day stuff.  This limped up to number 82 in September of 1969 but in some ways this countrified sound would figure greatly in Micheal Nesmith's venture into country with The First National Band.  Not that he had anymore success than he did with the Monkees, he scored three songs that did hit the top 100, Joanne, the highest chart topper at number 21 a year later.  Nevertheless Good Clean Fun was a far departure than the days of Last Train To Clarksville or Pleasant Valley Sunday.  Perhaps Instant Replay was a better album than The Monkees Present, where Good Clean Fun is taken from. Never heard Instant Replay but I heard Present, and wasn't that fond of it much.  B side Mommy And Daddy is Mickey Dolenz hamming it up.

Song Of The Barefoot Lumberjack/Lil's Grill  Billy Leach (Bally 7-1039)  1957  A number 86 chart showing, it was a product of the times, a folk song with a pop arrangement. B Side Lil's Grill is slightly better, a bit more pop that would fit at home on a Seth McFarlane show.  Ever get the feeling that I tend to buy records that I would have never considered getting when I was younger.  Look for me on a future show of Hoarders-Buried Alive with records nobody gives a shit about anymore.

Jamaica Farewell-Harry Belafonte (RCA 47-6663) 1956

Another artist I never gave much thought about till after I turned 40, Harry has been more pop than calypso although if it wasn't for him doing calypso nobody would have heard of it.  Of course DAY O (the banana boat song) is what Harry will be forever remembered for, but I tend to like this slow sad pop song.  From a batch of 45s that Half Priced Books had up for sale where all of this edition of Singles Going Steady Medley came from, all in fairly good shape (with the exception of Greg Allman's Cryin' Shame-Capricorn CPS 0279) and treated very well by their previous owner.  I tend to think that there's not much out there left to get, unless I feel like putting another 258 miles on the car to retrieve that Vicki Lawrence Soma single of Night The Lights Went Out In Georgia.  Which after careful consideration, I'll let it pass and let somebody else claim it.


Sunday, May 24, 2015

Forgotten Bands Of The 80s-Prism

In today's music world, Prism would not exist.  They made six albums for Ariola/Capitol in the late 70s and early 80s but since they were marginal sellers in the states (they sold much better in Canada) Capitol kept them on the roster up till their 1984 flop Beat Street.  But their type of power pop rock and roll never seem to strike a chord with Americans.

Like most folks I didn't pay much attention to them outside of springing up for the 1981 Small Change album and getting it for the song Don't Let Him Know which made it to number 39 on the charts  But in some ways I ended up getting the second edition of Prism, the Henry Small years.  But if anything Prism is basically famous for two reasons.  One, it was a project of Bruce Fairbairn who played horns in a earlier band but at this point trying to get his foot in the door of production.  While Prism wasn't the next big thing, Fairbairn would eventually graduate to other production jobs (Blue Oyster Cult, Aerosmith and Bon Jovi). He would pass away in 1999.  The other big factor was Jim Vallance, a prolific songwriter of his own and who would figure greatly on the early albums and even playing drums and singing under the alias of Rodney Higgs.  Vallance would hook up with a unknown Bryan Adams on writing songs and both would benefit much more in the 80s when Adams broke loose with Cuts Like A Knife and the overplayed Summer of 69.

While the first Prism album, while good, shows a band trying to fit in with the times.  I actually liked the space rock Spaceship Superstar and Take Me To The Kaplin, both written by Higgs aka Vallance, and can tolerate I Ain't Looking Anymore and Open Soul Surgery a couple of BTO (without Randy Bachman, see their Street Action and Rock And Roll Nights for further reference) but the ballads tend to drag the record down a bit.  While Vallance does sing on a couple numbers, the rest are sung by underrated vocals Ron Tabak.  The album does borrow a bit from other bands as well, Chilliwack and even a bit of Geddy Lee too.  A ho hum debut, with potential.

A change of bass players brings in Allen Harlow, who continues to lead the new version of Prism to this day, if they're still playing and See Forever Eyes improves on the debut.  Rocket Morton replaces Vallance on drums.  Although creative differences did split up Vallance and Lindsay Mitchell, the fact of the matter was that Vallance's songs were more radio friendly, even more so with Bryan Adams co writing but the four albums that did follow have good to great moments with them.  At times they would revisit their space rock roots with See Forever Eyes, an album that still having growing pains of sorts but is a bit more consistent than the debut.  Armageddon begins the Mitchell songwriting dominance, Vallance isn't entirely gone, he writes and arranges two of the songs off that album You Walked Away Again and Take It Or Leave It and the title track is an attempt at prog rock, otherwise it's the Canadian pop rock that Prism is beginning to be famous for.  And the album might be my favorite of them all.  Young And Restless the 1980 album, Vallance is gone, Mitchell writes most of the songs along with Al Harlow.  Party Line and Satellite are absolute winners here and Tabak's vocals give it enough to rise Prism above Chilliwack or the second edition of BTO.  By then, a whole array of changes would happen.  Tabak either got kicked out or he left on his own and John Hall left too. Bruce Fairbairn would not return either.

With Fairbairn gone, they chose John Carter to produce Small Change, to which was a play on words with the addition of Henry Small, a violinist singer songwriter in another band that made a one off album for Columbia in the late 70s (Small Wonder). Small Change was a attempt to go mainstream rock, with the Vallance/Adams penned Don't Let Him Know, which basically is their only top forty hit in the states. A lesser followup  Turn On Your Radar popped up in the lower top 100. Ironically, Lindsay Mitchell only contributed one new original, a cowrite with Small on Hole In Paradise.  This change of direction of sound didn't appeal much even to the Canadian faithful and soon afterward Michell, Harlow and Norton left the band, leaving Henry Small as the sole member of the band.  With no original members and since Small Change sold just enough to commend a followup, the final album Beat Street came out. While the original review was scathing a second listen turned out to be that Beat Street did pale in comparison with the rest of the Prism catalog and perhaps Henry Small was looking for that followup hit to Don't Let Him Know.  It would have been better to call this a Henry Small and Friends album rather than Prism; Small cowrote most of the songs with Richie Zito (hack producer that gave Cheap Trick a big hit with The Flame a few years later) and Davitt Sergerson.  Beat Street does try to beat Loverboy at their own game, with dated songs and dated electronic drums.  A couple songs do stand out, Is He Better Than Me is a Loverboy soundalike, I Don't Want to Want You Anymore recalls Foreigner and State Of The Heart echoes Prism of the past. But with no original members left, Beat Street lacks a heart of its own, it plays to the radio sounds of 1984 and the above named bands with Honeymoon Suite as well.  It just doesn't sound like the Prism that we used to know.

And with that Prism called it a day.  There was talk of a 1984 reunion band of sorts but Ron Tabak's bizarre death ended that for a few years, until 1987 when a single Good To Be Back came out.  A 1993 album Jericho came out with the lineup of Allen Harlow, Lindsay Mitchell, Darcy Deutsch, Jim Vallance and Rocket Norton and even had Rick Springfield contributing vocals and songs but I have not heard that one.  Perhaps the best overview of Prism lies in the 1996 Best Of that Renaissance issued with help from Capitol/EMI and has all the hits and album cuts that made Prism what they are.  A lighter poppier version of Chilliwack and I heard them being compared to the German rockers Lake and Illinois's Starcastle but the only relation to the latter would be the Real To Reel album.  It was a stepping stone for Jim Vallance and Bruce Fairbairn on their way to their own rock and roll stardom but for the rest of the guys, they were basically unknown even to this very day.    Outside of Don't Let Him Know, satellite radio never plays them, and Corporate radio here even less.  But once in a while I'll find one of their albums at Goodwill and smile from time to time.  The Best Of is the perfect overview.  And it contains enough songs from Beat Street to recommend it most.

Which is no songs off Beat Street.

Prism (Ariola America 1977)  B-
See Forever Eyes (Ariola America 1978) B
Armageddon (Capitol 1979) B+
Young And Restless (Capitol 1980) B+
Small Change (Capitol 1981) B
Beat Street (Capitol 1983) C
Best Of Prism (EMI Capitol 1996) A-

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Townedger Radio 8: Adrian Rocks Music, More BB King

A very interesting weekend that I had.  Last Saturday Night, my friend Dennis came through town on taking the long way home and it turned to be a band reunion of sorts.  You can read about that on The Townedgers' website adjacent from here.

This week is the ending of David Letterman's long running Late Night TV show and I haven't comment much about it.  I liked watching part of it sometime and will miss the Top Ten that he did.  Bob Dylan, Eddie Vedder and of course everybody's favorite band The Foo Fighters will close the show down in style.

While Yes continues on as a band, Chris Squire will sit the tour out as he's been diagnosed with leukemia and will undergo treatment. Billy Sherwood will take over on bass.  Also it seems that Neil Peart's aches and pains are catching up with him so is Alex Lifeson who's getting arthritis in his hands as well.  All goes to show that we're all getting old and getting older means getting all these aches and pains as well.

It will be hard to find since Ruf Records is not sold by Best Buy but Samantha Fish's third album Wild Heart, Luther Dickerson produced the effort and it should be out in stores July 7th.  That is the stores that dig deeper for new music and sell records.  Alas, looks like Sam will have backing musicians and Go Go Ray will not be on the drums although Brady Blade is a good drummer in his own right.  

Upon stumbling upon the website of the week, I noticed that Adrian Rocks Music reviewed the latest Townedgers album Forthcoming Trains and she liked it.  Thanks for the thumbs up.  Adrian also reviews other bands on her website.  Check it out:

This week I have been celebrating the loss and the legacy of B B King.  It's the first time I have played every album in my collection that I have of the legend who passed away in his sleep, but what amazes me is that his albums still sound fresh and up to date.  Had there been a reliable record store in town, B B's catalog would be available but then again what better way to get them is sit in front of your computer and order them off Amazon or Second Spin.  On a different subject, new music today has been given a third grade mentality, with the lowest IQ band is none other than Florida Georgia Line with a 2.83 mentality. They have always sounded like they were held back a grade (or two).  I don't basically comment too much about them, outside of reviewing their 2nd Sophomore album Everything Goes and of course I missed out on their interview with Dan Rather, who looked as if he'd rather be someplace else.   But if you can't get enough of that 2nd grade country autotuned crap, the new Luke Bryan is out too, called Sniffing Diesel Fumes.  But then again I don't listen to radio although The Fox surprised me by playing Montrose Rock Candy which I managed to listen to that station for about 5 minutes before Bohemian Rhapsody came on and I proceeded to pop in a B B king CD and listened to that instead.

The Chrome Horse will not be back as originally thought.  Lost in the fire last July, they were cleaning the place up for a spring opening but when I walked past that building, there was a for sale sign up instead.  Another decline for the working musician which there's not many places to play at, not that it means that much anymore since if anybody does want to play live, they have to pay the owner just for the privilege of playing live I guess.  Since the Chrome Horse/3rd Street Live building is still standing, there is hope that somebody will buy the place.  After all it's in the up and coming New Bo District and old buildings that were damaged in the flood of 2008 are slowly being restored.  A new Bike friendly restaurant is slated to open down there in late August and somebody has been hard at work restoring the old Mum's bar.  Barring any more major floods I think New Bo will be better than ever in another two years.  And Willie Nelson came though town Monday to play in front of a sold out crowd at the Paramount.

And we have not have a major rain/flood event this spring.  All goes to show that spending eight thousand dollars to waterproofing the basement may have had something to do with Mother Nature turning her wrath someplace else this spring, but who knows when the next big flood event will come.

After 43 years at the Marion School District former football coach and American Studies teacher Dave Messerli retires. While some of my classmates didn't think otherwise, I liked him as a teacher.  Had him in my 7th grade English Arts class and American Studies 1 which I should have taken as a Freshman rather than wait a year later and suffer the consequences of being a sophomore in a freshman class.  I wish him well in golfing retirement. 

Also last weekend while we had our band reunion of sorts, my old high school sweetheart Penny got married to her original high school sweetheart Karl.  It's a small world we live in, we all seem to evolve around each other and that while the world is far and wide, my friends have remained in town, most of them anyway.  I didn't date much in high school if at all.  The one that I thought that got away really was never much of a big deal after my sophomore year and turned out to be a thirty year mirage.  And we really were more opposite than meets the eye, especially after said woman is now a Rotary club president somewhere in Texas where they're waiting for the Obama invasion. At least Penny showed interest of going out rather than the other one going through various friends to bullshit me into thinking she did care, only to make a scene at a high school dance. So  Penny was the high school sweetheart by process of elimination.   But I think Karl was much more compatible than me, Penny didn't care for a lot of the records and tapes that I'd play out in the car when we did get back together a couple times, she hated Urge Overkill and Nirvana and preferred country and NASCAR.  And I don't do NASCAR.    Like when I first got back together with her at my high school reunion, she got back with Karl on their reunion and eventually became more together till they tied the knot last Saturday.    I don't envision of getting back together with any of my grade school or high school crushes, they are a thing of the past and from what I remembered or seen them the last time, made me wonder why I even gave them a second look.  But Penny was the best of them all, even in her quiet moods, she did for a time care a little about me in her own way.  To which I wish both her and Karl all the best in togetherness.

Townedger Radio Show Number 8 (Broadcast 5/20/15 via Lucky Star Radio)-The Playlist

Maybe I Will-Rule 62
Don't Take It So Hard-Keith Richards
Van Halen-Nerf Herder
Girls Like Me-Bonnie Hayes
Like You Do-The Townedgers
I.L.B.T's-Joe Walsh
Here's To You-Dio
Do You Close Your Eyes-Rainbow
The Mob Rules-Black Sabbath
All My Life-Steve Earle
Marie Laveaux-Dr. Hook And The Medicine Show
All In It Together-The Pirates
Don Henley Must Die-Mojo Nixon
Short Notice-The Living End
The Highway Is For Dreamers-The Townedgers

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Steve Miller Remembers B B King

Tribute to BB King:

Growing up in Texas in a family of musicians and having a father who was a part time recording engineer exposed me to the blues at a very early age. It quickly became my favorite music. I met T bone Walker when I was eight years old. He taught me how to play lead melodies, play the guitar behind my head and do the splits all at the same time. Later when I got to know BB and had given him copies of recordings my father had made of T Bone in 1951, BB told me T Bone was one of his most important influences and had been the “Bridge from Blues to Jazz” and had inspired BB’s complex arrangements.

By the time I was 14 years old I had my own band and we were backing up Jimmy Reed at gigs in Dallas. In the mid 60’s I was jamming in Chicago with Muddy Waters, James Cotton and Howlin’ Wolf and was playing rhythm guitar for Buddy Guy when I finally decided to head West and seek my fortune and start The Steve Miller Blues Band.

By the late 60’s T Bone Walker, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Freddy King, Jimmy Reed, Howlin Wolf, Muddy Waters and BB King were considered by all musicians to be the best active Blues players in the world. When I was 23 I had played with all of them but BB King.

In February 1967 Bill Graham called and told me he had just booked BB at the Fillmore West and wanted my Blues band to open for him. I jumped at the chance. We headed over to the Fillmore and set up our equipment and waited to watch BB sound check. His band was amazing and his drummer Sonny Freeman was the greatest shuffle drummer I had ever heard but there wasn’t a chance to meet BB personally. Just before the show started we took the stage when BB’s assistant came out with BB’s guitar and started walking around with it as we were starting to open the show. It’s an old headliner blues trick used to upstage the openers by exciting the audience and I was pretty annoyed. It’s sort of like disrespecting a fellow musician by saying “ Lets have a big hand for….what’s your name?” Well BB’s guy finally found a place right behind me on the stage where my spot light lit up BB’s guitar.

As I remember it the guitar got a bigger round of applause than our entire band did. Well we started the set and we were going over pretty well and almost through when I broke a string. This was way before the days of guitar roadies and extra guitars and I thought to myself “Well you put your guitar on my stage during my set, I’m gonna use it.” So without thinking it over very carefully I picked up BB’s guitar, plugged it in and tried to play it. It turned out he had the thinest gauged strings and most delicate set up I had ever seen. The first note I tried knocked the two high strings immediately off the bridge of his guitar and I was in total shock at what I had just done. I quickly put them back in place but I was so freaked at what I had just done and afraid I had messed up “Lucille” I quickly finished our set and put BB’s guitar back on his stand. Turned out no one from BB Kings group was watching us and they never said a word about it and later after I was invited to Jam with BB and he was gracious and great to me, it was that jive guitar tech.

Many years later BB and his Band were playing at club in Sun Valley and I went over to see him. It was a very crowded night and I was on the front row when BB came out and opened the show. He sounded great and was singing a verse and answering with lead guitar when he broke a string. I was looking right at him, he never acknowledge anything had happened and kept looking straight ahead smiling and singing while he removed the broken string, reached into his pocket pulled out a new string without looking, unwrapped it, mounted it on the bridge, and fed it through the peg head, wound up the string and finished the job just in time to play his lead solo. He never let on that he had broken a string or that anything unusual had happened and I think I was the only person in the club who understood what had just happened.

I did get to play with BB and he was always generous, kind and inspirational. Thank you BB for all the great music, inspiration and friendship you gave to all the guitar players in the world. We are in Memphis playing here tonight and of course the evening will be dedicated to the Great BB King. We are sure going to miss you. RIP

Steve Miller

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Bill Nevins Interviews James McMurtry.

I haven't posted much of other stories, but I thought this one would be worth a read to you Americana Fans out there and fans of the music of James McMurtry.  From the No Depression site, Bill Nevins interviews James McMurtry on the new album and other things that come to mind.  Complicated Game is available at the more finer record stores out there (but not Best Buy or Wal Mart go figure).

James McMurtry is touring the USA this spring and summer with his band, in support of their new album, Complicated Game. I talked with him by cell phone in late April from the road.

Bill Nevins: Great new album. What's the complicated game?

James McMurtry: Thank you. Well, it's mostly about relationships, and that's a complicated game. Actually, my label is called Complicated Game, and I had that line in a song, so I stole it for the album title and figured people would think I owned the record label.

Good plan. Are you writing any songs here about things that have happened to you? When you write in the first person, is that ever you?

No, that's definitely not me. I'm a fiction writer. I make it all up. The way I write a song is, I get a couple lines and a melody and I think, now who said that? And then I come up with the character that might have said that, and then I can get the story from the character.

So, you don't chase down your blood pressure pills with Red Bull like your guy in that song does?
No, but a couple years ago we played a cruise ship and a couple of nurses came up and said that was their favorite line.

You've got such a body of work now that it's like a body of short stories. Do the same characters ever come back from earlier songs?

I haven't had that happen yet. But I don't write prose, I just write verse -- they're kind of different muscles, really.

How did you get to be such a good guitar player?

I had to ... my budget kept shrinking and if I wanted to have electric guitar, I had to play it myself after a while. I wasn't very good at it for a while. I was always a decent acoustic guitar player, but when I started playing Telecaster and learning on the job, it was pretty shaky there for a while. I got most of my suckin' done!

You've said you admire Sonny Landreth, for instance.

Oh definitely, he's an amazing player. But I don't try to play like him, though.

You play all year, don't you?

Yeah, we have to now, 'cause most of the money comes from the road. We're on the road about half the year, and when we're home we have weekend work and we've got a regular mid-week gig at the Continental Club in Austin, so we play most of the year now.

This album seems to be going over a map of the US, from South Dakota to Long Island Sound.
Yeah, well, the Long Island song I actually did get stuck on the Whitestone Bridge. But South Dakota came about cause my dad [author and screenwriter Larry McMurtry] called me up sometime in October of 2013 and said, 'Have you heard about the tragedy?' It was that early blizzard that killed all those cows. And that kind of puzzled me because he hates cows. He grew up ranching. It wasn't the cows that he was worried about; it was the people that tend the cows for a living that bothered him. He still has an affinity for ranching people even though he never wants to do that kind of work again.

That's such a stark image. The rancher buys all those cattle in Texas because of the drought and then they freeze and there are all these useless carcasses.

Yeah, that really happened. Their coats hadn't thickened yet. And there were cows that were there already, that died. It was terrible.

You get the word about events like that through your song, to people who might not have heard about it. You have written only a few overtly political songs, but that song is political in its way, isn't it?

Yeah, there's a thread of social commentary through most of my songs. You have to be careful writing political songs because there's a tendency to get on a soap box. I got lucky with "We Can't Make It Here Anymore" and that turned out to be a good song, but you can't get too preachy, or you can turn people off.

It seems like, by feeling the country as you travel around it, you get to tell us what's going on. That immigrant to Long Island Sound is fascinating.

Yeah, you hear so many songs about people from the South living in the Northeast, and they're mostly about how 'I'm stuck up here in New England with Dixie on my mind,' and homesickness. So I thought this guy should be from Oklahoma and I'll have a guy who moved up to Long Island and he likes it and doesn't wanna go back to Tulsa!

Are you a country songwriter?

Definitely not. I listened to country growing up and that's what my dad listened to, but I wouldn't call myself a country songwriter, especially not in the context of modern country music.
You have made felt fedoras famous.

Well, I moved to San Antonio in the mid '80s and there was a really good hat store downtown, Paris Hatters, and I just started wearing them for some reason. I wear straw hats in the summer -- too hot for felt.

Do you have a set list for this part of the country [New Mexico]? Or do you just plan to play the whole album?

This album has a lot of slow ballads on it, so it's kinda hard to do the whole album as a live set because people get fidgety. You want to give them something to dance to now and again. So we still do "Choctaw Bingo" and "Too Long in the Wasteland," and mix it up.

Looking forward to seeing you again in Santa Fe!
Thanks. See you then.


Friday, May 15, 2015

The Thrill Is Gone-B B King RIP

In this life, I was fortunate enough to live during the right time.  The development of rock and roll, the destruction of rock and roll and the Corporization of rock and music for that matter.  It was like that in country although I wasn't around to see Hank Sr but managed to witness the power of George Jones.   Jazz has its originators as well while John Coltrane and Dave Brubeck are in the great beyond jamming away we still have Sonny Rollins from that era and in country Willie Nelson at age 82 spreading the jams and love as he goes back on the road again.  The blues era of the 40s and 50s became a source point for rock and roll of the 60s to take over.  One cannot express the influences of Elmore James or Howlin' Wolf and Muddy Waters to name a couple.  John Lee Hooker gave us the boogie.  Louis Jordan was jump blues that influenced Chuck Berry who influenced rock and roll.  But Louis Jordan was instrumental of being a part of a legend who for almost 70 years was bigger than the music itself.  The one we all know as B B (Blues Boy) King.

I knew once  B B went into Hospice two weeks ago that his time on this planet making music was coming to an end and for that past two weeks trying to take write the major influence that B B King on this life and recording career.  In any case the number 1 best overall view of what B B did comes from his 1992 The King Of The Blues, a sprawling four CD set that starts with a song written for his first wife on Bullet Records (Miss Martha King) up to a guitar duet with the late Gary Moore who drank himself to death long before B B closed his eyes for the final time.  While box sets nowadays are nothing more than profit taking,  King Of The Blues still remains an excellent overview of a man who damn near influenced every living and dead guitar players of the world, Hendrix, Stevie Ray, Eric Clapton who turned 70 himself and still remains a guitar legend as well.  It's something to marvel that Clapton called him the best, King ranks high up there with his singular played lead response to his vocal.  And in his prime B B King could shake the building down with that bellow of a vocal too.  But even in playing in a bar band we did our share of B B king songs, basically Rock Me Baby, a 45 that I did buy for 7 dollars from Rock N Bach many years ago, but a single so powerful that I wanted the original.   King was signed to Blarais' Kent label and recorded some of his classic songs, originals of course but with the usual Biaris adding their names to compositions guaranteeing them more money than King himself.   In the box set liner notes, King doesn't bash them at all, thankful that they gave him a recording contract and making records.  While whoever the other songwriters were, Josea, Taub, Ling, the songs were King written.

Going to ABC Records was a much better idea.  At that time ABC Paramount was trying to get a foothold in the radio market and only had a few success with teen idols Paul Anka, George Hamilton IV, Steve and Edie and Woody Woodbury whoever he was.  Two major signings helped ABC become a label to be reckon with, one was Ray Charles, the other B B King, who after signing with ABC stayed on for over 50 years but in various labels, ABC Paramount, ABC, BluesWay, MCA and even Geffen kept him on the roster after Universal bought them all up.  B B  knew the blues quite well and he had some successful ones, his How Blue Can You Get (a Leonard Feather comp but on the 45 credited to Jack Clement) which in essence is the ultimate B B King, starting out brooding on the first verse, a getting a bit more angrier up to the third verse and coda that would be classic BB, the anger and hurt blowing up like a volcano.

I gave you a brand new Ford
But you said, "I want a Cadillac"
I bought you a ten dollar dinner
And you said, "Thanks for the snack"
I let you live in my penthouse
You said, "It was just a shack"
I gave you seven children

Perhaps the best example of vintage BB King live is the Live At The Regal, which originally came out on ABC Paramount. and I don't know what it is about the recording that makes it's a classic.  Perhaps it was Johnny Pate's production and atmospheric recording,  but Pate recording it just right.  While there might be better live recordings out there, it is the emotional playing and more often than not B B's shouting the blues to get his point across, beginning and pleading on Worry Worry, six minutes and twenty seconds of textbook blues.  The fact of the matter that the King Of The Blues box set only draws one song off this album only shows it to be a sampler of that album but Live At The Regal is one of the albums to hear in whole.  

Certainly BB signature song is The Thrill Is Gone, his highest charting single which reached number 15 in late 1969.  By then his manager thought that a move to the radio market would benefit BB better in the long run and while he did get some moderate success (a far cry from the number 97 showing of How Blue Can You Get in 1964)  I did have his 45 of I'm Going Do The Same Thing They Do To Me at one time and it is B B doing more of a soul blues than what would be the more straight R and B of Thrill Is Gone produced by Bill Szymczyk  (can't never spell his name right). Bill thought it needed some strings and he added them later on via Burt De Coteaux  strings arrangement to give it a more varied sound.  I have mixed feelings about the song,  I enjoy the single version better than the 5 and half album cut that seems to drive on and I have issues of the drummer half assing the beat later on but outside of that nitpicking the song remains classic.

It's no secret that BB played alongside some of the finest rock and rollers at that time.  Leon Russell who wrote Hummingbird plays on B B's version too. Carole King plays piano on Chains And Things. And of course, U2 was there with BB on the 1988 When Love Comes To Town, one of the best things about Rattle And Hum.  But top forty was never that nice to BB, only his 1974 I Like To Live The Love only got inside the top thirty at number 28 and the aforementioned Rock Me Baby released after BB moved over to ABC did give Kent Records a number 34 chart rating, not bad for a song you never hear on the Oldies station.  BB would record with the Crusaders in the late 70s and early 80s as well.  But if Eric Clapton needed a album of blues standards to record with, he'd look up BB on the album Ridin With The King, or if MCA Universal needed a quick buck, record BB with some stars on the Duets album and 80.

The duets albums and Riding With The King are like a fun jam to hear but B B was still able to make his own albums and good albums as well.  King paid tribute to Louis Jordan with Let The Good Times Roll, which if would have been made in 1969 or even 1979 would have classic but by 1999 he was beginning to wind down.  Jordan's classics still rule but King sounds like he's having fun here.  The two albums that I did buy in the 90s.  There Is One More Time is updated B B King and the songs are quite good, the Doc Pomus 8 minute title track and I'm Moving On.  But I also liked a lot was his 2000 self produced Makin Love Is Good For You, with lead off track I Got To Leave This Woman one of his better tracks and of course covering Willie Dixon, Don't Go No Further.   The final B B King album that I bought that wasn't a duets LP was 2008's One Kind Favor, produced with John Henry Burnett (T Bone) in tow.  This is B B's tribute to the blues artists and songs that made BB King what he is today, from T Bone Walker to Howlin Wolf, from Blind Lemon Jefferson to The Mississippi Shrieks but also Lonnie Johnson which King closes the record with Tomorrow Night, which BB says is one of his favorite songs ever.  With that, One Kind Favor is the final BB King album of new music and B B would stick to playing live shows and living inside of his bus till the end when his body finally gave out and BB would leave this world Thursday Night at around 9 40 in Vegas.

Which means Lucille will play no more, his trusted guitars (all of them were named Lucille) forever silent.  My BB King memory isn't mine but my mom said that his bus and entourage was in town after a show at the Paramount and he had a grand niece working there and he stopped to pay her a visit.  My mom said he was a nice friendly guy.

Everybody dies, the question is when and where.  When you lose a legend like BB King you take stock in what he did to change the face of music and no doubt had there been no BB King Jimi Hendrix might be sounding a bit different.  In this day and age of throwaway music,  there's a reminder that when a legend like B B King passes, you discover that his music did matter and that it did change music for the better.  It's pointless to say that there'll be nobody like them ever again, the music industry refuses to do that.  To have BB stayed on at Universal for so many years that even they would never dare of dropping him from the roster. 

You can't replace BB, he was that good.

Some B B King  Albums Reviewed;

The Fabulous B B King (Flair/Virgin 1991)

The early beginnings of a legend.  He has his T Bone Walker licks down quite nice but I don't care much for that Freddie King howl that hasn't aged that well (Three O' Clock Blues, Sweet Little Angel). Thankfully B B King found his own voice but these vintage RPM sides recorded in Memphis years ago showed he was on to something, even if he was copying Elmore James note for note on Please Love Me or the rumba cha cha cha on Woke Up This Morning.  Ten Long Years would done later by Buddy Guy and the majority of songs would be reworked for Live At The Regal to better effect but everybody's gotta start somewhere.
Grade B+

BB King Live At The Regal (ABC Paramount 1965)

The live album that define B B King for the ages.  He always had a great band backing him up and on that late 1964 date at The Regal, this is Memphis meeting Chicago head on and these songs BB had in his playlist he knew by heart, to tell stories, sing, pleads and bellows his way into becoming a much loved icon.  This does rank in the top 10, maybe even top 5 live albums of all time, all the way down to Johnny Pate's production and recording.  While best ofs took Sweet Little Angel song and put on best of, you have to hear the rest of the medley for it all to make sense, from John Lee Hooker's It's My Own Fault and ending in the classic version of How Blue Can You Get, to which the crowd response is damn near orgasmic.  The version of Please Love Me is unbelievably fast and almost at punk speed, even BB can hardly keep up with the music, a far cry from Elmore inspired studio version.   Equally as powerful, the six minute Worry Worry to which BB finally puts away that Freddie King yelp into a bellow that I'm surprised he didn't blow out the speakers trying to get his point across.  Leading into a minute and half of Woke Up This Morning. For textbook blues playing, it's easy to see why Live At The Regal is definitive live blues and perhaps the best live album BB King ever made.
Grade A

Back In The Alley (BluesWay 1973)

BB King made great albums and singles, the problem was ABC would compile poorly made Best of's (the first Best of BB King was ruined by a smartass edit of Nobody Loves Me But My Mother), and at the time Back In The Alley stole key moments off Live At The Regal.  And you get the story of Lucille but then again if you have the King Of The Blues boxset, all of the songs here are on that album too.  In 1973 this would have been a very good best of BB King, probably a classic had Thrill Is Gone was on that.
Grade B+

There Is Always One More Time (MCA 1991)

Although I'm not familiar with his tenure with the Crusaders in the late 70s, BB had Joe Sample write most of the songs on this very good 1991 effort to which he calls it his best album ever.  Of course he had been saying that up till One Kind Favor, but the urban blues and soul that Sample writes (along with Will Jennings who did work with Steve Winwood) does fit BB quite well.  Doc Pomus wrote the title track shortly before he passed away which this record a bittersweet feel.  I still enjoy the uptempo tracks and the ones that BB bellows away (I'm Moving On, Mean And Evil) and the jamming that ends Roll Roll Roll is vintage King with a decent backing band, which is lead by Joe Sample and powered by Jim Keltner's drum work.  Really I don't think King has ever made a bad album, at least not the ones that I have heard. Despite the title track going on a bit too long, this is yet another very good album.
Grade B+

Making Love Is Good For You (MCA 2000)

B B in later years continue to put out good to great albums. 1999's Let The Good Times Roll was a fine Louis Jordan tribute album but it's too bad that ABC or MCA didn't compile the songs when BB was in his prime.  Making Love, shows BB self producing and singing his trademark blues.  In his late 70s, King can still sing them and lead off track I Got To Leave This Woman shows he can still shout with the best.  He can also cover the choice of covers and he chooses Since I Fell For You and I Know, both early 60 soul hits updated, takes on Willie Dixon via the Doors (and Muddy) Don't Go No Further and I'm In The Wrong Business which BB wonders if he should retire his guitar, to which thankfully he didn't. The title track is a bit goofy but nitpicking aside and 15 years after the fact, Making Love Is Good For You is a very good BB King album.
Grade B+

Riding With The King (Reprise 2001)

Eric Clapton may have gotten a bit too laid back for his own good but in the 2000's Clapton actually started coming alive with better albums starting with this generous 12 song 61 minute of blues rock and roll.  Of course it's BB giving Eric a swift kick in the pants to get the inspiration going although the title track should have been better,  but I like it of course.  It's awfully nice to let Eric give top billing to BB, kinda like a student giving the teacher credit where credit's due.  After all, BB was one of the main influence of guitar players.  It's awfully nice to hear BB play acoustic lead and give Lucille a bit of time off on Key To The Highway, and I think I like this version of Help The Poor more than the studio and Regal version.  The Doyle Bramhall 2 written songs Marry You and I Wanna Be, the former rocks, the latter not so much, the lyrics are a bit tripe.  The musicianship tends to be a bit more polished, pro tools and BB together is sacrilegious, in fact the roughness of BB's originals give the songs more attitude.   For a later day blues collaboration, it still holds up over time.  And I'll take Eric's BB tribute album over the Robert Johnson tribute album Clapton did a couple years later.
Grade B+   

One Kind Favor (Geffen 2008)

His final studio album and perhaps BB was beginning to see that things were winding down, so he goes back to pay tribute to the influences that wasn't Louis Jordan and picking Blind Lemon Jefferson's See That My Grave Is Kept Clean to lead off is a big indication that this may be his last.  While most of his band has gone on to other things, he managed to get Dr. John to help out, as well as Jim Keltner, drummer to just about anybody and everybody.  Influences range from Howlin Wolf (Sitting On Top Of The World, How Many More Years) The Mississippi Shrieks (World Gone Wrong, Sitting On Top Of The World (again), T Bone Walker (Waiting For Your Call, Get These Blues Off Me) and last but not least Lonnie Johnson which BB covers three songs and ends things with Tomorrow Night, according to rumor BB's favorite all time song.  Even at age 82 B B could still play Lucille with authority.  With that album, BB would stick to playing live until he could do it no more.
Grade A-

King Of The Blues (MCA 1993)

Box sets nowadays tend to be a money grab but in all fairness a box set could define a recording career of a legend and even though BB made another 20 years of music, this original box set of his career from 1949 to 1992 covers just about the highlights and collective singles of the blues masters and this box set makes the valid argument that BB could do rock and soul just as well.  MCA picks just the right amount of Modern and RPM singles, adds the 1949 Miss Martha King Bullet 78, plus a obscure Chess records outtake (he recorded for Chess briefly but somehow the connection wasn't right) and then moved over to ABC Paramount for what would be a 50 plus year tenure at that label and various Corporations that bought that label.  The first three CD are vintage BB, the fourth, begins the polished victory lap that includes that song he did with U2 (When Love Comes To Town).  The cream of the crop is Thrill Is Gone but also I'm Going To Do The Same Thing They Do To Me, the rock meet up of Hummingbird, with an over the top ending unlike BB and courtesy of Leon Russell but also the long version of To Know You Is To Love You, done in Philadelphia with part of the famed MFSB band (Drummer Earl Young providing the beat!).  Universal revised this set with an update in 2012 which features everything up to One Kind Favor but for me, the original four CD set of King Of The Blues is the one to get.  This is the legend of everything B B King stands for and he could do just about everything.  One of the few box sets that got it right the first time.
Grade A

Monday, May 11, 2015

Week In Review: Johnny Gimble, American Idol Axed etc

The big story of the week was the passing of Johnny Gimble, the famed fiddler who played on Bob Wills' Playboys band and countless others.  What you did not know was that Gimble got to play Bob Wills on the Clint Eastwood Honky Tonk Man movie of the early 80s. He also played for a spell in Willie Nelson band of 1979 to 1981.  A regular on Hee Haw as well, he also played with Carrie Underwood in 2007.  His last album was in 2010 but a series of strokes ended this legend's life.  Seek out Merle Haggard's A Tribute To The Best Damn Fiddle Player In The World (or my salute to Bob Wills).  You'll hear plenty of Gimble's work on this record.

Another passing: Stan Cornyn, behind the scenes person who made Warner/Reprise the major label to be on back in the 60s and early 70s. He was a Warner executive who wrote the liner notes for the likes of Frank Sinatra and the Grateful Dead and even came up with a glorious ideal of a dream date with The Fugs. But the downfall of the merger of Time Magazine and Warner Brothers ended Cornyn's tenure at the WB and he retired from it all, even saying that the label was no fun anymore, endorsing greed over boogie.  You have to admit the old Warner Reprise ads were fun to read in the Hippie era, ending with the Randy Newman note: Once you get used to it, his vocals are really something.  And Stan was right.  Passed away from lung cancer at age 81.

Bobby Irwin, drummer for the Sinceros and later the likes of Nick Lowe, Julian Cope and Van Morrison passed away from a long illness, he was 62.  Irwin replaced Terry Williams in the new Nick Lowe band of the 80s and you can hear him play from Nick The Knife to The Rose Of England, the last classic albums of Lowe's era.

All good things must come to an end and American Idol will not be back after 2016.  FOX canceled the show after big declines in the ratings and A.I winners being forgotten the day after.  The best known of the bunch remain Carrie Underwood and Kelly Clarkson   While the show bullshtted the folks of future stars today, those who did win had to do it their way, be it 19 Entertainment who gave them shitty music and bad autotuned arrangements.  Perhaps the most off the wall person of this show was one William Huang who bowed out gracefully and managed to get a couple albums recorded for  Koch Records.  American Idol was never watched on my TV, I thought it was bullshit from the word go, and perhaps the best known stars were the judges, the acid king Simon Cowell, the washed up Paula Abdul and one time funky bass player Randy Jackson but even Cowell saw the expiration date of this show expiring and left.  It contradicted things when you had Nicki (no talent) Minaj trying to give advice to a mall store winner about how to make it in music (if you had no booty, you may have well stay home, or if you can master the auto tune you can make a meager living wage too.  But not everybody could be like Carrie or Kelly, the former being the bigger success due to 19 Entertainment correct judgement that she'd be better off marketed as country.   Alas, American Idol is responsible for crap like the X Factor or The Voice, shows on how to get a contract and be controlled by the major labels for the winners, and poor reviews and a bee line to the dollar bins when nobody wanted the product.  Ever see or hear anything from Highlights of American Idol Season 6?  Neither do I.

After 7 years being online, No Depression is bringing back it's magazine in the fall.  They were one of the best music mags to come out in the 90s and 2000s and have continued to be online for the latest news and views.

Imagine that.  I haven't gone over 100 view a day since April 24th.  The Russians must have closed up the internet.  No, they didn't, Russia opened up the net for 188 views on Thursday, most coming from something called Lawgibb dot com, which is not related to music or law but porn.  Never thought that a music site would be so big in Russian porn land. Somebody in Russian thought that August Ames' ass would be here somewhere in Record World.  Let me know when you find her here, I know there's nothing of her anywhere in this blog.  So keep those inflated ratings coming Russian Comrades.  They don't do for shit for comments but at least it gives me the false security that somebody is actually reading this in Nyet Russia.  I know there's a pick of Nicki Minaj's bootay in here, unless Google took it out.....

Speaking of Nicki Minaj, I have a co worker that works in another department who looks a lot like her.  I'm terrible with names but I was grabbing a much needed tea in the comfort station and this attractive black girl comes up to me and commented that I look like the dude from Dumb and dumber (jeff daniels), yeah I get a lot of those comments when I grow my hair out I said, but most of the time I'm more of line of being my namesake Crabby. She laughed over that and mentioned my name most of the folk she knows were black.  I said the only other guy with my name is white too.  So I asked for her name and basically it's a name you can't forget.  First person that I ever came across with a full name of Amazing Grace!  Betcha I'll remember that name when we crossed paths again in the future.

For the bargain hunter who goes out to Goodwill in order to find something that I missed hearing the first time, I still continue to find things of note.  I know there's hoarder collectors that go to stores and buy 20 to 30 records in bulk and post them on facebook.  Which there's nothing wrong to that.  But I do question those who do buy 20 to 30 records in bulk and don't play them.  But I as continue to get older and continue to sort through endless piles of crap nobody wants in order to find the lost classic, I begin to wonder if the lines of being a music collector is blurring into being a record hoarder of sorts.  After all things do piled up around here since the maximum capacity of storage has been exceeded.  And then I have to donate the lesser stuff in order to free up space.  Which I then go out and buy more.  The endless cycle that has been a part of life for 50 plus years.  I'm still trying to figure out to get rid of unwanted beer cans from years ago. While fads have come and gone, records still remain the escape and whatever is found on the cheap. We buy more records, but have less time to listen to them all.  Goodwill here have announced that they will be moving into the former Drug Town location on Mount Vernon Road, which is getting to be more of slumsville. A few doors down they will also have a Smoky Joe's Cigarette and booze outlet store which will bring more of the low lifes out in that area.  The Drug Town store would be perfect for a thrift store. And that Goodwill will open up around August, weather permitting of course.

As I get older, the type of music listened to mirrors a  lot of what my father listens to, plenty of more country of the 50s and 60s  and the oddball rock and roll album.  Or whatever Half Priced Books throws in the dollar bins.  Which explains why I have a stockpile of George Jones LPs.   I think it gets to the point that I get tired of the overplayed classic rock crap and seek out alternatives.   No shortage of music for the music lover if he can find it but we have very little outlets to hear the lesser played.  Corporations bought up most of the AM and FM stations and the big three major labels spur out crap.  Garbage in garbage out.  And cable is just as bad if not worse.  So what can the bargain hunting hoarder do before he dies?  Continue to hit the thrift stores for vintage 45s albums and CDs and hope that the scavengers who post their finds left enough behind to share the wealth. 

Sometimes what might come across a bargain turns out to be a dud.  Imagine my surprise last Friday when I went up to Goodwill and found the 4 LP Chicago At Carnegie Hall with the booklet and posters in tact and all four records looking to be in good shape.  Only to find that two of the records skipped.  Alas, not a bargain at all and was donated right back.  Although I did keep one of the posters from this set.

Singles Going Steady Medley:

Games People Play-The Spinners (Atlantic 3265) 1975  People consider Pick Of The Litter to be their best overall album, that's debatable but this song is one of the better singles they ever did. A group effort, from the late Phillipe Wynne and Bobby Smith to Pervis Jackson's bass vocal and Henry Fambough's vocal, It's debatable who did the female vocal, some say Henry Fambough did that, Barbara Ingram is the female vocal from various source. Some say Carla Benson, some say Evette Benton. And nobody still knows.  Could have been Billy Henderson for all we know.  Maybe we'll never know.

Black Dog-Newcity Rockers (Critique 7-99451)  1987  The forthcoming of Hairball, that tribute band of all things 80s and hair metal perhaps, but I think this came from the mind of Bob Rivera the mastermind of those later on Twisted Christmas albums that he was famous for.  Some people cry sacrilege but the lead singer does know how to sing like Robert Plant.  So did Michael White, who did have his own Led Zeppelin tribute band and did a one off solo album for Atlantic  (with Mack (Queen) producing). Ken Kozdra is the Newcity vocalist on this.  B side Gun Shy is hair metal.

The Walls Came Down-The Call (Mercury 811 487-7) 1983  The life and legacy of Michael Been I tend to think came into view after I found their best of for a dollar and perhaps they were one of the better alt rock bands of the 1980s, although nobody talks of them that much. U2 gets all the attention and a lot of it is overrated, after all Corporate radio loves Pride (In the name of love) or Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For.  No shortage of The Joshua Tree in the 2 dollar bins.  The Walls Came Down I have fond memories of hearing on the radio and on MTV and finding a 50 cent like new copy 45 ignited the long lost memories.  Side note: last time I went to Pawn America they had the other best of The Walls Came Down, Best Of The Mercury Years for a quarter and it included the B side Upperbirth.  The Hip O best of, contains selections from their MCA and Elektra years as well as the Mercury years plus a selection with U2.  Micheal Been was a underrated talent for sure.

Take Off-Bob & Doug Mc Kenzie (Mercury 76134)  1981  Good day eh?  Part of SCTV Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas played brothers Bob and Doug on Great White North, one of the more funnier part of SCTV when they were on TV, but translated over to record, The Great White North LP is a chore to listen to, especially boring B side Elron Mc Kenzie.  Which leaves the A side with guest star Geddy Lee from Rush to sing the chorus. Which leaves Bob and Doug fighting each other about who's playing what on the song.  While Rush gets the notion of Thinking Man's Prog Rock, they have maintained a sense of humor, even more so with Geddy Lee, who was a big fan of SCTV and signed off being guest singer. Too bad he couldn't get the other two players to join in on this little song.  That would have been fun to hear.

Examples of classic rock albums that I never bought:  Supertramp-Breakfast In America (1979)

Supertramp is one band that I'm surprised I have any of their albums.  This is not one of them.  In the end of the disco era, it was dying in 1979 but what passed for classic rock albums were bland unless it was Van Halen 2 or AC DC Highway To Hell.  Even The Godz Nothing Is Sacred, a album that I loved lots back then has dated badly and now seems more like a band trying to smack Eric Moore out that that same two note bass playing he did throughout the album.  But in 1979 you could not escape radio (or classic rock radio nowadays) without the mundane Logical Song which is one of the dumbest songs Roger Hogdson ever wrote.  I may be in the minority of that comment but I have never cared for that song and it remains a station switcher when it comes on.  The record isn't bad overall, the title track probably one of the better songs and third single Take The Long Way Home is still catchy provided if the Corporate radio doesn't play it 15 times a day.  Crotchety old  critic Robert Christgau was not impressed and preferred The Doobie Brothers over this album which may have been thrown in for shock value.  If nothing else Breakfast In America finally got that Genesis clone label critics bestowed upon Supertramp and later releases showed a progressive pop feel before Hodgson left and Supertramp carried on with Rick Davies in the half good Brother Where Are You Bound. LP and Hodgon's In The Eye Of The Storm. which I liked better.  Breakfast In America on the other hand is their classic to most fans but for myself I'll live without it and play their Crime Of The Century album should I want to hear Supertramp.   Breakfast In America remains a B minus album.

More Pointless Reviews Of The Week:

Frank Sinatra-Ultimate Sinatra (Capitol/Universal) 2015

Long gone before his 100th birthday came up this year, there's really nothing much I can say to add to the legacy that was the original teenage heartthrob and Rat Pack member, and this old aging rock and roller never was a big Frankie fan although I did try out some of his classic albums (Only For The Lonely and the one with Antonio Jobim).  The 4 CD is more extensive but in this day and age basically a cash grab by Universal as I hear various grumblings on Amazon about the single CD has a bonus track not on the box set and vice versa.  The cut off point is 1979 with the pointless Duets that was done toward the end of the Chairman Of The Board's career not on the single disc retrospective.  For a overview, erratically put together with an alt take  of Just In Time in place of Nice N Easy but then again putting together a single disc of Frank's music is going to be omitting a key track or two. In this day and age, this Mix CD does begin with All Or Nothing At All, which I knew so well from the old Looney Tunes cartoons and it touches most of the hits of Frankie's career (One For My Baby, Come Fly With Me, Love And Marriage, New York New York) and most of his stellar Reprise years (Strangers In The Night, Summer Wind, My Way).  I still concur that his Greatest Hits Volume 1 on Reprise is the only one you really need, for 60s music it does fit in along a world of Beatles and rock and soul taking over.  And I heard good things bout the Jake Holmes penned concept album that Frank did called Water Town. The Ultimate Sinatra is somewhat misleading but for a overall sampling of who Frank is and what he did is a competent best of, despite it being a cash grab as it is.
Grade A-

Various Artists-Super Hits Volume 3 (Atlantic 1968)

One of those early albums that I bought as a kid and still have to this day, I must say for a 50 cent Salvation Army find years ago it's not as beat up as originally thought.  Before K Tel stepped in, the major labels would put together a best of with singles of that day and era and soul and R and B could live hand in hand with rock and roll.  This is where I discovered Percy Sledge' Take Time To Know Her, and Arthur Conley's Funky Street which got plenty of AM airplay back then.  Side 1 still really holds up beginning with Tighten Up by Archie Bell and The Drells Aretha's Since You Been Gone and Sam And Dave's I Thank You (what no Soul Man?  I think that was on Volume 1) before giving the full version of Cream's Sunshine Of Your Love all four minutes of it. and concluding with Wicked Wilson Pickett's I'm A Midnight Mover.  Side 2 brings out The Rascal's A Beautiful Morning, Sweet Inspirations' Sweet Inspiration and another Aretha Franklin number with Think.  Perhaps the weakest track is Booker T's Groovin' before the album ends with the full 7 minutes of Vanilla Fudge You Keep Me Hangin On.  Which to this 45 collecting kid, never heard the full 7 minutes before.  Nevertheless, this album remains us why Atlantic Records was so highly regarded back then and why Led Zeppelin came calling and wanting their record out on Atlantic rather than Atco. Atlantic had the best soul music going around out there, thank the Aretha, Sam and Dave and Wilson Pickett and even the lesser known Percy Sledge, Sweet Inspirations and Arthur Conley could hold their own. While Groovin' is the weakest track it doesn't mean it's bad, it's fairly good, the calm before the storm that is You Keep Me Hangin On.  The soul music takes center stage on Super Hits 3, whereas the longest tracks are from the rock bands Cream and The Fudge.  That said, Super Hits Volume 3 remains a potent best of 1968,  a That's What I Call Music without the filler crap and a great reminder of how music was back then, with no Corporation separating rock and soul apart.   Which is why I love this album and thanks so much to Jane Carlsen for donating her copy to the thrift store so I can have this the past 40 years. Wherever she may be.
Grade A

Fats Domino-Domino 65 (Mercury 1965)

The fat man's tenure at ABC Paramount didn't yield a lot of hits, so he moved on to Mercury Records for a even more brief time there, two failed singles and this live album titled Domino 65.  Basically by the numbers of his hits and somebody at the Mercury department even failed to label Whole Lotta Loving which ends side 1.  But the surprise here is that the extended jams of  Please Don't Leave Me and Domino Twist and the band lead by Clarence Ford is very good, especially if that's Ford wailing away on sax.  For a Las Vegas gig, it does have a bit more New Orleans grit than Vegas Polish but that's the fun of Domino 65.  But the canned audience sound is just that, somebody got a applause record and turned it up loud.  Mercury records indifference pretty much made it a tax write off but for a throwaway album, Domino 65 is not bad at all.  Later surfaced as a two record set called The Complete Domino 65 Album with two albums of Fats Domino classics. But I like the single album better due to jams of Domino Twist and Please Don't Leave Me.
Grade B+

Love Nut-Baltimucho! (Big Deal 1998)

As a Cd collector/hoarder I look for certain labels that have certain types of music.  Not if anybody cares but Big Deal was a label that championed power pop music of the 90s and although the music was not as groundbreaking or memorable as the days of 20/20, Paul Collins Beat, Plimsouls, even The Knack, the 90s did have a few good bands of note:  Greenberry Woods, Velvet Crush, Matthew Sweet come to mind.  Big Deal survived for about 5 and half years trying to build up a roster of power pop bands but one of their better bands was Love Nut who wore their Cheap Trick and Utopia influences on their sleeve, I even hear The Cavedogs, another band that never got their due.  Ed Stasium (The Ramones) produced this album but from what I hear the guy who recorded The Pursuit Of Happiness Downward Road stayed home and the drums a bit more in the back.  The record is not perfect, the intro song is goofy and this would have been an much more classic  album had Crop Duster and the hidden track been left off, Crop Duster one of those songs with a Tomorrow Never Knows type of arrangement.  But in between we have two minute anthems such as Stolen Picture, Essex Hair or Miss Fortune that do Love Nut proud.  I suppose I should keep an eye out on their Interscope debut Bastards Of Melody (originally on Merken with a glow in the dark cover).  But as history shows, power pop bands always seem to get the raw deal and Love Nut was no different than The Plimsouls or 20/20, getting stiffed by a a major label and then having a more band friendly label go belly up soon after signing with them. Baltimucho! is a minor classic.
Grade A-

Jimmy Webb-Still Within The Sound Of My Voice (E One 2013)

For the guy who wrote Mac Arthur Park, he's better heard with others singing his songs, the late Richard Harris or Glen Campbell or Kevin Salem who did Wichita Lineman in a acoustic show years ago. Webb's albums have been too MOR, the only one I recommend was his 1977 Atlantic album El Mirage to which I overpaid a CD copy to replaced a scratched up LP.  Working with Elton John's band did bring the best out in him.  Twenty years before Suspending Disbelief was his last album,  a good but a snoozing album that I donated to the Salvation Army last November and last time I checked it was still there. Anyway, Webb came out of retirement to do this comeback album in the presence of well known Nashville musicians, and this record was aimed at country fans, to which nobody bought back then.  Webb pulls out some of his best known numbers and brings in the stars (Lyle Lovett, Keith Urban), past stars (America, Marc Cohn), a couple females for MOR value (Carly Simon, Rumer, Amy Grant (?)) but I basically bought this for the duet with Justin Currie of Del Amtri  fame on the countryish You Can't The Wrong Man Right.  And basically shows how Mac Arthur Park would have sounded had The Association decide the record this although I doubt they would have done the dobro solo on the jam part.  Brian Wilson adds the oohs and ahhs in the background.  Perhaps the best song off this album is Kris Kristofferson doing the spoken word that Glen Campbell didn't do on Honey Come Back.  Or the uptempo Lovett duet on lead off Sleepin In The Daytime. But like Suspending Disbelief, Webb gets too comfortable in the slower tempo songs that make Still Within The Sound Of My Voice, go on too long and it is a long album.  But if its any consolation, at least Sheryl Crow doesn't appear on it.
Grade B-

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Week In Review: Montage Of Heck, WGN RIP

The dry days of April went away in a hurry.  Like clockwork, the stalled front came on May 1st and has stayed since then and every day has been a storm or two.  Not only that I've been stuck with yet another fucking flu cold crap, the endless hacking and coughing, the endless flow of snot down the throat and if I get any sleep the dumbest dreams and nightmares.  It makes you just wanna lose the Kurt method of relief.  Speaking of which I did watch the HBO doc about him, Montage Of Heck and found it entertaining during the first hour, not so much the second and the ending was odd and left more questions than answers.  It's hard to believe that the 21 years since Cobain's end how much the players have changed.  And seeing Kurt's original girlfriend years later showing time has changed her as well.  While it was nice to see Krist Novosetic add his thoughts to the movie, what was missing were the original Nirvana drummers and even Dave Grohl was MIA in this thing.  Never a big Nirvana follower, Bleach is still hard to listen to, Nevermind is Kurt's classic and the big success lead to the downfall, and In Utero was that suicide note in writing a half year before the 1994 endless nameless death.   It's interesting to hear in Kurt's words of the days of growing up and not fitting in and attempted to lay down in front of the 11 oclock express only to have the train go on the opposite tracks.  Fate stepped in that night, if not, the only Nirvana remembered would be a forgotten UK band of the 60s.

Another thing we know of Kurt was when humiliated he would get real angry and all bets were off then.  Consider Nirvana's Love Buzz single of the late 80s, and the old Creem Magazine bashed it all over the place. Lynyrd Skynyrd without the flares?  The Creem reviewer probably didn't even listen to it while putting those hipster funny words down.  However, Cobain would get the last laugh as Creem Magazine became less and less popular and basically shut down by the time Nirvana broke the big time.   Never in my years would I ever put Skynyrd and Nirvana in the same sentence.  Or perhaps his mom hearing Nevermind for the first time and having a fear that it would be something that Kurt would not be prepared for.  And who would have prepared for a first album breakout, sellout stadiums and concert halls and having MTV chasing you around 24/7, they came a long way from playing in front of 2 people three years earlier.  Certainly Kurt did want the fame, it's written in the many journals and notebooks that he wrote in.  If you read the journal of Kurt you can sense the method to this madness.  The final half hour of Montage is dedicated to his time with Courtney Love, the chain smoking punk chanteuse actress who people still blame for Kurt's suicide.  She recants the time she thought about cheating and Kurt found out about it by overdosing in Rome.  He would survive that but the documentary suggests that a month later Kurt would finally end it all with a shotgun blast and into the unknown.  Could it have been that Kurt thought that Courtney shattered that sacred bond between them by even thinking about cheating to the point that he didn't want to be with her anymore?  Or did he just gave up and couldn't deal with the ongoing stomach pains and a life that didn't seem to be worth living.  That's when the panel groups discuss of the mind set of Kurt and the conspiracy theories of did Courtney kill Kurt.  I doubt that but the main point of the movie was that Kurt hated being humiliated and would get angry if he thought that he was ridiculed, just like that poorly planned Creem review.  But being trapped in the success of Nirvana probably made going out to the record store even more of chore of being bullied in high school.   I don't condone what he did but sometimes I do feel his pain of growing up as well.  Most folks do in life at that time.  Despite the cold ending, Montage of Heck does managed to hold my attention for most of the two hours that is shown.  And you can get to see Courtney in the bluff as well, in fact the imitate scenes between Kurt and Courtney were shot by her ex boyfriend and Hole Guitarist Eric Erlander.  Kinda creepy in its own way I guess. 

WGN is dead.  The WGN Chicago channel that I grew up watching Cubs games and other sports has decided to go full Walker/In The Heat Of The Night reruns and will not show sports anymore. In other words WGN America has become USA Light.  So basically watching Cubs games will be about as much watched as going to a Quad Cities River Bandits or Cedar Rapids Kernels game in person. But without the annoying ED and Bud Light commercials in tow.  It is the end of a era, to which the original WGN would give us the Chicago land news and weather, adios Tom Skilling. Even though the Tribute company was no better than PK Wrigley owning the Cubs, at least we got to see them about 100 times a season.  But I have no intentions to moving to Chicago to get the original WGN and the programming that I grew up with.  But this has been the way cable has been going, taking away things we were used of seeing, and replacing them with reality crap or the same reruns over and over again.  Of course wasting a Monday Night watching the Cubs blow a 5 run lead and Travis Wood serving up a grand slam to strike out artist Mark Reynolds and eventually the Cubs lost that game and 3 out of 4 to the Cardinals.  I'm sure the Cubs will eventually become a playoff worthy team within the next year or two but thanks to WGN America we will be able to see that.  Basically I can live without baseball like I have been most of April since WGN America does not show the Cubs on TV anymore.  Another sorry excuse of a channel that used to be one of the most watched channels, now watched as much as MTV and TV Land. 

Passings: Errol Brown, lead singer of Hot Chocolate (Disco Queen, You Sexy Thing, Every 1's A Winner) from liver cancer.  He was 71.   Marv Hubbard, fullback with the bad bad Oakland Raiders during their ugly years from prostate cancer.  He was 68.  Randy Chortkoff, founder of Delta Groove Records and blues player from liver disease, he was 65. Craig Gruber, bass player for Elf and the early Blackmore's Rainbow, he was 63.


Blur-The Magic Whip (Parlophone 2015)

In the 90s there was this Oasis vs Blur in the battle of the bands and while Oasis had the overplayed radio hits, the only song you ever hear is Song 2 from the S/T album. To which Blur went the US independent alternative music route rather being the heir apparent to The Kinks.  But where the Gallagher brothers ended up fighting each other and broke the band up, Blur quietly returned to the stage to make their first proper album in 16 years and perhaps their best since Parklife. Which is saying something. They can certainly rock up another Song 2 with I Broadcast complete with Graham Coxon's noise and guitarwork, it is Graham that has shaped this album a lot more and now tends to be the most important member of this band.  But it is still Damon Albarn's show too, he explores his inner Bowie on Thought I Was A Spaceman, make a vocal statement on New World Towers and if he can get Noel Gallagher to say that Lonesome Street is the best song he's heard all year that is a major statement itself.  Alex James and Dave Roundtree remain a tight rhythm section that helps keep Coxon and Albarn into one place too. Certainly there's plenty of the alt rock of the 90s that makes The Magic Whip what we know about Blur but the final track Mirror Ball is what I like love about Blur is that they can revisit their working class Brit roots as well.  Getting Stephen Street back in the producer's chair (or Co Producer's chair that is) works to their advantage too.  A great comeback album from a band that never really did go away.
Grade A-

The Pursuit Of Happiness-Love Junk (Chrysalis 1988)

Canadian power pop, produced by Todd Rundgren who turns TPOH into Utopia soundalikes but with female backing vocals.  Moe Berg being the hopped up horny guy writing about not writing songs for girls anymore, I'm writing about women on the hilarious I'm A Adult Now, looking for girls (to fuck) and if you want to keep your man, go down on him, you pretty much get the picture of the songs that Berg writes. Really not a lot of variation to the three chords and the straight four four beat but if not nothing else, Love Junk could be Get The Knack for a source point.  Just like Get The Knack, TPOH didn't have much of a recording career, two albums for Chrysalis and one for Mercury and then some Canadian only 1996 album that suggested that the gig was up.  I like this record for the Kris Abbot and Leslie Stanwyck adding their angelic vocals to Moe Berg's devil lyrics and intentions.  It makes Beautiful White and When The Sky Comes Falling Down sound more classic than they ought to.
Grade A-

Chris Stapleton-Traveller (Mercury 2015)

One of the more anticipated albums of the year was from Chris, who penned some of the best country music songs for hacks like Luke Bryan (Drink A Beer) plus better ones like Keith Urban but his debut album shows a bit more a bit more blue eyed soul than either one of them, especially on the last two numbers Outlaw State Of Mind and Sometimes I Cry, which IS blues than country.  He was part of the Steel Drivers before striking out on his own and on this promising debut, Stapleton proves he's the anti Dallas Davidson.  You know damn well Davidson would never pen Sometimes I Cry, that song is way out of his league.  Traveller while marketed as country wouldn't get much airplay on K Hack, but I'm sure KUNI would plug it more.  Wife Morgane adds perfect harmony, at times sounding like Emily Lou Harris.  While the comparisons to  Jamey Johnson is not bad,  I hear more Travis Tritt, or even moreso Mark Germino, the overlooked singer songwriter from the late 80s and early 90s.  I wished Chris would have added more uptempo numbers such as Nobody To Blame, the midtempo and slower songs that start the album kinda puts me out of the mood to continue to listen.  But Traveller takes a while and repeated listens to get the feel of things.  But make no mistake, Stapleton is one of the best if not the best Nashville songwriters out there and if Mercury Universal gets behind him (which they won't) you'll be hearing a lot more from Chris in the near future on his own.  And he's a cool guy, he was suggesting a list of songwriters to collaborate on a project and I thought of Tom T Hall, and he tweeted back that was a fine suggestion.  Even on the cutting edge, he's taking notes from the unknown record reviewer.  Which is more we can say of....uh Luke Bryan?
A promising debut.
Grade B+

George Jones-Hits By George (Musicor 1967)

No shortage of George's material in the late 60s thanks to Pappy Daily who continue to reissue product after George made off for Epic and Billy Sherrill and he was revisiting his classic songs and this record is no exception, remaking tracks from his Starday/Mercury/United Artists stay.  The 2nd version of White Lightning charted again in the early 70s via Pappy's deal with RCA Records but this version is more country than the rockabilly attempt years ago.  Most of side 1 is trademark Jones ballads to The Window Up Above with even the Jordaniares  backing up, it still full of trademark Jones's doubt.  The originals are better of course, right up to She Thinks I Still Care, perhaps his best UA single.  But I like this version of White Lightning better, don't ask why.  While folks like Jones the balladeer, I rather hear him uptempo a lot more.  No denying, he was the voice of Country Music.  The album while brief (22 Minutes both sides) still worth finding for a dollar (which I did).
Grade B+

Jack Webb Presents Pete Kelly Lets His Hair Down (Warner Brothers 1958)

The unique thing about Jack Webb was that he loved jazz and dixieland jazz at best.  He wrote and starred in Pete Kelly's Blues which came out on Warner's but the record was on RCA Victor.  The followup was a collection of light jazz done by the guys who did the Pete Kelly soundtrack including Ray Sherman on piano  and Dick Cathcart on Cornet.  With one side label the Blue side and the second Red, the blue side is perfect for being up at 2 AM writing this review with the record playing in the background.  The Red side, slightly uptempo but not by much includes Nick Fatool's drum solo on Lobster (get it, Lobster is red?) with songs about red things (Flame, Magenta, Rouge etc etc) and the blue side, the songs about blue things (Midnight, Sapphire, Turquoise etc).  I'm guess Webb along with Matty Matlock (who probably arranged this, the record really doesn't say) told each band member to pick a tempo and key and work with it and most are one take songs. For improvised light jazz, it's not ground breaking but it is fairly good and perfect to wind down to a chaotic day at work.  For an added plus, this album had the original Warner Brothers insert on how a record was made back then, full of colorful pictures.  Back then Warner Brothers was getting their foot in the door of record making, and not the cutting edge record label they would be a few years later.  A fun read.  Side note:  this record along with and Jack Webb album of his doing his Joe Friday vocals to songs like Try A Little Tenderness and others would be paired with this album under the banner of Just The Tracks Ma'am and released on CD.  The Webb vocal album is for acquired tastes only.
Grade B

Sunny Sweeney-Heartbreaker's Hall Of Fame (Big Machine 2006)

Bro country is a joke, in today's world, Florida Georgia Line is the Insane Clown Posse of country music. And yes, country is a man's world, and it seems only Miranda and Carrie are the only females you hear on regular country radio.  Basically, when a woman pops up into the charts, it's eye candy and they're forgotten a year later most ones are.  Once in a while, a left field woman will strike the right song for the right time.  Gretchen Wilson 10 years ago gave us Redneck Woman and managed to be flavor of the year for a couple before relocating to the minors.  She keeps trying though.  Sunny Sweeney does have a new album out probably worth hearing if you can find it.  We go back 9 years ago to this stunning debut of pure country released independently before the hated Big Machine, home to bro country finest now issued this and it got lost in the cracks.  Sweeney owes more to Elizabeth Cook than Miranda, lacking the latter's sassyness but more than makes it up with the honest country side that Elizabeth tends to favor.  This mirrors, Cook's forgotten Warner Brothers Hey Y'all, at that time, reassigned to that label when Atlantic shut their country division down for a time (they're back in it again with Hunter Hayes being the big deal star) and Warners wrote her off as a tax loss.  Sweeney had the good sense to hook up with Jim Lauderdale on a couple songs he wrote and a duet Lavender Blue which got scant airplay.  I consider this record to be more Americana than what passes for country and Sweeney is a underrated songwriter. I do enjoy her scat singing to If I Could, and like Cook praises her momma on Mama's Opry and gives the session guys a shout out on 16th Avenue, at that time trying to preserve the country  as it was and not the autotuned chipmunks of today.  It probably would have been more to Sunny's benefit if she namechecked CMT or GAC rather than MTV on Next Big Nothing, by then MTV was reality crap and not music, and CMT was reality crap as well.  The Lauderdale penned Refresh My Memory is hardcore country, probably more suited for the 1990s and Lorrie Morgan  instead of the 2000's. Even in 2006 it was too country for country radio. For a debut, Heartbreaker's Hall Of Fame is about equal to Lambert's Kerosene in terms of country goodness.  Sweeney would return a few years later with Concrete, but Universal Republic's indifference buried that album.  And like Lizzy Cook, Sweeney is on 30 Tigers, the alt country label.  Still, Heartbreaker's Hall Of Fame is damn good debut and still holds up better than the Bro Job that is FGL or Brantley Gilbert.  The girls know how to make a decent country album.  Big difference.
Grade A-

From Robert Christgau:  The Review of Sunny Sweeney Provoked (Thirty Tigers 2015)

 Another gal gives bros the finger. With Sweeney among the creators of 11 of these 13 songs and Angaleena Presley, Ashley Monroe, and Brandy Clark all helping out for a track or two, the former Republic Nashville wannabe turns her whole album into what Clark or Jessie Jo Dillon or maybe it was Shannon Wright thought to call “a bad girl phase.” And by the way, how marketable a singer is this Natalie Hemby chick with her name on “Used Cars,” which explains her preference for previously owned men? And how about Connie Harrington or even Brett Beavers with their co-writes on a finale called “Everybody Else Can Kiss My Ass,” which rhymes with “So if you’re with me, raise your glass/Here’s to working class”? A MINUS