Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Week In Review: Dubuque River Festival, Ornette Coleman

Summertime is heating up and the concerts are coming out   This weekend, Dubuque has America's River Festival and it promises to be something for everybody.  Providing if you don't have Redwing blackbirds attacking you via Alfred Hitchcock The Birds.   Friday Night is bro country Friday, with Dan + Shay, Old Dominion and Farce The Music's favorite new artist (to hate) Sam Hunt.  Saturday Night will be old rockers night, with America, Grand Funk Railroad and Tommy James and The Shondells concluding the night.  Mark  Farner has left Grand Funk behind, but Mel and Don continue to lead the revived We're An American Band with former Jack Mack and The Heart Attack and 38 Special member Max Carl doing the lead vocals.  Brewer has done double duty, he did play with Bob Seger's Silver Bullet Band for a time but he remains a killer drummer and true to spirit with Grand Funk.  America's Dewey Bunnell and Gerry Beckley (Dan Peek left a long time ago and died as well) has remained one of the best loved folk rock acts.  If I was going I would love to see Tommy James perform, he was one of my favorite artists growing up and I had many of his Roulette singles in my collection for years.  He also wrote Me and The Mob an account of his tenure with Morris Levy and Roulette Records and is a must read.  Tickets vary from 15 to 30 dollars.

Forthcoming bands to Dubuque and the Mississippi Moon Bar: Tony Orlando appears July 25th, Ace Frehley appears on September 11th (by then the red wings may have cleared away and walking on the river walk would be safe again;  I hate them fucking birds) and Otis Williams and The Temptations September 25 and 26th. Otis is the last original member of that band that had the big Motown hits and regulated to an oldies act.  And Kansas (without Steve Walsh who retired but the band continues onward) will be there on October 24th.

This week's entertainment had Monday, Barenaked Ladies playing at the downtown Amphitheater for 40 dollars you too could have seen half the band that gave us One Week.  Wed brings us George Thorogood and the Destroyers and Brian Seltzer but the cheap way to go would be the Spazzmatics, the ultimate 80s tribute new wave band for five dollars Friday Night.  I've seen a version of this band in Vegas a few years ago and they are just as fun to hear and listen to as well as Hairball, the hair metal tribute band which will be hitting around here a few times this summer. I'd probably hang out to hear George under the stars but I have to work that night and will be recovering from a colonoscopy on Friday.  Maybe I should do a blog that night, chances are I won't remember it if I do.   

Everybody Dies: RIP Jean Ritchie, considered  the mother of folk music passed away at 92.  James Last, the king of easy listening format passed away at age 86.  Musak would not be known had it wasn't for him.   Nick Marsh from Urban  Voodoo Machine from cancer 53, Allen Fryer, vocalist for Heaven and one time tried out for the AC DC vocal job after Bon Scott passed away, also claimed by cancer he was 60.  Christopher Lee, one of all around best actors passed away at the age of 93.  Basically known from roles from Count Dracula to Lord Of The Rings, perhaps one of my favorite horror movies is The Skull to which he actually played a good guy, warning Peter Cushing not to buy a cursed skull.

For musicians, nobody could be more avant garde in free jazz than Ornette Coleman.  While best known for a 37 jazz jam called Free Jazz which could be considered the start of the fusion jazz era, Coleman led great bands with Don Cherry, Charlie Haden and Billy Higgins in them. His 1988 album for Portrait Virgin Beauty even had Jerry Garcia on guitar. Coleman passed away from a heart attack at age 85.  (Bill Kopp: photo credit)

Jim Ed Brown died on Thursday, from lung cancer (Smoking).  He was 81.  Best known for Pop A Top, he also scored hits with his sisters known as the Browns.  

Next week, I should be getting a new computer to replace this old Dell which 12 years later has gotten too Grandpa for the tasks at hand and I'm surprised I have not  had cardiac arrest, since half the time this computer freezes up, or has unresponsive plug in messages or messages telling me of slow running program (like I really need to see the virtual memory low messages anymore?).  So basically I'm putting my trust into somebody at Office Max to build me a computer that will enable me to continue to do music research and try to do three things at once without a GD computer freezing up.  Microsuck, didn't do nobody any favors by discontinuing old Windows for Windows 8, which is now 10.  I'm throwing my lot into a new computer that isn't a Dell, that has AMD processors and not Intel, and I'm hoping that I didn't throw 558 dollars down the toilet for something that won't work.  It's been a long and sometimes wonder ride for this old war horse but the last six months of hang ups and computer freezes made me realize I had to update.  So hopefully things will be better and here's hoping old Delly doesn't freeze up so I don't lose this entry.

Interesting read comes from Bottom Of The Glass, where they talk about Lone Justice being the best of the 80s bands that did Americana rock and the argument coming that the Blasters were just rockabilly.  I guess he never listened to the 2nd or 3rd albums from The Blasters, I don't think it was straight rockabilly but more of a CCR type of rock that has held up quite well.  I used to have all of the Lone Justice albums and CDs, but I think donated them to Goodwill. Certainly parts of the first album and Shelter have moments of greatness (I Found Love, Ways To Be Wicked) but I also found songs of trying to hear through without pushing the FF button on the player (Wheels).  Nonetheless, Steve Van Zandt helped them a lot too, but the implosion of the band after Shelter pretty much committed them to the ages.  Their music holds up well, but in the end, I prefer The Blasters, or Los Lobos: http://bottom-of-the-glass.blogspot.com/2015/06/marias-justice.html

There was a guy called 7th Wave that used to be part of the music chats years ago at Multiply and About.com.  Looking through the archives, I noticed that he's still alive and still contributes to his rock and roll page of forgotten bands and artists. He never ventured much past 1958-1963 era, and there was a running joke about him calling records and CDs outdated storage media units.  But his music site does a fine job of preserving the music of long ago and far away. http://tsimon.com/rockroll.htm

The usual monthly cleaning of CDs from the main bins to the bargain bins was done by Half Priced Books and there's plenty of REM CDs to be bought.  I don't think I've seen as many copies of Life's Rich Pagent or Murmur in the 2 dollar bins.  Since I have them all I don't need any more.  No shortage of Van Hagar stuff, although they did throw in a CD/DVD edition of A Different Kind Of Truth, which you can't beat for 2 dollars. As far as I know, the trade stuff that I got 14 dollars from, HP Books made a profit on that, since I didn't see any of the Minuteman, Dwight Yoakam latest and John Lee Hooker stuff.  Fact of the matter remains that I still look for things and buy them and what I don't need anymore gets donated.  Makes no sense whatsoever trading stuff I bought for 100 dollars total and barely get back enough for a half tank of gas back home. I should open my own music store on my time off work and try to make just enough to pay bills before being recalled back to work in the fall.  

This week marks the 75th birthday of Nancy Sinatra, Frank's daughter and one of the original girr singers and most underrated.  She may have been Frank's daughter but her heart was rock and roll and Lee Hazelwood gave her songs and a counterpoint that is the essence of classic music.  The Nancy And Lee album remains a cult classic, Rhino's Fairy Tales & Fantasies has been one of the more sought out CDs ever, copies still sell for 50 dollars or more on a given day, and somehow I have found five copies of that CD from time to time.  Some Velvet Morning could be considered early goth.  The RCA album a few years later was more spotty and not as memorable, but the kicker remains Down From Dover and Arkansas Coal (Suite).  However, these ears tend to favor Nancy's Greatest Hits, another Rhino comp now out of print that has most if not all of Nancy's best songs, These Boots Are Made For Walkin'  How Does That Grab You Darlin?, Lightning's Girl up to Hook And Ladder.  I still enjoy this over the latest best of Varese put out (You Go Go Girl).  Nancy dropped out in the 70s to become a wife and mother, but she has come out of retirement to make a couple of good albums, most notably her S/T 2004 on Morrissey's Attack label and having U2 write a song for her.  Most of the time you can catch her on Twitter, with her thoughts over there.   She even follows me over there.  She should be in the rock and roll hall of fame too. As along with other notable bands (Deep Purple, Yes, Moody Blues, etc etc etc, and oh yes....Foghat). 

Record Reviews Of The Week:

Graham Parker And The Rumour-Mystery Glue (Cadet Concept/Universal 2015)

While Three Chords Good was a nice comeback of sorts, Mystery Glue is more of a full band participation, like I remembered it from years ago when they were a tough and angry pub rock band of the 70s.  Today, Parker is not as the angry young man as he once was, but on this effort not as the boring old fart that made albums like Burning Questions or Human Soul. It's really nice to hear Bob Andrews add more keyboards to the songs, or Brinsley Schwartz and Martin Belmont having more guitar.  The songs are very easy going, but with enough Stephen Goulding drums to make it rock more than 3 Chords Good.  Funny thing is though, only GP is the only member in the pictures, which might be a slight dry wit of sorts but don't let that fool you, The Rumour is more involved this time out.  Of course, Parker's remains full of dry wit and observations, Going There perhaps a new GP telling the folks looking for the old angry GP to look elsewhere, a rather uplifting song about being your own person.  Swing State is a true state of affairs about the political side of things. But the fun part of Mystery Glue is that a lot of the songs here are worth playing a lot more than 3 Chords Good, even if Slow News Day comes across as filler, it's not.  Pub Crawl has a few mentions of Brinsley Schwartz' band by using some of that band's titled albums, And Long Shot with the Mystery Glue reference might be the best song Parker has come up in years, and it's easy to sing along with too.  It's strange to see Parker returning back to Universal, on a old Chess Records offshoot label as well.  But make no mistake, if 3 Chords Good suggested that The Rumour can even in a room with GP (All but Bob Andrews and Martin Belmont played on previous GP albums in one form or another) Mystery Glue makes it clear that this band and GP were made for each other.  History be dammed, I think Mystery Glue is Parker's best since Squeezing Out Sparks.  That's saying something.

Grade A-

Paul Kelly's Greatest Hits-Songs From The South (Mushroom 1997)

While Paul is more related to Bob Dylan in songwriting, I took to him more of the fact that he sounded like Doc Neeson, the late great lead singer of The Angels, and The Messengers, Paul's backing band did owe something akin to The Angels (or Angel City in the US).  He's been around forever, but this late 90s best of, focuses on his tenure with A&M in the states and it made me revisit Gossip and Under The Sun, his two classic albums and to a lesser extent, So Much Water, So Close To Home.  Overall, I consider Paul to be part of the new eccentric singer songwriter craze of the mid 80s which also bought us Peter Himmelman and Robyn Hitchcock, all three different but more alternative than John Mellencamp or perhaps John Hiatt. This overview, not so much of a greatest hits mind you, Kelly had none in the US and was basically a cult artist at best is a decent sampler of what Kelly could do.  I still think the highlights are with the Messengers but his later albums like Deeper Water or Wanted Man are worth searching for.  Give In To My Love is where he shows his inner Himmelman, Bradman is where Bob Dylan comes in.
Grade B+

The Rolling Stones-Sticky Fingers Expanded Edition (Capitol/Universal 2015)

The bonus tracks are outtakes, the Eric Clapton Brown Sugar is more of a jam than actual song, Wild Horses is stripped down without the ragged backing vocals and Can't You Hear Me Knocking without the Bobby Keys and second part, is Keith Richard still messing around trying to get the song right.  Dead Flowers is more electric than acoustic, fun to hear. Which leads a extended alt take of Bitch, probably the best of the bunch but as they say, don't add much to the historic value of their 1971 album.  That band that Mick Taylor was in the early 70s were at their best, perhaps the super bonus edition with a full set at Leeds the one to get but causal fans are not going to pony up. Which leaves the five cuts at the Roundhouse sounding a bit more polished than the ragged glory of Get Your Ya Yas Out, and even if Charlie Watts's drumming was the crazy glue holding things together, you never know if the band was going to fall flat on their face.  Which is why I still think Ya Yas is their finest live album.  Long time ago, Sticky Fingers was the first Stones album issued on their own imprint via Atlantic and a great debut too till, they went one further and up the ante on Exile On Main Street.  Classic rock radio killed off Brown Sugar just like Start Me Up, but it leaps out of the album with an attitude, and hits the ground running and never stops till Moonlight Mile.  There are no bad songs, Sway with Paul Buckmaster's strings adding color to Mick Taylor's guitar, to Wild Horses, still one of the more prettier country numbers the Stones ever did.  And then FM album pick to click Can't You Hear Me Knocking to which the second part is as crucial to the first half with the latin flavorings and Bobby Keys and Billy Preston guest stars galore.  Ending side 1 to a tribute to Fred McDowell.
Side 2 leads off with B Side classic Bitch one of the best and potent Stones songs ever made.  Looking at it all I Got The Blues is perhaps the only good track in a album of greatness but Sister Morphine featuring Ry Cooder's manic slides and Dead Flowers return the album to essential greatness, and then ending with Moonlight Mile which features one of the best Charlie Watts drumroll towards the end.   The Rolling Stones were firing on all fours on this era and with Mick Taylor, their most memorable from Let It Bleed, to Ya Yas, this album and Exile they really could do no wrong, till they got too complacent and made Goat's Head Soup and never did scale the highs ever again (although Some Girls did try).  Is the expanded edition worth buying? Only if you're a completest.  The bonus tracks are a nice work in progress but they do pale in comparison with the final songs that made it on Sticky Fingers which remains a solid A album.  But in this context, less is more and perhaps it's another dust collector on the shelf, or another 2 dollar trade in at Half Priced Books.  But for building a true classic rock collection, you only need the original album.
Grade A-

McKendree Spring-God Bless The Conspiracy (Edsel 1996)

Last week, I revisited Dillard And Clark and posted a blog about that on the Consortium side of things. McKendree Spring is a different sort of country rock although they reminded me more of a lesser Mason Profit or a less interesting It's A Beautiful Day or Quicksilver Messenger Service.  This kind of hippie dippy country rock tends to grate on the nerves, especially on the drumless No Regrets or Morning Glory which are second rate to Tom Rush and Tim Buckley.  McKendree Spring knew how to find the right cover songs to do but at times they come across as wrongheaded and over the top, much evidenced on Down By The River which had to be heard to believed.  It's not all bad, they do a credible Fire And Rain (which might have been a hit had James Taylor decided not release his song as a single) and Jerry Jeff Walker's Fading Lady, which doesn't differ much from a Powerglide era New Riders Of The Purple Sage. And God Bless The Conspiracy is somewhat interesting and has roots in It's A Beautiful Day all the way down to echoed Violin.  Problem is, it goes on too long, as it does on other songs including Eric Andersen's What Was Gained, done in by an overdone ending.  Which is why McKendree Spring remained a cult band and why Mason Profit was better. Mason Profit knew how to keep it simple and under four minutes most of the time. A dated period piece for sure.
Grade C   

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