Monday, July 27, 2015

Week In Review: Ragbrai Wrap Up, No Hit Cubs, Music

The RAGBRAI week has come and gone, and it was interesting for the fact that most of the places I used to live at were on this year's route with the exception of Nevada.  Unlike 2012's historic run, this year I didn't participate much in the festivities, Dennis De Young in Hiawatha, Cheap Trick in Coralville and various other bands playing in towns along the way.  The only encounter was trying to get through Mount Vernon and the few 100 bike riders who chose to write the rules their own way and stray off the the roads they were supposed to be on.  However, my co worker and former manager Jeff Harper decided to do this year's RAGBRAI and he managed to do the whole thing from Sioux City to Davenport, with a couple of flat tires on the final day he managed to enjoy the fruits of his labor by dipping his tires into the Mississippi River.  He says he's hoping to do that again in the near future.  Congratulations Jeff, you did a fine job.

Unlike the Chicago Cubs who really messed up this weekend and the lowly Philadelphia Phillies came into town and not only swept the hapless and hitless home team, Cole Hamels no hit the Cubs for the first time in fifty years since Sandy Koufax out-dueled Bob Hendley in the 1965 Koufax perfect game.  Sunday  with the wind blowing out, Phillies teed off on Jason Himmel who even called his pitching performance "garbage" and it showed.  Only thing good that came out was David Ross showing the relief pitchers how to get outs and then in the bottom of the ninth hit his first home run of the year.  Although the Cubs are still 4 games above 500, this Philadelphia sweep feels like the usual fold job that the Cubs are famous for.

To further rub it in fans faces, ESPN showed the infamous 30 for 30 show about the infamous Steve Bartman show, to which the dude, and about five other CUBS fans going after a foul ball that messed up Moises Alou's chances of catching it.  Of course people like to use scapegoats, and Cubs fans will turn on one of their own, never mind the fact that Alex Gonzalez, booted the ball and Florida scored 8 runs soon afterwards in that 2003 Hell game.  Too bad they didn't get Bartman out to pitch for the Cubs, he could have done no worse than half the idiot bullpen that inning.  History has been more kinder to Alex more than Steve, but it all goes to show that we're all human, and humans will mess up. For some messing up comes at pivotal parts of the game and infamy becomes that.  I admire Steve Bartman for staying out of the spotlight unlike others would've like to kill him on that foul ball.  Till the Cubs even make the World Series (if ever) Bartman is better off being incognito when he's in Chicago.

Rod Stewart came into town and delivered one of the best shows ever at the Five Seasons Center (or so says Diana Nollen) Friday Night.  I had a couple friends that echoed that statement although I didn't feel paying 75 dollars to see Rod the Mod, but contrary to rumor, the man does put on a great show although he hasn't made any albums that grabbed my attention since Never A Dull Moment. You can read Diana's glowing review (provided if you can answer the 25 questions they seem to have in order to read reviews anymore, fucking internet rules)

The next night the ageless Roger McGuinn came to the Paramount to play in front of a small crowd and technical problems but as a storyteller he had a few ones to share.

The Jones County Fair came and went as well, from sell out shows from Tim McGraw.  Next year the country follies continue with Carrie Underwood and junk rappers Florida Georgia Line being the first two artists to headline.  We'll see if the expiration date had expired on the two autotuned chipmunks but Carrie Underwood has withstood the test of time and 10 years on has proven to be one of the best known artists of this decade.  Still, Farce The Music will have plenty of barbs to throw at FGL from now till when the beatbox autotuned goofballs hit the stage.

Monday marks the 100th anniversary of the Lincoln Highway which is basically part of US 30 in this neck of the woods and the original road is from Mount Vernon to Cedar Rapids on what's called Mount Vernon Road.  But the Lincoln Highway is a coast to coast road and plenty of highlights and old historical can be found on that road.  Perhaps  a trip to Ames might work wonders this year.  For the most part this weekend I did Waterloo.  Found some vintage 45s at Goodwill in Independence and St. Vincent De Paul in Waterloo, the latter's music room a fun place to hang out and try to find keepers in those Herb Alpert, Gospel and Lawrence Welk albums, which i didn't find anything of note.  The Goodwill in Crossroads Mall is where the old FYE used to be at, which used to be Disc Jockey, which used to be Camelot Music, that same area where I spent many a time at various record stores.  While Crossroads continue to still be around, most of the places of note are long gone and now houses plenty of empty buildings.   St Vincent De Paul remains the destination place, although it looked like that Stuff Etc dumped a lot of their unwanted CDs up there and I did get Terry Reid The Driver CD, which was a Stuff Etc reject.  And probably should have left it there.

Bobbi Kristina Brown, in Hospice care for the past month joins her mom in the afterlife.  She was 22.

Vic Firth passed away at age 85.  He made the best drumsticks around.

This weekend bought the first ever B sides get together in Cleveland. While I didn't go there, Mark Stegall did and sends this report in... B-SIDE RECAP....Where to begin? Well, I'd first like to thank those who came to was a spectacular day and there were thousands and thousands at the Hall (we were smart for arriving early).  The accommodations were terrific at the Holiday Inn Express (even though Kyle had a temporary compulsion to drive his Honda into the swimming pool ala Keith Moon). Since the pool was small and inside the building I convinced him that might shorten the weekend. Bill Pearson and his wife went to the Indians/Sox game Friday night and watched Jose Quintana shut out the tribe. Kyle and I watched it from his room. I wasn't planning on going to the game on Saturday but since Kyle and Craig were and since Chris Sale was pitching they talked me into it. Our dinner was good, pretty quiet place but gave us a chance to visit and Bill shared with me a top 40 survey from 1966 with his DJ mug on it which I promptly had him autograph for me. Kyle got online from the hotel and got me an absolutely great seat to the game about 25 rows from the field behind home plate. I sat behind the guy who created the Larry Doby sculpture which they dedicated that night and they had bobbleheads too but we got there too late for those. The Sox pummeled the Tribe 10-3 and I giggled like a little kid throughout the game. Overall, I knew I would enjoy these guys but I have to say Kyle, Craig, Bill and Owen were terrific people to meet and my wife and I just had a splendid time. If you didn't go, you missed out on some great fun. The Hall of Fame was truly secondary to friendship and brotherhood of kindred spirits.

Since I wasn't there, I showed support by wearing the T shirt at a jam session. Sounded like fun.   That's Guitar Dave Bonham on bass and T Ray Robertson on guitar.  Yours truly on beer cans.

Gotta love Willie Nelson and his portrayal of  Donald Trump as  Dr. Booger Nelson.  He might be 82 but Willie still has that dry sense of humor that I find so appealing.  Go get em Booger er Willie ;)

Reviews: (photo credit: Michelle Annette-Granillo)

Robbie Robertson (Geffen 1987)

Robbie is lot like John Fogerty, both were the creative force behind their respective bands But as a solo artists, Robertson is the more scattershot.  And there's always been a love/hate affair with Robertson's two albums for Geffen, to which the first, is the least bloated of the two.  A lotta hype went with this album, plenty of guest stars (Peter Gaberial, U2, Bo Deans, even Garth Hudson and Rick Danko appear although in limited duties)   It's not that songs are bad, I always have a soft spot for Showdown At Big Sky and American Roulette, but 28 years after the fact, the record sounds weird.  The odd duet of Somewhere Down The Crazy River with Sammy Llamas now formerly of The Bo Deans and wanted to be like Peter Gaberial on Fallen Angel. Given that Robbie used the drummer for Peter's band at that time, maybe he was trying to strip away any reminder that he was once part of The Band.  And the real seriousness of the music sinks the whole thing as well, Robertson trying to make that grand statement and doesn't quite pull it off.  Also Robertson can't sing.  It's one thing if Tom Waits or even Leonard Cohen singing songs in a earnest way, but there's a reason why Levon or Rick or Richard sang Robbie's songs.   Also this record belongs to Daniel Lanois more so, he of U2 Joshua Tree fame finally getting his sound down.  It was a big budget album which now you see more often in the dollar bins and wondered what was the big fuss all about.  I don't know, I have bought this twice and donated it twice and probably donate this copy back to Goodwill as well.  While Robbie Robertson, the album was a strong attempt to reclaim past glories and his heart was in the right place, it's too serious and no fun.  And it could have used Levon Helm as well.
Grade C+

The Sunshine Band-The Sound Of Sunshine (TK 1975)

Ah yes, but without K.C, The Sunshine Band was more like a damp rainy day.   On this tepid reissue of their bland 1975 album, we get 9 songs that times in at around 26 minutes and about four variations of Rock Your Baby, the big hit with George McCrae, which without his vocals turns this into Muzak Disco.  Nothing wrong with instrumental albums, Sandy Nelson and Duane Eddy made a decent living doing that. But these numbers do sound like unfinished demos and uninspired attempts to get people out on the dance floor but more likely folks leaving for bathroom breaks.  Robert Christgau nailed them good when he gave this thing a D plus and he may have been right.  When KC and the boys put words and groove, you get classics like Get Down Tonight or That's The Way I Like It.  Without vocals and no grooves, it puts you to sleep.
Grade D+

311 Greatest Hits 93-03 (Volcano 2003)

In the so called alternative music world of today you seldom hear much of 311 anymore although they are still around and mostly intact but at one time they were one of Capricorn's better selling artists of the 1990s when the late Phil Walden revived that label.  311 hailed from Omaha Nebraska, which I considered to be a regional band.  20 years ago, their S/T album broke them, with the hit Down and followup All Mixed Up.  I'm surprised I still have that album on the shelf, probably of the anti gun Guns Are For Pussies which would make a nice protest song in this day and age.  Later albums showed Nick Hexum taking over and 311 moving toward reggae influenced type of music, and the last album I cared about was Transistor went on a bit too long but the title track and Beautiful Disaster are classic songs themselves.  Used to be Greatest Hits packages showcased the hits before Corporate Rock Radio dumbed things down and best ofs are nothing more than a mix tape the labels put out.  311 Greatest Hits is that, it gives you about an hour's worth of what made 311 one of the stand out bands of the 90s along the likes of Sugar Ray or to an lesser extent Smash Mouth.  I think 311 is probably the lesser pop friendly of all bands mentioned.  This overview which also includes a couple then new songs that aren't too bad and a cover of The Cure's Love Song, to go along with the loud quiet loud and big ending songs such as Beautiful Disaster or Down.  A good overview and resume of a surprising long and varied career.
Grade A-

Ohio Express-Golden Classics  (Collectables 1994) 

In essence, Tommy James and The Shondells were the greatest bubblegum band ever.  Don't believe me, play anything from the Ohio Express or 1910 Fruitgum Company or any other Buddah artists at that time (except Melanie of course), but Joey Levine may be the best bubblegum vocalist, although Ron Dante or Tony Burrows might concur.   As a 7 year old, I was known to sing Yummy Yummy Yummy or Chewy Chewy, the latter the best known of bubblegum pop, as if you can chew gum to the beat.  Even among the groans and graffaws of rock and roll purists, bubblegum did serve a purpose.  Compare Ohio Express to the nowadays pop artists (FGL or what the Disney Channel touts for pop stars) and their music holds up a lot better than say, Cruise, or My Kind Of Night.  Perhaps the best of the Buddah bands, The Ohio Express might be responsible for the coming of The Bay City Rollers, easy to sing along chorus to the songs, but the Express did borrow a few things from Tommy James, like the chorus to Down At Lulu's (which they borrowed pieces of Love's Closing In On Me from TJ) which might be their best song.  Yummy Yummy Yummy you'll either love it or hate the earworm that eats away at your brain, although once again the source points to Mony Mony for the introduction.  They were a singles band and sometimes they can stumble upon a groove, as indicated on the cheesy Roll It Up or Firebird but when they went hippy dippy they were laughable and awful (Turn To Straw).  While Joey Levine was the main vocalist on the hits, he wasn't present on perhaps their best song Sausalito  (Is The Place To Go) which was done by none other than Graham Gouldman and Hotlegs who later did Neanderthal Man for Capitol a year later.  Then became 10cc.  For a period piece,  Golden Classic covers the good, the bad and the ugly.  But sometimes the world does need a Yummy Yummy Yummy to combat to dire seriousness of U2 or Radiohead, or show the world they had a bigger IQ than Tyler Hubbard and the other FGL dude.
Grade B-

Happy birthday to the one and only Buddy Guy who turns 79.  He wrote an autobiography a couple years ago which told some stories about some of the various Chess artists that were alive, Little Walter, Muddy Waters and Rice Miller (Sonny Boy Williamson 2) the latter one of more cantankerous bluesmen in music history.   Buddy was instrumental in shaping up some of the sounds of Chess Music, playing acoustic guitar with Muddy Waters on the Folk Singer LP, hooking up with Koko Taylor on Wang Dang Doodle.  He had a love/hate affair with Junior Wells throughout their long career together but calls Wells his best friend.  Guy helped Wells out on the Hoodoo Man Blues LP for Delmark but in the book Guy didn't think much of the Atco LP Buddy Guy and Junior Wells Play The Blues, although Friday Music did expand the record to 2 CDs, it's not one of the crown jewels in Guy's catalog.  If nothing else, Buddy Guy just might be the last living bluesman to be connected to the past, even jamming with Lonnie Johnson before Lonnie passed away. He's known John Lee Hooker, BB King, Albert King, Ike Turner, Big Mama Thornton for many years before they all passed.  He jammed with Jimi Hendrix and an up and coming youngster Stevie Ray Vaughan.  And he continues to influence the newbies that are in the blues world, Devon Allman and Samantha Fish comes to mind.  He has no intention of slowing down.  So with that, I give out a shout out salute and birthday wishes to the one and only Buddy Guy and hopefully maybe meet him someday face to face at Legends in Chicago.   One of the last original bluesmen standing and perhaps one of the nicest guys you'll ever meet too.


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