Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Week In Review: New Bo Festival, Buddy Guy

Ever since the flood of 2008, the revival of Cedar Rapids has been slow but one thing that stands out is that the New Bo District has sprung up over the past five years and continues to become the go to place for alternative cutting edge music.  This weekend the first ever New Bo Festival started with Young The Giant leading off a array of up and coming bands.  Like anything new and improved, the first ever music New Bo Festival ended in a rain storm (imagine that).  While overpriced festivals like WARPED or Lollapalooza still bring in thousands, the cheaper and more fan friendly New Bo Festival might be the sign of better things to come and a new tradition.  While it's too early to see if U2 will have a open day for next year's New Bo Festival, all I can say is that New Bo is on to something.  And with new eateries and buildings replacing the old, it's on the way up.  Now if somebody can restore the old 3rd Avenue Live building, we'll be for the better of it.  Next up, around Labor Day, the New Bo Arts Festival.

Over the weekend, Steve Earle came a-calling with a trek to Madison and then a Sunday show in Iowa City.  Our friends at No Depression were at the Barrymore Show in Mad City and filed this report: http://nodepression.com/live-review/steve-earle-dukes-give-madison-blues-live-barrymore-theater-madison-wi

Speaking of new traditions Springville will have their end of summer fun days this weekend.  Jake McVey is the country singer that will be playing on Saturday, with an opening country band around town opening up for him.  Usual small town fair stuff to do, Tractor Pull, getting drunk in the beer tent etc.  Weather is supposed to be nice up till Sunday, when a slight chance of rain may appear.  Palo Fun Days is also happening this week, with my good friends Herm Sarduy and Dan Hartman and their band Kick It opening up for Full Circle on Saturday Night. 

The fun of baseball continues here.  Cedar Rapids this Sunday shut out Bowling Green 4-0, helped by a TJ White home run.  Quad Cities continue to do well although Dayton ended their 12 game winning streak on Sunday, both teams are in line to face each other in the MiLB playoffs in September.  In the meantime The Chicago Cubs did the unthinkable and swept the San Francisco Giants in 4 games for the first time since 1977, the year of the Freshmen body snatchers.  And amazingly TBS showed the game without blackout restrictions, which I can't believe that myself.  Alas, ESPN didn't get that message when they blacked out the Pittsburgh game last monday which ended in a rainout.  Which is why consumers are dropping cable.  Nobody wants to see ESPN News hot air announcers talk about Tom Brady suspension 24/7.  And blackout rules only benefits the fat cat owners who take away people's chances of seeing major league teams we rarely see anymore (See WGN Superstation for more proof).  Which, being a Cubs fan has really robbed my chances of staying home and watching them and having to go to a Cubs Sportsbar to see the games. A far cry from cable TV of even 20 years ago before bullshit mergers and adding 15 more minutes of commercials and hot air commentary from the so called sports channels, John Anderson and John Buccigross being the cause of climate change with their idiotic yacking on Sportscenter.   Or even more cringe worthy, Eli Manning's DirecTV spots which are as bad as the sexy Viagra cougar gals touting the blue pill for folks who can't get it up.   Well at least John Lee Hooker and Howlin Wolf can now rest in peace, knowing that their songs are no longer used, for the miracle drug, (side effects include blindness, 4 hour you know whats, even heart attacks.............).  Manning's DirecTV make Rob Lowe look like Marlon Brando.  And don't get me started on that freaky Col. Sanders KFC dude.

As you have seen so far, I haven't been posting much except for the usual Week In Review blog, since I have been doing triple duty in hosting jam sessions on Thursday Nights and Sunday Afternoons, trying to complete the next Townedgers album and doing blogs about the past albums over there.   As well trying to recover from a hernia operation which I'll be back at work in a couple weeks.  Before the month is out, a trip to Madison might be in the calling.  For sure the jam sessions has actually gotten me to interact with some of the finest musicians in town and perhaps a band might be started out of from one of these sessions although working second shift would put a cramp in anything outside of the weekend rocking at the bar.   For some of my Blogspot buddies, they been pretty silent outside of George Stravoian continue to review the lesser known and Brian Wilson and Bruce Springsteen. 2000 Man, one of the few commentators around here, has returned with two new blogs. One about Dire Straits, the other on James Gang In Concert, which surprisingly he must have known I was playing that the other night, you see the guys are trying to learn Walk Away and we needed to know how it went, the chorus everybody were not on the same page.  His latest posting is here: http://negligibleinterest.blogspot.com/2015/08/james-gang-live-in-concert.html

Columbia House has filed for bankruptcy.  A long time ago, they and BMG Music were the ones that offered 12 albums for a penny or a dollar, which would be a good deal but then they'd send you the latest album in the mail for full price and you either had to buy or opt out of the deal.  A big loss leader even back in the days of cheap music, Columbia House actually quit the CD and LP side to go with the DVDs but that wasn't working for them either, thanks to Netflix.  While there's nothing different between a record club CD or LP, I just never got into buying them and tend to ignore them in the cheap bins, although I did get a Jimmy and Mama Yancey Piano CD (A BMG record club copy) for 50 cents in Waterloo a couple weeks ago.  I think at one point Warner Music Group had a hand in producing the CDs from Columbia House, (which I thought was once part of CBS), which if you looked at the CD it was produced from a WMG plant.  Really, no difference in sound quality outside of the UPC scan code either being altered or simply BMG stamping their mark in that area. I just thought it looked mutant.  Flimed Entertainment, who owns Columbia House simply said they been operating in the red the past 2 decades and while they'll still keep going on, they're looking for investors to take over.  Meanwhile Netflix's profits are over 500 percent in the past five years. Ah, streaming, one of many ways to keep you connected to your computer.  http://money.cnn.com/2015/08/10/news/columbia-house-bankruptcy/index.html

Robert Christgau returns once again with his Expert Witness column with more reviews and a new website that took him in.  How long it will last is anybody's guest but I always enjoyed reading his reviews, even though most of who he reviews I wouldn't touch with a 10 foot pole. http://noisey.vice.com/blog/expert-witness-with-robert-christgau-1

And for the rest of the world, one year later Ferguson Missouri is still business as usual, for every peaceful protest, you get one or two thugs that make it into a riot and nothing changes.  Donald Trump opens his month and offends everybody, including Megan Kelly and nothing changes. The Who has re re re released Tommy with a full orchestra and nothing changes. Billy Corgan is always bitching about something and nothing changes. Phil Rudd believes he'll be back in AC DC and nothing changes.  And Cal Pie the one track mind pussycat continues to walk on my recently washed car with muddy prints and nothing changes.  Meet Mr. Spray Bottle Callie.  Wow never seen a cat jump that high while running off the car.  Something did change.

It was one year ago that Robin Williams checked out of this world.


And now Nightmare at Ivy Doomkitty Lane.  (Photo: Geri Kramer Photography)

Review Time:

Buddy Guy: Born To Play Guitar (RCA/Silvertone 2015)

Perhaps the last bluesman standing, Buddy has actually been part of the Silvertone roster for the past 20 plus years, that's saying a lot considering how the major label business is nowadays.  If you're a legend, like say a Tony Bennett or a Leonard Cohen at Columbia you have it make and basically on name association the major label don't have to write your album off as a tax loss.  For many years though Buddy Guy has been screwed by the best of them all, Leonard Chess kept taking advantage of him till Vanguard took him in the late 60s but Buddy did play on the classic Chess albums from Koko Taylor and Muddy Waters. Then a four decade hookup with Junior Wells, which also led to the classic Hoodoo Man Blues on Delmark, but even Atlantic dropped the ball on their Play The Blues album by recording them with a drugged out Eric Clapton, who still owes a good album with Guy.  But Guy finally got that classic album in him in the 1991 Damn Right I Got The Blues album and here he is 24 years down the road with Born To Play Guitar, which is more streamlined than the 2 CD set that got released last year.  It's a good album but it goes on a bit too long.  At age 79, Guy still sounds two decades younger than his age and he still plays mad guitar.  The duets and guest stars are hit and miss, I enjoy the Billy F Gibbons' mad guitar on Wear You Out, and Kim Wilson does channel the old Chicago blues, most notably on the Little Walter staple Too Late.  Certainly this record does have a feel, like the late B B King's One Kind Favor, it's Buddy Guy paying it forward with stories about Muddy on the acoustic played final number Come Back Muddy which Buddy wishes for the days that Muddy can come back and play and one day Buddy will be able to join the great Chicago bluesman from afar.  However how much as heartfelt as Flesh And Bone is with Van Morrison, once again somebody has to decide upon having one background don't yell at me women singers moan in the background and the song becomes too sappy, and Josh Stone tries to 'can you top this' with a over the top screech at the end of the Dinah Washington/Brook Benton cover of Baby You Got What It Takes.  Samantha Fish would have made a better alternative than Stone. Take away the over the top female guest stars and it's a A minus album.  As for the rest of the album Guy can rock and roll with the best of them on Crazy World and show the young ones how to do the blues with Whiskey Beer and Wine.  While B B King was winding down on One Kind Favor, Buddy still shows he has plenty of say so in his albums and Born To Play Guitar is one of his better efforts and Tom Hambridge works quite well in the production chair.   I do think on the next effort Hambridge if he decides to add guest stars to at least get ones that try to work better in the context of Buddy's music rather than the ones that like to show off how great they sing.  Suggestion: Bonnie Raitt or Miss Sam Fish?
Grade B+

Tripmaster Monkey-Faster Than Dwight (See How EP 1993)

They came from Davenport and they made this Ep and two full lengths for Sire in the 1990s.  This EP, recorded in Cedar Falls at the legendary Catamont Studios does show a Nirvana influence but as well Uncle Tupelo with the stop start beats and going from loud to soft and back to loud again.  I wouldn't call this power pop, nor grunge for that matter.  Garage rock with a kick, although the five songs offered are dated pieces from the early 90s.  Standouts would be Present Tense and closer Liquid Sky but Faster Than Dwight sounds like a it recorded in one day and hope that something would stick.  The next album Goodbye Race they would find their collective groove before losing it all on Practice Changes after Sire switched labels from Warner's to the less receptive Elektra.
Grade B-

The Best Of INXS (Rhino/Atlantic 2002)

You know it when the CD era is over is when you find 5 copies of Best Of Inxs in the dollar bins along with about 10 copies of Achtung Baby or 20 copies of Cracked Rear View.  It ain't going to get better folks, the Millenials kids have lived their lives through computers and have no use for outdated storage media.  In their heyday, before the Millenials were even thought of and their mom and dads were hanging at the local meet markets in town, chances are somebody was playing Inxs.  This best of ignore the first couple albums before the one with The One Thing and perhaps their best song ever Don't Change, and this is where the record begins.  I tend to think Listen Like Thieves is their best album, Kick the most overrated and anything else is in between.   Although this is missing Heaven Sent, this is probably the one album to get from Inxs since most of the hits are here and Need You Tonight is without that annoying Radiate part.  Michael Hutchins was for a while, the sex symbol of the late 80s although I'm sure that put a cramp into the style of the band, but they could do dance numbers (Devil Inside, The Original Sin) as well as corporate rock (New Sensation, What You Need) and alternative rock (This Time, Disappear).  They sold a ton of Kick and X but somehow the world soured upon them after Welcome To Wherever You Are and they were never the chart toppers again. Of course their cred got tarnished when they started did that reality show of finding a new singer (J D Fortune) and that eventually led to a new album (the actually listenable Switch) and to a lesser enjoyable all star tribute album (the flop Original Sin) but basically The Best Of Inxs is the one to get should you want to relive your 80s youth all over again.  Which is probably why I skip over New Sensation since the folks at DeSodas played it every night......
Grade A-

Mac McAnally-Simple Life  (Warner Brothers 1990)

For one of the most gifted singer songwriters of country music, his output has been unbelievably spotty  albumwise.  Somehow in the late 80s Geffen Records thought he was too country so this album got assigned through Warner Brothers, just before Universal bought out Geffen.  I'm sure Jim Ed Norman had something to do with this since he became part of Warner Nashville.  Despite the abundance of slow tempo songs, Simple Life one of Mac's better albums,  lead by failed country single (one of many failed country singles Mac had over his long career) Back Where I Came From, it is the best song off this album although the title track comes in a close second.  Fact of the matter is McAnally remains one of the best songwriters in Nashville with the family first honesty of Down The Road to which all fathers do want to know if the potential future husband of their daughters make enough money to maintain a family, a far cry from the Jerry Springer influenced idiot Nashville writers of today (Dallas Davidson anybody?).  Although the ballads tend to bore me, it's McAnally's honesty that makes Simple Life a pretty good album.  I do wish he would up the tempo a bit more though.
Grade B+

Wilderness Road (Columbia 1971) 

I came across them by accident when Real Gone had a sale on CDs and I ended up getting their second album recorded for Reprise Sold For The Prevention Of Disease, which was a funnier and better album.  The first and only release for Columbia works a concept album of sorts.  Somewhat of a cross between The New Riders Of The Purple Sage,  Poco and Mason Profit, more of the latter, the first album gives us the first version of Revival, a medley of original gospel songs which does suggest what Mason Profit was doing before the Talbot Brothers did find Jesus.  What sunk this album was that there was true hit single that could be taken from this record, and while they joke about the Hampton Grease Band Music To Eat sold double copies and was the 2nd poorest Columbia Records release ever (A myth) Wilderness Road's S/T album might have been number 3.  It's a shame really, the country rock was actually better than Poco From The Inside which came out around that time.  They do know how to jam, Pictures In The Gallery is probably the best and although the record loses steam toward the end song Rider's Return, the quick ending made me wonder is that all?  And Columbia had enough, dropping them after releasing this album.  Strange to say that the lesser selling Reprise album got a CD release that this didn't.  If somebody brings it to Real Gone's attention perhaps they'll issue it.
Grade B+

The Chambers Brothers Greatest Hits (Columbia 1970)

Bart Testa, whoever the fuck he was, called this a must avoid in the Rolling Stone Review Book Edition One, which means he didn't liked it at all.  One of the snob reviewers he also gave a big PFFFFT to Queen-News Of The World.  But then again, look his name up and he's more a film reviewer or Professor at University Of Toronto-St. George Campus.   Perhaps Rolling Stone put a gun to his head to review it and he gave it a bullet.  In some ways he could have a point.  Side 2 of this so called Greatest Hits falls apart with Let's Do It and Love, Peace And Happiness, not one of their better songs.  Perhaps Bart didn't like I Can't Turn You Loose, the Otis Redding cover and of course it pales next to the original or the Live In Europe Otis Version.  Perhaps Bart couldn't handle the full 11 minute freakout of Time Has Come Today, although when I bought this LP, I too was fooled that it was not the 4:45 edit that radio played.  I had two versions of that song on 45, one was the butchered 3:05 before the jam part, the second was the poorly constructed 4:45 edit which the omitted jam is gone but the last verse was poorly mixed despite the scratchy appearance.  The Chambers Brothers Columbia albums were all spotty, even their classic The Time Has Come LP had filler tracks.  Even without Uptown, I still like Greatest Hits better than the slopdash Time Has Come The Best Of, which included the rejected and hard to find first run through of Time Has Come Today.   But I also like the crazed Can't Turn You Loose and People Get Ready, although Curtis Mayfield and The Impressions lay claim to that number.  Overall, I do recommend it more than Bart Testa, who should just stick with the theater and the arts. To which he has done over the years.
Grade B+


Rod Stewart-Smiler (Mercury 1974)

This is where Rod's hot streak ended and boy did it ever.  When Rod signed on to Mercury Records, he was an unknown but beginning with The Rod Stewart Album, Gasoline Alley and Every Picture Tells A Story, Rod had a uncanny knack of picking great songs from other artists as well as penning his own number, Martin Quittenton being the perfect foil and partner who helped shaped up an overplayed classic named Maggie May.  But by Smiler, something wasn't quite right and perhaps the shaky first take of Sweet Little Rock And Roller was the sign of things to come.   Some moments of pleasure, Elton John playing on Let Me Be Your Car but the more rocking Hard Road (which sounds like The Faces backing Rod up) are the highlights of a album that never seems to take off.  The Sam Cooke number sounds uninspired, and I still don't know what to think of You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Man.  After this record Rod went over to Warner Brothers and reinvent himself as a classic rocker with a more polished sound and questionable hit singles (Tonight's The Night, Do You Think I'm Sexy) and later a lounge act with the Great American Songbook Series he did with Clive Davis but in some ways Smiler is the end of an era.  The era of the acoustic troubadour with a sloppy bar band sound (RIP Mickey Waller), perhaps the end as I care to remember Rod the Mod.   Smiler is a very sloppy album, but somehow it bookends The Rod Stewart Album as what Rod could do best.
Grade C



Mini Review of the life and times of  Ryan Adams

I don't share the majority of the Americana music papers on the universal love on Adams, in fact he's been a lot more spottier than say Jeff Tweedy and Wilco or Jay Farrar's Son Volt.  Even his original band Whiskeytown got caught up in the fervor of their albums when they were still around.  I love Faithless Street (the original Mood Food album version) and liked Rural Free Delivery as well.  The outpost albums of Strangers Almanac and Phenomena, the former album one of my co workers heard me playing it and called it most depressing thing she's ever heard.  The latter the end of Whiskeytown and the beginning of a streak of albums that Adams put out on Lost Highway, which are a mess upon themselves.  Basically each album, showed Adams taking over Whiskeytown and changing their sound from The Burrito Brothers to something like Joy Division gone country.   On his Bloodshot debut Heartbreaker, he's arguing with his producer and that sets the tone not only for that album but for his career.  Then Universal signed him up to Lost Highway label and Adams threw everything but the kitchen sink from here on out, the best one Demolition which has the last of the Whiskeytown influence and some band members.  His WTF moments came during an aborted punk rock album that Lost Highway wanted nothing to do with, and a 2 part EP which became the full blown Love Is Hell, his love letter to goth music and Morrissey.  The only thing that came close to being good was the 2 CD and LP Cold Roses, made with a band called the Cardinals and showed a balance between The Grateful Dead and perhaps The Byrds. I tend to think The Cardinals were a better bunch of musicians than Whiskeytown, but with the wide eyed innocence and country rock of Faithless Street, that band wins out.   Since then Adams had moved on, he surprised the world by marrying Mandy Moore (they later divorced) and moved over to Capitol for a pleasant debut, but with Capitol being bought out by Universal, his last two albums have been released via Blue Note.   The S/T album I heard good things but passed when Adams called it being influenced by The Smiths.  He continues to push the envelope,  he was pissed off when a troll in the audience called out for Summer of 69 by the other Adams, Bryan and Ryan fumed about that for months.  But he did eventually thought better of things and did a version all his own.  And now his next project is covering songs by........... Taylor Swift of all people.    Certainly Adams is one of the more interesting artists of the past decade by following his own music vision.  It doesn't always work but when it does, Adams can still give Jeff Tweedy a run for the money.

Caitlin Cary, the fine singer and violinist in Whiskeytown remains very active in the Raleigh Music Scene and activist but she's an very excellent needleprint artist too.  You can find some of her award winning art from this site: http://caitlincary.webs.com/artworks.htm

Whiskeytown Albums

Faithless Street (Mood Food  1996) A-  (Reissued via Outpost Records 1998 with bonus tracks)
Rural Free Delivery (Mood Food EP 1997) B+
Strangers Almanac  (Outpost 1998) B
Phenomena  (Lost Highway 2001) B-

Recommended Ryan Adams Albums
Heartbreaker (Bloodshot 1999)
Demolition (Lost Highway 2002)
Cold Roses (Lost Highway 2005)
Ryan Adams (Blue Note 2014) 

2 comments:

Klaatu Barada-Nikto said...

Wow, a coincidence you mentioned James Gang In Concert because I just ordered a CD from eBay! My older step brother had the LP, but I was a James Gang fan before that. I used to play the crap out of 16 greatest hits. I liked the live version if Take a Look Around. When Joe joined the Eagles, I thought what a fortunate thing for the Eagles----not the other way around! James Gang for me are a great American band that could have been greater. But the memories their music evokes are priceless. Walsh is a true American treasure.

R S Crabb said...

Great minds think alike or put records on together eh?

Live In Concert, FYE had that in the cheap bins when they were still around and live sound was much different than the studio. I have the 16 Greatest Hits on LP and Take A Look Around was the live version before they faded it out. The James Gang had a few good to great guitarists in their band (Dominic Triano replaced Walsh, and then Tommy Bolin who gave them their last good album Bang) but Joe Walsh was the sound of James Gang, and I think Live In Concert is probably the closest thing any American band came to sound like The Who. Certainly, joining The Eagles was a nice addition but I'm sure Don and Glenn rather keep Joe in check with only 1 or 2 songs limit. Nevertheless I'd love to party with Joe any old time of day.