Thursday, January 28, 2016

Week In Review: Paul Kantner, Sick and 55, Jimmy Bain, RAGBRAI

Sunday I turned 55.  Worst fucking birthday ever.  I been stuck with the fucking winter cold.

Since being sick, I could not attend any of the bands playing that weekend.  Julie And The Mad Dogs in Anamosa Saturday and missing out on Wooden Nickel Lottery on Sunday after promising that I would show up.  I hate making promises and not following through due to illness.  You can sit there and get a flu shot and still get pneumonia regardless.  This shit started happening around Wednesday with a scratchy throat and then things deteriorated each day.  Watery eyes, a persistent cough, fucking post nasal drip, when this shit came full bloom on Sunday everything was ruined and I basically stayed home and sang the praises to high heaven.

Flus are a bitch.  You either sleep all day or stay up all night and never get a certain medium to tolerate this shit.  The post nasal drip is the big wood sliver under your fingernails.  And once things dry up, another sneeze or 13 puts you back to hack and cough land once again.  Better off dead so you don't have to deal with post nasal drip.   And winter flu really makes me that much more cranky, and just right now, another sneeze, all over the keyboard, all over myself.  Yeah, this is going to be one fucking great week for all involved.

The major headlines is yet another rock and roller passed; Paul Kantner suffered a major heart attack and departed the world on Wednesday, he was 74.  Kantner defined Jefferson Airplane into somewhat of a space rock and roll band but they started out kinda folkish rock in 1966 with Takes Off and Paul has his own distinctive voice on Let Me In.  Perhaps the key to their success would be on the failed single Ballad Of You And Me And Pooneil on album number 3, After Bathing At Baxter's which really was a departure from Surrealistic Pillow, still their best overall album.  After the Airplane imploded, Paul put out Blows Against The Empire and two albums with Grace Slick before reforming and renaming the band Jefferson Starship.  But by then, they did become more corporate rock, while Kantner did pen their most rocking songs (Ride The Tiger) to contradict the MOR pop of Miracles.  The final goodbye came around 1979 when Mickey Thomas joined up and they become classic rock heroes with Jane or Find Your Way Back.  I have fond memories of that lineup including Anysley Dunbar pounding on the drums till after they removed him from the banal Winds Of Change album.  Kantner remained onboard for the crappy Nuclear Furniture with minor hit Layin It On The Line, but bailed out when Starship had their biggest hit in 1985 with We Built This City.  Throughout it all, Paul did have his own version of Jefferson Starship, that played the hits of long ago and far away.  I don't have much to say about the last true Jefferson Starship album that came out about 10 years ago on Fuel 2000, the only good thing about that one was that Marty Balin was on the best song of that album.  Paul had been in ill health the last five years and his heart attack over the weekend eventually finished him.  His legacy will still be intact on the albums that he did for the Airplane and Starship, as long as Jefferson is in front of either names. 

On the same day, the original female vocalist of the Airplane Signe Anderson died as well. She was 74 and suffered from various health issues.  She was part of the band on the Jefferson Airplane Takes Off album but she didn't trust Matthew Katz and had him put in a waver to free her from the band should she decided she had enough of the band.  She later joined The Natural Gas Company band and stayed with them for about 9 years.  Signe would appear as a special guest in Jefferson Starship on rare occasions in the 1990s. 

Jimmy Bain passed away on Saturday. He was 68.  Played on albums by Rainbow and Ronnie James Dio.  He won't have to worry about any more colds and flu.  Lucky guy, he'll be missed.

The passing of Gail Zappa has freed up of a reissue of an long out of print album that has been getting big bucks on EBAY, notably An Evening With Wild Man Fischer, to which Gonzo Entertainment has now reissued this week.  Originally on Bizarre Records, to which Frank Zappa owned the rights, a royalty disagreement between Frank and Wild Man Larry Fischer ended up the album being pulled and even after Frank's passing in 1993, Gail Zappa, who overseen the reissues struck down any notion of reissue.  Fischer is a one man oddball singer who had suffered from mental problems through his life till his passing in 2011 at age 66.  In some ways, this album is similar to David Lannen's Street Singer but not as extreme and didn't have Frank Zappa to really make it more barbed. If anybody to be compared with Wild Man is more in tune with Wesley Willis, who managed to make his own Lo Fi recordings on various labels before he too passed away in 2003.  An acquired taste so to speak, An Evening With Wild Man Fischer speaks levels of schizophrenic induced music. In some ways it makes Trout Mask Replica sound normal.  Approach with caution.

The new Steven Tyler country single is the old dude trying to be Bro Country.  And makes you wonder why he even tried in the first place.  Hell this makes Just Push Play sound like Rocks. And that's saying something.  He's also getting a lot of backlash for mentioning he got Guns And Roses back together again, as well as Jon Bon Jovi.  GnR are not amused but they thank you all the same.

Bert Berns is being recognized in the rock and roll hall of fame this year, being voted in as well.  Berns, who passed away in 1967 from a heart attack was instrumental in getting great songs to the likes of The Drifters, Ben E King and later formed Bang Records.  He should have been in there earlier too. 

Not much better is the Iggy Pop/Josh Homme song Gardenia off their forthcoming new album.

This years RAGBRAI bike route takes a far southern tour of the great state of Iowa, starting in Glenwood and going through Shenandoah, Creston, Leon, Centerville, Ottumawa, Washington  and ending at Muscatine, which the closest town to here.

The Iowa men's team beat Purdue once again 83-71 to remain unbeaten in the Big Ten and the last time they gone this far undefeated you have to go back to the Miller Six Pack era 1969-1970 Hawkeyes which was lead by Fred Brown and John Johnson who recently passed away last week.  Despite what Colin Cowpie says, the Big Ten Basketball teams rival just about anybody in terms of great schools with great teams.  There is no cupcakes, no frauds in basketball and Iowa continues to play the best teams with Maryland, Indiana and Michigan all coming up.  I don't forsee the Hawks run the undefeated route but if they did that would be a big accomplishment while the ESPN reject would find ways to call anything Iowa Frauds.   Too bad he didn't get suffocated under that 30 plus inches of snow that they had out on the Eastern coast last weekend. On a side note, Iowa is now rated number 3 on the top 25 teams.  I'm sure Colin will find some fault to that as well.

So far the novelty hasn't wore off yet but Record World has had 100 views every day for the past 33 days.  I'm sure it will end soon but thanks to our friends out in Russia, The Ukraine, South Korea, Mexico, Poland and France and Germany for reading abroad.

Record Reviews:

David Bowie: blackstar (Columbia/ISO 2016)

Hearing the Thin White Duke's final album in his lifetime is somewhat a mixed blessing.  I wouldn't consider this to be in the top 5 Bowie albums of all times or even 10 but at seven songs and 37 minutes it's easier to take than The Next Day.  And actually grows on you better, although the close to 10 minutes of the title track will try patience.   I like it better than say Sue or Tis A Pity She's a Whore but the highlight is either Lazarus or I Can't Give Everything Away, played to a more uptempo beat. 

Grade B+

Chad Mitchell Trio-Mighty Day On Campus (Kapp 1961)

Alternative music which was folk music in 1961 and this album basically started the folk music boom along with Kingston Trio, though nobody talks much about Chad Mitchell anymore.  It really was a big deal back then.  Featuring future Byrd superstar Jim McGuinn on five string banjo.  There's even an answer to the Kingston Trio's MTA (Super Skier) and oddball humor, the unpolitical correct of Lizzie Borden (which Kapp issued as a single no doubt) and the uptempo of Putting On Style  or Tale Toddle makes the record a big of nostalgic fun.  However time has not treated When Johnny Comes Marching In aka Johnnie and at five minutes feels more like a funeral procession rather than hootenanny fun, and live folk music of the 1960s are a very dated piece anyway.  But at one time The Chad Mitchell Trio was a big deal and you had to be there to hear it in person rather than looking from afar 5 and half decades after it was released.
Grade B

Roger McGuinn-Back From Rio (Arista 1991)

For being the main constant in the Byrds, McGuinn's solo catalog was a step down from the high quality years of Dylan and even if a certain Russian reviewer thinks that Sweetheart Of The Rodeo is overrated, that album did show enough charm to start a country rock movement.  Twenty five years ago, the major labels touted this as a major comeback, but in an era of En Vogue and MC Hammer and the beginnings of Nirvana, Back From Rio turned out to be a major flop.  Compare this to most of McGuinn's solo stuff and this holds up a lot better than say, Peace On You or Thunderbyrd, though I rather give a nod to Cardiff Rose for being something different.  Back From Rio has Roger with some of Tom Petty's Heartbreakers on board to help out (the exiled Stan Lynch on drums) and even Elvis Costello is happy to send Roger a new song for support, the not bad You Bowed Down.  Also John Jougerson from Desert Rose Band helps out on guitar too. Not a full blown Byrds reunion, although at that time, David Crosby and Chris Hillman did get together with Roger to do a couple new songs for a Byrds box set and they both sing back up on a couple numbers.  And Tom Petty provides counterpoint for King Of The Hill.   Certainly there are protest numbers, The Trees Are All Gone, really shapes up about the world today better in 2016 then it did back in 1991 although it could have used a better arrangement.  And there's a same sound to most of these songs, uptempo four four with elements of raga folk rock and power pop.  I'm thinking the best song is If We Never Meet Again, written by Jules Shear that states it best and that McGuinn believes the best is yet to come.  And to think about it, Back From Rio would be McGuinn's last true album of looking back at his Byrds roots and incorporating them to the ones who played on this album.  In spite of it all, Arista dropped him after the failure of King Of The Hill making any chart action and this cd would be found in many cut out bins in stores.  But I do recall giving this a better grade than the Columbia mix CD of Born To Rock And Roll, which Columbia pieced together McGuinn's solo highlights and finding these 10 songs sounded better than the ones chosen for Born To Rock And Roll.  And if I compared both CDs, I would side with Back From Rio for the better of the two.  Back From Rio won't take the place of 5th Dimension  or Younger Than Yesterday but it still makes a nice album driving home from work on selected evenings.
Grade B+

Allen Collins Band-Here There And Back (MCA 1983)

Half Skynyrd, plus Derek Hess and Barry Harwood, guys who shaped up the two Rossington Collins Band albums before plus the underrated Jimmy Daughtery from Alias, who made a so so album for Mercury in 1979, Here There and Back is a nice memento of what could have been.  It does start out strong with a potential hit in Just Trouble, a nice rocker in the Atlanta Rhythm Section mood and One Known Soldier, things really fall apart after that and they never quite recover.  The usually reliable Harwood, who saved some of the best songs from This Is The Way, the last RCB album could only come up with This Ride's On Me.  Side 2 does get better with Chapter One and Commitments being the standouts. While Daugherty might have been the best vocalist outside of Ronnie Van Zant, his songwriting lacks the dry wit that Ronnie is famous for.  What saves the record is the Skynyrd guys (Allen Collins, Leon Wilkerson and Billy Powell) and their Southern rock and roll and kudos to Randall Hall for helping Allen out lead and slide guitar and putting some oomph into songs like Just Trouble and Ready To Roll.  Even against cliche' lyrics, they do know how to roll the rock.
Grade B

Elvis Presley-I Was The One (RCA 1983)

Great songs they are, but somebody at RCA thought that overdubbing new drums and bass parts was a great idea.  It wasn't.  It did managed to get Elvis a slight single with You're So Square (baby I don't care).  Technology gone a muck.  Seek the originals.
Grade C

The Cars-Moving In Stereo-The Very Best Of (Rhino/Elektra 2016)

Leaving out tracks off Move Like This dilutes the overview, although if you want a live version of Sad Song here ya go.  Ric Osacek has always been the alpha songwriter but without the late great Ben Orr, they wouldn't have the gigantic hits like Drive or Let's Go or Just What I Needed.  Rehashing best ofs really don't serve a purpose anymore, even as scattershot as this money grab, which leaves off key tracks (Magic, Gimme Some Slack, All I Can Do), and adds filler disguised as hits (Don't Tell Me No, Dangerous Type).  The best overview remains Complete Greatest Hits, or just get the first two Cars albums.   This qualifies as a not cost effective mix tape.
Grade C

Top Ten Playlist:

1).  The Life We Lead-The Townedgers
2).  Beauty Is Only Skin Deep-The Temptations
3).  That Is What Life Is All About-Paul Collins Beat
4).  My Man Is Gone Now-Nina Simone
5).  She Don't Love Nobody-Nick Lowe
6).  In The Midnight Hour-The Rascals
7).  Don't Let Me Down-The Animals
8).  Just What I Need-Big Back Forty
9).  My Wife (Live from Two's Missing)-The Who
10) The Weight-The Band

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