Monday, April 25, 2016

Week In Review: Popcorn Jam. Aunt G, K Tel, 20 Albums

Billy Paul joined the cavalcade of musicians leaving the planet.  Best known for Me And Mrs. Jones Paul passed away from pancreatic cancer Saturday.  He was 81.

This weekend's Popcorn Jam might have been one of the best ones I ever partaken with.  The hosts were Jason Christensen, Dan Johnson, Terry McDowell and Tim Duffy and some of the finest drummers took to the stage.  Tiffany Zweibohmer from 50 Shades Of Rock joined in to rock the place with her version of Crossroads and a few others.  Jon Wilson, who usually hosts the jams as a drummer came out as participant and his highlight was a jazzed up version of Boom Boom Out Go The Lights. The keyboardist for the Grateful Dead tribute band Winterland joined on Dixie Chicken but perhaps the highlight of the show may have been yours truly joining forces with Ernest, the soul singer (don't know his last name but the man sings great soul music) with his trademark When You Love  A Woman Blues and The Twist, to which the man really bust a excellent move in tribute to the late Prince.  Alas nobody bothered to document this historic event, Kevin Schumaker wasn't there to video tape the jam session but he will be there next week when The Saloonatics host their 4th popcorn jam. Missing in action was Tim Wiley who decided to just hang around Cooters with the acoustic jam with Dan Hartman and Michael Williams and continues to improve on his guitar playing skills. Without Wiley around, the Rumors Jam was a bit more lighthearted and not as ominous as it was last week.  Terry McDowell thought for a moment that he was going to be the only drummer up there, till about 5 30 when Tiffany and myself showed up, as well as Peter Stark who sat this one out.

Gayla Drake  is part of something called Auntie G and The Stone City Nephews and Housewerks had their album for 4 dollars.  It was recorded in 2012 and put out on vinyl.  Gayla Drake had recorded CDs under her name and she was a fine finger picking guitarist before taking up on the fiddle.  The album is bluegrass with some avantgarde twist, including a Drake fiddle freakout at the end of  One Hundred Miles.  And it is Drake that dominates the singing (7 out of the 10 songs here she sings lead vocals) and she wrote all the songs.  I've known Gayla a little bit from her days at working at National Computer Service before it bought out by Pearson, and one time I thought about approaching her about doing a project together but never could own up and ask her to do so. The songs are strong (Highway 13 probably the best of her singing), but I do like If Only For You and 100 Miles even with the fiddle freakout.  I think she would work wonders in a Americana group but for a bluegrass effort Auntie G and The Stone City Nephews is a strong B plus record.  Plus when you buy the album from her, it's not a corporation major label you're dealing with.  And I give big breaks to folks who promote their music this way.  Perhaps I'll look her up next time she's in Stone City.

Wooden Nickel Lottery has revealed their spring tour in support of their forthcoming album. (photo by Myka Forrest)

Sunday May 15th, Parlor City (CR) ~ 4-8pm
Saturday June 18th, CR Downtown Farmers Market ~ 9:30-noon
Saturday June 25th, BBQ Roundup @ McGrath ~ 2-3:30pm
Monday July 4th, Cedar Ridge Blues Fest ~ 1-4pm
Friday Sept 2nd, Fridayloo (Waterloo) ~ 5:30-9:30pm

Been a while since I had a photo of Ivy Doomkitty to share, thought I get that out of the way.  Still looking better than me ;) 

This weekend, The Salvation Army will be opening up their brand new store on Council Street, across the street from the Goodwill.  I hope that there'll be some sort of bargains and 45s of note but by the time I get there, the place will probably be picked apart.   As always the grand opening of anything has clogged up traffic and hardly any places to park.  If there were any 45s there, I either couldn't find them or the record scavengers got to them first.  No shortage of Bill Cosby LPs either or even Twisted Sister. I did found Eddie Harris Jazz For Breakfast At Tiffany's on Vee Jay and Prefab Sprout From Langley Park To Memphis on LP.   I was tempted to take a look at a Fabian LP but somebody laid claim to it.  Needless to say, if the record looked like the Chubby Checker/Dee Dee Sharp album, it's probably scratched all to hell. Another Cameo/Parkway LP seen better days and so did Humble Pie's Rocking The Fillmore.   There also was a Bryan Ferry In Your Mind on LP too, but I didn't buy it.  That album wasn't all that great.   

Site of the day 20 albums.  It's hard to compose an all time 20 albums classic but this site really has done their homework.  Anybody that has Bill Amesbury gets a big shout out.

While the big hoopla is Guns And Roses at Coachella, reformed trance poppers Lush played the Roxy.

More passings: Remo Belli, the guy who makes Remo drum heads passed away at age 88 Monday.

Phillip Kives, the guy behind K Tel products died Wednesday at age 87.  While he's famous for the Slice And Dice and the Veg O Matic  he was instrumental of those 22 greatest hits packages K Tel used to on commercials. Of course I bought a few 22 Explosive Hits and Believe In Music comes to mind and K Tel did make some decent comps in the later years  The Rock Album comes to mind, but like all things must end so did the major labels helps and K Tel laid silent for a few years till they came back in the 1990s.  The CD versions were very brief, Blues Classics and British Invasion Hits were 10 to 12 tracks total, and of course there's no way K Tel could grab something from The Beatles or Pink Floyd for that matter.  However the CD era wasn't very kind to K Tel Records and by 2000 Phil Kives stuck to VegOMatic or the non stick cooking frying pan.

22 Explosive Hits Promo:

Prince was cremated over the weekend in a very small private ceremony.  Meanwhile he's in route to dominate the top ten songs of the week.  While many cover bands and big bands are trying their hand at playing Purple Rain or Little Red Corvette, somebody takes a look at public grieving over deaths of famous stars.  Honestly, social media in this day and age takes things to historic levels but in the end everybody dies (no exceptions). 

Record Reviews: (photo: Jim Viner) 

Texas Hippie Coalition-Dark Side Of Black (Carved Records 2016)

Leave it to them to make their own black album, complete with everything into the black that you have to get a 500 watt light bulb to read the hilarious lyrics.  And that's not to put that in a bad way, in fact THC still reminds me of the old time bands of the 1970s that made a living off great riff and stoopid lyrics (see The Godz, Grand Funk Railroad).   Peacemaker, my first encounter with them remains my favorite, the last album not so much, Skidd Mills tried to polish them up for radio consumption and still got zip plays here.  Enter Sterling Whitfield (Ugly Kid Joe) to inject some humor to go along with their Pantera thrash hard rock and really THC has gotten better to duplicate that Pantera sound, although they have totality given up their Southern Rock roots on the acoustic beginnings of Knee Deep and Dark Side before those Pantera guitars fired up.  Big Daddy Riech can do Phillip very well, even coming up with his own version of Rise and Gods Are Angry with the F bombed laden chorus a future classic at THC concerts.  I get a kick out of hearing Shakin Baby, which is somewhat Turn It Up revisited (with the classic line "lets see those panties droppin") and Into the Wall, and Big Daddy becomes the second coming of Phil Anselmo.  At times the songs do get tedious, Hit It Again repeats chorus about 5 times too many, but that's a slight nitpicking from over here.  Dark Side Of Black improves greatly from their last album Ride On, though that record wasn't that all bad.  And for their red dirt metal, the songs have bite and the music grooves through that metal overdrive guitar.  Certainly a lot better than what ROCK 108 throws at us for new hard rock.
Grade B+

Little Feat-Dixie Chicken (Warner Brothers 1973)

Perhaps their best loved album, a nice New Orleans bouncy groove is the beat for the title track and Lowell George really dominates this album despite new addictions from Sam Clayton, Paul Barrare and Kenny Gradney would replaced the original bass player who went back to Frank Zappa and The Mothers.   While comparisons to Music From Big Pink could have been said about the first two albums, this is more like The Band's S/T album although, I can see the argument that George writes good songs but not great songs.  Certainly Dixie Chicken would be reworked into the show stopper it would become on the Waiting For Columbus album but for old time's sake I do like the original version better.  And second favorite track is Fred Tackett's Fool Yourself.   The rest has to catch me in that mood to listen to it, Fat Man In The Bathtub and Roll Um Easy included.
Grade B+

Best Of Little Anthony And The Imperials (Rhino  1989)

Back when Rhino championed the obscure and forgotten, they put together some interesting and worth hearing comps of famed Doo Wop groups and Little Anthony And The Imperials were included.  The Rhino complication team worked overtime to include the complete discography as well but this best of focuses only on the End and DCP (Don Costa Productions) labels and some of these songs are damn near depressive, the unreleased It's Not For Me makes Morrissey sound like Donny And Marie.  Certainly Little Anthony specialized in doo wop balladry with the classic Tears On My Pillow, Two People In The World as well as the hits of Goin Out Of My Head and Hurts So Bad, to which The Lettermen scored top five hits in around 1968.  They didn't do it very often but they could rock it a little, as evidenced by obscure hit (and bonus CD track) I'm Alright co-written with Sam Cooke and Shimmy Shimmy Ko Ko Bop, my favorite song from these guys.  I doubt that George Goldner co wrote I'm Alright, but thought he pad his name to it anyway, major label heads back then made that a practice.   Even for 1950s and 1960s standards, the sexual innuendo of Shimmy Shimmy with Anthony throwing in the line Man I'm glad I'm single might have turn a few of the FCC heads back then.  I'm On The Outside Looking In, was one of the original 45s that I ever knew about in my toddler years but I don't think I liked it much back then, it met a cracked record fate, but nowadays I do like to hear it once in a while.   Still, a bit too much on the slower doo wop ballads but I think Rhino did a good job with the selection of songs from this band that did make it into the rock and roll hall of fame behind Jann Wanner's back.  Which earns them an A minus for that effort.  And God bless Joe McEwen for getting them in there, which Jann eventually fired him from the Board of Directors. 

The Pentangle-Sweet Child (Reprise 1968)

Perhaps one of the best kept secrets of the 1960s was this band and their acoustic guitar showmanship of John Renbourn and Bert Jansch, plus the double bass work of Danny Thompson and Terry Cox, a vastly underrated drummer.  In the anything goes world of music of the late 60s, their record label signed off on a 2 record set, one live and one studio.  It can be said the studio side of the songs are not as good as the songs on the first album, but they do have a charm of their own, especially the Jacqui McShee's high octave singing on I Got A Feeling and the title track.  It is the live side that brings this record in classic mode, beginning with Market Song, and McShee adding emotional power to No More My Lord and then sweetens it up with Renbourn on Turn Your Money Green.  Perhaps no band has even given equal treatment to each band member, not even Fairport Convention was this liberal.  The CD version adds seven more from the Royal Albert Hall concert, three of the songs were from the first album.  Only Bruton Town was issued on Sweet Child and this version does improve from the first album.  Surprisingly, Waltz and Bells do sound a bit more tamer than their studio counterparts from The Pentangle (the first album) and more subdued.  Another of note, some of the live songs, it sounds like somebody was using an electric guitar too. Nothing wrong with that and sometimes comes in as a relief.  But at the end, Waltz and Bells do sound unplugged.  The second CD also adds 3 alt takes and a studio version of Haitian Fight Song, I think I like the alternative take of The Trees They Do Grow High, McShee's vocals stand out better. They never did top their debut but for a followup, Sweet Child turned out to be a very good sophomore release which still holds up almost fifty years after the fact.
Grade A- 

Albums Of My Youth-Robin Trower:  Bridge Of Sighs (Chrysalis 1974)

Trower has enjoyed a long and storied career but his best years were the first three albums, produced by Matthew Fisher and one cannot overstate the importance of James Dewar for vocalist.  Twice Removed From Yesterday could have been that classic album but there were a couple of stinkers that made the record very good than great.  On album number 2, they come roaring out of the gate with Day Of The Eagle and kept on rocking.  Of course the Jimi Hendrix comparisons are always there and will be till the end of time, but the foreboding title track remains his all time best, including ominous music and perhaps the best use of a wind machine in rock history.  Not all is Hendrix lite, Trower throws a funky rhythm to The Fool And Me, cops a lick from Free in Lady Love and goes to town on Little Bit Of Sympathy.  And then there's Too Rolling Stoned, to which Trower goes from funk to stoned out blues and the underrated Reg Isidore provides the right amount of drumming to the song.  I have this album in very many formats, including twice on 8 Track and there was a major difference; the Warner version was better mixed, The Chrysalis version was sped up and Little Bit Of Sympathy had a poor edit that repeated part of Trower's guitar lead at the end.  The original CD version suffered from a very poor mix, Isadore's drums sounded like cardboard boxes, and Capitol reissued it in late 1999 with much better mix plus a bonus live in the studio LP featuring most of the tracks of the album.  Yet in 2007, the album got remixed and remastered with yet another
live-performance, this time from the BBC and adding new songs that would comprise the next album For Earth Below.  Some people consider this to be his classic album, myself included, but I also like Twice Removed From Yesterday and For Earth Below and Victims Of The Fury.  Make no mistake, when I first heard the intro to Bridge Of Sighs, there was nothing quite like it, the wind chimes blowing in the wind and then Robin's guitar.  The rest they say is history.
Grade A

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