Monday, May 23, 2016

Week In Review: Sanity Room, Cliff Steward

The BZ season winding down at my place of work and I managed to sneak out to Waterloo for the once every three months bargain hunt of finds.  Not much to report from the Goodwill stores, junk CDs, junk LPs.  The St Vincent De Paul isn't much better but at least they have enough LPs to justify going up there.  At least they have an inventory of 45s to further my interest, mostly pop 45s.  Somehow I decided upon two obscure Coral singles from the mysterious Cliff Steward and his San Francisco Boys  Don't Put A Tax On The Beautiful Girls (Coral 60560  1950) and You Better Stop Telling Lies About Me (Coral 60459).  Basically Dixieland jazz from San Francisco, but somebody thought highly of Tax that they put it up on You Tube.

Blue Scratch
(Photo: Julie Jules Gordon)

The happening place up in Independence is something called the Sanity Room, located downtown Indee and that's where I spent most of the night hearing Blue Scratch playing and talking with Julie Gordon for a spell.  Interesting guy by the name of Frank was up there and he was gracious to talk about the place.  The Goodwill store had Wild Horses from Gino Vanelli up there for a quarter and I was going to pick it up on the way home but since I stayed the whole night with Blue Scratch jamming up a store I figured I really didn't need it that badly.   The Sanity Room is a nice place to hang out after a afternoon at work, or my case just passing through.

(photo: Elizabeth Amenieh-KWWL)

Thursday's morning storms I slept through but there was some storm damage up north, around Oelwein  and Independence to which the northern  part of the marquee at the Malek Theater came tumbling down.  Although the theater has been dormant for the past decade or so, the owner says he still plans to get the movie house going in the future.  The cost of the repair of the marquee is estimated at 50 thousand dollars.

Being a bargain hunting record and cd finding drum playing musician and full time blogger in a blog that doesn't get many views, I do have my own sense of fun trying to find the obscure stuff such as Cliff Steward and making the local scene talking about bands that play around here.  And I have been around long enough to establish some sort of credibility.  In order to be a fan of bands, you have to be a fan of their music and I find ways to hear new bands music and post them here, or play them on Townedger Radio, the once monthly show on Lucky Star Radio at midnight the 3rd Thursday of each month.  The pay sucks, plenty of time is invested and so is money but there's a dogged determination to keep this going after 15 years and plenty of places that I did call home before Blogspot became the final destination.  I get tired of I Fart Radio's same 200 songs played over and over, there's more to life than Sweet Home Anamosa or Back In Black or Sweet Child O Mine.  I can't limit myself to the same old same old, so I venture out and see that I can find on the cheap. And discover what I missed.  Swinging Steaks comes to mind, finding their Capricorn album and than discovering their other releases and writing about it.  And they have been kind enough to use a link on their site about my little site.  The 1990s music has as much great classic albums just like the previous eras, but with more lesser known bands making great albums.   It's a tough job in a corporate controlled media filled world to get the word out but if a band grabs my attention, I'll let the 15 faithful readers know about it.  However I did miss Shake Rattle and Roll's gigantic free record sale the other day. Otherwise I might have chanced it going to Chicago.

Which comes to mind of Wooden Nickel Lottery, one of my favorite bands from this area.  Last year I got the chance to jam with Jess Toomsen and ended up being friends with her and her husband Rich, who leads WNL.  They were working to get their new album out this summer, called Down The Line.  Rich was kind enough to give me an advance sneak peak of the new songs, in rough mix form.  And I must say that they have upped the ante, this record is really good and improves from their first album On My Way, which I did pick a track from that album on the latest TE Radio show.   Being a fan of any band, it is special when the band shares with you forthcoming new tracks.  It's no secret that Rich Toomsen is one of the best guitar players out there and word does get out.  Which was why Anthony Gomes tapped them to be their opening act earlier in the year.  And Wooden Nickel Lottery will be back at the Redstone Room June 18th when they open up for Samantha Fish.  Samantha has been a regular playing in the state of Iowa for a few years and with each album she gets to be a bit better known. For the hard work that WNL has put in, it's beginning to pay off.  Certainly, in this Crabb's opinion the Wooden Nickel Lottery/Samantha Fish show at Redstone Room in Davenport is one of the most see events this summer.  WNL will also be at the great Bar B Q roundup in Cedar Rapids in June.  Rain or shine of course.

(Photo: Karie Skogman)  (L Bird Burghdorff, Bart Carfizzi)

This week's Popcorn Jam, featured a surprise return by Tim Duffy, who sat in on a few numbers and Rare Earth's Randy "Bird" Burghdoff took the jam to a whole new level.   He came late to the jam and then blew everybody away by duplicating not only Molly Hatchet's version of Dreams I'll Never See but also nailed The Allman Brothers version of Whipping Post.  Randy still plays in Rare Earth but has moved from East Lansing Michigan to Cedar Rapids and might be looking to put together a new band of sorts while Rare Earth is taking a break. Rare Earth is slated to do a small mini tour in June/July, with stops in Livonia Michigan on June 25th and then July 3rd in Celina Ohio and the 4th with Mark Farner in Elgin Illinois.  Except for a November 5th date in Everett Washington and a rock and roll cruise on   The Constilation in late February-early March 2017, Burghdoff will have plenty of down time.  My guess is that he will be familiarizing himself with the local music scene at popcorn and acoustic jams.  Welcome to Iowa Mr. Burghdoff.

(Photo credit: Chris Lee KOCO Storm Chaser)

The weather so far this spring has been below normal temps and rain.  Hard to believe we're almost done with May and yet no big storms have hit this area.  YET.  Things are changing; we got one stalled front that will probably make bring more humidity, warmer temps and instability in the atmosphere to bring stronger storms.  Down in Oklahoma, they take their sunsets with a side of Tornado.  They can have them.

Your dream girl of the month Cally Caine.  Because women bass players are so fine too.

While people continue to pass away the woman on the cover of the 1979 Supertramp album Breakfast In America turned 95 and still is alive.  Salute!

Bob Lefsetz continues to tout his love of Spotify, which continues to lose millions of dollars and he continues to blame you and me for buying CDs and albums.   I don't comment much anymore about his blog, he repeats himself to get traction.  He has some valid points bout Hillary and Bernie and the evil Donald Trump but he loses me when he touts streaming.

Cubs At St Louis Part 2.  Cubs take 2 out of 3 from the Cardinals.  ESPN finally showed them playing last night without any blackout restrictions, a rarity.  They won 12-3.  Wednesday, they outlasted the Cards 9-8, Jake Arrieta going 9-0 but didn't pitch his best game.  Kudos to Jason Himmel for going 8 plus innings, he seems to have found his groove too.

Whatever happened to Rona Barrett?  She's still around and fighting for the old folk too.  God bless her:

Nick Menza, former Megadeth drummer, died onstage playing a set with his band OHM Friday Night. He was 51.  He's considered to be  Megadeth's best drummer ever.  Cause of death: heart attack.

Bob Mothersbaugh Sr. father to the guys who formed DEVO and was known as General Boy in their videos passed away Monday.  He was 90.

(Photo: Monte Freeman-Photoshop Tornadoes)

Record Reviews:

Mudcrutch-2  (Reprise 2016)

Even though it's still Tom Petty's other band, the guys step up and add a few songs of their own.  Which seems to helped TP a lot this time out, for he may have written his best batch of songs since the bloated Wildflowers album 20 years ago.  Beautiful Blue and I Forgive It All are some of the best slow songs TP has come up, each member adds some rock and roll to the equation, Randy Marsh throws an AM pop spirit to Beautiful World, Tom Leadon gives a Burrito Brothers flavor to The Other Side Of The Mountain, Ben Tench revisits Jerry Lee Lewis on Welcome To Hell and Mike Campbell reveals his inner Dylan on Victim Of Circumstance.  But Tom Petty reminds all who is the leader is by bringing out a nice Byrds take on Save Your Water and bringing Trailer to life, which was an Southern Accents outtake.  Hypnotic Eye was a nice fine latter day TP/Heartbreakers LP but Mutcrutch 2 rocks a bit harder and is a bit more fun.  At least it's a bit more fun than the Mudcrutch debut, which wasn't too shabby either.
Grade A-

Chet Atkins CSP with Jerry Reed-Sneakin' Around (Columbia 1992)

Chet has always been a great guitar player but his solo albums tend to borderline on country muzak. No exception to the rule on this album which Atkins gets top billing, Reed only sings a bit on Here We Are, but it's mostly instrumental guitar pickings from Atkins himself.  He sings on Gibson Girl, which is about a guitar if you haven't guessed by now.  Jerry Reed doesn't get enough credit for being one of the finest guitar players to ever hit Nashville, but by 1992 he was slowing down and like Atkins, the hits dried up.  At least on CBS Chet got to show off a few licks on albums that included Mark Knopfler who appears on a couple tracks.  Basically lots of laid back guitar picking and grinning but it still remains country muzak, complete with dated drums and recording.
Grade B-

The James Gang-Yer Album (Bluesway 1970)

Strange to find their first album on ABC's blues label but that's where it started for the Joe Walsh era of the James Gang.  And even if I'm not totality warmed up to the whole thing the jam part of Lost Woman works better on the In Concert album, there's a certain method to the madness that makes their cover of the Yardbirds number admirable.  Or Bluebird, the Buffalo Springfield cover, done a bit more slowed down and bit more metallic.  Then again I can get lost in the 12 minutes of Stop more so than you can.  In 1973, Steve Barri damn near picked most of the best numbers from the Joe Walsh era James Gang for the more easier to take 15 Greatest Hits (If you have the vinyl 16 Greatest Hits, with Yadig? and the live version of Take A Look Around, before the CD simply omitted Ya Dig? and did the studio version of Take A Look Around, whew!), that best of, simply paid attention to Joe Walsh only and not the Dominic Triano led band on Passing Through and Straight Shooter.  Still Jimmy Fox and Tim Kress  could been the American's answer to The Who,  Fox is one of the more underrated drummers out there, somewhat jazzy and somewhat more of a controlled Keith Moon type of drummer.   Despite such classics such as Funk 48 or Collage, there's a bit too much covers to consider this to be  their definite work.  But Joe Walsh was one of a kind even back then, however credit should be given to Bill Szymczyk to record this album in a way to call it a minor classic too.
Grade B+

Blake Shelton-If I'm Honest (WB 2016)

In reality, he slit his own throat by stepping out with Gwen Stefini and this is a make or break album from a country music entertainer who has gone south with each album since Based On A True Story, while his ex continues to be female entertainer of the year.  Blake isn't reinventing himself either, Straight Outta Cold Beer, is rehashed Boys Round Here and so far the single isn't catching on.  Despite that misstep with that, the Warren Brothers Everytime I Hear That Song, or the goofy assed Green,  Blake is at his best when he does ballads, even slimeball Dallas Davison's One Night Girl is listenable.  Bet You Still Think About Me and You Can't Make This up are the standouts and even though Steven Thomas Erlewine doesn't like the Oak Ridge Boys hamming it up on Doin It To Country Songs, I like that one better than he did.  Blake has always done fair to good albums, he gets into trouble when he goes all out Bro Country, which raises the ire of country purists but what Blake is good at is sly ballads with a wink after each key line, which is evident on She's Got A Way With Words.  Trading Miranda in for Gwen is a step down, but sometimes love doesn't turn out the way it was supposed to be and If I'm Honest is his divorce album, it's done with commendable results.  And let's say, it's an honest album, in some ways.
Grade B

Singles Going Steady Medley: St. Vincent De Paul Finds.

You Better Stop Telling Lies About Me-Cliff Steward (Coral 9-60459)  1950

I commented about Don't Put A Tax On The Beautiful Girls earlier in the blog, so I turn my attention to Cliff's early 1950's lost barbership dixieland jazz classic.  But In 1950 there was no such thing as rock and roll and anything heavy was R and B driven.  Steward's recorded a few sides for Coral, two made the top twenty in The Old Piano Roll #18 in 1950 and the Aba Dada Honeymoon #19 in 1951.  You Better Stop Telling Lies About Me (Or I Will Tell The Truth About You) seems to be influenced by Louis Jordan in a way although Steward owes more to dixieland jazz.  Steward remains very elusive on the internet, not much is known about him and if and when I get around to posting the picture of the 45, it'll be the first of it's kind anywhere.

Everglades-The Kingston Trio (Capitol 4441)   #60  1960

A pretty good song written by Harlan Howard and covered by the folk trio, although I'm surprised of the low chart showing of this song.   The Kingston Trio would not have any charting songs in 1961 but did come back with a number 21 showing of Where Have All The Flowers Gone.

On The Beach (In The Summertime)  The 5th Dimension   (Bell 913)  #54 1970

I look more at them now with more fondness than I did back in 1970.  And this song did get some airplay on the AM station and is that Carol Kaye playing bass on this song?  Sounds like it although Bones Howe, had this sort of sound going for The Association.   The next song One Less Bell To Answer basically saved them from being dropped by Bell Records and The 5th Dimension continued to mine the soft rock and soul side of music for the next couple years before fading from view.

Classic album from my youth- Ted Nugent (Epic 1975)

While each passing day Ted continues to open his right wing big mouth about Obama coming to take his guns away (so far Obama hasn't in 7 plus years and a good bet he won't) but four decades ago, Nugent was one of my favorite guitar players.  Ted Nugent, the album, simply is his all time best album, full of guitar riffs and just enough vocal support from Derek St Holmes to make this a classic.  In fact only Nugent screams lead on Motor City Madman and the jazzy You Make Me Feel Right At Home.  But what better way to start the album with the familiar riffs of Stranglehold, all 7 and half minutes of it and then on to Stormtroopin' which would be recycled for Dog Eat Dog on the next album.   This remains Nugent's classic band, St. Holmes, Rob Grange and the late great Cliff Davies pounding on those drums.  While Call Of The Wild and Tooth Fang And Claw were good albums, they lacked Davies' drumwork.  Politics aside, these 9 songs symbolize what Ted Nugent is good at, in your face guitar riffs and leads.  There was a minor hit with Hey Baby, but songs like Snakeskin Cowboys, Queen Of The Forest and Just What The Doctor Ordered along with Stranglehold, Stormtroopin and the rest remains a classic guitar rock album, despite Nugent's efforts to piss off the liberal media and fans.  Of course Nugent continued to thinker with the effort and by 1978 a whole new band took over, Charlie Hahn was a perfect replacement for St. Holmes after Nugent gave him and Rob Grange their walking papers and they did one album for Warners called St. Paradise. In fact Huhn, on the live shows did hold his own on Just What The Doctor Ordered and Snakeskin Cowboys.  But for old time's sake the original lineup was the best and even though Free for All and Cat Scratch Fever are good, the first Ted Nugent Epic album is his all time best hands down. But it is docked a notch due to Nugent's big mouth.  I can't overlook that.
Grade A-

Robert Christgau's review of Cam

Cam: Untamed (Arista) She's a rebel as Nashville defines it, neither conscious nor unconventional but not therefore d'void of spunk. ("Country Ain't Never Been Pretty," "Half Broke Heart") **
Grade B

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