Monday, June 27, 2016

Week In Review: Passings, Bar B Q Roundup, Best of 2016

Bob Brooks for many years was the voice of the Iowa Hawkeyes and Sports news at KCRG AM before making stops at KHAK and KMRY.  He was also seen at the Cedar Rapids Kernels games up till his passing.  For 70 years Brooks was the voice of sports here, our version of Paul Harvey. Friday he passed away at age 89.

We are well into the concerts and music scene here and the Bar B Q Roundup provides a good place to see bands, although I'm not crazy of paying 15 dollars for overpriced sandwiches and dinners. In the end, I picked Cowboys for the best smells, but I am curious of how a cooked Snickers bar would taste.  Wooden Nickel Lottery was playing when I got there and they were promoting their new album Down The Line (reviewed later).  Rick Gallo's vocals seem more and more like Vince Gill this time out, and even if there was a sparse crowd there, WNL put on a great show.  Rich Toomsen remains one of the best guitar players out there and of course Jess on bass make a formidable couple. But it was nice and super cool of them to let me hang with them afterwards and talk of the new album with their drummer Delayne Stallman  before they packed up and went home.  The above picture is taken when they were opening up for Samantha Fish in Davenport 6/16/16.  Later bands were Red Door and their mostly modern classic rock covers and FLEX with their grunge classic rock, but I had other commitments so I didn't stick around to see the JC Project, heading to see Julie And The Mad Dogs at Hot Shots in Anamosa.  Some good news to mention that talking to Julie and drummer Mike that the band will continue onward, that the July 8th Rumors show will not be their last.  Mike also plays in West 66, and when the Mad Dogs have open dates, he plays with that band.  They return to Hot Shots next Friday Night.

Death never takes a day off and seems to be working overtime.  The list is as follows.

Jim Hickman was part of my favorite era of the Chicago Cubs, the era of the  1969 era through 1973, but he played for the hated Mets and The St Louis Cardinals as well.  He died on Saturday at age 79 after a lengthy illness. His best season was 1970 when he batted .315 and hitting 32 and driving in 115. He also made his only All Star appearance, hitting the game winning base hit to which Pete Rose bulldozed over Ray Fosse. Hickman continued to have productive season in 1971 and 1972 before injuries caught up with him and he was later traded to St Louis to where he played one season and retired.  His best years were with the Cubs.  RIP.

Sir Mack Rice, the guy who wrote Mustang Sally, one of the all time most played song at bar gigs and popcorn jams, died Monday from Alzheimer's, he was 82.  Mack also recorded for Stax Records and wrote other songs, namely Respect Yourself for the Staple Singers.

Pat Summit, the female version of John Wooden, Tennessee's  legendary coach (Pat that is), passed away from Alzheimer's at age 64.  Never had a losing season in her career.

Buddy Ryan, former defense great coach for the Jets, Vikings and Bears and later became coach of Philadelphia Eagles and Arizona Cardinals died Monday, he was 82.  His 1985 Chicago Bears defense may have been the all time best defense ever.

Scotty Moore, the guitarist that changed the music world when he and Bill Black joined forces with Elvis Presley to make those legendary Sun Recordings died after a long illness Tuesday.  He was 84.

Rob Wasserman, acoustic bass player for Ratdog and famed for his Duets albums in the 1990s died after a lenghty bout with cancer, he was 64.

Susan Thomas, Facebook friend of mine who helped me in Bejeweled Blitz by giving lots of coins, died from a long illness on Sunday.  She was 56. 

Among the living...

Bill Kopp has been one of the resources of keeping up to date with good music.  This time out he writes a cool piece on Warren Haynes here: 

I don't pay attention to the radio anymore.  Corporate radio is like the major labels, the usual pile of steaming poo rehashed time and time again but the folks at Saving Country Music continue to torture themselves to get the worst songs of the year on country radio.  Why Thomas Rhett's Vacation didn't make the cut remains a mystery but these top ten turds of the year will make you bleach your ears out.  Thank God for the car discman.

As I get less impressed with new music, there are some decent albums out there worthy of my best of list. Ace Frehley's Origins Vol. 1 and Cheap Trick's latest proved that the old farts can still rock with the best of them and even though the backlash on Foghat continuing with Roger Earl only remaining from the original lineup putting the new album out under the Foghat banner, I still think it really rocks hard; Bryan Bassett has been part of the band for 25 plus years and new kid Charlie Huhn around for 15.  While Craig McGregor is not Tony Stevens, Craig is considered to be the better of the two and any recording with him accounts for serious boogie. I still say even the original lineup was prone to make blunders once in a while but Under The Influence might be their best effort since Stone Blue, but even that assessment will not change the stubborn public's mind of No Lonesome Dave No Foghat.  The Monkees Good Times is them coming full circle and if this is their last album, then they will go out with a bang, even though Davy Jones is no longer around, except on old recordings.  The Dawn At First Light, shows Sean Hayes finally embracing the jam band groove on four lenghty but fun songs.  Mondo Drag-The Occultation Of Light is part desert rock and part progressive rock and works, and Wooden Nickel Lottery's Down The Line is straight ahead blues rock with a bit of country leanings.  Those are the best of the year so far.

I try not to buy subpar albums but sometimes that I do like will stumble from time to time. Black Stone Cherry's Kentucky shows them breaking away from Roadrunner Records meddling only to find that they're meddling into so so Shinedown or Soundgarden.   Goo Goo Dolls Boxes, suggests that they should hang it up, they have gone from Replacements followers to Mumford And Sons and that's a big fall from grace.  The jury is still out on the new Jayhawks album but perhaps a couple more listens will reveal if it's a keeper or donated to Goodwill.  And more bands are going to Digipaks which really messes up the CD library.  I know about the new Neil Young and the Shawn Colvin/Steve Earle album but they don't seem to really grab my attention or head down to Best Buy to waste five minutes to see if they're in stock.   Reissues are getting fewer and fewer and even if Stephen Wilson is bought in to remix and remastered their albums, the fifth reissuing campaign of Emerson, Lake And Palmer's catalog  is not cost effective.   Unless you like comparing the Razor and Tie, or Rhino or Victory's version of Love Beach, you should consider getting yourself a life.

Happy birthday to Brooksie! She's always a sweetheart in this old Crabb's heart.

The new Neil Young album Earth is out and somebody from Newsweek managed to score a interview and waste Mr. Young's time and hung up on him.  I'm still working up the courage to even listen to it.

It doesn't seem like it but Cedar Rapids recorded almost 8 inches of rain this month, most of it was the 5 inch deluge that hit the area last week.   Waterloo recorded their 7th wettest June on record but for the most part a lot of the rain was hit and miss.  The rain here in Anamosa was 4 and half inches all month.  We're at level one on the drought monitor.  Once July rolls around it'll be even more drier. But of course that's subject to change.

Mahoney's in Cedar Rapids has been that neighborhood Irish bar that people would come in and have a beer or two and have fun.  Local musician Dick Prall has purchased the place and will rename it Dick's Tap and Shakeroom on July 11.  Prall, who has issued a few albums on his own says that there will not be any changes to the building.  The story is somewhere in this link

And to our AZ readers, it's monsoon season time.  Hope you guys get some rain and less lightning. Travis Neely (Travisshoots) really timed this little storm just right.

Record Reviews for those who are looking for new music or like reading reviews.

Wooden Nickel Lottery-Down The Line (Violet Isle 2016)

Behind the scenes of the music scene in this area, great music is thriving, but you have to look for it since radio won't play it.  Today's bands continue to master their craft and sound to stand out in a crowded world of bad autotuned songs, second grade bro country garbage and forth rate awful rap.  If you're playing in a blues band, you're pretty much regulated to wineries, specialized blues bars, scoring the early time slot at a festival, but if you're real lucky and real good you might get to open up for a established blues artist.  Blues artists and bands, I tend to pick and choose carefully, it's one thing to copy the sounds of Stevie Ray Vaughn or Joe Bonamossa, it's another to somehow create your own sound and vision.   If you have follow this blog, I have on occasion sing the praises of WNL and Rich Toomsen's guitar playing.  A few years ago, he was in Pearls4Swine, a band that had a sound like Primus and like no other in this town, but lately he and his wife Jess have dived headon into the blues, with lead singer Rick Gallo (who plays rhythm guitar) and drummer Delayne Stallman who lays down a workmanlike beat, economical and to the point.  On My Way, their first album showed what they could do with the blues and rock, but on Down The Line, they have come into their own.  A bit more varied than their first album, Toomsen does add a bit of Little Feat to Bad Gone Good, the sing along chorus line to Can't Be Wrong reminds me if Vince Gill played the blues, this would be the end result.  And Rich does show off some guitar flash in Throw It Down and The Open Road.  However, the best track is Nickels And Dimes, based on one of the best guitar riffs I have heard in a long time, and one of the reasons why Rich is highly regarded around the area as guitarist extraordinaire.  It may sound like Johnny Lang but there's a Stevie Ray Vaughn influence as well.  Even among guitar players such as Billy Lee Janey or his son Bryce, Craig Erickson, Dennis McMurrin and Jason Christensen to name a few, Rich Toomsen's name is high up on that list.  If the major labels are lacking in great albums, you have to dig deeper on the CD Baby Circuit or independent labels to find real blues rock, and WNL Down The Line, is a more looser sounding effect that improves on their first album.  This might be my favorite album of 2016.
Grade A-

Another review:

Bun E. Carlos-Greetings From Bunezuela!  (E One 2016)

Earlier in the year his old band mates put out their comeback album, while that one tries to update Cheap Trick's sound into the now, Carlos is more content to remain horned in on the power pop and classic rock songs of the 60s and 70s.  Taylor Hanson gets his brothers to sing along to the Paul Revere and the Raiders classic Him Or Me (Taylor was once part of Tilted Windows with Bun E.) Soul Asylum's Dave Pirner pops up on It Takes A Lot To Laugh A Train To Cry or GBV's Robert Pollard adds a new song Do Something Real and covers the Bee Gees Idea.   And of course, Alejandro Escovedo, when he appears, it makes thing very special, he's on Tell Me and Slow Down. John Sterritt, (Wilco) tackles Armenia City In The Sky, but I tend to have a soft spot for Alex  Dezen who brings the power pop to I Don't Mind and I Love You No More.  The only goof is Les Cactus, which I think is more is more left field madness than a misstep, but it probably reveals more of Bun E's sense of humor.  Of course these songs would have clashed with Cheap Trick, but if nothing else, Greetings From Bunezuela is a fine mostly covers album and along the lines of the Monkees Good Times, a fun romp through the old classics of yesterday.  I never get tired of hearing of this music.
Grade B+

Faron Young-The Essential Recordings (Primo 2016)

He may have given Hank Sr a run for the money on his hillbilly recordings,but  Faron Young was an expert in the honky tonk side of things and although I like his Hank Sr attempts, I love his honky tonk country much more.   This budget 2 CD import showcases most of Faron Young's Capitol hits, beginning with Going Steady in 1953 and concluding with Three Days, which came out in 1961.  His songs of heartbreak could be a bit dark and song about temptation being stark and to the point as well, but Faron got a lot of help from up and coming songwriters and singers (Buck Owens, Bill Anderson and Willie Nelson come to mind).  In fact it was Young who covered Willie's Hello Walls and got a number 1 hit out of it.  Alas, Young did "Live Fast, Love Hard and Die Young", cashing out of this world in 1996.  Since Universal pretty much has both his Capitol and Mercury sides locked up, we're basically forced to go to outside pirate import labels to remember the once country charting stars of yesterday and Faron Young has been really forgotten over the years, There's been a bare bones best of that Curb and Universal put out without much thought.  If there's a beef with this selection, it is that Primo actually fades most of the songs out before they were over, which means that Primo may have used VG copies of 45s to compile this collection and not the original masters.  But this is a cheaper version of what Bear Family might have out and this is probably the cheaper one to get.   Disc 2 is worth the price alone, especially on the songs that Buck Owens sang background vocals to and the two Bill Anderson songs, Face To The Wall and Riverboat, which got some AM airplay in 1961 but I may have been too young to notice that.
Grade A-

Jefferson Airplane-Signe's Farewell-Fillmore Auditorium 10/15/66 (Collector's Choice 2010)

While she wasn't the spitfire that her replacement Grace Slick would be, Signe Anderson could hold her own for a song or two and she does shine on Chauffeur's Blues, but The Airplane remains a work in progress, still a sloppy jam band at best and trying to go away from their folk rock of the first album.  At time Marty Balin sounds shrill and In The Midnight Hour really is out of his league, but the opening riffs would be redone for Somebody To Love.  3/5 Of A Mile In 10 Seconds is still in rough draft form and slowed down than the more speedier version that would make Surrealistic Pillow or for that matter Bless It's Little Pointed Head.  Out of all the extended songs, the only one that really catches fire is Fat Angel, to which Paul Kantner relives Balin of lead vocal for a song.   They're better off with the shorter and to the point Come Up The Years and Running Around This World. For a historic farewell to Anderson, it's a fond farewell, but if you're into this sort of nostalgia, you're better off with the memories. 
Grade C+

Eric Clapton-There's One In Every Crowd (RSO 1975)

After the success of 461 Ocean Boulevard, Clapton made time by putting out this uneven effort, to which Mr. Slowhand becomes Mr. Stonedagain judging by The Sun Is Shining and the reggae efforts to top I Shot The Sheriff failed, although I do like Swing Low Sweet Chariot.   Funny thing about 461 Ocean Boulevard was that when Polydor reissued it in the late 70s, they took off Give Me Strength and replaced it with the boring as hell Better Make It Through Today although CD reissues corrected that mistake and return said boring as hell song to it's rightful album spot.  I do think that this is the album that Clapton started going for the Slowhand sound and beginning to copy J J Cale, which worked half of the time.  Problem was E.C was trying to eliminate Cale by writing his own songs to copy Cale and it didn't exactly work.  When Clapton goes half assed, like most of the songs on side 2, (The bizarre High and (end it already) the five minute Opposites, which goes to show when Clapton meanders, the result is like Dave Mason, it wears out its welcome.  Like We Been Told (Jesus Is Coming Soon), when Marcy Levy's gospel shrieking damn near sinks the song.  Or is it Yvonne Eliman?  Stop already.
Grade C+

Bad Company-Playlist, The Very Best Of Bad Company Live (Sony Custom 2016)

Another grabbag by Corporate Interests, this steals highlights from their 2010 show at Wembley, with three selections from the Hard Rock Cafe in 2008.  Mick Ralphs, in semi retirement managed to join his old bandmates Paul Rodgers and Simon Kirke in Wembley six years ago, and for a quick money maker, he does sound inspired.  Paul Rodgers on the other hand has sang Can't Get Enough or Rock And Roll Fantasy so many times and bored to tears that he lets the crowd sing the chorus.  You really don't need this, however I got it for the lesser known stuff (Honey Child, Gone Gone Gone) and Live For The Music is boogie good.  Even when Rodgers would rather be at home doing something else, he remains a presence on stage.  And the band rocks, but it's still a corporate budget grab bag.
Grade B-

Albums from my youth-Whitford/St. Holmes Band (Columbia 1981)

I have not heard their followup, Reunion (due out next week) but I have had their S/T album on my shelf for many many years, and which will be included as a bonus disc to their new album.  Back in 1981, they were the opening act for Blue Oyster Cult and Foghat, their drummer Steve Pace would later leave to join Krokus for Headhunter.  Brad Whitford (Aerosmith) joined forces with Derek St Holmes (Ted Nugent) and Tom Allom (Judas Priest, Nantucket) produced their first album.  St. Holmes has always had a chequered  past, he made the first three Ted Nugent albums classic, especially the 1975 S/T one, but he and Rob Grange would leave Nugent and with Denny Carmissi (Montrose, Heart) put out the blah St. Paradise for Warner Brothers in 1978.  Whitford split from Aerosmith after the 1979 Night In The Ruts album. The one thing that Whitford and St Holmes had in common that they were 2nd stringers, they could come up with one or two pretty good songs for their other bands (Whitford thought up of Round And Round from Toys In The Attic, St Holmes Hey Baby from Ted Nugent to name a couple) but on their own, a different story.  That's not to say that the first album was a waste of time.  In reality, it starts out rocking with I Need A Love and Whiskey Woman and then the songs went from great to good to filler in a hurry. Side 1 still holds up, side 2 not so much, after Action and Shy Away, the last three songs are filler. Does It Really Matter, sounds like they didn't think it matter. If anything this album is proof that Whitford can take the lead vocal (he does on two including  Hold On), although there's a reason why St. Holmes is the featured vocalist. Columbia did issue a single from this (Shy Away which didn't chart) but wrote this off as a tax loss, and the album was one of those 5.98 new artist series.  I don't know, but I think this was a bigger deal back then and it was hoped that Whitford/St.Holmes could make it on their own, after 1982 the band was over and done, St. Holmes returned back to Ted Nugent for Ted's 1982 Atlantic debut and Whitford would reunite with Aerosmith soon after.   Somehow, the guys managed to get their masters of this album back and decided to reissue it with their new album for Mailboat. And those who do buy it can compare both albums.  The guesswork is that even with the bonus disc, Reunion isn't going to sell very many copies, the world don't care unless you're an audiophile that still cares about that new Whitford/St. Holmes album.  In reality, the 1981 album will probably get more played than the new album simply of the fact that the first album was better. I have heard snippets of the new album. It's so so.
Grade B

Photo: Rich Toomsen/Wooden Nickel Lottery (Taken by Angie Toomsen) 

 Apologies to Delayne Stallman for continuing to get his name wrong.


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