Monday, July 24, 2017

Catching Up: Chester Bennington, Storms, Whatever Comes To Mind

Plenty of things are going on since we all last touched base, the biggest one was Chester Bennington hanging himself Thursday after losing his battle with depression, he of Linkin Park fame and later replaced the also deceased Scott Wieland in Stone Temple Pilots for a so so EP. There remain skeptics of Linkin Park albums, There was one album I did buy and listen to, it may have been A Thousand Lights.  Say what you want about Hybrid Theory but in 2001 that did give meaning to up and coming kids of the high school years looking for their own sort of Nu Rock.  I guess I may have to look into hearing their latest album just to see what the fuss was about, but this year Bennington told the audience that Hybrid Theory is past and fans should just grow up.  A tip off of things to be.  It didn't help when Chris Cornell hanged himself earlier in the month and it affected Chester a lot more than what people thought it would be.  On the day Chris would have turned 53, Chester took himself out of this world.  And the usual sadness and anger came out, how dare he kill himself.  I feel for his family, his six kids that will never see their dad alive again, and I feel for him.  Believe me I had days that I would like to do the same thing but I have friends that care about me and that keeps me going.  I'll never approve of suicide but I do have an understand of what he goes through before he ended it all.   Life is not easy, and even if you're a living a dream of playing in a band and making some sort of income from it, you still can check out of this world.  RIP Chester anyway. He was 41.

More deaths include George Romero, the guy who gave us Night Of The Living Dead and Martin Laudau who also died.  Landau became very eccentric in his later years but he forever be known as Roland Hand on Mission Impossible and to a lesser extent Space 1999.

The Jones County Fair was this week, and everybody's favorite band Nickelback came into town as well as Daurty (can't spell the guy's name and spell check ain't helping either). Keith Urban was next and he put on a better show, but it seems everytime we have The Jones County Fair we get some fucking nasty weather and this was no exception.  A big monsoon hit the fair after Nickelback took the final encore to which local areas ended up getting 8 to 10 inches of rain in spots causing rivers to go out of their banks again, The Wapsipinicon River floods Independence and then goes downstream. The Volga flooded out the town of Volga and the Little Maquoketa turned Sumner into a town inside a lake.  On Wednesday Night, more tornadoes came out of nowhere, the biggest one from a EF 1 tornado that tore through historic downtown McGregor and turned into rubble.  It even moved a antique store next door to a house a block away.  Guttenburg also got 8 inches of rain for their trouble and Dubuque got the double whammy of storms in straight weekends that the sewage is now overflowing in spots.  Meanwhile in South Western Iowa, they missed out on all this fun.

To Davenport this weekend and I come to find that Music Go Round is no longer around.   Just three months ago I bought a acoustic guitar for 95 dollars and while I enjoyed finding some good used stuff there, it seems that the music stores are going the way by record stores.  Few and far between.  However the store was up for sale as the original owner was retiring but got no takers and it closed on May 22.   Which leaves Uncle Ike's Music in Asbury/Dubuque as the choice place for used stuff.  Or Guitar Center to which I did buy a cajon on sale for acoustic jams since nobody likes loud drums, or in the case of the Mike And Dyke Show having somebody come in and bash your snare out of tune. I didn't find much of value, a few cast off 45s at the Salvation Army store, finding a museum 45 at Ragged Records and picking up the new Dawn Cd.   Bob mentioned that he bought a bunch of country 45s but I passed since I bought the Cajon earlier in the day.  And I didn't have the budget to pay more than 45 cents for scratchy forty five although I had to buy Frankie Miller's Too Hot To Handle on Starday.   Real hillbilly music came from Starday Records in the 50s.   And then spent the night watching the Quad Cities River Bandits come from behind to beat Great Lakes 6-5.  Thankfully, the skies stayed cloudy and we did have a wind coming from the north which made it feel a lot cooler than the 100 plus degree heat index of the past week.  I finally decided to put the AC in the window downstairs and it has been on ever since.

Singles Going Steady Medley:  Davenport barrel scrapings

1)    Dream Police-Cheap Trick (Epic 9-50774)  1979  #26
I don't think this was a juke box copy, it plays way too good.  Cheap Trick was never really that great on the top 40, their number 1 single The Flame is something that they would rather forget, their version of I Don't Want To Miss A Thing. But still Dream Police is still a nice piece of power pop ear candy that still gets played on rock radio.  Their latest album is worth a listen.  B side is the title track to their 1978 album Heaven Tonight.  A great album but this song was one I never cared much for.

2)    When A Man Cries-Michael Kelly (Phillips 40046)  1962

Lounge pop single and a one off for Phillips for Michael Weiss aka Mike Kelly.  The record looked mint but either it wasn't pressed right or the mastering was crap.  Lots of echo and over the top vocals which Kelly sounds like very early Al Martino when he was over the top on his early stuff or Paul Anka.  B side Find Me, is more desperation, a bit more uptempo but once again the recording sucks. Sounds like he was recorded in a cave.

3)    Shadrack-Brook Benton (Mercury 71912)  1962  #19
A gospel song in the way of Samson And Delilah arranged by Malcom Dobbs, who had a hand in Hallelujah Time for the Oscar Peterson Trio.  Even for a top 20 showing, this song never gets played anymore.  Since its roots is gospel one can see why.  Benton had his share of hits and schlock but Shadrack with a lively choir in the background is a favorable track.  B side and number 77 showing Lost Penny is plain gospel schlock.

4)    Husbands And Wives-Jack Jones (Kapp K-551)  1963  #14

More lounge pop but I always liked Husbands And Wives for that catchy hook that starts out the song and it ends on a mellow note.  This was Jones' highest chart showing ever; he made it to number 15 with a pop cover of The Race Is On.  Husbands And Wives found itself on the Rhino mix tape of Vegas Music and probably sounds better that way. B Side Toys In The Attic, certainly not related to the Aerosmith version made it to number 92 for one week.   And is muzak bad.

5)    I Don't Mind The Thorns If You Are The Rose-Lee Greenwood (MCA-52656)  1985
Greenwood can be a good singer but he's forever known as God Bless The USA.  This song he channels his inner Michael Bolton. Overblown country ballad.

Record Reviews Not For The Faint Of Heart

The Dawn-Wooly (Cartouche 2017)

For me the most anticipated release was this album from our favorite jam band from the Quad Cities, pairing up with Bob Herrington and Cartouche Records, this time out adding two new members.  While the new lineup has enabled The Dawn to embrace their R and B side, the two songs Stay (Won't You) and Let Me Be Your Man are their tributes to Prince.  But my reaction to Derek Fortin's falsetto is mixed, usually that is a turn off for me, just ask Mick Jagger and The Charlatans UK lead singer when they go that route.  Plus you get a 20 second triangle solo from the other new member Edub Wilson.  In essence there are 8 songs of varying degree.  Sean Ryan remains heavily influenced by Trey Anastacio and The Dawn seem to be more accessible to these ears than Phish.  Even though At First Light, their last album only had 4 songs with a 40 minute total, those songs had a better ebb and flow than Wooly, although the title track brings echoes of Roxy Music with sax player Matt Sivertsen's channeling his inner Andy McKay.  Still, the best songs are when Sean Ryan sings them and then the band going into different directions, including 1984 which has been in their setlist for some time.  And Dance All Night which is part Phish and part Little Feat.   Although there's a reprise of the title track in the final two numbers, Watch Me Fly is where they channel Fortin's falsetto to a rousing ending that recalls moe.  After five albums, The Dawn have firmly established their jam roots and Wooly is a worthy followup to At First Light.  But it takes repeated listens for this album to set in.  I still think the best is yet to come though.
Grade B+

Lana Del Rey-Lust For Life  (Polydor 2017)

She's back with the rap stuff that was on her first album Born To Die and she continues that usual slow tempo mope new agey pop stuff that makes her sound like the Enya of the 2010s.  Her albums are a emotional roller coaster of highs and lows, to which makes me wonder if I really didn't give Ultra Violence a far listen, I loathed it when I first heard it but the next album got into my top ten best of, 2015's Hollywood.  I think the reason why Hollywood was better was the lack of rap artists to which Lust For Life, The Weekend and ASAP Rocky make appearances, Rick Nowels is back to help produce and shape the music, that's another plus, but overlong time of this album (72 Minutes) makes this a chore to listen to.  But the first half does really kick in, including a line that hit very hard  "it hurts to love you, But I still love you, it's just the way I feel (13 Beaches).  Sometimes when you have to sort through an hour and 12 minutes, you might stumble upon a lyric or note that will floor you.  The Sean Ono Lennon and Stevie Nicks cameos have their fun, but the brutal truth of 13 Beaches can turn a album into it's own classic.  I still think Lust For Life gets to be a bit cluttered and can go on a bit too long for its own good but it's kinda like looking for old scratchy records, a lotta junk but look hard and you'll find a classic worth taking home.
Grade B

Deep Purple-Fire In The Sky (Rhino 2017)

There has been no shortage of Deep Purple best ofs, but this one takes a stab of covering all the bases of each and every formation of Deep Purple, from the most stable lineup ever featuring Steve Morse and Don Airey taking over for Richie Blackmore who hopes to play one more gig with them in the future (on his own terms of course) and Airey for Lord who passed away in 2012, to the various lineups over the years, even Joe Lynn Turner gets acknowledged with a track of his own.  Even if fans still can't get over that Blackmore has been gone for 20 plus years, Steve Morse really has done an exceptional job, of course he's part of the Dixie Dregs and is one of the best guitarists still alive.  The rare best of, Fire In The Sky starts out with Hell To Pay from the Now What?! album, which gives the indication that this compilation was already planned for, Johnny's Band from the new DP album would have been the ideal song to start things off.  And then after that, the journey begins to the beginning, this is one of the few comps that start out in the present and go backward.  There are two different versions.  The single CD is basically a mix tape of edits and single versions and is as rag tag and not worth anybody's time unless you want a Part 1 edit of Child In Time and Burn.  The 3 CD set makes more sense, although in this day and age true fans already had the albums.  Deepest Purple remains the best overview of the 70s era Deep Purple, but at least Rhino managed to licensed key tracks from Universal and whoever has the Mark 1 era DP cuts.  There's a lot of quibbling with what songs were used, Don't Hold Your Breath would have been better than Sometimes I Feel Like Screaming and the single CD gets lowered a point for Soldier Of Fortune instead of Stormbringer. But you have to hand it to them for having Rod Evans on five tracks, including Kentucky Woman, which introduced me to this band way way back, the failed 45 of Bird Has Flown and Mandrake Root to which the final part of the song would become part of the 45 minute version of Space Trucking when Deep Purple did it back in the 1970s.  Deep Purple was still trying to figure out themselves during the first lineup and couldn't decide on a prog rock or pop rock and even if Rod Evans was much maligned, he did have his own style of vocals.  Replacing him with Ian Gillan from Episode Six, a band that was even more poppier and folk sounding turned out to the best move even though Richie Blackmore would regret that later on but the way Gillan comes tearing out of the gate on Speed King changed Deep Purple forever and the early 70s albums defined them, even Who Do We Think We Are, to which Rat Bat Blue also comes from (along with Woman From Tokyo). A falling out and David Coverdale and Glenn Hughes come on to replace Gillan and Roger Glover and Burn turn out to be the surprise hit of 1974 with the title track itself showing that DP could do it without Gillan  Stormbringer turned out to be a disappointment and Blackmore took his guitar and formed Rainbow and Tommy Bolin replaced him.  Come Taste The Band showed improvement but Bolin overdosed on drugs in 1976 ending the Deep Purple the band.  Then the mark 2 came around and managed to put up with each other till Gillan left and Joe Lynn Turner showed up and Blackmore damn near turned Purple into Rainbow 2 before Gillan was drafted back in the band, The Battle Rages On was a perfect title for the chaos and then Blackmore took guitar and went home and Steve Morse replaced him and still plays in Purple.  But the question remains if Fire In The Sky is a perfect overview of Deep Purple, the answer is not really but it is the only overview that showcases all phases of the band's career and even if some of the songs are noting more than filler songs (Soldier Of Fortune, Hard Road, which Blackmore's off key guitar solo is noted, Street Of Dreams)  there's still a share of classic hits and rockers that defined Deep Purple as one of the best hard rock bands, they were never heavy metal.  And this compilation does suggest that there was life after Blackmore went medieval with his gypsy folk rock Blackmore's Night.  But it's a shame that nothing was included from the new album Infinite, Johnny's Band would have made this essential.  But Fire in the Sky (the box set), while flawed, is recommended if Rhino keeps the price under 20 dollars.  Which they won't.
Grade Box Set B+  Single CD  B-

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