BourbonAndVinyl’s Rock Chick’s AC/DC Playlist, “This ones for you, Mal”

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If you’re like me, the sad news of the passing of AC/DC’s co-founder, rhythm guitar player, and songwriter Malcolm Young hit you hard. AC/DC has always been a big favorite of mine and I never thought Malcolm got the credit he deserved. The Rock Chick has always shared my proclivity for AC/DC and as documented, AC/DC was our first concert together. Alas, that was the last time I saw AC/DC. It’s another sobering message from the cosmos that came in loud and clear – always, always buy the ticket and go see the show. Pretty soon we won’t have the option to buy the ticket… but as usual I digress.

Needless to say, the Rock Chick and I were both down yesterday after hearing the news. I saw there were a tremendous number of great condolence statements from all across the music world. The quiet, unassuming Malcolm was quite a force in hard rock. So like everybody else, I went to the stereo to put on some AC/DC. It would have been easy to just slip Back In Black on the turntable and turn it up. But that seemed too perfunctory.

Then I realized, The Rock Chick had put together an AC/DC playlist years ago. It’s one our favorite playlists. We’ve played it at parties and it always goes over well. I couldn’t help but think it would be a more fitting tribute to Malcolm to listen to a broader spectrum of his music than just one album. And I must say, turning this music up loud was the balm my soul needed.

Now, like everything in marriage, music is a compromise. I’ve often described my musical tastes and the Rock Chick’s as being a classic Venn Diagram, the famous overlapping circles. And even though we both love AC/DC, inexplicably, my wife doesn’t like the Bon Scott-era. She’s all in for Brian Johnson. I chuckle to think that when I first got into AC/DC I couldn’t tell the difference between the two. As my listening became more sophisticated, I realized that Bon had a raspier, bluesier vocal style. I’d also say Bon had a better sense of humor, but the Rock Chick might debate me on that topic. I don’t always subscribe to the theory of “happy wife, happy life,” but in the case of this playlist, I pick my battles.

The Rock Chick’s playlists are always better than anything I can come up with. Her party playlists always get somebody running up to me to ask what these songs are… my playlists tend to get people running up to me to ask if we can change the music. “Yes, Rich, we have some Oasis we can put on…” The Rock Chick tends to avoid songs that were over-played or that were big hits (like say, “You Shook Me All Night Long,” a great tune but we’ve all heard it 1000 times). She goes to the deeper album tracks. There always seems to be the right mix of popular tracks and deep cuts. This playlist is heavy on Brian Johnson tracks, and on their later albums, which is what BourbonAndVinyl is all about in the first place. I am slowly bringing The Rock Chick over to the Bon Scott stuff… track by track she’s getting into Highway To Hell. And I play the criminally overlooked LP, Powerage as often as I can get away with it…(LP Look Back: The Overlooked Gem, AC/DC’s “Powerage”) It was bound to seep in.

So for those of you who were saddened by yesterday’s Malcolm Young news, I will share this, the Rock Chick’s AC/DC playlist. It’s meant to help the healing. I have put it out on Spotify under the title, BourbonAndVinyl.net The Rock Chick’s AC/DC Playlist. As mentioned, you’re not going to find “You Shook Me All Night Long” or much Bon Scott. But as I listened to this yesterday it gave me a real appreciation of Malcolm and his brother’s work across the latter part of their career. It’s not meant to be a complete, best-of, kind of retrospective. It’s just something that gave me solace and I wanted to share it in these sad days.

Without further adieu, here are the Rock Chick’s AC/DC Playlist tracks. This one’s for you Mal:

From Back In Black:

  1. Hells Bells
  2. Shoot To Thrill
  3. Back In Black
  4. Have A Drink On Me  (Something I did in Malcolm’s honor)
  5. Shake A Leg

From Ballbreaker:

  1. Hard As A Rock
  2. The Furor  (I realize this was banned in Germany, but it’s a wicked good track)
  3. Hail Caesar
  4. Whiskey On The Rocks (The perfect BourbonAndVinyl track)

From Black Ice:

  1. Rock ‘N Roll Train
  2. Skies On Fire
  3. Anything Goes

From For Those About To Rock:

  1. For Those About To Rock
  2. Put The Finger On You
  3. Let’s Get It Up
  4. Evil Walks
  5. C.O.D.

From Highway To Hell

  1. Shot Down In Flames
  2. If You Want Blood (You Got It)

From The Last Action Hero Soundtrack or Backtracks (Box Set)

  1. Big Gun

From Powerage:

  1. Gone Shootin’

From Razor’s Edge:

  1. Thunderstruck
  2. The Razor’s Edge
  3. Are You Ready
  4. Shot of Love
  5. Let’s Make It

From Rock Or Bust:

  1. Rock or Bust
  2. Play Ball
  3. Sweet Candy

From Stiff Upper Lip:

  1. Stiff Upper Lip
  2. Hold Me Back
  3. Can’t Stand Still
  4. Give It Up

From Who Made Who:

  1. Who Made Who
  2. Sink The Pink

 

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RIP Malcolm Young, Rhythm Guitarist Extraordinaire of AC/DC

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Oh man, not another one. I awoke this morning to the sad news that Malcolm Young, the extraordinarily talented rhythm guitarist for AC/DC, one of the world’s (and one of my) favorite hard rock bands, had passed away. He had been suffering from dementia and had to retire from the band prior to the tumultuous recording of their last record, Rock Or Bust. Dementia claimed my maternal grandmother and it’s a tough way to go. By every account that I’ve read, statements from other musicians, Malcolm was described as being a “sweet” guy. Being that talented and that nice are some pretty great things to be remembered for. He was preceded in death by his older brother George Young, who was in the Easy Beats, an early Aussie rock band and who was later a producer for AC/DC. Tough couple of months for the Youngs.

It had to be somewhat difficult for Malcolm. He’s always been a bit overshadowed by his brother Angus on lead guitar who, in his school uniform, was the visual symbol of the band. He was also probably overshadowed by the lead singers – who wouldn’t be overshadowed by larger than life Bon Scott and later Brian Johnson. The front man always gets the attention and the chicks. Yet, Malcolm cowrote every song they did with Angus and Bon Scott and later with just Angus. I would say Malcolm was more important than anybody on the microphone to AC/DC. His riffs were the foundation of every tune they put out. Even though he retired prior to the recording of their last album, Rock or Bust, Angus said most of the song ideas and basic riffs were written by and demo’d by Malcolm. He was as important to rhythm guitar as Keith Richards. That bedrock rhythm guitar allowed his brother Angus to soar on so many great solos.

One of the first albums I remember buying was AC/DC’s Back In Black. I was working as a bus boy at a steak joint named York Steak House in Oak Park Mall out in the suburbs of Kansas City. The crew I worked with there was one of the funnest, most degenerate group of people I’ve ever met. And believe me, I know a lot of degenerates, but these guys took the cake. One of the managers had a big keg party for the employees, most of whom were underage for drinking, but why split hairs over silly rules. We were out at some lake in western Johnson County. Somebody dropped the Back In Black cassette into the boom box and it was like an explosion in my head. My life had changed. Listening to that album, and marveling at the monster guitar riffs, I thought it was some band’s greatest hits album. I remember we were so fiercely air-guitaring I fell and hit my head on a park bench… maybe that’s why I remember that party so clearly… it was literally jarring. Talk about your head banging, I lived it, baby.

It was shortly after almost wearing out Back In Black, that I started researching AC/DC. It was then that I realized that they had just replaced their lead singer Bon Scott with Brian Johnson. I thought it was Brian singing on Highway To Hell, their vocals were so similar. Now, I can hear the difference clearly. One of the reasons their sound stayed so consistent was Malcolm and Angus’ monster riffage. I remember going to the mall and for some inexplicable reason I bought Highway To Hell on cassette instead of vinyl. The mistakes of youth… I think I wanted to play it in the car. That album underscored to me, it doesn’t matter whose up front singing, it’s the guitars that power that band.

I saw AC/DC on the Ballbreaker tour with my buddy, The Accountant, and they were just so spectacular. A lot of that was due to Malcolm’s perfectionist tendencies. He was so committed to the fans. He even quit AC/DC in the 80s to go to rehab to quit drinking. He’d realized his playing was suffering and he loved guitar more than booze. That’s commitment.

I had drifted away from AC/DC, even after seeing that great Ballbreaker show. It wasn’t until I met the Rock Chick and she turned me onto some of their great later albums, The Razor’s Edge, Stiff Upper Lip, that I reconnected with this great band. The Stiff Upper Lip tour was the first concert I ever took the Rock Chick to, chronicled on this very blog, AC/DC’s Stiff Upper Lip Concert – I Discover I’m Dating The Rock Chick. I’m very glad I saw that show, and glad that Rock Chick reintroduced me to this wonderful band. AC/DC remains and will remain in high rotation here at the B&V home.

Today the rock and roll world has lost another foundational player. We down here at the B&V lab will be flying the rock flag at half mast. Me, I’m going to pour a tumbler full of something strong, brown and murky and turn on the Rock Chick’s fabulous AC/DC play list. RIP Malcolm!

 

Review: Greta Van Fleet, ‘From The Fires’ LP, er, Double EP

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Once again my corporate overlords had me traveling most of this week. I returned home from California just in time to watch the Rock Chick pack her car and abscond to points out west to meet our daughter for some sort of “Thelma and Louis” adventure. Actually, our daughter is moving and the Rock Chick felt compelled to help her find a new apartment in her new city. In the old days, when I was left to my own devices, to a “bachelor’s weekend,” I’d end up face down, slathered in bourbon and pizza sauce. The Rock Chick came home one weekend to find me weeping over the death of Clarence Clemons. It had been a tough weekend…and perhaps I’d overdone it. Luckily, this weekend I discovered that those Led Zeppelin-obsessed youngsters, Greta Van Fleet, have released a new album, er, I mean a double EP, whatever that is, entitled, From The Fires. At least I’ll have something upbeat to listen to all weekend… and yes, I did stop by the store for a fresh bottle of Bulleit rye and ordered a pizza, so I’m ready to rock.

I reviewed their first EP, Black Smoke Rising,  a few months ago (Greta Van Fleet: Kids Channeling Zeppelin On ‘Black Smoke Rising’ EP). And as those of you who read that know, I love these kids. Yes, I described watching their YouTube videos as like watching really hip baristas running amuck, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like them. It was actually the Rock Chick who first came into the B&V Lab and said, “I don’t know who this Greta Van Fleet chick is, but she sounds like Zeppelin.” Hearing these four new songs – inexplicably From The Fires contains all 4 songs from Black Smoke Rising – I believe the Rock Chick is going to be very happy. My friend West Coast BG says the versions of the first four tracks are more polished versions here, but I did what I think most people did – I bought the four new songs and added them to the old ones.

After reading my review of Black Smoke Rising, my dear friend Doug wrote, in the comments section, “I’m surprised Led Zeppelin isn’t getting royalties from these guys…” (or something like that), and yes, they do sound like Led Zeppelin. My friend in Salina, Drummer Blake, when I went to see his new band said, “I can’t tell you how many people come up to me and ask if I’ve heard these kids that sound like Zeppelin, Greta Van Fleet.” Drummer Blake is more fond of Rival Sons, but we’re splitting hairs here. Even my friend West Coast BG sent me an enthusiastic note about GVF. He compares them to the young energy (not the sound) of Def Leppard when they first came out. We both saw Def Leppard open for Nugent back in the day and Greta Van Fleet does bring back memories of that youthful exuberance both of Def Leppard and us. I mention all of this because there are many people out here who have been yearning to hear some new, kick ass rock and roll and the word on GVF is getting out!

I don’t want to rehash the review I put out for the four songs that were contained on Black Smoke Rising, but I will say these kids really are channeling Zeppelin. You can listen to those four songs and literally play the which-Zeppelin-song-is-this game. My favs are probably the galloping “Highway Tune” and the title track. “Safari Song” starts off with a banshee wail that Plant would envy. I will say, someone is going to have to get lead vocalist (and one of three brothers in the band) John Kiszka a glass of hot tea with honey and a shot of Gentlemen Jack in it to help him sooth his vocal chords. As my friend West Coast BG said, “someone needs to tell him to reign it in, he’s going to shatter his vocal chords.” But damn if I don’t love this kid’s shrieking vocals. I can’t say enough about his brother Jake on lead guitar. I can understand how a vocalist can sound like Robert Plant, but this Jake kid makes guitar sounds that I’ve only heard on Zeppelin records, and I mean that as a huge compliment.

If I was going to say one thing about GVF, to me they’re in the larval stage (I was corrected by BG when I said “larva stage”). They’ve got the chops and the skill, but they can only survive as an act if they can develop their own sound and write their own distinctive songs. I remember so many bands in the 80s, including Kings X and Jason Bonham’s band (creatively named, Bonham) who were hailed as the second coming of Zeppelin but flamed out pretty quickly. I think these guys have the tools to be a long term force in rock and roll but someone, maybe Jason Flom, needs to do what Andrew Loog Oldham did for Mick and Keith – sit them down in a room and force them write and write and write. I think given time these guys will develop into something special, I just hope they hew closely to this swaggering, hard rock sound.

Of the new batch of material, my favorite might be the cover of Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come.” Again, kudos to John Kiszka for the lead vocal. The band brought in some gospel-y background singers, which is a perfect accent. The first time I heard GVF’s version of the tune, I thought, these guys sound too joyful for this track, but I think I misread it. It’s anguished and triumphant all at the same time. And hats off to any band with the balls to tackle one of the greatest songs of all time. It shows they have really good taste in music.

“Edge of Darkness” is a crunchy rocker. I love John Kiszka’s riffage on this song. And, just to play the, which-Zeppelin-tune game, I get a real “What Is And What Could Never Be” vibe from this tune. The guitar time changes and different riffs, just evoke that song for me. “Meet Me On the Ledge” brings to mind “Our Time Is Gonna Come.” It starts with a heavy riff, then vocals/acoustic guitar that builds to the chorus. It’s rocky and spacey. I mention the influences just to underscore what these tracks sound like, not as a jab at GVF. The guitar solo at the end of “Edge of Darkness” is a unique, crazy flurry of guitar that points the way to great things for Greta Van Fleet. The last of the four new tracks is “Talk On The Street,” a baby I’m hearing bad things tune. It reminds me of a less bluesy “When the Levee Breaks.” I know I shouldn’t do the Zeppelin comparison, but I can’t help it.

When I listen to all eight songs on From The Fires I will admit to being baffled by the whole “double EP” thing. Why not just call these eight tracks your debut album. Houses of the Holy only had four tracks per side, eight in total. Take the homage all the way, baby. Anyway, this is a great slab of rock and roll. Turn it up loud, grab a slice of pizza and some bourbon and try not be weeping when your spouse gets home….

Cheers!

 

Review: U2’s Two New Songs from ‘Songs Of Experience’

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As happens this time of year, my corporate overlords have kept me out on the road all week. Traveling has taught me one thing: Civility and good manners are dead, folks. Anyway, I wearily returned home to find the great news that U2 have made a number of announcements in regard to their upcoming album, Songs of Experience, the “sequel” to 2014’s Songs of Innocence. It’s all so very William Blake of them… “Tyger Tyger, burning bright, In the forests of the night.” We have a release date of December 1 for the full album, just in time for Christmas. And, in other great news, U2 have announced a short spring tour through the United States beginning in May and running through June. Sadly it looks like I’ll have to fly somewhere to see them. Hopefully the early dates are just a framework from which they can hang additional dates in additional cities on to.

The build up for Songs of Experience has been impressive. I think this album is going to be an important one for U2… After two rather lackluster records, No Line On The Horizon (2009) and Songs of Innocence (2014) one gets the sense that U2 is bearing down to re-take over the world. These guys are like Muhammad Ali, they always seem to be fighting to regain the World Title. One could view their recent tour to celebrate the 30th anniversary of their landmark album, The Joshua Tree, as a concerted effort to reconnect with their fans and reignite the passion they so often inspire. (That tour was reviewed in B&V, Concert Review: U2 with Beck, Kansas City, Sept 12, 2017: A “Night of Epic Rock And Roll” – Bono, #U2TheJoshuaTree2017).

They released the first single a month or so ago. That song, “You’re The Best Thing About Me” is simply put, sensational and the best first single they’ve put out since “Vertigo.” I reviewed that single (U2: “You’re The Best Thing About Me,” The Strong New Single From ‘Songs Of Experience’) and it gives me a lot of hope for this new album. Never count U2 out, especially if they feel they have their backs against the wall. The announcements they made this week were accompanied by the album art, the track list and the release of two new songs. Looking at the track list, I don’t see much on the “Deluxe” version to recommend it, the bonus material appears to be all remixes. I say new songs, but one, “Get Out of Your Own Way,” they apparently debuted on The Joshua Tree Tour and the other, “Blackout” was out on YouTube and other social media platforms.

“Get Out of Your Own Way” is a mid tempo, ballad type track. It’s got big choruses. I usually love U2’s ballads, but this one is going to have to grow on me. The track fades in a little bit like “Where The Streets Have No Name.” I think my biggest obstacle on this song are the drums. They sound tinny or metallic. I think Larry Mullen, Jr is U2’s secret weapon so I’d like to see them let that guy go a little more. He does pick it up in the middle of the track. There is some good, signature Edge guitar in the middle and a nice but brief solo. The track is more polished than “You’re the Best Thing About Me.” There’s some audio tape of someone, a rapper, a preacher or somebody at the end that I could have done without. Like I said, not a great track,  but not bad.

“Blackout” is just a great song. The Rock Chick was in the B&V Lab when I played the two tracks and she took to this one immediately. It’s catchy and has some good guitar. I especially like Bono’s impassioned vocal on this track. I love the lyrics, “In the darkness is where you learn to see…” It’s a slinky, funky affair. I think you could dance to it or rock out to it and I mean that in a good way. If “Blackout” and “You’re the Best Thing…” are any indication, this album is headed in the right direction. Although, I will caveat that by saying, it’s hard to take a handful of songs and hear them out of the context of the full album and make any kind of guess about the overall package. I only have my hope for this album to go on and I haven’t had that on a U2 album since How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb.

Keep your fingers crossed for a great U2 album! Cheers!

 

Playlist: The B&V Halloween Rock Playlist (Sorry, No “Monster’s Mash”)

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Boy, how times have changed. The television commercial build-up to Halloween almost rivals that of Christmas in it’s excess. In between almost constant commercials for candy, which frankly, like bourbon I’m highly susceptible to, you’ll see commercials for all manner of Halloween costumes. This year, for reasons unclear to me, there seems to be a SuperHero theme to all the kiddy costumes. I see Spiderman, Superman and in a nice gesture to the girls, Wonder Woman. That’s not how it was when I was a kid. Every year, I’d ask if we were going to get a costume and every year my dad made me go as the same thing. He’d get out an old suit coat. He’d dress me in old jeans and a dirty t-shirt, wipe black shoe polish on my chin to make it look like I was unshaven and voila, I was what he called, a hobo. Every fucking year I went out to trick or treat as a hobo, which was an old time-y word for a homeless person. My father wouldn’t even spend the 50 cents to get me a fake beard, and believe me, shoe polish doesn’t come off easy… It was the cheapest costume available and took literally no planning for my parents to put together. Not that I’m bitter… It wasn’t like that when I met the Rock chick. The first year we did Halloween, she dressed her daughter up in the most elaborate Padme costume, in the full make-up and headgear from The Phantom Menace. It was impressive, although slightly embarrassing when prior to seeing her elaborate costume I asked, “Do you want to borrow one of my old suit coats for the hobo costume?” only to receive blank stares.

I was watching the news the other day and they had a pre-Halloween trick-or-treating event at Arrowhead Stadium, home of my beloved if not star-crossed Chiefs. That’s another thing that’s changed since I was a kid, the manner of how kids trick or treat these days. Everybody goes to the mall or work or some other controlled environment to do their trick-or-treating. Again, not so when I was a kid. After outfitting me as a hobo, basically unrecognizable, my parents would send me and my friends out alone. We roamed all over the neighborhood and beyond. And this wasn’t just me and my friends, there were mobs of kids running wild in the streets, every where you went. God knows what sort of predators we managed to slip past… If you were to do that today, the State Child Care folks would show up with a van and take us all to foster care.

I haven’t even mentioned the hooligan-ism we were out there promoting. Everybody I trick-or-treated with had lifted a few eggs from the fridge for throwing at houses (I couldn’t steal eggs, my mother was so frugal she counted ours) and a roll of toilet paper or two for unsuspecting trees. We were like a roving gang of homeless hobo’s hell bent for destruction. Nowadays, every kid who used to come by the house, when I lived in a house, had their parents with them, standing out on the sidewalk, typically rolling a wagon with a cooler of beer perched on it. Where’s the danger, people?

I’d begun to reach the stage in life where I would treat all holidays like Thanksgiving… I show up, eat, drink, watch football and try to nap. That gets awkward if we’re in a bar or at a party… But then, something happened to change my opinion of this new Halloween. A number of years ago, the Rock Chick and I went to a Rocktober concert featuring none other than the Cult. These were all adults, the 21-and-over crowd, and as it was a few days prior to Halloween, all these young adults were dressed in costumes. Half the women were dressed as slutty nurses and the other half were dressed as slutty vampires. Stop the press, I thought, perhaps the danger and fun had returned to Halloween… This might be something worth investigating…

Nowadays, I live downtown. I can see the Halloween partier’s comings and goings from my local taverns and restaurants from the safety of my rooftop… No little kids come by, they can’t get past the moat. The Rock Chick misses seeing the children in their costumes, but that doesn’t bother me. But I realized after last year, that I needed some music to go with my bourbon and over-sized Reese’s peanut butter cups. My father was always a fan of that awful tune, “Monster’s Mash.” He’d laugh like a kid when that came on. This year I decided to put together a little play list of my own. I looked for ghosts, witches, goblins, warlocks, devils, demons and the like. I was looking for something that would provide me with that old school, dangerous, evil vibe. Turn it up loud, and whatever you do, don’t let anybody give you an apple when you’re trick-or-treating… I learned that the hard way when I was a kid…

  1. AC/DC, “Hell’s Bells” – You’ve got to start the Halloween playlist with a tune that sets the atmosphere…. that tolling bell!
  2. Van Halen, “Running With the Devil” – Who else to run with on Halloween?
  3. Bad Company, “Evil Wind” – “Evil wind, pay me no mind…”
  4. The Cure, “Lullaby” – A song where creepy Robert Smith imagines being eaten by an even creepier spider.
  5. Fleetwood Mac, “Sisters of the Moon” – Stevie Nicks gets her funky witch on.
  6. Paul Simon, “The Werewolf” – We’ve got witches, we need a werewolf.
  7. The Faces, “Wicked Messenger” – The Faces doing a dark Dylan tune… spooky, baby.
  8. Slash (featuring Ian Astbury), “Ghost” – Ironically, ghost was another easy costume my parents dressed me in by merely throwing an old sheet over my head.
  9. Talking Heads, “Psycho Killer” – Real life monsters are scarier than any folk tale…
  10. Queens of the Stone Age, “Head Like a Haunted House” – There was a place in my neighborhood that they said was haunted… we didn’t trick-or-treat there… not sure I’d go there even today.
  11. Dave Matthews Band, “Halloween” – An especially tortured vocal for the holiday.
  12. Alice Cooper, “Welcome To My Nightmare” – You gotta invite the King of Scary to the party.
  13. Derek and the Dominos, “Evil” – Clapton covering a Willie Dixon song originally done by Howlin Wolf…
  14. The Who, “Boris the Spider” – Yeah, cheesy but I love the bass line.
  15. AC/DC, “Evil Walks” – Yes, I could have put the whole AC/DC catalog on here… This one feels like trick-or-treating music.
  16. Bruce Springsteen, “A Night With the New Jersey Devil” – A rare blues tune from the Boss… tortured vocal and harmonica…
  17. Rob Zombie, “Living Dead Girl” – I just love Rob Zombie and all his scary music.
  18. The White Stripes, “Little Ghost” – “Little ghost, little ghost, one I’m scared of the most.”
  19. The Jeff Beck Group, “Ain’t Superstitious” – “… but a black cat just crossed my path.”
  20. White Zombie, “American Witch” – A quick return to the list for Rob Zombie, scary bastard.
  21. Credence Clearwater Revival, “Bad Moon Rising” – Another great mood setter for Halloween.
  22. The Cult, “The Witch” – I was surprised at the large number of witch songs out there… this is a great one.
  23. Motley Crue, “Shout At the Devil” – I’m not sure what good the shouting will do, but yes, please do shout!
  24. Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Warlocks” – We have plenty of witches, nice to see the male side of the equation covered. Scary and funky!
  25. Ozzy Osbourne, “Bark At the Moon” – I can’t get the video image from my head… Ozzy running around as a werewolf. Howl, Ozzy, howl.
  26. INXS, “The Devil Inside” – There’s a little bit of good and a little bit of evil in all of us… except of course, my Sainted Mother, she’s all good.
  27. The Rolling Stones, “Midnight Rambler” – What’s scarier than a serial killer?
  28. David Bowie, “Scary Monsters & Super Creeps” – Cold, spooky, synthesizer and howling guitar.
  29. Ryan Adams, “Halloweenhead” – “Head full of tricks and treats…”
  30. Black Sabbath, “The Wizard” – One of two Sabbath tracks here.
  31. John Lennon, “Scared” – How else are you supposed to feel on Halloween?
  32. Metallica, “Enter Sandman” – Only Metallica can take the fable of the Sandman and make it this menacing.
  33. Black Sabbath, “Lady Evil” – Yes, it’s another Sabbath tune, but this one is sung by Dio. “There’s a place just south of Witch’s Valley…”
  34. Alice In Chains, “Man In The Box” – All of that “Jesus Christ, deny you maker” stuff sounds like the Exorcist to me. Scary track and yet I’m still not sure what it’s about.
  35. The Rolling Stones, “Sympathy For the Devil” – Isn’t this the crux of Halloween? “Pleased to meet you…. won’t you guess my name?”

As usual, I probably missed a few choice tunes, so season this playlist to taste, as they say. If you feel like it, please add your ideas for other Halloween songs in the Comments section.

Trick or Treat?

 

A Few Words On The Passing of Fats Domino, RIP Fats

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All of us here at B&V were sad to learn the news about the passing of Fats Domino today at the age of 89 years old. For me, Fats Domino was one of those “Mount Rushmore” type of Founding Father’s of rock and roll, along with Elvis and Chuck Berry (I’d include Johnny Cash with that group, but then I’d get the argument he was country… it all comes from the same place folks). With his brilliant boogie-woogie piano, Fats certainly invented the “roll” part of rock and roll. His music was not only a foundational part of rock ‘n’ roll, but was also the root from which sprang all the pop (i.e. non-Jazz) music from New Orleans ever since. Fats led to Allen Toussaint who led directly to Harry Connick, Jr… Oh to be in the Crescent City tonight…

Fats’ single, “The Fat Man,” is believed to be the first rock ‘n roll single to ever sell 1 million copies. It has been argued it was the first song to be described as “rock ‘n’ roll.” Listening to that song I can understand why it’d be described as rock and as roll…that piano, baby! What I liked about Fats, is through his string of hits in the late 50’s and early 60’s his sound never altered (much like the Stones). He knew what he did well and he kept doing it. Such a great list of songs, “I’m Walkin’,” “Walkin’ To New Orleans,” “Blue Monday,” “Ain’t That A Shame,” and of course “Blue Berry Hill.” All of which are fundamental rock songs that should be taught in grade schools.

When I was a kid, I wasn’t much into music. Music, at the time, was my brother’s thing and well, anything he was in to, naturally I gravitated away from. We had this old record player in our shared room. It only played singles, or as they used to be known, 45s. My dad has this old rack of 45s he’d collected in his youth. My parents weren’t much into music when I was growing up and dad basically handed those singles over to my brother who treated them like the Lost Arc. He was right to do so, I just wasn’t smart enough to know better. Anyway, I can remember my brother playing all those songs… there was Johnny Cash, Dion, Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley, there was even a few Beatles singles. And there was Fats. Listening while my brother played the crap out of those old 45s was what slowly drew into the musical web I find myself tangled in today. I need to thank my brother and Fats for that…

One of the first posts I wrote for BourbonAndVinyl was about a tribute album for Fats that had come out to raise money for Katrina (Satellite Radio, Katrina and Goin’ Home: A Tribute to Fats Domino). I had been riding in my car and I heard Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers doing Fats’ “I’m Walkin’.” I got home and immediately began doing research to find that tune, it was that great. And sadly, it’s another stark reminder for me  how tragic it was to lose Tom Petty at the tender age of 66, but I digress. Anyway, I found out that after Katrina hit his hometown of New Orleans it was thought that Fats had perished. He refused to leave his home because his wife couldn’t travel. Fortunately it was discovered Fats was alive and well… in the wake of all that destruction Fats turned the incorrect and early news of his demise into a tribute record to raise money for New Orleans. I don’t know anybody who could have pulled the kind of talent that Fats did for this tribute album… Not one, but two Beatles, Paul McCartney and a remix of an earlier John Lennon cover were included. Besides Tom Petty, Fats was able to recruit Robert Plant, Elton John, B.B. King, Lucinda Williams, Norah Jones, Randy Newman, Lenny Kravitz, Neil Young… the list goes on and on. It was a pretty special album and it all hung together so well because everybody stayed true to that great Fats sound.

Make no mistake folks, a true pioneer into what we call rock has slipped this mortal coil… RIP Fats! Tonight I’ll be sampling from his greatest hits, ‘Goin’ Home: A Tribute To Fats Domino’ and a nice bottle of Templeton rye… I don’t usually drink on school nights, but for Fats, I’ll make an exception.

Cheers!

 

LP Review: Robert Plant, The Sensational ‘Carry Fire’

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It was early my freshman year of high school when Led Zeppelin’s final album, ‘In Through The Out Door’ came out. Say what you want about Zeppelin’s swan song, it’s still amazing that they could put out that kind of quality record when the drummer was a raging alcoholic and the lead guitarist was strung-out on heroin. Ah, the 70s. ‘In Through The Out Door’ ushered in a different kind of vocal from Robert Plant. He wasn’t the shrieking banshee of ‘Zeppelin II’ any more, he was actually singing. Purportedly, Bonham and Page felt ‘In Through the Out Door’ was too “mellow” and were making plans for a more rocking follow-up when Bonham sadly passed away. For my part, I think “In The Evening” is a great rock tune. When your guitarist is sitting in a dark room with only a candle for light, comatose on heroin, it’s hard to put together an album that sounds like ‘Presence.’

At my high school, there was a group of guys who put up a sign-up sheet in the lunch room when Zeppelin announced their US tour. The guys had arranged to rent a bus that would take anybody who had the money up to Chicago, the nearest concert venue that Zeppelin was to play on that tour. Zeppelin rarely played Kansas City… there was a story, probably apocryphal that they’d been booed off staged early in their career in KC and they eschewed returning. I heard that same story about Bad Company, so who knows. Anyway, I can remember the dejected look on the faces of the guys who rented the bus when the news of Bonham’s sad passing was announced by our high school, lunchtime DJ. They had been so close to seeing Zeppelin, yet so far. I’m still surprised they let us play music in the lunchroom, my school was run by fascists.

And so, with a foolish, massive intake of vodka, Led Zeppelin, a pillar of 70s rock ‘n’ roll and well, rock ‘n’ roll in general, had toppled. I felt like I’d missed a great party… well, not missed, but only managed to get in on the tail end of the party, after all the pretty girls had left. I was, however, consoled in 1982 when Plant emerged with his first solo album. Those of us of a certain age still love ‘Pictures At Eleven.’ Plant’s singing on that record was more akin to what he did on ‘In Through The Out Door.’ Anybody looking for “The Immigrant Song” style of singing from Plant should have known back then, it wasn’t happening. “Burning Down One Side” is one of Plant’s best rock tunes… “How could I fall, without a show…” is a lyric that I only understand on a visceral, non-intellectual level, yet still love.

Thus began, for me, a life long devotion to the solo music of this brilliant artist. There is very little in Plant’s career that I could say I don’t like. I wasn’t crazy about his side-project The Honeydrippers but only his album ‘Shaken N Stirred’ could be described as missing the mark (way too much synthesizer). I love that Plant has gone through different phases of his career. He’s always searching, always testing his limits. He’s collaborated with different musicians at different times, always tinkering with his sound and approach. If that’s not the hallmark of an amazing artist, what is?

After a brief reunion with Jimmy Page for the Page-Plant albums and tours, both of which I saw (and was amazed by), Plant returned to his solo career with a covers album, ‘Dreamland.’ Despite it being mostly covers, I loved ‘Dreamland.’ It marked another evolution in Plant’s vocals. They started putting his voice right up front and augmenting it with more nontraditional, world-music kind of sounds. That sound carried through the exceptional album of originals, ‘Mighty Rearranger’ and led to the ‘Raising Sand’ project with Alison Krauss. ‘Raising Sand’ was a lot more successful than I think Plant was prepared for. If his reluctance to get Zeppelin back together is any indication, I think Plant shies away from the expectations to out-do his past… I doubt we see him do anything else with Krauss on a major scale ever again, much like Zeppelin.

Since the Plant-Krauss thing Plant simply returned to releasing great solo albums. ‘Band of Joy’ was produced by the lead guitarist of the Krauss album, Buddy Miller and boasted a  great harmony vocal from Patty Griffin. Band of Joy was the name of Plant’s first band with Bonham and the album by that name was Plant looking back to rootsy covers. I really thought that was a great, overlooked album. He followed that up with 2014’s ‘lullaby…and the Ceaseless Roar,’ an exceptional album. ‘lullaby’ is the type of album this blog was founded on: a great, latter day album from a more mature artist that’s criminally overlooked. The first single from that record, “Rainbow” is one of my all-time favorite Plant tunes… although even I’ll admit, that’s a long list. The man has a golden voice.

I mention the album ‘lullaby…and the Ceaseless Roar,’ because the sounds on that album really inform Plant’s stunning new record, ‘Carry Fire.’ His backing band, the Sensational Shape Shifters is back – Skin Tyson, Justin Adams on guitar, Dave Smith on drums, Billy Fuller on bass, John Baggot on keyboards and (the secret weapon in the band) Juldeh Camara on West African instruments. Plant and his band are pulling together American roots music, folk, traditional Welsh, African, rock and roll and “world-music” into a swampy gumbo of sound. As has been the case since ‘Dreamland’ Plants vocals are right up front in the mix, where they belong.

It’s easy to describe Plant’s music as a little mellower or quieter nowadays, but again, when you compare most music to say, ‘Physical Graffiti’ it’s probably going to sound mellow. The first single, “The May Queen” (reviewed earlier, Robert Plant: “The May Queen,” The New Song From The Upcoming ‘Carry Fire’) is wonderful up-beat acoustic number not dissimilar to “Gallows Pole.” It’s a perfect introduction to this music. The pace quickly picks up with the rocking guitar crunch of “New World…” You quickly realize on first listen, this album is special.

Plant then takes a huge left turn with the ballad “Season’s Song” which reminds me of the lush “Song To the Siren” from ‘Dreamland.’ Love remains the topic on the next track, “Dance With You Tonight.” All four of these tracks go in different sonic directions yet it’s all held together as a whole by Plant’s vocals… I just love where his voice is right now. He even manages a touch of politics in the topical “Carving Up the World… A Wall and Not a Fence.” I love Plant’s hippy, 60’s vibe. He’s like that cool  hippy uncle who let you drink beer before you were legally able to.

“Keep It Hid” is an atmospheric number that just seems to get better with each repeated listen. I love the guitar solo on that one…  “A Way With Words” is another piano driven ballad with a honey sweet vocal. The title track, “Carry Fire,” in another stylistic turn, has a middle eastern vibe that makes me feel like I’m sitting in a hashish den in Morocco with Plant while exotic women dance in veils around us… but that just might be me.

There are guitar driven songs here, like “New World…” and “Bones of Saints” that I think rock. Again, it’s not “Misty Mountain Hop” but they are rocking tunes. Plant’s vocals drop an octave and it’s hold on til the finish line time… The way Plant sings, “No, no, no, no, no, no no” in the latter track just grabs me…that and he name checks a Robert Johnson track, “Last Fair Deal Gone Down.”  With Plant, some of the non-verbal, singing, where he just holds an “o” or moans is as effective as when he’s singing words, if that makes any sense. He is probably the most charismatic singer I’ve ever heard. I don’t mean his physical presence when I speak of charisma, I’m talking about the sound of his voice. It’s an intoxicating, seductive instrument.

The album ends on another atmospheric, almost dark track, “Heaven Sent.” When Plant sings the lyric, “There’s an angel at the gate, singing a stolen kiss,” he could be singing about himself.

This album is great from start to finish. This is definitely a must-have record and for those of us down at B&V, it’s a candidate for album of the year. It’s a huge deal when an artist of the heft and talent of Robert Plant puts out a record. Everyone should hear this album. I can only hope I get a chance to catch him when he tours…No renting a bus this time around… Turn this one up and enjoy.