BourbonAndVinyl Spring Album Preview

IMG_1192

In the old days, I’d sneak out of school or better yet work and check out what was new at the local record store. I can almost smell the incense burning while the tattoo’d, stoned staff bustled around the store arranging stacks of records. I could spend hours going through the racks and racks of beautiful vinyl. I’d gaze lovingly at the artwork, turn the record over to read the track listing. Always on the hunt for something new, or something undiscovered. I was always looking for that fabulous high when the needle hit the groove and something great exploded from the speakers. In each record store, there was always a chalk board or a some kind of notification, “Upcoming Releases”. God, I miss those days. Now, I have to pour over Rolling Stone magazine, social media. or worse go out to the iTunes store and search the “Pre-Sale” list. I do wonder what happened to all those hippies that used to work in record stores. I have to imagine that they’ve all migrated out to Colorado and are working in the pot dispensaries. Well, at least that’s what I hope for them. I’d hate to think they all became used car salesmen.

As a follow up to the B&V “Upcoming 2016 Albums” post, I went out and to check out what might be coming out over the next couple of months, April and May ’16. Some of the stuff I knew about, some of it was a surprise. As a public service to rock fans every where, I thought I’d post what I found. This list, as all my lists, is not meant to be comprehensive, but these are records I’m interested in and thought you might be too. If I missed anything, please use the comments section to let the people know about the new rock and roll. We can pretend we all work in a giant virtual record store. Ah, that incense is burning….

  1. Mudcrutch, “2” – As mentioned in the upcoming 2016 LP post, Mudcrutch’s new album, creatively titled “2” (it’s their second album) is coming out May 20th. The first single “Trailer” is a song that was an outtake to “Full Moon Fever” and an early version of the song is available on the superb boxed set “Playback”. The song is a nostalgic trip back to Petty’s youth, which when you think about it, the same could be said for Mudcrutch in general. I love the new tune and look forward to hearing more. Petty wrote 7 of the tunes and each member contributed 1 song. My buddy Storm already has his Mudcrutch tix for the Denver show… I can always count on Storm!
  2. Eric Clapton, “I Still Do” – Clapton has been largely dead to me since “From the Cradle” his fabulous blues album. He hasn’t done much since then that you wouldn’t find in the “easy listening” aisle. The first single, “Can’t Let You Do It” which is a laid back shuffle akin to much of his latest stuff. The reason this record caught my eye was it’s produced by legendary producer Glyn Johns who produced “Slowhand”. Maybe he can bring something out in Slowhand again this time. There are originals and a couple of interesting covers including a Dylan tune “I Dreamed I Saw St Augustine”. Intriguing but my hopes are definitely not “up”. This one is also May 20.
  3. Peter Wolf, “A Cure For Loneliness” – I never liked the J Geils Band. “Musta Got Lost” was the only tune I really connected with. However, Peter Wolf on his own has released a series of great albums including 2010’s “Midnight Souvenirs”. I was a little discouraged to hear a couple of the tracks were recorded live, but that’s probably me being a music snob. This one will be high on my radar… It’ll be out in April.
  4. Rival Sons, “Hollow Bones” – The title track is on pre-release and it sounds like another monster riff song from Rival Sons. Same producer as “Valkyries” so I’m hopeful for some more riff-tastic tune-age! Look for this in June
  5. Ace Frehley, “Origins Vol 1” – I’m not a Kiss fan, but my college roomy owned the Ace solo album when each Kiss member released a solo album at the same time. It was mostly awful, but Ace can shred and people seem to like him. “Origins Vol 1” is an all covers release. It comes out tax day…
  6. Cheap Trick, “Bang, Zoom, Crazy… Hello” – I’ve been a little down on these guys since they booted Bun E. Carlos out of the band… However, their album from a few years ago, “Rockford” earned a lot of creative buzz. The four tunes that are already on pre-release are vintage Cheap Trick. Great riffs and those Beatlesque harmonies… Due out tomorrow, April 1st, I can’t believe I’m saying this but I might end up buying a Cheap Trick record for the first time since I conquered acne.
  7. Springsteen – Live Recordings (various) – Springsteen continues to release live recordings from each of his “River Tour” shows. These are probably more of a souvenir for the folks who attended but the Chicago one, reviewed in B&V earlier, is a treat to listen to. Springsteen has ditched that “Reverend of Rock” schtick and is clearly charged up by playing this particular material. The set after they finish “The River” is the real treat. He’s even playing “Rosalita” every night…

That’s the scoop over the next couple of months. As always, pour something strong, turn it up loud and enjoy.

Cheers!

Advertisements

The Cult: Alive In The Hidden City, Chicago 3/24/2016

the-cult-Hidden-City

 

“Ian is awfully ornery tonight” – The Rock Chick 3/24/2016

The Rock Chick and I flew up to Chicago over the weekend to catch The Cult’s “Alive In the Hidden City” tour at the Chicago House of Blues. Man, am I glad I went. As I was walking into the lobby of my hotel before the show, I ran into three guys from Decatur, Illinois. One of them, Clint, was wearing a Cult t-shirt and after my two Old Fashion lunch I felt bold so I stopped in the middle of the lobby and asked loudly, “Hey man, are you going to the show.” Oddly, after that brief interaction I couldn’t go anywhere without running into the Decatur 3. Every time I went into a bar, hit the button for an elevator, or at the actual Cult show, I ran into the guys from Decatur. They were true Cult fans, and it was very nice to meet kindred spirits.

That’s the thing about concerts. When you’re into a band, you tend to meet like minded folks at a concert. Especially a show in a smaller venue like the House of Blues. The concert begins to transcend a simple live show. There is an almost spiritual connection you have with the band and the people in the crowd. There was a guy at the show who kept holding up his lighter, that took me back to a pre-cellphone world. Standing on the floor, hands in the air, singing along with the rest of the crowd, I felt a real connection with everyone in the room. After the show Decatur Ron and I were talking about the almost spiritual/religious nature of rock concerts and he agreed with me. There is something about this new material that has The Cult charged up. The only bands I’ve seen pull that type of intimacy off in an arena setting are Springsteen, U2 and The Stones…but I digress.

I must say Friday night at the House of Blues was a special concert. I’ve seen the Cult nearly 10 times over the last 15 years and they were simply on fire Friday. Ian Astbury was more animated than I have ever seen him. He does this skip/kick dance move that has gotten rarer and rarer over the years – not Friday, he was moving like man half his age. He was engaging with the crowd, funny and extremely charismatic. When he’s on like he was Friday, he is the consummate front man. He has an almost shamanic ability to raise the level of the entire room. Friday was one of those nights. He dedicated a song to the late Ray Manzarek of the Doors, made fun of American beer for being piss, and handed out tambourines to those lucky enough to be up near the stage. And not to sound like a chick, but the guy’s hair is long again and instead of slicking it back he was letting the freak flag fly. Dressed in all black with a blazer on, he was shaking that hair all over the place. It just seemed to make it more primal. It was after he gave somebody in the audience some gentle shit for texting during “Hinterland” that the Rock Chick turned me and laughingly said, “My, my, Ian is awfully ornery tonight…” I couldn’t have summed it up any better.

From a technical standpoint, the sound was great. I could tell Billy Duffy was struggling with his first guitar, which looks like the custom Gretsch Black Falcon I’ve been reading about. After two or three songs he quickly switched over to a black Les Paul. He ended the show with that beautiful White Falcon. Ian’s vocals were high in the mix and he sounded great. His voice was strong and very full. You can tell he’s very into this new material, and it has really put a lot of steam in his stride. The oddest thing Friday was the introduction of keyboards to the Cult’s sound. The new rhythm guitar player, who looks like he may be Rob Zombie’s illegitimate child, also doubles as a keyboard player, which was a first at a Cult show for me. The keyboard textures on the new stuff worked but inexplicably during “She Sells Sanctuary” the guy chose to play a piano figure instead of that brilliant rhythm guitar counterpoint to the main riff. It was the only sour note all night.

I was wondering how the new material off the great “Hidden City” was going to translate live. I didn’t have to wait long, as they opened with a muscular version of “Dark Energy”. Needless to say, this new stuff is awesome live. They quickly moved into “Rain” and then “Wildflower”, which was an amazing trio of songs to start the show off. After the always great “Horse Nation” they played another new song, “Hinterland” which was stunning live. About 1/3 of the show was from the new album, and the stuff just sounds great. “Deeply Ordered Chaos” was probably my favorite, but I’m pretty biased about that song. The setlist did take a left turn when they played the obscure “Gone” from “The Cult” album (aka the “Ram” album). I love it when a band goes obscure. I would have rather heard “Spanish Gold” but hey, that’s just me. “Fire Woman” made a reappearance on the set list for the first time in a very, very long time and the crowd went predictably batshit crazy for that one. After a slightly disappointing “She Sells Sanctuary” (rhythm guitar next time, not keyboards new guy), the Cult came back for a great encore with “G.O.A.T” from the new album and then a strong version of “Love Removal Machine”. The night was a tremendous mixture of new material and classic material. My only complaint is that the Cult could have added a few more tunes. I get that 90 minutes is the typical set length these days if you’re not Springsteen, but adding “Rise” or “Dirty Little Rockstar” would have been a nice add.

All in all, this was a great show. If you’re lucky enough to live in a town where the “Alive In The Hidden City Tour” is coming, I urge you strongly to get out and see the Cult. You’re in for a good old fashion, rock and roll evening. I couldn’t help thinking as I was standing on the floor of the House of Blues, I’d rather be spending the night with the Cult, who feel like old friends these days, than sitting at home. Support live music and it will support you!!

Cheers! (Setlist below)

  1. Dark Energy
  2. Rain
  3. Wildflower
  4. Horse Nation
  5. Hinterland
  6. Honey From a Knife
  7. Gone
  8. Lil Devil
  9. Birds of Paradise
  10. Deeply Ordered Chaos
  11. Sweet Soul Sister
  12. Fire Woman
  13. The Phoenix
  14. She Sells Sanctuary
  15. (Encore break) G.O.A.T.
  16. Love Removal Machine

Has iTunes and the MP3 Players Destroyed the LP?

Unknown

There are many things I know for a fact. Such as, never trust a man with a pinky ring or a woman really into Pink Floyd. These are just common sense facts. However, most things I wonder about. With each passing year the list of things I don’t understand, or things that are in that “gray area” of understanding seems to grow. Technology that was supposed to bring us all together seems to be separating us further and further apart.

And so, I’ve been wondering lately if the iPod and iTunes have destroyed the LP. I am a huge fan of the album. There is something about the unifying concept of the album: unifying sound, lyrical content etc. Without the album how do you come up with “Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band”? The whole thing hangs together as the great albums usually do. Even double albums like “Exile on Main Street” or “Blonde On Blonde,” all the songs sound like they belong together.

 I know there are always stray songs I like and I will just purchase that one song, but for the most part I’m a catalog kind of fan. I not only buy the album, if it’s an artist I think has some talent, I’ll buy most of their catalog, if not the entire catalog (talking to you Free, my current binge listening obsession). For example, I even own Dylan’s religious-period albums and I can probably be best described as a druid (well, without the flowing, hooded robe, I don’t dress like Gandalf). I’m just that into Dylan’s music. If he wants to warble on about serving somebody, I’m ok with that if its lyrically interesting and I can tap my foot along to the beat or the riff. I’m intrigued by the artist and the dialogue he wants to have with his audience, in LP length conversations. Springsteen talks about the “conversation” he’s having with his fans all the time and I totally get that.

In the old days if there was that stray song you wanted, you were pretty much forced to buy the album anyway. That was good in some cases (discoveries were made), extortion in others. There’s no reason anybody should own Lou Gramm’s “Ready Or Not” album even though “Midnight Blue” was a damn catchy, if nonsensical song. Alas, I owned that record at one time. iTunes has always been great to cherry pick those stray songs, without the investment of the whole album, but that instance is becoming more rare for me. I want an artist who can string together enough content to keep me interested over the course of a long-player, aka LP.

This new single-track flexibility that iTunes provided has a down side. Current fans have moved away from the album toward the song as the basic unit of musical creation. We live in an attention deficit world. I can’t even remember where I left my car keys… but that may be age… Nobody has the attention span for the entire LP. Many artists can’t maintain quality music over the length of an album any more. I think it all started with the multiple CD players. I held out against the CD as I figured it was a “fad”. Finally the Stones released “Steel Wheels” only on CD so I had to break down and buy a CD player. I bought a CD player that could hold 5 discs. Unbeknownst to me, there was a button on the CD player, “Random”, that I could hit, with the 5 CDs loaded and it’d randomly skip from song to song, disc to disc. Suddenly listening all the way through an album was no longer required. If I had a party, Zeppelin 1, 2, 3 and 4, and then some Sabbath, hit Random and wait for the women to complain about the music.

The advent of the iPod took the “random” concept to an extreme with the “Shuffle” setting. Once I had all my cd’s “ripped” to my iPod, I could shuffle randomly through all the 17,000 songs I had loaded (it would appear to me, typing that sentence that my OCD with music has gotten out of hand). Many days, because I’m at heart lazy (a lazy druid,  now there’s a concept), it’s easier to just hit shuffle vs dig through the 100’s of artists and select an album. Although when I have something new, in high rotation, that problems is minimized (thank you, Rival Sons). The Rock Chick hates it when I “shuffle” my whole iPod, our musical tastes are a Venn diagram of sorts – definite intersection/overlap but a lot of my music she’s less than fond of, hence her lifetime ban from B&V. I think the shuffle concept is another thing that eroded people’s ability to sit through a whole album. Gone are the days, when I’d drop the needle on a record, lay down on the couch and scour the liner notes and just let the album engulf me. I think a lot of people today have learned to listen to music in this selective way.

I read an editorial article on rollingstone.com or utlimateclassicrock.com recently about the music listening public’s consumption of cd’s dropping. The gist was something like “cd’s are the last vestige of the LP, why are people abandoning them?” If you’re like me the Rock Chick has outlawed me taking any additional shelf space for CDs with the box-set exception I got written into the contract. So I get it, storage can be a problem. Even Ian Astbury, the lead singer of one of my favorite bands, The Cult has been quoted about abandoning the concept of an LP, hence the “Capsule” releases before “Choice of Weapon” came out. I think all of this is a terrible error on the part of listeners and musicians. As listeners we should be demanding musical artists create an album worth of artistic, meaningful music. Artists should expect listeners to make a similar commitment on our end.

So people, take the time to invest in purchasing and listening to the entire album. Trust me on this, I do not nor have I ever worn a pinky ring. Hold the artist to the album-length quality standard and reward them for doing so with an album purchase, not just the single.

Rock and Roll Will Never Die! Cheers!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day from B&V

IMG_1192

There are holidays sprinkled throughout the year on the calendar. Some were created by Hallmark Cards, i.e. Father’s Day, Mother’s Day and the grandmother of them all, Valentine’s Day. There are government mandated holidays like Labor Day, Memorial Day and Arbor Day. Yes, Arbor Day, trees need some love, people. There’s even one holiday I actually like – Thanksgiving –  all I have to do is show up, drink and eat and watch football while napping after dinner, it’s almost perfect. Of course, there are religious holiday’s like Easter, Christmas, and Hanukkah just to name a few. For me, there is only one religious holiday I still observe and that is St. Patrick’s Day. Is there any other holiday that could better represent the ethos of BourbonAndVinyl than St. Patrick’s Day? I think not. St. Patrick’s Day is the BourbonAndVinyl “High Holy Day”.

In the interest of full disclosure, I don’t have a drop of Irish blood in me. Italian, Austrian, Belgian, English, and who knows what else. I could be part collie, although I’m much taller than the average collie and not nearly as hairy. I’m the classic American mutt. But I love St. Patrick’s Day. Everyone is in green, everyone is drinking and everyone is just a little bit more friendly.

Perhaps it’s the timing of St. Patrick’s Day, in the spring, just after the Ides of March that I love so much. The weather is often sketchy but for the most part spring has begun to sprung and that rebel spirit of my youth is reawakened. My home town has purportedly the third biggest parade or the third biggest “celebration” (depending how you define that) in the U.S. There’s something cool about being the “third” best or biggest. Neil Young and Crazy Horse toured in the late 80’s billing themselves as the “Third Best Garage Band In the World”. They claimed that being first brings a lot of pressure: to remain on top, to remain #1. To be Second Best brings a lot of pressure to overtake the First Place guy. If you’re Third, you’re just cool and you know it. I can live with that title for my hometown.

In the old days, we’d go downtown to Westport and have breakfast at Kelly’s, the city’s oldest bar. From there we’d hit the parade, full of floats, some from old, historic Irish clans, others from local charitable groups and quite a few marching bands. As soon as that was over it was back to Westport. All the streets are blocked off, the cops form a perimeter, and drinking in the streets, where God intended it to be done, is legal for a day. We’d rage until the sun went down and beyond, eating from food trucks and staggering about women with “Fuck Me I’m Irish” buttons on. Ah, the wearing of the green. It’s a spring tradition in my town. Alas, now I work all day and if I’m lucky slip out to a local Irish pub for  one or two and then back home before dinner. But I always try to make it out however briefly to commemorate The Day.

In my early professional days, I’d always meet my buddy, the General, no matter what was happening and we’d head to Westport for St Patrick’s Day. We would occasionally slip down there early, but as the years wore on, we’d get down to the celebration later and later. We made a tradition of saying, “To hell with work and responsibilities, on this one day, we ride!!” The years seemed to strip away and we were college kids on spring break for eight or nine hours. Alas, my pal the General has disappeared into the fog of work and parenthood. I don’t get to see the General much these days. I keep telling him he’s in a tunnel and he will come out, but I digress. And my own situation has changed considerably. The Rock Chick loves St Patrick’s Day too, but I always feel overly protective of her while were out on St Patty’s. Work responsibilities have often shackled me to the desk just the same as it does the General.

Early in my career, I was interviewing internally for a job. The guy I was interviewing with decided to fly in on St Patrick’s Day. We were to meet at 10 am. Because the parade ran past our office he wasn’t able to even get through the parade traffic to the office until noon, my scheduled departure time. I can still remember sitting in a corner office, in what was an intense interview, while constantly glancing over the executive’s shoulder to the parade and my drunken friends who were waving at me below. “Why yes, I can be very responsible in a management position sir, uh, how long is this gonna take, I have a drunken, green train to catch?” He was a religious man so I had to tread lightly.

A few years ago, I drunkenly got on stage at an Irish pub up North and told my favorite St Patrick’s Day joke…which goes something like this… A proud Irishman in a kilt was walking home to his farmhouse after a wedding in town. He was terribly drunk and laid down by a tree and passed out. Around dawn a pair of milkmaids were walking by and spied our intrepid Irishman asleep. Shyly they approached the Irishman, and curious, peeked to see what was under his kilt. One of the milkmaids pulled the blue ribbon from her hair and tied it around his…manhood. They giggled together as they walked away. About an hour later the Irishman woke and feeling something was amiss “below”, pulled up the kilt. Spying the blue ribbon, he said, “I don’t know where you been lad, but I see you won first prize.” I think that sums it up.

While I’m not crazy about all Irish music I shall spend tonight listening to Van Morrison and U2, loudly! My day tomorrow won’t be complete if I can’t open my windows and hear a bagpipe or two off in the distance. Who doesn’t love bagpipe music?

I want to wish everybody out there in Ireland, the Irish diaspora and those of us who are merely Irish in spirit for a day – Happy St Patrick’s Day from BourbonAndVinyl!! Enjoy it people. Get out there and enjoy the spring weather (if it cooperates). Raise a Jameson or two! Put on something bright and obnoxiously green. Skip work and do something naughty! Head down to the tavern and “talk a little treason” as they say in my favorite John Wayne movie, ‘A Quiet Man’. Me, I’ve got work and responsibilities, so you all have to carry the torch for me… although I must admit I received a text from my old pal the General, my first in a while, asking what I was doing for the holiday… Hmmm, that rebel spirit just may be calling me. St Patrick’s Day, like Hope “springs eternal”…

Cheers! Slainte and Erin Go Bragh!

BourbonAndVinyl’s List of Overlooked Bands Whose Members Went On To Stardom

IMG_1192

“Got a call from an old friend, we used to be real close…” – “My Life”, Billy Joel

Well, it wasn’t actually a call, but I got an email from a high school friend of mine recently. I don’t think I’d seen or been in contact with the guy since they laid the diploma on me, many years ago. High school was something I wanted squarely in my rear view mirror. But I always liked BG and was delighted to revisit our friendship, virtually speaking. As part of our conversation, inspired by B&V he mentioned he was a fan of the 60’s English blues-rock band Free. Other than “All Right Now” I didn’t know much of their music. I did know two of the members of Free, lead vocalist Paul Rodgers and drummer Simon Kirke went on to form Bad Company. I have since picked up a couple of Free’s albums and I must admit, I’m damned impressed, but that’s another post in the making.

As I thought about Free vs Bad Company, I started thinking about some of those great bands, like Free, that were to some degree overlooked. Sure, everybody hears about the “Supergroup” when it forms – Cream was considered a super group at the time it formed, or Manassas when Steven Stills formed them. The Traveling Wilbury’s may have been the super-est of the Supergroups. Even today we have Chickenfoot, a Supergroup made up of Sammy Hagar, Joe Satriani, Michael Anthony, and RHCP drummer Chad Smith. Famous musicians come together all the time to form new bands.

But what about those bands who formed, didn’t hit it big and then split up and one or several of the members went on to stardom or superstardom. How bad would you feel if your lead singer went onto platinum success but you couldn’t make it work. It all gets back to chemistry. There is something magical when the right three, four or more guys get into a room and make music together. You wonder why some of these bands stay together when they can’t stand each other – they know their chemistry is magic. Don Henley couldn’t make the same kind of music without Glenn Frey and vice versa. There is something that David Lee Roth brings out in Eddie Van Halen’s guitar that no other lead singer has been able to. I quote Joe Strummer’s comment, “never underestimate the chemistry of the right four musicians in a room” (or something like that) all of the time. When I started thinking of some of these early “near-miss” bands I realized that there were more of them than I realized. I guess you could say about these bands, the whole was less than the sum of its parts. I guess the chemistry just wasn’t there. In most cases, I would suggest that these bands deserve another look, or perhaps another listen would be more appropriate. In each of these cases, one or several members went onto “greatness”.

This list is in no particular order:

  1. Free – I figured I’d start here since we already mentioned them. I think these guys were bigger in England than in the US. They were an influence on Zeppelin (who quote their song “The Hunter” on their first album) and The Faces who covered several of their songs live on stage. Paul Rodgers and Simon Kirke went on to form the hugely successful Bad Company, but I love Free, it’s harder, bluesier music.
  2. Montrose – Sammy Hagar’s first band. They cut two fantastic albums, “Montrose” and “Paper Money” before Hagar went on to solo success. The records produced several hits, including the incendiary classic “Bad Motor Scooter” but Montrose never caught on the way Hagar was able to on his own.
  3. The Jeff Beck Group – as you probably suspect here, I’m talking about the original version of this band with Rod Stewart on vocals and Ronnie Wood on bass guitar. Beck treated the rest of the band as side men and they never came off the road long enough to write enough original material. Beck fired Wood and Rod left right behind him. Obviously Woody went on to join the Faces and then the Rolling Stones and Stewart went on to individual superstardom. The Jeff Beck Group was due to play Woodstock, which would probably have been a game-changer but Beck who was fond of fast cars, got into a car wreck and they had to cancel. Damn shame, as I think Jeff Beck is one of the greatest guitarists ever. The two albums these guys cut, “Truth” and “Beckola” remain huge influences on blues rock to this day.
  4. Generation X – formed in the heyday of Punk Rock, Generation X recorded two albums and were in the process of recording a third album when they broke up. Their lead singer was none other than Billy Idol. They even did an early version of “Dancing With Myself”. During the recording sessions for the third record, they split citing “creative differences”. Some in the band wanted to stay true to their punk roots, and some wanted to expand their sound.
  5. The Runaways – Now, this girl group may or may not have been famous. I can only tell you that the Runaways never got any radio play in my home town. Movies have been made about the craziness around this band. After they finally broke up The Runaways spawned the solo careers of Joan Jett and Lita Ford.
  6. John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers – Mayall’s Bluesbreakers have gotten a lot of attention over the years, and they did record the seminal “With Eric Clapton” album, which is still in high rotation here at B&V. I think of Mayall’s band as an English Prep School for Rock Stars. Who didn’t serve a stint in the Bluesbreakers – Clapton, Peter Green, Mick Taylor, Ginger Bruce, Mick Fleetwood, John McVie. Every one of those folks went on to much bigger careers after leaving.
  7. The James Gang – Joe Walsh’s first group. After a promising debut, the other guys wanted more creative input and they wanted to veer away from the guitar, riff-driven songs that made their name. Everybody wants to be the front man, sigh. They veered back to the guitar rock that made them famous on “James Gang Rides Again” which is a classic, but the writing was on the wall. Joe took off and formed Barnstorm. After a string of solo hits including “Rocky Mountain Way” he joined the Eagles.
  8. Mother Love Bone – these guys were on the verge of stardom when their lead singer, Andrew Wood sadly overdosed. I love the stuff they’ve released. Who knows where they would have gone. Guitarist Stone Gossard and bassist Jeff Ament ended up reforming a band around Mike McCready’s lead guitar. At the suggestion of Jack Irons of the RHCP’s, they auditioned a guy from San Diego named Eddie… I think it was Vedder… Pearl Jam became one of the biggest bands in the world.
  9. The Faces – the second band where Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood (now on lead guitar) left to go on to bigger solo success. Actually Rod had a dual solo career at the same time he was serving as lead singer in the Faces. It apparently confused early-70s rock fans… Are the Faces his back up band? His solo career took off after “Maggie May” and the Faces died in the shadow of that success. Ronnie went on to the Stones, and drummer Kenny Jones went on to join the Who. Oh, and Rod did pretty well on his own too. The Faces absolutely deserve a second listen, but anybody whose read these posts before know I’m biased…
  10. Them – Van Morrison’s first group. They changed their line up so many times by the end it was just Van and whoever was available to come to the studio. I think Jimmy Page even played on a few Them singles. Van was probably destined to be a solo artist as he is rather mercurial, but Them had some great songs including “Gloria” and “Baby Please Don’t Go”.
  11. Buckingham-Nicks – Fleetwood Mac, at a loss after another guitarist had quit, were given the “Buckingham-Nicks” album as an audition of sorts for producer Greg Olson. They hired the producer and both Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks. I always loved Lindsey and Stevie’s chemistry. I still do. This album is a lost gem.
  12. Buffalo Springfield – this band did better than most of the folks on this list. But with Neil Young, Stephen Stills and Bruce Palmer all in the band, who knows what they could have accomplished if they could have just gotten along. They didn’t want Neil to sing because, well for obvious reasons, and Stills kept wanting to play the lead guitar parts, which were supposed to be Neil’s. Too many cooks spoiled the broth.
  13. Uncle Tupelo – Both Jay Farrar and Jeff Tweedy who went on to form Son Volt and Wilco respectively were in Uncle Tupelo. I was never that big into alt country but Jay and Jeff apparently couldn’t get along. Everything I’ve read would suggest Jay Farrar is a control-freak but there are always two sides of the story. Son Volt had early success but Wilco is the band that has really stood the test of time.
  14. Whiskeytown – Ryan Adams’ first band. They were always a little sloppy but I like Whiskeytown. They’re another alt country band that I’ve seemed to get into as I get older. “Stranger’s Almanac” and “Pneumonia” were great records. Ryan went on to quite a solo career after “Heartbreaker” came out. Of course now that he’s cutting Taylor Swift cover albums, he’s dead to me.
  15. The Spencer Davis Group – for a band with Steve Winwood in it, these guys only had about three or four actual hits. After three years Winwood finally split to form Traffic, another personal favorite. The Spencer Davis Group even boasted bassist Dee Murray and drummer Nigel Olsson later of Elton John’s band. With all that talent you’d expect a little more here.

Honorable Mention:

  1. Mudcrutch – Tom Petty and Mike Campbell’s first band. After they split Petty went on to form the Heartbreakers. Mudcrutch didn’t record more than a handful of singles, including an early version of “Don’t Do Me Like That” but they just didn’t take off. Petty and Campbell along with Benmont Tench revisited Mudcrutch a few years back and recorded a great album. Rumors have it their follow-up record is in the works for this year release.
  2. Band of Joy – Another band that only had a handful of singles, released on their lead singer’s retrospective, “Highway 61 to Timbuktu”, none other than Robert Plant. They also boasted a drummer by the name of John Bonham…. I wonder whatever happened to those guys?

If you like some of the artists mentioned in this post, perhaps you might want to check out their “back pages” as the saying goes. I really like most of the bands on this list. It’s great to check out some of these artists in their more formative period. I encourage everyone to do the same. Let me know if I missed any bands that should be on this list.

Turn it up loud, enjoy and as always, Cheers!

Spotlight: Rival Sons,Great Western Valkyries

MI0003733096

Just when I thought new rock and roll might be dead… enter, Rival Sons…they pull me back in…

I was sitting in the home office last night, lamenting the fact that I didn’t have anything to write about. I’ve been spending too much time in 2016 writing RIP pieces for my rock heroes. There wasn’t a lot of music I had teed up to write about. I keep a running list of ideas but none were jumping out at me. The Rock Chick wandered through the office and quickly surmised my predicament, “You know, you don’t always have to write about “retro” music, some people like new music… gotta keep up with the times.” Oh, thank you my muse… her support is sometimes…underwhelming. I must admit the Rock Chick has a life-time ban here at BourbonAndVinyl for criticizing my grammatical correctness and my sentence structure.

I quickly consulted my list of things to write about when I found a crinkled-up cocktail napkin with the words, “Rival Sons kick ass” scrawled on it. My list isn’t on one piece of paper… it’s fluid. Sometimes “you just have to let art… flow over you.” About a month ago, I went to see Black Sabbath live at the Sprint Center… I documented the experience in these very pages. I partied that night with the Four Horsemen of the Salina Apocalypse and apparently after the show, while being force-fed bourbon, I wrote myself this cocktail napkin note. This could be the creative spark I was looking for. Before we headed into the show, at the bar one of the Four Horsemen had said, “you’re going to love this opening act, Rival Sons, very Zeppelin-esque.” I awoke the next morning with a terrible hangover and the aforementioned cocktail napkin. There was a while there, the day after the show, when I feared I was going to have to have my blood exchanged with the blood of some young virgin, Swiss school children the way Keith Richards did… beautiful people, the Swiss…but I digress.

The night of the concert, I recall being very impressed with Rival Sons. Typically during an arena show during the opening act, the fans stay outside the concert, near the beer lines and restrooms. Not so for Rival Sons. The crowd mostly stayed in their seats and watched the set. I must say, these guys were very charismatic on stage. Not a lot of banter, just straight up, bluesy, rock and roll. I was a tad put off that the lead singer was barefoot, that unwashed hippy stuff was never my thing, but other than that these guys shredded. Guitarist Scott Holiday especially caught my attention. I must admit, barefoot vocalist Jay Buchanan was pretty talented as well.

As a result of all of this, I picked up their 2014 album ‘Great Western Valkyries’. These guys have been compared to Zeppelin and Sabbath in the press, but listening to the album, only the title has a Sabbath feel. Well, that and the first track, “Electric Man”, which has a very Sabbath, riffy sound to it. “Electric Man” jumps out at you like the slap of angry girlfriend. It’s all grimy guitar and fuzzy vocals. It’s rock and roll like I didn’t think was being recorded any more. I will admit that this band is everything I thought Wolfmother would be. Frankly, I think these guys are better.

While Rival Sons’ music is informed by Zeppelin, and you can hear the references, they make it their own and make it all sound fresh. “Play the Fool” has a crunchy riff that is reminiscent of “Misty Mountain Hop” but it’s repurposed and wonderful here. “Secrets” in an odd way reminds me of “How Many More Times” but again, that may be me making the connection vs the band doing so. There is an element of Zeppelin here, but I also hear a mixture of all their influences – “Good Luck” and “Good Things” have a feel of early 60’s white blues bands like Them, perhaps a touch of Butterfield and especially the Animals. It’s probably the organ in the rhythm section that makes you feel that way. The influences are there, but not as obvious as say, Lenny Kravitz.

I will admit, the song “Rich and the Poor” is the only mis-step here. The lyrics are cringe-worthy… It’s a rare mistake on an otherwise solid record. Admittedly, the music is still strong, but the lyrics are ludicrous.

The album ends with two epic tunes. “Where I’ve Been” is one of my favorite blues rock songs in a long, long time…”how could you love me when you know where I’ve been?”… who hasn’t asked that question. The finale and centerpiece to this record is the “Dazed and Confused”-like album closer, “Destination On Course”. “Destination…” is an epic blues tune. They even bring in backing vocals from the Exorcist, which probably brings the Sabbath comparisons… The guitar solo on this song is worth the price of admission. What Holiday is doing to that guitar should be reported as a crime, and that’s a good thing.

“Great Western Valkyries” is in high rotation here in the BourbonAndVinyl room… and I advise you to buy it quickly, pour something strong and turn it up… It may not be life changing like listening to Zeppelin the first time, but it is refreshing to hear a band play hard-core, blues rock again. This is definitely a band to keep an eye on. I expect big, big things. As my friend Blake texted to me recently, “Are you ready to rock?” Thank Heaven I am…

Cheers!

RIP George Martin, Producer Extrodinaire of the Beatles

georgesir517788_zps44854e17

**picture from taken from the internet

As the Stones once sang, “It’s another goodbye to another good friend”…

It has been a tough year for Rock and Roll in 2016. Another great one, another titan has passed. George Martin, erstwhile producer of the Beatles passed away this week. George was a behemoth in the music community. I’ve heard Rick Rubin, who I think is one of the best producers out there today, say that George Martin was his hero. Paul McCartney described him as “The Fifth Beatle”. I’m not quite sure where this concept of the “Fifth Beatle” came from, but since the 60s people have been clamoring to be anointed the fifth member of the group. I guess if anybody deserves that title it’d be George Martin. I saw an interview with Joe Strummer of the Clash and he said, “never underestimate the chemistry of four guys in a room”… in the Beatles case, it really was five guys in the room.

George signed the group to their first record deal. We might never have heard the Beatles without him. It was George Martin who sped up the tempo of “Please, Please Me” and gave the Beatles their first #1 hit record. He was originally a jazz guy, but when he heard the Beatles he knew he had something special. Maybe it was the jazz background, and the freeform nature of jazz, that made George Martin the ideal producer for the Beatles. Let’s face it you don’t go from “Love Me Do” to “Sgt Pepper” to “Helter Skelter” without an open minded producer. One of my favorite stories is of John Lennon coming into the control room after a take and saying to George, “make that sound orange.” The fact these guys could see music in colors tells you a lot about their genius.

My brother was always a bigger Beatles fan than I was. I was a Stones guy. It’s like Batman and Superman, you sort of had to pick a side. My brother’s favorite Beatles’ solo work was George Harrison. Over time, I became a big Beatles and George Harrison fan. My brother has always been way ahead of me musically despite being younger. I remember going into my brother’s room in high school with a box of cassettes. It was my intention to tape, from his vast collection of Beatles’ albums, all the Beatles “good songs”. I was going to be highly selective so I could get as much on tape for my car’s tape deck as possible. It soon became apparent that all the Beatles’ songs were good songs. There were no discards in the bunch, with the possible exception of “Revoluton No 9”. That’s an amazing thing for a band and a producer to pull off. Every song sounded like they’d put everything they had into it. And then, the next song was just as brilliant. What a band! I just let the tape player roll that day. Needless to say, I had to buy additional cassettes.

A friend once asked me what a producer does. It’s really a broad definition. There are the technical aspects of it – where to put the microphones when you’re recording the band, where to set up the drum kit, how to arrange the band. The producer oversees all of the technical aspects of production to not only get the perfect sound but to get that perfect sound on tape. For example, Jimmy Page used to double mic John Bonham’s drums, one mic close, one farther away, to get the full sound of the drums, which made their drum-sound so much heavier. Clearly George was a technical genius. There was an organ solo in “Mr. Kite” that George recorded, sliced up the tape, and glued it back together randomly, giving the organ a dissonant, disjointed feel that helped propel the song into a more psychedelic direction. His orchestrations on many of their records are simply brilliant in and of themselves. They frame the music.

There are other aspects to music production that are more subtle. The producer helps the group form the songs. Whether it’s a suggestion about tempo, like “Please, Please Me” or instrumentation, the producer can change the basic sound of the song. The producer can help the artist frame the lyrics. Typically a producer will help coax the lyrics, the hardest part of any song, out of the musician. I have to imagine, in a group as big as the Beatles, George Martin had to employ all his abilities as a shuttle diplomat as well. Having to help pick who plays the guitar solo and who plays the piano on any given song must have been difficult. Egos gone wild. His influence on that band was tremendous.

Martin went on to produce one of my favorite Paul McCartney solo albums, “Tug of War” which was partly inspired by the senseless murder of John Lennon. Martin also produced McCartney’s amazing “Live and Let Die” for the Bond film of the same name. Martin had actually been involved in producing other Bond theme songs. McCartney and his artistic pretensions fit perfectly with Martin’s artistic vision. They were in some ways, an almost better team than Lennon-McCartney. Blasphemy? Maybe. It was Martin whom McCartney turned to when he needed a producer for “Chaos and Creation in My Back Yard”. Martin was retired and he turned Paul onto Nigel Godrich. It turned into a rather difficult relationship but it was a great, if overlooked album.

Martin went on to produce some other great albums by great bands. ‘All Shook Up’ by Cheap Trick was probably their last great album. He did both of Jeff Beck’s milestone jazz-rock fusion albums, ‘Wired’ and ‘Blow By Blow’. Like with the Beatles, Martin was the perfect choice to produce those particular Jeff Beck albums.

My condolences go out to all of George Martin’s family and friends. Like I said, it’s been a tough year for rock and roll heroes this year. It’s a long, dark, bumpy ride folks. Thank God we have all this rock and roll to get us through.

Cheers!