Pleased To Meet You… The Epic List of Our 40 Favorite Debut Albums

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*Picture of assorted debut LPs by the intrepid Rock Chick, who has an eye for this sort of thing…

Maybe it’s the way the cold, grey winter settles in on the midwestern plains, but I’ve always perceived January as a long continuation of that whole New Year’s Eve period of self contemplation. I’m not talking about the New Year’s Eve party here, I’m always a sucker for a good party… I mean the whole resolutions and goal setting that goes on. The new year always greets us with a fresh set of months, or if I may lapse into a sports/football analogy, January is like a new set of downs…first and ten to go. This year 2021 sort of started off with a bang, and not in a good way, but the second half of the month has been a bit of a slow slog. Maybe it’s my insistence on doing dry January every year that leads to my navel gazing. During this stretch I began to contemplate the meaning of the new year and all it could become. January always feels like its greeting me with opportunity and possibility.

As usual, when contemplating anything, my thoughts quickly turned to rock and roll. When I sat gazing out in my mind’s eye on the new possibilities held in January’s frosty greeting, I couldn’t help but start pondering rock n roll’s great “greetings.” By “greetings,” I mean the great debut albums that have been released over the years. For some reason I’ve always had a soft spot or call it a fondness for an artist’s first album. I have an old college roommate who is referred to in these pages as Drew who shares my love of the debut album. I especially love the debut album when it was a record I picked up when it actually, well, debuted. Like Van Halen… I was in junior high school when Van Halen came out and I jumped on that bandwagon early. Later it was Pearl Jam’s Ten that I bought as it came out. More recently I picked up Starcrawler’s eponymously titled debut. If it’s a band whose career I’ve followed since their first album they tend to stick with me longer. Don’t get me wrong, there were great debut albums that came out before my rock n roll “awakening” that I went out and purchased as well, and you’ll see some of those on here a well.

The debut album is a band or artist’s chance to make that very important first impression. As Will Rogers used to say, “you never get a second chance to make a first impression.” Although perhaps Kafka said it better, “First impressions are always unreliable.” Kafka must have dated as much as I did, trust me Kafka knew what he was talking about… If we look at the rock and roll “first impressions,” they range in as many categories as you can imagine. For most bands they’re the blueprint for everything that comes after. In some cases they’re widely ignored except for a few hard core fans and the critics. Many of those debut albums that were ignored get some retrospective appreciation and in some cases belated commercial success. Occasionally the first record a band puts out is so big and popular they struggle to ever do anything that big again. There’s an old saying in rock n roll, that you get your whole life to write your first album and only a matter of months to write your second. In the old days, so many bands didn’t hit it “big” until their third album – one could think of Springsteen, U2 or the Police – that debut albums were seen as a mere beachhead towards bigger and better things. Bands were given more time to develop and record companies weren’t looking for that immediate, enormous success. The labels were willing to invest time and money in music…

All of that said, there are a ton of really great first records. When I started contemplating this topic, as I usually do, I started putting a list together in my head. When I sat down and put pen to paper, or more accurately, stylus to iPad, I had close to 80 titles. While nothing would have made me happier to list all of those records here like I did for the list of essential live albums (BourbonAndVinyl Comes Alive: The Epic List Of Essential Live Albums), I felt some editing was necessary… something I rarely engage in, editing. I decided to set some boundaries on the list this time. First and foremost, I limited myself to only 40 albums. Also, if an artist was in a band, especially if they were successful, and then embarked on a solo career, those debuts are not included. Think Robert Plant or Ozzy, those guys were established artists in Zeppelin and Sabbath before going solo. It would feel like cheating to compare Blizzard of Ozz to some newly minted band slogging away in a small independent studio, self producing some DIY project to a guy who’d already been dubbed the Prince of Darkness. I could put McCartney or All Things Must Pass on here except Paul McCartney and George Harrison had been um, sort of popular in their original band. You won’t see my beloved Faces here because half the band was in the Small Faces who were established already and Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood had been in the Jeff Beck Group (Artist Lookback: The (Original) Jeff Beck Group – Jeff Beck, Rod Stewart & Ronnie Wood). Perhaps I’m being too strict here but hey, its my list.

It is my goal, as always, to turn you onto something new. If you’ve only experienced a band through their greatest hits, or their most famous records, maybe I’ll give you something to check out. If there is a great debut that isn’t on this list – as I said, I limited myself to just 40 – please mention it in the comments. These are merely my favorite debut albums. Enjoy!

  1. The Allman Brothers Band, The Allman Brothers Band – Their epic Live At the Fillmore East gets all the attention on the “greatest albums of all time lists,” but this is one of the great blues/blues rock albums of all times. They set the template for southern rock. I love both their first two LPs, Artist Lookback: The Allman Brothers’ First Two Albums, 1969-1970.
  2. The Band, Music From Big Pink – Recorded while hanging out with Dylan in Woodstock… some albums are legendary because they deserve to be.
  3. The Beatles, Please Please Me – The birth of Beatlemania. It starts with “I Saw Her Standing There” and ends with “Twist And Shout.” The beginning of a love affair with the world that has lasted almost 60 years.
  4. Big Star, #1 Record – Criminally ignored upon its release, for years I thought they were a disco band. I have no idea where I got that notion. Such a huge influence on so many bands including Cheap Trick, this is a great overlooked album, The Music of Cinemax’s Quarry Led Me To Big Star’s “#1 Record”.
  5. Black Crowes, Shake Your Money Maker – I am currently obsessed with the Black Crowes and their debut. Great Stonesy album that I bought when I heard “Jealous Again.” (Black Crowes: New Song “Charming Mess” From The 30th Anniversary ‘Shake Your Money Maker’ Expanded Edition.
  6. Boston, Boston – Rock snobs and critics would snort at this one, but this is an awesome, arena rock masterpiece.
  7. Jackson Browne, Jackson Browne aka Saturate Before Using – Jackson’s first four albums are an amazing body of work. “Doctor My Eyes” was the big hit on this one but I love the quiet “Something Fine” and the rowdy “Rock Me On the Water.”
  8. The Byrds, Mr. Tambourine Man – 2020 saw me finally getting into the Byrds. I’d always thought they were a Dylan cover band… I was wrong. Gene Clark’s songwriting is their secret weapon. I was turned onto this band through Movie Review: ‘Echo In The Canyon’ – Flawed, Enjoyable Look at Cali ’65-’67.
  9. The Cars, The Cars – Rick Ocasek was perhaps correct when he joked, “We should have named the first album The Cars Greatest Hits.” 
  10. The Clash, The Clash – Not to sound like the aforementioned rock snobs, but I prefer the original U.K. version of this album vs the later altered U.S. version.
  11. Elvis Costello, My Aim Is True – This might actually be my favorite Costello record. This was before he started recording with the Attractions.
  12. The Doors, The Doors – If you went through your teens without a rebellious phase where you idolized Jim Morrison and listened to this album constantly, did you really go through puberty? “This is the end my friend…”
  13. Foreigner, Foreigner – Give me all the shit you want about this album being on the list, but its fantastic and I know my friend Stormin’ agrees with me. I love “Headknocker” and “Long Long Way From Home.” “Fool For You Anyway” and “The Damage Is Done” are downright additive ballads.
  14. Guns N Roses, Appetite For Destruction – Epic, amazing, hard rock. I never get tired of this momentous album.
  15. The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Are You Experienced? – The world’s greatest guitarist ever putting on a psychedelic blues extravaganza.
  16. Norah Jones, Come Away With Me – I realize I’m straying out to the mellow end, but this woman’s voice is just mesmerizing. This jazzy, traditional, gorgeous album only sold a kajillion copies. I love it still when I’m feeling mellow. You can’t listen to GnR all the time, or can you?
  17. Lenny Kravitz, Let Love Rule – There was a time when every woman I went out with would play this record for me. Eventually I had to buy it myself and am I glad I did. “Mr. Cab Driver” and the title track are my favorites.
  18. Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin – This was the foundation of everything they did afterwards. They stretched blues and rock n roll until you’d have thought it’d break. This was the first LP of theirs I bought… after I’d purchased In Through The Out Door (LP Lookback: In Praise of Led Zeppelin’s ‘In Through The Out Door’), I wanted to start at the beginning.
  19. Lynyrd Skynyrd, Pronounced ‘Lĕh-‘nérd ‘Skin-‘nérd – The Allmans may have established southern rock as a thing but Skynyrd took it to the next level with three lead guitarists. “Freebird,” indeed.
  20. Metallica, Kill Em All – One of the best heavy metal albums ever committed to tape.
  21. Pearl Jam, Ten – I’m still in love with this album. I was super jazzed when they finally released their ‘Unplugged’ from this era last year, Review: Pearl Jam Release ‘MTV Unplugged’ (Finally!).
  22. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – It took until the third LP for these guys to become household names (Damn the Torpedoes) but if you were listening closely it’s all here on their debut. “Breakdown” and “American Girl” are the staples of their greatest hits but there isn’t a bad song on this record.
  23. The Police, Outlandos D’Amour – This was their punkiest, punchiest album. “Can’t Stand Losing You” and “So Lonely” are such great songs. They have more popular, probably better records, but this is a highlight for me.
  24. Elvis Presley, Elvis Presley – An iconic from the King. RCA recorded some new tracks and gathered a few from his days at Sun Studios. It’s amazing.
  25. The Pretenders, The Pretenders – Chrissie Hynde and the Pretenders’ masterpiece. Such a great punk record.
  26. The Ramones, Ramones – One of punk rock’s landmark albums. Harder, faster… the whole record doesn’t last 30 minutes.
  27. Otis Redding, Pain In My Heart – Such a huge influence on all that came after, including the Stones and Rod Stewart. This is an epic soul record.
  28. R.E.M., Murmur – Still, to this day, my favorite album by R.E.M., and I love R.E.M.
  29. The Rolling Stones, England’s Newest Hitmakers aka The Rolling Stones – When they were the anti-Beatles… a rough and ready blues band. I’d have loved to seen them in the Marquee Club.
  30. Smashing Pumpkins, Gish – Siamese Dream got more attention but this is one of the best debuts of the grunge era.
  31. Patti Smith, Horses – Poet, punk, rocker, female shaman, sorceress – it’s all on display for this record.
  32. Bruce Springsteen, Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J. – This album didn’t sell well but everybody knew the songs were awesome as evidenced by how many people covered them – from Bowie to Manfred Mann.
  33. Steely Dan, Can’t Buy A Thrill – The only Dan album with vocalist David Palmer. He only sang “Brooklyn” and “Dirty Work” but they’re great songs. This whole record is fabulous. “Change of the Guard” may be my favorite.
  34. Talking Heads, Talking Heads ’77 – The early stuff is so twitchy and anxious. This is before all the poly-rhythmic stuff. It’s simple but extremely affecting music.
  35. U2, Boy – They didn’t break it big until War but this is a great start. “I Will Follow” and “Twilight” are such great songs.
  36. Van Halen, Van Halen – I won’t expand on what I put in my post about this LP, Album Lookback: Van Halen – The Smirking Menace of Their Debut at 40.
  37. Stevie Ray Vaughn, Texas Flood – One of the all time great guitar, blues albums.
  38. Velvet Underground, The Velvet Underground & Nico – The first night I owned this LP, I was drinking tequila and feeling paranoid. It was dark and stormy… I put this album on and ended up hiding under my futon. Despite that it’s one of the greatest albums of all time.
  39. Tom Waits, Closing Time – I’ll quote my friend Drew, who turned me onto Waits, “Waits’ first album ruins all his other albums and they’re all great.”
  40. The Who, My Generation – The birth of Maximum R&B. Heavy, spirited, I love the Who.

There it is folks. I hope this sends you to the turntable… god knows its too cold to go outside. Let me know if you’ve got any debuts that you just love and I’ll check ’em out.

Take care of one another out there. Cheers!

Black Crowes: New Song “Charming Mess” From The 30th Anniversary ‘Shake Your Money Maker’ Expanded Edition

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“Singing, what a charming little mess…” – The Black Crowes, “Charming Mess”

It was last summer, in the early days of the lockdown that my boredom overcame my sense of security and I left the safety of my attic, where’d I’d been living like Boo Radley for months, to venture down to the Plaza area of Kansas City. I must have been squinting up at the sun, high in the sky as I left the dark and shadowy confines of the place I’m living these days. I looked like I was being drug from my spider hole, like a deposed despot. I’m not sure I’d been outside in awhile. It’s a wonder we don’t all have agoraphobia. My boredom had peaked during those mid summer days because I’d done all the binge watching I could stand. Once you finish ‘The Queen’s Gambit’ it’s all downhill from there. The stack of books I keep in my office had run out. I had decided to leave my Covid-bubble and head down to the bookstore to refresh the reading pile. While I was looking for a book to read, I was also hopeful to find a decent rock n roll magazine. Rolling Stone just doesn’t captivate me any more, which is too bad as I’ve been an on-and-off subscriber since I was in college.

Much to my surprise, there were quite a few magazines on the rack devoted to music… a lot devoted to only rock n roll music if I’m being specific. As I stood in the mostly deserted book store I couldn’t help but think, I need to get out more. There were copies of a magazine I was aware of, Mojo, that I think comes out of England. As I perused further through the plethora of magazines with my latex gloves on (of course), I found something called Uncut. I had never heard of that one but it came with a sampler CD so I was in. Uncut had dozens of music reviews. The magazine that I was really drawn to however, was called Classic Rock. I was like, hell yes, you’re calling my name. I purchased the issue of Classic Rock with Chris and Rich Robinson of the Black Crowes on the cover. I never thought I’d see those guys names mentioned in the same sentence, let alone in a picture together, such was the hostility of their last break up (well, who am I kidding, all of their breakups have been volatile). I had highlighted them on my cautionary post about forming a band with your sibling(s), The Mark of Cain: When Brothers Form Bands.

I had heard in 2019 that the brothers Robinson had gotten back together in a tentative way to test the waters on a reunion. They even did a few acoustic shows, just the two of them. The article was really interesting. It talked about how the brothers were attempting to rebuild their relationship as people vs trying to jump right into a band situation. They’d agreed to tentatively try to work together after they had begun to get along. Well, if not get along, maybe they’d just gotten to a place where they weren’t fighting. They had decided that any future configuration of the Black Crowes would have to be, beyond themselves, no one who had been involved in the band prior. The second guitar and bass players in the Black Crowes have been a bit of a revolving door. Original drummer Steve Gorman has been in and out and he wrote a rather scathing autobiography about the band so I doubt he’s gonna get that reunion invite. There was an interesting quote from Rich Robinson, that when the brothers were united, nothing could stop them. I think what drove this Robinson family reunion – other than human decency – was the looming 30th anniversary of their landmark debut album, Shake Your Money Maker. I had sort of lost track of the Crowes, although I have their two last LPs, and they’re both great additions to their catalog – Warpaint and Before the Frost…Until The Freeze. The Crowes changed their style and were more of a jam band toward the end but you wouldn’t know it listening to those two LPs. 

I was excited to read all of this as I’ve always loved the Black Crowes and have considered them an important rock band since 1990. I remember sitting in a tavern with a friend and we declared that the 90s were going to be a new golden era of rock n roll. We felt that Soundgarden were the new Black Sabbath, Guns N Roses were the new Zeppelin and finally, the Black Crowes were our new Stones. There may have been drink involved in that train of thought but I think you get my drift. Of course within months grunge had taken over the world and everything took a different direction. Sure, grunge still signaled a golden age for rock, but not like my drunken friend and I were thinking. Reading that the Crowes were trying to get it back together gave me reason to celebrate. Of course, all of that got put on hold because of the dreaded virus. Despite that setback I’d been keeping an eye out for new Crowes music. I was even excited enough to buy their Christmas single, “Back Door Santa” (Single: Black Crowes, ‘Back Door Santa’ – Finally, A Xmas Song I Can Get Behind). 

The 30th Anniversary box of Shake Your Money Maker has finally been announced for release in mid February. It looks like we’ll have a newly remastered version of the debut LP, a disc with some outtakes and unreleased covers from the recording session and a full concert from December of 1990 on their home turf in Atlanta. The Crowes were kicked off their opening slot for ZZ Top back in ’90 when they criticized ZZ for allowing their songs to be used in beer commercials, so I’m guessing this concert was after that debacle. Looking at the track list it appears that this will be a lot like some of the box sets that came out last year where the live stuff is the real draw. The Black Crowes look like they’re following the pattern, much like U2’s Review: U2, ‘All That You Can’t Leave Behind (20th Anniversary Edition)’ or Lou Reed’s Review: Lou Reed ‘New York: Deluxe Edition’ recent box sets have followed in commemorating an important album. I will say, there are a couple of covers that I am looking forward to on this box. The Crowes do a version of Humble Pie’s “30 Days In the Hole” and John Lennon’s “Jealous Guy,” so famously covered by Crowes’ influence the Faces. They certainly had a good nose for cover songs. 

Ahead of the box they’ve released one of those vault tracks that were meant for Shake Your Money Maker but for whatever reason didn’t make the cut, a song called “Charming Mess.” And as often happens when I hear tracks that are originally left off an album, I’m left to wonder out loud, how did this great rock song not make the cut? Upon some investigation, I found out that “Charming Mess” was originally intended to be the first single from the album. From first single to off the album… sounds like my professional career. “Charming Mess” is just a great, wide open rocker from the Crowes. It would have fit right in on the debut. I’ll admit, right off, that you can certainly hear the influences of the Faces (Rod Stewart on vocals, Ronnie Wood on guitar, Kenny Jones on drums, Ian McLagan on keys, and Ronnie Lane on bass who we’re on record as loving The Faces – Had Me a Real Good Time). When I first heard the riff I had to look up to see if this was a cover of the Faces’ “Stay With Me.” While it’s heavily influenced by the Faces, this still the Black Crowes. It’s a rollicking, riffing great tune and believe me when I say it’s fun to play extremely loud. The chorus has that sing-along quality and this would be great to  hear in an arena. The Crowes suffered from a lot of comparisons to the Stones when they first came out – not unlike Greta Van Fleet & Led Zeppelin – maybe they chose to leave this track off the album to avoid further comparisons to their influences. I like their cover of Otis Redding’s “Hard to Handle” but I can’t help but think this song would have been a hit and it been included instead. 

Let’s hope this is a great opening salvo to another great boxset, retrospective look at a classic album. I have heard one of the covers on the box, “Jealous Guy” and it doesn’t disappoint either. In the end I hope the Robinson brothers have found a way to put their past acrimony behind them. And really, I think we all hope this will bring a tour – remember concerts? – and maybe, if we all say our prayers, some new music from one of the most important rock bands to emerge from the 1990s. 

Cheers! Stay safe out there! 

 

Roger Waters: New Recording/Video OF “The Gunner’s Dream” Originally From ‘The Final Cut’

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“I had a dream.”

I was surprised to find out only last week that for the first time since I started working for my corporate masters, the entire company was given MLK Day off as a day of vacation and remembrance to honor a truly great man. It was a long time coming but I consider it progress. I was doubly surprised when I saw that Roger Waters had released a version of he and his band playing a socially distanced version of an old Pink Floyd song, “The Gunner’s Dream.” He released the black and white video of the song in honor of Dr. King and the holiday but also in honor of a Russian Colonel, Stanislav Petrov. Petrov was in the Russian nuclear defense early detection program. In 1982 the early nuclear detection system in Russia indicated, falsely, that the U.S. had launched anywhere from one to several nuclear missiles toward Russia. Colonel Petrov realized it was a false alarm and prevented a Russian retaliatory strike which would have likely started WW III…by mistake. One might say the Colonel saved the world that day.  I don’t normally comment on YouTube videos here at B&V, but in this particular instance, “The Gunner’s Dream” happens to be one of my all time favorite Pink Floyd songs and I believe it merits comment. Hearing it again, freshly done, does take me back…

If you were listening to rock and roll in the 70s there was a virtual smorgasbord of styles and rock bands to choose from. Fads came and went but there were only two bands whose names were whispered with an almost Holy, quiet reverence: Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd. These bands were seemingly immune from the churn of fads and fashion. They were simply put, the coolest bands out there. Those two bands had to have made a fortune on selling black-light posters, let alone for their music. By the end of the 70s Led Zeppelin had tragically lost their drummer and sadly, disbanded. Pink Floyd, on the other hand, released their magnum opus, The Wall in November of 1979. That album was huge. Everyone I know loved that record. It was only the second double-LP I ever purchased. You couldn’t claim to be a rock n roll fan and not own The Wall. We listened to that rock opera the way earlier generations listened to The Beatles (aka The White Album) looking for clues…”You can’t have any pudding if you don’t eat your meat.” The album told the story of a rock star, the fictional Pink (based loosely on the lives of Syd Barrett and bassist/lyricist Roger Waters). Pink loses his father in the war, has a smothering mother, awful teachers but becomes a rock star only to lose his mind and build a metaphoric wall around himself. I know that’s a lot to take on, but it was the 70s, man, it just made sense. 

I was in my freshman year of college by the time Pink Floyd managed to release their next LP, The Final Cut in April of 1983. It came out during the one semester I spent away from my beloved Kansas State University. I was attending the University of Kansas – which I did for only one semester, which I refer to as “the dark semester” – when The Final Cut was released. While I wasn’t crazy about the first single, “Your Possible Past” I bought the album the day it came out. If David Gilmour was playing guitar I figured, sign me up, it’s Pink Floyd. There was bound to be a bit of a letdown after The Wall, and I was initially disappointed with The Final Cut. Bad things were happening in my life at KU and this was just another blow. I remember this guy from Chicago who lived in my friend Doug’s dorm saying, “this is the album where Roger Waters finally got to say everything he’s always wanted to say.” I’m not sure about that but the album did grow on me. 

The Final Cut had a difficult birth. Originally they had a bunch of songs left over from the sessions for The Wall that they were going to use for the film adaption of the album. They were also going to cut a few new songs for it as well. Then conservative Maggie Thatcher became Prime Minister and promptly went to war with Argentina over the Falkland Islands. Waters began to write protest music about the Falkland Islands war and the conservative government causing a lot of conflict within the band, especially Gilmour. It wasn’t about the politics, Gilmour just didn’t think the material was very good. Waters had already forced out original member/keyboardist Rick Wright after The Wall. It was clear his controlling ways were getting the best of him. The album was subtitled, “The Requiem For The Post War Dream by Roger Waters.” It felt to me like a Waters’ solo album – he sang almost every song – with Pink Floyd’s name on it to sell the thing. The story was, indeed, disjointed. The album is dedicated to Roger’s father who was lost in WW II and I think that story feeds some of the narrative. 

All of that said, there were moments on this album where that old Pink Floyd magic came through. There were a number of songs I really connected with almost immediately. The title track, which sounds like the sequel to The Wall, was an early favorite. I liked the final song, “Two Suns In the Sunset,” which Waters ended with at his performance of The Wall at the Berlin Wall (I Attended: Roger Waters & Special Guests, ‘The Wall’ at the Berlin Wall, July 21, 1990). There were two songs on side one that I felt were the heart of the album. It starts with “The Hero’s Return” that tells the story of a war veteran whose returned from the war and became a teacher. The former soldier clearly has PTSD and holds a memory that he can’t even talk with his wife about, “Sweetheart, sweetheart, are you fast asleep? Good, that’s the only time I can really speak to you.” He goes on to describe the memory that “is too painful to withstand the light of day.” His plane had been hit and the gunner fell to his death…he sings at the end of the song, “the memory smolders on of the gunner’s dying words on the intercom.” In my head I had this thought of the gunner falling through space, but still on the intercom and the narrator from the “The Hero’s Return” listens to what he has to say all the way down… all of that is prelude to what I think is one of Pink Floyd’s greatest songs, “The Gunner’s Dream.”  

“The Gunner’s Dream” is simply what the gunner says as he’s falling to his death. The opening stanza gives me goosebumps…”Falling down, through the clouds… memories come rushing up to meet me now.” As the Gunner falls to his death, in that “space between the heavens and the corner of some foreign field,” he has a dream that he shares over the intercom. He imagines his mother and maybe a brother at his funeral service. Then he simply lays out a beautiful dream for everyone: “A place to stay, enough to eat, somewhere old heroes shuffle safely down the street.” It’s a world where no one is hungry, everyone has a home and war is a memory. In the Gunner’s dream no one is afraid to speak or scared to be free any more. “No one ever disappears, you never hear the standard issue (boot) kicking in your door.” A world where there isn’t authoritarianism or militarism. It’s a beautiful thought for this old hippy wannabe. It’s a perfect song for these times…”and no one kills the children any more.” 

If you haven’t checked out this performance yet, I urge you to do so. It’s an obscure, fantastic Pink Floyd song and this is a great performance of the song. “We cannot just write off his final scene, Take heed of the dream, Take heed.” Waters starts at the piano and the rest of the band kicks in…here’s the link:

Cheers! 

 

 

Playlist: Missing Going To The Movies?: Our Favorite Soundtrack-Only Songs

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*Image from the internet and likely subject to copyright

I was musing in last week’s post regarding a local/regional band (Sunset Sinners: Poised For Big 2021, New Music On The Way) about how much I miss live music. I don’t just miss going to arenas and stadiums for big time shows, I also miss going to the local pub and hearing someone busking in the corner for tips. I haven’t checked out a lot of the stuff that artists are doing online via Zoom during lockdown, alas. I hear Sammy Hagar and the Circle did some cool covers (Who, Zeppelin) last year and are going to release a compilation album of those tracks this year. While all that online stuff sounds cool, nothing replaces the experience of being in a hot, sweaty room with a crowd of people in front of the altar of rock n’ roll, the stage. I don’t care if its Arrowhead Stadium or a dive bar, there’s just something about looking the artist in the eyes (even if it is on a big screen) and seeing them perform the music I love that hits my lower brain stem. Like Pavlov’s dogs you hit a guitar chord and I drool.

I know that live music is a luxury for many of us. I realize there are a lot of people who are suffering – they miss having a job, paying rent or having enough money to feed their families. My heart goes out to those people and I do not mean to make light of anything in these pages, we’re merely here as a distraction from the grim reality of this point in history. That said, there are many other things that I have missed in this interminable lockdown other than concerts. I miss seeing friends of mine especially the ones who have dispersed far and wide. I miss being able to travel to see people. Hell, you could say I just miss travel for travel’s sake. Road trips in the car seem like a remote memory. I used to love to look out the passenger window as the Rock Chick drove at her preferred excessive speed and watch the landscape fly by… it felt like I was leaving the ground, although that may be the bourbon flask talking… Hell, I’ve only driven out to see my sainted mother two or three times since last March. I will say, I don’t miss shaking hands – I’m not a germaphobe, its just archaic. I certainly miss having things to do on weekends. Even I have a limit to how long I can sit on the couch and watch TV… well, at least that’s what I’m telling the Rock Chick. During my annual Dry January, boredom seems to affect me more than it has in the past few months.

One of the things that I seem to miss most these days is the time honored tradition of driving down to the local  mall, wandering through the crowd to the cineplex and buying tickets to a movie. Before they started doing the whole “reserved” seats thing we would have to leave really early to be there to dash through the darkened aisles to get to that perfect seat – right in the middle, 2/3 of the way back from the screen – the Rock Chick has very…exact… coordinates for these things. I will admit that ever since the local theaters stopped selling my favorite go-to candy Hot Tamales, movies have lost a little bit of their luster. I typically had consumed the entire box before the “coming attractions” started. I don’t know why they stopped selling those, but if you work at a theater and are reading this, please do something about that. I don’t like Milk Duds, they stick to my teeth but I digress.

I’ve been a fan of movies since I was a little kid. When you went to the theater and they dimmed the lights you would be transported (if the movie was any good) anywhere from a “long time ago in a galaxy far away” to the gritty streets of New York or Paris or London. The movies could take you into the future or backward into some mysterious past. Only books have had more of an effect on my imagination and enjoyment of the world than the movies. You could see cowboys, astronauts, Jedi, spies, heroes, villains, wizards… anything you can think of, or as a kid, anything you wished you could be. I love those epic stories – Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, anything that has multiple chapters. No matter how good, bad or indifferent life was, two hours in a dark theater was just the break your brain needed from the humdrum of day to day existence. I could be moved from laughter to tears to being anxiously perched on the edge of my seat all in the course of 2 hours. Ah, to be entertained.

My father is a big James Bond fan. I can still remember him loading my mother, my brother and me into the car and heading out to the Twin Drive-In, out off I-35 near Olathe. My brother and I were in our pj’s, since we’d likely fall asleep during the second movie of the double feature. We’d find our spot and pull the speaker into the car and watch James Bond foil the designs of bad guys like Goldfinger or Dr. No. These movies had probably been out for years at the time, but my dad would always attend a James Bond double-feature, no matter when or where. Of course, later in life the Drive-In became a den of iniquity for me and whoever I could miraculously talk into being my date. We’d swing by the liquor store to get some beer, maybe take a pizza out there… those records are sealed. I will say one summer I went to the movie Tron at the drive-in four times and to this day I have no idea what happens in that movie? I’ve never seen it. 

As I got older, besides the whole misbehavior at the drive-in thing, I discovered an entire subculture at the midnight movies! None of that PG stuff at midnight… we all wanted that rated R stuff, the “good” stuff. The first time I talked my parents into letting me attend a midnight movie I saw Blazing Saddles. I laughed so hard I almost had to leave the theater. There were other great, subversive flicks like Kentucky Fried Movie. Who can forget “Catholic High School Girls In Trouble?” It was at the midnight movies that I faced the seminal experience of my generation in the Rite of Passage that all rock n roll stoners, er I mean high school kids go through when I saw the epic Led Zeppelin concert film The Song Remains the Same. Critics may have hated that movie but for high school kids it was high art…those fantasy sequences, simply mind blowing back then! There may have been drink or herbal remedies involved in that whole Zeppelin situation. There was all manner of cool shit at the midnight movies from (believe it or not) porn to rock n roll to comedy. My love of Monty Python movies stems from those midnight flicks. I loved the midnight movies and all the skeevy folks who were there… like me and my friends.

One of my fondest midnight movie experiences was the animated flick, Heavy Metal. It was a bizarre, fantasy rock and roll cartoon. I think it might have been based on a graphic novel-magazine (comic book) of the same name. There was so much music in that cartoon. They had not one but two acts do different theme songs – Sammy Hagar’s “Heavy Metal” and Don Felder’s “Heavy Metal (Takin’ A Ride).” Blue Oyster Cult, Cheap Trick and believe it or not Grand Funk Railroad all have songs in this movie… for reasons unclear, even Stevie Nicks shows up with a solo track. I guess that movie would qualify as a musical – a movie format that I loathe. Perhaps because it was rock n roll I didn’t realize what was happening. Either way, I’m not sure if it was that movie that gave me an appreciation of great music in movies or if that appreciation was always there. Regardless, over the years I’ve always kept my ears keenly attuned to hear any rock and roll that might be included in a movie. I don’t buy soundtracks as a general rule, but every now and then you hear a song by an artist that isn’t on an LP that you know you’ve gotta have. It’s easier now with streaming and MP3s… but as a youngster, the struggle was real. Who wants to buy a whole soundtrack album for one song? I remember hearing Jackson Browne singing “Somebody’s Baby” in Fast Times At Ridgemont High and thinking, that’s a great song, what album is that on? Alas, it wasn’t on any Jackson Browne album at the time…

As I pondered the snowy, grey and cold expanse of January, my least favorite month, I started to put together a list of tracks in my head that I’ve always liked that debuted on soundtrack. If I can’t go to a movie I’ll listen to music from movies… I’m not talking about a great song used well in a movie. Yes, Say Anything had a great use of Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes” but that song had already been out for a while on Gabriel’s So. Who can forget the fabulous use of Van Halen’s “Everybody Wants Some” in Better Off Dead, when a cheeseburger plays guitar? But that song had already been out on Women And Children First prior to that. What I’m talking about are songs that were either written specifically for the movie (ie, the two Heavy Metal tracks above) or were originally used and heard in a movie. If a track an artist contributes to a movie becomes a hit, yes the track usually ends up on a Greatest Hits or compilation package, but for purposes of this playlist I’m talking songs that debuted, if you will, in a movie. What I like about artists doing movie tracks is they often take chances. They’ll do an odd cover song. It’s a one-off track and they seem to add a little extra to those songs. Sometimes the band is just inspired or moved by the story in the movie and they dig deeper. There have been a ton of good rock tracks in the James Bond series – and I’m not talking that Shirley Bassey, jazzy/horns stuff like “Goldfinger” or “Diamonds Are Forever.” Although there is absolutely nothing wrong with any of that – I can often be heard belting out either of those tunes from the shower… For years I thought she sang “The Man With The Golden Gun” too, but I guess that was Lulu. I do have several Bond tracks on my list because hey man, BourbonAndVinyl is licensed to kill… with rock and roll. 

As I compiled this list I also included songs from movies that the bands filmed, which seems like cheating. The Beatles did two movies. Elvis did an infinite number of flicks, curse you Colonel Tom. I included some tracks that would have been hits by Prince anyway but they were in his movies. Queen did a couple of soundtracks. I think I even have a track from Motley Crue’s The Dirt on here. If there are other great tracks that made their debut in a film, please mention them in the comments and I’ll add it to the Spotify playlist, BourbonAndVinyl.net Missing The Movies: Favorite Soundtrack Songs, linked below. Like all of our playlists this isn’t meant to be exhaustive… it’s just our favorites. It’s always best to hit “shuffle” or “random” when playing these playlists, in my humble opinion. I will admit, fully, I’m disappointed that many of my choices for this – about half a dozen – were not available on Spotify and so I omitted them here. 

  1. The Blues Brothers, “She Caught the Katy” – Such a great opening song from the movie. I love this blues song. 
  2. Elvis Presley, “Can’t Help Falling In Love” – The King… I could have chosen dozens of songs or just done a list of his movie songs, but I limited myself to only two…this one had to be one of them. 
  3. U2, “The Ground Beneath Her Feet – From the obscure flick, The Million Dollar Hotel. One of their all time great deep tracks (U2’s Ten Greatest Non Album Tracks & 5 Best Covers, In Honor of Joshua Tree 30th Anniversary ). 
  4. The Beatles, “Help!” – They did two films, one in color, one in black and white. This was the color film. 
  5. Queen, “Princes of the Universe” – From the great Highlander film that I watched 1000 times in college. 
  6. Joe Walsh, “In the City” – Before he recorded it with the Eagles Joe did a solo version of this track and it played over the opening sequence of Warriors during a shot of a ferris wheel lighting up on Coney Island. 
  7. Sammy Hagar, “Heavy Metal” – This was on Standing Hampton but I will always insist I heard it in the Heavy Metal midnight movie. 
  8. Motley Crue, “The Dirt (Est 1981)” – Title track from the biopic (Review: Motley Crue’s ‘The Dirt’ – Movie and Thankfully, A Soundtrack). 
  9. David Bowie, “Cat People (Putting Out Fire)” – You have to get the original version from the soundtrack, not the reworked version on Let’s Dance.  
  10. Prince, “Kiss” – From Under the Cherry Moon, the less successful follow up to Purple Rain
  11. Stevie Nicks, “Free Fallin'” – Never heard of this movie but fitting that Nicks, an honorary member of the Heartbreakers, would cover it. 
  12. Metallica, “I Disappear” – Great track from one of the twenty or thirty Mission Impossible movies. 
  13. The Donnas, “Dancing With Myself” – The all girl group tackles the Billy Idol classic. 
  14. Bruce Springsteen, “Missing” – This version is from a movie Sean Penn directed, The Crossing Guard and it shares a title with a similar song from The Rising. This is a different and fabulous track. 
  15. Bruce Springsteen, “Streets of Philadelphia” – The Boss won an Oscar for this track. 
  16. Pearl Jam, “Love Reign O’er Me” – Like I said, a lot of great covers on this list. 
  17. Bob Dylan, “Things Have Changed” – One of his great late career tracks. It has one of my favorite Dylan lines, “don’t get up gentlemen, I’m just passing through…”
  18. Elvis Presley, “Viva Las Vegas” – Covered by ZZ Top and Springsteen among many others, still owned by the King.
  19. Paul Simon, “One Trick Pony” – Title track from the movie. I could have chosen “Late In the Evening” but this song has always appealed to me. 
  20. Lenny Kravitz, “American Woman” – Another Austin Powers highlight that ended up on later, expanded versions of Lenny’s LP, 5.
  21. U2, “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me” – Paging Batman… 
  22. Prince, “When Doves Cry” – The first hit from Purple Rain
  23. Duran Duran, “A Time To A Kill” – Finally some Bond action here! 
  24. Paul McCartney, “No More Lonely Nights” – Awful movie, awful soundtrack but I like David Gilmour’s lead guitar on this song. 
  25. Bob Dylan, “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” – From Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid. Covered by GnR, Warren Zevon and Clapton to name but a few. 
  26. Blondie, “Call Me” – From American Gigolo, a movie I’m proud to admit I snuck into whilst underage. 
  27. Fiona Apple, “Across the Universe” – Apple’s understated yet supple version… can’t beat a Beatles’ cover. 
  28. Soundgarden, “Live To Rise” – I know nothing about the movie this came from but what a great Soundgarden song. 
  29. Jackson Browne, “Somebody’s Baby” – Shamelessly pop, but I’ve always loved this track about the underdog asking the pretty girl on a date… maybe to the drive-in to see Tron? 
  30. Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Soul To Squeeze” – Technically this was released as a B-side before its inclusion on The Coneheads soundtrack but that inclusion is what got it noticed. 
  31. AC/DC, “Big Gun” – From an Ahnold Schwarzenegger film. 
  32. Guns N Roses, “Sympathy For The Devil” – From Interview With A Vampire… I never thought Tom Cruise made a convincing Lestat, for the record. 
  33. Jon Bon Jovi, “Blaze Of Glory” – I’m not a huge Bon Jovi fan but I always liked this solo track from a western. 
  34. Steely Dan, “FM” – “No static at all….” 
  35. Eddie Vedder, “Hard Sun” – From a soundtrack LP the Rock Chick gave me for my birthday one year. 
  36. Bob Seger, “Understanding” – Another great Seger track. 
  37. The Donnas, “Roll On Down The Highway” – Appropriate cover for the remake of Herbie (the love bug). 
  38. Greta Van Fleet, “Always There” – A track I wrote about, Friday New Music DJ’ing & Greta Van Fleet’s New Single, “Always There”
  39. The Beatles, “Hard Day’s Night” – From the black and white movie… 
  40. David Bowie, “As The World Falls Down” – A weird little track from Labyrinth that I always liked. 
  41. Don Felder, “Heavy Metal (Takin’ A Ride)” – Ah, take me back to those midnight movies… 
  42. Starcrawler, “Pet Semetary” – Ramones cover from my favorite new band! 
  43. Paul McCartney & Wings, “Live And Let Die” – The greatest of all Bond film theme songs. 
  44. Mick Jagger, “Old Habits Die Hard” – From the Alfie remake. 
  45. Chris Cornell, “You Know My Name” – Cornell could literally everything. From acoustic to metal to this… Can’t believe he’s gone. 

That’s my list folks. Again, if you have any adds, hit me in the comments and I’ll add it to the Spotify playlist.

It’s been a crazy start to 2021, but I’m hoping things mellow out and I see you all at concerts and record stores in the near future. Cheers! 

Sunset Sinners: Poised For Big 2021, New Music On The Way

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As longtime B&V readers know, we like to support local music (B&V Goes Out Drinking, Supports Live Music: Kansas City’s Amanda Fish). Doing that – supporting local music, or music of any kind – was difficult in 2020. Gone were concerts. Gone was going out to the local tavern, plopping down ten bucks for a cover charge, grabbing a brew and squeezing into an open space to listen to some live music. I miss standing awash in the roar of a crowd, sweaty shoulder to sweaty shoulder in front of a stage on a jam-packed floor while some guitarist attempts to melt my face off. I think the last show I saw live was Starcrawler and Arrow de Wilde spit water on me at the end of the show (Concert Review: Starcrawler, 10/14/2019, At Kansas City’s Riot Room – Punk Rock Rag Doll Delivers). Try to imagine that happening now in the age of COVID? No more spitting, young lady.

A few years ago I met a guy at a Black Sabbath concert through a mutual friend who has been referred to since then in these pages as “Drummer Blake” (Black Sabbath Live & The Four Horsemen of the Salinapocalypse). Immediately upon getting to know him, I realized that “Drummer” Blake Blackim was a man who took his rock and roll seriously. He hailed from Salina, Kansas and was in a band named Rockgarden. Rockgarden was in the process of winding things down, the lead singer was moving away, the band was splitting up. In subsequent conversations Blake admitted to me that he had been ruminating on some songwriting ideas and was itching to get a new band together. Over beers and shots of whiskey at the Quaff, a local watering hole, he showed me some nascent lyrics. I was impressed. After a false start on a new band, Blake texted to say he had a new lineup and they were called the Sunset Sinners. Little did I realize what a force they would become.

The Sunset Sinners arose from the Kansas prairie seemingly out of nowhere, like the tornadoes so often seen wreaking havoc on small, rural communities. The four men who came together to form the Sunset Sinners – Blake Blackim on drums, Chris Brungardt on guitar, Tony Bowell on vocals/guitar, and Brad Johnson on bass – came together around a sound. They call that sound Whiskey Barrel Rock. You won’t find these cats playing synth – or any keyboards for that matter – this is a good ol’ fashion guitar band. The sound, to me, conjures up the Black Crowes or the Georgia Satellites. It’s got a dash of country as well. But again, make no mistake, it’s guitars out front. Lead guitarist Chris Brungardt, who is the only member outside of drummer Blake I’ve personally met, absolutely shreds on lead. His solo’s will grab you but if you pay close attention there is a lot of great slide guitar all over the Sinners’ tracks, like “Always Time For One More Beer” (New Single: The Sunset Sinners “Always Time For One More Beer”). His crazy mad guitar skills are locked down by the thunderous rhythm section of Blackim and bassist Brad Johnson. All of this is the perfect platform for Tony Bowell’s vocals. The chemistry in this band is palpable – they’re serious about the music but they’re having a really fucking good time making it – and that comes across in their videos:

For me, a music fanatic, it has been fun to get an inside glimpse at a band’s creative process… well from up here in the cheap seats, anyway. To see them start with some lyrical ideas and progress to demos then to finished tracks has been a fascinating journey for me. To follow their songs from ideation to full release shows how much work it is to put together a record that sounds great. They sings songs about partying but those good times are always tinged with just a touch of regret. I read somewhere once that the reason the character of Tony Soprano was so interesting on ‘The Sopranos’ was not because he was a gangster but because he felt bad about it. The Sinners ethos is all fun, all the time but they too, maybe don’t feel bad about it, but carry that great, “Oh shit, what am I doing?” vibe that everyone can universally relate to. They’re kind of like Vegas… what happens with the Sinners, stays with the Sinners. I love the whole vibe of this band.

I caught up with Drummer Blake recently and he said the concert-less 2020 gave the band a lot of time to work on new material. I suppose a lot of bands were put in that position, unable to tour so they wrote songs… at least I hope so. I’m hoping 2021 leaves us flooded with new music. We could actually see a debut album from the Sinners later this year. Following up their two singles, “Always Time For One More Beer” and “Friday Night” the band is planning to release a new single “Act Your Age,” a James Gang style funky country rocker this month on January 15th. The Sinners have a big first responder, military following and they’ve got a great new song on the way, coming around March 1st entitled “Old Glory” to honor those folks and from what I’ve heard that one should be a crowd favorite. I have to admit to you, my favorite Sinners track is “Way To Go.” The track reminds me of the Georgia Satellites. I especially like Tony’s vocal on this track.

While we love local music down here at B&V, I don’t think the Sunset Sinners are going to be a “local,” regional band for much longer. They are apparently getting a lot of traction in France and their track “Friday Night” has entered the UK Indie Country Chart at number 1. I happen to know they’re getting some airplay in Australia as well. From doing B&V for a while now, I can testify to how many rock and roll fans there are out there from Salina to Paris to Canberra.

While I was hoping things would get significantly better in 2021, we hit a bit of snag out of the gates on Wednesday. There’s nowhere else to go but up from here, folks. And speaking of upwards, so too with the Sunset Sinners, I really think this band has a great future. If the Sinners’ music doesn’t get you up and wanting to party, you’ve been self-isolating too long. Anybody who wants to get in on the ground floor of this great sounding band – jump on and check out their stuff on Spotify. I’m hoping all this new music they have planned is merely the tip of the iceberg for us here at B&V and other bands are busy putting the finishing touches on new music… Let’s blow the dust off that shitty 2020 with some loud rock and roll because, you know, there really is “always time for one more beer…”

Cheers! Here’s to a better year in 2021.