Review: Jack White’s 2nd LP of 2022, The Less Experimental ‘Entering Heaven Alive’ – An Intimate Gem

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“Ask yourself if you’re happy and then you cease to be, that’s a tip from you to me…” – Jack White, “A Tip From You To Me”

As long time readers of B&V know, we love us some Jack White around here. I was a relatively early adopter on the mighty White Stripes and was lucky enough to see them twice in concert. The first time I saw them was in a smaller, 3500-seat arena and it felt like Jack White was playing guitar in my lap. Meg White played the drums with the ferocity of a “hangry” Neanderthal who hadn’t eaten in a while. When the Stripes sadly called it a day we followed Jack into the Raconteurs (whose first album came out while he was still in the White Stripes… so technically they were more of a side project at the time), and then into his solo career. While I did follow Jack into his solo endeavors it doesn’t mean that when the Stripes broke up I didn’t stand in my front yard like that kid in the movie Shane, yelling, “Meg, come back, Meg…” but as usual, I digress.

I loved those first two Jack White solo albums, Blunderbuss (2012) and Lazaretto (2014). When Jack released his second album of 2022 last Friday, Entering Heaven Alive, it immediately went into high rotation here at the B&V labs. But part of the fun of doing this thing is going back and listening to older music from the artist. Both those first two Jack White solo LPs have slipped back into high rotation here at the house along with the new one and I’m loving it. Everyone should own those two albums, they should be taught in high school music classes. It’s hard to believe it’s been 10 years since Blunderbuss came out. While Jack is at his best hopping around twisting and torturing fabulous notes from his guitar while singing like a corner preacher on meth, I just couldn’t follow him on his 2018 release Boarding House Reach. He had thrown convention to the wind. It was as though his genius had finally outstretched his grasp.

He then got back into the Raconteurs with 2019’s LP Help Us Stranger. I really liked that album and for me it seemed like a bit of a return to form for White. Well, at least it was a return to conventional song structures. Call me old fashion but I kinda dig the whole verse-chorus-verse thing. I heard that Jack was going to emerge from the Covid thing with not one but two new LPs in 2022 and I’ll admit I was excited. I really liked the first single “Taking Me Back” from the first of the two LPs, Fear Of The Dawn. It gave me hope that Fear Of The Dawn was going to be a return to that Blunderbuss or Lazaretto sound. Alas, I could not connect with it. It was, like Boarding House Reach, more of a sound collage than a collection of songs. It was so experimental it came across like a series of guitar noises instead of melodies. I have no qualms about an artist stretching themselves – go where the muse takes you – but I just couldn’t get into it and I love the guy’s music.

I wondered what that would mean for the his impending second LP of 2022, Entering Heaven Alive. I had heard it was going to be more of a hushed, acoustic affair. I was good with that. Jack is more than just a guitar god and make no mistake the guy is a six string genius, but he can do a lot more. I’ve always liked his acoustic guitar/piano side since the early days of “Apple Blossom” or the iconic “We’re Going To Be Friends.” I was wondering how experimental he could go with an acoustic guitar. The guy is a genius so I realized anything was possible. Then I heard what I thought was the first single, “If I Die Tomorrow” and I was just knocked out by that song. To these ears that forlorn track ranks among his best tunes. It certainly remains my favorite track on the album.

Needless to say, the less experimental, (mostly) acoustic Entering Heaven Alive does not disappoint. This is the best thing Jack White has done in a long time. The quieter instrumentation allows the songs to come across as more intimate and heartfelt. I know Jack recently got married, on stage at a concert no less, so maybe that influenced this latest LP. There are a number of songs, at the front end of the record about love specifically. While this album is going to be lauded as a less experimental work, there are moments of Jack’s signature experimental side. “I’ve Got You Surrounded (With My Love)” is like a hypnotic jazz jam with ticking drums, echoing vocals and sporadic stabs of guitar. It sounds like you’ve just wandered into a groovy jazz club during a Saturday afternoon open jam. It comes in the middle of the record and it’s perfectly placed. “Madman From Manhattan” is another groovy track with surreal spoken lyrics. It has a strumming guitar and drums. It’s a fun song to listen to. I half expected the song to have bongos. I really like both of these off kilter tracks.

Those more experimental tracks are great but the backbone of the album are tracks more akin to “If I Die Tomorrow.” The album opens up with “A Tip From You To Me” and it signals the vibe right off the bat with the sound of an acoustic guitar strum. Jack’s vocals on the song are intense and are only underscored by the acoustic guitar/piano that frames his voice. When he sings, “Oh, will love leave me alone tonight? Oh, I don’t know,” it’ll grab you. It’s another favorite. It’s followed by three songs about love which probably give the album the intimate vibe I mentioned earlier. “All Along The Way,” where Jack sings about devotion. It’s just Jack’s voice, acoustic guitar with some keyboards slipping in and out until the bridge kicks in with the full band. Very effective. “Help Me Along” is a jaunty track that reads like his wedding vows…I like the keyboards that help carry the song along like a cloud. I wish I could have written a song like this one for the Rock Chick when I met her. That track leads into “Love Is Selfish” which reminds me of “We’re Going To Be Friends,” it’s that kind of sound. I think it ranks amongst his prettiest tunes. “A Tree On Fire From Within” that has a cascading piano and a great bass line towards the end of the album and it’s another winner.

There are also a couple of “old-timey” tracks on the album. They’re the kind of songs Paul McCartney used to be so fond of like “Martha My Dear” from the White Album. The album’s last track is “Taking Me Back (Gently)” which is the Fear Of The Dawn track done like it was recorded in the 20s… the 1920s. Lots of violin on this version or perhaps I should say, fiddle. I like this version of the song. But then, I dug those McCartney songs that John Lennon used to call “granny music.” Another track in this same vein is “Queen of The Bees,” that I think was released as a b-side to one of the Fear Of The Dawn tracks. It’s a jaunty, but very catchy, little song. I find the wordplay in the lyrics to be hysterical, “Oh honey, can’t you see I wanna hold you, like a sloth hugs a tree, ‘Cause I crave you, like a glass needs wine.” My glass certainly craves wine… it’s 5 o’clock somewhere?

Finally there’s “Please God, Don’t Tell Anyone” that reads like a man’s confession of past sins to his “Creator.” It, like “If I Die Tomorrow” have a heavy death theme. Love and Death, the ultimate combination. “Please God,” reads like a Jean Valjean story from Les Miserables. A man who has lied, cheated and stolen but only to feed and clothe his children comes clean. The narrator is unburdening himself so we have to guess he’s reached the end and wants to come clean. It’s a damn affecting track complete with saloon piano.

As you can tell, I am completely swept away by Entering Heaven Alive. An album this good feels like a phone call from a long lost friend. After my disappointment over Fear Of The Dawn (I didn’t even review it, I could barely listen to the whole thing) this album is a real treat. Putting out two LPs in one year is so old school and I just love it. I wish artists would feel more of a sense of urgency to put out more amazing music like this album. I think Entering Heaven Alive will be looked back up on as one of Jack White’s finest solo albums. It’s that good. It’s emotionally effective and melodic. It’s the perfect late night listen… perhaps with a glass of sour mash while ruminating on the patio… the music never gets loud enough to wake the neighbors so that’s a plus.

Pick this one up post haste. Especially if you’re a fan of the  White Stripes’ quieter moments.

Cheers!

New Song: Ozzy Osbourne, From ‘Patient No. 9,’ – “Degradation Rules” Reunites Him With Sabbath Pal Tony Iommi – Heaviness Ensues

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While I was busy putting together my 1982 themed playlist last week Ozzy Osbourne released the second track from his upcoming LP Patient Number 9, a new song called “Degradation Rules.” I think everybody knows by now that I’m an Ozzy fan from way back to his early solo days working with Randy Rhoads. Although, I’m embarrassed to admit I was only vaguely aware that Ozzy had originally been in Black Sabbath… the ignorance of youth. I was very into the Dio era of Sabbath and somehow didn’t connect that with Ozzy. Admittedly that ignorance didn’t survive graduating high school. When I got to college I realized that Ozzy and his former bandmates in Black Sabbath invented heavy metal as we know it. It was during my college years I started to grab up Sabbath’s classic albums like Paranoid and Masters Of Reality. Although admittedly I only had the latter taped on a blank cassette.

Speaking of Sabbath, on this new song “Degradation Rules,” Ozzy is teaming with his erstwhile guitarist from that legendary band, Tony Iommi. Ozzy and Iommi go together like peanut butter and jelly. I was blown away by Black Sabbath’s reunion album back in 2013. I was also lucky enough to see them live on that tour with a miscreant group of guys from Salina (Black Sabbath Live; The Four Horsemen of the Salinapocalypse). That album, 13, ranks among Black Sabbath’s best in my opinion. I only wish B&V had been around to review it when it came out. It was produced by Rick Rubin who told the band, “Pretend Paranoid just came out, what would you do next?” I don’t know if Rubin is very technical as a producer but he does capture a vibe. I would recommend 13 to any heavy metal fan out there.

I think Iommi and Ozzy go together so well I actually also picked up the track they did together on Iommi’s 2000 sol-LP creatively entitled Iommi, “Who’s Fooling Who?” It’s definitely worth a listen. I would also highly recommend the track “Flame On” from that LP sung by the Cult’s Ian Astbury… but I’m getting off track. Ironically Iommi and Ozzy were joined by Sabbath’s original drummer Bill Ward on “Who’s Fooling Who?” but bassist Geezer Butler didn’t play on the song. And then when they reunited for 13 it was sadly Ward that was left out and Iommi/Butler/Ozzy performed on that LP. Such drama…I blame Sharon. What I’d give for a full Black Sabbath reunion!

It was only a few weeks ago Ozzy released the title track from the upcoming Patient Number 9. That song featured legendary guitarist Jeff Beck and I dug it. Although I must admit the Rock Chick was merely lukewarm. I think she liked it, but she didn’t love it like I did. But then again, I really like the way Jeff Beck plays guitar from way back to his days with the Yardbirds and with Rod Stewart in the Jeff Beck Group. I have to admit I’ve been listening to “Patient Number 9” a lot and it sent me back to listen to 2020’s Ordinary ManIt really sounded like Ozzy was having fun on that Andrew Watt produced gem. Watt is back onboard and has produced this new album which comes out in early September…

I was delighted when I played “Degradation Rules” for the Rock Chick and she sat bolt upright on the couch and said, “Now this is what I’m talkin’ about! Heavy Ozzy!” I also checked in with my buddy Drummer Blake and he agreed, “It’s awesome.” It’s hard not to dig the heavy, sludgy riffs on this song. It sounds like it could have been an outtake from Masters Of Reality. It’s just so… “Sabbath-y.” The first thing you hear is that Iommi signature riff-age. He takes us down into the sludge in a very good way. There is also a great harmonica which reminded me of Black Sabbath’s song “The Wizard” from their debut album. RHCP drummer Chad Smith bashes out the beat here.  I can tell Ozzy is still having a good time – he must be to record 2 albums over 2 years after being away for a decade. On the last LP he did songs about cannibalism (“Eat Me”) and alien invasion (“Little Green Men”). “Degradation Rules” tackles the thorny subject of masturbation. “Stuck inside a dirty dream, The hand that feeds you also turns you blind, turns you blind.” Ahem.

Here’s the track:

Ozzy has always seemed to find stellar guitarists to work with. He started with Iommi, then went on to Randy Rhoads, Jake E. Lee, and Zakk Wylde to name but a few. It looks like on this next album he’s playing with a bunch of different ones both from his past and some unexpected guitar collaborators: Eric Clapton, the aforementioned Jeff Beck and Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready. I heard he tried to get Jimmy Page (to collect all three Yardbird guitarists?) but Jimmy declined. I don’t know if all of this will hold together over the course of an entire album, but I trust Andrew Watt to navigate those riffy waters.

Turn this one up LOUD and prepare to RAWK!

Cheers!

Playlist: 1982 – We Somewhat Reluctantly Look Back 40 Years…

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Image taken from the internet and likely copyrighted…

I miss tickets like the one pictured above… I have a scrapbook courtesy of the Rock Chick full of stubs like that one… but I’m already off topic here. Perhaps I’m just feeling reluctant to get into it…

As anybody whose read B&V for any amount of time knows, we’re very fond of our playlists around here. In the old days my playlists were carefully constructed cassettes that I would place in my “cassette briefcase” in the car so I’d have access to maximum jams and never be a prisoner to bad radio again. Of course back then we called them “mix tapes.” In the era of streaming and MP3’s my playlists got a lot longer and more mobile I suppose. As long as I have access to the internet I have access to music. Who’d have thought I’d be able to do that back in say…1982? And for the sake of honesty, I’ll have to admit my playlists are never as good as the ones the Rock Chick comes up with… but that’s just one of the myriad reasons I married her.

For purposes of B&V my playlists are usually thematic. Much like Bob Dylan’s ‘Theme Time Radio Hour.’ I tend to pick a topic – either sleeping or the surreal realm of dreams or maybe drinking or even heroin – and try to arrange tracks that fit the theme. Last year was the first time I’d done something around a historically themed playlist. It had been 50 years since 1971 so I did a playlist centered around albums from that landmark year of in rock n roll. I want to stress we’re about albums here at B&V so it wasn’t about singles. I picked hits but I also did some deep tracks. Our goal on all of our playlists here at B&V is to put a song you haven’t heard in a while back in your ear or better yet, turn you onto something you have never heard before. As Dr. Johnny Fever from the show WKRP once said, “Who else will teach the children about rock n roll?”

I had so much fun with the musical spelunking I did around the 1971 playlist, that I decided to go back 50 years again this year to 1972. I really dug that playlist. 1972 wasn’t as epic a year as 1971 but it was a fascinating year. Ironically the Black Crowes must have been paying attention as they put out an EP of six tracks (3 were on my playlist!) from that year as well, creatively entitled 1972. Going back 50 years is a fascinating prospect but while I am (obviously) extremely passionate about rock n roll, I can be somewhat dispassionate about songs from 1971 or 1972 because I was but a child during that time. I have no emotional connection to those tunes save for ones I’d developed later in life. There was no real-time moment in 1971 when I was playing in my parents backyard and Marvin Gaye’s tune “What’s Goin’ On?” came on the radio and I looked up at the sky and thought, “What is going on here? Why am I on this rickety swing set, it feels like a death trap… and why do I allow my sainted mother to dress me and my brother in coordinating outfits?” or “I can’t wait until 50 years from now when we all have flying cars and world peace…” That just didn’t happen.

The idea for a playlist centered around albums from 1982 popped into my head recently. Actually it’s been bouncing around my skull since January. My dearest and oldest pal Doug mentioned to me over beers that 1982 is a rather landmark year for he and I…At the risk of betraying my age, we graduated from high school that year. And, apparently there’s something called a “high school reunion” going on this year. l have never attended and will likely never attend a reunion. I wasn’t into high school and Doug is really the only person I’m in contact with so why would I attend a reunion? I was never a “joiner.” I was in the invisible middle in the social strata of my enormous high school. I grew up on the Kansas side of the KC border. As an adult I moved over to the Missouri side which bestowed upon me a sort of “invisibility cloak.” I don’t see people from high school, other than Doug, and thank god they can’t seem to find me.

Ah, but 1982 was quite a year. For me, it was like what Dickens wrote, “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” The first half of that year I was a high school senior, atop the food chain so to speak. I only had to get up and go to school half days, the first five “hours” and then I could leave for the day. I treated school like a halfway house that year. I showed up and did my bit, signed the papers and walked. I had a part time job so I had money in my pocket, beer in the cooler and vinyl on my turntable. Once I turned 18 my parents let go of the reigns… “Don’t kill anybody behind the wheel and don’t get anybody pregnant and you’re good to go.” They were ready for me to leave. That year I fell in love for the first time in that high school tragic fashion. I just remember it being a really fun time. I think I even got a sun tan that summer.

But then I went away to University and everything changed for me. I was suddenly a freshman, on the bottom of that food chain. I think the first two guys I roomed with were both in their early 30s… they were engineering students and taking the scenic route through college. I was certainly not comfortable. If I’m being honest in the clear light of day, in retrospect, I probably suffered what can only be described as a bit of a nervous breakdown that year. I wasn’t emotionally mature enough – or mature enough on any scale – to handle being away from home for the first time, the pressure that college exerted on my psyche (fail and it’s to the coal mine for you), or a long distance relationship (that I was foolish enough to attempt). I certainly wasn’t the same person anymore. I was suffering from anxiety and to be honest probably depression as well. It led to a really dark time for me. When the wheels finally came off Doug and Bacardi rum helped me get through a lot of that…I will always be eternally grateful for his friendship.  In some ways though, that shadow didn’t lift for me for a long, long time. I carried it with me, like a scar.

But the good news – it did lift. I will say, if you’re at that critical time of life, coping with just becoming an adult, if you’re suffering, ask for help! Reach out to someone. And don’t do what I did, self-medicate with rum and coke. The support system is so much better now. I hate to think of anybody feeling what I felt that horrid fall. Better yet there was some great music in 1982. But, for me, unlike those 1971-1972 playlists I do have an emotional connection to a lot of these tunes. If not an emotional connection, I certainly have clear memories connected to many of these songs. Memories both good and bad but that’s life, isn’t it? Like the Chairman sang, “Regrets, I’ve had a few.” Some of the albums these songs came from are in my pantheon of the great ones. I have tried to share some of those memories below.

Typically when I do a playlist I suggest putting it on “shuffle” or “random.” But I actually put these tunes together as they came into my head. Oddly it sort of fits around the way 1982 unfolded for me and playing it straight through kind of works. I see ’82 as a bit of a transitional year for music. It was kind of the last gasp for that 70s great rock sound before the synths and drum machines took over and you hear that music on the front end of this playlist. There were a lot of guys emerging from the break up/demise of great bands from the 70s (Plant/Zeppelin, Henley/Eagles, Fagen/Steely Dan). It just feels like the tide was turning to something new. Doug will argue with me, but I see the 80s as the worst decade for rock n roll. The back half of this playlist reads like my time after I went to college. There’s more alternative rock and synth stuff on the back end. MTV was a huge influence on music by that point and that shows on the playlist. Songs I’d never hear on the radio had videos in high rotation (Peter Gabriel, Adam Ant). Even college radio put a few tunes in my ear, like R.E.M.’s stuff from their debut EP Chronic Town.

The first question that may come to mind – how can you do a 1982 playlist without anything from Micheal Jackson’s Thriller? Easy, this is a rock n roll blog. Despite the presence of Eddie Van Halen on “Beat It” there was no way MJ was gonna end up on one of my playlists… although it crossed my mind. As always you can find my playlist on the dreaded Spotify… Crank this one up loud, tease up your permed hair, get your leg warmers on and grab a wine cooler… it’s a rad 1982 playlist, man!

  1. Eddie Money, “Shakin'” – Eddie never had the “cool” cache of Springsteen or even Seger and Mellencamp but man we loved him. This was always a favorite. Eddie Money always delivered.
  2. Robert Plant, “Burning Down One Side” – Plant has always been oddly embarrassed by his early work but I’ve always loved it. With Zeppelin tragically ending I was really excited when this album came out. “How could I fall without a shove?”
  3. Asia, “Heat of the Moment” – Asia was everywhere in 1982. If you know, you know.
  4. Van Halen, “Dancin’ In The Streets” – Diver Down is such an iconic album to me now. It was one of my summer jams that year.
  5. Aerosmith, “Lightning Strikes” – We’d all wondered where Aerosmith had gone. They disappeared when I was in high school. This was the only song I liked on an otherwise weak “comeback” album.
  6. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, “Change of Heart” – There certainly was a change of heart for me in ’82. “You Got Lucky” got the attention but this is one of my all time favorite Petty songs.
  7. Scorpions, “Can’t Live Without You” – I’d already seen them live once when this came out, but it was Blackout that made me a fan… I still love the Scorpions and their latest LP Rock Believer.
  8. Judas Priest, “You’ve Got Another Thing Coming” – It’s hard not to think of this iconic tune without thinking of the iconic video. MTV really was a big influence in music in those days.
  9. George Thoroughgood & The Destroyers, “Bad To The Bone” – I’m not a huge fan of Thoroughgood’s but you can’t do an ’82 playlist without “Bad to the Bone.” And let’s admit it, it’s a great tune.
  10. Aldo Nova, “Fantasy” – I’d forgotten all about this rocking track until I met the Rock Chick.
  11. Led Zeppelin, “Darlene” – From their LP of leftovers, Coda. I’m not sure any of us got over Zeppelin’s demise. They actually played this song on KY102 back when it came out.
  12. The Who, “Eminence Front” – I remember this more from the fall of ’82. Townshend always says he’s baffled by the popularity of this song but we loved it! And again, the cool video. “Come and join the party… dress to kill.”
  13. Queen & David Bowie, “Under Pressure” – Hot Space largely made most of us get off the Queen bandwagon but this track was a winner. Queen with Bowie, how can you lose?
  14. Bad Company, “Electricland” – The last gasp from a once great band… a vaguely Hendrix-y title… The last great Bad Co song with Paul Rodgers.
  15. Steve Miller Band, “Abracadabra” – The SMB had been huge when we were in junior high school then nothing for years until this gem appeared in 1982. Still a favorite of mine. “I’m gonna reach out and grab ya.” Silly rhyme.
  16. Warren Zevon, “The Envoy” – There’s so much great Zevon out there that nobody talks about. If you’ve got any pull, please help get this guy get into the Rock Hall of Fame.
  17. Rainbow, “Stone Cold” – I’ve always loved this song. Great riff, great vocal. Lately I’ve been waking up with this song in my head
  18. David Bowie, “Cat People (Putting Out Fire)” – This version, from the soundtrack to the movie, is different and far superior to the version on 1983’s Let’s Dance. I remember watching Cat People on HBO only so I could hear this song over the closing credits… Somehow I ended up with the soundtrack LP in my record crate but I can’t find it now.
  19. John Mellencamp, “Hurts So Good” – His breakthrough track… certainly stirs up a few ghosts for me…
  20. Van Morrison, “Dweller On The Threshold” – A song I may have them play at my funeral. About feeling like you’re on the outside, standing in the doorway, looking in but not quite invited. I felt this way from those early 80s days until I met the Rock Chick…
  21. Crosby, Stills, Nash, “Southern Cross” – Great, acoustic track from CSN. Critics are always meh, but this was a great song from a very solid LP, Daylight Again. Classic rockers find their footing.
  22. Bruce Springsteen, “Atlantic City” – The River was where I got on the bandwagon for Bruce. I got home for Christmas in ’82 and discovered this LP and was so utterly disappointed by it’s stark, grim acoustic tracks. I wanted The River 2.0. I had to wait until Born In The U.S.A. for that. This was a great song that I attached to almost immediately.
  23. Steve Winwood, “Talking Back To The Night” – Sadly he sold this for a beer commercial a few years later… still a great tune. I seem to be drawn to tracks about being alone in the night…
  24. Elvis Costello & the Attractions, “Man Out of Time” – This one is for my old buddy Drew.
  25. Dave Edmunds, “From Small Things (Big Things Someday Come)” – Dave is such a solid rock guy. This is a Springsteen cover that I didn’t know was a Springsteen cover in ’82.
  26. The Clash, “Rock The Casbah” – I could have gone with “Should I Stay Or Should I Go,” but for sentimental reasons that track bothers me still… The Clash didn’t get a lot of airplay where I was from so – again because of MTV – this was the first track by them that I really got into. I bought the LP (on cassette no less), radical for a Midwest boy back then.
  27. Cheap Trick, “She’s Tight” – Cheap Trick have just always been so great. I love when he screams, “So I got off the phoooone.” I would have too…
  28. Billy Idol, “White Wedding, Pt 1” – I’ve always wondered when we’ll hear “Pt 2”? I was this close to choosing “Hot In the City,” but this is a bigger track. We didn’t like Billy Idol because to our unsophisticated eyes he looked weird. If you turned off the video and just listened he was great. This was one case, for me, where the videos were working against the artist.
  29. Joe Jackson, “Steppin’ Out” – We all knew “Is She Really Going Out With Him?” so we were a bit surprised by this brooding, piano-driven gem.
  30. Elton John, “Blue Eyes” – A simply beautiful ballad that is on here for sentimental reasons that I refuse to explain… for someone I knew a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.
  31. Fleetwood Mac, “Straight Back” – A bit of a deep track but I’ve always loved this hypnotic Stevie Nicks track. She was in such a purple patch back then between Fleetwood Mac and her solo career. She even made them put a country song on Mirage.
  32. Squeeze, “Black Coffee In Bed” – This to me represents the kind of music I was starting to hear when I got college. I had shifted from arena rock, barrel house tunes to more sophisticated tracks.
  33. Rush, “Subdivisions” – We were all a little disappointed by Signals. It’d be hard for any band to follow up Moving Pictures, but this track drew me back in.
  34. Flock of Seagulls, “I Ran (So Far Away)” – We thought these guys had landed from another planet with their synths and wild hair. When I’d wake up in the morning my roommates would point to my disheveled hair and say, “Look it’s the Flock of Seagulls guy.” This was a marker of where music was headed in the 80s, and perhaps not for the better.
  35. INXS, “Don’t Change” – I think this is the first INXS track I remember hearing. I can still remember thinking that INXS was going to be a band to keep my eye on. There were some great bands who entered our consciousness in the 80s. U2 was lurking around somewhere in my mind too…
  36. Duran Duran, “Hungry Like the Wolf” – This one is for the Rock Chick.
  37. Modern English, “I Melt With You” – Still one of the greatest “alternative rock” songs ever.
  38. Donald Fagen, “I.G.Y.” – Another iconic 80s band Steely Dan had bit the dust and Fagen finally emerged as a solo artist.
  39. The Psychedelic Furs, “Love My Way” – I feel like this song may have been ahead of its time. Or was it a harbinger of music to come? Either way it reminds me of early college.
  40. Roxy Music, “Love My Way” – This was the only Roxy song I knew for like, decades.
  41. The Fixx, “Red Skies” – I think the lead singer was 7 feet tall.
  42. Genesis, “Paperlate” – Great song from the one studio side of a double, live album.
  43. Pete Townshend, “Slit Skirts” – I can still remember the video. I had this album but had overlooked this song. “We have to be so drunk to try a new dance…”
  44. Bob Seger, “Roll Me Away” – A personal favorite and a favorite of my friend “the Bat Cat.” “Took a look down a west bound road, right away I made my choice…”
  45. Alan Parsons Project, “Eye In The Sky” – This was a pretty mellow, keyboard thing but we always dug this trippy band.
  46. R.E.M., “Gardening At Night” – From their debut EP, Chronic Town. You had to be really cool to own this one… I was not that cool.
  47. Lou Reed, “The Gun” – One of my all time favorite Lou Reed songs from one of my all time favorite Lou Reed LPs, The Blue Mask.
  48. Missing Persons, “Walking In L.A.” – My roommate actually bought this LP at a time when his record collection consisted of heavy metal and Fleetwood Mac. I think he had a crush on Dale Bozzio but who amongst us didn’t?
  49. Billy Joel, “Pressure” – Joel navigated the transition to the 80s quite well on the oft overlooked gem Nylon Curtain. I certainly didn’t handle the pressure of adulthood as well…
  50. Don Henley, “Dirty Laundry” – Henley rose from the ashes of the Eagles and launched his solo career with this classic track that features his former band mate Joe Walsh on lead guitar. A very tasty solo indeed.
  51. Billy Squier, “Everybody Wants You” – The biggest track on the follow up to his classic Don’t Say No. Emotions In Motion wasn’t as strong an album but there were still some great tracks.
  52. Kenny Loggins, Steve Perry, “Don’t Fight It” – I’m in no way a Loggins fan but back in those days I really liked Steve Perry and Journey. This track kinda rocked and it was always on the radio.
  53. Kansas, “Play The Game” – A great song from the band from my home state at the time.
  54. Pat Benatar, “Little Too Late” – I’m not a huge Benatar fan but this track always jumped out at me.
  55. Adam Ant, “Goody Two Shoes” – I was first introduced to this track on MTV… clearly I spent too much time watching televison. “You don’t drink, don’t smoke, what do you do?”
  56. Peter Gabriel, “Shock The Monkey” – Another late night, MTV favorite. I couldn’t help but think, where did this guy come from? To me Genesis was Phil Collins… I didn’t even know that Gabriel had once been their lead singer. College was great for bringing me out of the little hard rock cocoon I was in.
  57. The Go-Go’s, “Vacation” – A great summer track. I actually met Belinda Carlisle a few years later…but that’s another story.
  58. Prince, “Little Red Corvette” – I was turned on to Prince and 1999 a little later but this has always been a favorite of mine. Not just a favorite from 1982, or a favorite by Prince, but an overall all time favorite. “I guess I should have known by the way you parked your car sideways that it wouldn’t last…”
  59. Jackson Browne, “Somebody’s Baby” – My playlists pegged to a specific year are always very album oriented. This track is the exception here… It’s from the Fast Times At Ridgemont High soundtrack and I believe it’s Browne’s biggest “hit.” It’s an exceptional song.
  60. Paul McCartney, “Tug Of War” – The title track of an album I purchased because it was playing in the record store I was hanging out in and I really liked it…

There it is! Hopefully through these songs I was able to take you back to a happy place in your story. I know there are tunes from other albums that didn’t make my list but if you have a favorite put it in the comments and I’ll add it to the Spotify playlist.

And again, if you’re out there and struggling, whatever age you are or place in life you are at, please reach out and get help. Dial 988 in the U.S. and someone will be there. Help is available. It’s not good to struggle alone. It gets better, I promise…

Cheers!

Review, Archival Release: Neil Young & Crazy Horse’s 2001 Shelved Gem ‘Toast’ Finally Sees The Light Of Day

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“If I could just live my life As easy as a song I’d wake up someday And the pain would all be gone…” – Neil Young, “Gateway of Love”

As long time readers know, I’m terribly impressed with Neil Young’s archive management. Other than Bob Dylan I can’t think of an artist who does a better job of going back through the archives and releasing the unreleased, so to speak. Neil Young is unique in that he has a number of complete albums that he recorded but then chose not to release for whatever reason… perhaps Prince was the same way but I can’t think of anybody who rivals Young in this department. Neil has gone into the archives recently and released albums he previously shelved like Hitchhiker and Homegrown and I loved both of those acoustic based gems. He continues to release complete concerts also – much like Springsteen does – mostly acoustic shows from the early 70s.

For us long time Neil Young fans we got a treat when Neil recently released another LP he originally shelved. This time it’s not an acoustic affair, oh no, this time it’s an album he recorded in 2001, Toast, with Crazy Horse. I love Neil’s work with Crazy Horse – Frank Sampedro, guitar/keyboards; Billy Talbot, bass; Ralph Molina, drums. They’re a sloppy, hard rocking, jammy band. I’ve always loved what I heard Neil Young say in an interview once about Crazy Horse, “I just seem to play better guitar with Crazy Horse.” Indeed. Some will argue with me but I think Frank Sampedro was the greatest guitar foil Young ever played with. Yes, I loved Danny Whitten or you could say Young and Stills spar pretty well but Sampedro brings out that primal guitar God in Young like nobody else.

To put Toast in context, it’s best to start at the beginning for me… I became a fan of Neil’s in the early 80s. I had shied away from Young in high school because I was hung up on the vocals… hey, we’re all young and foolish at one time. But when I got to college my roommate Drew turned me onto Tonight’s The Night and After The Gold Rush. I was hooked. I started my collection with his brilliant 3-LP (vinyl) “greatest hits” package Decade. It was a great primer for a new Young fan. Or is it for a young Young fan? Say what you want about Neil Young, it was really hard to climb on the bandwagon in the 80s, perhaps the worst decade of his career.

The 80s started off OK for Neil. I’ve always liked 1980’s Hawks And Doves, and I think it sold pretty well. Although that might have been sheer momentum. He was coming off one of his strongest albums in years, Rust Never Sleeps. He could have done almost anything and people would have bought the follow up to Rust. Then after Reactor, one of his weakest with Crazy Horse, the wheels came off. He started doing these weird “genre exercises.” There was Trans, which was… well, I don’t know what that was other than terrible. Then he did a rockabilly thing Everybody’s Rockin’. I mean, what? The album was like 25 minutes long. I remember this guy Tim dropping by my house at a party I was hosting while my parents were away and he’d just seen Neil on the tour for that album. I was like “Dude, why would you attend that show”…because that’s how I spoke at the time, everyone was “dude.” At that point David Geffen and Geffen records, who Neil had recently signed with (before Trans) sued him for making “non-commercial music.” He responded with Old Ways, a full on country album. Don’t fuck with Neil, he’ll push back.

After all that 80s horribleness – and I didn’t even mention the un-listenable Landing On Water, that I actually purchased – the 90s were actually a damn fine Neil Young decade. The Grunge guys were all seemingly inspired by Neil, especially his sloppy work with Crazy Horse and suddenly he was back in fashion. It didn’t hurt that he was coming up with some of his finest material in, well, a decade. He’d finished up the 80s in a very strong fashion – just like he had the 70s with Rust – with Life (an underrated LP with Crazy Horse), This Notes For You (with the Bluenotes) and culminating with the comeback album Freedom. That led to a string of great 90s records, including Ragged Glory with Crazy Horse, Harvest Moon, Sleeps With Angels (again with “the Horse”) and even his LP with Pearl Jam Mirror Ball… although I’d call that last one good, not great.

To finish up the 90s, after a tepid LP with Crazy Horse, Broken Arrow, Neil was coaxed into doing a CSNY reunion. The critics savaged Looking Forward but I loved it. Like American Dream, it should be on my list of albums only I like (B&Vs True Confessions: The Dirty Dozen; 12 Albums That Only I Love – Time to Re-Evaluate?). If you haven’t heard “Slowpoke,” from that album it’s the best Neil ballad ever. After seeing CSNY with my very pregnant friend the Jean Genie – you can’t imagine the dirty looks I got as people thought I was subjecting my wife to rock n roll… she’s a friend, assholes, and it was her choice to be here… – I couldn’t help but wonder what the new millennium would bring for Neil. It started off in wonderful fashion with the acoustic driven Silver And Gold. If Harvest Moon was the sequel to Harvest, was Silver And Gold the sequel to After the Gold Rush? I don’t know but it was a great, mellow album. I loved the song “Buffalo Springfield,” which I urge everybody to check out.

After Silver And Gold I thought it was going to be another golden decade for Young in the 00s. But then in 2002 he drops Are You Passionate?, a soul record. Literally a romantic, soul record. We were back to the 80s and the genre exercises again. To really immerse himself in this genre he even hired soul giants Booker T. and the MGs (Booker T. Jones/keyboards, legend Donald “Duck” Dunn/bass, Steve Potts/drums) as his backing band. Sadly guitarist Steve Cropper wasn’t employed… that might have at least brought some interesting guitar dueling to the party. I was baffled. The album also included his 9/11 tribute song “Let’s Roll” which was a little over the top. I heard the record but didn’t pay any attention. I did know that Crazy Horse played on one song, “Goin’ Home,” that I liked. I had sort of forgotten all about that record, much like Everybody’s Rockin’.

About ten years ago I’d heard rumors of yet another “lost” Neil Young & Crazy Horse album, recorded in between Silver And Gold and Are You Passionate? in 2001 named Toast. The name of the studio they’d recorded it in was named Toast Studios. It was in a then depressed part of San Francisco and the condition of the studio matched the surrounding neighborhood. I guess there were rats and roaches everywhere. Young had said of this album, Toast, “it was too sad to release.” Well, everybody loves sad Neil, so the cache this thing gained over the years it was locked in the vault was pretty intense. It was with great anticipation that we all waited for Toast to see the light of day.

What I didn’t realize and never discovered on the interweb was that before hiring the legendary soul band Booker T and the MGs, Neil tried out some of the Are You Passionate? material with Crazy Horse. Over half the tracks on Toast ended up in some form, occasionally with a different title, on AYP? When I discovered that this was the seed of that failed genre exercise I hesitated on purchasing Toast. It was hard to imagine the hard rocking bashers in Crazy Horse handling the soulful, heartbroken material better than the MGs. Boy I was wrong (per usual, ask my wife). One of the delights of this newly uncovered gem is listening to how nimble Crazy Horse are handling this material. The songs are inherently soulful and yet Crazy Horse plays it with such dexterity, I have to say Neil didn’t gain anything hiring another band.

The muse for all of this music was Young’s deteriorating relationship with his wife Pegi, who with his daughter Astrid sing back up vocals on some of these songs. Young usually shows up in the studio with complete songs but for these sessions he spent a lot of time sitting on the floor of the studio scribbling lyrics on a note pad while the band stood out back smoking and probably doing everything they could to avoid the vermin around the studio. The immediacy of Young’s writing on the fly comes through on the album.

As mentioned, the song “Goin’ Back” which uses Custer’s Last Stand as a metaphor for a beleaguered lover in a failing relationship (rather brilliantly I might add) was the only track from these sessions with Crazy Horse that made the actual Are You Passionate? album. This might be the same track I can’t really tell. It’s an epic rocker and may be my favorite here. There are a few tracks that didn’t make it to AYP? and I’m still amazed Neil left them in the vault so long. “Standing In The Light Of Love” is another rock gem of a song. It sounds vaguely Ragged Glory-ish to me. It’s a thrashing, Crazy Horse in-all-their-glory kind of track. The other is one of Neil’s poignant character studies, “Timberline” about a lumberjack who loses his job and then loses his faith in God. It’s a chugging rocker that Young sings in a painful howl. Both are just great tracks.

“Quit” is the track that opens Toast and it’s a low key soulful track and I’ll tell you I think this Crazy Horse version outstrips the MG’s version on AYP? by a mile. Pegi and Astrid sing the backing vocal/refrain of “don’t say you love me…” I could see why Young has said it was too sad to release. It’s like reading a letter to an ex girlfriend whose moved on. “How You Doin’?” (which turned into “Mr. Disappointment” on AYP?) is much better here as well. He doesn’t sing it in that growl like the previously released version. This is such a beautiful track… Neil’s always had a little soul in there – he was in the Mynah Birds with Rick James after all.

There are two long, 10-minute plus, epic Neil Young and Crazy Horse tracks here, “Boom Boom Boom” (which became “She’s A Healer”) and “Gateway of Love.” “Boom Boom Boom” is 13 minutes long and I love every minute of the song. Neil’s guitar emits sad wails of sound. There’s even a trumpet solo that reminded me of the Bluenotes. Listening to this song is a lot like wandering into the basement of the Green Lady Lounge and discovering a groovy band swinging… “Gateway of Love,” quoted above has some of the most raw, naked emotional lyrics of Young’s career. “I still feel you in my heart’s eye” is another lyric from the song that just grabbed me. “Gateway of Love” may be one of Neil’s best broken heart songs and he’s a man who has written many, many broken heart songs.

As you can tell I am thoroughly impressed with Toast. Is it a lost masterpiece? I’m not sure I’m ready to say that yet. It is a very, very good Neil Young & Crazy Horse record. Had he released this album instead of AYP? it might have changed how I look at the entire first decade of this millennium for Neil. This album ranks up there with Ragged Glory for me as a latter day standout record. Only Bob Dylan has a penchant like this for having a great album on his hands and then deconstructing it and releasing a lesser version. Forget all about Are You Passionate? and consider Toast as it’s own entity. This is great late period Neil  Young, simply sensational stuff.

Put this one on late at night while you ruminate about former lovers over a tumbler of fine whiskey… it’ll sweep you away.

Cheers!

“What’s In A Name?” – Our Favorite Non-Debut, Self-Titled (Eponymous) LPs – Major Statements?

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“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell just as sweet.” – William Shakespeare, Romeo And Juliet

A number of years ago I stumbled across a review that described an LP as the artist in question’s “eponymous album” and I didn’t have the foggiest idea what that meant. I’d never seen the word before and as I usually do, I quickly consulted Webster, despite my daughter’s ridicule for doing so – it’s how you build a vocabulary – who defines eponymous as “of, relating to, or being the person or thing for whom or which something is named.” I have to admit they use a whole lot of words just to say a work is named after the artist. I’m still not sure what the correct pronunciation of “eponymous” is and avoid the word in conversation…so much for increasing my vocabulary. I’m a “Jr,” named for my dad, so apparently that means I’m my father’s eponymous son as opposed to my brother. If I understand correctly George Foreman named all of his kids George Foreman… he must really be down with the whole eponymous thing.

There are a lot of artists who use the band name as the title of their first album. Or should we say, they named their debut album in an eponymous way… still working on the vocab! Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Van Halen and the list goes on and on, all named their first record after themselves. The debut album is a critical album in every artist’s career. It’s your introduction to a mass audience. And, as the saying goes, you only have one chance to introduce yourself (Pleased To Meet You: The Epic List of Our 40 Favorite Debut Albums). Why not use the debut album as a calling card for the band and just drop your rock n roll “John Hancock” on the front cover as a title? You want people to remember your name. Who can blame any band for doing that? One never knows how the debut is going to be received but it never hurts to name it after the band. Not everybody has an album like say, Boston up their sleeve right out of the gate. While I love all of those great eponymous debut albums, that’s not what I’m here to discuss today.

There also artists who are into the heavy Roman numeral thing. After Led Zeppelin’s eponymous (double word score?) debut they named their next two albums Led Zeppelin II and Led Zeppelin III respectively. I don’t want to utter any blasphemy here but you have to wonder if Zeppelin just couldn’t come up with any suitable album titles? They didn’t even bother to name their 4th album. They just put four runes on it to baffle everybody. To this day people aren’t sure what to call that album (Led Zeppelin IV or Zoso or Runes). Van Halen fell prey to the Roman numeral thing on their second LP, Van Halen II. McCartney has revisited the concept of his first, post-Beatles, solo album with McCartney II and McCartney III which are apparent sequels to that experimental masterpiece debut McCartney. Peter Gabriel named all of his first four albums Peter Gabriel. He wanted his albums to be thought of as successive chapters in the same book. Talk about a guy who just couldn’t get out of his own way! While all of these albums are eponymous-adjacent, they really don’t fit what I’m here to discuss today.

I know, I know, what am I here to talk about? Get to the point.

There have been bands/artists who later in their career who have chosen to release a self-titled album. Again, we’re not talking about debut LPs or solo debuts here. There is a theory in rock n roll that when an artist does that – goes eponymous later in their career – it is typically an attempt to make either a major statement or more likely a major career re-boot. It’s the artist re introducing themselves. I was thinking about that the other day. While painters put their name on every painting they do, after the debut it’s much more rare for a musical artist to go with a self-titled album. There’s typically a motive there. Maybe the band split up for a while and they’re back together so the self-titled LP is a way of saying, “We’re back, did you miss us? (I so rarely get to quote “Hot For Teacher,” I couldn’t resist).

I began to think of some of my favorite non-debut, eponymous albums and I have to admit the ones that came to mind all have a bit of swagger. It’s that John Hancock, “I’m signing my name in big letters so the King can read it without his spectacles” kind of chutzpah. In many cases it’s more about a band coming back together and finding that shared, band identity again. To me it comes across a statement of purpose or maybe resolve. It says, this is who I am. And yes, in some cases there is an implied “Perhaps you don’t remember me?”

I came up with thirteen self-titled records that I’d count amongst my favorites. Although after laying awake thinking about it for a while, I threw in an extra wildcard album. Now I have 14 albums where the artist chose to name this particular work after themselves or to put it less clearly, the artist chose to name the album “of, relating to, or being the person or thing for whom or which something is named.” If you have a favorite eponymous LP and it’s not on this list, please put it in the comments. I’m always looking for something I missed. If you haven’t gotten into these albums, I urge everyone to do so. And yes, for all of those of you wondering, I almost put R.E.M.’s greatest hits LP cleverly entitled Eponymous on the list but I didn’t want to be a smart ass.

  1. Alice In Chains – After canceling a tour and basically disbanding due to Layne Staley’s heroin addiction after Jar of Flies, the band reunited and recorded this, their third full LP. It’s one of my favorite from Alice In Chains. “Heaven Beside You,” “Grind,” and “Again” rank amongst their best. Staley’s heroin addiction made recording this album painful but to me it said, “we’ve survived the storm and we’re back as a band.” Sadly, Staley never kicked the habit and succumbed to heroin only a few years later. Their Unplugged LP was his last hurrah.
  2. The Band – While Music From Big Pink was an instant classic, this is a better album in my opinion. It’s the moment the Band stepped out from Dylan’s shadow. This is where they made the statement that they were to be reckoned with in their own right without Dylan. Some of Robbie Robertson’s best songwriting is on this album, “The Night They Drove Ol’ Dixie Down” and “Up On Cripple Creek” are both here.
  3. The Beatles – Also known as The White Album. While this self-title exercise probably had more to do with the minimalist cover art, I still think this was a statement from the Beatles. They had been off doing psychedelic music in day-glo outfits for a while even taking on an assumed identity (Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band) in order to find more artistic freedom and slip the yoke of being “the Beatles.” The band had just returned from India with a huge batch of new songs and they actually started playing the basic tracks as a band again instead of recording each part separately. While they were saying in a round about way they were The Beatles again, they were actually moving in 4 different directions as artists. Still, it’s simply one of the best albums ever.
  4. Buffalo Springfield Again – This may be only eponymous-adjacent but it’s too good of an album not to include here. Neil Young had quit the band after their great debut album but then returned and brought “Mr. Soul” and “Broken Arrow” two masterpieces with him. They were once again Buffalo Springfield.
  5. CSN – Crosby, Stills, Nash had let 7 years lapse since Deja Vu when they finally pulled it together and recorded this one. Sadly, the aforementioned Neil Young is nowhere to be found. They’d tried to do a CSNY album on the heels of their 1974 tour, tentatively titled Human Highway, but it fell apart… although there’s evidence this great LP might still be out there in the vaults, but I digress. CSN is a laid back, yacht rock kinda vibe but there are so many great songs. “Dark Star” and “Just A Song Before I Go” were huge. Crosby kills it on “Shadow Captain.”
  6. Sheryl Crow – OK, this is the wildcard. After the huge success of her debut, Tuesday Night Music Club, some of her collaborators began to grumble it was more their talent than hers that caused the sensation. She came back with such ferocity on her second album and the title – her name – let everybody know who was in charge on this one. I don’t write much about Sheryl Crow but she’s got some real gems in the catalog. Such swagger.
  7. Fleetwood Mac (1975). Fleetwood Mac had seen heights in their long and storied career, especially when Peter Green was in the band at the beginning. But after Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks joined and they recorded this album it was time to reintroduce themselves to the world. Needless to say the world liked what they heard. This laid the groundwork for the record breaking Rumours.
  8. John Mellencamp – Mellencamp had just moved to Columbia Records after a series of disappointing LPs he didn’t feel his old record company were supporting properly. This is one of the first LPs both the Rock Chick and I discovered we both owned. It’s an amazing late career rebirth. He was clearly letting us know he had plenty of creativity in the tank. He’d already had an LP named John Cougar, John Mellencamp was overdue!
  9. Metallica – Also known as The Black Album. Metallica had perhaps the greatest first four album run in the history of rock n roll. But they’d exhausted the long, epic song style they’d perfected over those records. Metallica was a complete change up – of style and execution – and it still is a landmark heavy metal album. Shorter songs but still heavy, heavy riffs. “Enter Sandman,” “Sad But True” and “Nothing Else Matters” are iconic tunes. Some die-hard, long time fans bemoaned they’d sold out… yes, sold out of every copy of Metallica.
  10. Pearl Jam – I may be the only one who thinks this but I think of this 2006 album as a major comeback for Pearl Jam after 2002’s Riot Act. Riot Act is the only Pearl Jam album I sold at the used CD store. I think the band realized they’d hit their creative/commercial low point. Pearl Jam seemed to me to be a reintroduction of a great band. Rather than just being a big live attraction it was time to do something listenable in the studio again. “Life Wasted” and “World Wide Suicide” rock with a vengeance. “Gone” and “Come Back” showed they could still do mid-tempo and ballads. All of this with socially conscious lyrics. They’ve been on a late career roll ever since all the way through their last album, Gigaton.
  11. Linda Ronstadt – It wasn’t the commercial breakthrough she was hoping for but backed by the future Eagles (Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Bernie Leadon and Randy Meisner) this is where her 70s sound came together. She covers some great tunes here from “Rock Me On The Water” (Jackson Browne) to “Birds” (Neil Young). While the record buying public ignored her first two solo records – Linda Rondstadt says, “Here I come World.” Mega success was just around the corner… but don’t sleep on this album, it’s essential.
  12. Social Distortion – After two great (albeit somewhat overlooked) albums on an indie label Mommy’s Little Monster (named for my wife’s cat, years before it’s birth) and Prison Bound, Social D finally signed to a big label, Epic Records. As a “re-introduction” to the world, they delivered one of their best albums. If only we could get that new album they’ve been working on for the last 12 years… Like Cubs fans, I guess we have to be content saying, “there’s always next year.”
  13. The Velvet Underground – Their third record came after quite a bit of tumult. Andy Warhol had steered their early career during the Velvet Underground and Nico period but they’d split with both Warhol and Nico. The follow up, White Light/White Heat was an experimental, noise filled affair. Their third, self-titled record is where Lou Reed and the gang, now with Doug Yule instead of John Cale, tried to make peace with radio. I love this whole record. Not as edgy as their debut but still with songs like “Jesus” and “Pale Blue Eyes” how could they miss? Sadly, they did with the public… At least drummer Mo Tucker got to sing a song. But, as the saying goes, they didn’t have many fans but all the ones they did have seemed to have gone out and formed bands.
  14. Warren Zevon – After the disastrous 1969 debut, Wanted Dead Or Alive, it took Warren Zevon seven years to finally get back in the game. Warren Zevon is an absolute masterpiece of an album from a guy who should be in the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame and should have been inducted a long time ago. I recently tracked this album down on vinyl again. I could listen to “Carmelita” over and over again…

That’s it – my fourteen favorite self-titled albums. I considered calling it the BourbonAndVinyl Eponymous Albums list but that seems too self-referential even for me. Again, I think these are albums everyone should hear – and certainly the Metallica, the Beatles and Fleetwood Mac have probably been heard by most people. Even if you’ve heard these records I implore you to pull them out and listen all over again… If you’re new to classic rock and haven’t heard these albums before, I highly recommend putting any or all of these albums on and turning it up to 11… maybe put a little whiskey in a glass…

Cheers!

Review: The Cult, New Single “Give Me Mercy” From The Upcoming LP ‘Under The Midnight Sun,’ First New Music In Six Years!!

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“Give me mercy, love will find you, give me mercy, a new language” – The Cult, “Give Me Mercy”

I can’t believe it’s been six years since we’ve had new Cult music to talk about. But it’s true, Hidden City, their last LP, came out in 2016. The pandemic has really thrown off my internal clock. I really liked Hidden City calling it a late career gem. I saw them twice on that tour, once in Kansas City and once in Chicago. I knew they had a new album coming out this year but was still surprised when I saw “Give Me Mercy” had dropped today. 

While I’m on record as a huge Cult fan (I just saw them again in Denver this May), I have to admit I was late to this party – as I seem to be with many bands from the 80s. During the Cult’s late 80s heyday when I was in college, I was busy catching up on the Faces, the Who and Zeppelin to pay attention to such great then-current records like Love or Electric or to my embarrassment even Sonic Temple. I remember this dude I knew walking around singing “I’m a Sun King, baby, won’t you share my throne” but I just thought he was having drunken delusions of grandeur. I also vaguely remember seeing Cult videos but unfortunately every hard rock band in the 80s had identical videos on MTV. It was always them playing live on a stage, engulfed in fog. There might have been pretty girls dancing around, possibly a motorcycle or a fast car. It all blended together.

It wasn’t until I met my future wife, the Rock Chick that I really got into the Cult. On one of our first dates, we went to the CD store to shop for music. I walked out with a few CDs that day but the Rock Chick walked out with a stack almost as tall as she was… which is basically her super hero origin story… “The Rock Chick” was born. Anyway, one of those CDs that day was a greatest hits disc Pure Cult and we wore that thing out that summer drinking vodka lemonades by her apartment pool. Literally, we had to replace it. From there she led me into their great back catalog. I was stunned I’d missed out on this hard rocking band. Lead singer Ian Astbury as I soon discovered was the quintessential lead vocalist and Billy Duffy was a serious shredder on lead guitar. The rhythm section is a bit of a revolving door.. They were Zeppelin-esque. Their music had an edginess to it that left them hard to define – you can hear them on SiriusXM on both the alternative rock station and the hard rock station.

It wasn’t until their 2001 LP Beyond Good And Evil that I purchased a Cult album when it actually came out and was current. That was also the first time I saw the Cult live. It was at the Uptown Theater and remains amongst my favorite concerts. Since then the Cult have put out a string of really strong albums that can only be described as a “late career renaissance.” There was Born Into This (2007), Choice Of Weapon (2012), and the aforementioned Hidden City (2016). These guys are really rock n roll survivors. Not many rock bands whose origins stem from the 80s are still around and rocking with this much gust0 – and more importantly continuing to put out new music. 

A new upcoming Cult album, entitled Under The Midnight Sun, means a new Cult lead single from the album which leads us to the subject at hand, “Give Me Mercy.” I must confess the announcement of a new song from the Cult always fills me with rock n roll excitement. Since I’ve become a big Cult fan, basically in this millennium, each LP they’ve released has had a great first single. I still have “Rise” from that first Cult album I actually purchased, Beyond Good And Evil, in high rotation. It was a soaring rocker. Billy Duffy’s riffs are fast and furious. Ian Astbury’s vocal takes me to the sky when I hear him sing, “You have wings up on your back and you can fly.” It’s a track that should be automatically on any new greatest hits album they consider doing.

Born Into This had the great, great first single “Dirty Little Rock Star.” It was one of my wife’s friend Nancy’s favorite songs. She used to quote the line, “You sick little hipster” when she’d come over and drink wine with us. God, I miss her. “Dirty Little Rock Star” continued the Cult’s hot streak of lead singles in grand fashion. It had a great bass line and a cool start/stop guitar. Duffy’s guitar sounded like a machine gun being fired at random intervals. “You bite your lip baby, you shake your hips babe, you taste the whip babe come on… you wanna be a Dirty Little Rock Star…” I mean if that doesn’t get you up on your feet holding a lighter over you’re head nothing will.

The next lead single, from Choice Of Weapon, was “For The Animals.” I remember seeing them perform the song live on (I believe) the Jimmy Kimmel Show. They had a stage set up in the parking lot and they rawked!! “For The Animals” is an old school, fast paced, meet me at the finish line rocker. It would have fit nicely on Electric. They followed their trend of hard rocking first singles with “Dark Energy” from their last LP Hidden City. It’s got driving drums from John Tempesta whose been manning the kit on drums for the Cult since Born Into This. The song has a great bridge with keyboards (which were a new texture for the Cult) and Ian wailing the lyrics “Defend the magic, Defend the beauty.”

That’s a pretty good track record for lead singles over the last 20 years. “Give Me Mercy” continues the trend of great first songs, but even I will admit it has more of a mid-tempo feel than some of the hard, hard rockers the Cult usually put out as their first track. The song starts off with a great riff from Duffy then the music goes quiet and Ian starts singing – man that voice is so amazing – “I wish it were different, it all ends the same, your savage heart, has stolen my name.” Then Billy and Tempesta kick back in with that great riff. It has that loud to quiet to loud pattern that so many great rock songs have. It seems Astbury is appealing to a lover at the end for mercy but one could easily apply this song to society in general… we could all use more mercy.

I think this is a great song, I’ve spent all morning listening to it on repeat. They’ve even gone so far as to release a video. I don’t usually comment on these things but I love the silhouette of Billy with his guitar at the start of the video  – it takes me back to the cover of Sonic Temple. And, there are a few shots of Ian with his very cool long hair down which I haven’t seen in a long time. Here’s the video so you can hear the track:

This is a track I’ve been looking forward to for a long time. From what I understand the band recorded it in the UK and Ian was in New York so had to do his vocals remotely. One has to wonder what that will do for the chemistry of the band but these guys have been together so long I doubt it’ll be a factor. And, if this first track is any indication, I think it’s going to be a rocking fall when Under The Midnight Sky comes out. Rumor has it they are really shooting for more of a Love and/or Dreamtime sound on this record and who doesn’t love that?

Turn this one up loud and enjoy!! Cheers!