Playlist: U.S. Tax Day Blues?

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“With my mind on my money and my money on my mind” – Snoop Dogg, “Gin And Juice”

I can’t believe the Ides of April are already upon us. I guess it beats the Ides of March, not to get all Julius Caesar and Shakespeare on you… It’s mid-April and here in the American midwest, it’s snowed twice this month. This schizophrenic weather is killing me. This isn’t how April is supposed to go down. Two days ago it was 80 degrees. Today it’s in the 30s. I don’t know whether to put on shorts with my favorite concert t-shirt and head to my favorite patio bar for a margarita or whether to bundle up…. Where did I put my scarf? Usually by mid-April I’ve started work on my tan, which usually ends up with me turning a slightly rusty color all summer…what can I say, I’m fair-skinned. But even I have to admit, the world just looks better with a tan.

We’re almost a full third into the year and the music scene this year has really sucked. Jack White’s Boarding House Reach disappointed me (LP Review: Creativity And The Curious Case of Jack White & ‘Boarding House Reach’) as much as Beck’s Colors did last year and the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ The Getaway did the year before that. It’s painful when artists of that caliber miss the mark so widely… they only put out albums every three or four years so I’m stuck waiting. Maybe I’m not spelunking deep enough? Thank God Jimi Hendrix’s vault continues to release such great music… LP Review: Jimi Hendrix, ‘Both Sides of the Sky,’ The Vaults Runneth Over…. And to top it all, Lindsey Buckingham was fired from Fleetwood Mac and I read in the Washington Post, Lindsey may be a bigger asshole than we all realized.

My friend, drummer Blake informed that Coachella is happening this weekend. When I asked the Rock Chick what Coachella is, she said, “It’s Woodstock for rich, white, pretty kids.” It sounds awful. Blake says it’s an arts and music festival but the music is Hip Hop and EDM… with maybe a rock act thrown in just for fun. I’m sorry, there’s not enough Ecstasy in the world to make that music tolerable. Every picture I’ve seen of the fans at Coachella are the same… tall, willowy, emaciated chicks with vacuous, dehydrated eyes and dirty feet. Hydrate, ladies, hydrate…and buy some rock and roll. Greta Van Fleet are the only band worth seeing at Coachella this year… Pearl Jam are out there on the road somewhere… maybe they’ll come back to the States. Thank God I’ve got Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul tickets next month with my friends Doug and Drew. Depeche Mode is returning and everybody should try and see them.

I think the thing that has me in this early Spring, or perhaps more accurately, Second Winter funk these days is that Tax Day in the United States is this weekend. Every year in the United States income taxes are due on April 15th. Well, this year it’s April 17th but same difference. I can remember when I was a kid, working summer jobs doing light construction, tax day was good news. It usually meant a refund. Now every year, I’m writing a check. It wouldn’t bother me except I’m guessing the check I’m writing is probably bigger than Warren Buffett’s or the Koch Brothers’ and those guys could buy and sell me with plenty of cash left over… The rich get richer.

Income taxes in the U.S. actually started in 1861 as a way to pay for the Civil War. It was codified by the Sixteenth Amendment in 1913. By the time Eisenhower was President in the 1950’s the top tax bracket in the U.S. for the richest 10% was 90%, which seems high but lets remember, Eisenhower built the Interstate Highways. We don’t build anything here any more… One of the older guys who were doing some construction here last summer said to me, “I can still remember Colonel Tom Parker (Elvis Presley’s evil manager), saying that it was his job to keep Elvis in the 90% tax bracket…”

So every year as I move money around to cover the tax burden, in an almost comical three-card monty game, it always takes me to the same place that Snoop Dogg was in on “Gin And Juice.” I walk around all day with “My mind on money and my money on my mind.” The only thing I could think of to take my mind off that was, of course, rock and roll. Well, bourbon doesn’t hurt either but I do have to hold down a job. Moderation people… With all that said, I came up with this Tax Day Playlist. I tried to keep it rocking and upbeat. It certainly helps sooth my Tax Day Blues. I hope it helps yours!

  1. The Beatles, “Taxman” – Well, I think we all knew this would be here. One of George Harrison’s best riffs. Tom Petty did a nice cover of this one too…
  2. The Who, “Man With Money” – I wish I was the titular character here…
  3. Ozzy Osbourne, “The Almighty Dollar” – Ozzy gets heavy both musically and lyrically about the evils of capitalism. Ozzy’s deeper than you realize.
  4. Robert Plant, “All The Money In the World” – From the sublime album, The Mighty Rearranger. 
  5. The Beatles, “Money (That’s What I Want)” – I could certainly use some right now.
  6. Montrose, “Paper Money” – Sammy Hagar’s first band. These guys rock.
  7. Scorpions, “Money And Fame” – From another great Scorp’s album, Crazy World. 
  8. Steve Miller Band, “Take the Money And Run” – Great song from the Gangster of Love.
  9. Bruce Springsteen, “Easy Money” – Great, late period Springsteen.
  10. Paul Butterfield Blues Band, “Shake Your Money Maker” – The Butterfield Band doing Elmore James. Yes!
  11. Van Morrison, “Blue Money” – “Say, when this is over,  you’ll be in clover, We’ll go out and spend all a your money (blue money).”
  12. The Black Keys, “Money Maker” – Great Keys tune…
  13. AC/DC, “Down Payment Blues” – One of Bon Scott’s more menacing tunes. “I’ve got holes in my shoes…”
  14. Bulletboys, “Money, Money, Money” – A Rock Chick favorite from the 80s.
  15. Bob Seger, “Ain’t Got No Money” – A fairly accurate description of my current financial situation.
  16. Dire Straits, “Money For Nothing” – Congrats to Dire Straits on this weekend’s Hall of Fame induction.
  17. AC/DC, “Money Made” – I considered “Money Talks” but I like this one better.
  18. Pink Floyd, “Money” – “I notice they’re giving none away, away…away.”
  19. Rush, “The Big Money” – “Goes around the world…”
  20. Motley Crue, “Keep Your Eye On The Money” – Sage advice.
  21. B.B. King (with The Rolling Stones), “Paying The Cost To Be the Boss” – A great old B.B. song, I just love this version with the Stones as Mick really gives his all on vocals.
  22. David Crosby and Graham Nash (Crosby, Nash), “Take The Money And Run” – Superb song from these guys working as a duo. I may do a post on the best CSNY solo/duo records.
  23. Don Henley, “If Dirt Were Dollars” – “If dirt were dollars, I wouldn’t worry any more.” I can only wish this were true, that I wouldn’t worry anymore.
  24. Bob Dylan, “Pay In Blood” – I love this dark, menacing track from Dylan’s last album featuring stuff he wrote, Tempest. 
  25. Cheap Trick, “Taxman, Mr. Thief” – Basically Cheap Trick re-doing the Beatles song with some extra spiteful lyrics added in for good measure.
  26. Billy Joel, “Easy Money” – I didn’t like An Innocent Man but I like this track which was on the soundtrack of the Rodney Dangerfield movie of the same name.
  27. Patti Smith, “Free Money” – From her landmark masterpiece, Horses. 
  28. Fitz And The Tantrums, “Moneygrabber” – Another Rock Chick favorite, written about a manager who screwed them.

As usual, I’ve probably missed a track or two about the green master, the cash, the dough, the cheese, the scratch, the m-o-n-e-y. If you have a track that you feel would fit, please add it in the comments section.

Cheers!

 

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Album Lookback: The Godfather’s ‘Birth, School, Work, Death’ – How’d I Miss This?

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“And I been high and I been low, and I don’t know where to go, birth, school, work, death…” -“Birth, School, Work, Death,” The Godfathers

The late 80s have always been a bit of a musical void for me. In 1987, much to family’s joy, I graduated from college and took employment with a multi-national corporation. When I interviewed with them in May, they agreed to hire me but they didn’t need me until September 1st… A summer off, perfect. Oh, and then they added rather quickly, you’ll be stationed in Ft. Smith, Arkansas. They told me if I wanted to go down to “check it out,” they’d pay for me to drive down and scout around. All I heard was “you’re hired” and “summer off.” I wasn’t thinking about the fact that I was taking a job at one of the most remote outposts this company had. It was a disaster.

In 1301 Dante Alighieri, mostly just known, like Prince, by his first name, was exiled from his beloved Florence, Italy. Dante was never to set foot in his home town again. Florence’s politics and his exile from there is one of the major themes in his beautiful, epic poem The Divine Comedy. Now, I’m not Dante and Kansas City is no Florence but I felt as badly about living in Fort Smith, which I unaffectionately called Fort Hell, as Dante did about living in Verona. Hell, Fort Smith wasn’t even Verona… I consider those years in Arkansas to be my years in exile. It was a grueling, awful three years.

One of the worst things about that town was that they had no rock and roll radio station. They had one, maybe two (if memory serves me) pop stations. MTV still played a few music videos but the ascendence of pop music had taken over their programming as well. So my memories of that era, 1987 to 1990 are a bit tilted toward pop. Madonna, Michael Jackson (especially Michael Jackson) and gads, Paula Abdul were the only kind of music I heard on the radio. Hip Hop was starting to conquer the world but I’ve just never developed a taste for that music outside of Jay-Z or Dr Dre who wouldn’t come along until years later. I have this vague memory that there were also a lot of hair bands around – Bon Jovi’s New Jersey or Poison’s Open Up and Say Ahh… seemed to get a lot of airplay. I also have a vague memory of synthesized, mopey alternative rock like say, Morrissey or the Pet Shop Boys. I remember a lot of drum machines. Needless to say, these memories make me feel like that was a really shitty time for music. I spent a lot of time making cassettes from my vinyl to play in the car so I wouldn’t be caught having to listen to the local radio. Yes, the dreaded “mix-tapes” got me through the barren years.

Although, in retrospect, I’m not sure that’s really a fair assessment of that era, that it was all awful. I’m the first to admit the Ft Smith pop-music lens has distorted my view of things. Metallica came out with …And Justice For All in 1988, so there was good metal coming out. U2’s underrated Rattle And Hum came out that year as well. Many of the bands who would later find success in the 90s were putting out their early records in that time frame, like say Jane’s Addiction. And yet all I can seem to think about is Steve Winwood’s creative nadir Roll With It. In my defense, living out in the middle of nowhere, I just never heard the good stuff that was coming out. Even though I usually spent every weekend away from Arkansas, I still never kept current (in 1988, of 52 potential weekends I only spent 2 in Ft Smith, and 1 of those weekends I had my wisdom teeth out).

My muse, the Rock Chick, strolled into the B&V labs a couple of weeks ago and said, “I bought a new album, you’ll probably remember it…” The next thing I know, this fabulous punk anthem, “Birth, School, Work, Death” is blasting over the speakers. I wanted to throw a chair, in a good way! I was dumbfounded. I’d never heard this song. When it was over, I had to ask, “Honey, who was that and when did you get into punk music?” I’ve tried to turn her on to the Sex Pistols a few times to no avail… Lo and behold, it was a band I’d never heard of, The Godfathers. And to my greater astonishment, the album Birth, School, Work, Death had come out in 1988, over a decade after the zenith of punk rock. When I heard the album came out during my exile years, it all began to make sense to me… why I knew nothing about these guys. The more I poked around, the more I realized, I’m not sure anybody knew who these guys were.

The Godfathers were formed in London in 1985 by brothers Peter Coyne (vocals) and Chris Coyne (bass). Joining them were Mike Gibson and Kris Dollimore on guitars and George Mazur on drums. Apparently, to go with the “mobster” name, the band would dress like they were members of Al Capone’s Chicago crime gang on stage. I’ve seen the pics, they were all slicked back hair, double-breasted suits and ties. That must have been something to see on stage… That look, along with the sound of this music, must have been slightly out of place out in the real world in 1988. (How would I know, I was exiled to Arkansas).

Birth, School, Work, Death is just a kick ass album full of crunching guitars, urgent drumming and desperate singing. The lyrics are snarling and borderline nihilistic. The title track is my new anthem when I think about how my career has gone but thats another story. “If I Only Had Time,” “Obsession,” “Tell Me Why” are all great, punky, riff-y rock songs. While the songs have a punk vibe and some great guitar playing they also have big, sing-along choruses (which, yes I know, is not very punk) and hooks galore. I find myself humming these tracks to myself. I love the way “Tell Me Why” ends – the lead singer says, “I told her I love her more than myself… and that’s saying something…” followed by a ferocious guitar solo. What a great track. “Cause I Said So” captures the angry young man vibe in a quintessential manner. It’s one of the harder, rockier tracks here.

“When I Coming Down” is a harrowing, almost psychedelic song about a drug trip gone terribly wrong. When the singer breaks into a spoken word passage near the end, I almost want to call for an ambulance. It reminds me of a story I heard about some friends of mine in college who did shrooms for Thanksgiving. One of them said he just curled up in a ball, staring at his digital clock hoping the numbers would turn and it would all be over. Another just wandered around all night saying, “Phyllis knows…” Phyllis was the elderly landlady who lived in the basement flat. This song could be the soundtrack to that evening. Thank God I stick to dark, murky fluids. “The Strangest Boy” is another song that’s guitar fueled, with a psychedelic vibe, although I might be getting that feeling from the bizarre, high pitched backing vocals. It’s just another sonically nuanced track that shows these guys could do more than three-chords and a chorus.

The only hint I get this music was from the 80s is the keyboards on the mid-tempo “It’s So Hard.” It gives the track a slightly New Wave vibe. Don’t get me wrong, there are still guitars, more understated here, and it’s still a great song. The lone tune I would call a ballad also boats a New Wave feel, “Just Like You” which is a brilliant love song. “I want to spend the day with a girl who looks just like you…” I’m just stunned this album wasn’t an enormous seller back in the 80s. These guys show they can do almost anything… On “STB” they sound like the Stones doing Chuck Berry’s guitar sound… they even work in the line (from the Stones “Star Star”) “make you scream all night.” The guitar work on “STB” sounds like something Keith and Ronnie would have done on Some Girls. 

I did listen to their second album, 1989’s More Songs About Love And Hate and while it was good, it was a complete stylistic left-turn. Gone was the punk attitude and the crunching guitars. It’s not a bad album but it sort of sounds like a sophomore-slump. I just like the loud squall of the first record better. On the third album, 1991’s Unreal World they return to the sound of the debut album and I thought it was also worth a listen. After that third album, they went through a number of line up changes, break ups and reunions. I think they’re still out there touring… I hope I get a chance to see these guys. I just want to stand on a bar stool and yell, “Birth, school, work, death!” at the top of my lungs while I’m spilling beer all over myself!

I strongly recommend all you rock and rollers out there to check this one out!! It’s worth doing the musical spelunking! Cheers!

 

 

 

LP Review: Creativity And The Curious Case of Jack White & ‘Boarding House Reach’

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“It’s no secret ambition bites the nails of success…” – “The Fly,” U2

Creativity has always been a fascinating thing to me. I’ve always been impressed by artists, not just rock and roll musicians, but all great artist’s ability to tap into some unlimited font of ideas. Whether it’s Hemingway digging deep for The Old Man And The Sea later in his career or Picasso mining his sorrow in World War II to come up with La Guernica it all fills me with awe (I do love that when asked by a fascist if he painted La Guernica Picasso was witty enough to say, “No, you did.”). Ideas seem to come to the masters from all sources. Johnny Carson famously said to another comedian, “You use everything you have for a laugh.” I’ve never been blessed with that wild creative gene. Yes, your intrepid B&V blogger did spend about a year once writing a novel. It was a great experience and very cathartic and I’m proud I finished it, but it wasn’t a very compelling read. However, I really enjoyed the process of creating. If I had more time and any decent ideas, I’d try again… but to repeat, I don’t have that great of an imagination.

When I look to rock and roll, there are so many examples of bands or artists who took creative risks or at the very least, creative left turns. For the most part, I can sit and listen to a majority of the bands I like and there seems to be a linear growth in the way they created their music. Musician’s playing and writing skills evolve in a fairly similar, straightforward way. But then you look at bands like the Beatles. You could argue their development was linear, but when you realize the same band who did “I Want To Hold Your Hand” also did “Being For The Benefit of Mr. Kite” merely four years later, it’s hard to call that growth “linear.” The Beatles developed and explored different sounds in an exponential way or perhaps it’s better described as an exploding sun, in every direction all at once. David Bowie is another example of an artist who consistently defied creative expectations and changed his sound… his theme song was “Changes,” for God’s sake. The guy went from Glam Rock (dressed as a sexually-ambiguous alien) to doing Philly Soul (with Luther Vandross on backing vocals, no less) to German ambient rock with Eno. Oddly for Bowie and the Beatles all these creative twists and turns just… worked. Wherever these ideas were coming from, they were all great. Ok maybe Bowie should have opted out of the duet with Jagger on “Dancing In The Streets.” The video still haunts me.

I have always subscribed to the “‘Great Man” theory of rock and roll, that there are certain great men or great artists who influence and shape the very genre of rock and roll. I have always considered Jack White to be one of those “greats.” White is a real dichotomy to me. On one hand, he’s an anachronism, which Webster defines as a person or thing that is chronologically out of place. His music has always been extremely rooted in the past. He is, in my mind, first and foremost a Bluesman. He ranks up there with Jimi Hendrix, B.B. King, Son House and Robert Johnson. His guitar playing and his whole ethos is bluesy. He also managed to embrace rock (like Hendrix) and a punk energy that singularly defined him as a “great” artist. His hobby is re-upholstering for God’s sake… who does that nowadays? I sometimes wonder if some day we’ll discover a photograph, similar to the shot of Jack Nicholson at the end of The Shining, shot 50 years prior, of Jack White standing next Charley Patton… his pale white face framed with black hair, looking exactly the same as he does now, only in 1925.

On the other hand, opposite the anachronistic nature, is a quality in Jack White that can only be described as so futuristic that it causes me to occasionally wonder if he’s a space alien. The monochromatic, red/white theme he employed for the White Stripes was as futuristic as it was old-time. Is the upholstery hobby retro or possibly a sign he’s from another planet? For the most part in his career, White has followed  his muse more toward looking back to the blues or country for inspiration. Not so on Boarding House Reach. White’s new album is nothing short of a Martian Dance Party. He throws everything AND the kitchen sink into each song… And this leads me back to creativity. I applaud any artist’s willingness and ability to challenge himself and to take a creative left turn. The courage and the imagination should be applauded. Jack took four years off between records, to spend more time with his young children and clearly he wanted to do something grand on his return to recording. I am sad to say, it just didn’t work.

For the most part, White takes the typical structure of songs, verse-chorus-verse-chorus, and throws that out the window. There are a few spoken word pieces that don’t jell at all, like “Abulia and Akrasia.” There’s a song that sounds like an angry White is screaming into a megaphone…”Everything You’ve Ever Learned” that is the most puzzling thing the man has ever done. Towards the beginning of the album there’s a trio of songs, “Corporation,” “Hypermisophonic,” and “Ice Station Zebra” where so many sounds are colliding and firing in different directions, the songs are rendered unlistenable. “Corporation” sounds like a bad demo of Prince and the New Power Generation. In “Hypermisophonic,” the chorus “when you’re robbing a bank,” keeps getting repeated until you’re ready for the cops to show up and arrest the robbers. “Ice Station Zebra” has a jazzy feel but it’s a jazz that might get played by that bar band in the cantina scene from the original Star Wars. 

“Get In The Mind Shaft” has a robotic-vocal effect that makes me wonder if Jack will release a video of himself actually dancing “the Robot.” “Esmerelda Steals the Show” is an acoustic number that turns out to be an “anti-cell phone at the show” number… It’s message was clear, it’s music was not. “Respect Commander” and “Over and Over and Over” at least have a decent guitar riff… well, at least to start off with. Both songs take weird, alien keyboard twists.

The opening track, “Connected By Love,” reviewed earlier on B&V (Review: Jack White’s Two New Songs) is probably, while different, the most accessible song here. He also does a nice country weeper, “What’s Done Is Done” towards the end. The other song I enjoyed was “Humoresque,” an odd, acoustic lullaby that closes things down. Other than those three tracks, I’m not sure I can find anything to connect with on this album. Gone are the great guitar solos or even the great guitar riffs. I like Jack on keyboards, but here he mostly employs synths and weird, computer sounding keys. There’s very little on this record that sounds organic, something I’ve always found on White’s previous work.

White decided to record this album with an all new backing band. In many cases he went to the studio musicians who’d been used by various hip-hop artists. I applaud the idea, but for whatever reason it just didn’t come together. Every time I put this album on the Rock Chick runs from the room. It’s hard to tell a genius like Jack White, hey man, you made a bad album. I rarely write anything negative, there are enough haters out there. If I don’t like an album, I just stay mum about it… I try to shed light on good things people should go check out… White is such an important artist, in my mind anyway, I felt I had to weigh in here. I followed Jack from The White Stripes to The Raconteurs to The Dead Weather to his solo work. I imagine I will continue to follow his creative forays, whatever direction they take him for as long as he keeps going. I just can’t, in good conscience, recommend this album. This is clearly a case where an artist’s creative grasp exceeded his reach… maybe I’m not smart enough, but I just don’t get it…

I think I speak for everyone when I say, sincerely… Meg White… wherever you are… Please come back!

 

New Single: Pearl Jam’s Feisty, Great New Song “Can’t Deny Me,” Their First New Music In 5 Years

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“You want me to breathe and be so thankful” – Pearl Jam, “Can’t Deny Me”

Well it’s about time we got some new Pearl Jam. I can’t believe it’s been 5 years since they released the incredibly strong LP Lightning Bolt. I think I listened to the ballad, “Sirens” on that record about a thousand times… in a row. I can get obsessive. I’ve always been a huge Pearl Jam fan. I was dating a woman who brought over their first album, Ten, and when we broke up I did everything I could to hang onto that CD. I probably should have worked that hard on the relationship, oh well. Eventually, like her affection, she returned to take her Pearl Jam CD with her…

I will admit, it hasn’t always been easy to be a Pearl Jam fan. They started doing everything they could to dismantle the fame and success that came after Ten (Artists Who Changed Their Music to Escape Fame). Even their second album, Vs was titled to let you know it was Pearl Jam against the world. While they were still a vital and important live act, their albums became more and more obtuse. They almost lost me at Riot Act. However, if you spend some time with that record it will slowly reveal itself to you… there are some great songs there. It’s a grower.

Prior to Riot Act Pearl Jam would put out an album about every two years. Since then, they’ve stretched out the periods between albums. Any more they take anywhere from three to four years between albums. Vedder does solo stuff or hangs out at Wrigley field watching Cubs games. Drummer Matt Cameron got back together with Soundgarden. The stuff they do solo or more appropriately, away from the band, probably helps re-energize them for the next Pearl Jam project. But even I have to admit that 5 years is a really long time between albums. Only the Stones seem to take longer… but that’s another post.

It was with great excitement that I heard that Pearl Jam had released a new single, at first only to their fan club known as The Ten Club. It’s actually a great fan organization. I don’t know why I haven’t joined… but if I did that for every band I liked I’d be broke. The Ten Club typically gets a free single every Christmas and gets an advanced shot on concert tickets. After a few days of listening to the new single, “Can’t Deny Me” on YouTube Pearl Jam have finally released the song this week to the general public and I snapped it up.

I like my Pearl Jam angry and “Can’t Deny Me” is a great, rocking single. Eddie Vedder spent a lot of time hanging out with guitarist Johnny Ramone before his demise in 2004 and that punk influence has stuck with him ever since. This is a punchy, feisty song. I love the fact that when they played it the other night, they dedicated it to the Parkland, Florida kids who are out on the streets protesting for some common sense gun control laws. I dig what Roger Waters and Randy Newman are doing in terms of socially cognizant music these days, but I needed a good rock and roll protest song and Pearl Jam have delivered. Pearl Jam, of course, are no strangers to making political statements in their music. “Bushleaguer,” and “W.M.A” just to name a few songs that addressed politics. Vedder famously wrote “Pro Choice” on his arm in black magic marker during Pearl Jam’s “Unplugged” performance, which to this day I still wish they’d release as an album. So it was great to hear these guys let loose on our current situation.

The song starts with a wicked Matt Cameron drum beat. Eddie Vedder sings like he’s a wounded animal. With lines like “The higher, the farther, the faster you fly, you may be rich but you can’t deny me,” there is little doubt who this is addressed to. Over Cameron’s insistent drum beat the guitars crunch and squall. “Your ignorance is sinful…” I love it. Pearl Jam’s music has always had a grandiosity to it, similar to U2’s music, which these days comes across stronger in their ballads. And while this song isn’t as epic as “Alive” or “Even Flow” it hits every bit as hard as “Go” or “Animal.” It’s brief, clocking in at only 2:44  in keeping with that punk ethos they’ve adopted.

The best news of all about a new Pearl Jam song is that it means there’s a new Pearl Jam album on the way. I haven’t heard anything about a release date but they have announced a number of concert dates… so it appears to be only a matter of time. All of us here at the B&V labs are eagerly awaiting a whole new Pearl Jam album. Hell, I was thrilled to hear Vedder sing “Room At The Top,” the gem by Tom Petty at the Oscars… imagine how I’ll react to an entire new album. I’m even hoping Eddie releases “Room At The Top,” his performance was that fabulous… he could do it as a charity thing perhaps?

Last, and certainly not least, Happy St Patrick’s Day to all of you out there. The Rock Chick and I will be out on the streets of Kansas City, dressed in green, drinking with the revelers. I’m told Kansas City has the third largest parade in the States. It really is the only religious holiday I still observe. I mean, Christmas sort of happens around me, I can’t avoid it, but I’m a full participant in St Patrick’s Day. Be safe out there and Erin Go Bragh to all of you!

Don’t Pay the Ransom: Vegas, Vacation and a Gambling Playlist

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I was always a big fan of the actor Richard Harris. Not only was the man a talented actor, portraying everyone from King Arthur to Dumbledore in his storied career, Harris was also a prodigious drinker. Toward the end of his life he’d quit drinking but he never lost the ability to tell a great drinking story. He truly embodies the BourbonAndVinyl ethos in much the same as Keith Richards.

I can still remember seeing Richard Harris tell the following story on the David Letterman show one late night, long ago. Richard was at home in England and his favorite football team (soccer team for the Americans) was playing a rival team. He told his wife he was going down to the pub to watch the game. It was a contentious game but fortunately for Harris, his team won. Some people he’d just met at the pub suggested they abscond off to Ireland for the weekend, as that’s where their team was playing next. Harris readily agreed and was gone for over five days, drinking with strangers and attending the football game. When he returned home, he paused at the door, unsure what to tell his wife, he hadn’t called her during his entire absence. When the door flew open and he saw his understandably enraged wife, before she could get a word in, he threw up his hands and smiled, “Don’t pay the ransom, I’ve escaped!” To this day, both the Rock Chick and I use that line if we’re “on the late side…”

So to all of you faithful B&V readers who have noticed I haven’t posted anything in a while, Don’t Pay the Ransom, I escaped… Some of you may have suspected my lack of posting was due to our slow music news this year so far but no, I just took the wife for a long overdue holiday to points way out west. I had never spent any time tooling around the great American Southwest and now that I have, I can’t wait to return. It was a great Kerouac drive through big skies, deserts and mountains. We got back late last night. The vacation was great, but unfortunately it was preceded, for me at least, by five days at a work conference in Las Vegas that I was forced to attend by my corporate overlords…Work, what are you gonna do?

When I was young, work travel seemed so exotic. Conferences in Vegas for a week sounded cool. As usual, my young mind was misguided. First and foremost, I’m just not a gambler. Getting out of bed every morning is enough of a gamble for me. Heaven knows what risks I unwittingly take each day. Most of my work travel ends up being the same no matter what city I’m in. I spend most my time sitting in a conference room or in Vegas, a ballroom converted into a classroom. I never see the sun… I find it very difficult to sit in a room all day and listen to presenters… it makes me wonder how I got through high school. I wear uncomfortable shoes all day and trudge through the labyrinth of a giant casino back and forth from my room to the class room for nine hours. I usually never leave the casino… I start referring to it as “Biosphere.” If someone suggests an “off-campus” exploration, my usual response is, in a shocked and somewhat fearful tone, “What, and leave Biosphere? How will we survive?”

Of course, other than gambling, Vegas holds additional charms for people, I guess. The food and the drinking there, which are two of my favorite things, are amazingly expensive. I remember my Sainted Grandmother, who loved to gamble, telling me stories of cheap food and free drinks in Vegas. She used to make my aunt sit in the room and watch TV while she and Granddad gambled into the night… I’m glad no one called Social Services. I took the Rock Chick out to dinner while we were in Sin City and the bill looked like a mortgage payment. I had one Blanton’s, neat, and it was 25 bucks. Too rich for me. Also, it’s such a dry climate out there, I find myself consuming inhuman amounts of water and requiring vast quantities of hand lotion.

Beyond that, Vegas, of course, also holds the more…physical pleasures. But that’s never been my thing. I was always the one in the strip joint who said to the stripper, “Who hurt you? Are you ok? When was the last time you spoke to your parents.” It was just never my scene. In Vegas, they’ve turned that vibe up to 11. Many years ago, right after marrying the Rock Chick, when I had first become a manager, I was in the Venetian. I was merely having a beer at one of the central bars. I noticed a woman dressed in a tube top waving at me from across the bar and the guy I was talking to, who worked for me at the time, inexplicably waved back. The next thing I knew this woman was standing in front of me, demanding a gin and tonic. The idiot who’d waved her over had disappeared into a bank of slot machines, I could only see his eyes peeking over one of the neon, one-armed bandits. The bar was full of my coworkers… a hush fell over the bar and all heads turned… I felt like a bright spotlight was on me. My boss was a really committed religious guy and I knew this would not go over well.

At the same time, I wanted to treat this woman with all the dignity I’d treat anybody with. I compliantly bought the drink and made stilted small talk. The longer the conversation went on, the more I was gripped with what Hunter S Thompson called, The Fear. I realized I had to bring this conversation to an end. I asked, in a breezy manner, trying not to reveal how unnerved I was by all of this, “So, what do you do in here in Vegas, Destiny?” Jeez, Destiny? She started to respond with a long answer about going out to dinner and dancing. “No, Destiny, I mean, what do you do for a living?” And to make my point clear, I added, “Like, are you in Real Estate?” Again, I was trying to maintain everybody’s dignity… well except for the moron hiding behind the slot machine who I was considering firing. Destiny smiled and gave me perhaps the wittiest come back I’d ever heard…”Well, you could say I’m in real estate. I rent small spaces for really short periods of time.” She smiled seductively. I smiled despite myself. I’ve always respected wit. I held up my left hand, with my wedding ring, and smiled back, “Sorry, I don’t rent, I own.” Thankfully Destiny flitted off to her own destiny after that… Vegas…I hope that woman is ok.

So as I schlepped around Vegas all last week, to take my mind off my suffering, I started to compile a play list to listen to while I walked through the maze of the casino. This is my Gambling/Vegas playlist that helped me get through the long harrowing week of noise, presentations and Vegas..

  1. Frank Sinatra, “Luck Be a Lady” – Bugsy Siegel gets all the credit for building Vegas… B&V knows that it was really Sinatra who built Vegas… no matter how nefarious his connections were.
  2. Elvis Presley, “Viva Las Vegas” – Sinatra built Vegas, but the King painted it gold.
  3. AC/DC, “Sin City” – AC/DC bring the darker aspects of Vegas to life in this overlooked gem.
  4. Bob Seger, “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man” – I prefer the live version. I also prefer the rambling to the gambling… but that’s me.
  5. The Clash, “The Card Cheat” – I’m sure there was a lot of this going on out there…
  6. Bruce Springsteen, “Roll of the Dice” – The Rock Chick and I stood by a craps table for forty-give minutes and I still don’t get it.
  7. Rod Stewart, “Lady Luck” – Great gambling tune… catch Rod at Caesar’s if you can.
  8. Motley Crue, “Girls Girls Girls” – This one goes out to Destiny, wherever life took her.
  9. April Wine, “Roller” – “She’s a high roller baby…” Plenty of those in Vegas last week… mostly Chinese these days.
  10. The Rolling Stones, “Tumbling Dice” – “Low down gamblers, cheating like I don’t know how…”
  11. Airbourne, “Blackjack” – Still the only game in Vegas I understand.
  12. Social Distortion, “Winners and Losers” – Judging by the size of the casinos, I think I know whose winning.
  13. Santana, “Winning” – I needed a positive vibe, and this sunny little song helped.
  14. Mick Jagger, “Lucky In Love” – I may not win at the tables, but the Rock Chick is proof I’m a lucky guy.
  15. Gram Parsons, “Ooh Las Vegas” – Great song. If you’ve never heard this one, I implore you, check out Gram’s solo work.
  16. The Rolling Stones, “Casino Boogie” – I merely wanted to boogie out of the casino, but again, that’s me.
  17. Scorpions, “Passion Rules the Game” – Another great gambler’s tune. These guys are pirates at heart…
  18. Sheryl Crow, “Leaving Las Vegas” – I was never happier to be leaving… what a good idea.

Thanks for reading and hanging with me in my absence. Cheers!

 

 

The Shelters: Tom Petty’s Protege’s Return With Two Great, Rocking, New Songs

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With the Rock Chick traveling yet again to points West to visit her offspring, I’ve opened up the music lab today. It’s been all music all day so far. I haven’t even made the futile search for the television remote control. With only three NFL games left this year, why bother… I’ve listened to Big Star’s entire catalog this morning. I must say, I’d always heard the album “Third/Sister Lovers” was harrowing, but it may be my new favorite of their’s. Anyway, the holiday season for me was, as usual, harrowing, and I didn’t realize that a newer rock band I like had put out a couple of new tracks. On December 1st the Shelters, Tom Petty’s protege’s, put out the songs “Really Wanted You,” and “So Get Out.”

It was my dear friend Stormin who called me a year and half ago, “I have V.I.P. tickets for Mudcrutch at the Ogden Theater. Get here.” I immediately informed my wife to prep the B&V-mobile for a road trip. We were off to Denver. And yes, I let her drive… she’s a maniac behind the wheel…I actually reviewed that Mudcrutch show for B&V, Review: Mudcrutch, Denver, Co; Ogden Theater 25May16. My friend and I stood in front the stage, arms-length from Tom Petty… He looked right in my eyes and it was like he was staring into my soul. It was a real Tom Petty highlight, in a lifetime of highlights from that great artist. If you haven’t already done so, purchase both Mudcrutch albums immediately. The warm-up band that night in Denver, and I vary on how much attention I spend on opening bands, was none other than the Shelters. While BourbonAndVinyl is focused on more mature artists we’re always on the lookout for new rock bands like Rival Sons or Greta Van Fleet. It turns out the Shelters are another gift Tom Petty gave to me! I am still in shock over his passing.

The Shelters are Chase Simpson on guitar/vocals, drummer Jacob Pilot, Josh Jove on guitar/vocals, and bassist Sebastian Harris. The outfit springs from Los Angeles, and apparently when impressed after seeing them live, Tom Petty gave them the keys to his home studio. Eventually he snuck downstairs, or across the courtyard, I don’t Tom’s setup, and ended up co producing their first album, the eponymous The Shelters. Not a bad career move, impressing Tom Petty enough to have him coproduce your record. Two of the Shelters actually ended up playing on Petty’s great, final album, Hypnotic Eye. 

Well, that night in Ogden, the Shelters came out rocking. They really grabbed my attention which is hard for an opening act to do. I loved the guitar work by Jove and Simpson, they had some great interplay. Jacob Pilot was strong on drums as well. They certainly looked like they were having a good time. Both Jove and Simpson took turns on vocals, which I liked. I remember thinking, prior to Mudcrutch coming out and mesmerizing me, that I would need to check these guys out further. I had no idea at the time they were connected to Petty other than the opening slot he gave them. Sadly though, after Mudcrutch came out and put on a 2-plus hour spectacle, I sort of forgot about the Shelters. I did see them in the lobby of the Ogden when I was walking out, signing autographs for admiring female fans… well played, lads, well played.

It was a few months later when the Rock Chick announced she’d made an album purchase. She’s one of my stronger sources of new music, so I was immediately interested. She likes to play a record for me before she tells me who it is… After the first few chords on the sensational opening track, “Rebel Heart,” my shaky memory jolted… “wait a minute, I know this song…” Apparently the Rock Chick had independently discovered the Shelters through the magic of satellite radio. It’s a strong first album. I definitely hear Tom Petty’s influence on some of the crunchier guitar tracks like, “Rebel Heart,” or “Birdwatching.” I also hear a bit of a Beatlesque influence on songs like “Fortune Teller,” or “Dandelion Ridge.” “Ghost is Gone” is a long, trippy track which almost brings to mind another LA band, The Doors. There’s a lot of fuzzy guitar on this album that I really like. They kind of sound like a 60s beach-rock band crossed with The Animals. I sort of want to do that old dance, ‘The Swim’ when they’re playing. You can definitely hear the influences, but they make the sounds their own. The track “Down” is a laid back, crunchy rocker that is another stand out for me. I think it’s a strong rock record and would advise everybody to check it out.

I wondered what their new music would sound like, when I discovered the two new tracks. Especially since Tom Petty wouldn’t be involved in this project, obviously.  Well, I needn’t worry. “Really Wanted You” starts off with a great guitar riff. The song rides along that riff and a jaunty drum line from Pilot. I love the harmony vocal on the chorus. It’s a punchy, little rock song. Definitely worth your time. “So Get Out,” the second track, wouldn’t have been out of place on the first album. It’s a slinky organ driven track with a hazy vocal and a tasty guitar solo towards the end. This has that Animals/Zombies vibe that a few of the tracks on the first album had. It has that fresh but nostalgic vibe.

If you like straight up, “nuthin’ fancy,” rock and roll, the Shelters are your band. I recommend these two new tracks and their first album as well. I look forward to hearing more from these guys. If you can, definitely check them out live.

Cheers!

 

 

Review: Jack White’s Two New Songs

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I have posited many times in these pages that most of the music I like springs from the blues. No matter how far away the music gets from the blues, I can still hear the seeds of where the music came from… and that’s the Mississippi Delta or the south side of Chicago. The blues was the first musical form to popularize the guitar solo, where the solo and the style of playing were as important as the singer. Knowing this, it was with great confidence that the Rock Chick strolled into my office in 2001 and said, “I have something you’re really going to like…” She played me the White Stripes White Blood Cells. It was love at first listen. It was punk, it was blues, it was blues punk or was it punk blues. I can only say for certain, it was rock and roll. I purchased their first two albums, The White Stripes and De Stijl immediately.

It wasn’t until the 2003 tour for Elephant that I first got to see the White Stripes live in concert. I was lucky enough to see them in Kansas City’s tiny Memorial Hall, over in KCK (Kansas City, Kansas) which seats a mere 3500 people. There isn’t a bad seat in that tiny, ancient building… well unless you’re behind a steel girder. Jack and Meg White came out and lit the place on fire. Meg was primal and fierce on the drums. Jack was relentless on guitar, hopping around the stage like a frog on a hot stove. He brought out this wide-body, grey guitar that looked like it’d lost a fight and tortured it through the blues cut “Death Letter” and I reached blues rock Nirvana. I was totally blissed out at that show. He covered blues legend Robert Johnson’s “Stop Breaking Down” and finished the encore with Lead Belly’s “Boll Weevil.” I never missed them on tour after that and I own every album the White Stripes put out.

Now, it’s important to state that I’ve also always felt that there are certain individuals who are critically important to rock and roll. Their impact is artistically important. You can say that about Elvis, Bob Dylan, pick a Beatle (except Ringo, I mean, I love Ringo, he’s a beautiful soul and a capable drummer, but…), Mick or Keith, Bowie, Neil Young, or more recently Kurt Cobain and Eddie Vedder. I truly believe Jack White is one of those people. He plays guitar, keyboards, drums, bass and sings. He also produces, writes songs and owns his own, very vinyl-centric record company, Third Man Records. He’s like a white Sam Cooke. Jack is such a contradiction to me… part old soul/blues guy, part futuristic space alien.

Feeling that Jack White is an important figure in rock and roll has led me to follow him through all the different things he’s done. I always try to keep an eye on him… I followed the White Stripes religiously. I also followed his side-project, the Raconteurs through both Broken Boy Soldiers and after the Stripes had broken up, Consolers of the Lonely. Although, I always felt the Raconteurs were more a “buy by the song vs buy by the album” group. I only like the Jack White songs, but especially “Carolina Drama.” I even followed Jack to the Dead Weather, where he was predominantly a drummer. In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit it was the Rock Chick who led me there. I even bought the album he produced for Loretta Lynn, Van Lear Rose. When Meg decided she’d had enough and the White Stripes disbanded, I followed Jack White’s solo career through not only Blunderbuss and Lazaretto but I sought out the various B-sides he released with the singles from those albums. They fell into two categories, the amazing songs that I still wonder why they didn’t make the album, like “Inaccessible Mystery” to the weirdly experimental, like say, “Blues On Two Trees.” While I love Jack’s solo work, I think I speak for the entire planet when I say, Meg, come home… all is forgiven. We miss you on drums…

I was delighted late last year when I read that Jack was in the studio recording a follow-up to Lazaretto. I had heard that after that record, White had taken a break to spend time with his daughter. Good on him for that. But it’s been four years and the world of rock just needs a new Jack White album. Last week he released two tracks from the upcoming album, “Connected By Love” and “Respect Commander.” While I felt Blunderbuss was an extension of what Jack was doing with the White Stripes, only with less primal drumming and additional instrumentation, Lazaretto found him stretching out sonically. I was intrigued to hear what was next.

The first new track, “Connected By Love,” at first listen was this crazy, psychedelic gospel benediction to love. The track starts off with an electronic pulse, and I thought perhaps Jack was headed off in a further direction from Lazaretto. But upon further listens, I realized this track wouldn’t have been out of place on either album. Jack’s lyrics are a plea to an ex or a future ex lover. The song stays sonically mellow until the middle where an organ solo that Steve Winwood would envy kicks in. It leads into a distorted, albeit melodic guitar solo. I like this track a lot but it’s a curious first single. It certainly opens up the sonic palette that Jack is working with. After three or four listens, the track just bloomed for me…

The second new track is an interesting little piece called “Respect Commander.” At first, I thought this was going to be another instrumental track like say, “High Ball Stepper.” Jack doesn’t sing until after the 2:10 mark in the song. And then it’s a distorted, multi tracked vocal. I didn’t like this track as much as “Connected By Love,” but I will admit it ends with a searing guitar solo. The guitar work at the end is certainly worth the price of admission, but with Jack, that’s usually the case. This song called to mind some of the more experimental B-sides I’ve heard from him, like the previously mentioned “Blues On Two Trees,” vs an actual track that makes an album. This might mean White is taking a wide-open, anything goes approach to this record…

What does this mean for the upcoming album? With these two diametrically different songs, it’s hard to say. I will state, emphatically, it’s nice to see Jack back in action. We need more rock and roll geniuses, especially now that Bowie gone. I look forward to hearing the entire new album. I would highly recommend “Connected By Love.” Give it a few listens before making a judgment. “Respect Commander” is one of those tracks for the true Jack White believers… like B&V…

Cheers!