New Song Review: Jack White, “If I Die Tomorrow,” From His Second LP of 2022, ‘Entering Heaven Alive’

512816-if-i-die-tomorrow

“If I die tomorrow, could you find it in your heart to sing?” – Jack White, “If I Die Tomorrow”

As longtime readers of B&V know, I’m a huge fan of Jack White. I think the man is a genius. He’s one of the best guitarists of his generation. Like most people I got on his bandwagon during his time in the White Stripes. But I also followed him over to the Raconteurs, his first “proper” side project. I even kept an eye on the Dead Weather such was my “fandom” of Mr. White and he was just the drummer in that band. But, I have to admit, when I heard he had a new song out, “If I Die Tomorrow,” I hesitated a second. Over the last few albums Jack has made me feel a little like Charlie Brown from my dad’s favorite cartoon, Peanuts.

When Jack finally went solo in 2012 I absolutely loved that first album Blunderbuss. I was equally enthusiastic about the follow up Lazaretto. Naturally my anticipation around his third solo album was, shall we say, “fever-pitched.” I was crushingly disappointed with 2018’s Boarding House Reach and wrote about it here on B&V, LP Review: Creativity And The Curious Case of Jack White & ‘Boarding House Reach’. I applauded his creativity and his striving for something new, but the album just left me cold. When he reunited with the Raconteurs for 2019’s Help Us Stranger I was delighted. I felt his being back in a real band gave some structure to his creative impulses and said so, LP Review: The Raconteurs’ (Jack White) ‘Help Us Stranger’.

I read late last year, or perhaps early this year that Jack had not wasted his time in pandemic lockdown and would be issuing not one new LP, but two. After the positive experience with Help Us Stranger I couldn’t help it, I let my excitement and anticipation get a little out of control. The first single did nothing to staunch that excitement. I thought the song “Taking Me Back” was a great first salvo (and even liked the softer version, “Taking Me Back (Gently)”). But then I heard the entire LP Fear Of The Dawn and I didn’t even review it. There’s enough negativity in the world, if I don’t like something I don’t generally review it (the ol’ “if you’ve nothing nice to say, say nothing at all”). It sounded like nails in a blender to me, nothing but odd sound experiments. I would have never guessed that both Jack White and the Black Keys would put out albums and it’d be Dropout Boogie that’d be the better album. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Black Keys and don’t mean to compare them to Jack or the White Stripes, I think they’re consistently fantastic, but Jack is my “O.G.” on that bluesy, punky, rock. But the Black Keys simply delivered on Dropout Boogie.

This week as I was getting back on my feet again after the Memorial Day holiday and my annual summer cold (the cold leaves, the cough stays until the 4th of July), I saw that Jack had another new song out, the lead single from his upcoming 2nd LP of the year, Entering Heaven Alive. And this, faithful readers, is where I hesitated. In the aforementioned cartoon Peanuts, Charlie Brown is kind of an “everyman” and some might say a loser. He has a neighbor, Lucy, who brings over her football every fall and says she’ll hold the ball and Charlie can kick it, like a field goal. Every year he hesitates because he knows at the last minute Lucy will pull the football away and Charlie will fly through the air and land on his ass. You’ll have to forgive me, but after Boarding House Reach and Fear Of The Dawn, I’m starting to think of Jack White as Lucy with the football. I just don’t want to work myself up like Charlie and end up flying through the air and landing on my ass again.

With all my mental health issues around rock n roll anticipation aside, I have to say, I’m quite taken with this new song, “If I Die Tomorrow.” While Fear Of The Dawn was a rock and roll album, Entering Heaven Alive was billed as being a more “folky” set of songs. I took that to mean more acoustic. Who doesn’t love Jack White acoustic? One of his earliest popular tunes was the beautiful “We’re Going To Be Friends.” With the new song, he’s released this video:

I don’t usually comment on videos, I’m here for the music, but that’s a pretty cool video. It’s surreal enough to fit the subject matter. I feel like this is the kind of video I’d have sat up late on a Friday night in college, into the wee small hours, drinking beer and waiting to see again.

In terms of the song, from the first cymbal, strummed acoustic guitar and violin a sense of drama envelops the song. The singer asks for us to look after his mother if she “weeps in sorrow.” He asks us to even mix her a double of her favorite drink, apparently lemon flavored. Who doesn’t love a lemonade and vodka, but I’m off topic. It’s an acoustic song but it’s not laid back at all. It actually has a slow burn intensity that I keep coming back to. The guitar solo sounds almost jumbled like something off of “For the Benefit of Mr. Kite,” like they sliced the tape up and tossed it in the air and then re-assembled it, if that makes sense. It’s not a searing guitar solo, its more surreal which befits the song and the subject matter. Jack’s vocal is at once sad and hopeful.

While this may be the thoughts of a dying man, I can’t help but feel warm when I hear the sentiment of the last verse:

If I die tomorrow
Will you let me know I left in peace?
I begged and I borrowed
Everybody’s love, and they gave for free
And I wish that I could give it back to them
So, if I die tomorrow
Will you give them all the love they lent to me?

That last line sounds oddly hopeful to me and these days when so much grim shit is going down, I could use a little sharing of love to boost me up. Pay it forward, as they say.

I love this song. However, I am taking a much more cautious approach to what Entering Heaven Alive might bring us. All I know is this a great tune, especially to listen to during some late night, whiskey in a tumbler rumination.

Cheers!

Our Favorite “Concept” Albums – From Rock Operas to Musical “Novels” – Don’t Be Afraid

0

I recently realized it’s been a full two weeks since I’ve posted anything here at B&V, an unusually long absence for me. Have no fear, the rumors of my demise are greatly exaggerated. My last post on the Stones Live At El Mocambo was right before Memorial Day and that holiday took up a lot of time… switching out bourbon for the summer vodka season can be time consuming. Plus, I vowed to get a tan this year… I look like a translucent cadaver most of the time. Then sadly I came off the long holiday weekend with a bad head cold – no it was not COVID – but it was severe enough that I couldn’t even listen to music, which is rare for me. In the midst of the cold I perhaps exacerbated it by drinking a lot of Keeper’s Heart whiskey – a new delightful discovery for us here at the B&V labs – with my old roomie and dear friend Drew. I don’t blame anybody for thinking I’d given up hope in rock n roll this year. After two disastrous and terribly disappointing albums from Jack White (Fear Of the Dawn) and Liam Gallagher (C’mon You Know), two artists I had pegged to contribute to our annual “best of” list, you can understand why I’d be down. Two great rock n rollers reduced to releasing what amount to “sound experiments,” sigh. But no, that wasn’t it, I was just sick. As Ozzy once told us, “You can’t kill rock n roll.”

Having a little time away did give my mind time to wander. For reasons yet unclear I found myself thinking about that most misunderstood of rock n roll art forms, the “concept” album. While there is really no true agreement on what constitutes a concept album, Wikipedia defines it as “an album whose tracks hold a larger purpose or meaning collectively than they do individually.” I must agree that a lot of concept albums are better when you listen to the whole thing straight through vs just a song, like Dark Side Of the Moon. Most concept albums do tell a story – whether it’s a “deaf, dumb and blind kid” who becomes a Messianic preacher or mentally unstable rock star named Pink who builds a metaphorical wall around himself. Although, admittedly the concept album doesn’t have to tell a story. Perhaps its thematic like Hotel California about the greed, disillusionment and loss of innocence the hippy generation found themselves in by the mid 70s or Elton John’s Tumbleweed Connection which was about the old west. Often concept albums contain small bits of music that act more like narrative connective tissue than actual songs. Song titles can repeat themselves on concept albums, numbered to distinguish the different versions, i.e. “Another Brick In The Wall (Part 1).”

I don’t know what it is about telling a story across an album – or more likely across a double-album – that scares people. I remember reading an interview of John Mellencamp (and this was years and years ago) and he was making fun of some of his crew for wanting to head into Indianapolis to see Pink Floyd on The Division Bell tour. He said something scathing about being too “arty.” What people tend to forget when they show their disdain for concept albums is that some of the biggest albums of all time were concept albums. Sgt Pepper, Ziggy Stardust and Tommy were all concept albums. The concept album transcends genres. Country music legend Willie Nelson did Red Headed Stranger, an amazing album. Sadly, Garth Brooks also did that Chris Gaines thing, best forgotten. Heavy metal has their concept albums like Queensryche’s Operation Mind Crime. I think the first person to do a true concept album was none other than “the Chairman of the Board,” Frank Sinatra. If you don’t think In The Wee Small Hours was a song cycle strung around a central concept then you haven’t been paying attention.

I know when I mention the idea of the concept album to the Rock Chick she recoils in horror. Sadly for her she was forever scarred by Styx’s Kilroy Was Here, perhaps the worst concept LP of all time. She saw them in concert on that tour. She said its the only time she’d ever been to a concert and no music was played for the first half hour they were on stage. I saw Styx in 1980 or 1981 and they were great… then Dennis DeYoung took over and… well… “Domo arigato Mr. Roboto.” In the Rock Chick’s defense in her disdain of concept LPs, my friends and I always used to say, “Never trust a woman who likes Pink Floyd.” Concept albums do seem to be more a “dude” thing. All men are nerds deep down and suckers for a “far out” story. Women are likely smarter. Still, while some concepts are just bad or perhaps confusing, we shouldn’t dismiss them outright. The bigger the artistic risk, in some cases, the bigger the failure. It’s difficult to juggle writing a set of great songs and making them fit into a cohesive narrative. More often than not we get great songs and a less-than-cohesive narrative. I’m ok with that.

Some songwriters just seem to need a global narrative on an album in order to write songs. Pete Townshend seems almost wedded to the idea of having a concept. He’s written a set of songs before, like Who By Numbers, but he seems more comfortable with a story cycle to wrap his songs around. Everybody needs an on-ramp to write something, some idea or flight of imagination, in order begin so for Pete I guess that’s rock opera. Roger Waters is another guy who seems more comfortable tying songs and characters together than just writing straight up tunes. Ray Davies of the Kinks has written a lot of great songs but he’s also done a lot of great concept albums. He can do either. Regardless, I think this kind of artistic reach should be applauded and encouraged. I like ambition in rock n roll.

Without further adieu, these are my favorite concept albums. Much like my picks of “Hybrid” albums (both live and studio stuff mixed together) or Cover albums (albums featuring all cover songs) and Live albums these are our favorites. It’s not meant to be an exhausting ranking. You may have a concept album you feel should be added to the list – please mention them in the comments. I didn’t add Rush’s 2112 and I know I’m going to hear about that but the concept here only lasted on side 1 of the album. And while I could have listed all of Frank Zappa or Pink Floyd’s records… or the Who’s for that matter… I’ve chosen only a few of each artist, my favorites. I’ve picked some of the biggest LPs of all time but also some more obscure choices that perhaps deserve reconsideration. Either way, if there’s a concept album you like or are curious about but haven’t listened to, I urge you to seek it out, put it on and turn it up. Perhaps with a tumbler of something strong to help get you along the line.

  1. The Beatles, Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band – One of the greatest albums ever if not the greatest. Built around a simple premise – the Beatles were pretending to be this other band, Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band, in order to free themselves from expectations. The result, a masterpiece.
  2. David Bowie, Ziggy Stardust & the Spiders From Mars – Bowie already had a string of successful LPs but this is the one that made him a superstar. Similar premise to #1 above. Pretend to be an alien and sing about isolation and feeling different.
  3. Jackson Browne, Running On Empty – This one may surprise some folks, wondering how it’s a “concept album.” Well, it’s a live album about a live album. Recorded on the road about the road. Still one of my favs.
  4. Marvin Gaye, What’s Going On? – Marvin’s masterpiece of a protest album. It’s written from the point of view of a Vietnam vet returning home and I think was based on his brother’s or cousin’s return from the war. He calls out poverty, the ecology and the war. And it swings baby.
  5. Green Day, American Idiot – A scathing indictment of one of the worst Presidents in our history. This album rejuvenated Green Day’s career. They did another rock opera but this is the one you want.
  6. Elton John, Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy – A song cycle about Elton and co-writer Bernie Taupin’s rise to fame. I like it a whole lot better when I listen to it from start to finish as one piece of music. I was tempted to list Elton’s Tumbleweed Connection as it’s an excellent album about the ol’ West written by a couple of guys from England.
  7. The Kinks, The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society – I hate to admit it but the Kinks don’t get enough love around here. After the Kinks were shut off from touring the U.S. because of a pot bust, they turned insular. Here they turn their attention to the English village square. They’re pining for an England that had ceased to exist.
  8. The Kinks, Arthur Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire – Still turned inward to England this time on a broader scale. “Victoria” and “Shangri La” are two of my favorite Kinks’ tracks. I need to delve deeper into these guys in these pages.
  9. Randy Newman, Good Old Boys – A scathing indictment of racism in the South. Randy grew up in L.A. but spent summers in New Orleans. This is one of his strongest albums. Sometimes you need a character or a story to hide behind while telling the truth.
  10. Pink Floyd, Animals – Like I said, I could list all of their LPs on this list. I’m not listing Dark Side of the Moon because it’s just too big. Everybody’s heard it. A friend of mine and I used to drive around Kansas City drinking beer and cranking Animals which seems slightly Orwellian to me. But man what a great album.
  11. Pink Floyd, The Wall – I can still remember riding home from high school, sitting in the back seat of my friend Brewster’s car cranking “Another Brick In The Wall (Part 1).” Roger Waters who was the principle writer here (or is it principal writer?) blended his own story with founder Syd Barrett’s story. Inspired by his own spitting on a fan on the previous tour, he realized people put up walls around themselves. I did see Waters perform this at the Berlin Wall.
  12. Lou Reed, New YorkBilled in the liner notes as a novel set to music, Lou suggested listening to the entire album, in order, in one sitting. I always listen to Lou’s instructions.
  13. Lou Reed, Berlin – A prominent entry onto our list of Grim and Sad albums too, this is a difficult listen but worth it.
  14. Pete Townshend, White City – The concept here, basically a treatise on poverty and urban decay, is a bit lost on me now. The LP was billed as “A Novel” in the subtitle. I just loved “Give Blood” and “Secondhand Love.” This is one of those albums that nobody talks about but I still enjoy.
  15. Roger Waters, Radio K.A.O.S. – This album is actually on my list of “The Dirty Dozen, Albums Only I Like.” Oh well, I still dig this album besides the bizarre story line and I feel it needs a reassessment.
  16. The Who, Quadrophenia – Sure, Tommy is recognized as the first and perhaps greatest “rock opera” but give me Quadrophenia any day. It has louder guitars.
  17. Frank Zappa, Joe’s Garage – To me this is one of Zappa’s most accessible albums. Who doesn’t enjoy a visit from the “Central Scrutinizer” once and again? From the title track to “Catholic Girls” this album makes me laugh. Although even I have to admit Joe’s Garage can’t touch Freak Out! in terms of being an exceptional concept LP.
  18. Warren Zevon, Transverse City – This LP also made my list of “essential” Warren Zevon albums. It’s a grim commentary about U.S. society in the late 80s. It may be grim but it’s a great, great album. Someone with some connections needs to get Warren into the Rock Hall.

While I left off some of the biggest titles, Dark Side of the Moon or Tommy but it was my goal to share the LPs that maybe you haven’t heard or heard in a while and inspire you dust off the turn table, open up that double album, hoping no old pot seeds fall out and turn up a little rock opera. There are a few here that are quirky suggestions of LPs that I really dig and hope I can turn you onto. Again, this list wasn’t supposed to be exhaustive and if you have a concept LP that I should check out I always appreciate a suggestion in the comments.

Cheers! I hope, “a splendid time is guaranteed for all…”

The Black Keys Return With New LP – ‘Dropout Boogie’ – Consistently Awesome Music

attachment-black-keys

The Black Keys – singer/guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney – have come roaring back (literally) with a new LP, Dropout Boogie, their third album in four years. Now, admittedly I’ve felt since 2019’s Let’s Rock album the Keys have started exuding this wonderful 70s vibe, but putting out 3 albums in 36 months is truly a 70s style pace… it was a time when artists put out an album almost every year. I think it’s time for me to admit something to all of you, including the Black Keys. Over the course of the last several albums they’ve rocked their way into being one of my all time favorite bands. I am really digging Dropout Boogie. In the past few weeks I’ve gone from the Black Crowes (1972) to the Black Keys… I can only assume a Black Sabbath binge is up next… if you’re into that whole alphabetic thing.

As I’ve said before, I got on this bandwagon when they put out Rubber Factory. Actually, more importantly, that’s when the Rock Chick jumped on their bandwagon. I liked the album but had sort of filed it away. She was the one who put it in high rotation. She went out and immediately bought their debut, The Big Come Up, an album I really dig. I loved that they covered the Beatles’ “She Said, She Said” on that album. Even though I was amongst the converted back then I was under the mistaken impression that the Black Keys were one of those bands where I’d jump back in every other album. I dug the debut, Thickfreakness not so much. Rubber Factory Hell yes, Magic Potion…meh. I don’t know why I was so slow to surrender to the punky, blues rock these guys were laying down.

All that changed when they put out Attack And Release in 2008. The Rock Chick snagged that album the day it came out. “Psychotic Girl” is a personal favorite from that LP. Since then we’ve picked up every album they’ve put out save for Turn Blue. That album seemed like a bummer to me but then my relationship with the Black Keys’ music back then was weird. Maybe I need to go back and listen again. I thought El Camino from 2011 was a masterpiece of a record. As mentioned we loved Let’s Rock here at B&V but were then surprised and delighted when after less than 2 years later they put out a wonderful album of Mississippi Hill Country blues covers, Delta Kream. That album celebrated the music of blues giants like Junior Kimbrough and R.L. Burnside. Of course, most of the classic rock n roll we like around here is based firmly on a foundation of blues. Now, less than year later the Black Keys have returned with another – and pardon the expression – kick ass record.

At this point, I have to pause to wonder why the Keys aren’t bigger and more popular than they are. Both Brothers and El Camino went double platinum. Despite all this great music their last LP to go gold was Turn Blue. If you were a fan and got away from these guys you need to check out these last three albums. I think of what Tom Petty said about why he and the Heartbreakers were “bigger” (although I would contend they were big). He said they were just so “consistently good” that people could forget about them. Like the Stones or say AC/DC the Keys found a sound and have mostly stuck to it. Although I realize that statement belies how much they’ve developed and how much more sophisticated and intricate their music has become since they first started. Auerbach and Carney have become extremely talented producers over the course of their careers. So my explanation for the Keys slight dip in terms of commerce, they’re simply so consistently kick ass they’ve been taken for granted.

Dropout Boogie is another self produced album. As I said, this is a great rock n roll album. This is the kind of album that should be blaring out of car windows and T-tops as teenagers cruise up and down Metcalf or whatever your main drag is. Alas, times have changed. This may be my go to summer LP this year. The album starts off with the lead single “Wild Child.” We really dig that track here at B&V but I’ve already posted about that. The second track is also the second single, “It Ain’t Over.” The passion Auerbach brings to the vocals is a whole thing in and of itself. Over handclaps and shakers he begs his baby not go go. I know I’ve been there. The guitar solo on this track is monstrous albeit economical.

“For The Love of Money” is a crunchy bluesy thing that would have been at home on Delta Kream. Auerbach employs a falsetto for parts of the song. It’s just the typical crunchy rocker these guys put out, and I mean that as a compliment. “Your Team Is Looking Good” is good fun arena rock. I could imagine this song being played at Chiefs’ games. Although these guys are from Arkon… I hope they’re not Bengals fans. Akron is too close to Cleveland for that but I’m getting off topic. I love the taunting nature of this track. The biggest surprise for me was “Good Love.” Even before I saw the “featuring Billy Gibbons” I thought this track sounded like ZZ Top. I was hearing an echo of “TV Dinners” or maybe “I Need You Tonight.” It’s got that Billy Gibbons’ bluesy guitar march as the underpinning of the song. Gibbons’ guitar just snarls at you. Then he flashes on the solo. It may be my favorite track on the album. With Gibbons and Auerbach in the studio, that’s a lot of guitar firepower in the studio.

“How Long” is a 70s-vibe ballad. This song makes me think of sitting in the back seat of my dad’s Ford with the windows down because my father didn’t want to turn on the air conditioner. Which is actually weird because if we were in the car with my father Sports Talk radio would have been on. “How Long” is just a 70s longing vibe to me. It’s the prettiest track on the album. “Burn The Damn Thing Down” is barn burner (I couldn’t resist) with raw guitar and a “Travelin’ Band” theme. The Black Keys are coming and they’re gonna burn it all down, baby. The track rocks. Again, this has that blues braggadocio thing that I dig. “Happiness” is a bluesy thing with an elastic, riffy guitar. It’s probably the track that hearkens back to their earlier records the most to my ear. “Baby I’m Coming Home” is a song I will heretofore blast every time I’m getting on an airplane to fly home after a business trip. Oh, yes, baby I’m comin’. It has my favorite guitar solo on the album. If you’re here for the guitar “Baby I’m Coming Home” will get you where you wanna go. The album ends with “Didn’t I Love You” another track that would have been at home on Delta Kream. I love that the blues cover LP they did has informed some of the vibe on this album, but then I love rockers who play the blues.

There isn’t a bad song on Dropout Boogie. These guys are making rock n roll that you just don’t hear that much any more – big guitar riffs and solid, heavy drums. This is an album everyone should hear and play very, very loud… perhaps with a tumbler full of something brown and murky… maybe a little taste of Four Roses…

Enjoy this one at maximum volume. Cheers!

Review: The Cult Live In Denver 5/06/22 – The Mission Ballroom – Ian Astbury Shines During Sluggish Show

IMG_2264

*Photo taken by the Rock Chick

I spent today, Sunday, driving across the plains of Kansas on my way back from seeing my daughter in Denver… Well, seeing my daughter and the Cult in Denver. I can tell the pandemic is starting to thaw out a bit as my dance card in Denver was completely full. The last few times I’ve been in Denver we really didn’t go out and do much. It was quality family time. Not so this trip. I was doing something almost constantly. And there was the Cult concert slipped into the middle of the schedule Friday night at the Mission Ballroom for just the Rock Chick and me. I didn’t know much about the Mission Ballroom but it’s a fantastic venue. I’d go back to that place in a heartbeat. Plenty of bars, plenty of bathrooms and not a bad seat in the house. This is one of the few times I’ve seen the Cult and actually had a seat. I didn’t go for my usual General Admission floor tickets this time as typically some hulking mountain of a guy ends up standing in front of the Rock Chick who is considerably less… vertical than I am. There aren’t many people who can block my view. We were excited to be on guitarist Billy Duffy’s side of the stage.

Driving across the fruited plains all day – where there is literally nothing to see – gave me a chance to ponder the show I’d seen Friday while I killed the road time listening to the new Chili Peppers album, Rush’s 40th celebration of Moving Pictures and a few episodes of an old crime podcast… we do love our Murder & Mayhem stories here at B&V. The opening act for the Cult was a band I was unfamiliar with, King Woman (editor’s note: the opener was misidentified in an earlier version as Des Rocs). I’ve seen an interesting array of bands opening for the Cult as I’ve been to over half a dozen Cult shows since 2001. The most entertaining opener was probably Monster Magnet at that first Cult show I saw on the Beyond Good And Evil tour. I seem to recall leather clad dancers on stage. I can’t say King Woman was entertaining at all. I got there mid-set and they were performing without a spotlight on the singer. It was all backlit in red. I couldn’t see the face of the band members but especially the lead singer, a lady to seems pretty angry and she was rolling around on stage in the dark. They ended with a cover of the Stone Roses’ “I Want To Be Adored” that was frankly, unrecognizable.

By 9:40 the Cult came onto the stage. The current line up is Ian Astbury (vocals), Billy Duffy (guitar), John Tempesta (drums), Grant Fitzpatrick (bass) [editor’s note: on bass it may have been Charlie Jones] and inexplicably Damon Fox (keyboards/backing vocals). The Cult definitely don’t need a keyboard player. They used to tour with an extra guitar player which made a lot more sense to me. There are very few things I can count on in life – but the Cult live are one of them. They are always MONEY on stage. The fact these guys always bring it live is one of the reasons I fell in love with the band. I had taken the liberty of glancing at the set list prior to the show and while I didn’t have it memorized – I couldn’t remember what they opened with – I was excited about it. It was front loaded with a bunch of songs from Sonic Temple, probably their most famous, commercially successful album. As I’ve said, I’m so into the Cult I like whatever they play but I missed the tour pre-Covid where they played Sonic Temple in it’s entirety. I was sidelined by a foot injury. I’d previously seen the “complete album shows” for Love and Electric so that was pretty disappointing. While I’d have been quite content if they’d come out and opened with 8 tracks from Hidden City I was glad I was making up for missing that last tour.

Thank god I couldn’t remember what the opener was because I was delighted and surprised when I heard the opening notes of “Sun King.” It’s one of my favorites. After two years of virtually no concerts save for a surprise trip to Starlight Theater to see Joan Jett/Cheap Trick I couldn’t help but think, “Finally!” Immediately the Rock Chick noticed that they sounded off. It took me a few riffs in to realize they sounded a little sluggish. Maybe they need to burn off some of that Covid rust? The Rock Chick also noticed that Ian Astbury’s vocals were a little off as well – he changed out his microphone midway through the main set so I’ll give her credit there. The list was heavily weighted to Sonic Temple. The entire show, save for “Rise” from Beyond Good And Evil was from Love, Electric or Sonic Temple or as some might say “their prime.” Maybe the fact that they aren’t touring behind a new album brought less enthusiasm from the group. Maybe it’s the new bass player and keyboard player. Chemistry in a band is important.

The main issue, upon reflection as I drove through golden fields of wheat spotted with green fields of beans and milo and the requisite rural frightful political signs, might have been as simple as one guy: Billy Duffy. I think Billy is one of those great, underrated guitar Gods out there. Although I have to say, he seemed bored. He wasn’t terribly engaged. Or maybe he’s just always sounded better with a second guitarist on stage with him. I was on his side of the stage and he almost seemed distracted. He kept looking up toward the balcony seats, just to our lright. We were on his side, only 2 sections out from the stage. The Rock Chick says I’m crazy but at first I thought he was looking up at the giant stack of speakers floating above his head like he was afraid they were going to fall. His guitar was loud and he plays powerfully but he was just playing slower than usual. Tom Petty always called live albums “playing your greatest hits really fast.” This was the opposite of that.

As I said, they opened with a bunch of Sonic Temple tracks. The only track that the keyboard player really had an impact on – to my ears anyway – was “Sweet Soul Sister.” It was nice to have the organ. They had a little mellow breakdown in the middle where Ian addressed the crowd. He was referencing psychedelics, perhaps inspired by Colorado’s pot laws. He told a guy in the front row “Hey man, you can’t text from the front row… you’re in the front row that comes with certain responsibilities,” which I thought was funny. At one time he exhorted the crowd to “Smoke em if you got em.” He also said something about the people filming the show on their phones, calling them out as “Kurosawa, Speilberg and Coppola.” Hey man, if you’re not used to being filmed at this point, I’ve got bad news for you. I mean, I get it. I shake my head at people at a concert who experience it through their phones. I took maybe 3 pictures and put my phone on mute and into my pocket.

Despite that seemingly slightly hostile banter, I have to say Astbury was on fire that night. It’s like he sensed the rest of the band was sluggish and he was determined to put them on his shoulders and carry them through the night. He is one of the best front men and singers in the business. What a voice! He moved around the stage like a man half his age. He’s always active but I hadn’t seen him move that much on stage since the first few Cult shows I saw over 20 years ago. He looked lean and very into it. He gave out his sole tambourine to a kid near the stage who he called “Youngblood” because the kid had a Pink Floyd The Wall t-shirt on. “We’ve gotta teach these youngbloods right!”

As the band slogged through the Sonic Temple material and Astbury tried to pump them up, they hit a high point on “Edie (Ciao Baby).” That ballad soared. I will admit that when they shifted to some of the songs on Electric the band got better – in my opinion, this is disputed by the Rock Chick. “Li’l Devil” was a track where I felt everything clicked for the band. It was a real highlight. They followed that up with two more great tracks from Electric, “Peace Dog” and “Wildflower” which were also highlights. The Love material at the end of the set was also great and included a rocking version “Rain” and “Revolution,” a track Astbury described as “more relevant now than ever.” I love “She Sells Sanctuary” but it did miss that second guitarist.

The main set ended with “Love Removal Machine” another knock out moment of the night. The Electric stuff just sounded better but then as my friend Stormin’ said to me once, “I’m an Electric guy.” I was thrilled that “Rise,” one of their most underrated songs from the late career resurgence, made it into the encore. As I said, it’s the only non Love-Electric-Sonic Temple track they played. In retrospect I’d have liked to hear “Dirty Little Rock Star” or “For The Animals” just to break it up a bit. Maybe they could have thrown in Hidden City’s Hinterland.” But I’m probably splitting hairs. The faithful, myself included, still went nuts for the final track, a rousing “Fire Woman.” It was so good to be in a crowd, shoulder to shoulder with strangers, sharing that communal, ecstatic moment during a concert.

And with that the night was over. While it was a bit of a disappointing show, I’d still go see the Cult again. I’d like to see them on this tour again actually. I just think I caught Billy Duffy on a bad night. But it was still made special by Ian Astbury absolutely bringing his A game. As I am fond of saying, Life is short, buy the ticket, see the show.

Cheers!

Black Keys Release Rocking, Sleazy New Single “Wild Child” & It’s Put a Twisted Smile On My Face

attachment-black-keys

“I’m just a stranger with a twisted smile…”

When I was in college, which believe it or not were the “heavy drinking” years, my friends and I used to all say when we weren’t studying or in school that we were social workers out doing “social” work trying to improve things for people. Which basically meant we were out doing crazy shit to help entertain other people whose lives might not be as interesting as they could or should be. Such is the hubris of youth… or of drunken youth. “We are the youth gone wild…” as the song goes. Or at least we were the youth gone wild. Anyway, as part of that whole boozy buffoonery, I remember saying to friends, “When I’m old I just want these memories to be a twisted smile on my face that no one understands but me… and perhaps people will wonder where it came from?” I guess I was powerfully channeling my inner David Lee Roth all the time. Remember how cool he was back in the 80s?

I took a friend to the doctor today. And while I was sitting in the waiting room – where I waited almost as long as I did at the DMV a few weeks ago, someone owes me a beer – I saw that the Black Keys had dropped a new single “Wild Child.” I may be a little late on this one as apparently it’s number 1 on some music chart… I don’t really pay attention to the “charts,” as I’ve mentioned before (12 Favorite Old School, Vinyl, Single- Album Greatest Hits LPs; The Struggle Was Real). I was just thrilled the Keys had a new song out. I had heard they had a new album coming out but didn’t have any other details… I do now, the album is called Dropout Boogie and it’ll be out May 13th. I can’t believe they’ve already got a new album coming out? It was just last year they put out the great blues cover LP Delta Kream. And only two years prior they’d released the fabulous Let’s Rock. To turn around and drop a new album already is 1970s level rock n roll output. Usually they take a break for guitarist/singer Dan Auerbach’s latest solo album… or he produces someone else’s music. To be fair, Pat Carney (drums) also does some outside producing as well. Good for them. Always nice to work with other people, get the juices flowing for the next band project.

I was delighted when I heard that first single and the opening lyric, “I’m just a stranger with a twisted smile…” It certainly took me back to sunny spring days a life time ago… Perhaps there’ll be a twisted smile on my headstone. “Wild Child” is another in a long line of great Black Keys songs. These guys are some of the most consistently wonderful rockers out there. The entire song is a “come on.” Boy meets girl and proceeds to attempt to woo said girl. The first 7 seconds are a funky, almost disco, little riff that wouldn’t be out of place in and old school porn movie… not that I know anything about that sort of thing. Then the song kicks in with one of those monster Auerbach riffs. “Your heart is in danger…” Oh, indeed it is. The guitars are fuzzy and sleazy which perfectly fits the track. Carney’s drums throb like a heartbeat. Between riffs you can hear Auerbach doing a wah-wah thing that gives this such a funky, fun underpinning. As usual there’s a great guitar solo – we’d expect nothing less from these guys. “Baby won’t you show me your wild child ways.” Yes, please. You can feel the lust and need dripping off this song… It’s the perfect Spring song – even if you live in Kansas City where Spring has basically been Winter 2.0.

Here is the link:

These guys have come such a long way since their early bluesy, punky rock n roll. I would really like to see these guys live. I actually saw them do 1 song with the Stones at their 50th Anniversary show in Newark… They certainly acquitted themselves well. This album is an automatic buy for me. It’s not that kind of Jack White, genius gone weird level stuff that I have to hear first (and hear a few times) before I’ll buy. There’s nothing wrong with being consistently kick ass. Tom Petty was consistently kick ass so that’s pretty fine company the Black Keys find themselves in. Petty was an American Treasure after all.

Cheers! And always…during these dark times, keep smiling even if it’s a little bit of a twisted smile!

Review: Red Hot Chili Pepper’s ‘Unlimited Love’ – Frusciante Returns For A Midtempo, Groove-fest

image

If you’re like me, you spent the weekend holed up in a room with big speakers listening to the highly anticipated new LP from the Red Hot Chili Peppers (complete with John Frusciante back on guitar) Unlimited Love.

A few weeks ago my daughter was in town and we went over to see my parents. My father, a half a glass of wine in, decided to drop some family trivia. Each member of our nuclear family was born in a different state. While true, it’s not something I think about a lot. My father was actually born in Los Angeles. His parents, my grandparents, migrated from Kansas to California during the Great Depression like so many people did. It wasn’t quite as Grapes Of Wrath as it sounds. My grandfather had a job in a factory waiting for him. My grandparents were comfortable enough they not only had my dad but my uncle both in L.A. Eventually they returned to the Midwest but I always wonder what would have happened if they’d stayed out West. Who knows, I might have gone to high school with Anthony Kiedis, Flea and Hillel Slovak. I’m about the same age as those cats. Maybe, despite no evidence of musical ability, I’d be in the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Although my low pain threshold has kept me away from tattoos… and I’m not brave enough to appear on stage in only one sock. Dare to dream.

New music from the Chili Peppers is always a treat. Maybe it’s because (as mentioned) I’m roughly the same age, it always feels like getting an email from an old friend when they drop new music. Admittedly I was late getting on their bandwagon. I am probably the only Chili Peppers fan who discovered the band through the one album they did with Dave Navarro, One Hot Minute. Critics felt the songs on that album were under developed but I love that record. “Warped” is just an amazing song. “My tendency for dependency is up ending me…” From there I went back to their seminal line-up and most famous LPs featuring John Frusciante – Blood Sugar Sex Magik and Mother’s Milk. Those albums were a tour de force of guitar funk. Flea is the greatest bassist of his generation. It was fun following Kiedis’ development as a vocalist. He started as a rapper now he’s a fabulous vocalist. I was hesitant to buy Californication when it came out. I remember listening to samples of it at the Barnes & Noble on the Plaza. I walked out of there with that album and it solidified my place on their bandwagon.

I was terribly bummed after Frusciante left a second time after Stadium Arcadium. I’d seen them on that tour and he played with an almost religious ecstasy on his face. Everyone except my parents loved Stadium Arcadium. I had people significantly older than me at work tell me they were listening to that album. You could argue they were the biggest band on the planet at that point. A friend of mine at the time said to me, “I can’t believe I’m more into the Chili Peppers LP than the new Pearl Jam. If you’d told me 10 years ago that would happen I’d have told you you were crazy.” While I was bummed they’d lost Frusciante after that album and tour I stayed on the bandwagon. I thought Josh Klinghoffer who replaced Frusciante was a significantly less talented lead guitarist but I was in no way anti Josh. I loved I’m Beside You. However, I was really unimpressed with The Getaway, despite the sensational first single, “Dark Necessities.” The wheels came off on the second half of that album… Having listened to it for the first time in a long while this weekend, I stand by my opinion.

As I said, with Frusciante returning to the fold after an amicable split with Klinghoffer (Chad Smith played with Josh on Eddie Vedder’s new LP and tour) anticipation has been running high for this album. Anticipation is a tricky thing. If it gets to excessive it can interfere with how you perceive an album. I expected the same kind of guitar masterwork we got on Stadium Arcadium. There are moments of Frusciante’s transcendent guitar work but I would describe this album as more “Flea forward” than their last LP together. This album has a lot of funky bass and that is not a bad thing. These guys remind me of my old college roommates. There were five us in a tiny apartment. Rent was like $60 a month. We were wild men in those old days. When we get together for reunions these days they’re always fun but nothing as crazy as the college years. Maybe that’s what happened on this record. Old pals got together not to recapture old glories but reaffirm their bond and vibe. This album is a very midtempo affair. That doesn’t necessarily bother me, but the Rock Chick was not pleased.

The album starts with the first single, the somber “Black Summer.” It may not be as glorious as “Dark Necessities” but it’s a great track. It’s very “Slow Cheetah.” The first third of this record is just sensational. It’s as varied and melodious as anything they’ve ever done. “Here Ever After” is an upbeat, funky ear worm of a song. It gets in your head and it stays there. “Aquatic Mouth Dance” has some great horns that distinguish it. I do love Flea on trumpet. It’s another funky rocker. “Not The One” is just a gorgeous ballad. I love the line “I don’t look like myself in photographs.” Beautiful song, beautifully sung. “Poster Child” is a funky “We Didn’t Start The Fire” trippy trip through history. The chorus is another “stick in your brain” kind of moment. “I will be your poster child…”

“The Great Apes” is really the first track that Frusciante’s guitar dominates. The sounds he gets out of a guitar are so distinct. There are certain guitarists who I hear and just know who it is. It’s as unique as a vocal. David Gilmour and even Clapton are like that for me. I’m realizing Frusciante is as distinct as those guys. “It’s Only Natural” continues the hot streak. While it’s mellower it’s got some cool guitar sound effects. “She’s A Lover” is another bass heavy, funky up beat track. It’s another song I like a whole lot. “These Are the Ways” is probably the biggest rock song on the album. Frusciante lets loose with some heavy riffs on that track.

It’s after that, starting with “Whatchu Thinkin'” and “Bastards of Light” that the album falls into that midtempo vibe and they never really get out of it. I like Rick Rubin and I think he’s the perfect producer for these guys but he lets them get a little monochromatic at times, like Picasso in his “Blue Period.” The Chili Peppers’ creative process is jam based – most of their songs come out of sessions where they get together and jam. That jam based process doesn’t really lend itself to editing. They probably could have cut a few songs and it would have helped the album. It’s an hour and thirteen minutes long. “Bastards of Light” is the only track I didn’t connect with, it turns into Kiedis singing through a megaphone. “White Braids & Pillow Chair” is a pretty ballad but it meanders as did my mind at that point in the album. Taken by themselves each of these songs are great but as a whole the album does seem very midtempo. There’s nothing wrong with mellow it’s just not what I’d expected.

Things get back on track toward the end of the album with the upbeat “One Way Traffic.” “Will you be my traffic jam?” It’s got a great sing along chorus. That’ll be a big one live. I really love the song “Let ‘Em Cry.” It may be my favorite on the album. “Veronica” has great lyrics. “The Heavy Wing” is probably, yes, the heaviest track on the album. Frusciante takes over the vocals on the back end of that song which is an unfortunate choice. “Tangelo” wraps things up much like “Roadtrippin'” did Californication, with a beautiful acoustic guitar driven track.

This is certainly one of the biggest albums of the year and I urge everybody to check it out. I can’t wait to see these guys live again. I want the Rock Chick to behold the majesty of John Frusciante live. They purportedly put together 50 songs when recording this album and there are rumors they might release a follow up in short order. I’m for all the Chili Peppers with Frusciante I can get!

Enjoy this laid back groove of an album. I know it made my weekend! Cheers!

Playlist: Our Favorite Songs About The Surreal Realm of Dreams/Dreaming

1490881976-Untitled-1-1490881976

*Image of Freud (apparently interpreting dreams) taken from the internet and likely subject to copyright

===========================================================

Editor’s Note: Right before I went to bed last night I saw the terrible, terrible news that the world of rock n roll had lost another bright light. Foo Fighters’ drummer Taylor Hawkins, dead at 50. Such terrible, terrible sad news. My condolences to Taylor’s family (especially his 3 kids) and to Dave Grohl and all the Foo Fighter’s family. I’m not a huge fan of the Foo Fighters but this one did hit me kind of hard… fifty is still so  young.

==========================================================

“To sleep, perchance to dream” – Hamlet, William Shakespeare

I’ve always had a more classical bent to my reading. While the Rock Chick is prone to reading murder mysteries I’m more likely to be found reading ‘The Canterbury Tales.’ I’m not suggesting that’s better, it’s probably just weirder. Don’t get me wrong, any more I’m as likely to be reading Michael Connelly as Ernest Hemingway. I had a History Professor in college who, along with an English Professor, had published a reading list which I bought for $2 and it has provided me a lifetime of entertainment. That’s all well and good, but it gets me funny looks.

I was in an airport with the guy who hired me to my current company, many years ago, and I purchased Freud’s The Interpretation Of Dreams at the airport news stand. The guy I was with – we are both Traveling Salesmen – was horrified. My mom had a friend who was a psychologist and I mentioned to him I was reading Freud and even he shuddered…”Find a nice murder mystery, it’s easier to read.” He’d clearly been traumatized somewhere along his educational path by having to write a paper about Freud. In truth I only finished about 2/3’s of the book. Freud gets down in the weeds of trying to break dreams down into a mathematical formula.

While most of Freud’s theories have fallen out of favor amongst the psychological community, you have to give the guy credit. He was really the first person to delve into the surreal mental area of dreams. Freud theorized that the events of your day inspire thoughts and those thoughts are the raw material of your dreams. You eat an apple for lunch and it reminds you of your mother baking a pie and that night you dream your mother is smoking a cigar while juggling pies. Hey, “sometimes a cigar is just a cigar,” folks. I don’t know if anybody will ever be able to tell us why we dream what we dream but it’s certainly interesting to wonder.

Last year I posted a playlist of songs about Sleeping, or my inability to sleep anyway. Longtime readers know I’m a sucker for a thematic playlist… My playlists are really more about trying to expose people to deep tracks or songs they might not have heard (or not heard in a while, anyway). Like this post, I led it off with the Shakespeare quote from Hamlet, from his most famous soliloquy, “To sleep, perchance to dream.” Hamlet was actually contemplating death, that whole “To be or not to be” thing. By “to sleep” he meant “to die” and the dreams he spoke of, which actually terrified him, symbolized what you saw after death. Leave it to me to take a lighthearted rock n roll playlist and go heavy on you… but I guess that’s my M.O.

For this post, I don’t mean anything quite that heavy. I’m just thinking about dreams. It amuses me that they also use the word “dreams” for our aspirations. It makes our wishes seem unattainable. It was George Carlin who once said, “They call it the American Dream because you’d have to be asleep to believe it.” There are plenty of songs on this list that pertain to that whole aspirational dream thing. There are also a few tracks that are about day dreaming. But what is a day dream but a dream that you’re actually conscious for and can actively choreograph. For me, when I think of dreams, I’m thinking about the theater of the mind, when you’ve finally gone into that deep R.E.M. sleep and the subconscious takes over.

As an insomniac there are many nights I don’t dream. But when I do they’re vivid. And usually not hard to interpret. Many people have recurring dreams. I’ve had the dream of falling but not since I was a kid. I’ve had the dream where I’m being menaced and I try to run but my body won’t move… I usually start making horrible noises in my sleep and the Rock Chick wakes me, thank god. I used to have a recurring dream where I was naked in public – like down at the mall – and I was trying to get home… standing behind anything I can find so people can’t see me. I’ve never had the dream where my teeth are falling out but apparently that is a common one. Another common dream I’d like to have is the dream that you’re flying – without an airplane. How cool would that be?

The most common recurring dream I have is set in college. I’m my current age, yet I’m in college. I have to go take an English final (ironically, my weakest subject). But I haven’t been in the class all semester. Many times in the dream I struggle to find the right classroom. If I fail this exam I’ll have to stay in college another semester. In some versions of this recurring dream, I actually skip to the part where I’m looking to find a place to stay because I flunked the exam. The prospect of living with the Vikings I lived with back in the day horrifies me. These are not pleasant dreams. I’ve grown accustomed to an easier lifestyle where I actually bathe and don’t eat fast food all the time.

In good times I dream about being with all my old pals and drinking fine bourbon. Those are great dreams. I always know when I’m happy dreaming. Those are rare. My recurring bad dream involves loss. Sometimes I’m visited by dead relatives – or believe or not, a favorite pet – and they are trying to deliver a message. I’m lost in a parking lot, or some innocuous place and my grandfather shows up 40 years after his death to tell me I’m lost… yeah, grandpa I get that. There are some who might believe this is a visitation from the spiritual world. I just think those people we’ve lost symbolize something to us and their appearance in the dream is merely metaphoric, not some ghost contact. I lost my grandfather, my first close relative to pass, when I was in high school. It was tough. That left a mark and that wound surfaces in dreams…

The worst dreams I have are usually when I see a person whose relationship with me ended long ago. Sometimes it’s the deceased persons mentioned above but more likely it’s someone I’ve had a falling out with or a former lover I’ve broken up with. I’m not pining for anybody but those severed relationships, like the loss of my grandfather left a scar. Those people have come to symbolize loss and pain. Especially when the break occurred early on in your life. When things are going badly or I suffer a defeat or loss those “symbols of loss and pain” pop into my head to underscore the fact. My subconscious seems hell bent on torturing me. I struggle to sleep and if things are going bad my mind creates horrible dreams for me.

It’s not always a miserable dream like that. Last night I dreamed I was in a fine restaurant with the Rock Chick and some old buddies and we were eating and drinking and telling old stories – stories that didn’t really make sense in the context of the dream but hey, who cares. Sometimes things I see in my dream happen in real life later down the road. I know that sounds crazy. I used to think that was deja vu but I’m told it’s something called precognition. It’s probably just another trick my brain plays on me. I just hope last night’s dream was one of those that actually happen… it looked like a fun night.

Without further adieu, here are our favorite songs about dreams or dreaming. You’ll find this on Spotify under BourbonAndvinyl.net Dreams/Dreaming. I stand with Neil Young on the whole Spotify thing and that moron Joe Rogan but after all these years it’d be impractical to try and re-platform all our playlists. I’m still looking into it. Neil is on this playlist here in the B&V labs but obviously not on this playlist. As always, if you have a favorite “dream’ themed track, please put it in the comments section and I’ll add it to the playlist. The playlists are, as always, a B&V community thing, not just my purview.

  1. Rainbow, “Street Of Dreams” – I’ve always liked Rainbow, I need to get them on the playlists more often. For some reason this song always reminds me of ‘Nightmare On Elm Street.’
  2. Bruce Springsteen, “I’ll See You In My Dreams” – Great track from Letter To You about seeing his old bandmates in his dreams… I see my old pals in dreams as well.
  3. Alice Cooper, “Caught In A Dream” – Old Alice Cooper is just sooo damn good.
  4. Queensryche, “Silent Lucidity” – I know it sounds like a cop-out but this is my favorite Queensryche track.
  5. Fleetwood Mac, “Dreams” – This song has stuck with me from grade school and evokes the memory of being at the city pool and hearing it on the loudspeaker. I wonder if I’ll dream about that tonight…
  6. Arc Angels, “Living In A Dream” – I hear the Arc Angels (Doyle Bramhall III and Charlie Sexton w/ Stevie Ray Vaughn’s rhythm section) have reunited. I hope so.
  7. Neil Young, “Dreamin’ Man” – While not on the Spotify version of this list, this is still a great acoustic track from Neil.
  8. Ozzy Osbourne, “Dreamer” – I wanted the song “Nightmares” which is a bonus track and not on Spotify, so I went with this great, late-period, Beatlesque track.
  9. David Bowie, “Moonage Daydream” – Like I said, a daydream is just a dream we can choreograph…
  10. Fiona Apple, “Sleep To Dream” – One of two tracks that’s also on our Sleep playlist.
  11. Talking Heads, “City of Dreams” – Great track from an often overlooked LP.
  12. Depeche Mode, “Dream On” – The Rock Chick turned me onto this track.
  13. Alice Cooper, “Welcome To My Nightmare” – Sometimes dreams go bad… hence I had to include a nightmare track.
  14. Supertramp, “Dreamer” – You never hear Supertramp any more and that’s too bad.
  15. The Cult, “Dreamtime” – From their great debut LP. I’m going to see these guys later this spring.
  16. Cream, “Dreaming” – Surreal track fits this playlist perfectly.
  17. Judas Priest, “Dreamer, Deceiver” – An epic ballad with a great guitar solo. This one is for my friend Stormin’ as he loves this track.
  18. AC/DC, “Rock N Roll Dream” – Have AC/DC done a bad album? I think not. Great deep track here.
  19. Blondie, “Dreaming” – I’ve always dug Blondie.
  20. Stevie Nicks, “In Your Dreams” – Stevie Nicks is quietly having a late career resurgence that everyone should be checking out.
  21. Aerosmith, “Dream On” – Well, you knew this one was gonna be here.
  22. Talking Heads, “Dream Operator” – A second track from the aforementioned overlooked LP, True Stories.
  23. Neil Young, “Pocahontas” – This has got to be the description of a dream. There’s no way someone consciously comes up with “Marlon Brando, Pocahontas and me…”
  24. Mudcrutch, “Dreams of Flying” – Great track. I wish I’d have a dream like this.
  25. Van Morrison, “These Dreams of You” – Van in happier, saner days.
  26. Crosby, Stills & Nash, “In My Dreams” – Another great CSN track that you won’t find on Spotify.
  27. Bob Dylan, “Dreamin’ Of You” – Great, late period Dylan.
  28. Python Lee Jackson (Featuring Rod Stewart), “In A Broken Dream” – Early Rod Stewart before he was well, Rod Stewart. He just sings the crap out of this song.
  29. Dave Matthews Band, “Dreamgirl” – Great boozy love song.
  30. Elvis Presley, “If I Can Dream” – Elvis making a huge statement about racism and the state of the nation. The King goes big and kills it!
  31. Bruce Springsteen, “Book of Dreams” – A quiet track from Lucky Town. The ballads from that era tended to be better than the rockers.
  32. Van Halen, “Dreams” – Van Hagar era track with keyboards.
  33. Joe Walsh, “Dreams” – The Rock Chick has been getting into Joe lately, which is awesome. We saw him open for Tom Petty the last time we saw him and Joe delivered.
  34. Eurythmics, “Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)” – Another perfect fit.
  35. Cheap Trick, “Dream The Night Away” – Cheap Trick have so many great tunes.
  36. Beck, “Dreams” – Great song from a bad album.
  37. David Crosby & Graham Nash, “Cowboy of Dreams’ – Seek this deep track out. You’ll thank me.
  38. Van Morrison, “Call Me Up In Dreamland” – Another track from Van’s prime.
  39. Randy Newman, “Last Night I Had A Dream” – I love Randy Newman. “Last night I had a dream… you were in it and I was in it…”
  40. Bob Dylan, “Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream” – Great track about Dylan and Captain Ahab finding America and getting busted by the cops.
  41. Cheap Trick, “Dream Police” – Great paranoid rock anthem.
  42. The Allman Brothers, “Dreams” – I shy away from tracks that run 7 minutes on my playlists but I couldn’t omit this seminal Allman Brothers track.
  43. Aretha Franklin, “Don’t Let Me Lose This Dream” – The Queen of Soul’s birthday was this week… had to include her.
  44. R.E.M., “I Don’t Sleep, I Dream” – The second track that does double duty on this playlist and our Sleep playlist.
  45. Pink Floyd, “The Gunners Dream” – I love this track. A guy dreaming about a fellow soldier’s dream… Roger Water recently re did this song.
  46. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, “Dreamville” – A lighthearted moment from The Last DJ.
  47. Dave Matthews Band, “Sleep To Dream Her” – This track always stuck out to me.
  48. John Lennon, “#9 Dream” – There are so many great Lennon solo tracks out there.
  49. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, “Angel Dream (No. 4)” – Beautiful song from the She’s The One Soundtrack and the recently re-imagined version of the album, Angel Dream.
  50. Green Day, “Boulevard Of Broken Dreams” – I’ve sort of lost touch with Green Day these days but this is one of their biggest tracks.
  51. CSNY, “Dream For Him” – Another great David Crosby penned track.
  52. Van Halen, “Little Dreamer” – From their legendary eponymous debut LP.

Reader Suggestions:

  1. Neil Young, “After the Goldrush” – A song that was on an early incarnation of this list that I just plum forgot. Great reader suggestion. Although you won’t find this on our Spotify playlist for obvious reasons.
  2. Lovin’ Spoonful, “Daydreamin'” – Another great reader suggestion.

That’s it folks. Let me know if you have anything to add! And, as always, may your dreams be pleasant and light… I’ll take care of the heavy bad dreams down here in the B&V labs…

Cheers!

Review: Eddie Vedder, ‘Earthling,’ An Eclectic Gem Of An Album From The Reluctant(?) Solo Artist

image

“Invincible, when we love…” – Eddie Vedder, “Invincible”

I can still remember the first time I heard Eddie Vedder’s voice. It was on a song “Hunger Strike” by Temple of the Dog – a band formed to honor the late Andrew Wood (Mother Love Bone) that featured Chris Cornell (vocals) and Matt Cameron (drums) both from Soundgarden and Mike McCready (guitar), Stone Gossard (guitar) and Jeff Ament (bass) all from Pearl Jam. Wood had been roomies with Cornell and Ament & Gossard had been bandmates of his. Vedder came in to do a co-lead vocal on “Hunger Strike.” I remember thinking, this guy is gonna be big. I remember the first time I saw Vedder, in the video for “Hunger Strike” and thinking, that big, deep voice is coming out of that guy standing in the tall weeds on a beach somewhere. It was the early 90s and I wasn’t paying too much attention to what was then called “alternative rock,” but I remember thinking I certainly needed to focus on it more. I was so dim about alt rock that I didn’t even know that Temple of the Dog was a one-off.

A few months after that a woman I knew loaned me her copy of Pearl Jam’s Ten. I had heard half the songs on the album – by then I’d started listening to the alternative rock radio station in town – but I hadn’t realized that all those kick ass songs came from the same band. “Jeremy,” “Alive,” and “Even Flow” were all Pearl Jam? In my defense, in those days a lot of grunge bands sounded alike to my distracted mind. I couldn’t believe a debut album had all these great tracks on it. I’d kind of given up on new rock n roll before grunge hit. Ten was, in my opinion, one of the greatest LPs ever. It’s a perfect album. The song I always dug was, yes, the ballad “Black.” The early 90s were a tough period for me on that “interpersonal” level. While I immediately loved Pearl Jam I didn’t connect Eddie Vedder (or the other band members) with Temple of the Dog. Even then, I still thought TotD was a Soundgarden “off-shoot.” It was that year, late summer/early fall that Pearl Jam exploded like a super nova. I remember seeing videos of Pearl Jam in concert and Vedder, this handsome, charismatic lead singer swathed in flannel, was climbing up in the lighting rig and jumping into the crowds. I was dating a (different) woman at the time and she’d always say she loved his hands and as the Stones sang, “the way (he) held the microphone.” He was so visceral and intense. The sincerity gripped you like a vice and wouldn’t let you go. When he sang he looked like he was living the lyrics and was on the verge of spontaneous combustion. I was worried he’d stroke out on stage.

Needless to say, I was amongst the very large wave of people who crowded onto the Pearl Jam bandwagon. I heard Vedder tell a story on the radio once about an early PJ gig. He said the big room they were playing in was empty and he closed his eyes, started singing, and when he opened his eyes the room was full. It’s hard to overstate how “in to” Pearl Jam we all were. I remember being at the record store when it opened just to buy Vs the day it came out. Vedder drew a lot of the focus. Women wanted him, men wanted to be him. I was all in at the time but it wasn’t until the tour behind their third LP Vitalogy that I got to see them live – at Red Rocks, no less – and I was blown away. It was truly one of the best shows I’ve seen. They were at war with Ticketmaster and I was on team Pearl Jam. Vedder was as charismatic as I’d imagined and more so. I remember by the time they played the encore, “Yellow Ledbetter” I knew I’d always be a Pearl Jam fan. While I dug Vedder I’d be remiss in not saying, Mike McCready is a BEAST on guitar, but I digress.

Sadly, as the 90s wore on, grunge as a musical force ran it’s course. Worse than that, so many of the leading musicians of the movement passed away. They were kind of known for heroin and it claimed many of them. Andrew Wood from Mother Love Bone (a great band everyone should check out) was an early casualty. Kurt Cobain from Nirvana was probably the biggest blow. Years later heroin and opioids hung around long enough to claim Scott Weiland (Stone Temple Pilots), Layne Staley (Alice In Chains), and Chris Cornell (Soundgarden/Audioslave). I’m glad Vedder never went that way. He had a tough childhood as documented in the song “Alive.” He was informed when he was in his early teens his real father had just died and the man he thought was his father was really his (abusive) stepdad. Eddie toughed it out, as did Pearl Jam. They have been a consistently good band all along. While known more for their live stuff these days, their studio output should get a lot more attention. Gigaton, while a very serious treatise on the environment, was a great record.

Pearl Jam has found a nice, albeit slow rhythm. They’ll put out an album, tour for a while, tour again, tour again, and then finally every six or seven years record another album. With that rather lax recording schedule one might think the members would do a lot more solo work, especially Vedder. While I fully expected a robust solo career from Eddie, it seems he’s been more reluctant about a solo career. He would do a stray soundtrack tune like “You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away” on the soundtrack for I Am Sam or show up to sing with the Who or Pete Townshend on a live LP or do co-lead vocal on “Drive All Night” with his buddy Glen Hansard but there wasn’t a Rod Stewart-in-the-Faces solo LP in between every band LP. It certainly would have been understandable.

His first “official” solo LP was actually the 2007 soundtrack to Into the Wild. The Rock Chick bought that album for me on Valentine’s Day one year. At the time I read that Vedder used Pete Townshend’s Who Came First, a homespun record indeed, as the blueprint for the soundtrack. It was an all right LP, but it was a soundtrack with a lot of instrumental tracks. I’m glad I have it just for the fabulous cover “Hard Sun” which is a staple on the B&V Summer/Sun playlist. He followed that up in 2011 with the fabulous Ukulele Songs, but even I’ll admit, it was an album of songs played on the ukulele. Not exactly something that’s going to compete with Metallica on rock radio. It really is a great album. At that point it’s hard to not see his solo career away from Pearl Jam as anything but casual and low key.

Finally, last week saw the release of Eddie’s first actual, proper solo album Earthling, with nary a ukulele in sight. It was produced by Andrew Watt who did Ozzy’s last solo LP Ordinary Man. Watt also plays bass on the album. They’re joined by drummer Chad Smith (Red Hot Chili Peppers) who also played on the Ozzy album and guitarist and former Red Hot Chili Pepper Josh Klinghoffer. Vedder obviously sings and plays guitar. Elton John, who also did a guest spot on the aforementioned Ozzy album shows up here on the song “Picture.” There are a few other guests who show up as well including Stevie Wonder (harmonica on “Try”), Benmont Tench (organ on “Long Way”), and yes, Ringo Starr (drums on “Mrs. Mills”). I have to say, I’m ecstatic about this album. It almost comes across as a side-project/band album as Watt, Chad Smith and Klinghoffer share some writing credits. All the lyrics are Vedder’s. If you’ve been held off on any of Vedder’s previous solo work, this is the LP you’ve been waiting for. Stylistically it’s an eclectic mix of styles and songs but they all hang together. I can certainly say, this album is never boring. The Rock Chick felt it came off the rails a little on the second half, but the more I listen the less I agree with her on that one.

The album starts with “Invincible” which sounds like a call to arms set to drums. It doesn’t sound like it but it reminds me of a mellower “Know Your Rights” by the Clash. It’s a perfect table setter, if you will. You veer from that into the most Pearl Jam-y sounding song on the album “Power of Right.” It’s a great rocking anthem full of fuzzy guitar verging on arena rock (and I mean that in a good way). Chad is the MVP on this song on the drums. This track could have been on Gigaton. Then comes the first single, the Petty-esque (even including Ben Tench on organ) “Long Way” which we’ve previously reviewed. At this point you’ve gone from an almost spoken word piece to a straight ahead rocker to a midtempo road song. Yet it all works. “Brother the Cloud” is another great rock song where Vedder laments a lost friend. It’s got a Talking Heads funky bridge that brings to mind the recent “Dance of the Clairvoyants” from Pearl Jam’s last LP.  “Fallout Today” is an acoustic driven track that I just love. Vedder’s vocal is wonderful. “The Dark” is another anthem style rock song, I love the riff on this one. “The Haves” is another beautiful acoustic ballad/love song. The gist of that track is the titular “Haves” may have all the money and stuff, but I’ve got you baby and that’s all I need. With all the style shifts over the first half, I have to admit, this sounds like the most fun Vedder has had in years. And it’s a lot of fun for we the listeners as well.

At this point we shift to kind of the harder rocking, punk section of the album, starting with “Good And Evil.” This is where the Rock Chick jumped off the bandwagon. At first listen I wasn’t crazy about “Good And Evil” with its Ramones style speed rock and barking vocals. It’s reminiscent of “Lukin” by PJ. It’s a meet me at the finish line track. The more I hear it though, I can’t lie, it’s growing on me. The next rocker is “Rose of Jericho” which I like significantly more. But it’s a muscular, more riff-y track. “Try” is another speed rocker with Stevie Wonder on harmonica. It’s another meet me at the finish line, speed rocking track. Stevie sounds like he’s running out of breath trying to keep up. The more I hear these tracks the more they grow on me, especially “Rose of Jericho.” Chad’s drumming in this section of the album is fabulous and Vedder/Klinghoffer meld their guitars very well.

Elton shows up on the duet “Picture.” It features an old school barrel-house piano from Elton. I really like this song, although the Rock Chick insists that Elton has lost a step vocally in his late career. Again it sounds like Elton and Eddie are having a great time and I like the song. From there, the album takes it’s broadest stylistic turn for the Beatlesque “Mrs. Mills.” Ringo even shows up to play drums on the string drenched song. Eddie doing a track that sounds like Paul McCartney wrote it? Yes, please. It’s a beautiful track.

This album is an absolute treat. It’s nice to hear Vedder and his cohorts – Watt, Chad Smith, Klinghoffer – playing so tightly and yes, having a good time doing so. I know the band is out on the road – with Pino Palladino from the Who stepping in on bass guitar – and I’d love to see this show. This is an absolute must have album and the first really great album of 2022. I urge all of you who like Eddie, who like Pearl Jam and who like rock n roll to check this one out. It may be an eclectic collection of songs but so is Exile On Main Street. As I’m prone to say, pull the bar down over your knees and enjoy the roller coaster ride!

Cheers!

Review: Liam Gallagher Teams With Dave Grohl For The Sensational New Song “Everything’s Electric”

maxresdefault

*Image of Liam Gallagher performing at the Brit Awards taken from the internet and likely copyrighted

I’m on record as stating that Liam Gallagher is an unpleasant man. So is his brother Noel for that matter. Of course my view of Liam will always be tainted by his mocking my front row “air guitar” from the stage at an Oasis show at Red Rocks a number of years ago. But damn if the mocking bastard isn’t back with a sensational new song, “Everything’s Electric.” As I’ve said before, it’s extremely pleasant music from an extremely unpleasant man…

The most surprising thing about “Everything’s Electric” is that it’s co written by one of the nicest people in all of rock n roll, the Foo Fighters founder Dave Grohl. I’m not a huge fan of the Foo, but like David Letterman, I’m a huge fan of the song “Everlong.” I had the Foo’s first album but I either sold it at the used record/CD store or an ex might have absconded with it. The details get fuzzier the more time that passes… as Randy Newman sang, “God bless the potholes down on memory lane.” Dave not only co wrote this song, he plays the drums on the track much like he did with Mick Jagger last summer on their one-off, You-Tube only single “Easy Sleazy.” I don’t think he plays any of the great guitar on the song, but I can’t find credits on who plays what. I guess I’ll know when Liam’s new LP C’Mon You Know comes out on May 27th.

Like all things Oasis/Gallagher brothers, I think Grohl’s involvement in this song may have come out of some conflict. There was some on-line thing where a bunch of Foo Fighter fans petitioned Noel Gallagher to rejoin his brother Liam and get Oasis back together. I was never a huge Oasis fan but the Rock Chick is and as far as I know she could have been behind the whole on-line thing. No one really knows whose behind the whole “reunite Oasis” drive. While I find Liam unpleasant I despise Noel for what he said about INXS to Micheal Hutchence at an MTV Awards show years ago. Anyway, apparently Noel was offended that the fans of the Foo were on him about getting Oasis back together and thought Dave Grohl, not the Rock Chick, was behind it. As usual, Noel handled his anger in a classy way and invited Mr. Grohl – the NICEST man in rock n roll – to “suck his d*ck.” Even I was like, dude, slow you’re roll. As if I wasn’t already on “Team Liam.” And don’t get me wrong, Liam is no saint. He once questioned the paternity of Noel’s daughter. They are the living embodiment of the cliche of brothers who start bands and end up hating each other. These guys make the Everly Brothers look like the Mannings. Whatever drove Grohl’s involvement in this song, it’s certainly welcome.

While I wasn’t a huge Oasis fan until I met the Rock Chick I have been on 100% in on Liam’s solo career. I even dug that first Beady Eye album. It would be easy to give Grohl all the credit for this great new track “Everything’s Electric” but that would ignore Liam’s great solo LPs thus far – 2017’s As You Were and 2019’s Why Me? Why Not. Both of those got great reviews from us down here at B&V. Hell, I even loved his live album MTV Unplugged (Live At Hull City Hall). But then I’ve always been fond of the Unplugged series and have even posted about my favorite ones (B&V’s Favorite MTV “Unplugged” LPs).

I read that Grohl said they were trying to bring the percussive elements of the Beastie Boys’ song “Sabotage” and blend it with a “Gimme Shelter” vibe. I can hear the “Sabotage” a little bit, but I’m not sure about the Stones elements. The song, like the upcoming album C’mon You Know, was produced by Greg Kurstin who produced As You Were and co-produced Why Me? Why Not. This may be my favorite Liam tune to date. Grohl really brings it on drums. The track starts with heavy bass and big guitar riffs. And then Grohl comes in on drums. Liam is just a great vocalist there’s no getting around that. If you dug Oasis, you’re gonna love this track. It’s great to hear rock n roll played loud. The guitars pile on – from big riffs to a little lead signature that almost sounds like it’s a slide guitar? I love the lyric “I don’t hate you, But I despise that feeling there’s nothing left for me here.” Here’s the lyric video of the song:

Turn this one up really loud. It’s going to be a great year for rock n roll with new albums from Liam, the Red Hot Chili Peppers (whose new song, the “Slow Cheetah”-esque “Black Summer” we’re still cranking here in the B&V labs, and (today) Eddie Vedder. Winter is slowly releasing it’s horrible grasp upon us as days get longer and the music gets louder. Take care of yourself out there.

Cheers!

New Song Review! Red Hot Chili Pepper’s “Black Summer” – Welcome Home John Frusciante!

attachment-RHCP-Black-Summer

I’ve spent the last week deeply immersed in the Beatles’ Rooftop Concert and man has that helped cure my winter blues. Of course, the funk I’ve been in may be lifting merely because Dry January is finally over… I guess we’ll never know what cured me. As if I wasn’t blissed out enough, the Red Hot Chili Peppers (one of our favorites down here at B&V) have dropped the first single from their upcoming album Unlimited Love. The album drops April 1st, yes, April Fools Day. The new song is called “Black Summer” and comes complete with a new video. I was particularly pumped about this upcoming album because it heralds the return of guitarist John Frusciante who has rejoined singer Anthony Kiedis, drummer Chad Smith and bassist Flea for the first time since he departed the band after the hugely successful Stadium Arcadium.

This actually marks the second time Frusciante has left the Chili Peppers and returned. He couldn’t handle the world wide attention that Blood Sugar Sex Magik generated and left only to return a couple of albums later for Californication. There was a similar arc of events after Stadium Arcadium came out. Everybody loved that album. Everyone I knew was calling me to tell me about it – from old dudes I worked with to my daughter (who was still in high school) and her friends. Literally everyone except perhaps my Sainted Mother dug that record but she’s still immersed in Roger Whitaker albums from the 70s…I can hear her now, “Bring me another sherry darling and turn this up…” I saw the Chili Peppers on that tour (although sadly I didn’t take the Rock Chick and am still hearing about it) and Frusciante played with an ecstasy usually reserved for the religious convert. I thought he was happy? Maybe after Stadium Arcadium, when they were at yet another career zenith, Frusciante – who is a true artist in every sense of that word – felt he’d done all he can do and he had enough money so he split for a curious solo career. Rumors are swirling that he lost 70% of his net worth in his recent divorce and that may be the impetus for his return. Regardless of why he came back, I’m just glad he’s returned. His Chili Peppers’ LP resume includes all of their best albums: Mother’s Milk, Blood Sugar Sex Magik, Californication, By The Way and the aforementioned Stadium Arcadium. They have had a lot of guitarists from Hillel Slovak to Josh Klinghoffer but there’s only one man whose chemistry with the band spurs them to their utmost creative heights and that’s John Frusciante. We should cherish any music these four guys create together.

I’ll say off the bat, I dig “Black Summer.” But how does it compare with their recent first singles? Let’s watch the video and listen to the song:

If we harken back to John’s last album with the band, Stadium Arcadium, the first single was “Dani California.” That’s one of the Chili Pepper’s greatest songs of all time, in my not so humble opinion. Frusciante’s guitar is Hendrix-ian at it’s utmost. The solo’ing at the end is epic. That was a mighty first single. After John left, the first single the Chili Peppers released from their next album I’m With You was “Rain Dance Maggie.” A lot of people didn’t like the Josh Klinghoffer era of the band but I really dug I’m With You. Rick Rubin was still on as producer. They did a video for “Rain Dance Maggie” where they were playing live on a roof overlooking a beach in California. Hmm… playing on a roof… I wonder where I’ve heard of that before. I do dig “Rain Dance Maggie” and I thought it was a great first single continuing their trend of great first singles. Finally, their last LP (and Josh’s last with the band) The Getaway saw “Dark Necessities” released as the first single. I reviewed The Getaway and I stand by that review – the album disappointed me. I rarely reach for that disc. However, “Dark Necessities” is one of the greatest songs I’ve ever heard. It’s got an infectious melody and groove – Flea just kills it. Kiedis lyrics are dark but yet enticing. “Dark necessities are part of my design” could be printed on my tombstone. Bad album and yet a fantastic first single!

With that history of great lead singles, I imagine there was a lot of pressure on the Chili Peppers to “bring the house” on this one. I don’t think Flea does “pressure.” I know John doesn’t do “pressure.” I like “Black Summer” but it is a curious choice of a first single. It starts with that spooky guitar riff the Peppers have been playing on their social media posts teasing the new track. There is not a guitarist on the planet besides Frusciante who can play this close to what Hendrix sounded like. You can hear the influence even on the quiet opening riffage. The song starts slow with just Frusciante’s guitar and Anthony’s vocal. The band doesn’t kick in for about a minute and a half. The guitar solo mid song is vintage Frusciante. You know it’s him on guitar and everything just seems right in the universe. You can also tell this was produed by Rick Rubin who is the fifth Pepper as far as I’m concerned. I’m extremely glad he’s back at the board for these guys. “I’ve been waiting, waiting on another black summer to end.” God haven’t we all been waiting for this “Black Summer” we find ourselves in to end? I know I have.

The song doesn’t have the hook of say, “Dark Necessities” that you’d expect in a first single. It doesn’t have a giant sing-along chorus of say, “Rain Dance Maggie” that you’d expect from a first track. It’s a little dark but isn’t everything these days? I’ve always liked the inherent darkness in the Chili Peppers music, when they touch on that vein is when they’re at their best. This is a great rock n roll tune and we don’t hear much great rock n roll played on actual instruments these days. And let me say, thank god there is no presence of keyboards on this record. I think this is going to be a great year with a new album and tour from the Chili Peppers. And let me say again, welcome home John, you’re back where you naturally belong.

Until I can hear the album and see these guys in concert – this time with the Rock Chick, I promise – I guess I’m resigned to sit and “with the birds I’ll share this lonely view…” If Frusciante can find his way back, maybe all of us can. Take care of each other. This black summer really is almost over. Cheers!